PC Gamer

A few years ago, Valve rolled out a community-run tool for judging unwanted player behavior for the online FPS Counter-Strike: Global Offensive called Overwatch. Unrelated to the Blizzard FPS of the same name, Valve's Overwatch system gives select players the ability to watch replays of bad behavior reported by other players and impose penalties "proportional to" the offense: "Suspects who are convicted of griefing are given a moderate cooldown, whereas cheaters are removed from the game entirely," the CS:GO Overwatch FAQ explains. But the update released yesterday takes some of that discretion out of the hands of judges, and imposes significantly harsher penalties on repeat offenders.

Along with a small number of fixes, tweaks, and a wish for a happy Halloween, the October 25 patch notes states, "A temporary griefing conviction assigned by Overwatch will now be elevated to a permanent conviction if the suspect had a previous temporary griefing conviction." Two strikes and you're out, in other words, and even as someone who enjoys watching cheaters eat a hard swing of the banhammer, that seems a bit harsh.

Not everyone thinks so, though. This guy expressed his displeasure with his cooldown becoming a permaban, but most of the commenters in the follow-up thread, and quite a number of people in the CS:GO subreddit, seem to be in favor of the change and have little apparent sympathy for anyone who falls victim to it. The trouble, at least potentially, is that players who happen to be caught up in a false positive are faced with a real hassle: The "Competitive Cooldowns and Bans" FAQ opens with a stern warning, outlined in red, that "cooldowns and bans are non-negotiable and cannot be removed or reduced by Steam Support."

Watch your step, kids.

Thanks, Kotaku.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

It’s both trick and treat for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive [official site] in the latest update. With Spookday almost upon us, Valve have unleashed the scary chickens again. This time, they’ve got cute little carved pumpkin heads as they strut and scurry around levels. Those sillies are the treat. The trick? Valve are ramping up the punishment for players convicted of griefing by a trial of their peers, going straight to permanent bans on the second offence. And then Chet Faliszek TPs your house. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

As I predicted, so it shall soon come to pass. The same game in no less than four slots in the Steam chart (comprising, as always, those games which sold best over the past week). Out, damn top-spot hoggers. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

Although League of Legends' upcoming semifinals dominate the headlines this weekend, there's plenty to watch from top-tier CS:GO on both sides of the Atlantic to fantastic Street Fighter V to Rocket League and Smite. Have a great weekend!

League of Legends: World Championship Semifinals

Not long now until League of Legends crowns its 2016 world champions. This weekend, the four remaining teams will convene in Madison Square Garden to determine which two Korean teams have what it takes to advance to the grand finals. One of those teams could be European hopefuls H2K, of course, but... yeah. We'll see. Check out Cassandra's preview for more on the semifinalists, and find the livestream via LoLesports.


CSGO's Friday night cable TV league starts up again today with $1,100,000 to play for between now and early December. Group A including mousesports, C9, FaZe and Immortals will play tonight from 15:00 PDT/midnight CEST. If you don't have TBS, you can also catch the games on Twitch.

CSGO: Epicenter 2016 Playoffs

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the best of European and CIS CS:GO clash in Moscow for a share of $500,000. Play begins at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST on Saturday and an hour earlier at 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST on Sunday. Epicenter's Dota 2 finals earlier in the year were fantastic, so the CS:GO community should be in for a treat. Watch the livestream here.

Rocket League: League Play

There's another weekend of Rocket League season 2 play ahead, with NA going at it on Saturday from 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. On Sunday, the best of Europe will compete from 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST. The official Rocket League Twitch account has the stream.

Capcom Pro Tour: ranking events

A relatively modest weekend of fighting games ahead after a busy couple of months. This weekend sees two ranking events: Malaysia's FV Cup and an online event in Asia-Oceania. Many top Asian Street Fighter V players are attending FV Cup, along with the UK's Ryan Hart. Play continues throughout the weekend, starting at 20:00 PDT every evening, which is 05:00 CEST the following day. Here's the livestream.

Overwatch: Alienware Monthly Melee

Despite the Blizzard scene being deep in preparation for the opening week of BlizzCon next week, there's still some Overwatch to be found if you know where to look. Another round of the Alienware Monthly Melee will take place this weekend, with a selection of top NA teams competing for a share of $5,000. Play kicks off at 14:00 PDT/23:00 CEST and you can find the livestream at GosuTV.

