Have You Played… Dota 2?

Teamwork!

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

It was only a matter of time before I added Dota 2 to this list, I’m just surprised it took this long.

There are so many ways to explain what the game is, using complicated analogies and probably moving various condiments around a tabletop in an earnest fashion while geeking out in a greasy spoon cafe (not that this has happened). But at root, Dota 2 is simply a team game – a battle to destroy the other side’s ancient bonsai tree thing using a collection of weird and wonderful heroes and their combinations of skills.

It’s resistant to new players, particularly those relatively new to PC gaming. It’s also incredibly time consuming to dig into. You can spend hours on Reddit watching discussions about different item builds unfurl. But if you stick with it you’ll find an incredibly rewarding game accompanied by a hugely creative community (the people who make items and run events, obv – not the fools who instapick Pudge and whine about having no wards despite there being FOUR OF THE DAMN THINGS ON THE MAP THIS VERY MOMENT).

It’s the game to which I have dedicated the majority of my gaming time of the last couple of years and which has brought me an excellent new circle of friends.

If you remain unconvinced you can read more in-depth bits and bobs about why I find the game fascinating in the weekly Dote Night column.

94 Comments

  1. Pan Vidla says:

    I am sorry, but this is silly. Who needs to be recommended a game that’s already this famous? I keep my eye on this series of articles to discover something I’ve never played, yet, but totally would, if I knew about about it. I know Dota, I am pretty sure I don’t want to play it and I certainly don’t need to be reminded of it after Steam and my friends have done so so many times.

    • SooSiaal says:

      And it being mentioned in almost every article here

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      reminds me of back when people wanted harry potter to be required reading for children, who were reading it anyway

    • BooleanBob says:

      Maybe you could email Pip a list of games it’d be all right for her to recommend to you, so she doesn’t make the same mistake in future?

      • Pan Vidla says:

        Oh, come on. You know what I meant to say. I dare say that among all the people that come to RPS for game recommendations, there are very few, if any, who haven’t heard of Dota 2. And those who wanted to have probably already played it, being it free to play and all. Like Call of Duty or Minecraft, whatever you think of those games, Dota 2 is already a well-estabilished game, quite famous also among people who otherwise don’t play games.

        • Synesthesia says:

          It’s still an opportunity to recommend a game she loves, and a chance for us to discuss it.

          • LionsPhil says:

            But if we assume that RPS do not want to be nothing but a wall of HYP articles, slots to be featured in a HYP are limited.

            It does make sense to priortise those that are likely to make people go “ooh, I hadn’t, but now I’m going to”.

          • P.Funk says:

            And what exactly are we doing in all those other regular DOTA 2 articles?

          • Synesthesia says:

            I dunno guys, apply for an editor position them. It just bugs me that people are bitching not about the content of the article, but the fact that the article exists. I mean, come on!

          • Ditocoaf says:

            God knows we’re desperate for a chance to discuss DOTA2 here on RPS.

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          RaveTurned says:

          I don’t know if I’m in a tiny minority, but for the longest time I had heard of Dota 2 and its offshoots but hadn’t actually played any of them because I was convinced it wasn’t really my thing (not enough strategy, too twitchy). It was only around the time the Dote Night column started, along with some discussion of MOBAs on podcasts around the same time, that I thought maybe I should give it a go. Turns out you *don’t* have to be a super-twitchy pro-eSports type to have a good time with it. Who knew! Certainly not me six months ago.

          So I guess what I’m saying is, just because something’s already popular doesn’t mean giving it a recommendation is redundant. There might still be people out there like who could benefit from it, like I did.

      • iainl says:

        Sure.

        Load Steam.

        Click on the Store > Stats menu item. If the game is in the top ten games by current player count, or in Dota’s case the top one, then I suspect you can assume a lot of people have heard of it.

        Dota is absurdly popular, I get it. That’s why I don’t whine beneath every Dota article that I’m bored of hearing about a game that I have no interest in playing, because it’s a team-based multiplayer online thing that requires more time just to understand what you’re doing than I have put into any single title in entire Steam library. But really, the idea that I might not know what it is after having read RPS for 24 hours is absurd.

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          X_kot says:

          But the column is explicitly titled “Have You Played?”, not “Have You Heard Of?” Just because a game has a lot of exposure doesn’t mean people have taken the time to try it. For example, millions play League of Legends, but I haven’t even tried it Maybe an article like this would help me set aside my preconceptions and give it a go…

    • Cochise779 says:

      It’s an endless stream of game recommendations, not obscure/unknown game recommendations. Most people who read RPS regularly probably already heard of Dota 2, but that alone doesn’t disqualify it from being recommended.

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Exactly! Phillippa is saying, “Look, I know it’s popular and it’s F2P but it’s OK. You can play this bad boy.”

        I have never played DotA 2, mostly because I would rather spend the time playing all the other games I have backlogged. For a second I did think about playing it. That’s the point.

        Eventually Half Life will be recommended as well, because it has to be.

    • Necrourgist says:

      C’mon, i’m sure Pip meant no harm to your mental health! Or…well…do you feel…unstable if exposed to too much Dota 2 Coverage? Yes? No?

