Are you a fan of Dendi’s Pudge? Or being the Butcher yourself? Have you ever screamed ‘Black Hooole!!’ along with Tobi? Do you like insects, or are you just a support player who cares the most about his courier?
If you found yourself answering positively to any of those questions, let me tell you a bit about Neichus.
“I told IceFrog I needed a bit of a break and left the project with him. And then I just sort of never came back.”
As you can see, Neichus gave DotA to IceFrog. Our story here starts a bit earlier, when Neichus was just starting out.
When he started playing the game, Guinsoo was the project head; Neichus even got inspired to make a game of his own, but decided to just get much more involved with DotA. Neichus spent time on the Community Forums, creating heroes and collaborating with various people such as the designers of Bane & Bristleback. He suggested a lot of ideas, got a few in and managed to get Morphling in the game as his first hero.
Neichus differentiated himself from others with hero ideas by actually coding the heroes in test maps, rather than posting the idea and hoping somebody else would do it. Over time Guinsoo became less involved in the project and Neichus decided to take over. He did it by having two people join him: Pendragon and IceFrog. Pendragon controlled the site, “and he who controls the site controls the universe.”
On Meeting IceFrog
“I don’t recall how I met IceFrog originally, but he had the ability to break the protection and get me access to the map. So I had the site and the map, and at that point Guinsoo was simply excluded. He didn’t appreciate it, although I happened to talk to him a few years ago and he was rather cordial so I don’t think he has any lasting animosity toward me. IceFrog was the first guy who had any real training in programming, and he was far more dedicated to balance and bug fixing.“
What should we remember him for?
He is definitely most proud of the community’s favorite – Pudge, and the Meat Hook, as he himself said:
“I’m most proud of Meat Hook. I think honestly part of his original appeal came from the fact that nothing like his Meat Hook had been done in a MOBA at the time”
Before we continue, I will mention that Neichus mainly made heroes; though that doesn’t make his other inventions any less important, because they would be the signature support purchase – courier. And also Refresher’s Orb, Wraith Band and Bracers.
Next up – Shadowfiend. Even though our beloved mid was changed since then, the signature ability remained: Shadowrazes. Neichus even said a bit about them:
“I am however glad to see that Shadowraze has stayed around; it was an experimental ability that I knew was hard to control when I put it in, so glad to see that better players than I have made good use of it”
Even though the hero wasn’t his, Neichus is the one who gave Enigma his Black Hole, Earthshaker his Fissure, Naga her Song and Axe the ability to dunk. Also one of most notable – insects. Yes, he did all the bugs in this game – Broodmother, Weaver and Sand King.
Contributions to DOTA
Other heroes he made, reworked or cooperated in (along with some fun facts):
- Sand King – “His entire design came just from the fact that I found out that the scorpion models had a burrow animation and I really wanted to use it. He’s probably one of my heroes that has gone through more changes than most, simply because he was such a boom-or-bust hero that was hard to balance. The original Epicenter stayed where it was cast, rather than following the Sandking. Slight adjustments in casting and stun times between Burrowstrike and Epicenter either made him way too powerful or completely incapable of getting his combo off.”
- Ursa – Of his design
- Enchantress – Neichus’s version ultimate was originally Untouchable and Impetus was a basic ability. “She’s probably one of my favorites to play as a support who can also sting when needed”
- Tinker – “His ultimate actually stems from a limitation in the WarCraft 3 engine. There is no way to reset individual abilities in triggers, so you either reset everything or not. Otherwise he might have ended up quite differently”
- Ogre Magi – Of his design
- Necrolyte – As a somewhat embarrassing anecdote “His original name was Necrophiliac since I figured he was affiliated with the dead. It was only brought to my attention later that I should probably rename him”
- Treant Protector – Neichus had some input, Nature’s Guise was his idea
- Bristleback – Someone elses (AfroThunder’s) idea, Neichus helped refine it
- Doom – Neichus gave him a facelift, i.e. a new model in DotA
- Riki – Neichus worked on his rework, added Smoke Screen and Backstab
- Keeper of the Light – Worked on Illuminate
- Zeus – Gave him Static Field for better late game scaling
- Bane – Like Bristleback, someone elses idea (ShadowPenguin’s) Neichus did the coding and refinement from the initial ideas
- Death Prophet – Similar to Zeus, gave her Witchcraft for better late game scaling
- Tiny – He worked on his rework, the original also had Grow
- Phantom Lancer – Was in the game but removed, Neichus brought him back using the original as an inspiration
- Visage – Worked on him, though the hero has been vastly changed since then
Neichus also had some interesting new ideas which did not make it in, including a replacement for Shadow Fiend’s Presence of the Dark Lord – Touch of the Abysm (passive):
“Every time Shadow Fiend deals physical damage to a target it increases the magical damage they take by 2/4/6/8%. Every time Shadow Fiend deals magical damage to a target their armor is reduced by 1/2/3/4. These effects are independent and stack up to 3 times. Lasts 10 seconds. It was meant to be more interesting than just a passive aura and to tie his physical and caster nature into a more coherent whole.”
How Neichus Quit
“After being project head for a while I got things rolling again, but it was wearing on me. I don’t have a particularly thick skin, and anybody involved with game design knows this is a bad thing. Gamers are vicious in their assessments, and since I felt it was my duty to keep in touch with things on the forums I got pretty worn down (to somebody who was asking before: the reason I have a late join date is because the website has since moved from its old location where I was originally involved). I also was not clear on certain things. For instance, I’ve since come to appreciate that you have to choose a balance point: you can balance a game for newcomers, or intermediates, or advanced players but you can’t really do so for everybody at once.
This led to a lot of consternation as professional players would gripe about some things while the forums were full of vitriol about others. After a bit I was pretty miserable, as it had become an onerous job on top of my school work load. I told IceFrog I needed a bit of a break and left the project with him. And then I just sort of never came back.”
Neichus is like a fountain of ideas. His work massively influenced DOTA as you know it today. Even though he is not the one to seek attention (tried to keep his name off the game, no items named after him, etc.), we should not forget his work.