A Quality Voice Communication Experience: Axon

Update Axon has been dead for some time now but I recommend Discord if you’re looking for a voice chat solution!

“Gaming is so much about communicating and the social aspect of sharing experiences with your friends so voice communication is paramount. I’ve been playing games for years now and have been through a multitude of different voice communication services. My first experience was with Ventrilo (still a popular option), then Teamspeak and Mumble, Skype for a very long time (for chatting with my friends while playing with them on a regular basis) but now, after so many years, I’ve settled on Axon. I wanted to write a short post about using Axon because I feel that it is far superior to the other other alternatives that are available and it’s still relatively unknown despite how well-made and maintained it is.

Advantages of Axon

  • 100% Free

There are no paid features in Axon. Everything you would want to use is there available for the taking. Because of this, there is no gating of features or gradual degradation of core services to encourage transition to premium services (I’m looking at you Skype!).

  • Simplicity

As you can see by the interface above. It’s quite simple. You make an account sign in and go to the users menu to add people to your friend’s list. Once you’ve done that you can invite them to one on one chats or create a permanent chat and invite them to that instead. There are no ports to copy in or passwords to remember/change. You can also set it to auto login/start up automatically when your computer starts up.

  • Permanent Rooms

What I consider to be one of the best features of Axon (in combination with the grid system and directional sound). Permanent rooms are amazing. Gone are the days of having to forge a chat together every time you want to play with your friends and are coordinating over Skype. Permanent chats remember where you were positioned in them last, can support an ungodly amount of people, have a running text chat that is held on server and allow you to promote other people so that they can add people to the chat as well.

  • Grids

The grid system used in the permanent chat (as seen above) allows you to seamlessly hold up to 4 different conversations in the same permanent chat without having to create another room. These grids are quite useful when you’re holding a scrim and are sharing the same room or someone is going to be AFK for a while (so they drop into another section) or if your friends happen to be multiple different games but still want to be able to keep in touch with each other easily (by dropping by in the other section and saying a quick hello!).

  • Directional Audio

Another incredible feature included in Axon, and perhaps it’s strongest point of differentiation. Because of the programming behind Axon it uses surround sound (hence the connection to Dolby) when you and your friends are speaking. This means that a chat room is more like a room where you and your friends are sitting all throughout the room. It means that more than one person can be speaking at once and it is actually possible to differentiate voices beyond simple volume levels. You can also choose to orient yourself towards whoever you are anticipating you will be communicating with more often to help further augment your ability to communicate.

  • Ability to Nudge

If you’re in a chat and you want the attention of your friend you can nudge them (as shown below) and a notification will pop up in the top right corner of their screen letting them know that their attention has been requested in whichever chat you nudged them from. This is an easy way to get someone to come join you in a chat channel and is the equivalent of poking someone on the shoulder to get their attention.

  • Selective Muting

If you happen to have friends with awful mics, who can be incredibly annoying at times then, or are playing in the same room as someone else but on voice chat with others then you will surely take joy in being able to use this feature. As you can see below, you can right click the users in the chat and selectively mute a person. This allows you to control your audio input without having to ask someone to shut up or figure out some sort of elaborate arrangement with the person who is playing next to you so that you don’t have to hear them twice.

  • No hosting/Lower upload speed usage

Because all communications are hosted by the Axon servers you don’t have to worry about additional upload requirements that can be taxing for those of us with pathetic upload speeds. There are few things more tragic than having to choose between voice chat with your friends are constantly lagging in game. No more negotiations and maneuvering as to who will be hosting the Skype call (and bearing the additional upload burden)!

  • Excellent voice activation (no need for push to talk)

Again, a feature that I am incredibly grateful for. As someone who hates to use push to talk, Axon’s excellent voice detection has served as a dependable alternative to push to talk without any of the complaints about mic spam that usually come with using anything other than push to talk. Yes! You can even breathe while you use voice activation. Funny the thought that it only picks up significant sounds and actual speech. The people at Axon figured something out that seems to be too difficult for others to sort out as well. I am aware that you can adjust sensitivity and the like in other programs to find your sweet spot but I’m just grateful for the ease of use that Axon offers. No tinkering required.

Disadvantages of Axon

  • Creating an account and getting your friends to use it

Yes, this is the biggest roadblock to being a happy user of Axon and that is making an account and then convincing your friends to give it a go and let go of the other programs that they are so familiar with. Perhaps this article can help you in persuading them to change their mind!

