8 Years, 450 Million (2020): Dota Builds Project Year-in-Review

This is the 8th annual Year-in-Review for my personal project: The Standard Dota Hero Builds. You can review the archives of the previous years here. Note that images may appear smaller than legible – click on them to get a closer look.

The Standard Hero Builds Project is a personal product of in-game Dota 2 guides that helps new players learn how to play their characters. Over 163 guides are created and routinely maintained with helpful tips and roadmap on itemization and skill recommendations.

It’s been long overdue for me to post an annual update about my hero builds project and this year has been a massive leap forward in terms of growth, achievements and discovery. 2020-2021 has also been the most mentally challenging and exploratory year (thanks to COVID) in understanding what I want to do, can do and what makes me happy both with Dota and in general.

Within this review, I will outline some key statistics, iterate on some established guide-making policies I outlined in 2014-2015, my new sponsor and talk about myself.

Stats

Regarding this year’s statistics, results were tracked up until 2021 despite this being a review of 2019 to 2020. Sincere thanks to my friend, James Hu, for helping me with managing the data and its results.

Year-over-Year Growth

Between February 2013 to May 2021, the guides have reached over 450 million subscriptions. Approximately 25 to 35 million new subscribers come in annually with individual guides like Phantom Assassin hitting 5.5 Million unique subscribers and the average across all 163 guides is 2.8 Million per. It gives me great pride to think that my guides are among the most subscribed resources on the Steam platform.

Market Share

From what we were able to simulate, approximately 89.64% 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% and 2019 grew to 82.96%. Key difference from last year’s findings is that we used global population data from Stratz to determine our findings. Previously, we relied on Dotabuff but they do not track all modes per hero-usage percentages (e.g. not counting Turbo or bot games), thus leading to a lower and inaccurate results.

Total Games Played

For every new subscription, we can assume a player at least viewed and subscribed to a guide once. However, subscriptions do not necessarily mean my guides are being played with regularly. This is where the ‘Games Played‘ statistic comes in as that would indicate active continuous usage of a guide (i.e: “impressions”). Since 2013, over 2.5 billion matches have been played using my guides. If you’re curious which heroes have the most played games using my guides: Invoker (69 million combined), Pudge (59 million), Phantom Assassin (58 million), Juggernaut (57 million), Sniper (54 million combined)

Thoughts

My guides are trusted by millions of people for billions of matches. I am both proud and intimidated of this reality. That said, I rarely think about it because the truth is that my unique position is a duality of both importance and insignificance in the grand scheme of a whole match. In other words, the choosing of my guides is a simple three-second decision for players, in a match that can last over 45 minutes of choices, strategy and challenges. However, my guides are the choice people go within that three second time-frame. This whole thought-process detracts from the bottom-line that this passion project can only continue if it comes from my own self-interest and not the interpretative importance for a video game.

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 person themselves. For a more concrete example, I always say that if OpenAI can win against professional teams using my guides, either my guides are the greatest gift in Dota, or evidently, there is more to a win or loss than if someone is using my guides (or any guides for that matter). Regardless, the trust I’ve earned among my subscribers is something I cherish deeply and continues to motivate me into improving my work and service. Thank you for your trust and continued support.

Recognitions

From the Newcomer Stream to OpenAI to part of the Dota 2 Tutorial!

Thanks to Tora and the rest of the modding team, I am now part of the official Dota 2 Tutorial resources! In case you were wondering, that photo of me is over 7 years old. Lastly, my publishings regarding the Dota Esports scene received positive comments and appreciation from key industry groups. Also, my 2019 piece on New Player Experience Suggestions was also well-received.

I don’t know how many of my ideas were implemented in Valve’s “New Player Experience” update but I was so happy to see the game finally improved for new-coming players.

Welcome SteelSeries!

I am excited to announce my partnership with SteelSeries! I’ve known of and been a fan of SteelSeries for most of my esports career and gaming life: of the past decade:

  • My first gaming headset was a (red) Siberia V2.
  • Sponsored my favourite players and teams back in Warcraft III and StarCraft II (Grubby & Evil Geniuses).
  • I got to meet and interview Dendi in their offices in Denmark many years ago.

