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By Shamus
on Sunday Jul 20, 2014
Filed under:
Video Games


Last weekend I watched a Starcraft 2 tournament where players were competing for about $24,000 in prizes. Note that the money was spread out over the players. The champion only won like 8,000. A lot of people went home with just $200. It’s sort of sad how small the payouts are. The tournament was held in Atlanta. These players came from all over the world, and they only get a few hundred bucks? That won’t even cover the airfare, much less hotel, food, and general pain-in-the-assery of long-distance travel. The vast majority of the contestants practiced for months, traveled thousands of miles, fought hard, and ended up with almost nothing to show for it.

(Even if airfare, hotel, and food were all paid for by the event, $200 is still a ridiculous payout for a tournament that takes that kind of investment of time. And yes, there are other tournaments. But if you look at the number of tournaments and the typical payout to mid-range players, the numbers still look pretty sad.)


It’s not that I think anyone owes these kids more money. I mean, you have to make do with the sponsorship you have. If sponsors only want to give $24,000, then the players can decide for themselves if that money is worth fighting over. It’s just that this seems like bad news for the sport. This isn’t a viable career path for someone, even short-term. Not in the way that traditional sports are. Regular sports make pretty good money. (The league minimum for a rookie NFL player is in the neighborhood of $400,000.) And even if you don’t go pro, playing sportsball in college often means you don’t have to pay for tuition. But StarCraft 2 players? Nobody is paying for their schooling, and it looks like everyone but the top players will probably struggle to attain minimum wage status. And you’ll likely get “too old” and wash out at 27. This suggests that StarCraft 2 pro league will never be more than a niche sportWe’re not going to argue about calling this a “sport”. That’s the most convenient word to use in this context, and I don’t care if it matches your mental or dictionary definitions of the word. Take it easy. pursued by people who love the game enough to put up with the extreme opportunity cost of going pro.

But this weekend I saw a bit of the DOTA 2 tournament The International. Ten million dollars in prizes? Now that sounds like pro-league money! This feels like a REAL e-sport.Whatever that means..


I’m having a miserable time making sense of it all. They even had a newbie stream to help out scrubs like me, but it wasn’t enough. I still spent a lot of time lost. The presenters really did try to stop and explain things to newcomers when the game was slow, but once combat started they would often slip into excited jargon and I’d lose track of what was going on.

I can’t believe this game is the big strategy esports title. With Starcraft 2 you at least get some kind of frame of reference: You can probably figure out what marines do. You can look at a unit that looks like a jet and figure out it probably flies. Same goes for units with flapping wings. While you’ll have no idea why siege tanks are bad against zerglings, you at least know what tanks are. The concept of Harvest raw materials » build units » fight war » crush enemy base » win is an abstraction of real-world activity that’s familiar to all of us. If nothing else you can look in the corner of the screen and note that since the blue player covers half the board and the red player is fighting to hold their little patch in the corner, red probably isn’t winning. Sure, you might not know why red is losing, but at least you have some kind of framework while you figure out the units.

But DOTA 2? I don’t understand how anyone can learn this game. I mean, people clearly do, but it must be a long road. Sure, the lane-pushing idea is a little less obvious than warfare as a gameplay concept, but the big problem here seems to be the number of units. There are over 100 heroes available in the game, each with their own abilities and quirks. Each game features 10 of the heroes (5 on each team) and you have to understand how they work, how they’re used, and what their powers are before you can make sense of any particular match. I watched several games, and it was all confusion to me. What makes a Beastmaster different from a Brewmaster? Why would one run from the other? And hang on, which of these jumbled shapes is which? I can tell a space marine from a space bug in Starcraft 2, even if I don’t know which one is stronger. But in DOTA 2 I literally can’t even tell the units apart, which means I can’t follow the commentary, which means I can’t learn.


I’m not demanding that DOTA 2 players justify their game or anything. There’s nothing wrong with the game. I’m just surprised that something this complex has risen to such prominence. It’s clear that if I’m going to get into this game, I’m going to have to put some work into it.

I do wonder if this isn’t partly Blizzard’s doing. A few years ago, Starcraft 1 was THE esports game. Then Blizzard locked down their platform for Starcraft 2. Steep retail price. No Steam versionOr better yet, a version that’s just disk based and not tied to any DRM. But why demand a unicorn when you can’t even find a horse?. You must be logged in to play the single-player content. No more LAN games. Meanwhile, DOTA 2 is free-to-play. It’s just easier for the uninitiated to discover DOTA 2 on Steam than for them to get Starcraft 2 through Battle.Net. Sure, Battle.Net is popular, but nothing is popular like Steam. It’s the difference between charging $60 for something at K-Mart versus giving it away at Wal-Mart. There’s no way that doesn’t end up crushingly one-sided.

It’s easier for people to discover and play DOTA 2 in a consumer sense. Which means both the audience and the pool of potential players is larger. Which makes it more attractive to sponsors. Which makes the payouts bigger. Which makes the sport more famous, attracts still more players and viewers, and elevates the production values of the tournaments. Which makes them more fun to watch and even more attractive to more sponsors. DOTA 2 is enjoying a feedback loop where it’s succeeding due to its success, which will make it more successful in the future. I can’t prove it, but I really do think this glory and cultural ubiquity could have belonged to Starcraft 2 if Blizzard had done things differently.


[1] We’re not going to argue about calling this a “sport”. That’s the most convenient word to use in this context, and I don’t care if it matches your mental or dictionary definitions of the word. Take it easy.

[2] Whatever that means.

[3] Or better yet, a version that’s just disk based and not tied to any DRM. But why demand a unicorn when you can’t even find a horse?

Comments (185)

  1. Mersadeon says:

    Well, even a lot of Starcraft 2 casters/critics/whatever agree with you – the Starcraft 2 scene is getting smaller, for exactly the reasons you mentioned: high toll to get in (recently got a bit better, but still), harder to discover.
    I personally think it’s also because in Starcraft 2, the desire of the players and the desire of the audience are opposite of each other: Blizzard has to decide if they want to make the game more competitive, balanced and “stable” to appease pro-players, while the audience wants more interesting, varied, UNBALANCED stuff. The audience wants change. The first few minutes of the game are essentially the casters desperately covering an awkward lull, EVERY MATCH.

    • Microwaviblerabbit says:

      It is similar to the difference between watching chess versus football (either type). Both have a large set of strategies and tactics widely used, but the latter (football) has a larger degree of unpredictability. Within the context of Starcraft II it is the difference between Bronze League Heroes and professional matches.

      Good matches in any sport become narrative events, with fans following the highs and lows. Part of this is regional teams that people can automatically identify with. All E-sports lack this component, but it is especially bad in Starcraft II which is dominated by one country.

      Starcraft II has a high barrier to entry, but so do physical sports such as hockey (you need to drop at least $1000 for equipment). People cross this barrier to be like their favourite players. DOTA 2 is a game of individual heroes, both mechanically and in player identity, so viewers can identify with players easier, which could explain the higher levels of sponsorship/ popularity.

      • The Snide Sniper says:

        You say that Hockey has about a $1000 barrier to entry, but that’s a drastic over-estimation if you consider minimal or improvised equipment.

        Note that I have not played Hockey. If I was going to start, I’d buy the following equipment (these prices are gathered from the internet):
        – Skates ($55.00)
        – Stick ($50.00 for professionally-made, $15.00 if I have access to a saw)
        – Mask ($25.00)
        Total: $95 – $130, depending on saw access.

        Rash young players might skip the mask, dropping the cost further.

        Despite the relatively low cost, I’ve got everything an individual player needs. For a team, we still need a puck (again, can be improvised) and goals (again, improvised).

        There are some other things to take into consideration as well:
        – Most physical sports have interchangeable equipment. A football is the same size and shape, if not texture, as a basketball. Similarly, a sturdy helmet with a faceguard will work for almost every sport.
        – Many places of education have public-use equipment. This drops the marginal cost of entry to nil, right when the potential players are most impressionable.

        TL;DR: Professional players might pay $1000, but amateurs play for cheap.

        • ET says:

          Hell, you can get a professionally made stick for $15 at Canadian Tire.* Get a tennis ball or one of those hunter-orange (hard to lose) made-for-street-hockey balls for $2, and you’re ready to play the game. If it’s winter, you can get your skates out of the closet, or borrow a friend’s for free.

          * Not that a pro player would use one, but it’s still a very nice stick; No sawing required. ;)

        • Humanoid says:

          It always throws me when ‘hockey’ is used to implicitly mean ‘ice hockey’, because I was thinking all you need is a makeshift stick and a ball. Which would be even cheaper, naturally.

        • Steve C says:

          You need pads too. You will fall on the ice and if you play in a rink you will be slammed into the boards. BTW $1500 per year is the average cost to play hockey for fun. I imagine the cost of equipment for pro players is a hell of a lot more than that.

          • atomf says:

            Yes, but hockey wasn’t popularized by people paying $1500 for safe equipment to play in an arena. Hockey was popularized by people in cold climates whacking things around on frozen ponds at basically no cost.

        • Mukk says:

          Knee Pads + Elbow Pads at probably less than 30$ together.

        • Microwaviblerabbit says:

          To clarify, I was referring to playing in a league, not just a pick up game. Leagues tend to be very strict about equipment – wearing a full face-mask is mandatory almost across the board in anything lower than full professional leagues. If you bought the cheapest possible gear, it would still run you roughly $500 for everything.

          Even with pick up games though, the general point about why people cross the barrier to entry applies. $95 is over twice the cost of Starcraft II. E-sports still lack the sense of identity and emulation that other sports create.

  2. Sorites says:

    It’s partly the free-to-play aspect, but I think another part is the effect you once called I Know Kung Fu. As e-sports fans got tired of Starcraft, they looked for something more complex. Less conventionalized, less APM based, and with a bigger metagame.

    All the things that make DOTA incomprehensible to you (and me, I hasten to add) are part of the draw for its fanbase. It’ll be a long, long time before the game locks down into a determined list of correct ways to play and so devolves into a reflex, dexterity, and concentration test.

    • Doomcat says:

      I’m going to point out one thing in your comment, “less APM-based” I stopped playing Starcraft 2 for SPECIFICALLY that reason, I was doing fairly well (Gold player on the ladder, if anyone knows what that means) and I hit a wall, I wasn’t able to sit there and belt out 100-300 Actions per minute and keep up with my opponents.

      DOTA 2 does have some of that with having to keep up with the action, but it cuts it down to a single unit. Its alot easier to understand what the pros might be doing (assuming you understand the game of course) when doing it successfully doesn’t require you to become a pre-programmed robot.

      That is (I believe) partially the draw to this gave over Starcraft, that the pro scene seems so much more attainable when compared to the Starcraft pro scene.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Wouldn’t the APM-wall work in favour of Starcraft as an E-sports title?
        it means there’s a skill that’s hard to master but doesn’t keep a viewer from understanding what’s happening.

