The Dota tutorial leaves a lot to be desired, but that doesn't mean Valve can't fix it.
(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

Trial by Fire: How Valve Could Improve Dota 2’s Tutorial

Oct 10, 2017
(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

Dota is a punishing game for newcomers, and the lackluster tutorial doesn’t make learning the basics of the game any easier. The current tutorial is an improvement from the pre-7.00 version, which used an outdated version of the map for a while. There’s a short “Mechanics Tutorial” where you play as Luna and the game gives you a crash course in the absolute basics of Dota: how to move your hero, the fact that you need to destroy the other team’s ancient to win, as well as how to level up and use your abilities. Once you destroy the other team’s T1 mid tower, the tutorial ends.

This is what happens when you start taking tower damage in Dota 2's Mechanics Tutorial.

If you’re a new player, I suggest playing the Mechanics Tutorial over and over again until everything is comfortable for you. When I started playing Dota, I struggled a lot with camera control, often leaving my hero unattended for minutes at a time to look at what was going on elsewhere on the map. The first tutorial keeps it simple by forcing you to focus exclusively on your actions, and the pop-ups are pleasantly informative.

Screenshot of the text box that pops up after you die in the Dota tutorial that covers mechanics.

After this, you’ve graduated to a set of three additional tutorials–a series of bot games where you play a Strength hero (Dragon Knight), an Agility hero (Sniper), and an Intelligence hero (Shadow Shaman).

The text that displays at the end of the first tutorial tells you that you’ll be playing “Guided Bot Matches [that] take you through a full match of Dota, step by step, with the help of computer-controlled allies and enemies.”

Screenshot of the splash screen that shows up when you complete the first Dota tutorial.

But there’s nothing “guided” about these three bot games. You’re just thrown into a match against Dota’s fairly poor AI, without any instruction, hints, or suggestions. No more useful pop-ups, just chaos.

Shortcomings of the Current Dota Tutorial

At the moment, the Dota 2 tutorial gives you enough information to feel slightly comfortable, then leaves you in a mall parking lot with a bunch of angry teenagers, metaphorically speaking. There are so many important tasks within a game of Dota that are left out of the tutorial, and their absence leaves you wholly unprepared for what comes next. You don’t learn about Roshan, how to use the courier, runes, wards, camp stacking, stuns, how barracks work, and more. These are all skills you’ll have to learn, likely by trial and error, on the battlefield.

The focused training in the old tutorial–for example, Last Hit practice–was great because it isolated certain game mechanics and let you focus exclusively on them without distraction. Jorge Bot wasn’t going off rogue on his own to try to solo kill the enemy carry while you’re just trying to figure out Razor’s weird attack timing.

The old Dota tutorial also featured three bot matches where you played as Sven, Luna, and Lina. These were actually helpful, unlike the “Guided Bot Matches” that new players currently have to stumble their way through. You were told what abilities you should skill and what to buy. The standalone last hit training was exceptionally helpful. That’s all gone now. Instead, you get a 10 minute hand-holding session with Luna before getting plopped into a bot match with Dragon Knight.

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Co-op Matches and Limited Heroes

The co-op match is arguably the best part of the current tutorial. The three bot matches you complete before moving onto a co-op game give players a bit of time to figure out what hero abilities, but you’re mostly left to figure it out on your own.

When new players finish the tutorial, they’ll be forced to choose from a pool of limited heroes in their first 25 games.

These are the heroes new players can pick from:

  • Bounty Hunter
  • Death Prophet
  • Dragon Knight
  • Drow Ranger
  • Juggernaut
  • Lich
  • Lion
  • Luna
  • Omniknight
  • Razor
  • Sand King
  • Sniper
  • Sven
  • Tidehunter
  • Vengeful Spirit
  • Viper
  • Warlock
  • Windranger
  • Witch Doctor
  • Wraith King

The likely reasoning for limiting the hero pool available to new players is that none of these heroes are particularly difficult to learn. Heroes like Chen or Meepo that require micromanaging skills are probably too hard for new Dota players, unless they’re Starcraft experts. This is designed to cut down on the number of totally clueless players who will get mad and give up halfway through the game.

How can we make the Dota tutorial better?

Ideally we’d have Purge coaching us and the game would give new players more information. The current tutorial basically serves mid-or feed training. In general, I think it’s a good idea for Valve to work on developing short, standalone tutorials (like the Mechanics Tutorial) that focus on specific parts of the game and explain them to players. Give us a support tutorial where you’re paired with an aggressive AI bot and have to set them up for kills by using stuns and other disables. Teach players how wards, smokes, and vision work, and why they’re important. Create a scripted teamfight that pauses and offers directions every couple seconds. Valve’s options for improving the Dota tutorial are almost limitless, and they could even outsource some of the work to the community by developing “tutorial creation” tools.

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Kara Jacobacci
Kara has been following professional DotA2 since the TI4 qualifiers. When not watching matches on Twitch, she can be found working (or attempting to find work) as a geologist and enjoying nature.
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