Counter Strike: Another Brutal Learning Curve

“I must be a masochist. After going through the trial by hell-fire of learning the various intricacies of DotA (and this was back in WC3 where it was even less friendly to new players) and Starcraft II I’ve decided to pick up another game that has a notoriously steep learning curve, Counter Strike: Global Offensive. It’s brutal learning how to play the game, but oh so satisfying when you actually do things properly every once in a while (or as Counterstrike players refer to it, a clutch play). The goal of Counterstrike is simple. Complete the objective or kill everyone on the other team. But within those straightforward objectives are many intricacies. I’m going to attempt to detail a few that I’ve discovered (while playing the Competitive mode) out of the many that exist in the game, as well as my appreciation for them. Check the next few posts for more observations!

The goal of Counterstrike is simple. Complete the objective or kill everyone on the other team.

The value of life: There are no respawns in Counterstrike. Once you die, you are dead and there is nothing you can do except communicate to your teammates and try to help them. This means that if you are able to take out at least one person down with you then you can feel OK about your contribution as you haven’t left your team with a numbers disadvantage. This also means that when you manage to take out three people guarding a bomb that’s been planted as the last man on your team you have made a huge contribution to your team and won them a round that they likely wouldn’t have otherwise (this would be considered an aforementioned “”clutch”” play). The lack of an ability to respawn adds a welcome permanence to the decisions you make (thereby enabling further strategic depth) that is missing from other games in the FPS genre. There isn’t any other FPS that I have played that recreates the feeling of being the last man standing and having to hunt down those last few people or desperately try to fend them off as you defend an objective. The permanence of your successes and failures adds so much weight to your actions.

The importance of information and communication: Given that each action carries so much weight it is vital that you and your teammates have the proper information with which to evaluate the decisions laid before you. Unlike a shooter with respawns where you usually run out and try to kill as many people as you can before you fall and then run out again Counterstrike doesn’t offer you that option. So, in the absence of the option of returning to life and acting on the information you’d gathered, instead you must collect as much information as you can so that you can avoid the sudden end that everyone on the other team is trying to impose on you. This leads to an environment where (in the majority of my games) players have been quite vocal in communicating what the plan should be as well as where the see other players going or what type of weapons they are using. Information is so vital in this game that even if you die while attempting to defend a bomb location if you can tell your team how many are coming through, whether the bomb is in that location and what kind of damage you dealt you can leave them with the winning hand despite them being down a player. This type of environment makes for extremely enjoyable matches when you have a team that communicates and works together but can also make for infuriating games when it seems no one but yourself is attempting to communicate and that the information you gathered as you fell, despite your valiant struggle, isn’t being taken in at all.

And there are many many more that I will eventually come to be aware of as I strive to improve (currently in scrub tier at Silver II with 11 wins, hehe). It’s the sign of a truly well-made, designed and executed game that it draws people in despite there being such huge barriers to entry. Although the learning curve may push some people away, those who remain benefit from the depth and longevity that such complexity allows for. DotA, Starcraft and CS:GO are all games that aren’t afraid to present a gaping chasm to those  considering whether or not to make the jump. It’s up to the player to evaluate whether they can learn to fly before they hit the quickly approaching ground.

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

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Free to Play: The Stories of Those Who Play the Game We Love

“It’s easy to look at pro players like Dendi or Fear and think that they must be on top of the world given that they are where they are now. It’s true, they are playing a game full time and being paid to do it but that doesn’t mean they are without their personal battles (in addition to the ones they face in the video game world).  Behind each professional player featured in Free to Play (Dendi, Fear and HyHy) was a story of just how vital the ones close to them were to their success. Without the approval and love of Dendi’s family who recognized the gap he was filling with the loss of his father, or Fear’s mother who worked so hard to make a living for herself and still let Fear go down the uncertain path he chose, or HyHy’s girlfriend who was there for his to share  his every success and failure with (until she’d been through too much with him) these players wouldn’t have gotten to where they are now.

