With its kill bounty adjustments, 6.82 has been a very polarizing patch. Some people love the way the new kill bounties change the way pub games play out, others feel that the extreme rubberbanding undermines the economic rules of the game, and both sides have cited favorable reddit posts as proof that reddit clearly doesn’t know what its talking about.
End-of-match results aren’t great for evaluating changes like this. Kill bounties change the dynamics of a game, so you’d ideally want stats that measure the rate of change and not just the end results. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to find evidence that 6.82 has been successful at creating closer games. At the same time, there’s also some signs that the patch has had some less desirable side effects.
Instead of one sample, I actually have four samples, each of approximately 20-30 thousand games and entirely in the Very High bracket. Each sample corresponds to a different patch period
The first is the initial release patch, and I’ve labeled it 6.82. For the sake of brevity I won’t include the kill changes, but you can find them described here.
6.82 is the small patch roughly a day later on the 26th that “Slightly reduced AoE Gold bonus Net Worth Factor for 1 hero kills from 0.5 to 0.38.”
6.82 was yet another day later on the 27th. It changed:
* Kill Streak Bounty from 100->800 to 60->480 (6.81 values are 125->1000)
* Reduced AoE Gold bonus Net Worth Factor for 1/2/3/4/5 hero kills from 0.5/0.35/0.25/0.2/0.15 to 0.26/0.22/0.18/0.14/0.10
And finally there is 6.82b on the 28th. It also has a long list of relevant changes that you can find here.
I’m not going to go into the mechanical details of each patch, but I think a fair summary is that each subsequent patch is essentially a weakening of 6.82’s kill bonus comeback mechanics.
To measure how close a game was I used the very simple calculations of (Winning Team Average GPM – Losing Team Average GPM) and (Winning Team Average XPM – Losing Team Average XPM). In the future a more elaborate test might be warranted, but this is good enough for now. So how did the 6.82 patches compare to 6.81 on this metric?
As you can see, 6.82 corresponded with a huge drop in average GPM and XPM differential, and this stayed true even in the ‘weaker’ versions of the patch. One interesting quirk though is that 6.82 consistently has small differentials despite having the strongest comeback mechanics. This might indicate that it took players several hours to adjust to and start taking advantage of the new patch.
But as much as closer games is a generally positive development, it’s all for naught if you ruin other aspects of game quality in getting there. As I said, end-of-game results isn’t a great way for evaluating this, and Valve likely has better approaches. For example, it’s likely not a coincidence that this patch included the fight recap feature. But one thing that these API results tell us is that 6.82 has made pub matches take significantly longer.
It varies from patch to patch, but the average 6.82 match is approximately 5 minutes longer than the previous patch period, an increase of over 10%.
Some will say this is an appropriate reaction to the TI4 finals, but this explanation misses the mark. 6.81 was only a fast patch in competitive play. In public play, it was completely in line with previous patches which had been trending shorter for a long time. Moreover, the competitive match times were being driven by push strats, which were already directly nerfed in multiple ways in 6.81. It’s much more likely that the increased match duration is an unintended, though not surprising, consequence of the bounty changes. It goes against what appears to have been a long-term goal to push Dota towards shorter pub games, but maybe that’s considered an acceptable casualty in the pursuit for closer games.
In any case, this increased duration is just the most obvious example of how wide-reaching the (possibly negative) effects of the bounty changes are. It’s likely that when it comes to 6.82 reactions both sides were correct and whether you liked it or not just depended on which aspects of the game you were most focused on. It’s not a surprise that the system saw multiple adjustments the very first weekend it was out, and will likely continue to see changes in future patches based on the feedback of how people react to the patch in the upcoming months.
Radiant vs Dire in 6.82
And in one final note, while it’s still too early to say anything definitive about Roshan balance, 6.82 so far hasn’t disrupted the Radiant/Dire balance very much. The new Roshan position appears less advantageous for Dire, as evidenced by reduced Dire win rates in longer games, but this has been offset by the overall increase in long games. This balance could easily shift as players further adapt to the new patch, and it may not even apply to competitive games at all. Still, it’s interesting that so far the map and bounty changes appear to have offset one another.