DotA Allstars is a variant of the custom map Defense of the Ancients for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. It is a team strategy game focused on hero combat. The objective is to destroy the opponents' base using one's own hero along with allied heroes and allied AI-controlled fighters called "creeps". The most recent version is currently 6.43b.
Each player controls a single hero, which is a powerful unit with unique abilities. Players choose one of the eighty-two heroes available between the two teams, as of version 6.42. DotA allows for a maximum of ten players in a five versus five format and an additional two slots for referees or observers, and games are usually played with even numbers of players on each side. Along with his or her teammates, a player fights alongside one of the two battling computer-controlled powers—the Sentinel and the Scourge, which are thematically represented as good and evil, respectively. Each team has a computer-controlled base on opposing corners of the map. The objective of the game is to breach the other team's defensive base towers and destroy their main structure (World Tree if one is affiliated with the Sentinel side or Frozen Throne if one is affiliated with the Scourge). The towers act as fortresses and are very important to the game, as they must be destroyed in order to reach the main base.
As Dota Allstars gameplay revolves around the use of individual heroes, it does not require one to focus on resource management and base-building, which is common in traditional Real-time strategy games. Instead, a player's attention is focused on their hero, and their time is devoted to gaining experience by killing weak enemy units, gaining gold by getting the killing blow on these units, and skirmishing with the opposing heroes. The typical resource-gathering of Warcraft III is replaced by a combat-oriented money system. In addition to a small periodic gold income, heroes earn gold by killing creeps, base structures, and enemy heroes. With their gold, players buy items to strengthen their hero and gain additional abilities. Certain items can be combined along with 'recipes' to create more powerful items. Buying items to suit one's hero is an important tactical element of the game.
A typical DotA Allstars game lasts between thirty to ninety minutes, depending on the quality of the players and heroes on each team and also on the game mode. There are a variety of game modes which dictate whether people can choose their own hero or be assigned one randomly, or that can change the difficulty of the game. Game modes can additionally be combined, leading to extremely flexible game rules.
Although there are heroes that have an edge over others, the game is designed with balance in mind and no invincible heroes. At times, or in certain line-ups, some heroes may appear imbalanced, either seeming too weak or too powerful. In most cases this only depends on the player's skill or the heroes that have been chosen, but when a hero is indeed too strong or too weak, the next version of the map will most likely address the issue. However, even a hero that seems underpowered to some players can incline the balance of the game through wise skill and item choices .
Recognition and popularity
Blizzard has officially recognized DotA Allstars as its first Spotlight Map entry in the Battle.net Hall of Fame. It was also an independent tournament item at the debut of Blizzard's BlizzCon convention in 2005. Dota Allstars was also featured in the Malaysia and Singapore World Cyber Games 2005, 2006, and the World Cyber Games Asian Championships 2006. DotA is included in the game lineup for the internationally-recognized Cyberathlete Amateur League, and the CyberEvolution league.
As its public profile has increased, so has DotA Allstars' popularity among players around the world, as observed on the Battle.net servers. In addition to competitive play in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, casual games are played in every Battle.net region. Though the map is developed in North America, players are increasingly joining clans and leagues in other areas, challenging more established North American clans.
DotA has inspired significant fan art. One of the most famous DotA-inspired songs is "Vi sitter i Ventrilo och spelar DotA" by Swedish musician BassHunter. There are many other amateur songs, often in Hip-Hop genre, known and created by players. Fans also created the artwork displayed while the map is loading. DotA has been regarded as one of the fastest growing e-sports.
The development of DotA Allstars has been long and continual, and has resulted in many versions and forks. The heroes and items are updated frequently to ensure balance in the game. The map has been contributed to by many designers, notably including Eul, Guinsoo, and IceFrog. The map's popularity sparked a controversy over who ought to be credited for its fame.
Bugs in version 5 of Allstars prompted many to offer fixes to Guinsoo but the development of the code was opaque and release schedules were discretionary. As such, the map forked in version 5.84c with Guinsoo releasing version 6.
Guinsoo ended the version 5 series with the creation of DotA Allstars 5.84, which added new heroes and a few bug fixes. Still, several errors and imbalances were overlooked in 5.84 leading to the release of a corrected version immediately, known as 5.84b. A Russian developer named True.Rus developed an unofficial fork named 5.84c and then 5.84d. These did not feature any new functionality or heroes, but he did fix several skills that were functioning improperly due to a recent Battle.net patch and optimized the loading time of the map, reducing it from 6–10 minutes to 30 seconds-2 minutes. You can also deny in order to reduce experience that opposing heroes gain.
The 6.x series was released on February 28, 2005. Changes including new heroes, new items and a new grassy terrain were released in version 6.0, though the terrain was later changed back to almost match that of the 5.84 series. The original changes in 6.0 were quite drastic at first, causing some players to resist and stick with the 5.84c version.
Shortly after the release of 6.01, Guinsoo devoted his time to World of Warcraft and discontinued development of Allstars. In Guinsoo's absence, IceFrog stepped up along with Neichus. IceFrog is now the main programmer for the map, doing anything from implementation and balancing to debugging. With each consecutive version released by the team in the 6 series, bug fixes, new heroes and additional spells have been introduced.
On October 31, 2005, with the new endorsement from Blizzard Entertainment and the opening of a Cyberathlete Amateur League division dedicated to Defense of the Ancients, another era of Allstars began. With the introduction of DotA into league play, there came a new wave of team strategy that evolved out of normal public play. Whereas previously players ran around the map trying to get hero kills to fund the best items, league strategy is based on team synergies which focus around picking heroes with complementary skills.
