PC Gamer

Esports goes full throttle this weekend as the month-long climax of League of Legends begins in Paris. The group stages of LoL's European tour takes place over the next two weeks, the first of four stops that also includes London, Brussels and eventually Berlin for that spooky Hallowe'en Grand Final. In fact, almost every major esport has a top tier showdown this weekend, and with BlizzCon's European qualifiers in the mix, more than half are only the build up to massive global championships at the end of October. It's a busy month, so let's get started right with some sincere GLHFs for the following tournaments.

ESL One New York 2015

The first chance to see many of the world's tier 1 teams meeting outside of their own regions since The International. A lot has changed since then, with team rosters frantically scrambled about before September's lock-in date to be eligible for Valve's new Majors format of quarterly tournaments. Quarter-finals begin with Secret's almost unrecognisable new team (save for the remaining Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov) taking on Fnatic at 08:00 PDT/16:00 BST on Saturday, with Evil Geniuses going against Vega Squadron at 17:00 PDT/01:00 BST. Semi-finals begin on Sunday at 08:00 PDT/16:00 BST and the Grand Final Bo5 kicks off at 14:00 PDT/00:00 BST. You can watch it all on ESL's official Twitch channel

Hearthstone: EU Road 2 BlizzCon HWC 2015

Europe's top card slingers meet in Prague this weekend for the final stage of qualifiers for this month's BlizzCon World Championships. Group stages run Saturday between 03:00-14:40 PDT/11:00-22:40 BST and you'll want to keep your eyes on pretty much any matches coming out of Group A. Maverick, Ostkaka, ThijsNL and Hoej are all excellent and highly entertaining duelists and will ensure some exciting matches before the semi-finals on Saturday evening and final playoffs on the Sunday. You can watch it all on Blizzard's official Hearthstone stream.

Heroes of the Storm: EU Road 2 BlizzCon HWC 2015

Ever the shrewd business people, Blizzard are also holding the Heroes of the Storm EU Championships-cum-BlizzCon Qualifiers at the same time in Prague this weekend. They've even given them the same acronym to save on letters, how thoughtful. It's the final hurdle for European teams before all of the world's best meet in Anaheim at the end of this month, so there's some guaranteed fireworks. Heroes action begins earlier than the rest of Blizzard's stable as the group stages started this morning and are running up until 11:00 PDT/19:00 BST today. Semi-finals begin at 08:00 PDT/16:00 BST on the Saturday, with the second three hours later at 12:30 PDT/19:30 BST. The finals fall to the Sunday at 07:00 PDT/15:00 BST, joining Hearthstone and WoW finals in one glorious Blizzard blowout. You can see all Heroes matches on Blizzard's official stream.

League of Legends: LCS Worlds Group Stages

The European tour of this year's final showdown for League's top teams kicks off in Paris this extended weekend, beginning Thursday. The group stages are split over this week and the next, in a double round robin format, so there's plenty of chance to see a specific match-up. The seeding system means there'll be no clashes of each regions top talent just yet, but the skill level of all the qualifiers is so high that there's still plenty to tune in for. This weekend's offerings include Origen vs TSM (08:00 PDT/16:00 BST) and iG vs Cloud9 an hour later on the Saturday. Sunday provides a chance to see TSM take on Chinese first seed LGD (05:00 PDT/13:00 BST) and C9 take on EU first seed Fnatic (08:00 PDT/16:00 BST) in day of the American underdogs. All available on pretty much every streaming solution known to man, including TwitchYouTube, and Azubu (and six other Chinese ones if you're feeling exotic).

CS:GO: PGL Season 1 Finals

Twelve teams whittled down to just four, including Fnatic, TSM, Team Liquid and Virtus.pro, will fight it out for the PGL Championship title starting today with VP vs Liquid and Fnatic vs TSM. Today's semi-finals decide who will be playing for survival on Saturday and who for their spot in Sunday's Grand Finals. The loser's bracket elimination kicks off early on Saturday at 12:00 BST, while the winner's final runs three hours later 15:00 BST. Sunday follows the same schedule with the last chance of making it into the top two for a shot at the $40,000 grand prize coming before the Grand Final at 15:00 BST. You can watch it all at www.twitch.tv/PGL.

PC Gamer

lurppis played CS 1.6 professionally for eight years for teams such as wings, roccat/69N-28E, EG and WinFakt with team winnings exceeding $350,000. Since ending his playing career in 2012 he has stayed active in the CS:GO scene as part of the media.

The competitive Counter-Strike scene is at its peak. There s more talent than ever in pro CS, which means that in order to pick the best players in the world you need clear, specific criteria. To make this ranking, a player must have competed in a number of top tier events—no player can be awarded top ten status for simply being incredible online. Almost by default, that means the player will be on a top team as well, which is the case for everyone on this list. I also decided to use roughly the past six months results for statistical comparison, with obviously more emphasis on recent performances, as they are most likely more indicative of these players current form.

Before we dig in, let s first take a look at some of the big names who barely missed the cut of being in the top ten. Recent fan favorite Nikola NiKo Kovac did not make this list because he has not performed at enough events yet. Richard shox Papillon came close, and in Titan he might regain the kind of role that will allow him a spot on the list, but currently he must be left out. Finally, NiP s Christopher GeT_RiGhT Alesund s Dubai performance was incredible, but it is not enough after six-plus months of, for him, average play. You could also have made a case for Rene cajunb Borg, who has been TSM s second best player for a long time, and like shox and GeT_RiGhT, boast a strong individual track record at the majors.

