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 DOTA  Creator Goes Commercial With  League of Legends
DOTA Creator Goes Commercial With League of Legends Exclusive
October 8, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Brandon Sheffield

October 8, 2008 | By Chris Remo, Brandon Sheffield
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    30 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive



The WarCraft III RPG/strategy mod Defense of the Ancients has attracted millions of players, and now one of its creators is participating in the development of a full-scale, commercial take on the concept.

This week, Los Angeles-based Riot Games announced its first title, League of Legends, planned for a PC release next year.

It's not the first game to advertise its similarities to DOTA. Gas Powered Games' Demigod is in the same vein, although the connection is more straightforward with League of Legends: original DOTA designer Steve "Guinsoo" Feek is driving the design.

Like its spiritual predecessor, LOL (as it will surely become known) blends strategy and roleplaying elements for faster-paced gameplay than in traditional resource-gathering real-time strategy games.

"We want to create games more like Counter-Strike or basketball, something that's really replayable," says Riot president Marc Merrill, who visited Gamasutra's offices with CEO Brandon Beck. "Rather than being Half-Life, we want to be Counter-Strike. Rather than being World of Warcraft, we want to be WoW Battlegrounds."

"We think that this distills the best elements of MMO PVP into really quick and accessible game sessions." he continues, describing LOL as a "session-based, multiplayer, online battle arena game set in a very stylized fantasy universe."

As to whether LOL might have consoles in its future, the team didn't rule it out.

"Our particular game does have a future on those platforms at some point, but we want to stay really focused on PC right now," says Beck.

Merrill adds that about a year ago, the team tested the game on an Xbox 360 development kit, but reiterated the current PC focus.

LOL's art staff includes veterans from games such as Psychonauts and Jak & Daxter, and its art director Hokyo Lim served as Sucker Punch's senior artist on the three Sly Cooper titles -- a credit that Merrill uses to deflect WoW visual comparisons.

"Hokyo likes to remind us that, apparently, a lot of the Blizzard guys used Sly Cooper as a frame of reference as well," he laughs.

Also on board is community director Steve "Pendragon" Mescon, whom Merrill credits with building DOTA's reputation and global reach, and who will simultaneously remain in his role on that game while working with Riot.

Merrill is quick to draw distinctions between League and its predecessor, however. "Since it was built as a mod, DOTA has a bunch of limitations," he explains. "It's only one map ever, and it's still played by millions of people for years because it's so replayable, but there are really limited multiplayer services -- no matchmaking, no stat-tracking, no persistence. League of Legends is designed from the ground up to address the needs of the community and to evolve based on what the players want to see."

The Riot team acknowledges that many gamers are unfamiliar with the WarCraft III mod, despite its popularity, meaning League of Legends will need to make itself accessible to newcomers via new features like matchmaking. Merill pointed to CEO Beck for an anecdote on that topic.

"I had a recent experience with my dad, who's in his 60s," recalled Beck. "He's been around games for a while, playing flight sims and whatnot, but I found out he picked up [Battlefield] 1942, which is one of my personal favorite games.

"We were at home for a weekend, and got a bit of a LAN game going, and he was having fun playing with his kids -- and he was excited if he made it from a spawn point to a tank. That was a small win for him. He was fascinated by the game experience itself, and he had been playing bot mode against really easy bots but was too intimidated to go online.

"I'm convinced that if he was in a game with a bunch of other dudes his age, just as inept at FPS games, they would have had a blast. The kill counts wouldn't have been as high, and it would have taken them five minutes to find a vehicle and another three minutes to kill each other, but they'd have a great time.

"It's about matching players of appropriate skill, and that's one of the biggest challenges facing a game like this -- the degree of getting that right."

Says Merrill, "We think that this distills the best elements of MMO PVP into really quick and accessible game sessions."


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Comments


Anonymous
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Finally someone that gets it! After this game is released and sells its first few million copies there will finally be an appropriate canon for this not-so-new genre. The game industry is run by out of touch old men and nerds that have bad tastes and tomb raider fantasies about game design. That's why there hasn't been a good spiritual successor to Counterstrike or even Battlefield 1942. DOTA is currently the most competitive online experience available and it's an apalling tragedy that the game industry is collectively too stupid to wake up and react sooner. That map is more than 5 years old, has millions of users, and only ONE company is making a copycat game, thank you Demigod for trying. It's time for the creators to school everyone in true competitive multiplayer game design.

