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Matchmaking Update for the Next Ranked Season

The new Ranked season is here. Today’s blog will go over the changes we are doing as well as areas we are still thinking about. The changes in this update will be rolled out gradually over the next two days as we iron out bugs. The calibration part of the new season will begin this Thursday.

Role Symmetry
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One big observation that we had since the previous update was that matches with misaligned roles had a meaningful impact on game quality. An example of this is when the mid player for one team has the highest rank on their team, and the mid player on the other team has the lowest rank. This tended to cause games to be really volatile and not enjoyable. In the past we used to prioritize rank spread between the two teams as one of the main criteria for the matchmaker to judge success, however as part of this update we are changing its priorities. It will now put a big emphasis on making sure that the roles are more symmetric rather than other criteria. This will also be something we will continue to tweak and iterate on over the coming weeks to make sure the algorithm’s search structure is correctly tuned and optimized for this.

Draft Role Report
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To help ensure everyone plays the role they queued for, this update includes a role report function during the drafting and beginning minutes of the game. Starting with today’s update, using this information along with some other detection mechanisms, we will be much more aggressive in punishing players who abuse the system.

Core and Support Ranks
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Some baseline dota skills and knowledge are shared between the Support and Core roles. So having the two numbers be entirely separated didn’t seem like a good idea to us, as we’d be losing valuable information about the player as well as promoting some warped incentives when you play your least used roles. As such, when you win or lose a game queued as one type of role, we’ll also update the MMR of the other type by a percentage of that game’s gains or losses. We’ll be tweaking that ratio over time as we figure out the best balance.

Ban Waves
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This update includes a few different ban waves for bad actors. The first ban wave is to players with exceptionally low behavior scores. We will continue to do regular ban waves for users who fall into this small percentage of the community. Users that reach this low level of behavior in the game are too big of a tax on the rest of the community and are not wanted. The second case where users will be banned today is for anyone detected of violating the Steam Service Agreement that prevents the purchase or sale of Steam accounts. Buying accounts to get a higher or lower rank is not allowed and causes negative side effects for the play experience of others. This doesn’t catch all account sales that happen, but we think we have caught enough to take some action. We are also banning players who’ve been detected using exploits to gain an advantage over other players. In the coming weeks, we will be refining the detection algorithms for these abusive behaviors and will begin issuing weekly bans that will go into effect without advance notice to violating accounts. Accounts that we ban will now also have the associated phone number permanently blacklisted from being able to have access to ranked matchmaking.

Smurfs
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We recognize that recently there has been an increase in smurf accounts. We share the sentiments the community has expressed on this issue and we consider it a high priority for us to solve as well. There isn’t a single solution that can address this issue easily, but we hope that a combination of multiple different changes over time will reduce the negative impacts and frequency of it.

The first change in this area is the usage of phone number verification. We’ve found a loophole that allowed a large number of users to play ranked without a unique phone number attached. We have fixed this bug and any user that does not have their account set up correctly will be prevented from queuing until it is resolved. This will also affect accounts that have been actively playing in ranked matchmaking, rather than just new accounts going forward.

We are also changing the mechanism to grant Ranked access. Rather than a fixed number of games, we are changing the metric to be a time based one and increased that amount to 100 hours of playtime. Any users that already have access to ranked without meeting this requirement will be removed from ranked until they’ve played enough time.

Our general approach to Smurfs is to try to get accounts that are performing higher than expected to their correct rank faster. The first change on this axis is to adjust MMR by more than just +/- 25 when we detect that a user has been clearly over performing (based on how the played heroes usually perform at a given rank). This will be an ongoing process as we get better at detecting this, but from the data analysis we’ve done so far, we think we can make some progress using this. This change will be silent for a few days as we verify the detection mechanism is working as intended, and will be enabled once that is verified. The other change we are making is how we calibrate the initial ranked MMR for new accounts entering ranked. Leveraging the new hours played gate we are adding for ranked access, we will be using your account’s historical performance more aggressively to place you into a more accurate initial rank. In the past we introduced a really low cap on initial rank, we think that was a mistake on our part, because it caused smurfs to unnecessarily impact a large volume of games before arriving at a closer-to-accurate rank.

Moving forward, we will be spending more time on live detection of smurfing and boosting behaviors. This will hopefully allow us to put detected accounts into an aggressive recalibration, resulting in a much quicker adjustment to an accurate MMR while reducing the number of games that are ruined in the process. In addition to this aggressive recalibration, we’ll also be detecting and banning accounts for egregious boosting or exploiting of game mechanics.

Miscellaneous Changes
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To help reduce role confusion when queuing as a party, we’ve added a detailed popup for times when your party’s selected roles are incompatible, such as when two players have only selected the same role.

While this update is banning extremely low behavior score players, we’ve also increased the number of commends available for each player so you can recognize good behavior in your games as well.

Other Thoughts
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There are a few other general changes that we are not sure are needed yet or haven’t been able to address yet, but are on our radar. We thought it might be a good idea to supplement this blog with information in the hope that community conversation about it can be helpful.

