The Rekreational was a games industry Dota tournament which played out over the course of about
a billion years seven or eight months. It was organised by Indie Megabooth’s Christopher Floyd and IGN’s Mitch Dyer. Here’s what I learned from being a part of it:
I took part of The Rektreational as one fifth of team Venomancer? I Hardly Know Her! along with Ted ‘PyrionFlax’ Forsyth, Shane ‘shaneomad’ Clarke, (both Dota streamers and casters) and Chris Thursten of chipper RPS fanzine PC Gamer and Phill ‘I work over at Gamasutra now’ Cameron.
We made it through to the finals (the FINALS!!!!) against Pit Lord Meta but after an exhausting best-of-five had to settle for second place. You can watch the final before we continue but I’ve made a list of some of the things being part of a tournament crystallised for me. They’ve definitely made me a better player already which will come in handy, particularly if the tournament returns and we get another shot at glory!
1. Have the widest hero pool you can
I got into the habit of playing the same four or five heroes over and over. It wasn’t always that way but the further I got into Dota 2 the less able I felt to experiment. When you’re new you just pick anything and try to make it work because you don’t know any better. The longer I played the more I understood that a lack of mastery with a hero could be the difference between winning or losing so I stuck to what I knew rather than take a risk. The longer I played the more I also understood how weird bot matches are – how little like human matches – so I tended not to play them. It was a way of thinking which meant I couldn’t think of a space where it was useful to practice and for it to be okay to fuck up a bit. When in a tournament having a limited pool of heroes can be a disaster. You could get banned out of the game or made irrelevant easily, or you could miss out on great hero pairings simply because one half of that lane pairing doesn’t know the hero well enough.
My answer was initially to return to the All Hero Challenge but I’m STILL stuck on Puck so that’s given way to spots of bot practice and nudging outside my comfort zone with similar-but-different heroes. I tend to play support so instead of relying on Witch Doctor and Lich I’m playing some games as Shadow Demon. I’m also rewatching pro games with the camera fixed on a particular person – either to look at the character, or to look at the role. It’s small potatoes really but it’s been less daunting and flame-y.
2. DON’T PANIC
Probably my worst Dota habit is beating myself up when something is going wrong. It’s often because in the heat of the match when we’re behind I’m not good at prioritising action. That happens to a greater or lesser degree depending on the situation – if you’re trying to claw back farm for your carry setting up vision and being within rescue/protection distance are useful, if Roshan is up you might buy smoke and try to get your team into the Rosh pit for a crafty Aegis, if the clock is nearing a respawn point you can stack something so the carry has more gold available.
But I hate faffing. I hate those matches where I’m so low level from being picked off and so poor from buying wards that I can’t survive fights and I can’t afford any useful items. In those matches it’s easy to lose focus and start making bad decisions, being picked off and punished for them then sinking into misery. Now I try to keep focus by muttering “what’s the next little victory?” Perhaps a ward placed or one of their wards removed. I’ll buy smoke and suggest a few of us head to a likely farming spot on the map to kill one of those jerks on the other team. I’ll try to change where I’m walking or where I’m warding if those are repeatedly working out badly.
It might not mean you claw the game back but it means you’re not as miserable and powerless while you lose and you start seeing the behaviours that are causing the problems.
3. Practice. Just a little bit.
We never practiced. WE managed a warm up game maybe a couple of times but that was the sum total of our practicing. It was either because we’re INCREDIBLY COOL or some other reason relating to everyone having different schedules/work trips/deadlines/etc. Let’s go with “cool”.
That meant our warm up game was often our first game of the best-of-three. From memory we tended to lose those first games, only to bring it back in the second and third when we had remembered who each other were and how to play as a team. That’s not to say we didn’t take those matches seriously or that we didn’t respect the other teams, it was just that in terms of play it was ragged at the edges. Normal errors sat alongside needless miscommunications and mistakes increasing the chances we would get punished for them. In the games where we had managed a warm up beforehand the difference was palpable. It was like gargling Dota and spitting out the more dumb mistakes
4. Play heroes you like and are comfy with
We played at our best when everyone was on a hero they knew well. This kinda relates to the first point – the wider your hero pool the more options you then have for playing what you know. From a spectator point of view that maybe led to some slightly wonky or suboptimal line-ups but in terms of responding to challenges in the game it made life a lot easier. I might not be the greatest at coming back on a hero when I’m behind but I can do it far better on Witch Doctor than I can on Lion and that extra jolt of confidence or of hero awareness can make all the difference.
5. Have a reliable stun
Just do it. It make the whole game so much bloody easier.