Defense of the Ancients
Defense of the Ancients (also known as DotA) was a custom game for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Based on the Aeon of Strife custom game for StarCraft: Brood War, the game is a blend of Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and Role-Playing Game (RPG) elements. The objective of the game is for each team to destroy the opponent's Ancient, which is a heavily guarded structure at each team's opposing corner of the map. Each player controls a powerful hero unit. Assisted by allied heroes in teams of five, they battle against the other team of five opposing heroes. Computer controlled fighters called Creeps force gameplay to progress as they automatically advance toward each team's base. Similar to role-playing games, players level up their heroes with experience and use gold to buy items.
Because Warcraft III custom games have none of the features designed to improve game quality (matchmaking players based on connection speed, punishment for leavers, etc.), various programs were used to maintain Defense of the Ancients. There were external tools to ping player's locations and games could be named to exclude geographic regions. Clans and committees maintained their own official list of rules and regulations, and players could be kicked from matches by being placed on ban lists.
- For the full article, see: Dota History
There have been many developers over the course of DotA's history.
Aeon of Strife
The game format was invented by Aeon64, the anonymous creator of the custom game Aeon of Strife for StarCraft: Brood War. It tweaks some of StarCraft's gameplay, inspired by the single hero unit gameplay of Diablo II. Controlling StarCraft hero units instead of armies, the objective was to simply destroy the opposing Nexus while fighting preset armies automatically spawned in waves. The static defense structures in StarCraft, Photon Cannons, are the origin of DotA's towers and tower defense elements. The title Aeon of Strife was based on StarCraft's lore. In the Protoss backstory, the Aeon of Strife was a period when the Protoss battled each other in a galactic civil war.
Defense of the Ancients
The game known as Defense of the Ancients was initially developed by Eul for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, based on the popular Aeon of Strife map. It was one of many ports of Aeon of Strife among the modding community, but Eul's DotA ended up becoming the most popular one of them all. This early DotA version is also known as RoC DotA by the community.
TFT Ancients Defense
A user named GEO ported DotA to Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne under the name TFT Ancients Defense. Many DotA-clones were built upon his map, including Darkness Chaos, Darkness Falls, and Allstars. They were based on editing this map as a template, because it was open source. Meanwhile Eul's ported map, Thirst for Gamma, was different from DotA's traditional layout and released too early with gameplay bugs. This caused a negative player experience, so it never gained popularity.
In March 2004, Guinsoo further developed DotA Allstars after its abandonment Meian and Ragn0r. For the first time, DotA Allstars enjoyed a period of stable content updates and the beginning of its competitive scene.
After DotA Allstars became competitive, Guinsoo quit and left the game in the hands of Neichus. Although under a lot of pressure, Neichus went on to create many heroes that are still popular to this day, such as Pudge, who has historically been DotA's most played hero. After struggling to keep up with content updates, Neichus handed DotA Allstars to IceFrog for continued development.
Under IceFrog, who had been the main developer since March 2005, DotA Allstars maintained popularity. IceFrog was eventually approached by Valve, a professional game company, to create a standalone version of DotA no longer dependent on Warcraft III and its engine limitations. This led to the creation of Dota 2.
- For the full article, see: Dota 2
Dota 2 has consistently been one of the top played games on Steam since its release in 2013. It has been developed by Valve's team of game industry veterans, IceFrog, and Eul since 2010. The popularity of the game and the inclusion of its own custom game system has led to the creation of spin-off games like Artifact and Dota Underlords.
The Fate of DotA Allstars
Due to the popular fan following of Warcraft III DotA in Russia, a developer named DracoL1ch has been releasing unofficial updates to DotA Allstars since it was officially discontinued in 2015. As of 2019, DotA Allstars 6.89a7 is the newest version available.
Aeon64 was the creator of the Aeon of Strife map for StarCraft: Brood War. This map was ported over to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos by multiple developers. Eul's port, Defense of the Ancients, became the most popular.
Kyle Sommer, known by the aliases Eul or Eulogy, was the creator of the first DotA map with the title Defense of the Ancients. DotA ran on Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Diablo II and Magic: The Gathering inspired many of his ideas. In total, Eul was the developer of DotA for less than one year.
GEO created the Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne port of Eul's DotA, called TFT Ancients Defense. This open source mod acted as the base template for DotA mods to proliferate in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. His map was the first one to have Level 25 as the max hero level. In total, GEO maintained TFT Ancients Defense for about six months.
Meian & Ragn0r
Meian and Ragn0r collected the best of all DotA mods into one map, featuring an all-star cast of heroes. This would be the base for Guinsoo's closed source version of DotA Allstars. The project lasted less than one month.
Steve Feak, known as Guinsoo, was the developer of DotA Allstars for less than seven months, from March 2004 to October 2004. He made numerous improvements to DotA and had help from a team of developers, including Neichus, Syl-la-ble, Zetta, and IceFrog. When Guinsoo quit, he gave Neichus the unlocked version so that he could keep developing the dominant DotA mod. Guinsoo added many important features to DotA, such as the item shop, Roshan, and reduced creep wave size to focus more on hero versus hero team fight gameplay. He also created the first competitive version of DotA.
Stephen Moss, known as Neichus, was a developer from April 2004 to June 2005. He helped Guinsoo with gameplay development and created many heroes, from design to implementation. After inheriting the mod from Guinsoo, Neichus enlisted IceFrog's help for development due to having no formal background in coding. When Neichus quit, he left IceFrog in charge of the project. Overall, Neichus was a minor developer for 10 months and the main developer for 4 months, for a total of 1 year and 2 months having worked on DotA.
Neichus created many popular Dota heroes including:
- Sand King
- Shadow Fiend
- Ogre Magi
Neichus also reworked/completed work on the following heroes:
- Naga Siren
- Phantom Lancer
- Keeper of the Light
- Death Prophet
Neichus created the following items:
- For the full article, see: IceFrog
IceFrog has been a developer since October 2004. He is still the current developer today. He briefly worked on Heroes of Newerth in 2006 and began work on Dota 2 in 2009. He was the sole developer of DotA for 5 years until getting hired at Valve.
Valve filed the trademark for "Dota" in August 2010, leading to Steve "Pendragon" Mescon filing a counter application of trademark for the name "Defense of the Ancients" on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC. in order to "protect the work that dozens of authors have done to create the game." Due to a conflict of interest in Mescon's employment at direct competitor Riot Games, and the original owner Eul working at Valve (in addition to current developer IceFrog), the trademark was ruled in Valve's favor. As a result, Valve now officially owns the Defense of the Ancients trademark to reduce consumer confusion by preventing its use among imitators.