Lately, Defense of the Ancients-style games have exploded in popularity. Valve is working on DotA 2, and has already held their first international tournament. Meanwhile, Riot Games is releasing an update to their widely played League of Legends called Dominion.
Yesterday at PAX I grabbed Riot Games' senior producer Travis George to chat about Dominion and the general state of the DotA-style genre.
"We were the first ones to do it, but there's other interpretations," George said. "And we sat down and we said, 'You know, we could make a new map in a similar style, but what's the best case scenario? The best case scenario is that we have a map that our fans like a little less than one or the other.'
When I asked George about how similar so many DotA-Style games look from the outside, he equated the genre to the early days of FPSes. "Dominion evolved from this desire to create a different experience within the genre. MOBAs [Riot's term for DotA-style games] are like first-person shooters. Like, when Doom came out, everything was kind of like Doom or Wolfenstein. Everyone made deathmatch. But then someone said 'Hey, you know what? We could do, say, a tactical shooter. And now 'first-person shooter' is this huge genre with tons of variation in it that has all these successful things that are not just deathmatch."
Leage of Legends and its ilk have a reputation for being deep and complex, and not particularly welcoming to newcomers. With their newfound popularity, plenty of folks are curious about the games but intimidated about diving in. I asked George whether or not Dominion would make League of Legends more welcoming to the uninitiated.
"The reason that a newcomer would want to play a game is that it's a different experience," he said. "When I say that it's about 'Capture and Hold,' that's understandable on a high level. Try to explain classic League of Legends and it's like, 'Well, there's these three lanes, and they're these minions, and there's bases, but then there's a bunch of other neutral monsters, and then there's another team… [Dominion] has all of that, but when I say, 'Capture and Hold,' you know exactly what you're doing. It's just set in the MOBA space.
"One of the things that we wanted to be sure to do was not to dumb down the game," George was careful to assure me. "We just wanted to make the concept more accessible."
Dominion will also dial up each match's pacing compared with League of Legends. "The pace of the action in Dominion is consistently high," George said. "In classic League of Legends you've got two phases of the game. If you get into a fight in the first fifteen minutes, it might be an accident, or a rarity. Whereas in Dominion, if you're not team fighting someone in the first thirty seconds, you're doing something wrong. The games average 20 minutes. The longest game we've ever seen investing is 31 minutes."
I asked George what he thought about a studio with a reputation like Valve releasing DotA 2, a game that will be in direct competition with League of Legends. "I'm a huge fan of Valve," he said. "But at the same time, we've got a lot of people playing our game already."
George explained that Dominion was certainly not a response to DotA 2, since it has been in development since well before he and the team at Riot knew anything about Valve's game. In the end, George said, competition will be good for the genre and for the industry, and should push developers to improve and expand their games to stand apart.