Up For Debate - Do Games as a Service Titles Like DOTA 2 Eventually Become Too Complex?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Dec 30, 2018 5:48 PM
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 I’ve got something I need to get off my chest. I’ve never played a single second of DOTA 2. It’s always looked too daunting for me to dare try. I missed the original boat and soon people had racked up thousands of hours. I didn’t want to be the newbie heading in and trying to figure what the heck it was all about.

So, I didn’t. I sat around for years playing Rocket League and Rainbow Six Siege instead. While the latter can arguably be quite complex, I was playing Siege from the beta right through to now and so was intimately aware of its nuances. Rocket League, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. Nigh-on perfect multiplayer design means Rocket League can be understood in milliseconds, yet it takes thousands of hours to master. Use your car, hit the ball, score goals. It’s delightfully simple, and the only thing between you and success is how good you are at driving your little rocket-powered car.

But DOTA 2? That’s a whole different beast. I’d heard tales of war-ravaged people that had lost their lives to this thing. I heard there were well over 100 characters to attempt to master or counter. That thousands and thousands crammed into arenas to which this stuff live. That DOTA 2 was one of the deepest games in existence.

There’s no denying as these GaaS experiences live on, they become ever more imposing and complex. How Valve still brings in new players to DOTA 2 I’ll never know, but it’s a game that’s been layered with complexity after complexity for five years.  Things about lanes, towers, mobs, shops, something about junglers which I’ve still never quite figured out. With every update, it becomes tougher for a new player to join the fray. And you can’t help but absorb the snippets through osmosis, and trick yourself into thinking you know what’s what.

So I thought I’d see exactly how tough. I downloaded DOTA 2 and I filmed my first ever attempt at playing it. Just how confusing could it possibly be for a new DOTA 2 player? Very, as it turns. Prepare for what I’m going to assume is the worse DOTA 2 gameplay footage you’ve ever seen. This is basically the scenario through which every new player has ever been through.

I’ll admit, after 10 minutes I got a bit bored and shut it down. I think I got zero kills and a couple of assists. I had zero idea what was going on with these special abilities and coins, or what the different places on the map did. And yes, I’m painfully aware there five tutorials to play through before going online, but I’m honestly not sitting through five tutorials to play a multiplayer game. That may be my total lack of patience at work, but in any other game, I can just head straight in and at least have a vague idea of what I’m doing. DOTA 2 is undeniably a complex game and for its fanbase, it’s probably part of the charm. For new players though, it feels as if there’s a heck of a mountain to climb.

That said, I understand Rainbow Six Siege could be the exact same situation for new players these days, and I wouldn’t want Ubisoft messing around with simplifying the concept. There is just this awkward dichotomy between attracting a long-term playerbase while trying to draw in new players that is a tightrope act for any ongoing service. For some, like DOTA 2, it clearly works, but it feels as if it’s the old-school players that are keeping it afloat rather than anything particularly enticing for new players.

But, enough rambling, I'll try and pull this thing back on track. I think what I'm trying to say is some multiplayer games, particularly GaaS titles, can end up ludicrously complex as a result of their constant support. At some point, this puts off new players more than it encourages them, which would become the natural 'beginning of the end' for any online game. I'm not entirely sure what the solution is, but I do think that the simpler a game, or the simpler the concept (at least in terms of the basics that need to be grasped), the more chance it has at continually inviting new players. It's part of what makes football such a universally appealing sport. All you need is a ball, a handful of people to play with, and a makeshift goal. The ultimate party trick is to marry a simple concept with incredible depth.

So what are your thoughts on this rambling topic - can games become too complex as they're continually updated? Do you like your multiplayer games to be complex or do you prefer simpler mechanics and rules?

Do you like your multiplayer games to be complex?

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17:30 Jan-02-2019

DUDE at least go through trials of course u feed see those other steps before the play multiplayer thingy that at the very least shows u how the basics works even if not perfectly i mean come on u never have even played MOBA(RTS?) before

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21:44 Jan-01-2019

I like hard games,I've about 1.5k hours into dota 2 and 1.5k hours into h1z1 which is dead now but it was the hardest battle royale game out there and to me it's harder than csgo too.

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21:51 Jan-01-2019

it's not hard to be harder than CS:GO XD

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08:39 Jan-01-2019

You're not alone Jon. I've never played Dota, LOL or even Rocket League.

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18:59 Dec-31-2018

I have around 1000 hours in Dota 2, I dont play it anymore, just watch pro games, but I believe that Dota's complexity has kinda been constant for the last couple of years, systems are changed, new (albeit small) things are introduced, but if there is any growth in complexity, it's incremental and slow.


Now the game that I really love, but that I believe is heading in this direction, is Warframe. The devs constantly introduce new content and updates (which are great, mind you) which can be really big. They rarely go back to connect systems together.

