DOTA 2 is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. It’s the second iteration to DoTA (Defense of the ancients) which was a mod for Warcraft III, but became so popular that it led to the independent game. It consists of two teams of five players each that needs to work together and destroy the opponent’s base on opposite corners of the square map. The gameplay is extensively built around working together and each player assumes a role like core carry or support. There are over 100 characters or heroes to choose from, and each character can be played in multiple ways.
“No two games are the same, ever.”
There are so many elements involved in this game, that traditional game analysis methods cannot fully comprehend them. It has a steep initial learning curve that flattens out after first few games for each hero. In order to fully understand the game, a player should know each hero. DOTA 2 is demanding in terms of time, and rewards skills like quick reflexes and strategic thinking. Players prefer to get better at a hero that suits their playing style. Since Dota2 has so many heroes, one must play each hero multiple times to understand and find the most suitable character. People also have multiple favorites based on the current situation.
Each of the over 100 heroes have their own distinct abilities. Every player in every game starts from the same base level, so skill is the only factor that matters. All the in-game purchases are purely cosmetic and in no way affect the gameplay. The game is completely free to play, and no heroes are locked behind a pay/play to unlock wall. Player does not necessarily need to know every character in order to play, but that certainly helps.
An average complete game lasts for about 45 minutes, but it can vary from a few minutes to a few hours. The gameplay involves killing enemies and NPC’s to gain experience and gold to unlock certain abilities and buy items respectively. As you gain levels and items, you become more powerful – your health and damage increases. Dota skills can be evaluated as critical decisions per minute, which is basically the number of efficient decisions that a player had to take considering all other 9 players in the game.
Dota 2 isn’t fun for newcomers. In fact, the learning curve is almost a vertical line. But even then, Dota 2 has a fan base of over five hundred thousand players. This is partly because of aesthetics. Dota 2 is huge on aesthetics and feedback. Player actions are beautiful and pleasing, and at the same, being fun to play. For example, one of the characters can disguise himself as a tree from the map, or even a banana. In order to not scare away the newcomers, it has a matchmaking system that evaluates your skills after every match and pitches you against similar skills only. This makes sure that every match is truly competitive.
Another reason why Dota2 remains to be immensely popular is due to the frequent updates. The Dota 2 community is huge, and Steam does a good job at balancing the game every once in awhile, so that no player is overpowered or underpowered. Also, they keep on introducing new heroes for all players to master, successfully maintaining their interest. They are not afraid to bring in new features too, which sometimes change the entire gameplay. For example, the new talent tree system that was introduced in the Update 7 allowed far more flexibility in choosing a player role than it was earlier possible. They also have frequent competitions that require a ticket, but reward players extensively.
Dota 2 is very popular as an Esports. With a prize pool of $23 millions, it is more than Cycling: Tour de France, Athletics: The Diamond League, Cricket: The IPL and Golf: The Open combined. Teams from around the world compete against each other in the The Internationals.
One thing that Dota 2 shouts out loud is that teamwork matters. No matter how good your entire team is individually, an average team with superior coordination can outperform you. More deaths doesn’t necessarily equal to loss, or having more items doesn’t mean your team is going to win. It’s the correct use of all your abilities and teamwork that can lead you to victory. In fact, it is very common to see dominating teams make one mistake, and the other team swipes them clean. Tables can turn at any point in Dota 2, and therefore, the game is very much indulging until the very end.
Dota 2 makes learning seems like fun. When you explore a new hero, you’re often amazed by it’s ability, or how certain abilities used in conjunction can create magic. Also, since there are multiple ways to play a character, it’s very easy to customize it to suit our style. Dota 2 has both casual players, as well as serious players, with each side pouring thousands of hours into the game, striving to get better.
Winning a game is so satisfying that it becomes addicting in the true sense of the word. The gameplay in itself might not be so addicting, but winning is. A player is never satisfied until you have at least one good victory. One good victory is different as this feels like you have earned it. It can’t be easy. The game should have kept you on your toes for the entire durations, and interest curve for that game would have shot through the roof.
I believe it is not possible to evaluate Dota 2 as a game, but it might be possible to evaluate one particular game, and analyze why it was fun. This is because each game is different, and even with the same set of players and items, no two games can be the same.