Dota 2 is a free-to-playmultiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is the stand-alone sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which was a community-created mod for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base on the map. Each of the ten players independently controls a powerful character, known as a "hero", who all have unique abilities and differing styles of play. During a match, players collect experience points and items for their heroes to successfully battle the opposing team's heroes in player versus player combat. A team wins by being the first to destroy a large structure located in the opposing team's base, called "The Ancient".
Development of Dota 2 began in 2009 when IceFrog, the pseudonymous lead designer of the original Defense of the Ancients mod, was hired by Valve to create a modernized sequel. Dota 2 was officially released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux-based personal computers via the digital distribution platform Steam in July 2013, following a Windows-only public beta phase that began two years prior. The game initially used the original Source game engine until it was ported to Source 2 in 2015, making it the first game to use it.
Despite some criticism going towards its steep learning curve and complexity, the game was praised for its rewarding gameplay, production quality, and faithfulness to its predecessor, with multiple gaming publications later considering it to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Since its release, Dota 2 has been one of the most played games on Steam, with over a million concurrent players at its peak. The popularity of the game has led to official merchandise for it being produced, including apparel, accessories, and toys, as well as promotional tie-ins to other games and media. The game also allows for the community to create custom game modes, maps, and hero cosmetics, which are uploaded to the Steam Workshop and curated by Valve. A digital collectible card game spin-off by Valve, titled Artifact, will be released in 2018.
Dota 2 has a widespread and active competitive scene, with teams from across the world playing professionally in various leagues and tournaments. Premium Dota 2 tournaments often have prize pools totaling millions of U.S. dollars, the highest of any eSport. The largest of them is known as The International, which is produced annually by Valve and held at the KeyArena in Seattle. Valve also manages an event format known as the Dota Pro Circuit, which are a series of tournaments held annually that award qualification points based on results for getting directly invited to The International. For most tournaments, media coverage is done by a selection of on-site staff who provide commentary and analysis for the ongoing matches, similar to traditional sporting events. Broadcasts of professional Dota 2 matches are streamed live over the internet, and sometimes simulcast on television networks, with peak viewership numbers in the millions.
See also: Mechanics of multiplayer online battle arena games
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game in which two teams of five players compete to collectively destroy a large structure defended by the opposing team known as the "Ancient", whilst defending their own. As in Defense of the Ancients, the game is controlled using standard real-time strategy controls, and is presented on a single map in a three-dimensionalisometric perspective. Ten players each control one of the game's 115 playable characters, known as "heroes", with each having their own design, strengths, and weaknesses. Heroes are divided into two primary roles, known as the "carry" and "support". Carries, which are also called "cores", begin each match as weak and vulnerable, but are able to become more powerful later in the game, thus becoming able to "carry" their team to victory. Supports generally lack abilities that deal heavy damage, instead having ones with more functionality and utility that provide assistance for their carries. Players select their hero during a pre-game drafting phase, where they can also discuss potential strategies and hero matchups with their teammates. Multiple game types in the game exist, which mainly alter the way hero selection is handled; such as "All Pick", which offer no restrictions on hero selection, "All Random", which randomly assigns a hero for each player, "Captain's Mode", where a single player on each team selects heroes for their entire team and is primarily used for professional play, and "Turbo", an expedited version of All Pick featuring increased gold and experience gain, weaker towers, and faster respawn times.
All heroes have a basic damage-dealing attack, in addition to powerful abilities. Each hero has at least four abilities, all of which are unique, which are the primary method of fighting. Heroes begin each game with an experience level of one, only having access to one of their abilities, but are able to level up and become more powerful during the course of the game, up to a maximum level of 25. Whenever a hero gains an experience level, the player is able to unlock another of their abilities or improve one already learned. The most powerful ability for each hero is known as their "ultimate", which requires them to have an experience level of six in order to use. In order to prevent abilities from being used without consequence, a magic system in the game exists. Activating an ability costs a hero some of their "mana points", which slowly regenerates over time. Using an ability will also cause it to enter a cooldown phase, in which the ability can not be used again until a timer counts down to zero. All heroes have three attributes: strength, intelligence, and agility, which affect health points, mana points, and attack speed, respectively. Each hero has one primary attribute out of the three, which adds to their non-ability basic damage output when increased. Heroes also have an ability augmentation system known as "Talent Trees", which allow players further choices on how to develop their hero. If a hero runs out of health points and dies, they are removed from active play until a respawn timer counts down to zero, where they are then respawned in their base.
