Tag Archives: dota 2

“I QUIT DOTO”

I call this one "Death Prophet Throws The Game"

I call this one “Death Prophet Throws The Game”

I’ve been playing a bit of Dota 2 recently, and when I say “playing a bit”, I mean I’ve played, on average, between five and six games per day for the last 30 days. That’s a decent amount of Dota.

It was enough that I didn’t even get a chance to dole out a Game of the Year award for last year, and enough that I haven’t played anything else for the latter half of 2013. My game backlog grows ever bigger, and all I can really be bothered playing is Dota. This must be what addiction feels like.

A recent-ish update introduced ranked matchmaking, which assigns you a real, visible rating of how good (or bad) you are at Dota. From the Dota 2 blog:

We actually track a total of four MMRs [match making ratings, a numerical representation of how good or bad you are at Dota] for each player:

  • Normal matchmaking, queuing solo
  • Normal matchmaking, queuing with a party
  • Ranked matchmaking, queuing solo
  • Ranked matchmaking, queuing with a party

The spread of MMRs for normal matchmaking looked a little like this, with various MMRs calculated according to percentiles (higher is better):

5% 1100
10% 1500
25% 2000
50% 2250
75% 2731
90% 3200
95% 3900
99% 4100

It’s also worth noting the following, pointed out by the same matchmaking post on the Dota 2 blog:

Note that this distribution is from normal matchmaking. We don’t know yet what the distribution will be in ranked matchmaking, but we expect it to be different. The players who participate in ranked matchmaking will be more skilled, more experienced players. We anticipate that any given player will have different expectations and play the game differently in ranked matchmaking compared to normal matchmaking.

I was reasonably happy with my solo MMR after I completed my 10 calibration matches. I ranked in at 2357, which, according to the percentile table above (i.e. if we’re assuming the percentile distribution is the same for ranked as it is for normal matchmaking), put me smack bang in the middle of the Dota 2 player distribution, slightly better than around 50% of players.

The idea behind ranked matchmaking is not only for plays to play in what is supposed to be a more competitive environment, a more “elite” subset of the Dota 2 players (only players who have played around 150 games online can participate in ranked matchmaking), and some of the time, that’s exactly what it is.

But then there’s the rest of the time, where ranked matchmaking is — and I put this in the nicest way possible — a festering cesspool of the worst Dota 2 players, ever.

The problem, as I see it, is that people in ranked matches take it way too seriously. Sure, it’s supposed to be more competitive, and sure, it really blows when one person on your team is letting the entire team down, but for some reason, ranked matchmaking attracts some truly unattractive individuals and personalities. I can understand not randoming in ranked, I can understand not playing heroes for the first time in ranked, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand why every other person in ranked is a complete douche.

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Nvidia’s ShadowPlay and One Angry Earthshaker

fraps movies settings

Occasionally, I put gaming-related videos on YouTube. For all of those videos, I’ve used Fraps to capture in-game footage, and as far as software-based capture tools go, it isn’t bad. I’ve been using Fraps for a few years now, and for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy with it.

That said, there are a few things about Fraps I don’t like. For starters, it creates massive files on disk — it works out to be about 1.2GB/minute for 720p footage at 60fps. There’s no option to record at arbitrary resolutions, only your display resolution or half size, whatever that turns out to be1. And enabling Fraps usually kills my FPS, which usually gets me killed in whatever game I’m playing. The frame rate drop I experience in certain (read: more recent, more demanding) games turns me off recording unless I really want to, otherwise I’d probably record far more often than I do. That, and the massive hard drive space requirements for recording.

But like any in-game capture tool, the worst thing about Fraps is that I have to manually enable it whenever I want to record something. That’s fine if I know something cool might happen in advance, or when I know I’m going to do something which I might need footage for later, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve done something epic and wished it has been recorded. So many times I’ve missed out on capturing some real Kodak moments, and all because FRAPS wasn’t recording. The “workaround” for this, if you can call it that, is to have Fraps running all the time — but when gaming sessions go for hours on end, I have neither the hard drive space nor the low-FPS tolerance for that to be a viable solution.

shadowplay settings

Enter Nvidia’s ShadowPlay.

