Dota 2's The International is here. While the finals won't kick-off until Friday, 18th July, the playoffs for the main competition's few remaining places will start in just a few hours. Here's why you should be excited. One: it's the biggest event in e-sports, with a prize pool of over $10 million. Two: this year, Valve are providing multiple ways to watch, with a separate stream dedicated to those unfamiliar with the game.
lane pushing game
Blizzard's upcoming lane-pusher,
Heart Heroes Hearth of the Storm Swarm Stone doesn't feature an all-hero item shop. Instead, each character has a 'Talent System', designed to let players customise their build as they advance in level. In the new 'Behind The Nexus' video, Blizzard explain how the system works, and how different combinations can produce a more efficient build—depending on the map.
Summoner's Rift is League of Legends' version of the classic three-laned DotA map. Naturally, it's the game's most popular playing field, and, as a result, any changes to it are a big deal. And so, this: a video tour of what Riot are doing with a new version of the map, currently in testing on the game's Public Beta Environment.
Riot like to experiment with the lane-pushing formula, answering important questions such as "what happens if we just let players do what they want?" That was seemingly the thinking behind the original One For All, a temporarily available League of Legends game mode that let players pick whichever champion they damn well pleased, regardless of whether someone else had already selected them. The developers are now remixing that idea with One For All: Mirror Mode. It gives every player the same champion to play, which should at least ensure that each match is balanced.
This is the story of a videogame named Dota 2. Dota 2 was a popular game about wizards and pushed lanes and unprompted apologies. It had absolutely nothing to do with another game, called The Stanley Parable, but for one exception: they both contained voice-overs. And so, last year, the creator of The Stanley Parable announced a desire to write and record a Dota 2 announcer pack featuring the meta-comedy's narrator. And, after a long silence, it was revealed that the pack had been recorded, and will likely soon be available to buy.
This article was written in late August 2013 and originally published in issue 258 of PC Gamer UK. I've been thinking about my experience at The International 2013 since watching Valve's Dota 2 documentary, Free To Play. As a companion piece to today's Three Lane Highway column, then, we thought we'd make the following available online.
It takes the five members of Alliance ten minutes to move around Benaroya Hall’s curved mezzanine to the off-limits corridor that leads to their private balcony. They are surrounded at every step by fans, pushing up against windows and leaning over tables to sign T-shirts and mousemats. Their manager, Kelly, alternates between apologetic determination and abrupt for-the-camera enthusiasm as she attempts to shepherd five sudden celebrities into a single doorway.
Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2. Previously a Tumblr blog, it now runs every week on PC Gamer.
Being in the crowd during The International 2013 grand finals was more or less the highlight of my career. It was certainly one of the most powerful experiences I've had in connection with a videogame. When Alliance won and green confetti streamed from the ceiling and the Dota 2 theme started to play and the crowd were on their feet I understood something about sport that I'd never really understood before. It was one of those rare moments when you are aware that you are experiencing something important even as you experience it. The adrenaline didn't give out until deep into the early hours of the following morning.
Throughout this week, Riot will be beta testing Team Builder mode for League of Legends. The new queueing system is designed to let players specify their preferential positions and champions ahead of a match, so that people can be distributed in a way that theoretically prevents arguments about the team dynamic. If it works, players will no longer be forced into vicious squabbles over who gets to be Teemo.
Phoenixes traditionally symbolise rebirth, but that's not always the case. They also have pretty strong links to death: as seen by the quality of the third X-Men movie, or here, by the deadliness of Dota 2's new Hero. The eternally inflammable bird headlines the Day 3 announcement phase of tomorrow's New Bloom update. The update won't be completely without the spirit of renewal, however. A newly announced feature will let players Quantum Leap into replays, taking control of the action in an attempt to rewrite history.
Dota 2's holidays are a volatile thing. Diretide was delayed, and Frostivus is constantly cancelled. Will the fledgling celebration of New Bloom fair any better? Probably. After all, it centres around the arrival of a giant, evil beast that must be smashed and bashed to pieces. In this world of lane-pushing wizardry, violence and terror(blade) would seem to be the secret to long-lasting and untampered festivities.
While Dota 2 players are currently in the grip of
Frostivus Wraith-Night, such necromantic festivities can't last forever. Valve are already planning the next update, and have announced its theme, if very little else about what it will involve. Referred to as "The Year of the Horse", it's due to arrive toward the end of January, to coincide with the Chinese New Year.
Maybe you've spent the last couple of years Doing the Dotes*. You've gained an almost scarily obsessive knowledge on the many intricacies of Valve's wizard-'em-up; and taken QoP to the top, Axe to the max, and Puck to... er, no. For all your successes, spare a thought for those on the wrong end of the queueing system that grants access to the game. Those who've never before had a chance to experience the thrill of sub-grouting a megascamp with a three-man sagwidget**. At least, they haven't until now, as the digital gatekeeper formerly restricting access to the client has today been retired. Dota 2 is available to all.
In a completely unpredictable shock twist, Dota 2's Frostivus event has been cancelled. Again. So what holiday halting incident has hit the wizard-'em-up this time? It's the return of the King. Sort of. Wraith-Night is the newly announced seasonal event, and it's centred around the Skeleton King's transformation into Wraith King. He's got a new look, a new name, a new voice, and, most importantly, he's ballin' out of control.
One of the stupider things about humanity is that we keep engineering the future tools of our own demise. For instance, computers are now constantly ranking us based on a variety of factors that measure our performance against each other for fun and entertainment. Naturally, come the awakening of sentient machines, the AI Prime will look at these rankings and think, "hmm, xXx_n00bst0mper_xXx has a higher K/D ratio then any other meatsack in quadrant four. Let's shackle his consciousness with nano-orbs and harvest his muscles into slavedroid neurostims."
Ah well, while we wait for the inevitable to happen, we might as well enjoy ourselves. Valve's Dota 2 ranking system will soon be getting an upgrade that's designed to better support more experienced players. Ranked Matchmaking aims to enable the move towards more competitive play by making the game's usually hidden MMR (matchmaking rating) visible to players.