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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The week’s highs and lows in PC gaming">ACU_High

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team pile into the war room to fight over the best and worst of the last seven day's in gaming. Up first, the best bits. Read them quick, before the bombs fall...


Tom Senior: Cutting the nonsense out of Assassin s Creed

Assassin's Creed is a series based on an ancient war between Templars and Assassins, relived through a magic machine that lets you run around in genetic memory imprints stabbing historical figures and having coda chats with them in a digital void. That's an acceptable level of strange if I still get to run around beautifully rendered bits of history, but after that great big guff-pill I'm invited to swallow a parallel plot involving a precursor race of powerful mega-beings destroyed by an ancient solar flare. It s too much. I am all guffed out.

Thankfully, Assassin s Creed: Unity will take another run at the modern-era metafiction bits that have haphazardly tied the series together since game one. Assassin's Creed 3 brought an ignominious close to Desmond's tale, and Black Flag, which I loved, revisited the modern world with a series of first-person sections that were at least short and intermittent. As much as I d quite like them gone altogether, I m glad Ubi are trying to reset the series and refine their ideas. Hopefully similar pruning will be applied to climbing and the Assassins mostly-redundant combat actions.

Wes Fenlon: Grim Fandango remastered is coming to PC

We knew it was coming there was just no way Double Fine's re-release of PC classic Grim Fandango would stay a Sony exclusive. Still, there was no better news this week than the confirmation that the remastered Grim Fandango is, absolutely, definitely, for sure coming out on PC. Even if Double Fine didn't touch up anything about the game, I'd be happy to see it pop up on Steam. eBay is currently the only way to buy the game, and it's not cheap. But it sounds like Double Fine plans to remaster the game to some extent. I say all it needs is support for higher resolutions and less awkward keyboard controls. Maybe they'll even throw in mouse support, like modders did a few months back. Then Grim Fandango really will be the greatest point-and-click adventure ever made.

Tyler Wilde: Humble 2K Bundle is nutty

For $20, you can get BioShock, BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Oh, and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. You get that, too. Way to one-up the Steam Summer Sale.

Phil Savage: Diving deeper into Dota

I've been watching The International. In itself, that isn't particularly notable, but this year I've been understanding The International too. Valve now run a newcomer's stream, and for those like me with only a passing understanding of the game, it's proven to be an invaluable resource.

Previously, all I knew about Dota 2 s e-sports scene was that when a player activated the ghost boat, it made me happy. Now I know that Kunkka's Ghost Ship is an ultimate skill that not only deals damage, but also provides a rum buff to allies. And I know that its speed makes it difficult to land. And I know that Kunkka pairs well with Shadow Demon, because Disruption complements the Admiral's casting delays. It's given me a deeper appreciation of the game, which further compliments the surface pleasure of seeing a ghost boat sailing across the screen. DIGITAL SPORTS!

Samuel Roberts: Alien resurrection

The news that Alien: Isolation will feature two additional episodes based on the 1979 movie is, I think, the only DLC announcement of the past year that has made (most) people genuinely excited. Reuniting key members of the cast, including Sigourney Weaver (!) who actually seems pretty impressed by the story Creative Assembly has created, it makes me wish the entire film could be adapted into Alien: Isolation s run-and-hide paradigm. Either way, with both episodes confirmed to be on-sale after release, whether you pre-order or not, the idea behind this shows Creative Assembly is on the right track in pleasing the film s massive audience.

Cory Banks: Microsoft Flight Sim and X-Plane coming to Steam

One of my first PC games was surprisingly realistic: playing Microsoft Flight Simulator on my uncle s blazing-fast 386. It was inscrutable: how do you turn the plane on? How do you make it go forward? He had a giant manual sitting on the desk, and I searched for every keyboard shortcut needed to finally get a Cessna up in the air. And then I crashed both the plane and the PC.

So it s a blast from the past to have Dovetail bring MS Flight Sim X to Steam. And even better for true flight sim fans, X-Plane 10, the newer, better flight simulation, will also land on Valve s service. The timing is perfect, since the recent surge in space combat sims has more and more PC gamers thinking about new flight sticks. I don t know if I ll ever master actually landing a plane, but I ll definitely spend a weekend trying.


Phil Savage: Hobby-grade word jumble

When a new lane-pusher is announced, the PC Gamer team reacts variously with indifference, scepticism and uncontrollable screaming. But for me, the low point of the week wasn't the reveal of Gearbox s Battleborn. Instead, it was what Randy Pitchford said about Battleborn.

Battleborn is: FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn Heroes!

I don't know what half of that means, but I do know that hobby-grade makes me angry. The whole statement says nothing. It's a mash of meaningless buzzwords; a grab-bag of Zeitgeist-chasing non-entities that capture little of what a game is or means or can be.

