I watched other people play Dota2 yesterday. For a total of 8 hours. I’ve deprived myself of sleep in order to watch other people play a video game.

It was the Main Event of The International 3, Valve’s own tournament for their own game. Despite having played less than 5 hours of the game myself, I was totally immersed in the matches. I was hanging on the commentators’ every word, watching as tiny digital lords pulled off what were, apparently, astonishing feats of gaming. You know when someone tells a joke, and the whole room laughs, but you don’t get it? Well, watching Dota2 as a noob is kind of like that. But you catch on slowly, and soon, you at least know to pay closer attention to the screen when the audience and commentators go bananas.

This week’s topic isn’t about Dota2. It’s actually about the growing trend toward watching others play video games. Twitch.tv, Let’s Play videos, and the upcoming streaming features on PS4 and Xbox One – game streaming and gameplay videos are definitely getting bigger. Do you prefer being the player? Or the watcher?

Friday, 3:04 pm – matt

there’s only one person I know gay enough in love enough with assassin creed enough to want this, or to actually develop a costume to go with the rest, his name is ricky:

Friday, 8:48 am – Gavin

So, last night I got to attend the Splinter Cell: Blacklist launch here in Toronto.  Ubisoft definitely likes to party, I’ll give them that!

We were treated exclusively to the Xbox 360 version.  Impressions?  It looks like Conviction, quite a fair bit.  The UI can look a little cluttered and on the version that was demoed/playable, there were a TON of visual cues.  Like, every time you approach cover or find something you can climb, it tells you that you can take cover or that you can climb it, not dissimilar to the cues from Gears of War or Bulletstorm.  The idea of “painting” your objectives onto the set pieces is actually really flawlessly executed, better than the videos I’ve seen of it in Conviction – I thought I would hate it, and while I do prefer the minimalist approach we saw in the first three, at least it’s not as blatant as the UI in Double Agent, which pops a 1″ square icon right into the middle of the screen whenever you can do something.  I said to Ricky last night that it feels more like Deus Ex: Human Revolution in terms of stealth – a mechanic, but not necessarily the primary mechanic, while you’re rewarded for stealth, you aren’t necessarily punished for aggression.  I recently completed the Kinshasa mission of Splinter Cell: Double Agent and I just murdered everyone.  I ended up finishing the level with a -40% stealth rating.  Now that’s good punishment.

What does it look like?  They cranked the contrast up to 11 on this, and there’s a fair bit of JJ Abrams lens-flare going on.  There’s a lot of chest-high walls for cover, so at times, it feels very unnatural, like you’re deliberately playing in a battle arena.  It looks great and the animations are fantastic, but it’s also quite fast-paced at times.  Sprinting in 1-4 felt a bit more natural – you’re not an Olympic sprinter, so why should the world move like you are?  In this one (admittedly I haven’t played Conviction, so I can’t comment on that), when you sprint, things move quickly.  Think the roadie run from Gears of War.  It allows for stealth, but it’s been actioned up here as well, at least in the sequences I saw.

That’s not to suggest that they’ve abandoned stealth – they absolutely haven’t.  I watched numerous different players attempt the same level and they all approached it differently.  We had a few Rambo-esque guys, some guys who would only kill if they had to, and a few who would only approach the game from a pure stealth scenario, deliberately avoiding everyone else.

Unless I’m mistaken, they appear to have done away with the EMP pistol as a gameplay mechanic – if you want those lights off, you’ll have to shoot them out or turn them off.  That’s a shame – I quite liked that pistol.  It was a lifesaver and game changer in Chaos Theory.

Multiplayer?  Spies vs Mercs is back and it looks great, but I didn’t get a chance to play that one.  The lineups were substantial and then I got distracted by free booze.  The multiplayer game felt slower, like the screen wasn’t blurring by you when you ran.  I don’t know how many different modes there are, but the one I saw was spies attempting to steal data, mercs attempting to stop them.  Spies won every time.

The party itself was a great event, but as a guy flying solo there, it was hard to penetrate the crowds.  A few heavy hitters had big crowds around them all night – Jade Raymond, Jay Acevedo, Patrick Redding were all there and were all popular.  The Ubisoft crowd wasn’t really there to demonstrate the product, just to enjoy the cubic feet of free booze.  I ended up chatting extensively with a photographer for This Week In Geek.  We bonded over our mutual love of Super Metroid and free booze.

I’ll post photos a little bit later.

Thursday, 10:43 am – Ricky

Well, I’m never leaving the house again, and my marriage will soon be in jeopardy.