Smite: SPL Fall Group C and European Challenger Cup Finals

The Smite schedule is only going to get busier ahead of the Super Regional in November. The two remaining teams in the European Challenger Cup will fight for a spot in the big leagues on Sunday, while group stage play among the top teams continues from today through to Sunday starting at 10:00 PDT/19:00 CEST. Catch the action at HiRezTV.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

The Man recently told Valve to stamp out online gambling which uses virtual Steam items – Counter-Strike gun skins and the like – as chips. The Washington State Gambling Commission gave Valve until October 14th, under threat of legal action, to stop these gambling sites and report back explaining their compliance with Washington State’s gambling laws and Valve have replied, er, several days late. Valve say that they’re doing all they reasonably can, short of cutting off important Steam services for everyone. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I have a terrible confession to make. While, on a weekly basis, I protest about the oft-unchanging nature of these charts, the truth is that a new entry makes me sigh. It means I have to laboriously type out new HTML rather than just copy the links from last week. This means terrible, unspeakable suffering in a week such as this, where there actually are quite a few ‘new’ games. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer


Valve has now issued a response to the Washington State Gambling Commission's call for action on the matter of CS:GO skin gambling, saying that it does not "facilitate" gambling through Steam, and that "there is no factual or legal support for these accusations." The company said it is "surprised and disappointed" that the WSGC has chosen to pursue the matter publicly, but added that it has taken steps to discourage skin gambling on third-party websites, and is "open to further cooperation with the Commission."

In the firm but amicable letter, Valve's legal counsel notes that the company has no business relationship with gambling sites, does not promote them, and does not earn any revenues through them. These sites take advantage of two well-used Steam services in order to operate: the ability to purchase and trade skins, and the "ubiquitous" OpenID system of authentication that "allows a Steam customer to identify himself on a third-party website by association with his Steam account, without having to give his Steam credentials to the third party site."

"We do not want to turn off the Steam services, described above, that skin gambling sites have taken advantage of," Valve's response letter says. "In-game items, Steam trading, and OpenID have substantial benefits for Steam customers and Steam game-making partners. We do not believe it is the Commission s intention, nor is it within the Commission's authority, to turn off lawful commercial and communication services that are not directed to gambling in Washington."

Despite expressing doubt that it is in fact breaking any laws in the first place "If there is a specific criminal statute or regulation you believe Valve is violating, please provide a citation," the letter says Valve points out that it has already taken action against more than 40 skin gambling sites so far, first with cease-and-desist letters, and then by shutting down their Steam accounts. In the eyes of Valve's lawyer, though, it isn't realistic to expect Valve to hunt down every item-trading bot created by these websites. "Cleverly designed bots can be indistinguishable from real users," reads the response, "and their methods and techniques are constantly evolving."

"Valve can enforce its user agreements against the Steam accounts of skins gambling sites, where we can identify the site and identify the corresponding account. In fact, we would be happy to cooperate with the Commission, if it is able to identity more skins gambling sites that are illegal in Washington and the Steam accounts through which [they] operate," the letter says. "We welcome the change for further communication with the Commission, if it would like to clarify the legal allegations against Valve, or alternatively to work with Valve to identify offending Steam accounts of gambling sites."

It is in many ways a bold response, although if the commission hasn't identified which laws Valve has broken after 18 months of talks, Valve is probably in a strong position within Washington State. But it also lays bare the complexities of the matter: Can Valve he held responsible for Steam users "cashing out" on third-party sites? Can it be held accountable for the actions of those third-party sites, whether or not it is actively "facilitating" them? Is Valve's sluggishness to police skin gambling an issue? To my non-lawyerly eyes, it would seem unlikely, but that 18 month stretch of negotiations works both ways: The WSGC clearly thinks it has some basis for complaint.

On an unrelated but interesting note, the letter also confirms that Valve's employee headcount is "approximately 360." This is the first updated measure of Valve's size that we've seen in years: Wikipedia lists it as having about 330 employees, but that's based on data from 2013.

