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!