Dota 2 is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is the stand-alone sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which was a community-created mod for Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base on the map. Each of the ten players independently controls a powerful character, known as a “hero”, who all have unique abilities and differing styles of play. During a match, players collect experience points and items for their heroes to successfully battle the opposing team’s heroes in player versus player combat. A team wins by being the first to destroy a large structure located in the opposing team’s base, called “The Ancient”.
Development of Dota 2 began in 2009 when IceFrog, the pseudonymous lead designer of the original Defense of the Ancients mod, was hired by Valve to create a modernized sequel. Dota 2 was officially released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux-based personal computers via the digital distribution platform Steam in July 2013, following a Windows-only public beta phase that began two years prior. The game initially used the original Source game engine until it was ported to Source 2 in 2015, making it the first game to use it. The game has also been updated with various other features since release, such as support for virtual reality (VR) and a data-providing and achievement-based paid subscription system.
Despite some criticism going towards its steep learning curve and complexity, the game was praised for its rewarding gameplay, production quality, and faithfulness to its predecessor, with multiple gaming publications later considering it to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Since its release, Dota 2 has been one of the most played games on Steam, with over a million concurrent players at its peak. The popularity of the game has led to official merchandise for it being produced, including apparel, accessories, and toys, as well as promotional tie-ins to other games and media. The game also allows for the community to create custom game modes, maps, and hero cosmetics, which are uploaded to the Steam Workshop and curated by Valve. A digital collectible card game spin-off by Valve, titled Artifact, will be released in 2018.
Dota 2 has a widespread and active competitive scene, with teams from across the world playing professionally in various leagues and tournaments. Premium Dota 2 tournaments often have prize pools totaling millions of U.S. dollars, the highest of any eSport. The largest of them is known as The International, which is produced annually by Valve and most commonly held at the KeyArena in Seattle. Valve also manages an event format known as the Dota Pro Circuit, which are a series of tournaments held annually that award qualification points based on results for getting directly invited to The International. For most tournaments, media coverage is done by a selection of on-site staff who provide commentary and analysis for the ongoing matches, similar to traditional sporting events. Broadcasts of professional Dota 2 matches are streamed live over the internet, and sometimes simulcast on television networks, with peak viewership numbers in the millions.
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game in which two teams of five players compete to collectively destroy a large structure defended by the opposing team known as the “Ancient”, whilst defending their own. As in Defense of the Ancients, the game is controlled using standard real-time strategy controls, and is presented on a single map in a three-dimensional isometric perspective. Ten players each control one of the game’s 115 playable characters, known as “heroes”, with each having their own design, strengths, and weaknesses. Heroes are divided into two primary roles, known as the “carry” and “support”. Carries, which are also called “cores”, begin each match as weak and vulnerable, but are able to become more powerful later in the game, thus becoming able to “carry” their team to victory. Supports generally lack abilities that deal heavy damage, instead having ones with more functionality and utility that provide assistance for their carries. Players select their hero during a pre-game drafting phase, where they can also discuss potential strategies and hero matchups with their teammates. Multiple game types in the game exist, which mainly alter the way hero selection is handled; such as “All Pick”, which offer no restrictions on hero selection, “All Random”, which randomly assigns a hero for each player, “Captain’s Mode”, where a single player on each team selects heroes for their entire team and is primarily used for professional play, and “Turbo”, an expedited version of All Pick featuring increased gold and experience gain, weaker towers, and faster respawn times.
All heroes have a basic damage-dealing attack, in addition to powerful abilities. Each hero has at least four abilities, all of which are unique, which are the primary method of fighting. Heroes begin each game with an experience level of one, only having access to one of their abilities, but are able to level up and become more powerful during the course of the game, up to a maximum level of 25. Whenever a hero gains an experience level, the player is able to unlock another of their abilities or improve one already learned. The most powerful ability for each hero is known as their “ultimate”, which requires them to have an experience level of six in order to use. In order to prevent abilities from being used without consequence, a magic system in the game exists. Activating an ability costs a hero some of their “mana points”, which slowly regenerates over time. Using an ability will also cause it to enter a cooldown phase, in which the ability can not be used again until a timer counts down to zero. All heroes have three attributes: strength, intelligence, and agility, which affect health points, mana points, and attack speed, respectively. Each hero has one primary attribute out of the three, which adds to their non-ability basic damage output when increased. Heroes also have an ability augmentation system known as “Talent Trees”, which allow players further choices on how to develop their hero. If a hero runs out of health points and dies, they are removed from active play until a respawn timer counts down to zero, where they are then respawned in their base.
