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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Report lists Steam’s most popular (and most untouched) games">Steam graphs

Have you played every single game in your Steam library? No? Neither have I and that accomplishment is apparently just a small sand grain in the over 288 million games in Steam collections that have never felt a press of the Play button. That's a surprising figure from a new report by Ars Technica researching the most active and popular games on Steam straight from the recorded statistics of some of the platform's 75-million-strong community.

Ars' method for its number flood involves sampling registered games and their played hours via profiles and their unique Steam IDs. With the help of a server for computational muscle, Ars randomly polled more than 100,000 profiles daily for two months to pull together an idea of which games see the most time on everyone's monitors. In other words, your Backlog of Shame (don't deny it, everyone has one) probably took part in some SCIENCE at some point. Exciting.

Some caveats exist, though. The data Ars looked at for its research only extends back to 2009, when Steam brought in its "hours played" tracking system. Owned and played/unplayed games are thus slightly skewed to not account for older releases from the early noughties, and any length of time spent in offline mode wouldn't get picked up by Steam either. Still, Ars claims its results deliver a good picture of Steam gaming trends for the past five years albeit with some imperfections.

Predictably, Valve's personal products stack high on the list in terms of ownership and most played hours. Dota 2 takes the crown with an estimated 26 million players who ganked faces at some point in the MOBA, but free-to-play FPS Team Fortress 2 follows closely behind with a little over 20 million users. Counter-Strike: Source rounds out the top three with nearly 9 million players, but it's also collecting dust in over 3 million libraries.

As for non-Valve games, Skyrim wins in activity, barely edging out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with 5.7 million estimated active owners. Civilization V kept 5.4 million players hooked for Just One More Turn, and Garry's Mod boasts 4.6 million budding physics artists.

Want to know what the most unplayed Steam game is? It's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, the Source tech demo given free to pretty much everyone on Steam who bought or fired up Half-Life 2. It hasn't been touched by an approximate 10.7 million players. I guess that old fisherman is feeling pretty lonely right now.

My favorite stat is the total of played hours divided by game mode, more specifically the separate multiplayer clients of the Steam versions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. The single-player campaigns for each respective title sits modestly within the mid-20-hour range, but the multiplayer side balloons well into the hundreds of hours. It's a pretty obvious indicator of where the biggest chunk of popularity resides in FPS gaming, but it's not like you wouldn't get weird looks for claiming you play Call of Duty for the story anyway.

See more of Ars' results in both number and pretty orange graph form in its report.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: how to communicate effectively in solo ranked matchmaking">Dendi Pudge

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

It's scary, talking to strangers. You probably spent the first ten years of your life being told not to do it, the second ten years of your life trying to summon the courage to do it, and the third ten years of your life doing it but wishing that you were somewhere else. Playing Dota 2 by yourself complicates this already complicated scenario. Language differences. Age differences. Wildly divergent opinions on topics like 'who's fault was that' and 'what are reports for'.

I'm going to outline the best ways to go about communicating in solo ranked matchmaking. You'll notice that all of the statements that I've chosen to highlight are preset phrases that can slotted into the game's chat wheel. These are automatically translated when you use them, which affords you an obvious advantage when matched with people who don't speak the same language as you. The best thing about using the chat wheel, however, is that it makes you look like you've been muted. This is the fastest way to convince assholes on the internet that you are one of them, earning you the kind of edgy cred coveted by awkward thirteen-year-olds everywhere. All of the benefits of being a histrionic pint-sized racist, without having to actually be one!


I find it helpful to always apologise clearly and well in advance, which is one of two things that my Dota experience has in common with my love life. Preferably, you'll apologise right when the game begins, as your heroes plop down into the fountain and you all begin the busy work of determining whose fault everything is.

Saying 'Sorry' at this point will make everybody feel better. In this way you can express sympathy for the 2800 MMR midlaner who knows that he's really probably actually somewhere in the 5700 range and yet somehow somehow! he's ended up trapped in the trench with shitbirds like you. Imagine being him. He dreams of restoring himself to his rightful place, playing mid against Dendi. He dreams of the moment when Dendi will give him a look and say good and then moments later he'll be onstage at TI4 lifting the Aegis of Champions into the air and then Dendi will walk over and clap him on the back and be like gooood and everything will be light and money and hope and maybe he'll get to meet Purge, too.

Your presence in this young midlaner's life is more or less proof that dreams are born to die, so damn right you'd better apologise.

Get back!

Let's be real: I have 'Get back!' bound to the 'B' key, and it's the best decision I've ever made. Do not allow cumbersome radial menus or finicky chat stand between you and and the ready expression of cowardice. There is no finer way to cover your ass than being the guy who thinks that everything you're currently doing is a bad idea. If you get wiped, it's because nobody heeded your warning. If both teams disengage, then it shows that you've got your finger on the pulse. If your team fights anyway, and you win, then at the very least you're the sensible one.

Never underestimate its ironic potential, either. Hammering your 'Get back!' key while your team is being relentlessly fountain-farmed at the end of an unwinnable game is a way of enlivening a difficult time with fun questions. Where would we get back to? Is it possible to climb into the fountain itself? What temperature is the water? Where does the water come from? Could Slark, like, get up in there and swim away? Questions.


