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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: the seven stages of Techies">Techies

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

The patch could be here tomorrow. Maybe? Hopefully. By the time you read this you'll probably know more than I do. Valve have promised Techies by the end of August; Valve have promised a lot of things. Anything - and literally nothing - is possible.

It'll probably be tomorrow. If it is, we'll finally begin the process of accepting Techies into the game. Techies, the argument goes, are going to change how pub Dota is played forever. All Pick is going to become a (literal) minefield. The old ways will be gone. It seems appropriate that a hero with a reputation for griefing should attract a seven-stage process of its own.

Shock and denial

This is how you are going to feel the first time that an enemy Techies shockingly denies themselves to secure first blood against you. It will feel cheap, at first, and unfair. Techies can achieve with a single allied Tiny what the entire Dire team normally pulls off by rushing into the Radiant jungle before the horn.

"The novelty will wear off" you'll think, when the surprise fades. "People will get bored of doing it eventually." Now you're in denial: they will not get bored. There will always be new Techies players, just as there are always new Pudge players. The future looks like an endless series of level one suicide attacks. As you stare into the flames you perceive motion, like a pair of sunglasses descending; deal with it, the fire whispers.

Pain and guilt

You'll give in eventually. Change your name and queue solo and lock Techies before anybody else can. You'll fling yourself out of the fog of war at Crystal Maiden or somebody and - boom - there's your first blood. You'll mine the side shops and feed terribly. This might make you feel a little bit better at first but then the guilt comes: you're not that guy, are you? You never used to be that guy.

Anger and bargaining

Everybody else, however, clearly is that guy. After a week of contending with Techies in pub matches the novelty has very much worn off: who do these people think they are? Why doesn't anybody want to play Dota the way it used to be? Is everybody new? You suspect that everybody is new, and say as much.

When anger doesn't achieve anything - because it has never, in the history of Dota, achieved anything - you turn to bargaining. "pls no techies" you hurriedly type at the beginning of games. "i support if no techies pls". As a gesture of good faith you pick Witch Doctor and buy wards, courier, smoke, sentries. Then, somebody notices that Techies are free and repicks their hero. You sob quietly into your single Iron Branch.

Reflection and loneliness

Perhaps it is time to simply move on: to leave solo queue for a week or two and wait for the fuss to die down. You could work on your last-hitting, perhaps, or learn a new hero. Then, the notion strikes you: what if you work on becoming a really good Techies player? Someone respectable. Somebody the kids will look up to.

And so you practice. You read guides on bomb placement and work on finding farm with that awful basic attack in bot matches. You devote yourself to the theory and craft of Techies play, and slowly you improve. But there's no life in it, no spark. You realise that, as guilty as you felt at the time, there's something innocent and carefree about throwing your life away to troll a support. You start to miss the flames, in your own way.

The upward turn

When you return to solo queue you're no longer as aggrieved by the presence of little explosive goblins. You roll your eyes knowingly both at the players who automatically pick them and the players who get angry about the same: you've been both, you've moved past both. Your time practicing the hero has given you the knowledge you need to avoid the most obvious traps, and while from time to time you find yourself wandering into a nest of mines it stings far less than it used to.


You've got your Dota back. It's a little different, and sometimes people explode, but it's Dota. When Techies show up in Random Draft or Single Draft games it's an opportunity to play something a little bit unusual. You and your friends work to include Techies into your plans from time to time: when playing with a stack the hero is just another tool in the box, and not the end of the world. You watch a friend wander into a shop full of mines and laugh the long laugh of the healed.

Acceptance and hope

You have been on a long journey, Techies and you. Dota isn't quite the same as it used to be, but it's always like this, isn't it? You remember back, way back to when Spirit Breaker was added and smile. It's just like that, isn't it? Why didn't you realise? For a while, all anybody wanted to do was charge across the map as an angry-looking cosmic cow. Now, all they want to do is explode. And just like Spirit Breaker, you are probably never, ever going to see somebody pick Techies in a professional match. You will be fine.

