DOTALAND note: Juhuashen, the writer of this piece, is a fan-slash-Dota writer that gives a bottom-up look at Dota and where Dota 2 is heading in his own way here. He gives us a small look into what the world and future of Dota ‘feels’ like for an average fan. Worth the ten minutes if you have it to spare.
I’ve got a friend, 30 years of age this year. In sophomore year of college he took a year off to go work at a TV shopping company, delivering goods all across the country. Two years ago he got married, last year he had a daughter; they live with his parents together in an apartment of some 80 square meters, and he’s got a fancy electric bicycle. We’ve known each other for ten years now, and our dream once was to become national Dota champions. Back then, the 11 platform didn’t exist, there was of course no ladder system, so we’d always be on the VS platform instead. We did not want to pay for VIP account privileges, so every morning we’d log on bright and early to claim a spot in the coveted high level lobbies, and squatted with our plebian accounts.
In those days, Haitao was still a commentator — not famous yet — at PLU, 2009 was still with FTD, BurNing’s ID was still Dahuzi, longDD was switching between clubs every other month. JFY (加菲盐）was top dog in domestic commentators, Loda and Vigoss were sweeping all before them. My friend and I devoted our youth into witnessing the shifting sands of the times, one after another, even though we never did come close to achieving our goal of winning a national title.
Recently, this friend of mine started a business selling construction materials, but things have been going slowly. In his down time, he’d play some LoL, ranked somewhere low, around the 1500 range. Whenever we went out on the town together, he’d be telling me… “I’m old now, can’t play as well anymore, and I’ve long since lost that passion that we used to have for Dota.” I would ask him, “Then do you only play LoL now”, and his answer, “Not entirely, sometimes I ‘play’ my wife too.”
Not long ago, the Dota 2 Chinese servers officially went into beta, so I got in touch with this friend to let him know the good news, and got a beta key for him. He spent the entire afternoon downloading the client, then we spent the entire evening waiting on matchmaking. In the end, we successfully played two games against insane AI, and altogether we died to the AI over 20 times.
Our collective impression was taht Dota 2 does indeed improve immensely in terms of visuals, for example in old Dota, day and night would only be separated by a brief audio cue, while in Dota 2 everything is visually represented.
As for the topic of the DotA to Dota 2 transition, many original Dota players still feel a great amount of unfamiliarity in making the switch. I’ve met people who had no idea what to buy or where to buy it when beginning a game, because the shop system has been redesigned. And even though some commentators have also put out a series of new player guides, what goes into making this transition will still time, a process.
Speaking of process, the approval process for Dota 2 was one that required Perfect World to edit the game to fit certain censorship standards. Heroes like Lich, Lifestealer, and Pudge had their open wounds and scary faces covered up, with the likes of Skeleton King, Lich, and Clinkz looking as if they decided that the Chinese air quality meant that they needed face masks before making their domestic debut. That which is covered up is perfect, and thus, perfect was covered up.
In the ramp up for Dota 2 in China, everything Perfect World has done — from marketing, to translations, to voice overs — have seen high praise, yet, this is still just praise. After all, the game itself is still in that awkward testing, semi-closed phase, and everyone else is still stuck in an age where iG had just won the million dollar prize, still in the belief that China stands tallest amongst Dota gods.
A game’s maturity in a region isn’t necessarily down to the ability of professional teams to achieve results. Instead, it is the game’s wider general following. Back when SK and VP floated high above all others, we only had a Haofang platform domestically. When China finally entered a golden age, that coincided with the golden age for internet cafes in the country, with large and small tournaments and events all over the country, amateur teams were at a higher level then as well. But nowadays, you walk into an internet cafe, and almost all are playing LoL. The conflict between Dotaers and LoLers has never paused.
My friend and I are old Dotaers, from version 6.43. We also played a period of LoL, and I feel that Dota is a game that requires more brainpower, more technique, more mechanics, and emphasizes head to head competitiveness more, while LoL as a game tends to emphasize casual entertainment. I don’t know if you all have realized or not, but to play one intense game of Dota is equivalent to playing three games of LoL in terms of the amount of energy and brainpower expended. Once you hit a high enough level of play in LoL, item choices stagnate. Of course, in the end these comparisons and ensuing arguments never get anywhere — it’s like having to make a choice between saving your girlfriend or your mother from drowning, whatever it is, there will remain a conflict.
Domestically, Dota 2 tournaments have been few and far between. To this day I do not understand fully what the ACE Alliance has done, and perhaps this is simply because I’m dumb, or I lack clarity on the issue. But from my point of view, having a positive esports environment, along with a passionate and healthy fanbase, are things that are more important than having some alliance to make rules and regulations. Looking at the recent G-1 League, where Chinese teams were schooled by a certain Loda, I believe that the result was not one born of a lack of ability in our teams, but a lack of openness and activity in prior training and competition.
Still, Dota 2’s future in China is one full of bright optimism, this is something that is obvious from the fervor with which masses of gamers have been chasing after beta keys. It can be seen that there are many who want beta keys, and beta key events are hot, yet those who actually get keys are few and lucky. This results in matchmaking on our servers needing up to half an hour or longer at times. For new players trying to play co-op versus AI, apart from easy AI having some people to play with, all other levels basically see no activity. Right now, we can only wait, wait for the game’s operating company to get operations in full gear, wait for our community pillars and contributors to put out more Dota 2 new player guides. From Perfect World’s current level of progress, we can remain steadfast in our optimism, because at least we can see that they are putting heart and effort into this game, so we hope that we can see a repeat of the glories of DotA 1.
After all, Dota witnessed our youths. We wonder how many younger friends will grow up with Dota 2. This is a game that we once we crazy about, a game that held so many dreams, so our hope is that this all-new version of our old friend can bring about all those things once again. So that in the years following, another generation can recount their glories and falls at the street-side food vendor, talk about the victories of Chinese teams on the world’s stage, all with a sense of shared pride. And every summer and winter break, that sense of foreboding, because yet another wave of fresh blood in the form of youngsters, kids, were about to join in……