History – From DotA to DOTA 2

Valve’s DOTA 2, is one of the largest game titles in the PvP market. It is arguably the biggest title in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) market with its main competitor being, League of Legends by Riot Games. 

DOTA 2 – ‘DOTA’ plain but deep

As the number 2 in the name suggests, DOTA 2 is a sequel to Defence of the Ancients (DotA). The first game was not an official game. The preceding title was a custom game mode created by a man named Eul for the game Warcraft III. 

DotA became known as a separate entity from the game it was built on. Some would argue that more people knew about DOTA than Warcraft. By the end of the day, the game is still a mod. Development is limited by resources shared by Blizzard. The map and codes are supported by Blizzard’s World Editor instead of the game engine itself.

From DotA to DotA Allstars

2002 – Aeon of Strife

In July 2002, Blizzard Entertainment released Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. This game came with a ‘world editor’ to allow fans to make their own maps. Other people made their own games instead of just a custom setting. Kyle ‘Eul’ Sommers is one such person and he created Defence of the Ancients. 

Defence of the Ancients is a game about two bases connected by three lanes. These lanes are travelled by waves of a.i. controlled units called creeps. Both sides create the creeps of the same power level. Each wave has melee creeps and ranged creeps and they all march towards the enemy base. They will attack any enemies in the way.

Both sides are designed to be equal. Who wins is decided by the players. Each side consists of up to 5 players each controlling a hero as their avatar to move around the world. Each hero has unique strengths and weaknesses dictated by abilities and stats. Players from either side will contest to push the lanes towards the enemy’s side. The goal is to destroy each other’s bases.

Eul admitted that it was not an original idea. He got the concept from Aeon of Strife by Aeon64. This is another custom game created in another Blizzard game, Starcraft. Aeon of Strife has two factions but only one is played by the player while the other is a.i. 

In Aeon of Strife, the goal was for up to 5 players to work together to push lanes and destroy the enemy base. The enemy will constantly produce creeps of varying strengths and utilities. A player can play as one of 6 hero characters with unique properties. All players can use the money they earn to produce their own creeps. 

Defence of the Ancients adapted Aeon of Strife’s rules with a few differences. Eul’s take on the ‘lane-pushing’ genre has two player-factions against each other. The concept of ‘stronger creeps’ was removed in favour of equal power levels. If left untouched, the lane creeps will not end fighting with no progress. The idea was to make the players become the deciding factor.

Eul added more hero choices. The differences between Starcraft’s Aeon of Strife and Warcraft III’s DotA was the concept of hero-based abilities. Eul took Warcraft’s levelling progression system and upgradable hero skills to make each character play differently as the game progressed.

Blizzard released an enhanced version to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos titled Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Eul officially made a sequel to his successful creation titled DOTA 2: Thirst for Gamma. Unfortunately, he was unable to even match his first creation. Eul made his code open source then left the modding scene altogether.

Aeon Of Strife

2004 – DotA Allstars

A community flourished surrounding Eul’s concept. Many Defence of the Ancient custom maps were published on Battle.net. Different versions took the DotA title but with a special suffix to separate each series from each other. 

The most prominent series of maps are the DOTA EX, DOTA DX, DOTA Unforgiven, and DOTA Outland. Each contains original sets of heroes and items

Two modders by the name of Meian and Ragn0r compiled the most popular heroes and items of each series into one game. They dubbed it DotA Allstars. The title alone continued the entirety of the DOTA fanbase.

DotA Allstars named the two factions Sentinel and Scourge. Eul’s version was Humans versus Orc because those were the only races in Reign of Chaos. Two new races were introduced in The Frozen Throne, the Undead and Night Elves. The Sentinels have good guys and enchanted creatures. Members of the Scourge are either evil or grotesque.

Shutterstock 1511929808

From Fun and Games to eSports

2004 – Productions by Guinsoo

When DotA Allstars reached version 2, Steve ‘Guinsoo’ Feak was made lead developer. The game reached versions 3 and 4 in a span of four months. Guinsoo designed and implemented neutral creeps. The map was littered by camps of monsters that will attack anyone from either faction. This change introduced the concept of ‘jungle’, the area where a hero goes to earn money and experience away from the lanes. The game just became faster and less predictable.

Among the neutral creeps, there is Roshan. This is the strongest neutral creep in the jungle and he grows stronger with time. The longer the match, the stronger he becomes. He is named after Guinsoo’s personal bowling ball. Just like a bowling ball, Roshan is durable and destructive. He has skills that can knock down multiple targets. 

