What I’ve been playing lately…

Screenshot2013-03-17 01_39_22

… is StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. That’s been the primary time-suck for me, games wise lately. I finished the Heart of the Swarm campaign a couple weeks ago, and honestly was only disappointed by how easy it seemed to be on Normal difficulty. While reviewers have complained about the typically weird and nonsensical Blizzard storyline, which is full of sci-fi tropes and sometimes cringe-worthy dialogue, it’s a fun romp and gives you a chance to take control of vast hordes of the Zerg swarm.

But since then, I’ve actually made the dreaded leap into the multiplayer ladders. Initially, as I suspected would happen, I got chewed up and spit out by just about every player I took on, but as time has passed, I’ve found myself getting better and winning games. In fact, while I was admittedly dropped into the bottom (Bronze) league, I’ve worked my way up to first place in my division since starting my foray into multiplayer.

StarCraft 2 has a huge learning curve, and I think its reputation for that puts many potential players off the idea of venturing outside the single-player campaign. There’s plenty of fun to be had there, and even when you’ve finished one or both campaigns on normal difficulty, there’s still achievement hunting to be done (some of the achievements, by the way, are rather clever and/or funny).

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Time to suck at StarCraft II… again

It’s a new season of StarCraft II, which means I have a chance to…

Well, it means I will log in, find a multiplayer game, and get demolished over and over. And maintain my place at the bottom of the league. Which is what I did last season until I got dispirited and found something else to play. I’ll update this with a screenshot or two and maybe an update.

Also, it occurs to me that generally speaking, so far I’ve only used this blog to discuss games that I suck at.

Update: As predicted, things did not go particularly well. I played two games — although it counted three, the third one being a game in which my opponent immediately left the game, granting me a “win” that actually counted for league points. Here’s the GG on my final match, a Terran versus Terran match that found me ridiculously outgunned. It’s an indication that I need to do a better job of managing my economy.

Veritas’ gigantic red army of… basically everything mows down my pitiful Terran forces.

Dota 2 – The game that changed my mind about multiplayer

I’ve never been much for online multiplayer. I remember the heady old days of the original Quake, and the IRC chatrooms full of hardcore players who talked about the pros and cons of “rocket jumping” and favored arenas. First person shooter deathmatch just never rang my bell — not when Goldeneye was glued into every Nintendo 64 console, or when fellow soldiers were wearing grooves into their original Halo discs.

But Dota 2 — now in a semi-open beta state as developer Valve continues to add features and tweak gameplay — may change my mind.

Crystal Maiden (me, in blue, near the bottom of the screen), Skeleton King, and Druid’s bear take down one of the Dire’s tier one towers.

Dota 2 (itself short for “Defense of the Ancients,” but more on that later) is what is now referred to as a “MOBA,” short for Multiplayer Online Battle Area.” These games, all taking their cues from the original DotA, follow a certain format:

  • Players compete as members of teams
  • Teams defend a base while attacking their opponents’
  • Players choose from a stable of unique heroes, each with a different set of abilities
  • “Killing” enemy heroes results in experience and money bonuses for your team, which can be used to enhance hero abilities
  • The maps or arenas on which the games are played have their own hazards, including defensive “towers” that attack invading heroes automatically
  • Team bases create “waves” of “creeps” – relatively weak squads of computer-controlled monsters (or robots, in the case of Awesomenauts) that travel toward the enemy base on pre-determined tracks (or “lanes”)

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. In Dota 2, there are currently 108 heroes available to choose from each time a game starts, and each of these heroes has a unique set of skills that can be brought to bear against the enemy or used to help out your team. Each hero also has an optimal “build,” or order in which skills should be upgraded when she’s gained enough experience. On top of that, there are also optimal “item builds” for each hero — with hundreds of items to choose from that can be purchased from in-game shops, consumed for battlefield effects, and combined to create more powerful items.

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