Saturday, September 22, 2012

If DOTA2 is too Hard, you're too Soft

Having more than a few years of DOTA under my belt, it's safe to say that this article might come off as a little silly. After all, I've had years to memorize every hero, every ability, every item, and yeah, pretty much everything. So, reading this, especially if you're new to DOTA2, you're probably going to blurt out an "that's easy for you to say" or two before the read is over.

But here we go anyways:


Among the things DOTA2 gets called, "challenging", "has a difficult learning curve" and "this is the fucking hardest goddamn game on the planet" gets tossed around pretty often. I'm here to tell you it isn't. Seriously. Did you know that when DOTA originally came out, the game was meant to be a "relaxing" way to take a break from Warcraft III ladder? You read that right, people played DOTA because Warcraft 3 was too stressful and difficult in comparison. What's more? Many Warcraft 3 ladder experts actually shunned the game for being "too easy", "casual" or just "dumbed down for only having one unit". So what happened?

To be fair, back then, there weren't quite as many Heroes in DOTA. Nor where there quite as many items. But the concept was the same. Ten players, three lanes, one hero, four spells (sans fancy shmancy people like Invoker). What happened? When did DOTA suddenly become extremely difficult to play?

Because honestly, and I love DOTA, but I don't think it did.

DOTA suffers from what game designers call a "Burden of Knowledge", which, kind of unsurprisingly really, more or less stems from watching new DOTA players bang their heads against tables. In essence, all it means is that in order to be good at DOTA, you need to know what heroes cast what, what items do what, etc. Many, many people who start off as beginners playing DOTA and don't do well tend to blame their failure on this concept.

And to a certain extent, they're right- it's unfair. But I'm here to tell you that the Burden of Knowledge that exists in DOTA is one of the most over exaggerated and misquoted reasons for being bad at the game. As a mentor to many many DOTA and HoN players in my time, I continue to see the same mistakes over and over, and let me tell you, 90% of them don't have anything to do with the Burden of Knowledge. Let's go through a list of common complains:

"How am I supposed to know what items to get?"

Both HoN and DOTA2 have recommended items for every hero you play, which are displayed every time you open the shop. More often than not, I will look at the inventory of the person I am trying to teach the game to only to see that they aren't following it. At all. This isn't DOTA2's burden of knowledge oppressing you, this is just you being given simple instructions and not following them. More often than not I'll ask someone I am training "why did you get that item?" to which he will reply "I don't know". It's a fucking mystery. Situational items in high tier games (which you won't be in) aside, following the recommended item guide on most heroes is usually a safe bet. 

"How am I supposed to know what Heroes do?"

Simple answer: You aren't. And honestly, if you just started playing, you don't need to. If you just started playing DOTA2, there is only one hero that you need to know. Give up? It's the hero you are currently playing. Read their skills. There's only four of them. You have like 60 seconds before the game even starts. You could also create a private game with bots. It's really not that big of a deal to read through like 4 paragraphs of text quickly. Don't know what enemy Heroes do? Don't worry about it, chances are they don't do anything that you won't recognize. Most spells in DOTA don't do anything sneaky, they will probably just visibly hurt you, stun you, silence you, slow you, or otherwise inconvenience you in way that will make you say "Oh shit he's fucking throwing shit at me!". Want an easy way to remember what all Heroes in DOTA2 do? Just assume they can all hurt and disable you if you stand too close. Bam, problem solved. Oh and watch out for Pudge, he's got a hook. Almost forgot.

Saying that the Burden of Knowledge isn't a major factor in people having trouble getting good at the game would be a lie. But to say it's the reason most people suck when they've been playing for about a week is a gross exaggeration. I've seen people pick up DOTA/HoN/DOTA2 and immediately suck, but I've also seen people pick up DOTA/HoN/DOTA2 and be really damn good really damn fast- and it's not because they're good at memorizing things, it's because they know how to listen

Visual representation of most people's first DOTA game

If you're new to DOTA2, chances are you're playing with friends. Chances are, if you ask them a question, they will answer you. I'm begging you, please listen to them. If anything can be said about DOTA, it's that it's unforgiving. This is true. But if you listen and you stick to the plan, it's not as hard as everyone complains. 

 To quote Rich McCormick, someone over at PCGamer which recently painfully "reviewed" DOTA2 today:

"It’s this that is Dota 2’s main problem: a mistake or a misclick from any one of the five players on a team can confer a monstrous advantage on the opposition, turning matches into almost an hour of death by slow asphyxiation. For a competitive game, it can be incredibly demoralising to lose through no direct fault of your own, and the crushing sadness of a creeping, inexorable loss isn’t always balanced out by the high of a win."

The fact that you can single handedly ruin an entire game for your team by doing something stupid is something I don't just enjoy about DOTA, it's something I genuinely admire in the current state of video games, because it's something that's on it's way out- enjoy it while you still can. DOTA is one of the last remaining games that actually requires real teamwork, sacrifice and cooperation to win. All I have left to say is, please, harden the fuck up. DOTA2 is by no means the easiest game in the world but its certainly not the hardest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The rising cost of "Free"

As any nostalgic nerd may remember, back in the day, games were not free to play. They often cost somewhere between 30-50 dollars, came in cardboard boxes, contained a disc, a CD key, and if you were lucky, a little pamphlet in the CD tray with cool stuff in it that you could read while you were bored inside your parent's car during a family trip, wishing you were at home playing aforementioned video game. Maybe that last part was just me, though.

In any case, video games have changed. Digital downloads are the future, with distribution software like Steam, Origin and leading the way. With this new model, software has become much easier to come by, as players who once purchased the game can download it over and over as many times as they want, a notion that would have seemed ludicrous a few years ago. This whole idea that software, cardboard and CD pamphlets are no longer worth anything (let's face it, when you bought a game you payed for the CD key, for your account, and not much more), a new breed of games has taken the forefront: Free-to-play.

Free-to-play has been pioneered by League of Legends, a game which famously began as a free-to-play game, rather than shifting to it later, something Team Fortress 2 and Heroes of Newerth did. While the free-to-play craze was arguably inevitable, one can argue that League of Legends truly pioneered the idea. The way the game compared to Heroes of Newerth in particular was probably one of the most empirical studies somebody who studies Marketing could have hoped for. Both games had an Open Beta, both games went retail- both virtually at the same time. During the open beta, Heroes of Newerth had more players than League of Legends, hovering around the 200,000s if I recall correctly. League of Legends wasn't doing bad either, but as anybody knows, a healthy Open Beta does not necessarily mean a successful game a few months after launch day.

Then, something happened. Heroes of Newerth went retail for $30, League of Legends went free-to-play. The results were unlike anyone had expected. LoL soared into the forefront and continued to grow at a rapid rate, while HoN took a drastic dip. Of course, for HoN developers, the creators of such financial failures as Savage 1&2, this was still a comparatively huge success. Nevertheless, HoN was a shell of it's former glory that was open beta. What happened? League of Legends was suddenly booming with players- and with the free-to-play genre just starting up, the question on everyone's mind was "just how much money is League of Legends actually making with microtransactions?". Sure, any F2P game can boast a high player base, but LoL was reaching numbers that astounded anyone's expectations. As it turns out: They were making bank. And they still are.

Now that LoL has been out for a long time, F2P is the next big thing. HoN, TF2, Tribes and many more are following in their footsteps. F2P has existed in the past but what's interesting now is that game genres that wouldn't even really consider the model before are adapting to it. But as a player and not a developer, we have to ask ourselves- is this a good thing? It's kind of a scary question, because if the answer is "no", we can't really do anything about it. F2P is the future, and the empirical evidence of its ability to generate profit is there; companies will always have the incentive to generate the highest profit possible, so as long as it's still the best way of doing business, it's here to stay.

Of course, not all F2P systems are the same, and F2P systems are constantly shifting. The player has made it clear that they don't like pay-for-power, at least not in its purest form. Developers (for the most part), know this, and often walk a fine line when creating new systems. Take Tribes: Ascend for example. Players can unlock both classes and weapons. Like in TF2, the weapon unlocks are supposedly sidegrades. However, as we all know, balance designers aren't perfect and from time to time they will accidentally create an item that is imbalanced (eg. pre-nerf Plasma Gun for the Raider class). Arguably, this would be pay-for-power, but since the player can still unlock the weapon with XP and not Gold (you need real money to buy Gold, but not XP), this imbalance is "offset" by the possibility that the player unlocked the weapon with XP.

This method of "offsetting" possible imbalances is becoming more common in F2P games and is quickly becoming a dirty business. By giving the player the method of unlocking a weapon which is arguably imbalanced, no matter how high the price of the weapon, the company can argue that it isn't unfair. After all, you can still unlock the weapon (or the Hero, or whatever) with enough "XP" or "Silver Coins" or whatever the play-to-earn currency is in the game. But is this fair? Exactly how much does a player have to play before he can get "that gun" or "that Hero"? Bad news: no matter what game you're playing, odds are the price is going up.

Looking again at a game like Tribes: Ascend, the average new weapon unlock costs 100,000 XP, or 720 GC, which is about 7.20 Euros. Players who have never spent a dime on the game earn (and this is an optimistic assumption, factoring in first win of the day) 1000 XP per round. Assuming a round is about 20 minutes long, that's over 30 hours of uninterrupted gameplay to unlock one single weapon for one single class. Again: it is possible that the player would unlock this item without paying a dime, but is it likely? And if it isn't likely, just how unfair are we becoming?

Although I've been talking about Tribes a lot, it isn't limited to this game at all. Games like TF2 have "sidegrade" weapons which, although can be crafted, often require specific materials to craft, materials that may be very luck-based to come by for new players. If I were to start playing TF2 for the first time the day an arguably overpowered weapon came out, chances are I'd have to wait weeks before I'm able to craft it. In Heroes of Newerth, players who don't pay money for Gold Coins are not even allowed to play Early Access Heroes, which in turn can also end up being overpowered. Even if the balance does eventually hit, the stats are already set in stone and the victories recorded. Imbalance happens in games, it's a fact of life- but when the imbalanced weapons are statistically (much) more likely to be in the hands of players who have put money into the game, it creates a problem for the playerbase, a problem that more and more devs are seem to be apologizing for lately. A developer can apologize as much as he wants, but at the end of the day any smart player will know that these "slip ups" create profits for developers. High XP/Silver prices on weapons or items are just one of many ways the marketing team on any given game are swindling players out of their money. The fault does in fact not lie with the balance team- I don't believe developers intentionally create imbalanced weapons. I do, however, believe that the marketing team sets up extremely high barriers for F2P players to earn unlockables to intentionally take advantage of these situations when they do happen. My fear for the future is that these silver prices will continue to rise while gold prices go down, creating even more incentive for players to open their wallets. Obviously, F2P games have to make a profit somewhere, but this strategy of using "offsets" as an excuse to generate revenue through possible imbalances is becoming increasingly disgusting.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I don't Trust Valve and Neither Should You

Sitting here and watching DOTA2 unravel more of itself every passing week truly is a exciting sight to behold, and while many enthusiasts and fans tend to watch with awe and admiration, my reaction is usually more in the likes of somebody with both hands on their face, fingers parted at the eyes- terrified of what could potentially ruin the game at any moment. So far, so good. But with the inevitability of the ever dreaded Microtransactions already well underway it's only a matter of time before Valve starts unveiling stuff they plan to sell.

It seems to me that most people aren't worried. Part of this sense of calm comes from the fact that, after all, "It's Valve!"- the company that can "do not wrong". But for me, somebody who know all too well what a Microtransaction store can do to an ARTS game in particular, the whole shebang leaves me with this terrifying sense of possible bullshit still to come. League of Legends, Bloodline Champions, Heroes of Newerth- all these games have incorporated Microtransactions to their games and in many ways made them worse in the process. Of course, I don't blame them, as the money is good and League of Legends has proven time and time again that it's simply the most Economical strategy for an ARTS game. Nevertheless, as a player of the game it's virtually clear (at least, to me) that Microtransactions can only make an ARTS game more bloated. HoN got Early Access, BLC got a weird rune system and a bunch of other weird garbage, LoL... well, I've never played LoL so let's just leave it at that.

All this sort of raises the question inside of myself- how badly could Valve fuck this up if they really wanted to? How much could they get away with? The answer to that in my own mind sort of scares me. People tell me that I shouldn't worry because Valve is a beloved company that would never do any harm, but to me that's ironic- I'm scared because valve is a "beloved company"- because anyone knows that "credibility" in the video game industry is just another form of currency waiting to be cashed in- the question is simply when?

Team Fortress 2 is, in many ways, the poster boy in all of this. The F2P model in TF2 has been very successful and there's no doubt among anyone's mind that DOTA2 will have a very similar model. While a lot of people seem to have embraced the TF2 Man Co. Store (I would be lying if I said I had not spent some money in there) I must confess I never really liked the whole thing. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but the as "Trading Hats General" replaced "TF2 General" on the Forums I became increasingly annoyed at how much the actual gameplay was being replaced by the ever-present "hat market". As somebody who values Gameplay over gimmicky items, luck and lottery garbage, this whole change was a rather unwelcome one for me. What's more, the implemented "Crate System" that Valve introduced later was basically a cash grab- players were required to purchase keys in order to unbox Crates they got (you couldn't do anything else with them) and proved to be the only way to get Unusual Hats (aside from trading, but nobody would trade you an Unusual Hat for anything less than another Unusual Hat). Stuff got so out of hand that people began making TF2 items and "Hat Pricing Lists" to put value on the things. Sometime around the day I was reading an Excel spreadsheet online trying to figure out how much my virtual Fedora was worth I had to stop what I was doing and wonder what I was doing with my life.

It feels like Microtransactions ruin everything they touch- and while a lot of people seem to put it passed Valve to ruin DOTA2 with them, I don't, and to be honest, neither should you. A lot of players don't consider TF2 "ruined" by the in-game store, but I see TF2 as a shell of its former glory. The new weapons are fun, but often blatantly overpowered (stuff like the Pomson) and purposely difficult to craft in order to entice players to buy it in the store instead. Many players rationalize a lot of the stuff from TF2 with the idea that "it's only cosmetic" and that most of the stuff you have to spend money on to get doesn't influence gameplay. But really, I don't buy it. Even if this were true, the entire cosmetics "market" creates such a strain on the Community by shifting the focus from gameplay to meta-gameplay (people idling TF2 for hats instead of actually playing the game). But the worst part is it's not even completely true. Valve likes to walk a fine line of what could be considered "pay for power", a while back they introduced a hat for the Sniper that could make him immune to headshots when worn in combination with other items, making the hat very valuable and would basically have to be purchased in the store.

I suppose I just don't really trust Valve (any more than I trust any other video game company) to make Microtransactions not-obnoxious. Even if they continue to walk their fine line of "not pay-4-power" then I'm still not really going to be satisfied. I feel like DOTA2 is a competitive game that, much like HoN, shouldn't be tampered with. HoN already "blew it" by limiting the Hero pool for new players (which makes countering some Heroes difficult if you don't have the Hero you need unlocked), something that DOTA2 players like to critique. But really, DOTA2 players who make fun of HoN because of the cash shop are in for a rude awakening- the same rubbish is coming to DOTA2 in some form or another. So, while I guess I do respect Valve more than other game companies, I wouldn't put it passed them to clog up the game with a bunch of cosmetic garbage that will get in the way of features and hero development (looking at you, HoN). I don't want to see every character in DOTA2 with alternate costumes, I don't want to see "items" that I can equip my character with to look "cooler", I don't want different looking versions of the same spells- I want a competitive consistency, something that, apparently, is on the way out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

All the Little Things

Both HoN and DotA2 are games full of small differences. Being a native DotA player since the early 2000s when DotA got started, I remember quite vividly exactly how the game was when I left it for HoN. Since I played HoN, frankly, I haven't looked back- I could never again get used to the graphics, the UI, the clunky gameplay. As DotA2 came along and upgraded all of the above the same way HoN did, returning to DotA seemed like stepping into a parallel dimension- a blast from the past.

For me, returning to the "DotA world" was a very interesting experience, because I started noticing all these changes- not just largescale changes like Alchemist's Unstable Concoction being reworked from a channeling ability to an instant cast "countdown" mechanic, but also smaller, much more subtle differences. Now, it could be that a lot of these small differences are actually things that HoN changed and DotA never did- my memory is not perfect and I don't remember exactly how many things were changed within DotA while I was gone compared to things HoN changed for some reason. But what I do know is that these small subtle differences make a huge difference in the way Heroes work in the game, and that many people take these subtle things for granted. So off the top of my head, enjoy this little list of cool little things I've noticed.

