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.