The MMR Plateau: An Update

“Having reflected on what it is that I need to focus on I’d hoped that I would see a noticeable improvement in the outcome of my ranked matches. But, so far, it hasn’t been the case. I think I can chalk up some of the losses to misfortune but I cannot justify attributing all of my failures to the gods of chance. So let’s try and figure out what I did wrong.

Out of the last four games that I played I randomed in two of them and lost both those games. The one game that I did win (as Viper) I waited patiently and sought to choose a strong answer to their potential choices for mid. I also did a good job of directing my teammates and made some intelligent item choices (like getting a blink to accelerate my destruction of the enemy team). We overextended from time to time but mostly made good decisions (like taking Roshan later on in the game to ensure that our advantage was secured).

In my other games I either randomed (Brewmaster, Templar Assassin) or chose a sub-optimal hero (Skywrath). My game as Brewmaster actually went really well but we didn’t push our early advantage enough and Lifestealer did a really bad job of farming and playing Lifestealer. I made the mistake of getting an AC (hoping to help our team on the carry front) as opposed to getting an Agh’s (which would have helped the strength of our early pushes). Overall I feel pretty good about that game despite it ending in a loss. It’s making me reconsider my recent devotion to the mid role as I find that sometimes people do terribly mid but it’s much more rare to find someone who can actually play a hard carry really well.

My Skywrath game I was supporting my friend Kata in bottom lane (on the Anti-Mage) and we were doing reasonably well but it was a constant brawl there and AM was unable to get the farm he needed until much later in the game. I made the mistake of taking my Arcane Bolt rather than Concussive Shot first. Usually Arcane Bolt is a decent choice but we would have been able to secure a first blood had I leveled Concussive instead. It wasn’t necessarily the wrong decision but I could have simply waited to skill my ability until I needed to take action and retained that flexibility. Upon further reflection, Concussive first would generally be better in a tri lane as the slow will allow you and your teammates to put out more damage than the initial burst of damage provided by Arcane Bolt. I made some good plays later on in the game but we lost our bottom lane barracks to a really stupid decision from WR and WK not to TP back and help. Then AM and WR bickered for the rest of the game rather than focusing on playing intelligently and coming back. We lost gradually and there wasn’t much that could be done to stop it.

In my game as TA I fared reasonably well against Brewmaster mid but he was a problem in terms of trying to actually kill him and finish him off (which is something I generally like to do when I’m in the mid lane). An attempted gank on Brewmaster (suggested by Bat Rider) went horribly wrong with Enigma coming to turn it around on us into a double kill. Later on Batrider tried to blame it on me attacking Brewmaster to get his health down but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have killed him when he was at full health before he could use his ultimate. Batrider had a really awful attitude and after a failed gank in the jungle a little later on (him and Riki tried to go on Brew without sight of the lane and most of the enemy team missing) he elected to feed the courier and sell all of his sentries. Generally, I like to try and turn games around and keep trying but there was no way we were going to win with someone deliberately feeding.

So in conclusion, I suppose I learnt from my last few games. I definitely noticed that if you start the game off with a good attitude and laugh off mistakes it helps with preserving your team’s morale and keeping from falling into a pit of despair. Now let’s see if I can turn it around for the next few and start making a push for 4600!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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Featured image is from ravkavka on deviantart

The MMR Plateau: Is It Possible to Break Through the Ceiling?

Update: I did eventually hit my goal of 5K! Once I settled on it and really worked towards I eventually made progress, :).

“I’m a fairly accomplished DotA 2 player currently sitting at about 4300 MMR for my solo and party ratings (usually it is 4400 solo and 4200 party) but I’ve been noticing that for the past few months I have been hovering around that rating. Now, there is nothing wrong with being at whatever particular rating someone is at but I like to always try and improve as I play games (as you may have come to realize while reading my posts) so, in the interest of improving my play and creating some interesting content, I’m going to air my perceived weaknesses and see if I can improve on them over the course of the week. Ideally, I’ll see an appreciable gain in my ranking as a result of such reflection.

Off the top of my head, I can list a few things that I think are likely limiting my success.

1) Picking a hero that I feel like playing as opposed to a hero that really fits the composition and does exceptionally well against the enemy team.

Everyone has a hero that they treasure dearly and love to play. Sometimes we let that affection get in the way of reason and logic and play them despite it perhaps not being the best decision for the current situation. My heroes that I am guilty for picking despite there perhaps be being better options are Tiny and PL. These are two heroes that are a lot of fun but I often find myself frustrated by a loss despite having done exceptionally well in the game. But if we look at these occurrences over a period of time a pattern begins to emerge. That despite my most valiant efforts I am handicapping myself and my team by picking a hero that isn’t quite optimal simply because I feel like playing said hero at that moment.

Now, obviously my choice of hero isn’t the only determinant of how the match goes but if we look at the games below we can see that it definitely contributed to our loss in some sense in all of those games. Tiny is an awesome hero (and one of my very favourite ones) but he is not a hero you can pick blindly against any lineup.

So hero choices is one part of the equation, the next big thing is item choices.

2) Item choices.

