|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game and the stand-alone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) mod. Developed by Valve Corporation, the game was officially released on July 9, 2013 as a free-to-play title for Microsoft Windows, concluding a beta testing phase that began in 2011. OS X and Linux versions of Dota 2 were released on July 18, 2013. In most regions, Dota 2 is exclusively available through Valve's content delivery platform, Steam.
Each match of Dota 2 is independent and involves two teams, both containing five players and each occupying a stronghold at either end of the map. Located in each stronghold is a building called the "Ancient"; to win, a team must destroy the enemy's Ancient. Each player controls a "Hero" character and focuses on leveling up, collecting gold, acquiring items and fighting against the other team to achieve victory.
Development of Dota 2 began in 2009, with the hiring of DotA developer "IceFrog" to serve as the sequel's lead designer. Dota 2 was praised by video game critics, who lauded it for remaining faithful to its predecessor while also increasing the level of production quality, as well as for its engaging and rewarding gameplay experience. However, Dota 2 was criticized as having a steep learning curve and inhospitable community. The game has become the most played on Steam, with daily peaks of over 700,000 concurrent players.
A match of Dota 2 prominently features the strongholds of two opposing factions, the Radiant and the Dire, containing critical structures called "Ancients", which are defended by a number of lesser buildings. The bases of the two factions are connected by three main paths, referred to as "lanes", which are guarded by defensive towers, as well as groups of periodically spawning autonomous units called "creeps" that traverse each lane attacking any enemy units or structures in range. Towers and creeps serve to divide the map between the two teams, and are often the focal point of skirmishes. The Dota 2 map is functionally symmetrical, despite having a number of critical differences conferring a variety of advantages and disadvantages to each side. The Radiant is based at the southwest corner of the map, while the Dire is based at the northeast corner; the two sides are divided by a river which runs perpendicular to the central lane. The two teams, typically composed of five players each, are pitted against one another to compete as the defenders for their respective Ancient. Featured across the map are units referred to as "neutrals", which are not aligned to either faction and are primarily located in the forests; they constitute a fixed but recurring resource, though their strategic value may vary depending on the teams' and players' choices. Located on the southeast side of the river is a "boss" called "Roshan" who typically takes multiple team members to kill. Following his death, Roshan drops items that can significantly alter the course of a game.
There are nine standard game modes and 107 "Heroes" in Dota 2. Heroes are strategically powerful player-controlled units with unique special abilities; though many heroes fill similar roles as others, each confers different benefits and limitations to a team. These Heroes start off very weak early in the game, but level up their abilities and statistics as they accumulate experience, up to a maximum level of twenty-five. The Heroes' methods of combat are heavily influenced by their primary property, which can be Strength, Agility, or Intelligence. Most game modes provide teams with some preparation time before the game begins so that they can balance their hero selections, as the composition of the team can significantly affect their performance throughout the match. Because Dota 2 is highly team-oriented, the players must coordinate and plan with each other in order to achieve victory.
Players are given six inventory slots, which are filled by purchasing items using gold, the primary currency of the game. Items vary drastically in function: some merely enhance the statistics of a Hero, while others grant them additional active or passive abilities. Their price varies depending on their relative power. Though gold is granted steadily at a slow rate, the more expensive items are typically only purchased by heroes who can accumulate gold at a much higher rate, usually by efficiently killing enemy creeps, heroes, or structures. Killing non-player characters grants gold solely to the player who landed the final blow, whereas killing Heroes grants gold to the killer and any nearby allies, and destroying towers or Roshan gives gold to all players on the team. Along with the gold bounty, killing units and structures provides experience, allowing players to level up their heroes as they complete objectives. "Denying" is a feature of the game which allows players to inhibit the enemy's ability to accumulate gold and experience by killing an allied unit or destroying an allied structure before an enemy can do so.
During periods of the year, seasonal events take place in Dota 2, which have an effect upon the overall game experience, with discretion of the player. These events not only change the general aesthetics of the game to suit the accompanying theme, but special game modes are also made available. With these game modes, the central focus of the game shifts away from the standard battle composition, in order to focus on new objectives central to the seasonal events. Thus far, there have been three seasonal events to take place, including the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrates the coming of spring. Implementation of these seasonal events are not set at an annual basis, however, as Valve did not initially implement the Diretide event in time for Halloween in 2013, as they had made no previous plans to make it an annual event.
