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That’s worth a bottle of rum!

One thing we’ve received a lot of feedback on is the Dota 2 spectator system. We thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about the thinking that led us to the current system, in the hopes that it might help you understand what we’re trying to do, so that you can help us improve upon it. We think that spectating games, both live and saved replays, is an important part of the Dota experience.

At a high level, we felt there were two important ways that players would be using our spectator system, beyond simply watching games for fun. The first way is that they’d be using it to watch in the interests of improving their skills. The second is that they’d be watching commentated matches in tournaments and leagues. Overall we felt that spectating should be treated as importantly as playing the game, so we started with a WATCH button featured prominently in Dota 2’s main menu.

If you’re looking to watch games to improve yourself, there are a number of filters you can use to find a useful game, such as one with a particular hero or player, one featuring players of specific skill levels, and so on. This is an area we expect to improve upon in the future too: if you want to learn a new hero, we want to make it really easy to find a set of replays that’ll help you quickly get a handle on it. If you’re following a favorite competitive team, or missed a friend’s great match last night, the game will know and lead you to those replays. If you’re an experienced player who wants to expand your skill with a specific hero, or work on your teamwork as part of a specific team of heroes, we want you to be able to easily find replays that’ll let you see high level players using those heroes in matches.

The second main feature we added for players who are watching to learn is the Player Perspective camera mode. In this mode, you select one of the players in the game, and you see the game as if you were at their computer. You see the player’s mouse cursor and input, their camera work, their HUD, their interaction with UI elements, and so on. We wanted you to be able to see exactly how a highly skilled player is playing the game, so you can see ways of improving your own play, and that’s what this camera mode lets you do.

When you’re watching a tournament match, you’re usually watching it at the same time as a large number of other spectators. We wanted to improve the experience of watching live games, and the first problem we identified is that individual spectators don’t have a shared view of the game. This makes it harder to have a conversation with other spectators around what’s happening onscreen, because everyone will be watching from a different position. This problem led us to creating the Directed camera mode, where we were able to leverage our experience with Source TV to build a smart camera that knows what’s about to happen, and tries to make sure it’s in a good position to let you see that action unfold. So in addition to being able to kick back and relax knowing that the camera will always be where the action is, you’re also able to talk about anything happening onscreen because you know that everyone else watching the Directed camera is seeing the same thing you are.

Another goal we had for spectating matches was to have better support for commentators. If you’ve watched any of the matches from The International, you’ve probably already seen that a good commentator can make a match much more exciting to watch, and help beginners understand what’s going on. But previous implementations of commentating systems have had the commentator’s voice stream sit outside the game. This means that it isn’t captured along with the game – and that means that if you weren’t there to watch the live game, you won’t hear the commentary when you watch the replay at a later date. We felt that should be fixed, so we built commentator support fully into the game itself, and bake it into the replay itself. So if you download one of The International matches, you can watch it as if it was a live game, with all the commentator’s camerawork and commentary intact. For matches commentated in multiple languages, you’ll find all the different languages there in the replay too.

If you don’t have Dota 2 yet, and haven’t had a chance at seeing these features for yourself, you’re in luck: there are a ton of players out there streaming the game, so take a look and let us know what you think. A handy site we’ve been using ourselves is StreamDota2.com, which provides a nice set of streams to choose from.