Each part will cover the important tournaments, influential teams and players, as well as the mainstream strategy of the EU/NA (European/North American) and the Asian scene. Sadly, the article ends after the 6.48 era, but perhaps someone knowledgeable could continue it in the future. Anyways, without further ado, I present the History of DotA.
A History of DotA in 7 parts:
1. From Aeon of Strife to 6.27
2. Violent AOE: The 6.32 Era
3. Fast Push: The 6.37 Era
4. Trilane and the Global Strategy: The 6.41 Era
5. Rise of the Blink Dagger: The 6.43 Era
6. Lessons in Ganking by VP: The 6.48 Era
7. To be continued...
Note: The prehistory segment contains much impersonal information, but future parts will be more exciting. Also, if there are any mistakes, I hope you guys will point it out to me in the comments.
Part 1 - From Aeon of Strife to 6.27
To understand the history of DotA, one must begin from Starcraft. In the early days of Starcraft, there was a UMS (Use Map Settings) map called Aeon of Strife (AoS) made by a modder called Aeon64 that featured a cooperative game with four heroes facing off against endless waves of computer-controlled creeps in four lanes. The players would have endless computer-controlled creeps on their side as well, except these were weaker than the enemy creeps.
The familiar game mechanic of the player who last-hit an enemy unit being rewarded with money can be found in this map. The game would end once key buildings on either side were destroyed or with the deaths of all four player-controlled heroes. A second version was made so that four players faced off against each other in a 2v2 fashion with endless creeps on both teams.
Once the Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos (ROC) was released on July 3, 2002, Aeon of Strife was ported over to ROC where free of the limitations of the Starcraft map editor, a much more interesting game could be made. Players could gain experience alongside money, gain levels, learn more powerful abilities and buy equipment. Many of the game mechanics in modern DotA can be found in maps from this period.
The first AoS-styled map that took advantage of the ability to design custom spells provided by the powerful ROC World Editor was Valley of Dissent made by a modder called Karukef. Another modder called Eul borrowed some ideas of his predecessors to create an AoS-styled map called Defence of the Ancients (DotA), which would become one of the most popular UMS maps on Battle.net.
When Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne (TFT) came out on July 1st, 2003, Eul made a version called DotA 2: Thirst for Gamma in TFT, but it wasn't successful in replacing the original DotA that had been ported into TFT. Eul then disappeared, but not before making his code open-source.
At this time, many people modded the TFT version of DotA. These derivatives of DotA started becoming popular on Battle.net. During this time, DotA wasn't called DotA Allstars, but instead the EX series. This was the version of DotA optimized by a modder off of the ROC version. Other well-known series were the "DotA DX Series", "DotA Unforgiven" and "DotA Outland".
These ancient DotA maps led to DotA becoming one of the most popular maps on Battle.net and created very good conditions for DotA Allstars to flourish on its release.
So it was that DotA entered a new period in its history. New versions of DotA were officially called "DotA Allstars". A couple of modders called Meian and Ragn0r compiled particularly fun-to-play heroes from these different versions of DotA and put it all together calling it DotA Allstars. This is the historical reason why the term "Allstars" was added to the name. After releasing an official version of DotA that pitted Human against Orc, these talented modders stopped making new versions.
The first version of the Allstars series was "DotA Allstars Beta v0.95" released on February 3, 2004. This was a milestone in the history of DotA. In the development of later versions, the "Allstars" series was accepted as the best DotA series.
The Allstars series gradually became more balanced and refined. Once the 4.xx series was reached, DotA already carried a certain amount of influence.
At this time, a legend called Guinsoo appeared and began the 3.xx and 4.xx series. DotA Allstars v.3.0d was released in March 2004. A month later, v4.0a was released. It was the first version to feature Roshan, which was named after Guinsoo's bowling ball.
A particularly big event in the history of DotA was the release of the 5.xx series. It signaled that DotA was reaching maturity. During the 5.xx era, two changes with historical significance occurred: The competitive mode was stabilized and organized competitions emerged.
The first version with stable competitive mode: v5.84
The 5.xx series inherited the essence of the 4.xx series' and also introduced many new heroes and items. It also made generated many new breakthroughs and added substance to the scope of the game. The first AI DotA map also appeared during the 5.xx era.
Since more and more players were joining, the work of making new versions had also become massive. In October 2004, Guinsoo recruited the help of fellow members from Clan TDA, Neichus and IceFrog.
The 5.xx series' first new hero was Tidehunter appearing in the 5.74 version. In the 5.75 version that followed it, Ursa Warrior and Atropos were introduced one apiece to Sentinel and Scourge. 5.76 introduced Keeper of the Light, Tinker, Ogre Magi, Pudge 2.0 and Sand King, while nerfing most of the old heroes.