        More or less like watching football (the one with the round ball): Not hard to understand the basic stuff but hard to execute well (run about for 45 minutes and still hit the ball with precision, know where to hit it, to whom to pass…) while in a more complicated, less APM-heavy game, onece you’re far enough in to understand it all, you’re probably able to play well as well.

        So for watching, SC should be better, because it’s much more accessible, still has enough strategic depth to it to have something to talk about, and the average spectator knows what a player _should_ be doing but also know that they’d never be able to execute it that well.

        That said: I’m rather playing than watchin, and I still favour SC. I think I simply wouldn’t have the time that seems to be necessary to understand DOTA enough to stop being a liability for your team.

        • Doomcat says:

          I see this as more of a personal thing for me, I feel like the APM wall is something nearly insurmountable for someone like me, thus, being someone who wants to play a game of Starcraft right after watching, I get very frustrated with how slow I am, how I cannot do X or Y quick enough.

          With DOTA there isn’t really an APM wall, just a knowledge wall, the knowledge is difficult at times, but back when I was playing DOTA once you play for a while you start to remember what heroes can generally do what, if not specifically, and how to deal with them. One thing someone watching DOTA might notice is that theres alot of heroes used often, and others…not so much, so that cuts down on the knowledge barrier if you can remember what the common heroes are at the time…

          Short version: When I watch an E-Sport that makes me want to play, Starcraft feels like a physical barrier, DOTA a mental one, the mental one feels easier to get past then the physical one.

        • Thomas says:

          One of the bad things about most RTS’ is all that APM is hidden in off-screen macro.

          I’m actually kind of shocked that Blizzard were deliberately including APM raising macro mechanics (that’s why there are mules and queen injects and chrono boosts). If I were a designer I’d be trying to shift all the focus to the big splashy visible things, the fighting the tactics and the strategy. I’d try and make macro as APM lite as possible, not increase it.

          • ET says:

            This is pretty much why I haven’t played an RTS after my pals moved, who use to play SupCom with me – I don’t want to self-administer a test of reaction-time, just to enjoy strategy in my strategy game. :S

            • Doomcat says:

              ^^^This, this and so much this. Basically sums up what I was trying to say super concicely.

              • RCN says:

                Forged Alliance Forever for life.

                I so wish Planetary Annihilation gets its kinks straightened. That game still feels too much like Total Annihilation and deliberately trying to NOT be Sup Com… and that mentality is tearing me apart.

                (Though it is still worlds better than whatever the hell Sup Com 2 was supposed to be… that was Sup Com trying to be Starcraft… which was a huge slap on the face of the fans, who loved Sup Com precisely because it WASN’T Starcraft…)

            • Mephane says:

              That’s part of the reasons that drove me off the RTS genre entirely. It started with RTS including unit-specific skills you’d have to trigger manually (either for them to be used at all, or for their effective use). No longer was I ordering an army around, giving commands like “destroy this vehicle”, but to an extent it turned into controlling every single unit individually, all at once. Micro-managing, APM – no thank you.

              The last RTS I seriously played (as in, coop multiplayer against AI – I never ever stood a chance against humans in any RTS) were Dawn of War I and II. Of the latter I loved the reduction to 4 hero units, and played it in coop mode so that one guy would even only control 2 units. Though admittedly, the campaign was more an RPG than an RTS in the first place; I never really got into the DoW II multiplayer mode, even against AI, it was… weird.

              P.S.: I am so glad the space game dry season is drawing to an end with games like Starpoint Gemini 2 and Elite: Dangerous taking shape (Star Citizen is still too far into the future); there was a time where I sighed heavily at each new space game released that was yet another effing RTS, and the best I could hope for was a mission based space shooter – like Strike Suite Zero, which is nice but offers little replay value.

            • Trix2000 says:

              Yeah, I never could get into them enough for just this reason. I like RTS’s to an extent, but my multitasking/reactions/whatever only go so far.

              • Dragomok says:

                I’m glad there are more people like me.

                I found two strategies (*) that have next-to-none micro that I’m very fond of, Eufloria and Creeper World trilogy. Both offer demos – the latter has at least two per title – so it’s quite easy to see, if they are your cup of tea or not.

                (*) That are NOT tower defence game. I’m well aware that some people have allergy to them.

                • Deoxy says:

                  I would definitely call Creeper World “tower defense”. It’s modified a bit… but only a very, very little bit.

                • Friend of Dragons says:

                  I’m a fan of AI War, though that’s another that certainly has some tower defense. And while it’s true that a little microing is sometimes needed depending on the situation, it’s definitely playable by, for the most part, just ordering your armies to attack-move.

            • kingmob says:

              As far as i know this is almost everyone’s problem with RTS’s these days, yet not a single game appears to deviate from it. Why the hell is that?

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Good point.
            The APM-wall was put there deliberately, although SC2 requires a lot less crazy-fast mouse-wielding than SC1 did (or WC3!), with all the hotkeys and such.
            That said: When I mess up, half the time it’s because I meant to do something else than what I did in the UI, or I just send the whole army to attack instead of handling melee, air and support units separately because that’s just too many keys to press and clicks to aim properly.

            Strangely, I’m okay with a certain amount of that, though I do wish there were some more grouping hotkeys (such as “split group by unit type”, or “give move/attack command only to subgroup x” — my Medivacs keep flying over the enemy army!). Learning hotkeys quickly is actually a skill that’s useful in the real world as well, so I like those.

            So, from the perspective of an amateur player, the APM barrier is a problem, but somehow it makes me appreciate pro players more, even though it’s not obvious just how crazy fast they are from watching a cast. At the same time, there must be some amount of ability to acquire for a pro to distinguish themselves from beginners. So in case of dropping the APM barrier, something else would probably need to replace that.

          • Klay F. says:

            Then you need to realize that the things you want from a strategy game are fundamentally different from the things a COMPETITIVE REAL TIME strategy game aims to provide.

            If you want a game where APM doesn’t matter, then you want a turn based game. This is the fundamental reason why turn-based and real time strategy games are different genres. I never understood why people have such a hard time understanding this. ALL games with a real time element will eventually separate those with the mechanical skill to make faster actions from those that can’t.

            • Doomcat says:

              I understand the fact that there is the mechanical element and can give that the conceit of the genre, however, simply telling me (as a player) that I’m unable to do a strategy because I’m too slow? That I can’t win not because the play I’m trying is bad, but because if I’d used blink and had it placed about 2 millimeters to the left? That my strategy didn’t work because I don’t have the brain capacity to both maneuver my troops AND use chrono boost on the appropriate buildings?

              The point I’ve been trying to make is that DOTA has a physical barrier, but its set SO MUCH LOWER to complete strategies then the physical barrier for Starcraft is. I can pull off Invoker combos which are VERY mechanical (he operates sort of like a fighting game character, use combos to make skills) even if its not as good as a ‘pro’ invoker play. I can’t get that feeling from Starcraft, a ‘pro’ blink stalker play is MUCH easier to screw up, and lends itself to becoming almost impenetrable.

              • Klay F. says:

                Pretty much everything you mentioned comes down to muscle memory. This really is no different from how any sport operates. You learn the muscle memory first, which frees up brain space for the higher level strategy. If your complaint is that there is too much to practice, then fair enough, the game obviously isn’t for you. Personally its a huge bonus for me. The fact that the skill ceiling is so high means there is virtually an endless list of things I can get better at.

            • kingmob says:

              This is simply incorrect. Any action that always has to be performed has nothing to do with strategy AND could be made automatic. A perfect real-time-strategy game would therefore differentiate itself not on how well you would use the mechanics in real-time, but how well you strategize in real-time.
              Most of the clicks people have to make in SC2 have nothing to do with strategy. That is not a victory, it is the problem.

              Coincidently this is probably exactly why Dota is popular, since by focussing on only one hero, the amount of APM required to perform well is within pretty much anyone’s grasp. Therefore the game’s focus is on the actions taken themselves.

  3. Lupinzar says:

    I’m not sure if DOTA 2 suffers from this, but I know League of Legends (same type of game) on top of all the things you mentioned, was not friendly towards new players in terms of the community’s willingness to tolerate people still learning. Mastering a complex game is even more difficult if people are constantly telling you off.

    Granted, any online community can have this problem, but Legends seemed particularly bad, at least from my perspective. Sometimes I actually miss the days of Quake or UT’99 when the only communication between players was “gg” at the end of matches.

    • Hydralysk says:

      I’ve not gotten into Dota 2, but I did play League for a good few months back in the day and I think the vitriol is based on the fact that it’s such a team focused game.

      In SC2 If I’m losing a 1v1 I’ve got no one but myself to blame (balance whining not withstanding of course) but in League an single unskilled player can easily sink the whole team by “feeding” them more gold and experience. With the average match lasting 30-40 minutes IIRC you also have less time to actually play. 1-2 matches may be all the time you have time for in the day in LoL, and having one of those matches be a slow snowballing loss can be an unpleasant experience which can really set people off, whether there’s a clear cause or not. The average player isn’t thinking “Man that guy is new, let’s coach him through his mistakes so that he can have fun and play as well as us some day”, they’re thinking “Oh God, this guy’s throwing this entire match for me because he doesn’t know how to play. How come I’m the one saddled with this dead weight during my time-off?”

      • Wolf says:

        Yes, the strong team focus coupled with the relative permanence of rewards for kills means that one teammates failure might negatively impact later otherwise balanced skirmishes that go badly and get you killed.
        Now YOU are dead and have thus helped the enemy gain more ground against your team, wich in turn activates the immediate response that is so hard to control when your failure negatively impacts the game for your team, you start shifting the blame. (Anyone who has ever played raids in any MMO will be intimately familiar with this gut reaction and attest to it being hard to untrain.)

        So you have a system where personal failure not only negatively impacts your teams chance of winning, but also their chance of enjoying the game and their chance of saving face in the developing blame shifting contest. Long story short, I have never played a MOBA where the environment could not turn toxic at the drop of a hat.

      • Volfram says:

        I agree. One of the reasons I’m a lukewarm League player at my most enthusiastic is because the game state is as dependant on the actions of the 9 players who you have no control over whatsoever as it is on your own, a single misstep at the 5-minute mark can determine the outcome of a major battle at the 45 minute mark, and the trial-and-error iteration time tends to be between 45 and 75 minutes.

        Players who don’t believe me? How often have you complained about the game being “4v5” because you had a rookie on your team? How often has an early gank led to one lane having a permanent lead? Now take a loot at your game times.

        Granted, it’s possible to overcome these events. My best League of Legends game of all time was a 3v5 where two of my teammates disconnected. Sure, we lost, but we also gave the opposing team such a thrashing in the process that nobody in that game doubts we would have won with just one more player. But doing that requires a team with cohesion, communication, and good synergy.(in my case, it was Warwick, Ashe, and Mordekaiser, which is a nightmare to fight against.)