This is the true success of Free to Play. It shows just how important succeeding in the game is to the professional players who live and breath it. And by doing so, helps to create understanding for those who don’t live in that world but witness their children being completely taken in by it. It shows that playing games isn’t about just sitting at a computer. It’s about building ties with friends, practicing as a team, and constantly seeking to improve oneself. Most importantly, it demonstrates that even if these players are so devoted to the games they play there’s always someone they care deeply about and yearn for their approval and support. We aren’t throwing away everything else just to play games. We’re doing something we love and wish we could have the support of our family, friends and partners to pursue our dreams.

As a gamer, this combination of huge moments from the tournament, with some reenacted beautifully in CGI, (like Fear drawing attention away from the throne and turning the game, HyHy suprise picking Tiny and carrying his team, Dendi casting Black Hole, as a first time Enigma!, and grabbing four of the enemy team after Tidehunter’s ultimate and orbing out of the Roshan pit to Dream Coil the whole enemy team in the final game) with the personal stories behind left me with a serious case of the feels (so many people were touched by Free to Play that some were referring to it as Free to Feel). These are the stories of our lives everyday, but from the perspective of those who are fortunate enough to play this game for a living.

The stories in Free to Play are especially pertinent given that I’ve decided to jump full time into the world of gaming. Free to Play shows that personal stories carry their own significance and has inspired me to include more of my personal touch when it comes to writing about games.

All I can say is well done Valve. I enjoyed every moment of Free to Play and thought that the pacing and emotional points that were touched on were excellent. Now I’ll see if I can convince my parents to watch it!

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

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No Longer Ban-Prone Batrider: Icefrog and Valve’s Design Philosophy Regarding DotA 2

With the release of patch 6.80 for DotA 2 we see yet another series of well thought and targeted changes for heroes and gameplay. It is truly remarkable that in a game with 105 heroes the balance team for DotA 1 and 2 continues to make game design decisions that improve the game rather than taking away from it. Part of the iconic design of DotA is that heroes have extraordinarily powerful spells and those abilities can only be mitigated by making intelligent decisions regarding movement, item choices and drafting heroes that have skillsets which help them respond to those abilities. In other games with less courageous design teams, those abilities might be called overpowered and end up subsequently made so much less substantial to the point that those heroes are no longer even picked. But in DotA, the team recognizes the value of having heroes that can change the outcome of the game in a single moment or that are incredibly strong in a specific role. The way that they balance the game is by working to make all heroes viable to choose in the professional scene (while, for the most part, gently toning down those heroes who have become too powerful) and in doing so offer responses and counter responses to drafting and gameplay decisions made by opposing teams.

Take, for example, the case of Batrider. Batrider was once a permanent first pick/ban because of his power throughout the game. With the use of Sticky Napalm he could dominate the laning phase, his Firefly, Flamebreak and Flaming Lasso abilities allowed him to deal massive amounts of damage during team fights and isolate and disable one of the enemy heroes and the flying vision granted by Firefly gave his team a huge advantage over the other by allowing him to reliably provide vision and engage from unpredictable directions. All in all, Batrider was a fun hero to watch but entirely too strong. A game where the first 6 picks and bans are pretty much set in stone removes much of the flexibility and creativity in the drafting stage that we’ve come to appreciate ever so much. So, from 6.76 to 6.79 a series of nerfs were applied to Batrider (see below).

First the team began with small nerfs to his vision, ultimate and Flamebreak ability. But, when it was clear that these changes weren’t enough to reduce his power they chose to target one portion of his skillset that made him so powerful his presence in the laning stage. With the nerf to this base damage he could no longer so easily dominate the laning stage. Sticky Napalm was no longer an added bonus on top his already decent bonus damage and ability to last hit. Now application of Sticky Napalm was nearly a necessity to be used to tie up his opponent and boost damage done to ensure that those last hits went through. Now when choosing Batrider, teams had to make a conscious decision to include him despite his weakness in the early game. He was still a formidable foe who provided an immense amount of utility in team fights and all throughout the game but he wasn’t so powerful that he was a must pick/ban regardless of the drafting plan. Continuing the saga of Batrider into 6.80, the team came to the conclusion that perhaps he was now a little bit too weak at the beginning of the game and in the laning phase and lowered his attack animation time substantially. Batrider still isn’t as powerful as he used to be but now he is an intelligent pick should the team makeup and circumstances allow it. The beauty of the approach taken to balancing this hero is that he was toned down from overpowered to reasonable without destroying his unique qualities as a hero (being abe to disable and pull someone out of position, stacking Napalm for extra damage and slow to turn speed, Firefly providing flying vision and a positional advantage) thus preserving his role in the game whilst creating more space for creative compositional decisions in the future.