Photo via the ESL Flickr page

10. Kenny 'kennyS' Schrub

France | Team EnVyUs

In late 2014 and early 2015 kennyS was arguably the number one player in the world as the game s most dominant AWPer. Despite playing on a team barely in the top eight, he constantly put up performances that allowed Titan to compete with all of the world s best teams, and even score some strong tournament finishes. Since the AWP update he hasn t been as dominant, and it is possible the limited, in comparison, role he has on EnVy will never allow him to regain the top spot. Even through these changes, Kenny remains one of the world s best.

Photo via HLTV.org

9. Tyler 'Skadoodle' Latham

USA | Cloud9

While fans go crazy about shroud s exciting flick shots, the true star of Cloud9 and the player who makes the team who in the summer was a legitimate threat to contend for titles go, is Skadoodle—one of the world s best snipers. He s the best North American player—at least until Hiko fully returns—by far the most consistent player on Cloud9 and the team relies on his strong play more than anyone else s. It s possible Skadoodle will climb the rankings in the future, but his team must regain top form to do so—competing in North America won t help him here.

Photo via HLTV.org

8. Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev

Ukraine | HellRaisers

Easily one of the most explosive players in the world, s1mple—the third AWPer so far on this list—has been outside of the spotlight since he left FlipSid3, seemingly out of the blue, after the team was knocked out of ESWC. Some of the statlines s1mple put together while playing in a tactical, but not very skilled F3 team are absurd. Once his ESL ban is up and he matures a little, he will become the number one player in the ex-CIS region, and you can expect him settle much higher in this ranking once he reaches his peak—he s still only 17.

Photo via HLTV.org

7. Robin 'flusha' Ronnquist

Sweden | Fnatic

flusha was the best player in fnatic for a long time, and his overall performance throughout 2014 was incredible. This year he has taken a backseat in the team while his teammates have shined brighter, but one must not discount his impact in fnatic s wins either. For one, he has the best stats overall across all the CS:GO majors to-date, and he is one of just three players ever to three majors—and one of five to win two. He has nearly perfected the passive playing style as a rifler, yet is still capable of flashy highlights when needed. flusha could conceivably be the best player on almost any team, but he has practically accepted a smaller role to ensure his team keeps winning.

Photo via HLTV.org

6. Freddy 'KRiMZ' Johansson

Sweden | Fnatic

No one could have predicted the breakout performances KRiMZ had in late 2014. He was a role player on the successful LGB team, and had been without a team before fnatic picked him up last summer. That KRiMZ went onto have some of the best individual performances on that team is truly remarkable. He was not a player who caught a hot streak and went with it, his nearly flawless fundamentals, especially with the M4A1-S and AK-47, allowed him to elevate his level of play almost overnight, and what s more, he s stayed up there for a year now. A cornerstone in the world s best team s success, and easily one of the best players in CS:GO.

Photo via the ESL Flickr page

5. Janusz 'Snax' Pogorzelski

Poland | Virtus.pro

Due to the way Virtus.pro is structured, a lot of the time their players go without the same kind of celebration that top players in other teams enjoy. There is no clear superstar in the Polish team, and at times all five of their players have good enough games to receive MVP awards. In any case, over the long haul the best player in Virtus.pro, and the most important one as well, has been Snax. He is an extremely versatile player, a part-in-game-leader, and probably the game s trickiest player. He was the MVP of ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational, the second-best player all-time at the majors, and you can bet any time he plays that well Virtus.pro will go deep in tournaments.

Photo via HLTV.org

4. Vincent 'Happy' Cervoni

France | Team EnVyUs

Happy might be the first in-game leader in Counter-Strike s history to have the kind of success individually that he has had. He gets criticized by many—including me—for baiting his teammates at times, in a fashion that almost looks like he s padding stats. In any case, he is the best player on EnVy, who have been a top three team for most of the past year, and has become the game s best lurker after GeT_RiGhT s decline. He can AWP, lead the world s best team, and play with just about every weapon out there. Happy is almost a complete player, and that kind of versatility is especially valuable.

Photo via the ESL Flickr page

3. Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovacs

Slovakia | Natus Vincere

The lone Slovakian player—but the fourth main AWPer—on this list has been among the world s best since 2012, but aside from the brief period when his Virtus.pro team took down NiP, he did not enjoy the kind of success or fanfare that he likely deserved until Na`Vi broke through as a top tier squad in May 2014. Since then he has probably been the biggest carry in a top five team. Simply put, Na`Vi often lived and died with GuardiaN s performances. Lately he has gotten more help with the addition of flamie, but make no mistake—GuardiaN has been the most important player, on a team that was recently ranked second-best in the world, for a long time.

Photo via HLTV.org

2. Nicolai 'device' Reedtz

Denmark | Team SoloMid

It s safe to say that device has finally arrived. The Dane was championed as the next generation s f0rest or GeT_RiGhT by Thorin a long time ago, and it seemed only his nerves were holding him back from becoming an absolute force in the Counter-Strike world. Well, now he is one—device has been the best player on TSM while the squad has racked up multiple international wins and even more top three finishes. Much like peak-f0rest, he can both AWP and rifle at an elite level. No longer is he the player who goes MIA in big games and needs to be pulled across the finish line. The best player in the world s second-best team, device deserves the second spot in this ranking, and could easily edge his way to the top in the future.

