Ladies and gentlemen: DIGITAL SPORTS
July 21, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Defense of the Ancients is a MOBA (what's a MOBA? | comprehensive history of MOBAs) that has skyrocketed in recent years from a humble Warcraft multiplayer mod to a genre-defining megahit whose worldwide competitive bracket The International (whose finale airs tonight) boasts a prize pool of more than $10 million dollars. While publisher Valve is determined to help mainstream the esports craze with helpful noob newcomer-friendly broadcasts of the final and a simulcast on ESPN, the community has been dogged by accusations of hostility and a very steep learning curve. Luckily, you don't have to know anything about DOTA to enjoy the best thing to come out of it so far: 45 minutes of witheringly sarcastic in-game meta-commentary [playable transcript] in the dulcet tones of Kevan Brighting, the very charming (and very British) narrator of beloved metagame The Stanley Parable. Once you're finished with that delightful deconstruction of esport tropes, you might also enjoy perusing similar announcer packs for Portal's GLaDOS, Bastion's Rucks, and... a pirate. DIGITAL SPORTS!
posted by Rhaomi (47 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, but it's Defense of the Ancients.
posted by gnutron at 12:40 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

MOBA = Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
posted by Renoroc at 12:44 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, I've got no idea how I managed that typo. Mods?
posted by Rhaomi at 12:44 PM on July 21, 2014

I'm a huge fan of Hon, one of Dota's competitors mentioned in the steep learning curve link. And I love it is great and amazing but the community really can be so damn toxic. I sometimes will mute people just not to deal with it but then you miss out when they actually give game information instead of a stream of insults. It makes sense to me too why this has taken off as a viewer sport rather than say an FPS. It's easier to watch a game that was designed as a third-person aerial view rather than something that is meant to be first-person only. It's inherently less confusing I think and makes it easier to get into casting coherent games on the fly. For anyone interested in really good casting videos check out breakycpk over on honcast, he really does a great job of providing good, clear commentary.
posted by Carillon at 12:45 PM on July 21, 2014

Also I know LoL is quite popular but it's so much slower than HoN or Dota, the heros feel like they're floating! I can't handle it.
posted by Carillon at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2014

The HON community is some of the meanest motherfuckers on the internet.

Tell them you're new and learning the game, and they vote to kick you out of your match.

Terrible terrible people.
posted by Lord_Pall at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's why S2 disabled the votekick function Lord_Pall, now it's only if you're afk. So success? I guess?
posted by Carillon at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2014

Yeah, everything I've heard about MOBAs suggests they have the most toxic communities in online gaming. That has been enough to completely put me off even trying one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, the community can be vicious. I tried playing LoL for a while, but gave up due to the community. If anyone messed up you'd be certain that at least one of their "teammates" would not only berate them for feeding, but report them for feeding. And in around 50% of the games I played at least one player abandoned the game when their team suffered the first kill.

Yes, its a competitive game but sheesh. So is TF2 and the community there isn't composed of raging man children.
posted by sotonohito at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Shame - I like the idea, but like so many games the setting (even a nominal one, in this case) is not for me. A CIA or FBA takedown team mod called Defense Of The Agents would be more up my street.

Also - please, someone, invent a silent-click mouse for MOBAs. They are popular in my office at the moment and the requirement to continuously click the mouse like a madman is maddening.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:50 PM on July 21, 2014

Mod note: Typo fixed!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:50 PM on July 21, 2014

These games sound great! They have an offline single-player story mode, right?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:51 PM on July 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

[Thanks, listless_topaz!]
posted by Rhaomi at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

@Faint: nope. Some allow you to play against bots, but not all.
posted by sotonohito at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2014

They don't faint of butt, I'm pretty sure the best you can do off-line is play the game against ai bots. Same game though. And the story is just background flair to my knowledge.
posted by Carillon at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2014

I played WoW for the better part of 2007 and the one thing that didn't get soul-destroyingly boring towards the end was the battlegrounds. Sometimes I get it in mind that I'd like to experience that again, and MOBAs seem to be right up that alley, but then I start doing my homework and think nope thanks I'm good and go back to beating on people one-on-one in Dark Souls.