Anti-Mage versus Magebane
While both Heroes are relatively the same concept (hard carry with blink mechanic, no real CC or way of keeping the enemy still) they carry with them some unique characteristics. First of all, Magebane's Spell shield is combined with his Flash ability. When this ability was first put into the game, a lot of people were upset because it seemed really overpowered. After all, it meant that not only Magebane got to benefit from his already strong anti-magic shield, but now his whole team did, too? Sounds OP. But in reality, the change ended up being more of a Nerf than a Buff. How? Simple- since Magebane had to Blink in order to provide the shield for anyone, it meant that if enemies could sneak up on him, he wouldn't have any protection at all. Because of this, Magebane is much more susceptible to Ganks, whereas Anti-Mage is protected constantly. Seeing as how survivability in Carries is extremely important to craddle them into the lategame, it comes to no surprise that this is a very important difference between the two. Of course, it also helps that HoN has a lot more brutal gankers out there- Fayde specifically really butchers Magebane with her two abilities which burn his Mana. Another interesting difference between the two (aside from the passive on on Magebane which Anti-Mage doesn't have) is the cast point on their ultimates. Magebane's ultimate takes years to cast in comparison with Anti-Mage's ultimate, which goes off seemingly instantly. The fraction of a second extra that Magebane needs to cast his ultimate makes all the difference in the world- as it means that Anti-Mage has a much more powerful tool for killing wounded Heroes in the Early to Mid game. Magebane's ultimate, on the other hand, has such an unbearably long cast time that it's almost a skill shot if you don't have clearvision.

Lina's a little on the Slow Side
Back when I left, I think Icefrog was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with Lina's third ability. Back then, it was an activatable ability that gave you a lot of attack speed. The ability didn't really synergize with Lina very much, as she was a caster, and built her items around having a larger Mana Pool, more HP, etc- but not +damage. As such, the increased Attack Speed wasn't really very significant and a lot of people didn't even end up picking up the skill at all. Somewhere between then and now, both DotA and HoN have opted for a passive ability instead, that procs when you cast spells. Arguably, the HoN passive is better in every aspect. It gives Pyromancer a Damage over Time on every single attack, which is invaluable for preventing enemies from using potions, plus it provides significant damage to buildings and Kongor. But really, the unsung Hero of this entire deal is the increased cast time. Lina's Light Strike Array is, in fact, so incredibly difficult to land with her casting animation half the time, that the small increase in cast time that only 1 rank of Fervor provides seems to completely negate the brutal cast time. Indeed, in Heroes of Newerth Pyromancer's 1 rank of Fervor that is often picked up early seems to make all the difference in landing his spells more reliably- and turns him into quite a monster in the later game.

A Bloody little Pat on the Back
Blood Hunter is sort of like the younger, physically handicapped cousin of Blood Seeker. Although seemingly better in every aspect, Blood Hunter somehow manages to be a bottom-of-the-barrel pick in HoN. Even lower level pubs are hesitant to pick him up these days, I personally can't even remember the last time I've seen him. And yet, for some reason, Blood Seeker, the Hero that seemingly does everything Blood Hunter does and worse, is a decent pick, at least from what I can see in current DotA2 pub games. So what's the deal? Where did Blood Hunter go wrong? Different metagame, easier to counter, better alternatives? Maybe- but really, the most distinct difference is in the itemization: Blood Hunter has no good mid-game items for him besides Mock, which is pretty darn difficult to farm in a real game. Blood Seeker, on the other hand, will be all too happy to pick up a Force Staff- an item that increases his ganking potency drastically. Funny how one item can make such a difference, but Force Staff works with Rupture in DotA, whereas Tablet of Command doesn't do anything for Blood Hunter. With one click Blood Seeker can launch his enemies helplessly in a direction, providing them an untimely advance in their menstrual cycle. The extra burst damage this provides seems to really make a difference in the games I've been in, and really helps Blood Hunter to dominate the mid-game if he plays his cards right.

