Hot on the heels of the latest batch of Immortal cosmetics and the news that this year's International prize pool is now the largest esports pot of all time, Valve have updated the International 2016 Battlepass with all-new features: including the crazy Dota 2 VR spectator mode they teased back in March.
That's right: if you can't make it to Seattle, you've still got a chance to experience the International in person - if you own a Vive. As initially teased, the Dota VR Hub allows you to watch games on a big virtual screen while surrounded by life-size characters, a huge minimaps, and all of the gold and experience graphs you could want. It goes deeper, however: click the minimap and you can teleport onto the field of battle itself to watch the action from the ground. You can even bring friends in with you, and wear a variety of Dota-themed virtual hats.
Redditor scarecrowman175 has a detailed gallery of VR shots which you can find here.
Let's be honest: this is mad. But it's also incredible, and completely unlike any other esports spectator system ever devised. And it's also eerily similar to a feature I described in a joke article in March last year. YOU'RE WELCOME, I GUESS.
Check back during the group stages for a more involved hands-on with the Dota 2 VR Hub.
This update also adds the now-traditional event prediction minigame as well as a new take on player cards. If you've been playing Dota 2 for a couple of years, you'll remember that the compendium started life as a sticker book: you'd try to collect all of the year's players before the event ended. It was fun but throwaway, and nobody really missed it when Valve moved on from the idea.
This new implementation is much more exciting. Everybody who owns a Battle Pass will earn 15 player card packs right away, and each player can be earned in standard, silver and gold rarities. You then use these cards to assemble fantasy draft rosters for each day of the event, earning Battle Pass points based on the performance of your chosen players. Silver and gold cards come with additional, randomly-assigned multipliers: see above for an example. If OG carry n0tail stacks camps and farms a lot, I'll get bonus points. Hooray!
The International is now less than a week away. Merry Dota Christmas, everybody!