In Shadow Mode, ShadowPlay automatically records everything in the background. It records up to the last ten minutes of gameplay in the background, which you can then save to disk if you want by pressing the appropriate key combo. Do something epic, and want to have a permanent record of it? No need to gripe about not having Fraps turned on and recording to your friends over TeamSpeak, because ShadowPlay already recorded it for you. All you have to do is save the recording.

ShadowPlay is also great because it doesn’t produce massive files when recording footage. It uses the GPU to transcode your recordings on the fly to H.264 (which is why you’ll need a GTX 600 or 700 series graphics card), resulting in reasonably-sized files, and best of all, there’s no performance hit that I’ve noticed thus far. (For comparative purposes, 1GB of hard drive space gives me roughly three minutes of in-game footage with ShadowPlay at 1080p/60fps, compared to under a minute with Fraps at 720p/60fps.) There are alternative software capture tools that can perform similar compression on your recordings, but those use CPU power instead of a dedicated H.264 encoder built into the graphics card. And since my CPU is a few years old now, I don’t really have those CPU cycles to spare when I’m gaming.

ShadowPlay has a manual recording option too á la Fraps, in case you want to go down that path. But having something sit in the background silently recording my every move is great, and means I don’t have to think about what I’m going to be doing next and whether I want to have that on file for later. It’s like having an instant rewind for anything.

There’s always room for improvement though, and ShadowPlay is no exception. It needs the ability to record voice input, for starters. If I’m communicating hilarious things over TeamSpeak but all the recording captures is my teammates’ responses, then that’s not very useful. And I have to do some more thorough testing, but I’ve had a few recordings with a number of graphical glitches too. Then again, Nvidia have labelled it a beta for a reason, so I’m sure it’ll get there.

But for now, ShadowPlay is pretty great. Reasonably-sized files, little to no performance hit when recording, and the best part is, it means I don’t have to worry about turning on Fraps before doing something cool. What’s not to love?

ShadowPlay makes recoding game footage an afterthought, which is what it should be — because you’re supposed to be playing games, not thinking about whether you want to record what you’re doing in games.

About the video2: OK, so, there was this one game of DOTA 2 I was playing, right. We had an Earthshaker on our team who wanted to play him like a carry — constantly going 1v1 against other heroes. Dude thought he was invincible, even after he died three times in the space of two and a half minutes. After he died he’d usually ping-spam the map, resulting in our Death Prophet getting worked up and shout at him over in-game voice. It was hilarious, right up until the point where Earthshaker revealed he had a mic after all, but apparently only used it to abuse other teammates over voice. We lost the game, of course, but it was really strange. Almost like the dude was drunk or something.


  1. Since I game at 2560×1440, the native resolution of my display, half size turns out to be 720p, which works out well enough for YouTube purposes. 1080p would be great, but recording at full size and then down-sizing is too much work. 
  2. I had to upload the video to Vimeo because YouTube blocked the audio because of the Lady Gaga going on in the background. But the audio is kind of the best part. And yeah, sorry about having the not-very ad-free Spotify going on in the background. (The new Lady Gaga is just OK, IMHO). 

Winning (and losing)

Dota Dire Ancient Gone

If there’s a universal truth, it’s that people don’t like losing. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that losing sucks; anyone that tells you otherwise is either lying or a sadist.

The question is: do I take winning too seriously? There was one time, years ago, where a friend and I were playing Left 4 Dead. We were in a co-op match with two other folks, and I was shouting obscenities into our team’s text chat in an attempt to get the other players on our team to do something useful. After the match, the friend I was playing with pointed out “that guy” that was trying to get the team to win. I pointed out that “that guy” was actually me, and things were pretty awkward from that point on.

I’ve played a number of DotA 2 games now. As of writing, dotabuff says 249 real matches, with perhaps an extra 10-15 versus bots on top of that. At the moment, my win-loss ratio is sitting just under the 50-50 ratio, at 124 wins to 125 losses. Anecdotal evidence (i.e. the dotabuff profiles of a number of friends who have played hundreds of more games than I have) leads me to believe the matchmaking in DotA conspires to keep you around a 50-50 WL ratio, but with a good enough team, you can beat the odds.

