Few weeks ago IceFrog blogged that he will do Q&A session #4 soon, Now it's here. In this Q&A session IceFrog has briefly answered some of the questions that DotA Fans asked. It's very interesting to read this Q&A Session as compared to the previous ones. Also, IceFrog has revealed about the upcoming new hero Icarus, The Phoenix in DotA 6.68. You must read it!
Q: When will we hear more about you and Valve? Some people say it will take 2-3 years, can you give us any clues? (from Zeyall)
A: It certainly won't take that long. There are a lot of very talented people here at Valve that are working hard on it every day to ensure high quality in a timely manner. We'll be making an announcement soon actually, and based on the feedback I've been getting since the last mention, I'm sure you all will be as excited as I am.
Q: Can you tell us how you first met Valve and how you like it so far? (from Sodoes)
A: It started off with an email from Valve where they mentioned that they were big fans of DotA wanted to fly me out to spend some time with them and visit their studio. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the trip. After arriving and chatting with them, the first thing I noticed was how much of their decision making process was like mine. They shared the same aspirations towards building a long term and sustainable community without having short sighted business goals that end up hurting the quality of the game. One of the most important things for me though was that there wasn't going to be anyone standing above telling me how I should be doing things. They trust the developers that have experience to make the best decisions for their playerbase. The atmosphere at Valve allows everyone to be very comfortable and able to focus on what they love doing. It also doesn't hurt that they are huge DotA fans.. until their favorite heroes are nerfed, then I'm the bad guy for a week!
Q: How popular is DotA these days? (from china_white)
A: I can only give estimates based on getdota.com usage, because I can't track ingame downloads or fansites or downloads from China. It is roughly estimated (based on the statistics from popular Chinese sites) that the Chinese DotA audience is about 40-50% of the worldwide audience. Not counting China, the playerbase is estimated to be somewhere between 7-11 million. I expect the audience to grow even more in the not too distant future.
Q: Is your goal to make everything picked the same amount of times? (from j.walsh)
A: I don't think about it that way exactly. Sure it's good if there is a nice distribution and that is something to work towards, but really the goal in DotA's development is, first and foremost, to make the gameplay quality the best it can be. It is the combination of all the heroes, items and mechanics together that makes DotA what it is and not the individual elements alone. Sometimes that means certain things are carefully adjusted to be more frequent than others, sometimes it doesn't, but ultimately the main judge of a game's quality is not in some artificial balance metric, but in the overall gameplay quality and depth that it has.
Q: Can you tell us something about 6.68? (from Carlos)
A: It is still a work in progress and needs some time, but it will have new heroes, more balance improvements, and some new features as well. Here is one of the new heroes in development: Icarus, the Phoenix
Q: What do you think about DotA's future, will it continue to grow? (from Amir)
A: Definitely. I think players like to spend their time on something they both enjoy and trust. While DotA has a lot to offer now in terms of content and gameplay quality, I will always be working hard to improve it and all that work will be maintained when it matures to something that solves all the other non-gameplay elements that it needs to go to the next level. I think it is a good option for players that want to spend time on a game that will grow with them. It also has a very bright future in the competitive scene. In addition to the already announced SMM ($32,000), ESWC ($24,500), a soon to be announced online ($30,000) event and another huge offline event that will be revealed soon, there will also be an even bigger set of opportunities in the future for players that are dedicating their time and energy into DotA. I think players on all levels of play will be satisfied with their choice and experience with the game.
Q:Why are some heroes unavailable in -CM mode? (from Brandom Lim)
A: It is a largely experimental idea so it may or may not remain for the future. There are a lot of different reasons for it though. In some cases it's balance or bug-potential related. Other times it is done to limit the number of simultaneous changes so that certain changes can be more easily measured. In a lot of cases where the above aren't a factor, it is actually done to give enough opportunity for players to understand how to play with and against them and understand the strengths and weaknesses better. This also makes new versions less destabalizing for competitive gaming while still providing a continuous stream of fresh content. That being said though, I've gotten a lot of requests from players that use the mode for casual or semi-competitive play and miss omitted heroes, so I may add a subcommand to unlock all.