Looking at Tiny again we can see that there are certain items that I favour and pick up in pretty much any situation. Looking at my last 20 matches I get a Shadow Blade, Agh’s, and Bottle pretty much every game. And, if given the time, I get BoTs and AC and maybe Manta. Now, these are all pretty good items for Tiny, but perhaps I need to reexamine my choices based on the heroes I am against and whether we are leading or not. BoTs are great because they allow me to push and farm much better, but, at the same time, that’s 2500 being put towards an item that doesn’t really help me fight immediately and I could be getting a BKB instead. Speaking of BKBs, I like to avoid getting it on Tiny because in the late game he is so tanky and has so much stun and burst that often times you don’t need but I think I need to reexamine my item choices in game and consider getting one based on the other team’s composition despite my disdain for it. Sometimes, it just makes sense to get a BKB. Even if I really really don’t want to.

I see this trend in my other games and am generally aware of it but so far, I haven’t really done much to improve on it. I also notice that I neglect items like Wand (which makes sense in a lot of cases and can really be a lifesaver) and in-between items like Wraith Bands, Bracers and Drums. These items don’t allow me to accelerate quicker towards a late game state (which, given the long term point of view I tend to take in a game is what I am generally aiming for) but they will likely help me make it through the mid game and could prove to be the difference in team fights that we are losing and make the late game less arduous.

3) Lack of leadership.

Just today, I played a game with my brother which meant that I am generally queued with people who are lower in MMR. I drafted what I felt was a pretty excellent team (Luna, Venge, Alch tri safe, Clock off, Huskar mid) and did quite well in my role but after a decent start the tri-lane started dying and getting picked off and generally doing badly. I kept trying as well as I could and Clock and I managed to stave off the enemy team for a while but it wasn’t enough in the face of the constant feeding by our supports and our carry. Additionally, I let my temper get to me and wasn’t thinking clearly and got picked off a few times myself.

This is a situation that I am sure you are familiar as we all have those games of DotA where we are just getting pummeled mercilessly. However, I’ve found that if I am able to rise above the current situation and continue playing calmly, identify the causes for our lack of success (in the case of this game – bad positioning, being picked off and poor initiation), seek to rectify them and provide guidance to my members that often times we can reverse the situation or at least put up a much more substantial fight. It’s difficult to do when the human response is to play the blame game or to simply withdraw due to frustration and abdicate all responsibility but those are not the right things to do. If you truly do want to improve, being a good leader (or at the very least, a good team member) is an incredibly important component of that. Everybody wants to do well and if they are struggling to catch a break in the game do your best to give them a break and get them back on their feet. When you win that big team fight and the mood on the team swings and you start pushing the enemy team back it’ll be worth having held back all the f-bombs you were so tempted to release in a fiery storm of rage.

4) Playing when tired.

DotA is a demanding game that asks much more of you than most. If you fail to pay attention for even one moment then you can find yourself dead, missing an opportunity or just generally falling behind. Therefore, it is imperative that you be able to perform at the required level. Unfortunately, for most of us, being tired takes away from our potential to perform at an optimal and, despite my more analytical side, I have played many a game at a point in the day where I was tired, sleepy or just out of it. So, if you really want to focus on improving your MMR you need to take proper care of yourself and make sure that you’re ready to go when you choose to accept a queue (and take steps to wake up like running on the spot, splashing your face with cold water or having some sort of stimulant). If you don’t feel up to the task have  a nap, go to sleep or play an unranked game instead. If you are really tempted think about it this way, if you are tired and end up playing badly you’re likely to feel shitty about the game you just played or get angry when things don’t go the way you would have liked them to and be worse off than when you started.

This is a lesson I really need to apply seriously and will be trying my best to do so in the next week or so as I undergo this experiment.

5) Keeping the push up when we have an early-game oriented team.

Another one of my weaknesses is my tendency to favour the late game. This works out just fine from time to time, but with the current shift in the meta towards early line ups it is not a luxury that I am always able to count on. I have found myself in one too many games where my team has had an early advantage but failed to capitalize on that advantage adequately and let the other team catch up and eventually overwhelm us. Though it’s fun to farm and certainly less stressful than pushing and taking objectives, ultimately, the game is about destroying the enemies’ Ancient (which VG and Newbee demonstrated quite powerfully during TI4). If you have an early game focused team don’t let your early successes fool you. You need to build on that advantage and keep on beating the other team or else you’ll find yourself at a growing, irreconcible disadvantage as the other team gains more gold and experience.

Don’t let your emotions get to you.Think about what it is that you could be doing wrong and actively seek to improve those things. Just remember, you’re the common factor amongst all the games you play. So, at some point it becomes a matter of you not getting any better rather than your teammates failing you. Look to yourself for answers and you will improve. Look to others for excuses and you will never improve yourself.

Look to yourself for answers and you will improve. Look to others for excuses and you will never improve yourself.

As part of this experiment I will be looking through my replays (and perhaps casting some of them) in order to see if there are any other mistakes that I make on a regular basis and are dragging me down.

Come check this out again on Friday for another update!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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The International 4: A Post Mortem

“There’s already been a great deal of discussion about TI4 but I figured I’d throw in my own opinion to the variety of ones currently swimming about. In a few short words TI4 was both under, and over, whelming. I’m sure it sounds strange to read it when it’s laid out like that but for those who attended I think they’ll have an idea of what I mean.

On the underwhelming side, as a General Admission attendee, I had access to seats in the upper sections of the arena, the Secret Shop and the various other activities laid throughout the remainder of the arena (the Workshop section, the Juggernaught Lounge, etc). This meant that I was able to enjoy the vast majority of what was great about TI4 (seeing the games being played out live in person, meeting fellow DotA players, availing the Secret Shop of its wares) but it also meant that my friends and I were very aware of our position in the very last tier of attendees. We didn’t have much of an opportunity to meet pro players or commentators unless we happened to come across them whilst they were walking around the arena (and weren’t sticking to their separate floor, it was pretty easy to see how actually wanted to meet and talk with their fans and who didn’t because of this) and often times we found ourselves in seats that were not optimally situated for acoustics or visuals.

