Monday, August 5, 2013

Eve of the Apocalypse

I was recently asked why I have given no attention to DotA 2, given my interest in AoS games and the fact that I played the original DotA for quite some time. For years, really. Anyone remember when the Enchantress used to have spider pets?
Them weren't the days. Because DotA was never a good AoS. It, along with its copycats Heroes of Newerth or League of Legends and presumably DotA 2, represent only the dumbed-down, mass-market bastardization of what could have been a true strategy game. They whittle down the teamwork and strategy elements to nothing and turn the concept into a team deathmatch twitch-game. Even within this simplified version there were more creative Warcraft 3 maps like Age of Myths which featured more interesting skill/ability systems. DotA won out the AoS map wars mainly through programmer professionalism and support. It was always the least buggy, the most tested, the most frequently and promptly updated. It was playable. However, none of this makes it fundamentally a good game.
Well-polished coal is not diamond.

The best incarnations of the AoS concept are the ones which bear in mind their nature as strategy games. Not 1v1 clickfests. You are a hero, yes, but a hero as part of an army, and the development of that army should be the focus of the game, not your own personal hunt after magic swords and a positive kill/death ratio. I know of only one commercial release which bore this in mind, and that is the beautiful and lamentably defunct Demigod. However, one of the many AoS maps which died out as DotA rose to supremacy was EotA.

Eve of the Apocalypse. Its focus was on point control mechanics, capturing and building up resource nodes. The players could invest the resources they acquired into not only their own personal gear but also base structures and unit upgrades. They could change the flow of AI-controlled units around the map, upgrade basic units with various abilities or summon various advanced units. This is the heart and soul of AoS. The purpose of giving the player only one controllable unit is to eliminate micromanagement, not to remove all strategic and tactical elements. It should never be, as DotA, LoL, etc. always are, just an idiotic macho dick-measuring contest over who killed whom.
Give your AI's footmen a stronger shield. Invest in air units or if your enemy has air units, give your archers nets to bring them down. Build up your AI forces on one side of the map while personally stalling your enemy at the other end until you can sweep through to victory.

Unit counters, investment in upgrades, strategic goals, cost-to-benefit ratios, every RTS element except the constant keyboard-smashing and twitch-clicking of unit micromanagement, should be included in an AoS game. We don't need a DotA 2. We need an EotA 2.

Or even better, a Demigod 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment