Dota 2 rolls out friendly welcome wagon for noobs


You know how sometimes you go to the swimming pool and in the grown-up full size bit there are boring lanes and people who tell you off for having fun but in the baby section there are inflatables and everyone is friendly and sometimes there’s a blow-up tropical island with a slide and you wish you could go in that pool instead of the boring adult pool even though there is also a lot of wee in there which you try not to think about?

That is how I feel about the newcomer-friendly changes to Dota 2 [official site]. Valve are making it NICER and more MANAGEABLE. No-one has mentioned a tropical island with a slide, but maybe it’s being kept secret. If it is I will KICK OFF.

Anyway, via a blog entry the Dota 2 devs announced over the weekend:

“Some of the most satisfying moments in Dota are found in the first stages of learning the game, as you begin to see intricate strategies take shape in the battles around you. However, there have also been some issues that caused unnecessary challenges for new players in the past. With today’s update we’re introducing two features designed to help new players face as few barriers as possible to enjoying Dota.”

They continue:

“The first feature is a change to the hero selection system. To help new players, we are now restricting hero selection to a curated group of twenty heroes for their first twenty-five games. This introductory group consists of heroes that we’ve learned are very successful in helping new players learn and enjoy the game.”

That change sounds very similar to what happens in League of Legends as you start on your MOBA journey. Riot gives you a limited champ pool so you don’t accidentally pick the most complicated character in the game, get stomped and leave forever. Dota had a version of this anyway in the form of Limited Heroes mode but you had to specifically queue for it rather than it being thrust upon you.

“Today’s update also introduces a feature that matches new players against players with consistently high behavior scores. It is especially important for a new player to have a good social experience while they are first trying to learn the game. The matchmaking system will now ensure that new players will play with and against appropriately-skilled players that also have a track record of good behavior.”


My own frustrated adulthood aside, this is an interesting one. As far as I can tell it fulfils two functions for Valve. One is that it models good behaviour for newcomers so that hopefully they take “being pleasant” as the standard for behaviour. The other is that it makes for a more welcoming introduction to the game so people might be inclined to stick around.

There are some other thoughts about the new player changes I have, though:

What happens to the players who are within the skill range of those newcomer-friendly players but don’t have high behaviour records?

Will there be a gloopy glut of neutral-to-toxic players lurking just outside the beginner zone?

Will nice new-ish players end up spending the majority of their matches looking after newbies who may or may not be jerks?

Is there a possibility of putting players off trying complex heroes by essentially telling them they’re too difficult to start with?

Happily, given Dota 2 is a Valve game, I don’t expect any answers to these aside from anecdotes on Reddit. Anecdata for AnecDota. AnecDota 2.

I’ll be here all week.


  1. Lacero says:

    It’s hard to discuss this without mentioning smurfs. But I won’t either.

    As a bad player (1600 solo mmr) with a near 0 report count and many commends over 1000+ games I’d love to play every game with newbies. As long as there’s one on each team. I calibrated at 1800 so no reason to think newbies won’t be at my level.

    Winning more because my team is better at newbie teaching would be awesome. But for this to work they have to flag the newbies. I can’t teach them if I don’t know who they are and my good manners are going to lead me to not criticise newbies awful awful item choices unless they ask.

    • Vandelay says:

      Honestly, I think this change could help with my ever descending MMR (my combined solo-group one is now at between 1100-1200 – yeah, I know*.) The number of people I seem to get matched with who don’t realise they are terrible (which we all are if we are that low,) spend the whole game dictating what everyone should be doing or spend it criticising others is to such an extent that it is basically every other game, certainly if you don’t include the games where my team wins. Having people who come to the game and can’t admit to having anything above a minimum knowledge sounds ideal!

      Can’t say I have ever had report flag on my summary that pops up ever so often and quite often have a couple of commends on it, so imagine I might get a few newbies. More than happy for that to happen.

      As you say though, if they don’t say they are new then there isn’t much help you can give. Hopefully, if they are matched with nicer people they are more likely to ask for help.

