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DOTA2: Techies are here!

I have been playing DOTA2 for about a year and a half now. Ever since it was available on Steam, and the multitude of patches that came in. For the past 3-4 months, one thing that I have seen in the DOTA2 community is the hype of Techies.

For the uninitiated, Techies is a hero which specializes in laying traps (mines) and demolitions. This is a team of goblins who happily skitter over the map laying explosive mines for an unsuspecting hero to walk on, they also have the ability to put stasis traps and to commit suicide (with a large area damage).

Now, interestingly, the launch of Techies changes game play drastically.

How Techies impact the meta game

Techies do not need a lot of farm. At the start of the game (before they hit Level 6), you are most likely going to lay a lot of mines. Not only mines all over the place, but rather stack mines in strategic locations (3-4 in one stack) so that one trigger will end up in a kill!

What this means, is that when Techies kills a hero, they do not necessarily have to be at that location. Most likely at that point they are busy stacking mines at some other location.

How this impacts the meta game, is that when Techies are happily laying traps at different choke points (more on this later), the off-lane hero is getting double the XP (since there is no sharing of XP). Which results in two powerful heros (the mid-lane solo, and the offlane solo).

Meanwhile, Techies also are going about playing a mental game with the opposite team.

The mental game

In DOTA2, you have to roam the map. In doing so, there are some popular routes that people take within the map. On these routes, you also have choke points. Whenever the Techies is not seen in lane, the obvious inference that you would come to is that they are busy laying mines.

When this happens, the team is forced to either buy Observer Wards or to take chances against being blown to smithereens.

Even if they do see Techies, and if the Techies suddenly starts charging towards you, then would they commit suicide or are they bringing on a sudden team gank, thats the next likely question going through the opposite team’s minds.

All in all, Techies are a great little twist in the Meta and in the hands of a good player, this can turn the tides of a game.

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What is Rat DOTA?

DOTA can be an exciting game, where two teams clash against each other in order to take down the opponent’s Ancient Structure. Often at times, one team works exceptionally well in team fights – perhaps their combinations are better timed, or their heroes have synergies … or they are simply the better players. In which case, they keep winning team fights. This is where Rat DOTA comes into play.

The Concept

Rat DOTA is about consciously staying away from team fights and instead focusing on split pushing other lanes. Since the goal of the game is to tear down the opponents’ structures, Rat DOTA is about focusing on that final goal and stay away from all engagements.

Huh, so we do not get Kills?

Yes, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. If the opposing team is crazy overpowered, or well fed due to your earlier mistakes, then Rat DOTA is the way to go. Stop feeding the opponent and start farming. This is the way you can catch up with their levels and then force them into making mistakes.

Err … so no team fights?

Well, you tried that already and that did not work out so well, did it? This is where the maturity of the team comes into play. It’s more of a mind game and you are testing your powerful opponents if they are going to go out of their way to engage in team fights.

So how does this work?

The thing about team fights, is that if all the team travels together, then that leaves the other lanes empty and ideal for split pushing. That’s what you do! You strap on Boots of Travel on your Carry, and get another hero who can quickly travel around the map. Then using these two heroes, you keep attacking structures in undefended lanes.

By the time the opponent team rushes to defend these lanes, you have done the damage and are away in another lane attacking another structure. Imagine the kind of frustration the opponent will feel, the anxiety of anticipating where you are going to strike next, versus holding the urge to rush you alone and getting ganked in the process.

Which Heroes does this work well with?

Furion, Meepo are classic heroes to use this tactic. Crystal Maiden can be a good support for this strategy as well.

Does this approach work?

You bet it does! It is even done on the professional circuits, where the level of game play is far higher than pub matches. Here is a video of a top tier team showcasing their Rat DOTA skills.

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Terracotta Army in Rise of Nations

When playing Rise of Nations, one of the concepts in the game are wonders.

One of the wonders that arguably gets rushed is the Terracotta Army. What this wonder gives you is an unending stream of Light Infantry units at regular intervals, the interval is dependent upon the number of units already produced by the wonder. So that over a period of time, the production rate of Light Infantry goes down and plateaus.