The two teams—known as the Radiant and Dire—occupy fortified bases in opposite corners of the map, which is divided in half by a crossable river and connected by three paths, which are referred to as “lanes”. The lanes are guarded by defensive towers that attack any opposing unit who gets within its line of sight. A small group of weak computer-controlled creatures called “creeps” travel predefined paths along the lanes and attempt to attack any opposing heroes, creeps, and buildings in their way. Creeps periodically spawn throughout the game in groups from two buildings, called the “barracks”, that exist in each lane and are located within the team’s bases. The map is also permanently covered for both teams in fog of war, which prevents a team from seeing the opposing team’s heroes and creeps if they are not directly in sight of themselves or an allied unit. The map also features a day-night cycle, with some hero abilities and other game mechanics being altered depending on the time of the cycle. Also present on the map are “neutral creeps” that are hostile to both teams, and reside in marked locations on the map known as “camps”. Camps are located in the area between the lanes known as the “jungle”, which both sides of the map have. Neutral creeps do not attack unless provoked, and will respawn over time if killed. The most powerful neutral creep is named “Roshan”, who is a unique boss that may be defeated by either team to obtain an single-use item that allows near instant resurrection if the hero that holds it is killed. Roshan will respawn around ten minutes after being killed, and becomes progressively harder to kill as the match progresses over time. “Runes”, which are special items that spawn in set positions on the map every two minutes, offer heroes various powerful, but temporary power-ups when collected.
In addition to having abilities becoming stronger during the game, players are able to buy items that provide their own special abilities. Items are not limited to specific heroes, and can be bought by anyone. In order to obtain an item, players must be able to afford it with gold at shops located on the map, which is primarily obtained by killing enemy heroes, destroying enemy structures, and killing creeps, with the latter being an act called “farming”. Only the hero that lands the killing blow on a creep obtains gold from it, an act called “last hitting”, but all allies receive a share of gold when an enemy hero dies close to them. Players are also able to “deny” allied units and structures by last hitting them, which then prevents their opponents from getting full experience from them. Gold can not be shared between teammates, with each player having their own independent stash. Players also receive a continuous, but small stream of gold over the course of a match. Matches usually last between 20 minutes to an hour, although they can theoretically last forever as long as both Ancients remain standing. In Captain’s Mode games, an additional “GG” forfeit feature is available.
Dota 2 also occasionally features seasonal events that present players with alternative game modes that do not follow the game’s standard rules. Some of these included the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrated the coming of spring. The move to the Source 2 engine in 2015 also saw the addition of community-created custom game modes, known as the “Arcade”, with the more popular ones having dedicated server hosting by Valve. Various games in the Arcade have also been created by Valve themselves, including the Halloween-themed capture point mode “Colosseum”, the combat arena mode “Overthrow”, and a 10 versus 10 mode. In 2017, a story-driven cooperative campaign mode, titled “Siltbreaker”, was released as a part of that year’s International Battle Pass.
The most-played game on Steam.
Every day, millions of players worldwide enter battle as one of over a hundred Dota heroes. And no matter if it’s their 10th hour of play or 1,000th, there’s always something new to discover. With regular updates that ensure a constant evolution of gameplay, features, and heroes, Dota 2 has truly taken on a life of its own.
One Battlefield. Infinite Possibilities.
When it comes to diversity of heroes, abilities, and powerful items, Dota boasts an endless array—no two games are the same. Any hero can fill multiple roles, and there’s an abundance of items to help meet the needs of each game. Dota doesn’t provide limitations on how to play, it empowers you to express your own style.
All heroes are free.
Competitive balance is Dota’s crown jewel, and to ensure everyone is playing on an even field, the core content of the game—like the vast pool of heroes—is available to all players. Fans can collect cosmetics for heroes and fun add-ons for the world they inhabit, but everything you need to play is already included before you join your first match.