9 Years, 500 Million (2021): Dota Builds Project Year-in-Review

This is the 9th annual Year-in-Review for my personal project: The Standard Dota Hero Builds. You can review the archives of the previous years hereNote that images may appear smaller than legible – click on them to get a closer look.

Honored to be featured in the Dota 2 Tutorial

I’m very late in releasing the latest year-in-review for The Standard Hero Guides Project. If last year was one of the most exploratory time, then this year is one of consistency and comfort before the big 10. To note, this post may contain snippets from last year’s year-in-review as a lot of what I had to say is still relevant today. I put a lot of thoughts, articulation and perspective in last year that has really solidified my feelings to this day.

Within this review, I outline some of the latest statistical achievements these guides have reached but also reflect back on some major policies and processes I’ve implemented in 2021.

Stats

Regarding this year’s statistics, some results were tracked up to June 2022 despite this being a review of 2020 to 2021. Sincere thanks leamare and James Hu for their help in collecting key data and information.

Achievements

In summary, 2021 has been another monumental level of achievement that confirms what has been the norm for over nine years. In short:

  • 3+ Billion Total Matches Played
  • Over 500+ million total subscriptions across 165 guides
  • 86.27% of all daily games are influenced by my guides
  • Phantom Assassin guide is one of the most subscribed resource across all of Dota 2, most subscribed guide on the Steam platform
Over 6 Million Subscribers and 69.4 Million matches played this one guide. Believe it or not, Pudge is the most played guide despite lower subscriber total: 71 Million games played, 4.6 Million Subscribers.

Market Share – 86.27%

From what we were able to simulate, approximately 86.27% of all daily Dota matches use one or more of my guides. The percentages represented show the likelihood of 1 to 9 guides simultaneously being used during any match. For reference, 2018 was 82.67%, 2019 grew to 82.96% and 2020 was 89.64%. While a 3.37% reduction isn’t much, it can be an indicator that players are now choosing alternative guides that may suit their needs, alleviating previous frustrations when my guides were the only choice (at the time). In terms of alternative guides, the second most popular guide creator (a toss-up between Greyshark and others) is around 505 million total games played.

Total Games Played – 3+ Billion

Every day, about 1.6 million total games are played using my guides. Furthermore, the guides receive 20,600 new subscribers every day. The growth is staggering and continues to surprise every year that not only am I acquiring new players but that there is still a lot of active subscribers actively using my guides. If curious, these are the heroes that are most popularly played:

  • Invoker: 77.9 Million total games played (combined from both guides)
  • Pudge: 71.3 Million total games played
  • Phantom Assassin: 69 Million total games played
  • Juggernaut: 68.5 Million total games played
  • Sniper: 64.3 Million total games played

Thoughts

My guides are trusted by millions of players for billions of matches. I am both proud and intimidated of this reality. To be honest, I seldom think about this quantity because the truth is that my unique position is both a duality of great importance and insignificance. What I mean to say is that the choosing of my guides is a simple three-second decision for players in a match that can last over 45 minutes of even greater choices, strategy and challenges.

These guides are a tool, similar to a bucket or a shovel. They will help a player dig efficiently, but the effort, planning and knowledge comes from the player themselves on how to aptly use these tools (and in understanding their limitations). For a more concrete example, I always say that if OpenAI can win against professional teams using my guides, either my work is the greatest gift in Dota, or more obviously, there is more to a win or loss than if someone is using my guides. Regardless, the trust I’ve earned among my subscribers is something I cherish deeply and continues to push me in improving.

Year in Review, 2020

Processes & Policies Update Information

A few additions have been made to improve the guides’ quality and assistance in new and returning players. Below are the continued practices mentioned in 2015 and 2018 but also new additions for 2021.

Continued Policies from 2020 & 2015

This Monkey King guide is a perfect example of the different policies currently in place. Dual core builds for different playstyles, Instruction Category tabs, Earlier Extension items like Skadi in the Core section to make room for other Extension Items, Luxury Items tab, etc.
  • Guides continue to be updated based on data, pro-player feedback, player discussions and observed matches (on Twitch or in-game).
  • Guides (are expected to be) updated within the first 48 hours after a large patch release.
    • A second, more thorough, revision is applied across two weeks.
  • Hero Builds are constructed under the assumption that the player is performing well.
    • Situational Tab alleviates potential challenges if the player is underperforming or facing specific counters.
  • Six items maximum per slot to reduce burdening the player with too much choice and to emphasize the more popularly-used items.
  • Dual Core Builds continue to be relevant where applied for heroes with multiple playstyle like Monkey King, Wraith King and more.
  • Instructional tabs on the different guide category tabs help orient interpretation on how to read and use the guides for new players.
  • Some typically suggested extension items are now listed in the Core section to make room for more suggested Extension items. Usually these late-game core items are natural follow-throughs of a typical core item already suggested (e.g: Aether Lens into Octarine Core is very, very common next item for Earthshaker)
    • This practice is lessened now that I am implementing a Luxury Items tab in 2021.
  • Annual tooltip text revisions to keep the guides helpful and updated for new players.

