|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Dota 2 is a 2013 multiplayer online battle arena video game and the stand-alone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne mod. Developed by Valve Corporation, Dota 2 was released as a free-to-play title for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux in July 2013, concluding a Windows-only public beta testing phase that began in 2011. The game is available exclusively through Valve's content-delivery platform, Steam.
Dota 2 is played in discrete matches involving two five-player teams, each of which occupies a stronghold at a corner of the map. Each stronghold contains a building called the "Ancient", which the opposite team must destroy to win the match. 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, when the developer of the DotA mod, IceFrog, was hired by Valve as lead designer. Dota 2 was praised by video game critics, who lauded its rewarding gameplay, enhanced production quality and faithfulness to its predecessor. However, the game was criticized for its steep learning curve and inhospitable community. Dota 2 has become the most actively played game on Steam, with daily peaks of over 800,000 concurrent players.
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena game; its gameplay focuses on combat in a three-dimensional environment, presented from an oblique high-angle perspective. The player may command a single controllable character called a "Hero", which is chosen from a selection pool of 108. Each Hero begins the match at level one but may become more powerful by accumulating experience through combat, thereby leveling up. With every level gained—the maximum is twenty-five—the player may either select a new ability for their Hero to learn or enhance their general statistics. The Hero's methods of combat are influenced by their primary property – Strength, Agility, or Intelligence.
Dota 2 features a host of items, which the player obtains mostly by purchasing with gold. Items vary in function: some enhance the statistics of a Hero, while others grant additional abilities. The player automatically receives small increments of gold continuously, though they can obtain more by destroying enemies. Killing non-player characters grants gold only to the player who lands the final blow, whereas killing enemy Heroes grants gold to the player's nearby allies as well. Destroying Towers or killing Roshan gives gold to all players on the team. "Denying" is a feature of the game where players inhibit the enemy's ability to accumulate gold and experience by killing an allied unit or destroying an allied structure before the enemy can do so.
Each match of Dota 2 takes place on a functionally symmetrical map that features the strongholds of two warring factions, the Radiant and the Dire. 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 that runs perpendicular to the central lane. These factions are defended by up to five players each, and are pitted against one another to compete as the defenders for their respective Ancient. In each stronghold is a critical structure called the "Ancient", a fountain that provide health and lesser structures. These bases are connected by three paths, referred to as "lanes" – two run parallel with the edges of the map, while one runs directly between the two bases. The lanes are guarded by defensive Towers, as well as autonomous characters called "creeps", which periodically spawn in groups and traverse the lanes, attacking enemies they encounter. Featured across the map are hostile characters referred to as "neutrals", which are not aligned to either faction and are primarily located in the forests. Located in a tarn on the northeast side of the river is a "boss" called "Roshan", who typically requires multiple team members to kill and drops powerful items.
Dota 2 features a variety of seasonal events, which provide players with the option of playing the game with special game modes that alter the aesthetics and objectives. With the seasonal event 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. So far, there have been three seasonal events: the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrates the coming of spring.
The earliest version of Dota emerged in 2003, with the release of the custom Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos mod called Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which was created and updated by the pseudonymous designer "Eul". After Blizzard Entertainment released the expansion pack The Frozen Throne in 2003, clones of the DotA mod competed for popularity, and DotA: Allstars by Steve "Guinsoo" Feak being the most popular. With the assistance of his friend, Steve "Pendragon" Mescon, Feak created the official DotA community website dota-allstars.com and formed a holding company for it called DotA-Allstars, LLC. When Feak retired from developing DotA in 2005, a friend, under the pseudonym "IceFrog", took his place. The popularity of DotA increased significantly; it became one of the most popular mods in the world, and, by 2008, a prominent electronic sports title. In May 2009, IceFrog and Mescon had a falling out, prompting the latter to create a new official community at playdota.com.
According to Valve Corporation managing director Gabe Newell, the company's investment in Defense of the Ancients began when several veteran employees— including Team Fortress designer Robin Walker, programmer Adrian Finol and project manager Erik Johnson- became interested in the mod and attempted to play it competitively. They began to correspond with IceFrog about his long-term plans for the mod. The email conversations culminated in Erik Johnson offering IceFrog a tour of the company, after which he was hired to develop a sequel. The first public notification regarding the development of the game 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 was officially announced on October 13, 2010, when the website of Game Informer revealed a general synopsis of the game and its development. The resultant surge of traffic crashed Game Informer's servers.
With Valve's acquisition of the franchise, the company adopted the term "Dota", which deviated from the original mod's acronym for "Defense of the Ancients". Erik Johnson explained that this was for the reason that the term "Dota" refers to a concept, rather than an acronym. Shortly after a questions and answers session by IceFrog about the new game, Valve filed a trademark claim. At Gamescom 2011, Gabe Newell said that the trademark was a necessary measure for developing a sequel with the already identifiable brand name. Steve Feak and Steve Mescon expressed their concern that Valve did not have the right to trademark the Dota name, which they believed was a community asset. They filed an opposing trademark for "DOTA" on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC, then a subsidiary of their employer, Riot Games, on August 9, 2010. Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, expressed a similar concern, explaining his perspective that the DotA name was an asset of their game's community. Blizzard acquired DotA-Allstars, LLC from Riot Games and filed an opposition against Valve in November 2011, citing Blizzard's ownership of both the Warcraft III World Editor and DotA-Allstars, LLC as proper claims 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 non-commercial usage of the name could still be utilized.