Photo via HLTV.org

1. Olof 'olofm' Kajbjer

Sweden | Fnatic

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been actively following the scene. Currently—and for a while now—the king of Counter-Strike has been fnatic s olofm, the player who has been the brightest star in the world s best team—ever—and has effectively broken through as perhaps the game s only superstar despite having three other incredibly skilled teammates. olofm has lived up to all the promises, and more, of the LGB days. Often he has been the difference between a top-three finish and another championship, and there is no player as scary in CS:GO currently as olofm having a good game—and other teams can surely testify to that. He is probably the game s most versatile player—able to play both passively and aggressively on both halves, and handle every weapon, both rifles and snipers, at an elite level. Enjoy it while it lasts, because we do not get to enjoy players like this too often.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Joe Donnelly)

American media conglomerate Turner Broadcasting and talent agency WME/IMG plans to show 20 live Counter-Strike: Global Offensive [official site] events on US television next year as part of a league series after brokering a successful deal with Valve.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
Picture credit: Sebastian Ekman

The fall esports season begins in earnest this weekend, as many games return from their post-summer hiatus and shuffled team rosters settle into place. Qualifiers for a number of massive upcoming tournaments, including CS:GO s final major of the year, are mingled in with the first medium-stakes chance to see some of the new teams in action on a brand new Dota patch. There will also be some last ditch efforts to make it to next month s BlizzCon, and the action all kicks off today.

Whether you re in the mood for Brazilian god-on-god action, or some European wizard fumbling, there s something to suit all your pro gaming needs this weekend. Here s what we ll be watching...

StarCraft: 2015 DreamHack Stockholm Open

Unusually for an esports event, DreamHack Stockholm ran much of its course during the week, meaning most of the event is already over. However the StarCraft finals are being played on Friday night, and for one player they mean everything. Being the last event awarding WCS points before BlizzCon, there is a chance for Ko HyuN Seok Hyun to sneak his way up from 18th place into the invited Top 16 of WCS rankings. A win today and he ll relegate Jung FanTaSy Myung Hoon, whom he defeated yesterday to make it to the quarter-finals. You can see if HyuN makes it on the official DreamHack StarCraft channel from 10:15 PDT/18:15 BST with the Grand Final at 13:30 PDT/21:30 BST.

Counter-Strike: DreamHack Cluj-Napoca Qualifiers at DreamHack Stockholm

The CS:GO tournament at DH Stockholm is carrying on for another day, at least, so you can expect to catch a bit more of the action if you do something ridiculous like work during the week. The last remaining spots for DreamHack s next tour stop, Romania s Cluj-Napoca, are up for grabs and there are still a few familiar names waiting to snap them up. FlipSid3, Copenhagen Wolves and Dignitas, to name a few, will be playing Saturday from 03:05 PDT/11:05 BST until the final match at 12:05 PDT/20:05 BST. You can watch all that on DreamHack s official stream.

Counter-Strike: Gfinity Champion of Champions

More CS:GO for the top tier teams already invited to Cluj-Napoca as Gfinity holds a four-team invitational. Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Virtus.pro and EnVyUs play a short three-game bracket with the semi-finals on Saturday morning beginning 02:30 PDT/10:30 BST, and the Grand Final at the same time on Sunday. If you re up in time to catch that, you can see it on Gfinity s Twitch stream but VODs will surely be available for late birds.

Nanyang Dota 2 Championships: European Qualifiers

After last week s Chinese Qualifiers, it s the Europeans turn, as almost every hot new roster shakes their tail feathers on the road to Nanyang. This weekend should be especially exciting as Dota s latest patch today means we ll see the clumsy evolution of a new meta before Frankfurt s Major next month. Saturday plays host to Kuroky s 5Jungz squad in a semi-final matchup against the Swedish Ninjas in Pyjamas at 11:00 PDT/19:00 BST, and a loser s bracket elimination between Team Empire and Vega Squadron before that at 09:00 PDT/17:00 BST. Sunday will feature the result of today s matches (Na`Vi versus (monkey) Business, and Alliance versus Monkey Freedom Fighters) at those same times. All can be watched on the BTS Twitch channel.

SMITE Brazil Gaming League Season 2

A chance to see the finale of Latin America s toughest competition this Saturday, as the teams with one remaining game in hand compete in the last week of SPL s Brazilian league. There s only one game to look out for here, and that s the clash between current first and second place in the table, INTZ esports and Keyd Stars. INTZ, formed of SWC 2015 fifth-placers We Love Bacon have a slight advantage over Keyd who were penalised by one point at the beginning of the season for a late roster change. You can see that match play out on x5TV Saturday at 14:00 PDT/22:00 BST

Hearthstone: Abios Grand Tournament

Lastly, a small $5,000 pot Hearthstone tournament with a surprising collection of stars should wile away the time until next weekend s European Road to BlizzCon. Names to watch for include current world champ Firebat, and European hopefuls ThijsNL, Ostkaka and Hoej. It s a single elimination event, which should provide some tension, though stakes are fairly low. More importantly it ll be a good chance to see what decks the European hopefuls are playing with before their BlizzCon qualifier showdown next week. Round of 16 matches start at 08:00 PDT/16:00 BST on Saturday, with the last at 14:30 PDT/22:30 BST, and the finals continue Sunday from 08:05 PDT/16:05 BST until the Grand Final at 15:40 PDT/23:40 BST. You can see them all on AbioTV s Twitch channel.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

If there's one universally acknowledged truth held among video game marketers, it's that people who play video games also like trance music. So it makes sense that Darude the Finnish trance producer who's 'Sandstorm' went belatedly viral last year is currently working on a custom sound pack for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Darude announced the news on Reddit, where Counter-Strike fans (or Darude fans, I can't be sure) were generally positive about the news. 

Others had some useful suggestions.

The producer didn't indicate when the sound pack would release, though that's him working on it at the top of the page. It's to help promote his new album Moments, which released in August. 

To jog your memory, here's 'Sandstorm'. If you don't need your memory jogged, just watch the video anyway. Thanks for the heads up, Kotaku.

PC Gamer
Happy looking happy after Juan good round. Photo credit: DreamHack/Adela Szjnader.