It's a given that you're expected to be on mic in these games, isn't it? That's one thing I liked about the WoW battlegrounds, all communication was handled with text chat. It's such an immersion-killer when you mentally assign a particular voice to a character/avatar and then their player gets on mic and talks and it's yet another 19-year-old disaffected gamer bro drawl.

In conclusion, I like the idea of MOBAs but I just can't bring myself to play them.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:01 PM on July 21, 2014


This is really where Kevan Brighting's voice work shines.
posted by boo_radley at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to like MOBAs but don't really have the focus to get very good at the hardcore ones. I have, however, had a good time playing one in particular called Awesomenauts--it's cartoony and 2-dimensional and doesn't have any mic expectations. And there's a league system that helps keep me down with the more casual players, where hopefully my blundering is less frustrating to my teammates.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:11 PM on July 21, 2014

It just tickles me pink that the Stanley Parable dude has a voice pack for this game.
posted by rebent at 1:20 PM on July 21, 2014

Which they just did. They get $5million.
posted by The Bellman at 1:30 PM on July 21, 2014

Congratulations to Newbee!
posted by gkhan at 1:30 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Finally got around to The Sanley Parable over the weekend and it's by far the best game I've played in a year at least. Actually, legitimately brilliant.

The less you know about it going in, the better.
posted by churl at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not even the narrators of The Stanley Parable or Bastion can really drag me into MOBAs, as much as I love both of those games. Their playerbase reputation is just too much of an obstacle.

Been spending my time flinging Kerbals at the Mun instead. Now if they could get narration for that, I don't know if I'd ever do anything else again.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:43 PM on July 21, 2014

The community can be toxic in-game, but on the other hand its broader online community is routinely brilliant both in terms of creating hilarious videos, crafting beautiful item sets (seriously, there's a lot of artistic ingenuity going into this game and if you're into design, check out the DotA character art guide) and r/dota2 routinely has interesting, indepth discussions of DotA strategy.

I think one main thing that makes the game interest which is routinely missed is how it could never have been created by a single studio. It's an organic mess of a game, developed based on Warcraft 3 and spawning out, which is what makes is so impenetrable but also so interesting. There's a great article that I can't seem to find now which argues exactly this, that DotA shows up the shortcomings of having a single studio creating a game, because having 'one' controlling intelligence and decision-maker curtails a lot of innovative and risky choices. History of DotA

Even if DotA scares you as something to play, I do think it is a force for good in the gaming community.
posted by litleozy at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2014

Thirding or fourthing Stanley Parable: brilliant game.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:22 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

DotA and EVE share a key component -- the depth of game play. (And maybe the player communities are similar in their hostilities & humor.) In order to be effective in either game, you have to do your homework. Hours and hours of time spent learning about the game (and not necessarily even playing it). Sadly, it's that aspect that keeps me from being able to fully enjoy either game. Stupid real life with its constant, nagging demands. (For what it's worth -- I put quite a bit of time into both games prior to husband and father duties taking hold and each are rewarding in their own weird ways if you survive the learning curve.)
posted by tehjoel at 2:27 PM on July 21, 2014

It will be interesting to see how Blizzard's nascent entry to this genre will do. Heroes of the Storm is clearly trying to remove a lot of the barriers to new players by taking items out of the game and having team shared experience.
posted by macrael at 2:34 PM on July 21, 2014

I could never get into watching MOBAs, but I did watch the DOTA2 noob stream a couple of times. The commentators were excellent at explaining what competitive advantages teams were going for and noting when players were getting into dangerous situations. The pace of the games was fast enough that the commentary often devolved into a litany of character and ability names, but the commentators generally took the time after major engagements to explain where all that damage and stun came from and why the players who got ganked ran out of options. And then they'd remind you what "ganked" means.

I hope this represents a trend in game commentary. It can be a great experience to watch less familiar games, like Killer Instinct compared to Street Fighter or Project M compared to Smash Bros Melee, when those games have knowledgeable, dedicated commentators who love introducing new people to the characters, mechanics, and matchup quirks that make their game unique.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 2:39 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem is that the complexity is what attracts a lot of people to keeping coming back to the game over and over. Removing barriers is great, I just hope that they can find a balance between low entry costs with enough to keep people around and not move over to Dota. The lack of items for instance seems like a big deal to me, though I understand why they took them out.
posted by Carillon at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2014

And maybe the player communities are similar in their hostilities & humor.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

EVE does not have the shitty community you find in MOBAs. There are lots of corps that accept brand new 0-day players (including many corps in the most powerful alliances in the game). Any decent corp will give newbies money and free items. The good ones will have dedicated mentors whose job is to help newbies learn the game. I've seen an experienced, long term member kicked out of the CFC for talking shit to a new player in the corp.