To Valve’s credit, watching the games in the arena was still an incredible experience. When big plays were made and the crowd roared and clapped as their heroes fought valiantly on the huge monitors laid out in front of us there was an irreplaceable atmosphere that made the experience seem completely surreal. However, due to the poor audio setup (I heard that they were pressed for time in setting up and didn’t have the opportunity to set it up exactly as they liked) there was a significant drop in energy in between games when the analysts covered what had just occurred as well as during the drafting stage. Since it was near impossible to fully comprehend what they were trying to say most people took to chatting to their seatmates or going out for bathroom breaks and trips to the Secret Shop. This left the arena with a strange dichotomy between the grandeur of the presentation laid out below us and the behaviour of those in the stands. Honestly, I can’t really complain because we still got an awesome experience for several days for around the price of a typical concert ticket but I want to contribute to next year’s event being even better. So, consider this to be constructive criticism!

For next year’s event, something definitely needs to be done about the audio in the General Admission seats so that people can clearly hear what the casters and analysts are saying. Otherwise, the analysts will be left with the unfair and unpleasant task of attempting to perform in front of an audience that largely isn’t paying attention to what they are saying or are struggling to follow what they are saying. Having had to perform in front of an audience myself, I know how important crowd reactions are and how difficult it can be to continue on your anticipated track when they aren’t responding in the fashion that you had expected. Another, admittedly less major, issue was the projectors cutting out for the overhead screens and the image occasionally falling in and out of sharpness. This made what should have been an easy choice between the screen right in your field of view and the screen all the way in the front unnecessarily difficult. Additionally, the need to scan in and out of the arena made for a few traffic jams when influxes of people were trying to enter or exit. But that’s an issue that couldn’t be solved without a major change in the Arena’s setup and wouldn’t be within Valve’s control. As for the lack of access to personalities at the event, that is something that is totally understandable but I would advise attendees to come with the expectation that they’ll have to work hard to find the people that they want to meet and talk to and they won’t simply be strolling through the arena bumping into one person after another.

Having aired those grumblings I am now free to rave about the overwhelming side of things. I got a chance to meet some of my most beloved personalities like Dendi (so incredibly kind and generous), Bruno (has a Masters in Computer Science and is just as smart, witty and kind as you would expect), Pyrion Flax (a great guy to chat with and hilarious even when he’s not trying), Draskyl (super smart, awesome sarcastic sense of humor, very pragmatic) and Ixmike (representing despite his team’s elimination in the qualifiers and quite the momma hunter) and they were just as wonderful as I’d expected they would be. Some of the games were absolutely electrifying (especially the EG, C9, Na’vi and DK series due to my cheering for them specifically) and the production value was excellent. In the arena we were able to see the main action in the middle of the screen with an enlarged minimap on the side, key stats on the right and awesome hero portraits in front of the player booths. Though the lineup for the Secret Shop was insanely lengthy (5ish hours at most points during the event) the merchandise there was of an impressive level of quality and the complimentary daily gifts were beautiful (at least the concept art and comic book that I got). The arena food was awful, both in terms of price and quality, but fortunately TI4 coincided with a food festival being held just outside so attendees had the opportunity to pursue alternative sources of nutrition close by.

Despite its flaws, TI4 was a fascinating, beautiful experience that I will certainly be aiming to be a part of again. I heard from several people who watched the event online or happened upon it on ESPN 2 and were inspired to give a shot at playing or had their interest in DotA 2 reinvigorated.

Hopefully by the time next year rolls around I will have made enough of an impact as a caster, writer and DotA 2 lover that I will have secured an invitation. If not, I’ll be grabbing those General Admission tickets again and making the best of the experience!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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Time for an Upgrade!: TI4’s Secret Shop Experience

“The Secret Shop at TI4, once we’d gotten through the interminable lineups, was full of wonders and a fantastic experience. We lined up early on the second day of TI4 and ended up waiting about 5 hours before we’d gotten through and acquired our merchandise. The lines were of a similar length up until midway through the third day at which they became somewhat bearable (and if you chose the right moment, like just before the end of a game in the semi-finals on the last day, you could get in and out in less than 5 minutes). Though I think Valve did a pretty good job of creating merchandise and handling the huge crowds of people who wanted to get it (and they are deserving of props for setting up screens for people to watch the games, having order booklets available as you approached the shop, having a space on the side where you could try on different sizing, and handing out umbrellas when it was really sunny or threatening to rain) I did have a few thoughts with regards to potential improvements to the system.

A link to the catalog for the TI4 merchandise for those interested

The biggest bottlenecks in the chain were the entering of the order items off of the order sheets and the receipt of payment and gathering together of orders when you went to pick up your stuff. Now, it’s fairly obvious that those would be the points at which there will be stumbling blocks as the remainder of the process is fairly decentralized and just a matter of setting up lines (booklets are handed out in every swag bag and also available at the door, there is plenty of space for lining up in Key Arena). So, how could Valve have managed the huge influx of people and orders more effectively?

