3 years, 170 million: Dota Builds Project Year in Review

This is a continuation of last year’s article, “2 years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview” and 2014’s article: “1 Year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview


**some images may appear smaller than intended, click the images to see their full resolution/detail**

It’s now been three and a half year since this project started in February, 2013. I do this ‘year in review’ article once a year in October as that is when I started collecting statistics for these hero builds. In 2015, we achieved a remarkable feat: 100 million total subscriptions. I persevered in updating the hero builds despite the system being completely system. Begun implementing a better hero builds tooltip system and established a proper policy in what direction and emphasis I want the hero builds to go towards.

2016 was challenging in and outside the project and the public recognition for it has been the highest it’s ever been – with all of its appreciation and harsh criticism of character.

showcase

 

For those new to Dota 2, Hero Builds are an in-game guide system for users to learn on how to play a hero. These guides suggest in what order a hero’s ability should be leveled, which items and in what order should be bought and guides can include tooltips to give contextual value on how best to use a hero’s set of items or abilities throughout the game. This 2013 integral feature has been useful for many new players along with other Valve-released tools including the ‘coaching’ feature and robust tutorial system. This project was created to establish and maintain a ‘standard’ way of playing each and every hero in nearly all roles or forms.

Today we celebrate reaching over 170 million subscriptions across 150 guides (177,425,506 as of November 17, 2016). This article will take a look at the relevant statistics of our growth, discuss the continuing motivation to maintain these guides and the future goals and challenges for 2017.

 

100 Million to 170 Million – A Year of Statistics


In summary, this project has gained 70 million new subscriptions since last year. In fact, approximately 5 million a month since late-May 2014 (30 months consecutively). Hero builds have risen from 145 builds to 150 hero builds thanks to the release of the final DotA-Allstars hero: Arc Warden & Underlord.

forecasted-growth-patch-divisions

In October 2013, we started with less than 5 million. Since 2014, our growth has been consistent of 4 to 6 million a month. In 2015, 37 guides have reached 1 million unique subscribers individually. That number has almost tripled with now 100 guides with their own 1 million unique subs.

 

Forecasts project that the project will achieve 200 million by February, 2017 and 234 million by October, 2017. Last year, we missed our prediction by a good margin and it might be safe to assume the same here. That said, we’ve achieved new milestones today with individual guides now breaking into the 2 million unique subscribers mark. Lifestealer, Sven, Juggernaut, Phantom Assassin, Phantom Lancer and Faceless Void have all recently hit their two million milestones and there are many other guides nearing it.

sven-lifestealer-compare

Observed is the incredible growth the Sven Hero Build achieved to reach and surpass Lifestealer Build’s subscribers. Lifestealer achieved 1 million by August 2014 whereas Sven achieved similar by April 2015. By June 2016, both guides achieved two million simultaneously.

Though it isn’t definitive, I firmly believe that because Sven has been more relevant in more patches and professional competitions than Lifestealer, its growth rate followed suit. This growth is not unique to a couple of builds. The average has grown from 716,000 to 1.16 million. The majority of hero builds have 1 million or more in unique subscribers. The distribution of subscribers is also much more ranged than before where guides can have as little as 150,000 subs. to as much as 2.4 million.

distribution-chart

 

Achievements and Challenges


 This year was the most revolutionary year for this project yet. Not only did the project see a complete overhaul in title classification, but it was also the first time the Valve Dota 2 Development team acknowledged, communicated and fixed some of the longest standing issues that plagued the system and caused many users to outright quit making builds. Here is the list of achievements this year:

  • Expanding the Hero Builds Catalog from 145 to 150 hero builds
  • Streamlined Patch Changes Accountability and Changelog for future reference
  • Finished overhauling the entire hero builds item and ability texts to better denote contextual value for each.
  • Released a Patreon campaign after years of users asking for a way to support the project
  • Transitioned the hero builds title system (Lane/Middle/Jungle) to less antiquated system (Core/Offlane/Jungle/Support) with sub-title specifications (Roaming, Safe Lane, Middle, etc.).
  • Released /r/HeroBuilds & PlayDota.com to better curate user feedback from more community hubs.
  • Released an All-Subscribe Tool, a long-awaited feature asked by users (thanks LemonWarlord)
  • Established a direct line of communication with the Valve Dota 2 Team
    • After years of problems, Valve took the initiative to fix some of the most glaring issues that outright halted the ability to make and publish hero builds. Even more so, they have been very responsive in any new critical bugs reported to them.

parnakra

Before Valve, a user named Parnakra literally saved this project. I was on the brink of giving up before he helped not only fix the Dota 2 Hero Builds Cloud Server, but improve it in many ways.
Thank you Parnakra.

