Valve Software this week announced the debut of a new set of search features for its popular online storefront Steam, as well as the official 1.0 release of last summer’s Early Access hit, DOTA Underlords.
The new Steam features include the ability to narrow your searches by game prices, include and exclude specific tags, filter a search to only include games that are currently on sale or exclude games you’ve already got in your library, and to remove search results based upon VR compatibility.
Steam also now features an “infinite scroll” option, so as you approach the bottom of your results, you automatically load more options rather than being forced to click through to the next page.
While many of these seem like reasonably common-sense additions, the new search features mark a response by Valve to a problem that Steam has been dealing with for the last couple of years. Due to a series of behind-the-scenes tweaks by Valve in late 2018, dealing with how games on the storefront were weighted for search queries, independent publishers on Steam have been dealing with a sharp drop in their games’ discoverability.
(If you’ve ever wondered why indie developers always ask their fans to wishlist their games on Steam, it’s because of this tweak to Steam’s algorithm. The more wishlists a game is on, the more likely it’ll show up in a customer’s search results.)
Steam has been quietly working on this potential fix since at least September of last year, by means of experiments in Steam Labs.
Bellevue, Wash.-based Valve also announced on Tuesday that its newest Defense of the Ancients game, DOTA Underlords, has officially left the Early Access program. Underlords was initially released in January of last year and rapidly gathered an audience, with over seven million players by the following April.
Underlords is Valve’s take on a relatively new sub-genre, the “auto battler,” a competitive strategy game with a heavy influence from chess. Instead of controlling pieces on the board, players of an auto battler set up their units during a preparation phase, then send them onto the battlefield without any further direct input. You wind your troops up, then watch them go.
The funny thing about Underlords is that it’s based heavily off of a community mod for Valve’s Defense of the Ancients 2, called Dota Auto Chess. DOTA2 itself got started in a similar way, being a sequel to Defense of the Ancients, a game that evolved from a multiplayer mod for 2002’s Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. (If you’ve ever wondered about why a lot of DOTA characters look like just slightly off-brand versions of various Warcraft heroes, there you go.)
Underlords, then, is a mod of a mod of a sequel to a mod. It’s Warcraft III’s auto-battling great-great-grandchild.
DOTA Underlords is free to play on PC and Linux via Steam, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. You can purchase a $4.99 “battle pass” that entitles you to various special cosmetic rewards in-game, but Valve has been careful to say that many of the same rewards can be earned for free simply through the course of play.
Valve has also announced that as of Wednesday morning, the company is soliciting proposals from cities around the world to host the 11th International DOTA2 Championships, often just called “the International,” in the summer of 2021.
The DOTA2 pro circuit celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, with the 2020 International planned to be held in August at the Ericsson Globe venue in Stockholm, Sweden. The 2019 International tournament was notable for featuring the biggest prize pool in an esports event to date, with over $33 million split up among its finalists and winners.