Making the process less painful for those involved would be a question of either expediting the various parts of it, or redistributing the workload to areas outside of peak hours (basically reducing the load on the critical paths).

The process in question was composed of a few main steps.

  • Lining up to enter the Secret Shop (starting with a line up outside the arena in the morning, then a line that stretched from the entrance all way out to wherever people were still lining up).
  • Receiving an order booklet upon entry to the outdoor section of the Secret Shop (so once you actually got to the area where the shop was).
  • Moving through the outdoor line (at which point you could take a quick glance at a screen indicating which items were in/out of stock, next time use an IPS monitor or increase the brightness Valve! As it was quite difficult to read with the light outside shining off of it).
  • Reaching the section where you handed over your order form and it was keyed in (and the associate there confirmed that the items you’d listed were those that you wanted to acquire).
  • After receiving your payment receipt you then moved to line up for the processing station that you were assigned. Wait patiently in line some more.
  • Get called up to the station, hand over your order receipt, wait for them to fetch your order that was put together, and then pay.
  • Walk off ecstatic that you’ve managed to secure some sweet merchandise!

After discussion with my group of friends that I went with (but mostly my lovely girlfriend) I came up with a few ideas.

To make the process faster Valve would be better off if they could eliminate the paper component. The way that they set up the Secret Shop this year was that you got a physical Order Form which you would then fill out with the quantities of the respective items that you would like to obtain. Having a paper form meant that once you’ve puzzled out how exactly you were supposed to fill out the form that that form then had to be transcribed into the digital system to calculate the payment due as well as send the order to be put together at the payment and order fulfillment line. This was one of the major slowdowns in the process because the number of time to input increases variably with the amount of items selected for purchase and some people hadn’t circled the item numbers that they wanted (used to help with spotting them out) or didn’t always print legibly.

A potential solution for this conundrum would be to create an app for Secret Shop customers to download on their phones and plot their order out on before they get in line for the Secret Shop. The app could communicate via NFC with the order entry consoles. With that option in place, Valve could set up a few express lines for people to go in if they have already set up the app and the order on their phones. This would reduce the burden on those entering orders and simplify their task to notifying people when items are out of stock and verifying that the correct choices have been entered. Additional possibilities would be opened if the app had updated in-stock information and allowed for order submission online. However, if that kind of capability was introduced then it would simply make sense to allow people to order online in advance and then come to pick up their orders. Which leads me to my next point, redistributing work load out of peak hours.

If an option were introduced to order (and perhaps even pay) in advance then an express, order pickup line could be created for those who have placed their orders in advance. There are a few things to take into consideration with this approach as it opens up the potential for abuse and fraud but those risks could be mitigated. With an online order and pickup option the experience of waiting five hours in line for the Secret Shop would likely never occur again. Granted, this option would likely put a lot of stress on Valve’s servers and onsite databases but with enough planning and preparation they should be able to weather the workload. With regards to the potential for abuse and fraud, purchases would have to be tied to some sort of permanent ID (like a passport) to prevent people from making excessive purchases aimed at resale (like upwards of $5,000 or something) and to make sure that the person who has come to pick up is in fact the person that ordered (this is doubly important when payment had been made in advance).

The other big advantage of orders being made in advance is that the second major portion of the process, payment receipt and order preparation and distribution, could be done outside of hours when the Secret Shop is open to the public and potentially even done offsite (where space isn’t as much of a concern). With orders being prepared in advance, staff would simply have to verify the identity of the person who has come to pick up an order and then go and pick up the appropriate prepared package. With advance ordering (depending on the amount of time that orders can be placed before the shop opens) demand can also be better estimated and there is even the potential for increased manufacture of particularly popular products.

These are quite big changes that would require a lot of planning and diligent execution but if Valve put even some of these proposed changes into effect they could make the Secret Shop experience much more enjoyable for those involved, make even more money that they did at TI4 and reduce the amount of people missing games being played due to their being stuck in line for the Secret Shop.

Let me know what you guys think, and if anyone knows someone from Valve that they could push this on to I’d be curious to hear what they think (who knows, they may have already thought of all of this!).

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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Settling in Seattle: Tips for TI4 Travelers

“Those of you going to Seattle for TI4 will obviously be focusing on the Battle of Titans that will be occurring at Key Arena but every once in a while I imagine you will be taking breaks to do human things like sleep, eat, and maybe shop/experience the city a little bit. Having been to Seattle for PAX Prime 3 times now I am going to attempt to put together a small guide to experiencing Seattle from the point of view of a traveler.

The Location

Key Arena is a little ways northwest of the Downtown core but still within 30-35 minutes walking distance. As far as I can tell there aren’t really any landmarks near it, but, it’s about the DotA and not the quality of the tourist attractions nearby so it doesn’t really matter.

Sleep

If you haven’t already booked accommodation then you’re likely going to be in for a rough time in terms of being able to find a place that is both nearby to the Arena and not 200$ a night. I would suggest consulting resources like Kayak.com (also an excellent option for finding cheap airfares), hostelbookers.com and airbnb.com to attempt to find somewhere to stay. A quick search of each of these on June 23rd produced the following results. At this point in the game, you might want to consider issuing a call for help on Facebook and seeing if anyone else would be willing to share a room for you.

