DotA and LoL

Ferrar1 @ 30th April 2012 08:00 (Read 8,637 times).
A Dota player's perspective on all of these LoL players' perspectives

Let me get this out of the way swiftly. I’m not here to bash LoL. You have your game; I have mine. I’m here to bash/critique/scrutinize the glut of “pre-reviews” for Dota 2 that avid League of Legends players seem intent on flooding the interwebs with. Please stop talking about my game, unless you have given it proper consideration. Your 25 hours in Dota 2 carries the proximate intellectual weight of watching me play the first half of a Skyrim demo - then trying to review it.

Now I hate to single people out, but the (anonymously written) “Staff” feature by GameSpot has earned the dubious honor of being the straw that broke this writer’s back. So for all intents and purposes they will be receiving the brunt of my criticism, but similar features on Destructoid, Giant Bomb, and elsewhere are equally culpable (A special shoutout goes to Game Spy whose December feature stayed within itself by exhibiting appropriate restraint, while bringing insights as well).

From the start, this impression is off on the wrong foot. Our author is dubiously anonymous (Isn't the internet an anonymous medium anyways? At least put your epride on the line.), and we are given zero information on the amount of time this player logged before passing judgement on Dota 2.

This is the first major issue with this and similar posts. Time. Dota 2 and its competitors are not games which lend themselves to the standard game review timetable. You cannot simply grind through the story for 20-30 hours and expect to have grasped the game - its mechanics, depth, and comparative place. In this genre that amount of hours is a drop in the bucket of knowledge. I’m going to venture out into speculative territory here and say that this genre requires a minimum of 100 hours combined playtime + watching matches before a reasonable assessment can be made. I have put in this effort for LoL and Dota 2. Anonymous clearly has not.

Is Dota 2 unreviewable? No, but you have to get your mindset right. People preview/review these games (MOBA to you, ARTS to me) like you would review any other game or movie or book. Problem is, this style of game is more akin to a sport than novel. The time commitments needed to judge them is greater and comparing one to another without proper understanding leads to inaccurate and ill fated comparisons. The GameSpot post being a perfect example. Let me take you through point by point to explain why.

On the DOTA 2 Roster”

Anonymous gets off to a roaring start by brazenly comparing LoL and Dota 2’s roster of heroes. Let us, for a moment, consider the time required to intelligently speak on this subject. Assuming you already have a deep knowledge of one game’s roster in your head, that means you have to competently understand roughly 100 heroes get a basis for comparison, to understand each hero probably takes 2 games per hero on average, and at 45 minutes per game you’re looking at about 150 hours of game play. Now, I’m willing to be a realist and say that Dota 2 doesn’t have the 100+ hero roster of WC3 DotA yet and that you can probably make a decent extrapolation from 75% of the pool. Still, we’re looking at nearly 100 hours to make this work.

Instead Anonymous goes in and boldy states his opinion that LoL’s roster is better. He backs this point with such hard hitting points as “they have more character,” and the meekly suggested criticism that “there are a few [heroes] that are kind of cookie cutter.” As an avid Dota player I am patently offended at such a causal dig at my game when my number one (and many Dota players’) criticism of LoL is that so many of the champions in the game have designs and abilities that are cookie cutter.

Take one generic cone nuke for creep clearing, add a short range gap closer, toss in some sort of steroid, and voilà! From my experience, Anonymous is the first person to charge Dota 2 with the same. Characters in Dota can do anything from microing small armies, to having 10 abilities, to actually being 2 distinct heroes. But it's not worth explaining that here. Clearly Anonymous didn't have any interest in exploring the spectrum of skill types in Dota 2. In fact, it seemed this "perspective" was little more than chance for the writer to blindly reassert notions they already felt.

Had Anonymous taken a more considerate look at Dota 2, then perhaps he/she/it would have been capable of making a reasoned argument. Maybe around Dota 2 only using a mana based spell system or the comparative lack of spell effects like fears, charms, and taunts as proof of what makes the hero pool less diverse. This is a point I would contend with (effects are secondary to playstyles of which Dota 2 has many more than LoL), but at the very least it would provide an educated analysis for future discussion.

“On Character Skills”

This portion seemed the least worthy of criticism. Not only are those two ‘Q’s designed in dissimilar ways (the single shot frost of Drow being a key component of the hero’s design), but Anonymous’ description is little more than a growing pain issue related to adapting to a different control scheme. No one says CoD is better than Halo because of where crouch is mapped to by default.

Again, Anonymous’s lack of play has missed a real opportunity for comparison and critique. The relative inexperience of play made this post only capable of only a cursory examination of two similarly modeled (by all accounts Ashe was inspired by Drow) characters with which he/she/it has prior experience. Had Anonymous played the game more in depth, then there could well be room for a lively discussion about the difference in damage ratios of abilities between LoL and Dota 2. Are the higher damage to health ratios of Dota 2 detrimental to gameplay, do they make abilities more satisfying, or do they require more skill to play around? These would have been great questions an educated examiner might have pointed out for critique and discussion (no, yes, maybe), but, again, I digress.
“On What It’s Like to Learn a DOTA 2 Character”

Here is the most informed part of this analysis. It is no wonder why either. In the 20-30 hours I’m generously speculating was taken to make this impression, the one thing which could be completely understood is this: what’s it like to learn a hero? Anonymous hits the spot in suggesting that the challenge seems to lie more in the lack of available learning resources than within the hero design itself. The spotlight videos and similar learning tools are quality thoughts on how to make learning more accessible.