Many parts of my career have been connected with SteelSeries and now, my passion project inks a new chapter with them. SteelSeries has been an active supporter of Dota 2 events, pro-teams and players for years and I’m honored to have my passion and work for Dota 2 directly trusted and supported by SteelSeries.

Process & Policies

Every year I publish approximately 40,000 changes to the guides. That does not include the hundreds of thousands of changes revolving around tooltip texts nor the work in re-checking guides that remain updated (and need no further modifications). Lastly, since January 2020 (approximately 75 weeks straight), I have been providing weekly announced updates and changes to my hero builds to ensure consistency and pro-activity in keeping them updated. You can view them on my twitter:

Evidently, these announced changes don’t make note of the hero builds I’ve reviewed and found no changes to be made. These are only the ones I’ve found changes needing to be made.

Guide-Updating Process

I have assumed for too long that people knew how these guides were created and maintained. Though I announce weekly changes, the work is constant and daily. To summarize, these guides should be viewed as a product/service and I am the manager and researcher of them. I get feedback from pro-players and active guide-users, watch replays and pro-matches, play-test the guides, review builds based on statistical patterns from databases and then implement key changes routinely. It’s a system that strives to reach a standard of acceptance while fitting the high-level expectations of a large and varied audience. Like the manager of a restaurant, I actively eat and try my own food (recommended builds) and let the chefs (high-level matches and meta) determine what should be on the menu (guides). In terms of feedback, it’s been sparse for many years now and so I have to actively search on message boards for contributory criticisms and suggestions.

One thing I will note is that sometimes stats websites can be inaccurate or slow in their summaries compared to the meta. Even on Dota2ProTracker, Dotabuff or Stratz; what’s recommended is not always reflective of the ideal way to play the hero in that it lacks context of the match(es) it is drawing conclusions from, or worse, it is not noticing a new trend of talent choices, synergy or itemization until more data comes in. There is a manual process I spend significant time to, ideally, avoid the pitfalls of over-relying on statistics without proper meaning behind the results. This is why feedback and outreaching communication is key. Lastly, play-testing guides myself helps tailor them more comfortably for the average player (myself being one of them) in areas like mana management and sufficient regen. during the laning stage.

Reviewing 2015 Guide-Making Policies

I realize that the policies I wrote in 2015 are probably not known to today’s audience. For the most part, most of these rules set in place for the guides still remain since:

  • All guides aim to be updated within the first 48 hours if a large patch is released. After that, a second, more thorough, update is passed across two weeks. This original schedule was due to public pressure but now its become an obsessive habit.
  • Hero Builds are constructed under the assumption that the player is performing well.
    • Situational Tab alleviates potential challenges and adversities if the player is underperforming.
  • Maximum of six items per slot (Extension, Situational, Core, Early Game) to reduce burdening the player with too much choice and to emphasize the more popularly strategic items.
  • Tooltips avoid repetition from the main descriptor and contextualize the item’s goals or its synergies with the hero.

New Policies

For the most part, these policies aren’t new – I just never explicitly mentioned them in my annual reviews:

Dual Core Builds
Monkey’s Core Build includes both BFury and Maelstrom setups.

Dual Core Builds in one guide are still relatively popular to maximize the offerings for players in one guide. When a standard playstyle is diverging into two styles, I split a guide into two Core builds to provide structure to the player whether they’re having a ‘good’ game or need something specific.

For some heroes, their Core Items are always the same but their late-game choices are split into two camps for players to consider.
Instructional Tabs

In my 2015 post, I outlined that the Core section of a guide typically consists of mandatory purchases while the Extension section consists of situation-dependent items in the late-game. It only took me six years to realize that this is not immediately clear for new players. The tab titles now reflect how each tab should be read and considered. It’s small, but the effect is massive and instructional.

Furthermore, I’ve included more information in a guide’s titles like “Pos 4” or “Middle” to help orient players to the correct role or lane.

Starting, Early and Core are all sequentially recommended while Situational Items are to per-scenario substitutitions, including or after a player’s Core Items purchasing. Extension is per every player’s choice with no priority ordering.
More Core Items for More Extension Items, but Less Overall

I have started moving key late-game items into the ‘Core‘ tab of the guides. Not only were these late-game items purchased more than any other item but usually they are purchased after the previously recommended Core Items. I’ve also reduced Situational Items for most guides as they obfuscated key items that players would be usually considering. However, with more room on each tab, I’ve added alternative boots choices (previously I did not do this).

