October 14, 2016

The Pros and Cons of the Meta, & Other Tidbits

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Meta  |  Casual  |  Builds
This has been on my mind for a while, so thought I'd blog it. Sorry for the TL;DR.

Firstly, for anyone not familiar with me, I'm a full-on casual player on PC. I generally don't take the game too seriously, and I've never said that I'm a great player. However, that doesn't mean I don't want to do my best, no matter if it's an unbalanced solo-queue Assault match, or a Conquest match with clan-mates (which, by the way, includes SF regulars such as DucksRock, ThePerfectPrism, Zilby, GameGeekFan, Bullfrog323, and others). If you're curious, you can view my records on SmiteGuru, here.

Part of doing my best is trying to be aware, and of playing intelligently (e.g. not diving when I know it's unlikely to end in my favor). This is extremely variable, as it is affected by things such as the quality of teammates' and enemy's plays and skill level, the composition of gods, etc. In a way, I have little control over some of these things.

The other part of doing my best is the effort I've put into understanding the game and mechanics as much as possible. Some of the things I've learned here, I've tried to share in my guides. They include not only general knowledge and strategy, but also of practice and familiarity with gods and items, how items synergize together and with specific gods, etc. These are all things I absolutely have control over, though some of these (becoming intimately familiar with gods, for example) only come with time.

The Meta

And that sort of leads into the main topic...the Meta. The following definition is taken from Smite Academy:

Meta. Metagame. The game’s current conventions or playstyle, pertaining to such aspects as lane setup and jungling, starting positions and openings, character choice and team composition, itemization and build order.

More than anything, the Meta is determined by the preferences and tendencies of the pros. And why not? They play way more than us, probably research things way more than us, and their skill levels blow us (or at least me) away. In many ways, tailoring your game after the Meta is a good way to give yourself a solid base from multiple standpoints.

From my perspective, the problem the community has with the Meta stems from those who blindly follow the Meta, without really understanding the details behind the builds, or the compositions, or whatever. Those are the people that just look at builds, and if you're not building like they know you should, then you suck, or you know $#!+, and it gives them full rights to BM you even if they're doing worse themselves. You love those people, don't you?

And this leads to people who hear the word "Meta" and do this:

In these cases, people sometimes take it to the other extreme, by feeling the need to deviate from the Meta, BECAUSE. If the individual building or writing a guide has a good understanding of the game and mechanics, it can sometimes lead to a functional, viable build, at least in situational circumstances. Other times, it can turn into a horrible mess (and then we hear about it on Reddit, lol).

This aversion to the Meta isn't really a logical thing...my guess is that it likely stems from an individual's need to be unique, or from their bitterness toward those blind Meta followers. And that's where we really should think about 2 things:
  1. The Meta can teach us or otherwise help us understand some fundamentals.
  2. We don't always have to follow the Meta, but changes still should be based on a solid understanding of said fundamentals.
These fundamentals range from gameplay (starting processes, rotations, warding) to building as efficiently as possible (build order, item choices, counter-building, etc.). We should always keep our eyes, ears, and minds open to different ideas, and also to furthering our own knowledge and understanding of the game. And for the most part, we do...that's why we visit sites like these, right? The difficult part, of course, is not letting our egos get in the way.

Variables

In the end, the mechanics of this game are set in code. The players, and the many choices we are given, create the variability within each match. And that is one of the fundamental things we need to remember.
  • What may work in one match isn't guaranteed to work in the next. Even if it works 5 times in a row, it doesn't mean it's an OMGl33t build. Same goes the other way. Sometimes, you need to learn the strengths of a specific build, and tailor your game to take advantage of that. It can take time.
  • Casual matches generally allow for much more experimentation, with a higher potential level of success.
  • The PC platform has a longer history with MOBA games. It also provides a higher potential level of gameplay, due to precision controls (mouse) and a quicker, more flexible method of concise communication/purchasing/etc. (keyboard). The influx of console players has lead to a shift in the community, and from what we're finding, you can get away with a LOT more on console than PC. With regard to builds, this has also lead to a greater amount of sometimes questionable builds that would have a harder time working on PC. (This isn't meant to be a knock on console players.) And who knows? Maybe in some cases, builds considered solid on PC might lose out to a unique build on console.
These are only some of the many things that contribute to a constantly changing game, and why no two matches are ever alike.

What's my point here? Well, I'm not really sure, but I'd rehash that it's best to keep an open mind, as there is always something else we can learn, and not everything we think is right is ALWAYS that way. We also want to keep this community going, so being positive when we can, and avoiding toxicity when possible, is the best way to create the best experience we possibly can.

Thoughts, comments, and sharing personal viewpoints is welcomed!

Game on.