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Thread: The ramifications of attempting to establish a cohesive narrative of the Dota world

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    Basic Member Misdirected's Avatar
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    The ramifications of attempting to establish a cohesive narrative [+Video]

    There’s a bit on my chest here, so I apologize in advance:

    The writing is terrible. The character design is great and consistently so; the voice acting is well above par, even superb on some characters; the mechanics are being progressively flushed out and are becoming incredibly solid; the writing is still atrocious. The idea of a ‘quest’ wherein a user of marginal exposure to Dota is exposed to concepts of last-hitting, gold and experience gain, passive verses active items, item upgrading and inventory management is a tall order, and for a first incarnation you’ve all done admirably; the writing still sucks.
    The quest map breaks away from the familiar tri-lane breakdown and hails back to its roots in RTS, something new and yet intriguingly familiar. So much is working for this being a successful endeavor, but it seems there is a writer or two who are intent on jarring the product. Never minding the dialogue boxes, I expect that the cooing enticements of the shop owner from “What does a hero truly need?” to be worked into the game as soon as the paperwork for the Screen Actors Guild goes through. I even understand the need to have the parrot talk to the player to break the monologue and add some mobility and dynamic response to the players’ actions. And I can almost tolerate the fact that the soulless creeps whom I slaughter and deny en masse are turning around and talking to me instead of rushing off to their deaths (though, I wouldn’t mind if they babbled like dialogue in the K’Nex games to dehumanize them some). These storytelling devises are sound in design, and I have no doubt that they will be hammered down into a fittingly presentable package as the rest of the game. That said, the writing reads like fan fiction, and the vapid sort at that. Perhaps when the time comes to actually narrate the tutorial this will become all too apparent. Perhaps at that time whichever writer(s) responsible will mend their ways, or be transitioned over to CS:GO.
    I like what the map represents, but it presents a risky situation that should be reconciled before it snowballs too far out of control. Before this release, all we had as far as story were the hero bios. The fact that they each existed in their own characterizational vacuum gave them a degree of inscrutability. Now that there’s a map, and now the interaction (between Dragon Knight, KotL, and Razor -if you call it that-) robs the player of a cognitive innocence. With this, the player is forced outright to confront the Dota world for what it is, while still not having it being sufficiently defined. I for one don’t see Dota as a particularly lore driven game, nor really do I think it should be. The lore itself is a garnish on the core game mechanics which really make the game what it is. The origins of the characters really only influence some audio during gameplay (except for Tinker, who’s brilliant idea was that!? He looks nothing like how he sounds, Kleiner be damned), until now.

    The question is: “What are you guys trying to do?” I’m not saying you’re ‘breaking’ or ‘ruining’ anything. But there is an unsettling juxtaposition between the serious-business of the gameplay (thus the obscene tournament prizes), the light-hearted hero commentary (puns abound; Tinker), and now the place-setting of the (vapid) lore. What happed to the “show up and kill things” rationale used in CS, or TF? Why try to change things with Dota? I, along with every other gamer, know Valve can run with the don’t-explain-anything-and-run-head-long-into-the-action amazingly (Half-Life); the question remains: “What are you guys trying to do?” I’ve walked among you, I’ve seen how you collaborate and synergize, I’ve been sat down and shown your development process – you have something great going, but I have a sneaking suspicion that (in spite of the fact that the writers have been recently intermingled among the rest of you) the writers are completely off step.

    Ok, that’s probably unnecessarily-strongly worded and I’m calming down now. I’m just upset that many heroes’ bios are equally fan-fiction-esque, the writing for the tutorial is trash (why do they need to be ‘friends’, eww), and that someone obviously insisted that a HL homage was a good idea. Now that I’ve said that I feel better now.

    Otherwise:
    I’d like to see some sort of custom map for last-hitting practice, perhaps with leaderboards per hero over a 10 minute period. Maybe even a tug-of-war type of mini-game where a player attempts to keep the converging of creep as close to a set point as possible (again with letterboards per hero – maybe even with periodic automated creep pulls into neutral camps to have to deal with). The tutorial idea is nice, necessary even, but I’d like to also see ‘practice’ component where players can focus deliberately on specific components of gameplay to better their game. Also, program KotL to understand where behind you is, he’s kind of a paranoid convulsive as he is now.

    Yeah, that’s about it~

    PS. Also, the fact that this tutorial actually progresses from one dialogue box to the next means this is light-years ahead of the first tutorial attempt that never saw the light of day.
    Last edited by Misdirected; 03-03-2013 at 08:20 AM.

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    Basic Member Misdirected's Avatar
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    No need to view this unless you're a dev~
    Last edited by Misdirected; 03-03-2013 at 08:59 AM.

