This week, a friend of mine suggested that I play DOTA 2 with him for super happy fun times. Now, I knew of DOTA, I was familiar with the concepts, to the point where I could bluff my way through it, but I was unprepared.
As an aside, taterchimps guide to bluffing about anything: know an item in the top 10% and the bottom 10% of whatever you are talking about, then pick an obscure item from the 60-70% range as what you ‘like’. Cars? I would love a Porsche 911, heh, who wouldn’t. But I think ideally a BMW 4 Coupe would be nice. It wouldn’t be a Pinto! hahaha. Pistols? A friend of mine loves her Deagle, thing is massive! If I were to get a pistol, it would probably be something like glock. Would be better than a Derringer against a bear in the woods, eh?
That being said, I failed every bluff I thought I knew on DOTA. I knew what lanes were. I knew heroes were involved. I knew that there were NPC mobs and towers. I knew it was recently ruled unconstitutional, and that it was a MOBA. Absolutely none of these things worked like I thought they would. Now, I really want to find the game fun, and there are parts of it that are, but in order for me to get the point where I can beat the super dumb difficulty AI and feel like I accomplished something, I had to do some hard research. Before game 1 (with my friend, but no mic) I read up on the game for about half an hour. After my first match (which I rage quit super hard), I did two hours of research. I would say my research to play ratio is somewhere in the 2:1 ratio. So I wanted to present, as a complete scrub, my 1.5 week DOTA Impressions. As an aside, I have been playing the All Draft mode (everyone can pick their hero, no restrictions). As a further aside, I wrote most of this with intents to publish it, then played DOTA for another few days, so there are original comments and some with more experience. They may contradict. Good luck with that.
Impression 1: DOTA is the Anti Call of Duty
What is gaming’s biggest pet peeve right now? Actually, we might have to go down that list quite a ways, past DRM, and past tacked on multiplayer. I would say past EA and Microsoft, but gamers love those companies for giving them such great grounds for a circle jerk, so they are lower on the list than homogenizing games. Games today play to the lowest common denominator. Look at Call of Duty: Any player can pick up the game and have fun with it. The worst player could (in theory) get the drop on the best and kill them with a lucky headshot. The first time you play, you will probably rank up at least 3 times that match. And that feels really, really good.
Not DOTA. You want to play DOTA? Shut up. No you don’t. You want to learn DOTA. If you have never played a MOBA before and have this game, play it. Go online, or even against bots and play it. Try and have fun. You can’t, you loser. If you do not know the mechanics, if you do not know the keybindings, the game will knock you on your ass faster than Zidane in a headbutt contest. He still relevant? Whatever.
But here is the thing: This is actually incredibly refreshing. I don’t think I have ever seen a game even try as be this complicated before, and that makes it feel special. For instance: each character has 3 abilities and 1 ultimate, except characters that have 4 or 5 abilities, and the one guy who has ten ultimates. TEN! Any game that was meant to be distributed to the stereotypical/imagined dudebro shooter crowd could never have a guy with ten ultimates that you can to memorize and control There wouldn’t be items with paragraphs of text describing what they do. If the designers think something might be cool, it seems like they throw it in there, and that is incredibly cool! It has made me reading through wikis nightly to see what each item and each hero can do, then getting hyped up into playing one more match.
Look, I don't even know where to click to start playing
Fortunately, we have a tutorial. Except....
Impression 2: The Tutorial Kinda Blows Chunks
(update: tutorial was updated after I did this. Previous opinion stands. Haven’t done the new one)
The game knows you won’t just roll up into a public game off the bat. Like every other game created, it has a nice tutorial level to ease you into the experience. It teaches you that right click moves/attacks, that you have 4 abilities, that you level up, and you can earn gold by last hitting monsters (more on this later, I pinky swear). Now you’re ready. After twenty minutes, you can take on the world! Except...it doesn’t explain any of the meta game. Just the (basic) controls. It teaches you how to ride a bike before telling you to go ahead and do RAGBRAI. I’m from Iowa. Look it up.
Impression 3: Everything in the game is 100% Counter Intuitive
Everything. Every mechanic, every detail goes against every fiber of my gamer being. Where to start? Lets talk about the creeps. A few facts: Creeps are neutral mobs that spawn and run down a lane, fighting whatever they find. If you get creeps next to a tower, you blow it up, and they can move further. Towers deal a ton of damage, and target whoever is next to it. Towers do not target you if there are creeps nearby. If you blow up all the towers on a lane, you can take out the enemy base. Taking out the enemy base wins the game.
taterchimp tactical mode engaged: objective - destroy base. Assistance: creeps draw tower aggro. Calculating....calculating...calculating....taterchimp mission: Kill all creeps, thus letting your creeps destroy towers, killing the base. Killing more creeps means I get more gold and more experience, allowing me to buy better gear and level up, giving me a tactical edge. Deploying all clicks, engage, engage!
