Jan 24 2013

7 Things I Learned About Dota 2 After my First 100 Hours

Published by at 9:00 am under Columns,Video Games

7 Things I Learned About Dota 2 after my First 100 Hours

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It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea of DotA 2. I played the original for a long time which explains why the shortcut icon for Warcraft III remained on my desktop years after I stopped playing the campaign. I was happy that the game and the genre were finally getting the recognition I thought they deserved, but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about a big company like Valve taking over when the efforts of fans and volunteers had proven so successful. I did agree, though, that the game needed to progress out of Blizzard’s Warcraft III custom lobbies in order to continue to grow.

I wasn’t impressed when I booted up the game a few months ago, I didn’t feel like it brought anything new to the genre in the same way that League of Legends had. But I gave it another chance; a few weeks ago I loaded it up and found that many of the updates since my first few initial games had cleaned up the overall experience quite a bit. 100 hours later with an incredible record of 46 wins and 46 loses I think it’s safe to say the game is growing on me. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than I originally thought. 

Its High Learning Curve Keeps out the Riff Raff 

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Yes, the shop is still confusing, but better. 

Normally you can’t’ mention DotA or any MOBAs in general without mentioning how difficult they are. There are many reasons why the game is so difficult; it’s an entirely unique skill set, there’s a lot you need to know, and there’s a lot you need to do, not even being an avid RTS player really prepares you for it. Dota 2 is no different, Valve has done their best to make things easier on new players by adding a co-op vs. bot mode, in-game guides, and an entire section in the lobby dedicated to learning each hero and item, but still the game is hard, even for someone like me who has played the genre for years.

One of the side effects of this, at least one of the ones I have noticed, is that once you get past the first few games, away from the people booting up for the first time, most of the players just want to have a good game. While DotA used to be full of elitist rage and unsportsmanlike conduct, DotA 2 seems to be more on par with LoL; not everyone is friendly, but most are. They’ve also adopted an honor system very similar to Riots’ in the hope that it will keep players from raging, and to be honest it does feel like it works, with players asking for commendations after games for good behavior.

Lack of a Surrender Option Encourages Winning Teams to Milk their Wins 

There was no surrender button in the original DotA, if you wanted to leave a game before it was over, you just left. Sure, some hosts kept ban lists going in order to make sure leavers couldn’t enter lobbies, but for the most part the only way to surrender was to leave. Dota 2 is exactly the same, only leaving a game before it’s over is a much bigger deal now that Valve is tracking stats. So just like the original, the winning team tends to take their time with their victory, often farming up more items instead of ending the game. In some ways it’s worse than the original; at least I could leave games in Dota, with Valve tracking how many games players abandon, placing those who do in low priority queue, Dota 2 makes it much harder to leave a game when the winner is clear. 

I have, thankfully, had a whole bunch of comebacks because of this, but most of the time if a team is so far ahead they can milk a win it’s usually too late. The only way to end a game of Dota 2 early is to win or lose earlier. If you’re mean, the other team will most likely spend a long time making you sit in a losing game. 

The Match Making Could be Better 

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That says average wait time 6:14 by the way. 

By could be better I mean could be a lot better. There are no ranked games in Dota 2, so everyone’s lumped together into the same match making system. You would think this would make finding a game easier, especially if you’re not picky about the game mode, but it doesn’t. In both solo and duo queue my wait times are upwards of five minutes, more if someone disconnects or leaves the lobby. I will say that the games are fairly balanced; after all I do have the same amount of wins as loses. Still, the wait time pretty awful, something that will hopefully be better as more people pick up the game. 

In-Game Voice Chat does what it is Supposed To. 

When I heard that Valve was adding in-game voice chat to Dota 2 I thought it was the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. Voice chat often brings out the trolls and the Dota community wasn’t known for its hospitality, I figured putting the two together would be a disaster. I was wrong.

Generally most people who are hostile in written chat often aren’t so when given a chance to speak. Again I’m not sure if the game’s difficulty level keeps out the immature, but Dota 2’s voice chat is generally, I stress generally, a pleasant and positive experience. There may be times when someone uses it to talk about my mother, but overall it’s used to set up ganks, warn other lanes when heroes are missing, and prioritize targeting in team fights. On more than one occasion the game’s voice chat has helped to turn what was looking like a sure defeat into an easy win. 

Good Monetization a.k.a. I Don’t Feel Left out for not Spending Money. 

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Just showing-off my new Pudge off-hand, The Tenderizer.

