The Dota Diaries: Donkey Management

Written on October 21, 2014 – 1:26 pm by Ding
Even the courier can tell I don't know what I'm doing.

Even the courier can tell I don’t know what I’m doing.

DOTA 2 is by far the best competitive online multiplayer video game to feature donkey management.

In my previous Dota Diary about getting started with DOTA 2, one of the core features I mentioned is the need to spend money on items in order to keep pace with your opponents and improve your hero.

Killing AI controlled enemies and managing to take down enemy heroes rewards you with gold that starts burning a hole in your pocket. You can then exchange this for things in one of three shops on the map.

Ding, remember to buy your items!

The speed at which I was advised by a helpful team-mate to spend my money at the start of the match was my first clue as to how important this was. For longer than I’d like to admit, items were something that didn’t really interest me. I knew they were there, but scanning through the selection of items which all have unique-yet-often-similar icons and tiny little mathematical modifications listed on their descriptions wasn’t something that was working out for me.

In this match, I was accompanied by meat-space friends, something that gives new jittery players like myself a tremendous amount of confidence, because if anyone starts getting too mean, you know that at least two of the other four people on your team have theoretically got your back.

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The Dota Diaries: Starting out with Dota 2

Written on October 15, 2014 – 3:28 pm by Ding
This content is rated FG, for full geek. This post may not be suitable for all.

This content is rated FG, for full geek. This post may not be suitable for all.

When you do something stupid, you probably won’t know that you’re doing something stupid, but the rest of your team will.

The first ten minutes are normally the ten you can get away with before someone calls you out on doing something wrong, unless you do something daft like go and get yourself killed. Twice. Within the first 30 seconds. Before the match has even started.

After this, your team will probably start having different ideas and theories about where everyone should be pushing and exactly what should be in your inventory and when you should and shouldn’t be running into and out of a fight and things start getting interesting, or at least stressful, which is a kind of interesting.

A quest for understanding

There are many people who do not understand DOTA 2. Several of these people are DOTA 2 players, but  the rest are those who might have tried DOTA 2, got shouted at and decided it wasn’t for them, people who have seen it from the sidelines and failed to see the appeal, those who don’t own a PC or haven’t seen it as a gaming platform, and those who don’t understand gaming as a whole and don’t know what a DOTA is, let alone that there appears to be two of them.

As of a few weeks ago, I firmly sat somewhere between the camps of people who have been shouted at and people who don’t see the appeal. It’s a really odd title and your first few games will likely make it or break it for you. Or maybe it will just confuse you enough to make you want to write a 1000+ word blog post about it.

What is DOTA 2?

When you’re starting out with DOTA 2, there’s a lot to take in. In short, Defense of the Ancients Two (DOTA 2) is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) developed and published by Valve (Valve isn’t an acronym) and sporting a free-to-play (F2P) model making it open to anyone with a Steam (also not an acronym) account.

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Kaplan’s video game translations infographic

Written on October 3, 2014 – 10:39 am by Ding

Below is something the awesome guys at work put together about video game translations.

In this infographic, you have the opportunity to learn a little bit of French! Also, the site, Kiss My Geek that it’s co-branded with is also a neat little site that I’ve taken to reading in an effort to improve my awful French language skills.

Particular favourites of mine in the image below are entries for Ezio from Assassin’s Creed and the original Grand Theft Auto.

Parlez-vous jeux vidéo ?
Parlez-vous jeux vidéo ? – Kaplan International

Tortoise Butler launches a site of its own

Written on April 11, 2014 – 11:05 am by Ding


The delightful crew that I make films with on a regular basis and who have taught me everything I know has launched a lovely little site housing our short films and a blog written by the film crew.

Keep your eyes peeled for posts that will be going up over the next few weeks (my first post about creepy film locations is already up) and a new film that should be going live next week after we finish another 48 hour film challenge!

The main site can be found here: Tortoise Butler

A far wetter way to learn English (April Fools!)