Eat

Honestly, I haven’t really been too impressed by the food in Seattle thus far. Most of the restaurants that I’ve come across in the Downtown core are of the chain variety and not really too wonderful to experience. That being said, we found two gems in Michou Deli and Pike Place Chowder down by Pike Place Market  (quite a hike from the Arena unfortunately). We did find that Jimmy John’s (a sandwich shop) was a pretty decent option if you are hungry and just want something to eat and there are a few of those throughout Seattle. Following are different food places that you could check out near the Arena (based on a mix of distance/rating, in order of distance with the one furthest away ~20 minutes walking). If you’re especially well organized you can always take advantage of the refrigerator in your room and prepare your own meals at the beginning of the day (unlikely to happen throughout the duration of the tournament though).

  • .

Shop

We aren’t big on the shopping side of things but we did take a bit of time during our last visit to check out our options within the Downtown core. After visiting the various locations we were most impressed by the little shops down at Pike Place Market, perusing Pacific Place and the deals at Nordstrom Rack (however, these require quite a bit of shifting through piles of nausea inducing clothes). If you really want to get a great deal of shopping done you’d be best suited to visit the outlets and malls outside the core such as Premium Outlets, Northgate Mall, Southcenter Mall and the Outlet Shops at Burlington.

Experiencing the City

Given that you won’t have too time to explore Seattle beyond the evenings once games are over I would say that the one place you do need to visit is Pike Place Market. The other parts of Seattle that I’ve seen thus far haven’t really been that awe-inspiring (though I do hear there are some nice hiking trails in the area). I suppose you could check out the Space Needle but so far I’ve been satisfied with seeing it from afar.

Best of luck with your adventure and I hope you enjoy your TI4 experience. Maybe I’ll even see some of you folks there!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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A Comparison of the Four Major Internet Providers in Vancouver: Shaw, Teksavvy, Telus and Novus

“In my previous article, I gave people a simple guide on how to negotiate a better deal regarding their internet with their provider. Here is a comparison of the different choices that I did to help you with your tense phone negotiations (or maybe if you’re just trying to decide who to go with). Good luck!

Shaw

My current provider. Get use of Shaw Go WiFi with a plan with them. Can be quite useful for people with no, or limited, data plans.

Offers 25 Mbps down and 2.5 Mbps Up with a 250GB cap at 73/month.

Teksavvy

An underdog in the internet services provision market. Buy their internet through Shaw and use their network but offer significantly lower rates. No data caps on usage between 2AM and 8AM.

Offers 25 Mbps down and 2.5 Mbps Up with a 300GB cap at 40/month (39.95 but that’s essentially 40$).

Telus

Telus’s network is set up in a different fashion from Shaw’s such that when there is a lot of traffic on your node (in your area) you will experience reduced speeds. Hence the strange 5-25 Mbps speed that is advertised. One thing that Telus does do really well is the large amount of upload speed that they offer. Something that I found quite appealing given that I’ve not set up for streaming and you need ~5Mbps up to avoid lagging while streaming. You can play Telus and Shaw against each other as they are always competing for each others’ customers.

Offers 5-25 Mbps down and 5 Mbps Up with a 250GB cap at 63/month.

Novus

When I discoverd Novus I felt like I’d found a mythical unicorn. With the lowest rates across the board of any of the providers and amazing upload speeds offered (10 MBps Up at the lowest tier) I was immediately ready to switch. Unfortunately, my brief moment of joy at having found an incredible competitive choice was crushed by the harsh reality that they only offer service in condos and apartments that they’ve run their fiber into. That eliminated our single family, detached home from contention. If you can choose Novus as your provider, I see absolutely no reason not to.

Offers 25 Mbps down and 10 Mbps Up with a 250GB cap at 34.95/month (wow).

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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Getting a Better Deal on Your Internet: Because You Deserve Better!

“As someone who is a fan of technology, you are likely unimpressed with your internet provider (unless you live in an internet paradise like South Korea or something). This makes sense because, although developments with regards to the internet have been advancing at an astonishing pace the infrastructure to support those developments hasn’t been leaping forward in quite the same fashion.

A few months ago, I started looking at different internet options to replace my current internet provider Shaw (a Canadian telecommunications company). Now, it wasn’t that the internet from Shaw was especially offensively bad. It’s just that we were paying them $60/month and there were equivalent options at around $35 or $40 a month. So, I did the research, found that Teksavvy, a smaller, but reliable, provider, offered the same speeds for $20 less per month. This would mean that we would have to purchase or rent a new modem to be able to use their service but it would pay for itself over 3 or 4 months.

Armed with this information I called Shaw and informed them of my predicament. I like Shaw and I like the service they provide and they’ve always been good with customer service. So I told them that, but I also told them that they were simply too expensive as compared  to the competition. After some maneuvering, with myself consistently conveying the message that we would switching providers if they didn’t offer us a better detail, I was able to secure a $15/month discount for the duration of a year in order for them to keep our service. A few months later, I was able to get a boost to our upload speed by showing them that an equivalent plan from Telus had the same download speed but a much higher upload speed and there was no way for us to get the same upload without going to a much more expensive tier. Shaw, ever reasonable, gave us the upload speed boost without charging us the higher price.

Now, how can you attempt to produce the same results? I know many of you live in America where, in many cases, you are lucky if you have even two, awful choices to choose from. But, if you do have alternatives, it’s worth giving these pointers a shot.