        • RCN says:

          Personally, I never, ever muttered a “we only lost because of the noob”. The only thing that gets my blood boiling in the game is when people start shifting blame. If they’re placing it on me, I’ll just keep quiet and play. If they get too abusive I just silence them in the ignore list. But if they’re shifting blame to other people, I’ll step in and point out the mistakes THEY’VE made and, also, how his 8/4/1 score is meaningless beside his teammate 0/7/11. He got more kills, but only because he had a champ taylor made to get that last burst and get the kill, while his teammate was sacrificing himself to save him or allow him to get that kill.

          I like playing Pantheon (the Assassin/Bruiser AD caster hybrid who’s not great at doing either), and he’s got a great toolkit to finish off opponents, so I try to not let it get over my head. If I see my score has tons of kills but nary an assist, I feel ashamed. Even if I have the only kills in my team, it means I’m starving them out. The true test of skill with Pantheon is avoiding getting all the kills because of how hard he falls in the late game, where he has to transition into a tankier build.

          Sometimes after a match I’ll comment on the lack of skill of another player with the champion they selected, but in a “matter-of-fact, he needs to train more with that champ” tone, not the “YOU COST US THE MATCH YOU USELESS SAC OF NOOB-PUS, UNINSTALL! I’LL MURDER YOUR FAMILY!” tone that some people use. They’re not actually that common and I did notice a great dip in this behavior since the Tribunal, but the sole fact that people like this still exists in certain corners of the community is disheartening.

    • Thomas says:

      I still prefer Starcraft but I can play League every now and then even though I don’t play it. I did play it a couple of weeks which probably helps me recognise some of the champions, but I found (at least with League) it was fairly easy to get the basics of what each champion was doing.

      What always turns me away is how much of the information in League (and DOTA) isn’t visualised. There’s no way of ‘seeing’ that a champion has a higher defence, or is weak to burst magic. You just have to know what the numbers mean. In the same way a lot of the attacks are flashy, but they don’t key you into why some are hurting more than others.

      Compare that to Starcraft where, barring upgrades, a Hellian is always going to roast marines in the same way and the units are designed to _look_ like that will be the result. You can understand that fire hurts exposed units but doesn’t damage heavily armoured ones nearly as much.

      A marauder is designed to look more beefy than a marine. Even better, the flying units are clearly flying and so you can understand why some things can shoot them and others can’t.

      The best abilities in League are the ones that control space, the barriers and the walls and the hooks and the knock-backs… because those are immediately visually clear in their purpose.

      I’m hopeful that Heroes of the Storm is going to correct this problem a little bit by making the stats much more static apart from key decisions made on level up. Even then the decisions are more like ‘I’ll either hit harder or I’ll begin to do AoE with every attack’. Which is much more visually friendly and interesting

      • Trix2000 says:

        You can kinda figure this out by what Champion/Hero is being played, since they usually build certain items/stats. A tank champion will likely be a lot more durable than a carry, for instance. Of course, that requires knowing every champion’s role which takes time.

        • Thomas says:

          I think it’s work out-able, I just think the information should be visibly present. There’s no way to immediately grok what a staff of 70 Ability Power is actually going to do. And then when you’ve got a champion who looks like they shouldn’t do much damage but they’ve actualLy got 3 magic hats whilst the other guy has 2 Giants Belts for defence…

          In a perfect world it should be possible for a spectator to get a good idea for how much damage someone is going to do to something _before_ it happens and without having to build up a big bank of knowledge as to the impact items actually have.

          • Thomas says:

            I actually don’t like upgrades in SC2 for this very reason. There’s no way of just telling what +1/+1 marines will do to +0/+2 zerglings.

            In my ideal world, all upgrades in an RTS would have an obvious visual change and a very clear gameplay change. Adding tunnelling claws to Roaches so they can move whilst underground is a good upgrade. As is giving marines the ability to stim for more damage. Speed for zerglings is good. And at least giving the marines shields is a nice visual improvement, even if the gameplay improvement isn’t amazing.

            But +1 armour? No thanks

            • You can make +1 armour look good easily. Just make it shinier looking, more robust, cover extremities better, whatever. There’s only a few upgrades–you could go dull–>copper coloured–>silver–>gold. Lots of possibilities. Zerg armour upgrades can look, you know, chunkier and spikier and stuff. Claws can get bigger and badder.
              There’s a few where it’s hard, sure–hard to tell when something can spit nastier acid–but generally a visual effect could be done.

              In the Legends stuff it seems like there are a lot of defence systems which are not exactly armour; some kind of protective aura that kind of glows brighter and a bit more opaque-y if it’s stronger might help?

              This all goes back to Shamus’ stuff in Good Robot about how games are more fun if there’s feedback for what happens.

              • aldowyn says:

                this all feeds into the problem that teamfights in MOBAs like League and DOTA tend to be a bit of a mess. It’s hard to read what’s going on with all those people throwing their super-flashy abilities around. It’s hard enough when you’re playing yourself and you’re focused on your own character.

                • Epopisces says:

                  Riot Games (League of Legends’ creator) has acknowledged this and has a visual update on the beta server that mutes the visuals of everything that ‘isn’t important’. The champions and abilities will remain vibrant and foreground, but less relevant visuals will be surpressed.

                  This will help, but doesn’t address a lot of the other concerns mentioned (toxic players, champion variety, etc).

                  MOBAs (including DOTA 2) have become a genre where being a new player is incredibly difficult unless a more experienced player is teaming up with you to demonstrate the ropes. There are quite a few players willing to do that, though–it’s how I got my start, and I’m happy to pass it on :)

                  -Epopisces (that’s my League username too)

        • Volfram says:

          To make matters worse, you have the clowns like a friend of mine who are so good at the game they can(and have) take Sona(low damage, squishy support) and make a viable Jungler(requires mobility, durability, and the ability to kill things quickly) out of her.

          He also insists the best support player he ever laned with was a Pantheon(brawler champion).

      • karln says:

        Yeah seconded, I’m often surprised when facing an unfamiliar enemy champ that doesn’t turn out play anything like their appearance led me to expect. Or I just have no idea what to expect at all.

        Actually I think the heavy impact of items doesn’t help. I run into what look like squishy wizards that are actually armored up heavily, and knight-in-armor models that are built as glass cannons. I’m sure it’s fine for experts who can tap Tab for half a second and grok what they’re up against, but it’s a bit beyond me, and certainly wouldn’t help a casual viewer.

        There’s definitely something to be said for natural signamancy.

    • Alex says:

      In my experience, most of the time this is the new player’s fault. The problem is often not that the other players are uncaring assholes, but that the new player jumped straight into the harder difficulty levels and refuses to listen or even respond to anyone trying to help them become a better player.

      Don’t get me wrong, there are some real jerks out there (like the ones who decided URF mode of all things was SERIOUS BUSINESS), but League of Legends does have a place for newbies, even if it’s just playing around against Beginner bots.

  4. Lion In a Wheelbarrow says:

    Another thing that makes the DOTA competitive scene larger is the fact that the ability to watch games is built directly into the client. The main menu has the ‘PLAY’ button positioned right next to an equally large ‘WATCH’ button, which shows a suite of matches in progress and VODs sorted by tournament with minimal spoilers. Normally the big tournaments cost money to get at, but small matches and major events like the TI4 this weekend are free. The game even directs you towards them- one of the level up rewards early on in the game is a free ticket to an old tournament’s VODs.

    If you’re having trouble following the matches, watching through the client helped me a bit. You can choose from the camera perspective and live commentary tracks of a few commentators, and having the mouse under your control to poke at the hero’s abilities helps to understand what the hero does. The noob’s stream doesn’t seem to be available through the client sadly, so you may still be lost unless you can be arsed to try syncing the game up with the stream running in the background. The client is a fairly hefty download though, so I may not have bothered with the tournament if I hadn’t forgotten to uninstall the game ages ago.

    • Rax says:

      Just a small correction here: The noobstream is available in the client. It even has a symbol attached to it telling people it’s newcomer friendly:
      Edit: I guess this comment section doesn’t like thumbnails, imgur here. (Also: I don’t know why the screenshot is strange like that, my mistake probably)

      Also, while having control over the camera does help sometimes (or rather, the ability to click specific heroes to better understand their skills and items) it’s VERY easy for a newcomer to miss a lot of the action, especially in the early “laning” phase of the game.
      Even professional casters often miss the first blood or other things and they know a lot better where the action most likely takes place.

  5. I think one issue with understanding how Dota is played is thinking of it as a “big strategy esports title”. It was originally built on an RTS engine with RPG facilities and those RPG facilities are what makes this mod work. If WoW arena a strategy game? Na, it’s a PvP RPG. Dota2 is just a 5 on 5 RPG that doesn’t extract out most of the levelling systems from RPGs first to make it level cap vs level cap.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Regular sports make pretty good money. (The league minimum for a rookie NFL player is in the neighborhood of $400,000.)”

    You should not compare it to the biggest sport in your country.For example,the biggest sport here is football(soccer if you like it better that way).Everywhere you go people will talk football,bet on football matches,watch them on tv,etc.Even though my country never had an excellent football team,and in the recent years we are struggling only to have a good football team.But its still the most prominent sport here,so if a kid wants to train it professionally,fees arent that high,and there are opportunities for them to cash in on it,even if you never play outside the country.

    Meanwhile,the best tennis player in the world is from here,and yet if you want to train tennis professionally,you will need substantial cash,and you still wont have many opportunities to cash in on it,unless you try your luck in tournaments outside the country.

    So even in physical sports,there are those that are popular and profitable,and those that are not.Its only natural for esports to behave like that as well.

    • Doomcat says:

      Two words: Figure Skating. At least here in the US I mean.

    • Shamus says:

      NFL isn’t the biggest with regards to pay. I picked NFL because it seemed like a nice mid-range sport: Not as high paying as golf or baseball, but probably more than hockey.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I’d say there’s even one more factor: In some disciplines, you can live from them even if you’re not among the few best people in your country, and in some, you need to be extremely good, but then you get loads of money.

      In Tennis it takes a lot of talent plus sweat plus expensive training to get anywhere, and then it takes some luck to get to a position where you can earn living money. At that point, you’re probably already in the upper part of the world ranking list. But then, if you make it to the top of that list, you can become filthy rich quick.

      I think if you want to have many participants (and “active” fans), the entry threshold needs to come down, so it must be easier to acquire the means pf taking part (advantage DOTA), and the level of play at which one can earn money should come down in favour of maybe not giving ridiculous money to the very best players. Otherwise it becomes a meta-game of “get famous or die trying”, and that’s a game with many victims, and for something still fairly obscure like e-sports, not many are willing to go and do that.

