Dote Night: Possibly The Worst Dota 2 Setup On Earth

No, really. It's a disaster.

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. Today, however, is not that day. Today is the story of the worst Dota setup known to man. Worse than Fear’s desk in the Free To Play movie.

Whenever I go traveling for work I have my trusty laptop in tow. It’s an old Macbook – old enough that persuading it to do anything useful feels like the digital equivalent of dragging a recalcitrant cat through a river of molasses to a vet appointment.

It wheezes and whirs and can’t hold battery charge for the length of time it takes to write a Dote Night column. At one point, though, it was my main gaming machine and I forced it to run Dota 2.

I remember lying on my tummy on a bed in a previous apartment trying to figure out how to bootcamp the damn thing for that express purpose. There was the vague idea I might play other games on it too but I’d only just started to dabble with the idea of paid videogames writing so that felt like quite a remote concern. I mean, at the time one of my sources of income was making paper puppets of Jedward for MTV. True story. It didn’t occur to me that this was a financial investment or that I would eventually write about Dota as part of my job. I just wanted to play the game.

I don’t remember the specifics of the bootcamp process as I was nursing a horrible headcold at the time. The sort you end up medicating through a mixture of Lemsip, naps and microwaved mugs of shop-bought mulled wine. It wasn’t my finest hour, nor do I recommend it as a course of action for anyone in the universe. But I did still end up with a laptop capable of running Windows XP.

Playing Dota on that setup was a singular experience. It was also the start of my reputation for accidentally playing games on a hard mode of my own devising. The laptop could run Dota just fine but it couldn’t run anything else at the same time without slowing to an unplayable crawl. That, in turn meant all third-party voice communication software was out of the question. Or at least, using them on the laptop was.

HEY LOOK a generic picture of Dota 2

I installed Skype on my phone. We tended to favour Skype as a group. In-game chat was available but problematic when grouped with strangers. Plus the people I played with just preferred not to use it. Having Skype on my phone solved the voice problem but added another one of which I wasn’t immediately aware. Putting my companions on speakerphone led to complaints because of the echoey effect. Muting myself was better but it meant I couldn’t say anything or be part of the conversation. A combination of headphones and speakerphone seemed like the best solution. In fact it was great except… well…

“It’s just positioning” said a friend sounding frustrated. I’d just taken a wave of spectral horses to the face thanks to Keeper of the Light. The latest of many horse waves. He couldn’t understand why I was always in the way of the wave.

“But you have to go forward sometimes to get anything done,” I said, reasonably (I thought). “It’s just that you guys seem better at avoiding them.”

I can’t remember the exact phrasing of his reply but it was something along the lines of “It’s literally as simple as getting back when you hear the sound cue from the ability.”

“There’s a sound cue?”

“…”

Several questions later and he had worked out I had spent months playing Dota with no sound. That was the Skype trade-off. I had my headphones on and speakerphone active so I’d had to mute the game itself. I’d made that work for months before the KotL thing came up.

Hard mode by accident.

But that’s not the half of it. Let’s add in that I didn’t have space for a desk in that flat so was playing on the bed with my laptop balanced on my knees. The phone would balance somewhere over to the left while on the right was a USB mouse – one of those really cheap ones where the buttons stick and some clicks don’t register properly. To use that mouse I rested it on a special edition Where The Wild Things Are box. I think I still have it somewhere. It’s supposedly a collector’s item but the bottom and right edges are scuffed white after hundreds of hours of being rubbed by my wrist. The PC gaming equivalent of a well-worn path across a field.

Oh, and on top of all this the alt key which you use to ping things is directly next to the command key on a Macbook keyboard. The command key crashes Dota.

Here's another picture because I am trying to maintain visual interest. How's that working?

It was a terrible way to play an unforgiving game and it added extra handicaps and problems to a title which needs extra of neither. But that setup was the point from which so many current friendships – even my present job – grew.

There was also a singularity of purpose to the setup for which I have a lot of residual affection. My current PC is a home to many other games, to work, to photography projects, to my inbox, and Netflix and takeaway food ordering services as well as to Dota 2. The Windows partition of my Macbook was reserved purely for Dota and when I booted into it I was signing out of the rest of the demands on my time.

It’s still there, actually. That partition still exists and it still contains a version of Dota. I never update it because, for all the nostalgia for those early day of Dota, I’m not an idiot. It was a horrific way to play. There’s also a part of me that loves the idea of having a Dota 2 time capsule that’s stuck in the time when that way of playing was my only option.

I opened it up on the train a little while ago out of curiosity, knowing I had no wifi connection and wasn’t risking an update. Over there, in that feverishly bodged-together partition, it’s always Wraith Night, you have to run Skype on your phone, Techies doesn’t exist, nothing has sound and Blink Daggers cost mana to use.

How did we live like that?

