Dota 2 vs League of Legends: Company philosophies 
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Zoe Hawkins
June 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Lol vs dota

Firefly or Babylon 5? Superman or Batman? Star Wars or Star Trek? There are so many geek debates that we could enter into, but the latest and most ferocious is League of Legends (LoL) or Dota 2? Both are wildly popular games in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre – so what sets them apart?

There was no way that I could even attempt to do this entire comparison as one article, so I’ve broken it up into five parts. Today, we will look at company philosophies of Valve vs Riot Games. Coming topics include: prize pools and tournament organization, community involvement, heroes vs champions, maps and updates. Both have made streaming and eSports more commonplace, and there is no doubt that we will continue to talk about them for a long time. So, why are they so popular, and why are people so adamantly in favor of one vs the other? Of course gameplay differences are key factors, but there is a lot more that sets them apart.

Riot Games’ Company Philosophy

Riot games logo

Riot has a manifesto to guide the company in general:

  1. Player Experience First
  2. Challenge Convention
  3. Focus on Talent and Team
  4. Take Play Seriously
  5. Stay Hungry, Stay Humble

All well and good to have a manifesto like this, but what does it mean? Well, internally, it means that they are a meritocracy that is built to “hold Rioters accountable for exercising judgment and delivering value”. According to this feature from Forbes, the value to players is above and beyond the most important:

Rather, there’s an almost obsessive drive to keep adding value for players, something Riot believes is crucial to their success and really, is their entire company philosophy

Employees talk about ridiculously long work hours and some issues with work/life balance, but for the most part people are happy to be involved. This is a good thing, too, because Riot Games is very hands on with all events and participants; even shoutcasters are official employees of Riot Games. There appears to be a lot of control within Riot, with dedicated people hired for specific roles. This is all organized towards creating the greatest value proposition for gamers, and ensuring uniformity across gameplay experiences.

That said, while they take the experience very seriously, you will also see plenty of memes and jokes permeating their presentations. They are committed to listening to their community, including taking on board all kinds of jokes and trends.

Valve’s Company Philosophy

Valve Logo

One of the most notable things about Valve is their uniquely flat structures. No one is the boss, not even Gabe Newell. Everyone’s desk has wheels so that they can move around – joining teams and working on projects where they see fit. Their biggest focus is on hiring top-notch talent who can fit into any of those teams. They even have this adorable and hilarious manual to help guide new employees in figuring out how to navigate the company non-structure.

Like Riot, they see the users/gamers as the most important – at Valve each employee is seen as a steward of the long-term relationship with their customers. Gamers are at the core, but it’s not just about giving them what they want right now, it’s about innovating and making new things that they will enjoy for a long time to come. This explains why we have to keep waiting for Half Life 3 – it’s obviously not a project that gets people to move their desks and rally behind an idea.

When it comes to Dota 2, there is a similarly flat structure. Anyone can propose a new idea, anyone can organize something unique. Outside of the Valve structure, the same rules apply – anyone can organize an event, or shoutcast it, or come up with a new way to market it. This can lead to a much more lackadaisical approach to eSports, but still a ridiculously successful outcome.

Do company philosophies matter?

Cubicles

When it comes to the product, some people might wonder if these company philosophies and inner workings matter. I strongly believe that they do. While Riot Games is fiercely devoted to their fans, they also have an iron grip on the types of content officially produced. This means that shoutcasters follow a specific dress code, and are unlikely to use any foul language or say anything critical about the parent company. Valve is equally committed to the players, but allows a more casual approach to something such as shoutcasting. While some might argue that the Riot vision of eSports is more professional, I personally find watching Dota much more entertaining thanks to the relaxed and human mentality.

When it comes to major changes in games, or overhauling a design choice, these two visions also come into play. Both offer plenty of updates on a regular basis. Dota and LoL are known for bringing in new heroes/champions (to be explored in later articles), as well as gameplay updates. However, it seems that while both are geared towards rebalancing the game, LoL is much more focused on specific ideas of how each role should be played (set idea of “the meta”), while Dota takes a more free-wheeling approach in this regard (fixing bugs or nerfing heroes as necessary).

