Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Icefrog Exclusive Interview Series 2

Here at Neutral Creeps, we have dug some more dirt on DotA protector, Icefrog.
Once again, at Neutralcreeps, we deliver.

Q: Is IceFrog a person or a clan? Is DotA really just a one-man-code-all game? How did you come up with the name IceFrog?

A: I actually thought this was a joke the first time someone asked me, but I've been asked many times since, so I guess not. I'm just a person, 25 years old. While I am the only person that edits the map, I don't really consider it a one-man job. I have many beta testers that help out with testing and feedback. I'll save the story about how I picked the name IceFrog for another day though.

Q: Any plans on creating DotA for SC2 once it is out?

A: I certainly plan on playing SC2; I am a huge fan of the original Starcraft. It is hard for me to say whether I will do modding for Starcraft 2 at this point. It depends a lot on what capabilities the editor will have, so it is too early to give an answer right now. In either case though, I enjoy what I'm doing and have no plans to stop development on Warcraft 3 anytime soon.

Q: What is the most annoying thing about developing DotA?

A: Some type of bugs take up so much time to fix that it can become very tiresome. An example would be in my most recent updates (6.58-6.59) which was resolved in 6.59b. As a result of some of the new code rewrites aimed at improving performance, a few rare but critical bugs appeared. You would get things like permanently invulnerable heroes, broken abilities or fatal errors and the game would be ruined completely. Although I know that many players find it annoying to continually re-download the map, it is necessary to fix these kind of bugs asap. I consider this the most annoying part because it results in many long boring nights of debugging replays when compared with the more exciting aspect of working on improving gameplay or content. It comes with the territory though, so I don't really mind.

Q: What is your favorite WC3 map besides DotA?

A: I spend most of my free time playing DotA when I'm not developing it, but I have a habit of playing a tower defense game right after I release a new map in order to relax a little. Recently I've been playing Castle Fight and Fufu Ninja.

Q: Do you gain money from making DotA updates or advertisements?

A: No I do not. I get asked this question quite frequently. Some people tend to assume that because many of the dota community sites have advertisements that I get a portion of it, but I am not involved at all with any advertisements whatsoever, as you can see from and my blog.

Q: What can I do if I don't like something you did in the last patch?

A: I think a lot of people underestimated how much I value player emails. The emails allow me to discuss ideas with a wide range players from different backgrounds and get to the root of what is bothering them. If something bothers you and you email me about it explaining why, you can be sure that I will at least have an open ear to your concern and will do my best to respond. I develop this game for the players afterall, so I don't gain anything by doing something that makes the game less enjoyable.

Q: You have stated that you are going to have Tauren Cheiftain for 6.60, is there anything you can tell us about him?

Tauren Cheiftain

A: It is too early to say really. He is one of my favorite hero models in Warcraft III though, so I certainly hope he turns out well.

Q: How can I join the beta team?

A: You need to fill out an application at I am looking for people that have lots of free time and are patient, open minded and passionate about DotA as a whole.

Q: What languages will DotA be available in?

A: It is available right now, in full compatibility mode, for the Russian, Chinese and Korean languages. There are many other languages in the works, the two closest to completion are the French and German ones. If you want to help translate, send me an email. Full compatibility mode means that you can play a game hosted with any language map and the game will still choose your language for localization.

Q: What do you think of the beta leak of dota? I heard you didn't want the beta version or changelog going public before you released official map. (by

A: That is very true. There are many reasons why I do not like leaks, but one of the main reasons is a personal one. When I work on the map I add many things that are not yet ready. One big satisfaction I get from developing the game and spending so much time on it is to be able to release a new version when it is ready as a nice package. When the map leaks, it takes a lot of that satisfcation away. In a very small way, it is similiar to when you do a drawing, you don't want people peeking before you are ready to show it. It is also harder to experiment with some ideas when players are going to jump on it before its fully fleshed out.

Q: Why do you remake heroes? How do you decide which ones?

A: Remaking heroes is always a controversial thing because players often get attached them, so when those heroes change for better or worse, the players that liked them are disappointed. That being said, the primary requirement for a hero to be remade is if players don't enjoy playing with that hero. I try to balance out the fun factor while keeping as much of the core feeling of the original hero the same (when possible) in order to keep the existing fans of that hero satisfied. Often I ask non-beta testers, who have told me via email that they enjoy a certain hero, to review the new version and to make sure they are still satisfied with it.

Q: How popular is DotA and why?

A: It is very hard to give an exact answer to that because there are so many different communities around the world with their own private servers, download sites and gaming centers. Some players do not download from because they are either in a LAN or they have their own community sites local to their country for faster access, so a pure download count doesn't really cover it. A rough estimation from recent download counts would put it in the 5-8 million range. The game has been growing stronger each month, especially in Asia and South America as of late.

For the why, I think it is due to word of mouth. When someone genuinely enjoys a game and feels that it has a lot of depth and things to learn, they tend to tell their friends about it to join in with them without any marketing needed. It is because of this that the game is able to reach such a wide audience.

Q: Do you plan on changing -switch at all?

A: I will probably adjust the voting rules for it in 6.60 so there are fewer undesired switches going on. There are also a few other aspects of it that I am discussing with players to try to find a good middleground.

Q: You said before that sometimes you remove things from the beta map or don't finish them. Can you give any examples?

A: There was an Ogre Magi remake that got cancelled very recently because it did not feel like an overall improvement in terms of enjoyment levels nor was it particularly healthy design-wise for competitive play. Another was a new capture the flag or capture point mode that wasn't finished yet and I did not want to rush it. There are other things that frequently don't make it to the final map as well. I try to focus on making changes for the sake of real improvement. While it is sometimes disappointing to remove something that you spend time on, I think it is better in the long run.


  1. Do you focus on balancing the heroes for league games? Myself, I play pub, and some heroes that may be balanced for league aren't for pub in my opinion.

  2. Since DotA has become so popular, and many competitions have taken place, do you earn money? Is this your career? It seems you take a lot of time making a map and fixing bugs!

  3. You probably get lots of posts like this but i really feel like i need and have to do this. As a great fan of DotA (your work) i want to thank u for the hard work and all the time u put into doing this, esspecially considering the fact that u don't get paid or anything and u do this for us, the players. Once again thank u very much and ceep up the good work.


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