The South African DOTA Diary: What does this button do?

In this edition of ‘The South African DOTA Diary’, KZN gamer Gareth Jenkinson reflects on his experience of learning to play the game and the hardships that come with it.

READ: Gareth’s first South African DOTA Diary

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific way to learn how to play ‘DOTA 2’ because there are so many dynamics to it. Not only are there over 100 heroes to choose from, there are loads of items to use and a multitude of things happening at any given time.

Choose your demise

While some gamers cut their teeth playing against bots for a few months, I started playing DOTA the hard way – alongside the community. There is nothing more confusing than entering your first game in All Pick and trying to figure out which hero to choose.

It’s ludicrous. You enter the lobby and are faced with the choice of a hero as the timer ticks away. You don’t want to lose gold but you also don’t want to choose a hero that will cost your team.

I hardly ever use random pick, but sometimes I might as well have. Figuring out which hero to choose alongside your team-mates, to counter your oppositions picks, is probably the hardest part of the game.

Jack of all trades, master of none

This phrase may ring true in life, but it is ironically the opposite in DOTA. The more heroes you play, the better your knowledge of the game becomes. If you play a wide range of heroes over time, you come to know their strengths and weaknesses. Eventually, you know which heroes to pick to counter other heroes.

However, a good pick by no way means that you’re guaranteed victory.

My strategy has been to play heroes I know well and try a new one every now and then. It has generally worked, but you still get hammered from time to time.

As good as the matchmaking system is, you still end up getting dominated by one or two players, no matter how well-informed your pick was.

The Tuesday Quiz: Know your Dota 2 characters

Experimenting with the same hero

While I was preparing my latest blog, I decided to do a little experiment. I’ve enjoyed playing with Windranger in the past, but I’m a bit out of practice. I played back-to-back games with the fleet-footed range hero and had two drastically different results.

The first game I played, I got a hiding. Our team won the game, but I made some panicky mistakes trying to get away from Bloodseeker. I’m going to be honest, if it wasn’t for our team’s Phantom Assassin snowballing, we would have lost badly.

I got a few assists, as you can see in the screenshot below, but I was more of a liability than anything else, and I was feeling pretty unsure about playing another game with Windranger.

Luckily, the next game called for ranged support and I was able to pick Windranger again.

I laned up with Troll Warlord, but we got horribly harassed by Ricci, one of the more notorious invisible heroes in the game. We quickly popped down some wards in our lane and gained control, allowing us to move around without fear of getting ganked.

With a bit more freedom, we pushed our lane and farmed up – and I started feeling far more confident as the game went on. I got a few kills here and there, with a sweet Killing Spree the highlight. I felt pretty happy to have played my support roll well – getting a load of assists while saving my team-mates from a couple of hectic situations.

DOTA is situational

This is the main reason why so many people love DOTA. You can play the same hero as many times as you like, but your game experience is always going to be different.

The hero you choose, the items you buy, the quality of your team-mates and opposition, and your experience and concentration skills will always dictate the game.

Learning to deal with other players is a completely different story but that also has a big effect on how you learn the game.

More often than not, you have decent folk on your team, and I do my best to learn from them as I play. If someone gives you advice, take it, chances are they’ve played your hero a lot more than you. I’ve gleaned some useful things from random people.

Most importantly, just play the game. Try new heroes, try new things. That is the best way to learn. Don’t ruin it for everyone else, but don’t be scared to make that move.

Like anything in life you don’t stop learning and you certainly don’t stop dying.

Gareth Jenkinson is a gaming and eSports fanatic. When he is not playing games (or losing them), he works as a sports journalist and presenter for East Coast Radio.

READ: eSports Terminology – Five rad terms used in ‘Dota 2’ battles