Defenders 018: Shadow Shaman
November 30, 2011
This is kind of a long, boring rant about the semantics of Dota names that got a little out of hand. Most of you will probably want to skip right to the portraits at the end of this post.
I was talking to a friend who played LoL (lol!), and he was complaining that one thing he didn’t like about Dota is that everyone had two names. He thought that was dumb, and made the game harder to pick up. It never really bothered me one way or the other, but after he mentioned it, I got to thinking about it. At times, it does seem a little useless, and other times confusing/redundant.
Talking about this can get a bit tricky, so I’m going to introduce and define the components of classic Dota names: There is the Hero Type (Admiral, Anti-Mage, Crystal Maiden) and the Proper Name (Kunkka, Magina, Rylai Crestfall).
The naming structure, like most things in Dota, is a relic of the old WC3 engine. In multiplayer mode, you could potentially have players choose the same hero type, so Blizzard picks names at random for a list so you can tell them apart. This designation was called the proper name. Some potential Blademaster names, for example, are Tojara, Nikoro, Kajind, and Mikas.
So every hero unit in WC3 had to follow this same structure, <Proper Name> the <Hero Type>, and this carried over to Dota as well. But, in WC3 no one ever referred to their hero by the Proper Name, because the names changed basically every game. So you had Tauren Chieftan, and Blademaster, and Priestess of the Moon.
When Dota rolled around, things got a little bit trickier. For whatever reason, it was no longer necessarily true that every hero would be referred to by their Hero Type as they were in WC3. Sometimes the Hero Type was too long for quick, tactical keyboarding, or too similar to another hero, and they ended up going by their Proper Name instead.
Does anyone ever say Stone Giant? No. It’s always Tiny. No one calls Slardar Slithereen Guard. Or, at least no one worth playing with. There are a number of these proper-name-only heroes.
And on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got heroes that are never referred to by their Proper Name, and always by their Hero Type. I’ve never seen someone say the name Purist Thunderwrath when talking about Omni, unless it was in some poorly written fan fiction.
And of course, there are a lot of heroes that land in the grey area in between. Yeah, it’s usually Rikimaru (well, Riki, I guess), but Stealth Assassin comes up enough. Meepo and Geomancer seem to be fairly interchangeable as well.
To complicate things further (at least for those of us coming from Dota), in Dota 2 we’ve lost the <Proper Name> the <Hero Type> format. Yes, the characters still have proper names, but they don’t really show up anywhere other than in the character bios and lore. Some are the same as they were in Dota (Enchantress is still Aiustha). Some are different (Lich is no longer Kel’thuzad, but Ethreain). On the hero select screen and the game UI, there’s only one name. Sometimes, like with Tiny or Sven, it’s the Proper Name. Other times, it’s the Hero Type.
What does any of this have to do with today’s portrait? Good question. In the case of Rhasta the Shadow Shaman, I think Valve has made a mistake. I almost always call him Rhasta, and never Shadow Shaman, yet Shadow Shaman is what appears in all the UI. Maybe they have a good reason for doing that, but it just doesn’t feel right.
If you’re still reading, congratulations. We could probably be friends IRL. Tell me what you think. Will Valve’s standardization of names lead to less confusing talk in game? Or, are people just going to stick with the legacy Dota terms?