Written on April 1, 2014 – 8:00 am by Ding

UPDATE: This is of course a contribution to my favourite day of the year, April Fool’s Day. It was a huge amount of fun to work on!

By day, I currently work for Kaplan International and they’re doing something very exciting. They are launching a really brave product that is set to take the education industry by storm. The video below should explain things a little more.

They let me help out making the launch video too and we’re all very proud of how it has turned out.

More information can be found here: Kaplan Underwater English

In Defence of Dungeon Keeper Mobile

Written on February 20, 2014 – 9:30 am by Ding

Dungeon Keeper Mobile upset a lot of fans of the original series. Once the dust had settled a little, I wrote a piece defending it for Den of Geek.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

Some will tell you this heralds the end of gaming as we know it.

really wanted to write a piece actually defending it as a game outright as opposed to what I went with in the end. Tempting as it is to play devil’s advocate and fight for a position you don’t really hold, I just couldn’t produce anything approximating a positive review of this thing.

My distaste for the non-game pay-and-wait model is overwhelming and my suspicion of micro-transactional features runs deep enough that it actually threatens to stop me enjoying perfectly excellent games like Hearthstone which carry similar strands in its DNA.

At the same time, I do like change and I do welcome companies trying new ways to make money out of an industry that seems to lose far more of it than anyone expects. With yesterday’s news that Irrational was being wound up, it shows that even large well established studios can be hit with the financial failure stick, so if a few shoddy games can provide the data points needed to explore new revenue avenues, then it’s realistically a small price to pay.

Yeti Hunter Review

Written on January 28, 2014 – 12:55 pm by Ding

This review for Yeti Hunter, a free PC game from Vlambeer, first appeared on X, a site I now pretend never existed.

The first time I saw a yeti, the hairs on the back of my neck rose and prodded the nerves that coiled round to my temples and then proceeded to stop me breathing for the next three seconds. It was the first indication that I was not in fact alone in the blazing white snow-scape I had found myself in and that there were in fact yetis out there, or at least one, for me to hunt.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game's world.

Always a pleasant sight to welcome you to a game’s world.

Having come away from the game for a few minutes it occurs to me that I’m only assuming that I was the hunter because I was the one holding the gun and because on this particular occasion, the yeti was running away from me. There was no guarantee that this would always be the case or that the Yeti was even aware of my existence. Perhaps it was just frolicking, blissfully unaware of the terrified and quivering wreck currently cowering behind a cross-hair.

Yeti Hunter from Vlambeer is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in an art gallery. In terms of atmosphere, it should be played by anyone who is in any doubt of the potential evocative nature of gaming as a medium, even through a retro aesthetic. The landscape is a crude, pixelated affair, outwardly resembling something that would be spat out by an ancient Atari, but the flickering snow and blinding white haze reveals a graphical sophistication that older machines would have been incapable of.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

Not shown by picture: my fear-bulged eyes.

As for the atmosphere, the first time the scene snapped from day to night, and I do mean to use the word snapped, my heart decided it wanted to occupy a space that was half its size, contracting down with the shift in music. Said music, from Kozilek, does an incredible job of further pushing the tone and feeling of extreme solitude in a hostile or at best bleak environment.

The scratchy, shaky appearance of the snow and pixel-trees, accompanied by the haunting music played through my headphones in combination with the fact that I rather foolishly played this in the dark with the flickers of torrential snow lightly strobing against my walls, meant that the one thing it put me in mind of the most was the horror film The Ring. Upon exiting the game, I half expected to find an email from the yeti reading ‘seven days’.

I scare easily in games. I put the controller down very early on in Silent Hill 2 because unlike in a horror film, actually walking away is of course an option. That said, the atmosphere and tension that Yeti Hunter manages to build on such few resources is astounding. It is in no doubt a short form game, and not exactly something you can play for very long, nor I doubt very often, but it is an example of a supreme piece of game design and highly compelling, even if the lack of instruction or definitive objective can be a little unsettling.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

It is really rather difficult to convey just how much atmosphere this game has in these screens.