'Dive!' is primarily useful because it lets you sound like a cool submarine captain: but don't believe for a second that this is the extent of its utility. Nobody likes a buzz kill. Plans are for StarCraft players. Call for a dive, rush in, fluff your disables, and die! Anybody who doesn't follow you in is obviously new. Except that 'Get back!' guy. He's cool.

Missing!/Enemy returned

There's nothing worse than forgetting to let your team know when an enemy has gone missing. This makes you culpable for anything that goes wrong in the match until that hero returns. By failing in this way you've handed everybody else on your team a free shot at calling you an asshole, and that is simply not how this game is best played. Dota 2 is about taking it in turns to call each other assholes.

For this reason, bind 'Missing!' and 'Enemy returned' and get used to spamming both along with your regular abilities or right-click attacks or whatever. Enemy hero wandered behind a tree? Missing! Enemy hero wandered back out from behind a tree? Enemy returned! Tree? Missing! Tree! Enemy returned!

Adopt the mindset of a toddler playing peek-a-boo: if you can't see them, they could be anywhere! They could be closing in on mid right now! Mid must be warned! Disaster must be averted! They are probably still behind that tree.

We need wards.

Here's an interesting fact: 'We need wards.' and 'Okay.' are the only preset chat options that end in a full stop. Is that an interesting fact? Probably.

In any case, this additional punctuation indicates that these are firm, assertive statements. There's nothing indecisive about saying 'We need wards.', and the full stop is there to ensure that you intone it in the same low voice you'd use when saying "we need to talk" to your partner.

That's what 'We need wards.' means, really. It means "this isn't working out". It means "our lack of vision on the other side of the river means that you don't take me seriously". It means "you don't care if I get ganked". But it's not all negative. By saying 'We need wards.' you are indicating a desire to open up a dialogue, as long as that dialogue concerns things that you do not like about somebody else.

Ultimate ready

Don't rely on strangers to check when your ultimate ability is going to be ready. Using the chat wheel or alt-click is a much more dependable way to indicate that you're hot to trot. Of all of the preset phrases that can be used passive aggressively 'Well played!', 'Game is hard', 'Nice' this is my favourite. Declaring that your ultimate isn't ready as your team rushes blindly into the enemy jungle is a way of suggesting a retreat without committing to a full declaration of cowardice along the lines of 'Get back!'

Best, though, is using 'Ultimate ready' to goad your team into fighting. I like to poke the button over and over, letting my allies know that hey! I've got something we could be making use of right now and hey! maybe we should initiate and hey! those supports aren't going to Culling Blade themselves, are they? Look at this! Echo Slam! You like it when I Echo Slam, don't you? Nudge, nudge, nudge.

If you keep it up, I've found that eventually somebody will give in and humour you. This is the other way that Dota is like my love life.


It's usually a good idea to apologise afterwards as well, I find.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: several exciting ways for friends to lose games of Dota 2 together">Disruptor

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

I've been in a few teams in the two years I've been playing Dota. I say 'teams', but what I mean is 'groups of five people that agree to put up with each other's ceaseless theorycrafting'. I'm in a team right now, in fact. We're called the Hot Dukes and if you play on Europe West you've probably beaten us.

It's a lot of fun. One of the things I like most about playing with a dedicated stack is learning new and imaginative ways to throw matches. I mean, we're not terrible - our matchmaking ratings range from Questionable to Pretty Good - and we're all capable of big plays in the right conditions. But we're nonetheless capable of falling on our asses with a weight and precision that belies the fact that we'd rather not fall on our asses at all. We've developed a methodology for screwing up that approaches science, and it's this methodology that I'd like to share with you today. If your friends are looking for new ways to extend the range of your throwing arm, or are simply looking for an explanation for why you lost that game, I think I might be able to help.

METHOD #1: Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas

You can substitute 'Movie Ninjas' for 'Assassin's Creed Guards', if you prefer. Either way, this is a corruption of the Conservation of Ninjutsu principle: the notion that one ninja might be a deadly threat, but an army might as well be a disposable mass of mooks.

You'll usually experience Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas after your team has had a good start. One or two of you are full-on snowballing, and you feel like you can take on the world. You've become the Good Ninja and the entire enemy team is just a great big horde of Bad Ninjas waiting for your righteous sword. You could take them in their jungle, under their tier two towers, in the Roshan pit, in the river, anywhere. Teamfights can go to hell: it's time to fight like awesome movie ninjas.

The enemy team will usually experience this phenomenon as a very long, very strange teamfight in which a series of suicidal semi-carries gradually feed away their early advantage by throwing themselves one by one into unwinnable situations. As each one dies they'll be replaced by other, equally suicidal semi-carries, running to assist their predecessors. Then the supports will follow, and then the first guy will have respawned or bought back and TP'd in and the cycle will start over. Your team might get a few kills, in this scenario, but will end up losing much more than you gain. The only reliable way I've found to stop a ninja cascade is to suggest a smoke gank: this forces everybody to gather in one place, and ninjas love smoke bombs.

In the event that both teams run at each other one at a time, this is not an instance of Fighting Like Movie Ninjas. It is a dance-off.