The two teams—known as the Radiant and Dire—occupy fortified bases in opposite corners of the map, which is divided in half by a crossable river and connected by three paths, which are referred to as "lanes". The lanes are guarded by defensive towers that attack any opposing unit who gets within its line of sight. A small group of weak computer-controlled creatures called "creeps" travel predefined paths along the lanes and attempt to attack any opposing heroes, creeps, and buildings in their way. Creeps periodically spawn throughout the game in groups from two buildings, called the "barracks", that exist in each lane and are located within the team's bases. The map is also permanently covered for both teams in fog of war, which prevents a team from seeing the opposing team's heroes and creeps if they are not directly in sight of themselves or an allied unit. The map also features a day-night cycle, with some hero abilities and other game mechanics being altered depending on the time of the cycle. Also present on the map are "neutral creeps" that are hostile to both teams, and reside in marked locations on the map known as "camps". Camps are located in the area between the lanes known as the "jungle", which both sides of the map have. Neutral creeps do not attack unless provoked, and will respawn over time if killed. The most powerful neutral creep is named "Roshan", who is a unique boss that may be defeated by either team to obtain an single-use item that allows near instant resurrection if the hero that holds it is killed. Roshan will respawn around ten minutes after being killed, and becomes progressively harder to kill as the match progresses over time. "Runes", which are special items that spawn in set positions on the map every two minutes, offer heroes various powerful, but temporary power-ups when collected.
In addition to having abilities becoming stronger during the game, players are able to buy items that provide their own special abilities. Items are not limited to specific heroes, and can be bought by anyone. In order to obtain an item, players must be able to afford it with gold at shops located on the map, which is primarily obtained by killing enemy heroes, destroying enemy structures, and killing creeps, with the latter being an act called "farming". Only the hero that lands the killing blow on a creep obtains gold from it, an act called "last hitting", but all allies receive a share of gold when an enemy hero dies close to them. Players are also able to "deny" allied units and structures by last hitting them, which then prevents their opponents from getting full experience from them. Gold can not be shared between teammates, with each player having their own independent stash. Players also receive a continuous, but small stream of gold over the course of a match. Matches usually last between 20 minutes to an hour, although they can theoretically last forever as long as both Ancients remain standing. In Captain's Mode games, an additional "GG" forfeit feature is available.
Dota 2 also occasionally features seasonal events that present players with alternative game modes that do not follow the game's standard rules. Some of these included the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrated the coming of spring. The move to the Source 2 engine in 2015 also saw the addition of community-created custom game modes, known as the "Arcade", with the more popular ones having dedicated server hosting by Valve. Various games in the Arcade have also been created by Valve themselves, including the Halloween-themed capture point mode "Colosseum", the combat arena mode "Overthrow", and a 10 versus 10 mode. In 2017, a story-driven cooperative campaign mode, titled "Siltbreaker", was released as a part of that year's International Battle Pass.
See also: List of video games derived from modifications
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; a series of Defense of the Ancientsclone 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 Defense of the Ancients community website 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. By the late 2000s, Defense of the Ancients became one of the most popular mods in the world, as well as a prominent eSports title. IceFrog and Mescon later 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 2 designer Robin Walker and producer Erik Johnson, became fans of the mod and wanted to build a modern sequel. The company corresponded with IceFrog by email about his long-term plans for the project, and he was subsequently hired to direct a sequel. IceFrog first announced his new position through his blog in October 2009, and Dota 2 was publicly announced by Game Informer in October 2010.
