“Auto Chess” redirects here. For the game genre it spawned, see auto battler.
Dota Auto Chess is a strategy video game mod for the video game Dota 2. Developed by Drodo Studio and released in January 2019, the game features elements of chess and supports up to eight players. The popularity of the mod, with its having over eight million players by May 2019, led to the creation of the auto battler genre that had a number of other games being released. Later in 2019, Drodo Studio developed a standalone version known simply as Auto Chess, while Valve, the developer of Dota 2, developed their own standalone version known as Dota Underlords.[external_link_head]
The game features elements derived from chess, along with those from Dota 2. Sporting up to eight players, the game assigns them to eight different chessboards. Players select from a public pool of over fifty chess pieces prior to each round, which they place around the board. Each chess piece belongs to a particular race and class, with individualized abilities. Upon the initiation of every round, the opposing sides’ pieces automatically battle. Some rounds feature players battling non-player “creeps”, rather than one another. Players may acquire items after killing the creeps and can give these items to their chess pieces. Each item has unique effects and some can be combined to form stronger versions. Each player controls a character called a courier, which tracks the player’s health, gold, and experience level. The courier’s experience determines the quantity of chess pieces available on the board. After the end of each round, the courier’s experience level will increase by one, until it reaches ten. Through combat, players accumulate gold, which they may use to purchase new pieces before each round, to strengthen their combinations to win. For every round lost, the courier’s health decreases, with its death signifying the associated player’s defeat. The game ends when one player remains.
At the start of each round, the active characters of the player will fight against the characters of the other players or the AI automatically, this is why the mod of the game is called an auto battler. Characters either have a passive or an active ability. While active abilities cost mana, the passive ones do not. Mana is gained through making attacks or when the given character is being attacked and survives. Each round that has passed gives the player gold and experience. By leveling up, the player increases the amount of units he can put on the battlefield.[external_link offset=1]
Dota Auto Chess has its own ranking system. After the end of a game, the rank of players who lose the game early will decrease, and the rank of players who lose late and the victor will increase. There are six ranks in the game, including Queen, King, Rook, Bishop, Knight and Pawn, while Queen is the highest rank and Pawn is the basic rank. There are one to nine steps in Pawn, Knight, Bishop and Rook ranks. Once players reach the highest step, their rank will increase. The King rank only has one step. When players reach the Queen rank, the global digital a number ranking is available for the top ten thousand. At the end of April 2019, the developer added a season system. After the end of a season, higher rank players achieve better rewards and the rank will reset.
All players have a basic courier at the beginning. After each game, players in the top rank are awarded “candies”. Each player can achieve no more than ten candies per day. Players with Custom Pass can achieve five more candies per day. Players can spend 40 candies to roll a new courier or spend hundreds of candies to add a cosmetic effect on their couriers. Couriers have different rarities. The rare couriers are usually bigger and more appealing than normal ones. Some couriers can combine to form new couriers that cannot be bought directly. Beside earning candies in game, players can pay for candies. In January 2019, players could scan QR codes in the game to pay for candies from a third party store. Drodo Studio later disabled candy codes, but candies are still available from some third party sellers out of the game.
When asked about the inspiration of Dota Auto Chess, shortly following the mod’s release, Drodo Studio stated that they drew inspiration from the Chinese tile-based game Mahjong for reference. Generally played by four people, the objective of Mahjong is to spell out a particular combination of cards through a series of replacement and trade-off rules while preventing opponents from achieving their own combinations. The game focuses on technique, strategy and calculation, but also relies on luck. While drawing inspiration from Mahjong, Dota Auto Chess made changes to accommodate the battle-oriented gameplay.
Dota Auto Chess was released by Drodo Studio to the Steam Marketplace on January 4, 2019. Since its release, Drodo Studio has updated the game with game balance adjustments, bug fixes and new content updates. The content updates include adding and removing pieces, as well as adding new races to the game. With the viral surge of popularity of the mod, Valve, the developer of Dota 2, flew Drodo Studio to their headquarters, to discuss recruiting them for developing a standalone version of Dota Auto Chess. Valve and Drodo Studio concluded that they could not work together directly, though they agreed that would build separate standalone adaptations of the game and would support one another. On June 1, 2019, Valve updated a monthly paid ‘Auto Chess Pass’ in the Dota 2 store, with a share of the revenue going to Drodo Studio.
A standalone Auto Chess by Drodo Studio was released on Android on April 18, 2019, on iOS on May 22, 2019, and on Microsoft Windows via the Epic Games Store on July 19, 2019, and for PlayStation 4 on December 16, 2020. Drodo Studio stated that besides the development of Auto Chess, they would continue to upgrade Dota Auto Chess.
The game had over 8.5 million subscribers by May 2019, with more than 300,000 active players daily. A tournament was held in early March 2019.[external_link offset=2]
Several publications praised Dota Auto Chess for its creative gameplay rules accessibility. VPEsports noted that Dota Auto Chess feels like a very strategic game: “It’s a strategy game, with a feeling of a turn-based game, it has the key ingredients of card games and it requires the player to plan ahead while being rather good with APM.” Game Informer offered the praise that “It’s not chess, and it’s not Dota, but it’s a great game to queue up and play with friends or solo.” “It takes a few games to start to understand how everything works, but its got some really fun strategy hooks underneath everything.” PCGamesN called Dota Auto Chess “the most successful third party Dota custom game ever”. Dota Auto Chess is often compared favorably with Valve’s digital collectible card game, Artifact, with a number of publications stating that despite the two titles being released in close proximity, Dota Auto Chess has proven to be the more enduring game.
Several publications pointed out there was still room for improvement of the game. VP Esports noted that some bugs in the games needed to be fixed. VentureBeat tested the Drodo Auto Chess mobile game and noted that players who hadn’t played Dota Auto Chess on PC might feel confused of figuring out the information of the unit on the field by saying “Drodo’s mobile Auto Chess is a significantly better way to play the original great mod if you already know and comprehend the original game, and for that, it should be a success. But it feels like a perhaps smaller-scale version of Auto Chess, one designed around the small screen both visually and as a game, might be the one to take over the world like previous mods have.”
The popularity of Dota Auto Chess quickly inspired a whole host of games with the creation of the auto battler subgenre. In China, there was a reported eight companies having registered the “Auto Chess” trademark in January 2019. After failing to reach an agreement with Valve, Drodo Studio partnered with Chinese production company Imba TV and Long Mobile to develop a standalone mobile version of the game called Auto Chess. Announced on March 15, 2019, Auto Chess removed Dota elements from the property and features its own separate setting. With Valve’s direct technical support, Dota Auto Chess players are capable of migrating accounts to the mobile version to receive rewards. In June 2019, game developer Riot Games announced that League of Legends would feature an auto battler of their own, known as Teamfight Tactics. That same month, Valve’s standalone version of the game, Dota Underlords, was released in early access for PC and mobile platforms. A version based on Hearthstone by Blizzard Entertainment, titled Hearthstone Battlegrounds, was also developed.
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