The final version of the 5.xx series was "DotA Allstars 5.84c v2". This was an extraordinary version with historical significance, because the popularity of DotA had finally exceeded the confines of its players. Official, organized and influential competitive DotA began with this version. This qualifies it as the very first stable competitive version of DotA Allstars.
At the same time, 5.84 was a huge classic. Even long after 6.xx had been released, this map was still very popular. Rumour has it that even during the 6.2x era, SEA (South-East Asia) was still hosting competitions with 5.84. Out of the old-school Chinese players, I bet many fell in love with DotA during this version. Even now, this version can be found in the map directory of some Chinese cybercafés.
In truth, 5.84c wasn't actually released by Guinsoo. Due to a bug in 5.84b, a modder from Russia called True.Rus developed an unofficial 5.84c. This modder rewrote the code, reduced the load time from 3min to under 20s and fixed some bugs.
The Emergence of Organized Competitive Matches: TDA and IGS
During this period, some (very few, I think about ten) people formed the first DotA discussion forum called 9nid. This was the first semi-official DotA forum, where players would discuss DotA-related matters. Even to this day, some of the earliest members are immortalized on a list.
With the spread of WC3, DotA also became more and more popular. 9nid's users gradually increased eventually reaching a point when its servers could not withstand the traffic. At this point, the forum moved to RTSGamer. So it was that DotA leagues were formed.
The first league was Clan TDA (Team DotA Allstars) formed in April 2004. Its spread in popularity was helped in great part by the website DotA-Allstars.com founded on October 14th, 2004 by TDA member Pendragon. It was the official website for the DotA Allstars map, as well as a place for the DotA community to partake in discussions.
With DotA's growing popularity, the forum would eventually grow from to over one milion visitors every month, a million page views every day, and a staff of over 100 volunteers. Sadly, the website was shutdown in July 2010. For this reason, the official website of the DotA Allstars map was moved to PlayDota.com and the term "Allstars" was dropped from the map name.
IGS (International Gaming Syndicate) began hosting DotA competitions in 2004. The first season had 20 teams participating. The second season had 45 teams, so more and more people joined.
Guinsoo, legendary DotA developer is on the left
We have some DotA items to commemorate these old map makers:
Eul's Scepter of Divinity
Guinsoo's Scythe of Vyse
A Gathering of Parts: The 6.1x Era
On February 28th 2005, not soon after the release of DotA Allstars 6.00, after Guinsoo announced his departure from the map-making world, Neichus and IceFrog officially took over development from 6.01 continuing the process of improving DotA. Rumour has it that Guinsoo went into World of Warcraft. Neichus had been working on the project since October 2004.
Neichus took over the project lead position and under his leadership, Earthshaker, Tiny, Chen 2.0, Stealth Assassin 2.0, Phantom Lancer, Enchantress, Enigma, Axe, Shadow Fiend, Visage 2.0, Nerubian Weaver, Bloodseeker and Dazzle were added. After several versions, Neichus grew disenchanted with the project, so he left IceFrog as the head developer of DotA Allstars.
Perhaps it was due to 5.84 being overly amazing that many die-hard fans refused to accept the huge changes instated by the 6.xx versions. This led to the early 6.xx versions not being hugely influential. However, these setbacks couldn't stop mighty IceFrog's momentum of churning out new versions.
IceFrog, our beloved developer
A common proverb is "A new broom sweeps clean." In 6.10, IceFrog made large numbers of modifications and improvements, completely remaking Faceless Void. He added a new Scourge hero, Invoker (It's like the current Invoker, but has 31 spells rather than the current 10. He was too overpowered, so IceFrog shut him in a small black room for a long time before letting him out). During the 6.1x era, IceFrog made many modifications to the old version of DotA. While fixing many bugs, he also rebalanced many heroes that were too imbalanced.
It was during this time that Heintje's Chinese 6.12 came out. This is the first 6.xx Chinese DotA version you can find. Following this, Heintje continued his efforts to translate DotA Allstars into Chinese contributing immensely to the popularization of DotA in China.
The First Light of Dawn: The 6.2x Era
On November 1st, 2005, IceFrog released DotA Allstars 6.20, which abandoned the previous snowfield theme returning to the 5.84's grassfield theme but with colours slightly altered, resulting in today's style.
In 6.20, IceFrog continued the process of nerfing many heroes. In this version, the immensely popular Prince Arthas from the campaign entered the world of DotA. In 6.21, another new hero was added. Then until 6.27, fixing bugs and balancing the game took priority. 6.27 was released near the end of November.
Since IceFrog was slow to release new versions, 6.27 lasted a relatively long time (until February 2006). After consolidating over several versions, DotA reached a new pinnacle in game balance with 6.27.
