Why people play MOBA

Usually, a lot of things in life are based on actions and consequences. When you act on something you can somewhat (if not fully) expect what the consequences will be. This theory has way too many variables in games like LoL where prediction on whether you will be the victor or loser depends on a multitude of configurations, players, their states of mind, their alertness, knowledge of the game, reflexes just to name a few. Non-scientifically you could even say these games are equivalent to gambling! That’s how unpredictable they are.

Victory depends not only on you but also on how your team plays, but at the same time without you your team will lose. It depends on the enemy team as well, and each and every player contributes to their team’s fate.

“Mayhaps this is a game of luck, like battleship”, you might say, but think about the hours of practice and the experience people have gained in order to control the turn of events in the game! It’s like reliving a war every time. There’s a Japanese saying which goes like, “A war is won before it is fought”. Mayhaps wars are inevitable, and mayhaps people are forced to join it even if it’s against their will. Mayhaps even the above quote is more intuitive than it seems.

But we don’t know unless we play :3

The confusing yet awesome behaviour of the DatagramSocket class

One of the recent projects that I am doing involves using UDP datagrams for communication. The DatagramSocket class in Java enables me to use that feature. At first, I wasn’t aware of all the features of the class, but as I started coding and explored different methods of using that package, several more things became clear to me. Well, firstly the documentation and tutorials that I looked up to understand how to use the class gave me a very minimalistic approach to using it. So, let me clarify how this class manages the network and how you can use this.

Let’s start with the constructor. For a minimalist working server, you must provide a port (otherwise packets might not get delivered to you). Basically, the DatagramSocket class takes care of listening to a port and sending data from that same port (if needed). It does not automatically send ACKs when a packet arrives. It listens, halts the process till data arrives.

A client on the other hand does not require a port to be specified in the constructor for minimalist working. Why? Because we are assuming that the client is not listening for any data (for the time being). It only sends the provided data to a specific port specified by an InetAddress. Now there is an important thing to understand about all this. If a port is not specified by the client, it randomly chooses one. Not specifying a port does not mean that a port is not required by the client to send the data! When the DatagramPacket arrives at the server’s end, the server can find out from the packet several things like the InetAddress of the source and the port through which the packet was sent. This allows the server to send data to that source through it’s address and on the port that it’s using.

The conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is pretty cool. A thread that’s listening on a port can receive packets from multiple sources, and in the same way a thread that’s sending packets can send them to different hosts!

UPDATE:
The real important thing to remember is that you cannot use the same socket simultaneously for sending and listening. If a socket is listening on a certain port, you need to either make it stop listening and send your packet away or you need to open another socket to do so.

Of course, it is not possible to listen on multiple threads using just one socket. For this reason, one of a good architecture designing techniques for such a mechanism is as follows:

  • Listen on one socket
  • Send packets using another socket

Summing up MOBA

Recently, I made the big decision of quitting my temporarily largest addiction: MOBA games. I had to one time or the other, for fear of becoming a gaming couch potato. But I am thankful for making that spontaneous decision which brought more good than I expected.

But since MOBA was something that I gave a LOT of my time to and dedicated hours of thinking and understanding to, I decided to sum up my experiences while stuck in its delirium. For those who are not aware, MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. I had been posting my views about two major games in this category for the last couple of months.

The reason this genre is so addictive is because of its unpredictability and the numerous combinations of heroes/champions and items that can be played with and bought in the games. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that I am talking about Dota 2 and LoL. People still play even though there is hardly any choice of maps. That alone tells us how insanely addictive it can be.

The most important thing that you must focus on in the game can differ from game to game, or character to character or even position to position. It is complex, and not only depends on a player’s expertise in hand-eye coordination but also on their team picks and even the opponent’s team picks. The possibilities do not end there. As the game progresses, players accumulate gold which can be used to buy items. Those items have abilities as well.

Despite all that clutter and complexity, one thing is clear, your character should aim to level up as fast as possible. Items can offer bonus stats, but the real boost comes from levelling up. Which is why in pro tournaments, we don’t find players picking up all the attack damage and powerful items whenever they have enough money. Rather they communicate with their team and decide strategically which item must they pick.

