Dota Auto Chess
|Dota Auto Chess|
|Release||January 4, 2019|
Dota Auto Chess is a strategy video game mod for the video game Dota 2. Developed by Drodo Studio and released in January 2019, the game supports up to eight players playing a modified version of chess, with characters and gameplay elements from WarCraft III. The popularity of the mod, with its having over eight million players by May 2019, led to the recognition of the "auto battler" genre, with a number of games based on it. Drodo Studio developed a standalone version known simply as Auto Chess, while Valve Corporation, the developer of Dota 2, developed their own standalone version known as Dota Underlords.
The game features elements derived from chess, along with those from Dota 2. Sporting up to eight players, the game assigns them to eight different chessboards. Players select from a public pool of over fifty chess pieces prior to each round, which they place around the board. Each chess piece belongs to a particular race and class, with individualized abilities. Upon the initiation of every round, the opposing sides' pieces automatically battle. Some rounds feature players battling non-player "creeps", rather than one another. Players may acquire items after killing the creeps and can give these items to their chess pieces. Each item has unique effects and some can be combined to form stronger versions. Each player controls a character called a courier, which tracks the player's health, gold and zero-experience bar. The courier's experience determines the quantity of chess pieces available on the board. After the end of each round, the courier's experience level will increase by one, until it reaches ten. Through combat, players accumulate gold, which they may use to purchase new pieces before each round, to strengthen their combinations to win. For every round lost, the courier's health decreases, with its death signifying the associated player's defeat. The game ends when one player remains.
Dota Auto Chess has its own ranking system. After the end of a game, the rank of players who lose the game early will decrease, and the rank of players who lose late and the victor will increase. There are five ranks in the game, including Queen, King, Rook, Bishop, Knight and Pawn, while Queen is the highest rank and Pawn is the basic rank. There are one to nine steps in Pawn, Knight, Bishop and Rook ranks. Once players reach the highest step, their rank will increase. The King rank only has one step. When players reach the Queen rank, the global digital a number ranking is available for the top ten thousand. At the end of April 2019, the developer added a season system. After the end of a season, higher rank players achieve better rewards and the rank will reset.
All players have a basic courier at the beginning. After each game, players in the top rank are awarded candies. Each player can achieve no more than ten candies per day. Players with Custom Pass can achieve five more candies per day. Players can spend 40 candies to roll a new courier or spend hundreds of candies to add a cosmetic effect on their couriers. Couriers have different rarities. The rare couriers are usually bigger and more appealing than normal ones. Some couriers can combine to form new couriers that cannot be bought directly. Beside earning candies in game, players can pay for candies. In January 2019, players could scan QR codes in the game to pay for candies from a third party store. Drodo Studio later disabled candy codes (maybe because of legal issues), but candies are still available from some third party sellers out of the game.
When asked about the inspiration of Dota Auto Chess, shortly following the mod's release, Drodo Studio stated that they drew inspiration from the Chinese tile-based game Mahjong for reference. Generally played by four people, the objective of Mahjong is to spell out a particular combination of cards through a series of replacement and trade-off rules while preventing opponents from achieving their own combinations. The game focuses on technique, strategy and calculation, but also relies on luck. While drawing inspiration from Mahjong, Dota Auto Chess made changes to accommodate the battle-oriented gameplay.
Dota Auto Chess was released by Drodo Studio to the Steam Marketplace on January 4, 2019. Since its release, Drodo Studio has updated the game with game balance adjustments, bug fixes and new content updates. The content updates include adding and removing pieces, as well as adding new races to the game. With the viral surge of popularity of the mod, Valve Corporation, the developer of Dota 2, flew Drodo Studio to their headquarters, to discuss recruiting them for developing a standalone version of Dota Auto Chess. Valve and Drodo Studio concluded that they could not work together directly, though they agreed that would build separate standalone adaptations of the game and would support one another. On June 1, 2019, Valve Corporation updated a monthly paid 'Auto Chess Pass' in the Dota 2 store, with a share of the revenue going to Drodo Studio.
The game hit its four million subscriber milestone on February 16, 2019, 5 million milestones on February 27, 2019, and 6 million milestones on March 12, 2019. By May 2019, more than 8.5 million people subscribed to the game, with more than 300,000 concurrent players daily. From February 27 to March 3, 2019, Drodo Studio and Imba TV hosted the first year Dota Auto Chess tournament.
Several publications praised Dota Auto Chess for its creative gameplay rules accessibility. VPEsports noted that Dota Auto Chess feels like a very strategic game: "It’s a strategy game, with a feeling of a turn-based game, it has the key ingredients of card games and it requires the player to plan ahead while being rather good with APM." Game Informer offered the praise that "It's not chess, and it's not Dota, but it's a great game to queue up and play with friends or solo." "It takes a few games to start to understand how everything works, but its got some really fun strategy hooks underneath everything." PCGamesN called Dota Auto Chess "the most successful third party Dota custom game ever". Dota Auto Chess is often compared favorably with Valve's digital collectible card game, Artifact, with a number of publications stating that despite the two titles being released in close proximity, Dota Auto Chess has proven to be the more enduring game.
Several publications pointed out there was still room for improvement of the game. Vpesports noted that some bugs in the games needed to be fixed. VentureBeat tested the Drodo Auto Chess mobile and noted players who hadn't played Dota Auto Chess on PC might feel confused of figuring out the information of the unit on the field by saying "Drodo’s mobile Auto Chess is a significantly better way to play the original great mod if you already know and comprehend the original game, and for that, it should be a success. But it feels like a perhaps smaller-scale version of Auto Chess, one designed around the small screen both visually and as a game, might be the one to take over the world like previous mods have."
The popularity of Dota Auto Chess quickly inspired the creation of a whole host of games inspired by the mod, in what has been dubbed the "autobattler" sub-genre. In China, there is a reported eight companies having registered the "Auto Chess" trademark in January 2019 alone. After failing to reach an agreement with Valve, Drodo Studio partnered with Chinese production company Imba TV and Long Mobile to develop a stand-alone mobile version of the game called "Auto Chess". Announced on March 15, 2019 Auto Chess removed Dota elements from the property and features its own separate setting. With Valve's direct technical support, Dota Auto Chess players are capable of migrating accounts to the mobile version, to receive rewards. On April 18, 2019, the Auto Chess mobile unlimited beta first released on Android and on May 22, 2019, the IOS version of the beta was available. On May 30, 2019, Drodo Studio moved the app to a live version. Drodo Studio stated that besides the development of Auto Chess, they would continue to upgrade Dota Auto Chess. Drodo Studio stated that a Chinese production company would support them in building esports tournaments and the esports tournaments would be in both Auto Chess on mobile and Dota Auto Chess on PC. On June 10, 2019, Drodo Studio announced that Auto Chess was being developed for PC and would be released as an Epic Games Store exclusive title. In June 2019, game developer Riot Games announced that League of Legends would later that month feature a new game mode inspired by Dota Auto Chess, known as Teamfight Tactics.
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