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Dota is a game that has been defined by overpowered or unforeseen interactions. Iconic moments like the Na’Vi’s TI 3 Fountain Hook or OG’s absurd carry Wisp strategy at TI 9 have been celebrated by fans as peak creativity. Dota is a game where eeking out miniscule advantages like denying the first two or three Ranged Creeps can have a massive compounding impact on the outcome of the game.
Just recently, Evil Geniuses lost a game to Quincy Crew because of an interaction with Tiny’s Toss spell. For whatever reason, the game registers a hero as still traveling to a location while dead in mid-air making it possible to buyback directly into a fight.
Or at least it used to.
Following the game, which could very well have far-reaching implications on both team’s chances at TI 10, Icefrog removed the mechanic from the game. It struck many in the community as an odd change of heart because it is an interaction that has been well documented for years without any developer response. It then begs the question of whether these weird and unintended interactions are game-breaking bugs or just bizarre features to exploit.
Over the years, plays have continued to get creative in their attempts to break the game for small advantages. We have witnessed all sorts of creep wave manipulations, accidental double registrations of damage or healing, and other sorts of positioning manipulation. In most of these cases, the mechanics have been eventually patched out but usually only after the professional scene proved how strong they are.
Why is it that Valve will leave a mechanic like Fountain Hook or Tiny Buyback Toss in the game as an abusable mechanic for years and then later decide to fix it like a bug in the code? Where do we draw that line? Perhaps the most notable of these interactions is the neutral camp pull. This was not the originally intended use of neutral camps and though it has been tweaked, it has also become an absolutely essential part of the game.
It’s hard to imagine that Icefrog and crew could have imagined some of the ridiculously strong hero combinations that we have seen over the years. Remember when Lifestealer was a support that sat inside the carry for the entire game? That was removed for being too easy of a playstyle or some such reason. Meanwhile, we still have overwhelming combos like Duel into Sunstrike or Chronosphere with an Iceblast on top. Neither of these require any complex coordination and yet they almost guarantee a kill every time.
We had a team literally win TI9 using the hero combination of Grimstoke and Pugna where you silence a hero with Phantom’s Embrace and Decrepify the same target so they can’t remove the silence. That same team abused a massively overpowered core Wisp that was essentially unbeatable without heavy nerfs after the tournament. These are completely overpowered and some would even say broken interactions that it’s almost certain were unintended by the developers. I don’t think anyone would argue that any of these should be removed. It’s also probably true that the difficulty level of executing any of these strategies is probably lower than the perfect timing required for a Fountain Hook.
This brings us back to the question at hand. What exactly do we define as a bug versus a feature? Is the game better off for removing these accidental yet hilariously useful interactions? How far should Icefrog go when it comes to “fixing” the game? Let us know in the comments what you think.