DOTA 2 Beta – Put on your big boy gaming pants

Dota 2 - The Dotaing

I jump into myfirst game of DOTA 2. As we load up and begin to select our heroes, I realise it has been quite some time since my last game of DOTA 1.

“Hey guys,” I say in team chat, “This is my first game, if anyone has any advice let me know!”
Almost as soon as I finish typing, the chat is flooded:“Oh my god, fking noobs, this is gg” says one of my companions.
“Go back to LoL faggot” cries another.

And so it begins.

Most games like to gently ease you in to playing. In MMO’s, you’ll spend the first few hours killing rats with a wooden sword before you can start your epic adventure. An RTS will start you off with only a few basic units to build before letting you unleash an army of battle cruisers. The difficulty is intertwined with your experience, and increases at roughly the same rate. DOTA 2 is not one of these games. The learning curve is steep and, unless you land on your feet, you’ll quickly be drowned in a shit storm of noob calls and questions about your sexual preferences.

A Typical DOTA2 Game.

DOTA 2 is the stand alone second installment of DOTA (duh), a Warcraft 3 custom map. Based on the Starcraft custom map ‘Aeons of Strife’, DOTA single-handedly popularised the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) or action RTS subgenre. Although DOTA 2 is only in closed beta, it is already regularly topping the steam peak player count, suggesting this notoriety will continue. The gameplay is a fusion of strategy and MMO, with players picking a hero at the start of each game and leveling them up. You gain XP and gold by killing enemy heroes and units (called creeps). Every level you gain you get a point to put into one of your heroes spells, and you can buy items from the stores dotted around the map to make your hero more powerful. Using these, your team aims to destroy the base of the opposing team which means teamwork is essential.

Unfortunately, teamwork is DOTA 2’s biggest stumbling block. However, this is an issue Valve is very conscious of and there are features implemented to try and curb this, such as issuing commends and reports for ranking a players behavior. Enough reports or leaving a game can land you in the low priority queue pool where other players searching for matches will be bumped ahead of you. Valve knows that the community is what will make or break DOTA 2 and have thus stated that they want to reward players for good conduct (and maybe even charge them for beings dicks). It’s something that DOTA 2 desperately needs and I’m excited to see how they implement this as the release date approaches.

With over 108 heroes to choose from and a plethora of items, the game still manages to be incredibly balanced. Some characters on opposing teams are much harder to counter, whilst others can seem almost useless, but each is deadly in their own right if you can learn how to use them.

The gameplay is extremely smooth, with any delays in spells casting times or attack animations not only put there on purpose but carefully calculated to help with the balancing issue. Its visuals are quite stunning as well, with particle effects blooming as spells are hurled back and forth. Squirrels run through the forest between players’ feet and buildings crack and crumble as they take damage. It’s no Crysis 2 but it definitely adds to the experience.

E-sports is another area that Valve is investing heavily in. Tournaments are watchable in the DOTA 2 client with the purchase of a ticket, with commentator analysis available over audio. Watching a tournament this way has a few advantages, as small in game information such as gold and XP per minute can be viewed first hand, which is often glossed over in VODs.  With the game still in closed beta there are already eight tournaments available to view and more are being added regularly.

In particular Valve’s recent tournament was a huge event, with the sixteen top teams from around the world competing, and a first prize of one million dollars. Missing the E-sports boat with Counterstrike has always been a bit of a sore point with Valve and so hopefully with the support of such a big company we will continue to see the scene grow in size as well as legitimacy. So don’t quit your job to become a pro gamer just yet.

1st place winners, looking slick.

Although DOTA 2 can at times seem like a rancid cesspool reserved for the worst kind of gamers, when you get a team of five friendly guys who know what they’re doing and are willing to work with you, the experience will make it all seem worth it.