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19:01 Dec-31-2018

They are scared (said this in an interview) that the game will fail if they don't introduce new content every 6 months or so, but Warframe has built such a huge friendly community over time, I think that they can afford to take a step back for a year or so, and polish the systems, connect and merge them together, so we can have a more cohesive game.

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15:22 Dec-31-2018

I agree. I started playing LoL (well, havent played for a year now), only really began to understand some of the nuances once i hit level 30

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15:22 Dec-31-2018

Or maybe i just suck

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09:00 Dec-31-2018

What I hate about dota 2 is how much item is on the shop. But you never needed those things! Especially if you're using a STR class. But one of the recommended items is for int class!

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21:46 Jan-01-2019

LOL that doesn't make any sense,some int items are good for str,like how is this hard to understand??

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03:14 Dec-31-2018

Games as a service sucks.

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11:39 Jan-02-2019

Not all. Look at R6S.

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19:35 Jan-02-2019

It sucks, honestly a huge R6 fanboy since R6:3 and R6: Rogue spear

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02:43 Dec-31-2018

as someone who has 4724hours clocked in dota 2 i agree with most of this.
it is hard for a new player to get in. the best way to get in is through friends IRL. though if you were serious in getting in the tutorial REALLY helps.

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02:47 Dec-31-2018

if you really want a "better" tutorial. youtube arguably makes a better job. search "purge dota tutorial" and watch his bite-sized "dota basics" videos. Purge is a big personality in dota and is very well versed in the game.

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01:25 Dec-31-2018

That looks complicated as hell. And the time to find a game was frustratingly long also. I tried DOTA 2 long ago but played the tutorials and remember it being much easier to understand than this.

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00:48 Dec-31-2018

As a LoL player, the complexity is what gives me fun. There are a'lot of stuff you have to memorize like champion abilities, when to put wards for vision/where to ward, mechanical ability to able you to outplay/dodge abilities or position yourself in certain situations, know when/what runes to use and items to buy against certain champions/champion compositions, what champion is meta and so on.

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01:02 Dec-31-2018

Over the years LoL has become pretty difficult for new players to understand because the game meta changes like every 2 weeks with patches they release and tutorial not covering everything. Though, they have gotten hang of releasing hotfixes for changes that made item/rune/champion unfun to play against. I wish there was hotfix system back when tank Ekko or notorious ardent meta existed - (LoL players will understand what I am talking about)

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02:22 Dec-31-2018

i played lol few years ago and recently i wanted to get back to it so i installed it and saw new look, so i just exited and uninstalled it.. i hate changes in games expecialy reworks of charater so that they dont feel like old them self anymore

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13:30 Dec-31-2018

??? If you have ever played old LoL than you would know there are characters that are in desperate need for reworks, like Volibear, Kayle, Rammus, Mordekaiser aka the buggiest champ in LoL with total of 180+ bugs, Fiddlesticks and Pantheon to name a few.


And if you mean that map has changed much, it needed to be updated - it visually didn't look appealing to anyone. Comparison

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13:56 Dec-31-2018

i am fine with changed map but lol will always have broken character oneway or another but they change characters skills/passivs and so one and main reason is as i sayed is that i just dosnt like to change something i got used to

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23:19 Dec-30-2018

I've never played DotA, small part because I was late to the party and didn't feel like learning all the different heroes, but mostly because the matches last for way too long. They can easily stretch to over 50 minutes, which is more time than I feel comfortable with in an online game. I rarely sit for multiple hours only playing games, mostly it's intersected with helping around and doing other stuff, which is why I prefer shorter online games and pause menus in games.

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01:42 Dec-31-2018

Fun fact: Monster Hunter games have a 50min limit in most quests...which sometimes isn't enough for finishing said quests solo (alone, single-player), especially at higher ranks and if you're new. Which ends up being a LITERAL waste of time, because you get no rewards and have to try again. :D

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01:55 Dec-31-2018

I knew about that. That's pretty much one of the main reasons I haven't even bothered to check the game despite its glowing reviews.

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21:40 Dec-30-2018

Games as a service is just new toy of the industry, their way to provide solution for investors. But they tend to forget the past. Games as service was already tested once. They were called MMORPG and there is reason why so few have survived. System just didn't work, because they took too much time and...

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21:41 Dec-30-2018

... you couldn't dedicate enough time to play more than one or two of them. Similar thing is game as service, they require constant attention, they require dedication, time investment, coming back every day. And there are just 24h in day, time and money are not infinite resource and players will have to pick one.

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21:43 Dec-30-2018

And once one will become too popular, everyone will want to do same, which was what broke MMORPGs, a way too many of them were trying to be World of Warcraft. Failing and falling one after another. And I feel games as service will go down the same route. Because they depend on you spending ton of time in each...

