Dota 2 balance patches got noticeably more stale over the last year and a half, with even community figures doubting the lead developer’s, IceFrog, involvement with the game.
The sudden decrease in the “wow-factor” changes in each patch made fans believe that the unknown developer could have taken a step back from the game, and the truth was potentially revealed by an The International champion, Tundra Esports’ Oliver “skiter” Lepko.
In an hour-long interview with Peter “c1RcA” Trávnik, the carry player said that IceFrog “had not been working on Dota much the past two years,” according to rumors.
“That’s why there haven’t been big changes on the map or economics,” skiter said. “IceFrog is supposed to be back since the last patch, so we can expect bigger changes again.”
Skiter’s statement started to spread around the Dota 2 community like wildfire, allowing more personalities to chime into the discussion. Popular Dota 2 streamer, Janne “Gorgc” Stefanovski, also went over skiter’s remarks regarding IceFrog, while sharing what he knew about the situation.
“I’m surprised he leaked this,” Gorgc said. “I can confirm that this is also what I heard, and I didn’t want to say anything on stream, but it looks to be the truth.”
Gorgc also has been aware of IceFrog’s absence, and streamer shared even more information since the rock of mystery was lifted by skiter. Gorgc believed that IceFrog could have been working on another game, and that was the main reason why the latest Dota 2 patches have mostly been numeric adjustments.
“The reason why I have never mentioned this is because, in some kind of way, I believed that people would stop caring about Dota 2 if IceFrog wasn’t at Valve.”
In an October interview with Dot Esports, OG’s founder and two-time TI champion, n0tail, also mentioned that he didn’t feel like IceFrog has been involved with Dota 2 for a while.
Considering there have been multiple statements of doubt regarding IceFrog’s involvement with Dota 2 prior to skiter’s interview, it looks to be a situation that has been a hot topic within Dota 2 pros and known community figures while the community was practically in the dark.
IceFrog has been involved with developing Dota since 2005. Other developers stepped into the picture and then left over the years, but IceFrog has remained a constant for Dota, and it would only make sense for him to take a short break after over 15 years of actively working on the game.
Though it isn’t clear whether IceFrog remained under Valve’s roof during his hiatus from Dota 2, rumors about a new project, NEON PRIME, surfaced around October 2022. The project was first expected to be a CS:GO feature, but further information revealed that it could be a part of the Dota universe.
The last Dota spin-offs, Artifact and Underlords, slowly ceased to exist after the initial hype from their launch died down. IceFrog wasn’t involved in either of these Dota extensions, so it would practically be a decent idea to involve the lead developer in any further attempts at creating a Dota spin-off to assure its success.