Home Editorial Why I quit League of Legends to play DOTA 2

As many of you may (or may not) remember, I wrote an article two years ago about why I didn’t want to play DOTA 2 which promptly turned into why I would never play DOTA 2 thanks to the kind, loving words of the community in the comments section. Well, I buckled. I started playing with a few friends, got drunk, had some laughs, put on some sensual music… I’m in a deeply committed relationship with this game and I’m going to tell you why I went from a some-time League of Legends player to a “I play DOTA 2 as my main game” player at record speed.

Working Tutorials

In general, it’s nice to know how to actually play the game you want to play. Since the launch of DOTA 2, they’ve made the tutorial more comprehensive by adding a last hit/deny practice tool, in-built bot games and, most importantly, playing a specific game mode against other players which feels like a safe place free from newbie ridicule. My favourite thing they’ve put in has to be their Guide system. When you’re in a game, you can click on a book icon in the top left corner to explore guides for the hero you’re playing sorted by rating or language. They inform you of good items to buy and what skills to put points into as you level up, with the best guides explaining why you should buy those items or level up those skills along with a rough overview of what your hero can do for your team.

I’ve played over 400 games and I still use guides when I’m unsure about the hero I’m playing. Gone are the days when my team suggests I pick a certain hero and I refuse due to being unfamiliar with it or don’t want to waste time alt-tabbing into a guide every couple of minutes.

Another great tool for helping players learn the game is the coaching system. If a player spectates your game, there’s a 3-minute delay but joining a party of players as a coach means you can spectate in real time (only the team you’re coaching, of course). You can ping on the map, draw on the map (which also shows up on the terrain meaning whoever you’re coaching doesn’t have to worry about staring at the minimap), see things from a specific player’s perspective, and the chat defaults to talking to the coach and other students. This means you don’t have to worry about your team seeing one-to-one coaching and giving you shit for being a perceived scrublord.

League of Legends doesn’t have a coach system, doesn’t have any practice tools and doesn’t have any kind of in-built guides. In terms of teaching and encouraging new players, DOTA 2 steals the show.

Multiple Game modes

I mentioned above that there was a newbie-specific game mode to learn the game but that’s only scratching the surface. The game modes available in DOTA 2 are:

  • All Pick – This is your standard five guys on a team, picking your hero and destroying a base.
  • Single Draft – You get presented three random heroes from the three stat pools (Strength, Agility and Intelligence) and you choose one of them to play with. This is the mode that got me to play a lot of DOTA as everyone is pretty laid back and it’s great fun to play.
  • Limited Heroes – This is the newbie-friendly game mode. You can only select your hero from a limited pool which have been marked as being easy for newbies to learn and play. If you’re brand new to DOTA, start here.
  • Least Played – Excellent mode for trying something a bit different or for expanding your knowledge as a player. In this mode, as the name would suggest, you can only play your least played heroes. It often forces you to play a new role and everyone is on a level(ish) playing field as everyone is playing something they’re not familiar with.
  • All Random – Everyone gets given a random hero and little extra starting gold. Pure chaos (in a good way).
  • Random Draft – A pool of 20 heroes is generated randomly and players take turns in picking who they want to play. Good practice for the next two game modes and dealing with hero bans.
  • Captains Mode – A player on the team is randomly chosen to be the captain. The captain then bans and picks heroes for their team.
  • Captains Draft – As above but with a limited hero pool.
  • Ability Draft – Everyone gets given a random hero and their skills are put in a pool. Players then take it in turn to pick skills for their character from the pool. Not recommended for new players and, if I’m honest, I’m not a fan.

As all these game modes work on the same map, there’s no issue with trying to re-balance heroes for different game modes which is a massive issue in League of Legends. There’s also alpha support for custom maps in DOTA 2 but, at the moment, it simply doesn’t fucking work and won’t until Valve allows people to set a custom ‘wait for everyone to load in’ timer.

The Heroes

Possibly the biggest reason I switched from LoL to DOTA 2 was the playable heroes.

For starters, all the heroes in DOTA are given to you at the start meaning you can familiarise yourself somewhat with every hero or at least have a rough idea of what they can all do*. In LoL the number of heroes available to play as is staggeringly high in comparison and you have to either purchase them with real money or earn them with their play money. That’s not inherently a bad thing but it feels very restrictive and can completely screw you over if you’re wanting to get into ranked play. “OK, they just picked Hero X and the perfect counter to that is Hero Y, does anyone own that guy? No? Well… fuck”.

The elephant in the room, however, is what Riot did to their heroes in terms of their metagame. In LoL, a competitive meta was found and it spread to public play quite quickly. That’s fine. Then Riot started to make new heroes that fit neatly into that meta. Sure, that means that the developer is enforcing a meta rather than potentially doing something a little different but it’s still ok. Then they went back to older champs and reworked them entirely so they would fit into the meta, regardless of what their old use or utility was.