The game settles down, and you start to wonder: what next? By this point, a month has passed - perhaps two. We are entering the autumn. You cast around for something to get hyped about all over again. Then, it hits you: where the fuck is Diretide?

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.>

A few days back I was reading through Skeleton King’s lore and picking over his evolution through the years. It pulled me into a wider train of thought about Dota lore and how the game itself doesn’t go in for a particular obvious narrative conceit. You are a team of wizards some of whom know each other and you want to kick over the other team’s base. What the base does, what the team does after winning or losing, why the characters are on Radiant or Dire side none of that gets addressed over the course of a match. But why is that the case, and would Dota 2 benefit from a little more lore?

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: why Culling Blade is Dota 2′s most entertaining skill">Axe

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

Ultimate abilities are a good place to start whenever you're tasked with explaining why Dota is cool. They're silly, diverse, exciting to watch. If you're staring at an unconvinced game designer, show them how Chain Frost interacts with Chronosphere. Show them how Wraith King's Reincarnation power is both a safetynet and a mobile psychological deterrent. Show them almost any great Echoslam, but probably this one, because it's a tragedy and a comedy at the same time.

These abilities and the anecdotes they create are the soul of the game. They're why many people play. Faceless Void is popular because of the chance however unlikely that this time it'll be you that lands that perfect, game-turning Chronosphere. That glittering stasis bubble is symbolic of a pub metagame largely defined by players wanting to be lone-wolf superstars, a protected space where nobody can get between you and your rampage. I love the little double fist-pump Void does as the Chronosphere goes down it makes me think of that moment at the end of The Breakfast Club. Don't you forget about Void.

I've been thinking a lot about what makes certain ultimates work as part of the life of the game. This has nothing to do with how powerful or viable they are it's about the effect they have on the tone of a given match. As fun as Chronosphere is for the solo player, it's also an example of a spell that drains fun from the game for everybody else. Nobody other than Void wants to be inside that bubble. The same is true for Song of the Siren in fact, the only reason Chronosphere isn't the most frustrating ult to screw up is because a bad Song of the Siren is capable of ruining Naga Siren's plans along with everybody else's.

The best skills make the game more exciting for everybody, and that's why I submit to you, strangers from the internet, that Axe's Culling Blade is secretly the best ability in the game. This stems from the argument that Axe is secretly the best hero in the game, which I earnestly believe but will save for another time because I'd rather not have that argument.

For the unaware, Culling Blade allows Axe to insta-kill any enemy hero who drops below a certain health threshold. If you use it above that threshold, it goes on cooldown and merely does damage. Do it below the threshold and thanks to one of the best ability tweaks of all time it has no cooldown and can immediately be used to cull somebody else. The animation is this great leaping slam-dunk, accompanied by a sound like somebody smacking the world's most self-satisfied watermelon with the ringing hatchet of justice.

The last time I wrote about Culling Blade it was in the context of a tongue-in-cheek article about Dota's most meaningless numbers. I learned that day that many people do not want your tongue anywhere near their cheek, and they'll rush to call you an asshole if you ever suggest seriously or not that your right to Culling Blade somebody is more important than someone else's right to get kills or farm or whatever. Of course it isn't. A good Axe player knows among other things that there's a time when your team really does need you to dunk (a Shallow-Graving Dazzle, Abaddon just after Borrowed Time triggers) and a time when yes, maybe Ember Spirit can do more with those kills.

That's all well and good. The reason it's so heartbreaking to have your dunks denied is because the ability is so well designed. It feels incredible, and every successful dunk promises another. Like the dream of getting a rampage inside a Chronosphere, it's a selfish urge but where Void's glory-or-not occurs inside of a couple of seconds, an Axe rampage is this delirious, free-roaming thing. You get a movement speed boost whenever you cull somebody, as if the game is saying go, go! Go get the next one. Once you chop, you can't stop.

