With 7.00 having been released today, there has been an influx of predictable kneejerk reactions among the DOTA2 playerbase. These types of reactions to large patches are not new, although the level of drama at which they are reaching is perhaps somewhat unprecedented. So, with all the doom and gloom in the air, I offer my alternative view on why I think DOTA2 7.00 is, by and large, probably going to be a good thing for the game, and more importantly, why people should stop complaining.
1. DOTA Patches Have Always Been About Dramatic Upheaval
Many people, including those complaining, might already agree with this statement yet argue that this patch took it too far. In the past, people have complained that DOTA has changed to something unrecognizable- this happened when new items and heroes are added, when new mechanics like Aghanim's sharing, consumable items like Moon Shards, Bounty Runes, etc. were added. The game seemingly deviated from the norm to such a stark degree that it could almost be considered a new game entirely. Looking back at the past, however, we realize that our assumptions were unfounded. In truth, Aghanim's Sharing was something that only affected one hero, Bounty Runes weren't exactly game breaking, and consuming Moon Shards was something that only six-slotted carries did in extraordinarily long games. Other things like XP Tomes, "Spell Vamp", spell damage scaling with Intellect- all of these things share a common core: they seem, at first glance, to completely change the game but in the end never live up to the hype. That isn't to say these additions are failures- they create excitement and change the game, but keep it within the game's boundaries.
Dramatic changes to the game are not something which should be feared, they should cause excitement. This is what DOTA is all about. DOTA has never been about one monotonous metagame, it has never been, as some people claim, like "Chess", because in Chess the rules stay the same. While a somewhat stable metagame is acceptable for a duration, especially in the light of Esports- for which being able to catch up with the game is necessary to display skill, it should not go on forever. On that note, we have enjoyed a version of DOTA that has undergone only minuscule changes for a very long time now. Changes to the game have always been notoriously unpredictable, and that's what makes them fun. A wise man once said that "fans are clinging complaining dipshits" who don't know what they want. DOTA2 has proven, patch and patch again, how painfully accurate this assessment is. This isn't because DOTA fans are gullible idiots who will gobble up anything Icefrog throws on their plate, it's because people like Icefrog have the backbone to update their game in ways that they see fit. They have their own vision- not the dull, predictable and shortsighted vision of their fans.
2. Talent Trees Don't Break the Game
The term "Talent Tree" is a loaded buzzword. It evokes images of League of Legends, of games that force players to customize their heroes outside of the game environment. Talent trees in other games are tied to the real problem: grinding. In order to gain access to certain aspects of gameplay, players have to grind a certain amount of "XP" or "Talent Points" by playing multiple games. This sort of thing would and should never happen DOTA2, whose flagship statement to the rest of the industry has always been "a player who has spent nothing enjoys all of the same advantages as a player who has spent hundreds". In this vein, DOTA2 has not changed. The talent trees in DOTA2 do not overhaul the game, they don't change it to something unrecognizable, in fact- their main purpose is to clean up one of many archaic mechanics left behind from the original game from which it sprang.
Additionally, while it may be too early to tell for sure, it seems plausible that talent trees will not have the "game breaking" impact that people believe they will. Much like the old Attribute Bonus, talent trees offer players relatively minor changes to their character. Contrary to popular belief, however, these changes are not "free". Many players forget that XP, like gold, must be earned, and is not given to the player simply for existing in the game. As such, many players have made the mistake of assuming that many bonuses, especially those granted at level 25, will be seen in every game. This can already be debunked simply by looking at the mean level reached by most players in most games. A cursory glance at the patch notes reveal that while these level 25 talents are the most impactful, the ones preceding those aren't exactly overwhelming. While the effects vary from hero to hero, it could be argued that a small increase in armor, HP, etc. is not going to drastically change the way the game is played. Most of the bonuses from talents can be compared to item upgrades and literally quantified based on the price that a player would have to pay to acquire them. In many of these calculations, fantastical expectations of drastic changes fall flat.