      That said: I honestly have no idea what the income distributions in the Starcraft and DOTA scene are (nor for most of the “phyical” sports.) Anyone know where to get hard numbers?

    • Humanoid says:

      $400,000 is amazing to me and is likely something only possible in the very distorted US market. I mean even traditional big-bucks sports like ‘soccer’, while highly paid at the big end, has a much much larger spread in terms of pay – even in top European leagues, your average young player wouldn’t be pulling in a six-digit salary.

      Australia is a sports-mad country, but even then $400,000 (which is in context less than it is in the US because the average wage elsewhere is higher) is already elite level. In Australian Rules football for example, the very best players (say the top five in the competition) “only” get around $1m each. The salary cap for a team of about 40 (of which typically 30 would be actively involved in a season) is only $10m. A rookie would probably be on something like $50,000.

      On the other hand, tickets are relatively cheap, and it’s amazing in itself that the state of Victoria, home to less than 6 million people, can support 10 professional clubs with an overall average attendance per match of over 30,000 people. In context, population adjusted it’d be like California having 60-70 teams actively competing in the NFL.

      Aside, I’ve also read that the typical domestique (i.e. “helper rider”) riding the Tour de France (which is to say, one of the 200 or so riders selected to ride the most prestigious bike race in the world) is on or only slightly above the mandated minimum wage, which is not even 50,000 Euros.

      • Thomas says:

        The US does have very high wages for atheletes compared to the rest of the world, but the average wage of a footballer in the 4th division of the English* football leagues (20ish teams per division, 20-60 people per team), is still $115,000 dollars a year.

        By the 4th division we’re talking teams like “Accrington Stanley”, “Tranmere Rovers” or “Shrewsbury Town”, places people couldn’t even point to on a map.

        I think the gap between being the big dogs in sport and something like Snooker or Squash or Badminton with very few spectators is huge.

        *English not British. N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own leagues, although the good Welsh teams tend to play in the English one

        • Soylent Dave says:

          I’m not sure where you’re getting $115,000 from for 4th division (more accurately ‘Football League Two’, it hasn’t been called 4th division for over a 20 years)

          The average wage of a League Two player is about £40,000, which is more like $65,000.

          Not exactly chickenfeed (50% more than the UK average wage), but nor is it quite so high as the average Premier League wage of £1.2m ($2.04m).

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    While I agree that free to play is a large part of why dota 2 is the new shit in esports,I think two other factors contribute to this:

    1)Its closely related to wow,which has been popular and well known in the past decade.

    2)Its a team game.And team games have always been more interesting for spectators than singles matches.Thats why more people are interested in football,american football,basketball and hockey than in tennis or boxing.

    • Thomas says:

      I don’t think no. 1 can be a core reason because it was League of Legends that really got big first and introduced the genre to people.

      But I think no. 2 is big. Not only does it make the story dynamics easier and more interesting, but it also makes losing a lot less punishing to players. In Starcraft you lose because you screwed up and played stupid. In LoL you lose because _everyone else_ screwed up and played stupid.

      Being able to convince more than 50% of people who play each match that they were playing well and successfully is a big deal.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I think your second argument is important for “recreational” players more than pros, or spectators.
        And it is exactly why I only ever play SC2 ladder in teams … I just don’t want to deal with the pressure of a competitive single-player match in my spare time.

        Interestingly enough, there are lots of SC2 teams but all team matches I’ve seen cast until now are just for fun. Why aren’t there 2v2 tournaments, or even 4v4? I think I’d enjoy that, and it would give the game a new set of strategies and tactics.

        • Thomas says:

          I think having a big pool of recreational players is really important for developing a community of pros and spectators. You need a base of player to draw the professionals and the hardcore from

          I wonder about the 2v2, 4v4 thing too. Total Biscuit does 2v2’s in his Shoutcraft tournaments now, but those are meant to be a bit quirky.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            I think the recreational player base is an advantage but not a necessity. I mean, how many people play Rugby or American Football in their spare time? Ski jumping, anyone? Espacially for the latter, I think that’s even kind of the allure: These people can do something spectacular that most in the audience wouldn’t even be able to start practising if they wanted to.
            Which kind of supports Thomas’ argument further up this page: In Starcraft, one of the big skills is APM, and that’s invisible to a large part. If a discipline has an entry threshold, it should be a skill that is recognisable.
            That said: For good musicians it’s the other way around: You need to make it look easy even if it’s not. So there’s probably still something missing in my idea of what makes a good e-sports game. There will hardly be an objective truth behind all this, though, given how diverse the preferences on different continents, in different countries, different cities, within different parts of society, within any given person’s circle of firends, family … are, the answer to “do people like to watch this” has probably a few systematic correlations and many cultural, personal, aesthetical … highly subjective ones.

          • aldowyn says:

            the short answer is that the game is deliberately balanced around a 1v1 situation.

  8. Geremy says:

    Long time reader first time commenter. I’m a LoL guy, not a DOTA guy, but from all the experts in Korea your idea about SC2 being hurt by DRM vs. LoL being free being the reason for SC 2’s failure is right on the money. Part of why Star Craft started to gain success in Korea in the first place was Cyber Cafes there. Star Craft was old which made it very cheap to put on 50 computers. It was also old, which made it easy to pirate, so if some one played it at a cafe and wanted to then play it at home, it was trivial. Star Craft 2 requires you log in, which means even if a cafe buys a copy of the game, customers can’t play it without buying a copy of their own.

    League of Legends on the other hand is not only free, but Riot Korea allows cyber cafes to pay a very low cost to unlock all the available characters on their computers. You can go to a cyber cafe and play any character you want without paying a dollar. Players still have to pay for cosmetic upgrades, or if they want to play those characters on their home computer, so it works as a loss leader, and LoL has overtaken SC2 as the most popular Esport in Korea.

    I imagine things work very similarly for DoTA, but like I said I’m a LoL guy. Not that LoL is better, but I’ve been told its a bit more friendly, and having already learned all the LoL characters and why you’d pick one over another, I don’t think I have the time to invest in learning another MOBA, even if DoTA is actually better.

    • Ofermod says:

      I wonder how many of us LoL players there are on this site. It’d be nice to have some other friendly people to queue with.

      • Mephane says:

        Ex LoL here. Played it for some time, but eventually got too annoyed by the genre itself (such very game mechanics as last-hitting, feeding etc.) and thus dropped it. I probably was one of those guys dragging a team down with my noobness. ;)

      • Trix2000 says:

        I’m an on/off LoL player – mostly because I have so many other games I like to play that I can’t always sink much time into it. But at this point it’s my fave of the two, primarily because of – surprisingly – the ‘feel’ of the game. That and I don’t particularly enjoy some of the smaller mechanics they kept from original Dota, like denying (though those are minor nitpicks).

      • Ivellius says:

        We should start a thread on the forum.

        I’ve been really interested by this post, considering that I played League of Legends before it got really big and have been watching pro matches for a while now.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        I used to play, but it’s been so long that I’d need to play a *ton* before I knew enough of all of the new characters to play well.

      • Epopisces says:

        Been playing since season 1, still playing (as a casual player, I don’t do a whole lot of ranked heh).


        • RCN says:

          I believe I got into it in the first season (when was Cassiopeia released? I remember her being the first release I saw since I started my account). I play mainly 3v3, but I don’t have anything against playing 5v5 or ARAM (though I never got into Dominion).

          Though I’m wary to post my handle here. Spammers skirt this site and I wouldn’t put it past them to use it to mine my data somehow.

      • tzeneth says:

        I used to play LoL, then I tried doing some ranked matches. I got lucky a bit and won some early matches. I then got to the point where I realized I didn’t know enough and then the heroes I like got “rebalanced” and new heroes came out that did what they could do…only better.

        If anyone is interested in Dota2. I’m trying to get back into it after only playing it a bit. Tzeneth is my steam name, just friend me and tell me why ;)

  9. The Rocketeer says:

    You know, I have this site to thank for getting hopelessly hooked on StarCraft 2 casts- or, to be honest, HuskyStarcraft casts, one of which I have open in another window right now- but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for MOBA’s. They’re boring to play, boring to watch, they’re arcane to the extreme and entirely consumed with and by the smallest details and factious squabbles. The communities are toxic and hateful, and the business model is blankly predatory and venomous to the metagame.

    I liked what Heroes of the Storm seems to be trying to do, but even then, I don’t think it does nearly enough to bring some kind of diversity to the genre or even to fix what, to me, seem to be problems built into the foundations of it. Yet, which I know to be the kinds of things that fans are attracted by in the first place.

    In order to appeal to me, MOBA’s would have to become something other than what they are, and that’s not fair to the existing base or in any way reasonable to expect from the creators. Oh well.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Ohhh, Husky’s the worst.
      I used to watched his stuff hours per day, but after hearing him say “going to be going to go for…” (when the thing in question actually has happened already) in every single game … still watch some of his for-fun casts but otherwise I’d recommend Day[9] to anyone who’s also trying to play the game themselves.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        That’s the thing I hear about Husky: that he’s great for newer folks for his energy and personality, but not actually a great analytical caster for people looking for insight into top-level play.

        But the thing is, I’d still never know the difference between good and bad analysis because I don’t understand what I’m seeing unless it’s described to me. So if Husky misreads the situation, there are a lot of folks watching that will pick up on it and call him out in the comments, but I’m not one of those people, so it doesn’t bother me.

        At the end of the day, I value his enthusiasm and charm more than, say, Day[9] or Tasteless’ more reliable, analytical commentary because I’m just going to be taking their word that what they’re saying is happening, is happening, or why. Maybe that will change if I ever dig deep and learn a whole lot more about the meta, but that day isn’t today.

        Of course, it looks like Husky’s disappeared from the face of the earth, so maybe I’ll have to branch out if I get itching for new replays. There’s only so many times you can rewatch your favorite Bronze League Heroes casts. Maybe. We’ll see.

    • Scourge says:

      I’d always suggest the ‘When Cheese fails’ series for Starcraft 2. It teaches you some dirty tricks, it is hilarious when people fail(as that is the main focus), and the people actually explain stuff.

      For example, as to why X is better than Y in that situation, what you usually should go for, what standard tactics are usedful, etc, etc.

  10. Hoffenbach says:

    DOTA 2 is probably the most complicated game I ever learned, (well technically, I learned DOTA way back, but it’s basically the same) and even then it’s still difficult to play it well. If you really want to learn to play it or any MOBA, I recommend finding a friend or two to coach you.

    • Thearpox says:

      What annoys me a lot about the supposed difficulty of DOTA, is that a lot of the supposed difficulty relies on rote memorization of every hero and their pros and cons, memorization of all items, added to memorization of everything else.

      Aside from that, the shine comes only from team communication, as actually directing a single hero is not that impressive.

