Tuesday, Valve announced that it will create its own version of Dota Auto Chess, a hugely popular, player-made mod of Valve's team-based strategy game Dota 2. At the same time, the team that created Dota Auto Chess is working on its own, mobile version of Dota Auto Chess that will exist independently of the original Dota 2 mod.
The news further convuletes the evolution of what is one of the most interesting phenomena in video games today. Dota Auto Chess is a mod of Dota 2, meaning it was created using art assets, concepts, and code borrowed from Valve's game. But Dota 2 itself is a commercial version of Defense of the Ancients, which was a mod of Blizzard's Warcraft 3. Now Dota Auto Chess, which is essentially a mod of a commercial version of a mod, is being forked into two variations, each of which is—bear with me—a commercial version of a mod of a game which is itself a commercial version of a mod. That also means there will now be three different versions of Dota Auto Chess: Valve's standalone version, the mobile version created by the original Dota Auto Chess team, and the original Dota 2 mod. Whew!
Dota Auto Chess was created by a group of Chinese developers, Drodo Studios. It was one of the most popular games played on Steam for months after its launch in January. The game’s amassed more than 8.5 million subscribers to its Steam workshop page, with hundreds of thousands playing the mod at any given time.
Despite the name, Dota Auto Chess doesn't play like Dota 2 at all—using Dota 2’s characters, Dota Auto Chess is is more management than micro-controlling movements, using a turn-based strategy structure in a chess board-like arena.
In March, developer Drodo Studio announced that it was creating a mobile version of the game, Auto Chess, minus the Dota 2. Auto Chess is already available on Android in a beta period. (A full release date hasn’t been announced by Drodo.) Valve noted in its blog post today that the company has been helping Drodo migrate Dota Auto Chess player accounts to Auto Chess, and that the game looks “pretty cool.” The mobile game is unable to use Dota 2’s characters and assets, of course, because they’re licensed to Valve. Drodo’s created its own character designs for the mobile game, but it remains almost identical to the Dota 2 mod in how it plays.
Valve said in the post that it met with the Drodo team in February to discuss collaboration, but that both teams agreed it wouldn’t work.
“We both came to the conclusion that Valve and Drodo could not work directly with each other for a variety of reasons,” Valve wrote. “We ended up agreeing that we’ll each build our own stand-alone version of the game, and support each other to the fullest.”
Valve said its working on “a standalone Dota version” of Dota Auto Chess with “Drodo’s blessing,” and that more information will come soon. Valve has not responded to VICE’s request for further comment.
Drodo developer Toto, who did not want to share his full name, told VICE that he has "no idea about Valve's version" but that “We hope that [it] is a great game and players can have fun from it.”
In the past, Valve’s found ways to collaborate with creators to bring interesting and unique games to its platform. Counter-Strike, famously, was a multiplayer mod of Half-Life. Valve brought the creators of the mod to the company, and Counter-Strike is now a huge spectator sport. Valve also worked with the creators of the original Defense of the Ancients to create Dota 2, which has become hugely influential in its genre of multiplayer battle arena games.