Dota 2’s fictional holiday Frostivus represents a merry but hectic time of the year for many in real life. Back in September, Valve added to the holiday cheer by announcing a contest for a custom Frostivus game mode with a $30,000 prize for the best game. While the cash should make anyone merry, a whoops by Valve caused developers to scramble like a flood of last-second shoppers.
The release of patch 7.07, the biggest since 7.00 in December, broke a number of custom games, whether they were entered for the Frostivus contest or not. Even official games released by Valve to promote the custom games “Arcade”—Overthrow, 10v10 and Colliseum—required official fixes.
Several developers spoke out on Reddit sharing their concerns about how the update broke their various projects, forcing them to squash bugs and find workarounds. Meanwhile, the deadline of November 20th quickly approaches, with no official update on whether or not this date will change due to the complaints.
Bugging out modders
When Valve pushes an update to the Dota 2 client, they often alter a number of front- and back-end files (meaning files that alter the way the client works, respectively, to the user’s eye and behind-the-scenes). Worse, they typically do so with little to no warning.
When the files that are altered happen to be a piece of the puzzle in the development of a custom game, things can quickly fall apart. Back-end files changes are the most common issue for many developers, especially when major gameplay changes take place.
While Dota 2, like any software, is a program that requires these updates to prevent game-breaking situations, frequent updates can leave developers in a tough spot. Updates will even pop up after a major patch to fix such issues—but sometimes come at a price.
“The recent patch broke many essential parts of the game, essentially invalidating a ton of work that has been done on the contest entries,” said Baumi, creator of Open Angel Arena, in a Reddit post. “An example of this is the change to "RespawnHero" which is used to modify the respawn times of heroes, something that almost every existing custom game uses.”
Another developer says they and another colleague have had issues with ability hot keys. In the first dev’s game, For The King: Beacon Fire, they say “units/heroes with more than 7 abilities, their 5th and later abilities will be forced to share the same hot key and they can not be activited [sic] by player.” The dev for GemTD had to create a new item to work around similar ability issues.
Again, the deadline for Frostivus hasn’t been moved, leaving such developers to assume that Valve is drawing a hard line in the snow, with no leeway for these frustrations.
Players can help freeze out bugs
Game-ruining bugs, especially in cases like these, are often hard to find and harder to chase—but play-testing even once or twice can go a long way.
In its original announcement post, Valve suggested that developers work closely with the community to help form the final games. Some developers have taken that to heart, reaching out on Reddit asking for play-testers or just allowing them to join in for the final product.
One modder, Pohka, has even reached out to announce an in-game text channel dedicated to such, titled “frostivus testing.”
Even if modders aren’t actively reaching out, there are nearly dozen Frostivus games in the Dota 2 Arcade, at the time of writing, waiting to be played—and waiting to spread the Frostivus cheer.