      I will concede that memorization is important in every e-sport, but it is just how much the game relies on it. The only game where it is worse would be Hearthstone, where memorizing every card combination and archetype basically IS the game. (Hearthstone’s saving grace perhaps is that like poker, it rewards people who can do percentages very quickly.)

      • Friend of Dragons says:

        I think one of the reasons I didn’t mind the memorization aspect of Dota is that I got used to having to memorize game mechanics thanks to playing Magic: the Gathering, where you need to memorize a few hundred new cards every 3-6 months, especially if you’re playing in Limited formats (building a deck from new packs at a tournament).

      • The Rocketeer says:

        What Gabe said about Heroes of the Storm about sums up my feelings on MOBA’s:

        “HOS gets rid of even more fiddly shit… [but i]t's possible that what you like is fiddly shit though.”

        I don’t like fiddly shit. So, no MOBA’s for me. Of course, no game is worth playing with the kind of community both DotA and LoL have courted.

        • aldowyn says:

          I think the items are pretty unnecessary to the genre, which is why I’m glad Heroes of the Storm is dumping them. Instead you get like skill progressions as you level up, so it’s still kind of weird…

  11. Julius says:

    One thing that is also important to consider for the Internationale is that this is the one big Dota 2 Tournament that is still heavily sponsored by Valve.
    So, rather than comparing it with some SC2 tournament something like the WCS Finals are rather in the same league.
    Comparing last years WCS prize pool ($1.6 Million) to last years TI pool of $2,874,381 USD is a lot fairer for SC2.
    Though even with this comparison, this year TI is really making everyone else look bad. Mostly because a lot of people bought the compendium.

    (sources: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/2013_StarCraft_II_World_Championship_Series

  12. TmanEd says:

    It takes a pretty good while to pick up on the metagame part of each game (like what heroes and strategies are good against other heroes and strategies), but the basics between each MOBA are basically the same. Kill the creeps (little non player characters in all the lanes) to get gold, use gold to get items, use items to kill enemies, destroy their towers (that give you gold, and provide a buffer to their ancient/throne/whatever), and eventually destroy their base, and the big building in the middle of it, the ancient, in particular.

  13. Thomas says:

    One of the advantages that LoL and DOTA have is the first five minutes thing. In Starcraft 2 the first couple of minutes are basically a wash and have to be filled by the casters. Instead of hooking viewers in, they have to sit it out and wait to be hooked.

    DOTA and LoL are a lot more immediate with action right from the start. Even IdrA, a famously toxic SC2 pro whose pretty dismissive about most e-sports was impressed with the speed that MOBA matches start off at.

    Being F2P is the biggest though. The more people playing the more people who can understand whats happening right off the bat so the more viewers. The more viewers the more people playing.

    I don’t think you can blame Blizzard though. E-sports like this didn’t exist when they made SC2. Starcraft 1 won the e-sports crown basically because no-one else even contested it. It’s a really hard design problem to make a RTS free-to-play, because how do you monetise it and keep it so tightly balanced?

    And in fact, SC2 basically is F2P now. The arcade is free, I can play with a friend for free, I can play unranked ladder for free. Only the campaign and ranked ladder is hidden I believe.

    EDIT: RTS mechanics are also a lot less accessible than MOBA mechanics. It’s really had to macro and micro in a RTS. With a MOBA there’s less to think about and to split your attention. You can feel competent at a MOBA much quicker than you can feel competent at an RTS

    • Thomas says:

      I do have an idea for a F2P RTS though. You create 20+ different units and at the start of every match the players get to pick say 3-5 units which they can build and use that match. And the matches themselves give you a lot more resources at the start so that you can start building and producing units immediately (with the whole match lasting less time).

      This way you can sell units without disrupting balance, because you can only play a handful of units each match anyway. Balancing is much easier because you’ve got a meta game. If Mutalisks are OP then everyone will start blind-picking Phoenixes at the start of every match. You can balance it like Magic The Gathering.

      It also makes the meta a lot more diverse and gives a lot more room for crazy creative strategies. How about combining Battlecruisers, Lings and Dark Templar in a match? The probability space is much larger so it’s harder for players to mine it out

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I think it’d also mean that many matches would be decided in the unit selection stage. If your choice is weak against what your opponent picks, then it’s basically a game of stone, paper, scissors, and the rest is just the logical conclusion, as long as both players have a similar level of ability.

        One way to speed up the beginning would be to start with more workers, or make workers be more productive, or reduce costs for units — but then that would affect not just the start of the game but also change the economy sub-game.

        Maybe just introduce new, cheap, low-level combat units that can be produced right away? However, given the time that Blizzard spent pabalncing the game and tuning unit costs, abilities, tech trees etc. (rather than e.g. an intelligent or somewhat engaging story) there is probably a host of negative consequences to that which the developer already knows that I’ve got no idea of.

    • Rax says:

      While it’s true that the first minutes of Starcraft games are often boring, please consider that casts for Dota games start with the teams picking their heroes, which -to a newcomer- are at best 10-12 minutes of nothing interesting happening and at worst confuse people to death.
      Shamus actually tweeted about this spot on, saying:
      “As a newcomer, the “pick” stage of the game is SUPER TEDIOUS. Like watching football players pick out uniforms for twenty minutes. #DOTA2″

      (Also, making a F2P game as fair as Dota is HARD. The only things actual money buys in Dota are purely cosmetic, all heroes are unlocked from the beginning, there’s no in-game currency apart from the in-match gold, etc. I don’t know how much money Dota actually makes or how long it took/will take to break even, but Valve has all the money in the world thanks to Steam, so even if Dota directly actually loses them money, it probably brings people on to Steam.)

      • Thomas says:

        Ah okay, well League seems to have pretty quick teampicking and I’ve always attributed it’s massive successfuly at least a little bit to that. So I assumed DOTA would be similar

        • Rax says:

          Thing is, Dota has multiple game modes. In most picking heroes is a pretty fast (about 2 minutes).
          Pro-Games however are played in Captain’s Mode, in which the team captains take turns banning heroes for the enemy team and then picking a hero for their own.
          This allows teams time to decide on heroes relative to what the enemy picked/banned.

          • Kana says:

            That’s how LoL works. Both teams ban 3 champions each then take turns picking their own champs. I wonder if it goes faster in LoL with all the bans taking place at the beginning or if it’s roughly the same speed.

            • Ringwraith says:

              Faster I would imagine, as the early bans can be planned, while the mid-pick bans can be reactionary to the other team’s bans/picks, which also then affects your next picking section.

      • kanodin says:

        Thing is, the draft is only boring when you’re new at the game. When you understand who all the characters are and why picking one over another is important seeing how the draft works out is probably the most important part of the game. Granted there are exceptions where the teams go for rote standard picks and the draft is boring, but those are the exceptions.

    • Steve C says:

      E-sports like this did exist when Blizzard made SC2. SC1 as a sport was an established thing and Blizzard was designing SC2 with e-sports in mind. Blizzard dropped the ball though as like you said they were given market dominance and didn’t have the understanding necessary to compete in a competitive market.

      • Thomas says:

        But SC1 wasn’t competing against free-to-play titles, or even anything but other RTS’. There’s some competitive shooters and fighters, but nothing else. The success of e-sports has expanded hugely since SC2

        E-sports were small enough pre SC2 that I think Blizzard were still planning to make most of their money just from selling the game, with bigger e-sports as a bonus. I doubt they were designing it thinking that they might have full capacity stadiums of viewers

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          I once saw an article that made a good argument that Blizzard was making a bid for having as much control as possible over SC2 in order to give themselves an in to any moneystream the e-sports side of it might make.

          Basically, they saw how big SC1’s e-sport scene became, and were peeved that they couldn’t demand a cut of any event for having made the game. So, with SC2, they designed it so that you had to be playing on their servers, allowing them to put anything they wanted in their TOS and shut your tournament down if you weren’t playing ball with them.

          It backfired horribly, of course.

          • Kylroy says:

            “It backfired horribly, of course.”

            If the goal was to have an e-sport, yes. If the goal was to actually make money, maybe not. I’ve always felt that the untold story of Starcraft was the millions of people who bought it and never played PvP once, and the millions more that stopped within a year. The whole E-sport thing was entertaining and got Blizzard a lot of press, but that’s the thing – it got them press, and no money. Starcraft 2’s failure as an e-sport has made them the same amount of money that Starcaft’s success did: pretty much nothing.

  14. Adalore says:

    They are so afraid of opening access to SC2. Like… The current buy in to get the content to PLAY the actual multiplier game, looks to be 50$.

    Because you gotta own wings of liberty AND Heart of the swarm, thus 20$ AND 20$ respectively, so 40$ to get into a somewhat…dying game? If they want to have any chance to revive the game for the next expansion they need to allow new blood into the game at 10$ at most for the upcoming multiplayer scene.

    They have ATTEMPTED some things to bring people in, but in the end you still have to pay the cost of the full game before you are allowed to play with people in multiplayer by youself with out being guest passed by a friend.

    And I am over here now, having thrown Riot games all my money playing League of legends. At the least I think the character silhouettes are fairly distinct.

    • Thomas says:

      If you have a friend who plays Starcraft you can play with him in 2v2, 4v4 etc or against him in a 1v1 for free.

      All the custom maps are also free to play. The first couple of missions are free.

      They’re doing all they can. If you they just give away the game for free, how do they make money? League of Legends makes money by selling characters, but you can’t sell people units in Starcraft without unbalancing the game.

      DOTA makes money through selling character customisations, but whilst they’ve tried adding that into SC2, it’s much less popular because you’re not just focused on one character. Also in an RTS recognisable units are much more important because it’s all about multitasking and there are dozen of units that could be against you. In DOTA you’ve got to worry about 5 guys all of which you learned who they are before the game even started.

      • Adalore says:

        Which is why I say reduce the cost to the actual “Core game” to impulse buy levels instead of having to spend 40$ to play 1v1 vs non-friend people. I could totally get behind 10$ or 20$ if that was all I had to spend.

        You cannot emulate the competitive scene without a fairly large buy-in, which the younger demographic interested in BEING in esports cannot afford.

        There is just no entry level costs to these games, you must purchase up to date or just not actually play with the majority of the community. You can only hope that when the next expansion comes out that you won’t need HotS in order to play online. If they require THREE separate 20$ costs of even LARGER barrier of entry. If they have any sense they will sell the base game AND hots for 10$ and then at most 30$ for the new expansion.

        I understand that needing to make money off of stuff… But keep in mind they recently adopted riot’s model with their Heroes of the storm (Also known as HotS…so stupid) that will be free and have cosmetics as the model of income.

        • Thomas says:

          But Heroes of the Storm is a much more accessible game type for monetisation.

          One of the problems is, I doubt there’s much money in successful e-sports yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Riot and Valve spend more on e-sports than they get back. The money is still in selling their games and the characters in their games and they’re both still in the stage where they’re ‘investing’ in e-sports.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “They're doing all they can. If you they just give away the game for free, how do they make money? League of Legends makes money by selling characters, but you can't sell people units in Starcraft without unbalancing the game.”