METHOD #2: Going To Camelot

Humans are social. We evolved to respond to one another in ways that serve the goals of the collective; we are built to cooperate. If we could pull this off perfectly 100% of the time we'd be absolutely unstoppable. We'd almost certainly have much better spaceships, and we'd definitely be much better at Dota. But we can't, we don't, and we're not. As the entire history of human culture has shown, our special degree of social intelligence is also capable of turning large groups of people into total morons.

Sometimes, when the circumstances are right, a team's natural empathy for one another can backfire. One person's stupid decision is taken as license for everybody else to make stupid decisions. The fact that somebody has spent an entire teamfight going "woooooooooooo" into her microphone means that everybody else will end up doing it too. Valve would argue that the wisdom of crowds is the most powerful asset at their disposal; unfortunately, their game often offers staggering proof that crowds can be dumb as hell.

Going To Camelot is what you get when one competent but disconnected group of people runs into five friends who probably lost the match when they spent the entire draft phase performing a mouth-trumpet rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. It is this principle that means that a team of five strangers sometimes has an advantage against a connected stack, because they are much less likely to overexcite each other and take the game to a silly place.

If you've ever found yourself wandering around the enemy secret shop with no clue what you're trying to achieve as your support Sand King gets stuck on a cliff while trying to de-ward and Disruptor uses a Clarity on Axe because he's forgotten which big red man he is then you are Going To Camelot. It feels innocuous, even harmless, at first: but you have recalibrated your social intelligence. You are idiots now. In five minutes your midlaner is going to be stuck in the trees near the enemy fountain and you will have no idea how he got there. At that point, mouth-trumpets are probably all you have left.

METHOD #3: Forgot About Dre

Counting is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to be good at Dota 2 or life, and one particular number is much more important than all of the other numbers. That number is five.

There are five people on your team. Go on - count them! Five. Now, count how many people on the enemy team that you've seen so far. Anti-Mage? That's one! Shadow Shaman? Two! Centaur Warrunner? Three! Ember Spirit? Wow, you've seen four!

Don't celebrate too soon, hero - don't you think you might be missing somebody?


Your team Forgot About Dre. And now you have lost the game.

METHOD #4: Roshan's Law

Roshan's Law is one of the best ways to know for sure that you belong about midway down the food chain. You are deep into the match, probably losing, and you're not doing anything in particular. There are no enemies on your minimap, so you wander off to mop up a couple of hard camps or push the offlane back out to the river. You're making yourself useful, but not that useful.

An idea starts to form in the back of your mind. You're sure you know what it means when the entire enemy team disappears or at least, you think you used to. This silence means something. You're sure it does! The answer is right at the tip of your tongue.

"Guys! Guys, I think they're doing Rosh."

Roshan has fallen to the Dire!

At some point in your Dota 2 career you have picked up an extraordinary power: you are able to anticipate enemy Rosh attempts at the exact point when they finish killing Roshan. As you hone your ability, you buy yourself more and more time. Eventually, you're able to call it anywhere up to four seconds before the Aegis drops. Your supernatural ability to anticipate a game-changing mishap exactly when the information is least useful to your team is truly a marvel, a thought that provides a little solace as you pick listlessly through the rubble of your ranged rax five minutes later.

METHOD #5: BKB Hipsterism

The enemy has drafted literally all of Dota 2's most magical dickheads. Silencer! Outworld Devourer! Invoker! Luna, Lina, Lion! The game hasn't even started yet and you are already up to your ass in wizard nonsense. You are going to be taking some magic damage this game, let me tell you.

However, this isn't your first wizard rodeo. Would that it were; the first one's always wild. You and your friends know exactly what you're going to do. You're going to muscle through the midgame, build Black King Bars on every single god damn hero, and swagger through teamfights like a bunch of giant golden swirly winners. "Whatever, asshole" you'll say, as magical tears bounce off your perfect untargetable golden abs.

Then, for whatever reason, nobody does that. Despite having established very clearly that this was going to be a BKB game - or a Linken's Sphere game, for some - almost everybody simply doesn't buy one. You get a Drum and a Mek, and then your ancient explodes. Good job, team!

This is an example of the phenomena known as BKB Hipsterism. It's a useful and sometimes essential item, yes. But everyone buys them. They say nothing about you. Besides, is there anything more gauche than turning gold? God, no. I mean, look at that thing. It's a gothy golden skull on a stick. You might as well walk in wearing a treachcoat and a fedora calling yourself Mystery. BKB could stand for 'Burger King Breakfast' for all that it's likely to appeal to people who consider themselves to be tastemakers. And so you grow a beard and buy a Pipe instead. AND YOU LOSE THE GAME. AGAIN. GOD. GOD ALMIGHTY, GUYS.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to EA’s new MOBA, Dawngate, opens its doors to a public beta">Dawngate

Dawngate has just leveled up and announced an open beta release. We wrote a bit about the closed beta almost a year ago, so EA's MOBA, developed by Waystone, has had a lot of time to marinate. If you re game for a new MOBA, head to the Dawngate website to sign up.

It s a new MOBA, but is it a different MOBA? When you drill down into it, Dawngate is trying a few new things. The game includes capture points, RTS-style, that provide a stream of resources to you and your team. Attack animations all seem more kinetic and interesting than in Dota 2 and League of Legends. The team at Waystone also mentions a flexible meta-game that allows players to approach the game how they'd like, though it isn't clear on exactly what that means.

