Dota 2 launch expected next year, beta soon

As well as showing off Dota 2 this week at Gamescom with a tournament bearing a top prize of $1 million, Valve's also sharing a few more details on its launch plans. While the game will most probably end up pushed into 2012, Valve says that stress testing may begin in only a few weeks.

If you fancy playing in the beta, you can sign up now to have a shot. Stress testing is expected to begin in "a few weeks following Gamescom," Valve told Joystiq. Standard Valve Time rules will naturally apply, though.

After an invitation only-beta, Dota 2 will then go into public beta, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell told Eurogamer. "We'll just go into progressively wider and wider distribution. I don't think it'll be shipped until next year," he said. Dota 2 was originally slated to launch in 2011.

As you'd expect from both Valve and Dota, that certainly won't be the end of it. "With a game like this, you just keep shipping. You add new heroes. You try out new game modes. You are constantly tweaking item and hero balance. It's very much an ongoing thing," Newell explained.

Valve still hasn't decided whether it'll be a regular paid game or free-to-play, like Team Fortress 2 recently became.

"We don't know. We don't have plans yet," Newell said. "The problem isn't to figure out what your monetization strategy is. If you have something with a super careful monetization strategy and it sucks, it doesn't matter."

"The most important thing is to do something that resonates well with the existing Dota players and creates a vehicle for new players to join into the community. That's the hard problem. That's the interesting one to solve."

Valve's Gamescom Dota 2 tournament is in full swing now, with the first day teething problems of lag seemingly solved. Select games are streamed live, as per the schedule. Games are appearing in glorious 1080p on Youtube after they've been played; find them by looking for matches marked "View (Replay)" on the schedule.

So far, Dota 2 looks like a very slick, and hugely attractive port of classic Dota from Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, albeit without the full hero lineup yet. One notable addition is a "player excitement" monitor used to track players' pulse and perspiration, though this hasn't been hooked up for any matches so far. That will be one of the fruits of Valve's long-running interest in biometrics.

Here's yesterday's Na`Vi vs. Scythe match, featuring the top two teams from Group D: