Consider this an unofficial memory card: the most hype I have ever been for a PvP game. I will do my best to explain the jargon as I go. Also, no pictures. It's late, and I wanted to post this while I was still hype about it. I will try and find the video of the match at some point to post in here. UPDATE: Full video up below now! Hooray!
As some of you may well know, this weekend is the International 3, a DOTA tournament where the best of the best play it out for a 2 million dollar purse. As an amatuer player, this has been fascinating to watch in some regards, and frustrating in others. Overall, the entire affair is an extraordinary mix of entertaining and exciting, and a game tonight brought me to the most hype that I have ever been. Daigo in Street Fighter coming back with a perfect series of parries? It was flawless. It was technically executed in an absolutely perfect manner. The exquisite mixture of knowledge and execution. Na’Vi against Tong Fu? That had soul.
Part of the reason why I said above that the invitation was frustrating is because of a stale metagame. Before each match begins, each team gets to draft their team. This starts with each team banning two heroes, so neither team may pick, then picking two heroes. This process is then repeated one at a time until each team has five heroes. There are strategies, so naturally the teams are trying to set up their team to beat what they perceive the other team’s strategy is by picking counters to the enemies picks. What has been disappointing is that this stage is annoyingly predictable. Out of a pool of 100 heroes, I would say that 50 have never been picked or banned. Of the remaining 50, I would say that there are probably six that have been represented in every single game: Razor, Weaver, Alchemist, Visage, Nature’s Prophet, Io....When I initially said the game seemed unbalance due to the nature of how many heroes are available, people got rather defensive, which I understand. Each character is a viable choice....on some level. At a professional level though? Clearly not so much.
Then comes Na’Vi. If you follow Street Fighter, I would compare Na’Vi to Poongko: they are the showmen of the event, and represent an equal part of dickish trolling and a profound understanding of the game and mechanics. In all the matches I had watched in the preliminaries, my favorite hero was never picked or banned. But a member of Na’Vi, Dendi, has perfected that hero: Pudge. And game one, they drafted the lovable Pudge.
So, for those not in the know, here is a rundown of what Pudge does: his signature ability is to throw out a meat hook that moves the hero to Pudge, where he can slow and kill them with his body odor, auto attacks, and by his ultimate where he eats the enemy, leaving them stunned while he deals massive damage. His final ability makes him stronger by every single kill he makes. The biggest thing with the meat hook is that it is a skill shot: you can aim it at where a hero is, or you can aim it at the ground, but unlike many attacks it can miss. You can totally whiff, use the mana, and the ability will go on cooldown. With all that, his impact on the game isn’t just in his skillset. Its fear. DOTA uses a fog of war, meaning that a hero can be behind trees, behind a wall, or just plain invisible. The hook has about a screen long range, enough to make it so that any place, any time, you could get hooked and eaten.
Nowhere was this fear more apparent than in game one. After landing hook after hook, Pudge had grown out of control. He was usually able to solo kill any hero, while his team ran in to do the rest of the fighting. He would hang out in the forest by the enemies tower, waiting for his moment to strike, then pull a hero where no teammate could save them. After the sixth hook or so, TongFu was defending their tower by hiding in the trees next to it. At the end of the game, Pudge had a majority of Na’Vi’s kills, and the Radiant team had only lost one of their 9 towers. It was a slaughter. More importantly, it was hilarious to watch. As Na’Vi put pressure on the barracks (the innermost defense for each team, and a large prize for the opposition), TongFu had to sit a screen away or else face the butcher. In all the games in the tournament, I had seen teams be cautious, but I had never seen a team look so scared. Through the microphones on the main stage, you can hear the crowd chanting for Na’Vi, chanting for Dendi, chanting for hooks.
Game two wrote a different story. Pudge was replaced by Puck (another hero that wasn’t chosen before that point, by the way), so I began to catch up on other aspects of the internet, turning away from this game a bit. The draft was heavily in TongFu’s favor, as Na’Vi had too few ways to stop their lineup, including their carry, the Anti Mage. In a mere 38 minutes, TongFu had taken the round by snowballing out of control.
It all came down to match three.
Na’Vi began their draft with Chen and Alchemist against TongFu’s Gyro and Dark Seer. So far, 4 heroes that no one would call surprising. TongFu pick Visage. Na’Vis turn to pick. The commentators are mentioning that Pudge wouldn’t look good in this lineup, so they wonder who Dendi will pick to play. As the seconds tick by, and the commentators discuss the merits of the regular lineup, Na’Vi makes their pick. Pudge. The crowd goes nuts. Despite it being a pick that wasn’t excellent for the matchup, the showmen of the tournament take the hero anyway.
For a while, the game seems back and forth. TongFu has a trilane (3 heroes in one lane) against the Alchemist, trying to cut down his farm. Pudge is taking mid against Dark Seer, which is a fairly poor matchup. The Nyx assassin tries to come to mid to help Pudge, but at the sake of his own exp. Meanwhile, Windrunner and Chen are holding their own at the top. The game, while fairly even, is clearly favoring TongFu. Not only are they outplaying their opponents, and a foundational level, the draft seems to have gone better for them. As the game goes on, Na’Vi is losing ground, and Pudge is losing momentum. Constantly missing hooks, often in critical situations. Na’Vi has two remaining outer towers to TongFu’s five.
Then Na’Vi deploy their not so secret weapon: Chen and Pudge. See, when Pudge’s hook hits someone, it drags the target back to Pudge, wherever he might be. And Chen, as luck would have it, has an ability that sends an allied unit back to base, specifically to the fountain - an area that regenerates the allies health and mana constantly. Oh, also, it has an insanely damaging death turret, to discourage spawn camping. So the idea is that Pudge throws his hook, and as it lands, he gets teleported back to base. This makes the enemy move from wherever they were to the enemy base, in front of the death fountain. Then Pudge begins to eat them. It is doubly hilarious because the hook isn’t instant, so you can watch the hooked hero fly across the entire map, able to do nothing but wait for his untimely demise. This is known as “Fountain Hooking”. It is basically a ‘glitch’ that Valve has stated they will not fix. The main reason for this is because Chen’s send back has a short delay (3 seconds at the highest level), and Pudge’s hook has a significant chance to miss. So you have the coordination, the timing, and the accuracy, plus you are wasting two skills to do it, and the result is basically to insta-kill any hero. This strategy is reserved for public matches against unorganized teams to troll them. Na’Vi was trolling people in a tournament worth two million dollars. And boy, did they suck at it.
As mentioned above, fountain hooking is difficult to execute. Sometimes, Chen would send back Pudge too early, meaning he was back at base and had to walk back to the potentially 4 on 5 battle. Other times, the hook would be off target, so again, Pudge would have to walk back into the action. The rare chance that the hook did land though? Hilarious. Absolutely nuts. At about the third hook, I had enough entertainment where I was OK with Na’Vi just getting crushed. They were clearly just having fun with the game, doing what they could to make it a show. TongFu had map control - their base wasn’t in immediate danger, the enemy team was on the backfoot, defending what remained of their towers. There are two things you can do with map controls: Push the barracks and go for the win, or take Roshan so you can push the barracks and go for the win.
Roshan, for those who don’t know, is a power neutral monster in the center of the map. Generally, the entire team has to spend about 15 seconds or so to take him down. The area of the map is rather small, meaning that if the other team knows you are fighting him, they can box you in and then try and steal Roshan for themselves. What does Roshan do? He gives each member of the team a moderate amount of gold and a decent amount of exp. He also drops the Aegis of the Immortal. This item lets a hero resurrect to full health and mana on death. Often, taking Roshan is the means to an end: if your unstoppable hero has the Aegis, that means the enemy team has to kill him twice, and often they spend all their burst damage and spells to take him down, leaving 4 other members perfectly intact. TongFu took Roshan, and put the Aegis on the Gyrocopter.
Immediately after getting the Aegis, TongFu begin to barrel down to the bot lane where they intend to take a lane of barracks. As soon as the fight begins, Pudge lands a hook on Gyro, and is sent back to base. Immediately, the Gyro dies. The commentators move focus back to the fight that is going on with the rest of the teams. Na’Vi is forced to retreat, but no heroes die. The Gyro resurrects, then immediately dies again in the fountain. The Aegis did nothing. At this point, Na’Vi begins to farm gold, finally able to move outside of their own base. Alchemist is able to complete a key item, and they begin to get some control back. After a few minutes, another engagement starts to happen on the Dire’s top lane. Immediately, Pudge hooks the Visage and is sent back to base. The initial salvo of spells get slung, but now that the Alchemist has Basher, the fight favors Na’Vi. And not slightly. One by one, the heroes of TongFu fall, and Na’Vi get an entire team wipe. Wasting no time, the whole team comes down the mid lane and takes a free tier two tower. Then they take the tier three tower in TongFu’s base, putting them officially ahead in towers. As heroes are coming back into the game, and some even buying back into the game, the Alchemist is chopping away at the melee barracks in a daring, suicidal position. As the team fight starts up again inside of TongFu’s base, Pudge hooks another hero out of the fight, but not to tower. Then, the alchemist quickly takes down the now respawned Gyro. With some commotion, Na’Vi comes out ahead: 4 for nothing. Na’Vi take both barracks. The commentators look at the gold and experience graphs: Na’Vi has made up a 7,500 gold deficit, and swung the exp from a 5,000 deficit to a 5,000 surplus in a matter of minutes, and at the cost of no heroes. One of the two commentators is left completely speechless. The other seems to be unable to sit down in his chair. The entire game has just turned around, roles completely reversed. The crowd are on their feet, chanting out Na’Vi.
Immediately, the move to the bottom and take the tier 1 and tier 2 towers. Finally, the team moves to the top lane where yet another team fight begins, and just a quickly ends with yet another team wipe. Na’Vi finish up the outer set of towers, and start in on the top barracks, and find no resistance. Pudge and Nyx both start to roam through the enemy base looking for heroes to kill, then decide better of it and move to the bottom lane of barracks, which are quickly destroyed. Again, for those not in the know, by destroying all the barracks for the other team, Na’Vi had won Mega Creeps - all of their NPC allies gain an enormous boost to health and damage, pushing out each lane further and further. As the fight continues, Pudge hooks an enemy in their own fountain and is sent back to his fountain. The commentators follow Visage as he flies helplessly across the map where he meets his demise.
Moments later, the teams meet in the middle. After a brief encounter, result in nothing but health lost, Pudge returns to bail out Chen by eating the enemy Doombringer. As Doom dies, TongFu come up in the chat:
Where to begin? First of all, DOTA has only one recovery mechanic built in: The Divine Rapier. It is also an enormous risk. Generally, when a team begins to win, they continue to win by pressuring the gold and experience advantage. Up until the Gyro died, the match was looking like it was all TongFu’s game. In the context of DOTA, a comeback of this proportion is nothing short of amazing.
But look at how they came back. They used the most dickish maneuver in the game, a two hero insta kill combo. The announcers were joking that if their best source of damage is their fountain, they seem to be in a bit of trouble. But in ten minutes, using this stupid tactic, they turned the game around in literally THE MOST ENTERTAINING WAY POSSIBLE. If they had just been able to stabalize and eventually chip away at the tower it would have been cool, but not engaging. The way they did it had me literally laughing out loud at each hook, and made the game seem like....well...a game! It was silly, it was fun, and it was everything that DOTA isn’t! Na’Vi weren’t just playing a game, they were putting on a show. They had a stupid lineup, a stupid strategy, a stupid comeback, and they executed every part of it incredibly well.
Afterwards, there was a game debrief with a group of commentators/anchors/gamers/whatever. One was clearly flustered. The better team had just clearly lost because of an exploit. He did his best to rationalize, on TongFu’s behalf, that it was a legitimate strategy, but you could tell he was personally upset by it. They asked if this move made them respect Na’Vi more or less, and opinions were clearly split.
Finally, the team name Na’Vi is an abbreviation for Natus Vincere: Born to Win. The pretentious. trollish, dickish, assholish team used a combination of grace and stupidity in what was probably the most hype thing I have ever seen.
So the other day, I posted my craziest heroes in DOTA 2, and today I wanted to follow up with the related item list. As with before, I will try to keep the jargon to a minimum so that anyone can follow along, but MOBA knowledge is appreciated, and DOTA knowledge is better. But not too much. Then you will make me look like an idiot. Also, I usually play a support class instead of a carry, so there are many, many items that I just don’t get the chance to deal with.
(Ok, so I lied, jargon section: I played Viper tonight against medium bots. I finally mastered the art of the Alt Q, and managed to get probably about 8 of the first 10 runes of the game in my bottle. I had a Manta, Butterfly, and Heart farmed up under the 30 minute mark, and was at 20 kills with no deaths. Snowballing carries is probably the most fun thing in the game. Shame I am too bad at last hitting to do so reliably, but at the current pub skill level, I think I could take solo mid, especially if I could communicate proper warding of the rune spots.)
To apologize for the above, you can purchase items that do a wide variety of things. Some are fairly tame, such as the ones that heal you, or restore your mana, and there are some that are just plain bonkers - adding a reliable disable, giving a character a powerful nuke, or allowing you to bottle battle-swinging runes. However, there are six items that I feel exemplify just how nutty this game can be. One frame of reference for those of you who don’t play (and shame on you - its free), 1 creep is worth about 50 gold, and a hero typically goes for about 300. You can 1 gold per second (give or take). Finally, each item listed is made up of several other items, and occasionally a recipe for them item. I don't list a lot of the stat boosts for the item, because feelings are boring and kissing is awesome.
Item 1: Boots Of Travel (Cost: 2450)
Boots of Travel (abbreviated to BoT, because DOTA players don’t have time to spell ANYTHING, even when writing up a blog), not to be confused with bot, the bottom lane of the map, also known as the long lane if you are the Radiant or the safe line of you are DIre, and not to be confused with bots, AI controller hero characters. Follow? Yeah. Where was I? Oh right, BoTs.
To understand why BoTs are cool, you have to understand why teleport scrolls (tp scroll/tp - I often call out that I need tp for my bunghole when they are on cooldown...usually not in pub games, but hey, it happens) are good. With proper teleports, you can move to any tower you still have up, or back to your base. This allows you to contest towers, get involved in teamfights, help with pushes, and possibly split push (apply pressure to multiple lanes).
BoTs let you do all that while also not taking up an extra slot in your inventory (as some kind of boots are assumed on any character), but they also allow you to teleport to any creep location. This may sounds mundane, unless you are into Radiohead, but in reality, this expands the utility of your teleportation in a few key ways. First, assume your team sucks and all your towers are down. You now have added mobility across the map to wherever the creep line is. This typically means that you can push that lane out, and take enemy towers. Now imagine if the creep line is at the enemy barracks...you can be right there to take those suckers down. Finally, if you die in a large team fight in the enemy base, you can buy back and BoT your way over to the base again to rejoin the fight. This one item takes you from a presence in your lane to a presence across the map.
Item 2: Abyssal Blade (Cost: 6750)
There are about 4 things that make this item the certified nutter butters, so I will touch on each of them. First of all, when you spawn at level 1, your base damage is typically between 40 and 70 points of damage. Having ‘a lot’ of health is typically around the 3,500 range, give or take. This item provides an additional 100 damage to your character. Typically you will have somewhere in the 100-200 range of damage on purchase, so it isn’t super drastic, but it is one of the larger damage boosts in the game. But this sucker does so much more....
The weapon itself has a 2 second stun built in that can be triggered at super close range. One of the more common ‘strategies’ in DOTA is stun locking - each player using skills to keep an enemy unable to perform any action. It is super annoying, and this weapon adds another free stun to a character who, as mentioned above, is the equivalent of Popeye on Spinach. Which is cool. But it costs you mana to activate, and it has a cooldown which kind of sucks....
...but it also has a 25% chance on melee heroes to auto stun for 1.4 seconds. Just in case you thought you could escape. Were you planning on fighting? Wrong answer, you are out for 2 seconds, then probably another 3 seconds before the fight is over. Running away? Sure you are. (Unless you have a force staff - an item that automatically moves you a certain amount of units in whatever direction you are facing.)
The final thing I wanted to touch on with this weapon is the 25% chance. DOTA doesn’t believe in luck, it believes in fate. This is why any item or ability that has a chance to trigger (chance to trigger? That’s wayyy too many characters. Proc. Thats better. proc proc proc) doesn’t rely on such mortal ideas as statistics. Assuming a truely random situation, you could miss twenty times in a row with the Abyssal Blade's bash ability. So the folks behind DOTA introduced a system where your chance increases each time you miss, ultimately culminating in a 100% chance to proc after X attacks. This, naturally, equates to about a 25% chance over a large sample size. This game is that nuts, guys.
Item 3: Sheepstick! (Cost: 5675)
Ok, so it is only colloquially referred to as a sheepstick, and google thinks its a word, but the real name is the Scythe of Vyse. Now remember up above, when I said that the Abyssal Blade was cool because it had a 2 second stun built in? Well sheepstick manages to one up the Abyssal Blade by having a 3.5 second stun. Cue the chorus of ooer.
This stun does come with a rather amusing bonus, however - first of all, the range increases from ~170 (basically on top of someone) to 800 (basically on top of between 4 and 5 people). The biggest advantage of hexing is that the enemy cannot gain exp, but they also can’t run, use items, cast spells, or basically do anything useful. Considering how fast paced some of the fights go, doing this at range at the start of the fight is pretty crazy.
...alright, you got me, I just like to say sheepstick. SHEEPSTICK!
Item 4: Black King Bar (Cost: 3900)
I think Torgue said it best: That was too many syllables! Apologize! The BKB is a fantastic utility item, and was placed on this list specifically at this point for impact: remember the Abyssal Blade? This gives +24 damage. Hellz yeah. Oh wait, I mean remember the Blade? Remember sheepstick? Remember how I said that fights in DOTA are extremely quick, and how I implied that 5 seconds is an eternity in a fight? The BKB gives you magic immunity for ten seconds*. That’s right, ten whole seconds to do whatever you want to do**. Ten seconds where no ultimate can touch you***. Anytime, anywhere****
*Time varies upon use
**Unless you want to be targeted by magic
*** Except the ones that can
**** Offer not valid outside of the US, does not include Hawaii, Alaska, or Utah (you know what you did, Utah).
The BKB has an ability that grants magic immunity for a period of time that decreases the more you use it, to a minimum of 5 seconds. However, every single fight in DOTA should begin with a series of disables on the enemy heroes. This throws a cog into the mix. Now if you are caught solo, the enemy team has to kite you until it runs out, and hope you don’t kill them first. If you are in a teamfight, you are immune to some of the game’s most potent disables. Depending on the lineup you are against, this one item can neuter the entire enemy team for just long enough to get you by. Also, no sheepstick. No more space chickens. No more tail.. No AB stun (bash still applies). It also provides some health and damage, which is nice.
Item Number 5: Shadow Blade (Cost: 3000)
If you don't know why this is related, we can't be friends
Shadow Blade is made up of two parts, and I felt like that was worth mentioning. The first item lets you turn completely invisible as long as you are standing still. A little background on why this amuses me: My favorite character is Pudge. He can send a meathook flying across the screen then he literally kills whoever he grabs through a combination of body odor and eating them. The ability to have this fat stinky monstrosity stand invisibly at the sidelines waiting to eat a hero just makes me giggle.
However, when combined with a sword, it allows you to turn invisible for 12 seconds and move at the same time, with a 20% move speed bonus. If you have been paying attention you should already realize that you can use this to sneak up on people, chase down fleeing heroes, or run away from your aggressors. Factor in the most magic doesn’t target invisible units, and you have a powerful ability. Now take into account that the meta game focuses on if people are or are not in the lane, and you can surprise your own lane or ambush another lane, and you have a versatile item. Finally, this weapon gives you an additional +150 damage if you attack while cloaked (which stops the cloak).
Item Number 6: Divine Rapier (Cost: 6200)
Context. Context is very important. That is why I have tried to establish so much throughout this blog a few key facts. Remember what the starting damage I said was? Near the 50 mark. Remember how much the Abyssal Blade added? +100. The most damage I have ever seen on a livestream for a tournament is about 350 per attack.
The Divine Rapier. This weapon. This weapon, guys. It is just....absurd. In Magic The Gathering, there are cards that are defined as “Win More” cards. Cards that have an ability that have a cost so prohibitive that they can never be used unless you are already in the lead. Things that see no tournament play, as their cost to benefit is just too low. But when that effect lands, it blows everything out of the water.
There was a football game I saw online, and losing team was behind in the 4th quarter by 19 points, after they had just scored. They fired off one onside kick. Recovered. Touchdown. Down by 12.
Kickoff. Onside kick. Recovered. Touchdown. Down by 5.
Under two minutes left. Kickoff.
It was the miracle play. You listened to the announcers, you saw the energy the crowd had, you saw the other teams jaw hit the astro turf. You saw the energy coursing through the team that just minutes before was in an unwinnable position. Twenty seconds left. Kickoff. Received at the 10. Returned for a touchdown. They still lost. It was heartbreaking. The divine rapier is the onside kick. It is the DOTA 2 Hail Mary.
Full disclosure: I found this video after typing the above. Scores may be different. I'm bad at football. Deal with it.
PLUS 300 DAMAGE. BOOOOSH!
Three. Hundred. That is literally all it does. Some characters can get in multiple attacks per second, and in the case of Medusa, she has an ability that will attack 5 times automatically. This will boost your DPS in the realm of 500 damage per second. Why would you not buy this? Is it cost prohibitive? No. Does it slowly kill you while you use it? No. The only drawback is that if you die, you drop it, and the enemy team can recover it.
What kind of balls do you have to have to buy this? To spend the gold to either say ‘no one can kill me’ or ‘we are so far behind, this is the only way to come back’ just floors me. When a team is losing and they try it you immediately get hype. When a team is winning and they buy it, no matter what margin they are ahead, you scream out DONT DO IT. IT ISNT WORTH IT. It just amazes me that not only is this an item in the game, but it is an item that gets use, and is considered balance.
