Twenty Bucks: DOTA 2 Spring / Summer Catalogue

Fashion! Turn to the left. Fashion! Turn to the right. Oooh, fashion!
It’s time to look at what $20 will actually get you in the landscape of “free” to play gaming. What does it actually mean? And what is that crisp, all-too-real twenty actually worth in various imaginary economies? In the first of an ongoing series we sent Cara off to do some shopping in DOTA 2. Just what could she get for twenty bucks?

Daddy RPS said he’d give me this $20 note to shop with, but what happened was RPS was out of change that day and so RPS patted me on the head and said “Okay off you go, go and buy yourself something nice in a Free To Play and we will reimburse you.” Challenge Accepted. I gathered the Fashion Police, which largely resembled a troupe of models from Zoolander (Tom, Alice, Dan, Philippa and I all have razor sharp cheekbones) and we went shopping with Daddy’s money. Which I hope Daddy actually has or this may be some sort of elaborate prank…

We first approached Valve’s DOTA 2, as is our wont: we have something of an addiction. But microtransactions in lanepusher games are often, as with DOTA 2, restricted to cosmetic-only items. In particular, the behemoth that is DOTA 2 is the result of so many balance-tweaking iterations that having money influence actual game-changing stats would bugger everything right up. So instead, Valve have backed a metaphorical dump truck with hats in onto the DOTA 2 shop, and now we can all play dress-up. As you play, the game also drops cosmetic treats on you, so you don’t even have to pay for hats if you don’t want to. (When I say hats, what I really mean is ‘anything that would change the appearance of your hero’. ‘Hats’ is a metaphor here.)

Obviously the first thing I did was make the Drow Ranger look more emo by buying her a side parted white wig that makes her look like she listens to Fallout Boy. This cost me £1.99 in Proper Money which translates to $2.99 in queenless money. This wig is called the Loner’s Vanity. ‘”And why shouldn’t I?” Drow has been heard to say, to absolutely no one,’ says the blurb. What a loser. I’d definitely never get this haircut, light up a cigarette, and stare at my feet whilst gently nodding away to Love Will Tear Us Apart with her. At all.

Vogue! Strike a pose!

The Internet’s very own Philippa Warr, former fashion writer and current game critic gave me some thoughts on Drow’s awareness of trends:

“Drow Ranger is adopting an asymmetric blonde bob in favour of her familiar long locks. It appears to be a multi-functional move on the part of the hero as not only will a shorter hairstyle mean Traxex need not put up with a sweaty neck over the summer, but having the longer side artfully draped over one eye may prevent her needing to close that eye for aiming her arrows. It’s a seamless blending of form and function. However, if she’s hoping to look like a trendsetter rather than a follower she would do well to note it’s exactly the same haircut that Jessica Simpson’s little sister Ashlee has had since 2012.”

Jolly good eh wot old bean

Quite lairy on the spending high, I then sugar-mummied up Tom’s Sniper who was looking a bit dowdy. We thought it was very good value that if you bought the Hunter’s Helm you also got a moustache. It would be pretty amazing if I went to get a hat from Accessorize and they gave me a moustache free. The last time I bought a hat it was a beret and I bet I’d look hella French with that and a ‘tache (judging from John’s graffiti on a picture of me a few weeks ago). You can purloin this accessory from all good DOTA 2 stores (the DOTA 2 store) for a mere $2.99 too. Pip’s rundown:

“While colonial chic was not exactly a staple of the Spring/Summer 2013 catwalks, safari jackets did crop up in the Resort collections (FYI “Resort” is an in-between season which caters to those who are rich enough to use the word ‘summer’ as a verb). As such, Sharpeye’s pith helmet is a logical extension of that trend, although perhaps a tad too literal to avoid being gauche. The moustache, however, radiates pure luxury.”

The very best in bathroom chic

We sort of got in a bit of a rut with the hats. We got slightly obsessed with the highly fashionable Birot’s Helm of Dignity, which manages to make Morphling look like some twee seaside-themed toilet roll holder. In fact I think I saw Morphling at a Brighton Bric-a-brac the other day. £2.49/$3.99 for this beauty.

We then had a look at our dear old friend the Tidehunter, or Tiddles for short. Tiddles has by far the most silly/awesome fashion combos. You can buy him a pirate hat or a shark to lob around. You can even put a ship’s steering wheel around his neck like a slightly avant-garde necklace. We settled on a hat and offhand item combo. Here is Tiddles’ Squiddles, the oversized squid-based soft toy:

I am very adamant that Valve should be manufacturing actual plush squids


And here is my Tidehunter looking slightly disgruntled at the hat I got him.

