Blaugust Day 5: A Day in the Life of

Today is idea drought day.

It’s 11.32 pm and I’m cutting it super close.

It’s like I’m hoping the sheer time pressure of having to hit the post button before 11.59pm will shake something loose.

Well, it’s not.

In fact, I’m a little grumpy about it because I’m paused in the middle of a Dota 2 International match replay, having to put entertainment on hold to write this post.

The International, by the way, seems to be full of a number of surprises and upsets this year. I haven’t watched every game, but it seems like famous favorites like Na’Vi or Newbee (with good track records behind them) have been eliminated from the tournament early.

Tonight, I was busy watching Team Secret vs EHome – Team Secret being a strong favorite since they were apparently a sort of dream team put together by long time players previously from strong teams like Na’Vi and so on, and EHome being a strong Chinese team as well.

Since I don’t know enough Dota 2 to appreciate deep nuances or skilled technique, I tend to gravitate towards matches that last a long time. Why? Because I like to see the swings and the struggle that you almost never see in a PUG game.

In a PUG, the moment one team gets an upper hand, the whole thing starts to snowball. The losing players start blaming each other (never themselves, of course), morale evaporates faster than water in a desert, and basically one side crumbles because they don’t see any hope of a comeback.

But Dota 2 is a little more elegant than that and it -is- possible, if not terribly likely, that a good draft pick, good movement/positioning, the other team’s overconfidence or small mistake or -something- will trip them up and cause a swing in the other direction. The only time I really get to see it is when pro players duke it out in clutch matches.

The matches mentioned above were definitely some of those. I really enjoy seeing a team stay calm and claw their way back from what looks like utter disaster.

As for why I’m out of blog post ideas, here’s what I’ve done for the rest of the gaming day (night):

  • Finished the daily in GW2 by visiting one vista, chopping some wood, and beating on the Svanir Shaman. I could have played a PvP match to complete the daily too, but I just couldn’t muster the energy or interest.
  • Finished the daily in Trove by running around fairly easy Uber-2 lairs and dungeons, and essentially autoattacking, while Dota 2 matches were playing in the other screen.
  • Tried to level Gardening in Trove, and got about 100 skill points in, before realising that further progress would require ingredients from earlier tiers to grow and be harvested – taking anywhere from 1 – 4 hours to be fully mature and ready to go.

Yeah. Nothing exciting. No pretty screenshots. Nuthing.

Oh here, I found an old screenshot of quaggans in the new Lion’s Arch fountain / quaggan pool. Guess that will have to tide you over till tomorrow.

quaggans

This post was brought to you by the letter B for Belghast and Blaugust, the letter D for Drought, Dry and Desperate, and (only) the number 5. (Darn.)

Of Spectator Sports and Trinities

My television watching habits are supremely irregular.

That is, I don’t watch much TV at all.

All those crucial 45 minute blocks of time are spent gaming, rather than passively experiencing a story that goes absolutely nowhere except into yet-another-episodic-arc-designed-to-keep-you-glued-to-the-screen.

Nor am I a big sports fan.

Competition and me are not pals, having been bitten once too many times by an obsessive personality that would fixate too much on winning at all costs, if I gave it free reign. I’m mellower when I tell myself winning is not the goal, but having moment-to-moment fun is.

Still, there was a time when I was enraptured by the NFL and American football. It just seemed so much more complex and intricate than the football the rest of the world plays – lots more clear cut roles, different strategies every pass designed to get the ball the next 10 yards and beyond.

Until I took note of how many hours a night I was spending watching one game (3-4 easily) and how much gaming time I was losing out on as a result. Fell out of the habit shortly after.

It’s funny then that even I can get caught up in the zeitgeist of the moment. I just spent the last couple of midnights staying up till 3am to watch the semi-finals and finals of the FIFA World Cup.

Not as a rabid soccer or football fan, staunchly loyal to one team, but out of a pigheaded determination to discover an appreciation of a game that I mostly always viewed as “kicking a ball around a grass patch for 90 minutes and falling down with an agonized look on one’s face the moment the faintest contact is made, hoping for a favorable referee call.”

The internet helped.

Googled up “soccer strategies” and “why do people like football so much” and devoted some time to reading other people’s thoughts.

Apparently, it’s the continuous flow of action rather than the typical start and stop of American football that some find compelling, a constant adrenaline high for one and a half hours punctuated with more extreme buzzes whenever the ball gets close to the goal posts.

