It’s fair to say that Artifact hasn’t been the runaway success Valve hoped it would be. At the time of writing, the recent Steam reviews rank the digital card collection game as ‘Mostly Negative’.
So, when it was announced that Valve is planning to make a standalone of the biblically popular Auto Chess arcade game, there was some skepticism. The current version of the game is made by Chinese developers Drodo Studios. Right now it has a 5-star rating with over 3.8 million reviews.
Can Valve’s standalone version be as popular?
What We Know
In February, Valve flew the Drodo developers out to their Washington headquarters for a discussion on Auto Chess’ future. After some discussion on the matter, Valve announced in a blog post that, despite a great conversation, the two companies would not be able to collaborate together on the project.
The conclusion was that Drodo Studios would continue to update the Dota Auto Chess mod. It would, therefore, fall to Valve to create a standalone Dota Auto Chess game. This came, of course, with the blessing of Drodo Studios.
What we can Expect
The emphasis on the word standalone suggests that, like Artifact, Valve’s Auto Chess will be a separate game from Dota. This means that, if Valve wants to entice the current fanbase away from the Auto Chess mod, they will almost certainly need to make their standalone version free-to-play.
Right now, the mod uses mechanics built into the game of Dota 2. Hero abilities do largely the same thing and the UI is adapted from regular Dota 2. We can expect Valve to develop their own snazzy custom UI and maybe even add some new and different mechanics.
The community is hoping, rather than expecting, that this endeavor is more successful than their experiment with Artifact. The fans made their feelings about that heard almost immediately, and that can’t have been great for Valve’s bottom line.
Will it ever be an Esport?
There is always the possibility that Valve’s Dota Auto Chess could become an esport. It’s certainly popular enough, but would it have a big following? And what would it be like as a spectator sport?
Those of you who have played Auto Chess know that it has its ups and downs, with games depending fairly heavily on RNG. The randomly assigned heroes at the start of each round can make or break your entire game. You can go multiple rounds waiting for one hero to come along, all the while hemorrhaging hit points. Balance and RNG issues would need to be addressed (as they continue to be in Drodo’s mod) before the game could shine as an esport.
There is no doubt that professional casters like Toby “TobiWan” Dawson or Owen “ODPixel” Davies could hype up a game of Auto Chess. But would it truly have the deep dynamic or constantly evolving meta that Dota 2 has?
Another concern is prize money. Currently, Dota 2 generates its prize pool for The International from sales of its annual Battle Pass. Working from this formula, Valve would need to work some sort of paid content into their version of Auto Chess to fund the prize pool for an esports tournament. The game already uses special hero skins for the tier 2 and tier 3 models. Valve would either need to abolish that mechanic in favor of selling character cosmetics or think of another way to work transactions into the game.
There’s certainly potential, but perhaps the community shouldn’t be holding its breath for The Auto Chess International or TACI for short… That name will also need work…
The pressure is on now that it’s up to Valve to create a standalone Dota Auto Chess game. After the less than successful release of Artifact, the burden of proof is with Valve to show us that they haven’t forgotten how to make standalone games.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t become a pay-to-win, micro-transaction-heavy nightmare. Instead, the best parts about the game can be enjoyed – raging about how OP certain hero combos are and getting frustrated with the Gods of RNG.
Featured photo from Auto Chess
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattyMead2006.
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