 

Now with a direct line of communication with Valve and their promptness in fixing any new critical bugs, I hope to see more hero builds created and updated regularly without anything preventing users in doing so.

In terms of challenges, there are very few from the outside. There is still no real competition in terms of valuable hero builds currently in the database as the ones that are newly-created and maintained cannot break past some of the outdated versions from 2013 who continue to be rated up, regardless of accuracy or attention to relevance of the current patch (e.g.: heroes that get completely remade). Heroes such as Faceless Void don’t have any updated hero builds in the year 2016 except for my own. In terms of competition, the top guide creators are still the same as last year with some emerging players such as EDJE and EZ MMR.

comparison-to-other-guide-makers

Across the board, we can see growth in all hero build collections from the most popular catalogs of hero builds. This can be indicative that there are just more or rotating new users subscribing to hero builds as a whole.

Future Goals and Motivations


In December 2015, after much hesitation, I released a Patreon campaign for users who asked how else they can support the project. Generally, feedback was always preferred, but with the support of these great people, I can start to think about expansion into other medias to help players of all kind.

 

Alfred Vogl, Pearson Mewbourne, Leonardo Lambertini, Scott MacDonald, Sutas, Nicholas Chlumecky, Dice, Bartlomiej Jan Pasek, Graham Bullard, Daxdiv, Mikey Kaminski, Ryan Goss, Startracker, Freeze ray, Nate Hubbard, The WLD Crew, Benjamin Miller, Kistaro Windrider, Elliot Cuite, Daniel Thackray, Jose Cacho, Matthew Nami, tale, Joel Absolom, Tyler Reid, Hursha, Aaron Bell, Jason Davis, Cooper Johnson, Samuel Enocsson, JimmaDaRustla, slashershot, Igor Dolgiy, Ramona Brown, Duncan, Alishams Hassam, Leon Traill, Josh Laseter, Genc Musliu, Joshua Rodman, Moe Foster, Steve, Oliver, Vinzent Steinberg, Cabanur

Thank you so much to the many people here for their generosity, support and care. They saw something that was made entirely for free and still wanted to provide support with the money they’ve earned. It’s a great honor to receive this kind of support.

With the amount earned, I will be giving a portion to long-time feedbackers (though many have opted out or did not respond to request for their owed amount) and the rest will be going towards hiring a proper website designed to brand a website for the Hero Build Project and all the tools available. It will serve as a valuable hub to redirect users in being aware of all the hero builds available, tools, and statistics relevant to its growth and achievement. As always, no amount will be used for purposes other than to continue building this project.

In terms of future goals, the website hub is the first immediate one. Other cloud-level dreams would be expanding to content creation, meeting with the Valve Dota 2 team to suggest a variety of quality-of-life expansion to new player initiatives and/or newbie casting (this one’s iffy – haven’t casted since 2011 in StarCraft II).

In terms of motivations, 2016 turned out to be the year I receive the most recognition, appreciation, condescension and character criticism. Most of all, this year has been the most emotionally taxing where the hours of work remained consistently the same as last year’s: 2-3 hours a day, 28 to 35 hours a week and 9 to 24 hours within two days when a new patch releases. This is nothing new and I’ve made my concerns about it in the past as I juggle work, a personal life and this project. Somewhere along the way, I’ve also noticed my anonymity was lost, where I would be recognized in-game and my words, actions (or inaction) would paint how people speak to me or about me.

criticism

My favourite flattery/criticism in recent times. Some others have been less than comedic and more personal.

 

If I was overly-critical towards someone in-game, it would persist past the game and try to demonize me as some two-faced person (rather than a person who does get mad when we lose and excited when we win). If a new patch hits and I did not update the guides by their expectations, the amount of spam and private messages received would range from begging to rude demands and threats (non-lethal versions). There is a lot of expectation for me to be a public model citizen and I suppose that comes with this newly-found recognition. I do not make a living off my personality, project or appearances – yet I have this new responsibility I was not prepared for and maybe selfishly feel I do not owe towards others. I don’t think it’s something I can rebel against, but I will be taking active measures to either not talk in-game or start using an alternate account for all my day-to-day test games. Come December, I may also slow down the amount of updates and testing, as I’ve recently found myself prioritizing the project over, say, enjoying an overdue vacation with significant partners (at one point, I was updating guides while on the bus to The Grand Canyon due to increased public pressure) or ruining my sleep schedule to keep up with the latest patch. In 2017, I will also be starting something very new in my career, which may cause an impasse on continuing the project at its current level of dedication or something less attentive.

