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John is elsewhere this week, squeezed into Brendan’s luggage for a flight to San Francisco and the Game Developers Conference, so I’m here for the regular rundown of last week’s top-selling games on Steam. This week, the letters R, A, and S are well-represented with strong showings from both Mars and rats.
If you haven’t heard of the Saxxy Awards, then you’ve been missing out. It’s an annual Source Filmmaker competition orchestrated by Valve, and I reckon this year has a particularly strong crop of nominees. The official winners will be announced later today, but who cares about that? I’ve saved Valve the trouble and already picked out the best ones below.
Greetings, readers. John, your regular guide to this hollow summary of ceaseless material consumption, is missing. We presume he has angered the company overlords with some sort of ill-judged diatribe against corporate consolidation, and has subsequently been reassigned to another media outlet, possibly The Re-education Supplement, or Gulag’s Weekly. Well, you won’t find any such insubordination from me. I have only the purest intentions of telling you the top ten best sellers on Steam this week, with a secondary goal of reinforcing the cold emptiness of our predominant mercantile culture. Let’s buy some games! (more…)
If you're ever having a hard time retaking B on Inferno, just build a better sightline. Created by Kinsi55, creator of CS:GO battle royale mod Go 4 The Kill, this mod demonstrates what CS:GO would play like if you could build ramps and platforms as readily as you can in Fortnite Battle Royale.
The result is both cathartic and extremely stupid, a strange shooter hybrid baby that combines one of the most hardcore point-and-click skill tests with the goofiest and most accessible battle royale game out there. Kinsi55 doesn't plan on a public release though; they say CS:GO's skyboxes are so small and buggy that most people would just get stuck, but I'll hold out hope yet. Gun game with fort-building sounds like a dream to me.
At a presentation for upcoming Dota 2-themed card game Artifact at Valve's offices in Bellevue, Washington today, Gabe Newell reiterated that Valve is getting back into developing new games beyond its current roster of multiplayer titles. After talking about Valve's focus on Steam and hardware during the past several years, which he described as "an investment in the future", Newell said "Artifact is the first of several games that are going to be coming from us. So that's sort of good news. Hooray! Valve's going to start shipping games again."
That's games, plural: Artifact isn't the only game Valve is working on. In a January 2017 Reddit AMA, Newell did confirm that Valve was working on at least one fully-fledged singleplayer game. And the following month, in roundtable interviews with PC Gamer, Newell said that Valve was working on "three big VR games." Today's statement doesn't make it 100 percent clear whether Valve has projects in development beyond these previously mentioned games, but it is a possibility. "We aren't going to be talking about it today," Newell said, "but sort of the big thing, the new arrow we have in our quiver, really, is our ability to develop hardware and software simultaneously."
Newell gave some background on Valve's projects from the last few years, like SteamVR and the Vive headset, explaining that the company was worried about the PC heading in the direction of an iPhone-esque closed ecosystem. "You can see that Microsoft was like, wow, how can we make Windows more like that? Or Zuckerberg is saying, 'well I tried to compete in the phones, I got my ass kicked, so I'm going to create this new thing, VR, which will allow me to recreate the kind of closed, high margin ecosystem that Apple's done.' And that really started to worry us, because we thought that the strength of the PC is about its openness … So we started to make some investments to offset that."
Those investments, Newell said, meant they hadn't released a new game since Dota 2—but that work wasn't wasted time. "The positive thing about the Vive is, in addition to making sure that nobody created an iOS closed platform for it, was also that it gave us the opportunity to develop our in-house expertise in hardware design. Five years ago, we didn't have electrical engineers and people who know how to do robots. Now there's pretty much no project in the hardware space that we wouldn't be comfortable taking on. We can design chips if we need to, we can do industrial design, and so on. So that added to that."
With Valve's new hardware chops, it seems like we can expect more than new games from the company. "We've always been a little bit jealous of companies like Nintendo," Newell said. "When Miyamoto is sitting down and thinking about the next version of Zelda or Mario, he's thinking what is the controller going to look like, what sort of graphics and other capabilities. He can introduce new capabilities like motion input because he controls both of those things. And he can make the hardware look as good as possible because he's designing the software at the same time that's really going to take advantage of it. So that is something we've been jealous of, and that's something that you'll see us taking advantage of subsequently."
I have no idea how dunking a bunch of 20-somethings in a hole in a frozen lake helps pro esports organisation Fnatic find a new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive academy team, nor how watching a largely unfit group tackle a kind of special ops obstacle course helps their cause, but it's cringingly fun to watch. And that, I suppose, is what Season 2 of CSGO reality show Gamerz is all about.
