March 17, 2011

Where Do We Go Now? The Future of DotA

When it comes to “legit” games, it’s hard to come close to DotA. Defense of the Ancients was the epit­o­me of what makes a mul­ti­play­er video game chal­leng­ing and respectable. It was first born as a cus­tomiza­tion of an already pop­u­lar game (War­craft III, if you did­n’t know), gained a mas­sive pro-lev­el fol­low­ing, and caused many a gamer to tank their grades and pull all-nighters. Much like its “legit game” brethren (name­ly Counter Strike), it still has a huge fol­low­ing today, despite its age.

^Game­play from the orig­i­nal DotA
Basi­cal­ly, the game works like this. You con­trol one RPG-style hero via RTS mechan­ics (select, right click to move, etc.) in a five-ver­sus-five match. You have four spells, and you get the option to take a lev­el of any of the spells (except the “ulti­mate”, gen­er­al­ly unavail­able until lev­el six) every time you lev­el up. You gain expe­ri­ence by killing “creeps” (small ene­mies on the map), and gold by deal­ing the final blow to them. In DotA, and most DotA style games, you can deprive your ene­mies of gold by fin­ish­ing off your own creeps or tow­ers. This is referred to as “deny­ing”. The main objec­tive is to destroy the ene­my base. You do this by assist­ing your own creeps to destroy ene­my tow­ers and build­ings. You win when you destroy the huge build­ing at the cen­ter of the ene­my base.
I could go into much more detail about how the game is played, but rules and tips blend in to each oth­er, and I am by no means a DotA mas­ter. What I do know is this: DotA is hard. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will lose. Every sin­gle time. There is no “luck” oth­er than get­ting matched up with good team­mates. One bad per­son on your team will ruin the entire game, and you’re bet­ter off play­ing down a man than with a “bad­die”. This, along with oth­er fac­tors, has lead to a “split”.
War­craft III was a long time ago, and although it stays fre­quent­ly updat­ed, the tech­nol­o­gy behind the orig­i­nal DotA is some­what archa­ic. This, along with the rag­ing dif­fi­cul­ty and rag­ing play­ers, has lead to a split into sev­er­al dif­fer­ent games. The orig­i­nal DotA still has play­ers, but they’re either real­ly real­ly good, or real­ly real­ly hip­ster. It’s hard to go back­wards and intrude upon a scene that was nev­er real­ly “yours” in the first place, so most new­com­ers opt to go with one of the new­er games.
League of Leg­ends, a new free-to-play game that is sim­i­lar to DotA, was mas­ter­mind­ed the cre­ator of DotA-All­stars, Pen­drag­on. It is much more acces­si­ble to new­com­ers, with a match­mak­ing and “lev­el” sys­tem, a very good tuto­r­i­al, and a num­ber of meta-game upgrades. It’s clear­ly the most played game of this style right now, but it’s also frowned upon by pro-lev­el play­ers. Deny­ing isn’t pos­si­ble, the meta game rewards peo­ple who fork over actu­al cash, and the rank­ing sys­tem makes it inter­est­ing to try to play with friends who are bet­ter than you. Also, this makes smurf­ing (excel­lent play­ers cre­at­ing new accounts to troll new­bies) a huge prob­lem. How­ev­er, this game is easy and fun most of the time, and still pos­es a chal­lenge at high lev­els. I see it as a good entry­way game into the DotA uni­verse.

^League of Leg­ends. The graph­ics, as well as the game­play, are more light­heart­ed.
The sec­ond stand­alone option costs $30, and it’s way hard­er than League of Leg­ends. Heroes of New­erth, devel­oped by S2 Games, is unique in that they cre­at­ed a client for Lin­ux. It actu­al­ly works, too. HoN is about no BS, hard­core com­pe­ti­tion. The major­i­ty of the game­play is port­ed straight from DotA, with a graph­i­cal update and a few new heroes. The announc­er is epic, and you have the option of get­ting oth­er voiceovers to play when­ev­er you pull off epic things (a woman, a rag­ing homo, and Duke Nukem him­self). How­ev­er, it has­n’t real­ly caught on as well as LoL did. I don’t know if it’s the game­play or if it’s the price tag, but there are far few­er HoN play­ers than LoL­ers. I did notice one strange and inter­est­ing thing, though. This game real­ly caught on in Brazil. Out of every three games I play, at least one per­son in one game has a Brazil­ian flag icon and speaks Por­tugese. This game’s pret­ty good, but I feel like the com­mu­ni­ty’s a tad lack­ing.