By applying this method of balancing the game, the makeup of the heroes selected gradually become more and more diverse and the game continues to develop and evolve. Instead of shoehorning teams into being forced to execute generic strategies they are encouraged to explore the diverse set of options made available to them and make the best use of them that they can. This design philosophy is much more difficult to execute than simply crushing or suddenly amping up heroes but in the long run provides for a better experience. The long history of intelligent balance changes has earned the trust of the DotA community and, because of this, Icefrog (and Valve) are able to gradually make small changes and adjust accordingly depending on how strong the heroes do prove to be (rather than rushing to adjust a seemingly overpowered hero or strategy). It’s rare that I play a game where I read the patch notes and am impressed by the creativity and pragmatism of the team behind them but, without fail, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the contents of DotA 2’s patches. Here’s hoping that we continue to witness the continuous improvement of our beautiful game.

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

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The 1.43 Million Dollar Draft: Game 5 Alliance vs. Na’vi

“Some people may find the drafting stage to be long and drawn out. However, once you begin to consider the elaborate strategic decisions and mindgames that are occurring behind those seconds ticking away on the screen it becomes a simple task to allow yourself to be drawn into the intellectual battle that is unfolding before your eyes. Consider this, drafting is so important to a team’s success that the top teams even have a strategy as to where they make use of their reserve time in order to best plan out the picks in their draft stage that they feel are most important. Intelligent drafting has allowed teams like Sigma to rise up from obscurity as they manage to find combinations that were previously unexplored and muscle themselves into the top rankings despite not being known for holding an incredibly talented team of players.

The most memorable draft for me within the last year was Game 5 of The International 3 featuring Na’vi and Alliance. With so much on the line both teams had to draft with everything at stake. Was now the time to stray from their signature heroes and what had worked in the past? Or should they throw in a surprise and seek to execute a strategy that the other team would not be prepared for? Ultimately, the two teams both banned and picked heroes that they’d seen and played before; they sought to outdo each other on execution. Although, at first glance it may seem like the draft was entirely predictable we need to consider the way that the bans and picks were targeted. Na’vi banned Naga and Chen first off. Alliance banned Lifestealer and Dark Seer. These heroes may not have normally been first ban material but in the case of EGM’s Naga and Akke’s Chen Na’vi had had enough. The same can be said for XBOTCT’s Lifestealer and Funnk’s Dark Seer.  Those initial bans shaped the entire game with Na’vi picking up Batrider and Alliance grabbing Io and Nature’s Prophet. After that it was a question of picking, counterpicking and banning strategically to try and mold the game to each team’s advantage. Watching both teams as they battled for an advantage in what was certainly to be a closely fought battle with such high stakes was nearly as captivating as the game itself. I am definitely looking forward to witnessing another incredibly tense and high stakes round of picking when the next International comes around. In the meantime, I’ll continue to attempt to convince others of just how important and captivating the picking phase can be.

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Tidehunter’s Tumble: An Analysis of the Leviathan’s Falling Popularity

Tidehunter used to be such a frequent appearance in professional games that he even had a team, No Tidehunter (now playing under the name of Alliance), jokingly named in honour of him because they found him so annoying to play against. Unfortunately, (at least for those who enjoy watching him being played in professional matches), his popularity has fallen off considerably since TI2.

By looking at the gradual decline of Tidehunter from TI2 to TI3 we can begin to try to piece together a narrative of what exactly happened to our favourite, watermelon-striped Leviathan.