And here's the kicker: it's actually kind of fun for everybody else, too. Culling Blade is the only spell I can think of that regularly gets a cheer from allies. Yes, you probably stole their kill. But you did it with style, and Axe seems really happy about it, and who can blame him? He's from a mission from god to welcome whole teams to the space jam. I'd rather be dunked by Axe than picked off with pedantic precision by Sniper, because everything about Culling Blade communicates manic glee. It's a direct injection of energy and silliness into a battle in a game where most ultimates have the opposite effect Global Silence, Chronosphere, Primal Split and Doom are all good examples of stop signs. Culling Blade isn't a stop sign. It's that moment at the beginning of a motor race when the lights turn green. It is systematically impossible for it to be an anti-climax.

Has there ever been a better first blood, or a more entertaining gank turnaround, or a better start to a tournament than Pajkatt's double dunk at the beginning of ESL One Frankfurt? I don't think there has and I don't think there's another ability in the game that could get that reaction of a football stadium full of people. Because Culling Blade is secretly the best ability in the game.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.>

Confession: I have spent approximately $357.38 on a free videogame. Three hundred and fifty seven dollars and thirty eight cents.

Second confession: Actually it’s a little more than that.

The figure Valve gives you is related to the badges you earn by collecting sets of trading cards in the game. To find out how much you’ve spent in Dota 2 just go to the badges section of your profile, look at Dota 2 and then click on “How do I earn card drops?” The card drops in free-to-play games are linked to the money you spend in-game and so Steam will tell you how close you are to earning your next card drop. It also tells you how much you’ve spent but only in the period since they introduced card drops.

For me that’s just north of 215 and I’m going to try to answer the question “Why?”

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
Mastery Gems
- Mastery and Kinetic gem functionality has been merged and the term “Mastery Gem” removed. What were previously called mastery gems are now kinetic gems. Kinetic gems can change animations, change abilities, add or modify particle FX, change ability icons, and modify other features of the item they are attached to.

The following changes have been made to complete the transition to a keyless economy:

Treasure Keys
- Treasure Keys are no longer sold on the Dota 2 store.
- All basic treasures that were previously opened with a Treasure Key have been removed from the game and the Steam Community Market.
- Treasure Keys can now be redeemed for a free unlocked Treasure of your choice. When you use the treasure key a new redemption menu will open. Immortal treasures and some older special event treasures are excluded from this menu, but otherwise the list of treasures is unrestricted. One key can be exchanged for any one treasure. As new treasures are added to the game, they will also be added to this menu.
- All treasure keys will expire and be removed from the game one year from now on July 1st, 2015. Keys must be redeemed by that time.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2 coming to Madison Square Garden for the largest e-sports event in New York City’s history">Dota2-mlg

ESL One is bringing "the largest in-person competitive gaming event ever held on the East Coast" to New York City in October, with a Dota 2 tournament that will be held in the 5500-seat Theater at Madison Square Garden. The competition will take place during New York Super Week, a ten-day-long, city-wide pop culture festival with concerts, comedy shows, gaming, lectures and more.

Eight top-ranked Dota 2 teams will battle for a $100,000 prize at the tournament, which will be broadcast live on Twitch with coverage provided by JoinDOTA. "By staging this event at the iconic Madison Square Garden, we're going to see history in the making," ESL One Product Manager James Lampkin said in a statement. " ReedPOP, Twitch and ESL are coming together to create something special that New York City has never seen before."

New York Super Week runs from October 3-12 and will feature events ranging from Dr. Horrible s Sing-Along Blog Sing-Along and Joss Whedon-Themed Party and StarTalk Live! hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson to New York Comic Con, which will conclude the festivities. The tournament itself happens on October 9-10; details about qualifying, invitees and teams that will be taking part in the action will be released "in the coming weeks."