Also, in Battleborn's press release, Pitchford called Borderlands 2 a shooter-looter . Randy Pitchford has broken words.

Samuel Roberts: Kinect for?

I am baffled by the $199/ 159 price tag for Kinect 2.0 on Windows. To put it context, this is pretty much the same unit that Microsoft has made optional with Xbox One very recently, and is now being sold on eBay pre-owned for under 40. While I m really looking forward to seeing what developers do with it on PC based on hacks of the original Kinect, I can t help feeling like 100 would be a fairer price.

Cory Banks: Trolls kill Divinity: Original Sin s global chat

I ve played almost 60 hours of Larian s fantastic Divinity: Original Sin, and I don t feel like I m anywhere near the end. But I ve been stuck a few times, and it would have been nice to have a helping hand. Larian founder Swen Vincke, who I spoke to earlier this week, says the developer originally included a Global Chat feature in the game for just such a reason. But because people are awful to each other in chat rooms, Larian turned global chat off. After the surge of jerks dies down, the team may turn the feature back on, but right now it s still off. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, trolls.

Wes Fenlon: Alien: Isolation's VR support is only a demo

The best thing I played at E3 2014 was probably Lucky's Tale, the charming Oculus Rift 3D platformer. The second best thing I played, though, was Alien: Isolation, which becomes even more frighteningly claustrophobic and tense with an Oculus Rift strapped to your head. Our recent preview of Alien: Isolation on the Rift conveys just how much physicality VR adds to the experience. After 10 minutes, I was convinced that was how I wanted to play the entire game. So I'm bummed to hear Sega say that right now, the VR build is just a prototype, and there are no plans to fully support the Oculus Rift for the final game. Maybe that's just because the consumer Oculus Rift headset will launch sometime after Alien: Isolation. When that headset is out, I hope Sega and Creative Assembly update the game to support it. This is how horror games are meant to be played.

Tom Senior: Clueless about Dwartress

I am my own low this week, for not knowing how to play Dwarf Fortress. It's probably one of the best games on PC, and therefore one of the best games in existence a limitless story generator that simulates extraordinarily detailed fantasy worlds. It just takes a day or two to learn, and this week's update should make it more newb-friendly than ever, once the Starter Pack mods and applications have been updated to work with the 2014 build. I'm going to devote some time this weekend to finally learning how to play properly. Hopefully I'll be enjoying stories like this in no time.

Tyler Wilde: Potato Salad Simulator, anyone?

Crowds do weird things. For instance, a guy asked for $10 on Kickstarter to make a potato salad and raised $45,000 instead. And here s another one: Goat Simulator is the number two bestseller on Steam at 40% off. Goat Simulator is fine, and cheap right now, but for a joke that is kind of funny for a bit, number two on Steam is pretty incredible.

I expect Potato Salad Simulator will be announced any time now. Or has the Simulator joke run its course? What will the next thing be? I know I sound like an old man yelling at a cloud, or like I m mad at other people s success (maybe a little, sometimes), but ironic spending baffles me. If you want a cheap, funny game, grab Zork: Grand Inquisitor from GOG. You ll feel better about it, trust me.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: unstoppable forces, immovable objects, and other thoughts on the metagame">Brewmaster

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

'Metagame' is a cyberpunkish word for a pretty cloudy and unscientific concept. Which is not to say that it's impossible to get an exact read on a game's competitive landscape, but that sense of certainty is usually unsustainable. The moment a team does something that nobody expects and it works, questions are raised. Figuring out the answers to those questions or watching other people do it is one of the major draws of this part of the hobby. It's natural to chase certainty, to be sure, but it's doubt that creates drama.

Feeling like you'll never understand why decisions are made is pretty natural when you start watching Dota 2, but it doesn't have to be as intimidating as it sometimes seems. The metagame is made of information, and information has a tendency to warp and shift when exposed to people no matter how good at controlling uncertainty they are. Even if you can't think on the level of the best teams, understanding the forces that they're wrestling with is the best way to get a handle how the meta fits together. Memorising patch notes can come later.

Competitive games are fun to watch because players operate in the same uncertain territory as viewers, albeit at a higher level. They have the benefit of experience and talent but they're as vulnerable to trends and assumptions as any other human would be. Dota 2's hero draft phase is exciting because it is essentially a performance of differing interpretations of the metagame at the highest possible level. Where the match itself showcases in-the-moment strategy and execution, the draft is a debate, a cross between theorycraft and poker.

At the beginning of day two of the International playoffs, Dota 2's metagame is as healthy as I've ever seen it. There really isn't a single dominant strategy or style of play, and to the extent that the metagame has stabilised around a few heroes notably Brewmaster, who I'll get to in a bit it's only 'stable' to the extent that attitudes towards a few valued heroes are stable. Yesterday, EG's draft against Fnatic demonstrated that it's still very possible to run unorthodox drafts and dominate games.