Guinsoo also came up with Weapon Upgrades. Upgrades can have the effects of two items but only takes up one slot. Some upgrades will have stronger effects or unique buffs separate from stats. This completely changed late-game for everyone. 

Several heroes were added. The most popular character made by Guinsoo was Juggernaut. For version 5, Guinsoo and his team focused on introducing even more characters. 

Guinsoo’s updates completely changed the way people played. There are new things to learn and some tactics need to change. The Map felt wider even though it takes up the same space.

Dota All Stars Website

Pendragon and the explosion of the DotA community

While Guinsoo was putting DotA Allstars together, the community was divided. DotA players did not have a place to talk. The game they love is still just a mod, after all. Blizzard’s website has forums regarding Defence of the Ancients, but all of those were made by the community. 

Under Guinsoo’s management, Steve ‘Pendragon’ Mescon joined the team as the head of community management. Pendragon designed and published DotA-Allstars.com. The website serves as a channel for the developers to make announcements regarding the state of the game. Fans can also use the forums to chat about the game. Fan-arts were uploaded and saved in the website’s archive. DotA-Allstars.com was the central hub for all things DotA. The developers were also able to track how many visitors they get every day. Turns out, the niche gained over a million fans.

The community started at a total of 30,000 users since the site went live in 2004. Pendragon supported the site himself but staff grew to over a hundred with volunteers. 

By patch DotA Allstars 5.84 of the series, DotA competitions were held all over the world. People sponsored their own events for local players. These were done first by computer shops. Before long, schools have recognized DotA as a sport and began holding their own tournaments. 

Major Turning Point

The departure of Guinsoo and Pendragon

Guinsoo was approached by two people in 2005, Brandon ‘Ryze’ Beck and Marc ‘Tryndamere’ Merrill, founders of Riot Games. They invited Guinsoo to join their project for League of Legends, a spiritual successor to Defence of the Ancients. The idea was to create a MOBA with its own engine. Guinsoo accepted the offer. He still works at Riot Games to this day.

A game needed more than a developer. A game will have fans and the company needs someone to handle them. Lucky for Riot, Guinsoo knew a guy. Riot contacted Pendragon to handle the community side of the game. 

Pendragon wrote a thank you letter to the fans through DotA-Allstars as a farewell. He began to work for Riot in 2009. He also sold the rights to DotA-Allstars.com to Riot Games. The website was then shut down. That left DotA players with no central hub again.

Series 6 with Neichus and IceFrog

Alex ‘Neichus’ Moss was in college around the time he took over as Lead Developer for DotA Allstars. He started the 6th series of Dota with the addition of 13 more heroes and 4 items. He reworked or completed 12 hero concepts. Some heroes were part of the game while others were unable to be included until he made some changes. His concept of the courier was a large influence on the competitive field of DotA. The optimization of the courier is a vital skill valued by professionals even to this day with DOTA 2 eSports

Before Guinsoo was hired by Riot Games, he worked under Neichus. Alex ‘Neichus’ Moss began the 6th series of DotA Allstars. He added 13 more heroes and reworked 12 others in the roster. Four new items were included in the items. His most notable inclusion was the courier, which delivers items from shop to hero. The use of a courier is now an essential skill among players. 

Neichus was not as popular as Guinsoo. Some argue that his additions broke the balance settled by Guinsoo’s last patch. IceFrog begged to differ. IceFrog adapted all of Neichus’s concepts to breathe new life to DotA. The game became completely different but just as popular as Guinsoo’s version.

Image 3

Neichus admitted that he had no formal background in coding, and so he hired IceFrog. Neichus grew weary between his college life and DotA. He gave up and handed the reins to IceFrog.

IceFrog focused less on changing the core mechanics and more on balancing the gameplay as they were. He continued everything Neichus had started and tweaked every hero and items already in the game. He considers abilities, possible team lineups, and weapon builds. He is known to consult professional players before a patch. 

The idea was to create a perfect balance. No heroes should be good or bad, each one is created to serve a role. There should be no tricks or combinations anyone can abuse. Eventually, version 6.27 was released in November 2005. IceFrog’s update was regarded as the second competitive version of DotA. This feat made him the most prominent figure in the community.

Image 2

Even with his fame, IceFrog never revealed his identity to the community. People he worked with decided to keep his face hidden out of respect. Valve also takes measures to keep his privacy. 

