Valve + DOTA = ???

By Alec Meer on October 6th, 2009 at 6:09 pm.

Hot news from PC-land today, gentletypes. Seems the ever-controversy-free Valve Software have a new project up their sleeves, and one that probably isn’t related to Deads or Teams or Halves. Probably. Turns out they’ve just hired the mysterious IceFrog, the chap who has been developing Defense of the Ancients Allstars for the last couple of years, the huge and influential (see: Demigod) Warcraft 3 mod. I’ve just had confirmation from Valve that his claim he’s off to lead one of their team on a secret new project is true. Goodness gracious me, whatever could it be?

Whatever else people might accuse Valve of, what they can’t say is that they’ve abandoned their long-running tendency to recruit talented modders to their ranks. It’s this strategy that led to TF2, Portal and Counter-Strike, so this is news to cheer about. Even though we don’t know anything about it.

Here’s FrostToad’s official memo about his new job:

I have some really awesome news I’d like to share with you guys. I am now leading a team at Valve! I finally have all the resources needed to do some very exciting stuff that you guys will love. I look forward to revealing more specific details when the time is right.

My goal and top priority in the future is to solve the surrounding issues that affect the DotA experience in order to allow it to reach new heights. Addressing these issues will enable us to further enjoy aspects of DotA such as the gameplay, mechanics, and in-game feel that currently work well and ought to be maintained. As I’ve said many times in the past and especially after today’s developments, I am very excited about DotA’s future!

Again, Valve’s Doug Lombardi gives the official nod to this news. “I can confirm it is true. And, as you’ve guessed, that is all I can say.” Boo. But still yay!

So, time to saddle up the Speculation Donkey. What could it be? Seems more than likely it’s strategy-related – is it standalone, Blizzard-free DOTA? A Team Fortress 2-themed RTS-RPG thing? Something entirely new? Spying an opportunity to do a professional DOTAlike after Demigod got itself into a spot of bother with the tech-fault plagued launch?

Fascinating and exciting stuff – most especially because it might just be Valve’s first major foray outside of FPS. It’s worth noting that IceFrog didn’t create DOTA-Allstars, but rather has been continuing its development since the original creator (it’s also worth nothing that DOTA Allstars is a modification of the original DOTA mod. Jeezum, this is confusing) stepped down. That chap, one Steve Feak, is now heading up Riot Games, a new team also currently engaged on a pro version of DOTA’s principles. That’s the upcoming League of Legends: Clash of The Fates, to be specific. As far as I can tell, IceFrog isn’t and wasn’t involved with that. But he is now a Valve employee, which is the important bit.

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104 Comments »

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  1. Torgen says:

    So, time to saddle up the Speculation Donkey.

    “Sancho, my lance!”

    hmmm, sez I. Certainly sounds like Valve is taking DOTA under its wing, from the fellow’s words.

  2. jsutcliffe says:

    Hmm, Valve + Strategy. Although I have no interest in DotA or its influencees, this could be interesting.

    • Poindexter says:

      I’ll second this. I have not, nor have any interest in, DOTA. However I always am excited when Valve takes in something new. The results are always fantastic and I don’t need to reiterate all the titles they have absorbed and refined. So I am excited to see what comes of this.

  3. Synneth says:

    Maybe there’ll be cake this time :D

  4. Sparvy says:

    So now we have DotA, Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends and Demigod? From one measly mod to an almost crowded genre in a year.

    Defintely seems like something new for valve in any case, unless they make an FPS version of dota, which could be… abolutely awesome!?

    Hmm.. this is really confusing.

    • Farewell says:

      I wouldn’t be suprised if Starcraft 2 ships with DOTA-Allstars included as well..

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Yeah; I can’t stand DotA myself (mostly by dint of being really bad at it), and between Demigod, Heroes of Newerth, Laugh out Lou- er, League of Legends and whatever this future project might be, I’m definitely starting to feel the genre is over-done.

      Then again, it’s not like my feelings matter, or else mod teams wouldn’t continue announcing yet more doomed-to-falling-through-before-alpha zombie mods.

  5. Cooper says:

    Even though I tend not to like strategy or RTS games, if this is where Valve head with this team, I’ll be very interested to see what they do.

  6. GuiSim says:

    I wonder what they’ll be able to create.
    All I know is that it will be fun.

  7. ChaosSmurf says:

    I’ll be surprised if this one is a DOTAalike – the AOS genre seems pretty covered atm. Demigod feeds high budget/alternative, original DOTA for those who want it free/the hardcore, HoN for someone who wants an updated, refined version and LoL for an alternative (and free) version.