History of the Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures showing the armies of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. This was to be his funeral decorations, and is meant to be an art to pay homage to the emperor. Estimates show that these figurines number upto a humongous 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots each with 4 horses, and 150 cavalry horses (the generals of the armies).

Apart from this huge army, there are even non-military terracotta figures to keep the emperor company.

Why Build the Terracotta Army?

Terracotta Army

Within the Rise of Nations game, this wonder represents a stream of LI. Keep in mind, that having this wonder in place does not necessarily change your strategy. So, why go for this wonder?

This wonder gets unlocked in the Medieval age (Classical if you are Egyptian).

Well, the minute you get this wonder in place, it frees up Food and Wood that you otherwise would have to spend on Light Infantry. This can now be spent on booming, on building additional Light Cavalry and Siege weapons. Due to this wonder, you can build an army and boom with resources at the same time.

Important Points to note when building the Terracotta Army

  • The stream of LI units that this wonder keeps spawning ensures that you have to be on the attack to keep your population in check. If you decide to turtle, then you will be forced to do Military Research in order to produce more units.
  • Everybody else on the map knows you have the LI army, they will build counters for LI. Keep building counters for these counters. Do not go with an LI heavy army.
  • The strategy here is not to rely too much on LIs. It’s rather to use those resources to either build a larger army, or to boom.
  • Hunt for the Peacock Rare resources to increase your population limit
  • Augment this wonder with the Colossus to increase your population limit

Great to have Civilizations

Although you can use any civilization with this wonder, there are certain civilizations that rock with this wonder.

  • Americans – With their instant first wonder bonus, and the Marines special unit, you are set for the long haul
  • Egyptians – You get ample time to rush this wonder, since you get this in Classical age. Earlier wonder, more LI units!
  • Aztecs / Chinese – Better LI units now for free
  • Bantu – Higher population cap + Special LI units

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The Rise of Nations Extended Edition Tournament

After the game Rise of Nations was launched on Steam, we have seen a couple of small updates for the game. These fixes were mostly for gamers who do a lot of multi-player gaming. Some common bugs were also fixed.

The reddit community of Rise of Nations is really active and the development team is listening in on the issues that the users are facing.

It’s great to have a community slowly building up after the game died some time back. Last week, I saw one of the enthusiasts announcing a Tournament on Steam for Rise of Nations players. It’s a start to reviving this game!

Within minutes the number of people who signed up for this tourney went from 0 to 20 .. and now we have over 40 players. For those interested in participating, please register by the 28th of June and answer on this Reddit thread.

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Re-Release of Rise of Nations

It’s a glorious end to a busy month of May here!

I logged on to Steam today to find that Microsoft (a company that I generally do not applaud), has bought the rights of the Rise of Nations game series.

The game which was stuck in a deadend for the past 10 years has suddenly a chance to revive itself. This game had a massive cult following and I have spent many an hour rushing, raiding and defending cities in the past years. Sadly the game was not getting any upgrades and the community was on the decline.

However with Steam and Twitch integration, the game would see another spurt of players, and thats what a dying game (which still has awesome gameplay) needed. Finally an RTS I can play instead of Starcraft or Total War series!

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Path-of-Exile

Path of Exile the right way to design a MMO

Back in 2010, when I was hankering for a Diablo clone, I tried out a lot of games … Torchlight, Guildwars, World of Warcraft, Borderlands, Fortune Online, Path of Exile (it was still in beta), Deus Ex, The Elder Scrolls series and finally found some solace in Rise of Nations. As someone who had spent the better part of his undergrad days playing Diablo II and its expansion, I always have a fond memories for this series.

In fact I attribute my Post Graduation to a friend of mine who used to come over to my place to play the game so that I could study for the CAT (one of the most competitive exams in India). I cleared the CAT and he became a fan of Diablo!! This is a shout-out to you Nikhil!

