Why I Disagree With Dota 2

Gamers everywhere were rejoicing yesterday as Valve released the first official footage of their newest game, DotA 2, made more special by the fact that the footage was from a livestream of the first DotA 2 tournament ever.

To back up a little, DotA, or Defence of the Ancients, is a custom game mode for the Blizzard-made RTS WarCraft III. Although many mods of the game exist, there are none that can compare to the popularity that DotA has with the gaming community. Influential to the point that it has spawned its own genre of video game,and been the inspiration for the similar titles League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, DotA has actually become a  feature at worldwide tournaments, including the Asian World Cyber Games. To say that this is just another mod is an immense understatement.

For a bit of background on Valve, they have been the brilliant minds that havebrought us titles such as Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal. For the most part these are all games that are saturated with narrative and feature inventive, innovative gameplay. Valve has long been seen as a company that deeply cares for its fans, their constant release of new content for the [now free to play] shooter Team Fortress 2 being a prime example.

On October 13th of last year, Valve announced that they were creating DotA 2. IceFrog, a modder who maintained and developed the original game was hired by the company in 2009 and has since been working on the sequel.

That last word is one of my first issues with the game. The very usage of the name “DotA” with the addition of the “2” seems to state that this is yet another sequel to another already-owned property, such as Half-Life 2. This could not be further from the truth. While IceFrog did help a great deal in furthering the game, as a mod it belongs to the community that helped create it, the hundreds of men and women who suggested heroes or contributed icons or penned lore for the heroes they loved playing as. The name, of course, was chosen simply for familiarity, which brings me to my next point.

In order to ease players into the transition from the WarCraft III mod to the new and improved DotA 2 Valve needed more than just a title. According to Game Informer:3

DotA-Allstars‘ roster of 100+ heroes is being brought over in its entirety. The single map games take place on is functionally identical to the one that you can download for free today in the Warcraft III mod. Items, skills, and upgrade paths are unchanged. Some hero skills work slightly better due to being freed from the now-ancient Warcraft III engine, but Dota 2 will be instantly familiar to any DotA player.

Along with the heroes being brought over were their models. Since the world editor in Warcraft III only allowed for so much customization, unit models from the game itself were used in DotA. Instantly recognizable after years of playing the mod, Valve chose to make their heroes look as close to their blockier counterparts as possible.

To the left is an example of the icons used for the heroes, the ones on the left from DotA and the ones on the right from DotA 2.

The first, Prophet [known as Nature’s Prophet in Dota 2], features the same beard and horns, as well as facial tattoos. What was even more disconcerting, however, was the name of the image file for the latter, “furion_lg.png.” Furion is the name of the original hero, and is actually taken from a character in WarCraft III itself.

The second is known by Dazzle in both games, and clearly depicts a troll-ish kind of creature with a skull face tattoo. The colouration is extremely similar.

The third, called Storm Spirit by both, gets only slightly more original. Instead of portraying a humanoid panda DotA 2 instead changes the character to a human, albeit wearing extremely similar garb.

Valve has always been a company that pumped out solid, original content, and watching the tournament replays of this game made me deeply upset. The Anti-Mage attacks just as he always did with long, curved blades on each hand, Leshrac gallops swiftly forward on all fours, torso rocking back rhythmically as usual.

I could point out countless similarities, especially to character design that has always been distinctly Blizzard’s, but I won’t. The fact of the matter is that the easiest way to familiarize a gamer with something new is to show them exactly what they’ve seen before. A muscular red orc with a topknot hefting an immense axe remains exactly that, even with sleeker graphics.

DotA 2 is a game that has a very large number of players waiting to get their hands on it. The genre is only growing more and more popular, and Valve has found a way to successfully cash in on that market. It’s just a shame that this was the way that they chose to do it.

1. See? There’s even a Wikipedia page on it! <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dota_genre>

2. Seriously, no strings attached. <http://www.tf2.com/freetoplay/>

3.  Source to this and much of the other facts in this post: <http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2010/10/13/dota-2-announced-details.aspx>

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7 responses to “Why I Disagree With Dota 2

  1. Surely you would not have wanted a lesser company to recreate the original? I don’t see why you have a problem with something that was inevitable being carried out by the best devs around. . . This whole article is being upset at the entire point of remaking DotA on a modern engine.

    • I believe Valve to be a pretty fine, upstanding gaming company, and I trust that they’ll do justice to the “franchise,” if that’s what we want to call it.

      A point I think I made, and continue to stand by, is that character design is creative property. Valve, a company that has been an originator of unique, groundbreaking content only suffers by taking Blizzard’s designs and slightly [and only slightly] altering them before releasing them as their own.

  2. That’s a very valid point, but I feel like you are forgetting an upside to DotA 2. The thing is, I never played DotA. I got into the MOBA genre playing Heroes of Newerth. Ever since S2 Games decided to be $2 Games I have been adverse to playing one of my favorite games, and I don’t really feel like going and learning how to play a WCIII mod to get the same experience (Leage of Legends just doesn’t do it for me).
    The way I see it, DotA 2 is going to be huge for the MOBA genre because by sticking to the design of the original game they will be able to attract old fans and through the sheer reputation of Valve, be able to get newcomers to DotA, even if they are very familiar with this genre that desperately needs a new face.

    • I can’t say I understand what you no longer wanting to play HoN has to do with Dota 2.

      I agree that Dota 2 is going to do a lot for the genre, it’s a game being made by Valve and that basically ensure that it’s going to be quality stuff. And yeah, their reputation is going to bring a lot of new fans to the genre as well.

      In my last paragraph I state that “the genre is only growing more and more popular, and Valve has found a way to successfully cash in on that market,” which is not something I have an issue with. My issue remains with the design direction they’re taking with the game.

  3. DOTA2 is great game ! Excellent choice by Icefrog that prefered Valve !

  4. Pingback: My Personal Fears About Dota 2‘s Art Plagiarism Made Real | Culture War Reporters

  5. In DotA1, the spells actually work better (exemple AA ultimate is glitched like many other in D2)..

    The graphics are actually better on Dota1 (human storm? for real?), the heroe got this true essence 🙂

    -human storm (lol’ed)
    – furion is ugly as fck compared to the dota 1.
    – Earth Shaker is a joke.in D2
    – Magina is ugly as fuck compared to Demon Hunter model.
    -… a lot to say.

    The terrain is actually weird on dota2, it’s like it’s randomly deformed,. The hills are amazingly disproportional.

    Sure they’ll get players because it’s “new” & its valve with money backing up.

    As a dota 1 player, I would have prefered someone else to take care of a “Dota 2”. after seeing valve work, it’s obvious that they probably rushed to take on the players & market. Unstead of serving us something really good.

    Maybe one day we’ll get WarCraft 4 & meet a real DotA 2 🙂

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