Uncertainty over the new competitive system looms large over an eventful Dota 2 off-season.
It has been nearly one month since Team Liquid lifted the Aegis of Champions in Key Arena and were officially crowned TI7 winners. The ending of festivities in Seattle marked the beginning of the unofficial off-season of competitive Dota 2. It’s become a fairly predictable pattern for Dota fans, with the massive levels of excitement and hype surrounding the yearly iteration of the International dropping off dramatically as the competitive scene falls into a lull of little to no professional matches. In years past, this time has been filled with a variety of announcements and developments to keep fans excited and interested before the new season begins. Major game updates, new hero releases, roster shuffles, drama among community members, and more frequent streams from prominent players have been staples of off-season entertainment in the Dota 2 world for some time, and this year has been no exception.
Before the off-season even began, Dota 2 fans already had something concrete to look forward to, as Valve had announced a new update to be released some time after the end of TI7. The “Dueling Fates” update will be bringing two new heroes into the game, as well as a host of balance changes for fans to pour over, theory craft with, and create Reddit threads about. Adding to the off-season excitement was the resurrection of the Faceit Pro League, an in-house league of professional players playing matches through the Faceit platform with a point tracking system, player leaderboards, and a modest prize for the top players. In the absence of the usual structured team practices and private scrimmages, many professional players have taken to participating in the League, with some streaming the matches to their Twitch.tv channels. The result of this is a plethora of high skill matches with professional level players, as well as a variety of streams available for fans to watch these games from the perspectives of their favorite players. Add these developments to the normal influx of roster shifts, regional shuffles, and interpersonal “drama”(looking at you, Reddit), this current off-season has been one of the most eventful and entertaining in recent years. However, despite all the excitement of roster changes and high level FPL matches, there is a pall of uncertainty hanging over the entire scene, and it stems from a lack of communication from Valve itself.
In addition to the reveal of the upcoming Dueling Fates update, Valve also announced a change to the current system of Major Tournaments and TI qualification. Rather than hosting two Major Championships per year along with TI, Valve has decided to implement a new system of Major and Minor Tournaments throughout the year. The previous Majors have been scrapped, with Valve redistributing its prize pool contributions to bolster the pools of third party tournaments that meet certain requirements set by Valve itself. The resulting minors and majors are set to factor into TI qualification as well, with the tournaments providing “Qualification Points” to the participating players. In short, the new system is designed to provide higher quality tournaments throughout the year, allow more tournaments to attract better teams, and potentially allow more opportunities for lower level teams to advance and develop, all while keeping the fans interested and informed of where teams stand in terms of rankings. It all sounds good on paper, but there is a significant problem with the new system that is due to be implemented, that problem being that the community at large doesn’t have enough information about how its going to work.
In its announcement of the new system, Valve outlined the guidelines required for Minor and Major Tournaments, the prize pools that will be involved, and how Qualification Points will be tracked. However, what Valve failed to release information on is how many points these tournaments will actually provide to the participating players. Valve stated that players will receive points based on the prize pool of the tournament and how well they perform in said tournaments, but no scale has been provided. Many members of the community have speculated and provided mock ups and examples of how the point system may work, but nothing official has come from Valve. Added on top of this mystery is that there is no release date yet for the Dueling Fates update either, meaning fans won’t be sure when the new patch and heroes will be arriving. For Dota fans, and fans of Valve games in general, a lack of information from the publisher is nothing new. However, the lack of information this off-season seems to be particularly noteworthy, as the upcoming changes are anticipated to have a significant impact on the scene and community. A series of new balance changes alongside new heroes and a complete overhaul of the competitive system for the season is a lot for both players and fans to adjust to, and that process is not helped by the radio silence coming from Valve.
All of these issues are compounded by the fact that the off-season is already approaching its end. The first Minor Tournament of the year(StarLadder i-League Invitational #3) is scheduled to begin in a month’s time in October, with open qualifiers already underway. One month for Valve to both release the qualifying point values for tournaments and to release the new update. Add onto that the time needed for teams to adjust to the new balance changes and it leaves a somewhat small window for Valve to act in. Let me take a moment to clarify something here as we near the end of my ranting. I am not trying to imply that this information from Valve is not coming at some point in the future. Valve will release this information eventually, but until that point the community is being somewhat left in the dark. This year’s off-season has been one of the more active and exciting in recent years, but until there is clarity about the update and the qualification points, there is a pervasive sense of uncertainty hanging over the Dota 2 scene. For fans awaiting news from Valve, the only course of action available is to sit back, enjoy the roster news and FPL games, and patiently wait for more information to be released.
> Patience from Zhou