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?

Wallpaper. 1920×1080.


  1. November 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm
    Friend says:

    Completely agree, although I believe Rhasta infringed on some kind of blizzard trademark. (not 100% sure, can someone verify?)

    Oh and excellent work as always!

    How do you plan to deal with Broodmother?

  2. November 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm
    Adam says:

    I always assumed it was because it’s borderline racist…

    Not sure what’ll happen with BM… she’s another one I’ve sort of been dreading.

  3. November 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm
    snukz says:

    I really do agree with Rhasta. I sincerely doubt there is any conflicting copyright on such a name when if you look at all the lore changes thus far they tend to refer to significant characters from the Warcraft universe only.

  4. December 1, 2011 at 1:13 am
    Byron says:

    Love the wallpapers! I believe the names that didn’t get transferred to DotA 2, like Furion is another example of this, we’re for copyright reasons. I completely agree, I only ever knew him by Rhasta. When I first saw the image for Shadow Shaman I didn’t know which hero they were talking about cause I only knew him by his proper name, but what can you do with legality issues =( . I’m interested to see what other names in future patches also have this same issue.

    Can’t wait for you to do Crix/Sand King so I can make it my wallpaper.

  5. December 1, 2011 at 2:00 am
    Small says:

    I agree with you immensely but I do not think we could be friends in real life. I’m not a very nice guy. :-(

  6. December 1, 2011 at 3:23 am
    BOSIG says:

    I heard from sonewhere that it’s because of the trademarks too. If I’m not wrong I think that Rhasta is one of the troll main characters/leaders in the WoW/WC3 saga (which are the same stories basically). So just as they couldn’t name Far Seer Thrall they can’t name Shadow Shaman Rhasta :/ A bit sad since Rhasta is a better name.

    Great work with the blog Adam! I’m reading it every day! :D Really cool pictures too ofc ;)

  7. December 1, 2011 at 4:11 am
    F. says:

    Yeah, i think rhasta is a warcraft character, the problem with this “hero type names” is that they’r kinda random, some terms like “prophet,knight, shadow,demon” are in at least 3 heroes.

    Btw, amazing work, this is my favorite one till now, love the vibrant yellow tone, waiting for my doom. :3

  8. December 1, 2011 at 4:39 am
    Joss says:

    I don’t particularly like the new Rasta sorry Shadow Shaman model but I got say you make it look really cool!!

    Great job!!

  9. December 1, 2011 at 4:43 am
    Crepuscertine says:

    In response to people above. There is no Warcraft character, in any game or book, named Rhasta.
    There is a Rastakhan, but the names are different enough.

    What bugs me is whenever people refer to heroes by their WC3 name, despite the hero not using that name any more. People still call Skeleton King Leoric, for example.

    I guess old habits die hard.

  10. December 1, 2011 at 7:02 am
    megaman161 says:

    i always called him SS or rhasta so i think that the dota 2 community will do this as well

  11. December 1, 2011 at 9:15 am
    Tim says:

    Some of the heroes’ name have to be changed due to copyright stuff. Same goes for items.

  12. December 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm
    Leonard says:

    Hey Adam would you reveal us what kind of program you use to make that wallpapers and works about dota2?
    Congratulation man!

  13. December 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm
    Adam says:

    Thanks Leonard. I use photoshop for just about everything. If you’re interested in more details, you can check out the tutorial I did here.

  14. December 16, 2011 at 11:02 am
    Capn Edgar says:

    I finally discovered your blog posts that compliment the images you’re making here. Enjoyed the read, thanks! and keep these up they’re too fun haha

  15. December 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm
    Adam says:

    Thanks man!

  16. July 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm
    Lex says:

    I always called him Rhasta too! I’m Korean, so it was easier for me to call Shadow Shaman as “Rhasta” as it had fewer syllables. And in case of teamfights, you never want to primary a long name – half of the team will be dead by the time you finish calling out “shadow shaman”.

    and definitely enjoyed the read. came for the portraits, but enjoying the read more and more as I shift through your posts. excellent work :)

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