« | Home | »

Best Game Ever – Warcraft III: Defense of the Ancients

posted on December 26th, 2006 by golden jew

It’s hard to classify this review. On the one hand, Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) is a custom map for Warcraft 3 that has been around for four years. WC3 itself has been around for almost five years. This might qualify it as “best game ever” status (and it indeed received this status). The flip side is, DOTA is still actively maintained, has a huge community, and has a number of sponsored leagues, including at various Blizzard events. More bizarrely demonstrating the cult status of DOTA is the work of Swedish DJ Basshunter. Accordingly, given the active maintenance and evolution of the game, it’s hard to give it the necessary dinosaur status a Best Game ever has.

Regardless of what you call it, DOTA has been amusing gamers, including myself, for a very long time. It is, by an order of magnitude, the most popular Warcraft 3 custom map. The ongoing support and development of the map, particularly in today’s age of ADD gamers and game mod writers, is amazing. Most people give up after a few months. DOTA wasn’t different in this regard, but has always has a continuous team where if one developer dropped off the face of the earth (such as the map’s original designer, Eul), others have stepped up to keep the map, and community, alive.

X marks the spot?

DOTA is pretty simple in concept. You control a single hero, chosen from 80 possible choices. Although there are certain hero “types” that are similar, the skill sets are sufficiently different so as to require different play styles. Each character has three regular skills and one super skill, and can level up to 25 at the highest. You have six item slots, which can be filled with various items (some of which can be combined to form more powerful items). In the past, certain heroes were substantially more powerful than others, but nowadays the game is sufficiently mature and balanced that there are few truly “imbalanced” heroes.

The map features three ‘lanes,’ with defensive towers and a steady spawn supply of computer controled grunt troops known as “creeps.” The game features up to five humans to a team, and your goal is to push out the lanes, into the enemy base, destroying their command structure (Tree of Life or Frozen Throne) for victory. The map has sufficient twists and turns between the lanes, in conjunction with some “neutral creeps” to give plenty of playing space, and lots of opportunities for ambushes (or “ganks” as the l33t kids call it).

The strength of DOTA is replayability. With 60+ heroes and almost 100 items, the game has nearly endless combination that keep it from getting old. There are several ‘match types’, such as “all random,” where all players get a random hero, or deathmatch, where you auto random into a new hero upon death. Because of the many different potential hero combinations, your play style will differ based on the characters your team gets vs. your opponents team (as will your item and skill builds). The map’s developers continue to this day to update with new versions, adding new heroes and new items. This has managed to keep the game fresh, even after years and hundreds, if not thousands, of games played.

The biggest knock against DOTA is that human beings are asshats. What does that have to do with the game? Well, for a game of DOTA to be truly fun, all players need to stick it out to the end (and play at least reasonably competently). Unfortunately, battle.net is filled with 13 year old morons, so people will frequently do any of the following:

For aeons battles have raged for control over this blue fountain thing.

– Quit after dying
– Quit after they get a hero they don’t like in a random game (why they’d join a random game knowing there are only some heroes they like is beyond me)
– Suicide to hurt their own team
– Leave because they knew they had to go 10 minutes after the game started

This sort of behavior ruins at least 30% of all games played. This doesn’t even touch upon the problems of known maphack and drophack programs, which are also rampant.

To fight back, the community has come up with a few tools. There are some anti-hack programs which are mostly utilized in league play (the kind of leagues with cash money prizes and such). There are programs such as banlist, which allow users to create lists of quitters, slackers and idiots that can be shared with other users, creating an asshole database. Unfortunately, on battle.net, user names are free to create, so such lists are only of moderate value.

Other groups, most notable among them being “Clan TDA,” have formed in house channels with bots that monitor access, creating “qualification” systems that discourage random ass-hattery. Even TDA has its own elitist quirks which are cumbersome for some players (such as their refusal to play quick mode games). Ultimately, as with any free service (and when dealing with other anonymous gamers on the internet), a player has to figure out what tradeoffs will make their game experience acceptable.

Despite all this, DOTA has had amazing staying power with the community. No matter what game I’ve been playing for the past four years, DOTA has always been a bulwark of my gaming time. My biggest gripes are the quality of other players, and that new version don’t come out fast enough. But given the quality of new versions, the quality of map balancing, and the consistency of new versions (up to 6.38b at the time writing this article), the level of service far surpasses that which many commercial companies provide. I truly hope that this Best Game Ever continues to flourish as a community, regardless of how outdated WC3 might become.


  1. Christian said on December 26, 2006:

    I’ve played DOTA!  My friends at school often sucker me into playing LAN games with them.  Its quite an interesting game, though I’ve realized just how bad I am at it, what with so much going on in it and whatnot.  For me, one of the most interesting things about the mod is how it uses nothing more than WC3’s heroes and a couple of grunts for creeps, and somehow they craft a full game around that.  It kind of makes me feel validated about my often unpopular belief that hero’s were a little too important in the regular game, and that WC3 was something of a testbed for many of the things we see in WOW. Still, DOTA is a hell of a little game with quite a lot of strategy when you get serious players in serious matches (like my friends).  Perhaps one day I’ll even become one of them with some more practice.  Lifestealer FTW!