Valve adopted the word "Dota", derived from the original mod's acronym, as the name for its newly acquired franchise. Johnson argued that the word referred to a concept, and was not an acronym. Shortly after the announcement of Dota 2, Valve filed a trademark claim to the Dota name. At Gamescom 2011, company president 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 at the time, 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 in May 2012, with Valve retaining commercial franchising rights to the "Dota" intellectual property, while allowing non-commercial use of the name by third-parties. In 2017, Valve's ownership of it was again challenged, after a 2004 internet forum post from Eul was brought to light by a studio known as uCool, which stated that the "Dota" brand was an open source project. uCool, who was previously involved in a lawsuit with Blizzard in 2015 due to a mobile game they released that involved the use of characters and lore from the Dota universe, argued that the forum post invalidated any ownership claims of the intellectual property. Judge Charles R. Breyer denied uCool's motion for summary dismissal, but allowed the case to be moved forward to a jury.
An early goal of the Dota 2 team was the adaptation of Defense of the Ancients's aesthetic style for the Source engine. The Radiant and Dire factions replaced the Sentinel and Scourge from the mod, respectively. Character names, abilities, items and map design from the mod were largely retained, with some changes due to trademarks owned by Blizzard. In the first Q&A 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 Defense of the Ancients community, including Eul and artist Kendrick Lim, to assist with the sequel. Additional contributions from sources outside of Valve were also sought regularly for Dota 2, as to continue Defense of the Ancients's tradition of community-sourced development. One of the composers of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Jason Hayes, was hired to collaborate with Tim Larkin to write the original score for the game, which was conducted by Timothy Williams and performed and recorded by the Northwest Sinfonia at Bastyr University. Valve had Half-Life series writer Marc Laidlaw, science fiction author Ted Kosmatka, and Steam support employee Kris Katz write new dialog and background lore for the heroes. Notable voice actors for the English version include Nolan North, Dave Fennoy, Jon St. John, Ellen McLain, Fred Tatasciore, Merle Dandridge, Jen Taylor, and John Patrick Lowrie.
The Source engine itself 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 settings. In November 2013, Valve introduced a coaching system, which allows experienced players to tutor players with special in-game tools. As with previous Valve multiplayer titles, players are able to spectate live matches of Dota 2 played by others, and local area network (LAN) multiplayer support allows for local competitions. Some of these events may be spectated via the purchase of tickets from the "Dota Store", which give players in-game access to matches. Ticket fees are apportioned in part to tournament organizers. The game also features an in-game fantasy sports system, which is modeled after traditional fantasy sports and feature professional Dota 2 players and teams. Players are also able to spectate games in virtual reality (VR) with up to 15 others, which was added in an update in July 2016. The update also added a hero showcase mode, which allows players to see all of the heroes and their cosmetics full-size in virtual reality.
Dota 2 includes a seasonal Elo rating-based matchmaking system, which is measured by a numerical value known as "matchmaking rating" (MMR) and separated into different tiers. MMR is updated based on if a player's team won or lost, which will then increase or decrease respectively. The game's servers, known as the "Game Coordinator", attempts to balance both teams based on each player's MMR, with each team having roughly a 50% chance to win in any given game. Ranked game modes with a separately tracked MMR are also available, which primarily differ from unranked games by making MMR publicly visible, as well as requiring the registration of a phone number to their accounts, which help foster a more competitive environment. To ensure that each player's ranking is up to date and accurate, MMR is recalibrated every six months. Players with the highest possible ranked medal are listed by Valve on an online leaderboard, are separated into four distinct server regions. The game also includes a report system, which allows players to punish player behavior that intentionally provides a negative experience. Players who get reported enough or leave a number of games before they have finished, a practice known in-game as "abandoning", are then placed into "low priority" matchmaking, which remains on a player's account until they win a specific number of games, and only groups them with other players who also have the same punishment. Other features include an improved replay system from Defense of the Ancients, in which a completed game can be downloaded in-client and viewed by anyone at a later time, and the "hero builds" feature, which provide integrated guides created by the community that highlight to the player on how to play their hero.
