A non-major but still interesting Dota 2 [official site] patch has dropped. 6.88e is all about tweaks, as you'd expect from a patch with a letter on the end of it, rather than one which heralds a whole jump forward in numbering. The reason it's interesting is more that it gives me a chance to talk about a thought related to patches and living games like Dota 2.
The thought is this: what happens when the metagame (i.e. the trends that extend beyond individual matches and give the state of the game at a particular point in time its distinctive character/flavour) is in a really good place?
During The International 6 a couple of months ago, the flagship tournament showcased a meta which allowed so many heroes to be viable and so many different approaches to come out onto the arena stage that panelists joked that there "was no meta". By the event's conclusion 105 out of the 110 heroes in competitive mode had been played. There were obviously some who were stronger than others - desirable for one reason or another and more prone to featuring in the pick and ban phase which makes up the character draft at the start of a match, but it was definitely the most flexible and varied I've ever seen a MOBA at a top tier LAN event.
But then... is that the holy grail? That flexibility? Icefrog is famously anonymous and low-key so not exactly prone to interviews, but other developers I've spoken to often aim for that flexibility. You want as many of the heroes you've created to be playable at any one time, and you want players to be able to play in the ways they want or in which they excel without losing the competitiveness or balance.
But there's also a yearning for change which sets in after a while. In Dota 2 we will have the Monkey King update which will add a new character and necessarily lead to changes in other parts of the game as relationships between spells, environment and other characters must be renegotiated, even if he's not added to the competitive roster for months or years.
MOBAs are interesting to me for the fact that you can almost reach your ideal situation, then you change the conditions and try to reach it again. It's very human, that cycle of aspiration, satisfaction and boredom.
There are a handful of tiny nerfs and a far smaller number of tiny buffs just to rein in a few things/characters - Drow Ranger's base damage is reduced by 4, for example, and there are some small tweaks to Keeper of the Light. Monkey King is not here yet.
Here's the full thing:
* Dragon Lance strength reduced from 14 to 13
* Infused Raindrop cooldown increased from 4 to 6
* Illusions attack damage reduction against buildings increased from 25% to 30%
* Diffusal Blade cooldown increased from 2 to 4
* Outworld Devourer base armor reduced by 1.5
* Shadow Poison initial damage reduced from 50 to 26/34/42/50
* Flamebreak cooldown increased from 14 to 17
* Drow base damage reduced by 4
* Torrent damage reduced from 120/180/240/300 to 75/150/225/300
* Echo Stomp channel time increased from 1.2 to 1.3
* Oracle base damage reduced by 6
* Morphling intelligence gain reduced from 1.5 to 1.1
* Starstorm Scepter cooldown increased from 8 to 9
* Time Dilation now only freezes abilities that are on cooldown, rather than also affecting abilities cast afterwards
* Time Dilation slow per frozen ability increased from 8% to 10%
* Tempest Double gold and XP bounty increased from 140 to 160
* Juggernaut base damage reduced by 2
* Counter Helix damage reduced from 90/120/150/180 to 75/110/145/180
* Repel cast point improved from 0.5 to 0.35
* Repel duration reduced from 6/8/10/12 to 4/6/8/10
* Relocate delay increased from 2.5/2.25/2 to 2.7/2.35/2
* Inner Vitality bonus regeneration threshhold reduced from 40% to 35%
* Stifling Dagger cast range reduced from 1200 to 825/950/1075/1200
* Smokescreen slow reduced from 25% to 19/21/23/25%
* Track manacost increased from 50 to 65
* Mana Leak manacost increased from 75 to 150
* Illuminate radius increased from 350 to 375
* Blinding Light knockback distance increased from 400 to 525
* Sand King movement speed reduced by 5
* Timbersaw base strength reduced by 1