    Of course it could be a good couple of years until this sees the light of day so they might come up with some original ideas in that time. I hope it’s some kind of game that exploits DOTAs ideas but in a totally new way – having a singleplayer, for example :P

  8. autarch says:

    The achievement you get for completing final battle in HL2: EP2 was called “Defense of the Armament
    “, and that mission involves you controlling your hero character against waves of enemy forces. Obviously Valve have been well aware of DotA for some time.

  9. Hermit says:

    Course, it could be they’re looking to build some sort of online FPS game with a strong DotA influence.

  10. cyrenic says:

    The way Icefrog words his first paragraph makes me think this is very likely some sort of DOTA clone. Since Demigod I’ve been getting into them (currently playing Demigod and Heroes of Newerth), so this sounds spiffy to me.

    The gaming community really needs to settle on a genre name for DOTA clones, calling them RTS’s doesn’t really do them justice. Something with a cool acronym, of course.

  11. Stick says:

    TF2 convo from yesterday:

    “Sigh. What am I supposed to do with all these flareguns, axes, heal-o-zaps and radioactive beverages?”
    “Well… when they release the RTS expansion, you’ll have enough gear to outfit a platoon?”

    I didn’t know. :P

  12. EyeMessiah says:

    FPS Dota would indeed be crazily awesome.

    Mixing the fps&rpg elements is tricky though. I wouldn’t wan’t them to go down the Tabula Rasa route.

    I’d much rather it were full shooty but that the XP rewards provided special abilities rather than buffing up ones combat math. But then you need to rethink gear…

    Ah speculation!

  13. Jonas says:

    Man isn’t there an international convention that prohibits that level of outrageous good fortune!? From modder directly to team lead at Valve? That lucky bastard.

    I mean not that I’m jealous, but yes, I am really really jealous :D

    • Jambe says:

      He was hired because he spent loads of time working on a quality (and popular) mod — not because Gabe picked a slip of paper from a hat full of modder names.

    • Bret says:

      Yeah.

      Everyone knows the hat is full of gaming humorist names.

  14. Tei says:

    It sounds like a DOTA clone. Why else would you hire a One Trick Pony guy? (note: he can show that is not a OTP, but anyone with only one huge sucess is a OTP till it prove otherwise). You will not hire Kasparov king of chess to create a “Womens Fight on Mud” simulator.

  15. innokenti says:

    Just so long as it’s not a DOTA knock-off and features actual…. you know… fun – I’m all for it.

    If it’s DOTA-style tedium. Well… Valve have missed.

  16. Jabberslops says:

    This would be good news to me if DotA wasn’t “controlled” by the assholes playing it. I swear, 95% of the people who play DotA think of them selves as some kind of elite super über awesome ultimate dude guy. The other 5% can’t even play without being called a nub cake or some other derogatory insults because you don’t automatically know how to play on your first play-through of one of the many maps with differences between map series developed by 1000 other people on WC3. I have never been able to play a game of DotA where I am not insulted for “not doing what I’m suppose to do because I said so.” This and the fact that WC3 is flooded with horrible TD maps and DotA, I always end up hosting my own Hero Wars games where even if you are a newb you can still contribute to a win.

    Also the last two patches or so have broken so many maps. The Hero Wars Icelands Series from 1.2-1.4a (1.5+ which are developed by someone else now are IMHO a step back) no longer work except 1.2ar was fixed by someone after the patches. I’m still looking for a 1.4a that is fixed. For the time being though, I will stick with mostly EE 2.33a Final/Random and EE 4.11 Final.

    • Earl_of_Josh says:

      Yeah, see its stories like this that keep me from checking DotA out. I have no desire to jump into a genre that I have no skill at playing only to be instantly slammed and told that I can’t play, and I shouldn’t even try. At the same time, that is why news that valve might be entering the arena is so exciting. They have an impressive genius at making games of the “simple to learn, difficult to master” vein. A DotA-type game with that mentality? Bring it on.

    • Player2 says:

      @Jabberslops

      Agreed in full. Seems that most the DotAlikes are full of 94% complete cocks, 5% people trying to learn to play, and 1% people who actually try and help others out. And if you make a mistake, it costs you and your team, which causes all the raging cocks to truly start berating you for every little thing. God forbid you pick Scout too, cause that hero is apparently always a lousy choice, and it is your fault for the teams loss, no matter how well you do.

      It’s fun once you get a basic understanding of how it all works and what items do what, but only if your playing with friends or a good group of guys who are more laid back. Seems like all the people who can’t speak fluent English are the coolest cats around, with one or two exceptions.