Jeremy Johnston
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What I find interesting is that while Guinsoo created the framework for the game, he has pretty much abandoned it. I wouldn't say he is responsible for how good it is, just like I wouldn't say that the makers of Half Life were responsible for the popularity of Counterstrike.



DotA is still extremely good because it gets constant attention and updates fueled by a community that loves and appreciates it. Even though it is a single map, it still has beta testers, updates, new items, new abilities and new heroes every few months. As well as the constant addition of new content, they frequently balance and re-work old heroes and every once in a while they give the entire map a face-lift.



No matter how much it sells, unless the company making LOL understands the reason DotA is still popular to this day, they will likely see a sharp drop in players after a short while.

Bradley Lusenhop
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"DOTA is currently the most competitive online experience available" Wow. You realize while DOTA is fun it only captures 1/10 of the Warcraft experience? To glorify it like that is disrespectful to the creators of the actual game. While the game industry maybe run by out of touch old men, DOTA is definately a nerd game. Made for people who can't grasp the full game and like to pick on new people for buying the wrong items or playing the game to their tastes. Congratulations on making a successful mod but a game based on it really is sad to see. Gamers these days are simple minded I guess.

Max Nichols
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Dota is wildly successful, has mor dedicated tournaments and leagues than the vast majority of commercial games, and it being played 24/7 on the Warcraft 3 battle.net servers. It's about as successful as a mod has ever been, with a few notable exceptions. I wouldn't dismiss it like that, Bradley.



I myself have always been surprised that Blizzard didn't approach the creators of DOTA and try to come up with some official publishing deal and major financial support, a la counterstrike. I'd imagine that the only reason something like that hasn't happened is because of convoluted IP issues - since last I checked it's a product of numerous individuals over a period of several years, rather than something that is owned by a single person or company.

Max Nichols
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Responding further to Bradley: It is successful, and it has it's issues, like any other title. It doesn't mean that attempting to distill the essence of what makes DOTA great, while at the same time trying to overcome some of it's design flaws, is a bad idea. Quite the opposite. It's called progress.



And there is always the concept of target audiences, of course. You're clearly not it, but there are many people who have loved the game, and might love games that contain similarities.



Basically, it's a tad bit short-sighted to dismiss the accomplishments of DOTA and the potential for DOTA-inspired growth and designs in the industry. Are you a bit bitter, perhaps?

Sean Parton
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@Max: I wouldn't personally want to knock Dota, but the biggest problem with it is that it suffers from the "Counterstrike" effect: the game is ridiculously intimidating to first time users, and the learning curve is incredibly steep. That's probably why Blizzard hasn't approached the creators about anything official for the game, as it runs counter to Blizzard's values of accessibility.

Anonymous
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The guys at TheWarCenter.com are the ones that created DOTA, not these guys. They are the ones that held competitions for it and marketed it and built it up from nothing. Eul is the particular staff member who was the original author. As for everyone else mentioned, I have no idea who these guys were, but they didn't have anything to do with making DOTA or making it popular. Perhaps they've served on the AllStars team, but again, didn't do anything other than perhaps maintain the AllStars version of the map. The AllStars version of the map, was an unauthorized hack of the original that became popular after Eul decided to move on and stopped working on the map. If anyone has any other questions, I suggest going to www.thewarcenter.com and asking yourself.

Chris Ainsworth
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Yeah, Guinsoo created the Allstars variant (later taken over by IceFrog). While Eul's DotA was the true beginning of the gametype (after Aeon of Strife), it was Allstars that propelled it to the popularity level we see today.

Jeremy Johnston
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To the Anonymous poster above: The original version of DotA was abandoned when the expansion for Warcraft 3 came out. Although Eul created the game in Warcraft 3, Guinsoo was the creator of DotA AllStars, the version created for The Frozen Throne. AllStars is the most popular version (heck, it has a techno song that charted in Europe about playing it), and has been for a long time.



The thing about DotA is that both Eul and Guinsoo have abandoned the game, yet it keeps getting more and more popular, due to the current community led by IceFrog. IceFrog constantly updates and balances the game, and actually pays attention to the players issues, and listens to their suggestions. He didn't create the map but I would argue that he has as much (if not more) to do with how good it is as Eul or Guinsoo.

Steve Mescon
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To clarify, Guinsoo and myself have worked with the Allstars version of DotA, (Guinsoo as the map-maker from v1.0 to v6.01, and I have been managing the Dota community since late 2004). The original DotA was created by Eul, and the great folks at TheWarCenter.org. When Eul retired, he made his creation open source so that other map-makers could expand on his original creation. DotA Allstars shared many of the same features and function with the original DotA, but was completely re-constructed by Guinsoo from the ground-up, and later passed to IceFrog who still regularly updates the map.