  • Do your research and find out if there are other options out there that would give you better value than your current arrangement with your provider. Ideally, these alternatives are a little bit more robust than a bearded man travelling in a beat-up van and stitching you into your neighbor’s with some frayed wiring.
  • Once you’ve done your research on the alternatives, consider what it would entail for if you were to switch (like for us, a consideration was the loss of the Shaw Open WiFi service). Try and reach a state of mind where you are actually ready to switch providers if need be (otherwise you’ll be a lot less convincing over the phone).
  • Call in over the phone ( I found that this is much more effective than attempting to negotiate a discount over an instant chat) and present your facts and situation to the representative calmly and politely (belligerency is unlikely to get you anywhere productive).
  • Hear them out on their pitch (which they’ll try to do to convince you to give up). Continue to insist that you will switch unless offered a matching, or close to matching, deal.
  • You may be transferred to retention where you will have to present your case and facts again.
  • Complete your final presentation of facts and hopefully they’ll have heard you out and will offer to bring you to parity with the other options you presented. It will likely help if you’ve had a decent history with the company and have been a good customer over the years.
  • Pat yourself on the back! You’ve done your own little bit to contribute to a more competitive ecosystem.

Check back on Wednesday for a comparison of internet providers in Vancouver. That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

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The Bone Fletcher : Fire Burns Eternal

“He’d been hunting down and battling the demon for many hours now and could barely recall what his beloved, once idyllic homelands looked like before hellfire had rained down upon them. Exhausted, he stumbled into the clearing in front of him and took a moment to gather his strength.  The air around him smelt of fiery death. The ground at his feet had begun to melt from the heat. Wiping ash from his eyes he peered through the smoke and flames searching for his target and spotted him limping towards the hellish gate from which he’d emerged. Knowing that the demon was momentarily unaware of his whereabouts he leapt into the nearest pool of tarry blood and, as he’d done many times before while hunting his prey, covered himself in the gooey substance. He was now completely shrouded in black and indistinguishable from the pool he was crouched in. Determined to prevent the demon from escaping to the sixth hell and returning with renewed power, the elvish archer took a shallow breath and nocked yet another arrow.

“”No match for me. This demon shall perish at the gates of hell from whence he came.”” the archer muttered to himself as he prepared to unleash it upon Maraxiform.

An unimaginable, searing heat surrounded him as the demon unleashed one more blast of hellfire as his arrow flew towards its monstrous target. The elf, seeing the immense balls of fire rushing towards him, knew that this time he would not be able to cheat death as he had done so many times before. The pool, in which he had sought shelter from the heat and the demon’s gaze, would now ensure his end. As the inferno drew closer he dropped his bow, fell to his knees and closed his eyes. He took solace in the fact that the last arrow would find its mark and take the beast down with him. Surrounded by the pools with which he was ever so familiar he found peace in the cool, liquid calm. It was over.

His eyes snapped open as his body writhed with pain. There were flames everywhere and the pain was bright, blinding, white and all-consuming. The world beyond the incredible pain made no sense. Why was he still here? How was this possible? He set his gaze on the distance where the demon had once been and saw Maraxiform’s corpse collapsed on the steps to the gate. The demon was dead but he was still alive. If anyone could call this state of pain and suffering alive. He glanced down and saw that all that remained of himself was bone. Where once there was astute and nimble Elven fingers there were now flaming and exposed bony hands. He flexed them and felt yet more pain course through him. Restless, he sought distraction in exploring what was left of the Hoven.

As he moved through the scorched landscape his exposed bones clinked together and it began to become clearer to him. If he was still alive despite being engulfed by hellfire it had to have been the result of magical intervention. Someone had granted him protection from death and left him in this damned state. But what good was that protection? He could no longer smell beyond the sulfurous flames engulfing him nor feel beyond the endless torment that the hellfire brought him. Where once he had flesh he had naught but bone. All that was dear to him was taken away. His home now a burnt shell of itself, all those he’d loved consumed by hellfire, and himself rendered into a horrifying creature that was continuously tortured by the constant, violent flames. He could feel the good burning away as hatred began to bubble up inside him.

WHY! After all he’d done. After saving the Hoven lands from further destruction. After chasing down and defeating Maraxiform rather than turning his back and running like so many others had done. Why did he deserve eternal suffering? The hatred bubbled up again. He tried to hold it back. To think of a solution for his awful fate. Perhaps he could seek the help of the king-mage Sutherex? But the injustice combined with the pain overwhelmed and consumed him.

Whoever played this cruel joke on him would have to pay. And in the meantime, the entire world would come to experience the incredible pain that he was stuck with for all eternity. Village by village they would burn with the same fire that he was bound to. They would all come to know the fiery rage of a being now known as Clinkz.

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).”

Using Illustrator to Make Labels and Fill Out Label Sheets Quickly

“I recently had to make many changes to labels (inserting barcodes for a large number of them) and I didn’t want to go through the pain of making the initial change and then copying it through to the other spots on the label sheet.

After doing some research and tinkering I came to a solution that has worked remarkably well for me and saved a lot of time.

By using a combination of the Distort and Transform tool and saving the changes as a Graphic Style (transform two copies horizontally the appropriate distance and then 9 copies vertically the appropriate distance) I was able to make the change to the barcode and populate it across the sheet in just one minute (once I’d really gotten into the groove of  things).

I made a video describing the technique so you can follow along in Illustrator should you be interested!

