Checking Out The Blizzcon 2018 Announcements

SPOILERS: If you don’t want to know what Blizzard have had to say this year, then this isn’t the article for you. Turn away now. You’ve been warned. If you don’t care and just want to know what was announced, then great, read on!

SPOILERS: If you don’t want to know what Blizzard have had to say this year, then this isn’t the article for you. Turn away now. You’ve been warned. If you don’t care and just want to know what was announced, then great, read on!

Every year, Blizzard Entertainment put on a huge show called Blizzcon. It’s a celebration of all of that Blizzard have done, as well as what they’re going to do. From the huge MMO, World of Warcraft, through to Diablo and Overwatch, Blizzcon is always something to look forward to. The cosplays are amazing, the announcements are exciting – and this year is no different. I decided that I’d look at all of the Blizzcon 2018 announcements and see what’s what, as well as providing my personal perspective on the announcements. Share your thoughts with us after you’ve checked this out!

Continue reading “Checking Out The Blizzcon 2018 Announcements”

Heroes of the Storm Patch 2.0 – Huge Update

For the MOBA players among us, it appears that Heroes of the Storm recently received a major overhaul. Deciding that I couldn’t just let it slide, I went to have a peek at what the huge update would have in store for us. New characters, new skins, new ways to unlock skins and characters… And a sense of revitalisation to a game that was fun, but admittedly getting a little bit on the stale side. If you’ve not seen this yet, come have a look and see what’s new.

For the MOBA players among us, it appears that Heroes of the Storm recently received a major overhaul. Deciding that I couldn’t just let it slide, I went to have a peek at what the huge update would have in store for us. New characters, new skins, new ways to unlock skins and characters… And a sense of revitalisation to a game that was fun, but admittedly getting a little bit on the stale side. If you’ve not seen this yet, come have a look and see what’s new.

Continue reading “Heroes of the Storm Patch 2.0 – Huge Update”

Winning Without Winning – Succeeding at Failure in Online Games

Want to know how to turn your losses into wins in your favourite online games? MOBAs, FPSes and many more online games can be frustrating when you lose, especially when you feel it’s outside of your control. But what if you could do something about it? GeekOut South-West contributor Jay ‘Vanguard’ Fothergill give us a thorough shakedown.

It’s the last round; the bomb is planted and nobody has a kit.

There’s just one tower left; before long the base will fall.

Pushed back to the final point and already down a player; it’s time for the defenders to take their last fight.

Sadly, none of these are the enemy team tonight. They’re yours and man, losing is just the worst, isn’t it?

It’s the dual nature of team-based competitive games. When the only difference in whether you win or lose is whether or not your team of players can play better than theirs, the rush of a well-earned win is irreplaceable. Equally though, the competitive drive is just as much a curse as it is a blessing when the semi-random nature of online matchmaking is allowed to poke and prod at your ever-dwindling patience. You can’t pick your teammates without putting a party together, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You sure as heck can’t pick your opponents, and what are you supposed to do about getting matched against amazing players when your own teams seem to consist mostly of orangutans, Tamagotchis and bags of hammers that have somehow been trained to use a mouse and keyboard? It’s so dangerously easy to become apathetic, frustrated, and downright mad at a loss.

Well, you shouldn’t. Harder than it sounds? Absolutely, but I’m here to show you why a hard-fought loss is actually one of the best things that can possibly happen to you in online gaming… as long as you know what to do with it. Winning is great, but only by analysing your mistakes can you improve and those are much easier to spot in a loss than in a victory. You just need to know how to self-analyse, so here are some pointers to help get you started on winning your losses.

The Sliding Scale of Overcome to Overwhelmed

The first step in making the most of a loss is also the most intuitive, because it’s often the first thing that will naturally come to mind anyway. “Wow, that sure was a close game!” and “Wow, we sure got a mudhole stomped in us that would bring a 30% alcohol-by-volume tear to the eye of Stone Cold Steve Austin!” are two very different beasts which have to be approached differently. It’s not always a totally clear immediate distinction, either, because frustrated annoyance can make a close loss feel like getting stomped, while frustrated apathy can make a stomp feel like a close loss. Before asking yourself what went wrong, it’s important to sit back, take a breath and ask yourself: how close, realistically, was that game? This can be done from memory or, if you’re serious about improvement, it’s often worth skimming through the demo/replay, assuming your game of choice has that feature. Identifying how close you came to winning is hugely important in putting everything else about a loss into context.

The Three Points of Focus – Us, Them and Me

To make a productive start on analysing your losses, there are three questions you can ask yourself after a match. The way you look at answering them will change from game to game, since different games have different formats. For some games, like MOBAs, these may apply to entire matches. For others, like CS:GO, individual rounds. However, the concepts can be applied to any player-vs-player competitive game, even 1v1 games with a little tweaking.

The first question: What was our win condition and how did we fail to achieve it?