- Pendragon

Jeremy Johnston
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Steve, thank you for the clarification.

Anonymous
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dota is free, which has a lot to do with its success.

Anonymous
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Dev Madan was the art director on all of the Sly Cooper games. Is anything in your press release truthful?

http://www.gamepro.com/article/features/47576/interview-with-sly-
3-art-director-dev-madan/

Jeremy Johnston
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Anonymous, if you'd look further into the matter you would see that both of them worked on the Sly Cooper series.

Digi Majik
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Allstars wasn't 'built from the ground up.' The guy took the original ROC DOTA map and cracked it. Then he copied all of the spells, heros, skins, terrain, and verbiage and put them in a TFT compliant map and called it Allstars. This was way before Eul made DOTA open source.



That's where this article fails. Instead of hiring the actual guy who designed DOTA and made it popular to 'drive the design', they're hiring someone who only cracked the map and made it work with TFT.



Also, Allstars did nothing to boost DOTA's popularity. The guys at thewarcenter.com did that. It was vastly popular way before TFT was released. After all, why else whould the Allstar's creator take the time to crack and copy it?



Now, I will give credit where it's due. The guys who now run the Allstars site and keep the game updated are doing a great job. While they may have not designed the game or had anything to do with it becoming popular, they are without a doubt what keeps it popular. Without thier constant updates to the map, it would have fizzled just like every other game/mod that dosen't have that support.

Anonymous
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Dota is an excellent game, but it does take some research and effort to grasp the concepts the game has to offer. soon enough the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when members of the opposing team go missing from the mini map and getting the last hit on creeps becomes as natural as breathing.



yes, the community is rather... caustic to those who havnt bothered taking the effort to learn what all the characters do and how to farm and how to avoid getting ganked. but really, is it any different when one kid keeps grabbing the soccerball /kicking the basketball? or maybe just gets on the field and stands around looking at the clouds (afker)? or kicks the ball into his own goal (feeder)? its an Americanism that we demand that everything be accessible and easy and rewarding right off the bat, which works out great for peggle and players looking for that sort of experience, but most things in life are not easy, might as well get used to enjoying a challenge.

Anonymous
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To the comment on DotA being free: DotA is not free in the sense that Dungeon Runners, Travian, armorgames.com, etc. are free. A couple of my friends have been wanting to try the game, but can't shell out the cash for WC3 and TFT. I know several people (including myself) who only bought these games so that they could play DotA, meaning they effectively payed for it.



It's only free if you already bought Blizzard's games. If you're going to qualify it like that then you have to consider that its market is a but a very small fraction of the total gaming market (owners of WC3/TFT only), making its widespread popularity that much more impressive.

Anonymous
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You do realize that DOTA was created by an American right?

Anonymous
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Jeremy Johnston, yes the both worked on sly cooper.. but the press release says "Hokyo Lim served as Sucker Punch's art director on the three Sly Cooper titles" which is a blatant lie.

Anonymous
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I said we, didnt I?



also



http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2003/8/25/

Anonymous
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Whoa there, Bradley Lusenhop is just plain straight up wrong here. 1/10th the experience? There are more DOTA players than WC3 players! Talk about an out of touch opinion... I guess the millions of DOTA players are also insulting the original game too? WC3 wasn't all that great to start with, the ideas in it were convoluted and poorly balanced, especially in contrast to Starcraft. It was the classic Blizzard formula of genre mixing (this time RTS + RPG) gone awry. The ideas themselves had a lot of merit and a lot of work went into WC3, but it's not that popular, and the ideas had to be trimmed down and focused in the form of DOTA for the multiplayer experience to really function in a competitive sense.

Steve Mescon
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Hokyo Lim was was a Sr. Artist and the Lighting director on the Sly Series. He is OUR Art Director.



The press release does not say that Hokyo was the Art Director on the Sly Franchise. We have notified Gamasutra of the error, and they should be fixing it shortly.



http://www.riotgames.com/wp-content/uploads/league-of-legends-ann
ouncement-final.pdf



- Pendragon

Bradley Lusenhop
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Wow you guys really love DOTA. I guess we should start making more simplistic games to attract "the millions of DOTA players" out there. It seems like a pretty large market that we should be targeting. You realize you are just playing with one hero right? You aren't balancing your time between the town or army. You aren't mining, expanding or anything. You are playing one hero. The reason TONS of people play it is because they can't hack it in the real game. DOTA is good but really the only reason you started playing the mod was because you got tired of getting smoked in RT, AT, Solo, FFA and reading "plz leave is gg noob."