Tidehunter’s Performance in Professional Games

Games W L Win % Before After
Tidehunter (since the beginning of DotA 2) 574 286 288 0.50
Post TI2 373 178 195 0.48 2/9/2012
Before the beginning of TI2 125 69 56 0.55 20/8/2012
Up to end of TI2 196 105 91 0.54 2/9/2012
During TI2 76 40 36 0.53
7 months before TI3 91 41 50 0.45 2/8/2013 2/1/2013
During TI3 12 6 6 0.50


 As you can see by the win rates and games played above, Tidehunter’s popularity and general success rate dropped precipitously in the months leading up to TI3 with only 91 games played that included Tide (and a saddening 45% win rate) and a mere 12 games played as Tide during the tournament (with a respectable 50% win rate) Tide was no longer the omnipresent, teamfight turning force that he once was. Compared to his run in TI2 with 76 games played and a 53% win rate he is a shadow of his former self.

So what happened to Tidehunter? His decline in popularity can be attributed to a number of factors.

  1. The introduction of new heroes (like Magnus who was slightly more prominent at TI3) who serve a similar role but are arguably stronger and more versatile. As well as the emergence of alternate laning supports and offlaners (through release of new heroes and buffs to current ones).
  2. The nature of the meta and the shift towards fewer large, decisive teamfights and more frequent skirmishes.
  3. Nerfs made to Tidehunter (ultimate travel time, reduced ravage damage) that have limited his effectiveness.

As it stands, it seems unlikely that Tidehunter will return to his previous lofty heights. He faces substantial competition from other supports who offer more during the early stages of the game and are not as dependent on items like Blink Dagger in order to be able to initiate effectively. Tidehunter feels like a remnant of the way in which DotA used to be played before the sweeping changes made in patches 6.78 and 6.79. Without a reinvention of the way he is played or a shift back to a more TI2-esque way of playing matches he’ll have to hang out on the sidelines. The exception being in niche circumstances where he fits a specific requirement.

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Abbadon’s Success in the Pub Scene

Currently, as per, Abaddon has the second highest pub win rate this month (at 56.64%) . I believe this is the case because of the versatility of the hero and the power and synergy between his skills. Abaddon has the potential to be a hard support, an offlaner, played mid (albeit somewhat ineffectively), as a semi-carry or (and this is quite a stretch) as a hard carry. Although he functions best in some roles (the consensus amongst more experienced players is that he is best played as a support) the way that his skills come together mean than he play multiple roles effectively.

This means that even if the person playing him may not have the best idea of what composition he should be placed in and against or if the game develops in an unexpected direction he has the capability to adapt to those circumstances. His ultimate, shield, deathbolt and frost sword give him the ability to dive towers without a care in the world and slow his opponents down continually as he gradually whacks them to death. This gives him the opportunity to take a strong early game start and move into a powerful mid-game position where he focuses on attack speed (with items like Mask of Madness) and damage/utility (with a skull basher for example). Additionally, should the enemy team finally reach the end of their patience and choose to focus him down in a battle his ultimate gives him a 4 second delay from death every time and forces attention to be focused elsewhere lest he benefit from damage dealt during the duration. Alternatively, played as a support, Abaddon has the ability to heal and do damage as he chooses, provide a temporary respite from aggression and free teammates from dangerous situations (due to the shield removing negative effects), give bonus move and attack speed to surrounding allies should he end up striking the opponent and, on top of all that, enjoy a considerably longer life span than most supports due to his ultimate.

As a support, his ultimate provides the added effect of causing players to not bother going after him/her because his ultimate will just go off anyways and prevent aggression for a short period. This means that unlike the fate of a support in many a team fight (being blow up in a few seconds) Abaddon often has the opportunity to move throughout the battlefield relatively untouched until the remainder of his team has fallen. There are a few more factors to touch on (attack animations and cast animations being relatively succinct, less of a familiar hero to many players, and the automatic trigger aspect of his ultimate) but in the interest of keeping this somewhat condensed I’ll stop there for now. In summary, Abaddon is currently enjoying such a high win rate this month because of the flexibility the hero provides and the ease with which he can be adapted to the playstyle of the person controlling him as well as the tempo and developments in the game.