Overall, this transitioned the guides to being less of a menu of choices and more instructional for a larger part of a player’s match. This also opened up more room for Extension Items recommendations like Aghanim’s Shard without breaking my ‘max 6 items per tab‘ policy. I am unsure if players have noticed this shift but it may feel limiting until I re-populate some guides appropriately.

Annual Text Revisions

As announced across community channels, I do an annual text revision to re-align any missing information (or misinformation) of the guides’ items and ability tool-tips. That’s about 4,700 items, 650 abilities and 260,000 words written. With each iteration, I re-check for inaccuracies, tighten language and add more context to an item relative to the hero’s function.

I am not sure if I announce the changes every year, but the work is definitely done on an annual basis and takes me about 3-4 months of daily work.

Future Considerations

There are two more areas I am considering of adding to the guides for more value:

  1. Luxury Tab: With the introduction of the Aghanim’s Shard and my hard-cap of 6 items per slot, I am thinking of bringing back the ‘Luxury‘ tab to further segment late-game items and even more situational late-game alternatives.
  2. Hero Play-style Instructions: The one thing the guide cannot do is tell players how to play their hero. But what if I included a snippet of information in a tooltip as a reference guide? This could prove useful for players in fully grasping the full-range of a hero’s abilities and what to do for each aspect of the hero’s role and capabilities.

If you’re reading this and actively use my guides, let me know this would be of interest to you.

Could even include a YouTube link here for further elaboration.

Personal Thoughts & Future

Over the years, I’ve come to be more selective with who and how I communicate. More importantly though, I’ve come to the conclusion that, like everything else in life, what I do and say should be for my own (mental) benefit rather than in convincing others’ minds/opinions. When providing a service to others, it can be conflicting to prioritize yourself while also being accommodating.

Playing Dota with a Purpose

Although I’ve played over 8,300 matches and given over 10,000 hours to Dota 2, I have long stopped playing to exclusively win. That’s not to say I don’t play every match with that same determination but rather there are alternative goals such as testing guides, learning a new hero, meta, etc. that are my focus. Long ago, I’ve realized that putting too much emotional stock in winning leads to more frustration than satisfaction. Given I grew up playing DotA as a custom game in Warcraft III, with no ladder in-place at the time, I continued that mindset by just not getting involved with ranked, Dota+, event modes or the annual TI battle passes. My stance is that by avoiding long-term progression systems, my feelings stemming from a match ends with its result. Any feeling to play more is not tied to an obsession to unlock an item or reach a higher rank. Instead, it’s based purely on the idea of my enjoyment of the game and the matches. I cannot change how I am affected by these systems so my only option is to self-preserve. To add, by including other goals like testing guides or learning heroes, I de-emphasize the importance of winning with other takeaways. In a sense, I am enjoying Dota only for Dota.

I’ve found that anonymous mode protects me (and others from me). I noticed a lot of interactions tend to be a mixed bag of positive and negative emotions (both initial and subsequent). By completely removing all receiving communication, my emotional investment in each match is reduced and I opt out of the psychology of Dota where enemies and allies goad one another. I still communicate what I can on my end, but I put the onus of being muted on others.

This opting out has helped limit my day-to-day consequential moods. When I lose, I can just stop playing rather than feeling obligated to grind when unhappy or dissatisfied (which, in turn, affects others by my own frustration). Personally, I do not possess much curiosity about my personal skill-level, and exploring new hobbies instead increases that disinterest to know. All this said, testing guides still leads to a lot of losses and I still lose my head in certain moments. Learning to deal with that and recognizing problematic behavior takes time even with the ideal environment. No matter how much I grow, it will always take a conscious effort and maturity to step back from a heated moment and let go for the benefit of your well-being and of others.

