Home [Editorial] In Defense of IceFrog And Dota 2: A Rebuttal To The ‘Valve Employee’ Blog

[Editorial] In Defense of IceFrog And Dota 2: A Rebuttal To The ‘Valve Employee’ Blog

7 min read

[This is a personal editorial and does not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Lazygamer or its editors]

With all the hubbub surrounding the Dota 2 announcement, this blog post (which you should read) popped up out of nowhere which was claimed to be written by an anonymous Valve employee. Titled “The Truth About IceFrog”, he goes on to state how IceFrog is terrible to work with and actually tried to shop Dota to the creators of Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends before he started working for Valve. Some commenter chimed in corroborating the blogger’s statements, adding he actually tried to pitch it to Blizzard themselves, who politely sent him away. It’s all very interesting.

The important question to ask is whether any of this matters and the short answer is resounding “no”. It’s completely inconsequential, to be honest.

Read on to find out why.

The Valve employee states IceFrog is “incredibly hard to work with, absolutely impossible to talk to in person due to a complete lack of social skills, and easily holds the most unpleasantly domineering work personality of anyone [he has] ever met”. Lets assume that is all true, and that IceFrog is a terrible human being. I’m not sure the above-mentioned Valve employee is aware that Valve approached IceFrog, and they offered him complete control, which one of the reasons IceFrog took the job. From IceFrog himself, “One of the most important things for me though was that there wasn’t going to be anyone standing above telling me how I should be doing things.”

DotA is IceFrog’s baby, and while Dota fans should acknowledge Eul and Guinsoo’s contribution to the map, IceFrog is the person who transformed Dota into the behemoth that it is today. Guinsoo, whose real name is Steve Feak and now works on League of Legends, transferred the development to IceFrog in early 2005. Later that year, Dota was featured at Blizzcon and the World Cyber Games. It’s no coincidence that Dota’s introduction to the competitive scene was after IceFrog took over. Pendragon, the former community manager of dota-allstars.com, explicitly stated Dota had “maybe 5% of the players that it does today” in late 2004. The reason Dota is what it is today is due to IceFrog’s efforts, and that makes it perfectly reasonable that he has complete control. Telling someone how to change their creation when said creation is spectacular and successful, especially when you aren’t part of the community, will not generate a healthy environment. I’m pretty sure if you were in IceFrogs position, you would react similarly.

That covers the first and third parts of the blogger’s statement; let’s tackle “absolutely impossible to talk to in person due to a complete lack of social skills”.

It is a well-known fact amongst the Dota community that IceFrog is practically a ghost. Back in the day, the only proof of his existence was a name and an email address on the map’s loading screen. Even Wikipedia notes this, stating “IceFrog was at one time highly reclusive”. There has never been an interview with him published, with the exception of 4 email-based fan Q&A sessions of the past 2 years. There’s probably a very good reason why no one knows who IceFrog is. Perhaps he has social phobias or something similar, which is somewhat made evident due to him bringing an agent to speak to Blizzard (according the follow up blog post) instead of just going by himself. Judging from the evidence, I find it reasonable to believe IceFrog is socially inept. That said, I could care less about his social skills, and I think most of the Dota community would agree with that.

Dota 6.69 Loadscreen by Kunkka

So, that’s his personal traits covered, let’s look at his professional ones.

The blogger states he is “a compulsive liar. When he was hired, none of us knew about his past. In fact, we were all on the assumption that he had made it thus far on his own. Several of us silently questioned how he could’ve devoted so much time after graduation to a hobby despite there being a giant hole on his resume.” This is in reference to the allegation that IceFrog worked with S2 Games, the creators of Heroes of Newerth for a period of time. He then followed that up with “Apparently [IceFrog] had S2 Games sign an agreement barring them from disclosing his involvement with [Heroes of Newerth]”. The man was looking to make money from a time-consuming hobby and by your admission; there was some kind of NDA in place. That hardly makes him a “compulsive liar” now does it?

The blogger then goes on with evidence confirming IceFrog’s identity, which you can replicate yourself if you like. To me, his identity is inconsequential, similar to the identity of The Stig from Top Gear. Part of the fun is not knowing who it is, and both their monikers carry more weight in their respective fan bases then their God-given name.

The most egregious of all the bloggers comments, and the ones I take the most issue with, are the following two:

“This blog is about letting people understand the truth behind the people at the helm of the project, and how they [referring to IceFrog and Erik Johnson] are trying to steer Valve away from its roots as a gamer-first company.”

“Whatever he is being paid, it is ridiculous, because the game is literally identical to DOTA” (emphasis his)

The first comment just angers me, since Dota has always been a community-centric game. Every change to the map goes through beta-testing by community members; fans can post ideas and suggestions for the next version, and IceFrog cites them if they get included in an update. At no point in the 5 years that I have been playing Dota have I ever felt like IceFrog has done anything but serve the community, both professional and casual. Unpopular/imbalanced changes get removed or fixed, bugs are ironed out, and the map is constantly being improved with new heroes, skills and effects. IceFrog was hired by Valve a year ago, and there have been 6 massive map updates since then. The blogger’s comment is, quite frankly, a pile of horseshit.

