PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2, Smite, and wizards in general.

Last weekend I spent almost exactly two and a half hours in the International Open Qualifiers. I wrote beforehand that I'd have been delighted to get through the first round, and technically that's what happened. Technically. As it happened, our first round opponent didn't show up and we waited, waited, waited for the game that'd determine our next match to finish. It started late and ran long, meaning that we were sat on Skype for almost two hours building KSP rockets and tinkering with Invisible, Inc. Eventually, we got to play. Then, soundly outmatched, we lost in under half an hour.

I'd hoped to be able to roll into this week's column with a better story than that, but that's more or less the extent of it. We didn't acquit ourselves terribly, but it turns out that if you lose all three lanes and they have a draft that can teamfight early and push then it's pretty hard to fight your way back into the game.

We were disappointed but neither particularly surprised nor particularly disheartened. We had some very specific shot-calling and strategic problems to solve, but we understood them and they seemed solvable. A similarly positive line of thought was this: that we'd lost but understood why, knew that our opponents had much more experience of the game than us but could also see the road from where we are to where they are. And so on. There's comfort in seeing your failure in these granular terms, in picking out the little things that went well and appreciating the skill it took to make other things go so badly.

That's the note we ended on. Since then, I've been thinking about a lot. I've started to suspect that, in reality, that sense of a linear course between you and a superior opponent is actually pretty misleading.

For one thing, your ability to parse why an opponent has been successful is very much grounded in your own experience of the game—in the sorts of things you value, and therefore in your own conception of how you win. When you watch somebody play well and think 'I could do that', you're probably focusing on the aspects of their play that you already understand—i.e, exactly the stuff you don't need to learn.

That's a pretty disheartening thing to realise, particularly because it means that raw practice isn't a catch-all solution to an experience deficit. It's not enough to dump time into the game: you have to learn to invest that time into the right places. With that in mind, then, it's useful to identify the way in which the nature of skill changes as players become more experienced. Not 'improved'—changed.

I found this chart, by Redditor Ave-Nar, pretty interesting. Here's the original thread. It illustrates the changes in hero win rates both across different patches and across multiple skill levels—normal, high and very high in this case. There are some really interesting patterns, and these patterns tell us not just about the heroes themselves but how they relate to player skill.

Take, for example, Necrophos in 6.82 and Omniknight in 6.84. Both show a high winrate that declines linearly as you progress from normal to very high—a downwards diagonal slant. Although they are played in different positions, both heroes also have a similar impact on the game (tremendous teamfight sustain and laning presence) and are, crucially, straightforward to play. An Omniknight only needs to press R at the right time to completely tip a pub-level teamfight where half of the players have locked physical damage carries. A sub-par Necrophos can get away with spamming Q and using R to steal everybody's kills—the fact that he is also healing his allies and extending enemy respawn times as he does it is a bonus that the normal skill-level player doesn't really need to think about too much.

As a result, winrate declines with skill—because better players know how to work or counterpick both of these heroes, and neither of them have very many options when they've been outmaneuvered or outplayed. That linear decline demonstrates something basic: that as players get better, they get better at denying the enemy an easy way to win.

Contrast with Undying in 6.84. His pattern is similar to Troll Warlord in 6.83—lowest winrate in normal skill, highest in high skill and then a dip down again in very high skill. This inverted 'check' shape is really interesting. Undying in particular is a hero that requires a bit of expertise to use properly. You need to know how to gauge the impact of stolen strength on an enemy. You need to understand how to position a tombstone, and particularly how the many recent changes interact with his skillset—I still encounter people trying to counterpick Undying with Bristleback who look surprised when the quills do nothing to the zombies. In short, you don't need to be a great player to use Undying effectively but you need a fundamental understanding of how Dota works and how it has changed over time.

You also need to understand drafting, to a degree. You need to be able to both pick a partner for Undying and know where to lane him to do the most damage to the enemy's laning phase. All of this is what signifies a high skill player—and explains why Undying's winrate takes a huge leap between the two brackets.

Then, in very high, he falls off. With good reason—the best players can do all of the above and understand that their opponent is also doing all of the above. If an Undying pick is likely, a very good player will have planned for it. The process of getting better at Dota—as with other competitive games—is one of gradually transitioning from a focus on you to a focus on them.

Put it another way: as skill increases, player aspirations change. This is a generalisation, but the trend is for lower-level players to enter a game with a plan that they intend to execute. Land a lot of Pudge hooks. Play Void—whatever it is. They understand this plan in and of itself, they understand the hero and the items they need, but the plan doesn't take into account the enemy. Thing is, the enemy isn't thinking about them either. Two self-focused plans smack into one another and 50% of the time yours comes out on top.

Then comes outdrafting, whether by directly countering picks or simply by playing the meta. This involves a better understanding of the game and some sense of what the enemy's strategy might be, but it's still ultimately a series of decisions that are focused on the self. The composition of most pub drafts is, I think, the product of these two forces acting against each other: someone vanity picks, so somebody does an obvious counter-pick, and so on, where actual team-wide synergy is a rarity.

Improvement, then, is a matter of moving steadily away from understanding what you want to do—or what you might be able to do—and towards what your opponent wants to do. Towards figuring out what their dream looks like, and breaking it. It's never that simple, of course—if I understood everything that went into making that work, I wouldn't be shit at Dota. But thinking along these lines is useful because it gives you the shape of a solution if not the steps to get there: getting there is, after all, is a matter of time. It's not enough to look at an opponent and think 'that could be me'. When you have that extra experience, you don't want to want to be them. You want to look at the way they play and see all of the holes.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Product Update - Valve
- Nexon's South Korea matchmaking region is now available to all players.
- The client UI now displays creep health with full accuracy based on the server values.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Cap casting at ESLOne Frankfurt 2014

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. THIS WEEK, however, she will be chatting to Dota 2 caster Capitalist about the upcoming ESLOne competition!>

I went to the inaugural ESLOne Frankfurt event last year. It featured one of the best games of pro Dota 2 I’ve ever watched (Alliance v Cloud9) and, as it took place shortly before Valve’s mega-tournament The International, it was an interesting opportunity to size up some of the competitors before Seattle. This year’s event will offer similar fare big-name teams and a chance to see how they perform on LAN in front of a massive audience but a lot has changed over the past year. Teams have undergone massive shakeups and enchanted mangoes, octarine cores and glimmer capes abound on the battlefield. In case you’ve lost track of competitive Dota 2, here’s caster Austin ‘Capitalist’ Walsh on the current meta, the teams to watch, and the relationship between casters and players.

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Fixed crash when getting a malformed KeyValues buffer (thanks to Nathaniel Theis for the report)
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:
  • Fixed crash when getting a malformed KeyValues buffer (thanks to Nathaniel Theis for the report)
PC Gamer

TRIGGERNOMETRY

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

When I launch CS:GO and my eyes wander over my ever-growing pile of Hours Played, a thought often eats away at me. I ve put hundreds of hours into Terrorisming and Counter-Terrorisming—thousands if you include Source and 1.6. I spend more time playing CS:GO than I do interacting with my loved ones. How the hell am I not a Counter-Strike master yet?

The truth is that getting better at Counter-Strike by only playing Counter-Strike can be a really slow, ineffective way to get better at Counter-Strike. Especially if you aren t taking the time to watch and analyze your own matches, it s possible to spend months or years making the same mistakes.

Fundamental parts of Counter-Strike are opaque. Which surfaces can and can t be penetrated, and by which weapons?  How do flashes work? Can a player that loses the first two rounds of a match afford an AWP? You have to be willing to do some homework and take in raw facts about the game, information that drives deeper realizations about how it can be played.

For me, that learning has opened up a better appreciation of CS. When I embraced it a long time ago, the game went from being about motor skills to being a chess match about money and clock management, scouting, feints, morale, reading audio cues, and play calling.

That said, there s an infinite amount of information you can lay eyes on to study. Below, I ve gathered a set of recommended videos for players who want to gain the confidence to play competitively or get over some of their existing matchmaking hurdles.

Rifle spray patterns, techniques

Rifles are the bread and butter of Counter-Strike at all levels, and understanding how they work (and their key differences) is equivalent to a basketball player working on their free-throws. CS:GO pro adreN is really direct in his advice ( Never crouch, it has no effect on your recoil ; You should never start off with a spray at this range ) and talks about how to manage shooting while moving.

Money management

The second of three videos in a series about CS:GO s economy, TheWarOwl digs into the mentality around buying and saving in CS in the early stages of a match, when adhering to certain guidelines is especially important. I like the way he compares the practice of predicting your opponent s economy to counting cards in blackjack.

Chokepoint timings

Counter-Strike is carefully tuned so that CTs and Ts have to rush out of their spawn points in order to establish map control. Playing with the timings (by, say, throwing a grenade at a certain spot to stop a rush) at these meeting points between is central to succeeding at CS.

Mouse sensitivity

The advice I give to everyone is to make your sensitivity as low as possible while still being able to turn 180 degrees consistently.