A win condition is exactly what it sounds like. Within the context of the match you just played, what specifically did you have to do in order to beat their team with your team? This can be tricky to pin down in games with random matchmaking as often everyone on the team has a different idea of what the win condition is, but it’s not impossible. In CS:GO, it may be that their AWPer on B site was getting the vast bulk of their team’s kills, therefore keeping them pressured above all others or, conversely, avoiding and killing their team around them may have left them outmatched in firepower, allowing you to take more fights and win more rounds. In Dota 2 it may be that their heroes were weak in the early-game and strong late-game while yours were the opposite, meaning that your window of opportunity would have been to get aggressive as soon as possible, turn that into tower kills, control the map with wards and presence and never allow them to make a comeback. In Overwatch it may be that the enemy were using far more ultimates than you to secure fights and leaving themselves at what the competitive community often calls an ultimate economy disadvantage and your team could have taken points by capitalizing on that more effectively, or perhaps their supports were frequently out of position and could have been killed early to win fights. To wrap everything together, as well as figuring out the things you didn’t do which could have led to a win, identify any things which you did do which were unnecessary for your win condition. Did you spend that extra 5 minutes farming your next item when you should have been looking for kills? Did you spend 30 seconds looking for solo kills while your team was preparing to push a vulnerable area, and by the time you grouped up with them that area was no longer vulnerable? Identify these and you’re well on your way towards improvement.

The second question: What was their win condition and how could we have stopped them from achieving it?

Just as you and your team have a win condition, so do the opponents. The easiest way to stop them from achieving their win condition is, of course, to reach your own first, but often when push comes to shove that’s not a viable option and you’re left to identify what they have to do to win and stop them from doing it. Let’s take our earlier Dota 2 example. If your team has failed to dominate the early-game, the enemy are now free to work towards their own win condition of avoiding fights and farming until their heroes hit their main power spikes and suddenly they can throw you so far across the map that you land in a Heroes of the Storm match. In this situation it’s often productive to focus on their win condition and anything you can do to mess with it. Stealing their jungle camps, forcing their attention with split pushes which spread them around the map where they can be picked off, doing anything possible to prevent them from comfortably preparing for a late-game win. Being able to look back at a loss and recognize times where the enemy were doing something to work towards their win condition which you could have prevented can prepare you for those improbable, clawed-back-from-the-brink games where you win by leaving the opponents unable to close out the match and slowly neutralising their advantage.

The third question: What could I, individually, have done better?

In team games, by far the most common trap I see people falling into is blaming their team for everything, not taking full responsibility for their personal screw-ups. This is rarely conscious and almost everyone falls victim to it at some point. This can boil over into becoming frustrated in-game and giving your teammates grief which, for the record, never helps. If someone’s being counter-productive, mute them. If you’re considering communicating in a way which is counter-productive, follow the system of Stay Targeted, Focused and Understanding.

In other words, if you’re considering giving people grief, remember to S.T.F.U. and keep playing.

But I digress. The final and arguably most important question to ask yourself following a loss. Disregard your teammates’ mistakes – it’s good to recognize them so that you don’t make the same ones yourself but – and I cannot possibly stress this enough – you can’t control or change what other players do. Ask yourself, simply, what you could have done better. Look at the shots you missed, the kills you could have gotten by acting just two seconds faster, the teammates you could have saved by healing them instead of someone already close to full health. Don’t focus on how your teammate let you die that time, focus on how you died and shouldn’t have been in that position. Don’t focus on how your teammate couldn’t finish that important kill, focus on how you also missed the shot in the first place. It’s especially important not to forget this in games where you felt like you carried your team. Even if you did, you did not play a perfect game, because in pretty much any modern competitive game that’s impossible when you account for human error. No matter how hard you carried, there’s always something you could have done something better. That goes for every player of every skill level and any successful professional gamer will tell you the same.

Applying the theory

All of this, of course, is just a set of pointers and guidelines, something to point you in the right direction. The most important part – and if you only take one thing away from this, it should be this – is that winning isn’t everything. A loss can be just as valuable as a win, if not more, if you take the time to look at how and why they happen and for that reason, why be upset by them? Losses are a necessity, and a beautiful one. Competitive games are all about the rush of competition, about proving your skill, about the satisfaction of being the better player. Without the sting of losing, winning wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet. So, embrace it. You’ll get that win back sooner or later.

Heroes of the Storm – First Impressions

Blizzard sure do know how to make a game, but do they know how to strike the right balance between gameplay and characters stats? Timlah discusses his recent experiences on Heroes of the Storm, Blizzards take on the MOBA genre.

Blizzard sure do know how to make a game, but do they know how to strike the right balance between gameplay and characters stats? Timlah discusses his recent experiences on Heroes of the Storm, Blizzards take on the MOBA genre.

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Heroes of the Storm was released by Blizzard Entertainment on June 2nd 2015 as an alternative to the MOBA game market. Whilst it’s been quite some time since its release, I’ve always been sceptical about the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) scene. Thanks to the popularity of a few key games in the scene, it’s known to be quite an aggressive side to gaming, with communities that can be rather boisterous to say the least. It’s also one of the genres that manages to transcend video games and become something more: it’s an officially recognised sport.

