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DOTA: Why Defense of the Ancients?

By: Neha Nair - Published October 30, 2007 at 7:56 PM EST - Writer Archive
DotA started off as a fun custom game to break from standard WC3 play. It is now starting to push its way into the competitive e-sports world. Miss-Rinoa takes a look at what makes DotA competitive and what aspects of the game still need work.


When it all began

Blizzard Entertainment released the third edition of the Warcraft 3 series; Reign of Chaos, in 2002. After two successful series, this edition was highly anticipated coming in with around 4.5 million pre-orders. There was one major difference between this release to the older editions; heroes. During the migration from Starcraft to Warcraft, hero play was not popular. Since then, one custom map has boomed the popularity of hero play, Defense of the Ancients (DotA).






DotA Loading Screen




Contrary to popular belief, DotA started on Reign of Chaos before the expansion, The Frozen Throne came out. It was based on the custom map "Aeon of Strife" from Starcraft, a team game focusing on hero combat. There have been many different versions of DotA, but only one shines, IceFrog's DotA Allstars. Since then DotA has come a long way, from terrain changes, balances, bug fixes, new heroes, new items and graphics, IceFrog does it all.

DotA is a 5v5 game with two sides; sentinel and scourge. There is one map, divided into three lanes where creeps (creatures) automatically spawn. At the heart each base is an ancient; the world tree for the sentinel, and the frozen throne for the scourge. In each lane there are 3 towers protecting the ancient, as well as creep producing buildings (raxes). Not only do players have to focus on defending or killing the ancients, but DotA also focuses on team play to kill enemy heroes.

DotA offers a variety of game modes, allrandom, allpick, random draft, league mode, and many others. Competitive play started off with standard league mode; sentinel could only pick sentinel heroes and scourge could only pick scourge heroes. Since then, league play has changed drastically. Extended League mode (XL) is now the most consistently used mode in league play where teams are not only picking heroes, but eliminating them as well. This opened up a new era for competitive DotA, forcing teams to rework their strategies, and learn how to counter others.






Virtus.Pro DotA team after winning at ASUS Summer 2007




This journey leads to one question, why isn't DotA seen in LAN tournaments more? Why was WoW PVP/Arena given a chance and not DotA? DotA is the melting pot of hero combat and teamplay for RTS games. Every aspect of DotA requires some form of teamwork, whether it be coordinating a gank (using multiple heroes to catch/kill enemy heroes), coordinating spells in a massive team fight, or working together to dominate enemy heroes in a lane. Powerhouse teams like MYM, SK Gaming, Virtus.Pro and eMg dominate competition with their innovative strategies, breathtaking teamwork and individual skill. They have proven that DotA is no easy game.

To a beginner's eye, DotA seems cut and dry. Public play and competitive play are two different worlds. Not only does DotA require individual skill in micro (last hitting creeps), farming ability (collecting gold), warding (placing wards on the map for vision) and map awareness (knowledge of the map and how to adapt to it), but it also thrives on team play. It has been seen time and time again that one person can not carry a game of DotA. Not many teams can even compete with the top tier DotA teams because their teamwork has been mastered. If this can't be considered a competitive game, then what can?
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