The rise of Brewmaster is a good case study in how Dota 2's metagame can twist and genuflect around a single character. As of the end of play yesterday, Brewmaster was sitting on a 98% pick/ban rate. That's extraordinarily high, pushing up against Batrider and Lycan at their peak.

It makes sense. He lanes well and has a high skill ceiling that is attractive to professional players who have the potential to achieve more with the hero than anybody else. He's equally strong as an initiator as he is in defensive engagements, and he's capable of pickoff kills if you're willing to chance that lengthy cooldown on Primal Split. His ultimate, which divides him into three spirits with strong lockdown potential, dominates the psychological landscape of a match whenever it is in play or potentially in play. It's difficult to gang up on somebody who can turn any skirmish into a teamfight. His psychological impact extends beyond the game, too, threatening to shut down pocket strategies before they can begin. And so he's picked or banned 98% of the time.

He's the poster child for a metagame that, at times, feels like an argument between game-turning ultimates Chronosphere, Ravage, Doom and the steady, sustainable power provided by heroes like Lycan. Unstoppable forces and immovable objects, where every team and every region brings its own ideas about what power and durability mean. Brewmaster tends towards the former part of that equation, but the effect of his ultimate is that it creates tremendous sustainable pressure for the length of its long duration. He almost offers the best of both, and that 'almost' is a powerful incentive to draft him. He himself becomes an immovable object in the metagame.

At ESL One, I started to question the Brewmaster pick in some cases, directly to the people who were picking him. His popularity seemed to persist in spite of the number of games where teams simply evaded or pushed through his ultimate, or disabled it entirely with silence. Teams got wise to that long cooldown and realised that if you could survive the duration of Primal Split you'd probably take a tower afterwards. You saw the return of durable counter-initiators like Tidehunter and offlane Doom in defiance of the belief that Brewmaster's dominance was a foregone conclusion.

But I doubt we'll see a decline in the hero's popularity because it has become so entrenched in the current meta. The power of silencing and killing Brewmaster before he can split has created space in the metagame for Doom, Silencer, and particularly Skywrath Mage, whose sudden preeminence feels a bit like every team captain showed up to the pocket strat party wearing the same costume. Even when Brewmaster is being banned from almost every game he isn't picked in, the impact of the thinking that went into countering him is felt. That's the key to beginning to understand the metagame: thinking not just about who counters what, but how success establishes precedents that players have to respond to, one way or another, for weeks or months afterwards.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.>

“Dota 2 is not about kills, it’s not about how many towers you can take, it’s about killing the throne. That’s the game”

I’m talking to Alliance’s manager Kelly Ong Xiao Wei about the “rat Dota” tag you’ll often hear applied to her team. I’ve been thinking about the phrase since I overheard her asking one of the Dota 2 commentators at ESL One to stop using it. Her point is that it’s not a neutral term. Rat Dota is also a judgement on the team and it implies they’re using an inferior or unworthy playstyle. That’s why she’s asking the casters to refrain from using it. But the more I think about the problem the more I wonder if there’s another solution.

… [visit site to read more]

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


Hello everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of “It’s A MOBA But…”! Today’s mystery game is Battleborn! It’s coming from that Borderlands gang Gearbox Software, and certainly not to be confused with Bethesda’s BattleCry, From Software’s Bloodborne, or Battlezone. Now we’re all settled, our first round is, as ever, Name That Twist! So, is Battleborn’s twist:

a) destructible voxel terrain,b) a first-person view,or c) it’s a roguelike?

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2′s The International starts today">Dota 2

Dota 2's The International is here. While the finals won't kick-off until Friday, 18th July, the playoffs for the main competition's few remaining places will start in just a few hours. Here's why you should be excited. One: it's the biggest event in e-sports, with a prize pool of over $10 million. Two: this year, Valve are providing multiple ways to watch, with a separate stream dedicated to those unfamiliar with the game.

Today's matches mark the first part of the phase one playoff with three best-of-three matches scheduled. Virtus.Pro, MVP, CIS Game and Liquid will be fighting it out for a spot in phase two. The action, as with all future playoff games, will begin at 9am PDT / 5pm BST. You can watch from the (free) Dota 2 client, where Valve have a catch-up system should you miss the live event. Alternatively, watch it your browser.

Just like last year, our Three Lane Highway correspondent Chris Thursten will be covering the main competition live from Seattle. At this point he's more Dota than man, and will be bringing interviews and analysis from the tournament floor.

If you're unfamiliar with Dota 2, Chris previously produced a guide to watching the game as a newcomer.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

It’s like they say, Internet gonna Internet. Thanks to a new and very good Mario Kart, kart racing is once again all the rage these days, and Dota 2 is more popular than all the cool kids in high school put together>. What happens when you combine the two? It’s called Dota Dash, and it looks like it works maybe a little. Apparently, however, there’s still a whoooooole lot of work to be done. Video below.

