Tag Archives: dota 2

Toxic, Part II

Picture this: it’s the eve of the Dota 2 Manilla Major. Pro players from all the world will soon be converging in the Philippines to decide who the best team is of the current patch. I, a slightly-below-average skill player, queue for a game of Dota 2 on a Saturday night with four of my other friends, only to find that we’ve been matched up the most toxic team of Filipinos I’ve ever played against.

Completely unprovoked, they begin with slurs in their own language, then move on to abuse in English and then graduating to straight-out racism. Perhaps it’s the fact that as Australians we’re always going to give as good as we get it, but I’m still disappointed to admit some of us stooped to their level and trash-talked whenever we won teamfights or got a pick off, but I can safely say that I have never played against (or with) a more toxic team. I ended up muting them about 20 minutes into our 82-minute game, but you can read their full comments thanks to the wonders of Yasp and full-replay parsing.

And I get it. You’re doing well in a game, so you decide to throw out some trash-talking in order to tilt your opponents even more. You chuck in a few taunts here and there whenever a teamfight goes your way, hoping that your opposition will doubt themselves and lose confidence, leading to poorly-executed teamfights and their eventual loss. As Australians we’re no stranger to a few sledges thrown either way during competitive matches of any kind, but there are boundaries, and there’s such a thing as taking it too far. I’m all for calling other people “noobs” — I’ve seen it so many times the word has lost all meaning for me now anyway — but there’s no reason to be racist, sexist, or generally an awful human being to other people.

I keep coming back to this tweet from SEA player Meracle. “you can suck at dota it’s not a sin but just at the very least be a decent human being.”

Everyone sucks at Dota, it’s true. I only sometimes remember to use Midnight Pulse before dropping Black Hole. My micro skills are almost non-existent, and my decision-making as a carry is questionable at best. But I’ve learned a lot about myself playing Dota, and it’s that if I can’t be good at Dota, then I might as well be an OK person.

So, why am I writing about this? It’s because that the internet these days, Twitter especially, has become a cacophony of negativity. So much vitriol, so much toxicity. There’s endless sarcasm, complaining, and outrage. It’s awful, and I hate it. I can hardly say I play video games for fun anymore, seeing as that’s about all I do outside of work these days, but when your games are filled with such awful people it makes me wonder whether it’s all worth it.

And then you win against the most toxic team of Filipinos in a game of Dota 2 that lasts 82 minutes that more closely resembles a 5v5 game of chess than any other game you’ve ever played, and you conclude that yes, it is all worth it.

Don’t pick a support

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 4.26.29 pmThere are a few mechanics that work in the sub-3K or normal skill bracket of Dota 2 that don’t at 4K and above, and today we’re talking about how you shouldn’t be picking a support.

Dota 2 has well-defined roles. If you look at the players on any pro-level team, you’ll see that each one has their own position based on farm priority, which is most commonly denoted by a number from one to five, where one is the player with the most farm, and five is the player with the last farm. Most of the time, these farm priorities match up to the role within the team, whether they’re playing the carry or one position role, the mid or two position, the offlane or three position, or one of the two supports, four and five.

Seeing as I am neither a pro or playing a position within a serious team, I can say with some confidence that supports are overrated in the sub-3K MMR skill bracket. Due to the nature of the skill bracket, no-one plays the support position effectively enough for any given support pick to be worth it.

In sub-3K, most of the time you’ll be more or less even on kills. Even if you’re more than ten kills up, a couple of teamfights later you could be even again. But as I’ve said before, kills don’t matter. Objectives do. Even if you’re crushing the early and mid game with as many kills as you team can accumulate, it means nothing if you can’t close the game out while you still have the advantage.

Check out this recent game, for example. I had a pretty awful time in the laning stage as Spectre — for some reason Bristleback wanted to share the lane with me, which worked out as well as you can probably imagine. But it was sweet, because the Timbersaw, Pudge, and Necrophos were doing a fantastic job of ganking, picking up a few kills here and there. And when the Bristleback left the lane and started to join them, they just ran at heroes and got kills that way.

Meanwhile, I was farming. Every now and again I’d press R to haunt in to join a teamfight, but as the game got later and later, the TA and Lifestealer started doing actual damage. The Phoenix and Lifestealer actually picked up Midas’ pretty early, which probably explains why three heroes had a higher networth than the most farmed hero on our team (me as Spectre). At about the 35 minute mark, we stopped getting kills, got picked off every time we tried, and it was mostly down hill from there. We lost the game not because we were ahead early, but because I couldn’t keep up with the enemy team, and no-one on my team had enough of an impact later on for it to matter.