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. Instead, revenue is generated through the "Dota Store", which offers for-purchase cosmetic virtual goods, such as custom armor and weapons for their heroes. It was also announced that the full roster of heroes would be available at launch for free. Until the game's official release in 2013, players were able to purchase an early access bundle, which included a digital copy of Dota 2 and several cosmetic items. Included as optional downloadable content (DLC), the Dota 2 Workshop Tools are a set of Source 2 software development kit (SDK) tools that allow content creators to create new cosmetics for the heroes themselves, as well as custom game modes, maps, and bot scripts. Highly rated cosmetics, through the Steam Workshop, are available in the in-game store if they are accepted by Valve. This model was fashioned after that of Valve's Team Fortress 2, which had earned Workshop designers of cosmetic items of that game over $3.5 million by June 2011. In January 2014, Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor for Dota 2 and Team Fortess 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations the previous year. In 2015, sales of Dota 2 virtual goods had earned Valve over $238 million in revenue, according to the digital game market research group SuperData. In 2016, Valve introduced the "Custom Game Pass" option for creators of custom game modes, which allows them to be funded by way of microtransactions by adding exclusive features, content, and other changes to their game mode for players who buy it.
Port to the Source 2 engine
In June 2015, Valve announced that the entirety of Dota 2 would be ported over to their Source 2 game engine in an update called Dota 2 Reborn.Reborn was first released to the public as a opt-in beta update that same month, and officially replaced the original client in September 2015, making it the first public game to use the engine.Reborn included a new user interface framework design, ability for custom game modes created by the community, and the full replacement of the original Source engine with Source 2. Largely attributed to technical difficulties players experienced with the update, the global player base experienced a sharp drop of approximately sixteen percent the month following the release of it. However, after various updates and patches, over a million concurrent players were playing again by the beginning of 2016, with that number being the largest in nearly a year. The move to Source 2 also allowed the use of the Vulkan graphics API, which was released as an optional feature in May 2016, making Dota 2 one of the first games to offer it.
Dota 2 was first made available to the public at Gamescom in 2011, coinciding with the inaugural International championship, the game's premier eSport tournament event. At the event, Valve began sending out closed beta invitations, with the first few being 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. In September 2011, Valve scrapped its previous development and release plans, which would have kept the game in its closed beta phase for over a year. IceFrog then announced plans to begin beta testing. 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 Steam for Microsoft Windows on July 9, 2013, and later for OS X and Linux on July 18, 2013. The game did not launch with every hero from Defense of the Ancients. Instead, the missing ones were added in various post-release updates, with the final one, as well as the first Dota 2 original hero, being added in 2016. Two months following the game's release, Newell claimed that updates to Dota 2 generated up to three percent of global internet traffic. In December 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. In October 2012, the leading Beijing-based video game publisher, Perfect World, announced the acquisition of the exclusive rights of Dota 2 in China. The Chinese version also has a region-specific "Low Violence" mode, which censors and changes most depictions of blood, gore, and skulls in order for the game to follow censorship policies of the country. In November 2012, a similar publishing deal was made with the South Korea-based game company Nexon to distribute and market the game in the country, as well as in Japan. In November 2015, Nexon announced they would no longer be operating servers for Dota 2, with Valve taking over direct distribution and marketing of the game in those regions.
In December 2016, Dota 2 was updated to gameplay version 7.00, known as "The New Journey" update. Prior to the update, the Dota series had been in version 6.xx for over a decade, marking the first major revision since IceFrog originally took over development of the original mod in the mid 2000s. The New Journey update added and changed numerous features and mechanics of the game, including adding the first original hero not ported over from Defense of the Ancients, a reworked map, a redesigned HUD, a pre-game phase that allows for players to discuss their team strategy, and a "Talent Tree" hero augmentation system. In April 2017, Valve announced changes to the game's ranked matchmaking system, with the main one requiring the registration of a unique phone number to a player's account in order to play them, an anti-griefing and smurfing practice they had previously implemented in their first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Further changes to the game's matchmaking were brought in an update in November 2017, where the old numerical MMR system was replaced by a seasonal one based on seven tiered "medals" that are recalibrated every six months, a move that brought the game's ranked system closer to ones used in other competitive games such as Global Offensive, StarCraft, and League of Legends. In early 2018, IceFrog announced that he and Valve would begin on a different way to handle gameplay balance updates for the game. Instead of releasing larger updates irregularly throughout the year, smaller ones would be released on a set schedule of every two weeks, a process that will be reevaluated after six months. Around the same time, the game also introduced the permanent "Dota Plus" subscription system, replacing the seasonal "Battle Pass". Dota Plus includes everything the Battle Passes did, such as milestone and hero-specific achievements that reward players with exclusive cosmetics, as well as introducing the "Plus Assistant" feature, a tool that provides match data gathered from millions of recent games at each skill bracket for players, such as hero suggestions during a draft, and item and ability suggestions during a match.
