21 August 2011

DotA 2

Even if you don't play MOBA games (and I imagine most of the people who regularly read this don't), there's still a little bit that should interest you here.

Allow me to skim the history of MOBA games. It started in the Starcraft modding community as a game called Aeon of Strife, and when the next game from Blizzard, Warcraft III, came out, the game jumped over there. A lot of imitators and innovators came to the scene, naturally, but most people just played Defense of the Ancients, hereby abbreviated to DotA. It was wildly successful, for a couple of reasons.

See, unlike traditional real-time strategy games, you control only one unit. The same level of tactical movement, positioning, and teamwork is present as is in traditional real-time strategy games, but there's less micromanagement. As such, it's more accessible to casual gamers and lets you focus on making the single most optimal move possible. And for whatever reason, it just caught on more than any other mod did. I don't know why- it may have been a "right place at the right time" sort of deal.

At the time, the Warcraft III community was vast. It was one of the most popular real-time strategy games ever, especially because of the custom games. I'll even go out on a limb and say that it's the entire reason it was as popular as it was, since it was essentially 100+ games in one box.

So you have the most popular custom game mode in one of the most popular games of the decade, and you have a recipe for success.

But as we all know, the most sincere form of flattery is imitation, so we have a spate of games that are all trying for a piece of the DotA pie.

You have Demigod, a game that was panned for its rough launch but essentially was a fairly good game- you had enormous dudes fighting it out over something or another. It was also the first mass-market DotA-styled game, so people complained about the lack of a singleplayer or story mode. To put it in other terms, it's like complaining that your car doesn't have scuba gear- it's totally irrelevant. The whole core of DotA-style games is the multiplayer mayhem. Nobody's trying to play Demigod for the enthralling campaign, because the nature of the gameplay itself doesn't lend to epic storylines.

I haven't played it, but I always wanted to. It looked pretty cool, even if people like to misunderstand it and complain about it. Like I said, it was the first widely accessible game of its kind, so reviewers and customers who open the box are naturally  going to have a hard time understanding what it's even about. If it was released today, it would undoubtedly get a better chance, what with LoL and HoN having such wide audiences.

Next, you have League of Legends. League of Legends decided to simplify the famous and award-winning formula, taking out several gameplay elements, replacing others, and generally making a more accessible game. It was also free-to-play with microtransactions, meaning that you can try the game out and if you like it, you can buy stuff for it (like custom avatars, that sort of thing.)

It was (and is) wildly successful, based almost entirely on its accessibility. When anybody can play it, anybody can pay money for it, meaning that the company can grow and grow and grow. That's how I found it- it was free, so I gave it a shot. I liked what I saw, so I kept playing.

That's not to say that LoL doesn't have its shortcomings. It's frequently criticized for its passive gameplay and relatively shallow mechanics, which is probably true. When you can pick up any champion and figure out how to at least perform on a mediocre level with no real effort, the game is pretty casual. It has a fierce competitive scene, nonetheless.

Lastly, you have HoN. HoN ported the classic DotA gameplay (and most of its items and heroes) to a more stable platform, giving elements such as ingrained stat-tracking and persistent profiles that the aging Warcraft III engine wasn't designed to do, and then made balance changes and added new heroes as it saw fit. It's more complex and frantic than HoN, and the players tend to be "tryhards" instead of easy-going normal people.

The champions are complex, the strategies are difficult, the team-fights are short, technical, and brutal. It's for the kind of gamer that doesn't mind losing horribly for a while, because it really does require a lot of practice and a lot of study time.

But (and this is the important bit) it's evolved from a straight port into its own game. It has things going on in it that aren't part of any other game, despite its beginnings. The strategies are different. The champions are different. It's its own thing, as much as Demigod or League of Legends.

And then you have DotA 2. I'm not even going to find an image for it, because I don't care. Honestly, I don't. It's just DotA, but in a new system. They have one of the creators on the team, and they're just making the game again. Really? You're not going to do anything different? There's nothing you would rather do this time as opposed to last time?

It's lazy, it's shallow, and worst of all, it's trying to cash in on a famous name by a third-rate designer.

If you read the next post, I'll tell you why this applies to roleplaying games as well. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment