Even before it was officially launched in 2013, Valve’s popular esport Dota 2 has enjoyed a bustling community of modders and 3D artists.
The free-to-play game’s Workshop, which is a part of Dota 2’s community hub on Steam, allows 3D modellers the opportunity to publicly display their designs to the community. From here, if they get enough votes and attention, they might eventually make it onto the official Valve store. And while it sounds like a utopian mergence of fandom and profit, some are artists increasingly unhappy with the Workshop. They claim it’s being ruined by favoritism.
Yesterday, a Reddit user published an open letter to Valve complaining outlying these major grievances to the Dota 2 subreddit. It’s becoming progressively harder to “break into the Workshop,” the redditor said.
This is partially attributable to “privileged artists” who have what the redditor claimed were higher chances of getting “arguably lower quality” cosmetic items into the store. This was, he or she alleged, to “reputation and close ties with Valve.”
Another redditor chimed in with a specific example: In an update last Friday, the Valve only added in one set—the “Legendary Pudge”—while his or oher own, which had received more than 10,000 votes, still remained in “limbo.”
The only other option to get your work noticed, the original author added, was to work together with esports teams like Na’Vi or organizations like DotaCinema and exchange high revenue for an opportunity to put something in-game.
The playing field changes “when select artists have privileged information and contacts,” the author concluded.
But how much of that is true?
“I definitely don’t get any special treatment.” Benjamin Retter, a popular artist on the Workshop who goes by the moniker Bronto Thunder, explained over Steam’s chat system
“I definitely don’t get stuff in-game instantly. A Lifestealer set was just added instead of mine and I’ve had stuff sitting in my workshop for months which hasn’t been added.”
Retter proceeds to argue that while many seem to think that Anuxi, arguably the famous item creator in the Workshop, receives preferential treatment, the same demographic seens forget that “she’s an industry veteran and is insanely talented.”
“She also has a Drow set,” Retter said. The Drow Ranger, is one of the game’s playable characters. That set hasn’t been added to the official store either, a choice that wasn’t popular with fans, Retter said. “So she’s not immune either.”
While Anuxi herself told us it “makes sense” that Valve might have a list of artists to keep tabs on. She maintains, however, that things haven’t been terribly different for her. But what about the huge number of votes that some workshop items receive?
“Votes doesn’t mean [an item set] will go in,” Anuxi says. “Votes mean it will be noticed by Valve.”
Anuxi posits that the Workshop interface, which she thinks is in need of a major overhaul, is one of the major reasons newcomers are having so much trouble achieving recognition. Among other possible improvements, Anuxi says that the Workshop is in need of a better front page organization.
“Stop sets from taking over the front page,” Anuxi suggests, before moving to explain how a “set”, which is a collection of multiple cosmetic items fitting a certain theme and look, can consume up to seven thumbnails on the front page. Because of the limited space available, seven other items are inevitably shoved into the second page, where few viewers think to look.
It’s clear that there are plenty of issues with the Workshop, including a lack of communication between the community and Valve. Whether or not the digital distribution goliath will choose to maintain their relatively hands-off approach or investigate the Dota 2 scene’s grievances is left to be seen. For now, the Workshop seems to be running just fine—even if it’s on squeaky, half-oiled wheels.