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Dota after The International

By Samuel 'DarthBotto' Horton
Aug 29, 2012 23:23


ImagePresented is a column by long-time staff member Samuel Horton, also known as "DarthBotto", who examines the future of Dota, in both the regard of the original mod and the stand-alone sequel.

I have been playing Dota for years now- not from the Eul or Guinsoo days, but the days when it was called "DotA: Allstars" and IceFrog was bringing the map to prominence. For the duration of my playing time, I have watched as the map was transformed with meticulous precision and the very essence of the game changed with new heroes and items that would come to define Dota for what it truly is. For me, it was version 6.60, released in early 2009, that restructured the foundations of the game. It was this map that organized the shops by defining characteristics, new recipes were made and IceFrog himself set a benchmark for JASS coding with Cairne Bloodhoof, the Tauren Chieftan. Mind you, the Tauren Chieftan has not yet been implemented into Dota 2 and he is seldom brought into professional competition, as his damage output and easily-dodged mechanics are often cast in doubt. However, people still admire the hero for the fun factor, which is significant and by many precedents, the most important factor.

It was also during the year of 2009 that the future of Dota as the unrealized franchise was cast in doubt, in some cases. Several European teams, including SK Gamings, parted ways with the scene and by no stretch of the imagination, was there a compelling reason to return. In addition, several new games inspired by DotA: Allstars began to come to fruition. Demigod, the first, but failed attempt at encapsulating the essence of DotA, was released early on. In the spring and summer of that year, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth were announced. League of Legends was a new, proud product of Steve "Guinsoo" Feak, the young man who combined the best elements of the many DotA variants into DotA: Allstars, before departing. Heroes of Newerth, on the other hand, was prided as the stand-alone version of DotA, with approximately half the heroes cloned.

To further cast doubt on the future of DotA, the creator and administrator of DotA-Allstars.com, Steve "Pendragon" Mescon, had a falling out with IceFrog, prompting the designer to take his map and service it at the present website, PlayDotA.com. This division was worrisome to many.

Since I first started playing DotA: Allstars, I began corresponding with IceFrog and since, we have discussed a variety of matters, from general game design, community approach or even a hearty, "Merry Christmas". Through this, we have joked, argued and shared ideas, which is important on many different fronts. I recall that while I was working for the United States Senate during the summer of 2009 and the news about Heroes of Newerth "stealing" the DotA heroes reached my ear, I became intrigued with the concept of IceFrog himself making his own stand-alone title. He certainly had considered this before, but the direction was not clear to me, which only added to my intrigue. Why I bring this up is because I feel having familiarity with your games' designers adds a dynamic that may help one appreciate their game as a work of art, rather than a toy, which is why impersonal companies like Activision and Electronic Arts fall short of expectations with titles like Guitar Hero.

Fast forward three months to October of 2009 and IceFrog has just announced that he is the lead designer of a team at Valve, which is "great news for DotA fans". His approach was traditionally unclear to the community, if the game would be a clone like Heroes of Newerth or an artistic deviation like League of Legends. Well, I started playing the game at the beginning of August of 2011 and started off by pummeling Valve employees while getting pummeled by Na'Vi and to answer my own curiosity, I would have to say it's a mixture of both. The game made a grand debut with fifty heroes and broke records for viewership. However, it was not even in beta and I would argue that as it was only a fraction of what we like Dota for, it was not really Dota at that time. I love the game and continue to amaze myself with how good I feel when my team and I will claw our way to the enemies' Ancient to beat a game, but that's just how it was.

When will Dota 2 become Dota? To be honest, I would have to say The International will be our last chance to experience the game as we have come to know and love it. Yes, even with only ninety heroes, the equivalent of the number we knew in 2008, this game is now the true Dota that we have known. After The International, some iconic heroes like Meepo will be implemented, along with the unsung heroes like Tauren Chieftan, which will give a resurgence in popularity that has not been experienced in years, which may actually alter the approach of players in general. I say this because Ancient Apparition became the most popular after Dota 2 became available for beta testing and if you consider the timing in which IceFrog was hired by Valve, he could very well be considered the first "Valve hero".

What I just mentioned, though, that's subjective. What isn't subjective, however, are the things that are said to be released in the upcoming DotA patch, 6.75. Not only is there evidence showing that a new hero, Frost Wyrm, will be implemented, but the map may be changing shape. According to a leak and post on IceFrog's blog, the Tarn of Roshan will be moved, in order to prevent the Scourge/Dire from having a natural advantage. The tentative change puts Roshan next to the ramp on the bottom lane, making him less accessible from those on the Dire side on the middle. Players will hypothetically be more exposed if they have to move past the bottom lane's ramp. While implementing Frost Wyrm into Dota 2 will likely not be Valve's first priority, the balance changes are sure to be adapted immediately, with an unspecified likelihood for the major adjustments to Roshan's positioning.

I would say that only these recent months have we seen Dota 2 become the game that we were promised. Not only is the hero roster becoming complete, but it has become more adopted into culture to an extent that those who play the original mod would come to expect. Millions now play the game and as of now, with the preliminary stage of The International having come to a close, we see a dominance that in lieu with the legendary Chinese familiarity. The extravagant show that Valve has put on for The International rivals the great care Riot puts in for their community and the Seattle-based developer has finally adopted Dota 2 into their website and posted the coverage hub to The International there, as well. By now, Dota has taken another step in the life cycle of successful games. It began as a mod, grew to become a game in its own right and has now become a franchise. Three years ago, not many would expect Valve to be the company that the Dota name would come to rest with, or that Blizzard would legally let go of the mod that has been its greatest source of sustenance for Warcraft III.
Image
Dota 2 may not reach the huge, individual success achieved by League of Legends. However, it will have succeeded in being the faithful sequel that fans have been looking for.

Image credit: Valve Corporation - 1, 2,


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