Multiplayer online battle arenas, as we know them, are all thanks to Defense of The Ancients. The term multiplayer online battle arena, is also known as action real-time strategy, as it is a subgenre of real-time strategy games. For the most part, the gameplay is much like a RTS, an isometric view of the battlefield where the player controls their movement with mouse clicks, and abilities with keyboard. Generally, the goal is to assist AI controlled units, that spawn from your base, all the way to the enemy base to destroy it. During the fight, the player will level up, gaining and upgrading abilities. Most also have am item system, that allows the player to fine tune their strengths to their liking. The maps in a MOBA generally consist of 3 components: lanes, that the AI units march down to the enemy base; jungle, which has AI opponents that are neutral and can be killed for XP or other bonuses; and the bases, which have some extra fortification, the area where the AI units spawn and a core which is the goal to destroy.
This game is an interesting example of game design, as it started as a modification Warcraft 3, the DotA mod, came out in 2003, the roots of MOBA’s go back to 1989. One of the earliest real-time strategy games on the Sega Genesis Herzog Zwei, has many elements of modern MOBA’s. And as of recording, Herzog Zewi’s, North American release is 29 years ago.
In Herzog Zwei, the player directly pilots a flying, transforming mech (similar to the variable fighter depicted in Macross), a multi-role vehicle suited for utility and combat. Through the mech, the player purchases surface combat units, airlifts them across the battlefield, and issues them orders. These command activities can only be performed through the mech. Vehicles follow their assigned orders (patrol, garrison, capture base) until they either run out of fuel or are destroyed. Tactical re-deployment (mission reassignment, vehicle repair) involves a great deal of micromanagement, due to the required involvement of the mech.
Herzog Zwei was not a huge commercial success, due to its lack of marketing, relatively early release on the Genesis platform, and non-arcade genre on what was considered an arcade game console. Upon its 1990 release in North America, Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game a rating of 4.25 out of 10.
The producers of Dune II acknowledge Herzog Zwei as an influence, as do the producers of Warcraft (1994), Command & Conquer (1995), Starcraft (1998), War of the Rings (2003), and Brütal Legend (2009). Herzog Zwei is known as action RTS, and also considered a predecessor to the MOBA subgenre, though a key difference is that Herzog Zwei has a fully customizable command unit with role-playing video game elements that the player has full control over, while commanding an army to go into battle with rather than mindless drones that respawn at set intervals.
Future Cop: LAPD
In 1998, Future Cop: LAPD featured a strategic Precinct Assault mode similar to Herzog Zwei, in which the players could actively fight alongside generated non-player units. Future Cop was originally developed as an installment of the Strike series, which without diverting on a tangent, are some games I hold dear from my gaming childhood. Mainly Desert Strike, Jungle Strike and Urban Strike for Sega Genesis.
In the game, players assume the role of a pilot for the X1-Alpha, a robot designed to fight in the “Crime War” in Los Angeles in the year 2098. The X1-Alpha is a police vehicle that can transform between a fast, hovering pursuit vehicle, and a slower, full-fledged combat mecha.
With 2 modes of play: Crime War Mode, was essentially a story mode, following a day in the life of an LAPD X1-Alpha pilot; and theres Precinct Assault Mode which is cited as an early MOBA game. Precinct Assault is an arena battle mode in which each player starts with a single base and can capture automated Turrets or Outposts across the map. The objective is to defeat your opponent by purchasing and deploying Hovertanks to invade their main base. As the Playstation release, had this MOBA format, it is the PC version that allowed for online competitive play, technically making Future Cop: LAPD the first MOBA game ever released.
It was not an amazing selling game, but the Precinct Assault Mode did get some recognition. GameSpot gave the game a 7 out of 10, while saying “Future Cop is a good game. Returning to the beginning of the level after dying really hampers the main game, but the other mode is really outstanding. Definitely worth checking out.”
