Today in Gaming: What is the most interesting part of DotA? Is it your favorite hero? Is it perfecting the combination of items in your build? Is it the endless pursuit of a rampage?
For me, the most fascinating part of MOBAs are the players -- the quirky personalities on the other end of my headset. Unless you play with the same people every game, your DotA experience during any given match will be decided by the random link you have with nine other humans -- four of whom have been given the power to enrich or ruin your life for upwards of an hour.
At no time has this been more clear to me than last night at about 10pm when I sat down for two starkly different games of DotA 2.
Both games were against "hard" bots. Just in case you don't play DotA, bot games are practice sessions where you get to test out your builds -- preset instructions for items and gameplay. They don't count at all. Keep that in the back of your mind.
- The first game I shall henceforth refer to as The Win
- The second game I shall henceforth refer to as The Loss
I played both games identically. I was jungling as Drow Ranger. Yes, yes, very unusual. Get over it.
I used the exact same build, maneuvers, and style. I use the ancients to steal friendly and enemy creep lines -- denying our enemies both gold and experience and leaving them hovering near our tower like helpless children. On rare occasions when I have just enough time to do it, I'll sneak behind and gank them just to add injury to insult. My eyes are always on that clock. I time my strikes perfectly to stack (?:53) and farm (?:47) the ancients for gold and then put together my master build.
- The Win: gametime - 49:58
- The Loss: gametime - 29:42
In The Win, I requested jungle without incident. I shared the top lane as Dire with a delightful chap who didn't know what jungling was but was very grateful when I told him in advance when I would be stealing his creeps. In The Loss, I shared bottom as Radiant with two guys who bickered endlessly over who would get last kills and told me to go to hell whenever I told them not to push because I was stealing their creeps. On two occasions, one of them entered the neutral camp to "steal them back". Since you can't do that, he was quite furious.
- The Win: final gold - 7,132
I completed my build, so I didn't need to spend any more.
- The Loss: final gold - 1,226
In both The Win and The Loss -- as I usually am during bot games -- I was ambivalent about the outcome and calmly played the game content to eye the clock and bide my time. I stole creeps until I was powerful enough to farm the jungle, and then I worked on that. During The Win, the guy on top was happy to be fed all those creeps on his own while I was busy in the jungle. During The Loss, I was reminded constantly about how I was lazy.
- The Win: 6 kills, 3 deaths, 3 assists
- The Loss: 2 kills, 1 deaths, 1 assists
I'm a sneaky player. I gank and take out towers when you're not looking. I kite enemies around the board wasting their time. That's just how I play. There are dozens of playing styles, I simply am not the type to run into a five-strong pile of angry robots to die in a blaze of glory. In The Win, I was praised for my style; in The Loss, I was vilified to a point but they really couldn't say anything because out of all of us, I'm the only one who wasn't feeding the bots.
- The Win: all enemy towers destroyed; we had all five of our base towers standing.
- The Loss: one guy killed the top tower, I killed three others; our middle was destroyed but our side paths were still intact at tier 2.
In The Win, my teammates struggled but I came to their aid whenever I could -- especially after I got my Boots of Travel. It was a blast and I deliberately refrained from destroying the enemy base despite my being fully built because we were having so much fun. In The Loss, everyone else on my team had seven deaths or more. One guy threw himself into the breach 15 times. It was around his seventh death that my teammates forgot about me and turned on each other -- screaming into the microphones and pounding into their keyboards angry rants about who was a cheater and who was just reported.
- The Win: Boots of Travel, Daedalus, Morbid Mask, Quarterstaff, Shadow Blade, and Mjollnir.
- The Loss: Boots of Speed, Crystalys, Morbid Mask, and Quarterstaff (3 "others").
I have played 156 hours of DotA according to my profile. During The Loss, something happened that I have never seen in all that time. After listening with utter glee for twenty minutes as my teammates told me that jungling would never work, as I turned the corner and began to dominate -- destroying all the towers of my lane and kiting enemy heroes allowing my guys to catch their breath, they began to shanghai the courier and drop my upgrades in various parts of our base.
So scared were they that they would be proven wrong that they actively sabotaged me. I'm pretty sure that I have never laughed so hard in my life.
- The Win: last hits - 319; XPM - 657; GPM - 518 (18% better than rest of team)
- The Loss: last hits - 125; XPM - 396; GPM - 306 (40% better than rest of team)
At the end of The Win, I was standing in front of the enemy spawn just racking people with electrified arrows as they valiantly tried to escape their prison. The other three (one guy bailed at 10:00) took out the ancient. In The Loss, I was standing in the enemy base 5-7 arrows away from demolishing their last bottom tower with a full army of creeps while my teammates stood in the back of the base screaming and all-CAPSing about which DotA heroes can and cannot single-handedly kill five enemies.
- The Win: level - 25; leading enemy level (Necrolyte) - 20
- The Loss: level - 12; leading enemy level (Lina) - 17
Two games. One and a half hours. Two vastly and dare I say completely different experiences. That, to me, is what makes games like DotA great. It's not the intricacies of the items or the slaying of Roshan -- yes, those things are nice. But for my money, the best part of the game is the infinite combination of human personalities all vying for victory against the most predictable robots in the history of gaming in matches that don't actually count for anything.
It's so delicious.