Since DotA is a game made with Warcraft III resources, Blizzard owns the title ‘Defence of the Ancients’. IceFrog came to Blizzard to pitch a game. He wants DotA to have full publisher support and an independent engine. Blizzard dismissed the idea and told him to just make it again with their upcoming game. They were not confident in a MOBA at the time, especially one made by a non-professional. That exchange disheartened IceFrog and the DotA community as a whole.

DOTA 2 – Under Valve

Valve Corporation learned of IceFrog’s attempt. Project Director Erik Johnson sought DotA Allstar’s lead developer. Valve expresses full interest in developing DotA Allstars into an official franchise. In 2009, IceFrog delighted fans with an announcement. He is now in partnership with Valve as lead developer for DOTA 2.

Valve can’t use ‘Defence of the Ancients’ for copyrights reasons. The community was okay with that. Valve and IceFrog coined ‘DOTA’ as a word on its own. It’s no longer a shortcut. It is a word that holds its own identity recognized by everyone. 

Image 1

Using Valve’s Source Engine, IceFrog had many ways to recreate DotA. They made new models for each hero and the map was built from the ground up. DOTA 2 was made playable in Alpha in 2010 with Steam as the official distributor. Playable Beta became available in 2011 along with the message that Valve will host a tournament with $1.6 million prize money. This tournament was officially called ‘The International’. Shortened to TI.

DOTA 2 was still incomplete. Valve and IceFrog planned to port every character from DotA to DOTA. Many heroes were still in development for a year, even during TI2. Even so, Valve sponsored small online events. Teams were invited for the next grand event based on popularity.

DOTA 2 always boasts having the biggest prize pot in eSports every year. This made the game grow rapidly among gamers. In 2015, the pot money grew to over 30 million USD. With all DotA Allstars heroes ported in DOTA 2, the game was completed just in time for TI5. 

DOTA 2 received a massive success using Valve’s Source Engine. In 2016, the game was transferred to the all-new Source Engine 2. The new game engine gave IceFrog more editing freedom. DOTA 2’s graphics were improved immensely. Heroes and the world became even more beautiful. The new engine also brought a new user interface. 

The community of DOTA grew massively from when it was still just a mod. The presence of developers who care deeply for the game resonates with veterans and newcomers alike. The community and the game have grown and will keep growing for years to come. New heroes have arrived and new features were implemented that were previously impossible when relying on an unsupported, age-old game. IceFrog and Valve brought Defence of the Ancients to a level that the small community, including the creator, Eul, did not expect, but was truly proud to see. 

List of Heroes released per series

Below are lists of all known heroes as they were introduced in DotA Allstars. The tables contain their original full names in Allstars parallel to how they are commonly referred to in DOTA 2. Many heroes kept their name and titles, though most players know each of them only by either one.

Heroes available on DotA Allstars v0.60 

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Akasha, the Queen of PainQueen of Pain
Anub’arak, the Nerubian AssassinNyx Assassin
Chen, the Holy KnightChen
Dark Terror, the Faceless VoidFaceless Void
Furion, the Nature’s ProphetNature’s Prophet
Kel’Thuzad, the LichLich
Krobelus, the Death ProphetDeath Prophet
Lesale Dethbringer, the VenomancerVenomancer
Lina Inverse, the SlayerSlayer
Lion, the Demon WitchLion
Lucifer, the Doom BringerDoom
Magnus, the MagnataurMagnus
Nortrom, the SilencerSilencer
Ostarion, the Wraith KingWraith King
Pugna, the OblivionOblivion
Razor, the Lightning RevenantRazor
Rhasta, the Shadow ShamanShadow Shaman
Rikimaru, the Stealth AssassinRiki
Rylai Crestfall, the Crystal Maiden Crystal Maiden
Shendelzare Silkwood, the Vengeful SpiritVengeful Spirit
Slardar, the Slithereen GuardSlardar
Sven, the Rogue KnightSven
Traxex, the Drow RangerDrow Ranger
Viper, the Netherdrake Viper
Visage, the Necro’licVisage

Series 2 Heroes 

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Anti-Mage, the MaginaAnti-Mage
Banehallow, the LycanthropeLycan
Clinkz, the Bone FletcherClinkz
Davion, the Dragon KnightDragon Knight
Kardel Sharpeye, the Dwarven SniperSniper
Luna Moonfang, the Moon riderLuna
Mortred, the Phantom AssassinPhantom Assassin
Nessaj, the Chaos KnightChaos Knight
Terrorblade, the Soul KeeperTerrorblade

