It's time to look at what $20 will actually get you in the landscape of "free" to play gaming. What does it actually mean? And what is that crisp, all-too-real twenty actually worth in various imaginary economies? In the first of an ongoing series we sent Cara off to do some shopping in DOTA 2. Just what could she get for twenty bucks?
Daddy RPS said he’d give me this $20 note to shop with, but what happened was RPS was out of change that day and so RPS patted me on the head and said “Okay off you go, go and buy yourself something nice in a Free To Play and we will reimburse you.” Challenge Accepted. I gathered the Fashion Police, which largely resembled a troupe of models from Zoolander (Tom, Alice, Dan, Philippa and I all have razor sharp cheekbones) and we went shopping with Daddy’s money. Which I hope Daddy actually has or this may be some sort of elaborate prank...
We first approached Valve’s DOTA 2, as is our wont: we have something of an addiction. But microtransactions in lanepusher games are often, as with DOTA 2, restricted to cosmetic-only items. In particular, the behemoth that is DOTA 2 is the result of so many balance-tweaking iterations that having money influence actual game-changing stats would bugger everything right up. So instead, Valve have backed a metaphorical dump truck with hats in onto the DOTA 2 shop, and now we can all play dress-up. As you play, the game also drops cosmetic treats on you, so you don’t even have to pay for hats if you don't want to. (When I say hats, what I really mean is ‘anything that would change the appearance of your hero’. ‘Hats’ is a metaphor here.)
Obviously the first thing I did was make the Drow Ranger look more emo by buying her a side parted white wig that makes her look like she listens to Fallout Boy. This cost me £1.99 in Proper Money which translates to $2.99 in queenless money. This wig is called the Loner’s Vanity. ‘"And why shouldn't I?" Drow has been heard to say, to absolutely no one,’ says the blurb. What a loser. I’d definitely never get this haircut, light up a cigarette, and stare at my feet whilst gently nodding away to Love Will Tear Us Apart with her. At all.
The Internet’s very own Philippa Warr, former fashion writer and current game critic gave me some thoughts on Drow’s awareness of trends:
"Drow Ranger is adopting an asymmetric blonde bob in favour of her familiar long locks. It appears to be a multi-functional move on the part of the hero as not only will a shorter hairstyle mean Traxex need not put up with a sweaty neck over the summer, but having the longer side artfully draped over one eye may prevent her needing to close that eye for aiming her arrows. It's a seamless blending of form and function. However, if she's hoping to look like a trendsetter rather than a follower she would do well to note it's exactly the same haircut that Jessica Simpson's little sister Ashlee has had since 2012."
Quite lairy on the spending high, I then sugar-mummied up Tom’s Sniper who was looking a bit dowdy. We thought it was very good value that if you bought the Hunter’s Helm you also got a moustache. It would be pretty amazing if I went to get a hat from Accessorize and they gave me a moustache free. The last time I bought a hat it was a beret and I bet I’d look hella French with that and a ‘tache (judging from John’s graffiti on a picture of me a few weeks ago). You can purloin this accessory from all good DOTA 2 stores (the DOTA 2 store) for a mere $2.99 too. Pip’s rundown:
"While colonial chic was not exactly a staple of the Spring/Summer 2013 catwalks, safari jackets did crop up in the Resort collections (FYI "Resort" is an in-between season which caters to those who are rich enough to use the word 'summer' as a verb). As such, Sharpeye's pith helmet is a logical extension of that trend, although perhaps a tad too literal to avoid being gauche. The moustache, however, radiates pure luxury."
We sort of got in a bit of a rut with the hats. We got slightly obsessed with the highly fashionable Birot’s Helm of Dignity, which manages to make Morphling look like some twee seaside-themed toilet roll holder. In fact I think I saw Morphling at a Brighton Bric-a-brac the other day. £2.49/$3.99 for this beauty.
We then had a look at our dear old friend the Tidehunter, or Tiddles for short. Tiddles has by far the most silly/awesome fashion combos. You can buy him a pirate hat or a shark to lob around. You can even put a ship’s steering wheel around his neck like a slightly avant-garde necklace. We settled on a hat and offhand item combo. Here is Tiddles’ Squiddles, the oversized squid-based soft toy:
And here is my Tidehunter looking slightly disgruntled at the hat I got him.