    • dorobo says:

      op is right…

  2. Premium User Badge

    TightByte says:

    Perhaps this was not the article you were hoping to read. Fortunately, there are other ones.

    Personally, I enjoyed it.

  3. skyturnedred says:

    I play Dota2 every few months for a couple of games, but the sheer amount of knowledge you need to have to be competent in the game is a bit overwhelming. I rarely have any idea what the enemy heroes are capable of doing and end up in bad situations. And then get yelled at.

    • demicanadian says:

      This comment should be printed, and shown to anyone who says e-sport is not real sport.
      If people get mad at you because you’re not as good as they want you to be, it’s a real sport.

      • Geebs says:

        Telephone support hotlines are a sport. Got it.

      • P.Funk says:

        Not necessarily. If the technical definition of a sport is any activity one is miserable at when one doesn’t invest any time in knowing it or practicing it or having any sense of whats happening during it then we could rate a lot of things as sports that clearly aren’t. It doesn’t end the debate necessarily on that merit alone.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Have you tried the limited heroes mode? It’s unhelpfully hidden, but you can find it under play > normal match > game modes > limited heroes. This will restrict the amount of heroes eligible to appear in your games, easing off the difficulty curve a bit for beginners (while making it more likely that your opponents will be newbies too).

      The other option, which is the one I went with, is to practise against bots until you have more of a handle on which hero does what. Go to play > bot match or > create lobby. Bots are a lot more enjoyable if you can find friends to play with, but the people playing co-op against bots online are generally chill too.

      • ddm999 says:

        It’s not really that hidden.

        If you’re a sane human being and you go through the tutorial, the last part is to complete 10 Limited Heroes vs Players games.

        The problem is that gamers aren’t sane human beings and can’t read the word “Tutorials” if it punched them in the face.

      • skyturnedred says:

        I do have a good few hundred games played, and I have fairly good grasp on the game mechanics for the most part. It’s just the amount of heroes and their abilities that you need to learn that causes the problems. I know what to do with my chosen character, I just have no idea what to expect from the enemies (I know you can click on them and see what they’re capable of.)

        Never tried limited heroes mode, guess I should give it a try as well.

        • jrodman says:

          It’s probably because learning complex systems is more fun for me than playing Dota but I know pretty much all the details of all the heroes, having played maybe 80 games.

          For me, watching and reading is often more fun than playing.

          (Not saying you should have, just a counterpoint.)

        • BooleanBob says:

          I understand what you mean; I can definitely remember being at that stage. That sort of information will trickle into your brain incrementally, although you’ll still be discovering new things about heroes a thousand games down the road (don’t worry, they’ll be more subtle and less game-impacting).

          You can learn a lot of this stuff in a less stressful way by reading guides and watching professional games. The Dota 2 wiki is a clean, easily-gleaned resource for information on hero abilities, items, and more obscure mechanics like the differences between damage types. If you’re wondering how spells X and Y interact it usually has the answer.

          Guides sites like Dota Fire can give you a good jist of how a character’s kit works in motion, as well as other useful tips such as ‘builds’ for their item and ability progression during a game. Alternatively Dotabuff, as well as being able to track your progress in pubs, has a tonne of data scraped from the API and you can use that to see what other people are doing in their games. Be like me and try to replicate their success, cargo cult-style. ;)

          Experimenting with different builds is definitely one of the more enjoyable parts of the game for me. It’s so satisfying to see the plan you made for your hero reaping rewards on the battlefield. Valve has a tool that lets you create and save these builds and import them into the game (using the book-like tab on the top left of the in-game HUD).

          Watching videos can give great insight into what distinguishes between a good and bad player. Purge is a popular Dota personality and sometime professional, also famed for his useful but rather inflammatorily-titled introduction to the game, who has released a great number of video guides to heroes aimed at teaching beginners the ropes. Alternatively watching pro games or streams with the wiki open in another window can be informative and entertaining at the same time – just don’t expect honest advice from twitch chat.

          It’s all just a question of how far down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go. :)

    • Bone says:

      This, and to me it still feels like a Warcraft III map in too many ways. Farm this lane, farm that jungle, gank this hero, use the shop. Don’t get yourself killed you [insert mild language here!]!!!!!!! It just hasn’t evolved since so many years, except for releases like Smite where they tried to streamline the whole formula and not just nuances. It just doesn’t feel compelling to me to learn all the characters, items/guides, find a good group that is also fun to play with and then repeat.

    • sophof says:

      I think the problem is that you can know a lot about the game and still be bad at it. Because of that you get put same skill bracket as these people and consequently get yelled at. Imo the matching service should try its best to not just match people based on skill, but also time played. At least for those who are new. There must be fun to be had trying to figure out the game together.

  4. Synesthesia says:

    Why yes, i did!

    I have well over a thousand hours, and consider myself a decent support hero. I loved teamfight controlling heroes, like disruptor. Sadly, the community shows no signs of improving at all, and combined with the torrent of internet bile we had the last couple of months, i forced myself to uninstall it.

    I miss the high spirits of a good teamfight, but no amount of fun justifies being around some of the least sightly people around there.