Back To The Dumpster
Chronos and Faceless Void have always sort of been the staple of a "Hard Carry" in both games, and, while I can't really speak for DotA, Chronos seemingly has always been either complete rubbish or totally overpowered. It seems like no matter what S2 does, he's always either too good or too shitty. Returning to DotA2, I can't help but feel like DotA has done a better job taking care of everybody's favorite deaf, blind, purple time traveling alien. Faceless Void seems to out perform Chronos even though they're extremely similar in every way. Two subtle changes seem to make all the difference, at least for me: For one thing, Faceless Void can Bash you randomly at any time. Chronos needs a bit of a warm up and will only bash you every 5 hits, a prospect that doesn't seem like much of a threat compared to a static 25% Bash with no cooldown. This alone makes a huge difference, not just because of the lack of stun on Chronos but also the extra bonus damage that Faceless Void gets during his Chronosphere, which brings us to point #2- Chronosphere's duration. Chronosphere (DotA version) has a 4 second Duration at rank one, which scales only 0.5s a rank to 5 seconds at rank 3. Chronofield on the other hand, only freezes time for 3 seconds at rank 1, adding an extra second every rank. This seemingly small difference makes a huge difference in the early game. While Chronos might like to boast that his Time Leap deals damage, this small early game advantage is easily overshadowed by Faceless Void's massive 4 second Stun combined with a very reliable Bash that hits hard.

I'm sure other players who are currently undergoing the same transition will have their own small differences to write about. Flint outclassing Sniper due to his Flare over Shrapnel, Pharaoh's Wall of Mummies that seemingly suck everything in a thousand mile radius into them, Necrolyte's permanent 1000 range Heartstopper Aura- all of these subtle small differences completely make or break Heroes!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things DotA2 and HoN can Learn from Each Other

Having played both DotA2 and HoN for a while now, I've observed a few things. Both games aim to improve the functionality of the original DotA by adding new Features and Interfaces aimed at making the game more "DotA player friendly", seeing as how Warcraft 3's interface obviously wasn't designed for DotA alone. And while both games have come far, it seems like both games still have improvements over the other. I feel like both games could learn a thing or two from the other, so here we go:

Things HoN can learn from DotA2

Smart Autocombine
In DotA2, when you have items on the courier and the courier delivers them to your Hero, the game will basically search for every single possible way to combine them in such a way that A) all the items will be on your Hero, combined and B) done all at once, without having to press any buttons more than once. This feature is extremely convenient in DotA2, and consequently, extremely inconvenient in HoN because it doesn't exist. If my Hero in HoN, for example, has 5 random items and one component for 3 component recipe and I have the two other components for the item on the Courier, the Courier will not deliver any items at all and the item will not combine. This is because the courier can only deliver a maximum of one item at a time if my inventory is full, whereas DotA2 basically uses a system that pools all your items together, tries to combine them, and then tries to put them in your inventory. In other words, a lot less scrambling to try and combine stuff together, a lot less headache, a lot smoother gameplay.

"At a Glance" Mana Cost UI
A feature which has been requested for HoN since the dark ages, it's something nobody really knows why it hasn't happened yet. Mana Costs for abilities in DotA2 are displayed in a clean simple manner which does not obscure the icon. By simply looking down at my interface I can easily check how much Mana a spell costs, a feature which provides real benefits in hectic situations where I don't have time to hover over the spell to check. For something that seems like it would only take an hour to implement, S2 seems to persist with the idea that that should be a mod and not a real thing- an opinion I hope will change as they run down their checklist of things to borrow from DotA2. Similarly, the "level pegs" of the ability beneath the icon are equally handy and are definitely something I wouldn't mind seeing in HoN.

Commendations / Karma System

All ARTS games have gameplay which breeds the fabled "bad community" problem. The best way to counter this sort of thing, in my opinion, is to create a system which encourages and incentiveses players to behave better. These "Karma systems" have been heavily requested for Heroes of Newerth for a long time, but the idea has never been taken seriously or implemented. DotA2, on the other hand, is making a distinct effort to better the community- not only is the new Stat screen very selective in which stats it displays (no KDR- thank god) but it also features this Commendation screen where you can commend players for being nice, forgiving, for being a good teacher or displaying leadership. Of course, this feature is still half baked (because the game is in beta), and it remains to see exactly how Valve plan on developing it into a full fetched system, but I for one am already extremely excited and I expect great things in the future.