Depsite this rant, I always go back and read previous topics, smile at the appreciation I receive and know there are people thankful. The numbers say it all and the words of the many drown out the negative few.

Thank Yous


Without the help from the community at PlayDota.com, LiquidDota.com and /r/HeroBuilds, this project would not be able to be even remotely as close to its goal as it is now. I would never have the knowledge, expertise or understanding of the game that some of these people have provided throughout the years and for that, I thank them for completing this project in so many ways and keeping me on top of the most glaring inconsistencies with this collection of hero builds.

mentions

Recently, I’ve noticed more and more iconic people using my guides. People I’ve admired or see as incredibly talented. Moonmeander, Arteezy, Totalbiscuit, Day [9], Dimitri (GodBlessMali – MarsTV) and Hector Rosario (HelixFrosT – Founder of Flipside Tactics)

 

This project has been my pride and passion for the many years I’ve changed jobs, countries and lives. It kept me feeling personally successful no matter what low point I’ve hit. That kind of support is immeasurable and I sincerely thank you.
See you next year,

Michael ‘Torte de Lini’ Cohen


Twitter: @TorteDeLini

Patreon/Torte

/r/HeroBuilds

Dota 2 Hero Builds Hub

PlayDota.com

PS: thank you James Hu, Tam Vu and Foad Ghafor for the help with the website, graphs and this article.

2 Years, 100 million: Dota Builds Project Overview

This is a continuation of last year’s article: “1 year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview”

It’s been two years, well, actually two and a half year as this project started by in February 2013. But the project has been collecting data of its growth since October 2013. A lot has changed since the 40 million mark/1-year anniversary and where we are today. Growth has skyrocketed, my understanding of the game has expanded but my time has also shriveled; straining updates and ability to stay on top of changes.

Untitled

For those new to some of Valve’s Dota 2 features, back in February of 2013, Valve announced a feature called Hero Builds: guides that can be accessed directly in-game and during a match, you are suggested what items to buy and what skills to level. For each selected hero, you were given explanatory prompts that made learning a hero or the game incredibly easy, accessible directly during matches without pausing or needing another window open. Overall, it was a part of Valve’s approach towards approaching Dota 2 easier alongside their other features, such as coaching and their tutorial.

Today, we celebrate reaching over 100 million subscriptions across 145 guides (101,613,471 as of October 14th, 2015) and a full of year of statistics to inspect and analyze.

 

40 MILLION TO 100 MILLION – A YEAR OF STATISTICS


As a summary for this portion, we’re still growing. In fact, consistently 4 million a month since Late-May 2014 (19 months consecutively). Total number of Hero builds have remained smaller in expansion (5 new hero builds compared to 34 of 2013 to 2014). Reasons for this will be explained further.

1

After the initial growth to Oct. 2013, there has been a steady growth rate throughout each month of 4 to 5 million new subscriptions a month. Individual guides hitting 1 million unique have skyrocketed in 2015

 

Not including the 5 new hero builds planned (Arc Warden and Pit Lord minimum), we’re expecting an additional 109 million (2.1 million minimum unique) new subscriptions in the next coming full year (210 million total). It is assumed that Valve intends to implement a more robust guide system, potentially expanding the subscribing userbase (estimated currently at 1 to 2.7 million depending on the hero).

As opposed to last year, fluctuation of new subscribers is relatively unchanged regardless of a new patch release or a major event. Monthly growth has not risen beyond 5 million or dipping below 4 million. Largest growth seen is when a new hero is released such as Techies, Winter Wyvern or Oracle. What is more remarkable is both the average subscription number per hero build has risen from 300,000 to 700,000 – further emphasizing consistent growth for the past year.

4

The average number of subscribers has shifted from being around 300,000 to now 700,000 in a year’s time.

 

In addition, specific hero builds hitting their own unique 1 million active subscriber base underlines that consistent growth across the board; heightening the average and displaying a regular consistent group of users relying on all builds within the project; not just one in particular. From 2014 to 2015, over 23 new hero builds have hit 1 million unique subscribers; something unseen from 2013 to 2014 (only 1 hero build has reached its million unique). 14 more hero builds are looking to hit 1 million before the end of 2015, bringing the total to 28.
3

Without accounting for any future hero builds, we can hope for over 200 million total subscriptions; about double of this year’s current total.