– High MMR games: While we have some changes here that directly and indirectly improve matchmaking quality for the extremely high end bracket, we will be closely monitoring this to see if other changes are needed.

– Hard Support: For certain MMR brackets, queue times and game quality would be meaningfully improved if there were a bigger percentage of players queuing for Hard Support. Many of the subpar matches we’ve found were a result of there not being enough players queuing for this role. We are exploring to see if any solutions can be effective for incentivising this. We also know that it is more common that you’ll get Hard Support if you queue for all the roles, and we’d like that to eventually not be the case.

– Role queue abuse: As mentioned above, we’ll be much more aggressive in punishing players who don’t play the role they’ve queued for. If we find that role abuse persists despite these efforts, we’ll consider implementing role-specific bans that prevent a user from queuing for the abused role in future matchmaking games after they’ve left low priority. Our hope is that implementing such measures will be unnecessary as the results of our other changes.

– Smurfs: Dota 2 being a free-to-play game introduces various matchmaking related challenges. One option we have thought about is having Ranked access have a one time entry cost, and that access can be lost for players who regularly ruin games. We may also grandfather in users that we have enough data on, but we haven’t gone too deep in assessing the details here. We aren’t sure if we need this as a solution yet either, we hope that other solutions can have a good effect at improving the matchmaking ecosystem.

In terms of our development focus moving forward, we are spending more of our time than usual focusing on matchmaking quality. We believe that is the right call given how much opportunity there is to make the day-to-day experience better for all players. We look forward to seeing your feedback on this update, and to continue to hear feedback in the following weeks for how to improve matchmaking.


The International Grand Champions

Road to the Aegis
Congratulations to OG, Grand Champions at The International 2019.

OG rebuffed every challenger and silenced all critics as the first reigning champions in the history of The International to successfully defend their hold on the Aegis of Champions.

After a dominating Group Stage that saw them drop only two games to their fourteen wins, OG squared off against a Newbee squad that was eager to prove themselves on the Main Stage. Newbee eked out a small advantage in the early goings of game one before OG took over and snowballed to victory. The defending champs never trailed in game two, and Newbee failed to kill ana’s Juggernaut even a single time.

Next up would be the stalwart Evil Geniuses, who smashed through OG’s defenses for a convincing victory in game one that saw EG’s top cores at their best. In game two, the teams traded blows for thirty minutes before OG took over and never looked back–taking the win to push the series to a decisive game three in which OG’s ana killed every EG player at least once en route to victory.

Last year’s runners-up PSG.LGD were the next challengers subjected to OG’s dominating run. Though the elite Chinese squad were able to secure a game-one victory, game two was a one-sided stomp in which ana was again unkillable–this time on the tournament powerhouse Alchemist. Game three was a tough fight with huge net worth swings. PSG.LGD scored more kills than the OG lineup, but the end result went the way of the resilient champions, sending OG into the Grand Finals for a second consecutive year to await their next opponent.

While PSG.LGD did their best to set up a rematch by taking game one of the Lower Bracket Finals, Team Liquid proved the worthiest opponent, cracking off two straight victories to secure the right to face OG in the Grand Finals.

As had happened in the previous two rounds, OG dropped the first game to their adversaries, unable to overcome Liquid’s assault despite leveling out a 20K net worth deficit before their Ancient fell.

But from there, it was all OG. Their clever drafting and stellar play led the way to three straight victories over Team Liquid. OG sent the challengers packing and claimed the Aegis of Champions–the first players to ever raise it twice.

As bearers of the ultimate symbol of victory, these names shall forever be inscribed–again–upon the Aegis of Champions:

2019
Anathan “ana” Pham
Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
Sébastien “Ceb” Debs
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Looking Back
If you missed any of the tournament, or just want to relive the incredible moments and plays, head over to the Dota 2 YouTube channel, where you can find replays of the tournament, including broadcast content from in between the games. You can also find a stash of photos from the event over on our Instagram and the Dota 2 Flickr.

We would like to thank all of the players, talent, and everyone in the Dota community for helping bring this celebration to life. The International is the crowning moment of the competitive season, and without everyone’s support, none of this would be possible. We hope you enjoyed this year’s tournament as much as we did.

The Days Ahead
In the wake of The International, our next focus will be on preparing for the new Ranked Season as well as releasing some small gameplay balance tweaks. With the recent changes to Ranked Matchmaking, we’re interested to hear any feedback or suggestions you have. As always, it’s helpful to include account info and match IDs with your feedback in the contact form.

Our next major release will be arriving later this fall with The Outlanders update, featuring the two new heroes–Snapfire and Void Spirit–that we announced at the event, as well as the next gameplay patch.


Trove Carafe Immortals

The Trove Carafe for The International 2019 is now available, featuring all-new items for Bounty Hunter, Crystal Maiden, Nature’s Prophet, Arc Warden, Templar Assassin, Chaos Knight, and Tusk. In addition, each treasure you open offers the chance to receive a rare item set for Techies, very rare golden versions of the Tusk or Crystal Maiden items, or an ultra rare set for Monkey King.

