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Dota 2 vs League of Legends: Company philosophies

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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?


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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Last Updated: June 30, 2014

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