Going from one MOBA to another

I have been playing League of Legends for about a year and a half and never really wanted to play another MOBA game. The closest anything got me to stop playing LOL was Heroes of Newerth, but it never got out of me more then just vague curiosity. But, after watching the tournament for DOTA 2 in Liepzig, I knew I wanted to take part in the beta for this game and see what is all the fuss about. So I got my invite past week, played about 30 matches of it and here is what I think about it.

I will start by saying, that I don't feel that one game is better then the other. At there core, there are the same three lane, wave based, five on five game, but with different takes on this formula. So for someone, who never played the original D.O.T.A., but enjoys LOL quite a lot, it was not hard to get into this game. But that is just me and for someone new to the genre, I would not recommend DOTA 2 as a starting point without someone to guide him or her. Now, I know it is a beta and all, but as of right now, the game does nothing to explain how it should be played. What is confusing is that one the first launch of it, it asks how familiar is the player is with MOBA style games. After you choose one of the tree variants, it does nothing about it. I chose the second one, that I thought would explain to me things like creep denial or give me some tips on which heroes should I choose. It did none of those things and just let me be. There is a "Learn" section in the main menu, but all it does is give you the list of all the heroes in the game and descriptions of there abilities. So for anyone interested in this beta, I would recommend trying the Sniper first. He has only two active skills and is pretty easy to use. This is the reason, why LOL has a tutorial, but I don't know if it was present during that game's beta.

Despite that, there are some things that DOTA 2 does better than LOL. For one, it has an actual spectator mode, that allows you to watch live and recorded games. For comparison, the best thing that League of Legends has right now is a third party program called LOLreplays. But there is no live game functionality and it has some bugs and issues. DOTA 2 also handles the community side of things better with having public chat rooms in the game and it benefits form the fact, that it is a Steamworks game. But the main thing it does better than LOL is how it handles leavers. When someone leaves a game, that can pretty much ruin the whole match for the 5-1 player team. In League of Legends, if someone disconnects, there is nothing you can do about it, only to report the player after the game. In DOTA 2, if someone leaves, a 5 minute timer starts counting down. If the player does not come back during this time, when the timer ends, anyone if free to leave the match and not be labeled as a leaver. I cannot stress you enough how awesome that is. Starting a ranked game in LOL, only to loose it, because some kind of a jackass died 5 times at the start of the game and left, can be very frustrating.

Oh, I have written 3 paragraphs, but said almost nothing about the gameplay. So, how does DOTA 2 feel compared to League of Legends? Well, in some ways it is the same game, but in other ways it is not. The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler. The difference is, that there are no masteries, summoner spells or runes in DOTA 2 like they are in LOL. So at the start of every DOTA 2 game every hero starts the same. In both games the early part of a match is mostly about creep management and last hitting. DOTA 2, as did the original mod, adds the ability for the player to kill his own creeps and deny gold for the other team. However, the biggest difference is to be found in the hero stats and there skills.

In League of Legends there are two stats, that can influence the effectiveness of champion abilities. They are damage and ability points, and different skills scale differently from these points. For example, the more ability points a mage has, the more damage his skills inflict. In DOTA 2, a heroes stats don't affect his skills, so the amount of damage showed in the description of the skill is the amount it will do for the rest of the game. Because of this, after you have maxed out a skill in DOTA 2, it will stop to scale which is different from LOL, where buying new items will improve champion skills. Because of this, damage dealing skills in DOTA 2 can deplete the amount of rivals health for a hefty amount even at level one. To balance this out, skills, for the most part, cost a lot of mana points. In some cases a primary skill can take away more then a half one someone's mana pool and mana regeneration is quite slow at the beginning. All of this forces a player to be more careful with his usage of skills at the start then he would be in League of Legends. And because of this, solo kills are more rare in DOTA 2 and require more of a team effort than in LOL. Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to kill someone on your own in DOTA 2 and it is still better to work together in LOL, but I found it to be a bit more difficult to do a solo kill in DOTA 2.