GIS Kawaii Pudge. There are results. Didn't expect that...then again, didn't NOT expect it
This game is crazy, guys. That’s what I’m trying to say. As with the last blog, feel free to let me know if you disagree with my opinions, or feel I left off an important insane item. I think refresher orb conditionally qualifies, and Linkens Sphere is cool guy that doesn’t afraid of anything. Manta Style is fun, especially on a carry, and just to sing Oppa Manta Style. I also find it amusing that so many items are the same as hero’s abilities, so you can actually put a gold value on the hero,
HEY! This is going to be (mostly) jargon free, so people can enjoy it! Yeah! Also, possibly not factually accurate, as I am still ‘newer’ at the game! Deal with it!
Forty two hours. That is how long I have been playing DOTA. Despite the Steam summer sale, despite a growing backlog of games, and despite exercise and a social life (just kidding!) I have managed to cram so many hours into playing this game. There is a lot to love with it, and I think a lot of it stems from knowledge and learning. See, I finished learning things for school about 4 years ago, and finished learning new skill sets for work about 2 years ago, and I just clearly have a hankering to figure out how something ticks. To this end, I have been sinking hours into watching pros play DOTA, playing the game myself (6 for 8 in pub matches, yay!), reading up on the game, learning the mechanics, the whole ten yards.
In my research, one of the biggest things that I found that I love about the game, is that it doesn’t care at all about how complex it is. In my mind, I wind up drawing a parallel between DOTA and Magic the Gathering. In MtG, you only have so much space on a card to print rules. You have to make it so that each card is easily understood so that you can draw in new players, and generally the most confusing ones are either the very rare, or the very old (not mutually exclusive). So generally, the mechanics never get too complex, it is how you use the set of basic tools at your disposal. Then you look at DOTA and realize that they just don’t care. If something is crazy complex, it is just expected that players will either learn it, random it, or not play it. I wanted to write this up to try and explain 5 of the most balls to the wall insane characters that they included in DOTA 2.
Character 1: Io the Wisp
But we've got the biggest/Balls of them all!
Hey, I have an idea. Instead of a character, lets create an item that a player controls. Not quite literally, but almost. Whereas most heroes signature abilities deal massive damage, summon fearsome monsters, and other such things, Io has a signature move where he...latches on to a friendly hero. Yeah. While tethered, any health or mana you regenerate is given to your ally as well, with a 50% boost. Nifty. Io can also increase attack speed and reduce damage taken at the cost of its own health, which again applies to any tethered allies. Third, Io is able to summon wisps that circle you in a radius of your choosing.
Now, where things get interesting is how this applied: Io is mostly there to follow a character who could use better health/mana/attack speed and just help them out. If an enemy comes by? The tether ability also has a stun if the enemy walks into it. This means that you usually have a floating frat boy - waits until you are passed out, then he and his buddy shove balls into your face. The rate of his buddy’s ball shoving is augmented, meaning that ganks are pretty fast paced with Io around. This generally is best if done on a single target, and you may be able to get 2 if your partner has a good stun in his repertoire. But you know what? You can almost always find someone alone. You know why?
Io’s ultimate lets him teleport himself and an ally anywhere on the map. Boop. There. You can show up anywhere, anytime, stun someone, then kill their ass. But its ok, because you can only stay there for 12 seconds before you and anyone tethered to you is sent back. Except that is 1. a perfect time frame for killing someone then running away, and 2. you can break your own tether. So not only can you drop in on someone and kill them, you can also leave your buddy there to cause further havoc, or just give them a free trip around the map to push a lane, defend a lane, get in a team fight....this ball can do it all.
Character 2: Invoker
So apparently this list is just whoever has more balls. Next character has foooour balls. Oooooer.
Ok, so remember how each character has 4 abilities? Invoker has 12. Next hero.
Naturally, just kidding. What does Invoker do? More like what doesn’t he do? To go back to an analogy just to make this even more esoteric than it already it, my mind goes back to Magic: utility is almost always a good thing. To begin with, he has 3 spells that he can stack up to 3 times each. These provide the same bonus that the related stats would give (HP, mana, attack speed, etc), but the combination he has active at any time determines his 4th ability. At any point, he can invoke his current stacks to create a new spell, with up to 2 spell slots.
Using these skills, Invoker can: freeze enemies, turn invisible, summon a wall of ice, attack an enemy’s mana, summon a disabling tornado, buff an ally, fire a GLOBAL nuke, summon monsters, summon a meteor from the heavens, or stun and disarm all enemies within a radius.
The only question is what do you want to do with this guy? Do you need to push a creep wave forward? He can do that. Do you want to hide in the shadows and stalk your prey? He is more than ready. Do you need to help your team win fights? How? By disabling the team, preventing their escape, nuking the entire area, or just chasing down survivors. He can literally do it all, and all you as the player have to know is the exact combination of his skills give each ability, and how to properly read every moment of the game to determine which to level up, which spell to have on deck, and when to switch spells. Oh, and you have to worry about the map, creeps, ganks, and enemy heroes. Good luck with that.
Character Number 3: Tinker
No cool semi official artwork for this guy? What gives, random DOTA wiki I sourced for images.
By now, I’m sure you get the general idea of how these are going to go, so I am sure you are on the edge of your seats as far as what the next hero is. Well, unfortunately, this guy is pretty boring: He can fire a lazor that blinds the enemy, shoot rockets, and summon a tidal wave of robots. Yawn. The rockets have crazy long range and are annoying as a pube in your toothbrush at six AM, but really, his skillset isn’t anything to write home about.
Except (agian) the ultimate. Unlike some characters who teleport across the map, or deal 1,000 damage, his ultimate is that...(wait for it)....all his abilities come off cool down. Oh. Well. Now he can shoot 4 rockets! Well butter my backside and call me a biscuit, four? GG guys, we are done here. Now this allows him to do a few obvious things: the first is rocket harassment, but now it is up to the level of ‘lone mosquito at night when you have insomnia’ levels of harassment. However, now his tidal wave of robots becomes an incredible tool for eliminating creep waves, and deterring enemies from attacking due to a very large AoE. But wait, there’s more! His ultimate doesn’t just take his skills off cooldown...it works on items as well.
First off, there is an item in the game called boots of travel. This lets you warp to any tower that you still have up on the map, your base, or any allied creep. This means at any point, you can get to any unprotected creep wave, and clear out the enemy creeps for gold, exp, and just to be a douche. Ordinarily, the boots have a 60 second cooldown (as do all teleports). However, with Tinker, they have a 0 second cooldown after your ultimate. This means you can teleport to one lane, push it out to the tower, then move to another lane and repeat. Well you could, if it wasn’t for the fact that it costs a large amount of mana to recharge all abilities. If only your base restored all of your mana super quickly....ohwaitittotallydoes. Booyah! So now you are all over the map, pushing out all the waves. You don’t even need a team.
Would you believe me if I said it gets better? I feel like I need Billy Mays here because there is totally more! There are two items in the game that disable an opponent (one by turning him into a pig/sheep/chicken) and one that sends them up in the air for a few seconds. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could chain those together with a large AoE robot army of death marching underneath your hapless foe? In theory you can lock an opponent down for as long as you have mana, which in this game shouldn’t ever have to be more than 10 seconds. All this time, 4 other players are apparently doing something, but who cares what else?