Why am I so against picking supports? Because generally speaking, they have too little late-game impact. Once the enemy starts getting BKBs, your Crystal Maiden becomes good for an aura only, and even that may be negated by the items the carries on her team have already picked up. Your Venomancer ult now does less damage thanks to the pipe picked up by the Enigma that was free-farming in the jungle, and so on. You can do everything right early-game, you can get assists on enemy kills, you can put down wards and use scan to stop ganks, but come late game, you might as well be a ward.

So don’t pick a support. Notice I’m not saying that people shouldn’t play like a support, but pick a hero that has some utility outside of getting killed when planting wards. Instead, pick a hero that can have some kind of impact late game, because you’ll be getting to the late game a hell of a lot in sub-3K. Bane can use Fiend’s Grip on an enemy carry with BKB activated. Beastmaster can use Primal Roar an enemy and waste their BKB duration. Ancient Apparition might be a great counter to the current strength/sustain meta of 6.87, but that’s only if you’re hitting perfect Ice Blasts every time it matters.

Share the support workload. Everyone can buy wards, everyone can buy smoke or dust, and everyone can carry a TP scroll. Put out wards when it’s safe to do so, don’t get caught out, and help support your way to your team’s victory.

Just don’t actually pick a support.

“Toxic”

570_20160409141155_1When you’ve played as much Dota 2 as I have, or even if you’ve lurked the Dota 2 subreddit, you’ve probably heard of them. They’re referred to as toxic players, people who constantly flame their team mates, both due to the competitive nature of the game, the need for five individuals to work together towards the common goal of winning the game, and because everyone thinks they’re better at Dota than you are.

I’ve been there. Everyone has. When you carry has no items and it’s 30 minutes into the game, you can point this out as nicely as you want, but chances are you’re going to get an unfavourable response from someone who thought his supports should have warded better, fed less, or executed combos like your team was playing at The International.

And I get it, I do. Dota is all about winning, and there’s a chain of events that need to occur before that can happen. Your team gets ahead in farm, they take teamfights, objectives (although perhaps not in that order), and eventually, when you take the enemy’s ancient, you’ve won. But when any mis-step puts you behind and makes the game harder until the next engagement or objective, emotions run rampant and often, the response is to take it out on your teammates instead of what you should be focusing on: good, clean, Dota to get you back into the game.

I’ve been told before I have a poor attitude when playing. I’ve been told I take the game too seriously, and that I’m always angry when playing. I’ve flamed team mates — both people that I know and those that I don’t, and I’m no afraid to admit that. But it makes me ashamed of myself, to think that I could say those things when “it’s just a game”, even if that game is the only thing I play with any kind of regularity, and will probably be so for the foreseeable future.

People think memes about winning via friendship and teamwork are all a joke, when in fact they’re the key to success. I had a game recently where three of us picked three different heroes at random, then proceeded to eventually win the game due to not taking losses too hard, sticking it out as a team, and coming back to win the game on the back of some good strategy and play. Obviously, not every game is going to turn out like that. Chances are you’ll lose as many games as you win, but what’s the big deal?

So before you decide to flame your team mates, puffing yourself up about how you just went toe-to-toe with the enemy carry and came out on top, maybe recognise that it was your support that put the enemy carry out of position in the first place, your offlaner that took most of the damage, and one of their supports which stuffed up before recognising that you’re the best carry in the world. And even if you where, why would you need to prove that to your team mates? We know dude, we know.

As for myself, I’m working on it. I suggest things to my team mates instead of telling them what to do, based on what the enemy team has been doing so far. I say “it’s fine” when it feels like we’re behind, and I try not to give up so easily when I know we are — after all, everyone likes a good comeback.

What Was That, Bane?

We try Roshan and get initiated on. We kill three and lose two, only to go back, try Roshan again, and give up a double kill to an Earthshaker. It could have gone so much worse…

Critique

For the longest time, I’ve wondered why it’s hard for those who are merely average — myself included — at Dota 2 to improve at the game in any kind of reasonable timeframe.

My own theories revolve around improving at Dota is hard because a lot of the time, you don’t recognise your own mistakes. Whether you’re playing in the so-called “trench-tier”, stuff that wouldn’t work in the pro scene works, and stuff that works in the pro scene doesn’t work in your trench-tier games, mostly because people do (and don’t do) things you wouldn’t expect. It never ceases to amaze me that people who have literally no idea what they’re doing or how the game works can be playing the same game as those who play Dota 2 professionally. It’s completely insane, and totally a topic for another time.

