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DOTA 2’s Game within a Game

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Now that The International is all wrapped up and that tasty $2.7 million has been allocated to the winning teams, there’s no better time to focus on getting back to basics with DOTA 2. Now DOTA 2 is largely considered to be a difficult game to get started with; matches can easily last an hour or more, there are over a hundred heroes to choose from and the high importance on conserving health and mana is tricky to explain.

Luckily, at least for one aspect of DOTA 2, Valve has come up with a simple way to help you memorize necessary facts – specifically, how to build the various items in the game.

For anyone new to the concept, you increase your power in a MOBA game like DOTA 2 or LoL in one of two ways: you level up and improve your starting skills or you purchase an item from a shop using the gold you collect by killing enemy creeps and heroes. Needless to say, your selection of items can not only make or break your own performance – but can be the key to your team’s ultimate success or defeat.

The problem? There are dozens of items in DOTA 2, and the way the itembuilding system progresses uses pre-established combinations of items along with a “recipe” in order to make more powerful items – which is essential in a game where your inventory has only six slots.

So how do you teach new players how to build the items they will need for success along with showing them the variety of items in the game but without detracting from their overall gameplay experience?

By using another game!

While a player is matchmaking in DOTA 2 the default screen shows a few in-game advertising panels, displaying information about upcoming events like The International as well as showing off some of the newest cosmetic items which can be purchased for various heroes. But if you continue to skip through these brightly coloured display you eventually end up on the Shopkeeper’s Item Quiz, one of the smartest additions to a MOBA game I think I’ve ever come across.

Basically the Shopkeeper’s Item Quiz is a memory game which shows you a composite item, like say Vanguard, with a variety of other items below and it’s up to you to pick the winning combination of materials to make the item it shows (in this case, Stout Shield, Ring of Health and a Vitality Booster).

Each time you complete an item you receive another to “build” and you have three strikes before being knocked out, allowing you to compare your best scores along with your friends – and learning how to build some of the most complex items in the game as you do it.

It’s really a small touch but it goes to show you that Valve are thinking about how to make the game more accessible for new players in ways that don’t result in the person learning feeling left out or bored because they aren’t as experienced as other players.

Now if only they could make a minigame which punishes people for picking Drow Ranger or Pudge in every online match I play…

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