When it comes down to a final between two top-tier heavyweights, you expect all of your players to be on form—but when no less than four out of ten finalists close out rounds by killing every member of the enemy team by themselves, you ve found something special.

The climax of this weekend s DreamHack London was one such occasion, as French team EnVyUs edged out Danish rivals Team SoloMid in a 2-0 stormer. The pair were the two most-highly seeded squads at the two-day event, so there was little surprise that they found their way to opposite sides of the final bracket. Resistance along the way came in the form of Copenhagen Wolves new roster, their old roster (now belonging to Team Dignitas with few modifications), SK Gaming, the Australian upstarts Renegade and—owing to the London location—two British teams: Gamers2 and EZSkins.

The British are leaving: KennyS' amazing AWP triple

As the final attests, resistance was futile—particularly for the ailing UK CS scene. Admirable though it is to feature the once-great nation s brightest hopes alongside previous DreamHack winners and ESL One contenders like TSM, the effect was akin to leaving lions to babysit lambs. Even former CS 1.6 and Source legends such as EZSkins Sam RattlesnK Gawn were no match for the inhuman AWPing skills of EnVy s latest addition Kenny KennyS Schrub.

Assassin's creed: twist's acrobatic Glock headshot

One team proving to at least resemble a thorn in both finalists sides was Copenhagen Wolves, managing to take second in TSM s group and coming up against EnVy in the semifinals. It s not much consolation for the squad, who lost convincingly to both teams, but CW s Simon twist Eliasson can be proud of what was the most unexpected play of the Sunday before the final began. Hopping off the B-site balcony on Mirage and showing some air control worthy of any Surf practice maps, the Swede lands a headshot on poor unsuspecting Nathan NBK- Schmitt to prove that the Wolves still have some bite.

Down to the wire: Kio's almost-flawless victory

However, after the lights dimmed and the final teams got serious on the Copper Box Arena s main stage, much of the weekend s action seemed to pale in comparison. The first indicator of which was EnVy s second round win on Dust II, having lost the pistol round. Halting TSM s early economic lead by wiping them out and taking their hard-earned guns prevented the usual snowball scenario of the pistol-round winner taking two or three more in a row. As such, the entire first half was kept incredibly close, with EnVy finishing ahead at 9-6. Heading into the second half pistol round with EnVy on the Counter-Terrorist side, the magic began as Fabien 'Kioshima' Fiey pulled off the first ace of the proceedings, only to lose the round as he ran out of time to defuse.

Stay cool: Kioshima's burning sacrifice

A mistake Kio made sure to rectify a mere 11 rounds later, to put EnVy into a strong match-point position. Having worked his way masterfully onto the A-site again, dispatching cajunB and safe in the knowledge that Karrigan was too low on health to risk a peek, he sets about defusing. Karrigan s elegant solution was to molotov the entire bomb area from safety. But Kio simply wasn t about to leave a job half done again and gives his life for the cause, as the final tick of burn damage kills him a fraction of a second after the defuse finishes.

Swarm of bullets: Karrigan's revenge ace

Having sent a strong statement by closing out Dust II 16-13, EnVy went about leaving their mark on Inferno too in the second map of the best-of-three. This time, winning the pistol round and following through with a natural economic advantage on the next two left them with a healthy 3-0 lead. Stepping up to the plate—and making up for not cooking a hot enough molotov in the last map—Finn 'Karrigan' Andersen threw down the second ace of the finals, mopping up the mess left on mid by teammate cajunB s perfectly timed grenade.

Juan in a million: Happy's Desert Eagle rampage

Match balance restored by Karrigan's ace, things remained square until well into the second half as EnVy took up defensive positions as Counter-Terrorists. Having let TSM back into the game and lost the second pistol round, they were struggling to find purchase and embarked on an 'eco' round to save money for later. Completely undeterred by this situation, and with Desert Eagle in hand, Vincent 'Happy' Schopenhauer landed an impossible ace, with four near-perfect 'Juan Deag' single-tap headshots.

Oh, snap: KennyS' lightning AWP reactions

Spurred on by the heroics of his team-mate, and despite a losing streak after Happy s rampage, KennyS found the fourth ace of the night for EnVy to regain momentum. Not sated by that, he then went on an extremely aggressive push up into apartments with the AWP in order to land a snapshot so fast he may need a wrist splint for the next week.

The 2-0 final score to EnVy belies how incredibly close and tense each map was, and the extent to which TSM stepped up to the plate. EnVy, however, have proven that their new roster—which prevented them appearing at the last DreamHack event, where TSM prevailed—is nothing short of terrifying. The teams won t need to wait long for a rematch, however, as DreamHack Stockholm begins this week and if both keep up this level of tense competition the Swedish crowd will only need the edge of their seats. And possibly a cardiologist.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, esports, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

Beneath Counter-Strike s skin is a skeleton of interconnected systems: movement, location-specific damage modeling, and weapon behavior, to name a few. In last week s major patch release Valve swapped out some significant bones in that skeleton. With a foundation built on a decades-old legacy favoring tradition over radical change, CS:GO s community has appraised this update as nothing short of historic. Beyond bug fixes, the meat of the patch delivers significant adjustments to CS:GO s steadfast core: hitboxes, animations, and weapon behavior. Here s how these changes affect the game—for casuals, pros, and skin-conomists alike—and why they re important milestones in one of PC gaming s most storied shooters.

