Dote Night: Fairness, Tactics And The Poirot Of Esports

By Philippa Warr on July 9th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.

“Dota 2 is not about kills, it’s not about how many towers you can take, it’s about killing the throne. That’s the game”

I’m talking to Alliance’s manager Kelly Ong Xiao Wei about the “rat Dota” tag you’ll often hear applied to her team. I’ve been thinking about the phrase since I overheard her asking one of the Dota 2 commentators at ESL One to stop using it. Her point is that it’s not a neutral term. Rat Dota is also a judgement on the team and it implies they’re using an inferior or unworthy playstyle. That’s why she’s asking the casters to refrain from using it. But the more I think about the problem the more I wonder if there’s another solution.

Rat Dota is a style of play heavy on split pushing. Split pushing is where you push your advantage on multiple lanes in the game at once – it’s common to see it as part of the flow of play but some heroes and lineups are more geared towards this style. Nature’s Prophet is one of the most obvious split push heroes as he can generate extra minions to do damage in lanes and his teleport ability means he can head from lane to lane keeping up the pressure from multiple directions.

With rat Dota you’re playing an evasive form of Dota, making extensive use of split pushing and generally staying out of costly team fights. The aim is to gnaw away at enemy towers and push multiple lanes efficiently. When the enemy arrives to defend you scurry away leaving only damaged towers and perhaps a few of Nature’s Prophet’s treants behind you. It’s an exercise in constant pressure, in misdirection of the other team’s heroes, in co-ordination and discipline. It’s not a spectacular 5v5 mid-lane teamfight, it’s a siege.

“Rat Dota was used to describe Fnatic because they used to do a lot,” says Kelly. “It’s split pushing. Split pushing is not a strategy everyone can execute because it’s about experience, it’s about decision making and knowing what to do because you put pressure on the enemy so they can’t really counter it.”

It’s a strategy Alliance can also look to when they’re behind in a game, staring into a gold or XP abyss. “Sure, it makes a lot of people angry from the way we win but I think the fact you’re able to come back from such a huge loss in the game just shows we’re better. If it was so easy to do, why doesn’t every team play the way we do sometimes? It’s not like we only play rat style.”

Thinking about why split pushing is considered somehow less virtuous than other types of play leads in several directions. One is that, regardless of how the negativity started, it continues because it’s legitimised by casters and other professionals. The “rat” label being applied means that newcomers to pro-Dota will have the strategy introduced to them as a negative thing from the start and then repeated. This is what concerns Kelly.

It’s why she wants to change how casters deploy the term, removing it from the general conversation. But Alliance have mixed messaging on this front at the moment. They also toy with embracing the term. One of their official t-shirts actually says “Once you go rat you never go back”. They also considered creating a themed rat courier as an in-game item for fun. Admiral Bulldog – the focus of a lot of the ire – tells me “I don’t really care so much about it, just embrace it – I’m the rat king or whatever [...] I don’t care what they call it.” As long as you get the crown? “Yes,” he smiles.

Digging deeper into the causes rather than the continuation, split pushing involves map-wide mobility. It involves being where the enemy isn’t and nibbling away at defences in preference to explosive fights. How we process interactions is important here. Two digital wizards punching each other in the face has a directness which gets translated as honesty. One digital wizard commandeering a bunch of tree people to smack a building then scarpering before the other digital wizards show up to deliver the aforementioned face-punching is an indirect encounter. It tends to get translated as sneaky or less honest. It gets the ‘rat’ label.

These translations can build into scrub logic. I’m using the term ‘scrub’ as David Sirlin defines it – someone who sets up their own series of arbitrary rules about what constitutes good or valid play completely independently of how the game actually works. Split pushing being interpreted as dishonest, as cheap, as dirty falls into this category. If you’re playing to win as the pro players do you’ll adapt your strategy and do whatever you can to get that title. But when that’s happening in front of spectators who have personally ruled that strategy as dishonest you’re seen as unsporting.

But the more time I spent thinking about this the more I suspect Dota 2 casting camerawork also plays a big role. Split pushing, as I said before, involves misdirection. You want to keep the enemy’s resources concentrated away from the places where you’re split pushing. This can mean engaging in a fight elsewhere on the map to create space for the pushing heroes. When this happens the camera tends to go to the conflict and not to the push because there’s a far higher likelihood of action, perhaps even a kill. Casters will try hard to keep you informed of action happening elsewhere but it’s easy to lose track.

Let’s take Alliance’s second game against Cloud 9 at the recent ESL One tournament as an example. Towards the end of the game there’s a more or less continual fight going on. Bulldog gets killed at the 79:50 mark in-game, instantly buys back and teleports to the mid barracks to continue smashing it apart. He leaves and then returns at 80:30 to finish the job. You don’t watch any of this on the ESL stream unless you’re tracking his icon on the minimap because the camera is trained on the constant action elsewhere. The first you actually see of it is when the camera pans over to mid after Bulldog is long gone revealing the loss.

It’s this kind of moment which can pull the rug out from under spectators. If you support the split pushing team it can be a great reveal, if you don’t it’s a nasty surprise. Either way it’s been happening largely off camera, or at least only intermittently in view. You, as a spectator, haven’t been given the chance to follow the full story and so there’s a feeling of being short-changed.

The best analogy I can think of is using ITV murder mysteries because everything works better with a murder mystery analogy. Imagine you’re watching Poirot. You see almost everything the exacting Belgian sleuth sees and you spend the episode trying to piece together the puzzle just a tiny bit before he does. When you get to the end there’s a sense of satisfaction because even if you didn’t get there first, you at least watched the whole thing unfold and arrived at the conclusion together. Now imagine you get to the end and Poirot’s all like “So the murderer was actually this dude over here who we forgot about til now and who I’ve been secretly researching the whole time without telling you. I’ll have a tisane now please.”

Rat Dota camerawork is the badly structured murder mystery of MOBA gaming.

By increasing the camera options for broadcast Dota, spectators could keep a better eye on what’s going on all over the map. While the main screen deals with what’s happening in a fight an inset camera could follow the otherwise offscreen actions of the Tinker or Nature’s Prophet or Phantom Lancer. It would take away some of the extremes of emotion – those ‘meanwhile, back at base…’ reveals – but, combined with other ways of referring to that style of play, perhaps it’s possible to start split pushing against the negativity of rat Dota.

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120 Comments »

  1. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I don’t play professionally and haven’t played for months even, but when I played Dota 2 (and League of Legends before that) I always jumped from lane to lane. I had no idea that was considered bad form or whatever.

    Very interesting article, despite not being a hardcore Dota player by any means.

    • Graerth says:

      It’s not the “Switching lanes”, it’s more of the “Avoiding all fights when possible and nibbling at buildings”.

      Maybe when some really important part (say, barracks or the throne itself) is getting being killed by the fast pusher (Natures Prophet or Lycan are common choices) the whole rest of team engages, not to win a fight, but to stop teleports back.

      EDIT: I don’t personally mind the style that much, as long as the balance of the current patch lets other forms of play win too.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        The enemy gate is down.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Yeah, I played a game of League of Legends recently where their team was just so much better at teamfights than ours, if we engaged them head-on we’d be crushed.
        So we didn’t, we just danced around them, always having at least one person attempting to push to towers on the other side of the map, and only picking a fight when they let themselves get separated, or as a hefty distraction to sacrifice a person to let the rest of the team continue unabated on the tower push.

    • Horg says:

      It’s not considered bad form, it’s called Rat DotA because anyone who has faced a competent rat will know how frustrating it is to play against, even if your team has appropriate rat counters. Getting flamed as a rat player is a tacit ”well played” from your opponent.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Agreed. It’s obviously a legitimate strategy, but the hatred is legitimate too, because it’s (often) evoked by the memories of a thousand horrible, protracted, soul-destroying Tinker / Nature’s Prophet / Naga Siren games.

