Valve Discloses Source 2 Engine In DOTA 2 Update

News and rumors about Valve's (possibly) upcoming Source 2 engine have been buzzing for months, but a recent update to DOTA 2 contains the most persuasive evidence yet that a major engine is in the works. After the last patch, the game now contains a number of programmed default paths, directories, and file names that didn't previously exist.

Source-related DLLs and executables (engine.dll, vconsole.dll) have been updated to "engine2.dll" and vconsole2.dll."     The tileset editor has a default Source path.

There's also now an option to save files as "Source 1.0 Map Files" where no previous option existed.

Here's the funny thing -- while most people think of a game screenshot as the best evidence you can buy, low-level file directories, default trees, and changed application behavior is actually more persuasive. It's easy to get people excited by showing them an engine render or mock-up.  If you're actually making substantive back-end changes, you start shifting file paths and version trees. It's a lot more boring -- and a lot more representative of actual work.

How Will Source 2.0 Change Gaming?

There are few companies in the gaming world with Valve's market position and brand strength, not to mention its control of the largest digital distribution platform. Back when the first Source engine debuted, Valve updated a number of mods and games to take advantage of it, offering these updates either for free in bundles or as a low-cost way of buying into the new Source engine and ecosystem.

Critically, however, developing these mods gave Valve a new platform for Steam. It's easy to forget now, but when Half Life 2 debuted gamer opinions of Steam were anything but positive; the nascent gaming service could've lost a popularity contest to herpes.

Valve had its reasons for going this route at the time, but would it do the same thing twice? I suspect not. There's enough pent up demand for a Half Life 3 or Left 4 Dead 3 that it would be fairly simple for Valve to roll some classic maps or concepts up in the Source 2.0 engine and punt them out the door as a bit of value-added nostalgia.

Where Source 2.0 really could make a difference, however, is in its choice of APIs. Today, we have an array of new capabilities shipping -- AMD has Mantle, Microsoft is working on DirectX 12, and Apple has its Metal API. DirectX 12 support is likely a shoo-in, but adopting AMD's Mantle or working with Nvidia to integrate its GameWorks libraries would be a major feather in the hat of either GPU manufacturer.

The relative age of the Source engine is one reason I'm certain that these rumors are accurate. Source 1.0 was never updated to support DX11 or OpenGL 4.x, and while the engine can still be used for impressive titles, its DX9 limitations and ancient modding tools (some date back to 1998) are showing their age. It's time to bring the game engine into the modern world, and hopefully these DOTA2 updates mean that Valve is moving closer to that goal. 

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