Perhaps it is appropriate to start today’s discussion with a potentially controversial statement: it is ok for games to copy mechanics and techniques from other games. We live in the age where most of the games released can be considered a derivative of past titles and some people are not happy about it, but when it is done correctly, it is actually quite healthy for the gaming scene as a whole.
Doom (2016) wouldn’t be as good as it is, had it not incorporated more than a decade of experience in creating FPS games. It is a “return to its roots” kind of story, but the one that shaved away unnecessary problems, stemming from limitations at the time, and added mechanics which were successfully used in previous games of the genre, giving them a unique Doom-twist. It also innovated in some areas, creating its own, unique gameplay features, making for one of the best nostalgia-driven products of the last years.
The critically acclaimed Divinity: Original Sin II, which currently boasts 94 on Metacritic didn’t shy away from borrowing ideas from other games either. In fact, it even used Dota as an inspiration for some of its skills, even going as far as having skills with the same name and similar effects to Bloodseeker’s Rupture and Vengeful Spirit’s Nether Swap
Dota itself was initially a modification to the Warcraft 3, hence it goes without saying that many of its mechanics are direct copies of what the engine at the time could offer. Over the years it polished the existing mechanics, created new ones and with the release of Monkey King we have finally reached the stage, where hero design is no longer influenced by the limitations of the Warcraft 3 engine. Yet, at least as of now, the game has been pretty tame about introducing new mechanics.
Part of the reason is how hard it is to think of something truly new, especially in the context of Dota. Almost every single ability from other games is in Dota in one form or another. With a massive roster of truly unique heroes it was to be expected. Yet, after heavy scrutiny, it was possible to find some mechanics that are still not in the game and could potentially serve as a starting points for future hero designs.
That is a big one. Vector targeting essentially allows you to “drag” your ability or spell to give it direction or angle you need.
Vector targeting has been in ARPGs and MOBAs for a while now, yet Dota seems reluctant to add it to the set of the potential features. In many cases it is a balance concern — no matter how good you are at the game, ability to choose the direction of the Ice Wall will always be superior, to having to “aim” it carefully. In this case it is far from being a quality of life or skill ceiling discussion, but a very valid balance concern.
Yet there are definitely skills which wouldn’t necessarily become absolutely overpowered, like Dark Seer’s Wall of Replica, but would become a lot easier to use. Furthermore, we are finally at a stage where every single hero released is going to be a new hero and vector targeting might be a way to balance new abilities. It can give an otherwise weak spell a lot of extra utility, allowing the game to be balanced not from the perspective of easily quantifiable numbers and values, but from the perspective of the potential utility.
Corpse manipulation was in game before and it is understandable why it was removed. Prior to 6.75 Underlord (in Dota 1) used to have an ability called Expulsion, which would blow up the corpses in the target AoE and either Damage and Microstun enemy heroes in the area, or Damage enemy and Heal allies, depending on the patch.
The reason why it was removed is pretty much self-explanatory. The ability rarely worked well outside of lane, was easily avoidable and couldn’t be too strong, since at its best, with a massive corpse pile, it would become pretty overpowered. As such, it turned into a pretty useless spell, something Dota does not tolerate, and was soon replaced with Atrophy Aura.
What if, however, the hero had an ability to spawn corpses himself? The were two hero designs that had corpse manipulation mechanics in Heroes of Newerth and they both worked relatively well. The quality of the game itself aside, it serves as a proof-of-concept in a highly competitive PvP environment and there is a chance we might see the return of this rather flavorful technique to our favorite game.
For balance reasons, there are heroes who might feel “clunky” and are much harder to use because of their cast points. Heroes like Jakiro, Leshrac, Lina etc. have very long animations before their abilities take effect, making them harder to land and generally requiring a set-up of sorts, to have maximum effect. At the same time, these abilities are incredibly strong — Jakiro’s Ice Path is a massive AoE disable that might affect targets after the initial cast and has a respectable duration. The speed with which it is cast, therefore, makes a lot of sense, since we all know how overpowered this ability can be on someone like Rubick, with an instant cast point.
Interestingly, the attack animation duration changes with the increase in attack speed, to accommodate for more attacks per second. What if there was a way to increase the speed of casting spells as well? It would make nuke-heavy combo heroes be able to burst much faster, without breaking the balance too much, while also allowing certain heroes to become more independent and have higher utility. This mechanic might not be a necessity for Dota, but it is certainly one of the ways the game can develop in.
It is excruciatingly hard to think of things that might fit Dota that aren’t in Dota already. Obviously, there can be an argument made about game X having an ability Y, that isn’t in Dota, but most of the time Dota is going to have something very similar in one form or another.
That said, there are probably many more things that are missing from today’s discussion. Even on a general, game-mechanic levels Dota might be lacking something. After all there was no Spell Lifesteal, before the Octarine Core, or Fear-type ability before the Lone Druid’s Summon Spirit Bear got his Savage Roar. And talents, which weren’t in the game until recently turned out to be a great addition, which not only allowed for further hero customization, but also opened up new, exciting way to play the old heroes.
In an attempt to attract wider audience, there is a chance Dota will start incorporating more of these mechanics, giving them their unique Dota-twists. So what do you think might come to Dota next?