Is it a hat? Or did he get drunk at a beach party, fall asleep and he just hasn’t realised that trickster-bathroom-ornament Morphling had stuck an octopus on his head? Did someone lob it at him and he’s just not managed to unstick it? Maybe he just thinks he has dreads. Over to Pip:
"Morphling and Tidehunter have both played it relatively safe, sartorially speaking. After all, can you name me a year in which spring fashion hasn't come with a liberal dollop of nauticalia? Exactly. But rather than a deck shoe or a Breton stripe the pair have embraced the power of millinery.
"Tidehunter's Octopus was most likely intended as a fascinator, however his poor posture means the overall effect is closer to that of a tentacled beanie. Morphling appears to have chosen more of a visor option which may come in handy for preventing his face from evaporating in the midday summer sun. Regular polishing and re-lining may be necessary, though, especially if Morphling comes from a hard water area."
Anyway, I spent 99p/$1.49 on the Octopus Hat and £2.99/$4.99 on the plush squid, which makes me think that I hope Jim is going to reimburse me for this shit because why the fuck did I do that. I could have bought four quid’s worth of Krispy Kreme coma for that. I could have bought myself a six pack of Red Bull to enable me to enrage everyone out there who hates my writing’s sugar-high enthusiasm. (It is interesting to note that a week after I bought this stuff I am actually kind of glad I bought him the stupid hat because it makes playing Tidehunter way less boring.)
We made Alice’s Nature’s Prophet into a hippie. I mean, he was a tree hugger anyway, but we made him have a sort of proper bohemian look because of reasons.
I like how he is still trying to look important and like he cares about animal rights when I have just popped a pretty lei and a toga on him (for a mere £1.25/$1.99 and 99p/$1.49 respectively). Also something about his expression makes me think of my grandmother. Why is that. She is not a hippie. If anything she’d be telling those free love rapscallions to ‘wheesht’ and get out of her garden. Pip, on the other hand, offers me some insight into his Alexander McQueen influences:
"Simultaneously the most high fashion and the most behind-the-times, it has taken several years for the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2008 collection to filter down to the wardrobe of Nature's Prophet. Luckily, if any of his fellow heroes ever look like they might question his fashionista credentials Tequoia can summon a ring of trees as an impromptu changing room and switch to a more directional look."
We tried to do Blue Steel together at the start of our catwalk match, but our opponents didn’t appreciate that we were standing around preening ourselves and taking pictures and admiring each other. So Dan had to apologise in DOTA 2 form, telling them we were ‘silly noobs’. When really we were just getting ready to be FABULOUS. (I think we were so fabulous we actually won this match. Perhaps David Bowie was watching.)
Of note are the bundles, which you can buy to fully outfit your hero for a discounted rate, though some heroes get more attention than others. You can change a character’s look entirely just by spending a whole 20 actual dollars - for example, the Mirana Moon Rider set (£11.99/$18.43) includes several items, including bow, bracers and tail, as well as a skin for your mount, that change how Mirana looks entirely. Though Death Prophet will still actually look like death even with a new dress on.
You can get gifted items from others, or by the game as a reward for playing more often. To increase the likelihood of getting a sparkly, you can currently buy a 75% Battle Bonus for 6 days for £1.99, or one for 3 days for 99p, which increases the rate that you earn battle points at, which in turn will increase item drops (new hats). But because items drop naturally as you play anyway, that theoretically means that you don’t have to spend any money at all to get cool new hats. They will just not be the hats you wanted or deserved.
Sometimes the game cruelly drops treasure chests on you at the end of a match, which you have to pay about £1.50 for a key to open to see what is in it. That is slightly mean. What if it’s just another octopus hat? What am I going to do with another octopus hat? Tiddles doesn’t even take it off to post-match shower. Unless it swims off I have no use for a second octopus. I mean I still regret the first octopus. And I paid money for it. WHY WOULD I NEED A SECOND OCTOPUS.
Jim please can you give me my money back I think I have buyers’ remorse.
Drow Ranger emo a side parted white wig - $2.99
Hunter’s Helm with moustache - $2.99
Birot’s Helm of Dignity - $3.99
Octopus Hat - $1.49
Plush Squid - $4.99
Lei of the Peace-Bringer - $1.99
Toga - $1.49