Flashbangs

For my money, flashbangs are the least-practiced, most misunderstood aspect of CS. So many players simply go through the motions of buying and carelessly throwing flashbangs without knowing whether (or how) effective they are against an opponent. My video from earlier this year touches on two basic techniques for flashbanging and breaks down the geometric rules that determine whether someone gets blinded by one.

Product Update - Valve
6.84c
--
* Haste rune duration reduced from 30 to 25
* Mekansm cooldown increased from 45 to 65
* Tether movespeed bonus reduced from 17% to 14/15/16/17%
* Rocket Barrage damage reduced from 11/15/19/23 to 8/13/18/23
* Bristleback Base Attack Time increased from 1.7 to 1.8
* Precision Aura's passive no longer has an exception for pseudo-heroes like Familiars (still affects them when cast, like creeps)
* Spiderlings Poison Sting slow reduced from 15 to 12%
* Holy Persuasion now provides a base HP minimum of 700/800/900/1000 instead of raw bonus HP
* Tombstone HP reduced from 200/400/600/800 to 175/350/525/700

* The fixed portion of the XP Hero Bounty for first 5 levels is reduced from 100/120/160/220/300 to 100/120/140/160/180 (then continues +100 per level as usual)
* AoE Gold Bounty, for teams that are behind, now has a small additional component that doesn't fully scale with net worth (100/75/50/35/25 for 1/2/3/4/5 heroes, scales linearly from 0 to 4k net worth difference)
* Small adjustments to AoE Gold (non-networth component)

Old:
1: 154 + 7.7 * Level
2: 115.5 + 6.6 * Level
3: 66 + 5.5 * Level
4: 38.5 + 4.4 * Level
5: 33 + 4.4 * Level

New
1: 150 + 8 * Level
2: 100 + 7 * Level
3: 40 + 6 * Level
4: 25 + 4 * Level
5: 20 + 4 * Level
Product Update - Valve
- Fixed "Win As Hero" Compendium Challenge not properly detecting completion
- Fixed various bugs with selling back items during the allowed window (Combined wards, Clarity Potions, etc)
PC Gamer

Every highly-specific hobby you can imagine has a dedicated home on YouTube. Backyard metallurgy46-minute marathon Kinder Egg openingsChildren in suits evaluating junk food. YouTuber ZaziNombies makes Lego game guns, and he's pieced together everything from the Scout's Force-A-Nature to a whole series of zappers from Destiny.

Joining that armory this week is Counter-Strike's iconic long gun: the AWP. ZaziNombies used about 1100 Lego pieces to put together a four-foot-long facsimile, including a convincing reconstruction of the AWP's optics that's mostly tires. You can tell he's done this before. The color is more mint than the AWP's classic olive drab, the plastic rounds seem smaller than the .338 Lapua that AWPs allegedly shoot, and the trivia ZaziNombies rattles off is clearly from a Wiki, but otherwise the resemblance is striking.

Product Update - Valve
Compendium Additions:
----
- Added a fourth Challenge slot, which is always a Hero-specific challenge, and rewards completion with both Compendium coins & points.
- Challenges are now available in Captains Mode, Captains Draft, Random Draft, Single Draft, and All Random game modes.
- Ten Hero Challenge added to compendium, also enabled on the above-mentioned modes. This year you can do the Ten Hero challenge 3 times for a total of 450 Compendium Points (4.5 Levels).

- You can now choose to consume any TI5 Compendium Immortal by right clicking on it in the Armory and choosing the Consume option. You'll gain 200 Compendium Points (2 Levels) for each Immortal consumed this way.

- Added back the Item Recycling system. You can now recycle 10 items for a Charm of the Crucible Jewel II and 25 Compendium Points.
- Added 3 Recycle Charm Achievements. Create 1 Charm, Create 10 charms, and Successfully Complete 8 Charms. Worth 25, 125, and 200 Compendium Points respectively (in addition to the base 25 for recycling).
- If you don't own a Compendium, points earned will be saved and applied automatically when a Compendium is activated.

- Added All-Star match voting to Compendium (awards 50 Compendium Points for completion)


Other Changes:
----
- Updated kill gold chat messages to show the full amount of gold the killer receives (now includes proximity gold)
- Fixed the following abilities from attempting to target Zombies (since they do not affect them): Eclipse, Eye of the Storm and Diabolic Edict
- Fixed Searing Arrows always requiring a small amount of mana to do damage, even if the manacost was already paid for
- Fixed Permanent Split Shot on Rubick
- Fixed a visual bug with Enchantress's weapon
- Fixed 100% proc events (like Wind Run) sometimes failing in rare cases
- Removed the per-game pet limit
- Various tooltip adjustments and fixes
...

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