        • darkkai3 says:

          It happens in Smite too with Nu Wa and Apollo. Nu Wa is essentially the same as the treant guy, being able to spawn minions, and people feel cheated when she suddenly takes two towers in a lane and disappears back to base to push somewhere else.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I think from an eSports perspective it’s mostly down to the fact it’s less interesting to watch. Nothing really happens, just someone appears at a tower and it goes down. The big teamfights are the exciting bit of a game of Dota, when a ton of stuff happens on screen all at once. Rat Dota actively avoids this hence it’s boring to watch.

        There are lots of examples of this in sports.
        Football = Italian style score one goal then defend for the rest of the game,
        Boxing = Guy jabbing for 12 rounds and wins on points, also heavy clinching styles designed to edge rounds
        MMA = Lay and Pray (i.e. guy repeatedly scoring takedowns then holding his opponent down and not throwing punches, leading to a dull decision),
        Tennis = Heavy baseline style revolving around getting the ball back and waiting for a mistake,
        Snooker = Someone heavily favouring safety play,

        There are lots of examples of styles in competitive sport that are seen as boring and they receive equal backlash to rat dota, however this is elite competition, you find a way to win if you can within the rules, regardless of whether it might be entertaining to watch.

        • Sian says:

          See, that’s the problem I have with probably all MOBAs, ever, and the reason I don’t enjoy playing and watching them: When a teamfight happens, the heroes converge on each other, a lot of flashy effects go off, and then some are dead and some are still standing. My brain can’t process that, it’s not entertaining to me. However, if we were to see more guerilla-style fighting I’d have an easier time grasping what was going on and could even appreciate it. To me, that wouldn’t be boring.

          Rat Dota sounds like people cleverly outmaneuvering their opponents, forcing them to adapt in some way.

          • Ringwraith says:

            It’s why the genre is a terrible spectator sport and only really works for people who already know a lot about it.
            At least in RTSs like Starcraft it’s easier to see who’s doing well: it’s the guy with lots more dudes.

          • KngOfGms says:

            Yes, DOTA 2 is a really boring game to watch. Not a single DOTA 2 pro is a good player and the the fanboys are worse. The ppl who “know a lot” would rather play the game than watch some really bad players play.. chats aren’t very nice either as it’s just garbage posts by clueless fanboys who love stroking their fanjayjays

          • Ringwraith says:

            Chats tend to reach a critical mass where the quality of them sharply drops regardless of what they are.
            I don’t really enjoy watching competitive streams of the genre, but I do really enjoy watching people playing it badly, if only because it’s wonderfully unpredictable, and my stream of choice for this is actually really good about it in the chat. Though insulting the players is a bannable offence, and it’s not often got massive numbers of people in the chat.

          • MaryContrary says:

            This notion of ‘lots of flashy stuff happens and I can’t tell what was going on!’ thing is purely a side effect of inexperience and unfamiliarity with the game. If you play the game and know the abilities, it is natural to decipher what is going on.

          • Ringwraith says:

            Which is precisely one of the reasons why it’s not a good spectator sport.

          • poetfoxpaul says:

            You see, that isn’t quite right. For instance, I bet you would peg football as a ‘good’ spectator sport? I have watched a few games and I can’t even begin to tell you the rules and regulations of the sport. When the plays happen, well, it’s a really fleshy and flashy experience and I really don’t know what’s happened beyond the ball moving here or there.

            With Dota, however, after learning the game (I never learned football) I greatly appreciated watching. In fact, I might be attending the international!

            Just like most esports the biggest struggle with spectators is getting them to play the game. Most ‘analogue’ sports have the benefit of normalization through children’s camps and minor league clubs.

  2. shinkshank says:

    Scrub (noun): Someone who sets up their own series of arbitrary rules about what constitutes good or valid play completely independently of how the game actually works.

    Thank you, this says what I could never phrase right pretty much perfectly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some people to tell why they suck.

  3. Rizlar says:

    If there was a DOTA-like with rats battling each other I would play that.

  4. Geebs says:

    It’s a long time since Sirlin wrote that. I like to think he’s since learned to understand what embarrassment is.

  5. Wedge says:

    Playing lame is always part of the game if you want to win. But then, are these matches being run to see who wins… or to be entertaining to watch? I can’t really say, since it’s all the most horrifically boring thing to me no matter what is happening.

  6. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I concur on the better camera options being necessary for casters.

    It has always seemed like a particularly odd choice to require that casters use the same camera system the players use. I feel it makes as much sense as if you were only allowed to watch a game of football from cameras strapped to the heads of invisible ghosts who wander the pitch.

    Give casters Supreme Commander-style strategic zoom options. Let casters split and tile the views. Let casters call up a selection of autocam views. Let them rewind and replay highlights. This one is my personal favourite idea: Add a scripting system for autocams so legions of coders can compete to build the most exciting Director view.

    • Llewyn says:

      When Peter Molyneux dies and they hold the elections for the next Molyneux, I’d like you to win.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah in LoL they are now using frame-in-frame views to show the split pusher at the same time and it works well. Would like to see this in Dota too.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      The Dota 2 engine apparently is designed to be an exact replica of the WC3 engine, with all limitations of the old WC3 engine turned into features. I wouldn’t expect anything like that unless they rethink that approach.

    • Derppy says:

      You should watch games inside the DOTA2 client, it’s a far better way to experience the games, even for someone like me who is terrible at DOTA and has ever played against bots.

      Even if you stick to the same caster and his camera angle for the entire game (similar to how a Twitch stream would play), you’ll still have your native refresh rate and resolution with zero compression. It looks way better and you’ll avoid buffering issues.

      But on top of that, you can view all the information you want at any time. When things aren’t happening, you can check item builds, net worth, farming stats and so on.

      If you’d like to see what the rats are doing while the caster focuses on the ganking attempt, you can just use the camera yourself or view it from a player perspective where you see their every mouse click.

    • soundofsatellites says:

      To be fair, in recent patches preceding TI4, valve has improved the spectator and caster options, with the ability to zoom out far and wide, and the like. I think it is still a very much work in progress, but I with valve, it may get there (eventually)

  7. TehK says:

    I love “wizard-em-ups”. We could abbreviate that to “WUPS”. This will be my new preferred name for this genre.

    [Edit]
    now that I read it completely, I just wanted to add: Great article! I heard about the “rat dota” only yesterday on the new noob stream they’re doing at TI4. I hadn’t any immediate negative association with it, but it really shines a light on the problem that what people see and hear depends on the casters and their abilities/options within the observer client.

  8. Morph says:

    I’m not a dota player, but this was a great article, thanks.

  9. rockman29 says:

    Part of the game is responding to what the other team does, that’s part of being competitive and multiplayer :)

    “It’s this kind of moment which can pull the rug out from under spectators. If you support the split pushing team it can be a great reveal, if you don’t it’s a nasty surprise. Either way it’s been happening largely off camera, or at least only intermittently in view. You, as a spectator, haven’t been given the chance to follow the full story and so there’s a feeling of being short-changed.”

    Maybe they should have multiple cameras for spectating?

    The spectators should be able to see the whole field.

    And since it’s all rendered client-side when watching through DOTA live spectating… free camera should always be enabled right?

    I think that’s a good solution, to have free camera going on the whole time in the DOTA client.

    Otherwise the casters who are controlling it themselves, they should be given ability to record footage of multiple heroes at once. Maybe have 6 cameras each following heroes simultaneously spread across the screen? Or one larger camera with 3 on the side.

    Multistreaming is an option in viewing some sports… I had it during webstreaming of World Cup (you get to see the game from different angles), it’s pretty cool, they should add it to DOTA maybe.

    • Martel says:

      Letting the caster control the view for you is an option (default) but you can change to free camera mode any time you want. And back again to the caster if you want, or even a different caster (which might be odd).

      That of course only applies to using the client, you can’t do that with Twitch streams.

      • rockman29 says:

        Yea I thought that is how it works, I know it’s like that for regular replays/streams, wasn’t sure if the same applied to TI if it was special or something.