  • Weak individual text chat

If you aren’t holding a chat in a permanent chat and have invited a single person to a personal text chat then you will end up losing your chat history from before when you’ve closed that window. This makes it a sad replacement in that regard for something like Skype (though I suppose you could create permanent chats on an individual level). However, the top voted post on the feedback forums for Axon is in regards to changing the way that works and making the feature more useful. That’s another thing, they actively solicit feedback and respond to posts in the forums. It’s nice to see a team that genuinely wants to hear from its users and seek to improve the service.

I know for sure that Axon has made a huge difference for me because when my team was playing at GottaCon for the DotA 2 tournament we ended up installing Axon on the computers there because Teamspeak just wouldn’t cut it. Even with the added latency of having to use a service that wasn’t running on the LAN there it was still much preferable with having to deal with the lack of directional audio, crappy voice activation and no option to selectively mute members (one of our teammates was particularly close to a speaker and had a sensitive mic).

Hopefully this post convinces you to try Axon. You and your friends will certainly benefit from adopting it as your voice communication service of choice. Let me know if you happen to know of an option that is even better!

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).

Being Honest with Oneself: A Long Term Winning Strategy

We’ll all been in that game where every possible thing goes wrong. Your teammates are complete idiots, each close cut scenario goes in favour of your enemy instead of yourself, you can’t catch a lucky break even just to stem the bleeding and all hope is lost. When you’re consumed by anger and disappointment its easy to dismiss everything that has just happened and attribute it to the flailing, keyboard-smashing imbeciles on your team and having skipped your regular ritual sacrifice to Lady Luck. But! Though, this may be a easy, and immediately cathartic, path to pursue it is not the most beneficial one to undertake for yourself.

However tempting it may be to blame your failure on … any number of other factors that may have contributed to your untimely demise try your best not to. Instead, consider what YOU could have done better.

However tempting it may be to blame your failure on a lack of luck, the incompetency of your teammates, the enemy’s unfair tactics or any number of other factors that may have contributed to your untimely demise try your best not to. Instead, consider what YOU could have done better.

Yes, we know. Teammates, lag, bad luck, game unfair, hero broken, gun overpowered, whatever. But outside of all of that, how could you have improved how you impacted the game?

 There’s always something you can improve on. So, take the opportunity to continuously better yourself.

For example, when I play DotA I’ve become quite good at dominating my lane as a mid hero or farming effectively as a carry. But, despite that, there are still games where my team and I fail to secure the game. So, if I was successful at doing what I was supposed to be doing but what could I have done better? As a carry, maybe I should have TPed in for a few more team fights where I could have swung it and picked up some kills as well or gone for a more optimal item progression. As a mid, I wrecked my opponent but I could have more diligent calling out misses, runes picked up, or ganking other lanes. There’s always something you can improve on. So, take the opportunity to continuously better yourself. Whether you’re winning or losing. Whether you feel that your fate is out of your hands or if you’ve done absolutely all you can. Reflect on what you’ve done, and what you could have done better.

Assigning blame is a simple task. Being intelligent and thoughtful enough to consider where you could have done better in any situation is much more difficult. But, in the long run, you will reap the rewards of the extra effort and thought you’ve put into your play. I’ve even seen it amongst my friends that I play with. With a remarkable difference between those who are willing to accept that they’ve made mistakes and reflect on what they could have done better and those who prefer to ascribe their failures to everyone around them.

Coming up soon. Thoughts on dealing with problematic teammates and ways to turn around, or at least mitigate, their impact.

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).”

FTL: The Advanced Edition Experience

“I absolutely loved FTL and played 45+ hours of it upon its initial release. It is a beautiful game that manages to capture the elusive feeling of exploration, the wonder of discovery, the weightiness of decision making and the delicate balance between success and failure whilst out in the great, dark, endless unknown that is space. FTL: Advanced Edition has managed to build on this wonderful game without comprising the formula that made it so irresistible and unique.

Quality of life improvements like the ability to save your crewmembers’ positions and send them back to them with the click of a button make the game simpler and less tedious without reducing the quality of the gameplay. New mechanics like hacking drones (which had a definite affection for my oxygen systems) as well as new ships and races add some extra variety to the experience that those who are fond of FTL are so familiar with. I’ve only done one playthrough so far but I’ll definitely be coming back for more runthroughs. FTL has once again captured my imagination. My hat is off to the devs. An excellent expansion of a great game.

See my playthrough that I’ve linked to if you’re interested in seeing my initial reaction to the changes and the various discoveries I made during my playthrough.

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).”

MediaHint’s Unwelcome Update And An Alternative Extension: ProxMate

“I’ve been using MediaHint to be able to access US Netflix and Pandora happily for the past year or so but recently they released an update that asked for some troubling new permissions. After doing some searching regarding the new update and hearing about how the new update required the creation of an account and included paid options (not sure for what, but I didn’t want to go anywhere near that) I immediately searched for a replacement.