The earliest iteration of Dota as a concept emerged in 2003, with the release of the custom Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos map Defense of the Ancients, which was created with the Warcraft III World Editor. This map, abbreviated as "DotA", was created by an anonymous user called "Eul", who largely based its mechanics off a custom map developed for StarCraft called Aeon of Strife. When the developer of Warcraft III, Blizzard Entertainment, released the expansion set The Frozen Throne later in 2003, Eul ceased developing further iterations of DotA, prompting other map makers to develop different inspired variants inspired by the original map, which included new heroes, items and other miscellaneous features. The variant that became the dominant one was DotA: Allstars, developed by Steve "Guinsoo" Feak, which incorporated features from other variants. With the assistance of a fellow clan member, Steve "Pendragon" Mescon, a central DotA resource and community hub was created at the website dota-allstars.com. Feak's role as lead designer and developer was handed over to the clan member "IceFrog" in 2005.
The popularity of Defense of the Ancients increased dramatically, as the map became a prominent part of the electronic sports scene. In a June 2008 article of video game industry website Gamasutra, editor Michael Walbridge cited DotA as the most popular mod in the world, as well as one of the most popular competitive titles, with its strongest presence in Asia, Europe and North America. In May 2009, as the game's emerging genre became more promising, IceFrog took DotA and separated from Mescon; while IceFrog formed a new official community at playdota.com, Feak and Mescon worked for Riot Games and promoted League of Legends, a stand-alone game inspired by DotA.
According to Valve's founder and managing director, Gabe Newell, the company's investment in Defense of the Ancients was sparked from the collective interest of several veteran employees, including Team Fortress designer Robin Walker, programmer Adrian Finol and project manager Erik Johnson, all of whom had attempted to play at a competitive level. As their interest in the game intensified, they began corresponding with IceFrog, inquiring as to what long-term plans he had for the mod. The emails eventually culminated with Erik Johnson offering IceFrog a tour of the company's facilities, after which he was hired to develop a sequel. The first public notification regarding the development of Dota 2 was a post on IceFrog's blog on October 5, 2009, in which he disclosed that he would be leading a team at Valve. No further word was given until Dota 2's official announcement on October 13, 2010, when the website of Game Informer revealed specific details about the game and its development; Game Informer's servers were crashed by the surge of traffic to the page. Erik Johnson addressed the confusion over the written form of the brand name, citing it as "Dota", rather than "DotA", due to its increasing context as a concept, rather than an acronym for "Defense of the Ancients".
Shortly after a questions and answers session by IceFrog on the DotA official website in which he elaborated upon his new recruitment, Valve filed a trademark claim. Steve Feak and Steve Mescon expressed their concern that Valve did not have the right to a trademark for the DotA name, due to their views that it was a community asset. On August 9, 2010, Mescon filed an opposing trademark for "DOTA" on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC—then a subsidiary of Riot Games—in order to "protect the work that dozens of authors have done to create the game". Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, expressed a similar concern, explaining that the DotA name was an asset of their game's community. Blizzard acquired DotA-Allstars, LLC from Riot Games in 2011, in order to extend their claim being the creators of the World Editor to also having the rights to the company that made a claim to the mod previously. During Dota 2's unveiling at Gamescom 2011, Gabe Newell explained Valve's perspective on acquiring the trademark: he said that IceFrog desired to develop a direct sequel to DotA, and that players would likely recognize it as such. Blizzard filed an opposition against Valve in November 2011, citing their ownership of both the Warcraft III World Editor and DotA-Allstars, LLC as a proper claim to the franchise. On May 11, 2012, Blizzard and Valve announced that the dispute had been settled, with Valve retaining the commercial franchising rights to the term "Dota", while Blizzard would change the name of their StarCraft II mod, which was adapted into a stand-alone game called "Heroes of the Storm" on October 17, 2013.