Whilst I’m still not fully sold on all MOBAs, I recently was introduced to Heroes of the Storm and on my first play through of it, I was not a fan. I played a character I knew relatively well: Illidan Stormrage. I am an ex-WoWaholic and I’m proud to admit I loved that game. I loved what World of Warcraft represented, I loved the community and what we achieved as a unit. I left as I didn’t like some of the end game story telling later down the line, making a lot of the narrative confused – But the fact of the matter remained – I knew Illidan.

Then I played Heroes of the Storm and I was introduced to a character I honestly didn’t feel like I knew. I remember my times in Warcraft 3, I remember being a Demon Hunter. I remember the Warglaves of Azinoth and I remember him being banished to Draenor. But in Heroes of the storm, he felt clunky, he felt uninspiring and, frankly, not worth my time. It wasn’t I that was not prepared, but the hunter himself was not prepared.

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Then in December, Heroes of the Storm was booted up again. This time, I was greeted with a big list of characters I could choose from. I was unsure as to who to pick, so I at first thought “I’ll go with who I know!” I remembered Illidan Stormrage and how he sat there, looking so menacing, but not really being much of a threat at all. I thought back about the low damage output… And then I thought “No, let’s try a different character”. So I went and saw Patches, who was an Abomination from Warcraft. I knew what they were about, so I was happy to choose him, until I saw the character who ended up making me understand the game.

The Butcher, a character who is large, lumbering and a little bit powerful, from Diablo III. I was already a fan of The Butcher as I fondly remember the boss battle as one of the more fun battles in the game, with him dashing around his arena, setting the ground on fire and so on. When I read his abilities, he read just like he did in Diablo III. So, like a well thought out Pokemon battle, I chose The Butcher and I went into a game with real people.

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Although this picture was taken in the tutorial, not against people!

I barely remembered the controls, so my partner spoke me through what to do, which was very useful. Once I understood what was going on though, I found I was able to get a kill in. I remembered the rush I used to get with PvPing on World of Warcraft… And then after a small amount of getting used to the controls and the way The Butcher played, I managed not just a kill, not just a double kill – but a Triple Kill! I felt invincible. Then I died, but that was because I was already on low health at this point and was being foolhardy.

Since then, I’ve gone and found a way to get Heroes of the Storm working through WINE (though it is incredibly fiddly). I’m able to play games with my partner who, I’m not going to lie, more or less carries me because of my penchant to just run around hitting things that look scary to me. I’m even playing as other characters: I found Malfurion and especially Elite Tauren Chieftain to be right up my street as well. Hey, I even managed to win some games by myself against other players!

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Heroes of the Storm offers a pretty comprehensive tutorial section in the game, which also encourages you to complete it. On completion, you get rewards (in game gold) which can be used to buy more characters. This is how the free game makes its money: Some people will prefer to spend their real money to unlock characters, but as a positive, it’s not game breaking. It’s not Pay To Win, nor is it Pay To Play. In fact, I like the rotation system!

Let me explain what the rotation system is: Free to play users (such as myself) get to play the game with a specific rotation of characters. You only get a handful of characters you can play as to begin with and it’s based upon time. As you level up your Player Level, you are able to unlock more slots for these free rotations. This means you have a wider selection of characters you can play as at any time. But you do need to play the game a fair bit to unlock these rotation slots. It’s a good way to keep players playing and it’s done the job with me.

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As of time of writing, in just a few hours, I’m already player level 7 and I can tell my Elite Tauren Chieftain and I are going to be just fine. He’s almost level 5 already, which means I’ll get a 200 gold boost when he hits that level. In game gold can be spent instead of real money to unlock characters, as well as skins, outfits and mounts. The E.T.C. character cost a mere 2,000 gold, which you obtain by playing just a few games and doing the tutorials!

If I had to make any criticisms about the game, there are some characters who feel severely underpowered. Take Arthas as an example: With the exception of a few of his crowd control moves, I have yet to see him as a threat. As the E.T.C., I am able to rush in to the middle of a group of enemies, knock them all back and single out specific players or minions. I can keep myself alive with my guitar solo (All of E.T.Cs powers are “Rock-Based” moves), then deal good damage with my axe (guitar). Arthas swings for way less damage with Frostmourne than the E.T.C. hits with his guitar, which is shocking! However each character fills a specific niche, which it isn’t usually exclusively locked into.

Source: PixelDynamo
Image Source: PixelDynamo

In a few weeks’ time, I hope to review this game over on 1001Up, so keep an eye on our social media pages to see if/when that goes live. I’ve been using the account I set up a while back for Hearthstone with the guys over there, which is “Timlah1001Up”. Wanna have a few battles alongside a guitar wielding maniac Tauren? Great! I’d love to see you on there. Let me know what you think about Heroes of the Storm and MOBAs in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.

EDIT: Before this article was published, I got to player level 10 and E.T.C is about level 7 or 8, with Malfurion at level 5. Send help.