      *I did go through a phase of believing that the trench wasn’t real and that if I just played good enough I would go up. That was until I realised that the people who claimed this are the ones who are 5k+ MMR and can easily win a game at that level solo. For those of us that are slightly better than our MMR it is impossible to do if you are getting 1 or 2 people on your team throwing it. I am genuinely amazed at how many people I see charging in on impossible fights in blind parts of the jungle, ignore the base being destroyed, don’t seem to look at the mini-map, etc.

      • MajesticRob says:

        So I calibrated around 3k when I first started almost 4 years ago and believed in the trench for a long time. However, I decided to put a concerted effort into changing my approach to solo ranked Dota. After watching videos from a popular streamer and thinking about where my game was weak and where it was strong I made a conscious effort to improve my game. I started playing support in 80% of my solo ranked games and ensuring the carry/offlaner had a good lane, I stacked, pulled, rotated, zoned and left them alone if they needed it. Sure sometimes the player was a tool and it didn’t help but most games it gave them a good start which transitioned. So my advice if you want to climb is:

        1) Analyse your own play, improve your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.
        2) Play support if needed but ensure you don’t detract from your carry or inhibit their lane. If you are, go elsewhere, get stuff done and get your own items. When you play carry try and encourage your support to do the same, give you space when needed and help when needed.
        3) Think intelligently about items, a lot of 2k players don’t. Do you need Armour items if their team is all magic, no. If they have a shadow fiend and a PA then some Armour is a definite. Adjust your build based on the enemy team, not just on the hero you choose.
        4) Pick heroes that you’re comfortable with, that are preferably in meta and that are OK/Good against their team. I.e. AA or disable against Huskar, Necrophos against Sven/PA etc.
        5) Don’t waste items (particularly sentry wards against invisible bums)

        Doing this I achieved about 1.2k mmr (at about 4.1 currently) over 6 weeks playing occasionally in the evenings and more at weekends. Then I got distracted by PUBG (which I am unfortunately terrible at!)

        It is possible to win at Dota by one player’s impact (assuming everyone else is average), different heroes contribute the most at different times, if you’re playing support the first 15 minutes are the most important, if you’re playing carry the last 20 minutes are most important (generally).

  2. Premium User Badge

    QiVers says:

    A severe aversion to being shouted at by toxic players means I usually avoid competitive games, but this type of change might actually encourage me to give Dota 2 a bash.

    • Horg says:

      Fair warning to anyone who expects this to ‘clean up DotA’; new players are just as capable (if not more capable) of toxicity than experienced players. Some of the worst games i’ve had to sit through stick in my memory from the 1-100 range. In my experience, although it’s hardly a bed of roses, the quality of games gradually improves as you get further in. If you develop an average aptitude for the game (3-4k) you mostly match with people who can pick a useful role and quietly play to win. The phrase ‘a little knowledge is dangerous’ really sums up the new player experience, where you find most of the backseat generals dictating your every move, the guys who give up hope and feed if someone tries anything non-standard, and the raging idiots who brought their attitude problems with them from other games.

  3. Zorgulon says:

    Could it finally be time for me to properly try out Dota? I may give it a whirl if the International inspires the required level of “oohs” and “ahhs”.

    • field_studies says:

      I started playing after watching TI3 (not understanding what I was seeing, but beginning to become strangely intrigued). I’ll offer this encouragement: I’ve never been into multiplayer or competitive games, and still am not, otherwise, but four years later I’ve put in 1800 hours to DOTA, and have no regrets; it’s the most complex and rewarding (capital-G) game I’ve ever played.

      I still find it stressful at times, and 1/3 games has either a toxic player or someone who disconnects and kind of wrecks the balance, but I guess it’s a testament to the quality of the game itself, and the fun and intermittent hype of there being a professional scene, that I’m still playing.

  4. walruss says:

    I’d love to play more DOTA 2 (I enjoy matches when they’re good), but I’m afraid the toxicity is pretty well built in to the system. It’s a 45 minute game where the slightest mistake can end the game not just for you but for 4 other players. Then you spend 30 minutes losing while everyone seethes at you. To be clear, everyone seethes. Good players are nice about it.

    There’s so much to like about MOBAs, but I’m afraid the structure of the game just makes it impossible to play them casually. You either have to be all in on “gitting gud,” you have to pass, or you have to resign yourself to being the reason other players aren’t having a good time.

