PC Gamer

This week's Triggernometry is all about the basics of flashbanging. CS:GO's blinding bomb is one of the fundamental tools of competitive play, but the techniques surrounding flashing can be pretty opaque. This video gives an overview of how flashes work and demonstrates two maneuvers, the pop flash and the fake flash.

For more advanced techniques, consult Swag

PC Gamer

CS:GO s  ESL One Katowice last weekend drew more than a million viewers at its peak, a record viewership for any version of professional Counter-Strike. If you hold that number up against the number of people who gathered around League of Legends late last year (11 million concurrently) it looks slim, but it s a significant milestone for the FPS genre, which has struggled for decades to pull a large audience around its various competitive scenes.

Granted, the fact that spectators could earn  rare editions of CS:GO weapon skins by watching might ve had something to do with Katowice s popularity. I d rather credit that excitement to its matches, the majority of which were excellent through the four-day event. Coming into Saturday, the semifinals were stacked: Polish home team Virtus Pro was matched against Fnatic, who s considered the most-skilled team in the world. On the other side of the bracket, Dreamhack Winter 2014 champs (as Team LDLC) Team EnVyUs faced off with Swedish stalwarts NiP.

I recommend jumping into the Watch panel in CS:GO to watch some of the final matches in-client, but if you're short on time, here are some of my favorite clips from the event.

Katowice's early rounds included more than a few blowouts, but this video collects some of the best moments from early play

GeT_RiGhT pulls an insane 4K on de_dust2

Neo and Pasha make a memorable moving boost on Cobblestone

Device patiently lines up two NiP in banana on Inferno

Good breakdown of Pronax s strategy in some key rounds against NiP and VP

Friberg pulls a crazy double-kill on a single AK spray on the final map of the Katowice finals to keep NiP in it

Another great breakdown of Cloud9 s T-side pistol round execution against TSM on Nuke

MojoOnPC pulls in teams' in-game voice chat to share some of the funny moments from the competition, including team kills

PC Gamer
Counter Logic Gaming competes in the Katowice 2015 qualifier. All photos courtesy HLTV.org.
TRIGGERNOMETRY

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

Article by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen

The fifth CS:GO major is days away as the world s best teams are soon starting their travel to Poland for  ESL One Katowice 2015, where the new world champions and winners of $250,000 will be crowned after four days of play, beginning this Thursday.

16 of the world s best teams are present, including the top eight finishers from the previous major,  DreamHack Winter 2014. Joining them are eight teams from the offline qualifier, which also took place in Katowice, a month ago.

In this preview we ll focus on the absolute best teams present in Katowice. For a longer preview featuring all sixteen squads, head over to  HLTV.org for their ESL One Katowice 2015 coverage, including interviews with every team in attendance.

Pronax at MLG Aspen.

Fnatic

Sweden (flusha, JW, KRiMZ, olofm, pronax)

Fnatic have a strong case for being the world s best team right now and likely come into the major as the favorites to win it all. Three of their current players won the very first CS:GO major roughly 15 months ago, and now the organization is vying to become the first team to bag two majors in the game.

After a surprising loss to NiP at MLG Aspen, the black and orange regained their top spot with a dominant performance at Pantamera Challenge that saw them top four of the world s best teams in a day filled with action in Stockholm.

pronax s team has a favorable group draw, and are a favorite against every team in the world in a best-of-three series. If the ex-LGB duo of KRiMZ and olofm keep their performance up, and flusha resurfaces, fnatic could easily become major champions come Sunday.

Prediction: 1st

Shox, as a member of Team LDLC.

EnVyUs

France (Happy, kioShiMa, NBK, shox, SmithZz)

Definitely a top two team in the world right now, EnVyUs formerly known as LDLC are the defending major champions from DreamHack Winter three months ago, and more recently have won MLG X Games and placed third at Pantamera Challenge. Not a bad resume, but the recent loss stings.

Though fans will tell you how amazing Happy is as a caller, his leading is actually fairly poor compared to his peers, as his team usually wins by pure skill instead. In fact, Happy in 2015 is a much better fragger than he is a leader, based on how EnVyUs plays.