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21:45 Dec-30-2018

And there definitely will be survivors of that, we still have big MMORPGs. But there was a time when everyone with 10min of time and few free employees was making MMORPG, because that was the thing that will keep them alive forever. :-D

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22:38 Dec-30-2018

Umm not sure how is dota comparable to MMORPGs tho? I used to play dota actively... Now i just return once or twice a week and have some fun games... Its like driving a bike, u never forget how to do it... I don't see why would someone be better in dota if he is spending 10hrs a day playing it.

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21:53 Jan-01-2019

Because you said you had some fun games,someone who plays for 10 hours wouldn't care about fun,all he cares about is climbing the the top of the ranks,you're a casual and he isn't,big difference.

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20:56 Dec-30-2018

I overall prefer complex games to simple games. Dota and all other (similar)MOBA games are just castrated RTS games, so they are simple, When it comes to MOBAs I've mainly played Dota 1 the map for Warcraft 3, a ton of League of legends, dota 2 and smite, all due to my friends and they are much more simpler than RTS games like Warcraft, Starcraft, Command and Conquer(not all of them), Dawn of War 1, Company of Heroes, Age of Empires/Mythology, as I said castrated video games, simplified and my biggest hatred is towards needless simplification.

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23:12 Dec-30-2018

But this is not a needless simplification. It's building a different genre with the elements of another one. The number of people that plays these games shows that it was a niche which people wanted filled.
If no one ever took a spin on certain genres vast majority games would never exist.
MOBA's don't pretend nor try to be strategy games, therefore they're not castrated experiences but their own now unique different genre.

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23:12 Dec-30-2018

No one confuses MOBA's with RTS games, meaning that there's plenty of distinction between the genres to the point where people know what to expect from them and what not to. Comparing them is like comparing RTS and Turn Based Strategy games. You can prefer one or the other, you can like both, but there is no denying that they're their own experiences built for a different crowd with their own set of unique gameplay features.

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23:42 Dec-30-2018

I agree, but still it consists of the same mechanics of an RTS, just a lot less and a few new ones for sure and it's not pretending to be an RTS, never said it did, but I still dislike the simplicity in comparison to the RTS genre and they are not entirely different.
A moba like dota is(and I'm simplifying and omitting small details to save characters and avoid a wall of text) like warcraft 3, where you don't control your buildings and the only unit you control is the hero unit, with respawnable creeps and an added item crafting system. Yes they have built a whole new genre around it, but it's still unit control and timings and now with item builds which I find pointless when there is always that one build per role that dominates them all in most cases, especially in LoL and Smite.

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23:43 Dec-30-2018

Dota the map and Dota 2 have(or had when I played Dota 2) more than one viable build per role per meta which was nice, but from what I've heard from a friend that plays it consistently that's no longer the case.

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23:47 Dec-30-2018

Now the difference is that in an RTS you have tons of things to control, build, manage, tons of timings to know, execute and then new timings after each timing is met on top of the macro you have to micro and the most fun is when you have to both macro and micro at the same time, it's exhilarating, the lack of downtime, constant doing of something, compared to mobas where your constant doing on something you creeping and fighting a single unit, hitting some pre-determined creep timings and creeping is in reality down-time and a lot of other downtime like when you are dead, or when you recall to buy an item, or when you are waiting to group, waiting for a creep spawn and so on... just moving without doing anything else is downtime.

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00:48 Dec-31-2018

The difference is that they're different genres and different games, with a connection that one evolved from the other.
But I don't understand your point. You don't like MOBA's, and that's perfectly fine, but why call them a castrated version of a different genre when that's certainly not what they're about nor what they're trying to be.
They have similarities, but so does every game, depending on how you look at them.

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00:53 Dec-31-2018

I'd understand your, I guess frustration, with MOBAs if they were actively trying to succeed RTS games, but they aren't.
I know how MOBAs started, I played original DOTA on WC3, and it was clear even back then that the creators of that mod weren't trying to replicate the RTS feel, but to spin off a different way to play, they were just using what they had access to in order to do it. LOL and DOTA2 then refined on that and added their own ideas to it, and thus MOBAs appeared.

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20:01 Dec-30-2018

New players don't really matter if you can't keep them around. I find the simpler games die off much quicker than the complex things like dota 2
Just think about how much money a dedicated vet would spend compared to many just playing once

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19:16 Dec-30-2018

I dont like games as a service for something else. Constant updates although sound amazing sometimes can ruin a game by adding or removing content (buffs and nerfs or changes to a character), map changes and mode changes. I loved Smite since it released last year was a breaking point in quality for me and i quit.

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20:12 Dec-30-2018

The only reason i stopped playing LoL 4 years ago was cause they heavily changed the characters i played the most in favour of the ones i hated the most. Overall game as service is fine, as long as it is not made to make people buy more mtx

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