13 – Recalibrating

When I met my boyfriend last year, he did all he could to try to convince me to play some of his favourite games so we could enjoy them together.

Unfortunately, it worked. I’ve played nearly 750 hours of Dota 2 in the last year and I’m still bloody terrible.

Dota 2 is a building defence game. You play in teams of five and pick from a pool of 112 heroes to try to create a better team than your opposition. You can’t pick the same heroes as the other team.

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This is the team’s fountain, where heroes can regenerate health and buy items. There’s a small mini-map of the game in the left corner which shows the progress of both teams

When the game starts, the map is split into three lanes, top, middle, and bottom. Each lane has three towers and a set of barracks that protect the base, which consists of an ancient with two towers protecting it.

To win, you try to kill the enemy team as many times as possible, kill the small soldiers called ‘creeps’, and destroy the towers and barracks until you can kill the enemy team’s ancient. Dota is reported to stand for Defence of the Ancient, which is the ultimate aim of the game.

In the game, you have the option to played Ranked matches, which place you against other people who wish to play competitively. Once you’ve played 10 of these games, you have your ranked Match Making Ranking (MMR) calibrated for you.

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The pool of heroes available

An Australian friend of mine has a very poor MMR, so one day I decided to calibrate to see how I compared to him.

Turns out I was quite a bit worse.

I’m not going to reveal the MMR I scored first time round, because I know there is one particular person I’m friends with that would never let me forget my horrific performance.

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The cosmetics for two of my favourite characters, Lifestealer (on the left), and Luna.

I found it quite funny at the time, but now each time I try to play a Ranked game I am met with horrific results. People lose MMR by losing games and I have been forced to play with people who have 1 MMR, the lowest you can possibly have.

Generally these people are the kind who give up after one thing goes wrong for them, or those who are horrible to the other people they play with. Sometimes they’re terrible at playing in a team, they’re foul, racist, and sexist, and other times they’re just stupid.

Valve, the company behind the game, release these things called Battle Passes every time a big competition is held. There are normally three released each year, with the main pass released in May for the biggest tournament of the year, The International (TI).

Passes cost £7.99 to start at level one, and £29.99 to start at level 75. You can also buy levels, at £1.99 for five, £4.00 for 11, or £7.99 for 24. Earning levels unlocks new prizes, skins, rewards, and achievements for each player.

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The battle pass screen. The bar along the bottom shows your progress, what rewards you have coming up, and how many levels you need to get them

Dota 2 is free to play, so 25% of the battle pass funds are given to the TI prize pool to top up the $1.6mil put in by Valve. Last year, the prize pool reached $20,770,460 which is the largest pool for a tournament in esports history.

Because the battle passes for TI are so popular, owners of the pass are given a special feature which allows them to play a seasonal ranked match. This recalibrates the player’s MMR and allows them to keep the new ranking if they play 40 ranked games before the season ends.

I’ve improved massively since I first calibrated, so when I bought the battle pass and discovered this feature I knew I needed to try to improve my dreadful ranking.

I set out on the ten games I would need to complete to be placed and started matching with players who had nearly 1,000 MMR more than me. I was filled with hope at what I could calibrate at but, alas, it was not meant to be.

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The games that let me calibrate. For some reason there are 11 shown here which makes no sense at all but I believe it’s because one of the games didn’t count towards my ranking because someone left

After a few really strong games where I carried a team of  lower MMR players, I played a few games as a support hero for higher mmr teams. which lowered my game impact and brought my matching back down to lower mmr teams.

I had a few bad games towards the end of my calibration and finished the ten matches with a six/four split of loses to wins. I lost all hope that I would calibrate with a decent MMR and was a little disappointed with my result.

I’d only managed to gain 200 points, which really isn’t much, but when I started to think about what I’d achieved I realised it was better than I first thought.

By gaining those 200 points, it put me a lot closer to a higher bracket than I was before. I was much less likely to be matched with people who had an MMR of less than 100 which would improve my games dramatically!

I’m still really bad at the game, but these 200 points give me a chance of actually improving, because now my teammates will be a better quality kind of player and I won’t end up with the worst of the worst.

I’m a long way away from being as good as Jamie (we’re talking a few thousand), but I’m definitely drawing closer to a respectable MMR that I could actually tell people about.

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