If Anonymous could have achieved this sort of understanding across all aspects of this impression, then I wouldn’t be stuck here on a sunny Wednesday afternoon breaking down why mind numbing “I like LoL better because, well, I’ve played it more” posts are so asinine. As an aside, this is primarily the context of the Game Spy article. The author only comments and reports on what he has personally experienced.

On DOTA 2’s Maps and Their Structure”

“They’re essentially the same.” Well, where to begin. You’re wrong? I guess that’s the equivalently terse way of putting it. This is probably where a good argument should begin to rage about “map objectives,” or, more specifically, Dota 2’s apparent lack of them. Instead Anonymous boldly explores the ideas that the maps are the same outside of some marginally different tower spacing.

This is one area where you really shouldn’t end up needing the full 100 hours to get that the pictures aren’t the same. An observant writer might point out how grass vs hills provide a similar mechanic of [relative] invisibility but how the difference in their placement across the map makes for different gameplay mechanics. The concept of controlling the grass during laning in LoL creates a different dynamic of active dual laning bottom whereas a lack of hill vision in Dota 2 makes rune control all but impossible from the mid lane -crippling your team's ganking potential.

Furthermore, if Anonymous had enough time to stop and smell the roses rendered around the Dota 2 map he/she/it might have noticed how the asymmetrical jungle of Dota 2 creates more distinctive laning advantages on the side lanes for each team (If you have your friendly jungle on your lane, then you have the easier lane.) which greatly affect their gankability and need for wards. These and other points could probably be used as the basis for explaining how Dota 2 fosters a more complex laning phase which could be seen as inferior to the elegant simplicity of how LoL lanes break down. Again, I would probably be inclined to debate that notion, but, as no LoL player has seen fit to point it out for debate on a public forum, I’ll save my ammo on the subject for another day and a more worthy opponent.
“On Strategy in DOTA 2”

Can we stop with the deny talk already? For anyone who is unaware, this hot button design subject is a relatively ancient relic of League of Legends original marketing strategy. Once upon a time, Riot was a small company and had an FAQ comparing DotA and LoL where they went through great trouble to explain how they had carefully streamlined the DotA experience. They brought up the topic of denying (a tertiary mechanic in most Dota 2 player’s minds) and why they got rid of it. Explaining that denying created passive gameplay, and “it's just plain weird.” This whole notion needs to be forgotten.

Anyone who has actually played DotA for a reasonable period of time would tell you that denying does anything but create passive play because if you are being denied often by a stronger player or lane composition (which it seems this poor Anonymous person was), then you know you cannot continue the losing war much longer (in the long run you need to get better at last hitting [skill] or learn to pick better lanes [knowledge]). So you call for a gank or a lane switch or something entirely active as a response. In LoL terms this is simply "zoning" but through superior last hitting skill. The added mechanic of denying (last hitting skill) makes zoning capable in another way, but the end dynamic of lane control is the same. The mechanic is a moot point because it doesn't fundamentally affect playstyles across the two games. It works in Dota 2; LoL works fine without it.

What Anonymous should have been noticing was, again, this difference in map objectives. This is a topic where real strategic differences between the games occurs. In terms of strategy I think a LoL player would be much more inclined to comment on the seemingly absent sense of guidance throughout the game in Dota 2. In LoL action is primarily predicated around the acquisition of certain map objectives: first blue, then Dragon, then some more blue and Dragon, then Baron, and so on (simplified I know, but bear with). In Dota 2 the lack of clear objectives to fight for on a regular basis creates a less predictable and more tower oriented mid game.

Action in Dota 2 is established around the fight for map control (the taking of towers) and presents a less structured battlefield. An observant LoL player with ample time spent in Dota 2 might note that this means Dota games can slow down in the middle if teams decide to play for the late game because there are no pressing objectives which possess a time value like Dragon (it respawns, so taking it as soon as possible is an important part of the global economy).

For a final time, I note that this is a point I would love to see an articulate LoL player bring up for debate, but it seems that no part of that community is interested in submitting the necessary effort required to provide an educated impression or critique.

I put out a challenge to any would-be LoL writer out there. Play Dota 2, and I mean really PLAY [and watch] it like I speculate needs to be done. Then let's have a lively discussion of the two games under the auspicious of mutual respect and understanding. At the end of the day you may still like your game and I may still like mine, but at least something will have been learned for once.

Until then, I’m done reading these mindless posts by Anonymous and co. I can Netflix Michael Bay movies if I feel like hearing a lot and learning nothing.

FROM: by Phillip "MrTallgeese" Aram