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Jun 17, 2013
eSports network StarLadder TV has dropped the banhammer on Aleksey "Solo" Berezin and four of his teammates on Dota 2 team RoX.KIS. StarLadder TV claims RoX.KIS purposefully fed during a Star Series match to win a $100 bet placed on eSports betting site egamingbets.com.
Berezin has been permanently banned from all StarLadder competition while his teammates have received three-year bans. Team RoX.KIS has been banned for one year.
StarLadder TV got in touch with egamingbets.com to find proof of the $100 bet as well as the cash withdrawal into Berezin's account. StarLadder has a full post up on its site along with screenshots of the transactions, although it's all in Russian.
RoX.KIS maintains that the team is innocent, going so far as to say that the bet came from an unknown account with an IP that doesn’t match Berezin’s IP. “We think that the evidence base is very uncertain in this case. We've been able to insist on more thorough investigation of the incident and we believe in the innocence of our players and staff, and inadequate solution on the case,” said in a statement that was translated.
From where I'm sitting, it's suspicious that the $322 winnings were deposited into Berezin’s WebMoney account, even if the bet wasn’t placed with his usual IP. Addressing the alleged feeding, RoX.KIS says that the “match was just a formality,” because the team couldn’t have made it to the LAN finals.
After an even early game, the match seems to edge into zRage’s favor around 16 minutes into the VOD of the full match. To my inexperienced eye, the game doesn’t seem like an explicit attempt to throw—aside from a few bad plays. If anything, the fact that a loss for zRage would have meant relegation is just one more reason that zRage would try hard to win.
If the situation wasn’t confusing enough, fans betting branches in the GosuGamers.net non-money betting system clearly favored RoX.KIS with 84 percent of branches wagered on RoX.KIS’ victory.
Despite the strides that Valve is making in reforming the Dota 2 community, it seems that the eSports scene still has a bit of a ways to go. The strict response from StarLadder TV is the bright spot in a situation that doesn’t really benefit anyone.
Jun 17, 2013
Dota 2's Windrunner leads the charge on our cover this month in PC Gamer UK issue 254. We visited Bellevue to get inside development at Valve HQ as the Dota community prepares for The International tournament and Dota 2's long-awaited launch. Dota can be baffling to the uninitiated, but with a bit of knowledge anyone can enjoy the spectacle, chaos and depth of competitive play. That's why, in addition to our six page preview, we've created a six page guide to watching Dota 2 that will help demystify this fast-moving and famously complex esport.
But that's not all, of course. We've also taken an early look at The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, revisited some of the great old sim games kept alive by their amazing communities and put to paper Rich and Graham's two-year 300+ game Fifa rivalry. That's as well as our normal brace of previews, reviews and more. The issue is available now via the App Store, Google Play or Zinio. If you prefer the weight of a glossy tome in your hands, you can subscribe to get each issue delivered to your door. Read on to find out what else lies within.
In this month's issue...
We pay a visit to Valve for an inside look at the creation of Dota 2.
Breaking Down Dota 2: your guide to deciphering and enjoying the beautiful, complex chaos of a competitive match.
Craig Owens dons his finest hat to preview The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.
We take an early peek at the fascinating indie sci-fi god game, Maia, promising kickstarted RPG, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Paradox grand strategy, Europa Universalis IV, ex-Homeworld developers' new RTS, Hardware: Shipbreakers and goon-punching simulator Batman: Arkham Origins.
Rich and Graham document the highs, lows of their intense, life-changing two year rivalry in Fifa 13 in the PC Gamer Champions League.
The Sim Imortals: we pay tribute the classic sims that, thanks to mods and dedicated fan communities, are still going today.
We review Remember Me, Zeno Clash 2, Dead Island: Riptide, Fez, Slender: the Arrival, Kairo, Tectical Intervention, Leviathan Warships, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Star Trek and publish our first alpha review of Prison Architect.
We evaluate the best SLI graphics cards set-ups in this month's hardware supertest.
Rich's story of survival against the odds continues in part five of our Game of Thrones Crusader Kings 2 diary.
Chris skis back into Tribes: Ascend to see what's new in this month's Update.
We re-install Doom Engine RPG/shooter Strife.
Tony returns to Amnesia and Tom drifts through Eve Online in Now Playing.
And lots more!
Jun 17, 2013
Valve's DotA sequel will ditch its closed beta status and become 'free for everyone' later this summer, Erik Johnson told me during a visit to the developer earlier this year. We mentioned Valve's comments on the Dota 2 release date in PC Gamer issue 254, and community-run Valve news site ValveTime have since confirmed the release window via an e-mail exchange with Valve.