Live-Streaming & Content-Creation

Whenever I do anything in my free time, I do it with a purpose to achieve multiple goals at once. In 2020, I started streaming my Dota matches more frequently. With streaming, I achieve multiple goals:

  • Meet like-minded Dota players and get community feedback.
    • Embrace a more socially-forward and less anxiously awkward personality to larger groups.
  • Openly test hero builds and display the process to update them (and its challenges).
  • Fill a lot of free time during COVID, especially when I live in a foreign country, where I don’t know too many people.
  • Use it as an outlet to express frustration when a match goes poorly (and/or I play especially bad).
    • especially useful as those who complain and flame in-game tend to worsen their teammates’ experiences.
  • Grow marketable content-platforms for further sponsorship interest/expansion.
  • Personal development, research, and exploration in light of new health situations
Since I started streaming in Feb. 2020, my channel’s followers and total views have jumped 52% and 40% respectively. Streaming still remains a part of my free-time (like Dota and the guides) and not a priority in view of my other projects. Because of this, CCV remains low and requires more effort on my part.

Lastly, in the past year, I’ve finished over 50 different single-player games, learning a lot about different genres, gameplay types, game design and writing narratives. It’s been fun to explore and experience this with a tight-knit group of friends, viewers and community. I really enjoy the aspect of player behavior and how games orient, model or improve behavior in the game. This enjoyment lines up with the hero builds, where finding the optimal approach to teach and help players learn how to play Dota, within a limited scope of inflexible guides, is both a challenge and passion.

Life & Future

Professional Work

In terms of professional work, it has been an investigative year of determining what I want to do and what industry I want to continue to work in. After 2019, my affairs were wrapped up with StarLadder and marketing for the PUBG Europe League and CS:GO Major: Berlin. In 2020, I completed my consultancy of the GosuGamers.net sale – the second acquisition in my career. For 2021, I’m continuing to provide strategic leadership consultation in gaming and esports for new brands, investors, companies and executive headhunting firms. The biggest challenge has been understanding what role I want to be in long-term, as my ambitions have always been in the goals of a product or service, and not in specific responsibilities or job titles. My current conflict is that I want to be integral to both the creative process in shaping something (a game, platform or other) and I want to give my expertise to a sound business/marketing strategy for the organization. From my initial findings, only start-ups offer this much job-role fluidity. For 2021, I’ve been asked to help fund-raise for a start-up outside gaming and esports as well.

PUBG Europe League schedule and standings explained
A Return to Education

On top of the sponsored guides work, live-streaming, guide play-testing, fund-raising start-ups and my consultancies, I started re-examining my education and interest in new learning skills. Below is an outline of what I’ve explored or am currently learning since 2020.

  • Video Editing: I’ve been using my Twitter & YouTube to test some basic editing and understanding Adobe Premiere. The announcement video is one such example.
  • Completed 14 certificates and certifications in digital marketing and SEO to round out my professional knowledge.
  • Piano: I have always loved but was intimidated by this instrument. I had learned Clarinet, Trumpet and Saxophone as a child but they were of little help when getting accustomed to piano.
  • Currently completing my Executive MBA: A two-year diploma for working professionals to certify what my professional experience aligns with the traditional education of the business world. By 2023, I hope to have completed this fourth (and final) diploma.
  • C# & Unity Engine: I spent a few months understanding these areas before losing interest.
25 years later, I am still that multi-ethnic kid of a refugee restarting his life and future one last time.

Conclusions

My Hero Builds project remains a star in my sky that I look up with pride. However, I am no astronomer and I cannot spend the rest of my life looking at that gaseous glimmer, hoping my world sticks around to admire it. This past year, I’ve tried to paint some new lights to look up in wonder and soon explore. This is my launchpad to a balanced and satisfied life, staying occupied and in search of the new. Sincere thanks to the friends, fans and supporters that continue to guide me through thick and thin.

Dedicated to my friend and mentor, Oleg Kogut. You are missed and thought of everyday.

7 Years, 400 Million (2019): Dota Builds Project Year-in-Review

This is a continuation of 2018’s article, “5 years, 350 million“, “4 years, 275 million“, 2017’s “3 years, 170 million“, 2015’s “2 years, 100 million” and 2014’s article: “1 Year, 40 million: Dota Builds Project Overview.

The Standard Hero Builds Project creates and manages over 161 hero builds to help new players learn how to play their characters.

I am celebrating 7 years of updating the Hero Builds. In December 2018, I took a haitus. In February 2019, I announced the end of the Hero Builds Project and 1 month later, I was sponsored by Rivalry.com to revive the project.

If I wrote in 2016 to 2017 that those were the most prominent years for the project and myself, I would say that 2017 to 2018 was considered the most difficult and enduring for me and the project.