The death penalty is also a lot bigger in DOTA 2. In LOL, when you die, all you have to do is wait for you to come back to life. In the other game, the times are longer and you also take a gold penalty for dying. The amount of money you have is split in safe and unsafe and when you die, you loose the unsafe part. Now, what counts for safe gold and what does not, I don't know. All I do know, that loosing 1K of gold can be very bad, when most of the items in the game are expensive. The big cost of items makes sure, that you will end most of the games with only one or two big items, where in LOL half of the games end with having three or four of big, combined items. Both the cost of the items and gold lost upon death make the game a bit harder for one team to come back. When one team starts dominating the other, they get gold, while the other is loosing it, especially if the loosing side is spending there gold on come-backs. That allows for the winning side get there hands on some good items a lot faster, than the other would have. While that won't affect the skills, it will affect the need to go back to base to heal or restore mana. And the less time you are in your base, the better. I have yet to see a comeback, where one team defends there base and pushes there way to the enemy's side. Combine these facts together, and I would say, that one a typical DOTA 2 match is shorter than the average League of Legends match.

One might say, that DOTA 2 is harder then LOL. And I will agree, that LOL is a bit more auto-attack focused. To quote someone I encountered while watching a DOTA 2 game: "LOL is where nabs go to play." Well, in my experience, I would not call one harder than the other. If anything, I feel that I do a bit better in DOTA 2 than in League of Legends. Both games still require the same from their players and both can be hard to get into. They just focus a bit on different things. League of Legends is more about the meta game, where DOTA 2 is more about single combat situations. At least that is what I think about both of these games and my experience with them.

P.S. If you plan to play the DOTA 2 beta, be ready for long waiting times. Since this is a beta, there are several, several times less players than there are in League of Legends.

23 Comments
24 Comments
Edited by dantey

I have been playing League of Legends for about a year and a half and never really wanted to play another MOBA game. The closest anything got me to stop playing LOL was Heroes of Newerth, but it never got out of me more then just vague curiosity. But, after watching the tournament for DOTA 2 in Liepzig, I knew I wanted to take part in the beta for this game and see what is all the fuss about. So I got my invite past week, played about 30 matches of it and here is what I think about it.

I will start by saying, that I don't feel that one game is better then the other. At there core, there are the same three lane, wave based, five on five game, but with different takes on this formula. So for someone, who never played the original D.O.T.A., but enjoys LOL quite a lot, it was not hard to get into this game. But that is just me and for someone new to the genre, I would not recommend DOTA 2 as a starting point without someone to guide him or her. Now, I know it is a beta and all, but as of right now, the game does nothing to explain how it should be played. What is confusing is that one the first launch of it, it asks how familiar is the player is with MOBA style games. After you choose one of the tree variants, it does nothing about it. I chose the second one, that I thought would explain to me things like creep denial or give me some tips on which heroes should I choose. It did none of those things and just let me be. There is a "Learn" section in the main menu, but all it does is give you the list of all the heroes in the game and descriptions of there abilities. So for anyone interested in this beta, I would recommend trying the Sniper first. He has only two active skills and is pretty easy to use. This is the reason, why LOL has a tutorial, but I don't know if it was present during that game's beta.

Despite that, there are some things that DOTA 2 does better than LOL. For one, it has an actual spectator mode, that allows you to watch live and recorded games. For comparison, the best thing that League of Legends has right now is a third party program called LOLreplays. But there is no live game functionality and it has some bugs and issues. DOTA 2 also handles the community side of things better with having public chat rooms in the game and it benefits form the fact, that it is a Steamworks game. But the main thing it does better than LOL is how it handles leavers. When someone leaves a game, that can pretty much ruin the whole match for the 5-1 player team. In League of Legends, if someone disconnects, there is nothing you can do about it, only to report the player after the game. In DOTA 2, if someone leaves, a 5 minute timer starts counting down. If the player does not come back during this time, when the timer ends, anyone if free to leave the match and not be labeled as a leaver. I cannot stress you enough how awesome that is. Starting a ranked game in LOL, only to loose it, because some kind of a jackass died 5 times at the start of the game and left, can be very frustrating.