It is a team game of course, which means that the responsibility of both winning and losing are partly on everyone’s shoulders. But that also means that if one out of the five players is not playing well, the match may well be in jeopardy. It happens all the time.

To conclude, the only logical thing that I can say confidently is that there is no way to predict if your next match will be a victory or defeat. You just can’t say. It’s a pity but that’s what makes it all the more exciting, right?

First game as Spectre

One day before my mid semester examination.

Well, it wasn’t my first game to be completely honest here, because on my actual first time my PC crashed and by the time I had reconnected I got an abandon. I cannot blame Steam for this. Just this new modem (I have no clue what the hell is wrong with it). So, I played a Single Draft match with Axe (my first time) and we won! What luck that is huh. Axe has a pretty lousy ult btw. It doesn’t do any real damage from what I saw [update: now I know how to play him]. The only good thing about him is that he’s kinda tanky like all the male characters in dota (and also that he can deal more damage when he’s alone). So anyway, we won that match somehow (I forgot to mention we had a broodmother whose user was at level 52! Yeah, after that match I decided that I had to play Spectre again because I didn’t get to test her out fully the last time (if you count that).

This time the enemy team her strong picks like Juggernaut (god knows why he’s picked in every match), Sven (goddamit this guy!), Huskar (Mista Gank), Naga (she was total noob and fed like anything), and somebody else (I forgot). We had myself (Spectre), Templar Assassin (girls get to have all the fun), Phantom Assassin (the girl who I first thought was a guy), Venomancer (amiable support) and of course Sniper (apparently the character everyone hates). I assisted in getting first blood I think. Spectre does good damage with her Q initially. Out team had less conventional picks unless you want to include PA with her ‘blur’ evasiveness.

In any case, I took the bottom lane with Venomancer and he was a really helpful support. I remembered the last hero of the enemy team: Spirit Breaker (damn those stuns!). The thing was that most of the time the whole (at least 3-4) heroes of the enemy team would suddenly appear and gank. Lots of times Sven killed me. I fed quite a bit in the beginning and hoped that the rest of my team was doing well in absence of the enemy heroes in their respective lanes. Funnily enough it played out quite exactly like that. The got plenty of farm and one tier-3 tower of top lane also fell. I believe PA was top. Either her or sniper. Once I got my ult, I could teleport to any team fight that I chose and we started winning team fights. Not only because of me, PA, TA were playing great too. But I got the highest number of kill assists: 29. I thought this match would be cutting it close, but I was wrong. We won pretty easily. I usually feed a lot in the beginning. But as the game progresses I start getting kills and assisting. I got a battle fury first, then Radiance and finally a moon shard which I consumed and then bought another one. What do you basically need? Good damage and attack speed! That’s something I learnt playing LoL. Speaking of LoL, it’s mechanics are totally different compared to Dota. Which is better I cannot say, but LoL looks to be the one attracting the crowds.

A Pale View of Hills

Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel. What really enticed me about this was the feeling of anticipation of something serious about to happen throughout the story was amazing. In the end however, nothing special happened. Ishiguro is known for his two novels turned into films: “Never let me go” and “The Remains of the day” which won the Man Booker prize. For his first book, this seemed like an experiment he conducted to observe how people would react because it felt like he was holding something back. I really liked the slow pacing since it fit the theme perfectly. There were the occasional moments of “suspense” which were sketched out vaguely. At the end, it left me a little confused because I thought he would clear up a few doubts towards the end like what became of Mariko and her Mom? I would assume that Frank took them to America (though I have a little doubt in mind). Also, who is Etsuko’s second husband? Shigeo Matsuda? What happened of Ogata-san? As you can see, the book left a lot of loose ends. I wish Ishiguro would have answered these doubts but nevertheless the story left a good impression on me.