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    Basic Member Hobbez's Avatar
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    Well put.
    While playing through the "Quest" this morning myself I was sort of excited that maybe this would be like a campaign mode of sorts, which is the closest thing I can think of what they are going for here. You hit the nail on the head with the writing, it stinks, but I think this feels to me like a pet project of a team member that has never written anything before, and was pitching the idea and looking for feedback. I'm not opposed to introducing basic game mechanics like last hitting, but if someone played this and got the idea they wanted to play KotL in their first real game they would be dissappointed that they can't get Chakra 2 at level 2... At least follow the rules...
    Anyway, I totally agree that the "lore" of DotA is essentially fan fiction because it pretty much 100% is. All of the heroes in the game are from the original and the backstory for heroes created since 2004ish were all written and tossed into the game by forum boards (that myself even used to spend a ton of time on). I haven't read through most of the hero bios in DotA 2 because frankly it holds no bearing on the game itself and one paragraph per hero doesn't tell a very intriguing story. If this is really supposed to be a campaign mode more than a training ground I'd love to see it follow a path like the campaigns we love from RTS games that DotA spawned from like Starcraft and Warcraft. You could get an understanding for the hero the more you play and get practice in things like last hitting. The AI would have to be a lot smarter and act more like actual players, and I'd love to see a campaign build up to a five on five battle so new players get a taste of what to expect in a real game. The tutorial aspect can tell you your role and walk you through things like focusing down supports, disabling important heroes, avoiding big ults, canceling channeling spells, etc. If they really want to bring lore into it and try to explain the back and forth dialogue between heroes this would be a good opportunity to do that if done right. I'd be looking forward to how they explain the Windrunner and Lina dialogues, lol.
    The problem with this though is that they would have to make a TON of campaigns if they wanted to use this as a tutorial for every hero, but releasing them one at a time between new hero releases would be a great way to add content and keep new (and old) players busy.
    Just some thoughts, but I do love your idea about maps specifically for practicing last hitting with a leader board and a tug of war. Lane control and farming are two things that a lot of players don't learn fast enough in a regular match. Keeping creeps between two towers for as long as possible without towers taking damage or something would be fun too. Those are core things that would improve fast with repeatative practice on a special map like that. I support that idea and others similar all day long =).
    Nice post, read it cover to cover, hope this "Quest" mode turns out to be something good and not another half assed waste of time.

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    Basic Member Misdirected's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbez View Post
    You hit the nail on the head with the writing, it stinks, but I think this feels to me like a pet project of a team member that has never written anything before, and was pitching the idea and looking for feedback.
    You know, looking at it now, you're right. It does have that feel, though with a fair amount of polish.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbez View Post
    Anyway, I totally agree that the "lore" of DotA is essentially fan fiction because it pretty much 100% is. All of the heroes in the game are from the original and the backstory for heroes created since 2004ish were all written and tossed into the game by forum boards (that myself even used to spend a ton of time on). I haven't read through most of the hero bios in DotA 2 because frankly it holds no bearing on the game itself and one paragraph per hero doesn't tell a very intriguing story.
    Yes! Thank you! You've effectively justified all my concerns, though I my now shift my question of "what are you trying to do?" to "do you know what you're doing?" Fan fiction is typically dangerous stuff plot-wise, and making it cannon then expounding on it further complicates on the matter. The fact that the lore "holds no bearing on the game itself" is the perspective I take as well, it's just now there's the complication of advancing it, even for introductory devices (perhaps even more so).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbez View Post
    If this is really supposed to be a campaign mode more than a training ground I'd love to see it follow a path like the campaigns we love from RTS games that DotA spawned from like Starcraft and Warcraft. You could get an understanding for the hero the more you play and get practice in things like last hitting. The AI would have to be a lot smarter and act more like actual players, and I'd love to see a campaign build up to a five on five battle so new players get a taste of what to expect in a real game.
    I'm going to have to disagree with you here. As far as making an RTS style campaign, I think they've gotten as close as they should, because they're making a MOBA, not an RTS like WC3. The fact that they're making maps for the purpose of player education is fantastic, and shows their commitment to bridging the introductory learning curve. I just wanted to warn about bandwagon-ing unfounded story-telling devices. The five on five battles are where bot games come in, there's no need to make it an RTS, I'd love it, but I also know they have a myriad of other things to focus on instead.

    As for the rest of the game mechanics, I have no doubt the biggest ones I've seen listed here and in other posts will be addressed, but (as you've said) they're just soliciting feedback at this point, before they get too carried away with themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbez View Post
    I'd be looking forward to how they explain the Windrunner and Lina dialogues, lol.
    I get what you're saying, but I don't think 'explanation' is necessary, per se. I still prefer the throw-the-player-into-the-world-and-explain-nothing card that Valve likes to play. Instead I'd like to see some leveraging of those implied relationships between the characterizes, without needing to firmly establish histories or motives, to fill out the dialogue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbez View Post
    Just some thoughts, but I do love your idea about maps specifically for practicing last hitting with a leader board and a tug of war. Lane control and farming are two things that a lot of players don't learn fast enough in a regular match. Keeping creeps between two towers for as long as possible without towers taking damage or something would be fun too. Those are core things that would improve fast with repetitive practice on a special map like that. I support that idea and others similar all day long =).
    Thank you, I should hope gamemodes of this type will be seen in the future, though perhaps after Techies.

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    The writers for DOTA2 love pumping out pretentiously verbose garbage. No offense, though, but I'm equally annoyed by your style of writing.

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    I didn't like the sentence "this is why you're a hero and we're just creeps." But then again the whole thing felt really rushed to me, from dialogue to mechanics to the invisible walls instead of fence gates or whatever. Maybe the same writing has a different effect if everything else holds up.

    All in all Valve has put out quality content so far, although at a painfully slow pace.

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