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How Did This Happen: The Vengeful Spirit glitch that ruined Dota for a day

by Daniel Rosen Jun 28
Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to continue playing a game of Dota if you decided it wasn’t going your way. A world in which you could just pick a moment, any moment at all, and end the game. You wouldn’t win, but you wouldn’t lose either. The game would just be over for everyone involved.

How, you might ask? The year was 2014 and the process was simple: you just picked Vengeful Spirit and you died.

How did it work?

In April 2014, Valve updated Dota 2 to version 6.81 with a patch they called the Spring Cleaning update. It was designed to shore up various odds and ends, and included a bunch of character tweaks. One of these tweaks was to Vengeful Spirit’s Vengeful Aura ability, which reduced the damage dealt by any enemy who killed her until she respawned.

The problem? Vengeful Aura had a second, overlooked consequence. If Vengeful Spirit was killed by a creep or a tower, the game would quickly crash for all players in the match.

That’s right, not only would you get kicked out of the game for taking advantage of what was clearly a coding error, you took everyone with you too.

This could happen at any point in the game. You could start a game and suicide to a tower in the first five minutes, or you could save your team from defeat at the last minute by rushing past your enemies and killing yourself while they were distracted. No matter how it went, if Vengeful Spirit wasn’t killed by an enemy player and Aura was on, she was going to single-handedly end the game.

WTF?

The glitch is actually pretty clear cut. Videos of it show the game crashing within a few seconds of Vengeful Spirit’s death. It’s hard to say exactly why it happened. I’m not a programmer and definitely not familiar with Valve’s code for Dota 2. In a nutshell, Vengeful Aura attempted to proc on a non-player character, and the game just wasn’t ready to handle that, so it booted everyone out while it calmed down.

The glitch was only active for a single day and most players just gave up on any game with a Vengeful Spirit in it. But others discovered exciting new mini-game modes. If Vengeful Spirit made it through the draft, both teams had to make sure she wouldn’t suicide, forcing the enemy team to focus her down quickly, target their own creeps when they were in danger of killing her and dive towers faster than she could.

Of course, she was also a get out of jail free card. If your team was down, you could smuggle your Vengeful Spirit behind enemy lines and kill her to end the game. Obviously it wasn't a very fun (or fair) strategy for your opponents, but isn’t not winning better than losing?

What happened?

Look, having a game crash on you because one player is a jerk isn’t fun. Some players found entertaining workarounds, but if you sat down to play some Dota 2, went through the draft and then the game immediately kicked you out because someone Vengeful Aura-ed, only to start the process all over and probably end up in another game with a Vengeful Spirit in it, you wouldn't be too happy.

The glitch was so bad, some tournaments had to ban Vengeful Spirit. Thankfully, it lasted all of one day before Valve hotfixed it and returned Shendelzare to her normal, not-game-breaking form.

Everything quickly returned to normal, but those who suffered through the Vengeful Aura glitch will never forget the mental trauma and anguish caused by just one errant line of code.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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