Capture points, flash, and a new meta-game would be enough to stake a claim in the genre, but is it enough? Dota 2 and League of Legends are heavily entrenched in the MOBA ecosystem in the same way that World of Warcraft has dominated the MMO sphere for so long. It will take a game with a lot of new ideas and big risks to make headway Smite, for example, is doing well with a completely different perspective and control scheme. If it s too similar, there s no reason for players to step away from the heavyweights.

Speaking of new ideas: a look at Dawngate's website shows that EA has chosen to represent the game with three pieces of concept art. If you'll look closely, I think you'll find six reasons they think you'll be interested in Dawngate. Can you spot them all?

It's not like other MOBAs aren't guilty of the same, but it would have been nice to see a new artistic style from a MOBA that's apparently so committed to being different.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Smite interview: Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris on competing MOBAs, F2P economics, and religious sensitivity">smite-toddharris-teaser

During the three-day launch tournament for Smite, Hi-Rez Studios' actiony third-person MOBA, I met Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris in the crowded halls of Atlanta's Center Stage Theater. When I found him, Harris was busy corralling a group of popular Youtubers into teams to face off in a just-for-fun showmatch before Sunday's grand finals. As Harris and I headed out of the hallway to find a quiet place to chat, fans kept stopping him, shaking his hand and asking for a card with an exclusive launch tournament skin. I thought it was a little odd, at first, that a COO would be so well-recognized. But Harris is a regular fixture of Hi-Rez's YouTube comedy series. He seems happy to make himself look silly on camera. After the grand finals, he'll get up on stage and proudly proclaim that while Smite isn't the number one MOBA, it is the third biggest. He grins as he briefly chants "Number three!" into the microphone.

When we escaped the crowds, we headed up to a VIP area still bearing the scars of Saturday night's launch party. A security guard asked to see Harris's badge. Shouldn't they recognize you, I asked? "They usually do. He must be new!" Harris joked. Once we finally sat down to talk, Harris spoke candidly about the religious sensitivity around Smite, the game's profitability, and Hi-Rez's plans for future gods.

PC Gamer: Can you give me an overview of Smite from when you guys started it two years ago? to Smite as it is today launching out of beta.

Todd Harris: Three years ago, actually, beginning of 2011, we started experimenting with a new mode of Global Agenda. That was our first game, an MMO shooter. We took the assets from Global Agenda and started playing with a tower defense sort of game. We weren't thinking MOBA. wasn't the explosion it is today.

We played that game, and it was really fun. It was so fun that we thought that this could be its own game. Global Agenda didn't necessarily needs another game mode. So the team said, all right, we'll make it its own game. And as long as its its own game, what IP should we use? The science fiction setting we thought didn't work as well for that tower defense sort of game.

PCG: As opposed to something more fantasy or classical?

Harris: Exactly. Mainly because of weapon differences. We wanted to work with spells instead of guns, where people expect to be able to take someone out at a distance. And that wasn't the pacing and distance of engagement that seemed to make sense for the type of game we were starting to head to.

So we switched to a fantasy setting. Erez and his notebook, which has a thousand ideas at all times, one of them said make a gods vs. gods game at some point. We were like, well, this is the time to do it.

It was also a pretty big risk slash bet. We'd spent all this time on these Global Agenda assets and IP, and we could just move that over and have the game out more quickly. But we said this is really going to be a stronger game ultimately it will resonate more with players around the world. The team was super excited about the theme, our character modelers and animators.

We switched to gods and goddesses and quickly had a roster of 10 gods, ish. a little more simplistic at the beginning. We didn't fully embrace the 3D space. There were more traditional cone attacks and area of effect attacks. But it was always behind the back. Because our DNA is an Unreal 3 action game developer, Global Agenda was third-person behind-the-back, Tribes was a first-person shooter, that action game experience is in our DNA as a developer.

As the game development started to have its own personality, the idea of really embracing the 3D space started to show up specifically with mechanics like being able to gank from above or attack from above like Thor.

PCG: Like Zapman...

Harris: Like Zapman did over and over with Apollo, to escape, or to come crashing in, or to escape and then come crashing back in. So, yeah. We took the game and showed it at both PAXs and had a really good reception and continued to put more and more people on it. I mean, our beta process was close to two years.

PCG: That's a long beta. That's like a Google beta.

Harris: It is, yeah. But the game continued to grow. For us it wasn't important that it suddenly has this huge influx. We just steadily wanted to see more people being able to discover the game and be willing to try it even in a beta state. And it continued to get better. And it changed a lot.

From early beta to now, if you look at the characters and the maps and the UI, it's just night and day in a number of aspects. From a design standpoint, our Conquest, which is our traditional three lane map we've experimented with a lot of designs. We had jungles on the sides at one point. We had a more complex path through the jungle at one point. But they ended up being elements that we didn't think add to the game. This confused users ultimately, and didn't enhance the core things we were trying to do with the game.

And then aesthetically we've improved the game a lot. The artists have been hard at work. Every one of our modes really has a completely different art set from when we began in beta. And same with characters. We took a lot of characters that were already done and we redid them because the graphics weren't good enough.

PCG: So you had to do a lot of original art work to begin with when you switched over to this new style. Did you have a lot of engine tech you could bring over from Global Agenda to make that side of things easier?