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The Neverending Quest: Life as a Gamer

I’ve played video games as far back as my memories go. I remember being in the basement of my home back when I was six playing educational games with my siblings. One of the most magical things about video games was that when I played them(even the single player ones) they always involved my friends and others. Games were there to keep us up through the night while we hung out together. I distinctly remember being unable to glance at the TV screen for more than a few terrifying moments as my buddies played through Resident Evil. They made visits to Metrotown so epic when they still had Playdium there and my brother and I would burn countless tokens playing through Gauntlet Legends (which we eventually bought on eBay for the N64). My cousins, siblings and I would alternate between playing games like Harvest Moon on the N64 and running around outside when they would come to stay over at our place during the summer.

Games served as a way for my siblings and I (but especially me and my brother) to share fantastic experiences together. My brother and I using a walkie talkie to report on my parents’ whereabouts while we surreptitiously played Dungeon Keeper on a shitty old computer squirreled away in our basement. One year during Christmas break after we’d finally succumbed and starting playing World of Warcraft we were so incredibly drawn to the game that we would play through the night and take turns waking each other up while our parents were sleeping so that we could get more play time in. There are so many more hilarious and touching stories that I’ll elaborate on later on but for the sake of time and space I’ll leave it to that for now.

Games were there to bring me and my friends together with many raucous games of Mario Party, Super Smash Bros., Goldeneye, Gauntlet Legends, and Mario Kart. Later on those games evolved into things like Age of Empires, Starcraft I and II, World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2 and DotA 1 and 2. Alongside those lively social experiences were the engrossing single player ones. Civ 2,Master of Orion 1 and 2, the original XCom, Robin Hood Legend of Sherwood, Dune 2000, Warcrafts 1-3, Knights of the Old Republic, Beyond Good and Evil, Bango Kazooie Sid Meier’s Pirates, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Star Fox, Fire Emblem, Harvest Moon,  Dungeon Keeper 1 and 2, Portal, FTL, Binding of Isaac, the list goes on and on. As I grew older, so did my love for video games. In fact, I love games so much that I’ve continued to play them even though I’m now working full time and it has become a great deal more difficult to find the time to enjoy them. But I soldier on because my passion only continues to grow and there is so much to discover. So much to learn. So much to enjoy.

Video games occupy a significant part of my life. They let me explore new worlds. Encounter and experience so many amazing things. Be part of so many stories. Continuing to challenge myself and improve. Always seeking that edge and capitalizing on small details to pull ahead.  My gaming sessions extend late into the night as my friends and I egg each other on to continue playing. After a long night of attempting not to be a failure at DotA as I see the sun peeking through the windows at 7 in the morning I really realise just how compelling and wonderful video games and the times spent playing them with friends are. Why else would you go through such lengths and so many trying hours through the night if it weren’t so much fun sharing these experiences with friends?

As I’ve continued playing video games I’ve really come to appreciate the camaraderie and communities that sprout up around them. Our communities. The ones that create mods, run forums, do fan art and cosplay, hound the developers for new content and fastidiously keep track of bugs, revel in the Easter eggs left for them to discover, and passionately debate balance and the evolution of game; these communities are what make gaming such a unique and vibrant culture. Through gamers’ involvement in forums, fan sites, video game conferences, social media and the like they have an opportunity to complete immerse themselves in what they love and even contribute to its development.

I’ve been struggling how to think I can share my joy of gaming with others and,embrace a lifestyle where I spend all my time appreciating all that the world of gaming has to offer and spread the honest, pure joy of playing with others. But I’ve figured it out. Create a website that encompasses all of what I talked about above. And, unsurprisingly, I’ll be doing it with my friends! It is going to be about all that we’ve given and gotten from being gamers. A website that encompasses the entirety of gaming and what it is to be a gamer. Reviews for games we’ve played, videos of us playing the games we love, commentating for games with an eSports component, thoughts on different hardware and accessories we’ve used and ideal setups and whatever else we think you guys would like. A website that allows you to revel in being a gamer and connect with other people who feel the same

We’ll do our very best to make every moment worth it for you. So, what do you think? Join us in this adventure? We promise to make it worth your while! To start, we’ll be creating content on a weekly basis and increasing it as things ramp up. Let us know what you’d be interested in seeing and if you do like what we do, please share it with your friends!</p>
Thank you for taking the time to read my musings and we wish you a pezant (like pleasant, but pezant because that’s my handle) day.


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