3. 7.00 Cleans Up the Clutter
Attribute Bonus is one of the mechanics that has made me shudder for a long time, and for good reason- it serves no real purpose. Attribute bonuses are the +2 to all stats that heroes can skill, usually only when they have no other skills to spend skillpoints on. Some have argued that this added another level of complexity to the game, but in reality this is not usually the case. Heroes almost never skill attribute bonus until they have skilled all other skills, making attribute bonus, in the view of classic game design theory, superfluous, as it could be automatically added in as a passive stat bonus. It gives the player a false sense of customization that isn't there. Ironically, the same people who complain about talent trees changing the game too much are the same people complaining that the deletion of attribute bonus has somehow "dumbed" the game down. In reality the talent trees offer real choices, not pseudo-complex hubbub that only stands in the way of new players trying to understand the game.
The designer(s) behind DOTA2 have made an effort to clean up mechanics left behind from Warcraft 3 and make them more intuitive to new players. These types of changes include the normalization of damage types, the removal of the Composite damage type and tooltips informing players which spells pierced magic immunity. This sort of thing is important, because without this information new players had no means of knowing how spells interacted with different player states. The result was that only seasoned players who were familiar with Warcraft 3 mechanics would know how or why certain interactions would go down, e.g. Pudge ulting a target with Black King Bar active would stun them, but not deal damage. But I thought he was immune to spells?
The changes to dispel mechanics do away with another one of these relics. There is no reason for dispel mechanics to be overly complex and inconsistent. The word consistency is important here, because players base the way they predict future interactions in DOTA on experiences they have made in the past. They may have seen a player use an ability like Diffusal Blade to remove Dust of Appearance, and assume the same ability can be used to remove stuns. The classification of strong and weak dispel mechanics offer a ruleset that people can follow and understand logically by adding consistency.
4. Talent Trees Help "Offspecs"
DOTA has always prided itself on heroes being flexible. Unlike League of Legends players, DOTA players don't like being told what "role" their hero has. Heroes should be able to do a wide variety of things. Many of us have friends who will go mid with an unconventional hero and dominate the lane somehow. Others enjoy the fact that many heroes can both lane or jungle. This flexibility among what heroes can do is a time honored tradition for DOTA fans, and the new talent trees help in this regard.
The problem with flexibility is that it has often hinged on items. Items have often been the gatekeepers of whether or not one type of build would be viable or not. The problem with this is that items have to be purchasable by any and every hero- there are no limitations in this regard. As such, when you add an item to the game designed to make one type of build for some heroes more viable, you may inadvertently create unintentional side effects for others. You may want to make roaming supports more viable so you create Tranquil Boots, only to be surprised when carries started picking them up instead. Unlike items, talent trees are hero-specific. This means you can literally buff one hero's capability to have more specs without potentially messing up the game for others. Changing or adding items in DOTA2 is a scary proposition for this reason.
5. Lategame Supports Aren't Kicked to the Curb
One of the biggest problems that Icefrog has been trying to figure out for a while now is how to make the job of supporting less dreary. This problem is rooted in the fact that in the late-game, support heroes simply can't influence the game very much. While this might seem logical at first glance, as carries inversely can't influence the game as much during the early game, the fact is that supporting in DOTA has never exactly been a thrilling prospect for this reason. While a carry suffers the early game with the promise of power later, a support dreads the passing of time, and as games can go on for any amount of time, their misfortune only grows.
Icefrog has tried to solve this problem in the past- you've seen it with the infamous XP Tome, the increasingly declining prices of Wards, Teleportation Scrolls, etc. Many of these changes have helped to a small degree, but none of them have really solved the problem: Support simply don't earn as much gold or XP as their counterparts. This has been a difficult problem to address at all, because there is no clear way of creating a benefit for supports that wouldn't possibly benefit other heroes. As previously mentioned, items can be purchased by any hero in the game, making their ability to help supports very limited. XP Tomes circumvent this by being limited in number, giving your team incentive to give it to supports as they will gain more marginal value from them.
Talent trees circumvent the problem entirely. Supports can be given boosts to XP, a steady income with which to buy items, or simply tweaks to their abilities or stats which can keep the game interesting for them. While it's true that this is still tied to XP, it still helps ease the problem as a whole, and many supports now have access to bonus XP mechanics to help accelerate the process.