Is DOTA2 Doomed to Fail as an eSport?: An [e-Sports Dail-e] Special Report

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Is DotA2 doomed to fail as an eSport?: An [e-Sports Dail-e] Special Report

Ever since the original Defense of the Ancients, MOBA, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, games have been a staple of the eSports world. However, the emergence of Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends has made this genre fraught with competition for players and sponsorships. With the advancement onto DotA 2, is Valve setting their game up for failure? And what of the eSports world? Are they taking to it as well as they should be? Find out in this week’s [e-Sports Dail-e] Special Report.

I’ll be breaking this down into advantages and disadvantages that DotA2 has over its competition. Let’s start off with the pros.

The Advantages

Head Designer of the game is Icefrog, the genius currently maintaining DotA All Stars (the current incarnation of the original DotA)

Having Icefrog on staff is a huge advantage for Valve. Widely considered to be one of the most intelligent game designers in history, he has never made a decision with DotA All Stars that can’t logically be picked apart. Not to mention , Icefrog also has massive clout with the members of the MOBA community, with many people simply trying out DotA2 to see his work done and to simply show support for him.

DotA2’s Spectator Mode and stat tracking is pretty awesome. And it saves replays.

While the ability to save replays may seem like no big deal for some, it’s a feature that has been sorely lacking in League of Legends for a very long time, requiring matches to be shoutcasted live. For major tournaments, this is no big deal, but it makes having Online tournaments (like the ones in Starcraft 2, such as the IGN Pro League) much more of a hassle. This issue is twofold as well, because players can’t download replays that are just taken from online ladder matches to see what other players are doing very easily. Mind you, MoBA matches tend to last around 40 minutes each, so its nice to be able to jump around and see individual strategies and ganks easily – DotA2 does this fairly well.

Coaching Mode is a godsend for eSports teams looking to grow and perfect their skills.

Coaching mode is a new mode where coaches can log in and observe a given player's keystrokes and decisions in game – this will be a godsend to the MobA community, especially where pro coaches are concerned. It will allow for coaches to observe their teams from anywhere in the world, applying criticism where necessary and the ability to pinpoint exactly what’s going on with a player’s performance without having to listen to a given player’s excuses as to why they aren’t performing.

In addition, Coaching mode will allow players who are not professional to receive help from those that are much more skilled than them and provide a mentor of sorts to help them learn the ropes. Its this sort of community-building that Valve is looking to encourage.

The Disadvantages

Community Support for DotA2 is largely not present.

Be it from being a little late to the MoBA scene or just from players straight up not liking the feel of DotA2, community reaction to the game has largely been negative. Many players are not very pleased that champions from the original DotA are just being carried over and are saying that its just the original DotA with a fresh coat of paint slapped on and sold.

In addition, the graphics, while pretty, have been criticized for looking “too good”, making the action difficult to follow in team fights. Also, the colors have been called bland and uninteresting compared to League of Legends.

IceFrog is only one man – Valve is largely untested when it comes to MoBAs.

While IceFrog is a genius when it comes to Game Design, the team he has working under him at Valve are people that are largely untested when it comes to working with MOBAs. The team that was working on DoTA Allstars has largely migrated to either Riot or S2 Games, including such notables as Steve "Guinsoo" Feak, employed by Riot as lead designer on League of Legends.

Ultimately, this is going to put a lot of pressure on IceFrog to provide, and I’m not convinced the folks at Valve can handle the strain. This is a company that has no previous exposure to coding any sort of MoBA, or even a RTS game. It will be interesting to see what they come out with, but overall, I’m chalking this up to a disadvantage.

DotA2 is not Free to Play.

This one should be really obvious. Valve has decided to forego the Free to Play model that has made League of Legends such a success from jump street, and even Heroes of Newerth has adapted to this new model. Why would players pay for a game where they are going to get largely the same type of gameplay with very few innovations, when they can get not one, but two games that play similarly? I’m not sure if the coaching system will be a big enough draw for eSports teams, and the casual player of MoBAs will probably not care enough to make the switch, especially if they have spent money on microtransactions for the other two games, including champions and skins. Color me extremely skeptical on this decision.

In order for Valve to justify this decision, tons more features should be added to the game, such as integrated social network support (beyond Steam), Youtube support for replay uploading, or more built-in tools for commentators.

Tournament Support for DotA2 is lacking.

Aside from Valve’s yearly International tournament at Gamescom and the World Cyber Game’s early adoption of DotA2, there hasn’t been much mention from major eSports organizations of supporting Valve’s entry into the MoBA genre, trusting the much more tested games in League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth. Organizations such as MLG and the NASL have already signed contracts with Riot and S2 resepectively, so perhaps DotA2 is just a tad bit late to the party in regards to major organizations.

In addition, the competition is fairly fierce – Riot is offering a $5 Million dollar prize pool for Season 2 of League of Legends – a full $4 million more than the first International, and it's basically an open tournament, whereas the International is by invite only. That's a pretty major difference when speaking of community support as any group of 5 people can team up and enter the League of Legends tournament.

With the lack of fan support, in addition to the absence of many major eSports organizations, its difficult to say exactly what the fate of DotA2 will be.

Many of the features Valve is incorporating into the game are easily solved by the community at large already or are useless additions.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, many of the features that Valve is incorporating into DotA2 can be easily solved by the community. Some of these features, and their solutions are listed below:

  • Voice Chat: Solved by a number of programs including: Ventrilo, Mumble, Teamspeak, etc.
  • Interactive Guides: Handy, but most players are able to either Alt Tab to look at sites such as Mobafire or have their build orders memorized. Mostly useful to players new to MOBAs, which is not Valve’s target demographic.
  • Achievements. Though this is a rumored addition to the game they are not needed at all in a MOBA game, and will be a detriment to random players everywhere – Picture if you will: A player is trying to farm for a Triple kill achievement and keeps setting up situations where he is going one versus three, thus getting killed and feeding the opponent. And that’s just one situation, there’s millions more that you could think of.

Final Tally:    Advantages: 3 Disadvantages: 5

Overall, DotA2 seems to have a tough road ahead of it if it wants to be competitive in the eSports MOBA scene, and just as a game in general. Valve is really going to have to pull out all the stops in order for DotA2 to even have a shot – We’ll see how they do when the game is released later this year.

That’s it for this week’s [e-Sports Dail-e] Special Report. The Dail-e returns tomorrow after a week of downtime due to GameZone’s backend maintenance, so look forward to that. For now, this is Dustin Steiner signing off.

Dustin Steiner is Gamezone’s eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin

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Dustin Steiner I'm GameZone's eSports Correspondent and resident fighting game guru. I'm also Event Coordinator for Video Gaming Hard Corps, where we host online and local tournaments in addition to have general fellowship among gamers. Check us out! http://www.videogaminghardcorps.com
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