 

That consistent growth is met across the board, but at a slower pace as the leading competitors: Greyshark, Purge and eXplosion still show signs of doubling their user-base. This is both a good thing and an issue as these hero build creators have not updated their builds (with the exception of Greyshark, who continues to just create new guides) since 2014 at the latest. This is an inherent flaw with the system that neither rewards nor punishes users for not creating/updating their Hero Builds. Another flaw with the system is that it still promotes guides that were ’early enough to get the worm’, deterring new guide creators from putting in the effort to support their work (since it may never receive enough exposure/ratings to be integrated within the Dota 2 client).

On the subject of ratings, user ratings have been marginally on the decline from 30% last year to 27% this year (despite the average nearly doubling from 99,000 to 200,000).

2

Both eXplosion and Purge are inactive, however Greyshark has recently restarted in creating new builds, never updating his old ones. His growth has matched our own.

 

MOTIVATION AND CHALLENGES


When I first started this project, it was both for educational purposes and frustration with the current player base. 7 years ago, I relied heavily on the PlayDotA Guides to break into the scene and now the project is taking that mantle and ensuring a consistency that is reliable; as reliant as I was to the PlayDotA community then.

coments1

It remains a strong motivator to read past and new comments about how the project has helped people get into the game, Dota 2.

 

As of late, it has been difficult to find time to keep up with all that is changing with the game and how it affects heroes both coming into each new meta and those who get left behind. With my career still taking a good portion of my time (incl. travel and day-to-day expectations), the guides have taken a backseat unfortunately. Thankfully, there are still proactive members in the community giving me feedback and reminding me when things are becoming dated or flat-out wrong, but the changes and initiative is still spear-headed myself; both due to how hero builds can only be changed by the original author, but also a lack of consistent help to share the workload.

In terms of challenges, it remains the same. Valve’s lack of attention to key bugs within the guides makes updating them a real chore. From having to publish and confirm each hero build individually, to having specific guides completely bug out, making them impossible to fix (e.g Beastmaster, until a user created a script to correct it thankfully). I have been trying to keep this dev.dota bug report up for visibility for the past five months (with issues dating as far back as Feb. 2013) but Valve’s inattentiveness to the system continues to bog down following-through on interest (for both current guide creators as well as new ones).

In terms of work load, the hero builds have expanded to the point of it consuming either my evenings or mornings. To break it down:

  • Daily: 2-3 hours for feedback collection, evaluations, application and, if possible, testing.

  • Weekly: 28-35 hours demanded if a crucial part of the project becomes dated: for example, updating hero text for all heroes/items/abilities, approximately: 188,500 words to be rewritten in a month).

  • Patch Release: 9 to 24 hours (within two days) depending on its size, the work ranges in a two-day period, with the following two weeks’ time reaching up to 28 to 35 hours as the meta rolls out and standardizes.

 

Time constraints remains a challenge in my life since 2014 and also a reason why the system keeps the “Lane/Jungle/Middle” categorization to reduce the number of builds created. I am also hard-capping the number of hero builds under my account to 150 to avoid being overwhelmed.

 

SETTING POLICIES


Last year, we underlined expectations from our targeted audience ranging from “trusting and appreciating their ability for choice” to “mixing popular playstyles into expected builds”. The project has expanded on that and has incorporated key polices to ensure consistency in quality and direction. They aren’t necessarily rules in that there is as much flexibility and consideration in them as the heroes’ playstyle themselves. Overall, I try to maintain and execute them when receiving conflicting feedback that needs a definitive direction.

 

Text:

  1. General descriptions must outline a hero’s role/strengths and one line for their weakness.

 

  1. Tooltips are currently being updated to almost always include a “cheat-sheet” in the ability’s pop-up textbox to help players learn how to be effective with a hero.

2

 

  1. Tooltips avoid repeating anything written from the item itself and aims more to explain the overall goal of purchasing X/Y item or ability.

 

 

Skill and Item Builds:

  1. Initially, hero skill builds were accounted for how difficult a hero was played, thus their skill build would be leveled in a way that was easier to understand or execute for the hero (Storm Spirit, Meepo, Invoker). That’s been changed to how a hero is just traditionally played instead of the best entryway to play a hero. The balance between deciding what new subscribers wanted and what purposes the hero build were for made this an especially difficult decision.

 

  1. Different tabs of an item build have different purposes and order:
    • Early Game and Core Items are placed in sequential order of purchase.
    • Situational Items are items intended to be bought before, during or after the Core Items sequence.
    • Situational and Extension Items are ordered by cost and not by priority due to too much difference in opinion and fluctuation in how fluctuating matches end up being. Users are to read Extension Items as choices depending on what’s needed.
    • The Luxury Items tab seldom appears in a guide, only when a hero is especially diverse late-game and there is a dual-stage priority in the items suggested.

