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.

The Solo Trail – Unbeaten

I’ve probably rewritten this introduction hundreds of times. Each time I did, it said too much or too little about myself or the basic goals I wanted to outline with this page. Let’s just start with general information about myself: my name is Michael Cohen, I am a 23-year old Sociology and Professional [information] Writing student. I have been contributing to this subculture we all love called E-Sports for only two years and while that may not seem like very long, I’ve done my fair share of work and contributions.

The short version of my credentials?

  • Manager of 5 pro gaming teams (50+ professional players)
  • Writer for 9 E-sports websites (5 team sites + 4 organizations: 150+ docs/articles)
  • Organizer or Contributor of 11 community events (74,000 viewers/attendants)
  • Some video-editing for one or two organizations, nothing big, just twitch.tv highlight-editing, presentational writing, etc.

Sounds impressive, at least to me it does and it fills my entire two-page CV (seriously, I had to remove some minimum-wage jobs I had done in 2006-2008 to fit it all), but the first lesson you have to learn when you want to get anywhere in E-Sports is to learn to dedicate yourself to a few organizations over a long period of time (which I haven’t done, so I am being patronizing from the other side). It doesn’t take a math wizard to see that if I’ve done all of this in two years, it means:

  1. I Juggled a lot of jobs simultaneously (Writing, Organizing BarCrafts or a tournament, managing players)
  2. I left a lot of solid organizations and went to a new one soon after (many reasons for this one)
  3. I learned quantity may not necessarily mean quality work and while I like to think I did a pretty damn good job managing players and writing articles, someone who only does one of those jobs at a time will improve faster and will have a stronger connection with his peers.

So that’s that and I’d be lying if I was satisfied. I got to work with some awesome people and on the flipside; with a lot of organizations that have made me bitter. Over time the facade of working to “help Esports grow” quickly diminished. I think anyone who tells you that they’re doing something “to help/grow Esports” isn’t being entirely truthful. Anyone who does their job(s) unpaid and purely out of passion are doing it both for the sake of their eagerness to matter in a populating scene as well as to help their organization. That’s not necessarily bad as I soon learned when writing this series, but I noticed that E-sports grows through everyone’s contributions. So using that utilitarian statement to recruit new volunteers or to discredit any accusations of malice is counter-productive in the grand scheme of things. Interpret it how you will and I’m sure we could even widen the range of people who bullshit with the buzzword(s) “Growing Esports”.

I’ll answer the foundational question I wanted to answer from the start:

Why are you starting your own space?

I was listening to the suggestions of several friends and I finally started this space after I hit a dead-end in my endeavours in E-Sports. I’m at a point where I am not really affiliated with anyone and now’s a better time than ever to do some opinion topics. Doing my own content meant I would be alone and would work around my own initiative, drive and interest. However, it also meant that I may do something that requires more work than I thought and I would be on my own. It meant that the community reception can be more direct and harsh towards me personally and my views as I would not be backed by some credible organization as when I was writer for some. In the end, this series that took me about a month of writing, editing, verification and re-writing will really be everything I’ve learned, observed and felt throughout my time. I started out with three pieces and ended up going to ten. All of them delve into inspecting the five perspectives of the scene: teams, tournaments, players, spectators and contributors. Ultimately, it aims to really take a strong look into the many issues that inhibit the StarCraft community and E-Sports culture.

*[to note that all future posts will be recorded by my own voice and available on youtube or mp3 format for your convenience]