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Accessibility: Why I suck in Dota 2

A steamfriend of mine hooked me up to DOTA 2. I like it alot but this must be the first game that I both like and hate at the same time. This love/hate thing brings me to a point where I always want to play a new game, but at the same time if I fed myself for the 10th time to unexpected ganking teamwork of enemy bots I can't help but profoundly feel like being the worst braindead noob.

I like the different ways you can play it, and for me it remains to be very very challanging. Not only am I still deep in the process of learning to deal with all these heroes and different items you are required to buy for them. But there's some obstacles for me that prevent me to fully enjoy it, namely my eyesight:

I've got tunnel vision because I only see partially trough one eye and nothing at all trough the other (right) eye. Secondly, my eye disease is called "nystagmus" which creates a huge amount of focus problems for me, especially on quick moving things, and the field of view on my left eye is also severely limited. Detecting stuff at the corner of the eye, or even being able to make out instantly if there's a new thing coming inside that focus is slower for me as usual. Being able to spot the minimap AND the gamefield at the same time is a hugely essential skill to have in this game. So with tunnel vision, you can imagine how often that I'm surprise attacked (aka buttsex).

Also I have very bad visual memory and am generally slow in learning faces, details and characteristics of visuals on small objects. Just my luck, that those are actually exactly the skills that are MOST demanded in this game.  DOTA presents you with an overhead view on the world, You have to spot things in the corner of your eye, you have to quickshop, deal with surprise encounters with enemy heroes, deal with microchanges in the enemy team's position and see who is in front and who's in the back, which drasticly changes the way your team has to attack. You need all this information to quickly act on that, while there's a constant thread of spells being spammed upon you.

Added to this problem for me is that I can never detect enemy heroes quickly enough, the color of their health bar is not enough for me to register and act quickly. And when you have to move the camera around all the time, all heroes look the same until the fight is over , my camera is stable but more often than not, I'm dead :)

If I have to describe the problem detecting enemy heroes, imagine how it is for western people to read chineese facial characteistic. Don't we think they're "all the same"? It's the same thing for me in Dota. Yet you need this information to determine what hero it is and what spell they are going to potentially use against you. And it depends on the situation. If I have to do quick camera moves I'll be very bad in knowing what hero is coming at me.

I can see the difference between Viper and Sven. tide hunter and zeus, between bane and tiny. But  bane looks too similar to Dazzle, and Warlock looks like Dragon Knight, drow ranger like phantom asassin etc. So the difference are more subtile between those later mentioned and more difficult to make out when quickly moving the camera,because in the case of Drow and PA, they are both blue and have a blueish cape, so that is sometimes hard to distinguish in wild moments.

In the beginning, I also had huge problems with being dire. Suddenly your green allied creeps become red creeps and they are your ALLIES. Suddenly your green field because brown and it's your home turf!. The first month this has been very very hard for me to cope with. It's a bit better now but I'd like to explain this further.

I had to let go of the conventions that green (or blue) = allies, and red = enemy. In Dota2's dire team it's a bit mixed up. I had a huge tendency to continuously see radiant towers, radient creeps and radient underground as friendly when I'm dire. This seems to be something I "forget" easily no matter how much I try, after a few minutes in game, I kinda tend to relapse from time to time still. and then run against towers. So when I practice with bots I always take Radiant. I guess it's something that you have to get used to.

You can ask if I don't have a grasp of team switching mechanics and how that works. But you got to admit that in dota 2, it's quite different from other games. in Soccer, all team members have the same shirt. In quake, you had a red team and a blue team, it's easy to spot, you have games that you can visually adjust to have the red team characters all look "red" etc..In Dota 2 however, not only are all heros different and it's not always so easy to spot which is an enemy hero. The easiest way for me to see who's an enemy hero is to look at their healthbar's color and constantly remind myself (by pressing tab) that the witchdoctor is the enemy. But as you might guess it's often too late then :)  Or I can check it on the minimap, which I changed to show green and red names, rather than the colors of all players, to memorize of all 10 colors who is who was somehow hard for me in the beginning.  I'm not color blind but this game has way too much color conventions, so I loose track, nothing is really sanitized and simplified in "team orders". It took me a long time to memorize magenta and red colors to be Radient colors, and brown and cyan to be Dire colors.