Things DotA2 can learn from HoN

Efficient Tooltips

When HoN first came out, it had very, very, very long tooltips. For new players, these were very intimidating, because it felt like they were reading a book when all they wanted to know was what the ability did. Sometime along HoN 2.0, S2 decided that the old, heavily detailed Tooltips had to be shortened, but at the same time they didn't want to remove crucial information that the player needed. Thankfully, S2 pulled through and created some very sleek yet efficient tooltips which get straight to the point, yet don't leave out valuable information. In most of the cases, these new tooltips kept all the important information including Mana Costs, Cooldowns, Ranges/Radii, etc- but the long tooltips are still available in the menu for people who still prefer them. DotA2 tries to do what S2 did but falls short. The DotA2 tooltips are often short, but they are ruined by the fact that they withhold vital information. Things like Mana Cost and Cooldown are displayed, but often ability-unique numbers and important details like the type of damage (Physical or Magic, etc.) are left out. DotA2 also "lists" the details of the spell in an often long large tooltips, whereas in HoN the numbers are written into the sentence which describes the spell chronologically. And finally, DotA2 features flavor text in their tooltips, something that I personally don't like because it only takes up space and doesn't really contribute anything- Ideally there would be an option to turn these off.

Voting System
HoN takes care of most problems that players have via a vote. In DotA2, any player can pause the game at any time via the press of a button, something which becomes extremely annoying if somebody feels the need to turn a teamfight into a slideshow. In HoN, when a player wants to pause, 3 of his teammates must agree and then the pause is announced and counted down before the game actually pauses. Similarly, the game will also announce and count down the unpause. It's debatable how and if DotA2 will chose to implement a system like this, but for now its current system definitely seems lackluster. While the Kick option would certainly be a controversial move, I would also argue (and have argued) that a unanimous concede option should also be implemented into DotA2. Similarly, if enough players on both teams agree, a remake vote would also be beneficial to the game.

Sell Items Anywhere

In HoN, you can sell items anywhere on the map, even if they are on your courier and not you. In fact, all you have to do is hold down two buttons and right click the item to make it sell. I don't see why this isn't a feature in DotA2 as I don't think it would influence balance in any meaningful way, all it would do is make the game a lot more convenient for everyone. If you accidentally buy the wrong item in DotA2 with the Courier, you're screwed. There is no way to sell it unless you can teleport back to base in time. One missclick can therefore lose you the game if you accidentally make a Mekansm on Faceless Void by accident, something I don't really feel should be punished as hard as it is. Situations in which you are doing Roshan are often plagued by the fact that you can't simply sell items back to the store, the result is players finding Iron Branches sprinkled across the map.

Friday, January 6, 2012

5 Reasons Torturer is better than Artesia

Artesia just came out, and after playing a few games with her I am prepared to risk embarrassing myself after a few weeks by saying that she's pretty mediocre. I will preface this by saying that there's a good chance I'm completely wrong about this. I often scold people for sharing opinions about Heroes that aren't out yet, or Heroes that literally just came out the same day. With that in mind, I could just be stupid. But alas, in the few games I've played with Artesia, I spent most of the time wondering to myself: "Why am I playing this Hero and not Torturer?". So here you go, my top 5 Reasons why Torturer can replace Artesia on my team any day:

Torturer can Farm better
This might surprise you but Artesia is more of a Carry than a Ganker. Really, her role is almost identical to Torturer (with some small exceptions which I will get into later)- she's a semi-carry that can also (apparently) Gank. Despite not having any direct scaling factors besides the fact that he can literally turn Mana into damage, Torturer excels (in addition to other factors) because he can farm well. His area of affect damage makes clearing both large creepwaves and double/tripple stacked creeps easy. Artesia, in comparison, is completely lackluster. Her Q deals damage in a small area of effect, but in order to hit multiple targets realistically you have to have them literally standing in front of you, ideally attacking you. Being able to farm up a lot of Gold if you are playing a relatively item dependent Hero (like Torturer or Artesia) is going to be hard when this is already a challenge.

Torturer can Push
In addition to (in my opinion) eclipsing Artesia in every way, Torturer also sports the ability to Push. When you first think about it, it seems unfair, like I'm comparing apples to oranges. But really, since Torturer can already do literally almost everything better than Artesia, it seems like a fair comparison. Being able to deal tons of damage to Towers with a non-ultimate ability is huge, something I don't think I need to tell anyone because Torturer has been around for ages.