Oh, I have written 3 paragraphs, but said almost nothing about the gameplay. So, how does DOTA 2 feel compared to League of Legends? Well, in some ways it is the same game, but in other ways it is not. The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler. The difference is, that there are no masteries, summoner spells or runes in DOTA 2 like they are in LOL. So at the start of every DOTA 2 game every hero starts the same. In both games the early part of a match is mostly about creep management and last hitting. DOTA 2, as did the original mod, adds the ability for the player to kill his own creeps and deny gold for the other team. However, the biggest difference is to be found in the hero stats and there skills.

In League of Legends there are two stats, that can influence the effectiveness of champion abilities. They are damage and ability points, and different skills scale differently from these points. For example, the more ability points a mage has, the more damage his skills inflict. In DOTA 2, a heroes stats don't affect his skills, so the amount of damage showed in the description of the skill is the amount it will do for the rest of the game. Because of this, after you have maxed out a skill in DOTA 2, it will stop to scale which is different from LOL, where buying new items will improve champion skills. Because of this, damage dealing skills in DOTA 2 can deplete the amount of rivals health for a hefty amount even at level one. To balance this out, skills, for the most part, cost a lot of mana points. In some cases a primary skill can take away more then a half one someone's mana pool and mana regeneration is quite slow at the beginning. All of this forces a player to be more careful with his usage of skills at the start then he would be in League of Legends. And because of this, solo kills are more rare in DOTA 2 and require more of a team effort than in LOL. Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to kill someone on your own in DOTA 2 and it is still better to work together in LOL, but I found it to be a bit more difficult to do a solo kill in DOTA 2.

The death penalty is also a lot bigger in DOTA 2. In LOL, when you die, all you have to do is wait for you to come back to life. In the other game, the times are longer and you also take a gold penalty for dying. The amount of money you have is split in safe and unsafe and when you die, you loose the unsafe part. Now, what counts for safe gold and what does not, I don't know. All I do know, that loosing 1K of gold can be very bad, when most of the items in the game are expensive. The big cost of items makes sure, that you will end most of the games with only one or two big items, where in LOL half of the games end with having three or four of big, combined items. Both the cost of the items and gold lost upon death make the game a bit harder for one team to come back. When one team starts dominating the other, they get gold, while the other is loosing it, especially if the loosing side is spending there gold on come-backs. That allows for the winning side get there hands on some good items a lot faster, than the other would have. While that won't affect the skills, it will affect the need to go back to base to heal or restore mana. And the less time you are in your base, the better. I have yet to see a comeback, where one team defends there base and pushes there way to the enemy's side. Combine these facts together, and I would say, that one a typical DOTA 2 match is shorter than the average League of Legends match.

One might say, that DOTA 2 is harder then LOL. And I will agree, that LOL is a bit more auto-attack focused. To quote someone I encountered while watching a DOTA 2 game: "LOL is where nabs go to play." Well, in my experience, I would not call one harder than the other. If anything, I feel that I do a bit better in DOTA 2 than in League of Legends. Both games still require the same from their players and both can be hard to get into. They just focus a bit on different things. League of Legends is more about the meta game, where DOTA 2 is more about single combat situations. At least that is what I think about both of these games and my experience with them.

P.S. If you plan to play the DOTA 2 beta, be ready for long waiting times. Since this is a beta, there are several, several times less players than there are in League of Legends.

Posted by bretthancock

Great write up! I've been an avid LoL player for the last 2 years and I simply don't have much desire to make the plunge into DOTA 2. While I'm sure it will be a fantastic game, it feels like there's so much left to do in LoL and it hasn't grown stale. Good to read this review and confirm a few of the things I was on the fence about.

Posted by dantey

@bretthancock: Well I would not call it a review, since the game is still in beta, and there a obviously some features missing. Plus, I find the game to be a bit unbalanced. But I am glad that I could be of any help to you. If I may ask, what were the things you were on the fence about?

Posted by Slag

nice write-up, thanks for the insight!

Edited by slayergnome

Great write up.

Also so you guys know "Safe Gold" is any gold you get from killing a hero

"Unsafe Gold" is everything else (I.E. gold over time, last hitting creeps, tower kills ect)

I think the point of safe vs unsafe is it really allows you to interrupt junglers and carries so they can not just sit and harvest all game.

