Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Awesomenauts - 16/20 hours

It's always hard to assess one's own progress when learning a new skill. I think I'm improving, but Awesomenauts doesn't track stats for practice games, so I can't say for sure. I'm still at about 50% win ratio, but the victories feel more decisive and the losses feel more hard-fought.

The problem is that there are so many factors that go into a match that it's hard to isolate the influence of "my personal skill" on the outcome. The AI seems to have more difficulty with some characters than with others. So if I get a couple of good teammates and the AI gets a bad team, then it usually goes pretty well, despite what I do. On the other hand, if the AI opponent gets a good team draw, it can be a real struggle to stay alive.

It's also likely that the character I'm playing also influences the outcome (I'm still choosing "random" on the character select screen). When I played as Yuri, the jetpack-wearing space ape, I managed to get 11 kills with one death. When I played as Admiral Swiggins, the octopus who had apparently attained a high military rank, I managed to get two kills with eight deaths. Either I'm much better with Yuri, or the AI can't handle the character's unusual verticality.

Regardless, my success is greatly dependent on which character I draw. It seems clear to me now that if I want to advance in skill or take on multiplayer I need to narrow my focus. Pick three characters (so that I an always get one if the other players choose my favorites) and practice with them exclusively until I have the confidence to take it to the next level.

I can't help feeling, though, like I'll be missing out. This game provides me with a whole cast of colorful characters and I'm taking most of them off my list in order to pursue mastery in just a few. I wonder if the tradeoff  is worth it.

That's the thing with me -  as much as I admire mastery, I have the soul of a dilettante. I know it's foolish, but given a choice, I'll always take an expansive buffet over an exquisitely produced delicacy. I'm sure that when I go to the donut shop, I annoy the clerks unreasonably. I'll assemble a dozen donuts out of 10 individual kinds, and I can't help looking at the Awesomenauts characters in the same way. I want to try the cream-filled one, and the one with sprinkles, and the one that has bacon on the top (this is a real donut my local shop sells and it's surprisingly delicious).

Which is probably just as well. It's been suggested to me that it takes hundreds of hours to get good enough at an online game to be anything but the lowest rung on the multiplayer ladder, and that seems reasonable to me. And I can't imagine the dedication and passion that someone would have to have to gain that experience. You'd either need to pare down your games list to only a few games or play one consistently as a secondary game for months or years to get to that level.

As much as I might enjoy the easier Awesomenauts matches, the game as a whole simply doesn't call to me in that way. It's pleasant, but not compelling. I don't think I could commit to it long enough for my "pick a couple of characters to focus on" strategy to make much of a difference, and certainly not long enough to become a real specialist with any of the awesomenauts.

I think I've got to at least try, though. See how far I can take it in my remaining 4 hours. I'll almost certainly still suck at the end of that time, but maybe I won't be a complete embarrassment (hey, I think I just found my epitaph).

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