  2. chris said on December 26, 2006:

    Actually, I seem to have found myself in a group of gamers that prefer Tides of Blood, because they seem to think DOTA is unbalanced.  I actually haven’t tried DOTA myself, because almost every game of it seems very unfriendly (DOTA /lv -a USA/CAN ==PRO ONLY!!!!!) to a newbie like myself.  That said, WC3 has a whole lot of custom maps that’re really nice, and I enjoy playing them every once in a while. 

  3. Dan said on December 26, 2006:

    Man I love DOTA, I love to play it when i can. However, I am part of the problem with the game. Why? Because I suck. I really wish players were just a little more forgiving when it comes to so called "pro" players and newbs. If a person (read: I do this all the time) makes one mistake such as going down the wrong lane not knowning that someone had claimed it, you get booted or placed on one of those ban lists. At the very least you get some very nasty language thrown at you. All battle.net games always have this kind of "I hate every single newb" mentality, but I feel DOTA steps it up a notch. They seem to hate everyone except the best of the best. Other than that, I love the game. 

  4. GoldenJew said on December 26, 2006:

    I will agree the community is very unforgiving.  I tried to get my roommate into it, and forgot how steep the learning curve is.  I think at this point most DOTA players have been at it for years, so it’s very hard for a new person to break in.  And with the proliferation of drophacks and banlists, vengeful assholes can run wild.

  5. AznDotaPro said on January 21, 2007:

    eh…..i can agree if u said that if u suk at dota, peeps can get mad and swear at u, and maybe ban u…………but i dunt really care cause im pro…but im nice….SRRY if it insulted u… lol

  6. Candypants53 said on February 20, 2007:

    I like that comment you put on leavers i hate leavers they ruin the game. now im no pro but i am good and somtimes you dont need those players to stay.

  7. Nameman said on May 25, 2007:

    ok gang i play dota and its the best game HOPE U SEE ME i like to stick with the name nameman I WILL NOW HAVE SEX WITH YOU and…. meepo is the best character you can get…. BUT HE’S NOT FOR FUCKED UP NOOBS WHO DUNNO HOW TO SWAP WITH A PRO, IF YOU EVER GET HIM AND DUNNO HOW TO AT LEAST BUY HIS ITEMS GIVE UP HE’S A GODLIKE HERO THATS EASILY KILLED IF YOUR STUPID… SO JUST REPICK… other than him the others are pretty safe =D

  8. rEvE. said on January 7, 2009:

    Hello all, iam an extreme dota fan and i find myself at times almost spending most of my day playing it, ive been playing for atleast 2 and half years now and it just never gets boring, I guess its more interesting for people that are actually good, but once you actually get into the community of dota and learn the lingo, for example ganking, push lane, mid, bot, top, BoT -(boots of travel) and so on you really start to enjoy yourself, i myself have been trying to get into competitive because ive been told iam quite good, but you dont always have to go out and play competetive. You can just play easy relaxing pub games online that dont have as much stress. All i have to say to the people that are new and arent that great at dota is, dont stop trying, trust me you always suck at something when you first start and if you give it time and keep going at it, and just actually put some effort into learning the game, then its going to become one of your most favorite games ever, too me it is.

  9. Jae Arr said on September 9, 2009:

    Nice Postt rEvE!
    I totally agree on you with your last sentences! When we get hooked to a new game, it takes some effort to learn it. I mean, keep practicing!
    DotA is also my favorite game, and it never gets old, its still as fresh as it is the first time I played it 3 yrs ago.
    Never get intimadated by other players about their harsh words. Even Pros and Champions start at the bottom and were once noobs before. Just keep practicing!
    A good tip for starters is to play AI maps. If you get the hang of how Dota is played, try playing pub games.
    DotA is truly a competitive game. However, it should be enjoyed by all players, regardless if they say you are a NOOB (just practice, thats the real secret.) or if you call yourself a PRO (just cuz you’re good at dota doesnt mean you have right to call people NOOBS, you were a Noob once before.)..
    The bottom line is.. dota is made to be fun! It rocks and its there to stay!

  10. Spyder Mayhem said on September 10, 2009:

    In the annals of DotA history, perhaps there is no good answer to the noob vs. pro debate, but I remain cautiously optomistic that one exists. Keep shining, you crazy DotA players.

    What an interesting fanbase this game has. Is it like this ingame, too?

  11. Раньше я рекомендуется этот блог мой двоюродный
    брат. Я больше не положительные ли публиковать написано
    посредством его , никто еще не понимаю, такая,
    знаете, exact о трудности. Вы замечательный!

  12. WilliamVaT said on May 6, 2016:

    Very good forum post.Really thank you! Fantastic.

Leave a Reply