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Riot Files For 'Defense Of The Ancients' Mark Following Valve's 'DotA' Move
Riot Files For 'Defense Of The Ancients' Mark Following Valve's 'DotA' Move
August 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft

August 17, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

League of Legends developer Riot Games has "counter-filed" a trademark for "Defense of the Ancients," saying the name of the popular Warcraft III mod should belong to the community, not Valve Software, which recently filed a trademark application for the shortened version of the title, "DotA."

"We have filed for the 'Defense of the Ancients' trademark to protect the work that dozens of authors have done to create the game and on behalf of the millions of DotA players all over the world," said Riot Games' Steve "Pendragon" Mescon in a PC Gamer interview.

Before coming to Riot as director of community relations, Mescon and League of Legends game designer Steve "Guinsoo" Feak created and operated the popular community-centric DotA Allstars. Riot's League of Legends is a successful free-to-play PC game heavily inspired by DotA.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office website shows that Riot attorney Tal Grinblat filed for "Defense of the Ancients" on August 9, three days after Valve filed for "DotA." Grinblat's filing refers to online multiplayer PC and video games, among other game-related language.

"...The idea that one single company is taking control of the name of something that hundreds of people have contributed to is surprising. I believe DotA should always remain a community-owned product that modders, independent developers and game fans can continue to modify and play as often as they'd like," said Mescon.

Valve's filing for "DotA" last week was the latest evidence that the Half-Life studio is working on some kind of Defense of the Ancients-related title. Last year, IceFrog, DotA Allstar's custodian for four years, said that Valve hired him to lead a team at the studio.

At the time, the pseudonymous designer said, "I am very excited about DotA's future!" A voice actor also recently Tweeted that he "Had a great time in Seattle last week recording for DotA. The guys at Valve Software are awesome."

Mescon said that he gives Valve the "benefit of the doubt" because of the studio's history of tapping mod community talent, but he is still concerned that ownership of the trademark could interfere with the creation and release of modders' current offerings and future work.

"I think the best-case scenario would be that nobody owns the trademark to the 'DotA' name," Mescon said. "But if Valve were to ultimately gain the rights, I hope that they would abandon the trademark and release it to the community to allow them to continue to modify, play and experience DotA for free. That’s what DotA is all about."

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Germain Couët
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As much as I love Valve. I hope that they do not trademark DotA. I completely agree with Riot Game's arguments.

It'd be a shame if Valve did a Blizzard and went from a fan-loved studio to a greedy monster.

DotA belongs to the modders who worked hard for years, regardless if the original modders are now employees of some company.

evan ji
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Valve's argument is a lie.

"trademark isn't retroactive. For the existing community NOTHING changes. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that there will be a DotA game by Valve/IceFrog.

Valve is trademarking DotA because the current developer WANTS to expand the game to something more than just a custom map made in warcraft 3 with MANY limitation.

DotA belongs to many many modders who made map for fun, and most one of them worked on it no longer than a year. It was ICEFROG who stepped on at 6.01 to fix imbalance, actively receiving feedbacks and having constant update to keep the game new.

Now DotA got big to the point that it was one of the game in tournament such as Electronic World Cyber Cup, Dream Hack Lan, World Cyber Cup, Blizzcon, was all because of Icefrog and Community's effort. Is it right for the ex-developer who abandoned year ago to come claim the trademark? (notice he ISN'T the original developer).

DotA 2.0 will surely be the best out of it's clones and original game, I believe this is what riot fears and wish to keep the game stay as a modded map.

If Riot really think they are trademarking for the sake of "community", Please read what the community have to say.

300 comments, perhaps only 1-2 would support riot.

Christopher Field
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I don't know if I agree with Riot's opinion here. If IceFrog is being employed by Valve, how is this any different from the CounterStrike team being hired, and that game being trademarked? What about Day of Defeat? Both of those games came from mods, and both retained their names, though they were improved upon.

Josh Green
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I have the feeling this is more about taking profits on a name than it is about "community rights". I have a feeling the trademark office will simply toss this out as opposed to getting into a pissing match between a company with a legitimate claim to the name and a company that doesn't have legitimate claim.

Maurício Gomes
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@Field and Moore

The difference, is that IceFrog is not DotA inventor, or owner.

The Counter-Strike team INVENTED counter-strike, owned cs and got hired.