To ensure that enough Defense of the Ancients players would take up Dota 2 and to showcase the game's capabilities, Valve sponsored sixteen accomplished Defense of the Ancients teams to compete at The International, a Dota 2 specific eSports tournament, for a one million dollar prize in 2011. The International became an annual championship tournament in 2012, with the venue changing to Seattle. In its third year, The International allowed crowdfunding to add to its prize pool through an interactive, in-game app called a "compendium". Compendiums, which are optional and must be purchased separately, allow players who buy them to directly raise prize money for The International by spending money on unique compendium cosmetics and other in-game items, with 25% of all the revenue made going directly to the prize pool. Sales from the 2013 compendium helped raise over $2.8 million, making The International 2013 reclaim 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 nearly US$11 million, exceeding the prizes pools of the Super Bowl, 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 other eSport events began to transition from Defense of the Ancients 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 other MOBA titles such as 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. In 2012, Dota 2 began as an official title for the World Cyber Games annual event at World Cyber Games 2012. The Electronic Sports League (ESL) 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 for Chinese eSports began a league, called the WPC ACE Dota 2 League, which had the largest third-party prize pool in Dota 2 eSports history at the time. At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013, Nexon announced the investment of two billion South Korean won, (approximately $1.7 million), 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 DreamLeague in February 2014. In February 2015, the Valve-sponsored Dota 2 Asia Championships was held in Shanghai with a prize pool of over $3 million, raised through compendium sales.
In total, professional Dota 2 tournaments had earned teams and players over $100 million in prize money by June 2017, with over half of that being awarded at the International tournaments, making it the highest earning eSport game by a margin of nearly $60 million.
Dota Pro Circuit
Starting in 2015, Valve began sponsoring smaller, but seasonally held tournaments with a fixed $3 million prize pool, known officially as the Dota Major Championships. The format for the tournaments are based on the series of the same name that Valve also sponsors for their first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first of which, hosted and produced by ESL, was the Frankfurt Major held in November 2015 at the Festhalle Frankfurt in Frankfurt, and was won by OG. The next Major was hosted and produced by Perfect World, and was held in March 2016 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, and was won by Team Secret. The third and final Major of the 2015–2016 season was hosted and produced by PGL, and was held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila in June 2016. The tournament was won by OG, becoming the first team to repeat as champions of a Dota 2 Major.
Following the introduction of the Majors, The International championships were then considered to be the cumulative "Summer Major", with the 2016 iteration being the first one under the new format. Still using the same crowdfunding system for the prize pool as previous Internationals, the tournament broke the record for the highest prize pool in eSports history at over $20 million, surpassing the record that the event had set the previous year, and was won by Wings Gaming. At a player's meeting at the same event, Valve announced that due to scheduling issues they had prior to the International, they would be reducing the number of Majors from three to two for the following season, with the next tournament taking place in Boston at the Wang Theatre in December 2016, which was won again by OG. The second and final Major of the season was held in Kiev at the National Palace of Arts in April 2017, which was won again by OG, their fourth Major championship victory.
Following The International 2017, Valve replaced the Major Championship system, with the Dota Pro Circuit, an event structure that relies on more frequently held tournament events produced by third-party organizations. In the Pro Circuit, any tournament that has at least one team from the North American, South American, Southeast Asian, Chinese, European, and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) regions, a minimum prize pool of $500,000, which Valve adds $500,000 of their own towards, and concludes with a LAN finals is classified as a Major. In addition, a "Minor" championship tier exists and follows the same rules, but with a minimum prize pool of $150,000 instead. For the Circuit, Valve awards "Qualifying Points" for individual players on a team that finishes in the top four of a tournament, which are publicly listed on a leaderboard and award direct invitations to The International for the eighth best ranking teams, a practice that was previously done manually by Valve and criticized for being non-transparent and unpredictable. Teams' scores are determined by the total score of the top three point-earning players on them, with points being carried over if a player changes teams during the season. Qualifying points are weighed more heavily towards Majors than Minors, with events that take place closer to The International generally awarding more. To avoid conflicting dates, Valve directly manages the scheduling of the entire circuit.