Ocean millinery

Is it a hat? Or did he get drunk at a beach party, fall asleep and he just hasn’t realised that trickster-bathroom-ornament Morphling had stuck an octopus on his head? Did someone lob it at him and he’s just not managed to unstick it? Maybe he just thinks he has dreads. Over to Pip:

“Morphling and Tidehunter have both played it relatively safe, sartorially speaking. After all, can you name me a year in which spring fashion hasn’t come with a liberal dollop of nauticalia? Exactly. But rather than a deck shoe or a Breton stripe the pair have embraced the power of millinery.

“Tidehunter’s Octopus was most likely intended as a fascinator, however his poor posture means the overall effect is closer to that of a tentacled beanie. Morphling appears to have chosen more of a visor option which may come in handy for preventing his face from evaporating in the midday summer sun. Regular polishing and re-lining may be necessary, though, especially if Morphling comes from a hard water area.”

Anyway, I spent 99p/$1.49 on the Octopus Hat and £2.99/$4.99 on the plush squid, which makes me think that I hope Jim is going to reimburse me for this shit because why the fuck did I do that. I could have bought four quid’s worth of Krispy Kreme coma for that. I could have bought myself a six pack of Red Bull to enable me to enrage everyone out there who hates my writing’s sugar-high enthusiasm. (It is interesting to note that a week after I bought this stuff I am actually kind of glad I bought him the stupid hat because it makes playing Tidehunter way less boring.)

We made Alice’s Nature’s Prophet into a hippie. I mean, he was a tree hugger anyway, but we made him have a sort of proper bohemian look because of reasons.

Why, Cara. Why.

I like how he is still trying to look important and like he cares about animal rights when I have just popped a pretty lei and a toga on him (for a mere £1.25/$1.99 and 99p/$1.49 respectively). Also something about his expression makes me think of my grandmother. Why is that. She is not a hippie. If anything she’d be telling those free love rapscallions to ‘wheesht’ and get out of her garden. Pip, on the other hand, offers me some insight into his Alexander McQueen influences:

“Simultaneously the most high fashion and the most behind-the-times, it has taken several years for the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2008 collection to filter down to the wardrobe of Nature’s Prophet. Luckily, if any of his fellow heroes ever look like they might question his fashionista credentials Tequoia can summon a ring of trees as an impromptu changing room and switch to a more directional look.”

We tried to do Blue Steel together at the start of our catwalk match, but our opponents didn’t appreciate that we were standing around preening ourselves and taking pictures and admiring each other. So Dan had to apologise in DOTA 2 form, telling them we were ‘silly noobs’. When really we were just getting ready to be FABULOUS. (I think we were so fabulous we actually won this match. Perhaps David Bowie was watching.)


Of note are the bundles, which you can buy to fully outfit your hero for a discounted rate, though some heroes get more attention than others. You can change a character’s look entirely just by spending a whole 20 actual dollars – for example, the Mirana Moon Rider set (£11.99/$18.43) includes several items, including bow, bracers and tail, as well as a skin for your mount, that change how Mirana looks entirely. Though Death Prophet will still actually look like death even with a new dress on.

You can get gifted items from others, or by the game as a reward for playing more often. To increase the likelihood of getting a sparkly, you can currently buy a 75% Battle Bonus for 6 days for £1.99, or one for 3 days for 99p, which increases the rate that you earn battle points at, which in turn will increase item drops (new hats). But because items drop naturally as you play anyway, that theoretically means that you don’t have to spend any money at all to get cool new hats. They will just not be the hats you wanted or deserved.

Sometimes the game cruelly drops treasure chests on you at the end of a match, which you have to pay about £1.50 for a key to open to see what is in it. That is slightly mean. What if it’s just another octopus hat? What am I going to do with another octopus hat? Tiddles doesn’t even take it off to post-match shower. Unless it swims off I have no use for a second octopus. I mean I still regret the first octopus. And I paid money for it. WHY WOULD I NEED A SECOND OCTOPUS.

Jim please can you give me my money back I think I have buyers’ remorse.


Drow Ranger emo a side parted white wig – $2.99
Hunter’s Helm with moustache – $2.99
Birot’s Helm of Dignity – $3.99
Octopus Hat – $1.49
Plush Squid – $4.99
Lei of the Peace-Bringer – $1.99
Toga – $1.49


  1. Captain Joyless says:

    Well, better than a $70 eve monocle, I suppose.