Dota 2 is currently available via an early access purchase or - more likely - through one of the dozens of beta keys sitting in everyone's Steam Inventories. As such, full release might not seem like a big deal - but chances are this means a huge upsurge in interest. The game will open up prior to The International in August, the biggest tournament in the Dota calendar and a huge draw in and of itself. Dota 2 became the most-played game on Steam with hardly any marketing: with a multi-million dollar tournament and the publicity of full release behind it, the Dota population could be set to explode.
From my conversations at Valve I believe that the game's release will coincide with the launch of the next two heroes - Abaddon and Legion Commander, probably in that order. This may seem to clash with Valve's original assertion that the game would be released when it'd reached full parity with DotA 1, but it's not far off - there's only half a dozen heroes to go.
Valve have been inflating the prize pool for The International via the Compendium, an interactive book that acts as a reference document and theorycrafting minigame for the tournament. New rewards unlock as more Compendiums are bought, and the ultimate goal - still a way off, at the time of writing - is to give the community the ability to pick Dota 2's next hero. With the release window in mind, assume that this vote would take place during or after The International, and therefore that the pool of unreleased characters won't include Abaddon or Legion Commander. In other words, get ready for a lot of people to mash the 'Techies' button until their fingers bleed.
Jun 12, 2013
The press conferences that precede E3 set the tone for the event, they determine the conversations and questions that follow. With no single unifying organisation to set up such an event, it's one of those rare occasions when the open nature of the PC can prove a detriment. The consoles have had their say, now we can't help but wonder what a similar a show for the PC would look like. Who would take the stage? What would they show? What song-and-dance numbers would we get?
Take your seat, make yourself comfortable and put those Doritos away as we welcome you to this year's purely hypothetical show, the E3 2013 conference that PC gamers deserve.
Introducing - our host! A lone spotlight picks out a trundling figure on a wide, dark stage. It grinds noisily to a halt to rapturous applause and spreads its tiny plastic arms wide. "GREETINGS. I am Medianbot," it drones, bionic monotone dripping with the collective charisma of a platoon of Microsoft presenters. "I have been selected by a vast conglomerate of PC developers as a completely impartial neutral representative for this event. My collective masters to remind you that not one of them owns the platform. We are multitude. We make things we think you might like, and we'd like to show some of those to you this evening. Enjoy."
The auditorium goes dark. A Roman appears on a huge main screen, charging up a beach as flaming rocks soar overhead. XBox One conference attendees sigh, for a moment they think it's the new Roman hack-'em-up, Ryse.
It isn't. The camera's pulling out. There are dozens of Romans. Hundreds. Thousands charging battlements under a a storm of arrows. A mouse cursor appears and it's controlling every last one of them. It's Rome 2. The Creative Assembly are on stage. They talk about diplomacy, subterfuge, politics and war on a huge scale. They talk about players crafting their own stories on the stage of history. They explain that there's no grunting and quick time events. This is a game for grown-ups.
It's Blizzard's turn. Dustin Browder takes to the stage and introduces a trailer for Legacy for the Void, but when the lights come back up, two booths have appeared on stage. In one, Flash, in the other, Life - veteran StarCraft and StarCraft 2 esports players. Browder explains talks about the PC not just as a platform for space adventure, but as a field for sport. He introduces top shoutcasters Tasteless and Artosis as our commentators, and the contestants go to war. There's no awkward, staged banter, only two athletes, laser focused on their screens.
In the coming ten minutes both players demonstrate the agility and quick-thinking that makes them masters of their game. The retiring "GG" is met by a resounding cheer.
A tough act to follow? Perhaps not, when you have a huge open world RPG to show off. CD Projekt RED take the mic. They talk about Geralt's final adventure, they show us the cities and forests we'll be able to explore in The Witcher 3. We've had competition, we've had huge strategy, now we're getting a huge explorable RPG. The showing of their debut trailer sends a ripple of excitement through the crowd.
But CD Projekt RED change tack. New zones, monsters and characters start appearing on the conference screens. They're not officially part of The Witcher 2, or The Witcher 3, it's a modding showcase. It's not about picking out individual examples, it's a catalogue of creations only possible on PC - whole new free campaigns, weapons and options, and the power to reshape entire worlds. Another video plays. Geralt walks into the swampy town of Flotsam - familiar to players of The Witcher 2 - only instead the tyranny of a malicious local thug, the Witcher finds that the town is under attack from a twenty foot tall fire-breathing horse. Modding at its finest.
