Dota Classic: The hardcore fans playing 6.84 in 2020
By Kenneth WilliamsDecember 28, 2020
Dota is a very complicated game. Besides having one of the steepest learning curves in esports, the sheer amount of items, heroes, mechanics, Talents, spells, and more take years to learn. From a new player’s perspective, Dota is a struggle against the brutal nature of the game itself, not the five enemy players. But for some longtime veterans, it’s not brutal enough.
The Dota Classic community is a Discord-based group of Dota fans who play on the game's 6.84 patch. They use an archived version of the game’s files and use a Discord bot to queue for matches. Games take place a couple of times a week, and each one is logged and recorded on the Dota Classic official website. TrackDota has connected with Dota Classic's leaders to learn more about their unique community and why they’ve chosen to stick with Dota’s roots.
The beginning of Dota Classic
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the Dota Classic community has been playing for a very long time. Multiple mods had played Warcraft III Dota, and the latest start was just before The International 2014. Several have experience in Heroes of Newerth, the spiritual Dota 1.5.
The implementation of neutral items appears to be the breaking point for a number of players, and the Classic server was first launched shortly after Patch 7.23. Many members felt that the randomness and comeback-factor detracted from Dota’s identity. The addition of Talents was also criticized for similar reasons.
“I think there had been a growing discontent starting with 7.00. The introduction of talents was poorly done. Many of them had to be nerfed or removed altogether.” said Discord server mod DeathTBO. “I think the concerns were mostly quelled by ‘faith’ in IceFrog. That's when 7.23 hit. I think that was the patch people started seriously talking about classic versions.”
Fellow moderator Wreathe shared a similar sentiment.
“The 7.23 patch, which brought poorly balanced neutral items and outposts, precipitated the formation of the Dota Classic community. My feeling is that most players understood that these mechanics would get ironed out, but it was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. The general consensus… was that Dota had devolved from a game of carefully balanced teams taking selective and beneficial engagements, to a game that seeks to force all players on the map to fight at all times and give every player the glory of being a core.” he added.
Patch 6.84 — Still going strong
The Dota we know today looks very different from 6.84. First released in April of 2015, the update introduced several icons of Dota. Enchanted Mangos, Octarine Core, Lotus Orb, and Winter Wyvern were all added to the game. The mechanical differences are too many to list; no Talents, no Outposts, no neutral items, two Rune spots, different Roshan Pit, and more.
Alongside TI3’s Patch 6.78 and TI6’s Patch 6.88, 6.84 is one of the most revered eras of Dota. Tons of heroes were viable across roles, and roaming was notably stronger. Leshrac and Storm Spirit were the dominant midlaners, a fact Syed "SumaiL" Hassan abused to become the youngest Aegis winner at The International 2015. For the Classic community, 6.84 bridges the gap between old and new in multiple ways.
Discord server administrator ironman pepe shared his thoughts on the patch selection.
“Most other pre-7.00 patches either share a lot of mechanics with modern Dota like 6.88, were really broken like 6.82/6.83, or were just too old and lacked a lot of quality-of-life improvements to the client. Also, we eventually set up a dedicated server to replace local lobbies, which narrowed our choices down to Source 1 versions as we can't run dedicated servers for Source 2. Many players also preferred Source 1 graphics. The old menu is pretty nostalgic.”
DeathTBO expressed that there are technical factors pushing the community towards 6.84 as well.
“It still has some key quality-of-life changes, so it's a little more comfortable. Things like Tome and Aether Lens, and super cheap TP Scrolls don't exist. I think this helps distance it from modern Dota or ‘nu-Dota’ as we've come to call it. As for balance, 6.83 is infamous in most players' minds. 6.84 toned most of that down. ...Source 2 had also released on the same patch, and we tried it out for a little. Ultimately we went back to Source 1 because the dedicated server did not work properly on Source 2.”
The metagame hasn’t progressed much since the start of Dota Classic. While teams play to win, there’s a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that keeps the broken stuff in check. The small quantity of games adds to the “reenactment over development” vibe.
ironman pepe also believes that the closeness of the community impacts the Heroes players choose.
“I don't think the Hero meta has changed much, but we mostly play for fun, so there aren't too many Storm Spirits or Leshracs in our games. We've had plenty of comebacks though; it all comes down to skill and teamwork. Overall, I'd say the patch is pretty much the same as players remember it.”
While trilanes were a common sight in high-level 6.84, Discord server moderator forrest49 thinks that dual lanes have replaced them in the Classic metagame.
“I would say it is hard to pinpoint evolutions in specific because our matches contain a lot of skill variance so our meta is very odd. What I can add to that is that people are a lot more aggressive and comfortable with dual lanes whereas back during the patch trilanes were far more common and people didn't fight as much,” he said.
Thoughts on modern Dota
While Classic Dota was created to break from the modern title, not all of the mods we spoke to disliked it. Some of them play both versions, a trend also common among the general Classic userbase. One belief is definitely consistent: modern Dota is considerably less punishing than Classic, and that takes away from the game’s identity.
Wreathe shared his thoughts on how Dota has developed since 2015.
“I can appreciate what modern Dota 2 has moved towards. It's moved towards a game sort of like basketball where both teams get many shots on basket. It's taken a lot of the entropy out of the game; you can't get zoned out of your lane, buyback is cheap and fortifications are abundant and powerful. From pubs to esport watching, Dota today is a sort of smooth, anesthetized experience from what it used to be. The ecstatic highs and soul crushing lows, the truly insane moments and the quiet lulls of just farming the jungle for a few minutes are gone.”
The faster pace of the game was also a subject of criticism.
“It originally felt like other games were copying elements from Dota, but recently it's been the other way around. People seem to like fast and flashy games, but the generally slower pace was important. The impact of laning, fewer fights, farming, and playing around the clock were important. Modern Dota has really sped things up. I've played a few games recently, and it felt like we were team fighting every minute.” said DeathTBO.
forrest49 is more accepting of modern Dota.
“I don't have issues with modern Dota. I just view it as a similar but different game. Similar to HoN and older DotA, etc.”
In addition to interviews with the Classic Dota moderation team, the general community got a chance to express their thoughts via a short survey. Three questions were asked:
How long have you been playing Dota?
Do you regularly play modern Dota?
Would you appreciate Valve creating first-party Classic servers/old patch matchmaking?
Over two-thirds of the Classic community have been playing Dota for six years or longer. Interestingly, a handful of players appear to have started with Dota Classic or quickly switched after playing the modern title. Around half of Classic players play modern Dota in tandem, though only 1-in-4 does so consistently.
The clear majority of Dota Classic players would appreciate a more accessible version of Dota’s legacy. Valve matchmaking for older patches would be overwhelmingly appreciated, though some players prefer their current Discord-based scene.
Whether Valve gives a nod to the oldheads or not, Wreathe’s closing thoughts exemplify the Classic community’s love for Dota 2.
“A good number of lifelong and outspoken Dota players end up feeling that the game has left them behind. That's why Dota Classic exists; to give the people Valve has cast aside a home, hopefully forever.”