    You didn’t mention the Bastion announcer for $10 (IIRC) but it may be the most worthwhile purchase of all. The dulcet tones of Logan Cunningham (and a few decent jokes) are a welcome relief from the soulless original announcer.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Oh my gosh you’re right! That is a very good buy. Although again it’s still cosmetic. But yes, the announcers are pretty great.

      • jackofcrowns says:

        Dota 2 purchases will always be cosmetic. Anything else compromises the integrity of the competitive environment.

    • Nyxx says:

      I’ve got about 30 of them silly invites, can’t get rid of them really! * Wrong reply :(

      Also Bastian announcer is the best.

    • DerNebel says:

      Don’t forget the happiness you’ll be spreading to all the misers like me who regularly check if we can leech on someone else’s announcer!

      • Boothie says:

        hehe, i regularly get thank yous for bringing the epicness that is bastion announcer to the match

    • Tiax says:

      The Bastion announcer was and will be the only spending I’ll be making on DOTA II, and boy was it worth it.

    • dmoe says:

      Bastion Announcer best announcer.

      • jrodman says:

        I have to say I have a surprisingly soft spot for the pirate captain.

    • kommissarnicko says:

      Only one thing makes me mad about Bastionman: “THE OTHER GUYS.” I’d have bought it myself if only they hadn’t gone full lazy on that one thing, but once you notice it, it cannot be unnoticed.

    • Aardvarkk says:

      This is the first thing I’ve heard that makes me want to play DOTA 2. I have an allergy to high levels of emotion, and lane-pushers seem to have this it spades.

  2. d3vilsadvocate says:

    I have at least 12 Dota invites. PM me if you want one.

    • Niko says:

      Want to trade them for my Dota invites?

      • BockoPower says:

        Wait. You mean I am not that unique with my 18 DotA 2 invtes? …

        • punkdude says:

          Not when everyone probably has like 20 copies at least sitting in their inventory, i got 70 copies on my main alone and another 50 + sitting in my subs. :)

    • Trillby says:

      How do I PM you? On Steam you mean? I’ve wanted to try DOTA 2 for ages =)

    • undu says:

      Use link to instead, the ultimate dota dispenser, it works for giving away and recieving invites.

      • cwoac says:

        Except it is currently responding ‘gifting has been admistratively disabled’ :(

  3. Infinite says:

    I have to say that I like Valve’s handling of microstransaction in DOTA2 as compared to LoL(my single most biggest gripe with LoL), with every hero being open which decreases the chance of OMGZ new 10$(?) champion has been OP for over three weeks without nerf. Nice to see you’re back btw.

    P.S. Needs more soup&moustache =D.

  4. thristhart says:

    I can’t tell if all of your friends are hilarious writers, or if you’re a really hilarious writer pretending to write for many friends.

    Either way, kudos.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Pip is an incredibly funny writer, you can find her at PC Gamer and Wired, just hanging out, occasionally with a glass of wine and shades on, just waiting for y’all to discover her. (Also I am there too occasionally.) Tom you can find here link to I think.

    • Fenix says:

      Have to agree, the fashion commentary was especially hilarious.

  5. Niko says:

    Zoolander is a great film and nice to see you back, Ms Ellison.

  6. Cara Ellison says:

    Ah! A lovely tweeter has also pointed out for the super-competitive DOTA 2 player that the Compendium is also available: link to for $10, in lieu of the upcoming tournament.

    “Compete with other fans for fun and bragging rights by predicting match outcomes and stats. Receive virtual item drops while watching matches. Best of all, have your say in assembling the 2013 All Star team: Vote for 10 of your favorite players from any team and the winners will play in a showmatch at The International.”

    Sounds like fun! I haven’t tried it out but I reckon if you’re an uber fan it’d be pretty sweet one-off buy. Possibly not with the longevity of enjoyment that a VERY FINE HAT would bring of course.

    • Milos says:

      It also gives you a boost to your battle points after each match that lasts for 3 months (until the end of the International 3) so you will get lots of chances to get a new hat or two.

    • Kandon Arc says:

      This also comes with a battle point booster which lasts until the end of the International (in August) so is worth the £5.99 for that alone. It also has a customisable courier.

      • Cara Ellison says:

        OMG A COURIER! You know once I got the Greevling courier and I had to take the skin off eventually because seeing a Greevling coming towards me in the middle of a battle was TERRIFYING and I had many heart attacks

        • godofdefeat says:

          How could you do that? :(
          I find the Greevil´s one of the most CUTE couriers.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      For people who play dota and buy items, the three odd months of 125% bonus drops could end up being very good value. Assuming you drop the things you want…

  7. applecup says:

    I always feel like I’m missing something with the DOTA2 store. Is there any actual ingame advantage to HATs, or is it just the satisfaction of having pretend hats?

