|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Dota 2 is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux in July 2013, following a Windows-only public beta testing phase that began in 2011, and is the stand-alone sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. Dota 2 is one of the most actively played games on Steam, with maximum peaks of over a million concurrent players.
Dota 2 is played in matches between two five-player teams, each of which occupies a stronghold in a corner of the playing field. A team wins by destroying the other side's "Ancient" building, located within the opposing stronghold. Each player controls one of 111 playable "Hero" characters that feature unique powers and styles of play. During a match, the player collects gold, items, and experience points for their Hero, while combating Heroes of the opposite team.
Development of Dota 2 began in 2009 when IceFrog, lead designer of the original DotA mod, was hired by Valve. Dota 2 was praised by critics for its gameplay, production quality, and faithfulness to its predecessor, despite being criticized for its steep learning curve. Dota 2 utilized the original Source engine until it was ported to Source 2 in September 2015, making it the first game to utilize the new engine.
Dota 2 has a widespread professional scene, with teams from across the world competing for prize money and glory in various competitive leagues and tournaments. The largest of the professional tournaments is known as The International, which is hosted by Valve and takes place annually at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington. The 2015 edition of The International set a record for having the largest prize pool in eSports history, totaling over $18 million. Starting in 2015, Valve also began sponsoring smaller, but seasonally held tournaments known as the Majors, the first of which was held in Frankfurt, Germany.
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game set in a three-dimensional (3D) graphical environment, presented from an oblique high-angle perspective. Two five-player teams, referred to as the Dire and Radiant, compete in matches on an asymmetrical playing field. Each player commands one of 111 "Hero" characters, which feature unique abilities and styles of play. At the start of a match, all Heroes have an experience level of one: they level up, and become more powerful, by accumulating experience points through combat. Whenever a Hero gains a level, the player may unlock a new ability for them, or enhance their statistics. Each Hero's method of combat is influenced by its primary "attribute": Strength, Agility or Intelligence.
The Dire and Radiant occupy strongholds in opposite corners of the playing field, divided by a river. Within each base is a critical structure called the "Ancient", along with a fountain that regenerates Heroes' health and magic points. A match ends when one side breaches the other's stronghold and destroys the Ancient therein. The two strongholds are connected by three paths, referred to as "lanes", which are guarded by defensive towers and artificially intelligent creatures called "creeps". These creatures periodically spawn in groups and travel along the lanes to attack enemy Heroes, creeps and buildings. Also present are "neutral creeps" hostile to both Radiant and Dire, the most powerful of which is "Roshan", a boss that may be killed by either side to obtain a powerful reward.
During a match, the player receives a small, continuous stream of gold, which are spent on items that provide powers and stat enhancements to their Hero. Gold is obtained by destroying enemy structures, creeps, and Heroes as well. Only the Hero that lands the killing blow on a creep obtains gold from it, an act called "last hitting", but all nearby allies receive gold when an enemy Hero dies. Players may "deny" their opponents gold and experience by destroying allied units and structures.
Dota 2 features seasonal events that present players with themed game modes, which do not follow the game's standard rules, including the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrated the coming of spring. For Halloween 2015, a Team Fortress 2-esque "capture point" game mode was released, titled "Colosseum". Dota 2 also supports community-created custom game modes, with the more popular ones having dedicated server hosting by Valve.
The Dota series began in 2003 with Defense of the Ancients (DotA)—a mod for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos—created by the pseudonymous designer "Eul". An expansion pack for Warcraft III, entitled The Frozen Throne, was released later that year; and a series of DotA clone mods for the new game competed for popularity. DotA: Allstars by Steve Feak was the most successful, and Feak, with his friend Steve Mescon, created the official DotA community website dota-allstars.com and the holding company DotA-Allstars, LLC. When Feak retired from DotA: Allstars in 2005, a friend, under the pseudonym "IceFrog", became its lead designer. The popularity of DotA increased significantly: it became one of the most popular mods in the world, and, by 2008, a prominent eSports title. IceFrog and Mescon had a falling out in May 2009, which prompted the former to establish a new community website at playdota.com.
Valve's interest in the Defense of the Ancients property began when several veteran employees, including Team Fortress designer Robin Walker, became fans of the mod and attempted to play it competitively. The company corresponded with IceFrog by email about his long-term plans for the project, which culminated with his being hired to direct a sequel. IceFrog first announced his new position through his blog in October 2009, and Dota 2 was unveiled by Game Informer on October 13, 2010. The resultant surge of traffic crashed Game Informer's servers.
Valve adopted the word "Dota", derived from the original mod's acronym, as the name for its newly acquired franchise. Producer Erik Johnson argued that this word refers to a concept and is not an acronym. Shortly after the announcement of Dota 2, Valve filed a trademark claim to the Dota name. At Gamescom 2011, company head Gabe Newell explained that the trademark was needed to develop a sequel with the already-identifiable brand. Holding the Dota name to be a community asset, Feak and Mescon filed an opposing trademark for "DOTA" on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC (then a subsidiary of Riot Games) in August 2010. Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, similarly stated that the DotA name belonged to the mod'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. The dispute was settled on May 11, 2012: Valve retained commercial franchising rights to the "Dota" brand, but non-commercial use of the name by third-parties was allowed.