Joel Bitar
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DOTA is to WC3 what CS was to Quake. After CS got popular a lot of successful multiplayer games have tried to emulate CS success and doing pretty well.

So seeing this same vast simplification of another genre in order to bring in much more players isn't that surprising.



Hopefully both LOL and Demigod will kick ass, best of luck to the developers

Jeremy Johnston
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Bradley, I would like to point out that just because something is simple does not make it bad. I loved Starcraft and Warcraft 2, but when Warcraft 3 came out, it was just too much game for me all at once. I didn't really want to manage all of the different things from the previous games AND have to deal with a hero. That's the same reason I didn't buy Steel Batallion even though I thought the idea of piloting a mech would be interesting. I could probably get better at either game if I had to, but instead I'd rather seek out something I enjoy.



Perhaps the reason people play DotA instead of WC3's actual campaign or multiplayer is because they don't actually like the campaign or multiplayer, like me. Or perhaps they play it to take a break, like the people that introduced me to the game.



If there are millions of DotA players out there who want less complex games than WC3, then yes, there should be a company that attempts to tap into the market. I bought a WC3 and TFT battle chest just for the tower defenses and DotA, and I know others that have as well.

Max Nichols
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Jeremy is correct. And I have some more counter-evidence, in the form of my personal experiences:



I occasionally reinstall Warcraft 3 for the sole reason of playing DOTA. I'm not driven to it because I'm not good enough to play normal Warcraft 3, I'm driven to it because it is it's own play experience, with it's own worth, and one that I well enjoy playing... even though I'm far from a good player, and run afoul of the Counterstrike syndrome quite frequently.

Anonymous
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Mr. Lusenhop, you cannot compare DotA to Warcraft 3 because they are entirely different genres. That's right, DotA is not an RTS which you have failed to realize. It's a class-based team deathmatch game and the strategy is much more subtle and radically different than that used in RTS titles. When you die in DotA it may have been due to something as simple as not reacting fast enough, but how is this different than the FPS genre where reaction speed is key?



Is it simpler than Warcraft 3? Yes, I admit it lacks some of the depth that makes the RTS genre so popular. However, if you are so concerned with depth and complexity, why are you wasting your time with simple-minded RTS's when you could be playing chess or Go? Perhaps you cannot grasp something that complex.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_(board_game)



The bottom line is that no matter how much or what type of thinking DotA requires, it still allows for limitless growth through a huge spectrum of skill that effectively separates the good players from the bad. That's all it takes to make a game good.

Gustav Seymore
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I believe purely by the amount of reaction and discussion here that it shows how passionate some people feel about DotA. I love DotA and I'm only too glad that some companies are now making dota-like games. It is a genre that needs to be explored.



Also to the earlier comments about who started it and who is responsible; I would just like to say that I personally believe IceFrog has made DotA from a really awesome game to and absolutely exceptional game. The new map came out last night and it is amazing how small subtle changes make such a massive difference and you see people trying to learn every new nook and cranny of the map and how to best use the new items and hero's. So regardless of who started it, thanks to all and especially thanks to IceFrog.



One of the major successes of DotA is the fact that it gets updated regularly with new heros and items and balances, If LoL is to be successful they will HAVE to do the same...



gg :)

Felix Frank
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I hate joining flamewars but I feel a need to drop my 0.02 bucks.



I think I can safely state as a matter of fact that complexity is not a metric of how a game is better or worse than another game. Most will agree that fun is the key element in a game and fun is hard to put into proportion with distinct attributes such as complexity.



Why is flOw fun? It has only a handful (if at all) game mechanics.

To some (or many) flOw may not be fun at all. I'd go so far as to say that there isn't a single game mechanic that each and every player will consider fun. So a statement such as "go for simplicity to please the simpleton DotA nerds" is oversimplification of the question what's "fun".



And isn't that (one of) the central question(s) in game design?

Tom Kammerer
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I would just hope and pray that we all are giving the credit Blizzard truly deserves. I would also hope the LoL gives credit to Blizzard. When we are all praising DOTA it is only because Blizzard is such an exceptional company to give it's fans, players, and consumers one of the greatest mod and map makers gamers have ever seen.



The amount of maps being pumped out by makers is impressive and we owe it to Blizzard for helping us expand and grow this great game industry.



Let's all see what they do for Starcraft 2 when it finally gets released. We may see a whole new birth of map and genre take shape.


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