The preliminary design focus of Dota 2 was to transfer the aspects of its predecessor developed for Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne to the Source engine, while also expanding support for the core gameplay. Dota 2 features the factions of the Radiant and the Dire in the stead of the Sentinel and the Scourge respectively, with the characters' respective alignment preserved, while also re-establishing their individual character traits in a stand-alone form. Character names, abilities, items, map design and other fine details remain predominantly unchanged, but the integration of these features to the Source engine allows for continued, scaled development to bypass limitations of the Warcraft III World Editor. The Dota profile matchmaking feature scales a player's automated placement with their estimated skill level, which supports the competitive experience. Unranked practice matches can also be played with other human players, AI bots, or alone. In the debut Q&A, IceFrog stated that Dota 2 will serve as the long-term continuation of the mod, building upon the original gameplay without making too many significant core changes that may alter the overall experience. According to Valve, the company contracted major contributors to DotA's popularity, in order to assist in developing Dota 2, including the mod's original creator known as "Eul", as well as loading screen artist Kendrick Lim of Imaginary Friends Studios. In addition, the composer of Warcraft III, Jason Hayes, was contracted by Valve to collaborate with Tim Larkin for developing Dota 2's musical score. IceFrog stated that in order to further emphasize Dota 2's premise as a continuation of DotA, contributions would remain consistent from sources outside the main development team.
To accommodate Dota 2, Valve updated the Source engine to include new features, such as high-end cloth modeling and improved global lighting. Valve also improved Steamworks, which includes a wider expansion of utilities, such as player guides and a coaching system. Dota 2 utilizes Valve's Steam software to provide social and community functionality for the game, while Steam users can save personal files and settings on their online accounts using the Steam Cloud. Dota 2 also features multiple options of live spectating in the tradition of competitive Valve titles. The game host has the option to fill open slots with AI bots. On November 14, 2013, Valve introduced the coaching system to allow experienced players to tutor newer players with special in-game tools. In addition to the online platform established by Steam, Valve introduced local area network (LAN) multiplayer connectivity to Dota 2 on September 23, 2013.
Valve implemented a tournament support feature in June 2012. Tournaments may be available for spectating in-game via the purchase of tournament tickets in the Dota Store, which provides an alternative to viewing live streams online. The tickets allow players to spectate competitive matches in-game and to watch both live and recorded matches; a portion of every ticket purchased goes to the tournament organizers, offering an alternative to viewing competitive games on live streams. In addition, teams may be formally identified by the game's software, which automatically recognizes games with players as being team matches and catalogs them as such.
The rising popularity of Dota 2 led Valve to produce apparel, accessories, prints, and a number of other products exhibiting stylized elements of characters and other elements from the game. In addition, Valve has secured various licensing contracts with third-party producers, the first of which, a Dota 2 edition of the SteelSeries QcK+, was unveiled at The International 2011. On September 25, 2012, Weta Workshop, which developed the Aegis of the Immortal trophy for the champions of The International 2012, announced a prop product line that would include statues, weapons and armor based on Dota 2 thematic artwork. On February 10, 2013, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association announced a new toy line featuring hero-themed actions figures at the American International Toy Fair.
Leading up to the public unveiling of Dota 2 at The International 2011, Valve documented the lives and stories of three professional Dota players, Benedict "Hyhy" Lim, Danil "Dendi" Ishutin and Clinton "Fear" Loomis, and what the game and unprecedented scale of the tournament meant to them. In August of 2012, GameTrailers announced that Valve was developing the then-unnamed documentary. Throughout June of 2013, Valve conducted what they described as a private "beta testing" phase, in which they invited a small number of individuals to visit the company headquarters located in Bellevue, Washington, in order to offer early screenings of the documentary for input. When the invite was leaked to Kotaku, the vice-president of marketing at Valve, Doug Lombardi, confirmed the documentary's development and revealed its name to be "Free to Play". The documentary was released on March 19, 2014 and was distributed through outlets including Steam, iTunes and YouTube.