Key players for EnVy are shox, previously the world s best player, and kioShiMa, whose inconsistent entry fragging can be the key to nV s wins, or the reason for their downfall. Their play will decide whether NBK tweets out of frustration or happiness at the end of the event.

Prediction: 3-4th

NiP veteran GeT_RiGhT.

NiP

Sweden (allu, f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)

The Swedes of NiP went through a roster change after a disappointing showing at Pantamera Challenge, despite top two finishes at DreamHack Winter and MLG X Games, and a win at ASUS ROG in late January. They removed Maikelele to add former mousesports member allu—who is not Swedish.

That allu is a Finnish player who speaks Finnish as his native language could be a problem in the short-term for NiP, depending how well they are able to work around the potential communication issues that might surface. Another big factor is their style—has Xizt finally let go of their years-old setups?

NiP once again pack so much skill that with their routine it s hard to imagine them not making the semi-finals in Katowice. From there on out the differences will be so small that even allu s communication could matter, but if he, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT are firing on all cylinders, it won t.

Prediction: 2nd

Pasha

Virtus.pro

Poland (byali, NEO, pasha, Snax, TaZ)

Virtus.pro have had a rocky few months in 2015, with group stage exits at both ASUS ROG, a tournament with weak competition, and Pantamera Challenge, to show for their efforts. Last year Virtus.pro broke through as an elite team at this event, and they will hope to repeat their performance.

While Snax remains one of the world s best players, the best player of the team, Pasha, has regressed considerably since his peak in the second and third quarters of 2014. If he returns to a form resembling a top five player in the world, Virtus can win the entire event.

Realistically there is nothing to suggest—aside from last year s precedent—that Virtus would be competing for a win here. However, given the home soil advantage they believe in, and the added motivation, it s reasonable to expect them to bounce back in Katowice.

Prediction: 3-4th

kennyS, currently the world's best CS:GO player.

Titan

France (apex, Ex6TenZ, kennyS, Maniac, RpK)

Titan have the world s best player in kennyS and one of the sharpest CS minds in Ex6TenZ. At Pantamera Challenge they proved they can hang with the best, and they will have a chance to score a huge upset when facing their countrymen EnVyUs in the group stage.

It s unclear whether Titan are good enough to win multiple best-of-three series against top teams, but they are dangerous enough that none of the teams listed above would like to face them. A lot will depend on apEX, whose performance has been very inconsistent.

Prediction: 5-8th

Device

Team SoloMid

Denmark (cajunb, device, dupreeh, karrigan, Xyp9x)

TSM have only attended one tournament so far in 2015, but they had a very good showing in Aspen, finally winning a best-of-three series—even if in the third place decider match—against a team legitimately stronger than them.

Since the Danes have not been active so far in the year, it s hard to say whether they ve been able to fix any of the issues that have plagued them for years—especially since the issues are big games, which you can t play from home. It s more likely they ll face another earlyish exit.

Prediction: 5-8th

Canadian-born Semphis plays for Cloud9, currently the best North American team.

Cloud9

USA (n0thing, semphis, sgares, ShahZaM, shroud)

The Americans of Cloud9 had a very weak autumn last year, culminating in the removal of Hiko for ShahZaM. Though they scored an upset win versus NiP at MLG and beat a weak Mousesports team at the offline qualifier, there simply isn t enough proof of Cloud9 being able to perform consistently.

In Katowice they will be in the toughest group with both Virtus and TSM present, so already advancing out of it would be an impressive feat. Odds are against Cloud9, but it s definitely not impossible to see them in the quarter-finals.

Prediction: 9-12th

Zeus (middle) and Edward (right).

Natus Vincere

Ukraine (Edward, GuardiaN, seized, starix, Zeus)

Na`Vi were one of the top five teams throughout last fall, but they have not attended a single tournament since DreamHack Winter. To further add to the confusion,  Starix said in his video blog that he may be getting removed from the team.