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      I take it you’ve never played Team Fortress 2?

      • applecup says:

        I did, up until the MvM update (I’d lost interest for other reasons by then). But a lot of the weapons (and some hats, if they were needed for sets) actually had an affect on gameplay, whereas… DOTA2 stuff seems to be just vanity, and I always feel slightly confused as to whether this is just a vanity thing or if there is any actual gameplay reason to get this stuff.

    • Krouv says:

      I believe the idea is to force your opponent to capitulate by sheer force of FASHION.

    • Magnusm1 says:

      Having a more stylish hat is an advantage, yes.

    • Flipao says:

      There is a whole economy based on “hats” and the like. Some of the cosmetic items are rarer than others, as they might have only been available for a limited time, this is a good example:

      link to

      Hats and the rest of cosmetics have zero effect on actual gameplay, though collecting and trading them seems to have turned into its own game over the years.

      The item affixes also affect their value, “Strange” versions of certain items can usually only be obtained from chest drops and track certain stats (enemies killed, times a skill has been used, etc…) and will level up as they are used.

      I tend to avoid F2P games like the plague because I hate the way they are monetized, but Dota 2 is one of the very few that doesn’t compromise the core experience for the sake of monetizing its players.

    • nemryn says:

      No direct statistical advantage, but for some people having an ugly or dorky character can subtly affect their morale/attention span/etc negatively, and HATs can help alleviate that.

  8. Carbonated Dan says:

    When my Dota2 invite arrived last year I swore I wouldn’t buy anything pointless on the store.
    I ended up buying three couriers, two announcers, a ‘compendium’ and a dozen little bits and pieces to complement my random drops.

    But I play an hour or two of Dota almost every night; I think Steam and friends have earnt my money.

    • groowagon says:

      This is exactly what happened to mee too. I also thought that after hundreds (400+ according to Steam. oh my god…) of hours of gaming goodnes Valve deserves a few bucks from making a great game. And i deserve some cool hats.

  9. Revolving Ocelot says:


    Sorry, can’t control my Caps Lock but BLOODSEEKER RARGH.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      no. that’s a juggernaut in bloodseeker camouflage

      • jon_hill987 says:

        Yeah, not to keen on that. Not seen that one in game so can’t tell for sure but anything that makes the heroes harder to tell apart can’t be good.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          It is a bloodseeker; carbonated dan is incorrect.

          Also, the heroes don’t really look anything alike.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      I’m afraid it is, until recently I wasn’t able to displace the Bloodseeker from the line up, now it’s Void and PA in front of him

    • Commissar Choy says:

      It’s Jugg. Not sure how people are confusing it with BS.

      • Madtrixr says:

        Well I don’t get how people keep confusing juggernaut with bloodseeker when it says “bloodseeker” underneath in the screen shot. Come on guys.Also Jugg and Blood dont look alike in anyway. All in all, a puzzling mystery of mistaken identity

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Oh. My. God.

        Read the question again.

        He says:


        Go back up to the top. Look at the picture of Sniper. Look on the right-hand side of it. The edge of the picture is of Bloodseeker’s headdress and it clearly has the first letters of “Bloodseeker” below it.

        Nobody is talking about the Juggernaut picture that leads the article. Do you know how I know that? Because the commenter above explicitly asked about “THE ONE IN THE SNIPER PICTURE?”

  10. Prolar Bear says:

    Hats off for the article, Cara.

  11. DerNebel says:

    You forgot the couriers (some of which are godly cute) and the tournament passes.

    The tournament passes basically allows you to watch tournament matches live in client, with commentary (sometimes in multimple languages), statistics and POV of every player. It is pretty amazing.

    • ZHsquad says:

      You can just watch the replays for free by downloading them. Why pay to watch live when you can watch free instead?

      • Captain Joyless says:

        No, you can’t.

        • ZHsquad says:

          Semi-right. I watched all the West Coast qualifying matches, for free (downloaded them in game). However, I tried some others and I can’t. So some, yes, you can download. But not others.

  12. McDan says:

    As much as this points out how ridiculous microtransactions are (to me anyway, don’t like them personally) it does make me want to try DOTA 2 even more. More Cara is always great as well, thoroughly excellent and hilarious again madam.