        Hats.Actually,to be more specific,skins for buildings and units.You have no idea how much people would be willing to pay to have custom looking yerglings,or marines,or zealots,or any unit actually.

  15. NoneCallMeTim says:

    I agree that Dota 2 is incomprehensible to newcomers. I have about 500 hours on Dota 2, but when I first started I went through the tutorial, went against bots, and did ok, then went against people and got destroyed repeatedly. I then uninstalled it after about 4 hours play.

    Much of the basic strategy and timing needs to taught, then honed by yourself based on your own play style. I didn’t come back and start enjoying it until I played with a friend who took me over the basics on choosing a hero, strategy, and different strengths and weaknesses.

    When you have played one game with a set of 10 heroes, you now have an understanding of those, and next time you play a limited heroes, you will probably know at least some of the heroes, and will have a lower learning curve. So it goes on.

    So, I add my recommendation that you find someone to play with and go over the basics.

    Although, I am sure there are enough people on here who play a MOBA to give a rundown of most of the tactics.

  16. Jonathan says:

    I was initially introduced to DOTA 2 by a friend during Valve’s closed beta, and found myself quickly overwhelmed as well. Then I ran into a great beginners guide I then started following the Let’s Play videos recorded by Purge (the same guy who wrote the guide) and finally got my head around the game. I find it incredibly fun, and the commentary offered by Purge, both concerning the game and working with a team, is excellent.

    • kanodin says:

      I’d like to second this, I learned the basics of dota from watching purge. He’s basically the dota equivalent of husky. He’s actually one of the main casters of the newbie stream, which I can’t speak to the quality of not having watched it. I can say his videos were always very helpful.

  17. Type_V says:

    Dota 2 player here (3k hours). Yes, the beginners curve is super steep. I got into and stayed in for two huge reasons, the first was that I had friends who played DotA1 on Wc3 (where I did not) and were willing to teach me, but secondly I played the beta client from when the hero pool was small and had all the new heroes introduced to me slowly.
    Coming in now with only 5 heroes missing from 108 is pretty brutal. But it’s a lot like Pokemon, you won’t know them all and their differences coming in fresh, it expects you to take time to learn. Which is basically a player’s investment, there isn’t much hand holding beyond the mechanics tutorial and Limited Heros mode.
    So basically if you feel like you could be interested, please stick with it. It gets easier. Coming in on the BIG event where nearly every hero is being picked is not an ideal introduction to the game but it is a good intro to the scene.

  18. Ateius says:

    Part of the reason SC2 is losing its fanbase, according to some of the regular casters (Lag.TV in this case), is because Blizzard has balanced it too symmetrically, with every possible unit combination having an exact corresponding counter on the other sides. The game has reached the point where there are only one or two rote strategies to play out, with no real game-changing units or abilities to really shake things up. To an experienced viewer, all they need to see is the first five minutes of any given match to predict with precise accuracy how the next 10-15 will play out, with the only variable being a tragic misclick at a crucial moment. They’ve lost what made SC1 so exciting and popular: [i]asymmetric[/i] balance, the ability to surprise your enemy with a unique play and have it be effective, the ability to bodge together a defense with off-the-wall tactics and have it work. Excitement and drama have been balanced out of existence.

    • Thomas says:

      I never watched much SC1, but I thought it was super played out by the end? To the point where zerg was all about how well you could micro muta’s?

      • Ed Lu says:

        Well, that’s the thing. Micro’s in the equation. In SC2 it’s more about what you build, and less what you do with it. Micro still plays a part, but in the end, the guy with the counter to your stuff is going to win.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Agreed. Warcraft II had nearly-symmetrical units (only some spells were different – slow on one side, haste on the other; different forms of farsight; bloodlust vs healing), and even so it was slightly unbalanced (healing was much stronger than bloodlust when used by the computer but bloodlust was better for human use because we just couldn’t heal fast enough without hotkeys :p)
      SC1 was so special because it was pretty well balanced yet completely assymetrical (especially for its time). SC2 is much “safer” and “clearer” in its balance.

  19. Blake says:

    I played heaps of LoL when it was new, very fun game, but eventually you hit the point where you pretty much need to be in a team to remain competitive, and at that point I stopped.

    The biggest problem I see with MOBAs as eSports is that there are too many things going on at once for the audience to see.

    In SC2 you can see what each team has or is producing in the top left corner, and the battles are pretty clear which way they’re going at a glace (how many units are present for each team), meaning it’s easy to swap between interesting things happening around the map and know what’s going on with them all.

    In MOBAs, if there are multiple battles going on, it’s very hard to see who is actually winning in each of them, you need to know what skills each champion has unlocked, how much hp and mana they have remaining, what items, what buffs/debuffs, and then you can start to see how a battle is about to play out. Easy if you’re playing, much harder to keep track of all 10 champions when spectating.

    I’m very curious to see what Blizzard do to mix up the formula, what parts they keep, what they drop, and what (if anything) they add.

    • bit says:

      League commentators actually have this down to a T- when there are multiple battles going on (and it’s usually pretty easy to tell what’s going on per battle, with the MASSIVE health bars and pretty clear spell/status effects) they focus on one battle, then replay the other battles that happened during downtime. It works pretty well.

      • Merlin says:

        I don’t keep up on DOTA so this may be copycat work, but I also give League some props for implementing the Directed Camera in their spectator client. It’s a neat feature that automatically controls the camera based on the significance of an area (are there objectives nearby?), number of players nearby, and amount of damage players are dealing to each other. And it does some fine tuning to center the action on your screen on the fly. So if you’re so inclined, you can sit back and watch, and the game will handle all the heavy lifting of keeping track of the action.

        It’s not something they use for pro play, but it’s a clever tool for individual spectating.

  20. Humanoid says:

    Oddly perhaps the only game I’ve watched as a spectator eSport is the venerable Age of Empires 2. It’s had remarkable longevity for a 15 year old game which was arguably behind the technology curve even when it was released, and was never particularly balanced either. The prize pools are low obviously, but $24,000 is not unheard of, which is why I’m chiming in here I guess: that seems ridiculously low for a new game, but is probably reasonable for an old game like AoE2.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Though it was one of the games that realised the early, then-current, 3D models looked worse than sprites.
      Which is also why it’s not aged dreadfully like some other games.

  21. Dragmire says:

    Shamus, is it normal for your annotation numbers (the [1], [2] things) to display over a newly created text box?

    I clicked the [1] and the [2] was over the word, ‘word’ in the text box. Took me a moment to realize that’s what happened, for a second there it looked like a random jumble of letters.

  22. elferra says:

    Did you ever play Warcraft 3, Shamus? I watched the DotA2 finals last year with no knowledge and found myself picking it up well enough to follow, and I’m wondering if it’s because the basic hero concept was taken from Warcraft 3 (which I played).

    As a slightly tangential note on the NFL metaphor, I always thought that American Football would also be a nightmare for a newcomer to get into.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Did you ever play Warcraft 3, Shamus?”

      I dont think that would help.Its over 10 years old now,and while I did play a lot of it back then,Ive forgotten pretty much everything(aside from the click comments and some animations,that is).And Im way younger than Shamoose.

    • aldowyn says:

      well, the basics of american football are pretty simple (get the ball in someone’s hands in the endzone), but there are a ton of random-seeming rules and penalties.

  23. Eschatos says:

    I don’t know about the rest of yall, but I like Dota precisely because it’s so complex. It takes a big time and effort investment to get good at, and it’s more rewarding for it. It’s also a hell of a lot more exciting to watch than Starcraft. Starcraft only has six possible matchups in the typical game(1v1). Dota, on the other hand, has near infinite permutations of hero picks, and every game is different because of it.

  24. Eldiran says:

    It’s confusing because Dota 2 is a poorly designed, counterintuitive mess. >(

    …yes, I’m bitter.

  25. KMJX says:

    I believe the reasons for the MOBAs as E-sports to be so much bigger than for example StarCraft are generally:

    – Ease of access. The MOBA games are designed to be Free to Play.
    Playing StarCraft at tournament level is a pretty significant unavoidable upfront money investment.

    – Barrier to entry. MOBAs are mechanically much easier to play and thus get into. Yeah DOTA is a harder than LoL… or rather, a bit different, but you essentially need 10 or less keys to play them.
    For StarCraft you need to develop muscle memory for a lot more key combinations and sequences thereof before you are competitive.

    – Immediate action vs. slow buildup. The audience wants the action.

    – The DOTA and LoL communities overlap to some point, and experience in one helps understand the other.
    Shamus with his lacking interest in the genre is an exception here, so of course he would be more lost than Average Joe.

    – Getting attention from the media: League of Legends is currently the most played multiplayer game on the planet, and DOTA gets attention from the press with their immense prize pools.

    – The companies behind the big MOBA titles are investing insane amounts of money to make the scene big, an effort I don’t really see out of Acti-Blizz.

  26. Winter says:

    This entire situation is 100% Blizzard’s fault.

    Starcraft: Brood War was the “esport”, full stop. It was the most successful (perhaps not counting the Quake series or Counterstrike) and it captured the entire nation of Korea.

    DotA was a game that was created inside the Warcraft 3 map editor and, thus, was 100% Blizzard’s to capitalize on.

    When Blizzard was making Starcraft 2, their primary goal was how to make it so that they could monetize tournaments and nobody else could. That’s what they wanted. As a result, SC2 didn’t take the place of Brood War. That lineage died not because the game was better or worse (though general consensus is it’s worse) but because Blizzard thought they were the big, important people here and they could just order everyone else around. Grand hubris killed it.

    DotA was also all theirs, and Icefrog (the guy who was maintaining DotA in Warcraft 3) wanted to sell out to Blizzard but Blizzard basically told him to get lost. Instead, they believed they were what really made DotA and so they changed their map editor so it was an app store (with them taking a good chunk of the profits) and said “we don’t need to let Icefrog have anything, we’ll just get the next DotA on our new engine without him”. Instead, Icefrog was approached by Valve (he didn’t even think to ask Valve) and now we see The International with a $10 million prize pool (and $40m donated–donated!–to Valve) and nothing for Starcraft. Once again, hubris writ large cost them their chance to capitalize on the DotA phenomenon and they’re now stuck as a second-rate clone, along with everyone else.