38 Comments

  1. rexx.sabotage says:

    heh, you call that old? I see aluminum! You should take a gander at my polycarbonate unibody that could attend the 5th grade.

    the fact i’m still getting ancillary use out of it is either a testament to my diligence in care and maintenance or a blessing from Apple’s holy ghost.

    • Premium User Badge

      Earl-Grey says:

      As long as one remembers to pray to the Machine God one does not need to worry about malfunction.
      Every morning and every night I recite the Chant for Prevention of Malfunction to my Appleputer.

      My somewhat better half does not show the same diligence in her worship of the Machine God.
      And as one would expect; her sacrilegious perversion has already required one battery swap.

  2. OmNomNom says:

    Most importantly…

    Why would any gamer use a Mac?

    • DragonOfTime says:

      Well, some people like playing on hard mode?

    • horsemedic says:

      Alternate question: why would anyone work on Windows?

      I have a PC tower for hardcore gaming and it’s great, but I couldn’t imagine migrating its slippery, broken kludge of a UI to my work life. (Example: 20+ years on, Microsoft still can’t get the task bar to unhide reliably. Or I guess the taskbar is just boxes now? Who can keep up with the nonsense?)

      So a Macbook is my office. It has its quirks. Its battery sucks. But it’s the only setup I can stand working on and trust not to go schizo at a critical moment.

      Corollary question: why would I game on a desktop, if I can game on a laptop instead? For AAA games and Windows-only titles, I visit the snorting altar of tangled cables in my spare bedroom. But I’d much rather game on my lap on my sofa, and do so for all indie and lightweight titles that allow me to.

      So that’s why a gamer uses a Mac.

      • ssh83 says:

        I have been forced to work on Mac for about total of 5 years so far as an iOS Developer and I disagree with your statement to the utmost. Mac crashes, and because Apple Gods think they’re infallible, they don’t do enough backup features. So unsaved changes are often lost and unrecoverable. I used windows professionally as well much more than Mac and I have NEVER lost unsaved changes, while in Mac, it has happened several times to the point that I now instinctively hit save every 5 minutes. lol

    • jrodman says:

      Don’t. These are the most boring threads ever.

      • Premium User Badge

        Earl-Grey says:

        Yes, please don’t.
        This is just as, if not more, mind shatteringly dull than iPhone vs. Android threads.
        My bowels loosen just from the thought.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          At least with XBox vs Playstation arguments one can just take the “PC gaming master race” line and feel smug.

          • Premium User Badge

            Wisq says:

            I actually still get to feel smug, since I use Windows for gaming (avoiding the “why would you game on a Mac?” question), Mac for everything else (avoiding the “why would anyone work on Windows?” question above), and they’re seperate systems — meaning I can pose my own (rhetorically rude) “why would you use the same system to work and game?” question.

    • Orionmeister says:

      Sometimes gamers are going away to college and have to use the trusty laptop that they won from a scholarship and have had for years.

    • Artist says:

      Whats Mac? Isnt that this 80s hipster crap?

    • Zunt says:

      Vim is better than emacs!

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        GNU style is the best indentation style, who wants to fight about it?

    • deadly.by.design says:

      I have a frankensteined (see: old parts assembled to work together) 2010 Macbook Pro and regularly play dota 2 on it.

      While I do build my own PCs for gaming, this MBP is how I play dota on lunch breaks at work. Once you get used to the tiny screen, it works fine on low settings. Yes, I run it in Win7 mode for better performance. No, it’s not ideal. But hey — I didn’t pay for the laptop and it gets the job done when I’m not at home.

  3. Juste_ says:

    Remap it – Problem solved.

    I had a similar problem with my Windows key. Which is now (an extra) Alt.

    Karabiner for Mac : link to pqrs.org
    SharpKeys for PC : link to sharpkeys.codeplex.com

    • jrodman says:

      FWIW, it doesn’t cause crashes for me on the mac, nor loss of focus. (What am I doing wrong?)

      While on windows, BLESS YOU, i am downloading this now.

    • luis.s says:

      The command key acts as the windows key when running windows under Bootcamp. It’s caused me grief as well, those programs might come in handy. Thanks.

    • airmikee says:

      It’s also possible just to disable the Windows key in the registry.

      link to pcgamer.com!

    • Fersken says:

      An alternative is to disable the key(s) without any 3rd party programs. I have 4 registry files for this. Make a text file with either one of these:

      Disable both Windows keys:

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

      [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
      “Scancode Map”=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,03,00,00,00,00,00,5B,E0,00,00,5C,E0,00,00,00,00

      Disable left:

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

      [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
      “Scancode Map”=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,00,00,5B,E0,00,00,00,00

      Disable right:

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

      [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
      “Scancode Map”=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,00,00,5C,E0,00,00,00,00

      The last one enables both:

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

      [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
      “Scancode Map”=-

      Then rename the file(s) with the extension .REG, then double click them. You probably have to reboot to make it work.

