To me, Dota 2 was always the pinnacle of MOBAs. There’s just no arguing about it. Now sure, League of Legends has its own strengths, but nothing beats the depth and beauty that Dota brings to the table.
I always joked that you don’t just “play” Dota — you dedicate yourself to it, without reserve. It’s like a cult, and you either “get it” or you don’t. Back when we were younger, my friends and I would play for weeks on end. I remember the dread of having to go outside and buy supplies in order to avoid starving to death. It was always the case of “one more game” and yet we all knew we wouldn’t stop at just one. That’s what Dota does to you, and we all loved it.
But sooner or later, even the best things in life become repetitive and dull, and the same goes for Dota. Valve’s infrequent patch cycle didn’t change things as fast as I wanted, and it felt like the game rarely changed. So I searched for greener pastures, although the halcyon days of youth never faded from memory.
Many years had passed, however, and I decided to indulge a bit in my old addiction. After downloading the game, I was blown away by the many nuanced upgrades Valve released over the years. An updated client that was brimming with options and settings for me to tweak, practice environments, hero demos, pre-game options and loadouts, guides — basically anything that you could ever wish for.
The game was even better than before, but by adding so many new layers and options, it became less user friendly and a bit harder to master. I personally wasn’t that affected, but that’s only because I clocked in an inhumane number of hours “back in the day” — I feel at home whenever I’m logged in. But for those who are just starting out, there’s a ton of information that simply cannot be processed in a short amount of time. The learning curve is way too steep, and the fact that Dota is so much more complex than your average MOBA only makes things that much more challenging.
Dota 2’s toxic playerbase: Or why my mother is apparently to blame for our team’s losses
There are so many heroes, items, options, strategies, ways to play the game, it’s absolutely insane! In League of Legends, you not only have numerous tutorials, but the game also gradually unlocks options (like Summoner Spells and game modes) as you level up your account. Not to mention the fact that you have to unlock champions one by one and that the meta is much more fixed at any point in time. Conversely, Dota 2 just gives you everything from the very get-go (except for Ranked play). Some might prefer this, but to a rookie, this is what nightmares are made of.
It’s an “everyone for himself” kind of set-up, and it’s a pretty tall order if you’re a rookie. Is this why the game’s player base is shrinking? It’s hard to know for certain, but it’s definitely a part of the problem.
The times when someone permanently left the game I was in are simply too many to count. If someone on my team dominated, my opponents would leave — regardless if it was a faster Turbo game or something like All Pick/Random. If someone on the opposing team dominated, my teammates would leave.
No matter what happened, I ended up with the short end of the stick. Were these individuals not getting punished? Where did my reports end up? The spam folder of a random Valve employee? I was just a random dude, a player much like any other without any shiny rank to show off. So if this was my experience, then it had to be the experience of thousands of players across the globe.
Furthermore, I was surprised when my mother wasn’t being insulted in a language I did not understand. Those moments felt strange, as if something wasn’t right. After all, both my mother and I know what we’re in for whenever I queue up for a game of Dota. And you don’t have to make a mistake to get flamed either — flaming is the go-to way of communication.
Oftentimes folks would send a parting gift in a way of “cyka blyat” and then leave the game. At least they communicated something. Most players just leave without a trace, without any rhyme or reason to their decision. About ten people left (across the span of just as many games) when we were ahead. That’s perhaps the most vexing thing: we’re winning and yet people still leave.
It’s like the majority of players simply don’t care — it’s a normal game so why “play it out?” I’m guessing ranked play offers a slightly better experience (one can hope at least), but that shouldn’t be the only safe haven for those who want to tryhard and give it their all.
I fell in love with Dota from the moment I spawned on the map. And that’s a good thing because I actually paid for a beta invite back in 2012. The game was brimming with life, and a ton of visual fidelity I simply didn’t expect. To someone who played League of Legends at the time, this was like a peek into an entirely new, much more complex and alluring dimension.
And I was hooked.
The same feeling crept up once again upon my return, but a key difference this time was that I actually had a job and, therefore, income. I picked up the same heroes I played back in the day and immediately wanted to upgrade my gear. But to my surprise, many of the old items I once loved (and craved) were absent from the store. Heck, almost every cosmetic that I remember was removed and was no longer purchasable.
Now, I have no issue with some things being “limited edition.” I get it, there’s a bit of prestige when you whip out a legendary axe from 2013. But there should still be a stacked marketplace with a ton of newer items for me (and everyone else) to buy. And yet they’re bafflingly small in number.
For example, I started playing Mars and fell in love with his simplistic (but deceptively strong) ability kit. I immediately reached for my wallet, only to be confused that there’s just a single spear for me to purchase (which costs over $150 for some reason).
- Yes, we need some choices 80%, 4 votes4 votes 80%4 votes - 80% of all votes
- No, I don't want to make in-game purchases 20%, 1 vote1 vote 20%1 vote - 20% of all votes
And there I was, sitting with my hard-earned money, just waiting to spend it on a couple of cosmetic items I absolutely did not need.
I was baffled. Do they not want my money? Is this all a part of some elaborate psychological scheme? I couldn’t understand what was happening.
In the age of microtranscations and DLC and loot boxes, here was a developer that did basically nothing to earn (or take, rather) my money. Mars was released in Q1 of 2019. It’s been almost an entire year since his release and yet there’s just a single cosmetic item, one that is by all means overpriced and, therefore, out of question.
And it’s not just a thing with newer heroes, but older, staple ones as well. Most of my old mains only have three or four sets available. Sometimes not even that much.
Conversely, Riot Games released over 100 skins in 2019, and plans on releasing over 120 this year. You can argue that that’s a bit too much, but at least people have options.
And no, this isn’t a monumental downside nor will it push people away, but it is indicative of a much bigger underlying problem. Heroes are seldom released, cosmetic items are often an afterthought, the patch cycle is painfully sporadic, the player base is slowly but surely shrinking, toxicity runs rampant, and the game’s competitive scene also feels a bit stale when compared to what Riot Games and Blizzard are offering.
Valve knows this, and yet why they’re choosing not to react is anyone’s guess at this point. These are huge problems and they’re affecting the game in more ways than one. We can only hope that change is coming and that it’ll happen sooner rather than later.