We can probably blame Dota’s “fair and balanced” matchmaking for slow improvement, too. Maybe people just don’t play enough games to notice any real rise in skill, but a lot of the time I feel as though because Dota tries to match you up with and against people who are at the same skill level as you, you often don’t see when you’ve climbed up an MMR bracket, because people will still be, relatively speaking, the same feeding bastards they were when you started out.

Now that I know a little about the game, I’ve often wondered if I should be starting a new Dota 2 account and playing ranked only to see what kind of MMR I end up at. To be fair, it’ll probably be around the same MMR that I am now — how do I know? Because even though I often perceive myself as better at Dota than my teammates, I can’t seem to carry myself out of the rubbish tier I’m in. It’s kind of sad, and is mostly the reason why I don’t play much ranked.

But forget perfect last-hitting mechanics. Forget perfect decision making. If I could choose to be insanely good at just one aspect of Dota 2, it would be in the critique of my own gameplay.

Analysing where you’ve made mistakes is a truly underrated skill, in my opinion. By looking back on games you’ve played and identifying where you could have been more efficient in farming, or where you should have gone through the jungle instead of walking through the river, or where you should have just TP’d out of Dodge as soon as you saw all the other lanes missing, you can learn to improve you own game much more than if you had perfect last hitting mechanics. Perfect decision making would probably help, but if you’re bad at the game to begin with, there’s only so many good decisions you can make, you know?

This ability (or more accurately, lack thereof) to self-analyse and identify mistakes is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. My favourite pro player at the moment asked about this in relation to Dota 2, and got an answer from Dr Dunning himself. You can check out Aui’s questions and Dr Dunning’s answers over on Reddit, but long story short, the DKE probably explains why people can’t improve at Dota as much as they might like, and sadly, there’s probably no real way to combat the DKE when it comes to improving in Dota 2.

I know I’m incredibly mediocre at Dota 2. But if I want to improve, it’ll take more than just playing games. Analysing games where I played awesome will help as much as analysing games where I played rubbish, but overall, it’ll be a real struggle.

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.

Smurfing

I probably could have taken an actual screenshot instead of a photo of the screen, but again, not my computer.

I probably could have taken an actual screenshot instead of a photo of the screen, but again, not my computer.

Continuing the list of things I don’t understand: smurfing. Otherwise known as the act of playing on a Dota account with a visible or invisible match-making rating lower than your own, in order to see how you fare against players below your skill level (or those also playing on smurfs).

Up until last night, I didn’t really see the point of smurfing. In my mind, the only two legitimate uses of it were either to play Ranked match-making with friends with a vastly lower MMR than yourself, or creating a new account in order to re-calibrate your MMR now that you know how to play the game, thus hopefully getting a higher MMR. Apart from those two reasons, there really isn’t any other reason to smurf — most of the other games I’ve played with or against smurfs have been very similar (or perhaps slightly above) to my kind of skill level, so what’s the point? Some people expect smurfing to match them with other completely new accounts, but Dota matchmaking is smarter than that, for the most part. After stomping a few games, you’ll start to get matched with harder and harder opponents. Eventually your invisible MMR will be the same as your “true” MMR, so the point of smurfing in the first place has been completely negated.

But last night, I played Dota on an account with one game played (plus a whole bunch of lobby/bot games), and it was, in a word, glorious.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It could have gone one of two ways: either I’d get matched with other people smurfing and subsequently get wrecked, or I’d be matched up against players who had a similar number of games played (i.e. they were just starting out) and completely steamroll them. It’s fairly safe to say I felt more than a little trepidation as I hit the queue button for All Pick.

Of course, there was no other hero to play other than PA, my current favourite carry. I wasn’t sure how the laning stage was going to go at this totally-unknown MMR, but I told myself I’d just play my own game, farm up as best I could, and then try and carry as hard as possible. Like other carry games, basically.

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I do not understand League of Legends

DSC01115Riot was in attendance at PAX Australia this year, and they were back with an even bigger presence than last year. Throughout the weekend, they ran their Oceanic Regional Finals tournament as well as casual games between PAX attendees, and let me tell you, their area was packed all the time — unlike last year, this time they came prepared with seating as well as ample standing room for spectators.