In my quest for a suitable alternative I fell upon a helpful Lifehacker article that offered up Proxmate as a potential alternative to, the now less desirable, Mediahint.

I am pleased to report that Proxmate has proved to be a full and complete replacement for Mediahint and there are no requests for information exceeding what is required for the operation of the extension. It is installed in the fashion that Mediahint was before it’s inclusion in the app store (download the .crx extension file, drag it manually into the extensions pane to install) and is simple, clean and effective. I fully recommend Proxmate if you’re looking into an alternative for Mediahint.

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

A quick note: As pointed out by Beakersful and snazzgasm on Reddit. Access to the services on the right (under extra goodies) requires payment of at least 3 euro in donation in order to receive a donation key which can be used to unlock extra functionality. Unfortunately this donation key expires after 31 days so it’s basically a monthly fee.

EDIT: You can grab the old version of Proxmate here. For those of you having issues with the current version. Hola Better Internet also gives you a lot of good options with regards to escaping region locks (and isn’t constrained to the US).

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).”

Trials of the Arena: Making the Most of your 150 Gold Spent

New to Hearthstone? Get it here.

For players new to Hearthstone, the arena is a tempting, and intimidating proposition. For 150 gold you have the chance to pick 30 cards (from a random slate of 3 at a time) and get as far as you can before you fall three times. The further you make it, the greater your awards are.

The arena is a even playing field upon which you are finally able to prove your intelligence, capacity for strategic decision making and your ability to vanquish foes who might have otherwise defeated you in ranked play with hands laden full of legendaries.

The arena is a even playing field upon which you are finally able to prove your intelligence, capacity for strategic decision making and your ability to vanquish foes who might have otherwise defeated you in ranked play with hands laden full of legendaries. This is all sounds wonderful. But, is it really so easy to enter the arena and come out ahead of where you started? Bear in mind that the cost of a single card pack is 100 gold and you only start to break even at around three or four wins (with the combined value of the guaranteed pack with entry + any additional rewards). With those ominous thoughts forming a dark cloud above our heads let us reflect on how to best extract maximum value from our participation in this zero sum game.

Practice First

Build yourself an arena bank and start doing runs once you’re more likely to be successful!

Especially when you’re just starting the game, try and get a feel for the different classes, potential cards to played, good trades and synergies and general strategy and game knowledge. Though you may be able to scrape out 2 or 3 wins in your initial arena runs it would be better to hold for a while and wait until you’re on a more solid foundation before jumping into that inferno. Build yourself an arena bank and start doing runs once you’re more likely to be successful!

Quick tip: If you have any quests that are 40 gold then you should try abandoning them first (by clicking the red “”X”” on the corner of the quest box in the quest log) to give yourself at getting a 60 or 100 gold quest. If you’re looking to raise funds for arena, quests are far your best option for that and you wouldn’t want to squander a potential 20 or 60 extra gold! Don’t abandon anything higher than 40 though, as chances are you will receive an equivalent or lower value quest (the 100 gold quests are very rare).

Pick Wisely

 If one card is just better overall than one with synergy it makes sense to go for the overall value play. Remember, there’s no guarantee those cards will line up nicely in your hand!

Although it may be tempting to go for fancy combinations/strategies when you’re drafting your arena deck it’s better to draft cards that are more reliable and generally useful. This is because there is no guarantee that the clincher card/cards you’ll need to make your earlier pick effective rather than subpar will show up when you need them. What you can do is build on the cards you chose previously and look to make for effective synergies with your future picks. For example, if you choose the Gadgetzan Auctioneer because you have a few spells you’d be able to play in combination with him (thus taking advantage of the card draw upon spell cast provided) that would make spells available further more valuable because of their potential to synergize. Nevertheless, try not to get too carried with building on one card or a set of cards. If one card is just better overall than one with synergy it makes sense to go for the overall value play. Remember, there’s no guarantee those cards will line up nicely in your hand!

For more guidance on drafting see Liquidheart for excellent arena tier lists written by Trump (a well known, and quite talented, Hearthstone streamer).

Keep Track of Your Deck

Arena is a completely different from ranked play where you would have carefully deliberated over which cards to include in your deck and are likely at least somewhat familiar with what’s waiting beyond your current hand. In arena, you’ve just drafted 30 cards that you sought to combine together in an effective manner, but you’re likely not able to recall what’s available to you easily. So, what I like to do is take some quick printscreens of my arena deck which I can then reference should I be at loss with regards to what options are available to me (during the mulligan stage or just for planning considerations). Remember to take two shots if you happen to have enough cards to the point to where you need to scroll down!

