Dota 2 pennants support pro teams & give items

Dota 2 may still be in semi-closed beta, but it's already one of the most 'eSports'-friendly games going--in terms of the client, at least, as Dota is still terrifyingly opaque to casual observers. Valve yesterday launched a new update adding in-game pennants for fans to show their support for their favourite professional teams, and maybe scoop some unique items too. Valve's selling pennants of the sixteen teams who qualified for its tournament The International 2012, hoping to create a little of the 'the team I like is better than the team you like and I'll kick your teeth in to prove it' fan frenzy which surrounds brutish regular sports. When watching tournament games, your pennant will add to the fan count of your team, displayed in the HUD. How exciting! Pennants cost a dollar apiece, with some of the money going to teams, and you can even pay a dollar to upgrade pennants and boost the fan level higher if you have more money than sense. You're not just paying to affect a meaningless number in the HUD, oh no. This being a free-to-play Valve game, it also can get you unique in-game items. To mark extra-special, super-exciting moments in matches, 'Tournament Class' will drop for people with pennants, such as special couriers. These moments are also bookmarked in the replay, so people can easily skip to the highlights. "Think of it like catching Babe Ruth's baseball, except instead of Babe Ruth it's Dendi, and the baseball is Pudge's hook," Valve explains on the Dota 2 blog.

Spectating the old Dotes

While pennants are a trifling detail, they are an interesting idea. Fan culture is a huge driving force in competitive games, and pennants show Valve is aware of this and looking for ways to stoke it and establish a solid pro-gaming scene. Dota 2 has an excellent spectator system, letting people watch matches in-game with commentary and camera direction from a choice of casters, and Valve recently released a spectator client for everyone not in the beta. Putting up $1 million in prize money for The International, twice, also shows how serious it is. As a fan of pro Dota, I do hope it takes off, but it'll always have the problem of being far more difficult to follow than scene staples like Street Fighter, Quake and StarCraft.