    • Aetylus says:

      A lot of truth here I think. I don’t play MOBA’s any more due to the toxiicty, but I do play Atlas Reactor which is a competitive, online 4v4 game… with a positive community. As far as I can tell the main difference is that Atlas Reactor is turn-based and shorter… meaning the players are generally much more patient and forgiving.

      I still don’t understand why one of the many MOBAs hasn’t differentiated itself into the Carebear MOBA. DOTA and LoL totally dominate the ‘mainstream’ MOBA-playing market of fairly competitive players who are fine with (or able to ignore) toxicity. But there are loads of people who would like to play MOBAs but not at the cost of being abused. It would be such an easy business model to be the niche, nice, MOBA by setting the toxic-tolerance level much lower… instant ban for abusing another player etc. Sure many MOBA players don’t want a zero tolerance to toxicity approach – but those guys are already busy playing DOTA.

      • Horg says:

        ”It would be such an easy business model to be the niche, nice, MOBA by setting the toxic-tolerance level much lower…”

        The operating costs would be ridiculous. To have a fair but strict system in place you would need human oversight on every report, as automated systems are always abusable. It’s also not a conducive environment for encouraging people to spend money if they know losing your temper even once could mean a perma-ban. From a business perspective, a system that strict is unworkable.

        • eyemessiah says:

          Yeah – its seems a little far fetched to me. I think it would be easier just to find 4 like-minded friends to play with and mute the enemy team?

  5. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    you wish you could go in that pool instead of the boring adult pool even though there is also a lot of wee in there which you try not to think about?

    In my experience, MOBA communities are all wee.

    Weeing in an ocean of wee, so to speak.

  6. MikoSquiz says:

    I’d like an option to disable matchmaking with badly-behaved players, please. Just a “no poo people” tickybox, with the requisite warning popup that this may double the length of time it takes to find a game. I don’t care. I’d rather not find a game than play with people who yell and fuss.

  7. Morat Gurgeh says:

    Tried hard to get into these games. Even have printouts of the nomenclature somewhere. But it just won’t click for me and I suspect this won’t change anything. As someone already said if I eff up then I might screw up everything for my team. Not an Overwatch “Crap Mercy” that might be ok, but an, actual, proper mess.

    I’m a team player, if I eff the team, I’ll be swearing at myself more than any 12 year old could!!

  8. robotslave says:

    You try the game, you’re patient, you’re nice to people, you stick with it for a while…

    …and your reward is you get to be the first target of newborn trolls, whilst paired up with people who are all just a bit worse than you, and often understandably frustrated about it?

    Good grief.

    Right Now certainly does not sound like the time to finally get around to trying this game as a player (rather than a spectator; I’ve watched a fair bit of the noisy baffling thing).

    • eyemessiah says:

      Its nice that they are trying something but I’m not sure this will make much of a difference. I wonder why they don’t build-out the coaching features? They could even provide incentives (at basically no cost) in the form of shiny hats for folk who put some time in helping newbies (and maybe get a decent rating from the newbs they assisted). To be honest I don’t especially relish the prospect of having loads of new players in my after-work-relaxing-time games (though you could argue I deserve it for having a terrible MMR!) but if it were more of an opt-in type of thing I might lend a helping hand at the weekends for instance. I definitely do it for shiny hats though!

  9. eyemessiah says:

    I’d love to see some data on Dota’s behavior metrics. Of course Valve would never pull back the curtain. My gut feeling is that the reason you don’t see these sorts of problems solved by matching tweaks is that the “toxicity” is probably spread more evenly across player types than you’d expect.

    There will certainly be small minority of persistent trolls and small minority of consistently lovely people but I suspect that bulk of entirely normal human beings playing dota account for the vast majority of ruined games. All it would take is for every normal human to have a bad day \ lose their temper \ mentally check out once every ten games for 100% of games to be “ruined”! And most of these normal humans probably thinks of themselves as one of the good guys too! (And for good measure they probably think they are actually better than their MMR!).

    The other part is that the matchmaking is probably more fragile than we realize. I bet that adding a couple of extra filters carves up the pool more aggressively than you might expect leading to exploding queue times even with Dotas fairly healthy pools.

  10. kigili20 says:

    Fuck this updates!