I’m not the sort of person who takes strongly to nature. I don’t mind it, and I’ve spent time in it without issue. It’s not as if I have a phobia. But it doesn’t interest me a whole lot. Put me in a lush forest next to a beautiful lake and I’ll use it as an excuse to do some reading and have a nap, no matter how good the fishing and hiking may be, or how nice the water is. However, there is one part of nature that I do adore. That would be clouds.

I love clouds. I love the big fluffy ones. I love the long lumpy ones. I love rain clouds and storm clouds. I’ll even take a grey, overcast day over a cloudless blue sky, if given a choice (and I rarely am!). Mostly I enjoy the way they look, and one of the best ways I have of relaxing is to go for a walk, listen to some good music, and look at some puffy, cotton candy clouds.

So I spend a lot of time looking up into the sky while I’m walking. More than most people I encounter. Sure, I have a tendency toward twisting my ankles on things I’m not looking at, but so far none of those spills have broken anything. The occasional public display of terrible coordination and rampant clumsiness is a small price to pay for a better view. And if it makes someone smile to see me nearly snapping my foot off while walking down the street, well, good for them.

I tell you all of that to give context to something I saw a couple of years back while on one of my walks. It was a very windy day, and there were clouds everywhere. It wasn’t cold or raining, just windy. Perfect jacket weather, though for some reason I was the only person on the street not in an enclosed vehicle. Anyway, I was approaching the nearest major intersection to where I live, and I was looking up at the sky. There was something odd up there, above the traffic lights. At first I thought it might be a plastic bag. But it wasn’t moving, or at least it wasn’t being blown away. When I got a little closer I could see that it was actually a seagull, flying level and against the wind. It was flapping and struggling, but no matter how hard it tried it couldn’t make any progress. So it hung there in the air, right in the middle of the intersection. Had I been in a more poetic mood, and was also playing myself in some terrible indie movie, I could have taken that encounter as the universe trying to tell me something. At the time I had other things on my mind, but I did stop to watch that seagull exerting with everything it had, yet making no progress at all, for a good 5 minutes, or at least until the end of the song I was listening to.

I never forget that bird, because maybe it was the universe trying to tell me something. After all, If people can see Jesus in their French toast then why can’t I see my destiny in an ugly, garbage eating animal?

Everyone who plays any competitive game with the intention of improving at it should know a few basics about how to develop skills, and also about how players plateau. As little regard as I have for anonymous matchmaking systems, I’ll admit that giving people nice, round numbers to attain can help with motivation. Now every DotA 2 player that wants to can get themselves a personalized number, and with time they can build on that number and reach newer, higher numbers that they have never reached before. That’s progress, I suppose.

Before I started my solo queue calibration games I made a few assumptions and predictions. Primarily, I looked at the MMR ratings and how they broke down as population percentages. I saw that a score between 3000 and 4000 would put a player in the 80th-90th percentile, and that’s where I figured I’d end up, if my calibration games went reasonably.

Seems a few of my assumptions were off. First off, and I only suspected this at the time, it’s generally agreed now that the 10 calibration games are only small part of what a player’s ranked MMR ends up being. The biggest factor involved is what their hidden non-ranked MMR was before they started their calibration games. There also seems to be plenty of disagreement about how the ranked MMR player percentiles break down compared to the non-ranked population. That makes sense: it’s a zero-sum system, and by adding conditions to who can play ranked games, both real (a player’s account needs to be a certain level before they can enter the ranked queue), and artificial (plenty of players who are able to play ranked will choose not to), plenty of the population will be cut from the equation. I remember when dotabuff was introducing their skill rankings, which they claimed were pretty close to the ones Valve used, and they said that a significant number of the overall player pool was dormant accounts or people who just play bot games, which would artificially boost many player’s numbers, since by the mere act of playing at all they would be elevating themselves above all the dead accounts. But I’m quite bad at numbers, so that’s as far as I’m going into that.

My point is that it seems less certain for ranked MMR which numbers are good, or even above average.

Anyway, I’ve been delaying it too long, so here is my final post-calibration MMR:

mmr rating

My feelings about that number have changed a few times since I first saw it. Initially I was a bit disappointed.

But then I read over, and remembered, my calibration games, and realized I had nothing to complain about. Even from the tone I was using it should be obvious that I was never that happy with how I played, and I did go 4-6. That’s not false modesty, either. I didn’t play that well in any of those games. It may not really matter how I played if the score was based on where I was before I started, but the important thing I took away, after some more thought, and maybe a dream about that seagull, is that it’s a score I don’t have to worry about. It’s a score that tells me I haven’t plateaued. The fact that I can now properly spell plateaued at all without having to use a dictionary is also a good sign.

A 4600 puts me within spitting distance of 5000 (I have since played a few more ranked games and am around 4700, even with a freak disconnect and abandon), and 5000 seems to be a generally agreed upon demarcation for good players. It also puts me in a place where I know I can play better, and therefore get a higher arbitrary number in my DotA 2 profile. I mean, if I can tumble down a flight of stairs into 4600, what could I manage if I didn’t play like I’m secretly left handed (I actually am left handed, but it’s not a secret). I could be at 5000 in as few as 16-20 games, if I pull my finger out.

So, universe, if that bird was supposed to be me then you got it wrong. Unless there is more to life than DotA, but that seems absurd.

All in all, I’m more satisfied with my score than I thought I would be. Maybe now someone will finally pity me enough to play ranked party games so I can find out what my party MMR is.


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