^Heroes of New­erth. It’s a dis­tinct upgrade in graph­ics, as well as audio.
A less­er know option that has a very famil­iar feel to it is known as Storm of the Impe­r­i­al Sanc­tum, or SotIS. SotIS is a cus­tom game in Star­craft II, and has a famil­iar feel in a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment. In a sim­i­lar fash­ion to DotA, many of the heroes in SotIS are playable char­ac­ters in Star­craft’s cam­paign. To me, this game is  the most true to the orig­i­nal, in that it is a mod and not a com­mer­cial ven­ture. The fol­low­ing is fair­ly small at the moment, but it will prob­a­bly gain pop­u­lar­i­ty as Star­craft II does. This is my cur­rent main game, because there are a lot of will­ing teach­ers, and few­er ridicu­lous trolls.

^ Yes, that is Kore­an. Even Kore­ans play SotIS.
Which one of these is the true suc­ces­sor to DotA? It could be none of them. A game titled Dota 2 (with a low­er­case A, since “Dota is now a word”) is sched­uled to be released some­time this year on… Steam? Yup. Dota 2 is being pro­duced by Valve, with the leg­endary DotA devel­op­er Ice­Frog at the helm of devel­op­ment. Ice­Frog has stat­ed that he intends to keep the game true to its roots, and build this as the true suc­ces­sor. Some folks at Bliz­zard, as well as the folks at Riot Games (the peo­ple behind League of Leg­ends) don’t think that Valve should trade­mark the DotA name, view­ing it as a “com­mu­ni­ty asset”. How­ev­er, I believe that whether or not Dota 2 becomes the real “New Dota” depends on how the com­mu­ni­ty treats it, and the qual­i­ty of the actu­al game­play. I, for one, plan on get­ting it as soon as it’s out. I don’t want to be late if this turns out to be the new heir to the throne.

^A trail­er poster for Dota 2. That’s Lina. If you play with me you can for­get about ever using her.
What do you guys think about this? Are any of these games the true-est suc­ces­sor? Should Valve have the right to copy­right Dota? Drop me some com­ments below!


  1. zero_19 - March 17, 2011 9:44 am

    Should Valve be able to copy­right a word? No. If any one has the “rights” to it it would be Bliz­zard since it was first cre­at­ed on their game…
    As for dota2 being the true successor…couldn’t tell you, don’t play the lol­er­hon­er­do­ta games.

  2. Ehaw - March 17, 2011 2:51 pm

    LoL caught on more than HoN main­ly because of the price tag. But it also has to do with the com­mu­ni­ty. The fact that you can pick up and play LoL when­ev­er you want makes peo­ple want to play it.
    I used to play it, but the peo­ple I play with always rage when I fuck up. It seems like there’s no room for fun. Games like this are fun for the same peo­ple who like WoW Are­na and oth­er games that you can be “pro” at. But for me the fun goes down the drain when I’m being raged at because I died. That’s why I like games like CS:S. I can have fun, and if I die I die and no one cares.
    DotA, LoL and HoN are very skill based games. Maybe that’s why I don’t play them as often. I remem­ber my first LoL game. I played Anivia. My friends told me what I could do to do more dam­age (Com­bin­ing spells). We got roflstomped.
    Which brings me to my next point to the rea­son I don’t like these games. LoL/HoN/DotA are games that you have to be there for. You can’t go AFK, alt-tab, or hell even go to the bath­room mid-game unless you want to die/lose gold/get behind in lev­el­ing.
    After lis­ten­ing to both HoN play­ers at my friend’s work (A gam­ing cen­ter) and my oth­er friends play LoL. I can tell you it’s the same sto­ry. If you did­n’t know what games they were play­ing you’d actu­al­ly think they were all play­ing the same game.
    One last gripe (Main­ly about the play­ers) is the whole “KSing” stuff. If the ene­my is dead, he’s DEAD. Who cares who killed him. It does­n’t mat­ter who has the high­est kills. If you won, you won. Stop bitch­ing about KSing. Yes you get gold from kills, but the per­son will use that gold to help out the team. It’s a TEAM based game.

  3. CharcoalCoyote - March 17, 2011 3:44 pm

    Ehaw, your last para­graph may be com­prised of the truest words ever spo­ken.

  4. T8 - March 17, 2011 4:47 pm

    Great arti­cle CC. I per­son­al­ly could nev­er get into games like this, but i know the aspectgamers com­mu­ni­ty will read the shit out of this.
    maybe jour­nal­ism is more for you than law?

  5. CharcoalCoyote - March 17, 2011 5:59 pm

    Real lawyers don’t shout objec­tion at the top of their lungs every three min­utes, so I’m out of that. And jour­nal­ism can get a lit­tle biased at times. But we’ll see. Also, thanks, T8.


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