Hitbox comparison image by imgur user whats0n


CS:GO s long-lasting cuboid hitboxes—the invisible, body-hugging shapes critically governing bullet hit detection—has morphed into a capsule set with a more cylindrical configuration that better covers each part of the CT and T model. Each cylinder conforms to the body model s shape more closely than the hard edges of a cube, and the entire set provides a higher degree of overlap for accordingly increased precision in determining where incoming bullets should land (and, subsequently, how much damage is meted out). Valve also fixed inconsistent hitbox alignment that tended to crop up during certain movements such as jumping or hanging on ladders by forcing hitbox rigs to continuously shape to whatever motion the model is performing at all times: running, standing still, climbing, planting the bomb, and so on.

Why it matters: At long last Valve has repaired CS:GO s an issue that s plagued the community for years. Dozens of demonstrations of misaligned hitboxes filled forum threads and Reddit posts. Some examples were hilariously blatant, some were more analytical, but they all pointed to a harmful obstacle of CS:GO s layers of strategy and skill. The now-continually synchronized hitboxes ensures shots will land precisely where they re sent to, and we can finally send a farewell salute to the unwelcome immortal bomb-planter.

One interesting phenomenon to note is how the development and proliferation of the professional scene flourished in the face of faulty hitboxes. Pro teams, by virtue of their intimate knowledge of each minute aspect of the game, were acutely aware of how hit detection affected performance; they simply adapted and got used to it. Teams with star-led rosters such as Fnatic and EnVyUs will re-adapt in short time, but it ll be interesting to observe the process of unlearning years of habits.

In theory, position control should turn even more rewarding for quick multi-frags with steady spray. Given the heightened payoff for shooting accuracy, 1v1 encounters will swing towards whoever is on the draw the fastest for tapping shots into the larger head hit-bubble. No longer is jump-peeking a safeguarded method for gathering intel, as it s now an exposing move with a heavy risk of a blink-and-gone reflex kill.


New and improved animations for the worldview character model (the models of teammates and enemy players seen from your view) smooths out walking/running cycles and gives more natural physical behavior to the weapons and equipment adorning each model. In particular, full draw animations replace the former, jerky ones for guns and grenades, and switching items plays a neat holster sequence for whatever s being put away.  Ladder climbing looks better but still hasn t lost the comedic awkwardness of watching someone sprinting up a vertical surface while gripping a rifle with both hands.

Player and weapon models will also cull when up against a thin wall or doorway. That means any portion of the model that would stick out is automatically cut away to avoid erroneous clipping and unintentional giveaways from simply standing too close.

Why it matters: Though mostly cosmetic, the new animations better represent what a spotted player is doing moment to moment. Stronger-colored defusal kits are easier to pick out on the model, and cleaner-looking transitions to secondaries impart an important sign that an opponent s primary has run dry. Reports of distorted models and players flopping on the ground have also surfaced in the days following the update.

Model culling is a pretty significant boon for ambush-oriented players parking up against high-traffic chokepoints such as Nuke s squeaky and Dust 2 s double doors. It doesn t completely cover all angles—the tight corners of Inferno s banana still occasionally betray a popped-out barrel or two, for instance—but it does add fair variability to close-quarter positions typically avoided for wonky clipping. In a way it s more of a buff for the Terrorists, who now have to worry less about their barrels sticking through a door and signaling their attack.


Many a round of CS:GO ends end with a solitary CT crouching over the beeping bomb. The patch majorly modifies that intimate man-on-explosive encounter by placing a multimeter in the defuser s hands with clearly visible cables running into the bomb while it s being defused. That s probably the most obvious Hey, I m interacting with this sign Valve could apply without breaking realism—defusers now look like military Spider-Men.

Why it matters: Ninja and fake-out defusals are integral to strategic CS:GO play. The inclusion of the cables huge visual marker lowers the effectiveness of baiting bomb-guarding Ts into a surprise riposte. (One pro player even suggests cables be a spectator-side feature only.) Ts can now check for cables on a shoulder-peek to determine if the defuse is true or not, but savvy CTs can set up for the next peek knowing that brandishing cables will likely draw out an opponent for a 1v1. A sneaky CT swooping in for the ninja defuse is still possible, but it ll be much harder to pull off with Ts having more concrete information on when an actual defuse is happening.


The silenced M4A1-S, a CT staple, has seen its fire rate reduced to a flat 600 RPM along with a slight increase to base bullet spread. Its price has dropped $100 to $3,100, a reversal of the cost hike implemented in the March 31 patch. Its armor penetration value has also shrunk by roughly 10 percent, but plenty posters have indicated the old value still accidentally exists in the live version.

Why it matters: Many players consider these changes as the M4A1-S death-knell, but the rifle s true fate isn t so cut-and-dried. Indeed, pro player input is predictably divisive. The M4A1-S now fires at the same rate as the AK, a noticeable dip in damage output for close-range combat. Interestingly, the slower fire provides a higher amount of recoil decay in between each shot which leads to tighter handling at farther distances. It s easy to assume the M4A4, the unsilenced high-ammo brother to the M4A1-S, will claim the go-to CT gun crown, but the A1 will find use as an easily controllable brain-tapper at range.


The flashy dual Berettas got a boost to armor penetration and range, both understandable buffs to bring the rarely glimpsed pistol choice in line with common handcannons. The Zeus taser has had its cost reduced to a miniscule $100 as a value buy for instant kills up close.

Why it matters: Pistol changes invariably carry an economic ripple effect into later rounds of a match via shakeups in the eco meta. Although the likelihood of a drilled team adopting dualies over the reliability of the Tec-9, Five-Seven, or P250 is low, these modifications make the Berettas a safe buy during pistol rounds. Its extra armor penetration is good insurance against early round armor as they ll dome an unhelmeted player in one hit. We ll see the Zeus show up more often in loadouts due to its cheap price, but its usefulness still stays niche as a silly method for taking out a solitary player. Zeus skins are inevitable.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer

It s no secret that the CS:GO s item economy can be quite profitable. Some of the game s rarest weapon skins are priced at over $1,000 (with rare collectors items approaching pricelessness).

