Defense of the Ancients (DotA) is a custom map for Warcraft III, inspired by a similar map called "Aeon of Strife" and released for Starcraft.
The scenario was developed using the map editor that comes with each copy of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and was later updated upon the release of the Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne to use the expansion's new assets and features. Over the years there have been many variations of the original concept made by different map makers. Currently, the most played version on Warcraft III is DotA: Allstars, which has been maintained by several volunteering authors during its development.
Since its release, Allstars has been featured at many worldwide tournaments, including Blizzard Entertainment's BlizzCon 2005 and the Asian World Cyber Games, as well as the Cyberathlete Amateur and CyberEvolution leagues. Gamasutra declared that DotA was perhaps the most popular "free, non-supported game mod in the world." The map has gone on to influence other maps and games, including the videogame League of Legends, and even spawned a stand-alone sequel, Dota 2 .
The gameplay of Defense of the Ancients consist in a battle between teams of five players, fighting each other's with the objective to destroy the main opponents' buildings: the World Tree for the Sentinel team on the south west corner of the map, and the Frozen Throne for the Scourge Team on the north east corner. Both of these buildings are called "Ancients". The two teams' Ancients are each placed inside the team bases at the opposing corners of the map, each guarded by two powerful towers, and nine more towers placed along the three paths that connects the bases of the two competing teams.
Each player uses a single unit called "hero" that can have unique spells and different statistics. In Allstars there's more than one hundred different heroes to choose. Heroes are assisted by a computer-controlled army of units called "creeps" that spawns at regular time at the friendly base and only moves along a predetermined path in the direction of the enemy base, attacking any enemy unit or building came in their range. Just like it happens in action role-playing video games, when killing enemy heroes and creeps the players gains experience points with whom they can level up their hero to obtain better spells and statistics.
The typical resource gathering of Warcraft III is replaced by a combat-oriented money system; the only sources of gold are a small periodic income and the gold bounty earned by inferring final blows to enemy units, heroes and structures. Using gold, players can buy items to strengthen their hero statistics or gain special spells or attack modifiers. Certain items can be combined each other and with recipes to create more powerful items. Buying items that suits well with one specific hero is an important tactical element of the scenario.
Allstars offers a variety of game modes, selected by the game host at the beginning of the match writing specific commands in the game chat. The game modes dictate the difficulty of the scenario, as well as whether people can choose their hero or are assigned one randomly. Many game modes can be combined each other (for example, an easy difficulty level and a random hero pick), allowing more flexible options.
Because Warcraft III custom games have none of the features designed to improve game quality (matchmaking players based on connection speed, banlist, etc.), external programs are used to complement Defense of the Ancients. This includes tools to ping player's locations and to exclude some geographic regions, alongside banlist programs intended to kick unpolite players from matches.
The first version of Defense of the Ancients was released in 2003 by a mapmaker under the alias Eul, who based the map on a previous StarCraft scenario known as Aeon of Strife made by Aeon64, but allowing two player-controlled factions to battle each other (Aeon of Strife was a co-operative game against a computer-controlled faction). Eul did not update the scenario after the release of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, which added new features to the World Editor, so other mapmakers produced their own portings for the expanded game, and eventually they added new heroes, items, and different features. By early 2004 there were many versions of DotA available to play on The Frozen Throne, and none of them prevailed upon the others.
Then a mapmaker called Meian made his own version of DotA, featuring those that in his opinion were the best heroes among the other DotA variants created in the wake of Eul's map. He called his map DotA Allstars for this reason, and with the help of another mapmaker called Ragn0r he updated that map for the next few versions. After he abandoned development, another modder called Steve 'Guinsoo' Feak picked up the map and started to add his own original content. Alongside new heroes with inventive spells not seen before in other custom games, Feak added a recipe system for items so that player's equipment would scale as they grew more powerful, as well as a powerful boss character in the middle of the map called Roshan (named after his bowling ball) who required an entire team to defeat but gave a high prize in gold.
Those features were unparalled by the other competing maps so many players switched to Allstars, and under Feak direction the map would become the most successful version of DotA ever. Feak said when he began developing DotA Allstars he had no idea how popular it would eventually become; the emerging success of the game type inspired him to design a new title around what he considered an new genre. After becoming a fan of the map, Steve 'Pendragon' Mescon contacted Steve Feak and opened in 2004 a community site, Dota-Allstars.com, that became the official website for the map and provided DotA players a place to congregate, complementing the battle.net chat channel (Clan TDA) Feak created for that purpose. Now Dota-Allstars.com is no more the official website, but it represented a milestone for the promotion of the game.
Towards the end of his association with the map, Feak primarily worked on optimizing DotA before handing over control to his henchman Neichus after version 5.84b. In early 2005 Neichus became the lead designer of DotA Allstars and added a new terrain and new heroes, but since he had problems in coding JASS (the scripting language featured in Warcraft III) from version 6.01 he was assisted for the coding part by another mapmaker called IceFrog. When Neichus left the development of DotA after some months, IceFrog became the sole developer for the map and began an extensive job of balancing the gameplay, alongside new releases of heroes and new items. IceFrog is still in charge of maintaining DotA Allstars, but starting with version 6.68, released in 2010, he changed the name just to "DotA".
Defense of the Ancients has still a strong community support, with all new official website at PlayDota. Users can post ideas for new heroes or items, some of which are added to the map. Players have contributed icons and hero descriptions and created the artwork displayed while the map loads, and suggestions for changes to existing heroes or items, if substantiated, are taken seriously.
Reception and legacy
Over the time Defense of the Ancients became so popular that even surpassed the main multiplayer mode of the Blizzard game upon which is based. The scenario was featured by Computer Gaming World in a review of new maps and mods for Warcraft III. DotA Allstars became an important tournament scenario, starting with its prominence at the debut of Blizzard's BlizzCon convention in 2005. Defense of the Ancients was included in the game lineup for the internationally recognized Cyberathlete Amateur League and CyberEvolution leagues. Additionally, the scenario appeared in Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) 2008. Oliver Paradis, ESWC's competition manager, noted that the high level of community support behind the scenario, as well as its worldwide appeal, were among the reasons it was chosen.
Defense of the Ancients has been credited as one of the influences for the 2009 Gas Powered Games title Demigod, with the video game publication GameSpy noting the game's premise revolved around aspiring gods "[playing] DotA in real life". Guinsoo went on to apply many of the mechanics and lessons he learned from developing Defense of the Ancients to the Riot Games title League of Legends. The developer S2 Games even obtained the permission from IceFrog to incude the mechanics of many DotA heroes in their Heroes of Newerth, albeit with some differences in the spells and graphical appearance. The success of Defense of the Ancients prompted Valve Software to hire IceFrog to develop together a sequel, Dota 2.