The Gap left by Diablo II

Having said that, the expectations that Diablo III set were pretty huge … and unfortunately, Blizzard failed to meet those expectations. The dynamics which made the game addictive back then were simply not there in the new version … albeit they are doing better work with the expansion and Loot 2.0, but this is neither the place nor the time to discuss Loot 2.0. This is the time to discuss the burning need by a horde of Diablo fans to find a Role Playing Game which had the same dark, macabre environment that Diablo II had.

A lot of games have tried to make up for this gap … a LOT. But none came as close as Path of Exile (PoE). Here’s why.

A Thriving and Helpful community

Although a lot of games have huge community, but the Path of Exile community is helpful. I mean you can just ask a question on Global Chat (#) and expect a useful answer. Try that in any other game and be sure to get trolled, or be called a n00b. The community on reddit is one such shining example, the difference between r/diablo, r/dota2 and r/pathofexile is huge. As a starter, you do get help.

One of the major factors in me sticking to this game is the non-hostile community.

A Mature Beta Testing playground or the Leagues

In a lot of games, there is a clear advantage for players who start the game earlier than the rest. They have good items, powerful characters, unique weapons … you know how that goes. Path of Exile helps stop creating this divide by creating 4 month long leagues. In any league, everyone starts afresh … yes that means you have to roll a character to participate in that league. So the economics starts from ground up (more on this in a bit).

Any new features that each patch comes out with does not hit the entire game, it first gets tested over a period of 4 months, and then is available to the Standard league (the main set of characters). What this means is that everyone is given a period of 4 months to farm and beef up before hitting the Standard league (which you can directly jump into and experience the item loot divide).

Properly Designed Free to Play

Did I mention that this game is Free to Play (F2P). Yes. Completely Free. Free to Play should not mean Pay to Win, PoE does this perfectly. If you want awesome looking characters then you will have to pay for visual effects, but money does not overpower your weapons!

The Results

All these things add up … they add up in this free game overtaking the Diablo series over a period of time.

The graph that is embedded will show you how the search intent in the Diablo series has dwindled and how the PoE search trend has gone up. The one spike in the Diablo search trend was when Diablo III was being launched.

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Good job with Battle.net Blizzard!

Battle.net Client

Good Launchers

I am a huge fan of Blizzard. In fact I have pretty much played everything that they have released … right from Blackthorne (a 2D Scroller) to Warcraft Series. World of Warcraft is one of the games where I have paid more than 1000 USD to the company before I realized it was eating away into my life. One of the main features of the Blizzard games is the custom launcher which will download the game and set it up for you … the launchers that Blizzard makes are fairly awesome and aspiring game design firms should learn from them … this taunt is remarkably true for the TESO MMO and the Star Wars MMO. I believe RIFT is the only game which has done a better job with the launcher, the rest are languishing far behind.

Security Paranoia

The only complaint I had with the Battle.net system was the ridiculous account security and password rules. Everytime you have to play the game, you have to keep the password in mind … it studies your account usage and even emails you when it detects an off pattern. All this pretty much ensures that when you are playing hookey at work (who does’nt) and sitting at home and playing a raid on WoW, it will ask you to reset your password! Not to mention the requirement to enter your password everytime you want to play.

However, with the new Battle.net client, this has stopped!

The new Battle.net Client

This week I installed the new client because I wanted to give Diablo III and the latest patch a whirl. I had heard too many good things about the new Loot 2.0 system to not do this!! More on Loot 2.0 later.

The new Battle.net Client has integrated all the games in one client (quite like Steam or Origin) and has also made account security a part of this software. So when I save my login, I do not have to enter my security credentials all over again. This is awesome … no more getting stuck on login screen trying to cook up new “strong” passwords.

Configurable Downloads

The cool part about this client is that you can also choose to install the games on different drives of your computer. So no more worrying about your drive filling up and not being able to download the latest update.

Up until this week, I had pretty much given up on wanting to play any more Blizzard games. Especially with Valve releasing a slew of DOTA2 updates and Grinding Gear Games showcasing their Sacrifice of the Vaal expansion, it meant lesser time to play other games. However, the D3 team has something going here … the new Battle.net Client looks to be just the start!

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