The constant and growing demand for skins by the game s players, and the slot machine-like experience of opening weapon cases in the slim hopes of getting a desirable skin, has created a huge, free-range capitalist market that allows all kinds of gambling, trading, and skin selling to take place outside of Valve s intended corral for such activity.

As studies have shown, prohibiting people from funneling and gambling capital tends to create an illicit market. When skins were introduced to CS:GO via the Arms Deal update in August of 2013, it was only a matter of time before players would find a way to independently price, trade, and hoard skins in an increasingly complex economic network that sees some of its entrepreneurs supposedly making over $12,000 a day.

But a new development in this CS:GO sub-culture gives cause for concern. This week CSGO Lounge, a skin trading and betting hub that is easily the most powerful and notorious of the lot, decided to officially sponsor CS:GO team Dobry Gaming. Dobry Gaming are a cadre of Polish players who are often considered the second best team within their country after the elite Virtus.pro. When three of their members were part of Games2, they may have been considered a top 20 team in the first half of 2015.

CSGO Lounge is no stranger to controversy. The site survives frequent attacks on its network, the scorn of esports personalities who associate it with underage gambling, and even recent investigations by mainstream media. Bloomberg News piece on underage virtual gambling specifically includes a video where the site s front page is seen.

The site has weathered this scrutiny despite being an instrumental part of CS:GO s biggest controversy to date: the involvement of an elite North American team in a massive match fixing scandal that used the Lounge site to make over $10,000 in skins. This scandal was so severe that it prompted a direct response from Valve, who banned every player involved and said that no players or personalities involved in professional CS:GO should gamble on matches under any circumstances.

Dobry Gaming, now Lounge Gaming, at Copenhagen Games 2015. Image courtesy HLTV.org.

What this means for CS:GO

With CSGO Lounge picking up Dobry Gaming, the water becomes even more muddied. On one hand, there has been a recent backlash against gambling sites being involved with high profile teams after a Cyprus-based bookmaker overhauled and renamed its esports division in an attempt to separate the competitive brand from the betting service. With many more skin gambling sites acquiring mid-tier teams, it is possible that the trend will continue.

On the other hand, as multiple pundits and personalities involved in the scene have stated before, the growth of skin trading and skin betting directly correlates with the explosive growth of the game, especially as an esport. There is a lurking suspicion that the massive viewing numbers of CS:GO majors are due in part to the expensive in-game drops that viewers have a chance to receive.

Players seem ambivalent and divided on the issue of betting, with some up-and-coming talent unable to handle the pressure that their otherwise minimally-spectated games would bring. Others have fully embraced it. Watch any major CS:GO tournament these days and you ll see many professional players with name-tagged weapons branded with roulette-based gambling sites or skin-to-cash sites.

For CSGO Lounge s team, Lounge Gaming, not much will be different in terms of their daily life. They will no doubt attend the upcoming DreamHack Stockholm event, which functions as a qualifier for the next CS:GO major at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca in Romania.

Up to $300 total in CS:GO skins can be bet on a single match on CSGO Lounge.

If the team should do so however, it will present an interesting quandary for Valve, who have partnered with DreamHack and PGL to organize the major. The developer has had an uneasy relationship with CSGO Lounge and its ilk, never condemning or interdicting their business but nevertheless allowing them to exist as a black market. Were Lounge Gaming to qualify for a major, Valve would have to, for example, produce an official sticker for the team, an in-game item that would directly finance the team s players.

There is no closing the Pandora s Box of skin gambling. The phenomenon is so embedded in the scene that an outright removal of the market would cripple Counter-Strike. For a betting site like CSGO Lounge, acquiring a competitive team is a step towards legitimacy. CS:GO teams, unlike skin trading and gambling, are increasingly bound by rules, regulations, and a degree of transparency. Forming a team is a shrewd move for a betting service which has begun to accumulate money and wants to remain involved in the scene while appearing more established overall.

No one would dispute the call for greater regulation of esports gambling, both in the form of real money gambling sites and skin gambling. It s sorely needed as the service grows, both to combat illegal transactions as well as to ensure competitive integrity beyond the scope which Valve can visibly control. Regulation can help enforce against underage gambling (at least on paper) and remake the entire sector into something that is more manageable.

For now however, the show goes on. The complexity of such an issue is a hint that Valve, who has historically taken a laissez-faire approach to CS:GO esports, will inevitably have to intervene as groups like CSGO Lounge further define the values of the professional scene.

PC Gamer

It s a Blizzard-heavy weekend ahead. Most of the company s games will have a grand final of some kind or another at BlizzCon at the end of October, with qualifiers currently occurring across the world. Blizzard s latter-day fixation with confusing duplicate acronyms has returned with vigour: both the Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone world championships are called HWC . That s right! We live in a world where HotS refers to two different games and HWC to two different tournaments, and taken collectively this amounts to three different games. By the same studio.

Relieve the headache that this has now given you with some relaxing Counter-Strike in London, or a spot of high-grade Chinese Dota 2. Details below.

Hearthstone World Championship 2015 North America Qualifier

This has been going on for a week already, but this weekend s play will see it finish. The best players in North America compete for a spot at the Americas Championship in a couple of weeks - the next step on the road to BlizzCon and the world title. Watch for top-level play from Trump, PHONETAP, TS reynad, and more. The stream runs from 12:00 PDT/20:00 BST to 20:00PDT/04:00 BST. Watch it on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel.