Aeon of Strife
Also in 1998, Blizzard Entertainment released its best-selling real-time strategy (RTS) StarCraft, with a suite of game editing tools called StarEdit. Back on PS2J 123, I did the history of Blizzard games, and most everything else is covered there, if this piques your interest. The tools allowed members of the public to design and create custom maps that allowed play that was different from the normal maps. A modder known as Aeon64 made a custom map named Aeon of Strife that became popular. Aeon64 stated that he was attempting to create gameplay similar to that of Future Cop: LAPD’s Precinct Assault mode. In the Aeon of Strife map, players controlled a single powerful hero unit fighting amidst three lanes, though terrain outside these lanes was nearly vacant.
Defense of the Ancients
In 2002, Blizzard released Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, with the accompanying Warcraft III World Editor. Both the MOBA and tower defense subgenres took substantive shape within the Warcraft 3 modding community.
The first version of Defense of the Ancients was released in 2002 by Kyle Sommer who goes by the alias Eul. The map is based on the StarCraft scenario “Aeon of Strife”. After the release of Warcraft’s expansion The Frozen Throne, which added new features to the World Editor, Eul did not update the scenario. Other mapmakers produced spinoffs that added new heroes, items, and features. Among the DotA variants created in the wake of Eul’s map, there was DotA Allstars, originally created and developed by custom map makers Meian and Ragn0r, who took the most popular heroes and compiled them into one map. In March 2004, map makerSteve Feak, known as Guinsoo, took control of development and began the 3.xx to 5.xx series of DotA Allstars. February, 2005, Guinsoo announced that he would stop creating custom maps for Warcraft III, leaving the development of DotA to Neichus and IceFrog, with the former also leaving shortly after. This started the 6.xx series which was led by IceFrog.
Defense of the Ancients is maintained through 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. Mescon continued to maintain dota-allstars.com, which by the end of IceFrog’s affiliation in May 2009 had over 1.5 million registered users and had received over one million unique visitors every month. Due to their separation, IceFrog announced that he would be further developing a new official site, playdota.com, while continuing game development; Mescon closed dota-allstars on July 22, 2010, citing dropping statistics and his new passion for League of Legends as the reason for its end.
As the popularity of Defense of the Ancients increased over time. The scenario was featured by Computer Gaming World in a review of new maps and mods in Warcraft III. DotA Allstars became an important tournament scenario, starting with its prominence at the debut of BlizzCon in 2005. DotA 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 was included in the game lineup for the internationally recognized Cyberathlete Amateur League and CyberEvolution leagues. Oliver Paradis,Electronic Sports World Cup’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 to be included in the Electronic Sports World Cup 2008.
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” (Vi sitter e Ventrilo och spee-a-lar DotA) by Swedish musician Basshunter cracked the top ten Singles Charts in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. LAN tournaments are also 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 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. Former game journalist Luke Smith called DotA “the ultimate RTS”.
Defense of the Ancients has been credited as one of the influences for the 2009 Gas Powered Games title Demigod, with the video game publication GameSpy noting the game’s premise revolved around aspiring gods “[playing] DotA in real life”. Of what I have seen of Demigod gameplay, it looks like if the mobs in are controlled by the player, and the 3 lanes were all straightaways, with a couple lanes that cross them. Guinsoo went on to apply many of the mechanics and lessons he learned from Defense of the Ancients to the Riot Games title League of Legends. Other “DotA clones” include S2 Games’ Heroes of Newerth. Blizzard, the company that made the tools to create this phenomenon, has also developed a MOBA titled Heroes of the Storm, which features an array of heroes from Blizzard’s franchises.
Two games spawned out of this mod for Warcraft 3. One was an idea for a direct sequel, Valve had several veteran employees, including Team Fortress 2 designer Robin Walker and executive Erik Johnson, become fans of the mod and wanted to build a modern sequel. The company corresponded with IceFrog by email about his long-term plans for the project, and he was subsequently hired to direct a sequel. IceFrog first announced his new position through his blog in October 2009, with Dota 2 being officially announced a year later.
