MOBA Nightmare! Reflecting on Dota 2 Miseries
June 16th, 2021 at 4:00 PM by Kugee
I haven't touched Dota 2 for seven years with good reason. Yes, it has that kind of standard quality you'd expect from a high profile developer without anything sorely embarassing to boot (iuyoyo8i8ELECTRONICARTS87o8oim), and it doesn't have a "pay to win" model, yet next to Minecraft, it's the worst game I've ever played. And no, I'm not making a joke when I say that.
Seven Layers of Complication
Dota 2 demands a steep, steep learning curve for new players. I didn't even know what this game was until I started playing it; all I knew was that it was the next big thing, and it was directly backed by Valve, so what could go wrong? Turns out that as soon as I installed the game and started going through the tutorial, it kind of hit the back of my mind that I was gonna be in for a long uphill battle. The controls, if I am to even call them that, feel like a ritual of the same basic mouse-driven GUI actions in hell - exactly why I haven't bothered with any RTS game since. I probably should've stopped there, but being my naive 16 year old self, I pressed on...
How many of these playable characters are there? 100 or something? That's just the next step in creating an obtusely elaborate puzzle. 100 characters could work, but here's why it doesn't over here: the rules keep changing constantly in the name of "rebalancing". It's not a new idea, as Counter-Strike (which is also boring) obviously had to go through a number of iterations before solidifying into an industry standard competitive game, as it was initially developed by a very small group. The problem with doing it with such a giant roster is that it's much easier to break the game than it is to fix it. Anyone remember when Bloodseeker got an absurd speed spike? It took me quite a while to figure out that happened. On its own, it's hilarious. Combined with all the other arbitrary changes being made time and time again, it creates a frustrating experience that I could never keep up with unless I was playing this for hours every day.
But play this for hours I did (376 in all). For some time I became pretty fluent in much of this game's lingo: support, mid-game, gank, MISSING MIDDLE, and aw crap I forgot the rest. I got into some of the inside jokes like "KOTOL geef me mana", and I made a few friends along the way who we'd gather into a party for some matches. Deep inside, though, I knew I wasn't really enjoying this game. I was playing it for cynical reasons, like "oh wow big item drop Imma be rich!!!"
This Game is TOXIC, Dude!
Most matches I played were preempted with dread, which could either be relieved if things go favorably or multiplied if I or someone else slips up, and boy, was it easy to slip up. In a game like Team Fortress 2 or Quake, usually it's pretty easy to accept your failures. Not taking "competitive" TF2 into account, which I know nothing of, you can just pick up from where you left off, rethink your approach, and get good. I guess it has more to do with the stakes not being artificially inflated, but a failure isn't so often the subject of outrage there as it is in Dota 2.
When you or anyone else slips up in a match, it creates multiple cascading negative effects across the entire team. One of them stems from the RPG elements this game has - experience and gold accumulated from kills. It doesn't seem like much at first when you're farming creeps, but as soon as opposing heroes start to clash, the first five to ten kills or so are make or break. As soon as a disparity grows somewhere, the game's already over; recovery is impossible. It's not a competition anymore, just a bloodthirsty slaughterfest. Unless you can call GG (not available in pub matches last time I played) or someone's abandoned the game already, you just have to sit along for the ride or tarnish your record by pulling out.
While you watch your team go up in flames, you get to hear tirades of angry teammates as they throw insults everywhere, often villainizing you for not placing enough wards, feeding too much, or whatever they can find to blame. The whole experience is demoralizing, and I have to wonder why so many people still put up with it. I think I would have for a lot longer, if not for a certain major event that started to wake me up from this trance.
A Wasteful Investment
Granted, no items in this game give you any competitive advantage over others, as I said before. This is a good thing. Even though Valve is arguably one of the least bad offenders when it comes to microtransactions, it's not like they don't try to entice you into shelling out your hard-earned cash anyway. (Is that even true anymore? Cue Bitcoin miners...) They have ways of reeling poor Slark into these pretentious cosmetics and "once-in-a-lifetime" ways to grow big numbers on a gaming profile. In fact, even with how not unfair microtransaction items are in most Valve games, Valve still managed to become a major target in the controversy over lootcrates!
I don't remember much of these things they did, really, only that a bunch of spicy marketing was tied in with all of it. The worst point for me came about as The International 2014 was under way. Ooh, your monies go into a prize pool, now at $10 million!!! Let's be fair here, this is on me... I had the option of shedding off whatever I got over to the community market, or, well, I could've just not engaged in any of this. My addiction to throwing money at Valve was at its peak; seriously, I have a platinum compendium gem I cannot get rid of. I previously prepped myself with watching TI3 and had that preemption that TI4 would be similarly dramatic, but once that GRAAAAND FINAL played out, it felt more like Mike Tyson knocking out Marvis Frazier... suddenly, these thoughts started rushing through my head, like "oh my god, I just poured all of this money into a totally uncharismatic match."
It didn't take long for me to wriggle out of that snag. Soon I found myself toning down my badge crafting a bit, and stopped touching this game very much anymore, playing my very last match on December 31st, 2014. I could've easily played more given I still had these friends around to reassemble a party, but I didn't, and soon, the whole thing slipped out of my interest completely. I was just slowly losing any reason to care about gaming, and lost all faith in Valve when they made their explosive announcement of Artifact after having been starved of an actual game from them for so long. REMINDER: This was BEFORE Half-Life Alyx came out, and details were cleared up about why it took 13 years to make a new installment to that series. They're okay now. Maybe.
Just who is this game for, anyway? It's so complicated and frustrating, there's no way I could get back into it without first catching up to date on all the new changes that must've been made ever since, as well as a couple private matches so that nobody can scream "Cyka Blyat" in my face as I reaccustom myself to this, but please, DO NOT drag me back into this. I want nothing of it, because I think I might have an answer...
This is not for people who enjoy strategy, competition, or fast-paced action, at least not anymore. It fits all those bills, but it is really for gamers, the kinds with RGB setups, expensive chairs, and difficulty in finding identity.
That is not the kind of lifestyle you want, really. Don't be a gamer, just be someone who enjoys games. Find yourself elsewhere; I recommend being a programmer, an artist, or maybe a scalie. At least those will be much more fulfilling for you. These days I prefer to stick to classic STGs or FPSes on the side here and there, as my priorities now lie in lightweight web hosting/design and, hopefully soon, full-time programming. If you're still so deep in the idea of racking up rare electronic items, know that you can beat the addiction. It's not wrong for you to have swag on hand, just don't take any of it seriously.