How far can a Dota 2 overlay go before it becomes cheating?

Kenneth Williams • September 17, 12:44

How much info can a third-party Dota 2 client give before it becomes straight-up cheating?

Stratz+ is a free draft assistant available from Stratz, a prominent Dota 2 stat-tracking service. After downloading it for free, Stratz is able to instantly scan your opponents’ profiles and give you tips on how to beat them. Programs like these only use public information that any Dota 2 grinder can access, but they still give an unfair advantage to players in the know.

Should using live Dota 2 coach programs be considered a form of cheating? If not, where should we draw the line?

What can Stratz+ draft assistant do?

It’s important to initially note what Stratz+ can and can’t do.

The client hooks directly to the Dota 2 program and scans for connected players. It then cross-references your opponent’s player IDs with their public Dota 2 match history. That information includes all of their previously played matches including hero pick and performance. It then uses that information to give tips during the drafting phase.

Stratz+ cannot take control of your game directly or automatically make decisions for you. It can only provide data-based suggestions. The player is free to disregard them but the advice can definitely sway the course of a ranked Dota 2 match. For example, it can suggest which heroes to ban and pick based on your opponents. Stratz can also suggest hero picks and suggest peak timings depending on how the draft goes.

Stratz+ definitely gives players an unfair advantage, but can it really be called cheating? All of the information that Stratz displays is technically available for anyone to see but it’s collected in a way that would be impossible for players to replicate. Nobody can open up Dotabuff and review every enemy player during the 20-second ban timer. 

Several other helper overlays have existed throughout esports with little controversy. One could also argue that online tools like Stratz+ are a natural extension of the digital nature of esports. Valve probably wouldn’t let pro players use such a tool on the Dota Pro Circuit, but Stratz’ draft assistant is still perfectly allowed for the average player to use.

So if Stratz isn’t cheating, where should the line be drawn? Valve has officially stated that input and reaction macros are explicitly banned. It’s safe to say that anything that takes control away from the player is cheating but Valve hasn’t made a decision on external help tools. It’s ultimately up to the developers to decide. That can’t stop players from getting vocal about certain gray areas.

How to hide match history in Dota 2

If you do think Stratz+ users get an unfair advantage, there’s one thing you can do to counter it. Stratz can only parse match history from public Dota 2 profiles. If you switch your profile to private, the draft assistant will be unable to provide suggestions against you. Here’s how to protect yourself from Stratz’ draft assistant.

To make your Dota 2 profile private, open up the client and head to the settings menu. Open the Social tab and look for an option called “Expose Public Match Data.” It’s activated by default but can be deactivated with a single click. Keep in mind that other online stat trackers like Dotabuff and OpenDota will also be unable to record your matches.

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