And now for the crazy legal shenanigans of the episode. Valve adopted the word “Dota”, derived from the original mod’s acronym, as the name for its newly acquired franchise. Johnson argued that the word referred to a concept, and was not an acronym. Shortly after the announcement of Dota 2, Valve filed a trademark claim to the Dota name. At Gamescom 2011, Valve president Gabe Newell explained that the trademark was needed to develop a sequel with the already-identifiable brand. Holding the Dota name to be a community asset, Feak and Mescon filed an opposing trademark for “DOTA” on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC (then a subsidiary of Riot Games) in August 2010. Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment at the time, similarly stated that the DotA name belonged to the mod’s community. Blizzard acquired DotA-Allstars, LLC from Riot Games and filed an opposition against Valve in November 2011, citing Blizzard’s ownership of both the Warcraft III World Editor and DotA-Allstars, LLC as proper claims to the franchise. The dispute was settled in May 2012, with Valve retaining commercial franchising rights to the “Dota” intellectual property, while allowing non-commercial use of the name by third-parties. In 2017, Valve’s ownership of it was again challenged, after a 2004 internet forum post from Eul was brought to light by a Chinese company known as uCool, who had released a mobile game in 2014 that used characters from the Dota universe. uCool, who was previously involved in a lawsuit with Blizzard in 2015 for similar reasons, along with another Chinese company, Lilith Games, argued that the forum post invalidated any ownership claims of the intellectual property, stating that the Dota property was an open-source, collective work that could not be copyrighted by anyone in particular. Judge Charles R. Breyer denied uCool’s motion for summary dismissal, but allowed the case to be moved forward to a jury.
An early goal of the Dota 2 team was the adaptation of Defense of the Ancients’s aesthetic style for the Source engine. The Radiant and Dire factions replaced the Sentinel and Scourge from the mod, respectively. Character names, abilities, items and map design from the mod were largely retained, with some changes due to trademarks owned by Blizzard. In the first Q&A session regarding Dota 2, IceFrog explained that the game would build upon the mod without making significant changes to its core. Valve contracted major contributors from the Defense of the Ancients community, including Eul and artist Kendrick Lim, to assist with the sequel. Additional contributions from sources outside of Valve were also sought regularly for Dota 2, as to continue Defense of the Ancients’s tradition of community-sourced development. One of the composers of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Jason Hayes, was hired to collaborate with Tim Larkin to write the original score for the game. Valve had Half-Life serieswriter Marc Laidlaw, science fiction author Ted Kosmatka, and Steam support employee Kris Katz write new dialog and background lore for the heroes. Notable voice actors for heroes include Nolan North, Dave Fennoy, Jon St. John, Ellen McLain, Fred Tatasciore, Merle Dandridge, Jen Taylor, and John Patrick Lowrie.
The Source engine itself was updated with new features to accommodate Dota 2, such as high-end cloth modeling and improved global lighting. The game features Steam integration, which provides its social component and cloud storage for personal settings. In November 2013, Valve introduced a coaching system that allows experienced players to tutor newer players with in-game tools. As with previous Valve multiplayer games, players are able to spectate live matches of Dota 2 played by others, and local area network (LAN) multiplayer support allows for local competitions. Some of these events may be spectated via the purchase of tickets from the “Dota Store”, which give players in-game access to matches. Ticket fees are apportioned in part to tournament organizers. The game also features an in-game fantasy sports system, which is modeled after traditional fantasy sports and feature professional Dota 2 players and teams. Players are also able to spectate games in virtual reality (VR) with up to 15 others, which was added in an update in July 2016. The update also added a hero showcase mode, which allows players to see all of the heroes and their cosmetics full-size in virtual reality.
As part of a plan to develop Dota 2 into a social network, Newell announced in April 2012 that the game would be free-to-play, and that community contributions would be a cornerstone feature. Instead, revenue is generated through the “Dota Store”, which offers for-purchase cosmetic virtual goods, such as custom armor and weapons for their heroes. It was also announced that the full roster of heroes would be available at launch for free. Until the game’s official release in 2013, players were able to purchase an early access bundle, which included a digital copy of Dota 2 and several cosmetic items. Included as optional downloadable content (DLC), the Dota 2 Workshop Tools are a set of Source 2 software development kit (SDK) tools that allow content creators to create new cosmetics for the heroes themselves, as well as custom game modes, maps, and botscripts. Highly rated cosmetics, through the Steam Workshop, are available in the in-game store if they are accepted by Valve. This model was fashioned after Valve’s Team Fortress 2, which had earned Workshop designers of cosmetic items of that game over $3.5 million by June 2011. Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor for Dota 2 and Team Fortess 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations in 2013. By 2015, sales of Dota 2 virtual goods had earned Valve over $238 million in revenue, according to the digital game market research group SuperData. In 2016, Valve introduced the “Custom Game Pass” option for creators of custom game modes, which allows them to be funded by way of microtransactions by adding exclusive features, content, and other changes to their game mode for players who buy it.