Dota 2 vs LoL 2

After playing League for a while, my impression on the game has changed drastically although, certain things I had said in my first post are pretty much the same. I have mostly been playing with Master Yi. His strengths are attack speed and attack damage. It’s best to build him with those two aspects in mind. As for his defence, it’s quite non-existent. He will not survive a gank, he can escape using his ulti at best. With Master, you will either lose the game badly or win it like it is the best game you’ve played in your life. Depends on your team and the champions they pick.

Enough of that. LoL has a 1-Dimensional gameplay compared to Dota 2, I’ll be honest with you here. There are two major things I found lacking in LoL, but which are very much in abundance in Dota 2. The first is the champions themselves. Their abilities are primarily attack based, if not occasionally causing stuns or slowing movement. It’s all about how much damage you can inflict versus how much you can concede. Unlike Dota 2 where different heros are known for some special ability that they have. In LoL nobody cares! Because you don’t really have to care. Right-click to win. This very flaw of champions not having a “character” of their own is the main reason for the 1-Dimensionality of this game.

The second aspect is complementary to the first, in the sense that even the items do not have any special “characteristics”. All they give you is extra attack damage, or magical damage, critical strike, life steal, yada yada yada… Quite contrary to Dota 2 items. Almost half (or even more) of Dota 2 items have some active ability and a subsequent cooldown. It adds a whole new dimension to the game! It’s not just that, even the abilities that the items have are unique amongst themselves, like the Bloodstone with which you can commit suicide and hence not feed the opponent with experience and gold. As a result, Dota 2 is much harder than LoL on many levels, and is also way more serious. If you have watched tourneys you’d know. Once I saw LoL players singing songs before the start of the game and some even had a victory dance which they performed after they had won! Dota 2? Nothing of that sort. Can’t blame them though, look at those freaking huge prize pools ESPORTS puts up. Better commentators and overall production for Dota 2 although LoL is the game having more players per month. I am sure that they see a lot of potential in Dota 2. It feels great watching Dota 2 matches though. I will say that it depends more on the skill of the player than on the hero that he/she selects. However, LoL isn’t like that. From their pool of 100+ champions, very few even get played with in tourneys and nearly the same ones get banned all the time. I would say that’s a turn off because the team that has the strongest picks will win. And that’s lame, especially after you’ve played Dota 2. I just play LoL because it’s easier, and people are cool.

The Game of Thrones

Possibly one of the greatest stories ever created by humans, a legendary book series turned TV adaption by the famous George R. R. Martin is the best book that I have come across so far. So good it was, and so much thrill I got from it, is unforgettable! With some nerve wracking plot twists that you will not see coming and stupendous characters, GoT has outdone itself.

I was introduced to GoT a few years ago when I heard friends talking about it excitedly. But that really didn’t pique my interest. I was into other things back then. But recently, I joined a library and they happened to have Game of Thrones. So I decided to see what all the hype was about. Then it began, the endless adventure and lasted around 800 pages yet which seemed like a teaser for the story still to come! When a masterful plot and great story writing come together, this is the fantastic product that they create. The first book was published in 1995, which is quite long ago. Never have I heard of it before. Quite surprising, that. It became really popular when HBO launched the GoT TV series.

Maybe there plenty of gore and sex, but if you’d like to bathe in maturity here is a golden opportunity. Martin kisses goodbye to naivety and brings the darkest part of our minds come alive with so much cunning that will keep you gripped till the end no matter what! There are a few main characters through whom he narrates the story in 3rd person. Ned, Catelyn, Tyrion, Robb, Jon, Bran, Arya, Daenerys and Sansa were the main characters in the first book of Song of fire and ice which is the name of the series GoT is a part of.