The second comment ties into the first, since the community wants a new game that is identical to Dota. The reason that Dota fans didn’t leave en masse to Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends was because it was different. In fairness, both games have their merits and are no doubt fun to play, but people like myself aren’t interested in something different when the original is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s like expecting a hardcore Modern Warfare 2 player to suddenly jump ship to Halo Reach, or a World of WarCraft fan to migrate to Final Fantasy XVI. Yes, they are part of the same genre and similar in concept, but that’s about it. Dota’s problems are the learning curve, poor netcode, the archaic engine, and lack of voice support. Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends both resolved those issues, but changed the gameplay. Dota 2 will resolve all problems without altering the gameplay, leaving fans with their ideal multiplayer game.

Dota 2 is a rare win-win situation. Valve wins because they will make a boatload of money, and Dota fans win because we get our favourite multiplayer game updated to modern standards.

Assuming the blogger was in fact a Valve employee, I admire his courage for making that post and backing it up with a method to prove IceFrog’s identity, however I feel he was too enthralled by the view from his White Horse of Justice that he failed to realize he was championing a cause that didn’t need championing and wasn’t a cause in the first place. In layman’s terms, his head is up his arse.

However, Mr Valve employee, if IceFrog turns out to be “incredibly hard to work with, absolutely impossible to talk to in person due to a complete lack of social skills, and easily holds the most unpleasantly domineering work personality of anyone [he has] ever met” AND a heroin trafficker, I will gladly post a retraction.

Last Updated: October 19, 2010


  1. Nairda_au

    October 18, 2010 at 14:49

    Great rebuttle, very well worded I can agree with you on most of your points, why hate against IceFrog simply because he was trying to make money? Sure it seems like betrayal etc but really it’s not he’s just trying to aid development for other games of the genre. If he was truely as diabolical as people say then why the hell would he bother aiding his competition and not just take his idea straight to another company for example valve and left LoL and HoN to their own workings. Pretty much HoN owes itself completely to Icefrogs work it’s pretty much just a carbon copy of DotA. HoN has been updated graphically and other features added to enhance the game, but really its just an artistic change which truely seperates each games. LoL is in it’s own field since it’s done things completely different to DotA just using the basic concept as a model to build what it has now.


  2. Syth

    October 19, 2010 at 06:48

    Great article. This is what makes LG such a great site. It really feels like it is “by gamers for gamers” (I know, it actually is!) and not some corporate run money making machine (although more money won’t be a bad thing, would it?)

    Great work


  3. Gavin Mannion

    October 19, 2010 at 06:58

    lol Karl is going to love this comment…

    And yes more money is always welcome, as long as it doesn’t arrive with strings attached


  4. ALKi

    October 19, 2010 at 09:04

    just hoping basshunter try to pull of a dota II tune……


  5. bboy

    October 19, 2010 at 09:28

    “Dota fans win because we get our favourite multiplayer game updated to modern standards”

    That’s what it’s all about. Everyone against this has their own selfish reasons I think. The LoL and HoN guys obviously don’t want competition (and the fan boys are anti-dota). This blogger sounds like he is upset the announcement was for Dota2 and not HL:ep3 and is obviously does not play Dota2 saying “steer Valve away from its roots as a gamer-first company”.

    This is the best Dota news I have heard in a long while, this game would eventually die on War3, it’s old and the kids aren’t gonna wanna play it and once the community dies the game dies.


  6. Syth

    October 19, 2010 at 10:07

    The thing is about the article, I couldn’t give a rats ass about DOTA, but the article actually made me want to read further. It didn’t come off as a rant, which is difficult to do.

    I’m really trying hard to think of a gaming company (not site) that hasn’t in some way or the other sold out (maybe gearbox?) , so it refreshing to see integrity in the business.

    Btw, the compliment was not just for Karl, it was for all of the contributors 😉


  7. Primal

    October 19, 2010 at 18:52

    Well-said. It’s about time somebody cut through all the BS and pointed out what actually matters.


  8. simplygnome

    October 19, 2010 at 19:58

    Well, I disagree that HoN is a different game. HoN is almost a carbon copy of DotA, and its doing only moderately well because (IMHO) game tastes have changed beyond what DotA was/is.

    I AM an ex-dota player and a current League of Legends fanboy, and am making no pretenses against it, but I sincerely DO hope Dota2 gets gummed up in the works, or does poorly, because I do not want competition in the form of what I feel is an inferior game mechanic(the original that is…DotA2 could suprise me, however it seems to keep several of the elements that I do not like about it from what I have heard).