I’m somehow not wired that way. I don’t get adrenaline deliveries on cue, which may suggest a reason why competition isn’t that exciting for me. Instead, I enjoy watching the interlocked intricacies of each team member in American football performing their specialized role well, with the result that the football either gets passed or gets stopped, depending on which team outsmarted or outplayed the other.

Still…

…Surely, soccer has -some- strategies of this ilk? Just less obvious, perhaps?

More reading. More eye-glazing over various “formations” with hypenated player numbers. More beginner tips on how to appreciate soccer via watching how one player may outsmart another by looking in one direction while kicking in another, or using their body to block an opponent’s view of the ball, or players that criss-cross and cut in at various locations to become open for the ball and so on.

I guess there were -some- things that I could find vaguely interesting, after all.

So I watched the World Cup and admired Germany’s efficient teamwork and appreciated on a distant theoretical level why defensive football is so important by observing Brazil’s total defensive meltdown.

Still didn’t like the extreme boring nature of a super-defensive football game with zero goals scored in two hours (with extra time) – effective, I’ll grant you, but boring as heck to watch – and repeatedly rolled one’s eyes at the more unspoken sides of football – ie. sneakily damage your opponent as much as you can get away with, dramatically telegraph all contact in the hopes of a free kick or yellow/red cards, and apparently biased referees.

Seriously, if things are going to get that physical, then put on some padding and go to town like the Americans do.

It’s with some irony though that I find a parallel with MMOs and that I’m on the opposite side when it comes to computer gaming.

American football reminds me of the holy trinity.

Everyone has a specialized role, everyone works in unison and it’s beautiful when everything synchronizes.

Rest-of-the-world football is a non-holy trinity game. Perhaps, dare I say it,  even like GW2.

There’s one primary role everyone performs, do damage or get the ball as close you can to the goal/stop ball getting close to yours, while still paying attention to the team and working in sync with them and supporting them as needed. There may be different “classes” or “soccer positions” with some variants in playstyle. There’s probably more going on under the hood than is obvious to the casual observer.

Soccer is said to be one of the most unpredictable sports. A weaker team has a good chance of upsetting a stronger team because the scores are so low. If opportunities fall their way, and are capitalized on, that may be it for the more unlucky team.

Some find this a reason why soccer is so exciting to watch.

Me, I personally find it about as thrilling as trying to predict heads or tails on a coin toss, and just as pointless. I guess I prefer to watch a good team demonstrate -why- they’re a good team.

Strangely enough, I find unpredictability a bonus if you’re the one actually participating in the moment.

Because it’s suddenly you that can become the hero with a well-placed rez, or good dodging or even indulge in a star solo moment, by catching the right opportunities.

To me, soccer or GW2 is a tide more individualistic, whereas American football or a holy trinity game seems a bit more skewed towards subsuming the self to make a team work like clockwork.

Not really sure where I’m going with this, but I guess the moral of the story is that people like different things, which may differ again if they’re spectating or doing.

And that we can all learn to appreciate (if only at a theoretical distance) stuff we thought we didn’t like before, if we try to look for its redeeming features.

After the World Cup, I’ll be going on one more spectator sports binge.

The International is slated from July 18-21.

DOTA 2 and I have a curious relationship.

I was super-thrilled to win a beta key in one of Steam’s sales contests when it was in development. I installed it gleefully, remembering my very amateur DOTA games-with-real-life-friends, and tinkered around with a few bot games.

Then never quite got back to it again.

Every now and then, I log in, admiring its whole elaborate free-to-play structure of level unlocks, vanity costume skins that cost money, numerous beginner tutorials/build guidance/encyclopedias that are linked to community knowledgebases, on and on through an intricate ladder of intermediate to expert commitment.

Then I back out without having gained a single experience point.

Sorta like LOL, except LOL did seem a little simpler and I did get to around level 4 or so.

I want desperately to play them and learn how deep both rabbit holes go, but the truth is, I just can’t envision investing all that time into MOBAs.

A single match takes like 30-45 minutes or more. You have to play a lot of them to get familiar with the game. You have to play a number of heroes to get familiar with the heroes and gain some flexibility in what you can play. Getting skillful takes even longer.

It’s easier to just watch a couple hours’ worth of professional teams go at it, for a couple of days, and get the entertainment experience without having to personally grind your way up.

Maybe some day, I’ll give them another go, but not today.