League of Legends
The other game that came from the group that worked on the DotA mod, was made by Riot Games.
Riot Games’ founders, Brandon “Ryze” Beck and Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill, became friends while business students and roommates at the University of Southern California, where they bonded over video games. Beck and Merrill were frustrated because they felt game developers were not listening to fans. Developers, they believed, moved from game to game too quickly, leaving their passionate communities behind. During their time playing video games together, Beck and Merrill created an idea for a company that continually introduced new features to its games. Rather than follow the video game industry formula of releasing game after game, Beck and Merrill sought to create a company that was player-focused and made games that constantly evolved. They drew inspiration from Asian video game designers who were offering games for free, yet charging for additional perks. The founders thought it would be unfair to create a pay-to-win game, so they decided Riot Games would not sell upgrades that other players receive through skill. Rather, the additional perks would include cosmetic improvements such as new clothes that changed characters’ appearance, so players can personalize their experience.
The idea of a spiritual successor to Defense of the Ancients was that it would be its own stand-alone game with its own engine, rather than another mod of Warcraft III, began to materialize at the end of 2005. League of Legends was born “when a couple of very active DotA community members believed that the gameplay was so much fun and so innovative that it represented the spawning of a new genre and deserved to be its own professional game with significantly enhanced features and around-game services.”
Riot Games officially opened its office in September 2006, and, as of 2013, has over 1,000 people working on League of Legends. According to Marc Merrill, when creating the various champions in the game, instead of leaving the champion creation to just a few people, they decided to open up the champion creation process to everyone in the company based on a template where they could vote on which champions made it into the game.
League of Legends was released on October 27, 2009. Riot Games self-publishes and operates the game and all of its customer service aspects in North America. Riot Games has signed deals regarding the distribution of League of Legends in Asia, Europe, and North America. By July 2013, the game has been released and was distributed in Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, Philippines, and South Korea.
In November 2011, Riot Games stated that League of Legends had accumulated 32.5 million players, 11.5 million of whom play monthly, of which 4.2 million play daily. Riot said in October 2013, the game had 12 million active daily players and 32 million active monthly players. In January 2014, the game had 27 million active daily players, 7.5 million concurrent players at peak times, and 67 million active monthly players. Global concurrent users online peaked at over 5 million players as of March 2013.
By March 2012, League of Legends had become the #1 title in Korean PC cafés. League continues to be popular in Korea; it remained the #1 game until the middle of 2016, when Overwatch displaced it, and is still the #2 game. In July 2012, Xfire released a report stating that League of Legends was the most played PC game in North America and Europe, with 1.3 billion hours logged by players in those regions between July 2011 and June 2012. League of Legends is also popular in the Philippines, and was the second most played game in internet cafés in the country in June 2013, behind Defense of the Ancients. In Taiwan, it is estimated that almost five percent of the entire population had played the game by 2016, with almost a million players subscribed on the server.
Defense of the Ancients, although a mod to an existing game, was such a good idea for a game, it spawned two of the largest game franchises. Showing how people react to gameplay, rather than a flashy experience.
For more content, Patreon supports get access to upcoming ideas and more!
A huge thanks to Dalton, for believing in us for so long. And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us. And if you want to support us too, its as easy as clicking this link!
Also, make sure to check out RIPT Apparel for sweet 24 tee shirt designs. And don’t forget to use the coupon code PS2JSHOW for 10% off!
We are a proud member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB
And talk to us in the comments! Or…
Discord Server Twitter and Instagram @ps2jshow Facebook