Harris: We had a lot of experience with the tools. So there weren't a starting library of art assets, but our artists had been working with the modeling tools and specifically creating assets and lighting techniques and maps specific to Unreal 3 across three games and seven years of experience at that time. So that experience allowed them to do higher quality work more quickly.

And we had a lot of tech. A lot of what we spent time on was technology that lets us make a game design change and test it very quickly because we're a very iterative studio. The designers come up with what they think will be fun but then we actually playtest it every day and a lot of things end up changing. In order to not drive yourself too crazy, you want tools that let you do that. So the tools and the experience definitely helped us, and continue to help us, put out content that's good quality. And pretty quickly, also.

PCG: Are there any examples you can think of in terms of that iterative process that's really changed?

Harris: One of the biggest, this is a character one we do talk about this a lot, but it's an interesting one the original Sun Wukong that we did in the game, we looked at classical treatments of Sun Wukong and the team tried to research it, but the team came up with a character that is somewhat authentic to some early treatments, but not at all relevant to current Chinese understanding and depiction of Sun Wukong.

PCG: And that's a character that's been in so many...things.

Harris: So many games and movies, yeah. He's in pop culture. So we definitely missed the mark there. We took that character, previously known as Sun Wukong, changed his look and kit a little bit but preserved the same playstyle because people definitely liked it, and he got rebranded as Hun Batz, who's a Mayan monkey god. And it took us a long time to come out with a new Son Wukong that's very authentic and matches what people like. And he's a very popular character. That's an extreme example of iterating, or really replacing.

PCG: There's a real difficulty with dealing with characters like that, when all your characters are pulled from mythology or religion. It's really easy to offend somebody, or to just have to be really careful. What has the process of choosing which gods are in the game been like, and choosing what they'll look like, and how they'll play in a video game?

Harris: It's true, it can be a sensitive topic. For us, we wanted to start with a set number of pantheons, meaning families of mythology. So rather than just picking randomly or from the broadest number of gods out there, we wanted to give them families. So we looked across and tried to identify a few that were popular enough, or known enough, and had a wide array of gods that were historically depicted in combat.

That was our high level qualification. Okay, if they're traditionally depicted in combat, it kind of makes sense we could put them in this battleground of the gods. And that's where we came up with the families that we chose, which is basically Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu. And there has been sensitivity. We were in the press a lot specifically around our depiction of Kali, a Hindu goddess, who is actively worshipped today. The Chinese deities are also very actively worshipped in some parts, but it's just a different perspective and they're not criticized. In fact, that market wants more and more of them depicted.

So really, the Hindu example has been the most prominent case of really one individual leading a charge and creating some press. But ultimately we wanted to stay authentic to our vision of the game. And the reality is, I think, it doesn't really matter the people that are upset about that would not be playing our game. And we get, actually, many more emails from people that say they're Hindu and they're very excited to see that their gods are in the game.

PCG: Religion is obviously something you guys had to be careful about, but what about the goddesses in the game? The character art is fantastic, but every goddess in the game is extremely voluptuous and not many of them have clothes on. And that's something that the industry at large has been talking about more and more in games recently the depiction of female characters, being sensitive to that being a male power fantasy thing. Is that something you talk about at the studio?

Harris: It's something we talk about. For good or for bad, and this is not an excuse for it, the reference images we look at for most of these goddesses are much less clothed and more voluptuous than you see them in Smite. It's not an excuse, necessarily, but it is the reference image folks are going by when they reference Aphrodite or Niethe. But I personally do think it's important to show diversity in terms of body types for both sexes and I think over time you'll see more of that.

We do have cases of, like, Artemis, who's more tomboyish, and that's her character. There's Chang'e, who's covered up, a little more demure, which also fits her character (update: I misheard Ne Zha for Chang'e, who is a male God. Thanks for Todd for the correction -ed.). With Athena, we got some criticism, and probably rightly. One of the cards was a little more sexy than she needs to be, and some of the skins are, but her base is a little more warrior. I think you'll see more diversity, and it's a valid topic to talk about, definitely.

PCG: Going forward, are you going to expand the pantheons you have, or are there plans brewing for new pantheons?

Harris: Both. For this year it's mainly about rounding out the pantheons that we have. As we look at, say, roughly the following year of 2015, we want to expand the pantheons and particularly as we take Smite into new territories it makes sense.

We're in North America and Europe. Already we're working on China gods. That's the next territory of focus for us. But as we move into other territories, which we still have to lay out that roadmap, but say we expand into Latin America, where there are a lot of interesting things we could draw on from Brazil and other territories.

PCG: Like the Incans and Aztecs?

Harris: Exactly. We have Mayan now, but we could go a little south. Once we approach that we will potentially just pick, rather than doing a whole pantheon, we may just look at offering one or two per regions just so that those areas can be connected and see themselves represented.

PCG: Are there any gods you really want to see in the game?

Harris: Oh, there's tons.

PCG: Like who?

Harris: Well, one that we've kind of hinted is in our short term roadmap is another Egyptian god, Osiris, who's going to be pretty cool I think.

PCG: Like you said earlier, the MOBA space is huge now. What have been the priorities or the tactics for trying to compete with League and Dota and now Heroes of the Storm?