    • wearedevo says:

      I’m almost always in a 5-stack with friends, and I have to say this makes a huge difference to the enjoyability of the game. You still have to deal with occasional asshole on the other team of course, but not being actively abused by your allies is crucial.

  5. Stellar Duck says:

    I have not, no.

    Thanks for asking though. :D

  6. int says:

    Yes! But I am too frightened to play again, me being absolute flobbnob at playing it.

  7. Caelyn Ellis says:

    No. And I’m scared to.

  8. mickygor says:

    According to Steam I played it for 12 minutes. Felt it might as well have stayed on the WC3 engine, went back to other MOBAs which have actually moved past those limitations.

    • Asurmen says:

      Limitations that increased the skill ceiling though.

      • Wedge says:

        A game where you had to control your character using an Atari Jaguar controller with your feet would have quite the skill ceiling too. That wouldn’t make it a good game.

        • kavika says:

          A bad controller isn’t a skill ceiling – It’s a skill hurdle. The high ceiling means no matter how much you know the map, items, heroes, etc, you can still improve your game by paying attention. There is a *huge* variety in this game to be had. Way more than most other competitive/team based games.

  9. DeadCanDance says:

    I started playing two months ago. I recommend picking a hero you find cool and watch live games in which this hero is being played by an experienced player. That’s how I learned Morphling.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Damn son, you began with morpling? That’s some piccolo lead suit shit right there.

      • subedii says:

        What’s sad is that I actually understood that reference.

        Although that might have more to do with DBZ abridged than the actual original show.

      • DeadCanDance says:

        Yes… I find Morphling the coolest hero in dota. After him I started playing with phantom lancer and got pounded hard until I learned he must be employed with deception, like the wizards in old Conan’s movies.

  10. nmarebfly says:

    As popular as this game is, there are plenty of people who haven’t played it or have been driven off by stories about how huge and intimidating it can be. But you know what? It’s still a fun video game. Give it a shot! Especially if you’ve played League or like RTSes in general so you have some of the basic control stuff in your head already. Yes, there are tons of people out there who are better than you — but the matchmaking is pretty good, and after a couple games you’ll be playing with people just as bad as you are (despite what they might claim.) If they’re being dinguses, mute them and keep on trucking.

    It’s free! And probably the most generous free game that there is, to the point that it’s a little flabbergasting just how much content you get when you click on install. Don’t be scared. Try it!

    • RedNick says:

      “there are tons of people out there who are better than you”

      And the thing to remember is that there always will be (Unless you win The International)! When you completely get stomped in a game, just remember that the pros get stomped at times too.

  11. Napalm Sushi says:

    This is a game that I resisted for the longest time until one of my friends decided to dabble in it and returned with tales of untold riches and an eagerness to share the experience. I would subsequently discover that, while all the infamous hurdles you’ve heard about are absolutely present and absolutely daunting, there really is something special on the other side.

    It’s also a game whose default event announcer can be replaced with the narrators from Bastion and The Stanley Parable. So… yes.

  12. DrollRemark says:

    Considering I still haven’t ever played a MOBA, it’s a shame this article doesn’t bother to explain how they work, even just slightly.

    • Arathain says:

      There are two teams, each composed of five characters from a diverse selection. Each team has a central structure- destroying the opponents wins the game. Your base area regularly spawns a small force of fighters called creeps, which will head towards your opponents base. The two bases are separated by 3 corridors called lanes, joined by a network of paths called the jungle. The lanes are guarded by powerful defensive towers, and you will need the help of your sides creeps take them down. So the ultimate goal is to escort your creeps to the enemy base to destroy it.

      Player characters, called heroes, gain power by fighting creeps and other players to gain both experience and money. Experience grants levels, and allows the heroes to gain stat increases and powerful skills. Money lets them buy items to further empower and customize their abilities.

      That’s a MOBA.

    • P.Funk says:

      History in wiki format available as well.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      If you want to get the basics, Awesomenauts is a 2D platformer MOBA with a very limited character set. It’s usually pretty cheap and I’ve seen free weekends for it.

  13. c-Row says:

    I’d rather not, thank you very much.

  14. tumbleworld says:

    I’m kinda surprised it took this long, too. I trust you’ll be recommending LoL tomorrow, or maybe CS?

  15. Wulfram says:

    I occasionally look at trying a MOBA, then it seems like I have to do a tremendous amount of work just before I can start being a useless noob, so I go play something else instead.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      My train of thought as well. If somebody could develop a MOBA that does a good job of easing new players into the game that would be great. Maybe there is one that already exists. What do I know.

    • Razumen says:

      Dota2 is pretty easy to get into actually, forget about reading guides and try some of the tutorial levels to get you started. They’ll ease you into some of the core gameplay concepts.

      But overall I think the best way is to just play a game against bots with a friend or too that you can ask questions. There’s no substitute for learning by trial and error, and there’s no penalty (or shame) for losing a game against bots, and most people that play matchmaking games against bots are pretty chill as well.

