DoTA 2 “lolz” at LoL

An objective comparison of popular MOBAS.

DoTA 2

In light of the flood of interest in LoL among the students of Ames High, I decided to dip my toe into the swirling eddies of this Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Unfortunately, the raging river of quality gameplay I expected was no more than a shallow marsh of knee-deep casual back-to-base item race.

Beginning with appearance, playable character “Champions” are usually brightly colored, over exaggerated, nonsensical Pokemon-looking models with low polycounts meant to distract from the monotonous gameplay. Riot employs novelty to sell new characters to their serfs, I mean players. “Heroes” in DoTA 2 are more neutral, yet maintain individuality with body type and corresponding color scheme.

DoTA Heroes are all available to players upon installation, rather than in a weekly rotation or by unlocking by playing the game for dozens of hours; another ploy by LoL to keep their player base invested in the game and a  Cookie-Clicker-like reward system.

The next section requires some knowledge of MOBA terms.

During early game, laning in LoL is very rigid and stale. 1 top, 1 mid, 1 jungler, 2 bottom is the setup in 95% of all matches, changing only in the transition to midgame. Players start out with a near inexhaustible mana supply, allowing them to spam abilities ad infinitum. Aggressive DoTA-style trilanes are seldom attempted except for in ambitious “pro” matches which, by the way, are filled with and won by player who practice with the more difficult DoTA.

Mechanically, DoTA 2 is much more intensive. Many mechanics are unique to DoTA, like creep blocking, denying, and turn speed. These create a game where fine “micro” skills are rewarded and LoL’s auto-attack lane pushing scheme would quickly lead to a gank. Higher mana cost in DoTA also prevents spamming abilities, even late-game, forcing a player to make strategic choices on how and when to use their abilities.

Most importantly, the propensity for countering in DoTA is what makes it so much more fun to play than LoL. The previously mentioned mana burn in DoTA means that upon respawning, a player can quickly counter their killer, left defenseless after using all their mana on that kill. Games of LoL are usually decided in the first or second teamfight, with the winning team then steamrolling towers (turrets) and ending the game. DoTA’s harsh punishment system can quickly turn on a winning team that grows careless.

Fervent worshippers of LoL may point out the higher number of views on international tournaments, but this is a strawman argument. Riot has bigger payouts for their tournaments, true, but that money is extracted from it’s playerbase when they are too frustrated to spend the in-game currency that takes dozens or hundreds of hours to accumulate. There is also evidence of inflating viewcounts on online streams, with hundreds of “users” with usernames “abc123” or some other string of letters and integers.

Objectively, DoTA is the better game, so the only remaining question is why LoL players cling to their gangrenous limb of a game. Is it Stockholm Syndrome from being trapped in Riot’s carrot-on-a-stick reward system? Is it that they want to play a game with the same level of intensity as Cooking Mama? I humbly submit that the true answer is that LoL players are simply afraid of the level of skill required for other MOBAs.