See what I did wrong up there? I was trying to win the game. That isn’t what you do, not at all. That’s called pushing, a strategy reserved for the mid to late game. No, you want to just wait and let your creeps fight each other, and just kind of watch them do it. Sometimes, you want to kill your own creeps.
What? I repeat, what? My strategy is to kill my allies and not help them at all? In short, yes.
Because I hate my friends....I hate my friends so very very much
Impression 3.a: Last Hits
By being the last person to hit a creep, you get a certain amount of gold. Gold buys you items. At any given time, there is a small army of creeps fighting each other. Just let them go at it. Then, when a creep is almost dead, you go in and kill it. Otherwise, do not fight them. Just watch.
That is two things: 1. Really, really difficult. Enemy heroes, towers, melee creeps, and ranged creeps, and your own teammates can be trying to kill the creep for money as well, so you have to have crackerjack timing to do it correctly. According to guides online, you should be taking out 90% of creeps with the last hit. I would be lucky to be at 50% while I am trying.
Further impression on last hits: I have been playing as Pudge, and when you deal more damage and have a melee attack instead of ranged, last hitting is actually not too bad. I am still not anywhere close to good enough, but that is coming from AI denies (where you kill your own creep, so your enemy doesn’t get the money, and also receives a fraction of the EXP), which are just plain rude.
Impressions 3b: This Game is Boring as Dicks! (Updated at the end of the week: This Game Appears as Boring as Dicks!)
So, if you suck at last hits, you can support the other players with a support class. Here you gain 1 gold per second. Most ‘good’ gear costs 1000+. You didn’t have anything to do, right? (you can also kill heroes and towers for gold, but that is much rarer than holding your member in your hand, waiting to buy the uber loot). So what is your motivation to be ‘in the fight?’ If you are near an enemy mob when it dies, you gain experience.
Your job, most of the time, is to wait near your creep mob, steal a last hit if you can, or just gain exp. Most of the time you are doing this with players from the other team watching you as well. At any moment, they are in sight. Also, waiting with their junk in their hand for something to happen. It baffled me that there could be 4 players within spitting distance and not doing anything to each other. But thats how it goes quite a bit for me.
As mentioned above, this has another addendum: now that I understand the mechanics further, it is pretty interesting to be standing right across from your rival and trying to get your last hits, deny hit last hits, position for a kill, run away from his kill, and watch your team. Then there is the aspect of watching if his teammates and your teammates are in their lane, because they could be moving to kill or harass your guy, so you have to be ready to go, or you have to have the ability to stay in lane after harassing someone, and well....On the surface what you are doing if you are farming/supporting is really boring, but there is a level behind all of it that I do not yet comprehend, but is really starting to shine through!
Impression 3c: Lane Management
Ok, so if you last hit creeps you get gold. If you are by creeps, you get exp. This means that it is in your best interest to pull creeps closer to your tower, or to a spot where you can safely farm them. This means that you want to kill your own dudes. What? The entire game is basically Canadian Tug of War - two sides are saying ‘no, your guys can come over to our base and try and kill us’. By doing this, you can get your gold and exp. Then, after waiting around, comes the fun part: Now that the creep waves are meeting by your stuff, you harass the enemy players. This causes them to leave the lane, so you get more exp and gold, and so that their creeps can push deeper. This gives you an edge. By killing your own guys, you give yourself a tactical advantage (in the early game - this changes when you actually want to...you know...win).
Basically, if you aren’t familiar with the mechanics, you will play the game wrong. Not a foreign concept, but every game ever tells you ‘there is an enemy with a health bar, kill him until he is dead, unless he is on your team’. Oh, also, like never use your skills. That would be bad too.
My biggest problem at the end of the week is I have no idea when to stop lane management. You can basically be farming, keeping your lane where it is, or you can push to try and win. I don’t get when that switch “flips”. I let the AI decide. I imagine that there is some communication and you just do it when it feels right, baby.
Impression 4: What the Hell am I Doing?
You start up a game. There are (I don’t know the exact numbers) like 100 characters to pick from. You can sort them into type, but the jargon is...jargon. Carry, support, nuke, jungler...I had no clue. So I picked the cool looking guy. Then, you have a gold pool to start a match with. You open up the shop and...this game....this game has like 200 items.
You know what...Ill have a...uh....big mac? Is that a thing?
With 100 characters and 200 items (again, don’t know the exact number), how the hell are you supposed to know what to do? Also, each character has 3 skills and 1 Ultimate skill (usually), and you have to know what each does, and how each one levels. The game actually handles this very well, to its credit, by allowing you to pick a guide for you character. It highlights which skill you should level up when, and tells you what to buy for each stage of the game. It makes it really easy to not mess up with a character. Still possible to mess up overall though.
So lets say you know a character. Great! And you have items for him! Even better. Now you see a giant flying snake monster coming towards you.
Is this Snake Monster a: Nuker (player killer), Carry (lategame awesome dude), Disabler, or a Support role? Good thing you know what each character is and all their movesets by now.