Original story:

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington State Gambling Commission gave Valve until October 14 "to respond and explain" how Steam, and specifically the role it plays in skin gambling, is in compliance with the state's gambling laws. Failure to do so, it warned, could lead to "civil or criminal action" begin taken against the company. This was from an official state agency, so unlike our weekly cat gif email, the request could not be ignored. But this is also Valve we're talking about, and so naturally, the response did not arrive on time.

"At the close of business on October 14, 2016, a representative of Valve Corporation notified Commission staff that the company is still working on a reply to the Commission's Letter and a reply will be provided Monday, October 17, 2016," the WSGC said in a press release put out today.

It almost feels like a gag, doesn't it? Valve can't even respond to an inquiry from a powerful state regulator on time. But unless there are some shenanigans afoot that go beyond even the most elaborate Freeman-based hoax, this is all entirely legit: The link to the release is front-and-center on the official WSGC website.

"I am disappointed that Valve Corporation missed Friday's deadline, but encouraged that they have committed to responding today," WSGC director David Trujillo said. "I look forward to reviewing their response in detail."

Protip for Dave: I look forward to playing Half-Life 3 someday, but I'm not penciling anything in on my calendar. You may have legislative clout on your side, but you can't change the tides. All you can do is learn to swim.

I've reached out to Valve for more information and will update if and when I receive a reply.

Thanks, PvPLive.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

Although many of you will be glued to the League of Legends Worlds quarter finals this weekend, there's plenty to watch elsewhere in the world of competitive gaming. Get your regular fill of Dota 2 and CS:GO, check in on the Blizzard scene on the eve of BlizzCon, and don't miss some of the best Street Fighter V players in the world fighting for a shot at the Capcom Cup in the EU finals. Plus: Rocket League, Smite, and more!

League of Legends: Worlds Quarter Finals

The month of Worlds continues with the quarter finals in Chicago. You can catch favourites SKT vs. China's RNG tonight from 15:00 PDT/midnight CEST, with ROX vs. EDG at the same time tomorrow and H2K vs. ANX on Sunday. That last one's going to be a heartbreaker, as H2K are the last European team in contention and ANX are the wildcard-done-good. Only one team can advance to the semi-finals and claim the honour of being taken apart by a Korean team as per tradition. More info and the livestream can be found on LoLesports.

Dota 2: The Summit 6 qualifiers

Qualifiers for November's $100,000 Dota 2 tournament are taking place all over the world this weekend. It's a great chance to take the pulse of new lineups like Team NP and remember that Dota 2 is a videogame and not just a deep reservoir of esports drama (though Valve have got you sorted on that account.) There's play happening more or less all day over the weekend, so just check out the livestream for the latest action.

CSGO: ECS Season 2

Lots of top-tier CS:GO this weekend in both EU and NA as ECS Season 2 rolls on. There are games happening right now (here's the stream) and play will continue through the weekend. Thanks to matches taking place in both EU and NA, you should find something to watch whenever you tune in. Failing that, the full schedule is visible on Gosugamers.

Hearthstone: Americas Last Call Invitational

BlizzCon is very, very close, and the majority of the studio's games have wrapped up their qualification processes for the biggest event in the Blizzard calendar. Not so Hearthstone, which is providing players in the Americas with one last chance to qualify for the forthcoming World Championship. Tune into the official Hearthstone stream tomorrow from 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST to catch the action.

Heroes of the Storm: Nexus Games North America

These one-off Heroes of the Storm tournaments are intended to give teams a shot at competitive play on the latest patch ahead of the Fall Championship at BlizzCon. This weekend sees the finals of the NA schedule, with games on Saturday and Sunday starting at 15:00 PDT, which is midnight CEST. Watch them on the official HotS stream.

Overwatch: MGA 2016 Championship Regional Finals

Regional finals for this international Overwatch competition began today and continue through to next week on a region by region basis. Today and tomorrow sees play in the Americas starting at 18:00 PDT (02:00 CEST the following morning.) One team from each region will earn a spot at the grand finals in London in December, with a $40,000 grand prize on the line. Here's the stream.

Rocket League: Season 2 League Play

With the Mid-Season Classic behind us, there's another two weekends of regular league play ahead in Rocket League's pro scene. NA plays on Saturday, as usual, with EU following on Sunday. Expect games throughout the day and check out Rocket League on Twitch for the livestream.