Character the 4th: Specter
In a long tradition of 'the model looks very little like the artwork'
Allow me to set the scene for you: one of the most important meta aspects of DOTA is map awareness. If you know where each enemy hero is or isn’t you can plan around then moving to gank a hero, if you should be pushing a lane, or if you should be pushing with your teammates. Lets say you are in your lane, alone, but its cool because you pushed out the creep wave, and there are zero heroes mia (missing in action you filthy, uncooperative, scrub plebeian jerkwad). So you are safe, yeah? Nah.
Suddenly, every single one of your teammates is being attacked by Spectre. She just...showed up. It is clear that these are illusions, taking extra damage, dealing less than they should, but often they are buffed with Radiance, a 50 damage per second weapon, so they are burning your team alive. Then, suddenly, your illusion becomes real. The hero teleports in, slows you, the devours your face. And you thought you were safe.
Spectre’s ability is literally to attack everyone on the map with an illusion, revealing their position, doing damage, carrying auras, and yes, whenever Spectre wants to, she can teleport in to strike the target of her choosing. Holy. Crap. If you didn’t know that a hero could do that, how much would you just crap your pants? Even knowing that a hero can do that, how do you ever not stand in a group of five people, huddled together near your own towers, hoping that the nightmare just goes away?
So to talk about tactics, this is another global teleport move, and more than just that, one that gives perfect information about every member of the enemy team. You can pick off a hero of your choosing (Spectre is a carry, so she shouldn’t have problem outclassing a hero of her choice if they are alone) at any time you have your ultimate up. With some clever knowledge of the situation, you can dominate a team fight with a timely backstab, kill a lone hero defending a tower from a creep wave, or just get into any fight, anywhere, any time. Oh, and I guess the character has three other abilities. Whatever.
Character V: Meepo
Winning the competition solely by being an enormous ponce
Out of all of the 100+ characters in the game, Meepo is the one that astounds me the most. Sure, Invoker may require technical skill, Io can bring an ally to any spot on the map, Spectre can frighten an entire team, and Tinker can dominate an entire map by himself. But Meepo? Meepo stands alone.
Each character listed above requires you to focus on your character’s position on the map, the enemies position, where the creep wave is, if you should be farming in the nuetral camps, how much health you have, what your mana consumption is like, all that good stuff. Meepo (potentially) forces you to make all of these calculations and observations five times over. How? Again, in the power of the ultimate: Meepo’s ultimate is that there are an increasing number of him, to a maximum of 5. Meaning that your character is now equal size to your team at the start of the game.
This means that at any point, you could be managing last hits in a lane, jungling nuetral creeps, setting up ganks, and attacking a tower...simultaneously. Two big deals: All Meepo’s share experience and gold, and if one dies, they all die. Huh. I, uh....I never want to randomly pick this guy, huh? Because while I am having an ADD nightmare, I am sure that at least one of me will die. Except that (yet again), every single Meepo can teleport to any other Meepo. This also does damage. Well that is a nice skill, what else can he do? Each Meepo can throw a net, stunning the enemy and completely disabling them. This lasts for 2 seconds. Per Meepo. 10 seconds, assuming perfect play, where the enemy can do absolutely nothing except get attacked by at least 4 heroes, and up to 8. Wut. I repeat: wut. Even if they do manage to escape the nets, he has a passive ability that slows enemies while dealing damage over time, so it quickly becomes a hazing ritual of five Meepos bashing your butt redder than an embarrassed ape.
Throwing out one more thing (which I believe to be true): Auras are stacked on all Meepo clones. The Assault Curiass gives an aura graning +5 armor (five times) and an Aura of -5 armor (five teams) to all enemies. Certifiable bananas.
Finally, for those who are curious (no one), no particular order I am finding I really enjoy Centaur Warrunner, Pudge, Vengeful Spirit, Earthshaker, and Lich. I also played my first game where we had 5 languages between 5 teammates - English, Russian, Spanish, French, and (what I assume to be) Chinese. Good times.
So, experts of DOTA, do you agree? Who would you include? Newbies, want to add anyone to the list? Participants who don’t care about DOTA, are you curious now, or just plain scared?
I was recently trying to think of what I could have as my choice in weapon for the DToid FNF super mega ulta fight image, and was thinking through every game that has been special to me, and uniquely special to me. Sure, I like Dark Souls, I am a fan of Earthbound, Mario, Sonic, and pretty much the majority of iconic weapons. The Master Sword crossed my mind, but I thought of one that made me laugh a bit: Bubble Bobble. Encasing his foes in a bubble, then popping them into an ice cream cone. Then I reflected just how personal that game was to me. It has been with me for my entire life, without hyperbole. So I figured I would share the magical journey of Bub, Bob, and taterchimp with you all.
So this story begins, like many people’s stories, with me being born. I was born in 1988, which was also the year that my parents first picked up their super special awesome Nintendo Entertainment System. There are so many stories that I have only heard in passing, but couldn’t have possibly remembered. My dad, as I recall, was the first to beat Super Mario Bros in the family, but my mom was able to make it through Super Mario 2. Everyone tried to figure out just exactly what to do about Mr ‘grumble grumble’ back in the NES Zelda days. Basically, the entire family was fixated on the video games from as soon as we were born.
The best example of this? My brother, who is 4 years older than I am, actually picked up reading through video games. In fact, his first word was from the background of one of the levels (although, much to my regret, I do not remember if it was the “Jump!” screen or “Popcorn” screen, but I want to say Jump).
Now, it is a strange case with this game over so many others. I remember first seeing Final Fantasy 3, I remember first learning about Super Mario World, and I seem to recall picking up Amagon and Battletoads, but Bubble Bobble was just ingrained in my knowledge pool. I never remember learning to play the game, I only remember playing it. Often times, I would come home from school and my brother and I would fire up a round of it and play through as far as we cared to get before dinner would be finished, or before it was time for bed. I remember on weekends, I would sit in front of the TV with my mom and play the game, and she would always carry us through the levels.
One of the sillier memories I had of the game is from one of the specific in game powerups: the shoes. Other power ups made it so you had faster bubbles, or filled the screen with water, or paused the enemies, useful abilities. The shoes increased your move speed to a point where picking them up was almost suicidal. As a child, I always called them Mentos Shoes. Much like Mentos breathes you full of life, the Mentos shoes were full of death. I remember singing that exact line nearly every single time anyone would pick up a pair. There were also the evil toasters, the death whale, and of course the burning popcorn.
Now, this was back in the Nintendo era, so the game was naturally incredibly difficult, but online some other games you could always pick up at the level you left off (with your score reset to 0 naturally), so often you would get stuck on a single level, trying to bubble jump up the side of the screen to reach enemies up top who would rain death on you from on high, or simply bide their time until the death whale showed up. In theory, however, you could beat the game by yourself. The very last level can be completed solo - but you don’t actually win. You have to pick up an item that shows up for what feels like a second or two to get to the secret levels. Failure to collect this will result in you going to a fake boss giving you the ‘bad’ ending.