        Seems like the proper way to do broadcasting of e-sports. It’s not so conventional that it all fits one one screen and is easy to see, I guess that’s vidyagames for us :P

        Maybe Twitch streaming of this, they will find a way to multi-cast/have multi-streaming options for one broadcast. One camera under broadcaster control is just too restrictive I think, I agree with the article.

  10. Reapy says:

    I have a hard time watching a lot of e sports, if only because it is really hard to follow what is happening. I’m glad they have the newbie stream, but even with that it is really unclear who is actually ahead or what objectives they want to accomplish, coupled with the action being spread out all over the place, it makes it a really difficult thing to watch.

    I contrast this to watching a few matches of heros of the storm, and with the objectives they had it was much easier as an ignorant viewer to understand what was happening and what they needed to accomplish to win the game. I may not know HOW they are killing each other, but I can see people’s health tanking and see the victor, and measure the progress on towers and group levels.

    This is not quite as clear in dota/lol style games, and even more confusing getting a measure of who is ahead or behind, some conflicts seem very important, others not so much, a whole team wipe sometimes doesn’t seem to be a big deal, while other times just a single death or two matter a lot.

    DOTA has a lot of depth, but the complexity is off the charts…but hey, the world seems to love it so they must be doing something right.

    • Graerth says:

      Importance of conflicts depends on what can be gained from it. If you have some people who absolutely demolish buildings in seconds, winning a team fight near the enemy base especially once people are geared can mean destruction of multiple towers or barracks.

      If teams are strong enough to kill roshan fast and he’s alive, a solid win on team fight often translates to also free roshan. Roshan kill kills you an Aegis to your most important guy which in turn gives your team more freedom on map and next fights as that 1 important guy has 2nd life (most of the game due to items multiplying off each others for carries at some point you may not want to drop your 6th item to pick it and someone else does).

      Single kills can be important if that 1 guy is a lynch pin for his team (usually called a “core” hero by casters). Maybe his team was “4-protect-1″ where 1 of the heroes is a hard carry who can wreck 3-4 enemies just by himself, if he dies rest of team can’t do much more than slow or annoy you.
      Maybe the guy is only one who can start the fight for his team (sometimes a team would be stronger but just can’t catch and stop the other team from escaping).

    • rockman29 says:

      There is definitely a lot of depth, but I don’t think the problem is with the viewer or the complexity of the game when trying to watch.

      The broadcasters could find a way to explain more tangibly what is going on at any point in the match, that would help. I guess they have to cater to their audience in some way as well though. I’m sure broadcasters sound like a bunch of gibberish to any newcomer to any kind of sport.

      Understanding the game is a big part in enjoying the streaming anyhow, the viewer has to understand the basics to follow what’s happening. That can just take time too. Even further than that, you can always ask for help for understanding in the DOTA RPS section or the DOTA RPS guild chat in the game itself :)

  11. tangoliber says:

    “Rat Dota” sounds exactly like the way I used to play France in R.U.S.E.

    • altum videtur says:

      The only winning move was not to play France, if I remember right.
      Also, on some maps Italy was completely unbeatable. Quickest win I ever head was 3 minutes I think.

      • tangoliber says:

        Well, for the first few months, everybody said France and Italy were the weakest, and USA was the strongest.

        About what year later, a lot of top players starting winning with France, and some claimed France was the strongest. Italy stayed the weakest, but a lot of people, myself included, felt that USA was the second weakest nation in the game.

        Since then, I have no idea how perceptions changed, because I had to quit Ruse. It was invading my every waking thought and I would dream entire matches in my sleep. But basically, USA was only dominant when people were still playing the game in the “Traditional RTS” way. In the beginning, I think people assumed France was supposed to be defensive and tried to turtle…but the trick was to push and pull with cheap AT and Arty. Once people started playing more “Rat Dota”, France, Russia, and UK became very, very strong…and U.S.A. just wasn’t able to apply enough pressure to keep up. Germany was always a solid nation.

        I tried desperately to make Italy work, and even managed to get a 30 win streak in ranked using Italy once… but I eventually just felt that against the very best players, there was no way to make Italy work. I wonder if someone has figured out a way…

    • KDR_11k says:

      It’s how the Germans played WW2 in Poland.

  12. Frank says:

    That title goes way over my head.

  13. QSpec says:

    My view as someone who despises split pushing?

    At its core, my problem with it is that you just can’t stop it. You can slow it down, but it doesn’t have a direct counter to it. It creates an artificial timeframe: namely you’ve got to win the game before your towers whittle away.

    How do you stop NP or clockwerk who is going to push the lane hard, disappear into the jungle to teleport to another lane and so on? You have to start playing defensively to keep your lanes pushed out which is a problem since now you can’t win the game quickly which is the only meaningful response to a push comp.

    As for my hatred of it as a spectator? It is fucking boring. NP is pushing bot! Dire is teleporting in to stop it. Will we see an engagement? Nope… NP just daggered into the middle of the jungle where no one can reach him and is teleporting top to make sure it stays pushed past river… yawn.

    It also creates an artifical flow. The team of 5 seems as if they are winning in many cases only to lose control once the pusher hits the sweet spot of items and it spirals out of control for the team of 5 who is winning every meaningful engagement but just wrap it up fast enough.

    Of course this isn’t a failing with a team that chooses to use these tactics. The DOTA prizepools are too damn big to be kowtowing to an audience. It is a failing with DOTA itself and the reason I ultimately quit DOTA and now prefer LoL as my spectator sport.

    • TehK says:

      Could you (or someone else) please explain a bit why this isn’t possible in LoL? Are there just no champions with which that’s possible?
      (serious question, I’m genuinely interested, since I only played LoL a few times)

      • lasikbear says:

        It’s still possible (I think…) in LoL, but I believe the champion pool doesn’t support it as well and the map is smaller so it’s easier to get to the tower in time. The main parallel I can think of is when backdoor Yi was a thing, but I am pretty sure that was well over a year ago.

        I believe League also has some sort of backdoor protection, but I am not 100% sure on that.

        Generally I would say its the smaller map, and lack of champions that can create minions in the same manner as Natures Prophet or Lycan.

        Edit: also in LoL the inhibitors respawn, so taking them down is still important, but doesn’t have the same permanent value as taking out the barracks in Dota.

      • QSpec says:

        I think lasikbear summed it up pretty well.

        You are also missing low cd movement spells. Something like an NP teleport would be Twisted Fate’s Ultimate that is on a 2 minute cd at its highest rank. Nature’s Prophet’s is on a 20 second cd. Tinker (I said Clockwerk in my original post) has almost zero effective cd (his ult resets cd’s including boots of travel which is core on him).

      • InternetBatman says:

        Last I played it, and it was a while ago so it could have changed, LoL doesn’t have any characters designed to be strong pushers. Some can do it accidentally, but it’s nothing like Prophet, Shadow Shaman, or Venomancer who are specifically designed and designated as pushers.

        Also, barracks respawn eventually, so pushing isn’t as much of an advantage, and a team that pushes too much too early (especially in threes) can end up feeding the enemy way too many mobs.

        • honuk says:

          there are plenty of strong split pushers in LoL. Jax, Nasus, and Tryndamere being three off the top of my head. Others like Shen aren’t great at actually killing towers, but are nonetheless played as split pushers because there is virtually no down side to doing so (Shen’s ult allows him to join a team fight either defensively or offensively in a matter of seconds from anywhere on the map).

          • QSpec says:

            A split push in LoL is different than in dota. It is a bit more all-in as teleport spells are far fewer so if you get chased out of lane, you don’t get to immediately pop-up in another lane.

            It is also far more dangerous. There is no blink dagger or other high escape items.

            And to Riots credit, they have their eye on nerfing the only true problematic split pusher (Nasus).

            And lest I be confused for a Riot fan boy, I see some merit to parts of LoL, but generally I always preferred Dota.

    • P.Funk says:

      If its so impossible to stop why doesn’t everyone do it?