Terrible decision.

Why would you dictate to your players exactly how they can and can’t play in a (relatively) open strategy game? Why would you enforce a meta which is already stale and predictable? It’s like taking out all the cards of a deck apart from the face cards and trying to play poker. Sure, they’re high-value hands and you can still bluff and there’s still some strategy but you’re never going to see that ballsy call into a straight on the river. Homogenising the heroes and enforcing the meta in League of Legends made it no longer exciting or possible to try out some kind of wacky team composition centred around smack-talking the enemy team so much that they constantly ran after Singed whilst he was poisoning them. If a game’s not fun, what’s the point in playing it?

So to anyone considering making the move from LoL to DOTA 2, I say this: Join us and jump in. It’s better than you’ve heard. It’s more fun that League of Legends. And the Russians are really easy to make fun of.


*Although the release of Goblin Techies really threw a spanner in the works for anyone who didn’t play the original mod


11 replies to this post
  1. Back again to disagree with you.
    Dota 2’s fun factor is super high, because of the inherent method behind their development of champions. Imagine league of legends as a game where everyone is given a pocket knife and told to brawl, but Dota 2 is a game where everyone is given a rocket launcher and told to shit their pants and go freakin’ wild.
    I like Dota 2, and even it’s competitive atmosphere is big and super fun, but you’re really throwing League under the bus in regards to the meta enforcement. You’re looking at a company that’s so passionate about their competitive scene and their player-developed ideas that they develop TO them. That is not something to write off as a terrible decision.
    I feel like You need to get the chip off your shoulder in regards to the competitive community. It seems like the last argument was similar in nature, you were complaining about how people wanted a ranked system and wanted to be able to show off their achievements. Let me ask you, if you play to win, why do you hate the idea of showing off your greatest achievements or having something to show for it? It seems hollow to play a game like dota 2 casually because the fun is high but it wears out over time, because at the end of the day, victories aren’t as long lastingly satisfying as league. When you win in League and your team moved like a well oiled machine, you feel fantastic. The down side is that losses hit harder as well.
    I suppose I can’t change your view points, but I wish you weren’t so hard on games that have such great competitive scenes; the League devs feel more transparent than Dota 2, that’s for sure. I can’t name one person on the Dota 2 dev team who has ever explained the reasoning behind any change or thing they do, whereas League has videos explaining their patches, as well as patch notes that actually explain every reason for why they do a thing.

    • I feel your analogy for the two games is a little off. Personally, I’d say that LoL is like laser tag (don’t climb on the scenery, don’t crawl along the floor, no running etc) and DOTA 2 is more like outdoor paint ball (don’t shoot a guy in the dong because you just don’t do that). LoL built up these very strict rules into their metagame and they make new champions to cater to it which, like I mentioned in the article, is fine. It’s not fine, however, when you go back to the champions of old and change everything about them to fit the new meta.

      Let’s say, for example, you look at Shyvana at around the time I last played LoL. Mostly cooldown focussed and the only resource she uses for a spell is rage which is built up over successive attacks. Now let’s say that the meta of LoL changes to one where the big thing is mana management and Riot start making more champions based around carefully utilising a mana pool in some way. Syvana, at that point, is an interesting pick and change from what they’re currently making and keeps a number of options open to how to play that champion. With no mana pool being utilised, she can be quite a threat to consider if she’s able to farm up and get significant cooldown reduction to wreck face whilst waiting to get her rage bar back up. Then, Riot decided that they need to rework Shyvana to bring her in line with everyone else. She gets given a mana pool and all of her spells are given a mana value to fall in line with the management meta. No more rage bar, no more being a champion bound by cooldown reduction. What is left of the original champion besides the skills used?

      When enforcement of a meta is the only reason for changing a hero in a strategy game, you done goofed. Especially when it’s something that the players could play/pick against and develop actual strategy around.

      I don’t know what “last argument” of mine you’re talking about, sorry. The only argument like that I can recall was where I was saying that it would be interesting to see a game forgo the ranked matchmaking ladder and ranked matchmaking often breeds elitism and douchebaggery.

      I play to win not to show off my greatest achievements or best moments but to win games; I’m just not that big a show-off. Will I take a screenshot or make a recording of a really fun game or one where I did particularly well? Sure thing but I won’t then use that as evidence to proclaim that I am, by far, better than you. Your current ranked position just shows your current skill level, nothing more. Still, I don’t know why this is being brought up as this wasn’t mentioned in this article at all.

      Saying that winning feels better in LoL than in DOTA 2 is a subjective thing that you have experienced. I can’t really comment on that. All I can say is that, from my experience, it feels like losing hits a little harder in DOTA, winning feels more satisfying in DOTA and that comebacks happen more frequently in DOTA.