… [visit site to read more]

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

Top dad jokes in Dota.

“Furion’s playing rat doto” – four words full of meaning to the well-informed Dota 2 player but to most people, half of those aren’t even words.

Valve’s Dota 2 tournament The International later this month will be by far the highest-paying digital sports competition yet, with a prize pool currently sitting at $10,466,388. It’ll also be the most confusing digital sports competition. What a weird game Dota is. But the pageantry and big numbers will surely lure in the curious and confused, so Valve are planning a special commentary stream aimed at newcomers.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2 gets its own kart racer in the form of ‘Dota Dash’">dotadash

2014 will go down in history as the year Very Serious PC games got a karting mode. First it was Arma 3, and now Dota 2. While 'Dota Dash' doesn't look like the most polished karting game, it will no doubt please those who, for some reason, desire to burn around Dota 2 maps collecting power-ups and dropping bananas.

Designed to 'feel like Mario Kart', the Dota Dash mod retains the familiar Dota 2 camera angle while rejigging the controls and map layouts. Mod creator 'BMD' has promised to keep adding to the mode, with a 'campaign system' chief among the scheduled additions. Customisation is a priority as well, as BMD writes on Reddit:

"I'm also building development tools for mappers so that they can draw their map in Hammer, then use my development tools to place all of the powerups/waypoints/hazards/barriers on the map, and then release their map/map pack (or possibly even sell it on the workshop eventually)."

You can grab the mod on the Steam forums. Check out a video of Dota Dash in action below:

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2′s The International prize pool distribution revealed, newcomer streams promised">Dota 2

It's an exciting month for fans of DIGITAL SPORT. We're only a few days away from the start of The International's play-offs and exactly two weeks from the main event. Valve are preparing for the Dota 2 tournament's kick... er, creep-off with the launch of the official International mini-site. With it, they've announced the competition's prize-pool distribution, and the multitude of ways for fans and newcomers to watch.

Of the ginormous ~$10 million prize-pool, 46% has been earmarked for the 1st place victor. As of writing, that puts the winning teams winnings at a staggering $4,753,981 although that number is climbing all the time. Importantly, this year, more teams will benefit from the pool. The top 14 of the 16 phase-two teams have a stake in the pot, with the 13th and 14th place finishers each earning 0.2% of the total. That may not sound like much, but it's currently a respectable $20,669.

Also announced are Valve's plans for streaming the tournament. In addition to being to watch the games through the Dota 2 client, this year, there are also some new features. There's a DVR system, designed to let people catch-up on the day's matches in spoiler-free environment. Also, for Phase Two, viewers will have a Multicast option presenting the pick of the action from four simultaneous games.

From my perspective, the most important feature is the 'Newcomers Broadcast'. Happening alongside the main stream, it'll feature commentary designed to help newbies understand what the hell is even happening. It's a much needed feature, and one that could secure the game's current e-sports popularity by broadening its appeal beyond its dedicated player-base.

Head over to The International site for the full round-up of features, and see below for the full distribution percentages. Phase one of the play-offs begin next Tuesday, 8th July.

1st: 46%

2nd: 13.5%

3rd: 9.5%

4th: 7.5%

5th-6th: 6%

7th-8th: 4.75%

9th-10th: 0.45%

11th-12th: 0.35%

13th-14th: 0.2%

Jul 3, 2014
Community Announcements - SZ

The International draws near! All around the world players and spectators are preparing themselves for the battles to come. It all begins next Tuesday the 8th with the start of the Playoffs. To help you get the most out of the biggest event in Dota history, visit The International Tournament Website, where you can review the entire tournament schedule, find spoiler-free streams of each day's games, learn about the new Multicast and Newcomer's Broadcast streams, locate a local Pubstomp, read up on the latest TI4 news, discover what this year's champions stand to win, and more.

Need more ways to keep track of The International? Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter (#TI4), Flickr, and Instagram.

Once the dust has settled and the new champions have emerged, everyone who owns a Compendium will discover a new gem in their inventory to show off their dedication to The International by displaying their Compendium level, as well as a new emoticon to match. The types of gem and emoticon received will change based on the owner's Compendium level when the tournament ends:

  • Copper (Level 1)
  • Bronze (Level 10)
  • Silver (Level 25)
  • Gold (Level 50)
  • Platinum (Level 100)
  • Diamond (Level 500)

Finally, we're launching a new batch of treasures on the store, all of which feature sets and items from pro players and teams. Open a Treasure of the Elemental Trophy, Tangled Keepsake, and Cannon's Fuse to claim items from a variety of pro teams and players, or purchase a Treasure of the Eternal Alliance to earn one of several new items from last year's grand champions, Alliance.

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