The primary medium for professional Dota 2 coverage is through the video game live streaming platform, Twitch.tv. For most major events, tournament coverage is done by a selection of dedicated eSports organizations and personnel who provide on-site commentary, analysis, match predictions, and player interviews surrounding the event in progress, similar to traditional sporting events. Live Dota 2 games and coverage have also been simulcast on television networks around the world, such as ESPN in the United States,Sport1 in Germany,TV 2 Zulu in Denmark,Xinwen Lianbo in China,Astro in Malaysia, and TV5 in the Philippines.
Dota 2 received universal acclaim, according to review aggregatorMetacritic. In a preview of the game in 2012, Rich McCormick of PC Gamer thought that Dota 2 was "an unbelievably deep and complex game that offers the purest sequel to the original Defense of the Ancients. Rewarding like few others, but tough". Adam Biessener, the editor who authored the announcement article for Dota 2 for Game Informer 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". The most frequently praised aspects of the game were its depth, delivery, and overall balance. Chris Thursten of PC Gamer described the gameplay as being "deep and rewarding".
Martin Gaston of GameSpot complimented Valve for the artistic design and delivery 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 and James Kozanitis of Hardcore Gamer both praised Dota 2 for its free-to-play business model that was not affected by cosmetic items, with Kozanitis stating that Dota 2 was "the only game to do free-to-play right". Nick Kolan of IGN also agreed, comparing the game's business model to Valve's Team Fortress 2, which uses a nearly identical system. Post-release additions to the game were also praised, such as the addition of virtual reality (VR) support in 2016. Ben Kuchera of Polygon thought that spectating games in VR was "amazing", comparing it to being able to watch an American football game on television with the ability to jump onto the field at any time to see the quarterback's point of view. Chris Thursten of PC Gamer agreed, calling the experience "incredible" and unlike any other eSports spectating system that existed prior to it. Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica also praised the addition, believing that the functionality could "attract serious attention from gamers and non-gamers alike".
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 Defense of the Ancients, as well as the sometimes hostile community, which is commonly criticized in multiplayer online battle arena games. Peter Bright of Ars Technica also directed criticism at the ability for third-party websites to allow skin gambling and betting on match results, similar to controversies that also existed with Valve's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Using Dota 2 as an example, Bright thought that Valve had built gambling elements directly into their games, and had issues with the unregulated practice, which he stated was often used by underage players and regions where gambling is illegal. Australian senator Nick Xenophon had similar sentiment, stating that he wanted to introduce legislation in his country to minimize underage access to gambling within video games, including Dota 2. In response to the controversy, Valve and Dota 2 project manager, Erik Johnson, stated that they would be taking action against the third-party sites, saying that the practice was not allowed by their API or their user agreements.
Comparisons of Dota 2 to other MOBA games are commonplace, with the game's mechanics and business model often being directly compared with League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. Contrasting it with League of Legends, T.J. Hafer of PC Gamer called Dota 2 the "superior experience", stating that he thought the game was "all about counterplay", with most of the heroes being designed to directly counter another. Hafer also preferred the way the game handled its hero selection pool, with all of them being unlocked right from the start, unlike in League of Legends. Comparing Dota 2 to Heroes of the Storm, Jason Parker of CNET said that while Heroes of the Storm was easier to get into, the complexities and depth of Dota 2 would be appreciated more by those who put in the time to master it. Further comparing it to Heroes of Newerth, players from the professional Dota 2 team OG said that most Heroes of Newerth players were able to transition over easily to the game, due to the strong similarities that both games share.