In what ways do you see company structure influencing games? We know that EA pushes different studios in different ways, but do you think that corporate structure makes a difference in game design?

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Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • Brendyn Zachary

    This was a great read. I feel like because of Volvo’s more relaxed attitude the community feels more compelled to contribute, the Workshop being a prime example of this. I’ve heard of people making their living just creating sets. Over and above this however, the Compendium which is currently pooping on every eSports prize pool ever is a great example of this community driven platform. Although LoL has the player base I feel like its very difficult for new players to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than a 5v5 30 minute game.

    • Admiral Chief Cyber Commando

      Volvo?

      • Grant [_G_] Hancock

        Steamers talk for Valve

    • Matthew Holliday

      oh yeah, if youve got the skills, making a living off digital content is easilly doable.
      the items from the dota store give a % of the profits to the creators.
      I remember an article from one of the item creators of the first item series and he was saying that in the year his items had been in the store, he had made something stupid, like 100 000$ or something
      theres probably a fair amount that goes into the contract for that stuff though, regarding how much they make and how long it will last, cant imagine it being indefinite.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/scavengefightbuild Gerhard Davids

    It has a big impact on player value and what they get from the game on a semantic basis.
    Coming from the “Riot dictates changes” trend we have champion skins created by Riot. This means some champions have yet to get new skins since beta while others have more than you could need.

    Valves opinion of giving the players the power means there is a marketplace where people can create resources for the game and sell them to fellow players. You can mix and match your visual load-out for heroes as you see fit.

    It feels like Valve has the professional scene more in mind than Riot even though Riot does market better in that respect. TI, Teams pins, team resources, league passes, spectator mode. All this focused towards the pro scene and in turn the spectator scene that goes along with it.

    When viewing twitch it might seem like LoL is always ahead of DotA because of viewer count, but that’s because DotA players view in-game with commentary, player/shoutcaster cams, teams giveaways for watching etc.

    Just because one Company barks loudly into the media microphone does not mean they are doing all the right things.

  • Admiral Chief Cyber Commando

    That Valve manual, ’tis a thing of beauty!

  • Weanerdog

    Played my first MOBA on Friday, it was LOL and how did I come to that decision. Playing on a made for work laptop, LOL seemed to have lesser requirements to play and a smaller download size. Also heard that the LOL community is maybe a little friendlier.

    • Brendyn Zachary

      When the other team is fed by you and your team is losing badly no community is going be kinder.

      • Weanerdog

        I am under no illusion that when I cock up I am going to get chewed out.

    • Grant [_G_] Hancock

      The more you play the friendlier people get.

      At first you play with real ass-holes… who generally suck. They will stay in the shit end of things while you rise above as your skill and matchmaking rank improve.

      I’ve only been playing Dota for 6 months and rarely come across big time jerks anymore… When play with my really experienced friends am always astounded at how friendly and accommodating everyone is.

      • Weanerdog

        I have not really played much so don’t really know how the matchmaking works, but in other online games I have played, seem to encounter ass-holes who farm Newbies and then it gets better until the end game where the intensity revs up and you can have guys loosing it again, but that is generally only if you proper screw up.

        • Hans De Rainer

          dota 2 matchmaking system is good. MMR and Pubs sets on different kind of statistic and performance.

      • ToshZA

        This is my general experience too. :)

    • Matthew Holliday

      the stereotypes regarding the community are blown out of proportion.
      the amount of assholes in any game are mostly the same, dota is just an easier platform to showcase your douchebaggery.
      people take dota personally though.

  • Rince&Shitity

    I suppose there’s 10 million reasons DOTA is different…

    • Grant [_G_] Hancock

      hahahaha… NICE !

      • Rince&Shitity

        Where is intern Martha when you need her?

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Applying lotion to her skin?

          • Rince&Shitity

            Well it certainly isn’t writing any articles :P

        • hairyknees

          You rang?!?!! :P

          • Rince&Shitity

            Indeedly ;) The igor we want appears INSTANTLY!

  • Kyratic

    I’d just like to point out, that when speaking about the companies “drives” that I believe that competition is good for the market, for both sets of dev’s, It is great that if either company makes truly poor choices, the gaming community has another option, its a win for us as gamers.

  • http://www.pornhub.com Doug

    Unfortunately I have an issue with Volvo’s “Flat structure”. (Lets be honest., there is a boss and there are teams with team leaders. Just because its named something else doesnt mean your team leader isnt your boss.) So first off. The dev teams are only interested in new dev. They leave a very small maintenance team which to be honest are about maintaining revenue not increasing it. The remaining Dota team for example are more interested in hats than patches. Second is the failure on managment. I have read a few articles regarding the clicks in Valve and this makes me think that unless you fall in line with their idea you will be ousted. This means there is limited innovation with projects. But still I will take Valve over the lying stealing Riot anytime.

    • Robert Hart

      Either you have a source to back all those statements up, or you are speaking BS. We’ve seen Valve kill bugs ruthlessly, so personally I dont believe you.

      • http://www.pornhub.com Doug

        Read up on some of the bug fixes patch notes(non visual). Then do a comparison to the patches for hats, and you will start to see a trend. Hats over fixes. I do admit that it is a lot better than last year but last year it was beta something to remember. If people are paying top dollar on something it shouldn’t drop game sessions as often as they do. This is especially the case with the compendium as well as the UI atm.

        • B3ware_za

          Keep in mind that IceFrog is in control of game changing patches and a different team is doing hats/events. So when he decides he has enough data(statistics) on his side, he will surely release a new patch. IceFrog has been very successful with DotA over the years so I’m sure Valve is following his lead on game changes.

          If you have ever played Team Fortress 2, you will know how Valve works and how often they release patches and hats in unison, the only difference in Dota2 is IceFrog is added to the mix.

          • http://www.pornhub.com Doug

            Not sure “he” spends much time on dota atm. Rumour mill says he is working on a new game. Also I dont believe Icefrog is a single person any more.

          • Hans De Rainer

            What the fuck? Are you LoLfanboys? or what? all your statement obviously invalid and ridiculous stupid, sorry for being so offensive to you, but its clearly obvious.

        • Chung Van Dao

          They blasted a shit ton of bugs during the Spring Cleaning update if you hadn’t noticed (hundreds of bugs) and fix others several at a time every so often with smaller patches. They’ve recently even added in little features proposed by the Reddit community from time to time. The Compendium is the single best addition they’ve come up with and the UI is fine as it is.

    • frikkenator

      While that felt like it was the case last year Valve has really stepped up their game this year. Dota has had 3 major balancing patches, massive improvements to the client and entire new chunks of functionality that has never been there, in 6 months.

      Issues raised on reddit are usually squashed within a day or two and there have been a couple of additions to the hero pool.

      I think it took them a while, but they finally realised that Dota is indeed quite important.

  • Weanerdog

    What about HoN or do they not have the player base to get a mention.

    • Robert Hart

      Not worth a mention.

    • Tiaan Pat

      I enjoyed HoN until they made it free to play and that you had to buy new heroes that was released or you had to wait till it was available.

  • Matthew Holliday

    RIOT runs LoL like a business.
    Valve runs Dota 2 like a game.

    RIOTs game “innovations” look like theyr ripped directly from the dota map. their recent holiday game modes are a testement to this.
    while Valves “innovating” game modes, like Diretide, Frostivus, Wraith night and the year beast are all new game modes.

    I like the Dota community involvement.
    its mostly aesthetic, but the workshop and implimenting of it is pretty awesome.
    and obviously the compendium stuff and donating a % of the profits from certain events into the prize pool is pretty cool.

    But I do like how RIOT supports their pro gamers with salaries etc.

    • Eugene

      Yo, how about winning the Championship and walking away with a COOL million for each player in the championship team? Fuck your salaries man. That’s retirement.

      • Matthew Holliday

        dunno what the aggression is about, but i do agree with you.
        winning TI3 was life changing money.
        cant even imagine TI4.

        the winners should move here, befor the event, R10 000 000 a person is a pretty crazy prize pool.
        or China.

        granted, they probably wont get that, the players will only get a portion. if the prize pool is weighted 60% to the winners, like last year, thats 6 million dollah, once the management and sponsors take their cut, the players are probably looking at 500k a piece, befor taxes.
        i know EU taxes for sports are stupidly high, Hanni and Maelk did an interview where they went over that stuff, theyd be lucky to go home with 300k at the end of the day. (300 000$, lol, its a tough life)

        Even second place could retire if they walk away with 50k a piece.
        scary thoughts.

        The LoL salaries arent half bad though, especially after sponsorship bonuses.
        didnt LoL pick up Nissan, coke and Samsung sponsorships recently? that should make things better for them.
        even the casters are given salaries by RIOT.
        its a pretty good business model to be on the recieving end of.

        • Eugene

          No aggression man.. :P I’m just saying.. I wouldn’t say paying people a few hundred bucks to dump 40+ Hours into playing a game or whatever unrealistic requirement they have (Also they ban people from streaming other games?) worthwhile. Cheap labor for Riot IMO. I’m also pretty sure any corporate sponsors will totally be paying their players, and at the top-tier of competition (Especially now that TI4 brings in 10 MILLION!!!) I’d think they’re already well-off.. I could be wrong, but I think I’m spot on. :P

  • hairyknees

    I’ve dabbled a teeny tiny bit in LoL, but I’m biased as hell and I love Dota more. The compendium is a great example of their way of growing the game as a sport and getting people amped for the event. Not only that, people are actually getting to know the players, looking to them as celebrities in the same sense that people praise soccer players for example.This years International is going to be EPIC! :D

    <3 Volvo forever!

  • Kromas

    I wanna see prize money vs prize money. Gonna be hard to beat The DotA2 international pot of currently 5.5 million dollars.

    • Chung Van Dao

      5.5 million? Try 10.2 million.

      • Kromas

        Only half goes to prize pool so yeah winnings = 5.5 million.

        • http://saint-dee.tumblr.com/ Saint_Dee

          You’ve lost me a bit there. Do you mean 5.5M as in what the winning team would be getting, or do you mean 5.5M as in the prize pool to be distributed across the top 8 teams? If any of the previous Internationals are anything to go by, it’ll probably be the former as opposed to the latter. I only ask because “Only half goes to prize pool” is a bit unclear.

          • Kromas

            The latter. I believe the other half goes to actually running the event. They have a breakdown somewhere on the games news page.

          • http://saint-dee.tumblr.com/ Saint_Dee

            The only article I found on lazygamer that refers to the prize pool, http://www.lazygamer.net/general-news/what-happens-when-the-international-crosses-10-million/, pretty much states, under the assumption that the prize distribution will mirror TI, TI2, and TI3, “we can estimate that the winners will probably take home about half, which means a grand prize of $5 million”. With TI3 being the first to implement the compendium, the combined prize pool which included compendiums was $2,874,407 USD, and all of that was distributed across the top 8 teams. Valve has yet to release this year’s prize distribution but if previous Internationals are the standard to go by (3 Internationals should be enough to establish a standard), the entire +$10M will be going to the teams. You have to also take into account that prize pool compendium contributions are $2.50 extractions per $9.99 compendium purchases (with compendium point purchases counting in a similar fashion). So essentially, there’s much more money being generated by the compendium than the $10M prize pool. I haven’t actually found any articles that suggest otherwise. Anyways, that’s why I disagree with your assertion that only half of the $10M is the money going to the teams (if I understand your point correctly).

            http://dota2.gamepedia.com/The_International_2013#Prize_Allocation

          • Kromas

            You might be right as my info came from someone else. Just checked the page myself and did not see any mention of it.

          • http://saint-dee.tumblr.com/ Saint_Dee
  • i am pissed

    i hate it when riot says player experience comes first

    cause that so not true

    since their support team is shit

    i literally submitted a ticket to the support team and they sent me back an automated message that has nothing to do with my ticket two days later( i mean seriously those auto chat bots on porn sites reply faster than that)

    so i replied to that automated message and asked for a real person

    and its been 5 days… i still got no reply wtf

    proofs

    http://forums.euw.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?p=16791324#post16791324

    http://forums.euw.leagueoflegends.com/board/board/showthread.php?t=1289968

    http://forums.euw.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=1361375

    if u want more just use google and type riot support