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On December 21st, a statement from the Heroes of Newerth team was published on their Facebook page, explaining that their servers, and consequently their game, would be shutting down. After eleven years, the post also explained that the game would realize a series of events as a special goodbye to their faithful fans and followers.
(Credit: Heroes of Newerth via Facebook)
Heroes of Newerth was one of the largest MOBA’s in gaming for the last eleven years, and while it didn’t quite reach the same popularity heights as League of Legends or DOTA 2, it ushered countless ideas into the genre. While the news saddens the community, Heroes of Newerth has faced a steady decline in its player base and viewership compared to its direct competitors.
But it wasn’t always like this; Heroes of Newerth was the first stand-alone spin-off of the Defense of the Ancients game from Warcraft III. Before League of Legends, or DOTA 2, came to be, the game became the go-to title for most competitive players. This migration granted Heroes of Newerth a very active competitive scenario that attracted veteran DOTA players and e-sport athletes alike.
Based heavily on the Defense of The Ancients mod, Heroes of Newerth almost mirrored the same heroes, spells, and items from DotA, which made the transition towards it easier. However, their original heroes and concepts weren’t enough to keep the player base engaged, especially once Valve announced DOTA 2 and Riot came out with League of Legends.
You can almost certainly trace the entirety of the MOBA e-sports scene back to HoN. Even as a spin-off from DotA, the game pioneered a new form of competitive gaming, a new community, and shaped the existence of DOTA 2. The game might not exist if it wasn’t for HoN’s success. Maybe it wouldn’t have caught Valve’s attention and never been bought or developed in the first place.
Heroes of Newerth’s legacy lives on inside the DOTA 2 community, mainly because a vast number of professional players came from HoN. There have been countless professional players, coaches, and talent that was “ported” from HoN to DotA throughout the years. The same way people attributed HoN’s success for being an almost exact replica of DotA, DOTA 2’s success was wildly attributed to HoN.
DotA and HoN’s relationship wasn’t always positive, as the presence of one of MOBA’s most prominent figures loomed over both titles. IceFrog was responsible for pushing DotA’s boundaries and crafting it into the successful game it is today. Nonetheless, working on a mod wasn’t something he or other developers wanted for the long run, so IceFrog went on to work on HoN, and Guinsoo went on to develop League of Legends.
During Heroes of Newerth’s early development, there were creative differences between developer and publisher S2 Games and IceFrog. And while the story isn’t extremely clear, the overall understanding is that IceFrog wasn’t content with S2 Games disagreeing and blocking all his ideas for the game. At the same time, Riot was looking for prominent DotA figures to legitimize their game, and Valve purchased the rights for DotA. Both companies were interested in IceFrog, but he eventually decided to return to his own game to have the creative control he wanted.
Heroes of Newerth didn’t officially announce the motivation behind the game’s end, but the diminishing players base and the fact that there aren’t any new players is the speculated reason. DOTA 2, on the other hand, has kept a steady player base but an unparalleled competitive scene. While the game’s player base pales compared to League of Legends, the community has been responsible for e-sports’ biggest tournament for the last ten years.
If HoN served as a safe-heaven for stray DotA players at one point in time, it seems that that path might be reversed shortly. Since the announcement of HoN shutting down, there has been a very loud and bold theory in the MOBA community. Rumors state that IceFrog, alongside Valve, was interested in purchasing the rights to the game. And that one of DOTA 2’s prophecized events would keep HoN’s legacy alive.
When Void Spirits, as a hero, was announced, there also was the announcement of “The Great Confluence.” The event is supposed to go beyond Void Spirit’s ability to see into the future, and it talks about a great collision and the collapse of multiple realities.
“Soon the fabric of this realm will merge with others, and the ripples of destruction will touch all planes equally” – Void Spirit.
On top of Void Spirit’s appearance and prophecies, there were other intricate voice lines and lore statements. Most came through the Planetfall Arcana, from Earthshaker, who constantly talks about a “sister Earth” or another “Earth.” His arcana also states that he merged with a fragment from another world and was filled with memories from a shattered land.
Most recently, with the release of the new hero Primal Beast, which came on February 23rd, fans received a new piece of lore that generated even more speculation surrounding the events. It stated:
(Credits: Lore from Primal Beast by DOTA 2)
The quote that caught attention here was:
“Most scholars agree the true beginning of the end was marked by the interdimensional arrival of the Primal Beast.”
We take all that information, and we can be sure that Valve is teasing their player base with something huge. Most conservatives believe it will be a revamp of the engine, a “DOTA 3” of sorts. However, if Valve’s purchase of HoN rights is accurate, “The Great Confluence” might be the merging of Heroes of Newerth and Defense of the Ancients 2; this would be a massive occurrence for both games to the MOBA genre in general.
Pieces of lore might be easy to take out of context and be seen exclusively as speculation. However, the rumor about purchasing rights started to circulate in 2020, and they haven’t faltered. Around that time, some hero mechanics commonly associated with HoN began popping up within DOTA 2’s new heroes, intensifying, even more, the rumors that a merging might be in the works.
However, the tipping point came through DOTA 2’s community data-mining of the game. Curious players found nineteen possible heroes in the files, and the information showcased a bunch of strings that indicated new talents, heroes, abilities. And there were some direct references to Heroes of Newerth that are past simple coincidence; they were the files associated with:
- Puppet Master
Names like Valkyrie and Fairy are speculated to have been codenames for Dawnbreaker and Dark Willow, respectively, but Puppet Master and Zephyrus are all but guaranteed HoN heroes. Even Puppet Master’s abilities are the same as its counterpart in Heroes of Newerth. If we put everything together, we might be about to witness a massive moment in gaming history.
As we have learned, IceFrog was directly involved in HoN for a while, and he might have some emotional attachment to the heroes he once helped develop. This would strengthen the argument that he and Valve were interested in purchasing the rights for the game.
From a business standpoint, this move would undoubtedly mean a significant influx of players into the DOTA 2 community, mostly Heroes of Newerth players or people who needed an extra push to try one of both games finally. At the same time, this could allow developers to buy themselves more time to release original concepts and a vast pool of characters to release and maintain the game fresh.
Heroes of Newerth will still be up and running into June this year, but the possibility of this merger would signify that the game wouldn’t be truly gone. Once HoN reshaped DotA, DOTA 2 could return the favor by keeping their spirit alive. For those involved in the community, as players, talent, fans, casual gamers, this could be an almost poetic return to origins.
Of course, these are rumors and speculations, even if they have been gaining traction and attention. Yes, other factors can amplify the hype, but there are also countless arguments to suggest that it might be a revamp of the game without the port itself.
Would a Heroes of Newerth be enough of a pay-off? Or would players still be aching for a new engine, DOTA 3, or an entire re-haul of the game? Whatever it is, Valve is building towards something big, and the expectation is growing exponentially.
The final answer remains to be seen, and players can say their goodbyes or try Heroes of Newerth for free for the next couple of months. For those who never tried the game, it might be the right moment to say goodbye to one of the foundations of the genre, and for the believers, this might only be a “see you later” type of thing.