Valve announced recently that it is creating a standalone version of Dota Auto Chess, the custom game mode used for Dota 2 developed by Drodo Studio in China. Drodo will be developing a version that is not in Dota called “Auto Chess” while Valve will pursue work on the standalone Dota version for release on Steam.
This past February saw the formation of the collaborative project come to life, as the Drodo team was flown from China to Valve Headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. There, the atmosphere was cooperative from the beginning, “We had great conversations, but we both came to the conclusion that Valve and Drodo could not work directly with each other for a variety of reasons. We ended up agreeing that we’ll each build our own stand-alone version of the game, and support each other to the fullest.”
Drodo has since released their non-Dota mobile game to beta testing, while Valve has assisted existing Dota Auto Chess players in migrating their account progress over to that new game.
For those who are not familiar with what exactly Dota Auto Chess is or its objectives, image a cross between Chess in the 8x8 configuration of a board with the ongoing evaluation of resources and deck building. The characters and heroes chosen will automatically engage the enemy, but it is complex in subtle ways and every match feels unique .
Each round consists of earning money, buying or not buying heroes, choosing their board placement, and then the combat begins and resolves automatically. Winning will get you more gold, while losing damages your health bar slightly. The process repeats until one player loses all their health.
The complexity comes in knowing when to spend gold and when to hold it, as there are many heroes to choose from, boosts that can be purchased to turn the tide of a round, and similar to table-top games, the positioning of heroes is vital. For example, a player may choose to put many units close together with the goal of protecting a specific, more expensive hero. Doing so can require effort and coordination, but can pay off for late-game strategy, such as placing three identical heroes of the same level to merge them into a far more powerful, single hero.
A familiar element from Dota is that neutral creeps from the game jungles appear as well, which can be defeated to acquire items for specific units using the Donkey that fetches and item in its backpack.
There is no official release date, but the future of the popular mod looks promising. While Valve launched Artifact last year with high expectations, that game has received almost nothing but negative reviews for a number of poor design choices and expensive entry point compared to similar options for consumers such as Hearthstone or Magic The Gathering: Arena. It is now undergoing extensive rework to be better in the future, so hopefully Valve will have both an improved version of Artifact to compliment the release of Dota Auto Chess, which is sure to be a popular game upon formal release.