Snake Monster can slow you down so you can’t run away from him while he kills you viciously. Always next time. Now you know one of Snake Monster’s moves though! With a game like Street Fighter you have expectations: grapple, fireball, combo. With DOTA? It’s all on the table. One character’s ultimate is that after a few seconds, he just comes back to life. Further on this point, if you are playing a ganker (player killer) you should be ganking their carry. So you have to know all 5 of your opponents, and which one is the hard carry and the soft carry so you can kill them specifically. Again, all you have to do is know 100 heroes. That’s less than the table of elements, so I’m sure you have that under control, right?
Next, the 200 items. There are a ton of items, and as I mentioned above, each can have a miniature novel telling you what it does when it is turned off. And items can be used to build more items. This means that you have to know beforehand that you want to build X for your character, so you have to buy a, b, and c. But don’t buy that at the start of the game! No, that is reserved for early game items, which are like really terrible versions of your late game items! To be frank, I understand that this all makes sense, and that the meta has been established, but part of me still doesn’t understand. Now that I am getting better farm (earning more gold), I appreciate it a bit more, but it is still based on trust more than knowledge. These are things that would be ‘good to know’ to ‘essential’ when playing the game. This brings me to point five...
Impression 5: No Way This Game Is Balanced
Nobody cared who I was until I was put on the roster
100 characters, and all of them are viable? I don’t buy it. I have played probably a dozen characters, and there are a few that are cute, but are useless in practice. The abilities just are not on par with the top tier characters., so I imagine that there are probably about 50% unused heroes. I don’t have much else to throw out there. (Snake Monster is OP.)
Impression 6: The Community is Dickish, Because you are in Their House
Confession: I still haven’t played a public match. I do not intend to for another week. At first, when hearing about the community and how much hatred it has for new players, and how caustic the players can be, I was turned off from it. But really? I kind of get it. Best case scenario: those guys have put in their time, they understand the game, and they need a good team to work with. Pretty much at any given time there are 3 games going on at once: the top, the mid, and the bottom, and if you are bringing down one of those games, your bring down all the others. If you are pushing when you shouldn’t be, if you are buying items wrong, if you aren’t supporting your carry, you have come into the game unprepared. You aren’t making the team run at 80%, you are making your lane run at 0-50%, which lets the other team put on pressure, which makes all the lanes fail. Every player should be filling a role, and every time someone doesn’t, the game is lost.
I know that if I keep down this road, I will be one of the guys yelling at teammates. It will not be because of their lack of skill, but because it is easier to blame your team than it is to blame your skill, and if I see someone soloing a lane with only 20 last hits after 15 minutes, they aren’t doing their part. They aren’t contributing to our success like they should be. And this could have been fixed with a different choice of hero, different builds, different items, different laning, or a million other things. This is a game that at its highest level is played with 4 people you trust, in the same room, communicating. I don’t know where I’m going with this anymore, but long story short: I get why people get pissed. This is their community, and there are a lot of things to love.
Suck on that, ROBOTS
Impression whatever: The Procs are MLG Pro Level
I literally just found this out, and it kind of blew my mind. So some items have a percent chance of ability, say a 2 second stun has a 25% chance to hit. Well, using normal random number generation you could, in theory, miss the proc 20 times in a row for it. This game implements a system that still keeps the odds at 1 in 4, but guarantees you will hit in less than 12 hits with it. How? They increase your percent chance each time you miss for it to proc, but start it off well below, I believe at 8.5%, then the next swing is 17%, the next is 25.5%, etc, and the overall result is, on average, 1 in 4, but in practice, never more than 10. After it procs, your odds to back to 8.5%. The reason? You don’t want players to rely on luck.
That is INSANE.
I could keep going on and on. Basically, I have a pretty huge adoration for this game, if only from watching it from afar. Peering at just how deep this game goes is truly a humbling experience. I already feel like I will really grow to love the game more and more as time goes on, maybe even more as I get online. My hopes are that my training makes it so I can breeze past a few matches, dominating people who haven’t put in their due diligence, but I fear that I will realize just how quickly I can be outclassed. This game has potential to be anyone’s most played game, and for good reason.
That being said, this game is in NO WAY designed for everyone. If someone ever says “I shouldn’t have to study for a month to play a game” they are totally right. This game is ridiculous. It is not pick up and play, it is not fun, it is not easy. And people play games for different reasons, and many times people just want what is fun and what is easy. Typically after rage quitting DOTA, I have been playing Borderlands 2 as a Sniper. Sit back, point, shoot, watch the crits fly. It feels empowering, it feels relaxing, but it also feels....hollow. It is crisps compared to the deconstructed poutine with white truffle aioli on it. People shouldn’t have to try to get into it, people shouldn’t have to do their research to figure out how to enjoy it...but once you do. There is no turning back.
You guys? I love this game.
(All screenshots are from my latest victory over the robot team on medium difficulty. I had a bkb, and a force staff, and an urn of shad-oh dear god I'm becoming one of them aren't I?)