At this point Na`Vi are a complete dark horse who could crash out in the groups or make a deep playoff run, thus making them one of the most exciting teams to follow going into ESL One Katowice later on in the week.

Prediction: 5-8th

You can reach @lurppis_ on Twitter.

PC Gamer

This year's catalog of GDC panels included some Counter-Strike: "Community Level Design for Competitive CS:GO" a series of words that are alarmingly up my alley. There was no way I wasn't missing a panel dedicated to competitive CS:GO, especially when retired Counter-Strike pro player Sal "Volcano" Garozzo and Shawn "FMPONE" Snelling (who we've featured previously on our site in the series "Building Crown") were doing the panelin'.

I'm still writing up my notes and recorded audio from the presentation, which I'll share soon in a separate story. After the panel, though, I pulled Garozzo and Snelling in front of a camera to get them talking about the state of CS:GO's esports scene and the immortality of de_dust2, likely the most-played map in the history of gaming.

PC Gamer
TRIGGERNOMETRY

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

When someone put these mirrored versions of standard Counter-Strike maps in front of me, I thought, "Well, that's cute. Let's give that a whirl." Little did I know that I'd be subjecting myself to the Counter-Strike equivalent of a lobotomy. I switched on the ol' Shadowplay to capture my reaction as I loaded flipped versions of Nuke, Inferno, Dust2, and Mirage up for the first time.

PC Gamer

Positioning is a part of Counter-Strike that many players don't lend the proportional amount of consideration to. Where you are in relation to your teammates and the enemy (and when you're there) has a huge impact on how a round plays out. Positioning is also a massive topic—more than a 10-minute video can cover every aspect of—but for this week's Triggernometry I've focused in on the CT side of that most ubiquitous of maps, de_dust2.

PC Gamer

The ESL is hosting what it says will be the largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament in the world this summer, in the biggest indoor arena in Germany. It also promised that 2015 will see more CS:GO action than any previous year in the ESL's history.

The Score reports that the 2015 Cologne tournament will see 16 teams battling for $250,000 in prize money, which will be funded entirely by the ESL. Last year's Cologne tournament offered a similar prize pool but was "community funded" through sales of the 2013 Arms Deal update. Ulrich Schulze, the ESL's managing director of pro gaming, said the ESL-exclusive funding  demonstrates its commitment to CS:GO as a professional e-sport.

ESL One Cologne is going to be the largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event in the world," he said. "Taking place in the biggest indoor arena in Germany, we re sure it ll be a massive hit for fans from all over."

The ESL One Cologne tournament will take place at the 20,000-seat Lanxess Arena in Cologne on August 22-23. Tickets to the event will go on sale on February 23.

PC Gamer
face off

Evan Lahti, Editor-in-Chief, US

Evan is legitimately afraid of CS:GO becoming the horse racing of e-sports.

Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor

Tyler really hopes he comes out on top in this debate, because he s got five dollars on it.

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Evan and Tyler argue whether or not betting on e-sports is a healthy part of its growth, or if it will only lead to more problems like the recent match fixing scandal.

Evan: UH, YEAH. Every week seems to bring another shocking revelation that more professional Counter-Strike players have thrown matches in order to win in-game skins through CSGO Lounge, a third-party betting site. These players have thrown their careers away in order to earn hundreds or a few thousand dollars worth of weapon skins. Their actions have devastated CS:GO s integrity as a competitive game. It s unclear how long these events will leave a scar on the scene, but for many, it s already gutted their interest in what was a thriving, growing e-sport. Say it ain t so, ShahZam.

Tyler: NO WAY! Sports and gambling go together like pure rocky mountain spring water and the best High Country barley! Where there are sports, there are bets (and watery, ice cold beer, mm). So, if e-sports are in fact sports, it follows that betting is inevitable, and I say it s healthy. Except when it s compulsive (unhealthy gambling is a problem of its own), betting on sports is an expression of passion. It s saying, I follow this so closely I can out-predict you. And it s just fun. It adds a layer of excitement and investment in the game, even if you ve only got a buck down.