Awards and accolades
Following its first public showing in 2011, Dota 2 won IGN's People's Choice Award. In December 2012, PC Gamer listed Dota 2 as a nominee for their Game of the Year award, as well as the best eSports title of the year. In 2013, the year the game officially released, Dota 2 won the eSport of the year awards from PC Gamer and onGamers.GameTrailers also awarded the game the award for Best PC Game of 2013, with IGN also awarding it the Best PC Strategy & Tactics Game, Best PC Multiplayer Game, and People's Choice Award. Similarly, Game Informer recognized Dota 2 for the categories of Best PC Exclusive, Best Competitive Multiplayer and Best Strategy of 2013. The same year, 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.Dota 2 was later nominated for the best multiplayer game at the 10th British Academy Games Awards in 2014, but lost to Grand Theft Auto V, and was nominated for eSports Game of the Year at The Game Awards at its 2015, 2016, and 2017 events, while winning the award for best MOBA at the 2015 Global Game Awards. The game was also nominated for the community created "Love/Hate Relationship" award at the inaugural Steam Awards in 2016. Multiple publications have listed Dota 2 as one of the greatest video games of all time. In 2017, the game was nominated for eSports Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards, and as IGN's best spectator game. It was also runner-up for best MOBA at the Global Game Awards, and was nominated for best eSports Game at the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers awards.
The final day of The International 2017 looms, with only Newbee, LGD.Forever Young (LFY) and Team Liquid still in the running to win pro Dota 2’s highest accolade – yesterday saw both Invictus Gaming and LGD Gaming eliminated in surprisingly one-sided lower bracket matches.
But first… new heroes!
Valve loves announcing additions to Dota 2’s roster at each TI, including the dual Underlord and Monkey King reveal at TI6. This year was another one-two affair. Not that the trailer shown gives away much as we don’t even have their names – the first addition, a dashing, sword-fighting pangolin, has been mistakenly dubbed ‘Zorro Armadillo’ by mammal-confused fans. Thanks to some previous datamining, however, we do know the second is either named or nicknamed Slyph, with her ability titles and verdant appearance suggesting an elusive forest-dwelling spellcaster style. A nice contrast to Zorro/Zorrodillo/Zorrogolin, who looks like more of a straightforward brawler, though he is seen turning enemies’ swords against them and rolling through creeps like a scaly bowling ball.
Both will be part of the upcoming Dueling Fates Update, though again, in typical Valve style, there’s no been no indication of a release window or accompanying patch contents. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how these heroes settle into Dota’s ever-fluctuating metagame; Underlord was originally pitched as a lane support, and Monkey King a hard carry, though they’re now typically run as a solo offlaner and roaming support respectively.
For now, we can focus on TI7’s imminent climax. Newbee are already in the grand finals after besting LFY in the upper bracket finals. LFY are still in with a chance at the Aegis of Champions, though, and will now face Team Liquid in the lower bracket finals. Liquid – Kuro ‘Kuroky’ Salehi Takhasomi’s international squad – had themselves swept LGD, after the latter had eliminated iG earlier in the day.
Let’s start with a look at iG’s defeat. This was, frankly, a bit of a stomp. Game 1 was over before the 20 minute mark then, in game 2, Lu’Maybe’ Yao’s Ursa was allowed to run rampant in the midlane, giving Wang ‘Ame’ Chunyu’s Anti-Mage the space needed to easily outfarm a beleaguered Ou ‘Op’ Peng who was on Alchemist. A mid-game teamfight gave iG a glimmer of hope, with multiple LGD cores dropping to slivers of health – you can see that in the video below – but a perfectly timed Echo Slam by Ren ‘eLeVeN’ Yangwei on Earthshaker saved his comrades and led to iG’s GG scant minutes later.
Newbee vs LFY was much more closely-fought. In game 1, Newbee went for a risky Sniper draft. For the majority of the game the grizzled gunner didn’t look like he was paying off – until a single, massive teamfight 42 minutes in ended with all five of LFY dead, their sizeable gold lead evaporating. Head to about 9m14s in the vid to see that. Finally, Newbee’s crowd control skills came out in force, and with Song ‘Sccc’ Chun (he of the aforementioned Sniper pick) pumping in damage from afar, it only took a few more engagements for them to take LFY’s base.
