I've been playing in the Dota 2 beta for the past weekend, and it wasn't until I actually learned how the game works that I realised the ultimate truth about it - I don't want to play Dota 2.
I'm not saying it's a bad game, because it's not. Some people mistake an aggressively steep learning curve for failure on the part of the creators, but that's a mistake which is slowly killing what video games can be. It's a good game, it's just hard to play.
It's not the community, because I had something of an epiphany about the rampant f@#$headed-ness (that I'll explain later), and there are a significant amount of players who are actually attempting to be helpful. Props to 'AFK Farmer
', who was very patient with me in my first game.
|Trust me, this isn't even remotely as bad as it gets.|
No, to explain why I don't want to play Dota 2 I have to explain how the game works - or my understanding of it, at least - and hope you understand that ultimately the problem lies with me, and not the game.
If you imagine Dota 2 like a game of basketball, you'll have an easier time picking up the rest of the game - though you have to do a bit of work to make the connection stick.
First of all, you've got two teams of five playing across two halves comprised of three lanes. Your goal is to drive a lane down to the goal, your opponents home base tree thing. Your opponents obviously want to stop you - and they want to get to your home base tree thing.
The lanes are filled with creeps from both teams which wander down to the base of the opposing team. You can think about killing creeps as dribbling - you're doing it constantly, and if you're not you're not playing the game properly. Ideally you want to get the last hit on creeps - last hits are worth gold and extra XP, so it's the ideal way to increase your characters worth.
|Run little Lifestealer, run!|
Players have roles, and there are many different definitions known to the better learned players, but the core two remain the same - there are Carrys and Supports. Carrys carry the team, like Kobe Bryant for the last four years. Supports support the Carrys - making sure the Carrys get the last hits so they can power up faster as well as helping to gank other heroes - the Wades or Pippens.
Map awareness is probably the most important part of playing Dota 2 well - meaning you don't simply stick to your lane, you have to go where your team needs you. When other members of your team are 'pushing' (attacking hard) a lane it can be beneficial for you to leave your position to create a mismatch - allowing your team to score with greater ease.
The similarity of the map can be related to basketball as well - it's the court. The elements of a bball court (that's what we fly mack daddies call it) don't change, and neither do the dimensions of a Dota 2 map - you just have to learn to deal with that.
Differences between heroes are outside the scope of my explanation - it's not like
Derrick Rose can shoot lightning from his hands, and Charles Barkley never really had a Chaos Dunk (though Chris Bosh has a fantastic life-stealing passive
). Heroes are a huge part of understanding the game though, so I'll explain them anyway.
|The grand master Chris Bosh commands you to submit your soul unto me!|
There are 108 different heroes in the game, and according to those who play it regularly if you don't know them ALL you don't know how to play the game right. So you can spend a couple of hours learning the ins and outs of one hero - which items they should equip, what their role is, what your mum does in her free time, whether you were born under powerlines or not - only to then move on to the next hero, starting from scratch all over again.
Or you can do what I did, and just pick a random hero each time, never really learning how to play any of them and still muddling out the same questions. Dota 2 does its best to help you - it recommends items that are useful at certain stages through the match, which helps you understand what you should be buying - but at the end of the day you're still probably going to pick your skills in an order deemed unsatisfactory by your teammates.
Scoring takes some work with this analogy, but I can make it work. A kill on an enemy hero is a basket, as is killing a tower. Killing the home base tree thing is game over, so it's not so much a basket as it is smashing the backboard at a community court (because then everyone has to play Netball).
Of course, the 'low scoring' nature of the game is where it all sort of breaks down for me. You won't get a lot of baskets because if people are playing properly they're not getting killed all that often. So you wind up pushing lanes and setting screens and attempting to ambush people, but because players have good map awareness they usually don't get caught out until endgame, when (from what I've seen) the whole plan goes out the window and the team losing their home base tree thing starts dying a lot.
|Back to business as usual, I see.|
In this way the basketball Dota 2 resembles is more like NBL than NBA - most trips down the lane don't result in anyone scoring, there's a lot of running back and forth to ultimately no avail and you wonder a little how some players made the team.
Which means that when you - a person who literally finished downloading the game moments ago - walk into the Sydney Kings locker room with a towel on your shoulder and a smile on your face, attempting to not accidently stare at anyone's *****, it should come as no surprise that none of them are happy to see you.
Think about it. They're already the Sydney Kings, and now they have to contend with you. Also, for the purposes of this metaphor you're now me, and you're awful at basketball. You all wander out onto the court and you look the tallest one dead in his goddamn eye and say 'I don't actually know how to play this game.'
No wonder they hate you. The whistle blows, and the game begins and you immediately let the other team score five baskets on you in a row. People watching on the sidelines are laughing, like they're watching some giant joke, and you're doing your best to use your face to block dunks and your teammates are dying inside.
|At this point I wouldn't be surprised if the bots started swearing endlessly at me.|
One of the guys decides to try and help you out a little bit, but this means him giving you one of his arms so he's not really playing to his full potential. The whole team starts to suffer even more than they normally do, and naturally all of them feel like it's probably at least partly your fault.
So yeah, I get it. I get why everyone who knows how to play Dota 2 hates everyone who doesn't. And the other thing is, I get why I don't want to play Dota 2. I don't like to play Basketball. I'm awful at it. I lack the appropriate skills and I've never really paid much attention to the strategy ("get Shaq on fire, dunk until I have no friends left" is not a strategy) and so I don't like playing the game. But I like watching Basketball, and I enjoy watching Dota 2, too.