Evan: If an e-sport needs that extra layer of excitement to survive, it doesn t deserve to.

Tyler: I don t think betting is necessary—people are still going to watch the Super Bowl even if they aren t in a pool—but the fact is that it does increase investment and help the sport grow. And that s good! Tomi lurppis Kovanen said himself: There is so much evidence in terms of viewership growth that betting is great for CS:GO that this really should not be a discussion.

Evan: Here s the difference: most e-sports don t have a singular governing body like the NFL or FIFA (which have their own problems, certainly!) to police these issues. Riot does the best job of it—they committed themselves to manicuring every aspect of their game a long time ago. But in CS:GO s case, it was actually CSGO Lounge—the betting service itself—that exposed players wrongdoing after noticing suspicious betting. That s completely absurd! That s like relying on the Mafia to report on racketeering.

Tyler: Even if CSGO Lounge is the wrong entity to police this, it still did. Clearly there are people who want to make this work, and e-sports just needs to grow into it. We ll figure out which players and teams can be trusted, which ones police themselves and promote fair matches. There s a demand to put money on e-sports, and that demand is increasing viewership and getting more people into it. Because of that, it will get better. There s money to be made, which means cheaters won t be tolerated. Capitalism at work!

Evan: It s greed and immaturity at work. Look, I like that CS:GO and Dota 2 have open markets for items. It s generally a good addition to their ecosystems. But the extent that the CS:GO scene has given betting a full-on, legs-wrapped-around-each-other embrace makes me uncomfortable. Teams make their own weapon skins in hopes that they ll get officially released so they can get a cut of their Steam Market income. Leagues like FACEIT feature CSGO Lounge as sponsors and talk about betting like it s just another, normal aspect of commentary.

I m sure that betting has attracted a larger audience, but it s also permeated competitive CS:GO with paranoia. Was that poor performance by LDLC just them having an off-day? Was that victory by North American underdog Cloud9 legitimate? In the same way that hacks! has been a ubiquitous accusation, these events have undermined competitive play for the foreseeable future.

Tyler: But that s just the thing: over time, people will stop betting on matches clouded with doubt. No one wants to put money (or skins that cost money) on a suspicious competition. They ll take their money to tournaments and matches they can trust, and in return, those organizations and teams will get bigger viewership and the untrustworthy will falter. And the whole CS:GO skin thing is just one little part of this. I truly believe that right now we re just seeing growing pains. We re seeing a sports scene which hasn t quite matured discover the consequences of poor behavior, and it s going to get better.

Evan: In the meantime, betting s affecting everyone s spectating experience. It s gotten better, but DDoSing still disrupts matches to the point where they re rescheduled or need to be cancelled altogether.

Tyler: I ll return to lurppis to field that one. It is easy to blame DDoSing only on betting, but it was already taking place in the CS 1.6 days when betting didn t really exist, he said. Some people just want to see the world burn. And it s true, DDoS attacks are difficult to counteract, and they happen all the time for no reason whatsoever. Betting is just another excuse for dicks to be dicks, but they were already dicks.

Evan: If e-sports—CS:GO in particular—want to become truly mainstream, they need to kick their reliance on gambling for growth. They need to stop embracing betting as something that s married to the metagame. Match fixing remains a threat to competitive games, and more betting and fantasy e-sports sites are popping up. Consider this: there are no real safeguards in place to prevent underage people from using their parents money to buy in-game skins, then gambling with them.

Tyler: I agree that that s a problem. But hell, it s a problem in gaming as a whole. How many purchase systems in free-to-play games could be considered gambling? What about buying TF2 keys? One thing I think needs to happen is a move away from things like skins. Stand-ins for money won't do—there should be no way to pretend gambling isn't gambling. If you want to bet on CS:GO or any other e-sport, you ought to have to do it properly... you know, with a company that legally takes your money.

It may be seen as a low form of entertainment, but with safeguards against abuse (both from players and betters), betting is just a bit of fun and it ll do a lot to grow the scene. I admit that, right now, I wouldn t want to bet on CSGO or any other e-sport—I ll probably stick to hockey—but give them a few years and I think the market will figure itself out.