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)


Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.>

Just prior to The International 4 one of the professional teams Fnatic was engaged in a frantic back-and-forth with Valve. The discussion (and thus, this week’s column) centred on team substitutions. Specifically whether Fnatic was allowed to compete at TI4 with Steve ‘Excalibur’ Ye taking the place of their invited carry player Adrian ‘Era’ Kryeziu. The swap was being pursued by Fnatic because Era’s recent health concerns, including panic attacks, had put his ability to travel to Seattle and compete in doubt. Valve’s response was unequivocal. Fnatic had to attend with their invited lineup or they couldn’t compete.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: there are many Dotas, and other thoughts on custom game modes">Pudge

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

Dota 2's popularity goes against all of the received wisdom about game design I can think of. It is complicated and inconsistent and it pushes people to interact in a way that generates all sorts of well-documented discontent. What it offers can't be summed up in a single sentence, and even a documentary dedicated to explaining its competitive side can only do so much to explain what you actually do in the game, or why that is fun.

It's the single game that means the most to me and yet I hate it sometimes; most of my friends don't like it. That's weird, right?

I've picked at this problem in a dozen different ways since starting to write this column. Millions of regular players can't be wrong, but nor can the individuals whose tastes I share who looked at Dota 2 and thought, perhaps reasonably, "no, I am not going to learn the difference between a Scythe of Vyse and a Eul's Scepter while being shouted at by a racist, no thank you."

One possibility is that players are generally more interested in complex systems and difficult games than they're given credit for a trend also demonstrated by the success of DayZ and the survival genre. This is a nice thing to believe, particularly in a world where mainstream game publishers race to pitch lower and lower estimates of players' tastes and capacity to think for themselves. Another, more practical answer is that Dota 2 is popular because it's both enormously varied and completely free, which isn't a common combination. It used to be more so: the kinds of modding scene that created DotA (and Counter-Strike) offered a wealth of diverse experiences that didn't cost you anything. Now, people find some of that variety in a single game.

Dota isn't the same game for everybody that plays it. This is key to understanding why it's so popular and so fractious: for some people, it simply isn't a vastly complicated team strategy game. It's a deathmatch game where you pick the big guy with the hook and try to drag wizards out of the bushes. For others, it's a game where you kill NPCs until you've got an expensive item in all six inventory slots at which point you take part in a single battle to end the game. Some people play solo, some with the same friends every night, others with a rotating cast. There aren't quite as many Dotas as there are people who play it, but there are more than we give it credit for.

Today's announcements made it clear that Valve are going all-in with their support for custom modes. The tools are in place, and they're more powerful than they've ever been. An interface for sharing and playing them will follow shortly. This is both the end of Dota 2 as we understand it and the restoration of the circumstances that created Dota in the first place. I wonder if, in the future, we'll come to to think of the first few years of Dota 2's life as a strange bubble where there was only one game type, divided up into modes by the specific ways that you went about choosing a hero. I wonder what effect this will have on the way people play Dota every day, and on the sense of importance that Valve has invested in those three lanes, that original design, through high-profile tournaments like the International.

Imagine if everybody who locks down mid so that they can play Pudge graduated to Pudge Wars overnight. They won't, I guess, but it's the readiest example. Much of the strife that arises when playing with strangers comes from the sense that you're not playing the same game that there's an invisible distinction between players based on attitude. With custom modes more readily accessible, that distinction becomes something practical, something that designers can design around and players can plan for. It becomes less necessary, because we won't all be forced to play on the same field. The Pudge guys can play Pudge Wars. And they should.

We'll go back to having more than one Dota in reality as well as in theory. Valve's original adoption of the mod had the effect of granting special status to Icefrog's work, which had already come to be thought of as the official iteration of the game. E-sports has a large role to play in that, and arguably the most prominent 'other' form of Dota at the moment is Captain's Mode: it really is its own game, distinct from the All Pick and Random Draft that people play in regular matchmaking. It's the practical divide between competitive Dota and everything else. Soon it'll be the competitive form of classic Dota smaller, in the grand scheme of things while modders slave away at creating something better. The change in scope for Dota as a whole is staggering.