 

  1. ‘Safety items’ are always promoted (Stout Shield [for melee heroes], Black King Bar and Magic Wand). This is due to the common issue of players often skipping smaller items to go for their Core. It’s important to instill good practices when choosing which items to purchase.

 

Structure:

  1. All hero builds are built under the assumption that the player is doing well (and if not, an item in the Situational Tab should alleviate initial challenges faced). The assumption is based on confidence and reassurance that the player is playing more comfortably thanks to relying on a guide as well as the instructions concisely written out both in the order of item-purchase sequence as well as the helpful text that pops up.
  1. Dual builds that was promoted last year, have nearly all been removed and a singular build has been kept in-place.
  1. All hero builds are updated immediately within 48 hours of a patch released despite the patch going relatively untested throughout the public. The reason for this is two-fold:
    • I want to remain consistent in being prompt with updates.
    • I want to avoid users going to other highly-rated builds when there is no guarantee the build creator accepts outside feedback nor may continuously update their builds as the patch further evolves.
  1. In that same vein, I create guides for newly-released heroes that can be played in multiple positions, despite only one being traditionally played. This is a question of covering all my bases to avoid losing
  1. If a hero build is in a position that is no longer played or is suboptimal, we either repurpose the build, swap it with what is currently being played or simply delete it. Examples of this include:

Some guides are maintained despite being dated in terms of playstyle (Ancient Apparition – Middle). A reason very few guides are removed, despite low numbers or being suboptimal in the current meta, is because it is difficult for newer guides created to gain any ratings, thus will not be found in-game. For example, the Leshrac – Middle guide has been around since late September 2014, but did not gain popularity until June 2015. That’s a challenge with the system and removing a guide only to have it be potentially played in the future makes deleting, then returning, guides an annoying process.

Another example is the Lifestealer – Lane guide which has been around since February 2014, but has not remotely reached popularity of its Jungle counterpart (230,000 to 1,600,000 respectively). We have not swapped the two builds because their difference in numbers is far too great and may alienate subscribing players. A final policy I try to ensure is not to force players in telling them what is the ideal way of playing a hero, but redirect them to the most suited. For some previous hero builds, it was simply unplayable or contrary to how a hero is played (e.g. Legion Commander – Jungle), for others; it is just a question of preference (both for the player and his matched teammates).

 

THANK YOUS


As always, the project remains a prideful part of me. No matter my situation in life, I think about this project every day and it fills me with a satisfaction that I’ve completed something and followed-through with it. This initiative started small and ambitious, but has now exploded as a beacon of trust and reference for newer players. Whether it was meeting professional players who recognized and commended my work (which was a huge boost of confidence) or day-to-day talks with public players who reach out to help in any way possible, it feels good to remain an integral part of the community and a direct contributor to a game that’s been with me through some real alienating parts of my life.

Pro Gamer using Guides

Arteezy trying out Hero Builds for the first time to play Pudge. He did not like the distraction of ability icons flashing when leveling up

 

Of course, this project would not have succeeded with as much reverence without the knowledge and feedback from these users and more (if you have made a suggestion in the past and did not receive credit, please let me know). These users come on a near weekly basis to give their thoughts and opinions on how a build is structured, build and communicated to hundreds of thousands of new users and without their instruction, this project would not be as accepted as it is now.

Thank you – TheYango, Doomblaze, Dead, Sn0_Man, maru~, a slow decay, lazyfailkid, ChrisXIV, Synapse, Cragus, Chaosquo, Vaelone, Jetaap, Rayeth, Comeh, Nevuk, Firebolt145, CatNzHat, Skamtet, Whole, Pokebunny, cecek, idonthinksobro, Tobberoth, LonelyCat, Coil1, Decency, LuckoftheIrish, SpiritoftheTunA, Alurr, BluemoonSC, tehh4ck3r, Logo, Buckyman, BluemoonSC, Belisarius, LemonWarlord, SKC, CosmicSpiral, Laserist, Evilfatsh1t, Nevuk, ahswtini, Velzi, nas, Get In The Robot, Harbinger_of_Llamas, eieio, Thetwinmasters, Doctorjoke, Pankra.