Series 3 Heroes

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Medusa, the GorgonMedusa

Series 4 Heroes

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Gondar, the Bounty HunterBounty Hunter
Leshrac, the MaliciousLeshrac
N’aix, the LifestealerLifestealer
Slithice, the Naga SirenNaga Siren
Squee Spleen and Spoon, the Goblin TechiesTechies
The MorphlingMorphling
Yurnero, the JuggernautJuggernaut
Zeus, Lord of OlympiaZeus

Series 5 Heroes

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Aggron Stonebreak, the Ogre MagiOgre Magi
Atropos, the Bane ElementalBane
Balanar, the Night StalkerNight Stalker
Black Arachnia, the BroodmotherBroodmother
Boush, the TinkerTinker
Centaur, WarchiefCentaur Warrunnner
Crixalis, the Sand KingSand King
Ezalor, the Keeper of, the LightKeeper of, the Light
Jah’rakal, the Troll WarlordTroll Warlord
Leviathan, the TidehunterTidehunter
Mangix, the Pandaren BrewmasterBrewmaster
Pudge, the ButcherPudge
Rooftrellen, the Treant ProtectorTreant Protector
Rotund’jere, the NecrolyteNecrophos
Syllabear, the Lone DruidLone Druid
Ulfsaar, the Ursa WarriorUrsa

Series 6 Heroes

DotA Allstars NameDOTA 2 name
Abaddon, the Lord of AvernusAbaddon
Aiushtha / EnchantressEnchantress
Alleria, the WindrunnerWindranger
Anub’seran, the Nerubian WeaverWeaver
Aurel Vlaicu, the GyrocopterGyrocopter
Auroth, the Winter WyvernAuroth, the Winter Wyvern
Azgalor, the PitlordUnderlord
Azrwaith, the Phantom LancerPhantom Lancer
Barathrum, the SpiritbreakerSpirit Breaker
Cairne Bloodhoof, the Tauren ChieftainElder Titan
Darchow, the EnigmaEnigma
Dazzle, the Shadow PriestDazzle
Demnok Lamnik, the WarlockWarlock
Dirge, the UndyingUndying
Dragonus, the Skywrath MageSkywrath Mage
Eredar, the Shadow DemonShadow Demon
Harbinger, the Obsidian DestroyerOutworld Devourer
Huskar, the Sacred WarriorHuskar
Icarus, the PhoenixPhoenix
Io, the Guardian WispIo
Ish’kafel – Dark SeerDark Seer
Jakiro, the Twin Head DragonJakiro
Jin’zakk, the BatriderBatrider
Kael, the InvokerInvoker
Kaldr, the Ancient ApparitionAncient Apparition
Kaolin, the Earth SpiritEarth Spirit
Kunkka, the AdmiralKunkka
Lanaya, the Templar AssassinTemplar Assassin
Lyov, the BristlebackBristleback
Meepo, the GeomancerMeepo
Mercurial, the SpectreSpectre
Mirana, the Priestess of, the MoonMirana
Mogul Khan, the AxeAxe
Nerif, the OracleOracle
Nevermore, the Shadow FiendShadow Fiend
Puck, the Faerie DragonPuck
Raigor Stonehoof, the EarthshakerEarthshaker
Raijin Thunderkeg, the Storm SpiritStorm Spirit
Rattletrap, the Clockwerk GoblinClockwerk
Razzil Darkbrew, the AlchemistAlchemist
Rexxar, the BeastmasterBeastmaster
Rizzrak, the Goblin ShredderTimbersaw
Rubick, the Grand MagusRubick
Slark, the Murloc NightcrawlerSlark
Strygwyr, the BloodseekerBloodseeker
Thrall, the DisruptorDisruptor
Tiny, the Stone GiantTiny
Tresdin, the Legion CommanderLegion Commander
Vol’Jin, the Witch DoctorWitch Doctor
Xin, the Ember SpiritEmber Spirit
Ymir, the TuskarrTuskar
Zet, the Arc WardenArc Warden 

Heroes that debut in DOTA 2

The list below contains heroes that debuted in DOTA 2. Next to each hero is the date in which they were officially released as playable characters in (dd/mm/yyyy) format. 

  • Monkey King – 12/12/2016
  • Dark Willow – 31/10/2017
  • Pangolier – 31/10/2017
  • Grimstroke – 24/08/2018
  • Mars – 5/3/2019