Dota 2 has a problem: everyone wants to play the hero.
It's pretty understandable that everyone wants to rack up all the kills and run around the map being a menace. But any MOBA, especially Dota 2, requires that some players on the team take a backseat so others can succeed. And in a blog post this week from the Dota 2 developers, the game's matchmaking algorithm is having difficulty because not enough people want to play hard support.
"For certain MMR brackets, queue times and game quality would be meaningfully improved if there were a bigger percentage of players queuing for Hard Support," the developers wrote. "Many of the subpar matches we’ve found were a result of there not being enough players queuing for this role. We are exploring to see if any solutions can be effective for incentivising this."
They added that if you queue up for all the roles, you'll be more likely to end up as hard support — which isn't the ideal case, but given not enough people are opting to play Hard Support to begin with, it's a logical outcome. But Dota 2's matchmaking has other issues, including a supposed raft of people not playing the role they're supposed to (like every DPS Moira in Overwatch, then).
"If we find that role abuse persists despite these efforts, we’ll consider implementing role-specific bans that prevent a user from queuing for the abused role in future matchmaking games after they’ve left low priority," the developers said.
A large part of the latest patch is designed to tackle edge-case issues with the matchmaking that are impacting the day-to-day experience. There's a lot of talk about dealing with smurfs, for example, both on a pure MMR level (how does the algorithm detect when a player is well beyond their current level, and how much should they be boosted to suit) and what punitive measures are necessary (should a one-time entry fee be introduced for ranked play, to limit people just making new accounts to play in different tiers).
It's a fascinating problem, but the simplest solution in the interim is probably straightforward. If someone's putting their hand up to spend 40 minutes buying sentry wards all game, they should get a bonus from the off. It's not a popular for a reason, even if the role is exceptionally challenging and rewarding to play well. Hopefully Dota 2 can find other ways to highlight the skill and value of a good support. Maybe extra gifts for next year's Battle Pass?