      • Fersken says:

        I found another unrelated to keyboard mapping, though it should speed up Windows quite a bit:

        Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

        [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Winlogin]
        “Logincredentials”=dword:Fersken
        “Loginpassword”=dword:fastwindows

  4. Orionmeister says:

    This post just made me remember all those long hours playing CS:GO matchmaking in my apartment on my Macbook Pro with my Logitech travel mouse. Thanks for making me remember the good times of not being able to use the voice chat because I constantly had to have a fan pointed at my laptop which made it sound to my teammates like I was playing in a wind tunnel. Used to have the thing propped up on books and erasers to get some good airflow underneath. And of course it only has one audio jack which can be used for either the microphone OR for headphones, so no luck there! Gamers will find a way though.

  5. guygodbois00 says:

    So, he’s using d55, yes?

  6. LionsPhil says:

    If there’s only a sound cue, that’s an accessability problem.

    However, being a Valve title, presumably you could have turned on full captions?

    • menthol_penguin says:

      You can cast that ability from off screen or from the fog of war, so sounds is sometimes the only way. Some of it is just experience and guessing when kotl players are likely to use ghost ponies though (as I like to call it).

  7. ButteringSundays says:

    Maybe I skipped over something… But why were you using bootcamp?

    Dota 2 runs natively on a mac.

    It’s probably a case of 6 of one half a dozen of another – bootcamp isn’t a be after all – but seems like a big extra hassle if it were just for dota.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Sorry for the typos :(

      To whoever does the web stuff for RPS – put the edit button back already…

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Have you tried it, though? While it does run natively in OSX, it also runs slower than its bootcamped counterpart.

      Even with nearly all settings turned to low (except render quality, which is non-negotiable for me), my 2010 Macbook Pro does not run Dota 2 well enough for me. I don’t have that issue when I run it in WIn7 instead. Disabling the Steam overlay does take care of much of OSX’s slower performance, but not all of it. When we’re talking about borderline performance systems, it’s a big enough deal to be worth bootcamping.

      • jrodman says:

        Runs slower and crashes more.

        It’s gotten better. It’s pretty acceptable if you disable the steam overlay.
        But it’s still better on windows.

    • Philippa Warr says:

      The mac version didn’t launch til July 2013 so using the mac version simply wasn’t an option before then.

  8. Thurgret says:

    Oh no. I came back to read the list of problems the person advertised by the spambot was supposed to be able to solve, and it was gone.

  9. Radiant says:

    I once played team fortress with a guy who used regular wasd for movement but then bound his throw grenade key to “enter”.

    We never understood why he was an amazing shot but up close guys would just run past him.

    What it boiled down to was he had to take his hand off either his mouse or his movement keys to throw a grenade…

    As an aside Pip I had the same issue you did but I used to play counter strike on two laptops.
    One to run CS and one to run teamspeak.
    The solution I came up with for sound was to wear two sets of massive headphones on my head at the same time.

    I looked like a plonker but it bloody worked.

  10. Stugle says:

    That was a properly lovely bit of writing. DOTA holds no interest for me, but I liked the story you crafted from it.

  11. ikillvampires says:

    This reminds me of when I used to play The Specialists (half life mod) for hours with my friend. He would lie on a mattress on my floor, resting a small wooden box on his chest. Upon which he had an old IBM thinkpad and enough room left over for his tiny travel mouse to have a few centimeters of movement. Somehow he would win most of the matches.

  12. arifnurrachmann says:

    i play dota2 on mac too. because i actually use mac as my working machine.
    and as i experienced, since 2014 the dota2 version on Mac OS is OK.

    the plus side when i run dota2 natively on Mac OS, is that i can use the cmd button as shortcut for activate my item! hell yeah!

    you cannot do this thing on windows, except you do some tweak like disabling the windows key by re_edit, or install a software. on mac, this just works…as a shortcut, without make your dota2 minimized and back to windows desktop.
    if you install windows via bootcamp on mac, of course the cmd button will act as windows key, and it’ll be frustating.

  13. DenieD says:

    OMG Pip this makes so much sense now… you used to eat them KotL blasts for breakfast, dinner and tea every game! Playing without sound, hardcore mode!

    Reminds me of telling Adam about the turtle for warding and him being like “Turtle? What Turtle”, apparently I hadn’t realised running the game in low graphics mode turns off all the little things like Turtles and bushes where ward spots are :S I’d been casually telling him to “pop a ward on the magic bush” for about 12 months at that point and he just thought I was crazy… he still thinks I’m crazy but he now knows there is actually a bush.

  14. Armitage says:

    WTH?! I’ve never hand anything remotely like these problems. Why would anyone would be nostalgic about about a shitty gaming experience derived from their own unwillingness to adapt their setup? We are not talking about gaming in 1999 where everyone dealt with weird issues without concrete solutions. This is gaming hipster nonsense.