The Trove Carafe also lets you support your favorite broadcast talent at this year’s event by purchasing autographed versions of the treasure. Select the desired talent from the dropdown menu when purchasing to inscribe their autograph onto the item that you unbox.

Attendee Item Drops

Fans watching the tournament live at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai will once again have the chance to receive special item drops during the Main Event. At First Blood in each individual game, a limited number of exclusive Attendee Treasures will drop, each containing visually-unique versions of items selected from this year’s Immortals. To be eligible, make sure to register your daily code once you arrive at the arena.

The International Main Event

After four days of grueling battle, The International 2019 Group Stage is complete. Already we must say goodbye to the first two teams eliminated–Chaos Esports and Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Defending champions OG are headed to the Upper Bracket after a dominating performance. They’ll be joined there by PSG.LGD, Team Secret, Vici Gaming, Evil Geniuses, TNC Predator, Newbee, and Virtus.pro.

Alliance, Mineski, Infamous Gaming, Fnatic, Natus Vincere, Team Liquid, Royal Never Give Up, and Keen Gaming all face the threat of immediate elimination as they head into their first-round best-of-one games in the Lower Bracket on Tuesday, August 20 at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The opening broadcast begins at 10:00am China Standard Time. Head over to The International website for more info on the tournament standings, schedule, and more.


Tiny Prestige Item and Custom Creeps

Today’s update rolls out the exclusive ‘Majesty of the Colossus’ prestige item set for Tiny at Battle Level 255—along with the ‘Reptilian Refuge’ custom Radiant and Dire creeps at level 182—to fill out the Battle Pass rewards line as we approach The International.

Featuring completely new models for each of his Grow states, plus custom animations and effects for Avalanche and Tree Grab, the ‘Majesty of the Colossus’ can only be earned by increasing your Battle Level to 255 before the conclusion of The International 2019 Battle Pass. Players who’ve already grown to level 255 can claim this item set from the rewards line and roll into the lanes in splendor and style.

To accommodate the release of this new item set, Tiny’s item slots have also been updated and simplified to correspond to his four levels of Grow, and his materials have been optimized to allow for more robust content creation. This means he will soon become available on the workshop, and that artists will only need to focus on making items to fit four base slots and one weapon slot on any future Tiny designs.

The International Group Stage

The first Group Stage action of The International kicks off at 9:00 am on Thursday, August 15 in Shanghai. With seeding in the Main Event at stake right from the start, make sure to tune in to the main stream to see the first stage of the tournament unfold.


Summer Scrub Part 2


Today’s update delivers the second half of the Summer Scrub, focused on bug fixes and some quality of life improvements just in time for The International.

One of the first changes you’re likely to notice is the implementation of a new version of the customizable hero grid. Players can now create multiple grid presets, each with their own unique layouts and categories. You can drag and drop heroes around the grid and rename or resize different buckets to suit your needs for any situation.

We’ve also added a new alternate layout for the in-game item shop that allows you to toggle the classic column view to a new grid-style layout that retains the Basic and Upgrade sections while adding multiple grouped sub-categories for ease of use.

On the game side, we decided to do a little house cleaning related to players exploiting matchmaking, botting or transferring accounts, resulting in a fresh ban wave for cheaters today. We’ve also made multiple performance improvements focused on minimizing hitches during teamfights.

There’s also a whole host of bug fixes that you can read about over on the update page here. Thanks to everyone in the Dota community who helped us identify which things were most in need of a good scrub.


The International Approaches

The International Group Stage is almost upon us. As the teams, fans, and broadcast crews make their final preparations for the crowning esports event of the year, it’s time to unveil some of the final details for everyone watching.

Tournament News

Head over to the in-game Compendium for a complete list of Casters and Talent for this year’s event. Don’t forget to fill out your predictions for hero picks, team results, player performance, and tournament meta. Predictions lock before the start of Group Stage play.

We’ve also launched the official tournament website for The International 2019 as a hub for keeping up with the daily tournament proceedings. As the Group Stage and Main Event progress, you’ll be able to see updated standings and new social media content posted each day from Shanghai.

  • Group Stage: August 15th – August 18th, 2019 – As before, two best-of-two groups of nine teams. Top four teams in each group advance to Upper Bracket, five – eight advance to Lower Bracket, bottom in each group is eliminated.
  • Main Event: August 20th – August 25th, 2019 – The tradition continues as 16 teams battle through a best-of-three double elimination playoff. Lower bracket first round is best-of-one, Grand Finals are best-of-five.

Media

The top eighteen Dota teams in the world have earned the right to join the final test of the Dota competitive season. As the tournament progresses, check out the main stage and behind-the-scenes action on our media page, which features all content from our YouTube Channel, event-specific Twitter feed, and Instagram.

Pubstomps

Whether you’re playing or watching, Dota is best enjoyed with friends. To help people around the world connect with each other for their own celebratory Dota events, we’ve once again partnered with Barcraft United to facilitate Pubstomp administration. Their official landing page will launch later this week to help find a Pubstomp in your area.