Harris: It wasn't really an original tactic because we started with Global Agenda, right we didn't think we were going to be competing with them, we were going to make an action game that had tower elements. It ended up being in the MOBA category. Fortunately, we don't really feel that we compete exactly head-to-head on the same things because of the camera angle. Most people who play our game say the combat feels very different. And we tend to see...there's not as many people that play League and Dota, but we have many people that play one of those games and also play Smite, because it's a different kind of experience.

The other thing is that we think we're growing the MOBA market, because we have a lot of FPS players or players of MMO PvP that like the WASD thing, and it's a gateway MOBA for them. They didn't like any other MOBAs because the controls didn't feel comfortable, but they like this. I think that's fortunate, a little bit by accident for us, that we're in that action category as much as the MOBA category, especially now that Blizzard also has a strong entry in the top-down.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see other companies trying to be in that category because they might think, oh, we can take on Smite and not take on Valve, Riot, and now Blizzard. Could happen. Big players there, right? With big budgets.

PCG: The spectator mode is really cool. When you were building out your launcher and the technology to go along with it , was that a big part of the plan, making a good spectator sport, having Twitch built into the launcher, stuff like that?

Harris: Yeah, the eSports support was big from the beginning. Again, PVP's a little bit in our DNA. We had that in Global Agenda. Esports were not quite at the level as they are. With Tribes, we had aspirations for that being an eSport. We invested a little in a spectator mode. But Global Agenda was like version one of the platform, Tribes was like version two, and now with Smite, it's like all that learning, plus more tech, we've got version three.

So from the beginning was: keep the game balanced so it could be competitive, not have it be pay-to-win or even grind-to-win. We deliberately said we didn't want any out-of-match leveling system like rune pages, anything that would affect your stats. We'd just have something like favor that's only cosmetic at the end of the day. It does give you entry into the league system but doesn't give you any stat bonus. And invest a lot in spectator mode and demos and integrating Twitch and all that.

PCG: That potentially takes away a revenue source for you, right? Not having rune pages or something like that in the game?

Harris: It does. Depends on the game whether it helps or hurts, but it's a progression element that some people certainly enjoy and it is a revenue potential stream. But for us, particularly because there's other games already in the market that people are comparing it to and maybe thinking about switching or getting their friend to switch, the idea that they would not be coming in so far behind...it already takes so much time with these games to learn the characters. If they felt that either they'd have to drop a lot of money, or put in a lot of hours, or both, we wanted to remove that.

So we said all right, no out of match rune page. In fact, let's do this god pack. People can pay $30 and get all the gods in the game and every god we ever release for a one-time price. So if I tell you good, and you say you don't want to pay much, from a competitive standpoint, you don't have to. You can pay once. So we made some decisions like that because there's already games out there and we wanted to be attractive to folks. And also, as gamers, we liked the idea of it being a balanced playing field at the very beginning.

PCG: Was that also partially a response to Tribes? I know there was some criticism over the free to play economy.

Harris: It was less that. There was criticism, as there probably is with every free to play game. In the early days Tribes was pretty grindy, but I think we addressed that. So that particular audience may not have wanted a free to play, but it was less that, more of looking at the MOBA space and what player expectations are within the MOBA space, and trying to basically meet or exceed those.

PCG: Is Smite profitable for you now?

Harris: It is. We've grown our studio from around 50 people around a year and a half ago, to 85-plus, all profitably through Smite, and we're growing very quickly now.

PCG: That's really great, especially for having been in beta that whole time. How long did it take for it to turn a profit?

Harris: If you look at it from just a project basis, it's hard to know, since we had people on other games for awhile and gradually moved them to Smite. Really I would say after the first year, basically, it was profitable from a project standpoint. But it's only more recently that it's been supporting the entire studio.

PCG: With the character roster you've got 50 or 51 gods now. Who are the most played gods and how many gods would you say, at least in competitive play, you're not seeing used very often?

Harris: I think our percentage of the pool that we've seen, even just in these three weekends, is pretty strong. Looking at just the two matches that were played, it looks like a larger percentage of the pool than other MOBAs, currently.

PCG: My eyeball guess would be 20, 25 at the high end.

Harris: I think it'll end up being around 25, probably, which is almost half of them, so that's pretty good. We see, obviously, even a higher percentage played in live. So we're pretty active about that. We do patches every two weeks.

In addition to new content, we're always looking at the play time and the power charts. We'll slow down a little bit, but through beta we were very actively making changes if gods were not popular or were too underpowered in general.

PCG: It's interesting for me to see who gets played in competitive games vs. me just playing casually. The gods that I really liked, and playing against other newcomers, was just wrecking face with, are not the ones played by the pros.

Harris: There's a lot of that. So we look at what's played in tournaments. We also look at the playtime for level 30 players vs. under-30, where there are big differences. And we'll also look at the play patterns for players that are high ELO behind the scenes vs. low. And we have to look at all that because there's very different patterns.

PCG: How do you balance a character that can be used by the pros very effectively but is not used at all at the low levels?

Harris: That's why we hire exceptional designers, and I say balance!

No, a lot of it is trying to understand one of the unique things with Smite is there's the stat balance, and with almost all the gods, there's this skill shot dexterity angle. So the balance team does have to put some factor for that in their balance spreadsheets, right? Because I don't hit my Ra snipes like those guys. I don't evade like Lassiz and Zapman and get out of those things.