    As I hoped to have illustrated, this is just my opinion.

    HoN to me IS DotA2, just with different champion skins/names.


  9. simplygnome

    October 19, 2010 at 20:01

    To comment on the original point however, I dont think this has anything to do with Icefrogs moral, ethical or social standings.

    The game itself should be judged on the basis of the game itself.


  10. Karl Thomson

    October 19, 2010 at 22:52

    Im actually trying LoL now, and am surprised how much fun it is. I know very little about HoN, but I’ve heard its very similar except for a few key differences, like orbs can stack.

    I love how LoL is so action-orientated, with a distinct focus on simplicity. Expect full thoughts on that soon’ish.


  11. Sardac666

    October 19, 2010 at 22:57

    LOL is a great and easy game to learn. Although hard to master. HON is great for Dota crazies but if u want to be still playing this style of game, play LOL. Every time I start playing Dota The ragers arrive and its so irritating. 😎


  12. Karl Thomson

    October 19, 2010 at 23:00

    That is awesome, the LoL community seems nicer than the Dota one. I’ve only played 6/7 games, so more research is needed.


  13. bboy

    October 20, 2010 at 10:58

    Agreed, the developers could be complete pricks, I don’t care, it’s not like I have to deal with them. It’s like getting your panties in a knot because the guy who designed your BMW M3 hates cats or something :/


  14. Aidan

    October 31, 2010 at 16:44

    Obviously the writer of the article has never played HoN…
    The differences between gameplay of Dota and HoN are minimal if not non-existant.


  15. Karl Thomson

    October 31, 2010 at 22:44

    I have never played HoN, but I know there are some differences (orbs stack, for example), and it copied DotA almost change for change until 6.60. DotA has changed _a lot_ since 6.60.

    If the changes were so minimal that they were non-existent, the professional community would have all migrated to do HoN. AFAIK, only one big name professional DotA player has made the change, and that was Loda.


  16. Ninja Pantsu

    October 31, 2010 at 22:56

    Hon is good but none of my friends ever want to play it!
    i like the graphics, but im still getting used to all the new graphics for the commands, im actually looking forward to Dota 2, i wish they could kill the dota already, im getting bored of it, plus slark is a bit unfair!

    If evr1 moves to Dota 2 that would be nice, Valve should sell it for free, try to get money of advertising instead!


  17. Frost Revenant

    November 17, 2010 at 09:02

    I think the main leak is a mix of truth and smudged lies to be honest. I would have to disagree with the writer of this editorial on one comment. It does matter. Maybe not to some of us but to others who hold very high opinions of icefrog or dota/hon this means alot.

    If i could leave some comments I do truly hope that they dont just copy paste from Dota and do a more from scratch or modify abilities. Why recommend this? you need to level the field to begin with or you still might end up with the same problems that you’re having in HON/dota. bad matchmaking sets noobs with pros and the newbies like I was when i tried HON get shunned away from the game. This will be a huge deal if you have a playerbase that doesn’t expand and won’t let others in.
    My experience with HON was really poor, in fact I want my money back from the purchase. I played it for about 1-2 weeks. Was really interested in playing glacius. i love casters but he was extraordinary difficult to learn and use. I looked online and was struggling finding guides and help with him because hes a less played champion. The forums are a mess and ultimately between people who wont help me and are extremely aggressive to me quickly made me quit. Turns out glacius is a very difficult suppport caster to learn.

    Ive never liked the caster system they kept from warcraft 3’s dota either. It gimps casters because “oh i’m strong early game” but theres always that point when their effectiveness dies and they start becoming worthless to their team as their damage doesn’t scale. That seems silly to me. The model for that too is that a melee will ultimately overtake the caster in the end if they are the same skill or higher where casters always have to be higher skill against melee in order to be effective all game.

    its for that reason I have liked LOL. while not as polished visually the gameplay is very appealing. I can play any character and be viable potentially all phases of the game, and theres multiple ways to build and skin my character so theres no single right way to do it. It provides for more challenging and dynamic.

    All in all sorry for the long post but I just want to say that I’ll try Dota 2. It looks promising I just hope its not a copy and keeps some of the “flaws” i see with it and evolves its gameplay to something legendary.



    December 2, 2010 at 18:22

    Cant wait for Dota 2 to come out it will be the game of the year for sure come check it out




    December 2, 2010 at 18:22

    Cant wait for Dota 2 to come out it will be the game of the year for sure come check it out



  20. lLegion

    February 23, 2014 at 05:50

    i guess IceFrog is a legend and everyone knows that, he’s a human being who have his problems but still he’s like the master of…. no…. the GOD of MOBAs, no one can take this out of my mind

    i’ve played LoL and HoN and they are good games… but still… ill always love DotA, and IveFrog, existing or not, will always be the most important legend in Moba history


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