5 Years, 350 Million (2018): Dota Builds Project Year in Review

For 2019-2020, I would say that my shift in focus and desire to update the builds without having to take too much interest in public opinion has increased my dedication to Dota 2 and Hero Builds. Thanks to my sponsor, Rivalry.com, my motivation for the Hero Builds Project continues. The sponsor confirms there is an inherent value in the dedicated and consistent work, regardless of waning feedback or vocal support.

Within this review, I will provide statistics detailing the impact the project has had in public matches, growth or decline in subscription growth and more. In addition, future plans, thoughts and desires will be mentioned for consideration.

350 Million to 400 Million Subscriptions – A Year of Statistic

Despite the article being released in 2020, I maintain subscriptions statistics on an annual basis (previously bi-weekly). The main reason for this lower rate of stats tracking was that the interest about these statistics is very little nowadays and the growth has been relatively consistent for the past years.

Does this look familiar? It’s because the daily rate of games that use my guides has not changed: 82.96% (82.67% in 2018).

From what we were able to simulate, approximately 82.96% of all daily matches use one or more of my guides. The percentages represented show the likelihood of 1 to 7 guides simultaneously being used during a match. There has been an increase 0.29% of daily guide usage per game. We found this very peculiar and went to verify with an independent source and fellow data scientist who verified our methodology and numbers. That said, anyone who wants to discuss our approach and analysis, we welcome additional (expert) opinions (like in 2018). Please contact me directly to further cooperate.

Between 2018 to 2019, this section’s results can be summarized as the following:

  • Subscription growth has been positive with 50 million new subscriptions
    • 400 Million in total subscriptions across 161 guides
  • 500 Million more games have been played using my guides
    • 1.8 billion games since 2013 (including overlap)
  • The Phantom Assassin guide leads with 5 million unique subscribers
    • The highest on the entire Steam platform
  • Average # of subscriptions for the project reaches 2.5 million

I am still very happy that there is continued growth and satisfaction with the hero builds. With the New Player Experience coming, I am hoping that future users will continue to seek out my builds.

Sponsorship

Today, I am happy to announce my continued partnership with Rivalry.com. Their continued support has been generous and their expectations have been so few (I am not even obligated to mention them in any social media posts or blog posts). As Dota leans more towards Eastern audiences and sponsors seek Western impressions, it is relieving to see Rivalry continue to support me and other brands, people and teams in this space.

Future

Last year, I tried my hand at doing a coaching show with some friends who were generous enough to give their time to guest-appear. In addition, I’ve started writing some professional insights into the esports industry. Both were great in exploring some opinions I always wanted to say. Though I do enjoy working with on-camera talent, I am not so sure it is the right calling for me.

In addition, last year I enjoyed my time working on the StarLadder Minor, Berlin Major and PUBG Europe League. Similar to my professional work two years ago, the insight, experience and knowledge I’ve gained in esports has been tremendous.

Last year, I wrote a variety of articles about the esports industry including dropping some knowledge about the Dota 2 scene. It has lead to a lot of new career paths that I am currently exploring.

This year, I would like to say and do more. I’m seeking to better display my qualities and explore what I can and cannot aptly do. The importance of always wanting to do more helps against questions of self-doubt. A few ideas have been circling in my head ranging from on-site event interviews to more Dota coaching but I am unsure if they are worth pursuing further. That said, both stem from my desire to learn and be able to do more with Dota 2. For now, I continue to test and research hero builds on my Twitch channel. As always, my methodology to update the hero builds has been a mix between watching and researching commonly-played item/skill builds to personally testing them and seeking feedback on improvements.

Finally, last year I wrote some suggestions for the upcoming New Player Experience for Dota 2. For the Hero Builds System, I continue to advocate the same things I have for the past 5 years: “[…] improve guide selection for new users so the first one at the top isn’t picked just because it has the highest subscription count and games played (these indicators are mostly due to those guides being around the longest).”

Not listed in the original post, this spontaneous idea I had is something that I think would be really cool to include.

Conclusion

You’ve made this relatively ordinary person achieve something pretty extraordinary.

February 2019

I think I’ve talked about why I started making hero builds many times and the skinny of it was a mix of things: my self-validation through being useful for others, a tribute to the old Play-Dota guides I used in the early 2000s and most importantly: being pro-active with my frustration that people didn’t know how to play or build their heroes (including myself).