  16. P.Funk says:

    Meant to be a reply to tumbleworld

    Call of Duty? yuk yuk

    Actually I think it would be pretty cool if they recommended Call of Duty: United Offensive. Still the best CoD for me. Health bar/packs, total failure of most of the game if you don’t actually play well, fantastic WW2 inspired shenanigans, and deployable machine guns which really excited me. Still scripted to hell but that hasn’t be out of the norm since the start of the 00s anyway.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      The original 2 call of duty games (and UO) are really good, easily some of the best linear fps games of their or any time. I played 2 last year, and it held up surprisingly well. 1, 2, and 4 are all well worth playing. It’s a shame they went as far downhill as they did, becoming more derivative and less well crafted with each subsequent release. They were always linear, but the story as told in game (“one takes the rifle, one takes the bullets”, etc) was really good in those early games. Though I am currently enjoying what I’ve played of Advanced Warfare so far.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Starting out with you on a bomber getting flakked and the recreation of that Russian guy who defended a building against a whole platoon of Germans are two moments that really stick out to me from the early CODs.

  17. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    I don’t, and I never will.

    I like playing multiplayer games to be effective. I always run for the objective and try to achieve it. There are a lot of people who only play those games as deathmatches, but I only kill other players if it’s necessary to complete my objective, and will gladly flee combat if it fits my strategy.

    In SAUSAGES, the objective, as I see, is to destroy the towers (or whatever it’s called in the particular game) and then destroy the enemy stronghold. But the players can’t do that. Only the creeps can do that. So whenever I play a SAUSAGES I keep thinking: why do they have the NPC’s do the only fun part of the game?

    I can understand the mindset that let to a game in which NPC’s do the objectives while PC’s play a deathmatch of sorts that nevertheless supports a different objective, but it’s not a mindset I share, nor one I will.

    If I ever learn to program I’ll create a SAUSAGES for a Fuck This Jam in which you play as a creep, and the heroes will all be hunky dudes. You wait and see.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Oh, all heroes can destroy towers. In some cases, some creeps need to be there so it can be harmed, to prevent some cheap tactics.

      Some heroes are actually perfect for pushing. Phantom Lancer, Pugna, Techies, Death Prophet, the list goes on.

    • PikaBot says:

      Not only are there heroes who are build entirely around destroying towers, but after the very early game the creeps serve more as a meat shield for the heroes, who deal the bulk of damage to the tower.

      Now, it is true that all but the first set of towers require creeps to be present for destroying the tower to be practical. If there are no creeps nearby, a mechanism called backdoor protection activates which decreases the amount of damage the tower takes and causes it to regenerate health rapidly. Only a really farmed pushing hero can take down towers through backdoor protection. This mechanism was implemented because not only can heroes take towers, certain heroes are so good at it that after a certain point, leaving your base unattended , regardless of where the lane was, meant that a tower would die. This was identified being anti-fun and mechanics were implemented to make it less practical.

      So no, you are completely wrong.

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      X_kot says:

      I’d play that jam game. Creep life 4ever!

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Why do you keep yelling sausages?

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        It’s one of those “Look at how clever I am because I made up a name for this & I’m going to use it no matter how few people have any clue what it means to show how clever I am to everyone” things.

    • Razumen says:

      Regarding Dota2, you’re pretty much mistaken on a lot of levels. First of all while creeps can destroy enemy towers they generally only can do so if there’s a hero pushing them ahead. in the absence of heroes, they won’t actually gain or lose any ground against the enemy creeps. When the creeps are pushing ahead, it’s because there’s a hero helping them. The heroes are the driving force in the game, not the other way around.

      Secondly, heroes can and do destroy towers, and there are specific characters and builds out there for players who want to specialize in it. However any hero can take down a tower generally, and when one falls, most of the damage is likely to have come from heroes rather than creeps – especially later in the game when the heroes grow far more powerful than any creep on the field. In all cases, creeps pretty much just serve as meat shields for the heroes, absorbing the tower’s attacks so the heroes can concentrate on taking the tower and its defenders out.

      Sure, they could remove creeps and just have towers attack heroes, but it would remove an interesting and crucial aspect of the game’s core gameplay, would probably result in matches taking even longer, and wouldn’t make the game any more interesting – unless you really do consider attacking a mindless stationary target to be the most fun part of the game.

  18. JohnnyPanzer says:

    I finally gave up last weekend and installed it to see what it’s all about. I’ve avoided it like the plague for many years, since it’s userbase are often called out as the most hostile userbase on the planet, and I hate being berated in online games. I mean, I get the sweats just thinking about some russian calling me a fucking noob and telling me to go suck on a shotgun. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does, and it’s the reason I rarely play online games.

