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Death by Criticals, a Future Void of Skill

Posted by Lawrence "malystryx" Phillips 2 years, 4 weeks ago
In his column, Lawrence "Malystryx" Phillips shares his frustration at dealing with the "automated" items plaguing players' inventories these days. Dying to a random number generated out of thin air finally took its toll on the poor soul.

Death by Criticals, a Future Void of Skill



“There’s something slightly disturbing about a level 12 Phantom Assassin killing my Mirana with two hits, one of which was a 800+ damage critical. ”
There’s something slightly disturbing about a level 12 Phantom Assassin killing my Mirana with two hits, one of which was a 800+ damage critical. Not to mention that her battlefury “luckily” managed to cleave my nearest ally for a portion of the critical damage. It’s all part of the game, critical, bashes and mini-stuns but it gets to the point where sometimes for a novice player like myself you feel as if the outcome of battles is more down to pot-luck than actual skill. Did our opponents perform some incredible micro to pull of these incredible feats? No. Did they have to time their ability perfectly? No. Did they simply have to close their eyes and right click? Yes. For me this is a pity.


I’m all for players buying items that allow them to cast a new ability, for example blink dagger, Shiva’s guard or Eul’s scepter, but I feel uncomfortable with the idea of buying items whose benefits are essentially automated. If a Sand King buys a blink dagger, then he still needs to know how to use it effectively especially since it can’t be used if he is taking damage. However, with an item such as Crystalis, once you’ve bought it, the results are out of your control. Just like the Random Number Generator in World of Warcraft, you’re simply right clicking a hero and then hoping for the best.



I remember at university, Andy, the guy living next to me in our student accommodation, introduced me to a game called Deus Ex (click here if your a Deus Ex fan) claiming he was “unbeatable”. I’d played a little Unreal tournament 99 but still lost to him repetitively. Our gaming ritual was that Andy, myself and one other guy would play in our rooms then when the game was over, we’d come out in the corridor and Andy would let us relive the moments where he’d blown us to pieces. His success was based around one weapon called the Guided Explosive Projectile (GEP), which was essentially a heat-seeking missile that once you had locked onto your target, they were dead.


“You’re not losing to a moment of skill or a flash of brilliance but instead to a random number generated out of thin air.”
After being on the receiving end of many defeats I tried to find some way to beat his tactic and found an augmentation – one of the buffs you can choose for your character when you spawn – called the Aggressive Defence System, which was a kind of shield that destroyed missiles and other projectiles before they reach the player, and when fully upgraded meant the weapon would turn on the person who fired it. It was quite fun since it took Andy several games to work out why he was dying. Andy’s GEP tactic no longer worked and when I started winning our matches he would refer to my augmentation as my “girly shield”, but really all I’d done was found a solution to a given drawback.



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This I believe is a legitimate reason. Certain heroes have low hit points or need high mana regeneration so you buy a vitality booster or ring of the basilisk to to beef them up. Others may have low movement speed or poor chance of escaping so you might get phase boots or force staff. I prefer choosing an item that allows me a 5th ability, because for me personally, it adds another level of “skill”. I cannot understand players who farm up to a certain item – normally by ignoring all their team-mates - plop it in their inventory and then increase their attack speed in the hope it will do a critical hit or stun.


Once you leave a computer to decide whether you will succeed or fail, I really think it takes the skill away from the player. Now obviously certain abilities you cannot change, such as the Void’s evade ability or the Anti-mage’s spell resistance, these for me are acceptable as they are a) defensive and b) part of the original make-up of the game.


“I feel uncomfortable with the idea of buying items whose benefits are essentially automated.”
In Final Fantasy XII SquareEnix introduced a gambit system which was a kind of Artificial Intelligence allowing you to program your characters to automatically perform certain acts under certain conditions. For example I programmed my designated healer to heal a certain ally if his hp fell below 40% or to cast cure poison if an ally was poisoned etc etc.. I slowly added more and gambits as it saved time but still lead to success in the fights. When I faced the final boss, a friend asked me to pick them up; So I paused the game and went out get them. Or, at least, I thought I had paused it. I came home turned on the TV to find out that the final boss had died and the end credits were playing. My characters had managed to defeat the final boss of the game without any human input whatsoever aside from the gambits I had programmed. Was the boss dead? Yes. Did it take skill? No. For me it was a hollow victory and I struggle to understand others who do not feel that way.


My biggest fear is perhaps the fact that I care and that others may not even care at all. But how can others not be disturbed by the fact the more people choose these “automated” items, the more dehumanized the game becomes. You’re not losing to a moment of skill or a flash of brilliance but instead to a random number generated out of thin air, a number not even the player wielding the character knows.


It’s got to the point now that if a Phantom Assassin, Kunkka or a Chaos Knight tear my team a new asshole, I won’t even consider giving them any kind of praise because their hero is too easily a match-winner, sometimes more through luck than skill. I just wish players would find a way to be more creative in how to play these heroes, perhaps introducing a commendation for creativity would be a good start. We all know Phantom Assassin with battle Fury can own, how about doing something new for a change?


“Who knows, perhaps I’ll just be slaughtered by an 800+ damage critical again while the player was afk eating a sandwich.”
It brings us to the bigger question of how the nature of a victory affects our opinion of it. Some players, perhaps even most, would say a win is a win, if this tactic can win me the game then what does it matter? However, we saw a few days ago at the London Olympics 2012 the Chinese South Korean and Indonesian badminton players who seemingly threw games on purpose in order to get a more favourable opponent in the quarter-final round, the victories they took were on paper still victories but the nature of the victory is what made the crowd boo and ultimately got them disqualified.

In Dota2 win at all costs does have its limits and I’m hoping next time I join an all-pick game my eyes will feast on creativity, but who knows, perhaps I’ll just be slaughtered by an 800+ damage critical again while the player was afk eating a sandwich. Then again I probably need to just suck it up, this is DOTA after all.

This is an editorial opinion piece and the author's opinion does not necessarily represent the opinion of GosuGamers or the opinion of any affiliates.

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