Early on in development, the goal for Dota 2 was to translate the aesthetic aspects of DotA to the Source engine, while presenting expanded support for the game's framework. 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 Source engine allows for continued, scaled development to bypass engine 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 questions and answers post at the Dota 2 blog, IceFrog stated that the game would serve as the long-term continuation of the intellectual property of the original mod, building upon the gameplay without making many significant core changes that could potentially 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 to develop 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. Dota 2 utilizes Steam to provide social and community functionality for the game, while Steam users can save personal files and settings using the Steam Cloud. In the tradition of Valve's competitive-oriented games, Dota 2 also features multiple ways to spectate live matches. The game host has the option to fill open slots in matches with bots if enough human players are not available. In addition to Steam-based competitive matches, Valve introduced local area network (LAN) multiplayer connectivity to Dota 2 in September 2013. In November 2013, Valve introduced a coaching system, which allows experienced players to tutor newer players with special in-game tools.
Valve added support for tournaments in June 2012. Tournaments are available for spectating in-game via the purchase of tournament tickets in the "Dota Store", which provide an alternative to viewing live streams online. The tickets allow players to watch both live and completed matches; a portion of the ticket fees go to the tournament organizers. In addition, the game's software automatically recognizes groups of players that frequently play together as teams and catalogs them as such in matches.
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 player contributions to the community being a cornerstone feature. In June 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 Dota Store, where players could purchase various exclusively cosmetic virtual goods, such as 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 includes both custom creations developed by Valve and a selection of user-created products from the Steam Workshop that have been approved by Valve. The market model was fashioned after Team Fortress 2, which had reimbursed designers of cosmetic items with $3.5 million of income by the time it had become free-to-play in June 2011. In January 2014, Gabe Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor to Dota 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations in 2013.
The rising popularity of Dota 2 led Valve to produce apparel, accessories, posters, and a number of other products featuring the characters and other elements from the game. In addition, Valve secured licensing contracts with third-party producers; the first of these deals concerned a Dota 2 SteelSeries QcK+ mousepad, which was announced at Gamescom. On September 25, 2012, Weta Workshop, the studio that developed the custom "Aegis of the Immortal" trophy for the winners of The International 2012, announced a prop product line that would include statues, weapons, and armor based on Dota 2 characters. On February 10, 2013, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association announced a new toy line featuring Hero-themed action figures at the American International Toy Fair.
Valve documented the lives and stories of three professional Dota players—Benedict "Hyhy" Lim, Danil "Dendi" Ishutin, and Clinton "Fear" Loomis—leading up to Dota 2's public unveiling. The product of this, a then-unnamed documentary, explored what the game and the unprecedented scale of the tournament meant to them. In August 2012, GameTrailers announced that Valve was developing the documentary. Throughout June 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 in order to give input to early screenings of the documentary. When the invite was leaked to Kotaku, the vice-president of marketing at Valve, Doug Lombardi, confirmed that the documentary was in development and revealed its name as "Free to Play". The documentary was released on March 19, 2014 and was distributed through outlets including Steam, iTunes, and YouTube.
After being tested extensively by Valve, Dota 2 was first unveiled to the public at The International's first event at Gamescom 2011. To coincide with this event, Valve began sending out beta testing 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 plans, which IceFrog revealed via an online announcement, were to begin beta testing as soon 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 was officially released on July 9, 2013, with three million players already active. Two months following the game's release, Gabe Newell claimed that updates to Dota 2 generated up to 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.
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.
Valve released the Alpha version of level editor software for Dota 2 called the Workshop Tools. Said level editor allows for users to create custom maps and game modes for Dota 2. The Alpha version is currently utilized for testing new features for the Steam Workshop, including the ability to test and distribute new maps, as well as automatically receive development updates from other map creators. In addition to requiring an updated version of Dota 2 to launch, the Alpha version of the Workshop Tools is also noted by Valve for having high system requirements.
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%, 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 had 500,000 concurrent players.
The most frequently praised aspects of the game were its depth, delivery and overall balance. In Chris Thursten of PC Gamer's review, he described the gameplay as being "deep and rewarding". Martin Gaston of GameSpot complimented Valve for the delivery and artistic design of Dota 2, citing the execution of the user interface design, voice acting and characterization as exceeding those of the game's competitors. Phill Cameron of IGN praised Dota 2 for its freely-available game balance that is not affected by cosmetic items.
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 as 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 multiplayer online battle arena games.
Awards and accolades
Following its first public showing, Dota 2 won IGN's People's Choice Award. 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 won 2013 esport of the year awards from PC Gamer and onGamers. GameTrailers awarded the game the award for Best PC Game of 2013. 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 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. 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 that enough DotA players would take up Dota 2 and showcase the game's capabilities, Valve invited and sponsored sixteen of the most accomplished DotA teams to compete at The International. The grand prize was set at 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 had a prize pool of over $2.8 million, thus reclaiming its previous title as having the largest prize pool in electronic sports history from League of Legends (at the Season 2 World Championship). The 2013 championship was won by the Swedish team Alliance, whose prize exceeded $1.4 million USD. The fourth iteration of The International took place at KeyArena in Seattle between July 18 and July 21, 2014, with the Chinese team NewBee becoming the new champions. Due to the funds raised by interactive compendium sales, the overall prize pool was elevated to over $10.9 million, the largest in the history of electronic sports.
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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