    • Anonymousity says:

      While dota has a notoriously caustic and unthinking playerbase their are some really good guys out there that can help you with learning to play without calling you a *%@$! and can be really fun to play with at any level.

  17. Vinraith says:

    I don’t know quite what to make of this, so I’ll just go with “where’s Episode 3?” and leave it at that.

  18. Sammy says:

    But will it have hats?

  19. Miker says:

    Hehe, FrostToad.

    That said, I’d love to play a Dota-like which has gone through an idiot-proofing as thorough as Valve did with TF2. By idiot-proof I mean it’s always clear what to do, and how to help your team. And a Dota game w/ a community similar to TF2 wouldn’t hurt either.

    • Jugglenaut says:

      What, a community that is going to over-scrutinize every single tweak to the game?

    • An Innocuous Coin says:

      My experience with TF2 suggests it’s not idiot-proof in the slightest…and Jugglenaut, given what I’ve heard about DoTA, I think I’d prefer TF2’s community with all its pickiness. =P

    • Miker says:

      More like being able to find friendly servers all the time, complete with players that don’t call you out (or cuss you out) for poor play. And I meant valve could add some user-friendliness into the game in the way that TF2 always has tips and whatnot popping up.

  20. msarge says:

    I really wish I would have continued trying to port DotA-style gameplay to Source (except with more shooting and less rpging and elitism ). Valve, will you hire me for my good intent?

  21. Boycott It says:

    Whatever it is, I’m going to create a Steam group and protest it.

  22. Lilliput King says:

    “Seems more than likely it’s strategy-related – is it standalone, Blizzard-free DOTA?”

    Seems fairly clear from the guy’s statement – yes.

    Likely Valve will work their magic and make it intuitive and super polished, then release it for about £20. Vaguely uninteresting, really.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I just saw the tag :D

      Is it women fighting between themselves over mud related issues, women collectively taking a stand on mud or women fighting eachother, on mud? Thats the genius of Tei. He keeps you asking these questions.

  23. Clovis says:

    Goodness gracious me, whatever could it be?

    Escape the room game.

  24. Jason says:

    What’s the big mystery? The picture at the top of the article contains one billion percent win and awesome. Any game company would basically have a license to print money if they did a fantasy RPG with Heavy as the main character, sucked through to the fantasy world by a freak teleporter accident and mowing down goblins and orcs with his minigun and yelling.

  25. bbot says:

    He’s obviously working on Team Fortress 3.

    That or Quarter-Life: Halfway To Destruction.

  26. Sam says:

    The key here though is that DotA’s been around for a lot longer than a year. It has had tremendous staying (growing, actually) power. How many other mods have communities easily numbering hundreds of thousands of people?

    And how many other mods have that kind of community more than six years after their creation?

    I can’t think of any.

    • Stupoider says:

      And how many mods/games get mentioned in Basshunter songs, eh? :D

    • jalf says:

      @Sam, you may have heard of a little game called Counterstrike? The TFC community was pretty damn big too. But your point is valid, of course. It *is* a big mod, it has stayed around for a while, and it has a big fanbase. So why wouldn’t Valve try to get into it?

      And how many mods/games get mentioned in Basshunter songs, eh? :D

      You say that as if it’s a good thing.

  27. Sam says:

    Ah, reply failure. Oh well.

  28. Crane says:

    Actually, IIRC IceFrog isn’t even a one trick pony guy.
    He’s a guy who stole someone else’s pony, gave it a dye job, and sold it on as a premium racing horse.

    I’ve no idea who created the original version of DotA or even the original AoS, but they should be the one getting all the credit and job offers.

    • Jabberslops says:

      From what I remember the original creator of Age of Strife (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by AOS was jumpyg1258 who was also the original creator of Hero Wars as far as I know. I could very well be completely wrong though, so don’t take this as fact.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    This is pretty surprising. It isn’t unprecedented that Valve hire mod makers, but to hire one that has been making an RTS (kind of) mod is a pretty dramatic turn of events.

    Don’t really have that much interest in DOTA myself. I’ve played the demo of Demigod and thought, although interesting, didn’t seem like it had much to sustain my enjoyment. I brief glance and DOTA (think it was Allstars) was enough. An absurd number of heroes to choose from and then numerous items that could also be combined to create other items just made the whole thing seemingly impossible to get into.