I have yet to actually kill the/one of the yetis. I’m not even certain it’s possible and to be perfectly honest, I’m a little concerned of the potential consequences of doing so. If I find myself actually face to face with one, it will be interesting to see if I can pull the trigger and I appear to have taken to hiding up trees instead.

Verdict: Yeti Hunter didn’t feel the need to give me a score, so I won’t do the same to it. This should be looked at by any budding designer, anyone who needs convincing that games can be artistic, or anyone who wants a good atmospheric scare.

Yeti hunter was developed by Vlambeer with music from Kozilek. It is available as a free downloaded on the Yeti Hunter site.

Update: I wrote this long ago before I knew who Vlambeer were and and before the studio had done a huge amount. They have become one of the most interesting indie developers currently on the scene, and as a bonus recommendation, its mobile game Ridiculous Fishing is one of the few mobile titles that can be whole-heartedly recommended.

Check out this page for a selection of more video game reviews. They may not be the latest games or the most regularly updated, but they are definitely reviews.

The Candy Banner Saga

Written on January 27, 2014 – 2:15 pm by Ding

King, purveyors of the saccharine free-to-play money-generating pit that is Candy Crush Saga had a busy time in the headlines last week thanks to its legal shenanigans. The company has attempted to trademark the word Candy and has also tried to assert its ownership of the word Saga, which has put them at odds with indie developer Stoic, the studio behind Viking legend-themed RPG, The Banner Saga.

The Banner Saga

A typical shot of The Banner Saga. Beautiful art style and a ton of polish.

Back in 2011, I wrote something about a lawsuit between Bethesda Softworks and Mojang with the former claiming that the latter’s upcoming game “Scrolls” would confuse players into thinking it was somehow associated with its “The Elder Scrolls” series (more commonly known amongst gamers as Skyrim, Oblivion, and maybe the odd older title such as the far superior Morrowind). The King vs Stoic incident is similar, even down to the size of the companies involved.

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Hearthstone Beta Review

Written on December 31, 2013 – 5:36 pm by Ding

The Hearthstone Beta review

Initially Hearthstone comes across as a shameless copy of Magic: The Gathering. Of course, Magic: The Gathering is an excellent game marred only by the fact that your friends are smarter than you, know which cards go together perfectly, and don’t keep getting distracted and filling their decks with low-health creatures. I may only be speaking for myself there of course.


I was ready to write off Hearthstone as Magic: The Copying and call it a day but there’s just something about Blizzard’s level of polish that makes that quite hard to do. Four hours later I had fully filed my nails down with my teeth and had both feet tucked up onto my chair as the last few points hung in the balance between my confused Paladin (he didn’t know why his cards were all low-health creatures) and a suicidal Warlock constantly hurting himself to get better cards whilst I ineffectually poked him with a town guard.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a Blizzard Entertainment project that looks to be lining its cross-hairs on the lucrative (I initially typed ludicrous and I’m not sure I was right to correct it) free-to-play market. It is a digital collectible card game whereby players collect cards, build decks out of those cards, and then battle each other with those decks. You unlock cards by levelling up or earning gold through the game, or by putting your credit card details down to buy more of them directly.

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The UK youth work ethic: The simplest mystery

Written on September 3, 2013 – 4:50 pm by Ding

This post is filed under “r” for “rant”

Jamie Oliver made the media jump around in excitement and caused small disgruntled and self righteous youth eruptions around Facebook a few days ago in an interview with Good Housekeeping by saying that his restaurants would be unable to run if it wasn’t for the help of young foreign workers to pick up the slack of the UK’s own home-grown talent.

Claims that the UK’s youth workers lack a work ethic, lack ambition, are lazy and generally “wet behind the ears” as he put it were predictably met by protestations from hundreds of genuinely hard working young workers who disagreed with him. As with any inflammatory statement, there is no right or wrong answer here and both sides have merit, but I’ve been thinking about those young workers that are actually apparently lazy and all I can really think is “it’s really not their fault”.

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