Despite what you may believe, the number one influencer on your win-loss ratio isn’t yourself. At least, it’s not about yourself as much as it is about other players. For example: if another player on your team, in a different lane, decides to die repeatedly to one of your opponents in the early game, then that opposing hero now has a level and gold advantage. And even if you’re playing to the best of your ability, there’s very little you can do from preventing that opposing hero from dominating the rest of the match. From there, your fate is all but sealed: the opposing hero which received early kills dominates teamfights, and hence wipes the floor with your team. Eventually, through no fault of your own, you lose. Good game, sir.

But I’ve played enough games of DotA 2 now to realise that it’s a little more complicated than that. I’ve seen my share of impressive comebacks and last-gasp pushes that result in a win to know that the balance in DotA is incredibly delicate. What one player does or doesn’t do can tip the scales in your favour, or lose you the match. Didn’t deny the tower when you had the chance? You lose because the enemy all gained gold. Didn’t carry a TP scroll when pushing? You lose because a Nature’s Prophet decided to teleport into your base and demolish your ancient with his army of trees. Spent too much time jungling instead of pushing with your team? You lose because your team just lost that 4v5 teamfight, the enemy pushed, and you lost a tower and barracks.

Don’t get me wrong, good team work is of the utmost importance in DotA 2. It’s why I gently push others to be the best they can be if they’re having a bad game, because good teamwork means you can bring a game back from 9-0, their advantage. 30 minutes in, and it’s 16-32, still their advantage. We’re behind in kills the entire time, but when we finally take their ancient, the scoreboard reads 44-54, still in their favour. You’ll notice I went 2-17 in that match. I contributed almost nothing to that game, and yet we won. So how does that work, exactly?

Teamwork.

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Tough Crowd

Remember that one time where I managed to get a Divine Rapier as Drow in a public game? Good times, good times.

Remember that one time where I managed to get a Divine Rapier as Drow in a public game? Good times, good times.

Hi. My name is Benny Ling, and by the time you read this, it will have been a week since the last time I played badly in DotA 2.

It might not be the end of semester (at least not for me, thanks to some fortuitous mechanism), but once again I find myself playing games when I should be doing something else. I’ve dipped my toes into the world of Los Santos in GTA V, I’ve wandered through the tall grass in Pokémon X, and I’ve fed the opposition in highly-strung matches of DotA 2.

I remember it almost as if it were yesterday, even though it was actually 29 days ago. I was playing Faceless Void, and for those who aren’t familiar with DotA, Faceless Void is what they call a “hard carry” — that is, he can carry the game, but only if he gains a significant advantage in terms of gold (and therefore items). Faceless Void has this really cool ultimate ability called Chronosphere which temporarily stops time within a sphere, where only he can move around — once you get the right items, you can do some real damage to the opposition who were unlucky enough to be caught in your Chronosphere.

But hard carries, by their very nature, are incredibly easy to kill right up until the point when they get their items. Think of them like a Magikarp before the awe-inspiring Gyrados — the Magikarp has essentially no defences, and no real attacks. Almost any Pokémon can KO a Magikarp, but it takes a much stronger Pokémon to take down a Gyrados, the evolution of Magikarp.

It was in that fateful game that I experienced, first-hand, how tough the DotA crowd can be. We lost that game, of course, but it was honestly the second time I had played Faceless Void in a public game. I did OK the first time I played (well, we won that match, anyway, and I was 9/9/6 in terms of kills, deaths, and assists), but what I’ll always remember is the abuse I copped because I played badly. Some of it was my fault — like the time I managed to trap an allied hero in a Chronosphere and get him killed — sure, but the team as a whole was doing pretty badly. Only two heroes out of five had any kills at all, and by the time our ancient fell, the numbers weren’t exactly pretty.

As much as I deserved some of the comments — “Faceless doesn’t even have boots” — I was made to feel as if I was the sole reason our team was losing, when it was really our shared fault. Two other heroes had died more times than I had, so I could hardly be blamed for our eventual loss, right?

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