Dota 2 is an online multiplayer game developed and created by Valve. The title was originally released in early 2012 in its beta state. The following year, it was released as a full game for Windows, Linux, and OS X.
How it all started and where it stands now
This release is a direct sequel to DotA (Defense of the Ancients). Unlike the second part, the original title is developed by IceFrog. The company that is known for developing Half-life and Counter-Strike: GO saw its potential and contacted the designer to create a second part. So, the young intellectual owner of the title, whose real name is Abdul Ismail, started working for Valve in 2009. The delivery was a resounding commercial success. The company bet on making the game free-to-play to compete with contemporary MOBAs such as League Of Legends. Thus, a virtual store was opened with non-gameplay aesthetic elements. By 2015 it had estimated revenue of $238 million in virtual goods such as loot boxes or skins for the characters.
Dota 2 is a very present installation in the e-sport scene. It has professional players all over the world who compete in several international tournaments and leagues. Additionally, Valve holds an event called Dota Pro Circuit. This meeting gathers gamers from all over the world and through a point system it grants invitations to participate in The International, the game’s premier annual tournament. This event awards prizes of up to US$30 million which are divided among the competitors.
A familiar gameplay
Each game is made up of two factions, Dire and Radiants. The teams start at their respective bases, located at the opposite ends of the map, in the southeast and northeast respectively.
There is a structure notoriously larger than the rest called Ancestor. Around it, there are smaller constructions whose function is to protect it. When leaving the base, the path is divided into three parts, called lines. Each one of them is directed towards the rival base. Both teams also have defense towers on the roads, which are located from the beginning of the base to the middle of the map. Likewise, they are separated in the center by a river that crosses the map without touching the main roads. Also, in between the lines in the jungle, a neutral place inhabited by several monsters that give different advantages to those who defeat them. All these territories are delimited by the fog of war. This means that if the character or an ally doesn’t occupy a space in some specific part of the map, they can’t see it.
Besides, each path is traversed by computer-controlled characters called Creeps. These are only programmed to walk forward along the lines, only swerving to attack any enemy that crosses them. Their role in the game is to absorb the attacks from the towers so that players can damage it without their attacks reaching it. On the other hand, the opposing team gains experience and gold by killing them, making them vital to quickly take advantage of their opponents. Jungle enemies, on the other hand, are neutral characters who take place in the jungle and only attack in reaction to a character’s aggression.
Game modes to suit all tastes
The game also has several game modes. Some of these alter the way the characters are chosen, such as free pick mode, simple pick mode, or all random, among several. All of these are aimed at destroying the enemy Ancient. On the other hand, there are a few modes with different rules, one of them is 1vs1 Mid, as the name says, two characters fight a duel. Here, the winner is defined when one breaks a central tower or kills the opponent twice. The other example is All Random Deathmatch, where the Ancient must also be destroyed but the game can also end when a team loses more than 40 lives in total.
Besides, in 2015 the arcade feature was added. This option allowed the adhesion of mods created by the community, which were very popular among the users. The most notorious case of this is Dota Auto Chess. This particular extension of the main entrance got more than seven million active users by the end of 2019. From this came the idea of launching a standalone version of the game, but negotiations with the creators did not succeed.
The competitive scene
Apart from these casual modes, Dota 2 has a competitive mode. In it, players are separated by an Elo rating-based matchmaking system. This is divided by the MMR, which stands for “matchmaking rating”, a number given to players based on the number of wins and losses they have.
The ultimate goal is to balance both teams so that they have an equal chance of winning, based on their overall performance. To make this mode more serious and to prevent players from breaking the rules and using multiple accounts, the system asks them to associate their phone number to the account. This ranking system is updated every six months and the best performers are listed on the leaderboards according to the region they are playing in.
More than 100 characters to use from the first match
In Dota 2 the characters used by the players are called Heroes. In early 2020, the title features 117 different heroes that gamers can use for the game. A big difference with other contemporary titles like League of Legends is that all the heroes are unlocked and can be used freely from the beginning.
Although they are typecast in a role and the similarities inherent in this, all the heroes have some differences that make them a unique experience from the rest. Firstly, their approach to combat is defined by the level of strength, intelligence, and agility that each one possesses. During the game, each one progressively improves as they go up from level 1 to 30. In addition, the players have the possibility of buying up to 6 items that further accentuate their performance during that particular match.
Source 2: a bet on realism
After starting with the graphic engine Source, in 2015 Valve decided to launch a beta of the game using Source 2. This decision would become final after The International 2015. The engine would increase its quality exponentially from its predecessor and the game would be renamed to Dota Reborn. This system was also used in the Half-Life: Apyx, a highly critically acclaimed adventure for its immersive graphics.
From the very beginning of the game, the effectiveness of Source 2 begins to be noticed. The modeling of the characters, despite maintaining its cartoon style, acquires a huge realism that moves it away from what used to be before 2015. Unlike its predecessor, shadows are very well implemented and take a much more prominent role in the graphical experience. Also, the game is sunk in a non-existent opacity in the original Source, where the brightness and the most intense colors predominated in a very similar way to the League of Legends.
Some server problems, but constant maintenance
So far, Dota 2 has 8 servers scattered around the world. Among these are US West (Washington, USA), US East (Sterling, USA), Europe West (Luxembourg), Europe East (Vienna, Austria), SE Asia (Singapore), South America (Brazil), Russia (Stockholm, Sweden), Australia (Sydney, Australia) and South Africa (Cape Town). On the other hand, the community constantly demands a greater number of servers, where for the moment there is an active proposal to add one in Argentina or Chile. Furthermore, the community frequently claims for improvement in these hosts. This is because, despite this constant improvement, it still has crashes or general latency problems.
To solve issues like these, Valve makes constant updates. Instead of making major changes over a long period, the company opted to make smaller ones every two weeks. Likewise, some updates also contain modifications to heroes and seasonal events with cosmetic awards for them. Like the arrival of spring or the Chinese New Year. These are not held on the exact date of the occasion, but someday with chronological proximity to it.
In conclusion, Dota 2 is a game that not only survived the exponential popularity that the League of Legends achieved, but it competes directly with it. Often referred to as a more difficult version of its competitor and with claims of a long learning curve, a gamer can only take this as a challenge. With a large presence in e-sports and almost a million players per month, the title is one of the most played games on Steam. In the hands of Valve, a company that constantly reinvented itself over time, Dota 2 has already survived a complete engine overhaul and has an uncertain, but promising future.