Lessons TF2 could learn from Dota 2

That’s right, I think it’s time we take a break from off-topic threads about Overwatch to talk about Dota for a second. You know, the game that Valve actually spends development time on. As Dota 2 is the most played game on Steam by an enormous margin, one has to wonder what it’s doing (besides, you know…being updated) that TF2 isn’t. While some lessons don’t apply as well since we’re talking about two completely different genres, I’ve compiled a list of things about Dota that TF2 could benefit from.

1. Optimization: Let’s start with the obvious one. Valve has always made sure that Dota 2 has been running on the best tech available. The original beta used the most advanced build of Source 1 at the time. A year ago, Valve fully ported Dota over to Source 2. And just today, it’s been updated with Vulkan support. For contrast, TF2 is still running on the same bloated version of Source 1 it was back in 2010. I understand optimization isn’t an easy thing and that a full Source 2 port is likely infeasible (and the Reborn beta had a lot of problems at first, to the point that many players stuck with Source 1 Dota until Valve finally shut it down), but it’d be nice if TF2 was at least moved to the same version of Source 1 that CSGO uses.

2. Support for the Competitive Scene: We know ranked matchmaking is being added to TF2 eventually, but this goes beyond simply hosting tournaments. Valve should turn tournaments into events, into something the whole community can enjoy. Every summer Valve hosts The International, a big Dota 2 tournament, and every summer they release a Compendium with a lot of goodies along with it. As a result, even casual Dota players who don’t care about e-sports at all (like me) end up hyped for The International because it means a big update with lots of stuff for them. It would be nice for TF2 to have compendiums of its own.

3. Being COMPLETELY free-to-play: All right, this one might make people mad, but bear with me here. In Dota 2, there are no gameplay-affecting unlocks. All the heroes and items are available to everybody from the start, and all unlocks are 100% cosmetic. For contrast, TF2 has a lot of gameplay-affecting weapons that need to be unlocked. Yes, they can be acquired for free fairly easily, and yes, they’re all sidegrades (at least in theory). Nevertheless, if someone is brand new to TF2 there will be a substantial amount of content that affects the game and they can’t access. I know full well TF2 isn’t pay to win, but it’s closer to it than Dota is. I also realize that these weapons are already in the game, and it’s too late to undo that. Perhaps every player could automatically receive a free version of every non-reskin weapon that can’t be traded or deleted and doesn’t take up backpack space, like the stock weapons.

4. China: Needless to say, a big part of Dota’s popularity stems from its international appeal (even if it means lots of disconnecting Peruvians). TF2 has a decent amount of this already, but…well, it helps when you have the biggest country in the world on your side. Valve has a deal with Perfect World (Chinese MMO developer) to publish an official Chinese version of Dota 2. TF2 would likely benefit from an official Chinese version as well (emphasis on “official,” before you mention Final Combat).

5. Lore: This is a more minor note, and it’s not really something TF2 should copy from Dota as much as something Dota copied from TF2, but I feel I should mention it anyway. A little story goes a long way to getting people invested in a game. Dota’s whole lore was (and, to a lesser extent, still is) fairly barebones, but much like TF2’s it’s been slowly growing, which catches people’s interest. Every hero comes with their own personal backstory (some of which impact the main plot, like Elder Titan and Arc Warden), and new Dota comics have been getting made at an accelerating pace. If you clicked that Compendium link earlier, you might have seen there’s already a new comic starring Legion Commander earlier.

Meanwhile, back at TF2…it’s been nearly three years since that “bi-monthly” comic, began. If comics are too time-consuming, maybe you could at least do text stories like each hero’s backstory? Just an idea.

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