      • QSpec says:

        It is incredibly popular and has been since I was watching regularly months ago. Hell, it was picking up over a year ago. I think you’re just seeing it rise even more in popularity such that people are talking about it more loudly.

        Also, it is incredibly popular. Check out picked/banned lists. A lot of Pushers are on them (especially pushers that can function in multiple roles).

        • PedroTheHutt says:

          Yes, hello, Dota 2 statsman here, up to and including some of the TI4 NA Qualifiers and I’d like to point out that you are, well, mistaken. The popular split pushers aren’t banned all that often. If we look at datdota.com, the site most statsmen use for their information, it shows that in the current patch, the five most banned heroes are Lycan, Batrider, Invoker, Doom and Ancient Apparition, none of which are part of the most complained about “rat” heroes, albeit Lycan has some rat potential he is more known for his fighting potential and how hard it is to bring him down. In fact, the first traditional rat hero we encounter on the list is Nature’s Prophet, who is currently the 19th most banned hero with a banrate of about 17.5%, meaning he gets banned in less than 1/5 games. Alongside a 22.5% pickrate so even despite him not being banned often, he doesn’t get picked nearly as often as the likes of Mirana or Rubick. So if “Rat Dota” is this uncounterable strategy you can’t win against, why aren’t Nature’s Prophet or Tinker in the top 5 picks? The latter only has a 7.8% pickrate currently by the way. Because as others have said, you can shut them down early. Or you can just go for a harder concentrated push draft so that the split pusher can’t even begin to hope to be as fast as the other so they’ll never be able to trade objectives favourably.

          So judging from this and other comments to this topic, it seems to me that your major issue is that while there absolutely are counters to rat dota, you don’t like them and instead try to invalidate the strategy because to hell with deviating from your comfort zone playstyle. Which, as defined by the article, makes you a scrub, I’m sorry to say.

          • MaryContrary says:

            Lycan is absolutely picked for his pushing ability both solo with Necro Book or in groups using Howl. His effectiveness in straight up fights is dubious next to other carries (in fact, the best part of his Wolf Form, ironically, is its ability to run at max move speed and ignore slows). He’s also picked on Dire because of his ability to take advantage of Roshan. Also, I’d say Naga is probably the worst offender at the moment for rat dota. Not that I have a problem with split push, I’m just saying that the most excruciating and brutal rat games these days are due to Naga, not to Furion.

    • Banyan says:

      There are lots of ways to deal with this, many before play even starts in the draft. You can counterpick a ganking hero to wait for the rat to appear, like a Nyx Assassin. Or you can ignore the threat of the rat and pick a team strong in pushing and teamfight, and decide that you can 5v4 push down their throne before you get backdoored. Or, if you’re in game, you prioritize early ganking on the rat so he has limited push later. Or the defending team can turtle and hope for a lucky pick off that transitions into a Roshan and base push.

      An announcer’s job is to set the expectations so the spectator understands the strategy inherent in the draft and the drama when those strategies fail and succeed in the actual game. Kicking off a game with “Team X ignored the threat of the Nature’s Prophet pick in the draft. Will they do enough to get a decisive advantage in the first 15 minutes that negates the threat of the rat?!” is exciting and dramatic, and gives a clueless newbie an idea of what they should be looking for. A comment 30 minutes into the game like “Well, it looks like Prophet is gonna roll up the lanes and there’s nothing Team X can do about it but lose slowly” is boring. Frankly, even the Newcomers Stream yesterday was far too in the weeds of the mechanics and not so much in the high level narrative that you see in professional sportscasting.

      Whether or not it’s frustrating as a player to deal with the rat, and it is, is not really the point of this article.

      • QSpec says:

        Forgetting for a second that one of your solutions to countering a push comp was to make a push comp, isn’t it shitty design to have a game effectively won or lost in the first 5 minutes of the match?

        Gankers don’t stop a good pusher except in cases of bad luck. At this level, you don’t usually find an NP out of position or unaware of what’s coming at him.

        The rest of what you said is exactly what I said. The game has to end early or the push comp wins. That is the problem with it. It sets a timer to the match.

        Other announced spectator games don’t have this problem (SC2 in which drops are missed all of the time, Fighting Games, and even LoL). Or are the dota2 announcers just generally less competent? They should probably call attention to it, sure… but do you really think it is good for the sport to have the camera centered in on a guy thwaking the shit out of barracks?

        • Banyan says:

          On the first point, not all. Assuming a 50-50 chance coming out of the draft, a few kills of the enemy’s hard carry can flip the odds to 70-30, esp if your carry gets the last hits and gold. That’s not a flaw; it’s a feature.

          If a baseball team hits a grand slam in the first inning or a soccer team gets two goals in the first 10 minutes, you are pretty sure that that team will win the game. But nobody argues that those games’ mechanics are at fault. You point the finger at the relative skill level of the teams.

          As for your point about a timer, how is that a problem for spectators? Trying to get that last goal in the final few minutes of a game is the classic example of an exciting game. I would imagine that games that go on interminably would be a major turnoff for casual spectators. Also, a gank and support-heavy team effectively has a time limit against a carry-heavy team since they have to finish the game before the tide shifts, and I’ve never heard anybody complain that that was somehow a broken mechanic.

          Look, if the team you used to play with couldn’t deal with a rat, then the most logical conclusion is that your team wasn’t good enough, not that rat dota is OP. If rat dota was OP, then every professional team would play rat dota. Since rat dota is not the default way to play, then teams, like Alliance, known for their high success rate with ratting must be doing so at an abnormally high level of skill. I enjoy watching skillful play, so I enjoy watching a good rat.

          • QSpec says:

            I was referring to the “first 5 minutes” as the pick/ban phase. It should give an edge if you can out pick your opponent, but it should never be an outright loss. In that sense, LoL’s ban phase is probably not meaningful enough while dota’s phase is probably too meaningful.

            That said, I don’t think you counter pick a push phase. At least not like you can counter-pick a late game team like Medusa (which is why hyper-carries are a lot less popular now). Part of this is because you can’t really gank a good pusher regularly.

            The problem with this style as it is now, is there is no meaningful counter. You either win before it picks up steam (and it picks up steam faster than most carries), or you lose. Other parts of the game become minimized. Hell, I just watched a game in which Alliance was down by almost 20 kills (vs a fucking Void Walker… arguably the hardest carry in the entire game) and still won. It was close, but how meaningless do kills (and by extension, ganks) become when a 20 kill lead can’t net you a significant advantage? How many kills do you think a team should need to compete vs a push comp?

            And the problem with the artificial timer as set by a push team is that it is both arbitrary and eventually unfun (both to watch and to play against). I can’t think of another sport off the top of my head in which a game that goes past a certain time frame is effectively auto-won.

            And your bit about “rat not being the default way to play” is shortsighted as hell. Those of us who hate this gameplay style worry that it will become the default way to play. It is still young (relative to the genre), and it is having significant success. More teams will adopt it… not fewer.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            Hell, I just watched a game in which Alliance was down by almost 20 kills (vs a fucking Void Walker… arguably the hardest carry in the entire game) and still won. It was close, but how meaningless do kills (and by extension, ganks) become when a 20 kill lead can’t net you a significant advantage? How many kills do you think a team should need to compete vs a push comp?

            Kills in DotA are meaningless in the context of winning the game.
            The game isn’t called Defence of the Heroes, it’s Defence of the Ancients. If the mystery team you’re talking about didn’t capitalise on those ganks & use them to turn their kill advantage into a map control advantage, it’s their own fault & they deserved to lose.

            Hell the quote at the top of the article even says so:

            “Dota 2 is not about kills, it’s not about how many towers you can take, it’s about killing the throne. That’s the game”

            You sound like the typical pub player, wanting to fight the enemy constantly even when there’s no advantage to be gained. Perhaps you should try CS:GO or TF2 instead of wizard-em-ups?