    Still, I gave it a shot and I like it. I can see what all the fuss is about, it’s a very deep gameplay that will take me years to truly get the hang of. I currently have three matches left of the last tutorial mission, and I’m deeply afraid of the abuse I’ll no doubt encounter the second I take off my training slippers and enter my first non-training match. But I’m gonna stick with it for a while, because I’m so damn impressed by the gameplay and overall structure of the game. I mean, I have 23 hours logged in according to steam, and I’m not even out of the tutorial yet. If I count the time I have spent researching tactics and the heros I’ve tried so far, I’d say I have about 50 hours under my belt. That’s some pretty deep gameplay, when you’re able to say “Yeah, I have played about 50 hours so far, and I hope to have finished the tutorial any day now…”

    My future with the game now depends greatly upon just how horrible the general population will treat me once I’m out of training. I might take my nephews up on their offer and let them coach me for some time. But I still fear the userbase will drive me away, I know it’s happened to a lot of friends with thicker skin than me. I once asked my oldest nephew if it was as bad as people say, and his reply was (I shit you not) “You’ve seen Full Metal Jacket, right? The drill sergeant? Yeah, no-one is that well mannered in DOTA”. Another friend described the userbase as “a pack of rabid dogs, without the civility”…

    Time to play!

    • Synesthesia says:

      HF!

    • dorobo says:

      oh you will wish you have never installed it rather soon ;]

    • borso says:

      It’s not that bad, just play with friends.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Agreed! Five stacking is the ideal environment for a game of stress-free Dota. Muting people at the first sign of unpleasant behaviour is also absolutely vital; you do this by holding down the ¬ or ~ key (the one next to, uh, 1 on your keyboard) and toggling the little speaker next to their name(s).

        I can only speak anecdotally but my experiences with bad apples have been pretty few and far between. The problem is that the game is so damnably engaging, even (especially?) on the emotional level, and If you get into an flame war it will sour your memory of not just that match but probably the rest of your day. That’s why the mute function is so important.

        The flipside is that the feeling of a hard-fought victory with a friendly team, all working and pulling together, is nothing short of euphoric, and a particularly memorable match will put a skip in your step for days.

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      RaveTurned says:

      I have about 60-65ish hours of games under my belt, with no friends who play regularly (yet…) and so far I’m still splashing around in the Limited Pool, but my experience of other players in public games has been pretty OK. Very occasionally there’ll be a player who might be a bit mouthy, or another who blames poor performance on everything but themselves, but they’re often called out by teammates and are easily muted if they continue to be a nuisance. For the most part if anything I’ve found people tending to be *too* quiet, and that a little friendly ice-breaking at the start of the game can go a long way towards encouraging communication and teamwork that can tip the balance and win the game.

      As I say, this is for very low level unranked play. I’d imagine things could change once you get into ranked games, and maybe unranked matches with people of higher skill, but I can only report on my own experience.

  19. dorobo says:

    This game is slavery.. Think about how much time people waste on it every day around the world. Kids that would be better off learning something that would benefit them. No need to promote it even more. Promote hawken.. that game is dying because of these free to play giants taking up all the traffic.

  20. jonfitt says:

    The games take too long and cannot be quit. It is just too incompatible with having a family. I played a bit of LoL but haven’t even tried Dota.

  21. Mitthrawn says:

    I think the problem I have with Dota, and with MOBAs in general, is that they just don’t seem well designed from a fundamental level. Let me explain. Note: I use DOTA throughout but this applies to all MOBAs.

    Take a game like Team Fortress 2 as a comparison to DOTA. Here are the major differences, and the areas in which I think DOTA (and all MOBAs) trip up.

    1. Too much is dependent on me.

    Simply put, I am one of a team of five players. That means that I am responsible for 20% of whether we win or lose, and if I am better or worse than the average of our team, i am responsible for more than that (see point 3 below). This means that if I feed the other team, I am responsible for even more than 20% of whether we win or lose (again, point 3). Compare this with TF2. There is a team of 12, so my action, while possibly more helpful or harmful, rarely make up the difference between victory or defeat. And, it is far easier for a beginner to be effective from the off, either by being unselfish (medic) or by learning the fundamentals (best example is engie on defense). By having distinct roles and allowing the team to change while in game, newbies are more welcome into the game. And by having more people, any individual players role is lessened, while still allowing for high skill players to shine and have impact. This is good game design, and it is not shown in DOTA.

    2. There are too many things for me to keep track of.

    Consider. I have to know in order to play optimally: my hero, his abilities, his cool down, his evolution, all the items in the game and how they interact with my hero, my teammates heroes, their abilities, their cool downs, all their evolutions, all the items in the game and how they interact with my teammates heroes, my enemies heroes, their abilities, their cool downs, their evolution, and all the items in the game and how they interact with my enemies heroes.

    As a newbie I cannot possibly be expected to know this. Just learning the heroes is tough enough. And their abilities. And know I have to know all the items, and the “builds” for each hero, and how their builds change based on what heroes we/they are fielding? That’s crazy. TF2 on the other hand has nine distinct classes with three weapons each. Yes there are unlockable weapons, but they are versions of things the class already has (different mediguns, for example). There are only really two examples where weapons change what a class does- huntsman sniper and demo knight. Even allowing for that, there are less classes than players for either side, and they each follow archetypes for FPS games, so its very “grokable” what each class will do (snipers are long range, heavies are tanks, etc). The complexity overload for DOTA is immense, and again, helps the top level but hurts anyone starting or even middle tier.