  27. Forty says:

    One thing that keeps coming up is the barrier to entry that dota has. When I started laying dota, I was quite intimidated by the amount of knowledge that I had to learn. “Oh, god, 100 heroes, and as many items, there’s so much stuff.” The learning curve is actually not all that steep, however, as it is long. One of the great features is that there are item guides in the game, and skill builds which tell you what to get at every level. This definitely helped me get familiar with which items went with which heroes. In addition, there is a mode for new layers, “limited heroes,” which only has a 20 hero pool. You can get used to the mechanics in a smaller environment which really helps to transition into full set of heroes. Looking back on it, a lot of the learning curve in dota is psychological. In tf2, there are over 20 non-cosmetic weapons on the scout alone. Time 9 classes, that is over 150 weapons which I happily learned in due course. One of the things that made it easier to learn all those weapons was that, just like in dota, the weapons mostly did the same thing. There are mostly the same abilities in dota, but what makes it interesting is how they are combined in a unique hero. And once you get the hang of things, it’s a great game to solo or play with friends.

  28. Spammy says:

    And I don’t care one whit about The International or the DotA/LoL mudslinging because quite honestly MOBAs don’t appeal to me on a formulaic level, everything that I like about MOBAs leads to everything that I dislike about them.

  29. bit says:

    Interestingly contrair to Shamus, I actually got into LoL (which has a much more intuitive learning curve than DOTA imo) due to the esports scene. I picked up the game and was pretty terrible at it at first, but watching pro matches got me really up to speed on tactics, positioning, teamwork, map control… all of those things that are very hard to teach in-game. It also encouraged me to scrounge the wiki, checking up on what all the champions do so that I could understand what I was watching better- and then I really started playing.

    I think the game and sport work better, and not just for esports, when in tangent rather than as separate entities. Let learning about one inform the other, and you’ll have a jolly time all along. And anyone who’s interested in playing scary scary LoL should check up on it in a few months- the world championships are starting soon, and they’re adding a much, much better and smoother tutorial system soon.

  30. Lanthanide says:

    I’ve skimmed the above posts but didn’t see anyone mention this.

    “These players came from all over the world, and they only get a few hundred bucks? That won't even cover the airfare, much less hotel, food, and general pain-in-the-assery of long-distance travel. The vast majority of the contestants practiced for months, traveled thousands of miles, fought hard, and ended up with almost nothing to show for it.”

    “Nobody is paying for their schooling, and it looks like everyone but the top players will probably struggle to attain minimum wage status.”

    Actually Shamus, most SC2 professional players are on teams and they get paid to play the game. Typically the team would be paying for the airfares, hotel, food etc. I presume the players then don’t get to take all of the prizemoney themselves, but would have to share it with their team, but I’m not sure on that.

    That’s why they’re “professional players” and not “amateurs”.

    For some players, this wage outshines anything they’d earn from prizemoney:
    In 2007, Lee signed a three-year contract with WeMade FOX for approximately 690,000 USD. (Wikipedia – Lee Yun-yeol).

    • Shamus says:

      Even if the prize money is divided perfectly evenly (which is sort of what a team accomplishes) spreading the 24k prize money over 32 people (I’m pretty sure this tourney was a 32 player bracket) you only get $750 each. Sure, your team takes whatever money the players win and spreads it around so nobody starves, but no matter how you slice it there just isn’t that much money to be had. We’ve got “professional players” living in a dorm together and playing for paychecks that probably work out to entry-level jobs.

      That’s not an awesome standard of living for the people at the very height of the sport.

      • aldowyn says:

        they get a lot of their money from sponsorships. Like NASCAR or something, I guess. I’m not saying they get a ton of money, but I think there’s more to it than just the prize pools.

      • Lanthanide says:

        Your reply suggests you didn’t actually grasp what my comment was about.

        These people belong to a team. The team pays them a salary to play the game. Much like a professional basketball team pays it’s players a salary to play on that team.

        Any prize money won by the player is *additional* to their base salaries. For most players over their career, they will make more money from the salaries than they will from prize money – that applies at all levels: those who win the least will have the cheapest salaries, and those that win the most will have the highest salaries.

        • Shamus says:

          Yeah, I didn’t get that from your previous comment. That does make it less sad. It’s STILL pretty small compared to the others, but hopefully not as pathetic as it seemed at first glance.

          • Lanthanide says:

            Yeah, really only the top 2% will make ‘serious’ money out of it, and maybe the next 8% could be ‘comfortable’ from it, with steeply diminishing returns after that.

          • Florin-Vlad says:

            you have to take into account the fact that many of these players also make a lot of money from streaming, in fact I heard a top League of Legends player mention that the prize money he made was way below the money from streams.

    • Andy says:

      I remember the head of EG saying that they did not touch the prize money that the players earn and are able to pay for lodging and airfare from the sponsor money that they pull in from the exposure on a live on 3 podcast episode.

  31. DaMage says:

    I neither play Starcraft or any MOBA game, but I can definately understand the appeal of watching a MOBA over a RTS for a the simple fact that in a MOBA you can tell what the player is doing….in an RTS actions are happening so quickly, (and often all over the map) that a viewer cannot see it all. In a MOBA it is very possible to watch the player as they do their actions and see the immediate results.

    A while back I played Rise of Nations with a friend and after the match he wanted to watch my replay to see how I had managed to get so far ahead of him (we were playing on a team during the match). He noted that I tended to jump around the map constantly, from moving troops, assigning citizens etc etc without any local order to it and never staying in one place for longer than a few moments. If you were just watching a coverage you miss half the things the player does because the commentary is focused only on one part.

    I personally find MOBA quite dull to watch, but I also cannot watch Starcraft because it has too high a learning curve to understand the reasons behind player actions (like all RTS games). I really find FPS games like pro level CoD4 to be the most entertaining to watch…..but that might just be personal preference.

  32. Disc says:

    It shouldn’t be too hard to get the basic ideas down once you’ve played any MOBA for a few hours with people who can explain things on the fly. The hard part is really at finding the time and patience to get familiar with everything the game offers and then figuring a good formula that works for you (assuming you’d want to keep playing).

    My MOBA experience consists mostly of a handful of (original) DOTA rounds with all random heroes in a LAN party around 5 years ago. Which was somewhat painful, since I’d roll out each round with a completely new hero that I’d just have to somehow figure out how to play. I was familiar enough with Warcraft 3 so basic moving around and using skills wasn’t really a problem, but trying get on top of all the metagame that was going on was the real pain. I’d play it, but it wasn’t too much fun being the only DOTA noob in the group, trying to piece together an idea of whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing at any given time and/or figuring out how I should build the character I’m playing while trying desperately to get more gold and experience points and not get killed in the process (which would make me lose a lot of gold). I got some tips here and there which helped somewhat, but nobody really had the time to properly teach me how to play for obvious reasons. It wasn’t all we played, so it was mostly just enduring the process until we moved on to other games.

    Wasn’t really the best way to get introduced to the genre, I certainly didn’t get much of an itch to get further involved with it, but there it is. Playing with friends who know the game and have the time and willingness to show you the ropes would probably be the ideal way to learn the game if you’re up for it.

  33. Karthik says:

    I was made to try both LoL and DOTA 2 (on different occasions) by my young cousins who were into MOBAs, and I came away actually repulsed by them. I haven’t given it enough thought to know why exactly, but the thing about DOTA 2 that immediately annoyed me was that whether a projectile hits is determined when the caster launches it and not if/when it actually hits, and no amount of running around corners or behind obstacles can help you avoid it. This is a weird holdover MMO mechanic (formerly a WC3 mechanic) that I cannot wrap my mind around.

    On a different note, Shamus:

    “It's not that I think anyone owes these kids more money. I mean, you have to make due with the sponsorship you have.”

    I could have sworn the correct idiom was “make do”, but apparently your version is gaining acceptance, making it only a matter of time before it passes into formal language the way “anyways” did in the past decade. Still grates, though.

    • Shamus says:

      Yeah, that’s annoying. Fixed.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “(formerly a WC3 mechanic)”

      Formerly a starcraft mechanic.

    • Higher Peanut says:

      It’s not really weird. While it originally may have been holdover from RTS control schemes it plays a huge part in the gameplay. If ranged shots became blockable there would be a huge disincentive to play ranged over melee walls of meat. Plus aiming would have to require a totally different control scheme. It would become a very different game, more like a 3rd person shooter/brawler MOBA ala Monday Night Combat.

      • aldowyn says:

        You can dodge some abilities, at least in League. There are targeted abilities, where you click on an enemy and it WILL hit, and ‘skill shots’, where you just aim and if you miss, you miss.

        • Higher Peanut says:

          Riot has stated they want to move away from on-click no miss skills, especially where crowd control is concerned. They want to give more options to the defensive player to do something about it.

          Auto attacks always hitting are too integral to the game/s to remove. The change would be so drastic they would effectively become different games. As a side effect it also covers up latency issues which is important when auto attacks are used so frequently.

          • RCN says:

            And Extra Credits made an episode out of it:


            Also, it is also of note that “Targeted Abilities” have their own kind of counter play. In LoL, every single targeted ability has about the same “medium range” that is about the range of a “Marksman (ADC)” auto-attack range. Basically, if you’re close enough to hit someone with a ranged attack, you’re close enough to be hit by a targeted ability. (There are exceptions, like Caitlyn and her natural long range, a high leveled Tristana, a Jynx with her Fishbones or a Kog’Maw with its W active).

  34. Yeonni says:

    I’m sorry to be that way (and if someone else already talked about this because there were just too many comments for me), but why is this argument about DotA at all? Valve is the big name behind it now, not Blizzard, so it’s not a comparison of Blizzard products per se.

    The prize pool is huge because the community was asked to donate, so I don’t know how much of those 10 million is actually sponsors. Last year, League of Legend’s Worlds pool was larger than DotA2’s.

    LoL have made huge active efforts to introduce new players to MOBAs, improve community behavior (with efforts like the Tribunal, the Summoner’s Code, several functions for mute and report, as well as positive enforcement you can give the people you play after the game), and managed to get their players counted as sports professionals in the US opening up for that type of visas and a more flexible scene.

    If anything, LoL has all but paved the way with marble for DotA2 to build on a brand name that awakens sentimentality and loyalty in players. Sure if you want to talk about how complicated DotA2 is, knock yourself out (I happen to find the graphics much more blurry and difficult to make sense of, but it might just be taste/habit) but talking about e-sports growth and how a MOBA becomes big, you can’t not mention Riot.

    • Phantom Renegade says:

      I believe all the money was from the crowdfunding, you paid 7.5 dollars for the compendium item(i believe, its been a while), you got some in-game items and 2.5 dollars got added to the prize pool, if the prize pool reached a certain level stretch goals got unlocked like in kickstarter.

      The goals were as far as i know a mix bag between permanent upgrades to the game and more items for compendium owners.

      I got kinda skeeved out by it at the time like i do whenever a massive corporation decides to kickstart something because reasons, i guess in this case steam was … running out of money??? but no one said anything about it so i guess its fine.

      • Higher Peanut says:

        That funding actually left a really bad taste in my mouth. You’re a huge company, why are we paying for this? Then they waved the fact that they had the largest prize pool around. It just felt intensely sketchy for a large company that should be able to fund its own projects. I guess they got with the crowdfunding times faster than most.