Part of me is going to miss having everybody forced to figure out their place in a single absurdly complicated game. It's this that forms the basis of friendships, that allows you to turn around to anybody in the queue at a Dota event and talk in a common language. It won't fade quickly, not at first it starts small, as custom maps gain traction as the preserve of the curious and the bored but Valve are giving the community the tools it needs to redefine the game at a fundamental level. I'm pretty sure TI5 and 6 will be played on three lanes. TI7, though? We'll see.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Source 2 tools teased in Dota 2 update">Dota 2 tools

The Dota 2 Workshop update is even more interesting than it first appears. The new tools include an overhauled edition of Valve's Hammer level editor, and the update download adds a 64-bit build of Dota 2. Both contain allusions to the next generation of Valve's Source engine. Set the Half-Life 3 alert to DEFCON beige.

Technically-minded modders and map-making enthusiasts are busily dissecting the tools in detail, but it's immediately clear that Hammer has been greatly improved. The interface has been overhauled, and the editor now renders the level in real-time as you tweak level geometry. It also runs on a new file structure. When you open a file in the editor, you can now choose to open a new "vmap" file, or an old fashioned "Source 1.0 Map File". The community is still puzzling over the advantages offered by the new directory system, but it looks like Valve are laying important groundwork for future releases.

It's interesting to note how user-friendly the new tools are. Dota Redditors are already having fun with functions that let you sketch out levels quickly (via DarkMio) using tilesets. As well as Dota 2's traditional forest set, there's the wintry Frostivus set and this one. Valve have a history of encouraging user-created content, including campaigns and levels. Hammer's complexity surely stunted the potential of Left 4 Dead's ecosystem a problem Valve tried to circumvent with Portal 2's lovely level-creation tools. Nu-Hammer could serve as a friendlier entry point for tinkerers.

In addition to all that, the latest Dota 2 update also adds a 64-bit version of the Dota 2 client, which you'll find tucked away in steamapps/common/dota 2 beta/dota_ugc/game/bin/win64. It contains numerous references to second-gen elements, like "engine2.dll", "materialssystem2.dll" and "vphysics2.dll", and comes with a colourful new console. It's a bit premature to say that Dota 2 has been ported to Source 2 wholesale, we're likely looking at an interim step as Valve roll out tools designed to support their current games and future projects.

This is quite exciting nonetheless. Publicly Valve have been laser-focused on Dota 2, but are of course rumoured to be working on Left 4 Dead 3 and, what was it again, Hearth-Life? Bath-Life? As someone who likes Valve games, but can't quite get into Dotes, I wait in meditative stasis for a new Valve happening, be it an announcement or an ARG. Our time will come.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2 modding tools now in alpha, upload custom maps/modes to Steam Workshop">Dota 2

Valve has announced, and released, the first alpha version of its Dota 2 Workshop Tools, which will make it easier for modders to make and share custom maps and game modes for their gargantuan wizard-'em-up. This initial release is targeted at developers, so the system requirements might be a tad high: you'll need a 64-bit version of Windows, a Direct3D 11 compatible GPU, and you'll need to opt into the Steam Client Beta. If you have all those things, you can now use the tools to alter Dota 2 to your liking, uploading the results to the Steam Workshop for other players to try.

As Valve explains at the above link, the Steam Workshop submission process has been streamlined as of this alpha release to allow players to subscribe to custom game modes, which will tell Steam to automatically update them on your behalf. To play custom game modes and maps you'll need the same specs as above, but Valve are promising support for 32-bit machines sporting Direct 3D9 down the line, so if you can run Dota 2 now, you should be able to run its mods eventually.

Seeing how the original Dota started life as a Warcraft 3 mod, it's only fitting that Dota 2 should introduce proper modding tools, and the possibilities are rather exciting. Time will tell just how robust and open to experimentation the new tools are, but many commenters on the Dota 2 subreddit are already hugely impressed, with one existing modder stating that the update is "like Christmas for all of us".

If you've been inspired to give the tools a try, you might want to read up on the extensive documentation first. The tools comprise a developer console, asset browser and the Hammer level editor, along with model, material and particle editors. Now go forth, and create the definitive edition of Pudge Wars 2 that the world has been waiting for.

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