What I do think is that if this game would have a few accessibility features, it would help me being "good in coop". I'm not even saying that I am "demanding" all thie stuff. I'm just saying what the game requires to be accessible to me personally. I wanted to tell this because I really like this game but there's just things about it that creates an insurmountable hore for me to act quickly, just on these moments that I would need it the most.

As color blind mode is something they would like to still implement (but is not functioning ingame yet) I'd like to provide some other accessibility helpers.

  • A bigger cursor with a better visible color. The standard cursor is quite small and in quick actions you have to drag it quickly and I never know where it is "at a glance". If it would have a blinky radial around it when it moves: that would be great. I would like to experiment by recoloring it in light yellow, bright pink, with a bright translucent ring around it to make it more visible because it has to move constantly and I usually loose it in busy moments. I end up clicking on things I don't want to click on :P PANIC! Half the time when I need to determine quickly what to do, I just don't see it. That's bad, really really bad. You can't describe how bad this is to play dota like this. it's gameplay is so centric around cursor and constant camera movement. There is the problem of rightclicking precision that gets lost if you are so terrible at locating the cursor quickly. I end up running into enemy heroes in team fights, just because I click NEXT to a hero and not on his head. Or how about the times where I run into them if I want to in fact hide in the bushes but rightclick on an elevated slope of the map so my hero runs in the opposite direction of where I want him/her to run ? All this would be somewhat improved with a bigger cursor.
  • A flashing colored hue at the edges of the screen when enemy heroes are in the neighbourhood, changing color when becoming more threatening, possibly in the form of arrows. The minimap is a cool refference in quiet moments but when it's needed the most, it DOES NOT work for me (remember: tunnel vision, refocus problems). After a few months I've seen a slight improvement regarding these situations where I have to notice the enemy heroes offscreen at the blink of an eye. But I often get stunned and killed because I thought there was only one, and as I look at the minimap, there's actually much more: at that moment it's already too late.. You may ask: how can you play other games ? Well, in 3d games you see what you see but in DOTA , you look at the world as if you're looking down to the ground while running all the time. At least that's how it is for me. Only NOW I start to make out what he jungle is :) In early game for example, either I have to concentrate on last hitting creeps while I'm farming, but then I absolutely can't see the minimap and have  to plant my face on it :) And if there's a bunch of ganking enemy heroes nearby it'll be usually too late if someone else doesn't warn me.
  • A more stark (contrast rich) outline of areas that will make you dissapear in the fog of war (for the other enemy). (Note: In Heroes of the storm, you see an eye on top of your head when you are in the fog of war and invisible to enemies).
  • This might seem stupid but I often literally loose myself in a team fight, so a blinking or flashing "own player" character or ring would help to increasse the difference between myself and the entire team in relation to the enemy team during intense situationes where all heroes are together.
  • When an enemy is about to cast a spell it's only really telegraphed in a very subtile way but it's just way too subtile for me to ONLY rely on their visual animation on a spell they are going to cast. It should make a sound whenever a hero is about to cast it. Maybe even tonal. Have a  C, D, E, F and G note chime played on the 5 enemy positions as they are casting a spell. There are several situations where you can know enemy teams are attacked, like if they have drums of endurance or buckler or with sven's warcry; You know that this is usually a sign that the enemy team is going to attack. But to determine it individually on any hero who casts a spell is very difficult for me.
  • Contrast rich "Accessible" creep health bar colors (and size), so they are a bit brighter
  • Last hit flashing creep health bars. The idea here is that those health bars start flashing when they are at a point that you can kill them  with one hit. The last hit phase of an initial game is just such a pixel hunt for me, and I think for many other people as well. The skill of last hitting isn't hard to understand and is a fun idea. But for somebody with a visual disabillity it's hard to master. So to have the healthbar flash when a creep is "lasthittable" - depending on the item that does the least amount of damage - would be a great aid
  • Hero Teamcolors: It would be very nice if there was a mode where radiant / dire players could emit a colored light glow or being all colored in a hue to better accentuate which team they are. As I talked before about how hard it is for me to make out the difference between heroes, this would help allot I think. Yes I know the enemy team has a red health bar, but in quick situations it's not enough. I'm not even saying that all of this is going to make me a good player at dota. It's just a good thought experiment.
  • Fog of war troubles: I already told about how lack of visual memory impacts me in getting to know the world as it is seen from top down in dota 2. If that's not enough, the game also has this mechanic called "fog of war" where your enemies are invisible until you can surround it with your creeps or use wards or items to counteract this. The nature of this mechanic is such that - for example in the jungle - enemy heroes can just pop about right in front of you and mostly it's too late for me at that time. I would have to play heroes that are suited to use these visual enhancements, but aren't nesseccarily my kind of playstyle. There's nothing really that I can think of to change it before it becomes unfair. So I tend to stay on lanes and not "jungle".
  • Item search subtags: Allow search for item tags, such as aura, mana etc: so that if I want to look for urn and aura enhancing options, we can visualize the items that do this. It took me some time to get those items memorized. When you spend lots of time with the heroes specific build, you get the hang of which item upgrades to which greater item, but in the begining this is all so blurry because items in dota 2 aren't really straight laced. There's not definite magic item or definite strength item. You need to memorize the item that is most effective for your particular hero.
  • Better illustration about the what and whatnots in this game. For example, Roshan can't be hit by many stun spells so why not just telegraph it better ? The only thing you see rightnow is that when you hit it with a witch doctor cascet, it shows you the "denied" effect from a linken sphere. When you are attacking an enemy uphill you get a "missed" sign if you miss an attack. Then why doesn't roshan show the word "immune" to these spells that don't have effect on it ?

