Tim Larkin and DotA 2 on Top Score

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
August 15, 2013
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Even though it's been out for a month, the game DotA 2 is still a work in progress. Composer Tim Larkin started writing music for the game more than two years ago — and he's not done yet.

"It's not like a game where you release it in a box and it's done. DotA 2 is kind of gonna be in constant development. They're always adding new heroes and updating elements of gameplay; it's an ongoing game. Who knows how long it'll go on — I'm sure I'll be doing music on this game for some time."

DotA 2, a stand-alone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients mod, is a type of strategy game, with two teams of five players. Each team needs to defend their home base while trying to destroy the other team's base. Players can choose to play as one of many characters like knights, mages, trolls and assassins. The art and style of the characters and the gameplay influenced Larkin musically.

"The look of the game has sort of an Asian feel to parts of it, so I kind of started off along those routes, using Shakuhachi flutes and things like that. However, it's kind of developed over time, and developed a gothic feel kind of along with it. So I've kind of kept that tone since then and kept it orchestral and big."

"It's an extremely deep game and it takes a lot of experience and practice to play it well. There's a lot of us here that play it because we're developers and we have to play it — and we like to play it — but we definitely don't have the expertise that these guys who are playing it professionally do."

And yeah — he said "professionally." Professional teams practice together for hours on end, all leading up to an annual tournament called The International in Seattle. It takes place at Benaroya Hall (where the Seattle Symphony plays) to a sell-out crowd each summer. The total purse this year? A record-setting $2.6 million.

Valve, the makers of DotA 2, recently made a documentary about DotA 2 and some of the teams who compete in The International.

It's called Free to Play, and the film sheds light on the worldwide popularity of the game and also introduces viewers to several professional DotA 2 players.

For these players, gaming is a serious vocation. Tim explains, "one of the guys that we followed is from a team that is based out of the Ukraine, and the average salary there is about $8,000-9,000 a year. So you take a million dollars divided by five, which is the amount of people on the team, and you come home with $200,000. That takes care of you for a few years, definitely. It puts you in a different tax bracket over there I would assume!"

Hear Tim Larkin and his music for DotA 2 on the new episode of Top Score from Classical MPR, also on iTunes.

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