Try and Suss Out Your Opponent’s Strategy

Because of the somewhat random nature of arena it can be difficult trying to guess what your opponent will be doing. But you can look for tells to help you in figuring out what his gameplan will likely be. Things like whether he/she is not playing a lot of cards early would let you know that either they have a late-game oriented deck or are more combo-oriented (like the Unleash the Hounds Hunter playstyle). If they’re playing out a bunch of cards early you can posit that they are set on taking you out early on and try your best the stem the bleeding. Do be careful with not taking this too far though. Given that they also had to select from a slate of 3 random cards at a time it doesn’t make sense to expect the elaborate combinations you see on the ladder. Just settle with the fact that you’ll be able to guide your decisions that little bit better.

Embrace the Unpredictability

If you make unpredictable plays it is harder for the enemy to prepare for them and they have a chance to be more effective.

You don’t really have an idea what your opponent’s hand may contain. However, they don’t really have an idea what’s in yours either. Do you have 4 Ice Lances? Maybe you could consider trying to save them all and combo them with a Frost Elemental attack to do a shit ton of damage that wouldn’t be possible in Ranked Play. Do you have one Fireball in hand and another available in your deck? Consider saving them to unleash them both at once and do a surprise 12 damage to the face (preferably to finish them with). If you make unpredictable plays it is harder for the enemy to prepare for them and they have a chance to be more effective. So, if you’re forced to make decisions you wouldn’t have made in a regular scenario, consider that an opportunity to catch your opponent offguard and grind your way to victory.

Play to the Strengths of Your Class

This advice applies to any form of Hearthstone you are playing but is especially pertinent in Arena. Because you have the opportunity to grab more than the traditional limit of 2 per each card you can really capitalize on the strengths of your class. To me this means grabbing as many Fireballs, Truesilver Champions, Animal Companions, Unleash the Hounds and Fire Elementals as possible (within reason of course). If 2 of a card is really good, then often times 3 or 4 of that card is also pretty sweet. This is especially true for cards with lower mana costs because of the reduced chance that you’ll be stuck with multiple unusable copies of a card in your hand (like 3 Flamestrikes for example).

Curious about which classes fare best in the arena? Check out Hearthstats for stats by month detailing win rates for arena and ranked play (based on data submitted by users).

Take Your Time

You’re playing Arena! You’re excited! You’re whupping your opponent! Oh wait. You just made a sub-optimal decision and threw your lead. Gosh darn. You didn’t do the math correctly. Oh noooo, you forgot to account for that particular effect… *tears*

Take those extra few seconds to think and you’ll end up cursing at yourself a lot less often.

We’ve all been there. We’re doing great. Flying ahead. The game is in our hands and then we make mistakes we shouldn’t have due to inattention. So, given that arena is even higher stakes than usual (you’re spending precious gold or your own hard-earned money to play it) it makes sense that you should try and apply the entirety of your intellect whenever possible. Try and take a second to breath and reevaluate the decision you’re about to make. Is it better than the other options you have? Is there a different order you should do it in? Are there cards that could still be coming in that could shift the way you’re planning your turn? Take those extra few seconds to think and you’ll end up cursing at yourself a lot less often.

Know When to Take a Break

You’ve just had a terrible arena run and only picked up 1 win out of the four games you played. You’re annoyed that RNGesus wasn’t on your side during the draft or, seemingly, during any of your games. You’ve still got 200 gold in the bank and you’re going to start another run. Great, good for you for not giving up. But consider taking a break. If you’re on tilt you’re less likely to make quality decisions during the drafting stage or your subsequent games and even if you’re not one to get angry it’s still good to take a moment to relax and clear your mind. Hearthstone is a game entirely based around making strategic decisions and thinking intelligently so take a moment to refresh your most important asset (your brainpower!) before diving into it again.

With these tips in hand perhaps you’ll be able to achieve a 12 win run eventually. But as long as you’re able to enjoy yourself, improve and preferably make back the gold you spent I would count it as a worthwhile investment. For me, there’s nothing quite like the rush of having an extended arena run going and feeling the pressure build with each successive win.

Once I get everything sorted for streaming I’m going to be streaming the respective games I play (Dota 2, CS:GO, Hearthstone, etc) so look out for my stream at twitch.tv/nickthepezant if you’re interested, :).

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).”

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!

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).”

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!

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).”

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

Source: Datdota.com

 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 dotabuff.com, 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.

pezant

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