        • PikaBot says:

          You absolutely can counterpick a pushing lineup, and the suggestion that you can’t is patently absurd. Effective gank heros really do ruin a pusher’s day, especially ones like Clockwerk or Batrider who have very long initiation ranges. Even if they never manage to get a kill on the split pusher, the threat of their presence will slow the push down, as the pusher needs to bail and go to another lane earlier than they would like in order to be safe. If the pusher doesn’t dare approach the tower for fear of a ganking hero charging out of the jungle and murdering them, the push is a lot less effective and functionally turns into safe farm for the other team’s carry.

          Probably more significant, though, is the impact the ganker can have on the pusher before the pusher comes online. All major split-pushing heroes need to hit a certain milestone before they can really start pushing. Naga needs Radiance. Tinker needs Boots of Travel and a Blink Dagger. Nature’s Prophet needs a shadowblade and some damage items. Before they have these items, they are extremely gank-vulnerable, and killing them repeatedly will delay them starting their split push. And the longer it’s delayed, the weaker it is.

          Furthermore, there are heroes who are really good at frustrating split pushing, because their spells allow them to clear creep waves quickly from a reasonably safe range. It doesn’t matter much how hard you push when Keeper of the Light can just blast the creep wave with a five-second Illuminate and clear it instantly. Or Treant Protector, who can actually heal towers up and keep them from being nibbled to death.

          But hey, let’s say you screw up in the drafting phase, and wind up against a pushing lineup without any real way to counter it. What do you do then? Well, you turtle up, that’s what. Hold onto your outer towers as long as you can, but don’t be afraid to sacrifice them and turtle up into the base. Split pushing works because of the long distances between the lanes. In the base, however, the lanes are very close, and so the split push is a lot weaker.

          In addition, although split pushers are quite good at taking down outer towers, they are generally speaking quite bad at going uphill. To enter the base to get the tier three tower requires a commitment to the attack, which is anathema to split-push tactics.

          Turtling up allows you to get farm and levels on your carry. Remember, the split push hero’s advantage is that they can push multiple lanes at once…which means they also take multiple lanes’ farm. While the split-push team, having free reign of the map, is technically able to get more money, the most lucrative sources of experience and gold are being snatched up by the split pusher…and push heros (with the possible exception of Naga, but if you have Naga she IS your carry, you are banking everything on her) do not scale well into the late game. Although split pushing allows for your team to take an advantage, it also forces inefficient farm distribution on your team. Thus, to defend against split push, turtle up until your team is strong enough pick off the pusher or a couple of his allies, and counter push. Even if you have to leave someone behind to defend, you will probably be stronger 4 v 4.

          Not too long ago, me and my friends played a game in which a Tinker got completely out of control around the twenty minute mark. We’re talking Dagon five, Ethereal blade, Sheepstick, the whole works. It was brutal, we couldn’t even approach our outer towers without getting blown up instantly. So we turtled up, and eventually became strong enough to kill Tinker, wipe the rest of his team, and then push out and claim victory. It was a bit of a terrifying slog getting there, but seeing Tinker lose with every item he could possibly want and six grand left in the bank (and three minutes on his buy back timer) was tremendously satisfying.

          In fact, you keep saying that split pushing imposes a timer on the enemy team. While that’s true to a certain extent, the opposite is much more so: split pushing imposes a timer on yourself. You have to win before the enemy carries can get too strong, or your chances of victory face significantly.

          • QSpec says:

            What good is a fed carry vs a team that refuses to engage? I can link you a game in which Alliance is down by twenty kills vs a fed as fuck Faceless Void. It ended up being a close match (Alliance won for the record), but how many kills, in your opinion, should be required to counter a split comp.

            You also mention KotL… a pusher. So again, the suggestion to counter pushing seems to be a push comp.

            And as for gankers affecting the pusher? That is the bit that is patently false. So far, the international disagrees with you with push heavy comps dominating (I’d kill someone for a game that doesn’t have Shadow Shaman in it).

          • PikaBot says:

            The ‘good’ is that a fed carry can do is that a powerful carry can destroy the pushing character in a matter of seconds. And one good catch-out can lead to an immediate GG push, because powerful carries beat the shit out of base structures.Trying not to engage is great and all but it’s not going to do you much good when your Tinker’s dead and a six-slotted Tiny is banging down your front door. Once you become powerful enough you can easily force engagements that the split-pushing team doesn’t want to take.

            Also, in what universe is Keeper a pushing hero? I mean he can kill creep waves pretty quickly with Illuminate, but he can’t do anything more than lightly tap on towers, and he has absolutely no escape mechanism. He would be a terrible candidate for a split pushing strategy.

            But yes. Some good counter-push heroes are themselves pushers. That’s because there’s a lot of overlap between the skill sets of those two roles (ability to kill creeps quickly, mobility). But that doesn’t mean you play them as a split pusher.

            And I’ve been watching a lot of the TI4 games this week and I have to say, I haven’;t seen an inordinate amount of splitpushing. In fact, just this morning, I watched Alliance try to pull a very similar split push lineup as won them the championship last year against EG, and get absolutely crushed by a Storm Spirit/Omniknight combo. As it turns out, split pushing is a lot less effective when a ganking hero can come flying out of the fog and blow you up quickly.

    • shostakovich says:

      There’s at least 20 different ways you can stop split pushing. Some teams actually adapt to deal with it. Others don’t and try to downgrade the opponent, like Virtus.Pro when they coined the expression “RatDota.” You’re pretty much approaching the issue as a scrub, arbitrarily cfreating your own sets of rules to define what’s valid and what’s not.

      This kind of play is not recent, it exists since the beginning of Dota.

      • QSpec says:

        You can talk shit all you want without knowing a single thing about my credentials, it only cheapens anything you try and say.

        Watching the International right now. Virtually every team has a push comp to some extent (especially pushers that can do double duty). Fuck, man… I’d love to see a game that doesn’t have Krobelus, Nature’s Prophet, or Shadow Shaman in it, but it is unlikely to happen with the current paradigm.

  14. goliath1333 says:

    This article is really interesting to me at a StarCraft player as we loooove when someone split pushes or drops. The strategies that get a lot of crap are those that rely on one big attack to get an advantage/win.

    Also, in the history of SC2, there has been an evolution of the best players. First, it was those that could put together the best big attack, then it was those that could do the best multitasking to make the big attack irrelevant, and now the best players are those that either mix up their strategies or play a supremely defensive style where they are countering you everywhere. I think in any eSports a strategy can be “figured out” if too many people play it and shut down. The best teams will always be those that have mastered defense and leverage it into great offense!

  15. Crane says:

    A major distinction between a game and a toy is the existence of a victory condition.

    The goal of a game played for sport is victory.

    If a tactic which leads to victory is not fun for you to watch then the game is a poor sport.

    Worse yet, if such a tactic is not fun for the players of the game, then the game is poorly designed.

    • Morph says:

      But there is a victory condition here (as in most computer games to be honest), so this is a sport then?

    • P.Funk says:

      But as the article asks, is it not fun to watch merely because the broadcast does a poor job of covering it?

      The sport is also young. It will take time for the audience to mature to the game as the game itself is still evolving. The early years of something like Football involved a great deal of changing strategy. Imagine how lame a broadcast for an old football game would be if they weren’t ready to follow a deep pass, instead lingering on the tackling at the line of scrimmage, vaguely reminding you that someone is scoring a touchdown off camera.

      Also, losing is never fun, particularly for competitive players. Are you saying that a game is poorly designed if obsessive compulsive 24.7 gamers dont’ have fun losing in front of thousands of people?

      • Crane says:

        “Are you saying that a game is poorly designed if obsessive compulsive 24.7 gamers dont’ have fun losing in front of thousands of people?”

        If the sole reason for a player’s inability to find any satisfaction in a loss is their character, I would rather say they are no sportsman.

    • Grygus says:

      I have found that most people who do not like a given sport simply do not understand it; it is difficult not to be dismissive and bored when you have no way to appreciate the competence on display. It sounds to me like the primary problem from a spectator standpoint is that the tactic is not well-understood by spectators, even the ones who have played themselves.

