Once upon a time DotA made a revolution in esports and computer games. Dota2cl.org tells of a story of creation and development of this map. The first part will describe the most ancient times. Those were times when DotA was a map for StarCraft having a different name and not knowing what expects it in future.
Hit Creeps – Gain Levels – Destroy Base
The MOBA genre began not with WarCraft III but with another strategy game by Blizzard: StarCraft. The game was released in 1998 and included the map editing kit called StarEdit. Its main feature was the ability for developers not only to shape landscapes but to create triggers and sceneries. To say simpler, a mod developer having enough skills could create their own campaign with NPC’s, neutral units, dialogues and other attributes.
What is a modern MOBA? It is a real-time strategy game where the player controls one strong unit – the hero. There is the process of character development happening not only while fighting with other players: there are other ways. For instance, killing AI-controlled creeps appearing with certain timings. Creeps don’t have any strategic thinking, they just run forward and attack any target on their way until they die. And finally, the player has to destroy the enemy base to win.
A thing looking like that first appeared on the map for StarCraft named Aeon of Strife. The map was shapes as a rectangular, and bases were located on the right and the left sides. Four players fought against the AI-guided army. Five kinds of creeps walked through four lanes.
Zealot: was the weakest unit in terms of health and damage. These guys were first in the line of fire, got damage to protect more important and strong creeps.
Firebat: comparing to a Zealot, this was a fatter and stronger unit. This creep attacked a small area, just like in StarCraft.
Ultralisk: the main “tank” for the creep squad. Unlike other units, Ultralisk appeared once in two minutes and was the reason for players to make a step away from passive farming and to attack it.
Ghost and Marine: two main ranged units with low health level. They appeared in each wave. But if the lane is pushed, there can appear a crowd of these guys with time, able to destroy all enemy waves easily.
Hydralisk: the ranged creep with the strongest attack. It had much health and strong armor. Hydralisk appeared once in 2 minutes for players and once in a minute for the AI opponent.
AI creeps appeared more frequently, and lanes were always pushed towards the players’ base. Bases were protected with photon cannons and siege tanks preventing one side from a fast victory. To compensate the AI advantage, each player controlled one of six empowered units available. They allowed destroying the AI defense faster, because player creeps would never overcome it on their own.
Zergling: the quick and agile character. It had the weakest attack and the lowest health level. But it was able to get out from the surrounded area by digging itself into the ground.
Vulture: another agile guy. Vulture had the lowest health among all characters, but the average attack range and the big damage level. It is pointless to play it as a tank, and it has to retreat after the first defense line falls. But when there is someone to take damage, Vulture can finish creeps quickly and earn the biggest money.
Goliath: a universal unit with good damage, range and health. It is the simplest to play for, but has no strengths except of its balance.
Dragoon: the strongest auto-attack damage is compensated with low health and attack speed. It is good to destroy fat creeps and buildings but dies quickly when attacked by a crowd of enemy units.
Archon: a perfect hero to kill big groups of creeps. It damages a small surface, so weak creeps die very quickly. The only disadvantage of this character is the low attack range, but it is enough to avoid unnecessary damage.
Ultralisk: a bit stronger than the creep of the same name. Good health and not bad damage make it a controlled “tank”.
In Aeon of Strife, hero development was limited with armor and attack increase. They did not gain levels. Their health did not grow with time. Players earned money for improvements by last-hitting creeps. Last-hitting is another obligatory element of classic MOBA games. Players could also buy their controlled units and overcome strong AI defense with their help.
Aeon of Strife got improved as StarCraft was developed. Different map modifications and new characters with active abilities appeared, but the engine and the concept of the Blizzard space strategy game were serious limits for authors’ fantasy.
AoS for SC really was popular but had a limited potential. To go on developing the genre, something more diverse was required. Four years after StarCraft was released, map developers got something opening new horizons for them.
WarCraft III: Human Opponents and Classic Landscapes
On July 1st 2002 Blizzard released their new real time strategy game titled WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. RoC had a built-in map editor too, just like StarCraft. The editor had the set of functions never seen before. The main feature of the new game was a set of heroes with their unique abilities and main characteristics: strength, agility and intelligence. Characters gained experience and levels for killing enemies. Levels meant possibilities to improve skills and add points of main characteristics. Adding those points improved hero’s modifiers: health, armor, mana, damage, regen and attack speed. In addition, WarCraft III introduced the inventory of items carried by heroes. These items served to improve both main and battle characteristics of characters.
Map developers understood that such a variety allowed adding some competitive features into a slaughter of AI opponents. The AI on the other side was replaced by a real player controlling a character as well. In addition, the map became totally symmetric.
There were many MOBA maps for WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos. But map authors mainly used heroes created by Blizzard for single-player campaigns and classic development games. Changes were minimal: abilities had different characteristics, queues and other lesser details.
The developer known as karukef learned the map editor for WarCraft III and discovered that it allowed creating abilities with unique mechanics and animations. He released the map named Valley of Dissent that was almost a direct copy of StarCraft Aeon of Strife. The number of lanes was the only difference: there were three of them, not four. And there were two teams of five human players competing with each other. Shops were selling books improving main characteristics: this function took hero development limits away. It was possible for a character to improve strength, agility and intelligence endlessly. In Valley of Dissent, six item slot limitation did not exist yet.
Still, new authors got busy with adapting Aeon of Strife to WC engine. The map got totally changed, only the name prevailed. They changed two rival teams with three. Two of them were positioned in the left and the right corner, and the third one had a base above in the middle. All bases were connected with lanes for creeps. Neutral units appeared here, too: players could farm them without a risk of taking enemy fire. There were dozens if not hundreds of different AoS kinds for WC. Versions with two teams existed, too, though they were not very popular.
Among all that chaos happening in the environment of map developers, the guy known as Eul kept silent and learned all Aeon of Strife variations for WarCraft III. He understood that all prototypes had serious lacks and then decided to create his own AoS where all the best features from dozens of other maps would be combined.
At first, Eul placed enemy bases in map corners at maximum distance and turned the map by 45 degrees. Lanes were now positioned at edges of a square-shaped map and the center was placed in the middle of the diagonal lane between bases. Enough space for neutral creeps appeared: they were positioned between lanes.
The well-known landscape of the map named Defence of the Ancients by Eul was forged. It left all competitors behind pretty soon. And throughout all the time of Warcraft III existence, DotA remained the most popular map. Whoever trying to challenge DotA for popularity always suffered a defeat.