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.


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.



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.


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.


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.

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).


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.



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.


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.



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.



  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.



  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.



  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).



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

A sit-down with Esports Career, an interview about working in esports




Recently, I have been interviewed by job-hosting website: EsportsCareer.org about my career in esports and transitioning from a community member into a proactive member of the scene. The interview elaborates on my work doing production at events, shows at a movie studio as well as producing a digital magazine with a 140-year old publishing house. In it, I talk about the adversities you face trying to get into esports, the pros and cons of working in the scene and the perseverance you need to be constantly producing work, regardless its popularity or lack thereof.

If interested in knowing my past roles and insight on how to move around in this industry, click on the image above. I am very honored to have esports career take a closer look at my history and take an interest in what I have to say.