    3. DOTA is a “zero sum” system. Every kill fuels the other team and pulls them further ahead.

    This gets to the heart of the design problem with DOTA. This situation leads to crazy imbalances. It also means that as a new player, I am more likely to “feed” the other team, leading to increased resentment among my teammates, leading to a toxic and newbie hating culture. This isn’t the fault of the poison spewing teammate calling me a motherless so-and-so for feeding the other team. This is the fault of a game that at its design core is compromised by a winner take all system that completely swings a match based on a few kills back or forth, and that creates a system that rewards tiny variants in play. Good for extreme high level play, terrible for beginners or for fostering a nurturing community toward beginners. That is the fault of the game, not the community or players.

    4. The matches take too long.

    This ties into number 1. Not only is their too much put on my shoulders, but the time investment for my team is immense. 45 minutes is too long, and again, it leads to toxicity and resentment when a late feed or kill sends the win to the other team. Again, compared to TF2 or any shooter, where the matches average about 10-20 minutes, the time investment is small enough that it’s not as big a deal to lose a match, because you can play 3-5 in the time it takes to play one DOTA match. And again, this is a problem in the design of the game, not in the playbase or the community. Simply put, emotional investment increases as time investment goes up. So no wonder the toxicity is increased in DOTA, as you are 1) not only asking me to do too much as a percentage of the team, but also 2) increasing the time for each match so that each mistake is amplified by the time invested in that match.

    5. It is hard to come back from

    I know, I know. People will come out and show me streams of miraculous comebacks and come from behind victories. But how many of these actually happen? I am genuinely asking, because from what I have heard, once a team gets ahead, unless they play foolishly and make mistakes, the zero sum game design from point 3 comes up. They are higher level, so they are stronger, so they are better at killing creeps, so they are better at killing heroes, so they get higher levels, so they get better, so they get stronger, so they…

    The unfortunate thing about winner take all systems is that they are cruel and mechanically restrictive. There is a reason most multiplayer games do not have level ups in each match. It leads to a rich get richer system which is pretty much exactly what DOTA has (systems like COD’s in which you progress outside of each match are different. They can be problematic in their own way, but are less unfair then in-match advancement).

    And because DOTA lacks a kind of mechanical complexity (hear me out) that a game like TF2 has, it is harder to get back into it. What do I mean? By having 12 players and 9 classes that all players can switch between at any time, there is a constant change that can occur in TF2. If you are getting wrecked, as a team, 2 players can switch to medic and all of the sudden you have turned the tide and now you are winning. By having constantly changing classes, TF2 allows for a broader strategic teamwork than DOTA, as once you have picked your hero you are locked in. It also means that each role is locked in, you can only have one support and if they suck or get off to a slow start, again you are screwed. The system is frankly too strict and leads to uninteresting games too often.

    This doesn’t mean that DOTA cannot be fun. Clearly it can be when everything goes right and it can be more complex and intense than many other games, and that’s what keeps people coming back for more. But to my mind this is a rich getting richer kind of system, or to use an old MTG quote, a “win more” system. If you are already invested, you will become more invested in the system. But to someone who is coming in, just looking to play a fun game and have some laughs, the fundamental design problems of DOTA make that impossible. And that is on the design of the game, not on the fan base, or the community or the poor noobs getting smashed. It is a problem in the bones of the game’s design, and one that without being solved will always lead to toxicity and a very beginner hostile culture.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I agree with this assessment.

    • Robbobin says:

      Really most of the things you mentioned as downsides to Dota are, for me, upsides. I love that it’s so punishing, and your actions are so important, and that games involve such an investment. The latest big gameplay patch went a long way to making games less one sided; in probably about 50% of my games the game swings at least a couple of times (according to at least one metric, anyway).

      I completely disagree with the statement that Dota offers less broad strategic teamwork. It’s just a completely different sort of strategy. Sure, you can’t die and instantly swap out into a completely different role in Dota; having flexible strategies involves a great deal of progression and foresight (and a great deal of that in the drafting of the team). The ability to swap role instantly is, to me, a quite superficial, cheap way to implement strategy in a game. If you can turn the tide of a losing game just by pressing a couple of buttons after you die, I hardly find that commendable.

      And playing with the group of guys and girls I play Dota with, we almost always have a great time. Really a lot of the game design “flaws” you’re pointing out are really just a difference in taste, since they’re the exact reasons people like me have so much fun sinking 2000+ hours into it.

      • Robbobin says:

        Though I completely agree that the game is almost impenetrable for new players. But completely changing the game to make it more friendly would certainly ruin the strategic depth the game has at the moment. It’s just a matter of taste; when I started playing Dota it was the difficulty curve that impressed me and inspired me to play more, whereas for most it might be an instant turn off.

      • P.Funk says:

        “The ability to swap role instantly is, to me, a quite superficial, cheap way to implement strategy in a game.”

        Really? Tell that to just about every single real life atheletic team sport you can name. Every atheletic sport includes personnel changes at the least due to fatigue but they also incorporate enormous strategic variety into that. Football, Footie, Hockey, Baseball, its all got personnel changes to create strategic shifts owing to a very deep game.

        Its not cheap. Its actually interesting and its fairer to people who want to actually play more than one role for a whole 60 minutes. DOTA 2 is unfair because it makes it so that a wrong character choice screws you. Find out you’re crap with a new hero or he’s not helping your team you’re locked in for the duration.

