Missing Stuns and Feeding: Losing in Dota 2

Dota 2 MeeposThere is no feeling worse than losing a match in Dota. Correction: there is no feeling worse than knowing you’re the reason your team lost in Dota. You’ve been missing stuns all game, your gold count is always too low for your next item, and you just can’t help but be caught by enemy players. Everything just feels OFF. Obviously, I would know from experience.

Dota first of all is a giant time sink. You won’t complete a match in less than 30 minutes. The game is also extremely dependent on all 5 members of your team playing properly, not mention coordinating together. Dota also requires you to know the character you’re playing. Not only what their abilities do, but their strengths and weaknesses versus other heroes, what items to buy, and what role they play on a team.  No one character or player can truly dominate an entire match (depending on your MMR or player rank) so when you have a weak link on your team, you really know. One person not filling a role can spell doom on an entire match. All these factors provide you with immediate feedback on how well you’re playing. You can sense when other players in your lane are starting to out match you. When these players take over a lane, it makes it even harder to bounce back.

Dota 2 Hero Chart

I’ve never played another game where I feel so horrible for playing badly. I can just feel it in my body like a sore muscle; it hurts and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Even without the notorious (read: toxic) player community to provide feedback, I can tell how far behind I am in a game. Bad games resemble a slow-motion train wreck as the time slow inches forward until the other team is capable of pushing on your ancient. There are ways to try and gain back ground; sometimes big team fights where you kill other high level players can help swing the match in your favor. But for the most part if you aren’t playing a support character and you have a bad start, you have doomed your team. The rest is just waiting 45 minutes while the other team gains power.

Dota 2 Lane Fight

The negative feelings that come from playing a bad game of Dota ranks at the top of worst reactions from a game. It can eat away at your demeanor (why do you think the community is so toxic?). It’s the type of feeling that really makes you question your involvement with the game. But somehow it manages to pull you back in for now, making you eager to prove yourself in the next match.

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Feeling Good with Good Games: Nuclear Throne

A Good Bundle was a package of indie created games that donated the proceeds to two great advocacy groups: Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. With content from 128 creators, I want to go through each game and write a few words about them.

Nuclear Throne Cave Area A Good Bundle

Nuclear Throne doesn’t want you to overthink things. From the first time you spawn, the game never gives you a chance to catch your breath. With even the slightest hesitation you risk getting stuck in a volley of enemy bullets. Once you’re dead, it’s all the way back to square one.

Nuclear Throne Frog CharacterThe game’s premise is simple: kill all the enemies and advance to the next stage. This proves to be much more challenging than it initially seems: enemy bullets often take a huge chunk of your limited health. Nuclear Throne contains a colorful cast of character options to choose from, each with different powers and starting stats. The character designs are great and match the crazy atheistic well from the starting frog with a banjo to a particularly vicious looking flower.

Nuclear Throne most closely resembles bullet hell shooters but also contains roguelike elements. Each game run the player starts with the weak but effective starting pistol with random weapon drops located around the levels. The weapons in Nuclear Throne provide the game variety with multiple weapon types including explosives, machine guns, energy pistols, and melee weapons. The game also has some light leveling mechanics. Leveling requires you to acquire bright green Rad that comes from killing enemies or random item chests on levels. Rad only stays dropped for a limited time though: let them lie on the ground too long and they will disappear. Leveling comes at the end of each level and range from increased health to weaker/slower enemies. Upgrades only provide incremental benefits to help the player survive as the challenge increases. Both upgrades and the weapons are randomized for each run and disappear once the player dies. While it’s exciting to randomly get some new powerful weapon on the first level of a run, players can also get stuck with subpar drops for multiple levels. These run tradeoffs are part and parcel with roguelike games though.

The game is made up of individual levels which are nestled inside larger areas. The larger areas inform what enemies you’ll be fighting against. Areas are usually made up of around 3 levels with a larger boss character located at the end. The enemies and boss characters’ designs provide a large amount of personality to the game. From the main desert bad guys to the cave crystalline spiders, the design of the characters provides a great indication of their abilities and how the player should approach them. Bosses are also creatively designed, with my personal favorite being a dog/machine/ship hybrid that unleashes a barrage of missiles.

Nuclear Throne Dog Boss A Good Bundle
I mean right?!!!

Nuclear Throne would be nothing without great gameplay. The action is fast and frenetic constantly keeping the players on their toes as they swerve to avoid incoming enemy fire. Levels range from larger arenas to tight corridors so strategy is key in how you tackle your opposition. There are also environmental hazards to consider (classic exploding barrels) that cause not only harm to enemies, but can instant kill players as well.

The best part of each run is its brevity. Nuclear Throne is a great way to waste a half hour (and another, and the another). The speed of the game usually means runs are over in the blink of an eye. Add in weapon and character variety and you have a game that encourages players to continue coming back for more.