Tag Archives: blogvember 14

Custom A40 Speaker Tags

IMG_1638Around the middle of last year, I picked up the Astro A40 headset to replace my SteelSeries 7H, whose microphone had decided it wasn’t for this world anymore. They’re pretty good, as far as headsets go — a little on the large side, but they’re comfortable enough for extended periods. I would have liked the option of leather ear pads for even better noise isolation, but yeah, they’re alright.

The A40 is the most customisable headset I’ve ever used. You can have the microphone on the left or the right, or choose to have no microphone at all. The in-line volume control also houses a mute switch, and secondary microphone, and a button you can use as a kind of push-to-talk (at least, that’s what I think it’s used for. I’ve never actually used it).

But the coolest feature about them is that you can customise the speakers with custom speaker tags. Astro were exhibiting at PAX Australia last year, and I was excited to pick up a set of custom tags for my headset at their booth. Alas, when I asked them about custom tags they said they had so few they were only giving them away if you bought a headset — I already had a headset, so that wasn’t really an option for a set of $20 speaker tags. Not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed I wouldn’t be able to get some custom speaker tags.

This year at PAX Australia, Astro were exhibiting once again — and this time, they actually had speaker tags on display. During the time only media were allowed into the expo hall, I asked if they would be selling the tags separately this year, and to my delight, they said yes.

IMG_1635

I came back a little later, and after umm-ing and ahh-ing over what I wanted — and confirming that I could pick up two tags for $20 (hey, you gotta ask) — I chose to go with the custom speaker tags you see in the picture above. Ideally I would have liked something Dota-related, but after looking online and seeing nothing that really took my fancy, I chose to go with the guy from Battlefield 4 and one of the official Astro/PAX tags. The Astro rep I talked to was super nice and said she’d give me a set of the official Astro/PAX tags, and throw in the Battlefield one for free, which was kind of awesome and more than made up for the lack of tag availability last year. I was super stoked with that!

The funny thing is, I don’t even play Battlefield all that much. I used to play Battlefield 3 a bit, and Bad Company 2 a LOT, but Battlefield 4 has basically fallen off my radar. I’m not really sure why, but perhaps I was just sick of that kind of gameplay — these days, I’m all about the Dota.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Perfect Last Hitting Mechanics

I call this one the PA that couldn't last hit for beans.

I call this one the PA that couldn’t last hit for beans.

OK, real talk: if a genie appeared and asked me what area of Dota I wanted to be perfect in, it’d probably be last hitting. Perfect decision making might be unachievable, but perfect last hitting mechanics are definitely within the realms of possibility. Not only can you practice last hitting without playing real matches, but it’s something you can improve in a measurable way.

Not only that, but having perfect last hitting mechanics has enormous potential to change your game, purely because if you can out-CS your opponents, you already have a huge advantage. You’ll have better items than them, and if you’re denying (something that’s incredibly important in the current patch), you’ll also have more levels over them, too.

When I started out playing Dota as a support, I didn’t think last hitting mattered all that much, purely because as a support, you’re usually not that farm-dependent. Sure you’d pull every now and again for your carry, but it wasn’t a big deal if you missed out on the last hit on neutral creeps in the jungle. A few more games of Dota later, and I can unequivocally say I was wrong in this regard, because last hitting matters to support as much as it matter for carries, and maybe even more so. Because you’re not getting as much reliable farm as carries, the last hits that you do miss out on matter even more as a support. Supports, generally speaking, don’t need items as much as carries do, but imagine how much better you could support if you had items. A fast Mek or blink dagger could mean the difference between a lost teamfight and one you win.

But I’ve started playing core roles now, and here, last hitting kind of matters. If I’m farming in the safe lane, I can average around 30-40 last hits at the 10 minute mark — not terrible, but OK I think for around my skill level. If I get free, uncontested farm, that number goes up to around 50-60, and if I’m having a bad time, I’ll have less than 30 last hits before 10 minutes. Against unfair Viper bot, with perfect deny mechanics? I’ll be lucky to have 20 last hits at 10 minutes.

I’ve thought about what to do when I’m playing a core role and am behind in last hits, and all it really takes is a couple of waves to get back to where I should be. That either means my team has to create space on the map so I can farm for a few minutes, or I jump into the jungle and hope I don’t get smoke ganked.

Unlike decision making, which can’t explicitly be practiced besides playing more games, you can practice last hitting pretty easily. By typing dota_tutorial_start lasthit will load up a practice game for you to practice your last hits against a single bot opponent, one that will stay the same depending on which hero and lane you pick. Starting up a bot game and just playing that has the same effect, but the last hit trainer means you don’t have to worry about ganks, tower pushes, or anything extraneous to perfecting your last hitting mechanics.

When I haven’t played Dota for a while, I’ll load up the last hit trainer just so I can get back into the feel for it. Because nothing — nothing — is as frustrating as a carry who can’t last hit. I practice last hitting so I’m never “that guy”, but I kind of wish other people would do the same.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Perfect Decision Making

If I had to choose to improve in any area of Dota 2, it would be — without a doubt — decision making. Like, if a genie appeared and asked me which area of Dota 2 I wanted to be perfect in, I’d choose decision making, every time.