[youtube_video clip_id=””CClJ9qMa_6M”” hd=””true”” width=560 height=315]

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

Counterstrike: Prioritization of Objectives and Positional Advantage

Prioritization of various objectives:

As previously discussed, when you play as either team (the Terrorists or Counter-Terrorists), in the majority of competitive maps, you have two distinct objectives: kill all the members of the enemy team or plant the bomb and allow for its detonation/prevent the planting of the bomb and defuse it before detonation. Nevertheless, within these simple objectives are many sub-objectives that also demand your attention. Cover a chokepoint, hold off an enemy advance, flash out an entrenched position and take it, cover the fallen bomb and prevent it being recaptured, come to an ally’s aid, avoid an imminent death, retrieve a significant upgrade over your current weapon, get into a favourable position, etc. As you play you must decide which of these are most important and plan accordingly. This (as in other games like DotA and Starcraft) are what differentiate the average players from the excellent ones once a certain mechanical skill plateau has been reached. Should you move across to a position with a better vantage point and risk being shot or heard or stay put and try to angle for a better view from where you are? Should you reload or rush your opponent while they may be reloading? Should you aim for the body or try for a high-risk, high-reward headshot? There are so many decisions that you constantly need to make and this another part of what makes it so rewarding when you manage to cobble together something resembling an optimal path and successfully navigate a difficult scenario.

Positional advantage:

Position is incredibly important in CS:GO. Because of how easy it is to kill someone with just a few shots if you have the better position you can quickly kill off an enemy before they can finish you off. You can see just how central positioning is to a successful round by the fact that everyone whips out their knives at the beginning of each round so that they can run to their destination that little bit quicker. A scenario that comes up often demonstrating the power of position is when the Terrorists attempt to rush a bomb site but are held off for just those few extra moments by someone on the Counter-Terrorists who has an advantageous position and is covering a choke-point. If he or she can hold off the Terrorists until some backup gets to the site before they break through the defenses the round is all but won. However, if the Terrorists manage to break through and take out the lone defender or two they will often win the round despite taking equivalent losses because they now hold the positional advantage and can predict that the CTs will be coming to them unless they are willing to cast aside the round as a loss (as they have no choice but to do so due to the requirement that the bomb be defused).

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).”

The Daily Hero Challenge: A Daily Struggle Leading to Enlightenment

“The Daily Hero Challenge (or, as I like to refer to it: the DHC) is a fascinating beast. Like it’s younger brother before it (the Ten Hero Challenge) the DHC brings with it a set of obstacles beyond simply winning a game with the hero you have been assigned. To reach this lofty goal you must overcome all before you and push forward to achieve the greatness that you were destined for. This leads to games where, with everyone deadset on picking their hero of the day, compositions that are normally well-coordinated, elegant creatures become monstrous abominations.

Rather than be upset by such misshapen heaps of flesh and bone I suggest you consider this an opportunity to make at least one game every day a unique challenge and struggle. Consider this, when the DHC ends you will not have an opportunity to experience such delightfully skewed and strange games again until it comes around for the next International.

I will not lie. I have had games where I thought it might be better to give up rather than have to suffer through such horrors for any length of time longer. But, having breached that initial wave of disgust I am now ready to embrace my fate. The DHC shall pollute my games with all sorts of sub-optimal decision making and players choosing heroes they are awful with or have very little experience with. But that is ok. I will make the best of it and find the humour in the situation I and so many other people find themselves in. Let’s make the best of a silly situation!

With that in mind, a few tips on how to go about enjoying your time with the DHC.

If you haven’t finished your DHC yet ALWAYS pick your hero. No matter what

  • Let’s be honest, you’re not playing to win. So, reach for the stars and grab the hard carry that you have been commanded from on up high to play despite there already being 3 other hard carries and a jungler on your team already.

Do not expect your unranked games to make any sense.

  • Though this may not be the case for everyone, or in every game, you’ll likely see some of the strangest compositions you have ever witnessed. It may just be your teammates being stupid but give them the benefit and assume they are doing their DHC (just as you likely are since you are in unranked). Embrace the uncertainty and surprise your opponents (who likely have a few strange picks of their own due to similar factors).

Adopt the title of “”Comeback King””

  • You’ve seen the worst of it. You’ve seen your lane reduced to a bloody battlefield littered with copies of your team’s level one corpses. But all is not lost. Shake off that thousand yard stare and wait for your opponents to get cocky and pounce on their mistakes. Snatch glorious victory from the jaws of defeat and be forever remembered as the Comeback King.

Should the contagion show signs of spreading to ranked play stamp it out immediately

  • Shenanigans in unranked play are to be expected. DHCs are not to be attempted in ranked play. Should a dubious suggestion come to light immediately dismiss it and remind your teammates of the one true goal. MMR.

Party up to share the pain

  • Having just suffered through a brutal game as a support Slardar (in an attempt to complete my DHC) I wasn’t sure if I could go on any longer. But, whilst on the brink of despair I found comfort in the company of friends. We queued together and embraced our attempts at the DHC with gusto and good humour. Our game went surprisingly well and despite our attempts to throw it we still won handily. So, if you are beginning to feel the weight of your daily duties beginning to drag you down, consider dragging some of your friends into your suffering and make light of it.

Like it or not, this is an unprecedented period for experimentation and you will be a part of the scientific inquiry whether you like it or not. Let’s all look forward to the ridiculous team compositions and game scenarios that will rise out of this. Heck, even I feel better after writing this post. It’s not going to be all bad, right?

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating (see link on sidebar) or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).

5 More Tips to Keep Healthy While Gaming: Because You Don’t Want Your Performance to Fall!

“Itching for some more tips to continue improving your gaming setup and flow? Well, you’re in luck. I’ve got 5 more for you!