      I believe that this is entirely the fault of the broadcasters; their job is not to merely document the proceedings, but to act as ambassadors for the sport. If they aren’t explaining the tactic and showing how it works, explaining how it could be countered, and showing what players are doing right/wrong in executing/fighting it, then the members of the audience who do not play will have no hope of knowing whether they’re seeing something remarkably good or remarkably bad, and will swiftly stop caring.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        This is not entirely true in my opinion. In MMA I can appreciate the skills of a high level wrestler completely negating his opponent, it still doesn’t make it as fun to watch as an aggressive striker trying to finish a fight. The overwhelming majority would agree with this because they want to see people trying to finish a fight, if somebody isn’t then it is less dramatic and exciting to watch.

        I think that is the problem with rat dota, people like to see the big team fights, they are the most exciting point of the game for most people, the screen explodes with action and people die. They are also the points in the game when an advantage can swing from one team to the other in a few seconds, this is exciting, in the same way that two guys throwing down in MMA = either of them could win in a second. Rat dota actively avoids these fights, once the split push starts its almost a slow inevitable crawl to the end of the game with very little change of pace, very little happening. The MMA equivalent is a wrestler holding a guy down for 3 rounds, if his opponent can’t get back up (i.e. he has no counter) you know you are going to watch 3 rounds of the same thing then the wrestler will win the decision. This removes all suspense and excitement from the action.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Lots of sports have “boring” styles though. Klitschko style boxing for instance, is universally agreed as being boring and dull to watch. It doesn’t make it a boring sport by default just because there is a particular successful style that is boring, there are lots of boxers and styles not considered boring.
      What makes a sport boring is when the predominant way to play the game is a “boring” style. When you are pretty certain you will see the boring style, in this case split pushing/rat dota in the majority of games then the game will hold a lot less appeal because people will not want to watch it, I think this is the fear a lot of people have on seeing teams have success using these tactics, if everybody adopts it, then it will be crap to watch.

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      “Fun to watch” is subjective though. I enjoy watching safety battles in snooker far more than I enjoy watching long breaks, despite them being labelled boring by others. In (association) football I prefer flowing open play to turtling but there is a big exception. I would far rather watch the football team I support win than lose, I care about the result far more than is sensible and more than I care about the style of play employed.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah all true. Although with Dota I wonder how many people truly support a team and care enough about them. I certainly don’t but I probably would if there were a British team in The International.
        Certainly “boring” can be subjective but there is also something to be said for what the majority prefers. Some people I’m sure really like watching the Klitschkos’ but the general consensus is that they aren’t fun to watch and why they are the least watched heavyweight champions in a very long time.
        Retaining viewers is a very important thing for a fledgling “sport” like Dota and it’s not good if lots of people stop watching due to the “boring” style that teams are playing.

  16. P.Funk says:

    So basically Rat DOTA is smart DOTA that people hate because they’re not smart enough to figure out they’re being tricked into fighting in the wrong spot.

    Of course its an old idea. “Camping” in shooters is considered poor sportsmanship, particularly if the camper kills you and wins. How dare he not be as reckless as you were! RTS gamers hate early game rushes, though sometimes its legitimate hate when the game isn’t properly balanced against it.

    It does extend to real war. Snipers were seen, and possibly still are, as being of low moral character, even though they’re the only soldier on the battlefield likely to know what the face of the person he kills looks like.

    Misdirection is perhaps the creme de la creme of PvP. Most people can understand brute force, but they have a hard time understanding things they can’t see. i like the sound of this strategy. I want to be a Rat King too.

    • RedWurm says:

      I’m horribly ill-informed when it comes to dota (I used to play the occasional co-op game, I watch some games at big tournaments) but it seems a lot of the hate is because it’s hard to play against – which I couldn’t care less about – or it’s hard to communicate effectively/dramatically with the current broadcasting style. Or else it’s a strategy that can’t be effectively read or communicated by the casters as it happens, opportunistic attacks suddenly look like a grand plan in hindsight, but get overlooked during the game, in which case it’s a problem for the game as a spectator sport.

      Personally I find it great to watch in a game when it is communicated effectively, a team avoiding the big flashy team fight and running rings round the opposition and eating their base from all sides. It appears to be a natural strategy against a team that you can’t compete with in a face-to-face confrontation.

    • Baines says:

      An issue with FPS camping is that it ranges from people just whining because they can’t handle it (and may even be badly exaggerating a non-existent problem) all the way to the game being broken at a design level. The same goes for the other targets of complaints in FPS: shotguns, sniper rifles, riot shields, one-hit kill melee attacks, explosives, pistols, and pretty much anything that isn’t an assault rifle or otherwise accepted “manly” option.

      It is silly at times seeing the sheer hatred that snipers get in FPS, and spawn camping in general can get a bit overblown if someone gets shot in the back once in a match, but you do also get games that are just horribly broken like Modern Warfare 3.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        It is generally down to game design that happens though. Red Orchestra 2 EVERYBODY camps and nobody complains about it because it’s the game. A lot of the time sniper rifles are just flat out broken though, one shot kills and way too easy to aim, which leads to people having issues with it.
        Also in a situation like Battlefield where people will spend the whole round camped on the edge of the map, not playing objectives, not interested in winning, just going for kills, people get rightfully annoyed and hence brand “camping snipers” as a bad thing, which they are in that situation because too many of those on your team and you will lose by default because you don’t have enough people to capture the objectives.

        • Joshua says:

          This, basically. Camping is not frowned upon because it is an overly-effective playstyle. It is frowned upon because it is an inneffective playstyle. In Battlefield, the team with the most campers loses.

          Once this got particurarly grating in an BC2 rush match, where we had 10 snipers peeking down their scopes at the enemy spawn point whilst an enemy APC was raging trough the game arming the MComs left and right.

          • Baines says:

            From my experience, most complaints don’t come from people complaining that their own side is camping as snipers. (I’m not saying that those complaints don’t happen, though.) Rather, it comes from people who complain whenever they get killed by an opposing team sniper.

            Take TotalBiscuit’s old video for Homefront. He repeatedly complains about camping snipers on the opposing team. He complains that they don’t contribute to the objective, while they are pinning him down and keeping him from reaching the objective himself. He complains about how no one on his team does anything about them, though he doesn’t really do anything himself either, and if they are so inconsequential to completing objectives then it shouldn’t even matter if they are left alone. He complains that camping snipers don’t work together, right before he is shot by a sniper who is protecting another sniper.

            That’s my experience with complaints about camping snipers. Only a minority complain about losing because too many of their own side camped, with the vast majority being people who complain because they were shot at or killed by a sniper.

            (Though going back to MW3, there was the legitimate complaint of campers out to pad their K:D ratios and stats outright ruining some game modes, such as the majority of players in Drop Zone camping to repeatedly kill the few who tried to play the mode as intended. But what else would you expect for a game that was broken on so many levels as MW3?)

  17. Stevostin says:

    I don’t get it. Auto cam will never let you miss a split push. Manual cam from caster are just depending on caster’s skill. If the guy miss a split push, just fire him and get someone who knows the game. It’s nothing new. Starcraft pro gamer were very often attacking two places (or three!) simultaneously. You had to pay a lot of attention on the minimap if you were the caster. But that’s your job, you’re not just an average Joe. Still you can miss something sometimes, but all the times ? If there is a NP, there will be split push. That’s a given. How do you miss that ?

    • Horg says:

      Casters generally don’t miss the rat push, they actively chose to focus on the team fight. As a result the audience may miss the rat until it’s over. Although ratting is tactically interesting, its not that fun to focus on one guy punching buildings when there’s a rumble going on somewhere else on the map. I’d quite like picture in picture for the DotA client just to show a small window with the ratting player, but the main focus for e-sports purposes should always be the team fight.

