Archive for ‘DotA’

December 22, 2010

Removing The Rust – Working through a DotA hero suggestion

Last Updated: January 17th 12:59PM GMT

It’s been a while since I’ve really taken the time to sit down and think about game design. I’ve recently left Shanghai, so have been celebrating and saying farewell to friends and colleagues. I’ll get the Great CityVille Race started after Christmas, but until then I feel like getting back into the swing of things. When I want to do that, I like to design a DotA hero.

As mentioned a while back, creating DotA heroes is a fun process that makes you think about lots of activities relevant to game design; theme, gameplay and balance in particular. I’ve designed a few heroes in the past. Since they’re never put in game, it’s hard to really evaluate them. However, feedback has sometimes been positive, sometimes negative and sometimes neutral! For this post, I’m going to design one completely from scratch. I want to take you through my thought processes as I go from “I want to make a new hero” to the completed idea.

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Of course, I’d like you guys, the readers, to help out! As I update this post, I’d love to hear some comments and ideas about the direction I head. Unfortunately, not many people read the blog yet (just broke 4000 hits though!), so please do comment if you see this. It would be much appreciated!

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October 15, 2010

Understanding Valve and DotA2 – A perfect match?

I assume everyone has seen it by now but I’ll link you anyway, just in case… Valve announces DotA2.

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Valve & IceFrog's next project

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At first this would seem like a bit of a surprise, but there is some background to this. Back in 2009, Valve hired IceFrog (the current designer for DotA-Allstars, the popular modification for Warcraft III), gave him a team and let him develop the DotA concept into the future. At first I think this surprised many people but when you look at the changes IceFrog has made and the support he continually gives to the game, he really is a perfect choice.

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After arriving and chatting with them, the first thing I noticed was how much of their decision making process was like mine. They shared the same aspirations towards building a long term and sustainable community without having short sighted business goals that end up hurting the quality of the game.

IceFrog on his visit to Valve

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IceFrog is one of the smartest designers we’ve ever met. He’s made so many good decisions over the years in building the product. He virtually never makes a decision that doesn’t have some reasoning behind it and a way to pick apart the logic behind it.

Project Lead Erik Johnson on Game Informer

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His recent change to the gold system, to promote aggression, reminded me of Valve’s Team Fortress 2 reasoning for their respawn system*. There’s another comment by Valve about using respawn timers to reduce stalemates but I can’t find it right now! Finally, IceFrog’s regular content updates released free of charge are in the ‘Valve spirit’ of things.

But one colleague asked me why Valve would create a DotA 2. Valve games have all been FPS’s (plus an FP Puzzle game with Portal), their whole fanbase is hardcore action shooter fans. I’d never really thought about this, although it would be natural to do so. Why didn’t this come across my mind? Because I think DotA2 and Valve is a perfect match.

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September 3, 2010

DotA Hero Suggestions, a fun introduction to game design

When I first joined my current company (around this time last year), I first heard about a mod for Warcraft III called Defence of the Ancients. One of my colleagues used to play it and I noticed other people in the company playing a Warcraft III (but not Warcraft III) style game during lunch. My intrigue took hold of me and I found out what it was.

For those who don’t know, Defence of the Ancients (DotA) is a modification for Warcraft III. Unlike the original game, which is a pretty standard RTS with RPG style heroes, DotA takes the heroes and removes the RTS part. DotA is a 5v5 team based combat RPG. You choose a hero from the selection of almost 100 and fight alongside your teammates in an attempt to get to the opposite side of the map and kill the enemy Ancient. It’s wonderfully simple mechanic wise, but it’s also well known as one of the most user unfriendly games on the planet. It’s got a lot of clutter, but once you get through it you will find one of the best gaming experiences around.

In order to get through the clutter, you’ve got to do some reading. Much like fighting games, there are barriers to entry. You must remember skill builds, item builds, all the opposition and nuances to the metagame which greatly effect the overall effectiveness of your team. It was during this reading that I discovered the Hero Ideas forum.

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The PlayDota.com Hero Ideas Forum

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One of the great things about DotA is that it’s built by a community. While there is an official map maker (currently IceFrog), I like to think that all the masses of feedback and new content is driven by community suggestions. Indeed, if you look at patch notes IceFrog often links changes to the original forum ideas. It’s very admirable and it’s motivated the community to do more than just complain about balance. The Hero Ideas forum is one such result. Currently there are 2058 seperate topics (95% individual hero ideas) and 50,000 posts. Keep in mind that the PlayDota.com website has not been around since the beginning of DotA. In addition to hero ideas, the forum also runs Complete The Hero contests… in which a group of users take part in a contest to design a certain type of hero. I recently took part in a couple of these and was rather successful in the last one. After creating about 5 hero suggestions, I can safely say that I enjoy the practice and that the challenge of creating something which isn’t already covered by 97+ heroes already is definitely appealing.

You see, DotA hero suggesting is a form of game design. I never really thought of it as such, but it is. You must come up with a concept, both thematically and gameplay wise. You must design how it fits in the current system, how it would impact all the variables of the game and what strategies and new initiatives your hero opens up at both public and competitive levels. You must be original, but accessible. People don’t like reading horribly complex hero ideas, less is more in this case (as it is with a lot of design). And finally, your ideas are restricted to the dated Warcraft III engine and the ever-declining amount of available models for your characters to use.

Unfortunately, not many hero ideas get into the game. Puck was selected from a Complete The Hero style contest. Io, one of the newest heroes, had concepts borrowed from a suggestion in the Hero Ideas forum… however it resulted in something completely different.

So give it a try some time. If you play DotA, make a hero suggestion. It’s a lot of fun and very satisfying when you get some good feedback. I’ll probably be posting the suggestions I’ve made so far at some point in the future. If you make any, leave a comment and I’ll give you a review!

T-Up and all that nonsense!

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Sam