I know that’s a bit of a cop-out, seeing as “decision making” isn’t something you can practice or improve on in any sort of measurable way, but it’s true: if I wanted to get better at something in a way that would make a significant impact on my game (and by extension, win rate), decision making would be at the top of my list.

When you think about it, it makes sense: if you have perfect decision making, the only real things holding you back are technical skill and execution. Everything else in the game would become secondary: you’d always know when to farm as a carry, and when you should be teamfighting. You’d always know when to cast your skills as a support, and when to back up and wait for cooldowns. You’d always know when to initiate, when to retreat, when to push, and when to defend.

If you had perfect decision making, you’d know when to push the lane, when to contest the rune, when to go Roshan, when to press your advantage and go high ground. The game would become easy, because you’d know what to do at every stage of the game — no more wandering around as a support, or farming jungle creeps when you should have been teamfighting. You’d always know what items to buy for any given situation, and what kind of item progression you should be getting.

That said, there are potential downsides to perfect decision making, and they mostly come in the form of teammates who don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve watched EternalEnvy’s stream enough times to know how that feels, and it sucks. Even when your team picks imbalanced heroes in the current meta, if they have no idea what they’re doing or go for a weird build, the game just becomes so unwinnable that it’s not even worth trying.

To be clear: Envy plays a completely different level of Dota than I do, but the concept remains the same: if either of us had perfect decision making, teammates not doing the right thing for any given situation would easily be enough to lose the game.

But a guy can dream.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

It has been four days since my last Dota 2 game

…and I’m not sure I remember how to play the game anymore.

Here’s where I’m coming from: since I’m currently unemployed, that gives me a lot of free time during the day to do pretty much whatever the hell I want. A lot of the time, that involves playing way too much Dota, either by myself exploring the depts of the solo queue trench, or with a few friends and absolutely smashing the other team.

I have to admit, I was kind of tempted to play Dota at the freeplay PC area at PAX, but careful consideration meant I realised there were better uses for my time (plus, I could just wait a few days and play it at home).

It’s not that you forget how to play, but certain skills in the game do require practice. Last hitting, for example, can differ from hero to hero, and if you haven’t played a certain hero in a while, you can suck at farming which can potentially change how the game turns out. Same thing with landing skillshots.

While I’m not really into League, the serious numbers of people at PAX watching the Oceanic regional finals of some big tournament is totally understandable. I’ve watched a fair amount of Dota over the past few months, ever since this year’s International, and I can see where they’re coming from — League (or for the matter, Dota) played by professionals is a completely different thing to the Dota and League played by your or I.

Unless you happen to be a pro at either of those games, in which case, you’re the one that should be on stage.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Blogvember 2014? Sure, let’s do this.

Those were the words I opened with as I sat down with the person who was going to teach me how to play Magic: The Gathering at PAX Australia 2014. Not the “Blogvember 2014” part, but the “let’s do this”, after I threw down the gauntlet, informing him I knew how to play Magic but might have been a little bit rusty at it. A story for another time, I’m afraid.

It feels like so long since I’ve written regularly on ye olde blog. I’m not really sure what happened — it’s not that I’m not writing, because I do that every day and get paid for it, but it’s been so long since I’ve written about personal interests. Not that those have changed drastically, either: I play Dota most days, I’ve been really enjoying Shadow of Mordor lately, and I could probably write at length about those, but every time I’ve told myself to write about something other than Apple or consumer technology, hitting that new post button just seemed way too daunting.

So, here’s what’s going to happen in my return to blogging. Every day in November, I’ll be publishing something on my blog. Since I’ve just returned from PAX Australia 2014, a tonne of these stories will be related to that even — little anecdotes from things I saw/did/experienced at the show. Like many others, too much of my writing has gone into Twitter, and while I won’t go as far as saying “Twitter has killed my ability to write”, it’s definitely had an impact on the greater-than-140-characters content I’ve produced, especially on my blog.

The reality is, there’s plenty of stuff that could be written about. Twitter is great for brevity, but loses in terms of permeance. Twitter is too fleeting, and people tend to live in the moment. That’s fine, but I think the opposite is important too; having somewhere you can come back and read something substantial about what you were doing/living six months ago.

Jason Snell at Six Colors sums up the problem nicely:

If you had something interesting to say, but it really couldn’t bear more than a few paragraphs, you had two choices: Just swallow it and not write anything, or fluff it up with empty filler until it seemed more substantial than it actually was.

Plenty of stuff is bigger than a tweet, but there are times when you just don’t feeling like tapping out an 1800-word essay on the Nemesis system in Shadows of Mordor. It’s not that the Nemesis system in that game isn’t worth discussing to the tune of 1800 words, it’s that you could say “it’s bloody awesome” in a tweet and leave it at that.

I thought about imposing an upper word limit on the posts, to prevent me from going overboard and over extending my efforts on any given day, but we’ll see how we go. I have no posts in the queue currently, so all the content will be hot out of the oven, so to speak — sometimes it’ll just be a photo about something that happened at PAX, other times it’ll just be a paragraph or two about downright unrecognisable cosplay, or the differentiation between TF2 players and those with fancy hats for the Melbourne Cup.

At least I’ll be writing on the blog again.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.