How does one begin to describe the insane complexity that is Defense of the Ancients 2? Supposedly one would simply start at the beginning right? Well I guess that’s what I’ll do then.
DOTA 2 began as uniquely as the game itself became, it started as a mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. It was built in that games world editor and quickly became the (arguably) most popular and most supported game mod in existence. DOTA is largely credited as the inspiration and foundation for a new game genre called Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas. Since the inception of these of these games DOTA and League of Legends became infamous in the world of gaming, mostly due to the caustic and vitriolic community of players that frequently played them. There are several instigating factors that come as part and parcel with the MOBA genre that can be pointed to as root causes for all the hate that players can expect to have shoveled their way when diving into these games which is something I will discuss later.
The basic way that these games work is somewhat similar to the way a tower defense game might work, in that there are non playable units that are constantly trying to destroy a base, but really (besides the fact that there are actually towers in the game) that is where the similarities between the two genres end. It’s quite incredible really, that a game that started out as a mod could spawn one of the biggest revolutions in online gaming that our culture has ever experienced. It speaks volumes to the merits of independent developers and the immense dedication that they put towards the integrity of their work. When first starting to play DOTA 2, which is the stand alone sequel to the original Warcraft mod which was acquired by Valve, I was immediately taken aback and overwhelmed by a video game that I had absolutely no idea how to play. I have not experienced a complete lack of reference to the modes of play in a video game in several years and the game, at least when I decided to start playing, did almost nothing to teach you how it should be played. Basically you have two teams consisting of five players each, who control a powerful character known as “hero”. Much like role playing games, these characters level up as they kill other video game creatures; such as little non playable video game sprites or opposing teams heroes, or are within range of them dying.
If that sounds confusing that’s because it is and I have no other modes in which to describe this to you.
Anyway, the little sprites I informed you about in those last couple of sentences are called “creeps”, because why not make a game harder to understand by giving ridiculous names to things right? These creeps are non playable creatures that have one purpose in their short, meaningless lives and unfortunately for them it is not reproduction like that of their almighty human masters, no, instead it is to go forth and beat the shit out of other creeps and giant flame spouting towers that will surely burn them alive. Creeps are solitary in their conviction and will continue to attack these towers without fail until the enemies base is completely destroyed or vice versa.
As the gory remains of the fallen combatants scatter the battlefield the “Heroes” roam about the map in search of some other hero’s throats they can cut or pew pew spells at. If they get lucky enough to kill one of the other fuckers they then get some gold, because videogames understand that if you want to stay relevant in a society where all economic facilities have collapsed, then gold must be your currency of choice. Gold will always be a worthy trading commodity for goods and services, especially when we start knitting our fifty dollar bills together to make blankets to keep our children warm. Eventually, as the incredibly malleable currency known as gold starts to line your pockets, you will be able to purchase some items from the aptly named “shop” or “side shop” or “secret shop” (which, honestly I don’t know who the fuck that store is a secret for, it’s on your goddamn map for christ sakes) that will make your hero more powerful so you can pew pew your enemy creeps or heros faster, or bigger, or make them more confused, or make more copies of yourself, or just generally confuse the fuck out of your puny human brain just that much more as you try to play this incredibly over complicated piece of gaming.
So, after you choose from one of the about 200,000 items available to you that might seem like the most appropriate thing to help you fuck as much shit up as possible, you then have to (hopefully) work with your team to cause damage to the enemies base so that your little creep fucks can get all up in their business and do some shit fuckery of their own variety. This consists of you and your team attacking both enemy structures and heros, trying to kill them so your hero might become more powerful both in terms of leveling and the amassing of wealth so that you can get the item fuckery going. Once again if that sounds confusing it’s because it FUCKING IS.
But I seriously, seriously digress. Now that you have no idea what I’m talking about anymore maybe I’ll tell you a little bit about why I love this fucked up nonsense that is DOTA 2. I love DOTA probably for the same reasons that many people hate it, and also for many of it’s aspects that are just generally great for any video game. DOTA 2 is, as you may have gleamed, one of the most complex and intensely time consuming experiences that you can undertake, and I don’t mean just in the world of video games, I mean like you know, life in general. Shit is real son, and it can be brutally difficult because of it’s complexity. It’s for this reason that the community can be so incredibly caustic towards one another. If one player is playing their hero badly (which happens in every single game…. usually by me) it can ruin a game for the rest of the team almost instantly and a match itself is no small undertaking, most matches usually last anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. Which such a huge time investment just to play a single match in which you cannot legitimately be away from your keyboard, tensions tend to run high and people (especially gamers) tend to be assholes. While does cause some less than welcomed hate speak from players it’s also what makes DOTA so fun, and I know with all that bullshit that spout from my mouth in the past few paragraphs you are probably thinking that there is no way in icy frozen hell that this game is fun, but it is. It really is. It is absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most engaging multiplayer game that I have ever invested my time in. Winning a match in DOTA 2 or getting a stun off on an enemy hero at that crucial second, or just generally evolving yourself to be a better player, is, in a word, fucking thrilling. It requires a ridiculous depth of understanding to be able to play the game well and there is tons of thought and preparation that needs to go into actually succeeding against an enemy team, from understanding the hero your playing, to understanding how different items work with that hero, to understanding how to exploit the enemy heros weaknesses. Getting better at DOTA 2 truly feels like a personal triumph and I don’t care how pathetic that sounds because there are people literally winning millions of dollars playing this goddamn VIDEO GAME so fuck you.
DOTA 2 also represents, in countless ways, the future of video games. Remember that this is a game based on a mod that Valve had the foresight to acquire and turn into a full fledged video game that has quickly given actual credence to the idea of “ESports” as a huge money making commodity. It is completely free to play and the only things that you can pay for as cosmetic items, mostly designed by the community that plays the damn game. In this way Valve is able to make money off of other people’s work while giving back to the community in an absolutely unprecedented way. That isn’t to say that Valve is just stealing other peoples work and selling it to us poor saps who want a cool looking sword for our hero, they do pay the content creators. The simple fact that you have one hundred percent access to the game for free and nothing paid for will effect gameplay whatsoever is a gamble that Valve undertook when releasing the game for free and by all appearances it has paid off for them in a huge way. All of these concepts, and in fact even the MOBA genre itself are novel to the video game market and DOTA will forever be remembered as a game that shaped the way video games will be made for years to come.
Next week I will tell you what it’s like for me personally to be so immersed in this bullshit.