        • Friend of Dragons says:

          I didn’t have a problem with it. You get a bunch of neat things from the compendium (cosmetics, access to this sort of fantasy Dota league, a bunch of little things like getting to make predictions on tournament occurrences, extra point gains from playing games, etc.), so it’s not like they’re asking something for nothing. If you like what they’re offering, you’re free to buy it, and it’s kinda neat to know that a little of that money will go to the players, too.

          And it’s not like Valve wasn’t putting money into this, either. I think they put somewhere around ~2 million into the payout, and the only reason that got eclipsed was that the compendiums sold so well.

  35. The Other Matt K says:

    My theory would simply be that DOTA style games are more interesting to watch than Starcraft style games – and I’m saying that as someone who enjoys playing Starcraft, but was never really able to get into DOTA.

    I’d think that the framework of DOTA just feels much more like watching a traditional sport, as you have an ongoing battle for control of the field and individual heroes who you can cheer for. It might take some game expertise to really know the differences between those heroes and their capabilities, but in many ways, that is a lot more manageable than the number of fiddly bits involved in Starcraft, where there are all these competing aspects of resources, base-building, unit control, etc.

  36. Cybron says:

    I don’t find MOBAs entertaining at all, either to watch or play. I just get a little jealous when I compare the prize for the International to those for EVO (the largest fighting game tournament).

    But oh well. People want what they want, I guess.

  37. Higher Peanut says:

    If you don’t want to actively play or follow MOBA games then I would say the effort isn’t going to be worth it. The investment to get anything out of the streams is large and once you get the basics down the specifics are constantly changing in patches.

    I feel e-sports have grown with the improved access to internet and larger gaming community but won’t break out of that with this. As a MOBA player I feel the same way you do here about Starcraft streams. I’ve played the game, I know how an RTS works but the streams are mostly alien.

    God help those who don’t play games regularly that might be interested. If e-sports wants to grow past dedicated gamers its got to find a simpler game or one that appears simple so uninitiated can watch without becoming lost. Someone is going to want to get in on all that money eventually.

  38. Duoae says:

    I always liked real-time strategy games (aka C&C clones – to me at least, ;) ) but I just can’t understand the draw of MOBAs. The feature set seems boring and the gameplay archaic. Sure, I’m certain that playing against human foes and a wide variety of enemies is a positive (as it would be with any other game) but I just don’t see it!

    Combine that with the insular (though apparently less so now) communities, the steep learning curve and the (to me) very generic and copy-cat presentation of the various games and I’m just put off even further.

  39. AncientSpark says:

    Even among MOBA players, DOTA is basically impossible as a spectator to figure out if you don’t play the game because DOTA hero effects are notoriously strange. As a frame of reference, I played DOTA a lot back when it was a WC3 game, then quit, then had some passing interest in it again to learn what all the heroes did through some videos and I still cannot keep up with basically half the stream due to the amount of new content. And I’ve played the damn game for a significant amount of time!

    LoL tends to be a little bit better about this because they do carry design philosophies that do make it easier for people to figure out what things do at a glance and it being a far easier game to learn, but the problem is that it’s not immune to the MOBA syndrome of a 100+ champions and each of them having unique mechanics, so no new player is going to know how it works at a glance.

    The big part of what makes MOBAs such significant esports is that they have devoted fanbases and large carry-over fanbases, not their ability to make the game easy to spectate. They’re like fighting games, except with game mechanics that seem to appeal to a wider audience for gameplay purposes, not spectator purposes.

    That said, LoL does run their stream at twitch.tv/riotgames every week from Thursday-Friday for EU and Saturday-Sunday for NA, so you might try that to see if it’s more clear, but eh…it might not be.

    My personal suggestion is that if you’re new to MOBA streams, always find a reference with all the hero/champions on them so, during the ban/pick phase, you have enough time to look up the hero/champion in question to get a general gist of how they’ll work. Although the technical terms and the item builds still won’t make any sense.

  40. Andy says:

    MOBA’s have many advantages over SC2 that allow them to be more successful as completions. MOBA’s are monetized in a way that encourages the company to support the game and continue its development through micro transactions. SC2 is going to be bought at most 3 times by a player over a ~6 year period so not as much room. DOTA also charges for tournament views which support the tournaments.

    I think the biggest thing working against SC2 is the insular nature of play. You are alone for the core experience of the game and you have no one to share success with or blame for failures. This also makes it more difficult to teach other people and share the game. League and DOTA are team games at heart which softens the learning curve significantly.

  41. ehlijen says:

    I tried to get into DOTA years ago, when it was all the rage in our college. But I found that for a multiplayer game, DOTA seemed to focus a lot on avoiding other players.

    Advise consisted of things like:
    “Don’t fight, just stand near the battling mooks and soak the XP”
    “That’s a player, run away and levelgrind some more.”
    “Don’t go into my lane, you’re hogging my XP”
    “Don’t play melee if you don’t know how to killsteal…ah wait, we went -AR, nevermind…”

    It’s an ok game, but I don’t get how it became such a popular multiplayer thing?

    I get that it ticks all the RPG skinner box checkboxes. But like the WOW boardgame, I think it discourages player interaction a bit too much and drags on too long with bits that have none.

    So why is it as popular? Is it just because it’s mini WoW? What am I missing?

    I admit I had fun when playing with friends as a team against the AI, but competitively it didn’t do it for me, unlike FPSs, mechagames or spaceshooters.

    • Duffy says:

      It’s a very different game from traditional skinner box MMOs.

      In a general sense it’s more about optimized play based on what your opponents and your team is capable of, that’s where deep knowledge of all the characters comes in handy. You want to expend your resources which include HP, Mana, Gold, Creeps, and Movement in ways that benefit you over your opponents. The Skill in doing those things plays an important role, but it’s just a part of the bigger equation.

      Something I had a hard time wrapping my head around at first was just how important it was to not die. Losing a fight is not just about losing that moment, it has side effects that ripple throughout the rest of the game.

      If you think about it more like a combination of Go and Chess that’s played asynchronously the game takes a different light.

  42. Klay F. says:

    The obvious reason is that MOBAs are free. That alone attracts millions of people the world over. I could spend hours going over everything Blizz fucked up with SC2 that lead the scene to its current situation. But nobody really wants to read that. The simple fact the Broodwar can still attract a larger crowd than SC2 in Korea makes a stronger statement than any rambling BS I could possibly post here.

  43. Gobberlerra says:

    I would highly recommend you watch a bit of league of legends, which is by far the more popular of the MOBAs. It is also a *lot* easier to understand as a first time viewer. Some of this comes from the fact that it has been designed to be a simpler, more streamlined game (while DOTA 2 prides itself on it’s complexity, allowing for wacky strats). Additionally, the game has better casters, much more distinctive silhouetting.

    Numbers wise, lol trumps DOTA2, hitting 8 million concurrent views in it’s worlds final vs 1 million in the international. Money wise, gamer pros make most their money from sponsorship deals and streaming, not prize money. Don’t know the SC numbers, but I know Ocelot (a famous eu lcs player, on one of the worse teams) reported making ~US$1 million, so at least feeding money!

    As to why LOL/DOTA2 trump starcraft, starcraft screwing things up is certainly a part of it, but really it comes down to 2 reasons: Firstly, playerbase: lol reports having 27 million active daily players, 67 million monthly (with concurrent peaks of ~7.5 million). This dwarfs starcrafts player base and players = views = money.

    The other thing that MOBAs have that traditional RTSs can’t have is inbuilt narratives, both in the gameplay, and in the build up of the players. It’s not two people moving units around to beat eachother but a team of human gladiators fighting another in a digital world. You aren’t following zed in the midlane, you are watching the godlike Faker lead his team to victory with insane plays, or the hand picked superteam made by Froggin taking on the backdoor master xPeke and the young ad superstar Rekkles or Wildturtle carrying his team one minute, and making over-aggressive mistakes the next putting them on the edge of losing. By simplifying the game, and focusing the watcher’s attention you lose strategic depth but end up with something more humanising and a better ‘story’.

    why yes… I do spend to much time thinking about this, why do you ask?

  44. kdansky says:

    I watched a lot of SC2 tournaments when they were big, and when I married, I made my wife watch them with me. And as you said, it wasn’t actually very difficult to explain the basics to her (a non-gamer), and now she has a decent grasp on how it works. When she sees Zerglings swarm a bunch of Stalkers, she knows what will go down (the Stalkers, usually). But DOTA or LoL? Absolutely impossible. I have a hard time following the games because I only spent like a hundred hours with those games, and for her, it’s confusing to the point of looking through a caleidoscope.

    I do not understand why these games are so popular. They are overly complex and they are very boring for long stretches of time, especially for the players. Walking left and right half an inch for ten minutes during laning is about as involving as watching grass grow.

  45. JoshR says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of dota these last couple of years and it is unfortunate that it is so hard to understand, but every thing that makes it complicated for spectators makes it more entertaining as a player.

    There are two reasons I think Dota is doing so well.

    The first is that it is worth it. Every seemingly ridiculous stat like turn rate, projectile speed or base damage dynamically affects each game in different ways. Before playing my first game of dota I watched about fifty games of professional matches and walkthrough/explaining videos of dota 2 games, then played 30+ bot games to try to figure it out. (I was on an exchange program and had a lot of time.) I played my first match and got my ass handed to me. I’ve since managed to achieve a level of “not sucking” enough to really enjoy the game but it’s taken a while. The complexity of the game gives it depth that can’t be matched by something like LoL which simplifies many stats. The huge variety of ways in which skills interact really make the game stand out. If you can get past the huge difficulty curve. However the game makes up for this difficulty curve in a very effective way…

    The second reason the game thrives is because it has a very competent matchmaking system. When you do your first few matches, it struggles, because it doesnt want to place every jackass who makes a new account to destroy bad players with the bad players. But if you suck for about five games, the game puts you vs other players who are equally terrible. This is very disheartening for those who give up during this period, but allows the game to retain everyone who sticks with it.

  46. Florin-Vlad says:

    Shaemus wrote:
    Note that the money was spread out over the players. The champion only won like 8,000. A lot of people went home with just $200. It's sort of sad how small the payouts are. The tournament was held in Atlanta. These players came from all over the world, and they only get a few hundred bucks? That won't even cover the airfare, much less hotel, food, and general pain-in-the-assery of long-distance travel.

    I have seen this exact same arguments relating to Magic The Gathering and to Snooker, if you don’t win, or don’t place in the first 16 or 32 you won’t even cover your fare expenses.

    These are hobbies however, so they imply investment more than gain from them.

    What Valve does with the huge bounties in the DOTA2 tournaments is as much a publicity campaign as a try to make it a legitimate sport with serious gains.

    BTW: if you want to understand something the best thing is to experience it, you might end up writing an article similar to the FPS skill level you did some years back.

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