During each successive CAL season, league strategies have become more and more advanced as new balances have been introduced and tactics have been discovered. In Season 1, the normal strategy was to find a balance flaw such as the item Necronomicon and aggressively exploit it. In Season 2, strategies emphasized mid- and late-game team combinations which required split-second timing and team synchronization. Season 3 saw the introduction of "lane control" as a new factor in DotA strategy.
In contrast to previous seasons' lane combinations which relied on teaming up on individual enemy heroes, and timing, lane control is the technique of establishing dominance of one's lane very early in the game through superior micromanagement and aggressively attacking and subduing the enemy if their hero choice is inadequate. Lane control has taken a dominant role in competitive play, forcing players to abandon many late-game-oriented heroes in favor of those that can satisfactorily hold a lane. However, recent changes to deemphasize experience denial are viewed as the first step along a path to redeem heroes that have been deemed unsuitable for league play and create more focus on last hitting for gold to "farm up" for late game rather than denying experience to the opponent.
Since 6.27, the map used in league matches is usually several versions behind the most current map, giving time for the league version to become considered stable and bug-free.
CAL Season 3 used version 6.37, and this version was employed in several major tournaments including CEVO and MyM3. Initially the map was considered well-balanced, but toward the middle of November teams began to discover that Sentinel was considerably stronger than the Scourge. In combination, several Sentinel heroes formed an overpowering combination. The standard Sentinel lineup was Holy Knight, Twin Head Dragon, Vengeful Spirit, Lone Druid (going solo to the middle lane), and either Bristleback or Beastmaster. These heroes formed the core of what many started calling 4/4,  a term for the dominance of Sentinel. The general idea was that Sentinel was able to push towers and bases very quickly such that early-midgame was in their total favour. Granted, the Scourge had many powerful options in 6.37, including the often called game's best solo hero, Viper. However their synergy couldn't stop Sentinel's midgame pushes. The reason that these heroes made such a good mid game team is that the ability of the Holy Knight and the Twin Head Dragon to quickly kill creep waves made it easy for the Sentinel to advance to the Scourge's Base. The Beastmaster and Vengeful Spirit both have stunning moves that can disable the opponents and make them easy targets. Lone Druid can summon a gigantic bear that is also useful to help in pushes and disable enemy heroes. In the highest-level tournaments, it was extremely rare that both teams won as Scourge during this time. As of version 6.42, three of the heroes in the standard Sentinel 6.37 lineup are weakened (so called nerfed), in addition to new heroes and other changes which affect the game balance. Both Jakiro, Twin Headed Dragon and Chen, Holy Knight have received a substantial nerf, particularly Chen, as neutral creeps have been weakened and his main force was the ability to control them and abuse their special abilities (most notably the stunning stomp ones). Syllabear, The Lone Druid's bear has also been weakened, having slower attack speed and only getting entangle at level 4.
In 6.37, the main Scourge force was an emphasis on multiple AOE nukes and stunner-effects, such as Queen of Pain, Death Prophet, Necrolyte, Sand-King, Leviathan, etc., With any decent team packing 4 to 5 heroes with good AOE spells, which are very synnergetic in team pushes and ganks that end up in a 4v5 or 5v5 fight. Although Scourge lacked the heroes to counteract the raw power of the Sentinel heroes, their large number of powerful heroes with AOE effects allowed them to put up some sort of battle.
As of 6.43 most of these problems are solved, both by nerfing the main heroes and by accelerating the creep waves growth, making nuke-based heroes less powerful. It is now contested that Scourge may have an advantage, mainly because of the tremendous boosts that Nevermore has been receiving in the past few versions up to 6.43, and the fact that most of the relevant nerfs have targeted only Sentinel heroes.
Several new items were introduced in 6.42. Most significantly, the Aegis of the Immortal, one of the most controversial items in the game, underwent a major change. Prior to 6.42, the Aegis of the Immortal allowed the holder to respawn in their base rather than dying when "killed," leading to suicide raids against the enemies towers and barracks, a very powerful strategy that was criticized as being unsportsmanlike or game-ruining. In 6.42, players could no longer build an Aegis using the normal recipe and ingredient scheme. To get an Aegis one must kill Roshan, a very powerful (but significantly weaker than in previous versions), neutral creep who drops a 1-charge Aegis. Roshan now respawns every 10 minutes after his death becoming more and more powerful (previously, once killed, remained out for the rest of the game). Another significant change that this version brought is the extra growth rate for Sentinel and Scourge creeps spawning, which means late-game oriented heroes and heroes that are good at killing creeps have indirectly received a substantial boost.
DotA Allstars AI versions
In the more recent versions of DotA Allstars, AI versions have been released for the official stable maps. Although normally DotA is meant to be played between human players, Cloud_Str has written AI scripts to allow the computer to control heroes. Its purpose is to help human players train and to improve their skills. In addition to providing practice for newer players, the AI maps are useful for testing new item and skill builds.
Bots play adequately, but are not much threat to an experienced player as they are not programmed to use teamwork or complex strategies. Additionally, they are not difficult to kill since they have low awareness of the amount of damage they are likely to receive in the near future. Their item builds and skill builds never vary from game to game, so they cannot adapt to the heroes they fight. Recently, more features have been added to allow players to control the actions of the "bots", namely to defend the base when necessary. To partially compensate for these weaknesses, the AI-controlled heroes gain experience at a much faster rate than human controlled heroes. The most recent versions of the AI provide a better challenge to players as the bots have better tactics and strategies compared to the initial versions. A one versus five match up would seemingly be impossible to overcome with the latest AI versions. The AI maps are available from GetDota.com.
- DotA Allstars official website
- GetDotA.com, the official download site for DotA Allstars
- Battle.net Map Vault Hall of Fame - DotA Allstars entry as the first SpotLight Map
- DotA Allstars Pro Players site
- DotA Allstars Strategy