6. Get up and take a break for 5 minutes every hour or  so (if possible). Use focus booster to keep track.

This is an easy way to ensure that your body gets a break. If you can, take a break and stand up and walk around every hour or so (obviously sometimes the intervals will vary due to being in game). I like using Focus Booster to keep track of time and get alerts as to when I should be taking a break. Try and stretch out a bit during your break if you can and get even more benefit out of your brief respite. As a bonus, you can use Focus Booster to get yourself focused on a task for a defined period of time and reward yourself with a break when appropriate!

7. Make sure you have proper back support.

I’m quite obsessive about the design of chairs and proper back support because I suffered from chronic back pain for a 3 years while I was in high school. Eventually, I figured out that I needed orthopedics to change the way that my feet were absorbing shock and ended that awful, constant pain. But I will never forgot what it was like, and thus, will not settle for anything that doesn’t offer proper back support. If you’re going to be sitting for 8, 10, 12, whatever hours a day you need to make sure that the chair that you are sitting in allows you to sit comfortably whilst supporting your back. An ideal chair supports you from your lower back up to just below your shoulder blades and should allow you to sit without slouching or arching your back to find a comfortable position. There are an incredible number of chairs out there that have been designed by people who obviously didn’t think at all about their effect on the users after long periods.

Please be careful and remind mindful of whether your chair is supporting you properly. You don’t want to end up with constant back pain! It’s one of the worst, most frustrating issues to deal with.

Note: If you’ve adjusted your chair and taken care to set up an ergonomic workplace and are still suffering from back pain you may want to start doing core exercises regularly. Strengthening your core will allow you to hold yourself in an ideal position and allow you to avoid putting too much strain on your back when sitting.

8. Consider standing!

While I was suffering from my back pain I decided I’d had enough of sitting all the time and exacerbating my condition so I set up a standing desk. I built a stand (that you can see in the photo below) and put my keyboard and mouse on it. The first few days were pretty brutal as I was standing in one spot for 6, 7, 8 hours at a time. But as I got used to standing all day I found that I was much less tired at the end of the day, my gaming had improved (more alert) and my back was hurting less! Now, whenever I go to a friend’s place, I gather together whichever materials are suitable and set myself to be able to stand while playing. They love to laugh at me and tease me but eventually I plan to convert them all to standing desks so that they can also experience the joy that is not being stuck in a chair and slouching all day.

9. Get a keyboard and mouse that suit your needs.

Although this may seem obvious, it is critical that you find a keyboard and mouse that suit your preferences and the size of your hands. For example, when I was playing Starcraft II with my girlfriend I just couldn’t understand how she could micro so inefficiently. Rather than dismiss her as just being incapable (she’s actually a pretty good gamer and learns super quickly!) I thought about it for a bit and tried out her mouse. She was using a mouse that was way too big for her hand and it was so large that even I was uncomfortable trying to hold and use it. I termed it the “”spaceship mouse”” because of the clunky and unnatural feeling you got when you tried to use it. We got her a smaller mouse that fit her hand better and she instantly improved noticeably.

Don’t settle for some shitty setup. As with the other factors, you don’t the state of your equipment to be a reason for you performing sub-optimally.  Honestly, it’s not even a question of how expensive the product you are using is. It’s more about whether it fits you properly. You can find plenty of quality keyboard+mouse setups (my entire setup is $189.76 before tax and shipping on Amazon)  for under $70 or even less if you get some good deals at the thrift store.

Links for my gaming equipment if you’re interested: Steelseries Apex [RAW] Gaming Keyboard $48.02| Steelseries Sensei [RAW] Gaming Mouse $42.55 | Steelseries Siberia V2 Full-size Gaming Headset $69.20 | Logitech G440 Hard Gaming Mousepad $29.99

10. Check out flux.

If you’re like me and you game deep into the night at times you should check out flux in order to reduce the eyestrain and confusion that your body will be experiencing due to being awake and staring at a computer screen when everything else around you is pitch black. What flux does is change the colour tones of your screen to match the time of day you are using your computer. This means that at around 8PM (during the summer) your screen will become slightly less bright and brighten up again when the sun rises in the morning. It’s a subtle change but it gives your eyes a break and helps you eventually settle down and go to sleep by reminding your body that the day has come to an end.

I love gaming and am devoted to maintaining performance so keeping in good shape has the dual benefit of ensuring my health doesn’t deteriorate whilst preserving my level of execution that allows me to continue to excel (or at least attempt to). Consider this, would you want to be hampered by a nagging pain in your wrist while struggling for survival in a epic 70 minute game of DotA 2? Would you consider it to be a valid excuse to your teammates in CS:GO if you claim that you couldn’t see your foe and shoot him first because your eyes were too tired? No, you’d feel pretty shitty about messing up in DotA 2 and your teammates in CS:GO would rag on you for needing glasses or some such (and that would be a real shame if you’d managed to avoid having to get them so far!). Preserve your physical health for your own good as well as for the sake of continuing to be able to play the games that you love.

Preserve your physical health for your own good as well as for the sake of continuing to be able to play the games that you love.

That’s all for now. Keep healthy and keep on gaming! Have a pezant day.

Note: If you liked this article. Consider donating (see link on sidebar) or installing this Chrome Extension I made that gives me credit for your Amazon purchases (by adding in my referral tag when you’re browsing Amazon).”