Valve tend to approach every project with a similar ethos, regardless of whether they're making a game, some software, an operating system or, it turns out, a movie. Their first attempt at the latter, a documentary about professional Dota 2 players called Free To Play, spent much of last year being beta tested in front of private audiences, was premiered at The International 3 in Seattle, and then disappeared back into development for another eight months. As of yesterday, it's now in general release, and available to download for free via Steam.
A trailerThe full movie is embedded below along with some more detail.
The documentary follows three professional players - Clinton "Fear" Loomis from America, Danil "Dendi" Ishutin from the Ukraine and Benedict "HyHy" Lim from Singapore - as they train, travel the world and complete in Dota tournaments. The intent isn't to create a documentary you need to know Dota in order to enjoy, though. The filmmakers at Valve responsible - as always, the company made most of film themselves in-house - say they wanted to pick out the broader, more relatable themes in the story. That means the film spends a lot of time exploring the personal lives of each of the competitors, what their families think of their strange career, and the pressures placed upon them by trying to make a living as a great videogame player.
Of course, if you are a Dota 2 player, this is an opportunity to see your hobby writ large. If you're really into it, there's three bits of DLC you can pick up which offer you film-related in-game Dota 2 items.
To celebrate the launch, Valve held a Twitch viewing party, in which they streamed the movie live through the service so the community could watch it together. That was nice. The stream is now archived, and there's a post-screening Q&A with the Valve devs repsonsible now archived for viewing.
Given that Valve said they never initially planned to make a film - they just thought they should take some cameras along to their first tournament, and it grew from there - I'm wondering at what point the line is drawn between Valve and internal projects. What if someone there really likes chocolate biscuits, and has an idea for how to make a better one? Because I would like that. It's early and my cupboards are empty.