For every update I’ve pushed out, I have provided a changelog of what guides have been revised. From forum posts to Twitter lists to now YouTube videos, these changes help outline the time and effort that goes into the guides, as well as giving an open door to any critical feedback players may have. Over 50,000 guide updates have been provided and available for review.

2021 Policy Updates & Additions

  • Luxury Items Tab added: over the course of the past two years, we’ve seen an uptick of new late-game items implemented with each major balance patch. In view of that, I’ve added a Luxury Items tab to help differentiate what are staple pick-ups for a hero’s late-game and which are more like late-game considerations (both ultra-late and situational late-game). This should help alleviate the “six-items-per-category” policy I have currently in place while offering more segmented choice for players.
  • Infused Raindrop: as mentioned in my update videos, you’ll now be seeing an uptick of forced early-game recommended Infused Raindrops. Though you won’t see this on Dota2ProTracker, but if you review match details on OpenDota, you’ll see a lot of pro-gamers buying Infused Raindrop to alleviate mana issues for a lot of heroes. Typical players are still not knowing to ferry over clarities during their games to help farm or as a support, so this Infused Raindrop insert should make it more blatantly obvious that a player needs mana regeneration.
  • Last Updated tab Added to Guides: in-client and on the web, players can see when a guide has been recently updated. However, most players are seeing guides only when in a match so they’ll never been informed when a guide has been revised. I’ve changed my Tome of Knowledge promotional tab to an informational one that shows when I last updated my guides to help give subscribers more trust of when a guide has been reviewed (and revised).

Thoughts & Future

Professional Achievements

Last blog post, I outlined a lot of my thoughts when it comes to Dota, life and desire to do more. I had achieved a lot and sought for more, I:

  • completed marketing for PUBG Europe League, Dota Minor & CS:GO Berlin Major
  • completed sale for GosuGamers & Media
  • started (and dropped out) of an Executive MBA degree
  • completed and renewed 14 certifications in digital marketing & SEO
  • learned to video-edit & piano (on-going)
  • outlined why I play Dota unranked, with anonymous mode activated and random’ing my hero every game

For 2021-22, I raised several million dollars for new start-ups, completed another acquisition (Thousands Lives Advertising Agency) and I’m featured in publications including InvenGlobal, NASDAQ and EsportsInsider. For Dota, I’ve been providing some analysis and coaching for a couple of pro-players which revolves around discussing builds, item & skill build trends and overall game meta. It’s been a lot of fun and insightful into how pros have been seeing and playing the game compared to the general population’s discussions.

Future Goals

In the future, I’d like to finally make an endeavour into game studios and I’ve taken key steps in exploring that. I’ve also begun exploring collaborating with teams in regards to my guides, pairing them with a pro-team and expanding that branding into generated content & engaging pieces (within Dota and beyond). For some, they had not realized the reach guides provide but also the recognition established with it.

Over the years, many professional players have trusted my guides to help them get introduced to heroes they haven’t played before incl. Yatoro, Resolution, Mind_Control, MoonMoon, Arteezy and more and, in turn, received a lot of feedback from pros over the years.

Personal Thoughts

I continue to do the guides because it’s a reminder of the merits of hard work and dedication. For years, while failing at different esports start-ups, this project was (and still is) the only thing I was confident of and gaining confidence from; a consistency in a life full of failures; a reminder of my problematic childhood. I’m fortunate to know what failure is so I can savour the times I truly feel I’ve succeeded. Even if it is small in the grand scheme of things, it is for me to behold and be grateful of.

What’s changed is that as I grow older, I now draw motivation from my own sense of worth rather than seeking validation in people whom I’ll never meet and whose opinions I’ll likely never get to hear (and vice-versa, they’ll never read this blog or know who I am). By that logic, I am just as unimportant to the majority as they are to me. When I was younger, that search to matter would instill an insecurity that I would want to resolve. Now it’s a liberating feeling that regardless what I do, it won’t even register to the majority and through that, I can do as I feel.

At 12 years old, I had a much darker skin colour than I do now. What was ahead of me was a lot of abuse, racism and failure but also lied an ambitious boy seeking to prove himself. In many ways, he did and in many other ways, he never had to.

Conclusion

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of this incredible project. I am now at a place where I have nothing left to prove except that I enjoy what I’m doing and I take pride in focusing on just that. My father used to quote: your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. And while I’m sure there’s a bit of blissful optimism sprinkled in that cheesy line, it has helped this relatively (previously below-)average person accomplish something above-average. If my father’s message is, in reality, untrue, then I am at least grateful in terms of how far my overcompensating efforts has reached.

Dedicated to my good friends Alfonso Cubias & Sean Plott, giving perspective in the discovery of the new

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