Confessions of a DotA-holic

Confessions of a DotA-holic

Would you believe me if I told you there’s a game out there that I’ve been playing off and on for over a decade? Technically, I’m now playing DotA 2, developed by Valve; however, DotA 2 is merely an exact remake of the original DotA map for Warcraft 3–just with updated graphics, better balance, and an actual matchmaking system.

I discovered DotA in the slums of Battle.net, which is Blizzard’s online community that services the multiplayer aspect of their games.  I call them slums mostly due to the lack of moderation within the community.  The “battlenet kiddie” was actually the precursor to the “xbox kiddie” that we all know and love on Xbox live.  The putrid filth that was spouted was revolting: rampant racism, constant vulgar language, and so forth.

Despite the toxic community, some wonderfully creative things came out of battlenet via the map-making tools of Starcraft and Warcraft 3.  These custom-made maps birthed all new genres of games, such as tower defense, and, more relevant to this article, the birth of the MOBA– the multiplayer online battle arena.

Axe is clearly the coolest hero.

For those of you unaware, DotA stands for defense of the ancients.  DotA is a competitive multiplayer-only game that pits you in a 5v5 battle between two sides:  the Dire and the Radiant.  The objective is to destroy your enemies’ ancient in the middle of their base.  However, constantly spawning AI enemies, defensive towers, and five other enemy heroes stand in your way of your objective.  It requires skill, knowledge of the enemy heroes, and most of all, teamwork, to destroy the opposing force’s ancient.

While the objective sounds simple, the act of playing DotA is far from that.  Even though I’ve been playing this game for a little over a decade, I still feel like I’m constantly learning how to play.  The skill ceiling for this game is so high that DotA is legendarily known for being completely unfriendly to new people.  It doesn’t help that the act of dying to an enemy hero awards the victorious hero with more experience and money to become even more powerful.  The poor performance of a player can very well snowball into a enemy victory.

Gotta choose them all!

Unfortunately, due to this snowballing mechanic, the game can be very punishing for the entire team.  Therefore, a more toxic community has arisen, making it difficult to attract new players.  People throwing blame all over the place is commonplace when your team starts finding its back against the wall.  Luckily, Valve has curbed this behavior mightily due to their reporting and chat ban system.  Despite that, it’s good to go into DotA with a thick skin.

You begin every game of DotA either choosing or being assigned your hero, depending which game mode you are playing.  There are 102 heroes to choose from currently, and there are still 10 more to be added from the original DotA.  Each and every hero is unique in its own way.  Each hero has three abilities and one ultimate.  Heroes are designated as being a support, initiator, ganker, or carry. While I won’t go into detail about the meta of the game (which could go on forever), I can say that mixing and matching proper hero roles and abilities creates team synergy that can turn the tide of any game.

The part I like most about DotA, though, is the RPG aspects.  Every game is a new hero to build up.  You start each game with nothing, and you slowly build up that hero via powerful items and leveling up.  As you level up, you choose to allocate points to your abilities, trying to prioritize the best skills against your enemies.  It’s like playing a mini RPG in 45-60 minute increments.  I think that’s what draws me the most in DotA– the act of building up a hero to potentially great power, then getting to do it all over again.  When there are over 100+ heroes to choose from, all different in their own playstyles and abilities, it’s difficult for the game to get stale.  If you get bored of one hero, hey, there’s 101 other heroes to choose from!  The variety of heroes in the game is really what makes DotA so phenomenal.

I could post cool DotA 2 art all day!

DotA isn’t all leveling up and buying sweet equipment, however.  Most of all, DotA is a team game, which, knowing the internet, can at times be a strenuous mechanic.  A team that works together can be a beautiful thing to behold.  A well-timed ability combined with a teammate’s spell can turn a disastrous ganking attempt into a wondrous counter-gank that the enemy team never saw coming.  This can go the other way too– a team that doesn’t work together will quickly find the other team taking advantage of that.

I know the game sounds intimidating, but Valve has done a pretty good job creating a tutorial ‘quest’ that touches on most of the basics of DotA.  Additionally, there is a bot mode that allows you fight guileless computer opponents until you feel ready for real life contenders.  Despite this, it’s always a good idea to have an experienced mentor friend to help explain the more advanced mechanics that can be found in the game. Valve has promised to implement some kind of official mentor system eventually.

The great thing about DotA 2 is that it’s absolutely free!  Every hero is available to you at absolutely no charge.  In fact, the only things that cost any money in DotA 2 are all things that have absolutely no effect on the gameplay.  The things that you can buy with real money in DotA 2 are cosmetic items for your heroes, announcer packs, and custom UIs.  All you have to do is install steam on your computer and download DotA 2 and you can hop right in.  So, check it out, and if you do decide to give it a whirl, look me up on steam! I’m always willing to bring another DotA player into the fold.

A huge E-Sports competitive scene has arisen around DotA with huge prize pools!
The International 2013 is up to $2.6 million and rising!

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