Sincere thanks to the following communities and its staff: Team Liquid/LiquidDota, /r/Dota2 and /r/LearnDota2, Steam Community
Dota 2 Hero Builds Main Hub
Twitter: @TorteDeLini
Steam Profile: Torte de Lini

1 year, 40 Million: Dota Builds Project Overview

Back in 2012, I started writing this site with the interest of covering topics that I always felt were under-represented. My latest passion project, the Hero Builds project, started back in late February of 2013, were about collecting an agreed version of standard play for each Dota 2 hero. As opposed to this opinionated site, I was coming from a place without confidence in my opinions and with much to learn. In many ways, I’ve grasped more than just playing better and also much faster than if I had just kept this project to myself. I am much farther in grasping the ability to not only discern how heroes are to be played but also just how flexible their roles and item/skill builds can be. This is what makes this project continuous, endless and, for the most part, an enjoyment for me to pursue.

This topic will be an overview about this project; the motivation, smaller nuances and statistical achievement. As stated, it’s been about a year and a half since I started this ambitious idea but it’s also been a full year (since October 30th 2013) that I’ve collected statistical data for each and every created guide and its growth. We’ll examine how much we’ve grown, how it still grows and the varying issues from the enlarging time-consumption to the dying competition.

Dota 2 Hero Build Inclient
For those new to some of Valve’s Dota 2 features, back in February of 2013, Valve announced a feature called Hero Builds: guides that can be accessed directly in-game and during a match, you are suggested what items to buy and what skills to level. For each selected hero, you were given explanatory prompts that made learning a hero or the game incredibly easy, accessible directly during matches without pausing or needing another window open. Overall, it was a part of Valve’s approach towards approaching Dota 2 easier alongside their other features, such as coaching and their tutorial.

Today we celebrate reaching over 40 million subscriptions across 140 guides (44,774,270 as of November 15th, 2014) and a full year of statistics to inspect and analyze.

From 3 million to 40 million – A year of Statistics


A few things to note:
1. A user cannot subscribe to more than one guide per hero. There are a total of 108 heroes released, thus a total of 108 guides can be subscribed per user.

 

2. The subscribers per guide are unique, but users can subscribed to several guides, creating overlap in total subscriptions.

 

3. Users subscribed are still using that guide in-game with all its prompts and suggestions which is different from a subscription to a youtube channel.

 

4. Data is readily available for those willing to cooperate in retrieving further relevant statistics (please contact me privately)

The short answer to all this is, we’re consistently growing. As Dota 2’s popularity expands, so does the project’s impact. Originally starting at 3 million, after only 8 months since our start (106 total guides), we’ve managed to attain 40 million subscriptions and multiply our average subscription numbers from 30,000 per guide to about 300,000 per guide (106 guides to 140+ total).

Total Subscriptions Growth

The blue indicates the total subscription numbers of that month while the orange indicates the difference in totals between the month prior and the current month it sits on top. To simplify, The orange is how much more from the previous month’s total to today’s total are new subscribers (which is 1.7 to 2 million every 15 days)

Without including any new guides to be created, we’re expecting 115 million (1,064,815 minimum unique) total subscriptions in the coming years (12 months to 18 months), presumably more as new heroes are released and new patches open up new ways to play old heroes.

Typically, the highest growth comes from weeks just after a new patch releases (1.55 to 2.04 million) and soon after The International 4 concluded (2.248 million subscription jump). This is typically due to both the influx of new users after a major event (The International) and how patches either remake some heroes, rendering previous outdated guides even more blatantly outdated or promotes our own guides through their consistency in updates and title indication (all guides in this project are titled with the current patch it is updated on).

Subscription Growth

In terms of the project’s impact, we typically are within the top 3 to 5 with an average of 300,000 subscriptions per guide. So although we have high subscription number for all guides, we are not leading in as many guides as we’d like, just consistently popular overall. We estimate a minimum of 12% of the total Dota 2 player base are subscribed to our guides (~1.12 million out of 9.7 million) to up to 20%/optimistically 34%). The data set below is our attempt at grabbing the majority population of subscribed users per hero and then seeing what our take is (~21%) and then projecting it onto 108 guides (maximum number per user).

[Estimated Population Percentage]

Not 100% accurate as per the issues stated prior to this section. This is a ballpark estimation with 12% being the minimum unique subscribers.

The current issues with the guides’ scene is both the decline in competition of other guide creators as well as the disparity between total subscriptions and lack of ratings. We found that on average, only 30% of the total subscribers actually bother rating the guide they’re using which is quite low. This is a significant issue for newly-released guides as those who remain on top, despite not being updated since 2013, continue to collect a small portion of ratings and newer guides are not rotated in for exposure and ratings. At the moment, 16 guides out of 140 of this project still lack enough ratings to be included in-game.

