Dota (series)

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Developer(s)Valve Corporation
Publisher(s)Valve Corporation
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
First releaseDefense of the Ancients
Latest releaseDota Underlords
June 20, 2019

Dota is a series of video games developed and published by Valve Corporation. The series began in 2003 with the release of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), an independently-developed multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) mod for the video game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. The original mod features gameplay centered around two teams of up to five players who assume control of individual characters called "heroes", which must coordinate to destroy the enemy's central base structure called an "Ancient", to win the game. Ownership and development of DotA was passed on multiple times since its initial release, until Valve hired the mod's final developer and after an ongoing legal dispute with Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of Warcraft III, brokered a deal that allowed for Valve to inherit the intellectual property.

The first stand-alone installment in the series, Dota 2, was released by Valve in July 2013. A sequel to DotA, the game retains the same gameplay elements as its predecessor, while introducing new support and mechanics, as well as a setting separate from the Warcraft universe. Artifact, a digital collectible card game with mechanics inspired by Dota 2, was released in 2018. Dota Underlords, an auto battler based on the community-created Dota 2 mod Dota Auto Chess, was released in early access in 2019.

The original DotA mod is considered one of the most popular mods of all time, with tens of millions of players and a consistent presence at esports tournaments throughout the 2000s. DotA is considered a pivotal catalyst for the MOBA genre, inspiring developers to create stand-alone titles heavily inspired by it. Likewise, Dota 2 is acclaimed as one of the greatest video games of all time, with an active player base in the millions and an esports presence hallmarked by record-breaking prize pools that culminate in the annual championship known as The International. The spinoff games by Valve have been positively received, although Artifact is considered a commercial failure, with a large majority of its initial players lost within weeks.


Release timeline
2003Defense of the Ancients
2013Dota 2
2019Dota Underlords

The Dota series includes four games that are centered around competitive, online multiplayer gameplay. The original mod, Defense of the Ancients, is a community-created Warcraft III gamemode developed with the Warcraft III World Editor that first released in 2003.[1] The franchise name, "Dota", is derived from the original mod's acronym, (DotA), but later became used as a general concept.[2] Dota 2, its standalone installment, was released as a free-to-play sequel in July 2013.[3] The first spin-off, a digital collectible card game called Artifact, was released in November 2018.[4] The second spin-off, an auto battler called Dota Underlords, entered its early access phase in June 2019.[5]

The main installments in the series are multiplayer online battle arena games, where the player assumes control over a single character - a "hero" - from a large roster of characters and coordinates with their teammates to destroy their opponents' large structure called an Ancient, while defending their own.[6] Unlike the original mod, which is largely derived from the setting of the Warcraft series, the standalone games share their own continuity.[2] Likewise, the standalone games utilize the Source game engine and Steam distribution platform - both developed by Valve.[7]

Defense of the Ancients[edit]

The installment which established the Dota intellectual property was the Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos custom mod Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Independently developed and released by the pseudonymous designer Eul in 2003, it was inspired by "Aeon of Strife", a multiplayer StarCraft map.[8] Before every DotA match, up to ten players are organized into two teams called the Scourge and the Sentinel - inspired by the factions from Warcraft lore - with the former in the northeast corner and the latter in the southwest corner of a nearly-symmetrical map. Using one of several game modes, the players each choose a single powerful unit called a "hero", who they are granted control of throughout the match. Heroes maintain special tactical advantages, in the way of their statistics, attack and damage types, as well as abilities that can be learned and enhanced through leveling up from combat. Team coordination and roster composition are considered crucial for a successful match.[9] The currency of the game is gold, which may be used for purchasing items that may enhance a hero's statistics and provide special abilities. Gold is awarded to players for destroying enemies and in increments on a rolling basis, while also being deducted for the death of one's hero.[10] Heroes battle alongside weaker computer-controlled infantry units periodically dispatched in waves, who traverse three paths called "lanes", which connect the Scourge and Sentinel bases.[11][12] Each lane is lined with defensive towers, which are not only more powerful the closer they are to their respective bases, but invulnerable until their predecessors are destroyed. At the center of each base is a central structure called an "Ancient", which is either the World Tree for the Sentinel or the Frozen Throne for the Scourge. To win a match, the enemy's Ancient must be destroyed.[12]


IceFrog (born 1983 or 1984)[13] is the pseudonymous designer of the series.[14] His involvement with Defense of the Ancients originally began in 2005, when he inherited the reins of the dominant variant entitled DotA Allstars from "Neichus", who himself inherited it from Steve "Guinsoo" Feak.[15] IceFrog is also noted for his continued anonymity, having never publicly disclosed his identity.[16][17] In February 2009, IceFrog revealed on his blog that he was 25 years old at the time.[13] In 2010, an anonymous person who claimed to be a Valve employee wrote a blog post titled "The Truth About IceFrog", in which he claims that IceFrog had previously worked secretly on Heroes of Newerth for S2 Games before joining Valve, as well as stating his identity as Abdul Ismail.[18] A court document regarding the ownership of the Dota intellectual property from April 2017 confirmed Ismail as the identity of IceFrog, as well as his pre-Valve contributions in Heroes of Newerth.[19]


  1. ^ Orland, Kyle (May 17, 2017). "Does Valve really own Dota? A jury will decide". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Onyett, Charles (January 8, 2011). "Valve's Next Game". IGN. Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Sliwinski, Alexander (July 10, 2013). "Dota 2 launching now, officially". Joystiq. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  4. ^ Chalk, Andy. "Artifact, Valve's fantasy card game, will be out in November". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  5. ^ McWhertor, Michael (June 13, 2019). "Valve's Auto Chess competitor is Dota Underlords". Polygon. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  6. ^ McDonald, Tim. "A Beginner's Guide to Dota 2: Part One – The Basics". PC Invasion. Archived from the original on August 11, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  7. ^ "Valve List - Dota Series". Steam. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  8. ^ Minotti, Mike (September 1, 2014). "The history of MOBAs: From mod to sensation". VentureBeat. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Nair, Neha (October 30, 2007). "Why Defense of the Ancients? (Pg. 1)". GotFrag. Archived from the original on June 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  10. ^ Tok, Kevin (January 25, 2006). "Defense of the Ancients 101, Page 2". GotFrag. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  11. ^ Schreier, Jason (October 13, 2010). "Valve Revives Defense of the Ancients RTS in 2011". Wired. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Lodaya, Punit (February 9, 2006). "DotA: AllStars Part 1". Archived from the original on June 25, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  13. ^ a b " Q&A Session #2". DotA Forums. February 3, 2009. Archived from the original on December 29, 2011.
  14. ^ Biessener, Adam (October 13, 2010). "Valve's New Game Announced, Detailed: Dota 2". Game Informer.
  15. ^ Dean, Paul (August 16, 2011). "The Story of DOTA". Eurogamer.
  16. ^ Waldbridge, Michael (May 30, 2008). "The Game Anthropologist: Defense of the Ancients: An Underground Revolution". GameSetWatch. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009.
  17. ^ Taormina, Anthony. "'Defense of the Ancients: Allstars' Developer IceFrog Speaks on Dota 2". Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Gilbert, Ben (October 13, 2010). "Alleged Valve employee speaks out on DotA co-developer". Engadget. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Order Denying Motion For Partial Summary Judgement And Denying Motion For Rule 11 Sanctions - Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. & Valve Corp. vs Lilith Games & uCool, Inc" (PDF). April 16, 2017.