I didn’t really play a lot of TF2 once Valve made it F2P and starting making cash on virtual hats, so I didn’t really know what to expect from Dota 2’s shop system. At the end of each game some players are awarded treasure chests that can be unlocked with keys or random items that can be equipped on to their characters. You can simply equip the items you receive to make your character look cool or you can take it a step further, spending some real cash on in-game keys and open up the treasure chests you’ve won. There are also all sorts of trading going on for unique items and for keys, but to be honest I haven’t really gotten into all of that yet. I will say that it’s nice that their monetization system hasn’t ruined the experience of someone who is playing for free, in fact it’s nice that I can play along to some extent even though I haven’t forked over any cash. 

Replay and Spectating System are Top Notch 

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A gold per minute tab is only one of a few easy to access features. 

The one thing that always bothered me about LoL was how there was very little support for replays and spectating when it was obvious that it was desperately needed by the community. Dota 2, however, has started off with a really well put together spectating system, complete with every feature you would want including all of the in-game gold and experience tracking needed to follow the action, perfect for casters. There’s also, just like in the Warcraft III engine, a replay system which makes it easier for people go back to old games to find clips worth bragging about or sending to one of those Top Plays YouTube channels.

They may not have gotten everything right, but this is one thing they did absolutely perfectly right from the start.

Yes, it’s Still Weird Seeing Characters from the Blizzard Universe in a Valve game 

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I know you from somewhere…

The tumultuous and complicated journey of DotA from a fledgling little custom game in Warcraft 3 to a full on international E-sport from Valve has been well documented. Still I can’t help but find it strange that a whole bunch of characters I know from the Blizzard universe are in Valve’s Dota 2. Technically they aren’t the same characters, but there’s very little difference in how they were originally and how they ended up. For example Windrunner and Drow are two different Dota 2 heroes, but they were both models for the same unit, Sylvanas Windrunner, in Warcraft III. Both her original human form and her undead Drow form were used as models in the original Dota. For you lore hounds out there, Sylvanas is the leader of the Undead faction in World of Warcraft.

Almost every other hero in the game shares a similar story. The only reason Venomancer looks the way he does is because the Warcraft 3 team put a few Easter eggs into their game, including a Hydralisk from the Starcraft universe. Not only does Valve’s Dota 2 feature characters that are essentially Blizzard characters; there are units from both the Starcraft and the Warcraft universe. It’s been 100 hours, but that is still the weirdest thing about this game.





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6 responses so far

  • http://noonecaresmatt.blogspot.nl/ MattV

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  • Captainhowdy

    The high learning curve also keeps out a lot of other players. You have to fight through a poorly designed HUD, lack of proper keyboard support, unexplained characters (this one was a huge bother to me), and beyond all those stupid choices they made, they also decided that there’d be no next to no visual impact for skills and combat – Skills blend in to the scenery, and there’s no visual alert until your character is about to die, and without the ability to snap the screen to your character, you’re most definitely going to die unless you keep your camera manually focused on your character (since automatic doesn’t appear to be an option).

    So you won’t find me playing the game. It’s annoyance after annoyance, like the game is actually fighting back while I play.

  • Scrupuless

    #captainhowdy

    Poorly designed hud….. not sure what game you were playing, but its one of the best designed huds I’ve had the pleasure of using.

    Lack of keyboard support??…… thats just plain false you can map any action to any button, there are a myriad of options in this respect.

    In respect to other moba, its a graphical beast, the skills and actions are beautifully animated. You most certainly can snap the camera back to your character, or your courier or any of your control groups simply by doubling clicking/tapping the button you have mapped them to (clearly your keyboard comment is dubious at best if you didnt even know you could do this simply task).

    Best Moba on the market by far, may be on the best games Ive ever played period.

  • [nTmY] few

    You mentioned that all players are left in the same matchmaking pool, thats not entirely true. There are actually 3 skill levels for 3 different pools. Normal, high and very high. Depending on your wins/looses and some other facts unknown by me, you’re placed in a matchimaking pool corresponding to your skill level. I’ve also noticed that if you’re playing along with 4 other friends that are in a matchmaking skill pool different than yours, you tend to be placed on the pool that adjusts the majority of the players.

    @Captainhowdy Those “poor” choices you’ve mentioned are not actually choices. Not having, for example, an automatic camera focus is part of the game dificulty, and that over the years while dota was only a WarIII mod has become an important mechanism that draws a line between good and bad players. If you dont know how to position your camera right, you will not be able to perform some very specialized plays. The same goes for the “allert” when you’re under attack. That makes necessary that you are aware all times where you hero are and what he is doing when performing some micro or anything else you might want to. And the last point of your argumentation, I dont know what you mean by proper keyboard support. Dota 2 is full costumizable, you can have your actions anywhere you want in your keyboard, idk how that can be said as poor keyboard support.

  • Breathless

    “They’ve also adopted an honor system very similar to Riots’ in the hope that it will keep players from raging, and to be honest it does feel like it works, with players asking for commendations after games for good behavior.”
    This was actually one of the numerous things Riot implemented on LoL after Valve did on Dota 2.

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