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CowboyNeal On Dota 2, Modern Games, and Software Development 148

CowboyNeal writes "Unless you don't care about PC gaming at all, by now you're aware of Valve's entry into the MOBA/ARTS genre, Dota 2. Despite still being in a closed beta, it's currently the number one game on Valve's Steam gaming service, and judging from Valve's earlier declaration regarding Steam on Linux, it's only a matter of time, even if that time be a year or more, before we see Dota 2 come to Linux as well as Mac. Valve has big plans for Dota 2, no less big than what happened with Team Fortress 2, even if it took them a few years to get to where Team Fortress 2 is today. What makes the current state of Dota 2 noteworthy, however, is that it has managed to displace Team Fortress 2 as Steam's most popular game, while still being tested in a closed beta." Read on for the rest of CowboyNeal's thoughts on games, and what it's like being a Slashdot poll option.
The term "closed beta" here doesn't really directly apply, either. Starting already last summer, Valve invited sixteen Dota teams from around the world to compete in a Dota 2 tournament, which naturally, featured the then-current state of Dota 2. What's interesting to note is that while Dota 2 at that time didn't sport all of the available heroes from its Dota All-Stars ancestor, everyone involved felt comfortable enough with the game to stage a tournament. Even if the game was lacking dozens of heroes at the time, players from the professional Dota scene were able to adjust to Dota 2 quickly, given that Valve had successfully recreated the nuances of the original mod within the Source engine. Following The International 2011, Valve resolved to open up the beta to more people, and sent out several waves of invites last fall, over the winter, and this spring. They gave out beta access as prizes during their Christmas Sale event. And now, for $39.99, or whatever that equates to in your local currency, you can buy an invite to the beta, directly from the Dota 2 store in-game. In this way, it's not very closed anymore, save for in name.

All of this is a long way from how games, and software in general, were handled in days of yore. In the before-time, the long-long-ago, one would go to the store or mail order some disks with the software on it, install it, and that was that. Patches were next to unheard of. After the advent of the internet, one would still likely go to the store and buy a game on discs, and then begin the process of downloading patches off of the internet, if one was so lucky to have their product see post-launch support. Today, it's not uncommon to see a game be patched once or twice in a week's time, especially so if it's a game with an online component to it.

With games like Dota 2, and recently-released Tribes Ascend, and the wildly successful Minecraft before that, the entire software development cycle gets hazy at best. PC Gamer recently asked its readers whether or not they should review Dota 2. There's still a list of things to come for Dota 2. There's also already a selection of purely cosmetic items available for purchase for your heroes, tying in closely to Valve's hat-based strategy for revenue. It's no wonder that reviewers are left wondering. Buyers are wondering too. There are plenty of people playing Dota 2, and presumably some of those players are having fun doing it. I think it could also be successfully argued that Minecraft was "done" long before Mojang slapped a 1.0 version number on it. On the flip side of the coin, it's been five years since Valve released Team Fortress 2, and the TF2 that players play today is very little like the one that was bundled with the Orange Box on release. Games developed, or even merely published by Bethesda are notorious for launch-day bugs, some of which are so egregious that they come perilously close to breaking the "sacred bond of trust between gamer and gaming mega-corporation." Sometimes Bethesda fixed up their games with a post-game patch, other times we have to just wait and bear it, and eventually at some point, like the days of yore, post-launch support just ends, and bugfixes are left to the community to handle.

I think that in the end, the "release early, patch often" approach is beneficial to consumers. It allows developers to get player feedback in an early and ongoing fashion, and adjust their product accordingly. In the long run, it makes it easier to decide whether or not it's worth plunking down our cash for a game. It does, however, make it much more difficult to decide to do so on launch day. It's difficult to see the future and know if and how a given title will be supported post-launch, which is now a reasonable issue to consider before purchasing a AAA title that can cost between $50 and $60. The hard part, of course, is waiting for our old ideas about game reviews to catch up, since a review doesn't get patched, unlike the games they cover. The best a review can hope for is to be revised during an expansion pack.


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CowboyNeal On Dota 2, Modern Games, and Software Development

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  • Online Multiplayer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko ( 1682914 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @02:10PM (#40617485)
    Is the cancer killing videogames.

    Nobody gives a shit about an enthralling story or character development anymore. Developers have to give players multiplayer rewards for anyone to want to go play their 6-9 hour poorly written story now.

    Im sure I am not alone in yerning again for the days where you got a real story that took a damn long time to finish it, 40-50 hours was considered to be short once now Its an "epic".

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @02:25PM (#40617691)

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-to-tell-youre-getting-too-old-video-games/ [cracked.com]

    It's a pretty thoughtful article written by someone who enjoys video games.

    As for my personal preference, I don't have a lot of time for games so I don't find beating my head against a wall to get past a boss to be all that rewarding. This coming from someone who used to do just that on platformers.

    I think it's just a process of changing tastes. I remember when I didn't like to read books without pictures. I remember when black and white movies didn't have enough going on to sustain my attention. Would any teenager appreciate a reflective story about the loss of youth the way someone in their 40's regretting past mistakes would?

    I think there's room for games aimed at adults, it's just that the market isn't yet willing to go there. It's sort of like people thinking women don't like porn. Hello? Romance novels? They love porn. You're just doing it wrong.

  • by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @02:45PM (#40617975)

    Disagree in theory, sadly agree in practice.

    I fully believe that both can exist. You can still have your sprawling story- and character-driven games, full of intrigue and lore, lasting hundreds of hours, and you can also have online multiplayer arenas.... but they should be kept separate. Games like DotA, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 etc make no pretence about story, characterization(*), plot, immersion or anything like that. They don't try to be anything other than a way to play tag with your friends over the internet.

    The problem comes from lazy studios, which is why I agree strongly with your original point. In the real world, there are just too many lazy people; production companies that want to pad out their games, sell a few more copies (or perhaps sell some online widgets) by cramming multiplayer into a game where it doesn't belong ... looking at you ME3. Or trying to sell you a character driven story mode, that ends up lasting all of 3 hours: your generic Call of Modern Bad Company Field 37 is probably the biggest offenders I can think of in that category. Either way, a studio diverts resources from what the fans really want, into a line of programming they're not very good at, and the end result is always to the detriment of the player. We can also dive into the issue of MMO style games being "ruined forever" by the advent of PvP and the balancing issues inherent therein ... but that's a can of worms I'll leave closed.

    (*) for the record, despite being in the non-story, just-here-to-shoot-our-friends category... hats off to the TF2 guys for actually building enough characterization through their "Meet The Team" videos to make the classes feel fun and unique. *doff*

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:15PM (#40623989)
    Wow, you've argued away books.
  • by thelexx ( 237096 ) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @01:58AM (#40625045)

    "Unless you don't care about PC gaming at all, by now you're aware of Valve's entry into the MOBA/ARTS genre, Dota 2."

    Unless you're a total douche-bag, you wouldn't even think of penning something like that.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian