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Dota 2 Performance, Benchmarked

Dota 2 Performance, Benchmarked
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Dota 2 is one of the most popular games around. And, it's free-to-play, so anyone can try it out. How much hardware do you need to enjoy this title at smooth frame rates? Not much, it turns out. We test a number of CPUs and GPUs at different settings.

The original Defense Of The Ancients (DotA) is not a standalone game; it's a mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Easily one of the most popular game mods of all time, DotA represents the blueprint for an entire sub-genre of RTS games called multiplayer online battle arenas, or MOBAs [edit: there's an argument to be made that MOBA is too generic a term and that the genre is best described as 'Action RTS', but MOBA has gotten a lot of traction so we'll use it for the purposes of this article]. DotA is the inspiration for Dota 2 and League of Legends (LoL), both free-to-play games in the MOBA category, and two of the most widely-played titles on the planet.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the MOBA genre, here's a quick explanation. There are two bases, each on opposing corners of the map, and one for each team. The objective is to destroy the opposing team's base. Three roads, or lanes, connect the bases. Low-level units automatically and periodically spawn from each base in groups, and these soldiers travel down the three paths between the bases. As a result, there is always a battle going on in the trio of lanes.

In addition, each team has three defensive towers in each lane on their side of the map, totaling nine towers per team. These structures deliver powerful attacks against enemy soldiers and players, but they can be destroyed through significant effort. Because of this, fights tend to center on the towers.

All of this happens automatically. Unlike in typical RTS games, you don't have to collect resources, build structures, or train units. You only control your hero, which can level up and acquire a range of upgradeable powers. However, its role might best be described as support for the A.I. soldier units. Players help control the battlefronts and destroy enemy towers in the lanes. The idea is to to open your opponent's base up to a direct attack by the A.I. and hero once the towers in a lane are gone. There are five players per team, which of course doesn't divide into the three lanes equally. When a player dies, he respawns at the team's base after a penalty period.

That's MOBA in a nutshell. It sounds simple, but strategies can be surprisingly complex. In addition, games like Dota 2 and LoL add new heroes with vastly different powers on a regular basis. Almost every archetype you could possibly think of is covered. New heroes are part of the revenue model, in fact, since cosmetic items for the characters are available to buy. Valve committed to a true free-to-play strategy (not pay-to-win) so none of the cash items will give any advantage in game, only cosmetic enhancements. 

The original DotA mod is probably responsible for the popularity of MOBA games in general, but LoL capitalized on it first. Released in late 2009, LoL averages over 12 million players per day, with peak concurrent global players peaking over five million. That's significantly more than World of Warcraft.

Now let's talk about Dota 2. Formally announced in 2010 and released to the public in 2012, this game was developed by Valve, which recruited one of the original DotA developers (known as IceFrog) to design it. Dota 2 is the spiritual sequel to the original Warcraft III mod.

How does Dota 2 differentiate itself from LoL? I'd like to give you a brief list, but I'll convey a caveat first. MOBAs are some of the most competitive, detailed, and nuanced multiplayer PvP games on the market. I'll probably never spend hundreds of hours playing Dota 2, and I'm no expert. So, no matter what I put here, one thousand angry players will probably point out the differentiators I missed in the comments below. Nevertheless, here are the big ones to me:

1. Dota 2 gives you access to all heroes right off the bat, whereas you can get to a limited rotation of heroes in LoL. League of Legends does allow you to save in-game rewards to you can put toward permanent access to a hero. Or, you can get to it instantly with with real-world currency.

2. Dota 2 allows players to destroy their own towers and structures to deny opponents from receiving gold rewards. LoL does not.

3. When you're killed in Dota 2, you lose gold, while the enemy who killed you gets gold and experience. In LoL, the enemy gets experience and gold, the killed player doesn't lose gold.

That's not a comprehensive list by any means, but those three differences have a substantial impact on how both games are played.

Although I'm admittedly not a MOBA wizard, I do know a thing or two about PC graphics. Without hesitation, Dota 2's graphics engine is far more advanced then LoL's. Let's have a look.

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    Cellarian , April 28, 2013 9:37 PM
    Quote:
    Some items offer in-game advantages, but Valve committed to a true free-to-play strategy (not pay-to-win), so none of the cash items are powerful enough to make or break a match.
    Just being nit-picky, but Dota 2 offers only cosmetic items. So all of the items you can buy have no power at all.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    rdc85 , April 28, 2013 9:21 PM
    As A former DoTA player.. (original WC ver.)

    I'm so glad they keep the game mechanic and the system requirement low...

    the one problems i had is no near server in my country, and the internet connection is quite bad...
    I'm wonder if this game is playable on LAN or private/local server?
  • 13 Hide
    Cellarian , April 28, 2013 9:37 PM
    Quote:
    Some items offer in-game advantages, but Valve committed to a true free-to-play strategy (not pay-to-win), so none of the cash items are powerful enough to make or break a match.
    Just being nit-picky, but Dota 2 offers only cosmetic items. So all of the items you can buy have no power at all.
  • -8 Hide
    de5_Roy , April 28, 2013 9:57 PM
    did i see that right - hd 4000 beat 7660 igpu in low res gaming. the 7660 igpu was designed to perform for this kind of games. looks like intel is stepping up to the game, geddit?:p  i hope rabid amd fanboys (r.a.l.f.) don't rage at toms like they did at xbitlabs when they showed hd4000 beat 7660 in f1 2012 @1080p low q.... *fingers crossed*
    and desktop core i3 is keeping up with fx8350 and then beats it in avg fps? so much for moar cores. the time has come again to recommend core i3 over fx!! relax c.a.l.f., i am kidding, it's not 2011 anymore. :p 
    i think..... this is the second multiplayer game since the guild wars 2 where core i3 has taken a lead.

    kidding aside, could you test core i5 3570k or 3470 (at stock) instead of core i5 3550, the 3570k is selling for $220 at newegg, i5 3550 is $225 and fx8350 is $200(excl. shipping). i5 3470 is selling for $200 and with a mobo like asus z77-v lx, i think it can hit 4 ghz with multicore turbo enabled.
  • 5 Hide
    dudewitbow , April 28, 2013 10:16 PM
    de5_Roydid i see that right - hd 4000 beat 7660 igpu in low res gaming. the 7660 igpu was designed to perform for this kind of games. looks like intel is stepping up to the game, geddit? i hope rabid amd fanboys (r.a.l.f.) don't rage at toms like they did at xbitlabs when they showed hd4000 beat 7660 in f1 2012 @1080p low q.... *fingers crossed* and desktop core i3 is keeping up with fx8350 and then beats it in avg fps? so much for moar cores. the time has come again to recommend core i3 over fx!! relax c.a.l.f., i am kidding, it's not 2011 anymore. i think..... this is the second multiplayer game since the guild wars 2 where core i3 has taken a lead. kidding aside, could you test core i5 3570k or 3470 (at stock) instead of core i5 3550, the 3570k is selling for $220 at newegg, i5 3550 is $225 and fx8350 is $200(excl. shipping). i5 3470 is selling for $200 and with a mobo like asus z77-v lx, i think it can hit 4 ghz with multicore turbo enabled.



    no one is going to rage, its a low requirement game as for cpu, all they needed to test was the general core difference. if your quad core intel cpu is faster than the tested cpu, then just add a few fps to the tested results +/- irregularities with systems and testing situations. the cpus chosen were just a bunch of cpus of different core count and architectures to gather data from modernish cpus for the game. No one is really going to argue against something like a 4.5 3570k being better than like a i5-3470 at max turbo clock. Its generally accepted that clocks in the same architecture will make it run better.
  • -2 Hide
    digiex , April 29, 2013 12:03 AM
    Just cheek the steam site, you have to pay $29.99 for the early access pack. Still waiting for the final release for true "free to play".
  • 0 Hide
    shahrooz , April 29, 2013 12:11 AM
    finally, a Dota 2 bench, thank you tom's. anyone who needs an invite add me on steam. you can find me there as pop.
  • 4 Hide
    rakadedo , April 29, 2013 12:15 AM
    That is a supporter pack that comes with a lot of cosmetic items. If you just want to play go look online for keys to activate on steam. There's thousands of people drowning in keys with no one to give them to.
  • 4 Hide
    beckstrom12 , April 29, 2013 12:16 AM
    @shahrooz Go to http://blog.dota2.com/ and click sign up on the right. They will send you a key via email, and probably 5 others. The game is really fun I have put a ton of hours into it.
  • 1 Hide
    shahrooz , April 29, 2013 12:31 AM
    @beckstrom12 I have access to Dota 2, I was offering invites to those who don't.
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 29, 2013 2:15 AM
    I wonder when multi-monitor supported is going to be added.
  • 1 Hide
    Wampbit , April 29, 2013 2:36 AM
    slomo4shoI wonder when multi-monitor supported is going to be added.

    Unless field of view is preserved it won't be.
  • 5 Hide
    CatAndSgtBaker , April 29, 2013 2:43 AM
    It's not Moba. Moba is a terrible term coined by Riot Games because they couldn't just call League of Legends a Dota-like. Multiplayer Onlina Battle Arena describes pretty much any online game out there, could just as well call Quake a Moba.
  • 9 Hide
    CatAndSgtBaker , April 29, 2013 2:49 AM
    Quote:
    New heroes are part of the revenue model, in fact, since cosmetic items for the characters are available to buy. Some items offer in-game advantages, but Valve committed to a true free-to-play strategy (not pay-to-win), so none of the cash items are powerful enough to make or break a match.


    This is just straight up wrong as well. There is no items that give in-game advantage, everything is purely cosmetic and nothing changes gameplay at all. Not sure where you got that from.
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 29, 2013 2:57 AM
    Quote:

    Unless field of view is preserved it won't be.


    It is a fun game but this is one of the reasons why I haven't touched it since October.
  • -2 Hide
    samuelspark , April 29, 2013 3:31 AM
    Has no one tried SMITE?
  • -1 Hide
    INTENZ , April 29, 2013 4:05 AM
    11
  • -4 Hide
    Aerione , April 29, 2013 4:06 AM
    Valve still has a lot of optimization to do though, that's probably the only place they've never actually bothered to touch.
    However, to say that any items in the Dota 2 provides an advantage is quite harsh and I recommend that the writer of this benchmark change that statement. On the theoretical side, one miiiiggghht be able to get an advantage by getting a Genuine Vintage item, and try to snipe his opponent when that poor fella tries to check out the item :3
  • 7 Hide
    INTENZ , April 29, 2013 4:07 AM
    For those of you that want to play the game.. log into steam, add this bot http://steamcommunity.com/id/dota2bot and you will get an invite instantly! You don't need to pay for the invite, there is tons of keys donated to the bot every day. See you in game!
  • 0 Hide
    Memnarchon , April 29, 2013 4:56 AM
    A lot of people asking for a PC able to maximize League Of Legends at 60FPS with minimum cost. Can you do the same tests you did with DOTA2 for LOL?
  • 2 Hide
    TripleKillTrio , April 29, 2013 5:00 AM
    I'd just like to echo some of the other people who commented and say that Dota2's cash items are purely cosmetic with no in-game advantages at all. This is an important value of Dota 2 and Valve that sets it apart from competitor games and companies. Please change it in your article. Thank you.
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