  13. Vorphalack says:

    DotA 2 really is FtP done right, and I really do want the Lone Druid panda bear. I just can’t justify spending money on the game until they sort out the reporting system. Report abuse is currently worse than any in game trolling i’ve seen in about 450 games. Whoever thought peer reviewed moderation in competitive multi-player was a good idea should be fired.

    Out of a cannon, into the sun.

  14. strangeloup says:

    I’m torn. From what I played of DOTA2, I do not like it. But I like TF2 a lot, and because of TF2, I also really like hats.

    And DOTA2 hats are cheaper than TF2 hats by a good 25% or more. Discount millinery! Though I suppose on the other hand TF2 has 9 playable characters whereas DOTA2 has about eight hundred.

    I’m almost tempted to give it another try. Almost. Or at least maybe see if I can get rid of some of the fifty gazillion invites that I am constantly given more of. Maybe in exchange for hats.

    In conclusion: hats.

    • cjlr says:

      Hats indeed.

      Tidehunter was my favourite in original DOTA. Despite the fact that I’ve only ever played like 4 games of DOTA 2, I might just have to buy that pirate hat.


  15. Low Life says:

    I kind of feel like I should be buying something after all the time I’ve been putting into this game. Maybe I’ll just grab the crazy bundle for Lina during the summer, as fiery hair is always awesome.

    I want fiery hair.

  16. kwyjibo says:

    “‘Hats’ is a metaphor here.”

    Isn’t it always.

  17. aldo_14 says:

    This all scares and confuses me, but not as much as the drunk man who fell on top of my laptop from the luggage rack of my train home.


  18. The Dark One says:

    If you get a duplicate hat, then you either trade it through Steam’s handy interface, visit any number of sites that plug into Valve’s inventory APIs or sell it for cash moneys* on the steam Market.

    *cash moneys that can never be used except to buy more things from Steam

    • applecup says:

      *Cash moneys which can be used to buy a hat which you don’t have yet

    • arccos says:

      For some reason, the same does not apply to DOTA 2 drops, other than the chests which everyone gets. You can’t sell most DOTA 2 items on Steam marketplace, which is a real disappointment.

  19. coppernaut says:

    It should be known that you can “peek inside” these locked chests, all except for the very newest ones, to see everything inside.

  20. Bork Titflopsen says:

    Don’t forget that (almost) all cosmetics are made by members of the community who in turn get 25% (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) of off every sale those items get.

  21. geerad says:

    Cara, I notice you only left $0.07 for the top hat and false moustache you wore while writing this article. Did you find the top hat deal of the century, or was that paid for out of a separate RPS top hat budget?

  22. Fenixius says:

    Why on earth is this the only Twenty Bucks article on this website?! Moar, I say! Moar articles, that is, not more money. >_>

    Do one for TF2 so we can keep the hatwatch tag. I’d be very keen on seeing one for Planetside 2, or Ragnarok 2, or Eve Online!

  23. jrodman says:

    This was excellent.

  24. reishid says:

    A good tip to those who have access to the steam store is to buy keys and trade to traders for sets. The majority of the old sets have dropped in price (trade value) that you can save a lot of cash by using treasure keys to trade for them. An example of this is Windrunner’s Sparrowhawk Set ($14.99), which can be purchased for 2-3 Treasure keys($2.49 each) from traders.

  25. Dowson says:

    I’d have just bought Captain Bamboo and been done with it.

  26. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Craig & Cara are fast becoming my favorite RPS writers. Madness!

  27. The Random One says:

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun: the hats are a metaphor

  28. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I just found out that this is not the only article with the “hatwatch” tag. There is another one from 2007, featuring Kieron Gillen with a beard, wearing a Cossack hat.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Why on earth do you think I would have used that tag if not for a pointless callback to 2007?! THIS IS RPS WE DO THINGS RIGHT HERE

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        Of course. I forgot for a moment that on RPS, the tags are taken very seriously.

  29. The Sombrero Kid says:


  30. Nicodemus Rexx says:

    Fantastic Article! Also, apologies to Cara for sending an email wondering when she would be returning to RPS when she already had as evidenced by this article’s existence. -_-” *Shame and Disgrace for my not noticing somehow*

    In other News: Sounds like DOTA has the same (or at least very similar) Hat-conomy that TF2 has, which is not a bad way to do it, even if it does annoy me that the ‘hats’ sometimes become more the focus of these games than the game itself. I do so hate games that force you to buy things you actually would NEED to play and have fun.

  31. ZHsquad says:

    Personally I think more pictures should have captions of David Bowie lyrics. Perfect fit.