Wednesday, 8:47 am – Ricky

Mmmkay that infographic is great. I love that “Nolan North” is listed as an “accent”! I still haven’t played all the way through Saints Row 3, and that’s not likely to change any time soon, unfortunately. Still, I’m cheering for SR4 to be a success.

Gaming time next to non-existent, so no big updates from me. Carry on.

Tuesday, 11:12 pm – Albert

Speaking of the new big thing – here is something to wet your whistle for Saints Row IV!

Tuesday, 3:14 pm – matt

I try to avoid all media on games coming out, that way im fresh as a baby experiencing everything in the game world for the first time. I also try not to read story developments or anything like that. I keep my life basically as if the internet doesn’t exist.

how do I find out about the next big thing? GAMENTARY!

Tuesday, 9:17 am – Gavin

Very rarely will I watch others playing video games for any extensive period of time.  If I’m uncertain about a game, I’ll watch a few previews to see if it’s the kind of thing that interests me, but by and large, e-sports aren’t something that really grasp me.  I acknowledge that players competing in e-sports are competing at the highest level and are probably the best players in the world, but I just don’t desperately find them entertaining.

However, I will watch speed runs of games with which I am intimately familiar, mostly because I know precisely how difficult it is for them to do what they do.  It’s neat to see how some gamers figure out the boundaries of a game and then learn how to push them.  The Speed Demos Archive has some really exceptional runs of games.  I find myself particularly interested in the 55 minute, 100% Super Metroid speed run, which I admit I’ve watched more times than I care to count because I find it absolutely fascinating.  Same thing with the 100% Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island speed runs.  I suppose it’s because I can not only acknowledge but also appreciate how hard it is for people to speed run those games.

That said, there are plenty of games I’ve played many times that I adamantly won’t watch a speed run for, and those are mostly FPS games.  The bunny hop technique makes it effectively unwatchable.  Also, I generally don’t care for speed runs unless they’re 100% speed runs.  Looking back to Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, I could absolutely move through that game more quickly than I did, but I know that it would be easier to do that.  Sprint everywhere, kill everyone, no secondary objectives, don’t care about alarms, that sort of thing.  But that’s not how I want to play the game, so why would I want to watch someone else play the game that way?  I generally like to explore and take my time and go for the “good” endings.

Nintendo has started implementing a built-in video tutorial into a few of its games, if you fail too often at a particular point.  I’ve never really taken advantage of it because I’ve always known exactly what I needed to do; it was just a matter of actually pulling it off.  But this kind of feature plays right in to this topic – you’re watching a computer play the game.  How is that any different to watching someone you’ve never met play the game, and not commentating on it?

I admit, I’ll probably never watch most Let’s Play videos.  I don’t want to watch someone stumbling around, missing things that I know are there or making mistakes that I don’t make.  It’s painful and cringe-worthy, like when you watch someone play Portal and you know the answer but they don’t.  Also, the overwhelming majority of people have absolutely no clue how to talk into a microphone, or think that rape and gay jokes are the funniest things in the world.

Monday, 2:11 pm – Albert

I feel like I’ve fallen behind in the times because I rarely look up a game unless for specific reasons. I used a LP youtube video for Terraria because that game was complicated to me. I remember watching a stream of Dead Rising 2 before it was released in North America. I was going to get it but I had to wait an extra couple of days because of the launch. So I watched someone play for a while. Pretty neat stuff.

On the Dota 2 front, I’m more of a League of Legends guy. I played original Dota and I tried Dota 2 when it first went to beta. It was overly complicated for someone who had spent many years off MOBAs. I have a friend who plays LoL so I decided to join him and with his guidance, the well crafted tutorial and bot training in LoL I soon found myself absorbed into the game. I’ve heard from people who play Dota 2 religiously and have tried LoL that their opinion is that LoL is Dota 2 Lite. Regardless, i’m more of a LoL fan and I think 5mm concurrent users agree with me. Perhaps the barrier to entry is lower but when you get into the depths of it – it cannot compare to Dota 2 complexities? Who knows?

This cartoon is relevant since i’ve been trying to get Ricky to try League of Legends (AND POCKET LEAGUE 2) with no success…

Monday, 8:21 am – Ricky

I think there’s a time for watching others game, and a time for playing a game. I definitely like watching someone play a game I’m interested in buying, but not quite sold on. I also like watching folks play games that I’m currently playing, but can’t at that particular moment. Perhaps I’m working on something else, or maybe I’m just lazy, but having a game streaming in the background is the equivalent to having a radio station on for me.

That said, I basically didn’t play any games this weekend. The Dota2 tournament was pretty incredible though – I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a “recap” video to post, but I know most people here don’t play the game so I’ll keep my comments short: It’s free, it’s fun, and you will get yelled at. If you’re still interested, send me a note.