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Mapp vs Guild Wars 2: Going Back

It's a miracle my aged computer can run Guild Wars 2 and, fortunately for both me and my creaky old desktop PC, it still looks reasonably pretty with the settings turned way, way, way down. Sure, the frame-rate drops down to the single digits in the busiest of cities, but that's a price I'm willing to pay if it means scratching that MMO itch without fretting about monthly payments. There's still plenty of people around on whatever server it is that I'm on, presumably because the no-subscrition-fees model lets people come back without any fuss or sternly worded letters from your bank manager.

Trying to feel my way through the game a third - maybe fourth? - time sees me roll up a couple of new characters. One to play along with my brother, as he was the reason I reinstalled the game recently, and another just for the fun of it. I never really gave the Norn a proper try (Asura for life! Charr are okay too!), nor had I got particularly far with the Elementalist class, so it made a certain amount of sense to make a huge, element-flinging moustachioed character. It was only a few hours later did I realise the error of my ways, as every male Norn character I encountered sported the same ridiculous moustache.

The game provides you with all sorts of heroic things for your character to do. You're not killing rats in the tavern basement to start with, you're boasting about how your legend is starting, and everyone around you seems to exist to confirm your status as a complete bad-ass. My favourite part of the game isn't the boss fights, the sweeping vistas, the cut-scenes or anything like that. My favourite part of the game is running along with three other strangers, whereupon we kill some Jotuns in order to harvest their potatoes. I've battled ogres to get access to their herb gardens. I'll run around farms just hoovering up as many onions, garlic bulbs and carrots as I can.

So, two lessons to aspiring MMO developers. Don't feel that you need to go for the monthly subscription model. Do feel that you need to include vegetables.

Mapp vs Dota 2: International 2014

Usual Disclaimer: Emotions suck, computer games are awesome. Let's worry about the latter!

I'm not sure if it's fair to say there have been some upsets in The International this year. Yes, the team I support - the one that's got to the grand finals every time - didn't get as far as I'd have hoped, so perhaps my disappointment makes me a little biased. With all the previous International tournament winners knocked out, it was both exciting and disappointing in equal measure. As somebody who probably wastes too much time playing, reading, writing and waxing lyrical about the game, it was exciting to see new teams sitting at the Grand Finals. Games feel quicker, with early, decisive and aggressive play becoming more and more important, mastered by a scene that was once known for long, drawn-out games. It was refreshing to see a Weaver played in such an aggressive manner, being crucial to the success of early fights with very little farm indeed, turning the usual advice - you want a defensive item, you want an offensive item, then you fight with Weaver! - on it's head. Co-ordination, skill and confidence let the Weaver have the same sort of impact he'd have at thirty minutes into the game by the fifteen minute mark.

The disappointment, however, is entirely my own fault. I've never watched a huge number of Chinese games, I've never really followed the progress of any Chinese teams and, for the most part, the two teams fighting for five million dollars were relatively unknown to me. I was cheering for Newbee, because I appreciated their rather meteoric rise from "almost eliminated in the playoffs" to "grand finalist", but I remained fairly unaware of the team, the players, their history and their story. I'd been spoiled the previous years, with teams I follow and players I cheer for going so far in the tournament. Valve did a good job, with their video segments and introductions, to try and fix this - but it didn't feel the same as prior tournaments. This isn't a criticism of the tournament, far from it, but a realisation that there's a whole scene in the game that I didn't pay attention to, and that by not doing so, I wasn't as invested in the final games as I would normally be.

One of the more prevalent narratives in Dota 2 has been "East versus West"; the Eastern scene was considered strong, almost unbeatable in the wake of the International 2012, and the strong performance of Invictus Gaming - along with others, of course! - in that tournament saw Western teams knuckle down, practice harder and raise their game. With the big name Western teams failing to get to the finals (and the huge prize money that accompanies it), I expect something similar to happen between now and The International 2015.

Mapp vs Crusader Kings 2: Socotra

Socotra is one of the newly playable places in Crusader Kings 2 after the glorious map expansion as part of their latest piece of downloadable content. I'm not usually a fan of DLC, but the larger ones for Crusader Kings 2 are weighty enough that they would probably have been called "expansions" if this was the 1990s. The other reason I don't mind it quite so much? You don't need it to play with all of the new stuff. Sure, if you want to play a Buddhist, Hindu or Jainist (is that the right word?) leader, you'll need it. But there's a whole swathe of Africa and the Middle East opened up for free. Oh, and there's a bucket load of mechanic changes, tweaks, historical revisions and events. And that's awesome.

Welcome to Incest IslandCollapse )

When the stress got too much, and she finally passed away, her son-husband immediately married his young aunt. Everyone in court, along with the population of the island, have converted to the Messalian heresy. Incest Island continues.

Mapp vs Dota 2 Waffle: The Second Stage

Disclaimer: Emotions and feelings are dull, computer games are awesome. Let's talk about games.