PCG: It didn't fully register to me while watching the matches with the spectator mode, but when the pros juke like that, they do it without being able to see things coming. Which is like...how do you do that?

Harris: Our whole studio enjoys watching a lot of the eSports events, and other MOBAs, but one of the things that's unique about Smite is that dodging and evading being such a part of it, and is pretty exciting for the crowd to see those players. Which was intentional, we wanted the game to be quicker to the action, more kills, and a little more ability for that reflex action game element by an individual or a coordinated team to turn the tide.

PCG: Last question. Who's your favorite god to play?

Harris: My favorite is easy. It's Zeus. Just because he was one of the early gods, he's a little OP, I can win with him which means he's a little OP. And he's Zeus. He's the king. He's the main dude.

Thanks to Hi-Rez's Todd Harris for finding time to talk to us during the Smite launch weekend. For more on Smite, check out our 12 favorite plays from the launch tournament.
Community Announcements - SZ
Tickets for The International go on sale tomorrow and we wanted to answer a few questions we've seen come up often:

Q. How many tickets can I buy?
Ticket purchases are limited to 5 per household.

Q. Can I sit anywhere or are there preassigned seats?
Yes, you can sit anywhere.

Q. Can VIP ticket holders access the After Party if they're under 21?
The After Party is limited to VIP ticket holders that are 21 and over. There are no restrictions for the other VIP ticket features.

Q. Can I trade my ticket if I can't attend?
Yes, but please note that if you're picking up your badge from Will Call, you will have to contact Ticketmaster and request a badge holder name change.

Q. I'm not attending, does this mean I won't be able to purchase the new items sold at the venue?
Some items will be available on the Dota 2 Store during the event. More details to come.

Q. I'm a Workshop Contributor, will there be a place for me at the International?
This year we'll be setting aside a larger space for Contributors to meet fans, work together, and show off their creations. If you're interested in participating, we'll have a signup space for you soon. In the meantime, make sure you purchase your ticket when they go on sale on Friday.

You can find the purchase page for the tickets here. We recommend going there and creating an account ahead of time so you're ready for the sale.
Product Update - Valve
- Fix bug sometimes counting players as leavers if the game ended while gameserver connectivity to Steam was disrupted

- Fix bug not always marking the game as safe to leave if the leaver disconnected and abandoned quickly
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: why I am deadly serious about the phrase “wizard-’em-up”">Invoker

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2. It runs every Thursday on PC Gamer.

Are you interested in language? I think you should be, but then again I would say that. I peddle language for a living. Don't freak out, but I'm doing it right now. My rent is paid by the notion that some sets of words are of greater value than others. That's kind of a terrifying thought, really, but it's no more terrifying than the alternative: that in the future we will communicate about videogames by honking and pressing 'Like' buttons in a branded metaverse that we access by consenting to give over fifty percent of our brainpower so that Big Data can cloud-compute a solution to free will using our frontal cortexes.

I digress. I'm going to use this week's Three Lane Highway to talk about words. If that's not of interest to you, that's cool. I'd appreciate it if you'd still honk and push the 'Like' button, though.

There was a story that used to knock around the PC Gamer UK office about the provenance of the term 'first person shooter'. Before it came along, 'Doom clone' was the preferred term. This was the language of players, defined and propagated by enthusiast magazines. 'FPS' was the invention of game publishers who didn't want their game to be thought of as a copy. Imitation might be fundamental to the creative process, but nobody wants to own up to their influences at the point of sale.

'FPS' eventually broke through the defenses of buzzword-adverse magazine editors to become the standard phrase, but that's because it was a basically accurate description of the genre. It only became problematic when it emerged that we didn't really have a word for first person games that weren't shooters. That took a while, though: for a long time, 'FPS' served its purpose perfectly ably. Buzzwords are fine if they mean something.

This story is useful because it has a lot of parallels in the formation of the term 'MOBA'. Prior to 'MOBA', games that followed after the Defence of the Ancients/Aeon of Strife formula were 'Dotalikes'. This posed a problem for Riot and anybody else attempting to build a game in the same genre. Changing the terminology became a marketing necessity for them just as it had for Doom clone publishers in the late 90s. I hate to think about how much time this process must have taken when the result was a phrase as flatulent, ugly on the page, and vague as 'MOBA'.

This is not a League of Legends vs. Dota 2 argument. They are both great games, and Riot had the right to come up with a new term. That's not the nature of my problem with 'MOBA'. My problem with 'MOBA' stems from its lifelessness and lack of precision. Also, the fact that I can't hear it without thinking about this entirely terrifying kids' TV series from a couple of years ago.

Put it this way: Planetside 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena. World of Warcraft is a multiplayer online battle arena. Dark Souls is a multiplayer online battle arena. If you take the component parts of 'MOBA' at face value they could refer to more or less anything, and therefore they refer to more or less nothing. Discomfort about using somebody else's marketing term is one reason not to say 'MOBA'; the other is this fundamental lack of meaning.

But wait! You might say, if you were a rhetorical device. Isn't meaning more about usage and context than some notion of inherent correctness? If everybody agrees on what 'MOBA' means, does it matter that it doesn't stand up to scrutiny?