The project achieved some, if not, all these goals and there’s really nothing more I can be thankful for than that.

Dota 2 New Player Experience Suggestions

As Valve has mentioned interest in developing the New Player Experience, I am writing a few suggestions that I think could not only introduce players to the varying layers and aspects of Dota 2 but also provide some ideas to keep the player interested and avoid feelings of being overwhelmed. Dota 2 is an exciting game that can feel enormous when it comes to playing each phase of the game but also in understanding its fluidity both in your role as a player and in coordination with a team. When playing with new players, I often get asked the same three initial questions:

  1. Which hero should I pick?
  2. What do I do now?
  3. What do I buy?

For question #3, hopefully Dota Plus and community-created Hero Builds are sufficient to provide users with as much information on how to play and build their hero for maximum value/efficiency and to reduce the amount of time thinking on decisions. Decision-making is something that is automated for veteran players but can actually take several important minutes away for overwhelmed new players. Having varying levels of knowledge will not answer the three questions above but it will give direction for orientation to the answers. Instead of seeing 168 items and over 117 heroes, new players will begin to see what most of us see: applicable situational considerations, our preferences and team expectations for hero picks and item purchases.

Very useful blueprint for the developers

But for question #1 and #2, the lack of direction and freedom of choice can be more detrimental to a new player than viewed as exciting opportunity with no restrictions. On the other hand, restricting everything from the player and forcing them to ingest an endless amount of information before they can play can deter newcomers from wanting to get further involved or that it’s simply too daunting to play what is meant to be a leisure (and challenging) activity. For Dota 2, the only way to fully understand a game is to play, to win and to lose. That said, I’m hoping the New Player Experience will provide newcomers enough valuable information to permit them to play.

On a personal note, I felt inspired to write this after playing Destiny for the first time last week. I’m 80 hours in and still constantly googling questions.

Learn Tab – The New Player Experience Rehaul

In actuality, the Learn Tab is intended to be a hub for learning but lacks a lot of planned expansions. I recommend the following:

Part 1. Tutorial

  • Goal of the Game, Ancient and Towers
  • General Movement, Basic Combat, Camera/Movement Control, Attacking and Abilities (+ Talents)
  • Leveling Up, How to earn Gold, Purchasing and Upgrading Items, Item Active Abilities

— Advanced Tutorial — 

  • Phases of the Game (Laning Phase, Mid-Game, Late-Game)
  • Roles, Lanes and Hero Choice 
    • Hard Support
    • Soft Utility Support
    • Offlane
    • Mid-Lane
    • Safe Lane
  • Team Fights, Ganking (incl. Smoke of Deceit), Warding, Defending High-Ground
  • Bot Games (with difficulties)

Though there is a lot of criticism for the tutorial, I think the way it separates the game into 5 parts is decent. It covers the essential parts of the game, how to play and even outlines the differences between the three different attributes (Strength, Agility, Intelligence). I’ve added more ideas for the initial 5-step tutorial but I also believe providing a second optional advanced tutorial for the more deeper mechanics of the game would be a healthy provision for new users to consider. I find getting into Dota is similar to learning piano: some just want to buy a cheap keyboard and see if they will like it while they learn on their own while most piano veterans will tell someone to purchase a proper 88-key weighted piano with private lessons from a teacher. I agree that one needs to dive entirely into Dota to fully understand and enjoy the game but I can also understand those who just want to test the waters and see if the game is of interest, even if they develop poor habits and learnings in matches.