Also as a quick nitpicky thing, when you die you do not loose all your unsafe gold you only loose like 30 * your level I believe

Edited by IndieFinch

Interesting write up. It seems you have scratched the suface of the Dota world, but there is a giant rabbit hole you can now go down if you choose. Ill jot down a few thoughts I had while reading.

In the start of the game when you click your skill level, that is actually sticking you in an initial skill bracket. You also have to keep in mind that it is beta, tutorial type of stuff should be some of the last things added. About the starting Hero, Sniper is really not a good choice for a beginner. Check out the other thread about hero recommendations for new players, there is a lot of good (and bad..) info there. The main thing is that if you play a carry, you last hitting needs to be top notch, if you are unable to get 100+ cs by the 20min mark, you are not ready to play a carry. Heros that are ability based (Tidehunter, Lich...etc) can scale the whole game and be useful where as a carry like Sniper is useless unless he has his items.

You mentioned briefly about the metagame is similar...it is actually completely different. Dota is based around hero synergy not class roles like in LoL. With this in mind you can mold your team into an overall strategy. Some of the popular ones are: Pushing, in which you pick heavy pushing heroes (Chen, Death Prophet, Leschrac) an try to kill towers asap and end the game under 30 min. Then there is a team-fight oriented team, with heroes who ults synergize (Say Enigma black holes, sand kind ults in the middle, then lich ults in the middle too) in which the team as a whole can crush team fights. There is the farm heavy carry strategy, in which you pick an Anti Mage / Faceless Void / Spectre, and the whole team farms / protects him all game until the 40+ min mark when they have the items to be able to 1v5 the other team.

These are just a few examples, there are way more team formations that allow for really interesting play. In LoL, the meta game has been extremely static for at least a year. You put a tanky/dps solo top, ap solo mid, ad carry and support bottom, then a junglier. This isn't a bad thing at all, but just different.

Then one thing you mention about getting solo kills while in lane, Dota is based off way more ganking. A lot of teams will run a roamer, someone like a crystal maiden or sand king, who will only roam and go for ganks. Plus your middle lane should be controlling the runes and be ganking all the time. As early as 2-4min the middle lane should be punishing any enemy who decides to push their lane forward.

Posted by Jokers_Wild

@dantey said:

The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler.

I'm sorry, but this is just wrong. While the 2-1-2 lane setup is common in pubs, trilanes, dual mids and other lane setups are all perfectly viable.

Posted by dantey

@IndieFinch: I have noticed that the game is a bot more gank heavy. That is why there is a separate class of heroes called "gankers", like my favorite Windruner. But I don't know about the meta game part. Yeah, I see your point, but that is not how the game is played right now. A lot of people, like myself, don't know how most of the champions work, so there is no collaboration during champion select. I definitely don't know the game well enough to make judgment calls on hero synergy. People stick to what they know, and a lot of them know how League of Legends work. It will take some time, before DOTA 2 will grow into something of it's own.

Also, I would say, that professional teams in League of Legends like to mix things up. They might go with champions that are good at AOE spell, or combine team of single target taking out champs. But most of the time the picks can be very counter based. Like, you would not want to send Ahri against Le Blanc on mid, but you would choose her if she was up against Brand.

And I can see the team-based gameplay in DOTA 2 that you talk about, but at this stage of the game, people don't care much for it. Player rarely use microphones or talk strategy in chat. Heck, they forget to say "ss" or "mia" far much to often then they should. All of that potential is useless if people don't communicate, and DOTA 2 does almost nothing to encourage collaboration. I know that LoL has it share of problems, but it has no voice chat and has been designed with that in mind. There are basic things that DOTA 2 does not do, that would help a lot. It could recommend heroes for starting players or explain how to use pinging and drawing on the minimap. I had to look up on Google, that Alt+click is how you ping. I can appreciate the fact, that they match players on there skill levels, but having 10 players play against each other, while they figure out what the hell should they do is not the best way to handle it.

Edited by dantey

@Jokers_Wild: This is all based on what I saw in the game. I have not seen to champs on mid ore three on one lane.