DotA (Defense of the Ancients, not the rules, that were invented by someone else on the map Aeon Of Strife) was invented by Eul (someone cared to ask his opinion, btw?) improved by Guinsoo (founder of Riot games too, obviously offended that the project that he contributed got "robbed" by Valve and IceFrog) and later IceFrog.

Thus, IF (a BIG if) someone have the right to completly own the DotA trademark, is Eul, not Guinsoo, IceFrog or anyone that they work for.

The thing is that Eul is sorta gone, he created the map, but did not updated it when "Frozen Throne" got released, Guinsoo added "allstars" to the name and made the updated version using Frozen Throne new map editor.

So, Valve should not have trademarked DotA in first place, but since they did, I think that Riot is right in trademarking it too, to avoid monopoly on a name that does not belong to them.

evan ji
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see bottom for organized post

George Blott
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I was surprised that Blizzard haven't showed up in this story yet seeing as DotA was a mod of one of their games - then again if "Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it" ;)

Good on Riot for keeping things honest

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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Same thing happened to me. I created Elements of War and still work on it, however, like two other gaming companies are going to use Elements of War. Now I'm totally not sure what's going on...

Maurício Gomes
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@Turner I think this is different, unless they are copying your game too, and it was intentional...

You know, "Elements of War" is a phrase that is fairly easy to come-up as name.

Michael Smith
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the name "DotA" was originally created by Guinsoo. [edit: I am wrong. He created the popular All Stars version.] Aeon of Strife just started the subgenre game type. If you're going to trademark a name, it should go to who created the NAME, regardless of gameplay. Now, Icefrog took up the project later, and in a business situation the name might have gone along with that. But there were no such contracts.

Though, of all the companies to trademark it, I'm the least worried with Valve. Is there such a thing as a defensive trademark? (like defensive patents) Still, I'd like it to be left alone.

Maurício Gomes
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I just wrote the story that you just asked if you are wrong, yes, you are wrong.

DotA (name inclusive) was created by Eul, Guinsoo created the "Allstars" map (that now IceFrog commands)

David Campbell
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@Field and Moore:

That's not how it works. Valve nor Icefrog have any claim to the name, whereas the guys at Riot definitely do. There was NOTHING legally stopping them from trademarking DotA or even releasing "League of Legends" as "Defense of the Ancients". Just because it was a mod doesn't limit their rights to the trademark of the name, it only restricts making profit from the mod and claiming rights to any War3 assets or content.

This should be open-shut for Riot, unless Icefrog has some kind of paperwork/contract/evidence we don't know about. Highly doubt it. My guess is Valve was just hoping to nab it without a fight so they could make some extra bucks by calling the game that. Love Valve, but I have to file that one under "dick move". It's just not very tactful.

It's not like these game names are difficult to come up with Valve. I'm sure a couple interns and a day of brianstorming can churn out something acceptable. "Hero League Defense of the Legendary Ancient Newerth"?

@George: ActiBlizz has zero legal claim to the name. Not even their Level 80 Lawyers could pull that one off.

evan ji
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the guys in riot have no claim. One is a webmaster of dota forum and another is developer who ABANDON dota 5 years ago. Guinsoo is not the creator, he have no say in it's trademark.

Also it's quiet possible that blizzard could take over dota if they wish.

Noting Sentinel vs Scourge is part of warcraft 3 story line, many of it's hero and units names are from wc3 engine itself. AND the ToS or Agreement on map editor that any make produce under that program have to be free, and is owned by blizzard. Have to read all that specifically, but that wouldn't be the point of this.

Aaron Casillas
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IF its just the name, that might be different, but if its the game itself then it probably belongs to ATVI/Blizzard, it's using their assets, engine (even if its 1 line of code it belongs to ATVI Blizz) and tools. That means if the original Dota ever turned a profit it would belong to its owner. Unless otherwise specified in the EULA.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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Elements of War is a popular name now, yeah, after working on it for years. UT2003/4/UT3/UDK and Half-Life / HL2 / All Valve titles. How come I can work for years on the same name, then be stripped of using it for profit because some other company just randomly picks my name?

Then again I don't even know who's got the trademark and all that, but sounds super dumb if somebody else can swoop it right up.