Heroes of the Storm World Championship 2015 America Championship

Blizzard s busy weekend continues in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Heroes scene is still picking up steam, and this is one of its first high-profile championships and a chance to get on the ground floor with an emerging competitive game. In addition to five North American teams, the lineup also includes Relics from South East Asia, Team Immunity from Australia and New Zealand, and Furious Gaming from Latin America - it s more of an international contest than you might think. Doors open at 09:00 PDT if you re attending the live event, with the stream beginning at 10:00 PDT/18:00 BST. Watch it on the official Heroes of the Storm Twitch channel.

Dota 2: ESL One New York 2015 Chinese Qualifiers

There s not a huge amount of high-quality Dota 2 available this weekend, but you do have an opportunity to get up to speed with the Chinese scene. On Saturday morning at 03:00 PDT/11:00 BST, Vici.P and Newbee Young - both youth teams - will play a best of three. Then, at 06:30 PDT/14.30 BST, there ll be another between the new TongFu and TeamDK lineups. Watch them on the official ESL stream.

Counter-Strike: DreamHack Open at DreamHack London

The PC is represented at the multi-game DreamHack London event by the DreamHack Open CS:GO tournament. A run of top-tier teams including EnVyUs and Team SoloMid will play for a prize pool of $40,000. The group stages will run on Saturday from 04:00 PDT/12:00 BST to 16:00 PDT/00:00 BST, with the semi-finals following on Sunday on the same schedule (although likely to run a little less long.) You can watch the entire thing at dreamhack.tv.

Smite: Gears of Fate Cognitive Invitational

A chance to see the best North American Smite teams battle outside of the Pro League, Gears of Fate is hosted by the organisation that won the first Smite World Championship. Smite is in a great place right now, and frankly I'm a little mortified that I managed to miss this off the list first time around. You should definitely tune in: there's going to be a lot of high-quality Smite over the next few months in the run up to SWC 2016, and this is a chance to get to grips with the scene that dominated last year. Watch on the official Smite Twitch channel. Shout out to Hunter ErkenBrack for the on-point reminder.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

PC Gamer
The Bayonet Crimson Web skin is worth thousands.

CS:GO s massive popularity eclipses its bizarre history. More than 8 million people play Counter-Strike every month. The average number of people playing CS:GO in August (357,535) was an incredible 14 times greater than it was two years ago (25,961). Even Team Fortress 2, at the peak of its popularity, drew less than one-fifth of the concurrent players that CS:GO does today.

But if you crane your neck around the massive conga line of people who have discovered Global Offensive, you ll remember that, oh right, it was born as a port—partly meant to put Counter-Strike onto the previous generation of consoles before the end of their lifespan. When Valve and Hidden Path brought CS:GO to PAX in 2011 they demoed it exclusively on Xbox 360 and talked up, no joke, cross-platform play between PC and PS3 as a major feature (which was cut before release).

In 2012 it wasn t especially clear that Valve, who did not reply to a request for comment for this story, intended to dedicate significant resources to Global Offensive post-launch (memes about the seemingly modest size of Valve s CS:GO team were still being kicked around six months ago). Most of the production of CS:GO was done by Hidden Path, also known for the Defense Grid series, who had about 30 people working on it before release. Valve's involvement grew continually during the final pre-launch phase, as Hidden Path CEO Jeff Pobst told me.

The Glock Fade skin is worth about $260.

When I reached out to Hidden Path talk about CS:GO s origins, Pobst shed light on an the biggest challenge that CS:GO faced before release: how to unify the deeply entrenched Source and CS 1.6 communities under a single game. Initially we started working with the Valve folks to bring CS:S to console. The project grew over time to become something much larger because the folks at Valve were really interested in exploring if there was anything that could be done to try to bring together the two existing groups of CS players, said Pobst.

Hidden Path and Valve faced a daunting task: making everyone happy. Appeasing not one, but two communities who are resistant to change is difficult enough without also having to woo people who didn t grow up on Counter-Strike. There were players who felt that CS 1.6 was a superior experience for their play style and there were other players who felt like CS:S was the best game for their play style, says Pobst. Sadly those two groups were very segmented and didn t play together. We started having a lot of discussions with Valve about what a product might look like—if it was even possible—that would become the favorite version of Counter-Strike for both existing player groups as well as for new players. And that was the main design focus behind most every decision that went into the development of CS:GO.

Fresh paint

Plenty of people did play CS:GO when it came out, but did not show hints of becoming the sensation that it is today for some time. For a year after release, CS:GO wasn t even the most popular version of Counter-Strike—some players were still actively debating the merits of GO against its thirteen- and nine-year-old predecessors. What changed?

Weapon skins.

Almost exactly a year after release, Valve introduced Team Fortress 2-style weapon drops to CS:GO, an event that coincides with the game permanently overtaking its older siblings. This design decision put CS:GO on the trajectory to being the most popular game on Steam that isn t Dota 2. As ex-pro Tomi lurppis Kovanen puts it, Without the item economy Counter-Strike would be smaller. We would likely be at a level slightly above that of late 2013, and one similar to the peak years of Counter-Strike 1.6. There would be less money, no Valve-sponsored majors, and no one-million-viewer grand finals, says Kovanen, who contributes to PC Gamer. In hindsight, the addition of the skins has been the most important development in CS:GO's history, bar none.

The addition of the skins has been the most important development in CS:GO's history.

But why? After all, plenty of other FPSes have booster pack-like item systems or weapon customization that you don t have to pay to unlock. How has the addition of ultra-rare knives and questionable anime guns lured so many people to Counter-Strike?

Part of the explanation lies in how elegantly these decorated guns and knives integrate with fundamental aspects of Counter-Strike despite being purely cosmetic things. Something mostly unique to Counter-Strike, for example, is how much time you spend watching others play it. Death comes easily, and once slain you re pushed into someone else s eye sockets, where you re forced to gaze upon the ballistic eye candy of their painted guns. 

