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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: 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.
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