After extensive internal testing, Dota 2 was first made visible to the public at Gamescom 2011, with the first edition of The International. To coincide with this event, Valve opened the sign-up for beta invitations; the first few invites were sent out shortly after Gamescom. During the event, Gabe Newell speculated that Dota 2 would likely ship in 2012, despite original plans for a full release in late 2011. On September 23, 2011, Valve scrapped its previous development and release plans, which would have kept the game in its closed beta phase for over a year. The new plan described by IceFrog in an announcement post looked to release an open beta as early as possible and to implement the remaining Heroes afterward. Simultaneously, Valve announced that the non-disclosure agreement for the beta was being lifted, allowing testers to discuss the game and their experiences publicly. After nearly two years of beta testing, Dota 2 transitioned into launch mode on June 21, 2013, and was officially released on July 9, 2013, with the number of unique monthly players was recorded at beyond three million. Two months following the game's release, Gabe Newell claimed that updates to Dota 2 generated approximately three percent global internet traffic. On December 16, 2013, the final restrictions against unlimited global access to Dota 2 were lifted after the game's infrastructure and servers were substantially bolstered.
As part of a plan to create a social network based around Dota 2, Gabe Newell announced in April 2012 that the game would be free-to-play, with an accentuation on player contributions to the community. On June 1, 2012, the Dota development team at Valve formally confirmed that the game would be free-to-play with no added cost for having the full roster of Heroes and item inventory readily available. Income for Dota 2 would, however, be maintained through the exclusively cosmetic Dota Store, where players could purchase in-game items. Until the game's release, players were able to purchase an early access bundle, which included a digital copy of Dota 2, along with several in-game cosmetic items. The Dota Store comprises custom creations developed by Valve, as well as products from the Steam Workshop, which is a system in which users may submit creations for review by Valve and if successful, would be incorporated into Dota 2. The market model was fashioned after Team Fortress 2, which became successful in June 2011 and had reimbursed cosmetic designers with $3.5 million of income as of the free-to-play announcement. Gabe Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor to Dota 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations in 2013 and that there have been instances of contributors making half a million dollars through such practices.
In order to abide by the standards set by the economic legislation of specific countries, Valve opted to contract with nationally-based developers for publishing. On October 19, 2012, the leading Beijing-based video game developer and publisher, Perfect World, announced the acquisition of the exclusive rights to publish and distribute Dota 2 in China. On November 9, 2012, a similar deal was made with the Tokyo-based developer and publisher, Nexon Co. Ltd. to publish and distribute in Japan and South Korea.
PC Gamer reviewed Dota 2 in September 2012 stating the game was "an unbelievably deep and complex game that offers the purest sequel to the original DotA. Rewarding like few others, but tough", giving it a rating of 85/100. In May 2013, Dota 2 reached almost 330,000 concurrent players and holds the record for the game with the most concurrent users in Steam history, breaking its own record set in March the same year. Simultaneous with this benchmark, it was determined that the concurrent number of Dota 2 players in May 2013 outweighed the number of players for the rest of Steam's top ten most-played games combined.
Dota 2 was very well received by critics. On aggregate review website Metacritic, the game maintains a weighted score of 90 out of 100, based on 31 reviews. On GameRankings, the game has a score of 89.27%, based on reviews from fifteen critics. Adam Biessener, the editor who authored the reveal piece for Dota 2 for Game Informer magazine in 2010, praised Valve for maintaining the same mechanics and game balance that made Defense of the Ancients successful nearly a decade prior and Quintin Smith of Eurogamer described Dota 2 as the "supreme form of the MOBA which everyone else working in the genre is trying to capture like lightning in a bottle". In September 2013 Dota 2, was reported as having 500,000 concurrent players.
The depth, delivery and overall balance of Dota 2 were generally the most common positively attributed features of the game, serving in large as aspects to overlook its learning curve which was considered steep by reviewers. In GameSpot's 9/10 review, Martin Gaston described the game as "complicated, exhausting, and sometimes cruel, but... an incredibly satisfying and exciting multiplayer game." Phill Cameron of IGN praised Dota 2 as being "amazing", complimenting the rewarding experience, longevity, variety and free-to-play basis, but criticized the game's steep learning curve. Patrick Hancock of Destructoid described Dota 2 as a "hallmark of excellence", acknowledging that "there may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title". Matt Lees of VideoGamer.com called Dota 2 an "amazing and inherently overwhelming game" in the site's review. In PC Gamer's 90/100 review, Chris Thursten described the game as a "deep and rewarding competitive game."