During this era, DotA Allstars became an event in the World Cyber Games Singapore 2005. 6.27b was declared to be the official version to be used in future leagues and championship tournaments. 6.27 became the second stable competitive version of DotA Allstars, the first being 5.84.
In 6.28, IceFrog added two new heroes: Witch Doctor and Spectre (back then, Spectre was considered useless). The -cs command was added (to display creep kills and denies) and a brand new loading screen. Since 6.29 had some critical bugs, 6.28 was the most stable map amongst DotA 6.2x versions.
Compared to 6.27, 6.28 wasn’t as significant a change balance-wise. The addition of two heroes was the only change. Rumour has it that to quench the gamers' desires of 6.30, IceFrog hastily rushed through that version. This led to 6.27 taking the limelight amongst 6.2x versions.
After taking over development at 6.10, IceFrog did large amounts of bug fixing and hero balance improvements in order to get an UMS map that was originally only used for sheer entertainment to take large leaps towards competitiveness. This paved a solid foundation for DotA's swift development as an e-sport. While improving hero balance, a series of new heroes, items and models were introduced strengthening the amusement factor of the game as well. This helped meet the conditions for DotA to rapidly become popular.
Happenings in the EU/NA scene
DotA's rapid popularization and balance improvements greatly increased DotA's competitiveness. Lots of teams began to emerge. Internationally renowned teams such as PluG (later known as coL or compLexity), Apex (later known as JMC or Jax Money Crew), Say Plz, Team Q, TeG (The Elder Gods) and BTo (Boomtown Odense, front-runner of JoY or Jukes on You and later, MYM or Meet Your Makers) were influential in competitions during this era. Some of these teams such as Apex had their beginnings in earlier leagues such as the IGS back in 2004-2005.
EU/NA competitions were mainly TDA and CAL, as well as Dota-League's Pick League. In the first season of Pick League taking place in November 2005, Team Q claimed victory, while BTo took first place in the next three seasons asserting their dominance.
Happenings in the Asian scene
Compared to these tournaments in EU/NA, DotA was still in an embryonic state in China. EU/NA competitions didn't have a big influence on the Chinese scene.
In China in the month of November 2005, some players famous on the U9 forum formed team GL under the leadership and organization of Xiaoxiongmao. Ever since they formed, GL has been one of China's strongest, mightiest and most low-profile teams. During the same period, Mage (not to be confused with later Russian team MaGe) and IFNT formed in succession.
The appearance of teams naturally led to contests. During the 6.2x era, there weren't many competitions. Everyone learned from each other by comparing their views on how to play the game. The records we have on matches back then doesn't amount to much. I've only noted down the influential competitions.
On February 7th 2006, a Taiwanese team was on the U9 forum challenging teams and met the recently-formed GL. Due to poor connections, the match wasn't very good. Nevertheless, the Taiwanese team used Keeper of the Light and Tinker's long-range nuke strategy which broadened the DotA worldview of GL, who had until then worked diligently on their AOE (area of effect) strategy. This also gave Chinese DotA players a taste of the fascination that exists in CW (clan wars). As the first CW match in China with some influence, it deserves mention in this history.
In March 2006, the first RDL DotA competition was hosted. Using 6.27 as the official version of the competition, the tournament originally planned to have 32 teams, but in the end only 23 teams participated. GL was too strong for the other teams and took the victory claiming the very first national Chinese title.
This tournament is something that can't be omitted from any Chinese DotA history. It could be argued that due to the experiment that was this tournament, more Chinese DotA experts switched from playing for amusement in pubs to having organized and competitive team games. This tournament also led to more people appreciating the competitive nature of DotA to break away from the preconception many people had of the game as a WC3 ladder map meant only for casual amusement.
This tournament spread the fame of first-generation Chinese teams such as GL, HUST, IFNT, Mage and EDU which declared the arrival of the strong teams. Following the popularization of replays, Chenlun, Huiyue, Xiaoxiongmao and mAroBoRo (Wanbaolu) and other players left a deep impression in people. They were the first generation Chinese DotA stars. They were also who DotA beginners tried to model themselves after.
During the 6.27 era, the mainstream strategy was AOE. For late-game, the 4-protect-1 strategy was also developed. The most famous strategy was the Divine Aegis (Divine Rapier, Aegis of the Immortal) Medusa. These strategies flourished through the 6.32 era until the 6.37 era.
The above represents the prehistory portion of DotA.
Chinese Author: IloveThis
Chinese Editor: xuyou
Thanks to the following GGnet users for providing corrections and suggestions: Jiggs, Chairraider (aka IceFrog), shisha2win, chRis0r, matthe, theguvnr, ngazi