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?