Daeja’s View: Dota Plus is not for everyone
Valve released Dota Plus on March 12th, 2018. It’s a subscription-based service intended to enhance the Dota 2 experience. Initially, reactions were strong and mixed. Now that there's been time to reflect and see how the service can be useful (or not) over the longer term, let's take a second look at it.
Launched as an “evolution of the Majors Battle Pass,” Dota Plus has several familiar features with a few new ones as well. These include access to the weekly Battle Cup, quests, hero progression and voice lines for a new chat wheel, as qwell as a suite of statistical tools and in-game assistance. For a full breakdown of the features, check out Neil H.’s article, “Dota Plus: A look into what is included,” or the official Valve site.
Now, I’ve read a lot of complaints about Dota Plus, some suggesting it’s pay-to-win, others criticizing the value for the cost. What’s clear to me is that while Dota Plus may try to include something for everyone, it’s not going to satisfy everyone.
Who Might Like It?
I think Dota Plus really appeals to a few types of people:
First, those who are new to the game or who lack confidence in their play. Dota 2 is a game with many moments for decision-making, and they can be overwhelming for players with less experience. The Plus Assistant is like constantly having that friend who taught you how to play Dota 2 offering suggestions on what skill you should level or item you should buy next.
The second group of people who might enjoy Dota Plus are players who enjoy achievement hunting. While improving at the game and earning higher matchmaking ranks/badges have traditionally been the long-term aim for players, Dota Plus provides a range of new short-term and long-term goals so that winning your next game and climbing an invisible ladder is no longer the only motivation for queuing
A final group who I think will see value in Dota Plus are Battle Cuppers. Dota Plus gives subscribers access to the weekly Battle Cup, which otherwise costs $0.99 per week. The rest of the features end up costing pennies on a monthly basis, which makes Dota Plus a good deal for anyone who likes to compete in the weekly mini-tournament.
I fall into the first group. I’m not a confident player, and play primarily with a few friends against bots. Because of this, most of my Dota Plus experience is focused on the Plus Assistant. I think it’s an upgrade in many ways over the in-game guides. However, my impressions aren’t all positive. I broke down my impressions:
Plus Assistant provides draft help, dynamic item guide, skill guide.
Extra stats to study, for identifying strengths and weaknesses
Benchmarks in-game nudges players to farm more, attempt ganks, show up for team fights, or stop dying.
Popularity of heroes, skill and item selections reinforced by recommendations
Unranked players set to Herald levels
Doesn’t work at all in solo bot games
Overall, Dota Plus—specifically, Plus Assistant—has helped me with my confidence in managing some of the details in an average Dota game. I was also a lot more engaged in understanding why I was buying certain items or selecting certain skills when Dota Plus first released, because it offered options rather than a single choice. This is a huge positive for me. It can be easy to zone out and auto-select whatever a specific guide recommends without thinking about why, which results in very little learning or long-term improvement!
The issue for me is that Plus Assistant doesn’t work in bot games with no other human players. This feels like an oversight in that solo bot games are surely the most basic practice for inexperienced players. I find it quite frustrating that I can't use the Assistant to direct my learning when I'm playing entirely on my own.
Much like with the Battle Passes, none of the quest or hero progression is active in bot games; they’re also not active in Turbo games. I try to see this as motivation to play more games versus people rather than the AI, but it does mean unless I (or any other subscriber) play plenty of “normal” games, a good chunk of Dota Plus features is inactive. I've seen this suggestion in a few places and like it: perhaps alternative quests and hero progression for different, but still popular game modes might be a good addition.
There’s also an argument to be made that the Plus Assistant should be available to everyone, or at the very least, to new players. How long a person remains a new player, however, is unclear to me, as obviously I’m benefiting quite a bit from the Plus Assistant. I think looking at the ways in which players learn how to play Dota 2, and when that learning tapers off or players are satisfied with their game knowledge, and so on, would be interesting.
I think it’s also important to factor in the criticism about the quality of the recommendations, and that these recommendations obviously don’t take into account personal play styles or suggest potential experimentation. I’m also unsure how reactive the recommendations are to patch changes or meta-game shifts. There’s also a possible feedback loop happening in that heroes and choices that are more popular must factor into the recommendations and potentially reinforce that popularity. None of these potential issues makes me less like to use the Plus Assistant right now, but I can see why relying on it less as in-game decision-making improves is important.
Ultimately, experienced players seem least likely to benefit. But these players were unlikely to use the in-game guides that the Plus Assistant improves upon, so obviously, this feature was not designed with them in mind. I think there’s plenty of other aspects to Dota Plus to potentially appeal to more experienced players. I’m not convinced about the longevity of that appeal, but there’s always the possibility additional features will be added.
The one thing absent from Dota Plus compared to former Battle Passes that I miss is the tournament compendium. I liked being able to make and track predictions, even without the potential for reward. I suspect the packed Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) schedule would have rendered this feature too repetitive over time. If the DPC has a lighter tournament load next season, I can see the potential for some kind of fantasy draft and/or prediction component to be added as a new Dota Plus feature. Also, I expect that whatever form The International 8 compendium or Battle Pass takes, this aspect will be included. (Don’t let me down, Valve!)
Dota Plus has a range of features that try to provide something for everyone. However, it definitely doesn’t satisfy everyone, and I think that's ok. Dota Plus isn't taking anything away from the free-to-play game we all know and love, it's adding some things that some people will enjoy. I personally feel that I get a lot of value out of Dota Plus, even though I’m not accessing the full range of its features. For my personal benefit, I'd like to see the Plus Assistant extended to truly solo bot games. Providing alternative quests or hero progression in Turbo games might also make Dota Plus more attractive for a certain segment of Dota 2 players.
Given Valve’s reputation for improvement through iteration, I expect we’ll see a Dota Plus 2.0 (Dota Plus Plus?) at some point, with additional features to attract repeat and new subscribers. What new features or improvements would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below!
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