Here's why EVE corps are friendly to new players and MOBAs are not: EVE does not have fixed size teams, so a new player doesn't reduce the effectiveness of their corp because they aren't taking the place of a more experienced player. A new EVE player can join a corp and immediately join an important, strategic battle. Even if they just derp around being confused, they aren't going to hurt their side. And if they're lucky, they might tackle an important hostile ship and help win the fight.
posted by ryanrs at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

EVE has a reputation for scams and dirty tricks, but being scammed by an opponent is very different than being verbally harassed by the people that are supposed to be your allies. And even hostile scammers don't specifically target new players since they're almost always too poor to be worth robbing.
posted by ryanrs at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2014

finale airs tonight

Huh. Well maybe I'll give it another chance, but I already tried watching some DOTA, even read up on strategy a bit, but as a spectator sport it's really dull compared to SC2, epitome of the so-called e-sports, where you can have base trades, proxy buildings, fast expands, instant all-in rushes, and all that real-time strategy goodness. I'm sure they're probably fun to play, but I can't fathom why so many people think these MOBA things are more fun to watch. Seems like players make some interesting strategic decisions before the game actually starts, and then it's mostly just interminable micro.
posted by sfenders at 3:22 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've gotten pretty deep in to League of Legends in the last year and really enjoy it. The thing that works best for me is the way Riot has packaged their tournaments into a weekly e-sports broadcast. I can watch an hour or three of an entertaining sport with teams and players that I know about and follow, just like watching football or baseball or whatever. Only this is a sport I play myself, and so I understand a bit of what the pros are doing and feel like watching also improves my game.

Valve has done an amazing job with the DotA 2 pro-sports environment, too. See also Free to Play, the recent movie about pro DotA. DotA 2 is a more complex game than LoL and seems to benefit more from teamwork, so I think LoL is the game for me, but both games are great. Blizzard's new Heroes of the Storm (still in alpha) is also interesting, it's deliberately simpler and more casual friendly than even LoL.

The toxic community is definitely a problem. Riot and Valve both are taking pretty strong steps to try to make things better. Communication is typically text-only and you can quickly mute players, a necessity. And there's a variety of moderator and review systems that help, although they don't solve the problem enough. Just today Riot announced a new more aggressive auto-ban system.
posted by Nelson at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2014

EVE has a reputation for scams and dirty tricks

My understanding is that almost all happens at much higher levels. I've played a couple times, and everyone has been unfailingly nice and generous with time and stuff.

(still didn't convince me to play what feels like a gamified MS Excel, but really nice people.)
posted by lumpenprole at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2014

Now that we're done with the standard MeFi whining, I was at the event. The grand final was definitely a let down; Vici playing the same strategy they used all tournament and losing three games in a row to a well prepared Newbee. And the nature of the strat (all-in death all) meant that once it was countered by Newbee the game would be over by 20 minutes with no point in hanging on hoping for a reversal. Vici definitely choked; playing it safe by sticking to what they knew, and getting crushed for their efforts.

But while the mostly-US crowd was disappointed, I'm sure the Chinese loved it; complete domination of the whole event.

I think a lot of teams cracked under the pressure; EG and DK just losing games in silly ways, putting players and heroes in bad positions despite being repeatedly punished for it. C9 lived up to their reputation as Clown9. All in all, good atmosphere and good people, but I wonder if the prize pool wasn't too big.

