Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What is DOTA?

Defense of the Ancients (often referred to as DotA) is a custom scenario for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, based on the "Aeon of Strife" map for StarCraft. The objective of the scenario is to destroy the opponents' "Ancient". The two teams' ancients are heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map. Players use powerful units known as heroes, and are assisted by allied heroes and AI-controlled fighters called "creeps". As in role-playing games, players level up their hero and use gold to buy equipment during the mission.

The scenario was developed with the World Editor of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and was updated upon the release of the Warcraft expansion The Frozen Throne. There have been many variations of the original concept; currently, the most popular is DotA Allstars, which has been maintained by several authors during development. Since its release, Allstars has become a feature at several worldwide tournaments, including Blizzard Entertainment's BlizzCon and the Asian World Cyber Games, as well as the Cyberathlete Amateur and CyberEvolution leagues; Gamasutra declared that DotA was perhaps the most popular "free, non-supported game mod in the world".


Warcraft III is the third title in the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games developed by Blizzard Entertainment. As with Warcraft II, Blizzard included a free "world editor" in the game that allows players to create custom scenarios or "maps" for the game, which can be played online with other players through These custom scenarios can be simple terrain changes, which play like normal Warcraft games, or they can be entirely new game scenarios with custom objectives, units, items, and events; Defense of the Ancients is one of the latter.

Created by a mapmaker known as Eul, Defense of the Ancients is a custom scenario based on a previous StarCraft scenario known as "Aeon of Strife", and is the best known of all the DotA variants. After the release of Warcraft's expansion The Frozen Throne, which added new features to the World Editor, Eul did not update the scenario. Numerous variants were created based on the original, but Allstars is the version that made Defense of the Ancients popular; this scenario was developed by an author under the alias Guinsoo. After version 6.x, another author by the name of IceFrog took over development of the scenario.

With successive versions, IceFrog fixes bugs and adds or updates features. Each release is accompanied with a changelog The game has strong community support, maintained via official forums. Users can post ideas for new heroes or items, some of which are added to the map.. Players have contributed icons and hero descriptions and created the artwork displayed while the map loads, and suggestions for changes to existing heroes or items are taken seriously; IceFrog once changed a new hero less than two weeks after the new version of the map was released. Versions of the scenario where enemy heroes are controlled by artificial intelligences have also been released.


Defense of the Ancients pits two teams of players against each other: the Sentinel and the Scourge. Players on the Sentinel team are based at the southwest corner of the map, and those on the Scourge team are based at the northeast corner. Each base is defended by towers and waves of units which guard the main paths leading to their base. In the center of each base is the "Ancient", a building that must be destroyed to win the game.

Each human player controls one Hero, a powerful unit with unique abilities. In Allstars, players on each side choose one of ninety heroes, each with different abilities and tactical advantages over other heroes. The scenario is highly team-oriented; it is difficult for one player to carry the team to victory alone. Nevertheless, some heroes, given enough time, can change the outcome single-handedly, while countering the opposing team's heroes. Defense of the Ancients allows up to ten players in a five versus five format and an additional two slots for referees or observers, often with an even number of players on each side.

Because the gameplay revolves around strengthening individual heroes, it does not require one to focus on resource management and base-building, as in most traditional real-time strategy games. Killing computer-controlled units earns the player experience points; when enough experience is accumulated, the player gains a level. Leveling up improves the hero's toughness and the damage it can inflict, and allows players to upgrade their spells or skills. In addition to accumulating experience, players also manage a single resource: gold. The typical resource gathering of Warcraft III is replaced by a combat-oriented money system; in addition to a small periodic income, heroes earn gold by killing hostile units, base structures, and enemy heroes. Using gold, players buy items to strengthen their hero and gain abilities.

Certain items can be combined with recipes to create more powerful items. Buying items that suit one's hero is an important tactical element of the scenario. Allstars offers a variety of game modes, selected by the game host at the beginning of the match. The game modes dictate the difficulty of the scenario, as well as whether people can choose their hero or are assigned one randomly. Many game modes can be combined (for example, an easy difficulty level and a random hero pick), allowing more flexible options.


The popularity of Defense of the Ancients has increased over time. The scenario was featured by Computer Gaming World in a review of new maps and mods in Warcraft III, and has been called "the ultimate RTS". Allstars has become an important tournament scenario, starting with its prominence at the debut of Blizzard's BlizzCon convention in 2005. Allstars was also featured in the Malaysia and Singapore World Cyber Games starting in 2005, and the World Cyber Games Asian Championships beginning with the 2006 season. Defense of the Ancients is now included in the game lineup for the internationally recognized Cyberathlete Amateur League and CyberEvolution leagues. Additionally, the scenario appeared in Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) 2008; Oliver Paradis, ESWC's competition manager, noted that the high level of community support behind the scenario, as well as its worldwide appeal, were among the reasons it was chosen.

The scenario is popular in many parts of the world; in the Philippines and Thailand, it is played as much as the game Counter-Strike. It is also popular in Sweden and other Northern European countries, where the Defense of the Ancients-inspired song "Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA" by Swedish musician Basshunter reached the European 2006 charts at #116 and cracked the top ten Singles Charts in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. LAN tournaments are a major part of worldwide play, including tournaments in Sweden and Russia; however, due to a lack of LAN tournaments and championships in North America, several teams have since disbanded. Blizzard points to DotA as an example of what dedicated mapmakers can create using developer's tools.

In June 2008, Michael Walbridge, writing for Gamasutra, stated that DotA "is likely the most popular and most-discussed free, non-supported game mod in the world". In pointing to the strong community built around the game, Walbridge stated that DotA shows it is much easier for a community game to be maintained by the community, and this is one of the maps' greatest strengths. Defense of the Ancients has been credited as one of the influences for the upcoming Gas Powered Games title Demigod.