PC Gamer

In the wake of the suspension of 26 professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players who were involved in match fixing, Valve has issued another statement that not only warns against such behavior, but explains why any kind of betting on matches is bad for everyone.

The statement opens with the same warning that accompanied the lengthy bans of pro CS:GO players in January and February: That players, teams, and anyone involved with professional events should never bet on matches or associate with those who do. But then it moves beyond that to explain that it's not just impropriety that's the problem, but also the mere appearance of impropriety.

"As a professional player, team manager or event production staff, it is common to have personal relationships and/or privileged information about other teams and players. Because of this, we will always assume that you have access to private CS:GO-related 'inside information' that might give you an unfair advantage when placing a bet on any CS:GO game or match," Valve wrote.

"Betting using inside information, or even the perception or suspicion thereof, carries a significant risk of damaging your personal brand, your team, your community, and may lead to exclusion from future Valve-sponsored events," it continued. "To avoid these risks, we recommend that you never bet on any CS:GO game or match. This recommendation applies both to current professional players and anyone who wishes to participate in a Valve-sponsored CS:GO event in the future."

Valve said it's important for players to consider the impact they can have on the "health and stability" of the CS:GO sport. E-sports are tremendously popular but it's still a relatively nascent business, and if the perception of widespread corruption takes hold, it could seriously impinge upon its future growth. "Performing before an audience of millions of fans, you are ambassadors for your game," it wrote. "The strength of professional Counter-Strike comes from the integrity of its players and teams."

PC Gamer

[Update: Valve and ESL have lifted the ban on the former ESC Gaming team, and reinstated its invitation to the Katowice 2015 offline qualifier. "The ex-ESC players were restricted from participating in Valve-sponsored events because their historical account activity matched allegations of misconduct," Valve said in a statement. "However, further investigation has clarified their role in the matter, and the restriction has been lifted."]

Original story:

Valve's ongoing investigation into pro-level Counter-Strike: Global Offensive match fixing has resulted in the suspension of another 19 players from its sponsored events. The ban means that three teams—Epsilon eSports, the former ESC Gaming, and WinneR—will not be eligible to compete in the offline qualifier for the upcoming ESL One Katowice 2015.

ESL One has scheduled a "last-chance tournament" for February 8 to determine the teams that will replace Epsilon eSports and ESC Gaming, while LGB eSports and 3DMAX will take WinneR's position. The league noted that those two teams had been slated to play a third-place match in the second European qualifier, but that will no longer be necessary as both teams will now advance.

14 of the players determined to be involved in match fixing have been given indefinite suspensions that won't be reviewed prior to 2016:

  • Kevin Uzzziii Vernel
  • Joey fxy0 Schlosser
  • Robin GMX Stahmer
  • Morgan B1GGY Madour
  • Damian DiAMon Zarski
  • Michal bCK Lis
  • Jakub kub Pamula
  • Mateusz matty Kolodziejczyk
  • Michal michi Majkowski
  • Karol rallen Rodowicz
  • Mikolaj mouz Karolewski
  • Grzegorz SZPERO Dziamalek
  • Pawel innocent Mocek
  • Jacek minise Jeziak

Another five have been declared ineligible for ESL One Katowice while the investigation continues:

  • Robin r0bs3n Stephan
  • Tahsin tahsiN Sarikaya
  • Koray xall Yaman
  • Ammar am0 Cakmak
  • Antonin TONI Bernhardt

Valve again said that professional CS:GO players and teams "should under no circumstances gamble on CS:GO matches" or associate with those who do, a position echoed by the ESL. "At ESL, we want to underline the fact that unsportsmanlike behavior, such as match fixing, will not be tolerated, and therefore the banned players will not be allowed to take part in any ESL CS:GO tournaments until these cases are reviewed by Valve," it said in a statement.

The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament at ESL One Katowice 2015 runs from March 12-15, and features a $250,000 prize pool.

...

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