- For many years, Dota 2 Custom Games have been targeted and abused to try and sabotage one another.
- Rival Custom Map creators have suffered for years due to this, as these targeted attacks tend to affect players’ experiences as well.
What Did Valve Do About This?
Just yesterday, Wykhrm made a Twitter post detailing Valves initial step to slowing down abuse in custom games. The newly implemented change will induce a queue cooldown for any individual that fails to accept a custom game match. This has already been a big problem that was caused by bots, often declining queues over and over, thus making the lobby unplayable. Although this does not directly address the damage that the bots have been causing in the past few years, it is a fine first step to stopping them altogether.
A Brief History of Bots in Custom Games
There are many recounts of large bot activity that are somewhat concentrated in specific points of time in Custom Games history. These events are speculated to have one simple objective; to try and sabotage competitors. This is due to the fairly cut-throat nature of the Custom Games ecosystem, where it is a very “top-heavy” environment. The games with the highest play count and activity get advertised on the Dota 2 home-page. Meanwhile, less popular games slowly phase out of popularity before eventually dying.
A few Custom Game creators have decided to use this fact to their advantage, and try to directly and artificially reduce player numbers of their competition. They do this by sending out several bots who’s main objective is to make the players experience as awful as possible. From in-game abuse, to lobby manipulation, the bots will do anything at all to disrupt the games. In a cut-throat environment such as Custom Games, the best course of action for competitors is to retaliate with their own slew of bots to damage the attackers. Overall, this is a rather unfortunate circumstance, as all parties involved get hurt in the end, but that’s the reality of the situation.
A Few Criticisms and Bugs of This Change
The main criticism is that this change does nothing but put a band aid on a much larger problem. Custom Games, and the inner systems working within them, are extremely outdated. Vanilla Dota 2 has had many changes to the ways lobby’s worked, essentially streamlining the matchmaking experience for players. These changes reduced load times, and improved matchmaking queue times. Custom Games lobbies have not had any attention at all in this department, making them very easily understood and exploitable. One example of this, is that once every player accepts a Custom Game match, they are put in a “waiting room” lobby where all players are needed to connect, often lasting 5 minutes. In vanilla Dota 2, this whole process is almost instant, not taking more than 10 seconds.
In true Valve fashion, there are a few oversights and bugs that were brought with this change. The most noteworthy one, is how punishments are handled. As of right now, if you have received a penalty for failing to accept a public lobby’s queue, then you are also barred from using private lobbies with friends or for tournaments. This is not the case in vanilla Dota 2, as “Low Priority” (Punishment for abusing Matchmaking) does not affect how private lobbies are handled. So, for example, if you are under Low Priority, you are allowed to participate in TI Grand Finals, but not in regular Matchmaking.
What Does This Do For Custom Games?
This all comes back to the original question; does this change do anything meaningful to help the Custom Games situation? In my opinion, it does not help all that much, not directly anyways. As stated earlier, this change is nothing but a band aid on a gaping, bleeding wound. Valve have their work cut out for them should they want to completely resolve the bot issue in Custom Games. An entire rework of the Custom Games infrastructure is most likely needed, similar to vanilla Dota 2. The way Dota 2 handles lobbies and load times is just much more efficient, safe, and modern compared to that of Custom Games. An effort to trying to modernize Custom Games to a similar system would be an incredibly difficult challenge. The reason for this is that every single Custom Game acts as a puzzle piece, and for you to have a complete picture, every piece needs to fit.
However, the biggest positive that comes with this change, is the revitalized interest and discussion in regards to Custom Games. Users on Twitter and Reddit are all taking their time to report problems and issues they’ve faced with the new change, and in general. We all know that Valve intently listens to community feedback, and they are surely made aware of many of these complaints. Hopefully, they will give Custom Games the attention it deserves, to bring back the feature that brought Dota 2 to the world in the first place.