Posted by FirePrince

After playing a year of LoL, and about a month of Ranked with a 5-man team, I really wanted to get into DoTA. It's harder, more competitive, and in some ways, more fun. The only problem it has is it's relatively high learning curve, that people seem to get stuck on. One of my friends for example can play carry very well in LoL, but he sucks in DoTA, because he doesn't know when to farm and when to stop, and also haves problems with last-hitting and denying, and hasn't improved over more than a month. I personally like it because it requires more skill.

Posted by dantey

@FirePrince: I hope, that when the full game comes out, Valve will address these thing and will be all like: "Hey, this is what you have to do."

Posted by Rayeth

@dantey: You're right, 10 players who don't know how to play in a game against each other would be terrible. That's why there are bots in this Beta.

If you don't know what you are doing I can guarantee the bots will wipe the floor with you. It's a great place to try out builds with your friends (you can co-op vs bots) with the pressure of a bunch of other people raging at you for being clueless. You can practice all the important things like last-hitting and learning skill ranges and what have you. I would never recommend joining the matchmaking without being able to beat the bots consistently.

And again, the reason you aren't seeing the type of team based play the other posters are talking about is your current skill ranking. Being new to the game you can't expect to be playing at the highest level right away. Even in hundreds of games, many people do not know the correct thing to do in some situations (when/where to ward, how to gank, counterwarding, etc). Finding this stuff out is why this game is fun to play. Dota does not hold your hand or tell you what you need to be doing now. It lets you decide. And those decisions are why the game is fun, and why people continue to play a custom game in WC3 over games like LoL and HoN.

Posted by dantey

@Rayeth: Yeah, I agree, that finding stuff out is fun. My problem is more of the nature, that it is just not encouraged enough. I know that warding is needed because of LoL. To be fair, that game also does not tell you why you should do that. I learned those things during live-streams. So, LoL also does not hold your hand. And I know, that AI matches exist, but why they could not just tell you, that hey, if you are new, then try this for starters. This genre of games can be hard to get into, and LoL does the best job, in my opinion, to explain how it should be played. But if a game just throws you in, and it and the players playing it expect you to know what you are doing, then no wonder people are hesitant to give it a go. I am honestly a bit afraid to try out new heroes in DOTA 2, because I don't know how they play. Riot have tips for every hero and make videos to explain what role do new champions serve.

Posted by scarace360

After playing a couple hundred hours DOTA2 i can't go back to playing LOL it just doesn't feel right anymore. Also duel mid is kick ass so are tri lanes.

Posted by Rayeth

@dantey:

Yeah everything you just said are features of a finished product. There is a reason this game is a beta. Heck if you look at the patch files (see CyborgMatt's Blog) you will see they are working on all sorts of different UI elements for learning and tutorials and cosmetic items, etc. It sounds like you should maybe just sit out the beta for a while and join back in on release. We already know its going to be Free to Play, so you don't have anything to lose. =)

Posted by dantey

@Rayeth: I know that, so I did not expect to see those things. Hell, if I haven't played LoL, I doubt that I would even sign up for this game's beta. All I am saying, is that there are examples of finished games at which Valve can look at and learn from (and I am sure they are doing that). I know how the game works, I just started playing it in the state, where they kind of cared what my skill level is, but did little with it. As of right now, I would not recommend it as a place to start playing MOBA games. Still, it is quite good.

Posted by Jimi

I play both LoL and Dota 2 mainly, I have about 250 hours logged in dota 2 and a larger amount in LoL/HoN.

I prefer solo queueing in LoL, because the penalties for screwing up in dota are so much higher solo queueing can be a nightmare. One guy can easily lose it for the whole team. In LoL the carries don't get as huge as they do in dota/hon so if somebody is feeding it isn't as big of a deal.

However if you can get a 3-5 man team together for dota it is a far more fun and dynamic experience than LoL. The skill ceiling feels far greater and I feel that the hero abilities synergize in a more entertaining way. Plus a lot of the league of legends heroes feel very similar to each other, skill 1 - farming ability 2 - some sort of cc/gap closer 3 - steroid.

