Let’s Talk About Tutorials and Dota 2

Carno talks about how getting into Dota can be intimidating, and possible ways to change that.

The MOBA/ARTS genre is difficult to get into, especially for those coming from a gaming background that doesn’t share any similar mechanics. Everything at the beginning is confusing, starting with the controls. If you come from an FPS background (like myself), unit and camera movement is difficult. Those are just the most basic aspects of the game to learn, and they can be problematic and even frustrating to a newcomer flying blind.

Dota 2 is especially notorious for being intimidating to new players. The natural comparison is to League of Legends, a game that is superfically similar, but not much else. Some core mechanics are shared, but there are critical mechanics that are found in Dota that aren’t in League. Concepts such as denying, turn rate, and the courier are crucial to the development of an asipring Dota player, and aren’t found anywhere else. On top of that, over 110 different characters, what they do, and the item economy all have to be learned before long.  

That’s not to say that there aren’t any resources for new players. There are plenty of communites that happily welcome newer players, like the Learn Dota 2 subreddit. The main guide that almost every Dota player reads is Kevin “Purge” Codec’s magnum opus, Welcome to Dota, You Suck. It’s an incredibly thorough guide, taking the soon-to-be player through every aspect of the game in an easy to understand manner. Another great resource is the Relax You’re Fine YouTube channel, specifically their Dota 2 Basics video series, which is a good watch for both greenhorns and veterans. 

These resources are great, but are they enough? You see, this stuff is wonderful for the people who find it and take the time to read or watch this quality content, but what about those who don’t?

Let’s say I’m someone who wanted to play Dota, but wasn’t aware of any online communities that would help point me to those resources, and the only source of guidance was what is currently available to me in the client. What then? 

When it comes to explaining core mechanics, the client does a pretty good job. The tutorials are simple enough to follow, and take you through the stages of a game of Dota: early, mid and late game. It also explains last hitting, creep and tower aggro, and the runes. So far, so good. 

The place where the tutorials falter the hardest is teaching the player what to pick, and when to pick it. The tutuorials take you through three very specific bot matches, with three very specific heroes. A controlled environment is nice when learning something, but the experience gained in these almost scripted matches won’t transfer extremely well. It’s almost expected, and maybe why the Dota 2 client pushes the new player to play a match with real players on one side, and bots on the other.

This is where knowing what to pick becomes an issue. It’s understandable that new players have no idea what to pick, but it would be nice if the client could ease players into the needed roles. For example, if one or two support players have been picked, then the client could suggest some straightforward carries, such as Sven or Juggernaut. There are plenty of easily accessible heroes in Dota, but the key is getting those heroes into the hands of the players who need to use them to gain a greater understanding of the game as a whole. 

There’s a balance that’s needed to it all, however. One of the things that I admire about Dota is how subtle aspects make such a big difference on determining the outcome of a game. One half of this is player actions and decisions; deciding on focusing on last hitting or aggressively pushing the enemy hero out of lane can decide the outcome of the early game. The other half is understanding how Dota works, and that the map responds to player behavior in a consistent manner, as seen through actions such as stacking camps.

Adding indicators to the game does help the game’s accessibility, and mutes the cues already on the map. A good example of this is the tower aggro radius. While a full highlighted radius was added a few months ago to Dota 2, there are subtle map hints as to where the tower range begins (here’s a Dire version) that show where tower range begins. Giving the player enough information, but also providing a rewarding experience, is a delicate balance. 

Special thanks and credit to reddit user preposterone123 for the Dota map images showing tower cues. Just a heads up, however; these images are out-dated and do not show the tower placement move that occured in gameplay update 6.86. 

How would you change the Dota 2 tutorials? Let us know in the comments or tweet at us at @GAMURScom

Questions, comments, or criticism for Carno? He’d love to hear it. Find him on Twitter at @Carno_. Carno’s Twitter is where you know when new articles are posted as soon as they’re done, so be sure to follow him and the official GAMURS Dota 2 twitter: @GAMURS_Dota2.