When you first start playing Dota 2, victory feels like it's decided by the team that makes the least mistakes. Everyone is learning, getting to grips with the mechanics and focusing on trying to master their role within the team. The errors accumulate on each side until, finally, one team has made enough errors that the other team can win.

The trouble is that this strategy - waiting for the other team to lose - stops being effective. Once everyone is playing to a reasonable level, and not making too many game-throwing mistakes, a team needs a plan, a strategy, to win. A few days ago, I played a string of three games with some folks I don't usually play with.

In the first game, the other team played aggressively, grouping up as a four while leaving their fifth player to farm their jungle. We lost tower after tower, our map control was reduced, and we didn't attempt to keep tower balance. At the end of the game, someone on our team commented that it was just because they had picked an aggressive set of characters to play. I disagreed, and we went to the next game.

At the end of the second draft, our talkative friend declares that their line-up won't be as aggressive as the last one. Fifteen minutes in, and the other team have once again started going as a group, pushing down towers. The game goes exactly the same way as the previous game, with us giving up map control and tower after tower. Nobody wants to group up to defend, nobody wants to split-push, nobody wants to try and punish the other team for their aggressive strategy - the strategy that, apparently, couldn't work because they didn't pick the right heroes for it.

The third game goes down in exactly the same way as the second, except for the fact that we gave up first blood. So the carry player spends the whole game - and some time afterwards - demanding to know why we died on our lane. He refuses our explanations ("Tusk snowballs in with Axe, Axe taunts me. Rubick is made of paper, and is the only control on the lane, that's why I died first." "But you shouldn't have died!"). This is the problem; we've gone past the point where simply keeping your head down will eventually let victory fall into your lap. Hoping that the other team will make a mistake isn't a strategy.

And the best thing to do against a team that plays like that? Group up, take towers and be aggressive. If the other team aren't going to try and stop you, or even punish you, for doing it, then the strategy will work regardless of what heroes you pick.


Mapp vs Mapp: Winning

This is mostly for my own benefit. I'm trying to write honestly about things. If my life was a book, this'd be tagged for spoilers.

And it'll probably be a bit uncomfortable. And rambling. Wow. Such ramble.Collapse )

Mapp vs The Daily Stuff

I've got an interview for an IT Technician job at Sugru on Thursday morning. Hopefully it'll go well and, while it's just a part time position, I've got my fingers crossed that it might lead on to something else. Either way, it's a good sign. If I get the job, well, the landlord said we were allowed to keep a pet in the flat, so I'm kind of thinking of getting a pet rat again.

In Dota 2 news, any ability draft game where I get to pick Meepo's ultimate is a good game. I don't think I performed amazingly well, because I'm still not confident enough to control multiple characters around the map, so I end up clumping them together in one big group and hoping for the best. I managed to grab Death Pulse, which I've had before in a game with Meepo's ultimate, and it worked as well as it did the last time. Gyrocopter's Homing Missile was fairly funny, just because you could keep one person stunned for a ridiculous length of time by staggering them out properly. Then there was Shadow Wave which, combined with the Death Pulse, let me keep everyone in the team in one piece while dishing out a large amount of damage.

Mapp vs Random Bits

I swear I was going to do something productive today, but then Piipshow happened. It's a bird feeder with a camera, which is nice, but the bird feeder is made up to look like a bird-scale coffee bar. Apparently, next month, they'll have some nesting boxes dressed up as little houses.

Mapp vs An Aside

I also played some SpeedRunners yesterday with people I don't know, which was exciting. The new level editor for the game means there's a lot more stuff available. On the plus side, this means that there are new levels to try and master. On the down side, some of the levels are absolutely awful, either in a cripplingly dull way or an incomprehensible mess sort of way. It just goes to show that level design is it's own science, I suppose.

It's also the second time somebody has asked me a particular question on a Steam game. At least this time I had my snappy response already planned out.

Random Guy: What does amenable mean?
Me: It means you need to get a dictionary.

Zing, burn and what-not.
Usual Disclaimer: Still alive, etc. etc. On with the waffle.

Turns out this is quite long and should be behind a cut.Collapse )

I like to imagine that it's a pole vaulting competition. At the end of it, one of your guys has won, and he's standing up on the podium, holding up the gold medal and waving to the fans back home. Behind him are a group of people who, while he was busy pole-vaulting, spent their time running about, breaking the poles of other competitors, stopping other competitors breaking the pole belonging to your friend and gathering up enough tape and bits of broken stick to add precious extra inches to the pole. You know, the pole that catapulted the guy on the podium higher than everyone else. He gives his speech about how it's a triumph of the human spirit, about how he'd been training for years, about how he'd like to thank his family and the fans.
I'll open with the usual disclaimer: still not dead, etc. etc.

I had a fairly long entry planned out in my head and, every time I start to write things down, I usually close down my browser and find something else to do. I'm usually pretty good at finding something to distract myself with. Recently, my usual methods for trying to take my mind off things haven't been working well and, if anything, have just made matters worse. So I'll try writing things down, and see how that works out for me.

PROTIP: It probably will not work out for me.Collapse )