Does anyone remember when Warcraft was a popular RTS series that people didn’t always make fun of? Back before Warcraft went into the depths of MMO oblivion, a popular fan map was made for Warcraft 3 called Defence of the Ancients. Based on the Starcraft scenario Aeon of Strife, DotA soon became one of the most played unsupported mods out there. Valve now look set to bring a sequel our way with one of the original DotA’s lead programmers, Ice Frog, leading up development. What exactly can we expect from Valve’s first major foray into the world of Fantasy action RTS?
As with the original, DotA 2 will pit two teams of five heroes against each other. The game is played in a top-down perspective as in an RTS, but with the levelling up and inventory management of an RPG. Triumphing over your foes involves you defeating the Ancient that inhabits the centre of their base. This isn’t as simple as it sounds however, with other human players, defence towers and smaller “creep” units hampering your progress every step of the way.
Valve, being ever practical, have realised that this is a game entirely focused on competitive multiplayer. Forget that narrative and story bollocks; who needs it? That isn’t to say that their won’t be back stories and personalities for the game’s roster of heroes or a rich game world and lore, but there will not be a dedicated single player story mode as such. That said, you can still play the game with fewer than ten players with open slots filled by AI players. There is also talk of ways to get introduced to the game’s mechanics outside of the competitive arena, but it isn’t clear whether this will be a different class of unranked games or some sort of lengthy tutorial.
It is the small benefits of Valve’s involvement with the project that seem set to elevate the competitive nature of DotA to new heights of excellence. With distribution and online play handled by Steam, there will be a better infrastructure with which to play and communicate with other players than the unofficial websites and chat channels that accompanied the original Defence of the Ancients. You also have Valve’s standard option of entering a game as a spectator, which is always welcome in a game about high level competitive play. With Valve’s anti-cheat systems along for the ride, you can also count on more consistent and regulated gameplay in DotA 2. Throw in replays, proper matchmaking and detailed stat-tracking, and DotA 2 already seems like a mighty fine idea.
Valve’s resources are extended further than just online components though, with the original Defence of the Ancients assets getting a complete source engine makeover for the sequel. Not only that, but it is a slightly modified source engine with more advanced cloth simulation and other such graphical perks.
The fun doesn’t end there though, with the online components of Steam getting a boost as well. Considering the highly competitive nature of DotA, it could easily become an elitist title that would be off-putting to players who missed out on the original. To counter this, Valve have implemented a coaching system where more experienced players can tutor and teach their newbie brethren in the lost arts of awesome. There will probably be tonnes of people who ignore this feature, but if it helps more people get into the competitive spirit then it can be considered a necessary addition.
It has been said that most of the development cycle so far has gone into converting Defence of the Ancients to the Steam platform and Source engine, but this is not to say that there will not be enough content as a result. The original game has over a hundred heroes to choose from, but there will likely be a few more new faces popping up in DotA 2 for both the Sentinel and Scourge sides. Considering the original DotA scenario also consisted of a single (albeit expansive) map, we can expect that area to get a few extra numbers pumped into it as well.
With Valve’s first attempt at the genre, it seems they are playing safe by not straying far from the path carved by the original DotA. That said, why fix what isn’t broken? Valve have left room for DotA to manoeuvre whilst staying true to its roots. In this way it seems that the whole DotA community will really feel at home in DotA2, yet the new additions of coaching and replays should help new players get into the experience as well. Until more details come forth we can only speculate, but this is Valve we’re talking about. You can have faith that they will do Defence of the Ancients justice in this sequel.