Ratings vs Subscribers

Another issue is the decline of other guide makers, offering little variance or consistent quality work across all heroes. Against the current top 4 guide creators in the world, only two are currently active: myself at 42.3 million (now 44.7 million/140 guides) and greyshark at 13.7 million and 102 guides. Both Purge and eXplosion maintain high ratings, but no longer actively update their guides or create new ones (and GreyShark rarely updates his guides, making nearly the majority of them outdated).

Comparison Against Other Guide Makers Motivation


I’d be lying if I said I was doing this solely for the good of the community. In many ways, the silent dependency of current subscribers, the pages and pages of appreciative comments and the dying scene of in-game Hero Build creators motivates me to keep going. It’s an inflated view, but nonetheless I thrive on this feeling to persist. I like to joke and sternl state that I do use this entire project to also improve myself as it gives me a utilitarian reason to poke my better friends into giving me tips and advice without them thinking less of me (though I’m not sure if that’s any more possible!).

My initial motivation when creating guides was my frustration with the random players I get matched with (we all like to judge others) and you’ll find that common frustrated motivation in many passionate people today. In turn, I also removed any frustration on myself and the project has pushed me into getting more involved in the competitive scene, the strategies and evolving metagame as well as watching many, many public matches from some of the highest rated players around the world. Even when I’m the least interested in Dota 2, either due to a losing streak, straying curiosity of other competitive genres, I stay in touch through these guides, with the scene and with the community. So as long as there is a dependency and interest in my work, I will stay involved.

Challenges


The most challenging part of this project is two-fold: 1. Keeping up with the changes both in-game (balance-wise) as well as the metagame and 2. Maintaining the direction of the project; being restrictive in what items to include and not include (as you know, in Dota 2, there are so many situations for each individual hero that calls for specific items) and continuing to serve an audience that expands rapidly (roughly 2 million new subscriptions every 15 days).

1. Keeping Up – Guides can be as grueling as a typical desk job or as time-consuming as summer school.

This project has its ups and down, at the moment, with how the current patch is; there is constant task of keeping up with builds, emerging popular items and the coming of new heroes (Oracle should be released momentarily, two new guides to rapidly draft, publish and improve). A key thing to note about newly-released heroes is that the first guides to be released and receive a sufficient amount of ratings will also be the ones to establish the most subscribers and, subsequently, keep those subscribers no matter how wrong or misrepresenting they can be (from this contributor’s perspective).

A little more challenging and time-consuming are pre- and post-patch releases which can take up to 22 hours of elapsed work time in a very short period of days (3 days typically). As an example, the most recent 6.80 patch required an initial 20-hour work schedule across three days and then an additional 4 hours to not only receive and judge newcoming feedback, but to also follow gameplay changes via Dotabuff, professional matches, cross-matching with the top 10 public players per hero (thanks Dotabuff.com) as well as downloading the replays, watching live matches and talking to some friends who are at a higher skill level than myself to get their opinion. This doesn’t include the amount of time it takes to also create new guides for emerging new ways to play a specific hero that was previously not possible or remotely viable.

Data Sheet

For patch 6.80, we only had to apply 370 changes and create 8 new guides. For a complete overhaul, which is an inspection of all hero guides, general descriptions, item descriptions and builds in correlation to the highest competition that’s taking place, The International, it can take several days to complete and over 2,500 rewrites, changes and note-taking.

In short, keeping up with the guides is a continuous affair that has its ups and downs, sometimes it can take up all of my time equal to a full-time job and at others, between those blips of updates, new heroes and a transitioning meta: it slows a lot down; consuming perhaps 4 hours a day reading feedback, watching matches/checking Dotabuff, and testing the builds myself in-game.

2. Key Framing – knowing your audience and trusting their prior knowledge is key to making accurate and to-the-point instructional builds.

Setting up how you want your guides to be perceived, how much and in what ways you trust your subscribed player base is key to achieving guides that are very fixed in expectations, but flexible in their range of information and abilities. Here’s a basic list of things I keep in mind both in detail to each guide and specific hero as well as overlying points about the audience accumulated audience.

+  Trust your audience and assume the appreciation of player’s choice:

We offer the idea of “Dual-Core” builds. Two core ways to play a hero that are different in approach and/or role (example: late-game carry Tiny and ganking Tiny). One may be the more standard and expected way to play but we don’t dismiss other also viable ways to play, especially if your allied team needs that role specifically.

+ Restricting the amount of information in a guide:

To keep things simple, I restrict the number of items per section of a guide (situational, extension, etc.), we also categorize them by price and typically priority and/or frequency of that situation arising that calls for an item.

