500 hours of Dota 2 and the Steam Controller
So two days ago, I hit 500 hours of Dota 2 (with keyboard and mouse), and while I'm still not a good Dota 2 player, I have collected a lot of stats. Each day I play a couple practice games against bots. A bot game provides a few things that make comparing stats between games easier:
- the bots play consistently: last hitting, running, 5 manning the same way each game
- the hero pool is consistently random: no meta gamer, no popular this patch, no wombo-combo drafts
- the game is run locally: no lag, no rage quits, no 4v5s
These are important if you actually want to measure your performance with different heroes over time. For example consider the following games:
- windranger 17/5/2015 - 2k 2d 9a 472gpm 454xpm
- windranger 29/5/2015 - 9k 0d 9a 542gpm 638xpm
- windranger 9/8/2015 - 10k 0d 12a 622gpm 636xpm
- windranger 3/9/2015 - 5k 0d 12a 420gpm 458xpm
- windranger 10/9/2015 - 6k 3d 4a 518gpm 462xpm
- windranger 26/9/2015 - 10k 0d 12a 634gpm 690xpm
- windranger 7/10/2015 - 10k 2d 18a 509gpm 619xpm
The data for these games can be plotted as:
You can see where at first, I started learning to play the hero. After about two weeks, there is a significant improvement in kda. Then three months later, I reach a plateau. It is at this point, I started playing around with my build and play style. A month later, this more aggressive play style looks like a bad idea. But a couple weeks later, I'm back to my best performance a month before, until I get to the point where I'm scoring far more assists and contributing in team fights (giving up the occasional death or two). And this is with a hero I don't play all that often. You can see these patterns of development in each of the heroes i've plotted over the past year.
So last night, I got to play with my new Steam Controller and decided why not try it out with the least friendly game I can think of. Now I haven't used a game controller on a regular basis in over a decade. The last controller I spent a lot of time with was the PS2 controller. I haven't had a current console in over 10 years. So needless to say, just using the controller in the first place has a learning curve. I've been keyboard and mouse gaming for so long now, the idea of using a game controller felt alien in of it itself. It took me two games just to get my controller settings tuned to something where I could even play the game. I looked at 3 community supplied layouts, and then entirely redid mine. Having a starting template was a huge improvement from having to start from scratch, as this controller is nigh infinitely customizable. Once I got a set of controls I could mostly remember, how did I do on windranger:
- windranger 17/11/2015 - 4k 0d 6a 511gpm 444xpm
Subjectively, speaking, that is not too bad for not having played a game with a game controller in 10 years, and playing one of the most complicated keyboard and mice games with a brand new controller layout. For a more apples-to-apples comparison I played two games with Slark:
- slark w/ controller - 17/11/2015 4k 2d 2a 399gpm 482xpm
- slark w/ keyboard - 17/11/2015 14k 4d 7a 619gpm 808xpm
That said in the second game, the 4d were largely due to Bloodseeker ruptures preventing escape in the early mid game. But you can see the impact of the controller. With both I had configured the left d-pad as a 4 button pad so that I could use it for the main abilities. I will probably move these to the actual button pad, and use the right grip modifier to switch between abilities and items. I had mapped the ultimate to my left grip as it made it easier to get off in a pinch, but I found it difficult to coordinate w/ the trigger squeeze. I did find it useful to set up things so that both hands are involved. Targeting is done with the right thumbpad, but camera movements with the left. Selecting abilities with the right but application with the left trigger is also important. The only exception I found was that it was easier to put attack/deny on the same hand as left click. I'm tempted to try out using the soft trigger pull to apply attack/deny.
My impressions after 3 games with the Steam Controller is that one COULD learn to play as well as a keyboard and mouse. The mode toggles on the grips make 4 buttons turn into 8, or turn the d-pad into an 8 button pad as well (though I found that I often activated 2 abilities at once due to sloppy mashing). The configurability of the pads means it is easy to tweak. I'm still not sold on mouse vs. trackball mode, but found as I turned down the camera move speed, the better I got at targeting. Jacking up the sensitivity on the mouse also helped a lot, as there's a huge range. So I am planning on tracking controller game plays now separately, and determining how much better I can get over the next couple months. Though I still plan on using my keyboard and mouse.