Production director Chris Sigaty has explained to Eurogamer that Blizzard is aiming for a more accessible take on the popular DOTA gametype with its official StarCraft 2 mod, Blizzard DOTA.
Shorter games, a simpler item system, simpler abilities and less powerful towers are the tools Blizzard will employ to make the game easier to get to grips with and "remove social tension" - although the intention is that it will be "easy to learn, difficult to master".
"Blizzard DOTA is our take on the DOTA-style games, but we're... really trying to question a lot of the mechanics that are in the DOTA-style games that are out there - last hitting and splitting gold and splitting experience and that sort of thing - and trying to really drive it down to the core fun of the gameplay," Sigaty told us at BlizzCon.
DOTA is a mini-genre blending tower defence, real-time strategy and action-RPG combat that began with the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft 3 and now encompasses League of Legends and Valve's in-development Dota 2. A common complaint from new players of these games is the hostile reception from expert players who feel they let the side down.
"One of the big things is trying to remove social tension. Because all of the DOTA-style games... You almost get in this game space where your own team is angry at you because you don't know enough about it and you're holding them back," Sigaty said.
"One of the things we've found that leads to that is games tend to take 45-90 minutes in play... So we've shortened the game dramatically. Average game time is 20, 25 minutes, 30 at the outside. You can get two games during your lunch break if you want, so it's not the end of the world if your team-mate isn't perfect."
Blizzard also wants to promote team play and tackle the individualist attitude of players, bred by separating kills and assists. Blizzard DOTA will simply have 'takedowns', and all players who contribute to one kill will get an equal split of the gold and experience reward.
Sigaty said Blizzard had identified overpowered towers - the original mod's 'Ancients' - as a flaw that led to conservative and unintuitive play styles.
"We've done some things that encourage you to be heroic in the beginning," he continued. "Towers are so powerful in most DOTA-style games that the way the game plays is you head out and you sit under your tower and wait for somebody to make a mistake.
"We have ammunition on towers in Blizzard DOTA, so if you do that, you'll finally run out of ammo. And they regenerate slowly. You'll actually hurt your tower if you don't push to try and keep them from even getting to the tower."
Further changes include simpler items, character stats (Blizzard DOTA has just three - health, damage and mastery) and abilities. Heroes will be divided into easy-to-understand classes: durable 'Tanks', 'Support' characters, 'DPS' player-killers and 'Siege' characters designed specifically for taking down the enemy base.
Sigaty said the team felt that the deep systems in other DOTA games weren't compatible with a fast-paced competitive game.
"The item systems in many of the DOTA-style games are extremely complex. Some people love it. We feel like reading wikis to understand your build for your particular hero, how you should play it, is too complex," he said. "So we've come up with a much more simplified item system that we feel still gives lots of different options to you... but is much simpler to understand.
"The abilities too, same thing. There are some very complex abilities in DOTA-style games we've tried to do away with too much complexity there so you can pick it up.
"You know, you've got 20 minutes for a game. You need to be able to look at a tooltip and get it pretty quickly... rather than having to think. You'll still have to play more to gain more. But if you look at some of the games today, they're as complex of World of Warcraft, which has many, many hours of gameplay to familiarise yourself."
Although making DOTA more accessible is "a goal", a DOTA game nonetheless needs depth - which Blizzard intends to add by focusing on a more involving metagame, with multiple maps and big bonuses for capturing extra areas of the map: these might add a team of Warcraft ogres to your side, or a giant Protoss mech that can take enemy towers down with ease.
"We want to make sure it still has the hardcore element; easy to learn, difficult to master has been a motto that we've had for a very long time," Sigaty said. "We have that, so that depth is there from how you become better by playing. You learn subtleties to how you play but it's not because of added complexity to how you learn it. It should be easy to learn."
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