+ Adding additional information that sets yourself apart from others:  

Most subscriptions come from in-game, so they cannot see when a guide was last updated or other guides I have made, so we provide that information as a separate tab in the Suggested Items prompt in-game for users to be aware and interested.

+ Incorporating popularity within your target’s range of play while also leading them into better suggestions:

Another balancing act is both incorporating what’s currently popular for public players while also leading them into the right suggestions. For the image below, you can see Bane does not have the most typical items usually found in public games:  Aghanim’s Scepter and Soul Ring. They are among the top items bought in the game according to Dotabuff. We instead opted for Urn of Shadows because at higher levels, it is generally much better for how Bane is played overall (through all phases of a match) than the advantages of, say, Soul Ring, early-game.

Tiny and Bane

The image above shows Tiny’s item build split into two core roles to play the hero and Bane’s guiding direction in avoiding two commonly bought items in public matches.

Why does your title include which lane/area the hero to go rather than its role?

The initial reason was because I felt that was more relevant and useful for newcomers than stating how the hero should be played and the other is for the sake of conciseness. If I were to include a guide for every single role a hero could be played or is played by standard, I’d have about 200 guides rather than the current 140-150. With how time-consuming it is becoming to update guides, especially with each new patch, I would not be able to do it with the consistency and pace I can now.

As our audience expands, so becomes the flexibility and range of expectancies. What I set today as the standard and goal of these guides is not necessarily what it may be a year from now.

[No] Support


The overall gain from this work mostly stems from pride and self-fulfillment from having a historical dedication to a project for a long-time. I get a lot of satisfaction in being a part of something and consistently striving to keep its quality up to a high standard. There is no monetary gain and usually it isn’t talked about when I place it on my CV but nonetheless, it is simply an enjoyment for me, even during those times of chaos and time-crunched moments.

I’ve been asked on occasion about my interest to funding the continuation of this project through Patreon or Kickstarter or to simply allow donations. Unfortunately, it’s not something I am comfortable with doing. Despite how time-consuming and draining this is, it does not consume the entirety of my week. It’s still something I can do on the side while working full-time and I am very much qualified both in gaming and in eSports. When the project becomes too overwhelming on a daily or weekly basis, I may seek assistance (not necessarily financial), but at this present time, we’re doing al’right and the service continues to help new players get comfortable with Dota 2. Valve’s Hero Builds system is free and available for anyone to use to either create their own guides or to take my format and modify it to their own interests. Since the system is free and I’m more than happy doing it for free, I don’t feel relying on Patreon or Kickstarter fits into my moral compass nor current line of motivation.

To add, a lot of recurring community members and friends give a lot of their time to talk with me and give input/feedback and even explain some misconceptions I have. For me to take financial advantage of the situation would be to discredit their involvement and to place my own above all. It’s not something that’s fair when it’s not only knowledge/experience going into the guides, just the legwork (and obsession haha). Simply put, in the future, it something we may have to consider if it consumes all of my free time consistently but for now, you can support me by either rating the guides, providing feedback or spreading awareness to your friends you want to convert to Dota 2!

Lastly, however, if I could pitch ideas to Valve Software and collaborate during my free time to improving their newcomer systems to both Dota 2 (improving the guide system, workshop, new tutorials, etc.) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (I have a few ideas too as someone who’s at Silver Elite), that would be a real honor and something I am passionate about.

On a side-note, if you’re interested in my other pieces of writing or in myself, you can follow me on Twitter (@TorteDeLini), read my other articles and give feedback (ArmchairAthleticism.com)! Otherwise, continuously providing feedback and rating my guides (whether in approval or disapproval) is very much appreciated.

Thank Yous


In short, thank you to those who trust me and even skeptics who constructively told me I’m improving (but still suck)! Information regarding changes made and the subsequent discussion following can be found on LiquidDota.com

Lastly, there have been a variety of users who have been supportive of this project and consistently provide insight, good or bad, that helped shaped these guides.

TheYango, Doomblaze, Sn0_Man, maru~, a slow decay, ChrisXIV, Synapse, Chaosquo, Comeh, Firebolt145, Whole, Pokebunny, Cecek, idonthinksobro, Tobberoth, LonelyCat, Coil1, LuckoftheIrish, Laserist, SpiritoftheTunA, Alurr, BluemoonSC, tehh4ck3r, Buckyman, Belisarius, SKC, CosmicSpiral, Laserist, Evilfatsh1t, Nevuk