Q: What do you think about the fan support of competitive teams? (from Mooseman)
A: Fan support is, for the most part, very good. I think it's great how passionate many of them are about competitive DotA. At times, though, some of them can be a little too judgmental towards teams based on their last few consecutive wins or losses. They have a lot of pressure on them and sometimes they make mistakes or just want to relax and try something different. I don't think it is always fair to judge them for that. They also face top competition regularly, so its hard to win every time. Teams have a lot of pride and spend a lot of time practicing, so it can be demoralizing to them when some fans change their attitudes towards them so fast.
Q: Are we going to see more visual effects in the future? (from Zikaro)
A: Visual upgrades can be a good thing (and they will come in the future) but is extremely important to not add too much visual noise. You want a scene that has a nice atmosphere and theme but isn't too cluttered or shiny that it negatively affects gameplay by making it hard to tell what is going on.
Q: Should we expect to see any more loadscreens by Kunkka? (from 27302)
A: Yes, he is planning a new one now, but I can't tell you when it will be done since it depends on his free time.
Q: Do you use WC3 Editor by itself or other things as well? (from Sasha200)
A: Most of the map development is done outside of the editor actually. There are a lot of separate script files and program tools that are used together to create the map file.
Q: Any interesting bugs or features that were in beta maps? (from OpyyuRDs)
A: We once had a different ability for Techies that used the same visual art and sound effects from starcraft one for the ghost nuke. When he used it, a red indicator would appear on the ground like in Starcraft and then it would play the classic "Nuclear Launch Detected" audio. It sounded a lot cooler than it played out in practice and it was near the end of a beta cycle and had some balancing and design issues, so we decided to remove it instead of rush it in. As far as bugs go, Chaos Knight could pull towers in one beta version, so you were able to have a line of towers pushing on the enemy side!
Q: Will more heroes get an Aghanim upgrade to their ultimate? (from Akder)
A: Yea, I usually try to add some more every version or two. I think it's a good idea to add them in slowly though, instead of too many at once. I've also gotten more requests for extra graphic animations for the ones that already have, so I'll try to find suitable ones for those as well.
Q: What is the hardest part when developing dota? What risks are there? (from Bannion)
A: The hardest part is actually not the development itself, but in how to measure success. The thing I always try to work on the most is increasing the measurability/prediction of a successful patch. The goal is to be able to improve the development process and feedback systems for better accuracy to what reasonates best with players. The riskiest thing is making a change where it might take too long to discover its true impacts on the game where it becomes hard to reverse. We work really hard to eliminate that stuff early on in the theory phase with either careful analysis or specific beta testing.
Q: How do you decide when to release a new patch? (from VinceX)
A: There are two separate considerations for this. The first is frequency. If you update too frequently players do not get a chance to settle into the previous changes and learn the game, if you update too slowly then you aren't providing enough fresh content. It is a balance between the two that I'm always trying to find a happy medium between as I get more feedback from players. The second is when it's "ready". I usually release it as soon as I feel that the value we get out of more internal testing is too low compared to external feedback we'd get from the larger community. If we are still in the experimenting phase where we are trying out ideas then it's not ready. Once it feels like it needs external testing to be able to make more good decisions, then it is released. From my perspective, the game is in constant development and improvement regardless, it just becomes a matter of what is the most effective way to improve something.
Q: What takes the most time each patch? Researching, Balancing, Implementing or Bug Hunting? (from Enders)
A: The two most time consuming are usually research and experimentation. Research involves more than just playing the game, it's also watching replays, reading a wide range of feedback and talking with players. Experimentation is the other time consuming part. It would be fast to just reproduce a patch if I already knew exactly what to do, but the hard part is usually figuring out what you want to do and doing the proper testing before making changes.
Q: What are you most happy about with regards to DotA? (from Artem)
A: I am really thankful for all the support players have given this game, it is more than I could ask for. I see a vibrant community that, despite the very hard learning curve DotA has, grows through the dedication and passion of its players. That shows me how much more potential the game has and encourages me to work harder.