Torturer has a Stun and no Skillshots
Artesia doesn't have a stun. Not even a mini-stun. This instantly puts her in a difficult place when ganking, because if I see her coming I can just TP away. S2 has gotten a lot of flack for putting stuns and mini-stuns on a lot of Heroes, but honestly, it almost seems unfair thee days to make a ganker/carry that doesn't have some sort of stun. The only other Hero that functions this way is Blood Hunter, and we all know how great he is. A long time ago, in a place called DotA, Torturer's Stun was hard to land. Combined with a very long casting animation and incredibly small AoE, Leshrac's Q was (and to my understanding still is) a skillshot. Torturer's Q, on the otherhand, is not. The ability has been nerfed many times but next to Leshrac's stun it's still the size of Texas. It isn't hard to land. Q aside, all of Torturer's abilities require 0 skill to land, contrary to Artesia. Artesia's Q is technically not a hard ability to hit- it basically locks on to your target. The problem arises with the fact that it can hit creeps, basically making Heroes that are standing next to creeps extremely difficult to hit. Additionally, Heroes with summonable minions like Wildsoul, Balphagore, Keeper, etc, are all extremely difficult to chase down when they can just place their minions in your way. This technically wouldn't be too big of a deal if Artesia's Q was the only real damaging ability she has. E's damage is negligible, and hinges on the fact that the enemy is near me, which is obviously not always the case.

Artesia is an inferior Teamfighter
Artesia has a huge potential damage output- this I cannot deny. Using your ultimate combined with all the charges on Q after using W produces huge amounts of damage- but the problem is that this never really happens because it's ridiculously hard to pull off. First of all, Artesia has to channel her W ability to even begin fighting. In late-game teamfights, the damage W puts out through E is laughable- it's barely even worth mentioning. So basically, after I drop my R, I begin channeling my W which does nothing. Through playing Voodoo Jester we all know how hard it is to keep a channeling ability up a teamfight- which is why he is rewarded so greatly for every second it stays up. Same with Tempest ult. All channeling abilities in HoN tend to reward the player greatly because they're so difficult to maintain. In a teamfight, Artesia's W grants her negligible regen and negligible damage. By the time I've started channeling W, Torturer could have already rolled his head around on the keyboard and produced more than I will through the entire fight. After I'm (hypothetically) done safely channeling my W, I can begin shooting Q. Problem is, since my ult is stationary, half my damage is probably going into creeps. The Area of Effect is not very large and I can't exactly steer the projectiles, so there's no real guarantee they will hit properly. I've basically just spent 3 seconds channeling to be able to output less damage and effects than a hero like Torturer.

Torturer and Artesia share almost the same Stats
You might think because of all these natural disadvantages, Artesia might have a lot more INT or STR gain than Torturer. This isn't the case. All their stat gains are almost the same, Artesia only sports 0.3 more STR gain than Tort, with 19 Starting Strength over his 18. Their INT is 100% identical and Torturer actually features (a lot) more agility than Artesia for some reason. Additionally, for some reason, Artesia is also slower than Torturer. I guess the idea here was that since Torturer needs to be near his enemies to deal damage he could use higher movespeed to catch them- but really, what is that worth when Torturer has an AoE stun to easily get close to people. Artesia can only run into the lane guns blazing and hope that her 15% slow will be enough to kill the enemy before they make it to the tower. Also, Torturer has 600 range while Artesia, for some reason, only has 525.

Concluding, I feel like Artesia is pretty weak right now. It feels like there are Heroes that can do what she does and better. She doesn't really excel in the early game as a Ganker as I thought she might, but her Lategame isn't much better either. In addition to dealing comparable damage to Torturer, Artesia's damage is 100% Magical, making her especially weak to Shrunken Heads later in the game. Torturer wins out here again, having at least 1 ability which deals Physical damage. Let's not forget that Artesia is a Hero that has to cast a lot of smaller spells to be effective, a playstyle that is dangerous because it's easily countered by Heroes like Vindicator.

If I had to buff Artesia right now I'd probably:
- Increase the AoE of her Q's damage by about 50.
- Increase her Movespeed by about 10 MS.
- Increase the damage of Arcane Bolts to at least 100 damage at rank 4.

But of course it's only the first day and we have yet to see anyone play Artesia to her full potential. As usual, it's a waiting game and we'll all just have to see if I'm right or not- hopefully I'm wrong.