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September 6th, 2008 browsing by day


Article: Why DotA is Broken by Demos

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I thought this would be something good to discuss, maybe a nice change from pages of borderline spam about replays.

Why DotA is Broken (and How to Fix It)

Dear Icefrog:

Welove and appreciate all you’ve done for DotA. But the truth is: DotA inits current state is terribly, terribly flawed as a competitivegame—especially from a spectator’s point of view. Put simply, DotA istoo often boring to watch, even for those who understand the game.Worse still, little has been done to address these problems over thecourse of the last few patches. 6.52 was great because it solved theissue of repetitive gameplay that plagued 6.48, but it ignored othermajor issues and made some even worse.

Without trying to soundlike Barack Obama, DotA needs a radical change, and it needs a radicalchange soon. Inclusion in ESWC was a huge step for DotA, but furthersteps are probably impossible without some major transformations. Thebiggest problems (and some possible solutions):

Problem #1: Action
Acommon complaint about DotA is that not enough action happens. Thelatest version, where strong lategame (DK, TB, SnY, BKB,etc.) and cheapmap vision encourage a warding/farming strategy, highlights thisproblem. Just watch the ESWC grand finals (Ks v Zenith) for a goodillustration. This problem, though, isn’t just 6.52: DotA in general ispretty lacking in action. Hero killing simply isn’t encouraged enough.Just think: in Counterstrike, at least five players die every twominutes. Early game (most heroes seem to gank only when they find asuitable rune) and midgame (most fights occur only when a tower isinvolved) are problem points.

Possible Solutions
Increase experience from hero kills.Most heroes don’t leave their lane without a rune partially because thelost experience often isn’t worth the possibility of a kill. Increasingexperience gain makes their effort worthwhile and encourages herokilling in general.
Change/buff runes. To further encourageganking action, another gank-oriented rune could be added, or runespawn could be changed to every 1:30 (coupled with a bottle nerf) forconsiderably more action.
Make Dagon cheaper. Dagon hasgone from a joke item to almost viable. A cheaper Dagon would go a longway to making teams more aggressive and midgame fights fun to watch.
Encourage hero killing.All of these changes really emphasize the same point: heroes shoulddie, and often. –ardm25lives is such a fun mode because hero killing isemphasized; why not translate that to normal games?

Problem #2: Length
Withthe advent of midgame push strategies featuring heroes like Visage andBroodmother, games have gotten shorter; but again, this flaw goesbeyond the current version. An average DotA game, at 60 minutes, is farlonger than the average game of any other e-sport. One of the biggestreasons why DotA games last so long is the difficulty of pushing intoan opponent’s base and delivering a damaging blow. 6.52 made this worsewith its emphasis on AoE: the ramp chokepoint gives a huge advantage tothe defending team in casting its AoE. Even teams with large advantagesin other aspects of the game have trouble sieging base (see ESWC Ks vMYM, at least before the player dropped).

Possible Solutions
Nerf map vision.Wards shouldn’t be cheap enough that one hero can buy them all.Beastmaster/Visage shouldn’t have maphack skills. Less map visionshould theoretically reduce the effectiveness of ward/farm strategies.
Make bases bigger. Early pushes fail because heroes revive and immediately rejoin the battle. Make it harder, and the buildings will fall faster.
Widen the ramps. Without such a huge advantage to the defending team, games should be shortened.
Nerf Black King Bar.Arguable, but really support heroes should be ganking, not farming foran overpowered item that makes all spell-based heroes on the mapuseless which causes prolonged games.

Problem #3: Complexity
DotAitself has a steep learning curve compared to other games. None of uspicked up DotA and were immediately amazing. Competitive DotA isimpossible for someone who’s never played before to understand andstill very difficult for the average DotA player to appreciate. Thecasual observer ignores DotA most often because he can’t understand it.Making the competitive scene more accessible would go a long way.

Possible Solutions
Make DotA easier to learn.Add a –tm (tutorial mode) or a –help xxx command to DotA to helpbeginners pick up the game faster. Add a –help xxx or a –info xxx forobservers to help out people watching a GGTV game for the first time.
Better coverage from news sites.Punctual, high quality, accurate coverage (sorely lacking at ESWC, whypay reporters to go to LANs if they don’t do anything there?) from MYM,fanat1c, SK-Gaming, etc. would help engage casual observers whileinterest is high.
Publicize. Get the word out about thecompetitive DotA scene on external sites. More youtube videos similarto PGS’s ( would be nice.

Problem #4: Structure
CompetitiveCounterstrike (and most other FPS) is clearly divided into rounds.Warcraft III has tiers. What does DotA have? Only a vaguely definedearly game, midgame, and late game. Introducing a more controlled gameflow has the potential to tackle all of the above problemssimultaneously. More defined “events” have the potential to providemore reliable action, shorten games, and be easily explainable toobservers.

Possible Solutions
Tweak Roshan.Encourage more fights at and for Roshan. One idea would be to change itso that Roshan will begin weak, then grow in strength (level up) and/orrespawn at every 10 minute mark, encouraging teams to go for a Roshankill at least once every ten minute period. A bonus for consecutiveRoshan kills would also be good.
Introduce “arena” events.Essentially the idea is to push all the heroes to engage in a fightsomewhere on the map. Something like a Roshan spawning in lane couldwork.

For the casual gamers looking for something entertainingto watch, for the DotA veterans looking for something deep andengaging, for anyone who’s ever sat through a ricefarm fest replay,DotA is broken. Please, please take a moment to consider how we can fixit.

Your friend Demosthenes

PS. These “possible solutions” do not include the obvious balance tweaks that need to be made (Broodmother perhaps?).

PPS.Thank you all very much for reading. Keep in mind that I’m not tryingto offer a plan of how to fix DotA, but just to begin discussion aboutwhat overarching problems exist in the DotA map and how to fix them.Many of my ideas are derived from reading others’ posts. I compiledthem mixed with my own thoughts to start discussion.