        Whats more real life athletes are more flexible than DOTA heroes.

        Laud it for this design choice but don’t call it cheap. You’re basically calling every team sport outside of esports cheap.

        • kavika says:

          Item counter-item is a fierce part of Dota strategy and Dota is *much* less of a game that locks people into roles than a game like LoL. Most heroes can be played a myriad of ways, unlike LoL where you will get yelled at if you don’t play every single hero exactly in the role and lane they were designed for.

    • sophof says:

      I love the game but I agree on most points :P I always say to my friends that the game is fundamentally flawed as well and I think the latest international showed that problem clearly. 2 really good teams were in the final and understood the concept of getting ahead to stay ahead perfectly. Everything was thrown on the first 10 mins, since that was all that mattered and the result therefore was a shit final.

      The beauty is in the imperfection of players. People will still make mistakes that you can capitalize on, but they will have to make them. Icefrog (the maker of this game) clearly realised this and implemented a strong comeback mechanic after the international. However, this was met with a lot of hostility from the players, so it has been toned down already quite a bit. I think that we’ll see this system slowly enforced more in the coming months/years. The change was simply to sudden, but it is clearly what the game needs imo.

    • Razumen says:

      1. Too much is dependent on me.

      That’s a rather strange criticism, especially in a game designed around PvP. I guess you’re right in the sense that there’s less players so obviously there’s more pressure on each player, but I’d rather play a game where I can be a deciding factor in the win than someone floating by on other people’s efforts. Also, there are classes in the game that are more suited to new players, so while you can’t switch characters on the fly, there are roles that new players can pick that will help ease them into the game. Not to mention the tutorials and bot matches which are just as fun as a regular match.

      2. There are too many things for me to keep track of.

      Frankly, you’re overestimating this, if you’re playing in a competitive environment then yes, you’re eventually going to want to be able to remember what your teammates can do so you can plan your tactics better, and the same for enemy heroes so you’ll know how to counter them, but for casual play, that’s far from a necessity.

      If you’re playing for fun, all you need to focus on at first is what your character can do, and maybe what items you want to make him more effective. That’s pretty much it. You’ll learn about other heroes abilities naturally by playing the game (and playing as more heroes) over time, there is no need to overcomplicate matters and try to memorize everything from the get-go, which would drive anyone crazy for any game.

      3. DOTA is a “zero sum” system. Every kill fuels the other team and pulls them further ahead.

      This isn’t really a flaw, more so as a design that actually helps the game move ahead. Without being rewarded for enemy kills matches would take even longer, and while dying as a new player does give the enemy team a slight advantage, if you’re playing with more experienced players who are helping you out, it’s really not that big of a setback. Especially if you get revenge on your killer.

      4. The matches take too long.

      I guess this is a matter of preference really, for example I loved the length of the original Natural Selection matches, before they destroyed the balance of the game and long interesting battles turned into 15 minute fragfests with little to no strategy. In fact, I’ve played a lot of matches of TF2 where the average length was about the same, and I think the average time length of matches is pretty suitable for Dota2’s system of leveling up, buying items and employing different strategies. If the game was any shorter it would get less interesting if anything. Also, some of the things you complained about above, the teams size and momentum, actually contribute to making matches shorter, as mistakes are punished (as they should be) and less players in a match make it easier for one team to get ahead through skill, rather than through brute force in constant back and forth battles that are typical with larger player amounts.

      5. It is hard to come back from

      Honestly, I think this is only true if one team really screws up, or there’s a large skill disparity between the two team. Overall, I think it’s a necessary part of the game and it’s better for it overall. If a player screws up, and the enemy team gets some extra money and experience because of it, it was probably their fault. But it works both ways and I think it’s a totally fair system. Winning should be rewarded just as much as mistakes should be punished.

      It’s interesting that you mention Cod, because that game has an even worse system, where good players are constantly rewarded with perks that grant them power totally disproportional to the effort it took to receive them, allowing them to kill even more players (often with immunity) and greatly inflating their score. What’s worse, unlike in Dota, if a player then came backs and gets revenge one of these players, they don’t get anything back for their efforts but a single point, whereas in Dota you would get experience points commensurate with the level of your victim, possibly putting you back on the same level or higher than them.

      As for switching heroes, let’s forget about items and levels and assume for a second that it’s possible a losing team could switch heroes and their tactics. Yes It is possible that they might be able to make a comeback, but more than likely the same reason they are losing would still be present and nothing much would change. Not to mention the enemy team could simply change their heroes as well, and then you’ll just have another constant back and forth of random heroes where no one knows what’s going on and any form of strategy or tactics just goes out the window until one team finds the magic combination that manages to overpower the other team.

      Basically it would just makes matches longer, not to mention it doesn’t fit into the game’s systems, and negates the long-term tactics when using a single hero.