Smite: Pro League Fall Split

Group play is ongoing in the biggest event of the Smite season. Tune in from 10:00 PDT/19:00 CEST from today until Sunday to watch some of the best teams in NA go at it. As ever, you can find the stream on HiRezTV.

Capcom Pro Tour: EU Regional Finals and SoCal Regionals

A relatively modest week for the CPT this weekend with only two premier events. How will you cope? You can catch the SoCal Regionals on west coast time from today until Saturday click here for the stream schedule and here for the stream itself.

As Andi notes in this week's column, the EU Regional Finals at Milan Games Week represent many players' last shot at qualifying for this year's Capcom Cup so expect drama. Loads of top talent are attending, with the livestream starting at 03:00 and 04:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday respectively (noon and 13:00 CEST). Find the livestream on CapcomFighters.

PC Gamer

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's esteemed Inferno map has been given a fresh lick of paint and a host structural renovations bringing its 2012 design in-line with the world of today.

In doing so, three main areas have been the focus of improvement: to advance visibility across the map; to make it easier to move around in groups; and to "fine-tune the gameplay based on community feedback."

Fresh from a stint in its beta phase, the new slant on Inferno is now available to all in the Reserves Map Group, and Valve is keen for Counter-Strikers to test it out and file feedback. Full details on what's been changed and why can be found here, but you can check out how each area has been reworked via the sliders below.

Bombsite A

"We focused on increasing the readability of positions, and giving the attackers more ways to utilize their equipment such as smoke grenades and flashbangs before entering the site itself.

"The overhanging roof on the site was removed, letting more natural light flow in. This also makes sniping between library and balcony more viable for both sides, and allows you to land smoke grenades on the site itself.

"The infamous truck that served as the path onto balcony has been replaced with a simpler cart, which has a more solid shape making gameplay more manageable, and makes navigating onto the balcony easier.

"The upper platform features improved visibility, with less parallaxing geometry for attackers to sift through to be able to spot a defender."

"In addition to these changes, the path leading to balcony has now been opened up, to allow attackers to flashbang into site before exposing themselves. This forces a defender playing from pit to stay alert.

"Another change inside of apartments is the removal of the 'dark' bedroom. This room was a very powerful defensive position for CTs, and Ts would be forced to use some of their grenades in clearing it before even reaching the site.

"This has been changed to a cubby (similar to the 1.6 version of Inferno), which is easier to check, but remains a powerful position for a defender."

Bombsite B

"The final stretch leading into the bombsite has been widened, along with giving Terrorists some additional cover before committing to the site itself.

"The skybox in this area has been tweaked as well, it no longer allows CTs to smoke off B site from other areas of the map.

"On the site itself, there have been some changes. The gap between 'newbox' and the pillar has been closed off, the position near the entrance to the site is now climbable and visibility in general has been improved."


"The biggest change in the middle of the map is that the underpass connecting middle and alt-mid is now halfway walkable. You still need to crouch to be able to enter from middle, but about halfway through the tunnel you are able to walk upright.

"Another minor, but impactful change; the lightpole that has absorbed millions of bullets over the years has been removed, so there is one less object to blame if you miss your shot."

T Spawn

"The T Spawn now finally has its second exit opened up, which puts you directly into alt-mid."

Valve signs off the update with the following: "While there have been upgrades and adjustments throughout the map, the core gameplay remains more or less the same. By releasing the new Inferno early as a beta we were able to collect valuable player feedback and made many fixes ahead of this official release.

"Thank you to those who contributed. We will continue to observe the gameplay and make tweaks and fine-tune the map as we collect more feedback."

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Dear old Counter-Strike level Inferno has returned to CS: Global Offensive [official site] reworked and prettied-up. Gone is the grunge of early noughties FPSs, the cloudy skies, the illogical architecture, and the lingering sense that maybe CS is set inside the world of Half-Life 2, with Inferno’s village now a scenic spot you might potter around, cooing, on your summer hols. Oh, sure, and they’ve fiddled with a lot of areas to tweak how it plays. After a stretch in beta, the new Inferno is now public in the Reserves Map Group. Even if you’re not into CS: GO, do enjoy the comparison screenshots between 2012’s Inferno and 2016’s – the progress is pleasing. … [visit site to read more]


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