My Gaming History – The Beginning

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Posted under: Digital Natives 26th of November, 2012
Age of Empires, the first game that I would categorise as being my first real computer game, assuming you don’t count Simpsons’ Cartoon Studios or Gex3D.  It was a Real Time Strategy(RTS) game.  I had villagers, they gathered resources, the resources were used to build buildings, those buildings created your warriors. I would then amass them to create an army, I would send my army at the opposing team and hope I won.
That’s what you did when you’re 10 years old, you don’t appreciate strategy, you go back to the caveman equation, he who has the bigger stick, wins.  Pointless? yes. Fun? Neverending, I didn’t care if I lost, though I rarely did thanks to the cheats, I had fun playing the game.
Then along came Warcraft 3
It was like Age of Empires, but instead of being based on real world events, it was based in a fantasy world, where Humans, Orcs and Night Elves ran amok, while the Undead tried to kill everyone (The story in a nutshell).  I enjoyed playing the Campaign mode (on easy difficulty, because cheats were disabled), learning the lore of the game.  The short version? Everyone hates Undead slightly more than they hate each other.  They made an expansion for the game, new campaign, new characters, same story, except Orcs are also somewhat to blame, oh well.
However, it wasn’t the campaign of Warcraft 3 or its expansion that interested me, no it was the Battle.NET feature.The Battle.NET allowed players with Internet connections to play against each other online *gasps*.  The feature was primarily created for those players that wanted to battle each other in the actual game, much like Age of Empires. Myself as well as a large proportion of the online community, on the other hand, were more interested in the Custom Games feature.
Here people, who had designed their own maps, were able to showcase them to the community with the main purpose being to have fun together.  Some of the maps were designed to be competitive, so that players could play against each other.  They would take elements from the original game and focus purely on that aspect of the game.  Due to this simplistic nature, it made picking up the game easier for players, who didn’t have time to learn extensive build orders, control groups, resource management, army management, and map awareness.
Defense of the Ancients
The one custom map that stood out above the rest, was called “Defense of the Ancients” abbreviated to DotA.  This game gave the best aspect of the original gameplay, the Hero.  Instead of having to control 50+ units, there was one.  Instead of Level 10 being the highest, the hero could go to Level 25, making him/her that much stronger.  In the original game, each race had a selection of 4 heroes and there was sometimes a neutral “Tavern” where you could hire from a further 11 different heroes.  All together that is 27 heroes to choose from, whereas, in its current state today there are over 100 different heroes in DotA.
The basic objective of DotA, there are 2 opposing factions, trying to destroy each other’s heavily fortified bases.  The map has 3 lanes(top, middle, and bottom), and both sides have computer-controlled minions that run along these lanes and fight each other.  In a perfect world, because these creeps are evenly matched a game of DotA can theoretically last forever, however that’s where the players come in.  There are 5 players on each team, each with their own hero.   They proceed to fight amongst each other and opposing creeps in a hope to gain an advantage and win the game.  As the game goes on, players earn experience and gold from killing other players and the minions. Enough experience levels up your hero to the next level, giving him more powerful spells, while gold is used to buy increasingly powerful items.  The game is won, when one of the teams loses their “Throne”.

It’s almost ironic, to say that DotA was easier than the actual game.  This was because although there was no longer a need for large scale unit control, resource management etc, DotA required a completely different skill set.  Since there are 110 heroes in the game, each of which, have 4 different skills, except for a few special cases that actually have more, as well as 134 items in the game.  That is a massive combination of skill builds and item builds, that will also vary on each individual game.  Now while there’s no such thing as a “bad” item choice, there are standard item builds for each individual hero.  It’s this “prerequisite” knowledge base, that gives DotA it’s steep learning curve.  Even after you’ve learnt all of the items and some of the heroes, players still face a multitude of other disciplines that they will need to learn, in order to become competent at DotA.

These include:
Last hitting – Gold earned from killing creeps can only be done this way, as well as, if the other team “deny” the creep, the hero gets less experience and no gold at all.
Positioning – Too close, you risk taking too much punishment and are forced to leave the lane to heal, whereas too far away, and you won’t be gaining experience or gold, while your opponents get ahead of you.

Map Awareness – keep tracking of all 5 of the opponents on the map while concentrating on other aspects of the game, else you risk being put into an bad fights against more of their heroes.
Surviving, “Juking” or “Mindgames” – Surviving and juking, require extensive knowledge of the map terrain, in order to best use it to your advantage to escape the opposing team.   “Mindgames” uses the same thing, but instead you are the aggressor, intentionally putting yourself in bad situations in order to make them think they can fight you.

These are just 4 of the aspects of DotA, some other (but not limited to) are: team fight synergy, pushing, counter-pushing, roaming/ganking, counter-ganking, team strats (aura stacking, minion pushing), lane compositions (3-1-1, 2-1-2, 2-2-1,4-1-0,1-1-3, etc).

Rocky childhood..

Back to me, I fell in love with this game, despite never being as good as my brother at it.  We had a rocky childhood, which mostly revolved around him trying to push me away, and me always coming back and being an annoying pain in the ass.  This stopped to some extent when we started playing DotA together, I would help him win the game by doing whatever he needed me to do.  Help kill the guy in the Middle Lane, buy him items so that he could become stronger, die so that he didn’t.  This usually meant that by the end of the game he was in a position to win the game by himself, and that I would be essentially useless, but of course if we lost it was still my fault. Oh well.

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Due to this, I started to play the game by myself more, in hopes to improve as a player and be more useful to my brother.  It was in this period that I learnt the part of this game that I enjoyed the most, surviving.  Not just surviving, but getting out of seemingly impossible-to-escape from situations.  The most common way this can be done, is by juking the opposing player using the map terrain to your advantage.   Also known as “Fog of War abuse”, moving behind trees or up hill and forcing your enemy to lose sight of you, and using this to gain the upper hand.

Stay tuned for the next segment, where as I continue down memory lane, you can start to see how e-sports have grown over the time to become more mainstream.

In my next “journey”, I will take you through the transition from Warcraft 3 (an RTS game) to Counter Strike and later Call of Duty; the “First Person Shooters”.

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