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."
"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."
!!!! LET ME BACK IN THE NOOB POOL PLEASE.
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.