    Another situation I feel very trolled is in case you want to use a tango, the trees that you can use get HIGHLIGHTED in light green!. This is not even a crucial tactic because your character will just walk up to the tree and snatch it. But why is it that in situations that are very crucial like with timbersaw's escape, you have no telegraph whatsoever on what object the chain will hook onto, and in "dire" situations I misclick often resulting in no escape. To me this is reverse logic. The aid is NOT there in tense situations but for just eating a tango in a relaxed early game you get a highlight.

    I DO understand that this isn't desired behavior for pudge though. As it SHOULD be skill based to reel in an enemy hero; Although you could again think it's a double standard compared to clockwerk's ult which is in essence a reverse "locked on" version of Pudge's hook spell.

So you see, I do like so much about the game. All these meta mechanics like double stacking, creep blocking, tripple laning, gank phase, roam phase, secret shopping with the courier, micromanagement of golems when you're warlock.. It's all very engaging and I want o continue to play but I'll never be a champion.

I'm slowly getting to get used to the symmetry of the map. Where roshan is, where you can jungle, the escape points, where the ancients hare. the visible and the invisible spots.

Anyways, there you have it, my reasons why I (will continue to) suck at DOTA2 :P I hope that at least somebody takes this seriously and not immediately goes calling me a troll or call this "gaming hyperbole" I do this to explain the pitfalls I experience, and because this game got me hooked. I just wanted to point out the reasons why I suck very bad at this game rightnow and I will probably keep playing the training quest against people / practice with bots for ever. But that's good because it keeps being a challenge for me.

As I said in another accessibility blog post on this site, I know how tough it is for developers to find a balance of accessibility and how it affects players. And that when you go into much extremes to assist players, other players will think you're "holding their hand". So there's a big dilemma there.



A wrote

Hey there.. Add me up on steam. Lets play together sometime.