Back in time, we had DotA (Defense of the Ancients), a custom scenario map for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. and its expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, based on the “Aeon of Strife” map for StarCraft. Defense of the Ancients gave way to the DotA: Allstars map (deveolped by Steve Feak under the alias Guinsoo) which was eventually simplified to DotA.
This is the incarnation we still see today. Since 2005 IceFrog has been keeping the map updated regularly. Though not a game in its own right, this meta-game has a massive hardcore fanbase. DotA has featured at BlizzCon, World Cyber Games and the Electronic Sports World Cup with clans competing for prizes and bragging rights. DotA was the forerunner in the genre now seen as Action Real Time Strategy(RTS). Becoming popular in Sweeden led to DJ Basshunter creating a song and music video about playing.
two teams of players fight each other to destroy each other’s ‘Ancient’ located deep within the bases.
Each human player controls one Hero that starts at level 1 and can advance up to level 25. Players are able to choose one of the 104 heroes, each with unique abilities. Games can be played with up to five players on each team, the Sentinel and the Scourge. Unlike regular RTS the DotA gameplay revolves around strengthening your individual hero. There is no resource management or base building unlike Warcraft III.
Heroes can earn experience and money by killing hostile units, base structures and enemy heroes. Money is used to buy items that increase a player’s stats or abilities such as boots to improve movement speed. There are three lanes (top, middle and bottom) along which travel smaller computer controlled units. Each lane is also defended by three tiers of towers. The ‘Ancient’ is guarded by two more towers just in front of that teams spawn point.
League of Legends (LoL or LofL)
was released on October 27, 2009. Developed by Riot Games including Steve Feak, League of Legends is a stand alone game based on DotA. Also free to play, LoL has two teams of ‘Champions’ that start at level 1 and can level up to 18. Like in DotA, ‘Champions’ can also ‘Jungle’ in areas that contain neutral creeps. League of Legends doesn’t use Battle.net so therefore has it’s own way of keeping track of accounts.
Players can level-up their account or ‘Summoner’ by participating in matches. As their ‘Summoner’ levels up they can put points into Masteries or skill-trees that will effect how the game is played. Some LoL Champions don’t use mana. The League of Legends Store allows Summoners to purchase additional options through Riot Points (RP) and Influence Points (IP). Riot Points must be bought using real money, while Influence Points are earned by playing the game. This micro transaction system allows players to purchase access to Champions, alternate avatars, name changes and boosts to XP/IP gained per game.
was developed by S2 Games and released on May 12, 2010. Heroes of Newerth is closer to a DotA clone than LoL. The game is free to download but players must have an account to play. To get an account you must make a once off purchase of $50, or $20 to create a sub-account. Each account tracks your wins, losses, kills, deaths and assists among others.
There are some directly ported heroes from DotA such as Magmus having the same abilites as Sand King. The gameplay is the same with two sides, Legion and Hellbourne attacking each other via three lanes. Heroes level up from 1 to 25. HoN has a stigma of being very elitist and I will agree that many a poor Newb has been raged at for ruining my game by buying the wrong items or dying too often(feeding the enemy). To combat this, S2 have implemented a recommended item list for each hero and more recently in game guides for the hero you are currently playing.
Micro transactions are a part of HoN but anything purchase able doesn’t effect the balance of game-play at all. Gold coins are bought with real world money, silver coins are earned through playing matchmaking games. Most items in the store are available for both gold or silver coins. Alternate avatars (including one that makes your Magmus look like the old school Sand King), different announcer packs (including Jon St John), name changing and the ability to taunt opponents.
Heroes of Newerth has a built in Voice chat so you can talk you your teammates, the ability to create clans and manage a friends list. HoN is becoming steadily bigger in the competative ESports world. Honcast.com has commentators that cover live and replay games. S2 has recently promised to release a new hero every fortnight.
All in all, I was never really good at DotA. I played a little, got called a noob a lot. I was lucky enough to get a Beta copy of Heroes of Newerth for $20 just before the official release. If you aren’t a hardcore DotA player but want to experience the same style of play, League of Legends may be for you, the learning curve is more forgiving and there is a better system in place to let you play with people around your own skill level.
Heroes of Newerth is for the player that wants the DotA feel and items with upgraded graphics and dedicated servers. Of course I these pretenders may all be dust in the wind in a year or so. Valve has announced that they signed IceFrog up to work on DotA2 through Steam. Currently in testing stages, all information about DotA 2 is locked up tightly. Be rest assured that as soon as anything is available, you’ll find it here.