While the majority of reviewers gave Dota 2 highly positive reviews, a common criticism was that the game maintains a steep learning curve that requires exceptional commitment to overcome. While providing a moderately positive review that praised Valve's product stability, Fredrik Åslund from the Swedish division of Gamereactor described his first match of Dota 2 as one of the most humiliating and inhospitable experiences of his gaming career, citing the learning curve and players' attitudes as unwelcoming. Benjamin Danneberg of GameStar alluded to the learning curve to rather be a "learning cliff", calling the newcomer's experience to be painful, with the tutorial feature new to the Dota franchise only being partially successful. In a review for the Metro newspaper, Dota 2 was criticized for not compensating for the flaws with the learning curve from DotA, as well as the predominantly negative online community, as it is often the case for other multiplayer online battle arena games.
Awards and accolades
Following the first public showing of Dota 2, the game won its first award with IGN's public opinion-based People's Choice Award, defeating other anticipated games, including Battlefield 3, Diablo III, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Guild Wars 2. In December 2012, PC Gamer listed Dota 2 as a nominee for the 2012 Game of the Year award, as well as the best electronic sports title of the year. The game received PC Gamer's E-Sport of the year award for 2013. Likewise, Dota 2 received the award for Esports Game of the Year for the inaugural edition of the industry awards by onGamers, the electronic sports division of CBS Interactive, for 2013. GameTrailers awarded the game the award for Best PC Game of 2013. Dota 2 was nominated for a number of Game of the Year awards by Destructoid, including the award for the best competitive game. While the staff selected StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Dota 2 won the vast majority of the votes distributed between the nine nominees. For IGN's Best of 2013 award series, Dota 2 won the awards for Best PC Strategy & Tactics Game, as well as Best PC Multiplayer Game. The game's awards for IGN's Best of 2013 won their People's Choice Award counterparts, as well. Similarly, Game Informer recognized Dota 2 for the categories of Best PC Exclusive, Best Competitive Multiplayer and Best Strategy of 2013. In the 2013 edition of Game Revolution's countdown of the top twenty-five PC video games of all time, Dota 2 was listed in the number four position. Dota 2 was nominated for best multiplayer game for the 2014 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Video Game Awards, but lost to Grand Theft Auto V.
To ensure the transition of DotA players to Dota 2, Valve invited and sponsored sixteen of the most accomplished teams to compete and showcase the game's capabilities with its public debut at The International, a global championship hosted at Gamescom 2011 in Cologne, Germany, with a grand prize of one million dollars. The International became an annual championship tournament, with the venue changing to Seattle, Washington, United States. In 2012, the tournament was hosted during PAX Prime, with Chinese team Invictus Gaming going on to defeat the defending champions, Natus Vincere. In its third year, The International reclaimed its previous title as the largest prize pool in electronic sports history, exceeding the two million dollar prize pool from the League of Legends Season 2 World Championship with a total prize pool of over $2.8 million USD, thanks to the sales of the interactive compendium. The 2013 championship was won by the Swedish team Alliance, whose prize exceeded $1.4 million USD.
Following the inaugural event of The International, several electronic sports tournaments began to transition from DotA to Dota 2, including the Electronic Sports World Cup. DreamHack would also support Dota 2 in 2011, following a year without support for the original, on account of the other multiplayer online battle arena titles Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. By the end of its first year in its beta phase, Dota 2 was one of the highest-paying eSport titles of 2011, second only to StarCraft II. Dota 2 began as an official title for the World Cyber Games annual event in 2012. The Electronic Sports League began a seasonal tournament for Dota 2 called the RaidCall EMS One in 2013, which was the largest independent tournament for Dota 2 by the beginning of 2013. Beginning in September 2013, the Association of China E-sports began a Dota 2 tournament called the WPC ACE Dota 2 League, which had the largest grand prize by a third-party in electronic sports history and the largest prize pool for Dota 2 beyond The International. On June 12, 2013, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nexon announced the investment of two billion South Korea won, (approximately 1.7 million USD), into amateur and professional leagues in South Korea for 2013, to coincide with the launch of their distribution agreement in the fall of that year. Erik Johnson commented in an interview that the implementation of the game's LAN feature was intended to promote smaller, independent competitions and local tournaments.
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