In regards to HoN I see no reason to play it over dota other than dota doesn't include a surrender option which can get a bit infuriating at times. Also S2 are terrible at balancing the heroes they create, like really.

Posted by dantey

@Jimi: I never played HoN, so how is that game doing? How is it compared to LoL?

Posted by Jimi

@dantey: The transition from LoL -> HoN is similar to LoL -> Dota. The key differences are probably HoN is much more focused around a ganking metagame, people are extremely offensive in that game to the point of suicide. The base ramp is wider than dota/LoL and the towers do significantly less damage than LoL. Similar to LoL there is very little delay in attack animation which is unlike dota, in dota every hero's attack animation is completely different in timing.

The items in HoN/Dota are almost the same albeit some minor balance changes. In LoL there are very little "On use" items, the majority of items in dota/hon are usable in some form or another making them more valuable to build rather than just stat bonuses.

Oh and the HoN community is the scum of the earth. You won't find a worse gaming community anywhere, it's full of trolls and general angry assholes. Most of the pro HoN teams are abandoning ship and moving to dota at this point.

Posted by dantey

@Jimi: And here I thought that LoL players can be dicks. Well I guess there is no surprise, that a game so similar to D.O.T.A. is loosing to DOTA 2.

Posted by IndieFinch

@dantey: One thing to keep in mind is that Dota 2 is a direct copy of Dota 1. All of the ideas around metagame / synergy...etc all that stuff has stood the test of time of being refined for the past decade by top tier teams. Dota 1 is still constantly updates with new heros / balance tweaks and that stuff is being copied into Dota 2. I can pretty much guarantee Valve will add in all of those things that you speak about, stuff like recommended heros, tutorials...etc. But at this point they are assuming that everyone in Dota 2 played a ton of Dota 1. There is a reason why when you opt into the beta it has you fill out specific questions like "What is your gold per min? What is your favorite Heros?" They are in the stage of getting those players in first, then they will flesh out the new players once this game is on par with Dota 1. At this point, we are probably looking at a very late 2012, possibly 2013 "release" for the game.

If you think you want to delve deeper into Dota, join in the Giantbomb channel and join us for games. We pretty regularly get 5 man parties going and jump on Skype for games. Also if you ever have any questions / confusion, message me. I am always in the Giantbomb channel as well as the Dotainsight channel. I'd gladly help, I played league a ton so I remember how the transition was.

Posted by dantey

@IndieFinch: Yeah, I have noticed that during the signup process, but one question stuck with me. The asked how much have I played game like this. Nut, how much I played DOTA, but MOBA games. That said to me, that they want a slice of HoN and LoL pies. Can't blame them when LoL has more than 11 registered users.

Posted by medacris

Out of curiousity, if you only have a Mac, and know absolutely nothing about the MOBA genre, where would you start?

Posted by IndieFinch

@medacris said:

Out of curiousity, if you only have a Mac, and know absolutely nothing about the MOBA genre, where would you start?

Sadly, you are out of luck for a bit. Valve has confirmed a Mac client for Dota 2, it is just a matter of when it will be released. Riot killed the League of Legends Mac client, a knock off one has popped up over at boompje.net, you can try that but it has a lower frame rate and can be unstable after each patch (which happens at least once every 2 weeks). The biggest thing you could do is install Windows on your Mac via Bootcamp, that is what I do and play all my games on the Windows partition.

As far as stepping into the ARTS (or moba) genre, League of Legends is a much much simpler version of Dota. You would be able to pick that up quicker and then make the transition to Dota 2 if you choose to. However, if you are able to get access to a Dota 2 key I would suggest jumping in deep. You will need to accept that you suck and need to read / study a ton of guides, watch pro matches...etc then you will be able to grasp what is going on. In the past few months of Dota 2 I have racked up over 500+ hours of play time and I am not even close to considering myself a top tier player. Watch some games over at http://www.joindota.com and see if you find the game enjoyable enough to dive into, there really isn't anything else out there that is as competitive as a Dota match.

Heros of Newerth does have a Mac client, however that game will really turn you off of the genre. It looks ugly, player base sucks, and you really wont enjoy it. If you are really desperate, you can give it a try but I higher recommend against it. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.