      We’re in disagreement that LoL has a great competitive scene (sure, it’s big but much like the game, there’s nothing about it that I find interesting any more) but I’m curious as to why the dev team of DOTA 2 would make a video or go on a forum to explain why they made certain changes in a patch. Players can read patch notes for themselves, discuss it with other members of the community and explain to others why things were changed themselves. Why should Valve need to pay someone to say “The mana cost was increased slightly so it wasn’t used with as high a frequency in the early game” when that can be inferred from the patch notes?

      • You started your post with a very bad example… Riot has never changed a characters core gameplay as much as you suggested with the Shyvana example… they have never changed a champion from mana to non mana, or non mana to energy, etc… When they do “balance a champion to fit into the meta” they normally only changed tiny % based modifiers, and very rarely do a complete “rework”, and even when they do a rework they keep the overall design of the champion and just change the way the gameplay reflects that design.

        That’s just called change… progress. When riot first started 3 years ago they never knew it would blow up so much, or develop such a huge esports scene, so obviously they would want to improve the older more “crappy” champions that they made before LoL became a thing, back before they had the money, or time, or resources to “perfect” the game.

        By the way, saying “Comebacks happen more often in Dota 2” is simply a complete lack of knowledge of Dota 2… which is a game where comebacks are rare and snowballing is very powerful.

  2. I’ve been playing DotA for nearly ten years now, and I did try switching to league to see what it was like. At that time valve was taking their sweet time releasing heroes and hadn’t released one in three months, so I decided to get a change of scenery. Unfortunately, the game just wasn’t deep enough to keep me interested, and I really did give it a fair shake pouring hundreds of games into it before leaving. Here are a few reasons why:

    1. They cut a lot of mechanics to cater the game to new players. Heroes cast spells nearly instantly, have nearly no turn time, and denies are taken out of the game entirely.
    2. Nearly every hero scales the same way (more hp, more dmg) so even if there are a bunch of heroes, they all feel too similar. Furthermore, all the heroes seem to have the same aoeinstantskillshot spells. Teamfights in league feel much less calculated and more like everyone just blowing all their spells as fast as they can on as many people as they can.
    3. Flash is an awful game mechanic. Even most league players I talk to think so. It’s just stupid to have a blink on every hero. Getting away from heroes pursuing you shouldn’t be as easy as a button press.
    4. I have to say that the way they are enforcing the meta is really toxic. It’s gotten really stale. The DotA devs are constantly mixing things up, which keeps the game fresh and fun to play and watch. I can’t say the same for riot.
    5. The League community is so much more toxic than DotA’s… Lol jk they both are terrible.

    A lot of this is just personal preference. I guess some casual players will enjoy the consistency and easy game mechanics of league, but I feel like if there’s a more complex version of the game that’s also more fresh, why not go for it?

    • Because simplicity is better than complexity. In fact, making something “more complex” just to simulate more gameplay “depth” is bad game design. A game with only 3 steps can be just as deep gameplay wise as a game with 10 steps.

      That is one of the main problem with Dota players, and LoL players, and video game players in general…. Confusing “complexity” with “good game design” or “deep gameplay”. The simpler and “clearer” something is, the better.

      That being said, I play LoL and Dota 2 and Smite and many other Moba’s, because whether you believe it or not they all have good things AND bad things, yes.. even dota.

      • Complexity isn’t always tied with depth, but in a lot of cases they indeed are.

        What is a good game design? If removing complexity from a game resulted in being more fun, or better designed, then Rock Paper Scissors and TicTacToe are the best games humanity has to offer. Then again, you look at a “simplistic” game like Chess, which has a ton more complexity than most regular games, yet is also much much deeper

  3. I disagree with this decision.
    Actually I’m a Dota player before the LoL wasn’t realesed yet but actually dota was cool,smooth, and it’s easy to play.
    When the league was released i really didn’t care about the LoL because they said that it was not good at all.
    When the Dota Fans are decreasing, i didn’t played dota for 1 year and started playing minecraft and then the Minecraft Fans are decreasing i stopped playing it and stopped playing games.
    And then the LoL was starting to be popular in our city i started playing LoL and it wasn’t that bad it was like Dota, it was smooth and cool and it was easy to play, and i really liked the idea to play the game because you will know what you’re gonna buy.
    When Dota 2 became popular me and my family were the only LoL player in my city, actually it wasn’t me and my family it’s actually me,my family and my friends.
    Then i started to play Dota 2 and i realized that it wasn’t the Dota i liked it.
    The Dota 2 copied the LoL’s “starting items, defensive items, offensive items, etc.”. Actually LoL was the first to copy the Game.
    But i wasn’t really enjoying Dota 2 because it was really different than Dota, it wasn’t smooth. But it was difficult to play. But their graphics was nice but not smooth
    I was really getting a headache because of the graphics.

    And then i started playing LoL again because of the graphics was kindly made

    And i disagree with your decision, but it’s your life and decision so i don’t really care about that. :)

  4. Well written article, and I find myself in agreement with your points. Your comments also effectively counterpoint what is being said in disagreement.

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