Many esports titles have front-facing directors and designers that put a face to the development team behind the game. Overwatch has Jeff Kaplan, Valorant has Anna Donlon, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has PlayerUnknown.
Dota 2 has IceFrog, but he doesn’t quite fit the typical bill.
While Kaplan and Donlon routinely get in front of a camera to discuss the state of their game and the rationales behind meta-shifting patches, IceFrog is a much more elusive character. Instead of regularly talking with Dota 2 fans, IceFrog shows up just a few times each year, and sometimes even less than that. When he does appear, it will only be a sentence or two wishing followers a happy holiday or pointing them in the direction of the latest patch notes.
IceFrog’s scarcity doesn’t end there, though. Little is known about them, who they are, or where they came from. So how did he end up in charge of Dota 2? And what excatly is known about IceFrog?
While many think that IceFrog is the creator of Defense of the Ancients, the WarCraft 3 mod that served as the foundation for the MOBA genre, that isn’t actually true. DotA was originally created by Kyle “Eul” Sommer in 2003. Eul is commemorated in Dota 2 with the item Eul’s Scepter. He left the game behind following the release of expansion pack WarCraft 3: The Frozen Throne, which introduced a number of new units and tools to the WarCraft 3 map editor.
In 2004, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak filled Eul’s shoes and added a slew of new features, but stepped away from the game before long. IceFrog took over in 2005 and maintained it until 2009, when he was approached by Valve to help create Dota 2.
While the names of Guinsoo and Eul are public knowledge, IceFrog’s wasn’t for a very long while.
Hints about his real identity started coming through in 2010 when an anonymous blogspot post was released, claiming IceFrog’s name was Abdul Ismail and that he was altogether terrible to work with. It also stated that IceFrog had misled Valve and had previously worked with League of Legends developer Riot Games and Heroes of Newerth’s S2 Games.
Valve repeatedly has the name Abdul Ismail appear both in hidden software files and in the credits to Dota 2 documentary Free to Play.
That led many to believe that Abdul Ismail is IceFrog’s real name, and this was confirmed in 2017 through legal documents related to a lawsuit involving Valve Software which explicitly stated IceFrog’s real name.
So what does IceFrog look like? Is he actually difficult to work with? And what are his thoughts on Dota 2’s current meta? Unfortunately, these are things that Dota 2 fans may never know.