Dota 2 is no longer free to play if you want to have the best experience. In this year’s Dota 2 “Battle Pass” — a premium subscription that usually offers cosmetics and other optional curiosities to the game — Valve bundled one of the most important features it has ever created. Players who buy the Battle Pass can now use an “experimental” Avoid Player feature, which is supposed to keep toxic players away from you. Here’s a different way to say it: Valve is now charging players a minimum of $9.99 to avoid harassers.
I’m glad to see that Valve is finally taking more steps to address its toxic player community and protect Dota 2 players from the worst of the bunch. But it’s telling that the company sees this as an add-on, and not part of the core experience that should be offered to all players for free. Playing the game solo continues to be a wild gamble. Just last night I played a couple rounds of Dota, and while I was placed with a perfectly friendly group of teammates in the first round, in the next game I was subjected to a team of toxic players who argued for 40 minutes and launched vicious racial and homophobic slurs at everyone in the match.
And yes — it’s easy enough to mute others — but Valve hasn’t even taken basic steps to protect players in a game that has been around for six years. I still routinely encounter players with racist and other offensive words in their player names. It’s unconscionable that major developers and publishers like Valve can’t be bothered to implement the most basic player safety features in their games. No major company seems immune to this glaring lapse in responsibility; in my first few months of Battlefield V, I witnessed outrageous amounts of racist harassment on a daily basis that was supposed to be fixed by EA’s allegedly clever moderation AI. (The system couldn’t even seem to block the n-word, and EA never returned my requests for comment about why it was so broken.)
Of course, Valve’s new premium “avoid player” feature probably isn’t even worth paying for in its current state. Players report that the feature merely allows you to express a preference not to play with someone — not a guarantee that you won’t see them again. What the hell is the point of an avoid player feature that doesn’t actually let you avoid players? Why does this lame feature cost $9.99?
Players who buy the Battle Pass also get access to a new high-five feature that they can upgrade over time. But until Valve fixes its community mess, I suggest you leave them hanging.