Casey Labine
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@Curtis: If you have a claim to the mark then you need to take legal action to defend it. A trademark isn't like a copyright. If you don't actively defend it, you lose it.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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Last I recall you need to make a commercial title in able to claim the trademark. Something like that. The only thing I might be able to sell is Elements of War: 1337 Board. I really wish I had a lawyer for that, but it won't make any money, so, it's almost pointless.

Doesn't matter, unable to find a job and no money + no lawyer = Fail.

Michael Smith
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@Maurício hah, yes... I was about to correct myself, but I saw you already did. Eul made the name, so he has the right to a trademark if anyone.

evan ji
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yes, but eul left and have not tried to claim the trademark. Shouldn't the trademark be passed to the CURRENT developer, and his 5 years effort (twice or thrice longer than anyone btw) be rewarded?

again riot is lying because this DotA community is definitely backing icefrog

Krishna Israney
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Truth be told I dont care who the name goes too as long as they do a good job with a new game in the end.

Which I know Valve will so........

Justin Keverne
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I'm almost certainly missing something here but how would Valve trademarking DotA in any way prevent Riot games from continuing work on League of Legends or any other groups working on DotA like products? Aren't Valve simply trademarking the name and nothing else?

evan ji
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Valve is NOT trademarking DotA to prevent riot's League of Legend. Valve's trademark is so that DotA Version 2.0 could be created, instead of being a modded map.

Casey Labine
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It's always amusing when someone tries to settle an argument with Wikipedia, so thanks for the laugh. In point of fact, however, trademarks don't have to be commercial.

"Although, they could have owned the trademark, if they'd had the foresight to register the trade mark. Valve just beat them to the punch. Next time, smarty pants, PLZ fact check before you respond."

Let's take these in order.

1. You don't need foresight to register a trademark. Use is sufficient.

2. Valve didn't beat anyone to the punch. They don't have the trademark. They've merely filed for it.

3. Even if Valve had the trademark, Riot could sue, and they'd win.

4. PLZ fact check before you respond.

For a comparable case, see the history of the Linux trademark:

'Linux trademark dispute: is Linux trademarked? William R. Della Croce, Jr. files for the trademark "Linux'' on August 15, 1994, and it is registered in September. Della Croce has no known involvement in the Linux community yet sends letters out to prominent Linux companies demanding money for use of the trademark "Linux''. A lawsuit is filed in 1996 against Della Croce. Plaintiffs in the suit include Linus Torvalds; Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc. (publishers of Linux Journal); Yggdrasil Computing, Inc.; Linux International; and WorkGroup Solutions (also known as LinuxMall). The plaintiffs prevail, and in 1997 announce the matter as settled by the assignment of the mark to Linus Torvalds on behalf of all Petitioners and Linux users.' (

Valve won't be getting the trademark. In all likelihood both filings will be dismissed and/or DotA will be declared generic, since the original creator publicly declared it open source in 2004.

evan ji
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original developer never declared it open source, It couldn't be open source because the first real AoS (aeon of strife // DotA is base of this) was made in starcraft 3. There are many many different version of DotA, which is base of 3 lane and ultimately destroying each other's base.

No one makes map in starcraft or warcraft expect their game hitting the tournament. Period, if you ever played those game and it's custom games. You will know, they are for some short entertainment, though some maps that are current played have potential, now that DotA have done it.

In this case, no one have declared it open source to begin with; trademark should belong to the current beloved icefrog for his effort of over 5 years dedicated work on DotA.

Mark Venturelli
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I am a Valve fanboy at heart, but I think that the Riot guys are 100% right on this matter. Also, I applaud them for having the balls to stand for what they believe in such a manner.

Bradley Blankenship
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I don't think most of you understand trademark. There is no such things as rights to a trademark. The first company to file for it and prove intent to use the trademark gets it, if they are the first to use it within the respective industry. Because they have intent to use (well, seemingly intent to use), it doesn't matter. You do not need to be the original creator or such to trademark a product.

@Casey: The only reason that case was won was because they proved that Croce did not have intent to produce a product. Valve has intent, and did so first. Open Source and the like has nothing to do with it.

asdfd asdfasd
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If you think Riot games has any motives besides making money you are sadly wrong. Riot could care less about the community, or its employees, unless it means more cash in their pockets. They have more in common with activision then you might think.

Gary Wierleski
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To much java folks!

Valve has been an industry leader in open doors for modding and for free sdk buisness from the get go. While no company is perfect, I suggest that this will make little or no difference for the modding folks. In fact if your good enough and can check your ego for a few seconds you might get a better offer than "sittin on your can" and pretending to be. There is some reason for concerned, however I think Valve's track record suggests that everthing will be work out for the satisfaction of the developing artists and free market minds. Recall, this is something they have taken the time, expense and underlying philosophy to seed and not to suffocate. As for the rest, some one is trying to be the smartest guy in the room!

Rob Garrett
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As someone who currently works at Riot Games, I take issue with the claims made by the anonymous poster above. Serving your player community and treating employees well are not mutually exclusive from earning profits. A major reason Riot is a growing, successful studio is that it is achieving all three. I love my job and am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a talented, driven team.

Paul Bellezza
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@asdfd asdfasd asdasdfwerer Mcgee


As a former employee of Riot, there from the early days, I think you're opinion is a little far off. Of course one of their goals is to make money - after all, it takes money to develop a game, pay employees, keep the lights on, maintain servers, maintain community liaisons etc. But they never put themselves or the company ahead of the community. After my experience there and knowing the people that work there, I know they would gladly sacrifice a buck to make sure the player is happy. So, the above statement is just plain dumb. Sorry.

For example, I think they've done a great job actively integrating community feedback into the game on a regular basis which is something they've been doing since their Alpha. Not too many other companies do that sort of thing.

So for offering a free game, whilst actively supporting their community, and being voted one the thirty top game developers of 2009 by this very site, Gamasutra (Game Developer Magazine July 2010), I think they're doing a pretty good job.

Casey Labine
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You're making things up. The plaintiffs made their case on the basis of prior use of the mark by the Linux Journal, Yggdrasil Computing et al. The legal merits, however, were never judged because Della Croce settled. "The only reason that case was won was because they proved that Croce did not have intent to produce a product" is patently untrue.

David Fried
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It's unfortunate that people can't file copyrights on behalf of Public Domain. It seems fairly ridiculous that the Happy Birthday song is copyrighted by someone who had no involvement in its creation. Similarly, DoTA which Riot clearly intended to leave to the Warcraft III mod community should be protected as a public domain property... or... non-property... or... hmm.

Anyways, it seems disingenuous of Valve to use the name DoTA for their product, and though I doubt they would, the possibility of them suing Warcraft 3 or the inevitable Starcraft 2 mod community makes me cringe.

evan ji
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lol your Warcraft 3 Mod community for DotA is just.. Icefrog. you know why? there hasn't been an alternate DotA version for over 6 years.

The community that sends feedbacks or w/e you call, the DotA community backs up icefrog on DotA 2.0. Riot is simply lying when they said they are trademarking for the community. Where I can show them that the community hates their gut right now.

evan ji
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@Maurício Gomes and many others

I have to say I registered just to say the following, and I don't blame your decision in voting for riot BASE off the interview.

Edit: I want to bring out strong points, but ended up copying a lot of things written by the community and now it looks like a book. =

Most of you probably does not know that

1. DotA is probably the most popular modded map to date, with estimated over 20 millions (and about half of those players are chinese). All that was because of Icefrog's work over the past 5 years. The previous developers of various DotA for 1-2 years and have abandoned it.

When the game was passed to Icefrog, he took it to a more professional level of developing by .

* coding more efficiently (load faster)

* constantly receive feedbacks from community on game balance.

* have a team of beta testers

and more.

DotA's popularity exploded soon after, notice icefrog took over at 2005 AND first few REAL tournament for DotA began at 2005 (blizzcon, for example)

Because other developer have abandoned DotA years and years ago, the trademark for DotA 2.0 should belongs to Icefrog. Those of who that said "whoever created should own the trademark" should know that DotA is created by MANY MANY creator; and map making was really the fun part for map making community. No one was expecting to make a modded map that would hit the international level and constantly being hosted by tournaments. And if was icefrog who made that possible.

Now that DotA is popular, Guinsoo who abandoned DotA 5 years ago, comes back and wanting the trademark is ridiculous.

NOTICE: that if Icefrog did not take over the development, DotA may be very well dead by now. (how many modded map / games that could lasts longer than 7-8 years and is still actively played?)

Icefrog worked from 2005-2010, from version 6.01 to 6.68c

2. While DotA is the most popular modded map, and have many many tournaments. Sponsors and tournaments could not take it SERIOUS enough because it was a modded map. Professionally Sponsored players could not earn as much as a Counterstrike, Starcraft (if they get paid at all). Tournament prize for DotA is often way lower than those games as well.