So after much coordination, usually involving the ‘worse’ player camping the item spwan, we would go into the bonus levels that were a whole new magnitude of difficulty. After clearing those, you finally reach the last boss of the game. In an ultimate test of relationships with your family members, the game forces you to not only get to the secret door, not just get to the boss, but both players have to survive the entire boss fight with their limited lives. This often met with heartache as one player wouldn’t be able to lock down the pattern, or would be blocked into a corner, unable to do anything except become resigned to their grim fate. But we always would make it there, and we would always take him out. Naturally, there was a difficulty increased palette swap mode, but we never bothered.
would be interested to know how many times I cleared the game, how many hours I spent with friends and family playing through this simple arcade game, but unfortunately that information is lost to time. In what I consider to be understandable, yet unfortunate, my parent’s interest in videogames declined over the years. The last console that they really were into was the SNES, only occasionally playing Star Fox on the N64. (Also, I remember my dad playing Star Fox on the SNES, getting the warps, singing Frank Zappa, and telling me he was in the Space Armadillo...it was good times). For about a decade, it was just my brother and me playing games, which is probably important later in this story, so please try to remember it.
It is rather amusing that the story didn’t end with the SNES, or even as recently as the Wii. Strange things happen to you in college, and many of those things go back to simpler times. I am a firm believer that college students are the same as 5 year olds, but now with the means to enact their desires. A boy who wants to wear a dress? Go for it. Eat nothing but pringles and cookie dough? Sounds great. Don’t want to go to school, just want to sleep. No one is stopping you! This, for me, was all of those in addition to just wanting to play retro games that reminded me of the folks back home. I know it was no speed run, but I did beat A Link To the Past in a single sitting (4.5 hours long) one day, just to prove I could. I only died at the very end to Ganon himself, suffering a mild heart attack before realizing I had a fairy on hand. It was my sophomore year that I remembered about Bubble Bobble, finding it both on Xbox Live Arcade, but more importantly for my nostalgia, on the Wii Virtual Console.
Clearly, I had to share this experience with someone, but who would suffice? The answer was my girlfriend at the game - a girl who was by no means a gamer, but had a competitive spirit, and a desire to spend time together with common activities. While I was spending a night with her folks, we started up some Bubble Bobble, and it soon grew into an obsession to beat the game, just like with my family in year past. We now had the means to stay up until midnight trying to pass single levels, only to realize that we were too beat to accomplish it. We didn’t manage to make it to the end before we continued our travels another three hours to spend some time with my folks. After we said our introductions, we hunkered down in front of a screen yet again, and began to continue right from the password we had scribbled in our notebooks.
It was here that an incredibly strange experience happened. As my girlfriend and I played the game together, my mom came over to chat and watch us play. As items popped up on the screen, she would yell at us to get them, able to list off what every single item did. I was completely bewildered. After a decade, I had completely forgotten what some of the objects did, but she was able to call out every single one. We had talked about it later, and she told us that she didn’t know that she knew, but seeing it all in action made it all come back. It was a mix of hilarious, and touchingly nostalgic to go back to those days where I used to have the flu, would miss school, and just sit down in front of the 12 inch CRT TV, NES controller in hand, and play Bubble Bobble with my mom.
Finally, just to take a moment, I don’t think anyone who has played the game doesn’t know the soundtrack by heart. As I recall, the game only has about 3 songs that play, and the main one is probably the happiest music in the world to me. If ever I get alzheimers, I swear I will still remember the track. If the world starts going wrong, if friends leave, and times get tough, just hearing that upbeat series of beeps and boops reminds me of childhood, family, friends, and just...being a kid. Having fun. Spending time with people important to me by controlling a dinosaur shooting spit at a walking toaster to turn him into a popsicle. A simpler time.
I’m sure every gamer probably has a game like Bubble Bobble for them, some game that they cherish more than any other. The strange thing is, as time goes on, there will be children who look this way on games that are out today. Some kid who played Viva Pinata with their dad and will think fondly back on the the vibrant pinatas. A child who remembers the good old days of playing Rayman Origins with mom, and, yes, Call of Duty with friends. It is really amazing how these games can not only provide entertainment, but also provide such fond memories, build up relationships, and define who you are as a person. I guess, with that, what about you, Destructoid? Was game is your Bubble Bobble?
So uh...I tried to make my last blog friendly to people who don’t play DOTA. This one? Might be a little harder to understand. Sorry about that, you filthy non DOTA pleebs. I mean...uh...keep reading, like, comment, and subscribe?
Hey guys! A few weeks back I posted about my experience with getting into DOTA 2 after a week and a half. Well, as of today I am about 32 hours in the game. The overall impression of the game was positive, and I made a few key statements that were agreeable, but I also made a few statements that were less than agreeable, according to the community. I have been watching a bunch of Purge’s gameplay videos for different heroes, Inviationals, and Alienware cups, and it really seems like each player, at the very least, fills a role.
So recently, I decided to switch up my hero rotation and tried out Vengeful Spirit, who I liked a great deal, and then Centaur Warrunner, who I currently really love. I started playing him after reading up about him on the DOTA wiki, and it seems like he has a decent stun, two interesting abilities, and a toolkit of an ultimate. I played with my friend from the last blog some more, but this time on Hard difficulty, and hoo boy, that difficulty is intense. With heroes like Pudge and VS who rely on singling out someone, the computer gets to a point where they travel together all the time, and can teleport in right when it would suck the most. They can stack stuns in a criminally efficient way, and I was not pulling my weight, but I was learning. Specifically I learned a pro tip about denying: It's annoying as hell.
Medium games against bots...I definitely felt like a participant in this one
I eventually decided that medium wasn’t doing it for me anymore - it was too easy to farm up items, get kills, and basically I felt like I was constantly winning before the game would take off. So I bammed it up a noatch and went into Hard by myself. It wasn’t pretty. I had a top lane with a bounty hunter, and bought an observer ward instead of a sentry ward, because I am still an idiot at the game. He ganked me about three times before I realized what an idiot I was. However, in my two hard games as CW (now showing some crap show about tweens fighting some kind of mummy or something at 9 pm 8 eastern) I was able to get a pretty decent midgame going where I would get a Hood of Defiance and some kind of regen (tranquil boots at first, then I decided to just go without...they don’t feel like they did much) and I would go and jungle. So, CW’s ‘nuke’ is called double edge, and it deals massive damage to the target and CW. This seems really crappy if it weren’t for 3 things: 1. It is a lot of damage. 2. Hood prevents some of the damage to you and 3. It has an AoE. The AoE means that you can jungle like a madman once you have hood and regen, which I used both games to get a Heart of Tarrasque and then proceed to just eat towers like it ain’t no thang. So I finally conquered my fear, and beat AI on Hard. End of story, yeah? Nope!
First, there is a side story that made me laugh harder than it should have - I listen to last fm when playing with bots, and I have it on a mix station, and my mix station is messed up. It goes from Harvey Danger to Macklemore to Micheal Buble to Lady Gaga. Basically, I have no idea what it is serving up. So I am doing my thing, and a song comes up, and it is an acapella group. I don’t mind the style, so I let it roll for a bit, and it was your standard barbershop quartet song with wonderful harmonies singing about how you should look up when life has you down. Just remember...look at your enormous penis. And I just lost it. There was no other setting in the world where the song could have delivered that punchline as efficiency as it did there. I had no idea it was coming by song title, by a friend snickering, anything. I had to pause for five minutes while I died of laughter. I am not a mature man.
