It’s been about six years since the Defense of the Ancients custom scenario for Warcraft III first stormed the modding scene. The user-made game eventually gave birth to the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, paving the way for Riot Games’ League of Legends, S2 Games’ Heroes of Newerth, and Valve’s upcoming Dota 2. Now, Blizzard Entertainment is hoping to take back the crown as king of the genre first created with one of its own titles with Blizzard DOTA.
Blizzard wants to make matches faster and more intuitive. It also wants to reward players for early aggression. “The optimal way to play is the exact opposite of the fantasy,” explained StarCraft II senior designer Jonny Ebbert at a BlizzCon panel. The team didn’t like the idea of playing cautiously, staying close to your lane’s tower, holding back, and luring enemy players into position for a gank. “Towers are much softer targets than they are in traditional DOTA games. So you can actually kill a tower fairly early and get a big bonus for your team,” says Ebbert. They also have an ammunition bar that recharges slowly over time. If you don’t keep minions at bay and push them back towards your enemy’s side of the lane, your tower will run out of ammo and power down, making it (and you) vulnerable. It’s Blizzard’s hope that this will encourage more aggressive play, and more teamwork to push hard and fast into enemy territory early on in the game.
Above: The BlizzCon 2011 teaser for Blizzard DOTA
Above: Tower-diving may not be as big a problem in Blizzard DOTA. Be aggressive and push your lane
Also on the list of genre staples to address is last-hitting creeps. Traditionally, players are encouraged to get the “last hit” on enemies, granting gold bonuses, which are then used to buy upgrades. “We actually played a couple of games with no last hitting at all, and something was definitely missing” explained Ebbert. So what does the StarCraft team like about last-hitting? “Well first, it adds a lot of tension. You have to time something. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat. You’re running in and out. There’s a lot of positional gameplay and you have to keep in mind where your opponent is.” Blizzard’s tweak is the health globe, which will drop when you score the last hit on an enemy creep. Pick it up like it’s Diablo III and your Hero will regain some health and mana.
For the StarCraft II team, this small change makes all the difference. Now, if you’re winning or losing, you’ll know why. You’re scoring last hits, you have more health and mana to help you continue to push forward, and you’re denying your enemy health and mana boosts. Whereas if you’re getting last hits for gold bonuses that you’ll use the next time you visit the shop to buy items for your hero, you won’t see that same cause and effect. “It makes more sense,” says Ebbert.
Above: The pre-beta version of Blizzard DOTA on show at BlizzCon 2011 featured 12 different Heroes. The general classes are tank, DPS, support, and siege
Blizzard DOTA will also introduce mounts to the battlefield, which the team hopes will maintain the back and forth gameplay in traditional DOTA games without forcing players to worry about spending resources and time buying and upgrading boots.
Blizzard also wants to make its DOTA simpler and more intuitive than the rest. “We’ve always felt at Blizzard that the complexity and the depth needs to be kept on the backend. I could spend three minutes explaining to you how to play chess; you could spend a lifetime never mastering it. That’s where the depth belongs: in the backend,” explained Ebbert in reference to how DOTA games usually require players to memorize specific and complex item builds to excel with their hero.
Blizzard DOTA will remove what Ebbert calls “hidden stats,” things like armor and attack speed. “Armor. Kind of cool. But it’s really just a hidden form of health that’s making you do math in your head. Attack speed. Very similar. Very hidden form of damage. I do 70 damage. He does 50 damage. I’m going to kill him. Oh wait! His attack speed is three times faster than me. I lose. Not so cool,” joked Ebbert. In Blizzard DOTA, all that’s being removed in favor for a simpler character stat system with just health, damage, and mastery. Mastery will lower the cooldown on your abilities and provide your Hero with extra mana.
The StarCraft II team also wanted to push the idea of territory control by tweaking the way jungling works. Between the main lanes connecting both teams’ bases, you’ll find Ogre mercenary camps. Clear out the Ogres, capture the totem control points, and you’ll be able to upgrade your army of streaming creeps with those more powerful Ogres. Blizzard hopes that these camps will add another point of contention on the map outside of the main lanes for teams to fight over. Some camps will also grant token, which can be used to quickly summon creatures across the map. So junglers can still enjoy being “MIA” outside of the other team’s line of sight with the bonus of being able to take advantage of those summons for quick reactionary defenses or support for ganks.
Blizzard DOTA may also have a more exciting end game, with map bosses that will heal up and join your waves of creeps to help push your lane instead of just granting your team a powerful buff.
Many of these changes and tweaks to the genre’s staples are meant to encourage more team fights and teamwork. Going along with that idea, the StarCraft team also wants to ease what they call “social tensions,” which is a nicer way of saying that DOTA players can be a bunch of dicks – especially to new players.
Faster matches that average 20 minutes should help reduce rage quitting and problems with teammates disconnecting. Blizzard DOTA will also eliminate kills and assists – and with it, the idea of kill stealing. Instead players will be rewarded with a takedown, which will grant bonuses to anyone involved in an enemy kill. The team also hopes that the changes discussed will eliminate the idea of the “carry,” the player whose Hero takes the middle lane for themselves to get the most gold for the best items faster than everyone else so they get the most kills.
Blizzard certainly isn’t the first studio to try to trim the “bad” parts from all the fun that can be had playing DOTA games, but it looks like the StarCraft II team is on the right track. At the very least, it will be quite awesome to see iconic Blizzard characters clash on the DOTA field. Blizzard currently plans to make Blizzard DOTA free to play in some form, but has not decided on specifics. Releasing it for free as part of the StarCraft II: Starter Edition with restrictions is one possibility under consideration. The company is also considering giving owners of Wings of Liberty or Heart of the Swarm exclusive Heroes. While no release date has been announced for Blizzard DOTA, Blizzard plans to release a beta in the “next few months.”
Oct 22, 201