      I don’t agree that the design is at all hostile to new players wanting to just play and have fun, rather it’s the extremely competitive ranked mode that people jump right into and get rankled by (and rightfully so in many cases). However I introduced the game to my friend last night who had only played Warcraft 3 before, and before the night was over she was hooked and having a blast, playing game after game trying out new heroes. We didn’t jump into competitive matches, but rather played against bots with humans, which allowed for a lot less pressure and a much more enjoyable atmosphere, as most people that play against bots don’t really care that much if you’re new and learning, that you don’t quite know how to play the class you picked, or even if you lose the match.

      I honestly don’t think the core gameplay is flawed at all, it’s a rather deep if challenging game with a lot of strategy and tactics that rewards quick reflexes as well as strategy and planned tactics whilst still managing to have relatively short matches when you consider all that happens in a single round. it’s simply probably not just to your tastes, and that’s totally fine.

  22. hewhosayszonk says:

    Difficulty curve does not sufficiently explain why I can’t stand Dota. I like complex games with punishing curves. But when I’m learning an intricate system like Dwarf Fortress or learning how to start an A10 in DCS World, there is the underlying faith that the system exists for a reason, and despite their complexity they end up being intuitive systems.

    I don’t have that faith in Dota… the game feels to me like an iteration of paper scissors rock where there are five hundred different choices which arbitrarily win or lose against each other and the only way to proceed is to memorise them. Yes, that’s complex, yes, there is strategy involved if you are playing with a team of people and each choosing your elaborate rock or paper, but it isn’t satisfying to me.

    I’m sure that this is a terrible oversimplification.

    • Razumen says:

      You’re right, It is a terrible simplification. Obviously if you pick a support hero you’re not likely going to be able to take down a Tank hero, but if you picked a support to begin with, you shouldn’t expect to b able to do so in the first place. It’s really not much different than say PvP in an RPG. Also, the level of memorization needed to play is greatly exaggerated, it’s totally possible to just play the game and learn about all the different heroes abilities as you go, experimenting with different characters and items until you find ones that suit you.

      That said, though some heroes are naturally more effective against others, teams don’t just win arbitrarily
      because of what heroes they pick; skill, strategy and teamwork play a much bigger role than you think, especially when you factor into items that can drastically change a hero’s capabilities.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        You’re right, It is a terrible simplification. Obviously if you pick a support hero you’re not likely going to be able to take down a Tank hero, but if you picked a support to begin with, you shouldn’t expect to b able to do so in the first place.

        I’ve solo killed a carry Alchemist as support Windrunner. I’ve solo killed Anti-Mage as support Skywrath Mage. I’ve solo killed a very farmed Chaos Knight as a 5 position Ancient Apparition with nothing but Boots of Speed & a Magic Wand simply by throwing my ultimate at him at the right moment while he’s farming an empty lane.
        Hell I’ve solo killed an Undying as Jakiro in the first 15 seconds of the game after the creeps spawn (OK that one was because we both contested top rune & it spawned a Double Damage which I took but the point stands & you can find the replay for that if you look up game 1043489253 in the next 4 days before it expires).

        If you play to your hero’s strengths & exploit the enemies weaknesses, any hero can kill any other hero.

  23. alms says:

    I tried to. Then I tried reading one of the new players’ guides that was recommended here, and after about 45 minutes of reading, I asked myself “wait this isn’t over yet?” and so I scrolled down, and then more and then some more because on and on and on that little introduction went, with a seemingly endless list of paragraphs about stuff to learn and memorize. All the patience I could muster was literally blown away by the sheer ludicrousness of the situation.

    Games like DOTA2 make me wonder if there isn’t something productive or useful that I should or could be doing instead. I guess a more optimistic person could argue that’s one thing to their credit.

    • kavika says:

      There’s a playable tutorial. Don’t worry about reading until you’re actually hooked and having fun doing it.

    • Razumen says:

      If you’re new, don’t worry about reading guides, the best way is to just jump into a game, preferably against bots with a friend on your team that will answer your questions. The core gameplay isn’t that hard really, the most challenging part for me is keeping track off your abilities and items as well keeping track of everyone’s positions (I really wish the view was able to be zoomed out more, it’s too close in my opinion for a game that requires so much battlefield awareness)

      Just keep playing games and trying different heroes, that’s the best way in my opinion to learn enemies’ abilities, in my opinion, and it’s also the best way to find a hero you really like.

  24. Stayche says:

    It’s still baffling to me that it’s so popular, I just don’t understand the appeal of it on a basic level. It’s tedious, repetitive, predictable, the community is awful and it requires learning by rote to play well.

    • kavika says:

      What are counter-examples to each of those things?

      Most of the same things can be said about soccer and soccer fans ;)

      Learning by rote in my experience is between 10 and 30% of the skill. Most of the game is walking the path.

    • Razumen says:

      I would say it’s none of those things, and your comments only serve to show your ignorance of it on a basic level. It’s only tedious if you play the same character/same strategy every time. It’s only predictable if you play against the same heroes/players every time. It’s only as repetitive as you want it to be, and when custom game modes/map are released it the possibilities will open up even more. Actually learning to play the game isn’t as hard as people say, I introduced it to my friend last night and she had never played a MOBA before, though she had played WC3. Before the night was over she was having a blast and was hooked. We played in a humans vs bot match, so jumping right into a super-competitive community wasn’t a big problem.