So what is the true point of this blog? I played a pub match tonight. It was effin scary. My knees were weak, my arms spaghetti. The first round I got into an all pick match (I did all pick or single draft), so I decided to grab CW because of course I would. I am writing off the hip here, but I will link to or post the videos to verify, but I recall our team was moderately balanced. I had a Jakiro who was playing support up top, we had a carry mid, and two other guys on bot. Truth time: I still suck at map awareness and team awareness. With our heroes and lanes selected, I announced that this was my first pub game, and immediately came the message “every time”. Yeah, I had a guy who was sick of playing with scrubs. To balance it out though, one guy was totally encouraging, and welcomed me to the match, so we will call that a net win for the community, yeah? One of the other mic’d players informed us that his friend was also new at the game, and was playing in the bot, so I’m sure the one guy was furious at this point. I did reassure him that I had 30 hours logged of bot practice, and I didn’t hear much from him after that. So I set up my usual build, and started to play.
Notes on playing with new people: Jakiro would not stop pushing the lane, and I am too polite to call him out on it, mostly because he could have in theory played more public games than I had. Every chance, he would nuke the creep wave, and I would secure the last hits. I was also able to deny some creeps at the start, which amused me. Remember what I said about it being really annoying? I’m sure it was. We were up against Tusk and Skywrath mage on top as the radiant, so I really didn’t like presenting myself like a stuffed pigs for ganks, but eh, it happens. A lot, actually. Tusk was able to nuke me quite a few times, much to my dismay, but similarly Jakiro was able to chain some great stuns, so I was happy enough with it. After about ten minutes I stopped visually shaking. Yes, really. I am sooooo nervous when representing my skills to a group of people in this format.
Eventually the Templar Assassin mid rotated top and we started getting some very good 3 on 2 kills. Now, I believe it is polite, so I tried to give the TA the kills as she was the carry, but I was also pretty tempted to get revenge on Tusk out of principle. Another very strange thing was the Windrunner: she would run into the middle of nowhere, in front of the creep line, and just sit there. So many free kills. Some looked like an initiation, just really, really poorly done.
For the first match, I watched over the replay to give some KPI (Key performance indicators - look, I do business, k?) MY CS at 10 minutes was 25/6, which I think isn’t too bad. At 12:00 I had a hood (among boots, wand, etc), which again I think is respectable. At around the 24 minute mark I started jungling, and began to out CS the carry, although I was still 3rd in Net Worth next to our carry and theirs (Viper - snake monster sill OP, clearly). At 22:00 minutes my CS was at 57/7, so I clearly didn’t care about denies anymore. At 27 I got a Vanguard, and while everyone was in the enemies base, I tp’d to bot because the announcer was annoying me with the constant tower attacks. My first game ended with a Radiant victory (my team), with my at 2/4/11. I was ok with this.
A rocky start, but a solid win overall
I quickly started up Skyrim, and shook off the feeling of a great win. It is painfully apparent that we outclassed our opponents, and despite my first time jitters, I think I did alright. I mostly used my ulti just to escape, but hopefully my teammates were able to use it to some effect. It is very strange coming off bots to a real match because almost no one called out an mia. Not to say it mattered all that much as there were very few rotations with the exception of our TA. Still, coordination with humans is an entirely different beast.
I decided to go to round two, feeling high off the power. Again, all pick, again CW. I introduced myself as a scrub and another player gave me the ‘welcome aboard’ speech, so it was fairly inviting from a community perspective. This time I took top with Pudge against a Lifeseeker and an Anti Mage. The Lifeseeker had no idea what he was doing as far as CS went, so I was able to deny and get some good items through hit attempts. His open wounds was mitigated by my Ulti once I got it, which was nice.
The weird thing about this match? No one bought a courrier. I forget that someone has to do that in a non bot game. I wound up buying one while in the lane, then discovering I had to go back to base to pick it up. I also made it the flying courier early on in the match. I don’t know if this is drama king territory, but should a CW be buying a courrier? I really feel like someone else could have picked that up, but whatever. This set my CS back, along with my exp to the point where I was always a level or two behind AM and LS in the early game, but they had a hard time getting ganks off on me, so it was fine.
So again, the KPI: at 10 minutes, I was at 18/5. Ive seen better, (and worse...they had a bounty hunter who had something like 15/0 at the 25 minute mark...ouch), but again I did have to buy a courier and a flying courier. OH! Also! Someone had the Bastion voice package, and oh my god that is the best thing ever. I may cave and buy that. At 15:00 minutes I was 33/6 with a Hood, so I was feeling pretty good. I picked up a Vanguard at 21, and then at 22 I started jungling. It was pretty funny looking at the difference in gold chart at this point, because there was an enormous spike when I started to jungle. At the 27 minute mark I was at 130/7, and at 30 I completed my heart. It was here that I started soloing towers. Heart + return = gooooooood times.
At the end of the match I was trying to complete boots of travel, and wound up going 5/1/and 6, with a CS at the 35:00 minute mark (the end of the game) of 166/7. Difference in gold earned? 30k. Difference in exp? 30k. It was an absolute mess for the other team.
Line graphs? What am I playing, EVE?
My support Pudge was a total bro, and landed some incredibly sexy hooks. There were a few times where he was outclassed, but I was able to clean up. One encounter he got away with naught but a single health. Finally, one of our teammates was Brewmaster, and that just seemed like grade A smurfing - he had some good micro, and was doing incredibly well, and fulfilled he carry role quite well. I was also super amused at myself in the late game, as the enemies had a Nightstalker. At one point, he was chasing me out of their base, and I was running because I was at half life - 1400/3300 total, and he was at full health....1100....I probably could have taken him. But I suppose my ultra conservative play style is better than feeding the enemy teams.
So overall? This game is fun as dicks. After 30 hours of bot fights, playing against humans is a piece of cake. A lot of the players don’t know the basics of pushing, last hits, denies, and all that, so I am able to have a really good time. After I level up a bit I’m sure I will look back at these days with a certain fondness, and my opponents will only get better from here. This may just have to do with events transpiring in my personal life (unironically, my life is actually getting awesome, which is pretty great), but this game has been a ton of fun. I feel like I have the technical aspects down.
So where can I grow from here? I watched my matches, and the first match I died in a very sloppy manner several times. I need to work on that. My map awareness is absolutely terrible. so I can improve there substantially. I saw in a video someone saying that they would look at the minimap whenever they killed a creep, but...I have problems with that. I like to game to unwind, and to play this game properly is work. I see a skill ceiling in my future! Building on that, when a teamfight is breaking down, I need to know it is going on, and when we are wrecking a base, I should be there. I went to bot just because the announcer was annoying me, and while pushing bot might be good, I should have helped to secure the ancient. My last hitting skills are still not ideal, and I was using a quelling blade the entire time, so I still have a ways to go. I am curious to see how a single draft match would go with me, but I feel like I would be competent with about ⅓ of the player pool, and could fake another ⅓. I am terrible at micromanagement, so some heroes are well out my reach, but I think I could make it up. I almost feel confident enough to be a solo mid carry against the current skill level.
As for the community....I kind of like it right now. They were pretty inviting to me (having done my due diligence), and a lot of fun to play with. Going back to Starcraft in the early naughts, everyone opened with a gl hf, which amused me to no end. I found myself joking throughout the matches as we took towers. A solo mid was able to take the T1 and T2 towers back to back with no help, and I used the old “what is the best pickup line at a gay bar”...It was met with a blank response of “...” and a discernable air of discomfort on the microphones. “May I push in your stool?” followed by an uproar of laughter considering how bad we were pushing their shit in that game. I had a TON of fun complementing Pudge’s hooks, congratulating double kills, and just wrecking the other team. In forty minutes, we formed a pretty amusing bond over a team based game online, and that is totally worth the price of....