What happens next will be interesting. Whether Na'Vi and Liquid stay together, whether Alliance does something to get their style back, and how China reshuffles, all fun to predict. I don't think the meta changes much from TI4.
posted by kithrater at 4:20 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Engineering manager for WatchESPN here. Very excited to have aired some esports this weekend. AMA!
posted by butterstick at 5:09 PM on July 21, 2014

butterstick, was it ESPN that made James ditch the hoody and put on a suit jacket when you guys picked up the stream? Because frankly, I think the culture shift should go the other way: I want to see Mike Tirico anchoring LoL commentary in a Jinx shirt and a Teemo hat.
posted by Freon at 5:21 PM on July 21, 2014

No idea. I'd imagine we just bought the rights and ran Internationals production.
posted by butterstick at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2014

Godz was clearly the best dressed of the bunch. James just seems like a lazy playboy who knows he's a big deal which drives me a little nuts. Show some respect and get dressed like an adult! Unless you're Fucking Mad who is sufficiently adorable and earnest that he can wear whatever he wants at the desk and I'll be happy.

All in all this was a great event. Main stage experience seemed electric in the house, the online experience was seamless and wonderful (except for the occasional picnic when the twitch stream cut out) and there was no major extracurricular drama at the event (like LoL's pause-peeking debacle last year). I'm disappointed with the outcome as an NA fan, but 3rd is better than we really had any right to expect. I had some great moments rooting for EG and can't wait to be there in person next year.

(I'll repeat my offer from the last time Dota hit the blue - hit me up on memail if you want to try the game and need some conceptual orientation or someone to answer newbie questions. I love to teach Dota! There are the highs and lows that come with any multiplayer experience, but I feel like I never stop learning and growing as a player and the occasional sublime victory where you pull victory from the jaws of defeat is worth the occasional toxic teammate.)
posted by heresiarch at 5:34 PM on July 21, 2014

BTW I think it's awesome a DotA thing was on ESPN but this roundup of tweets about the event is pretty hilarious. "What in the hell is on ESPN2 right now?" (via Reddit).
posted by Nelson at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

BTW I think it's awesome a DotA thing was on ESPN but this roundup of tweets about the event is pretty hilarious. "What in the hell is on ESPN2 right now?" (via Reddit).

People watching ESPN can't handle soccer, much less vidya games. They seem to think Divine Law mandates baseball, basketball, football, and maybe hockey be the only things shown on ESPN. They could show DOTA on ESPN769 and they'd still cry.
posted by zabuni at 7:17 PM on July 21, 2014

Meh it was such a let down after TI3. Don't know why but it wasn't the same. The format was bad and excitement was missing.
posted by bdz at 3:46 AM on July 22, 2014

The format was good, but they should have staged it differently; remove the split BO3s and made the time up by shoving the semi finals onto the second day. Getting kicked out of the Arena by 1pm, when all the other days went to at least 6pm, was weird and added to the anti-climatic feel; instead of immediately heading to the bar like my hostel group had done each previous day, we just milled around for a bit (although we did get to meet Vici on the way out; poor roTk was pretty fucking sad).

Otherwise, you would need to reintroduce BO1s for the loser bracket, or add more days. With the direction Valve is taking the event, neither really work. A lot of things from TI3 were not there (no voice actors, no FreeToPlay, no signing booths, less hall interviews, no Bruno hat) - it was a lot less inside jokes for the most dedicated of Dota fans and more respectable D I G I T A L S P O R T S.

But, I got to bait Tobi (missed Godz, damnit), get some signatures, dodge the Secret Shop queue, sneak into a team box (thanks LGD), and drink a lot with Americans, Chinese, Brazillians and Russians. Oh, and watch some great Dota (EG vs ViCi game 2 was probably the best game).
posted by kithrater at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the final match up somewhere I can watch it?
posted by Theta States at 9:58 AM on July 22, 2014

There's a whole spoiler-free bracket of videos at the Dota2 site, or skip to the finals. The e-sports jargon for recorded videos is VODs (Videos on Demand), if you'd like to search around for other sites and channels.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 6:07 PM on July 24, 2014

I watched 2 of her matches last night and wow, even without knowing all that was happening they were still quite entertaining. I love it when she chose a different race and the commentators were freaking out and her opponent thought it was a mistake and graciously asked her if she wanted to restart, and she's all "have a good game, let's get it on".
And of course seeing her win it, and the crowd go nuts, it's infectious energy.
posted by Theta States at 5:50 AM on July 25, 2014

« Older Just one more question   |   REQUIEM FOR A FRONT PAGE POST - A Quinn Martin... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments