The collaboration between Netflix and Valve has granted the absolute one wish that any DOTA fans could ever ask for – a full-fledged animation based on the hit game series. DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is a standalone series that builds on the existing lore of the game, and gives fans and newcomers a treat at an action-packed drama and bloody adventure of the Dragon Knight Davion and Princess of the Moon Mirana. But like all legends of heroes and heroines, nothing is as simple as the tales told.
And given the almost eight years worth of character building for Dota 2, which is series is adapted from, one would think that Valve would have plenty of input for the series, but as it turns out, Valve offered the creative team full control over the eight-episode series, which, based on the positive response it has received from audiences, seems to indicate that a second season is a sure thing.
Characters in the show were already waiting for producer and writer Ashley Edward Miller, even before he got around to writing the series, but he says that Valve gave him free rein to make changes, allowing Miller the freedom to make changes right from the start.
“There was a lot of stuff I could do with Davion once I read his origin and Mirana was an interesting way into talking about the moon…which for obvious reasons really matters to the larger story of DOTA,” said Miller, who previously wrote for on X-Men: First Class and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
According to Miller, the American video game publisher and developer-only stepped in to help him to understand the world of DOTA and the experience players have with the lore so that he can craft a convincing storyline.
Still, fan expectations have always been every writer and director’s achilles heels, especially for comics, manga or game adaptations, as some ignore the source material and underestimate the difficult undertaking, and fail miserably in delivering a live-action or animated series. With the characters and lore in place, Miller went for a more emotive direction for the series.
“While creating this adult and emotional story, we worked very hard to build on what was there and honoured the game,” he explained. Miller attempted to balance fan expectations as well as his own creative direction, necessitating a compelling story that allowed emotions to present themselves.
Building characters who are as unsuspecting as the audience was something he wanted to do with the animation, so he played around with this idea of keeping things inside the point of view of his own characters who were just as clueless as the viewers before unfolding the stories, adding on that “no one really knows the big cosmic stuff except the Invoker.”
With so much gore, blood and adult story in play, a lot of inspiration from the series surprisingly came from classic animations and even horror. While South Korean animation company Studio Mir handled the style and animation, Miller provided Studio Mir with some of his inspiration, including anime and animation classics including Ninja Scroll, Berserk and Heavy Metal, even as Miller noted that he wanted to stick with cinematic storytelling rather than an anime-like one. Other influences he highlighted were also “very eclectic, and came from John Boorman to Tobe Hooper.”
The potential for chemistry and character development was also what he liked of both chosen characters – a renowned dragon slayer and an exiled princess. To him, it was a unity of opposites and he felt it would be a lot of fun when put together.
Along with side characters Yuri and Lara whom he also felt “brought that connection to life”, these great casts of heroes and heroines makes it hard for him to pick his favourite character. when asked and he compared that question akin to asking who was his favourite kid. Nevertheless, he replied in jest that the answer might depend on what day it is.
DOTA is a straight-up action-packed and violent show filled with adult themes intended for the mature audience, and sadly, it wasn’t targeted to children, even though Miller’s son has a small role in the series. Miller won’t reveal more but admits that his son hasn’t watched the series either. While we try to look for what his son was playing as, keep a lookout for Riki in the show because Miller has confirmed that Riki is in every scene of the series, although you might need the gem of true sight.
If you haven’t caught the show, check out our spoiler-free review to see if it’s worth your time.
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is now showing on Netflix.