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What is Defense of the Ancients?
Defense of the Ancients is the original map that created the "Action RTS" (ARTS) genre. It started as a map modification in Warcraft III and is now being made into it's own game with Valve using the Source engine. In short, it's a session based, Player vs. Player RPG. Ten people play on two teams of five and each person controls a hero of various ability, utility and strength. As you play in a game your hero will level up, you will gain gold, you'll kill opposing heroes and buy items to become stronger. The ultimate objective is to kill the enemies main structure in the back of their base. This takes teamwork and coordination, not something you can do by yourself as the base is also protected by AI controlled creeps that constantly spawn to defend it and towers meant to hold you back. Matches take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and when you're finished and start a new game, you pick a new hero and start all over. Nothing is persistant when it comes to something that can affect each game. That sounds simple in description but what has kept people playing it for years now are the complexities of the game.
What is the history behind Defense of the Ancients?
Defense of the Ancients started out a long time ago as a map modification in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. It was originally started by someone who went by the name Eul back in 2003. DotA is actually based on an older map from StarCraft called Aeon of Strife. When Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne released, Eul never updated the map. Probably because he went to work for Valve on Half-Life 2 and every title since (see this interview).
Variants of the map were made to replace Eul's version but none really replaced it until Steve Feak, aka Guinsoo, made DotA Allstars. Guinsoo added more heroes, the recepie system for items, and Roshan (Which is named after his bowling ball? Huh.) with his Aeigs of Immortality. He held development of the map for two years and in that time also helped make a central hub for DotA players with Steve Mescon, aka Pendragon, at dota-allstars.com. The website is now debunk since Steve and Steve now work on League of Legends.
In 2005 Guinsoo handed off development to IceFrog, the most reclusive of the DotA developers. IceFrog turned DotA into the highly competitve map it is today. While he regularly updated the map, adding new heroes, items, and fixes over time, the only evidence that he was working on it was the fact that his name was branded on the loading screen. He even refused to do interviews. Eventually he opened up his own blog and then a website, playdota.com, to communicate better with players. PlayDotA is now the central hub for DotA. IceFrog's variation of the map is the most balanced and competitive. DotA didn't become an esport until this version. It's mind boggling to think how over 100 heroes on one map can be balanced to such a point but IceFrog did it and has been doing it for years now.
At some point Valve approached IceFrog with the proposal to make DotA into a full retail game. Robin Walker, Adrian Finol (Eul), and Erik Johnson were all fans of DotA and eventually started talking to IceFrog over e-mail using the fact that they were big game developers (lol). When IceFrog expressed the want to make a sequel that was free of the restrictions in the Warcraft III engine, Valve said "Hey, we've got a great idea! Why don't you come here?" Obviously he said yes.
So what is going to make Dota 2 better than DotA?
Speaking from a players perspective, DotA had a lot of restrictions in Warcraft III. Battle.net was not the best host. You needed third-party programs to reliably host a game of DotA. Hotkeys were either restricted to what they were in-game or you needed to dig through the CustomKeys.txt yourself and set everything individually. There was no stat tracking and leagues were all self-regulated outside the game. There was no voice chat. There were none of the conviences that other ARTS had developed. Eventually, if you wanted to play DotA on Battle.net, you needed to join an in-house league because the game list was taken over by bots and automated games.
Everything in Dota 2 that has to do with gameplay is the same. Heroes, items, map layout, even attack animation are the same. The big changes are to interface and accessibility. You won't have to rely on local host programs because it will be done on Valve's servers. Matchmaking makes it easy to find games. There is voice chat for better coordination. There will be stat tracking. Being free from the Warcraft III engine will pretty much allow IceFrog to do whatever he wants with the game. And Dota 2 looks amazing. The voice work for each hero is like nothing that's been done before. Heroes talk to each other. How awesome is that?
So how can I play it?
You can't. Yet. Sorta. You can sign up for the beta. More and more people have been getting in every day. The selection is totally random at this point but if you're in the pool you still have a chance to get into the beta.
In the meantime, they also lifted the NDA. People in the beta can talk about it, post screenshots, and stream. If you want to watch some streams check Twitch.tv or own3d.tv. There is a website dedicated to streams for Dota 2, StreamDota2.com. You can also check Reddit's Dota 2 subreddit for news and screenshots and stuff like that. You can also watch all the matched from Valve's Dota 2 reveal tournament, The International, here. It's a spectacular series and shows off the game very well.
Coming from League of Legends? Read this.
Written by Zorus...
Coming from Heroes of Newerth? Read this.
HoN has a very close relation to DotA, at least in it's early life. Over time its changed its but it still retains a lot of likeness and it the closest game to DotA between it and LoL. It does have it's differences thought. The HoN Wiki has a pages dedicated to what is the same and what is different between DotA and it. Check it here: http://honwiki.net/wiki/DotA_vs_HoN
Fucking helpful resources!!!
Welcome to DotA. You suck! A must read for newbies.
How to play Dota 2 in 4 Minutes A must watch for newbies.
Ultimate Guide to Warding If you don't read this guide and take close notes you're a terrible, bad person.
Dota 2 Wiki One of the best reference sites you'll find. Pretty much up to date within the hour of a new patch.
The Guide section of PlayDotA Sort by rating. Use the highest rated guides. Still applicable to Dota 2.
PSA! JUNGLING ETIQUETTE
PSA! SUPPORT ITEMS AND YOU
PSA! U-U-U-UTILITY PART 1
PSA! U-U-U-UTILITY PART 2
PSA! GO AROUND AND KILL
PSA! SO YOU THINK YOU CAN CARRY PART 1
PSA! SO YOU THINK YOU CAN CARRY PART 2
PSA! AREA OF INFLUENCE
PSA! POWER TO THE PUSHER
PSA! SUPPORT OUR SUPPORTS
PSA! ROAM AGAINST THE MACHINE
Reddit "Hero Discussion of the Day" Top voted posts generally have valuable info about the hero.