In the beginning there was nothing. Then, out of a roiling primordial soup of terribly unbalanced custom games arose Defense of the Ancients. In those early days, players roamed randomly around the map fighting whatever crossed their path. Individual strength and aggression lifted some to victory while others played a more strategic positional brand of warfare.
Out of this mess, team play began to take shape until it coalesced into tangible victories over less coordinated opponents. New heroes bombarded the game every few months, shaking Dota to its core and blowing apart the metagame with their shockwaves. Absurd new mechanics were pulled into Dota from a variety of inspirations, pushing players to master micro and macro aspects of the game. As the dust finally began to settle a shining beacon burst from the horizon, pulling players towards it with the promise of incredible things to come. Dota 2 was coming and it was being created by Valve.
When Dota 2 was announced via the first ever International a lot of professional players believed it was a scam because of the massive prize pool. Over the next half decade a wild variety of tournaments, teams and strategies swept over the game and the playerbase swelled. Tournament organizers and broadcast talent pulled themselves out of the maelstrom through absurd work schedules and wild west negotiating tactics. Dota squads formed and crumbled as egos and ideas clashed over the ever increasing bounty available for winners. Esports organizations entered the fray, picking and dropping teams every few months based on their results or buying a ticket to TI on the eve of the tournament. Artists, content creators and personalities emerged, sharing in the glorious wealth generated by fanatical fans of all things Dota. Careers and companies were built upon the hysterical demand for competition and content.
Strategically, the game became more refined as players adopted more defined roles and capitalized on their individual strengths in the context of a greater whole. Mechanics evolved and were regularly broken through crazed experimentation resulting in discussions about exploitation or ingenuity. Aggression clashed against control as each team found their own identity. Every loosely defined role cycled through periods of great power over the outcome of a match or meek insignificance, even those lost in the jungle.
Under demands for more structure, competitive Dota began to solidify. Regular tournament series were formed by those who had built a foundation on the unstable ground of the early days. As the tectonics of scheduling began to settle, organizations and companies put down roots and raised their products and teams to new heights. The game itself seemed to have settled into a state of accepted strategy with five defined roles and general macro game theory solved.
Heroes still joined the roster at a more measured pace and the nuances of the game became more and more explored. Large and regular balance patches uprooted the meta, swirled it around and poured out a new mixture of controlled chaos every few months. The regular but relatively predictable change paved the way for epic eras of both heroes and the teams that discovered their power early.
In a somewhat reverse entropy, the structure of Dota has continued to solidify over the past couple of years. The Dota Pro Circuit has suffocated almost all major third party tournaments from the ecosystem. Ranked role queue has become the preferred method of play, strictly boxing players into a playstyle. Meta changing patches have become more infrequent and a smaller but more versatile pool of heroes remains relevant. Gone are tri-lanes. Gone are junglers. Gone are the days of aggressive roaming and wild mid-lane tri-lane carry metas. Dota appears to be trending more and more towards being an execution over experimentation game.
Is it time for a return to time for a return to the chaos or are we happy as players to focus instead on a more straightforward and disciplined game?