Wooden replicas of some of CS:GO's most coveted virtual knives, by SeaNTea.

If that wasn't enough, Valve directly incentivized the act of watching CS:GO majors in-game or through Twitch with a linked Steam account: spectators of the biggest tournaments can win special edition Souvenir skins. Souvenir versions of rare weapons are some of the most valuable in the game—a Souvenir Cerebus Galil, the second-tier Terrorist rifle, might fetch $230.

Likewise, picking up other players guns is a strategically valuable move—grabbing a dropped AWP saves your team from spending those resources from their own virtual pockets. (Any primary or secondary weapon will be automatically forced into your hands if you aren t carrying one, even.) But after weapon skins were added, taking your opponent s AWP or AK-47 took on a new meaning: it became a visual trophy. Spectators could see, presented in the UI, the gun owner s name. Killing someone with their own, bedazzled rifle became the ultimate insult. Valve even added a command that plays a custom look at my fancy weapon animation. Checking out your gun mid-match became a kind of taunt, especially if it was an opponent s.

Read more on the next page.

Conspicuous Consumption-Strike

There s an even simpler explanation for the popularity that skins brought to Counter-Strike: they put money directly in the game. A lot of it. Not only did Counter-Strike have a persistent element for the first time, it had a form of progression that was worth real money. How much you d accumulated in CS:GO became a measure of how serious of a player you were.

Skins became status symbols, bling that says something about you as a player. Holding a $2100 Dragon Lore AWP, the CS:GO equivalent of a gold-plated Lamborghini, instantly validates you as a savvy or ultra-dedicated player—not only do you have taste, but you have the means or the passion to acquire something unavailable in stores —the Steam Market places a $400 limit on listings.

No one could have predicted what would happen when one of the world s most skill-driven FPSes made fashion a feature. But it has had a substantial impact on Counter-Strike s competitive scene. Several third-party sites that allow players to bet skins on CS:GO esports matches have sprung up, one among them claiming to draw a million visitors each day.

After weapon skins were added, taking your opponent s AWP or AK-47 took on a whole new meaning: it became a visual trophy.

Just as significantly, professional teams have gained a steady source of revenue outside of sponsors and tournament winnings. Teams that play in major tournaments (like the ESL One Cologne) receive a share of the sales of disposable in-game stickers associated with their team, and recently-added pro autograph stickers contribute even more to the pot. Making $150,000 in pure sticker money—more than the tournament itself—is currently possible, says Kovanen, who analysed these Stickernomics last year.

And despite match-fixing incidents made possible by item gambling, most people in the scene will tell you that the addition of weapon skins has been extremely positive. [Skins] have allowed for large betting companies and sites to be founded and existing ones to begin pouring money into the game, says Kovanen. Most importantly, beyond the visual improvements and the fun that is betting, it has made Counter-Strike incredibly much larger—it's been proven viewership grows exponentially when betting is available, and therefore the game as a whole would be a lot worse off without the item economy that has allowed for the game to flourish.

The combination of being the best FPS game and a purely cosmetic item economy was what pushed CS to where it is today. Change or take either of those away and you would mess with success, says Kyle Ksharp Miller, a veteran professional CS player and co-founder of Team 3D. The true hardcore fans would still be there because they grew up on Counter-Strike, but I don't know if it would have attracted the next generation of players.

The Hyperbeast skin for the M4A1-S.

If you got it, brandish it

When most people have something valuable, they want to flaunt it. They want to wear it out in public and have strangers ask about its origin or authenticity. Oh, this old thing? Owning a rare or expensive CS:GO skin became a status symbol, and an invitation to make videos, screenshots, or GIFs. CS:GO s most passionate skinthusiasts were, whether they knew it or not, highly-effective marketers.

A mundane round of CS:GO s deathmatch mode can draw hundreds of thousands of eyeballs if it showcases a hyper-rare variant of an already hyper-rare skin. Almost 3 million people have heard the inspirational tale of From Nothing to A Knife, one player s saga of turning a $0.16 skin to a sub-$100 blade (set to some choice motivational speeches). CS:GO even has its equivalent to the depressingly popular Kinder Egg opening videos: case opening videos. Millions of people, as it turns out, will vicariously operate a slot machine that spits out virtual guns. And if you want to experience the thrill of opening virtual boxes without spending $2.50 a pop, you can poke around in a crate-opening simulator. Real-life replicas of CS:GO are up for grabs on eBay or Etsy (and are cheaper than their in-game equivalents).

CS:GO went from being a mostly outsourced project meant to bring Valve s series to PS3 and Xbox 360 to the most popular competitive FPS of our generation. The money, popularity, and esports growth that skin mania has brought to Counter-Strike is immense, measurable, and will have long-lasting impact not only on CS but on other multiplayer games.

But even players who are indifferent, or even critical of the way skins have altered a once-pure competitive game have benefited from their introduction. The wave of attention has encouraged Valve to make significant improvements to CS:GO. An influx of new players brought more cheaters (even in the higher levels of competitive play), but Valve has done a lot more to mitigate and ban them. Classic maps like Train that were initially flawed in CS:GO have been reworked. And although CS:GO's tournaments don't yet reach the pomp and level of reward as The International, Valve puts up $250,000 for multiple majors throughout the year.

Even earlier this week Valve  rebuilt CS:GO s hitboxes, animations, and netcode work together, a seemingly mundane update that in fact addresses a long-standing complaint from hardcore players. Take or leave its luxury items, Counter-Strike has never been a better or more beloved game.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is a new channel dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!


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