If maturity disturbs you, the TV series is no different. But trust me, you would want to read the book than watch the series to enjoy everything the author poured out into the book. Personally, my favourite character is Tyrion because of his cunning, calm character and the way he can retort to anything spoken to him. It’s really quite amazing how much character development he got and you get to see several sides of his personality like his will to save Catelyn even though it was her who captured him. Tyrion may seem like an evil character, but so is everyone else in that case. The other character I adore is Daenerys. Although not so much in the TV series. She is supposed to be a very powerful person which I felt her actress missed out on. The first book ends on a neutral note, but exciting note. While Daenerys becomes mother to the 3 dragons, Robb Stark becomes the Lord of Winterfell and their banners and they separate from the Seven Kingdoms. Sansa and Arya are still in King’s Landing where prince Joffery is wreaking havoc.

I felt like Ned and Catelyn were the main reason behind the whole crisis that occurred with Ned’s eventual death. He made the biggest blunder by going to the King’s Landing with Robert at the start of the book and almost as a price that he had to pay he was beheaded. None of this would have actually happened if he refused to become Hand of the king. The worst part of it was, not only did he lose all of his personal guard, his daughters were both in a bad position, his wife had to flee and his son had to go to war.

The character who most people will like, maybe not as a favourite nor as their least favourite is Jon Snow. There is a lot to be said about this guy. His life has been terrible because of how his name got tainted with ‘bastard’ and it was none of his fault. Jon Snow’s life on the Wall always served as a good distraction from all the politics and war going on at other times in the book.

I’ll conclude by saying, I can’t wait to read the next book A Clash of Kings!

 

Dota 2 vs. LoL

Probably one of the biggest debates out there! Dota 2, a game started in 2009 and completed in 2013 created by Valve with help of IceFrog and League of Legends a game released in October of 2009 are one of the most formidable rivals in the gaming industry. With Dota 2 comes stunning graphics and spectacular gameplay integrated with Steam where as, LoL has some really interesting background stories of the champions and large amounts of art created by their developers Riot Games.

LoL was officially there on the scene first! Which is why they have amassed a larger number of audience than has Dota 2. There are other reasons behind this, like the huge size of Dota which is like 17 GB whereas LoL is just about a third if that. Another reason is that Dota 2 relies on more powerful PCs which can pose a problem to those who still use ancient machines. LoL is a little lax with its graphics requirements, but after playing both games in full graphics settings, it becomes hard to distinguish between which is better.

Coming to the graphics, LoL terrain and buildings have a much smoother look and they actually look better than Dota 2 buildings. However, heroes look better than the champions in LoL and so do creeps than the minions. LoL offers more than one map unlike Dota 2 where players have to play play on the same old map over and over again, though that does not get boring. I like the Dota 2 map much more, because there are several elements which give it a realistic look like the way the map is in no way symmetrical and even the Radiant and Dire sides are completely different! LoL has a generic map which looks symmetrical and lacks the kind of detail that’s put into Dota 2 maps.

It will not come as a big surprise to you that I find the gameplay of Dota to be better than LoL. The map, the characters, their movement and even the way Gold shuffles hands! LoL has some interesting features like spells which give bonus abilities with large cool downs like healing and agility. Although after playing Dota, I didn’t see the need for such spells I won’t deny that they saved me more than once 😀

LoL has an easier learning curve and Gold is also easier to procure. No gold is lost upon death, but the opponent gains some if we die. In any case, the items that you can buy are in a way cheaper than Dota items and there are 7 slots instead of 6 in LoL unlike Dota which has the latter amount. If you really like stories, you will enjoy the lore behind every champion on their websites and in-game, even every skin has artwork made for it. Just imagine how much artwork is made for LoL, there are around 130 champions and each one has at least 4-5 skins. Some things about that game are really incredible. No wonder LoL has far more players per month that does Dota 2!

One of the best things about the Dotaverse is the Arcade. The Arcade opens up a whole new level of games, like a 10v10 where 10 players on each side battle for the other’s ancient and overthrow. Many of the games are made by the official Dota 2 team, and they have released a development workshop for those who are interested in developing games for that section.

Dota 2 gives full access to all heroes from the beginning to a new user, but LoL relies on the user levelling up and earing influence points (IP) by playing more games or buying riot points (RP) to purchase champions and skins. Every week 10 new champions are introduced to players for free. It strikes me as odd that some champions are more expensive than the rest (does that mean they are also better?). Dota is said to be a balanced game, a fact that don’t think is absolutely true. But then again, it really depends on how your teammates play.