A near-flawless Storm Spirit performance by Xie ‘Super’ Junhao allowed LFY to tie things up in game 2, but in game 3, Newbee once again took full advantage of Axe’s lengthy lockdown potential, Damien ‘kpii’ Chok repeatedly shutting down He ‘Inflame’ Yongzheng’s Omniknight before he could deploy his defensive spells. A brilliant Rosh fight for Newbee was the beginning of the end for LFY – the secured Aegis and Cheese (that’s an item which gives the eater an instant massive health and mana boost) enabled Newbee to win a much dicier fight later on, securing control of the majority of the map. While Newbee were cautious about actually breaching high ground, their enormous gold lead and an unfortunate buyback/dieback by Du ‘Monet’ Peng gave LFY their first series loss of the tournament. By contrast, Newbee now have the chance to become the first organisation to win two Internationals, and their captain Zeng ‘Faith’ Hongda the chance to become the first individual two-time champion.
Before the LGD/Liquid match, there was a fun little intermission in which Danil ‘Dendi’ Ishutin – Na’Vi’s immensely popular midlaner who nevertheless hadn’t qualified for TI7 proper – walked onstage boxer-style to fight a robot.
Specifically, it was an OpenAI-developed bot, which had learnt how to 1v1 mid to the extent that it had already beaten numerous other pro players backstage, and it wasted no time adding Dendi to that list of defeated humans. It’s an impressive bit of tech (and Valve should definitely be asking for OpenAI’s help in improving their own, appallingly stupid bots), though I kind of agree with analyst/player/coach/tutor Kevin ‘Purge’ Godec in hoping that it doesn’t become a part of shaping how Dota is actually played by people. Besides there being next to no entertainment value in watching a bunch of AIs go at it, half the fun is witnessing unusual strategies and off-meta hero picks find success over what’s necessarily considered ‘optimal’. Surely that requires the thoroughly human tendency to take seemingly dumb risks?*
Fortunately, before any existential debates could break out, Liquid and LGD were on the stage for the final match of the night. Aaaaaaand it was another stomp: LGD gave Liquid a hard time in game 1’s laning stage, but the latter’s teamfight execution was on another level entirely, and a clearly broken LGD ended up calling GG after literally running away from a high ground defence they knew they couldn’t make work.
Game 2 was even more brutal, Kuroky pulling out an utterly filthy Huskar/Dazzle/Venomancer/Broodmother draft which baited LFY into a lineup that was hugely lacking in physical damage.
22 minutes in, Liquid appeared to take a suicidal fight next to LGD’s top lane shrine, but ‘twas all a clever ruse! As they kept the Chinese team’s attention, Lasse ‘Matumbaman’ Urpalainen (on the Broodmother) gleefully ripped through a full set of mid-lane barracks unimpeded. LGD crumbled even faster after that, and waved Liquid through to the lower bracket final.
This leaves Liquid remaining as the sole Western hope of TI7, though they can expect a much tougher matchup against LGD’s sister team LFY, who looked frightfully strong even as they were losing to Newbee. That said, Liquid’s play has been noticeably tighter and more confident as they’ve progressed through the lower bracket.
Even more interestingly, both Liquid and LFY could feasibly beat Newbee so it’s not like they’re lower bracket teams fighting for an all-but-certain second place. On Newbee’s side is that whoever they greet in the grand final will have played a best-of-three immediately prior. The grand final match is a best-of-five, so as well as going head to head against Newbee’s exceptional technical skill, whoever wins in the lower bracket will have to deal with potential fatigue of those extra games as well.
In any case, these are the biggest games of the Dota 2 professional season, so tune in if you can to watch them duke it out for the $10.77m first prize! The lower bracket finals start at 6pm BST, the grand finals at 11pm. You can watch on Twitch, YouTube or in the in-game client, and there’s a handy Newcomer’s Stream (with concise pop-up graphics explaining the heroes and mechanics) if you’re dipping your toes in for the first time. It even offered hero info during the cosplay competition results!
*[I refer you to Shane Clarke’s tweet on the matter, pitting Jacky ‘EternalEnvy’ Mao’s reputation for absolutely baffling decision making against a pattern-seeking artificial intelligence – Pip]
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