The History of Moba Part 2
A young group of modders just wanted to create a little game that they will enjoy with their friends and unknowingly started an avalanche that will change the face of the gaming industry.
In the previous article, we talked about the creation of Defense of the Ancient, or DotA for short, a WarCraft 3 mod that started it all. Several different versions of DotA were created at that time, each with its specific set of heroes. A modder called Meian decided to make a sort of a “Best Of” mod by rounding up all the heroes at one place and thus the DotA Allstars was created. As we mentioned in Part 1, Steve Feak also known as Guinsoo picked up the mod and decided to polish the gameplay. He had a very good understanding on what made the DotA gameplay fun. He realized that the wide array of options when it came down to the selection of heroes and items was keeping the people entertained for countless hours and decided to put more focus on that aspect of the gameplay. In addition he revamped the progression system, so the players could feel rewarded for progressing through the match. All of these changes encouraged players to choose their strategy carefully before the match even started, giving more emphasis on the tactical part of the gameplay. He also switched the focus of the gameplay more from fighting the computer generated opponents to fighting the other enemy heroes. This was what distinguished the DotA Allstars from the other versions of the mod and made it the most played one. Soon, other modders offered to help Guinsoo, and in no time a full development team of dozen of modders was working on frequent game updates – all working without any compensation other than the satisfaction of helping their favorite game evolve.
Feak used the official Blizzard Entertainment battle.net chat to gather up the DotA community. At some point the mod was so popular that a demand for a website where the community can congregate could not be ignored anymore. This is where a member of the TDA DotA clan, Steve “Pendragon” Mascon stepped in and created the first official community DotA website – dota-allstars.com.
In 2005, the DotA Allstars mod became so popular that even the mighty Blizzard Entertainment officially acknowledged the mod by presenting it to the public on their annual Blizzcon convention by organizing a DotA Allstars tournament. By all accounts, DotA Allstars was a massive success, but this is just the beginning. In 2005 Guinsoo who has done so much for the game, decided to pass over the reins to a new developer who called himself IceFrog. This marked the beginning of the golden age of DotA Allstars.
IceFrog’s Vision Of DotA
Under IceFrog’s leadership, the DotA Allstars mod received quite a makeover in terms of polish and balance and the quality of his work was so good that it matched the quality of AAA titles. To this day he is considered by most to be the true hero of DotA. It was during this time that the DotA community expanded the most and the growth continued through the years. IceFrog was running his own personal blog where he answered all the questions of the community and posted about the upcoming changes. At the same time, the dota-allstars.com website was still used as the official forum for the mod. During IceFrog’s “golden era” the number of community members grew to a substantial 1.5 million on the official DotA website. This was a huge number, but it did not represent the total population of players, which was greater by far!
The DotA Allstars prospered and became one of the most popular mods in gaming history, even rivaling the mega popular Half-Life mod “Counter Strike”. IceFrog had really close ties to the community who were giving out suggestions for heroes and items, and in addition created some of the artwork for the loading screens. The community was talking to IceFrog, and he listened and kept successfully developing the mod for a long time.
However, in October 2009, he publicly announced that he was hired by none other than Valve, one of the most praised gaming companies that created games like “Half-Life” and “Left for Dead” and owned the biggest online purchasing platform for games – Steam. He was pretty cryptic in his statement for what exactly he was hired for, but he did state that the DotA fans are going to be more than pleased. Somewhere around this time, various controversies surrounding the scene emerged, but we will leave that for later.
DotA is one of the most popular non-commercial projects in gaming history. Although exact numbers were never given, it is suggested that around 10 million people played DotA at some point. The mod received many praises from the community and the mainstream gaming media as well. Cyber-café’s all around the world were filled with DotA players and tournaments were being held at big gaming conventions and eSport events. DotA became so big that it shook the world and even had an outstanding effect on pop-culture. It even inspired people to make songs about it, like Basshunter’s Vi sitter I Ventrilo och spelar DotA.
This was just the beginning as gaming coaed to see an opportunity to create their own versions of DotA-like games (also commonly refered as an action real-time strategy or ARTS), which made the way for a whole new genre, something that people today call MOBA.
To be continued…