I was playing some games and my backlog, and I noticed a trend: misuse of graphics make me angrier than they should. I understand that the creators of the game are entitled to their artistic choices, but in many cases, these choices are flat out wrong. Just as you wouldn’t try to create the Mona Lisa using crayons, some games just do not benefit from using a certain style over another. I think most of what annoys me about it is that there are so many games trying to be something that they are not, or it feels like they aren’t offering anything new or interesting so they try to ride the coattails of something good and popular to be accomplished. I wanted to rationalize these thoughts the best way I know how: to a group of total strangers on the internet! To kick things off...
My favorite example of a game that does retro completely right is VVVVVV. The entire game is built around retro limitations, with only small amounts of flair added. First of all, look at the control scheme - for those who don’t know the game is played using left, right and change gravity. You can also pause. In theory this means that the game could be played on an NES controller, possibly an Atari controller. Second, the game uses the same single screen scrolling mechanisms that so many games used. Not exactly related to the graphics, the soundtrack to the game is probably one of my favorite videogame soundtracks. Finally, the graphics are simplified. Everything is displayed as a blob, as text, and the eponymous v’s act as death spikes. The game does a fantastic job of convincing me that it could have been made in the same era as Mario and Megaman, and never once do I mind the graphics style. I have often felt what I call ‘forced nostalgia’ for the game, where I feel I look back on it fondly as if it were older than it is. Possibly as a result of listening to two songs in the soundtrack in my daily commute for several years.
So how does a game do this wrong? Look at Proteus. This game attempts to blend sprite work with 3D, and personally, I don’t understand why. To begin with, it is incredibly muddy to look at - nothing has a border, so all the pixels blend together. Looking at a screenshot it would be difficult to tell elevation and where objects start and end. The game only really works when in motion, and even still I think it looks terrible. The game uses some interesting music that is procedurally generated, along with sound effects for different animals, but the thing is, all the sounds are fairly modern. Now, I am not saying that this is bad (although if you asked me on the street...), but it does frustrate me with why they chose the graphics they did. It screams one of two things: they didn’t have the resources to produce a game with hand drawn or detailed 3D graphics, or they wanted to score indie points by using pixels, and either way I really feel like they missed the mark. I feel bad praising Dear Esther (another game that if you asked me about on the street...) but it had really appealing visuals in its final release that made wandering through the world a different experience. I really think Proteus would have been better off with something more modern instead of using an arty style that doesn't meld at all with a game focused on 3d exploration.
Most games that try to force a retro feeling fail, which I typically find annoying, so I wanted to point out an example of a game that did the exact opposite: Bionic Commando Rearmed. This was essentially an HD NES game, and it is surprisingly amazing. I had never played the original game, and I really think that the game manages to present itself as a unique and often clever experience. It uses a single mechanic and asks how it can refine that mechanic, it has upgrades, multiple weapons, branching paths, and is overall pretty great. But it loses nothing by having an art style that is more modern, with more detailed background, and improved music. It is worth noting that the modernized soundtrack is incredibly well done, and features yet another one of my favorite video game tracks - probably because it used a catchy melody, then added in some depth (and, ok, because it abuses my speakers).
Everyone knows voxels from one game, so let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Minecraft. Minecraft is an incredible game from how simplistic it can be, but also for the depths of what you can do in it. I could easily go into why the gameplay is fantastic in Minecraft, but I want to focus on the visual. The game has a sort of retro/8 bit look to it (see above), and it does have a 3D perspective (see above), but it does something that completely separates it from similar games: it blends visual style and mechanics together. Almost every single thing in the game can be broken down and manipulated in some way, and almost every thing in the game takes up the same space: 1 cube. If you place down some wood, it will be 1 square tall, if you mine a block, it will mine a 1x1 square. In addition, you know exactly what you are getting when you mine an area because you are breaking down that block. You aren’t sorting through pebbles trying to find coal, you are mining a coal block. It sets expectations wonderfully in such a way that the visuals complement the gameplay, probably in such a way that most other art styles have not.
Again, to contrast, look at something like Cube World. Now, let me ask, what does this game gain by using voxels over any other art style? The cynic in me says “it looks like Minecraft’, but that seems a bit harsh. I will admit that I do prefer voxels over the previously mentioned 3D rendered sprites, but I still feel like a game shouldn’t be using them unless they are for a very specific reason. In addition to the Minecraft example, there is also 3D Dot Game Heroes, a game which is aiming to be an 8 bit game, specifically in my mind Dragon Warrior. But Cube World is trying to be an action rpg with customizable characters, and I have seen that done beautifully in a games ranging from Skyrim to Secret of Evermore. Voxels add nothing to the experience except a tug at the heartstring of people who like Nintendo games and Minecraft. The gameplay could be amazing, and as with most games it would be great if it did well, I just wish they could have picked a more complimentary art style.
And before you even say it, there are two types of people: people who liked Cubivore and people who were wrong.
Now that we have established the Animaniacs “Good idea, bad idea” trend, I bet you are wondering what I will pick as the good example for a color filter. The highly subjective answer? Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The game has a gold filter applied to it, that makes the entire city, and the inside of building, really shine. From the moment that you start up the game, the gold sheen implies that we are in a futuristic setting, and one that is fairly well off. It also makes me think of a very decadent future, one where people have the ability to add cosmetic augmentations to their body. It all just looks so...rich....But looking at it further, what would happen if this color filtering were removed? It would look just like an ordinary game, set in an ordinary city. Now granted, it takes place in Detroit, so either way it looks better than its real world equivalent.
Now, I realize that the filters in the game I am talking about actually add to the atmosphere, but after modding them out I would never go back: The modern Fallout games. Fallout 3 and New Vegas have a green and brown filter applied to them respectively, both of which I really dislike, and thinking about them makes me feel slightly nauseous. I understand that the game takes place in an irradiated future, but by removing the filters the game takes another tone: instead of being the destruction that man has wrought, it showcases the persistence of nature. A beautiful blue sky, green grass, and (modded in) verdant trees add to the feeling that humans are but a temporary state of the earth, one that will be wiped out by their own means, but that nature will ultimately survive. Seeing all of this in contrast to buildings with broken lights, incredibly dark nights, and a society slowly collapsings adds so much more than the feeling of ‘a bomb went off once’.
I actually really, really like cel shading. It is the reason that Wind Waker looks fantastic to this day, and it really seems like a free pass for a game to not age graphically. Still, some games do it better than others, and the shining example of a game doing it right is The Darkness 2. The Darkness is based on a comic book series, so having the game’s art style done with cel shading helps to emulate the feeling of a comic book, with sharp outlines, and bold, vibrant colors. Basically, any game from a comic, manga, or cartoon (Dragon Ball, Simpsons, etc) should be done in this art style, as it keeps true to the source material.
So is there a game that uses this style poorly? I have thought about it quite a bit, and I don’t think so. Mad World looks slightly muddy, and Borderlands didn’t need it, but I think that cel shading is a choice that is fairly well understood. They know that by using it, it will make a game have a comic book/Pixar film quality to it, and as long as that art style matches the narrative and the gameplay, it is easy to pull the trigger on it.
So I suppose this is where I turn it over to you, the reader: what do you think? Is it cute or endearing when a modern dev tries to use retro graphics with modern gameplay? Are there any games where the graphic style either really got underneath your skin or enhanced the game into something special?