Dota 2 is a 2013 multiplayer online battle arena video game and the stand-alone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne mod. Developed by Valve Corporation, Dota 2 was released as a free-to-play title for Microsoft Windows, concluding a public beta testing phase that began in 2011. OS X and Linux versions of Dota 2 were released on July 18, 2013. The game is available exclusively through Valve’s content-delivery platform, Steam. Dota 2 is played in discrete matches involving two five-player teams, each of which occupies a stronghold at a corner of the map. Each stronghold contains a building called the “Ancient”, which the opposite team must destroy to win the match. Each player controls a “Hero” character and focuses on leveling up, collecting gold, acquiring items and fighting against the other team to achieve victory. Development of Dota 2 began in 2009, when the developer of the DotA mod, IceFrog, was hired by Valve as lead designer. Dota 2 was praised by video game critics, who lauded its rewarding gameplay, enhanced production quality and faithfulness to its predecessor. However, the game was criticized for its steep learning curve and inhospitable community. Dota 2 has become the most actively played game on Steam, with daily peaks of over 800,000 concurrent players.
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena game; its gameplay focuses on combat in a three-dimensional environment, presented from an oblique high-angle perspective. The player may command a single controllable character called a “Hero”, which is chosen from a selection pool of 108. Each Hero begins the match at level one but may become more powerful by accumulating experience through combat, thereby leveling up. With every level gained—the maximum is twenty-five—the player may either select a new ability for their Hero to learn or enhance their general statistics. The Hero’s methods of combat are influenced by their primary property – Strength, Agility, or Intelligence. Dota 2 features a host of items, which the player obtains mostly by purchasing with gold. Items vary in function: some enhance the statistics of a Hero, while others grant additional abilities. The player automatically receives small increments of gold continuously, though they can obtain more by destroying enemies. Killing non-player characters grants gold only to the player who lands the final blow, whereas killing enemy Heroes grants gold to the player’s nearby allies as well. Destroying Towers or killing Roshan gives gold to all players on the team. “Denying” is a feature of the game where players inhibit the enemy’s ability to accumulate gold and experience by killing an allied unit or destroying an allied structure before the enemy can do so. Each match of Dota 2 takes place on a functionally symmetrical map that features the strongholds of two warring factions, the Radiant and the Dire. The Radiant is based at the southwest corner of the map, while the Dire is based at the northeast corner; the two sides are divided by a river that runs perpendicular to the central lane. These factions are defended by up to five players each, and are pitted against one another to compete as the defenders for their respective Ancient. In each stronghold is a critical structure called the “Ancient”, a fountain that provide health and lesser structures. These bases are connected by three paths, referred to as “lanes” – two run parallel with the edges of the map, while one runs directly between the two bases. The lanes are guarded by defensive Towers, as well as autonomous characters called “creeps”, which periodically spawn in groups and traverse the lanes, attacking enemies they encounter. Featured across the map are hostile characters referred to as “neutrals”, which are not aligned to either faction and are primarily located in the forests. Located in a tarn on the northeast side of the river is a “boss” called “Roshan”, who typically requires multiple team members to kill and drops powerful items. Dota 2 features a variety of seasonal events, which provide players with the option of playing the game with special game modes that alter the aesthetics and objectives. With the seasonal event game modes, the central focus of the game shifts away from the standard battle composition, in order to focus on new objectives central to the seasonal events. So far, there have been three seasonal events: the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrates the coming of spring.
To ensure that enough DotA players would take up Dota 2 and showcase the game’s capabilities, Valve invited and sponsored sixteen of the most accomplished DotA teams to compete at The International. The grand prize was set at one million dollars. The International became an annual championship tournament, with the venue changing to Seattle, Washington, United States. In 2012, the tournament was hosted during PAX Prime, with Chinese team Invictus Gaming going on to defeat the defending champions, Natus Vincere. In its third year, The International had a prize pool of over $2.8 million, thus reclaiming its previous title as having the largest prize pool in electronic sports history from League of Legends (at the Season 2 World Championship). The 2013 championship was won by the Swedish team Alliance, whose prize exceeded $1.4 million USD. The fourth iteration of The International took place at KeyArena in Seattle between July 18 and July 21, 2014, with the Chinese team NewBee becoming the new champions. Due to the funds raised by interactive compendium sales, the overall prize pool was elevated to over $10.9 million, the largest in the history of electronic sports. Following the inaugural event of The International, several electronic sports tournaments began to transition from DotA to Dota 2, including the Electronic Sports World Cup. DreamHack would also support Dota 2 in 2011, following a year without support for the original, on account of the other multiplayer online battle arena titles Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. By the end of its first year in its beta phase, Dota 2 was one of the highest-paying eSport titles of 2011, second only to StarCraft II. Dota 2 began as an official title for the World Cyber Games annual event in 2012. The Electronic Sports League began a seasonal tournament for Dota 2called the RaidCall EMS One in 2013, which was the largest independent tournament for Dota 2 by the beginning of 2013. Beginning in September 2013, the Association of China E-sports began a Dota 2 tournament called the WPC ACE Dota 2 League, which had the largest grand prize by a third-party in electronic sports history and the largest prize pool for Dota 2 beyond The International. On June 12, 2013, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nexon announced the investment of two billion South Korea won, (approximately 1.7 million USD), into amateur and professional leagues in South Korea for 2013, to coincide with the launch of their distribution agreement in the fall of that year. Erik Johnson commented in an interview that the implementation of the game’s LAN feature was intended to promote smaller, independent competitions and local tournaments.