They tell me League of Legends is similar to Dota in that it’s a massive online battle area or action real-time strategy game, whichever acronym you want to use. The only real differences I know between the two off the top of my head is that there’s no “denies” in League, and the laning setup is a little weird — I saw people being referred to by their lanes, as opposed to the roles they played during the game. People played “top” or “jungle” instead of “carry” or “support”, for example, but that’s about all I know about League. I like to think I have a fairly good understanding of Dota at this point, but taking a few minutes to sit down and watch a game being played, I had no idea what I was watching. Subjectively, it also looks worse than Dota does, but that’s neither here nor there.

But not only do I not get League on a gameplay or mechanics level, I don’t understand it on a popularity scale, either. I read articles saying League makes more money than Dota and Hearthstone combined, but then I’ve also heard it’s the most popular title in terms of player base. That seems wrong for all kinds of reasons, but I’ll list just one: the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world, The International 4, had a total prize pool of $10.9 million, with the winners taking home over $5 million. That ludicrous sum of money made headlines in traditional sports, not just e-sports, and so for a game like League to come in and say they’re bigger than Dota is pretty crazy.

I mean, I guess the numbers are by total revenue and not prize pools for tournaments (two of which at the moment have prize pools of over $200,000), but still.

Just about the only thing that makes sense is the acronym formed by the title of the game: LoL.

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.

Losing (and winning)

One of the things that annoys me the most about the programming is the zone of suck, and how very large and expansive it can be. Probably because I’m a mediocre programmer, at best, but a lot of the time it feels like I’m single-handedly trying to fight backdoor protection on the other team’s ancient as Faceless Void.

Losses in Dota 2 feel like that, too. Sometimes you’ll realise you have nothing to stop the other team’s push strategy, other times you’ll know that your entire team can’t deal with one hero on the other team who got a few kills early on, and by that time, the game is pretty much over. I hate calling “gg” early as much as the next guy, but fighting against a split push with little farm and little to no hope against of coming back is incredibly frustrating1.

Yes, I’ve been playing a lot of Dota 2 recently, and while it might sound like I say that a lot, it’s the truth. Last weekend, a couple of friends and I gathered at my place for some five-stack ranked shenanigans. Incredulously, we somehow managed to win 10 of the 11 games we played; an impressive win rate on a good day, a downright amazing win-loss ratio on any other.

After a warmup game, we refined the strat we were running. We’d insta-pick the heroes we wanted when All Pick came up, and tried to not get them banned in Captain’s Mode. Provided none of us got off to a particularly bad start in the laning stage, we guaranteed kills with a triple-stun trilane, a mid Drow, and solo Invoker. And even if one of us was killed a few times during the early game, we usually had enough recovery mechanisms to get back into the game; usually involving the other players making space for the fifth to farm. Split pushing, adding pressure around the map, stacking neutrals, that kind of thing. By the time late game rolled around, we would be ready.

We did have a bit of trouble against some really good Tinkers. With no real mechanism to catch him out, an enemy Tinker ended up split pushing every lane while we were taking 4v5 teamfights, which would favour us most of the time. Eventually the Tinker would make a mistake and we’d pull him up on it, securing the kill, and because not even an incredibly farmed Tinker can carry a game single-handedly, we’d go on to win the game off the back of those pick-offs.

For the most part, our strategy carried us through games. Our team hero composition allowed us to be a little lazier in terms of items; Wraith King’s lifesteal aura helped out our team early-game with HP regen, and Maiden was the same was her mana regen. By running two position threes, both with the potent carry potential, any time a game went late always favoured us. At the same time, because our Invoker was building Necronomicons and doing his best to push down towers any time he was away from a teamfight, we’d usually have such a gold lead that one or two farmed heroes on the other team didn’t matter that much. Of the 11 games we played, only four went longer than 40 minutes — and of those four, the three we won we were playing against a Tinker, master of the split push.

But despite our impressive win-loss ratio, the game we didn’t win still sticks out like a sore thumb. Thanks to some combination of the Von Restorff effect and likely some negativity bias, I remember that game more than any of the others, despite the fact we won 10 of the other 11 games we played that night. It hurts even more to know that we could have won that game, too — the scoreboard showed kills that were more or less even all the way through, and we punished them for their mistakes every opportunity we got. Every time they got greedy and tried to push for more kills or objectives after using their ultimates, we’d wipe them, but couldn’t seem to take any objectives off the back of our kills.

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