  18. cardboardartisan says:

    I worry a bit about this “scrub logic” thing – the way the article that introduces the term is written reveals something about the psychology of some hardcore gamers. The kicker sentence is “The goal is to win.” That is typically a goal, but for lots of people (really the majority of game players) that isn’t the only goal. Some people play games to have fun, others play them just to win. That isn’t to say there’s a sharp divide between the two: there’s almost nobody who plays for fun but doesn’t also want to win – it’s just not the only goal for the less hardcore players. There’s a well recognized continuum, one can be hardcore by different degrees.

    I think there’s something to be said about whether a game is designed as a sport or as personal entertainment. Sports are just about competition (and perhaps entertaining the audience) but personal entertainment also has the responsibility of being fun for the players. Something can be a well designed sport without being good personal entertainment, i.e. if there’s a huge space for variation in the skill hierarchy, it’s competitive and not too random, and it’s fun to watch people play but it’s actually mostly pretty frustrating to play most of the time.

    Not all games have to be just about personal entertainment, but most are to some degree. DOTA is an example of a game that’s mostly about sport, and only about personal entertainment to a small degree. But there are also games that are on the other side of the spectrum. Furthermore, within an individual game community there may be contexts that are more sport oriented and contexts that are more fun oriented.

    The people who deserve the “scrub” label are the ones that refuse to recognize that they’re playing in a sport-oriented context – they complain when people use effective tactics that hinder their personal enjoyment. In that context, the game isn’t completely about them having fun and they’re faulting other players for essentially playing an entirely different game.

    But the reverse happens too! Camping is a huge problem in a lot of fairly casual FPS environments (at least it was when I played FPSs). It totally destroys the fun for a lot of people who bought the game and are playing to have fun. If you get kicked from a server for camping, it’s not the other players’ fault for not using the most effective possible strategy – they were all trying to play a different game and you refused to play by the rules of the game they wanted to play. You’re kinda trolling them at that point.

    Mismatches here cause a lot of arguments between players, but whenever you’re playing against the grain and faulting the majority of people who’d rather play a different kind of game simply for that preference, you’re the one in the wrong.

    So that leads to something about balanced game design. In a well designed game, people who play as a sport and people who play for entertainment can often co-exist, because a well designed game doesn’t force people to choose between winning and having fun. The problem in a lot of the early FPSs wasn’t the campers themselves – there’s nothing really wrong with just wanting to win. The problem was that the game was often marketed toward people who were just trying to entertain themselves and yet it punished them by rewarding fun-destroying tactics. Since then, certain mechanics and level design techniques have showed up that discourage that kind of thing and allow more competitive players to demonstrate their skill without totally removing the fun for less competitive players.

    I suppose not all games have to be balanced in that way though. If you’re only interested in making a game for sport, there are ways of dissuading casual players. If there’s any game in a position for that, it’s DOTA: casual players are certainly discouraged from joining the community by the existing community already. But there’s a choice to be made about the degree to which the design of the game enforces that. If a really significant portion of the population is kinda annoyed by tactics like “rat dota”, the creators can either take that as a sign that the balance needs to be adjusted to make the game more fun for that part of their target demographic, or they can basically say “if it’s really a problem for you, you’re not part of our demographic – this is a sport and we don’t care if you’re annoyed by effective tactics.”

    • nullward says:

      I agree that good game design is the key to this issue, especially in how it impacts the relative entertainment value for spectators. It sounds like the rat strategy could be dissuaded if the designers wanted to re-focus the game on the spectacle of team fights. As long as it’s viable, the best teams will take advantage of it. And though it might be a lot of fun as a player to be the rat who wins the game out from under the other team, it truly doesn’t sound very entertaining to watch.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Sports thrive on villains and people who bend the rules to succeed. It was certainly that way with baseball, American football, soccer, and even Nascar. I don’t know why feints and an extra layer of strategy are supposed to make the game less exciting; I think some people are conflating the game with teamfighting when it’s so much more than that (jungling, buffs, last hits and denies, ganks, etc.)

        If they want an extra counter against this type of play, they can always limit the range of the teleport spell or replace it.

        • nullward says:

          Watching LoL has taught me you can have all of the cool feints and mind-battles without making it impossible to punish people for overextending and sneakily pushing where your team isn’t.

          I think the targeted nerfing of teleport skills would probably make Dota more interesting to watch in this respect — though maybe I’m just trying to make it more like LoL is in my mind.

      • FhnuZoag says:

        I don’t think the solution is better game design, whatever that means. The solution is house rules. Rat Dotaers can have their fun, but knowing that in major tournaments the host can ban the practice if they think it harms the spectator nature of the game. The same way that server house rules in some FPS games might ban camping.

        In basketball terms, see the 24 second shot clock for NBA games.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          It seems too much of a grey area to be bannable to me though. The ultimate goal is to kill the opposition nexus by taking down towers. To ban Rat Dota wouldn’t you have to pretty much ban any and all tower pushing?. Essentially meaning the game would be reduced to a rule set of “Farm for 20 minutes, then meet in the middle and fight”. This would be changing the core ruleset of the game to the point where it had little to no resemblance to the game as it is now. I think that is the problem, how do you define when something stops being just good map rotation and starts becoming Rat Dota? It’s too much of a blurred line to actually legislate for.

    • BooleanBob says:

      The funny thing about the scrub phenomenon is that, for all its pragmatic correctness, Sirlin is trying to project his own system of value in gaming onto everybody else, while assigning dissenters with a pejorative label. This is the very charge he levels at the scrub. (I know he makes a clear distinction between those that are playing to win and those that aren’t at the outset of his argument, but this seems to muddy and dissolve as he develops it further.)

      It’s also amusing to see Philippa casually reaching for a pejorative when her article opens with a homily on why perpetuating pejorative labels in the discourse is unhelpful and divisive.

  19. InternetBatman says:

    When I play pick up games in Dota II, I love playing like this with Shadow Shaman. He’s not nearly as good as the prophet, but by late mid game he can destroy barracks by himself with this strategy (probably more effectively than the prophet later on). More than once my team has engaged a 4v5 in the middle of the game, at a set of towers only to have me take two on the other side. There are a ton of counters. Most notably, using the pick process, ganks, early game pressure, and simple map awareness. Hell, the even built a brief invulnerability for structures button that anyone can press. Just watching enemy patterns means you can set up traps; more than once I’ve teleported to another part of the map only to find an ambush there.

    But at a basic level, complaining about feints in a game with clear RTS heritage is bizarre to me.

  20. Deano2099 says:

    This article seemed familiar, and that’s basically because I read it in The New Yorker about five years ago. But this was about using the full court press in high school basketball. All the same arguments were trotted out. May have been The Sunday Papers that first linked me to it. Well worth a read if you’re interested in this sort of stuff http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?printable=true

    • yonsito says:

      I have never played DOTA but it really does sound like the sort of discussion you have in sports as well. Namely, it’s the discussion between what tactics look nice to the spectator and what wins games.
      The matches between the more successful teams in the World Cup, for instance, are often tactical master pieces where the actions of the individual players almost look like they were rehearsed in advance and where discipline and strict adherence to the match plan often win the day. Still, those matches are somewhat boring to watch, few goals and little opportunities for players to show individual brilliance.
      This can lead to the strange situation that the winning coach is criticized by his own fans for not letting play attractively.
      I think there is no solution to this discussion. The spectators will always complain if they don’t feel the match was entertaining enough. And the team coaches will have to make the decision about how much attractive play they are willing to allow.
      The most common tactic for the World Cup this time seems to be to play for efficiency, not attractiveness. Whoever wins the Cup will be vindicated by that, of course.

  21. Nectar_42 says:

    Rat DOTA sucks cause its boring to watch, and when you are trying to create a spectator sport….. maybe it deserves negative attention. Its like UFC fights where a wrestler lays on top of the guy for 15 min yea its strategically correct but most viewers just flip the channel.