    I would certainly give a look at a DOTA-style game if it were to come from Valve, but I’m not sure if it was something I would jump on with all my enthusiasm. However, if it were to be a Valve take on the RTS genre… that would be interesting.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Oh and that image at the top of the article is blatantly Valve’s promo pic for that World of Team Fortress 2 game they keep trying to make. :)

  30. Stupoider says:

    This is awesome awesome awesome. Valve. <3

  31. Leelad says:

    Gman as a level 10 Death Knight??

    LOVE IT.

  32. Rockhospital.com says:

    I play HoN almost every day, i think its fun, but i have only played Dota, like, 4-5 times, didnt get excited of that game. But HoN is one hell of a game, looks fucking awesome. And if i can recall, IceFrig did something on HoN as well, or maybe he just gave the HoN team a heads up on the creation of the game.

    if icefrog can create a new standalone dota-ish game it will kick some mayor ass. he is the one creator he made the mod/map as good as it is and for a standalone project, wow… hopefully it can kick HoNs ass, but i’ll wait until then.

    • NuZZ says:

      I agree. I have like 500 games in HoN and have only been playing a month or so. I never got into DotA but HoN is just alot easier to get into.

    • Sparvy says:

      Well, HoN is more or less a complete remake of dota, they added a few new maps as opposed to the single one i DotA, but other than that I belive all items and heroes are copied directly from DotA.

      And to be perfectly clear IceFrog did not create DotA, the mod is much older than that, he is just the current “care taker” if you will.

    • Tem says:

      HoN began as a direct dota clone, and as they integrate new engine mechanics, new heros are added (Ports, Remixes, and entirely new alike). Most existing heros are either direct ports or remixes based on DotA heros. There are a few entirely unique ones, though.

      Still, it’s in (mostly closed) beta, and under active development.

  33. Butler` says:

    Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to do this before HoN?

    • RyePunk says:

      Seeing how HoN is just copying most of Icefrog’s patch notes into their own game I really dont see what a difference it will make. Other than maybe that Valve might force Icefrog to stop letting them blatantly copy his work.

    • KikiJiki says:

      @RyePunk Incorrect. HoN has been getting new heroes and items that aren’t in Dota added now. The only time the patchnotes are added in is for existing content they replicate (which admittedly is a fairly large portion of the game right now).

  34. alset says:

    Fuck. If there’s one warcraft 3 modder who needs to be hired by Valve ASAP, that’s Redscull. The pure concentrated awesome that SWAT:Aftermath is, and turning that into a FPS-RPG hybrid just makes my pants tighten.

  35. An Innocuous Coin says:

    I’m really intrigued by the possibility of a DoTA-style game with Valve’s level of polish and balance. I already play Demigod on and off, and that’s awesome enough as is. Hopefully it’ll have such a robust art direction and unique character…

    Though, I kinda hope Valve takes the TF2 approach for balance, and create different options that are beneficial but separate. One of my big problems with Demigod, aside from the utterly horrid community, was that once you knew what the optimal item builds were, there was no need to experiment – and my time with Demigod basically consisted of “relearn the game and various playstyles of the characters, have a few epic battles with the CPU, quit for a few months”.

    What I’m saying is stagnation is boring and hyper-elitists suck, and I hope both are absent from this likely Valve-DoTA. =P

  36. Noirdeathe says:

    Interesting considering the market is already crammed through with DBG (Dota-Based-Games), perhaps they’re waiting for the tim League of Legends fails to garner enough attention due to the cutesy atmosphere or perhaps they’re waiting for people to bore of Heroes of Newerth because it’s 100% the same as DOTA?

    Never played Demigod however so can’t comment on that!

    P.S: If anyone is interested in a trial Lol / HoN key, I think I have 1 perhaps 2 of each.

  37. orpheusx says:

    At what point did Valve start using titles like ‘team lead’? Even the guys who are clearly in charge of certain projects don’t tend to describe themselves that way. Doug Lombardi is often terrible at communicating clearly (despite that sort of being his primary job.) I’m wondering if all he really meant to confirm was that they’d hired IceFrog.

  38. Karnov says:

    I would just like to point out that Left 4 Dead 2 supposedly has a as yet unanounced new 4v4 multiplayer mode.

  39. Mark says:

    If it’s a DOTAlike (this should be the word for it – think “Roguelike”), it would benefit immensely from Valve-caliber playtesting and accessibility focus.

  40. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Seems like it’s the current flavour. There’s that DOW2 The Last Stand DLC about to hit.

  41. melipone says:

    Can we run over the speculation donkey with the angrytank?

  42. Sonic Goo says:

    “I finally have all the resources needed to do some very exciting stuff”

    This sounds like he’s going to do lots of cool and interesting stuff.