Part 2. Encyclopedia

Those who continue to maintain and update the wiki deserve medals for their efforts
  • The Basics
    • Health/Mana
    • Attributes (+ calculations)
    • Gold and Experience (+ calculations)
    • Armor, Damage Types
    • Vision
    • Towers, Shrines, Barracks, Roshan, Runes
    • Jungle Creeps
  • Heroes
    • Sort by expected role(s)
      • Possible Lanes
      • Scale of complexity (left to right)
  • Items & Shops
    • Filtering System that separates items by what they offer, Filters include:
      • Consumables:
      • Health: Health Regen, Max Health Increase, Armor, Lifesteal
      • Mana: Intelligence, Mana Regen, Max Mana Increase, Spell Amp., Cooldown, Manacost/Mana Loss,
      • Attack Damage: Damage, Attack Speed, Attack Modifiers
      • Resistances: e.g Pipe of Insight, Crimson Guard, Butterfly
      • Disables: e.g. Orchid of Malevolence, Scythe of Vyse
      • Movement Speed: e.g. Boots, Yasha
      • Active Abilities: e.g. Silver Edge, Lotus Orb, Diffusal Blade
      • Utility Items: e.g: Gem, Infused Raindrop
      • Roshan Items: Aegis, Refresher Shard, Aghanim’s Blessing
  • Effects
    • Buffs, Disables, Associated Icons
    • Incl. heroes and items that cast these buffs/disables and heroes/items that can dispel them
  • Attack/Spells
    • Modifiers
    • Base Attack Time
    • Cast Point
    • Range
  • Terms

If you’re not sure what the Encylopedia should include, head over to the Dota2 Wiki. Bottom-line is that this wide range of information should be directly in-game on one level or another.

I bolded some of the more unique suggestions and will discuss them briefly here:

2.1 Heroes

These heroes are sorted by alphabetical order and divided by attribute. In my opinion there are better ways to divy up these heroes

At the moment, the current Heroes Selection Menu has three attribute categories and 2 filters: type and complexity. I believe that the system can be more robust and physically re-arrange the choice selection screen either through user submissions (based on ratings) or adding additional filters per role/lane and adding a scale of complexity (left to right). Dota+ already heavily suggests users to put heroes in certain lanes/roles (and Dota+ is usually bought by veteran players) but nothing is recommended for new players who need the most information to make ideal choices.

2.2 Items & Shops

So many items with no real discernible way to differentiate them all.

Even after the re-design of the item shop, to really make sense of all the items is to play the game enough to understand what to get, when to get it and how reasonable is it to go after it (which changes depending how the game is going). People can understand concepts, roles and what aspect they need to improve on: “I need to stop dying, I need to deal more damage, I need to farm better”. But finding the corresponding items to go with these objectives is not very clear.

I recommend an items filter that not only helps highlight and filter items that aren’t within expected parameters but also helps classify items by an order that makes more sense. Players can tick different filters depending on what they need: e.g an item that provides some lifesteal, damage and some health.

On the one hand, I do recommend using a guide or Dota Plus to help navigate itemization to a general pattern (with some exceptions/situational purchases) but I also think that the faster players can identify what items do what for who or what objective, the better they can make swift choices on their own without the crutch of someone else’s expertise. If they do like using a guide, the filter will help players use guides as a tool (and think independently) rather than as a set of instructions to follow blindly.

2.3 Effects

It’s fairly evident that there are so many items that play off each other, counter heroes and do a variety of things. I think there should be a handy reference guide in the Learn section for this but also, I think there should be a list of indicated items or abilities that can rid of those disables or apply XYZ buff. It’s one thing to know why or who stunned a player’s hero but it’s another to know how to remedy it for the future.


Part 3. Challenges & Scenarios

Though I didn’t play as much of the Challenge Missions as I thought I would, I definitely enjoyed this element of the game when I first started.
  • Last-Hitting Challenge: rotating with different heroes, lanes, vs match-ups
  • Stacking & Pulling routines, Warding 
  • Harassing without taking aggro or taking damage (the lower the %, the better) 
  • Ability-based challenges:
    • Dodging with Manta Style
    • Blink Initiating
    • Invoke Practice
    • Hook/Mirana Arrow Accuracy Tests
    • Meepo multi-tasking: how fast can a player get to level X
    • Chen micro-managing: consecutively stun a hero
    • Necrophos Reaper Scythe/Axe Culling Blade Thresholds
  • Scenarios
    • Team Fighting Scenarios:
    • Item decision-making Scenarios:
      • Select which items will help a player take down a tower the fastest
      • This hero has a lot of armor/health/magic resist: how does a player fight it best?
      • Sniper is attacking your hero, what item should be purchased to most efficiently counter Sniper?

Both in games like Baduk/Go as well as in StarCraft there are fun scenarios and puzzles that someone can do to hone in on their knowledge and recognition of situations. I’ve provided some examples ideas that I think would be good. These scenarios help outline key areas that are important as mechanics to master but also have an element of learning and recognition, especially for new players to practice on without having to commit to a whole game. Dota 2 can add Steam Achievements, high-scores and more to add further gamification to this area of the client.