I think it does. Words attract meaning through use, yes, but they also shape the patterns of thought that surround their use. Imaginative language encourages imaginative thought and vice versa. I'd argue that the popularity of the term 'MOBA' contributes directly to the notion that these games can or should be stamped out conveyor-belt style. 'MMORPG' encountered the same problem: it was a simplistic descriptor that became incontrovertibly associated with a simplistic creative process. The term was not exciting, creative, or especially accurate: it had become one of Orwell's ready made phrases, a bad usage that "anaesthetises a portion of one's brain."

Finding a phrase to replace 'MOBA' is an opportunity to zoom in on the things that are exciting about this genre. It's an opportunity to frame games like League and Dota by what they achieve, not just what they are. The phrase 'action RTS' is dry and doesn't paint a clear picture of what you actually do in the game. 'Hero brawler', which is what Blizzard are going with for Heroes of the Storm, actually fares a little bit better: it points out a specific and universal game element (heroes) and attaches it to a situation (a brawl) that has a bit of colour. The best we could come up with at PC Gamer UK was 'lane-pushing game', but I'm not sure that's terribly exciting either.

This is why I ended up referring to Dota 2 as an isometric wizard-'em-up in PC Gamer's review last year. It was a joke, sort of: a way of abdicating responsibility for calling the genre anything. Then afterwards I realised that I liked the phrase that at the very least it reflected something of the feeling I got from playing the game. It is absurd, but the things you do in Dota are absurd too.

These games aren't remarkable because they are multiplayer online arenas, or because they combine action and strategy: they are remarkable because the situations they create are utterly arcane in a way that encourages deep investment. They're remarkable because they create communities of people who are uniquely able to discern incredible stories from the interaction of complex, unintuitive game mechanics. This is as true of Dota 2 as it is of League of Legends, SMITE, or Heroes of the Storm. These are eldritch, uncanny forms of entertainment. They are wizard as all hell. They include wizards; they have a wizardish quality about them; they encourage wizard-like behaviour in their players. Wizards.

You could pick another, safer word, but I don't think you should. These aren't 'safe' games they're laden with risk and nonsense and we should celebrate that in the way we talk about them. Put it this way: when some publisher rocks up and announces that they're making this or that beloved franchise into a MOBA, everybody rolls their eyes. It's easy to make a boring MOBA. I am arguing that it is very difficult to make a boring wizard-'em-up.

I don't expect history or the industry to go with me on this one. But you, the reader, have a choice. You can choose to live in a world where 'wizard' is a verb. I understand some of the reasons why you might not want to do that. I imagine they are perfectly fine reasons. I just sure as hell don't agree with them.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2′s fourth The International tournament announced for July, moves to new location">Dota 2

Some people are really good at manipulating wizards. As the makers of a game that features wizards (also: bears, succubi, venomous man-reptiles), every year Valve invite some of these people to a multi-million dollar wizard-off. That tournament is Dota 2's The International, and is one of the year's largest e-sports events. Valve have confirmed that this year's tournament will run from July 18 - 21, with tickets going on sale later this week. In addition, the event takes place in a new venue: Seattle's KeyArena.

"This year there will be 11 teams invited directly as well as four Regional Qualifiers taking place May 12th through the 25th," write Valve, explaining the tournament structure. "The winner of each Qualifier will receive an invitation, with the four runner-ups competing in Seattle for the final spot."

Tickets for attendance go on sale this Friday, and range from a general pass for $99, to a VIP package including "Meet & Greets" and after party access at $499. You can head to the Dota 2 blog for a full list of available packages and ticket opening times. Alternatively, for the rest of us, the tournament will be broadcast for free through Twitch and the in-game client.

The KeyArena is a larger venue than that of the tournament's previous home, Benaroya Hall. It's also being held a few weeks earlier in the year a fact that's already impacted upon the e-sports calendar. A few weeks ago, MLG announced that they'd be dropping Dota 2 from Anaheim this summer. One of the reasons they stated was the proximity of competing events.
Mar 31, 2014
Community Announcements - SZ
Save the date. This year The International moves to KeyArena, taking place July 18th through the 21st in Seattle.

mad purps

For those interested in attending there are three types of tickets available:

- General Admission ($99)

- Floor Seats ($199)

- VIP package ($499) that includes:
  • Access to all 6 days of Playoffs (formerly Group Stage) taking place on July 8th, before the Championships Event

  • Floor Seating

  • Exclusive VIP Meet & Greets

  • Access to the After Party
Every ticket includes access to all four days of the Championships Event at KeyArena. Tickets will be sold through Ticketmaster beginning this Friday April 4th at 3PM PDT, so check back later for more information.

This year there will be 11 teams invited directly as well as four Regional Qualifiers taking place May 12th through the 25th. The winner of each Qualifier will receive an invitation, with the four runner-ups competing in Seattle for the final spot.

Here's a handy list of times to help you get ready for the sale:
  • Seattle: 15:00 Friday

  • Rio de Janeiro: 19:00 Friday

  • London: 23:00 Friday

  • Moscow: 02:00 Saturday

  • Beijing: 06:00 Saturday

  • Singapore: 06:00 Saturday

  • Seoul: 07:00 Saturday

  • Sydney: 09:00 Saturday
Don't see your time listed? Here's a sweet time zone converter.

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