  22. blargle says:

    What is with all these articles on various gaming sites popping up defending rat dota? And trying to frame it as “if you don’t love it you’re stupid”? I dislike rat dota because it’s boring to watch. Not “dishonest”, boring. It’s not like it’s the most intricate strategy ever devised, and only the anointed few can ever hope to understand it. It’s boring to watch. Just like when watching a UFC event and you get a wrestler lay-and-praying his way to victory. Also boring to watch. I can tell the difference between lay-and-pray, and attempting to submit an opponent, just like I can tell the difference between rat dota and creating space. One is enjoyable to watch, the other less so.

    As a spectator sport, you need to keep your audience entertained if you want them to spend their time and money on it. If I see a UFC card loaded with known lay-and-pray types, I’m not buying that PPV. If rat dota ever becomes the most popular strategy, I’ll stop watching it. When I watch UFC, I’m hoping for finishes: KO, submission, whatever. When I watch Dota, I’m hoping for crazy teamfights and coordinated ganks. Lots of kills. If I watch a UFC PPV that has a lot of lay-and-pray, I’m going to be disappointed and complain about it to my friends. If I watch a Dota tourney and it’s full of rat dota, I’m going to be disappointed and complain about it to my friends. This is where terms like lay-and-pray and rat dota come from, not from lack of knowledge of the sport being watched.

    Obviously there are people out there that enjoy watching that sort of play style, but there are plenty more that don’t. If rat dota wins for you, go ahead and do it, but trying to set up your own “arbitrary rules” that everyone must love it as much as you do undermines your own argument. Accept that many people find that style of play boring, and stop whining about how not everyone appreciates it enough. If getting the win is all that really matters, then be like Bulldog and embrace it.

    • Fiyenyaa says:

      The problem is that whether it’s entertaining or not for you personally, it seems a bit silly to think anyone in their right mind would not use a “boring” tactic in a competition with a $10 million prize pool because some people don’t like it.
      Much as it sounds like the elitist “get good or go home” attitude; it’s in the game.

      Unfortunately for people who don’t like it, it’s a viable tactic at the moment (albeit one with plenty of counters). This means it’ll be used.

      • NathanH says:

        This is a big problem in all spectator sports with large prizes for victory. The duty of a professional sportsperson should be to entertain the spectators—after all, without the spectators there will be no large prizes. The practical duty of a professional sportsperson though is of course to win the large prizes for their team and hey who cares if the total prize money goes down next year because if we’re not winning the prize anyway it doesn’t matter how big the prize is.

    • shaydeeadi says:

      I don’t get it, at the last International the final game of the grand finals was won by R[A]T DoTA and it was the most gripping game of the year. People hate losing to it and project their frustrations on to D I G I T A L S P O R T S, when winning is all that matters. Admiral Bulldog might split push like a boss but he joins every fight possible with great effectiveness, labelling him as just a rat is unfair when he is just leveraging all the strengths of the hero his team picks for him while covering his weaknesses.

  23. Danbanan says:

    I like tha fact that the viewer himself can control the camera and click on the heroes that interest him and check heir items and hover over abilities to get the description etc… you cant do that in regular sports, that said more options for casters regarding cameras is of course a good idea, but if you dont like what the caster is doing just direct the camera yourself.

  24. Lacero says:

    So, I find it a lot easier to follow and enjoy rat dota than these messes of team fights. At least when I’m playing a teamfight I only have to follow what 9 people are doing, when I’m watching I have to follow 10! That’s more!

    It needs a slow motion replay so we can follow exactly what happened after.

    Rat dota though is great to follow, you move the camera around yourself and check the tower health levels and see the lanes slowly push in, and watch the mini map for the teleports you know are coming. Much easier that trying to follow 10 people hitting buttons as fast as they can. I’ve often no idea why a certain team has won a fight, was that guy silenced or did he save his ult? Was it on cooldown? I have to select each player to fully understand the state of the game before the team fight. rat dota is all visible on the map.

  25. KngOfGms says:

    As a huge fan of Christie and the old DotA, I’m saddened to see that this is just another article that fails to deal with just how bad DOTA 2 pros are. I stopped reading when I realized just how bad you butchered the image of Poirot by referring to DOTA 2 as the Poirot of eSports.. Wow..

    No offense to you as a person but as the best DotA player in the world I have a huge problem with people who write about DOTA 2 without mentioning just how bad the DOTA 2 pros are. I guess this post will get deleted as people who aren’t very good when it comes to DotA or video games in general often get often upset when someone says that their favourite players are bad.

    I hope the authors of the other comments didn’t read the whole article but that’s just asking too much.. I might’ve killed your article even more if you weren’t a girl

    • shaydeeadi says:

      Sorry dude but I don’t think you are anywhere near YajirobeFromDC’s level, so stop hating and get money.

      • KngOfGms says:

        What you think is irrelevant. I’m the best player and some guy blahblahFromDC who isn’t even a player above Low tier in an absolute sense isn’t going to change that fact. I should’ve mentioned it in my other post but I didn’t so I’ll do it now – Those who watch TI4 are clowns (and bad DotA players) who should get banned from playing video games as they find it entertaining watching bad people play.

        • tormos says:

          low quality troll here, good man. repetition really hurt you and this isn’t really the right space for casual sexism to win the crowd over. 2 stars, would not unblock again

          • KngOfGms says:

            Gotta love the ignorance shown. The fact that you don’t have the balls to subscribe to truth doesn’t make me a troll. Do you even know what sexism means? Lol

    • Quiffle says:

      A one-minute search of you tells me that you seriously need to find a new hobby. How many hours a day do you devote to echoing yourself all throughout the internet?

  26. The Sombrero Kid says:

    rat doto is st-rat doto end of story.

    omg this is an amazing joke.

  27. hideinlight says:

    You should of seen the Tinker play by liquid, teleport into the tress onto the courier, swap for the necro book and see an army of illusions and Minions along with the march of the machines and TP out.

    • KngOfGms says:

      Super garbage play seeing as in a game w/ 10 good players (there are only about 8 worldwide though so IN THEORY) you won’t see many 25:00+ games and it’s just not worth picking Tinker. But let’s say you do, the global presence with BoTs won’t be enough as Tinker’s pressure simply ain’t that big of a problem that early on in the game..

  28. Gonzax159 says:

    When the enemy team has a pusher,you have to choose a counter-pick is like every pick you choose,so,I dont think the “rat doto style” be a bad idea,you have to be strategic..Well im not a pro player anyway,so I cant know how it feels when a prophet win a match :3

  29. Heavens says:

    If you’re getting manhandled by a NP/Tinker you either did something wrong or are just a worse player than your enemy.

    I’ve had plenty of “rat” games where we finally won because we outlasted the enemy team, we had plenty of 5v4′s due to the pusher simply not being there and when they made the final push we mopped them up anyway and won.

    It just seems that the current “metagame” (terrible word by the way, metagame implies something “outside” game, the actual word that should be used would be tactic or strategy) simply doesn’t cope well with the split pushing gameplay.

    Also I don’t really like the “pro” Dota as the players themselves seem rather bland, it’s just 10 guys who train a lot with a handful of heroes whacking each other.

    Back in WC3 Dota days we sometimes beat a “pro” team by just simply playing our game which wasn’t FOTM or trained and we won because they weren’t used to that type of gameplay.

    I’m guessing “ratting” is going to be just another FOTM “meta” which all the “pros” are going to train for until another “OP META” comes up.

    edit: I -random a lot just to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself with heroes/lineups that might seem inferior.

  30. uep65ovTa says:

    my best friend’s half-sister makes $65 /hr on the computer . She has been without work for nine months but last month her income was $15550 just working on the computer for a few hours. go >>>>>>>>>>>>>www.jobsblaze.com

  31. jonjonjon says:

    poeple don’t like rat dota because it sucks to play against. its really boring playing a game against a tinker or furion who keep tping and split pushing. the other thing is last year alliance was unbeatable and some people didnt like that so they used rat dota as an insult. kelly needs to learn to stop crying as it only gives people more ammo.

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