    “As I’ve said many times in the past and especially after today’s developments, I am very excited about DotA’s future!”

    This sounds like he’s not going to do any cool or interesting stuff.

  43. Joseph says:

    Who gave you the right to all look almost identical in your avatars! It’s annoying because now I can’t remember who wrote what by display picture. Yes I do that, automatically it seems because I only realised now.

    • Joseph says:

      I got distracted by analysing what I was doing! My final point was meant to be damn you all for being similar! Damn you all!

    • Psychopomp says:

      JOIN US, JOSEPH

  44. Joseph says:

    Out of curiosity, where do they come from?

  45. Jayt says:

    JEALOUS AND EXCITED

  46. Jayt says:

    It makes me wonder why blizzard wouldn’t snap up these types of guys and make DOTA official a long time ago.

  47. Dude says:

    Whenever someone insults you in DOTA, your role on the team just became to troll them until they leave. I thought this was common knowledge.

  48. sigma83 says:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Valve Software Announces Half Life 2: Episode 3

    October 7, Seattle, WA – World renowned games designer Valve Software is proud to announce the final arc in the Half Life 2 episodes: Half Life 2: Episode 3.

    ‘The Half Life episodes have been a successful experiment for Valve,’ said Valve president Gabe Newell. ‘Every episode has allowed us to capitalize on the modular and scalable nature of the Source Engine to release a new and innovative technology with each release; Improved AI and HDR lighting in Episode 1, open areas and non-linear combat in Episode 2, we felt we owed it to our player base to really raise the bar for Episode 3.’

    ‘We understand that there’s been a long delay since the release of Episode 2, so we couldn’t be more excited to reveal the new features that have kept all our fans waiting so long’

    A new genre

    Episode 3 will be a revolution in FPS/RPG/RTS hybridization, with elements of match-3 puzzles and pachinko gameplay. Eschewing the traditional keyboard/mouse/gamepad methods, the interface will instead take the form of an innovative sign language input system, allowing for deeper immersion within the game.

    Included alongside the new interface elements are the aforementioned RPG/RTS elements. Players will now control Gordon Freeman and his allies from an isometric fixed camera perspective as they battle the Combine in the frozen wastes of the Arctic North, as alluded to in the ending of Episode 2.

    ‘The Borealis setting was really the perfect time for us to showcase this new gameplay,’ explains Mr. Newell. ‘The ship’s tight, narrow corridors correspond to the RTS/RPG concept of ‘lanes’ while the introduction of the quantum tunneling technology from Portal also gives us an in-universe explanation of ‘spawning’.’

    Players are also no longer restricted to playing only as Gordon Freeman. Episode 3 includes a diverse cast list of over 70 characters including old favorites like Adrian Shepard and Gina Cross. Using an experience-point system, players will then be able to directly influence their character’s unique skill trees: for example Dr Kleiner’s ultimate ability ‘Oh Dear,’ will bend the very fabric of space and time, summoning Gordon Freeman to aid him in battle.

    ‘This departure from the standard first person perspective was obviously a risky move in such an established franchise,’ explains Doug Lombardi, Valve VP of Marketing. ‘But through extensive playtesting we feel we’ve discovered the optimal balance between the various control schema. Of course, Valve’s first priority is always to deliver a quality player experience, and if we have to depart from first person then so be it.’

    He explained that there have been parallels to RTS gameplay in previous Half Life titles, citing the antlion pod in Half Life 2.

    ‘Despite these new technological innovations, we will of course continue to deliver the robust story and character development that our customers have come to expect from the Half Life franchise.’

    Multiplayer

    Valve has a long history of critically acclaimed and hugely popular multiplayer titles, including Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2,and the Left 4 Dead series.

    While traditionally a single player franchise, Valve will be bringing multiplayer to the Half Life series for the first time with Episode 3. The ‘Story Mode’ can be played co-operatively with up to 4 friends either over Steam, XBox Live, or split screen. ‘Versus Mode’ with 5v5 gameplay out of the box and including serverside support for 12v12, instaspawn, and ‘pure’ servers with no achievement-related unlocks.

    ‘We felt that with all the other innovations in Episode 3, now was the right time to deploy multiplayer support for one of our most successful franchises,’ explained Mr. Lombardi.

    Half Life 2: Episode 3 will be released Spring 2011. For more information visit http://www.valvesoftware.com

  49. Smurfy says:

    I really hope this is something interesting and un-Valvian, like an RTS or RPG.

  50. lumpi says:

    Interesting…

    Proceed.