My take on the two games is that, Dota 2 is the better one. It might have just one map, and the size may be massive, but still the experience and fun I had playing the game clearly exceeded my expectations of MOBA.

Discovering Dota 2

Dota 2 is surely a sensation among gamers with its fairly new mode of gameplay, MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and the fantastic analysis that has been put in to make this game. Dota originally was a mod based on Warcraft III, until Valve hired the lead developer of Dota and and began working on its own version of the popular battle arena in 2009. It was only in 2011 that they released Dota 2 in beta phase for testing. In 2013, a stable release of Dota 2 was released. Dota is gaining momentum from online communities because of the large money sums offered at tourneys, and also from casual players who want to give it a shot because all of their friends are crazy about it.

An easily addictive game, with people complaining about its steep learning curve which I will not argue about. But the true essence of magic lies in the balance of the gameplay. The way in which the engineers at Valve have allocated abilities and attacks to the 111 different heroes trying to try and make them even. It is incredible how they did this. As a matter of fact, only 5 out of 111 heroes were not played or banned in TI5. This figure justifies the careful fine tuning done to ensure balance of different heroes despite there being a variety of parameters both material and strategic.

If the balance does not stun you much, surely the sheer number of characters that you can play with has by now! The quality of graphics is admirable. It is amazing how they have paid attention to every little detail of this game, like the online match-making. Not online dating! 😀 You won’t have time to think of that anymore. You can form a party and the servers look for a game for your party. That way, you are able to play alongside your friends with other online players.

There are games like LoL that came before Dota 2 and effectively stole the audience that this game deserves. By all means, Dota means serious business unlike the cartoonish looks LoL characters have. Dota relies heavily on teamwork and is a good way of teaching a non-teamplayer. So, no matter how good a player is on their own, if their team is bad, they are done for. Communication, is also key and Dota has provided necessary provisions to do so (thought no one uses the mic).

The intricacies don’t stop there. There are about a 100 items which give additional abilities, or enhance them. The downside of the game being that its learning curve is steep. Nobody cares as far as I am concerned. Once you start playing, you become addicted. Lol.

Black and Light

In a lost, forgotten land,
Far, far away,
There could be heard,
Beneath the cluster of canopy,
Of giant silver oak trees,
On a tropical floor of yellows and reds,
The voices of the moon,
Which every little twig and leaf,
Fresh, dry or auburn,
Covered with a sheet of dew,
Loved to whisper,
Off their supple, delicate bodies,
To the dense conglomeration,
Of dark beauty,
That welcomed the lunar songs,
Wailings of immortals,
Seeking respite of the eternal elixir of pure light.

Wisps of fog descend,
Brooding on the forest floor,
Where lies not a soul,
No one blessed with a conscience of their own.

How desolate,
How in vain,
Do the chants of the moon go,
Of course, no one will know,
But as rain pours,
And calms the temperate,
The smell of wet soil liberates,
Hope is new found,
Love is abundant.

Within the ambiance of loneliness,
Came a light,
A shimmering beacon of pure energy,
With a promise,
Maybe even a dream,
And spread its wings,
To let behold the world,
Its destiny towards a miracle,
Engulfing in itself, darkness,
Rediscover our planet,
The big blue planet,
The one that rotates with sheer enormity,
Taking its annual walk around a bright champion,
In lady like frivolity,
Showering grace on the four great seasons,
Expressing the whims of god.

All is one,
And one is all,
She sees the meaning of life through my eyes,
And I hers,
Scars of war are forged,
Hope the brave have courage enough to tread,
While the sky collapses in the horizon,
Forsaking us to a cold, dark nightmare,
I beg of you, do not forget us,
Our eyes may not see,
Our touch sends shivers down our spines,
However,
A crackle of determination,
Reminds us of the purpose of our existence,
I will redeem you first,
Then redeem myself in the eyes of god.