League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth & Dota 2: It’s Getting Crowded

Morphling concept art for DOTA 2

Earlier this week, Valve not-so-surprisingly announced DOTA 2, the sequel to the most popular Warcraft III custom map ever created.  The success of the mod, which was itself based on an earlier concept from StarCraft, spawned an entirely new sub-genre, the action-RTS/RPG or MOBA.  Companies high and low latched on to the concept and have added, or hope to add, their two cents to the mix. Gas Powered Games released Demigod in early 2009, Riot Games released League of Legends in late 2009 and S2 Games released Heroes of Newerth in mid 2010, just to name a few.

Every game named above has made a direct reference to the original DotA Allstars, with Demigod being the only game to dramatically alter a few of the core concepts. Some titles have even had the original developers pinned to the project as designers, consultants, or project leads. As you might expect, this has lead to products that mirror each other in many respects, but possess key differences.

Heroes of Newerth battle concept art

Heroes of Newerth is geared towards the hardcore audience in many ways.  The most prominent of which is the ability to “creep deny” – being able to kill your own creep so the opposition cannot reap the reward.  HoN players need to be aware of not only their own kills, but stopping their opponent from accumulating them as well.  League of Legends’ biggest strength is the fact that it’s free-to-play, making its barrier to entry exactly nil.  Due to this very notion, the game brings in more casual players. Riot Games counters the amount of new players by segregating the experience into separate (optional) ranked matches and maintaining an arguably more forgiving community. No easy feat in a PvP game.

Now Valve is preparing to bring Dota 2, a game headlined by IceFrog, the man who took over the development of DotA, to the mix. From its early description, the game is mirroring the strengths of both. IceFrog is essentially taking all of his work (and the work done before him) from DotA and putting it inside the Source engine. Heroes, items, skills, and much of the core mechanics will remain “unchanged,” including denials. That covers HoN’s crowd, the hardcore DotA lovers. Valve will be blanketing LoL’s strengths by upgrading Steamworks with numerous community features. Many of the features of the revamped community system will leech from LoL’s real-money shop.  You’ll have to pay for DOTA 2, but you’ll earn skins, titles and the like by playing games and being a part of the community. Sales of these items is how Riot Games stays afloat.

League of Legends champion concept art

This begs the question: Can three games with overlapping design documents and communities stand side-by-side? To date, the LoL and HoN communities, while often launching fanboy crusades, remain large enough to support their game of choice. The introduction of an amalgamation of the two will stir the pot, possibly shrinking one community to the point of collapse. I await the rebuttals from Riot Games and S2 Games. Surely the companies are already hard at work on making their respective products more unique or hard-to-abandon.

S2 Games thinks it’ll be just fine. Riot Games has yet to comment.

What say you, Lore Hounds? Does Valve’s pedigree stand a chance against these entrenched challengers? Or will it be the Playstation 2 to their Dreamcast?


  1. Hit the nail on the head with this one. The market is going to get quite busy when Valve launches its product. The other companies really need to step up their game in the meantime to ensure that the community can be secured. Otherwise players will become tourists and check out valves product just because its valve as evidenced by Wandorf.

  2. HoN will always be at the back of the pack until the devs clue in that a learning curve that is a mile-high cliff won’t win them new players. I’m serious; LoL has them beat so many ways that it’s embarrassing. It has tutorials, guides, a tutorial level, practice against bots, and popups for everything on the HUD – HoN doesn’t have any of them, unless you count posts in their forums as ‘guides’. You still want to play HoN? Right from the start, prepare to be dumped into live PvP matches where your teammates will be swearing at you for being a noob, and ignoring your pleas to teach you what to do, as you desperately try to figure out what all of the stuff around the edges of the screen is for. Unless you are completely impervious to frustration or are already a hardcore DotA player, don’t even bother trying HoN.

    OTOH, I’ve been playing LoL for a couple of months now, and absolutely love it, both for the in-game and out-of-game experience. If Valve wants to create an even better successor to DotA, they have a serious amount of work ahead of them.

  3. I currently play LoL and absolutely love it! It has so many things over HoN as described by DeadlyDad. Although I feel like Valves “Dota 2” Will blow HoN out of the water mainly because IceFrog is on the team and actively working on the project himself. I know he may have been an advisor, or helped out with LoL, and HoN, but this time it’s his game and he’s the one who made Dota famous in the first place. Trust me Icefrog knows what he’s doing. I will continue playing LoL, but, I will still give Dota 2 a chance when it comes out. I originally started playing Dota when it came out for Wc3 and is the reason I am now playing LoL.

  4. This article is ancient but still relevant. Was nice to re-read thanks to the tweet bringing it to my attention.

Comments are closed.