Gamerz whittles CSGO applications from all over Europe (this is the Euro edition) into two teams of six players, then moves them into a house together for 20 days, and peppers them with various challenges in addition to playing the game. Over the course of the show, underperforming players will be turfed out and replaced by new challengers entering the fray.
There's a new episode every day, in addition to live lunchtime practices, and Episode 3 airs today. Episode 1 follows the gang, which includes two UK players - ardiis and neph - as they meet each other, do the military exercises mentioned above, and settle into their new house. It's all a bit contrived and awkward, naturally, but settles in Episode 2 when the two fresh teams get down to business in a best of 30 CSGO match.
Some Monday mornings, as I plonk myself down at my desk at 6.50am and load the RSS feed for the Steam Charts, I think to myself: you know what? There are so many other things I’d like to write about today. Anyway, here are the top ten games on Steam from the last week.
The group stages of CS:GO's portion of the Intel Extreme Masters at Katowice 2018 are underway.
Running today in Poland's Spodek Arena, the first of Group A's matches—SK Gaming vs Avangar, and Renegades vs Astralis, the latter of which, at the time of writing, can be viewed here—are set to wrap up after 1pm GMT, with Group B's ties to follow. I don't know enough about the CS:GO esports scene to pass judgement/back a potential winner, but Ninjas in Pyjamas is some top tier team naming. I'm rooting for them.
Group stages run through March 1, with playoffs on March 2, playoff semi finals on March, and the competition's grand final on Sunday, March 4 at 4pm GMT/8am PT. Here's a look at the prize pool:
A full streaming schedule for all of that can be found here, as can more information on the event's format.
Elsewhere at Katowice 2018, PUBG and Dota 2 held their respective run-ins last weekend—marking Dota 2's first Polish major—whereas Starcraft 2 started its initial rounds of 76 yesterday. More details on those can be found here and here and here.
A lot of people have tried to argue over the years that it’s simply impossible to collate the top ten selling games on Steam from the last week, and then write a small comment accompanying each, beneath a screenshot. But today, for the first time, we hope to prove those people wrong. (more…)
In July 2016, Twitch suspended James "PhantomL0rd" Varga, a streamer who at the time had nearly 1.4 million followers, over his association with CSGO skin gambling site CSGOShuffle. Esports journalist Richard Lewis said a record of email exchanges between Varga and CSGOShuffle coder Duhau Joris that he'd obtained "heavily suggest, almost to a degree of certainty," that Varga actually owned the site, a fact he neglected to mention in streams where he used and promoted it, and gambled with "house money" rather than his own.
That's in violation of FTC and Valve rules, which means it also violated the Twitch terms of service, and as a result his channel was suspended. But now Varga has filed a lawsuit (via Unikrn) against Twitch over the suspension, saying that Twitch improperly suspended his account and then terminated his contract without providing an explanation as to why.
The lawsuit alleges that Varga's contract obligated Twitch to provide written notice of violations, as well as an opportunity to correct them within 30 days, but neither the notice nor the corrective window were provided. Furthermore, the allegations that led to the suspension arose from "unsubstantiated, false accusations leveled at Varga by a third party, whose accusations were the culmination of an effort to publicly disparage Varga and take advantage of his popularity."
"It is clear from Twitch's conduct that the stated bases for suspension and termination were an effort to deflect negative press and scapegoat Varga, allowing Twitch to publicly decry alleged gambling conduct and divert attention from the fact that Twitch continued to knowingly allow such conduct to continue on other Twitch channels," the suit states.
Varga alleges that he wasn't given a reason for the suspension until January 2017, nearly five months after it happened, when a Twitch rep told him that his channel had fraudulent subscribers. At some point after that, however, he was told that the real problem was the amount of non-gaming content he streamed, including CSGO skin gambling, which violated content guidelines.
But Varga claims that he was told multiple times by Twitch employees that he could stream such content for up to 30 consecutive minutes at a time, and that Twitch "was aware that the representation was false."
The suit says Varga suffered significant financial and reputational harm as a result of the suspension, which occurred despite him fully satisfying all the conditions of his contract. He's seeking general, special, and exemplary damages, interest, legal fees (including "expert witness fees"), and whatever else the court deems appropriate.
Varga, as far as I can tell, has not returned to Twitch since his initial suspension, but he's been streaming on YouTube since last year. A Twitch rep said the company does not comment on pending litigation.