An early goal of the Dota 2 team was the adaptation of DotA's aesthetic style for the Source engine. The Radiant and Dire factions replaced the Sentinel and Scourge, respectively, from the mod. The appearances of each side's Heroes were adjusted to be more individualized, with less traits specific to either faction. Character names, abilities, items and map design from DotA were largely retained. A matchmaking feature was added to pit players of equal skill against one another, alongside unranked "practice" matches playable alone or with other human players or AI bots. In the first questions-and-answers session regarding Dota 2, IceFrog explained that the game would build upon the mod without making significant changes to its core. Valve contracted major contributors from the DotA community—including Eul and artist Kendrick Lim—to assist with the sequel. The composer of Warcraft III, Jason Hayes, was hired to collaborate with Tim Larkin in the creation of Dota 2's soundtrack. According to IceFrog, contributions from sources beyond Valve would be sought regularly for Dota 2, so as to continue DotA's tradition of community-sourced development.
The Source engine was updated with new features to accommodate Dota 2, such as high-end cloth modeling and improved global lighting. The game features Steam integration, which provides its social component and Cloud storage for personal files and settings. In November 2013, Valve introduced a coaching system, which allows experienced players to tutor newer players with special in-game tools. As in previous Valve titles, players may spectate live matches of Dota 2, and local area network (LAN) multiplayer support (added in September 2013) allows for local competitions. Support for tournaments was added in June 2012. These events may be spectated via the purchase of tickets from the "Dota Store", which give players access to both live and completed matches. Ticket fees are apportioned in part to tournament organizers. Groups of players that frequently play together are recognized as teams automatically, and the game matches them accordingly.
As part of a plan to develop Dota 2 into a social network, Newell announced in April 2012 that the game would be free-to-play, and that community contributions would be a cornerstone feature. That June, the Dota 2 team confirmed that the full roster of Heroes and items would remain available without charge. Instead, income is generated through the Dota Store, which offers for purchase exclusively cosmetic virtual goods, such as in-game clothing and music. Until the game's release, players were able to purchase an early access bundle, which included a digital copy of Dota 2 and several cosmetic items. Cosmetics created by Valve and the community (through the Steam Workshop) are both available. This model was fashioned after that of Team Fortress 2, which had earned the designers of cosmetic items $3.5 million by June 2011. In January 2014, Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor to Dota 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations the previous year.
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. In August 2012, GameTrailers announced that Valve was developing this material into a documentary film. Throughout June 2013, Valve conducted private screenings of the film with small groups outside the company. When an invitation was leaked by Kotaku, Valve's vice president of marketing, 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, 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, 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 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 publisher Nexon to distribute and market the game in South Korea and Japan. In November 2015, Nexon announced they would no longer be operating servers for Dota 2, allowing Valve to take over direct distribution and marketing of the game in South Korea and Japan.
Transition to Source 2
On June 12, 2015, Valve announced that the entirety of Dota 2 would be ported over to the Source 2 engine, in an opt-in beta update titled Dota 2 Reborn. The update included a new user interface framework design, ability for custom gamemodes, and the full replacement of the original Source game engine with Source 2, making Dota 2 the first game to utilize the engine. The beta was released to the public on June 17, 2015. On September 9, 2015, Reborn was officially implemented, fully replacing the original game client. Largely attributed to technical difficulties players experienced with the new engine, the global player base experienced a sharp drop of approximately sixteen percent the month following the release of Reborn. After various updates and patches, over a million concurrent players were playing in January 2016, with that being the largest amount since March 2015.
To ensure that enough DotA players would take up Dota 2 and showcase the game's capabilities, Valve sponsored sixteen accomplished DotA teams to compete at The International, a Dota 2 specific tournament, for a one million dollar prize in 2011. The International became an annual championship tournament, with the venue changing to Seattle, Washington, United States in 2012. In its third year, The International enhanced its prize pool through interactive compendium sales to over $2.8 million, reclaiming its previous title as having the largest prize pool in eSports history from the League of Legends Season 2 World Championship. Since then, each annual tournament of The International has broken the previous one's prize pool record, with the fourth iteration of the tournament raising over $10.9 million, exceeding the prizes pools of the Super Bowl, the Masters Tournament and Tour de France. At The International 2015, the prize pool exceeded $18.4 million, earning the champion team, Evil Geniuses, over $6 million.
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 Korean 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. Modeled after the interactive compendium for The International, Valve introduced a compendium third-party tournament organizers could sell, beginning with the The ASUS ROG DreamLeague in February 2014. In 2015, the Dota 2 Asia Championship was held in Shanghai, China with a then-record third-party prize pool of over $3 million, raised through compendium sales.
Also starting in 2015, Valve began sponsoring smaller, but seasonally held tournaments with a fixed prize pool, known as the Majors. The format for the Majors are based on the series of tournaments by the same name that Valve also sponsors for their first-person shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first of which, hosted and produced by the Electronic Sports League, was The Frankfurt Major held from November 13-21, 2015, at the Festhalle Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany. The next Major is set to be held from March 2-6, 2016, at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The third Major set to be held in Manila in June 2016.
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 held 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. In February 2015, Dota 2 became the first game in Steam's history to have over one million concurrent players.
Dota 2 was well received by critics. On aggregate review website Metacritic, the game maintains a weighted score of 90 out of 100, based on 31 reviews. 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. In February 2015, Dota 2 became the first game on Steam to have over one million 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 hostile community, as 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 received the majority of the votes distributed between the nine nominees. In 2014, Dota 2 was nominated for best multiplayer game at the 10th British Academy Video Games Awards, but lost to Grand Theft Auto V. In 2015, Dota 2 was nominated for eSports Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2015, and won the award for best MOBA at the 2015 Global Game Awards.
The popularity of Dota 2 led Valve to produce apparel, accessories, posters, and a number of other products featuring the Heroes 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 2011. 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.
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Nowadays games like Dota and League Of Legends are described as MOBAs, which stands for multiplayer online battle arena – a laughably unhelpful term which is strangely fitting given how infamously difficult the games are to get into. And how notoriously unpleasant and elitist their online community tends to be.
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