Even Artifact has a scenario mode which I personally like a lot as a way to introduce players to playstyles, decks, cards and more (especially if they don’t own these decks or card types).

Part 4. New Player UI Filter

  • Improved Item Shop Filter/Option
  • Stronger item active indicator, especially upon death if user did forgot to activate their abilities
  • Upon death, display videos or helpful hints for users to better understand their hero or their items/abilities and when to use them.
    • If new player was killed by an ultimate, display video better summarizing their opponent
  • Hero selection filters
  • New User Flair in-game

This suggestion may be a bit radical but having a new player UI filter that players can choose to switch on or off (after playing the tutorial) can enhance the experience for new users. Ideas like having a much large shop tab with the filters I recommended previously or re-arranging the hero selection screen accordingly can be useful for new players, but not obligatory if they feel like it. Different players learn at different speeds and being able to decide whether one wants a unique UI to understand the different parts of the game might be valuable/useful.

The New User Flair is to help players identify that a player is relatively new. This can have either two effects: players identifying another player as new means the team will be more lenient and understanding. This may also help reduce frustration/confusion as to why the newcomer is not performing as well as expected. Or the flair can cause targeted bullying because the team knows a player is new and are frustrated with being paired with someone who doesn’t understand the game at the same level.

Part 5. Coaching

Congrats to user Gellfing for getting gold in coaching. What a champ, he had an AMA on reddit a few months ago

I felt the Coach mode during the Battle Pass was good. It would be nice if players who coached were also awarded a badge or some sort of recognition for their involvement. Another suggestion would be to make it party-base rather than entire team as teams may not be susceptible to advice but a party who opts in may be more willing.

Coaching could be more interactive, allow coaches to build out recommended items for a player, highlight key items, telestrate on the ground while also appearing on the map. Allow players to see the coach’s cursor or not for further indication.

Coaching can also be done for party viewing of a match or even in replays: set up bookmarks/notes on areas the coach wants the player to pay attention to. Maybe allow viewers to watch a replay with a coach through the coach’s perspective, etc.

Part 6. Esports

The reasons to not do a newcomer stream are plentiful ranging from lower viewership, human resources needed to run in and lack of interest to do it. Nevertheless, I can’t skip recommending it just for the sake of exploring all options and considerations.

In my opinion, Esports is the pinnacle of great marketing for Dota but it falls a little short for newcomers and friends of Dota fans. It’s a pipe-dream that we can hope for tournaments to afford another stream for newbie specifically but it’d be nice if those who do a remote newcomer stream were provided more tools to help introduce players to the game.

Whenever I am with a colleague at The International or another major tournament, they often enjoying watching the game with me as I explain all the heroes, their abilities, how their engages fights, how they want to finish the game (fast/early? 4-protect-1, etc.) and explaining why this item is so important and what this hero aims to do. In traditional commentary, we see all of this overlooked because we all usually know and understand why these items or heroes or line-ups are drafted but for new players, it isn’t so clear-cut. Even being able to slow the game down during team-fight replays to be able to better highlight what is happening, immensely eases new viewers into enjoying Dota. It’s no different in other games I play and watch like League of Legends or Overwatch.

Part 7. Improved Guides System

I am personally still very satisfied with the Guide system except for the role classification that needs updating.
  • Co-authoring
  • Incentivization
  • Better statistics

To be honest, there isn’t a lot more to do with the guides system. Co-authoring and usage statistics are suggestions to either reduce the workload for certain guide-creators or to improve guide selection for new users so the first one at the top isn’t picked just because it has the highest subscription count and games played (these indicators are mostly due to those guides being around the longest). Incentivization is a common recommendation for community contributors. In Team Fortress 2, community-centric projects like the TF2Wiki and KritzKast received memorabilia for their involvement in the game-scene.

Conclusion

I don’t expect any or all of these suggestions to be implemented but I hope that this extensive list of ideas, breakdowns and reasoning will give the developers some of their own ideas or how to better execute them. I play a lot of competitive or multiplayer games and it always ends up being a coinflip if the tutorial will be overbearing, completely absent or just right. I learned how to play DotA almost 14 years ago and I can still recall some of the most difficult parts of the game.