Valve is trying to change the way we watch eSports.
The Dota 2 VR Hub is a free download, available now under the game's DLC menu, that allows you to launch the game in virtual reality. You can’t play directly, but you can view "life-size" versions of the character models to look at as well as spectate live or pre-recorded matches of Dota 2.
And doing so is magical.
"Step into Dota VR Theater to watch live matches and replays in SteamVR," the official page states. "Jump in solo, with friends, or join the community to watch the action unfold on an enormous screen surrounded by full-size avatars of the heroes on the battlefield. Select the minimap at any point to move directly onto the field of battle itself, then use the controllers to teleport around the Dota landscape."
The main view shows you a large floating screen with the directed action you’d normally see when spectating Dota 2, but you’ll notice that you’re flanked by giant versions of the character models complete with indicators for their health, mana and their item build.
Directly in front of you is a live map that displays a live, topdown version of the action flanked by displays that show the difference in the teams' net worth and earned XP. So you can get a bunch of information just by looking around the different screens and displays, and you can have up to 15 friends join in the fun, walking around the environment, pointing to things in the interface and chatting about the match using the Vive’s built-in microphone. It feels like a sort of arena designed exclusively for the consumption of Dota 2.
This is already neat stuff, but you can point at any spot on the game’s map using the Vive controller and jump into the battle by clicking the controller's trigger. This teleports you "physically" onto the game’s map, allowing you to grow or shrink yourself in size to either look down on the action, or to see what the battle would look from your own height, complete with the ability to walk around in your play space.
Watching battles take place around you is thrilling, even though it can be a bit hard to keep track of everything that’s going on. The interface makes it easy for you to switch views or jump back and forth from the in-person view to the lobby as well; it only took me a few minutes to get used to moving back and forth to get the best view of the action. It's like being able to watch a football game on TV with the ability to jump onto the field at any time to see what it looks like from the quarterback's point of view.
The fog of war is a bit thick when you’re watching the game directly — you won’t be able to see that far into the distance — but it’s easy to teleport around the map to change your view if you’d like to look at something else.
This is Valve’s second major leap into the creation of VR content, the first is the free Lab experience that is also available now and for free, and the Dota 2 VR Hub shows just how serious the company is about getting VR right.
This isn’t just a new way to spectate Dota 2, it’s a better way than viewing matches on your television or PC. You have access to more data in a way that’s easier to understand.