So, DotA 2.0 is huge for us, because it'll come out as a game without limitation from warcraft 3 engine and hopefully be taken more serious at a competitive level. This is backed by the community, how can Riot say they are claiming the trademark for the community when Valves pairing up with Icefrog is what the community wants?

If you doubt the community, check

This news has already brought 300~ comments worth of angry feedbacks.

3. There are various DotA (Defense of the Ancient), by different map maker. Guinsoo stolen many ideas from them (I use steal because it's taken without permission) and made an "allstar" version. His versions often have bugs, long load time and many imbalances.

4. The follow is quoted

"Pendragon, a "glorified" website administrator who virtually only created an official website where all the work was done by other people (mods, admins, the community itself), a guy who managed to fuck up the website twice which resulted in having to recreate the whole community again, a guy who left DotA behind and broke promises (see 5.), a guy who never did any work on the game itself at all, claims the DotA trademark? And he does so in the name of the "community" which has followed IceFrog for 5+ years and which he himself abandoned?"

DotA-Allstars webside HAD League of Legend advertisement (League of Legend is based off dota, so it's a competition / sort of). Can you imagine having competition advertisement on your own website?

"5. Read those 2 articles in the link:

Some quotes from Pendragon after the split IceFrog/DotA-Allstars:

I feel like I can do good things for DotA, and good things for LoL, and the support and resources that I now have available to me due to my affiliation with Riot Games will help me make the biggest and best DotA Allstars Fansite ever.

That's when that weird DotA-Patcher showed up and everybody and everything stopped working at the site. No new admins, no new mods, he let the site die and put absolutely 0 effort into maintaining it.

Since competition drives innovation, Icefrog’s decision means that I’ll have to strive to improve the website to be successful without his endorsement. It puts pressure on me to deliver a new that surpasses expectations and keeps this site strong for years to come.

It’s an opportunity for me to retain my credibility by being the guy who does great things for DotA, and for the DotA community, instead of just being the “owner of the official website”.

Well, he failed BIG time. He abandoned DotA and was, according to his own words, only the owner of the official websitse. And now he claims trademark for DotA against IceFrog in the name of the community?? This is fucking embarrasing. This is ridiculous. That guy is a snake and I despise him."

6. "trademark isn't retroactive. For the existing community NOTHING changes. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that there will be a DotA game by Valve/IceFrog. Wow, sounds terrible."

IceFrog is DotA, and DotA is the community. We will not allow anybody to seperate this.

top hat
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"Now that DotA is popular, Guinsoo who abandoned DotA 5 years ago, comes back and wanting the trademark is ridiculous.", that _would_ be ridiciulous, however, it is not the case, as clearly stated by Pendragon, they " [...] think the best-case scenario would be that nobody owns the trademark to the 'DotA' name,"

Tom Cadwell
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evan ji wrote: "All that was because of Icefrog's work over the past 5 years. The previous developers of various DotA for 1-2 years and have abandoned it."

I think it's easy to make that mistake because his name comes up on the title screen, and others don't... But despite being lead developer for some time, Ice is not the sole author of DOTA.

Icefrog has done a lot of work on DOTA and everyone respects his large contributions, but even today, he maintains a significant support group of testing help and so forth, and during his tenure, other people contributed on a volunteer basis directly to the map in terms of code and map geometry edits. Hero proposals have on several occasions been used directly from the forum and credited, and Ice frequently credits the contributions of specific community members when they provide item designs or remakes that end up in the game.

Most of the major innovations that differentiate and define DOTA Allstars were made before Ice's time -- recipe items, the vast majority of heroes (which are game-defining and highly differentiated), the scoring system/gold award system (generally), etc were initiated by Guinsoo, Eul and other people around their time. The basic dota map structure and objective set were defined before dota-allstars even -- and the name DOTA has been used on maps since Eul's time.

Additionally, games these days are more than just the game itself, but the experience surrounding it and the marketing and community of the game. Pendragon and the Dota Allstars website were instrumental in facilitating the rapid growth of the DOTA community, and while people overlook this as players sometimes, it's a major factor. For example, City of Heroes has tremendously benefited from their community focus, as has Magic the Gathering.

So, the picture is not so simple -- DOTA truly has been built by a community of contributors.