Medianbot rolls back onstage to thunderous applause. "Greetings and thank you revellers. The soundwaves generated by your slapping meat-paws sustains me. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the angry man with two swords doing things, but not less or much more than any prior or following presentation, for this is about mathematically identical representation for all aspects of the platform. Farewell."
ANGRY MACHINE NOISE. STROBE LIGHTING. It's DICE. It's Battlefield 4. It's running on PC live. It's big. It's loud. It's full of guns. Now, a while tundra - the THUMP of an AT-AT's boot crunching into the snow. It's Star Wars: Battlefront. Then it's Respawn's mech-blasty game, Titanfall. It's loud and angry, polished and beautiful, because the PC can do all of that too, but faster, and prettier.
Another changeover. A video. A montage, devoted to the low-budget, innovative games that wouldn't normally get their time in the limelight. We see interactive fiction games, Dwarf Fortress, Princess Maker, Kentucky Route Zero, Receiver. As if in a frenzied music video, bouncing between everything from Transistor to Minecraft to Project Zomboid to Frozen Synapse in quick but stunningly done style and backed by anything except bloody dubstep. Anything but that.
The lights come up again, and the stage is full of figures playing games on big screens. It looks like the indie showcase that the PS4 put on, but it's vast. Dozens and dozens of developers are playing their games on tiers and tiers of screens. Look - three tiers up on the left - Koakim "Konjak" Sandberg is playing the latest build of Iconoclasts. Hey, down there on the right - Introversion are quelling a riot in Prison Architect. Over there, Mitu Khandaker is climbing a starship's social ladder in Redshirt. Here, in the front row, the Fullbright developers are showing Gone Home. The message here is simple. Yes, you can play some fun games on console. On PC though, you get a whole world of gaming that no one company controls. And it's brimming with honest-to-god new ideas.
But it's not just about the games. The Oculus Rift developers take to the stage arm and arm with the Omni Treadmill creators. They talk about how hardware is advancing all the time, how static systems will inevitably fade in the face of new hardware from the big PC manufacturers. They mention that the consoles are still talking in familiar terms, about streaming via Twitch, about a camera that watches and listens to you, as though such concepts haven't existed on the PC for years already. The PC is a tool, they say, not a living room lifestyle choice. It does what you tell it, and it can show you the future.
Then up on stage, we get the Oculus Rift team to show off their latest prototype, along with the Omni Treadmill and the Epoc mind-reading headset. In front of a gasping audience, we see - live - someone step into Skyrim and kill a mud crab with his mind.
A cheerful Belarusian fellow walks out now. Who is he? It's hard to tell, but it's clear before he's even said anything that he loves tanks, because he's wearing a T-shirt that says "I <3 TANKS." Aha! it's Wargamng CEO Victor Kislyi, and he's here to talk about World of Tanks, kicking off a section about all the games you can play on the PC right now for no money. Quality games like League of Legends, Tribes Ascend, Team Fortress 2. Games that demonstrate that, while the initial cost of the PC may be expensive, a single buy opens up a world of free entertainment. Oh, and it does Netflix. AND you don't need to pay a monthly subscription to go online and try your free games out.
It's been a few hours. But who walks out now, at the end of it all? Is it Newell, talking about Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, how Valve think player-created content that adds value to their games should be rewarded monetarily? Is it CCP CEO Hilmar, talking about player run economies, betrayal and intrigue in Eve Online? Is it Bioware, talking about how they plan to tell stories on the PC we've never seen before? Is it SOE, talking about how they managed to get hundreds of players to fight a galactic war on a single battlefield in Planetside 2? Is it Arenanet, talking about dynamic MMO battlegrounds in Guild Wars 2? The question is posed to Medianbot. Its chrome head explodes.
It should be all of them. Perhaps PC gaming is just too big for one conference. Too varied, too niche, too wonderfully weird to play the same PR game as the platform holders.
Oh, what the hell. Let's go with Gabe.
Microsoft has demoed the Xbox One. Sony has shown off the Playstation 4. Then, in an equally big hall, the lights go down, Gabe Newell steps onto the stage. He says nothing. He just coughs. He points at the screen. A Half-Life 3 logo appears. The crowd goes wild. He walks off, still silent.
Then a minute later, he casually pokes his head back round the curtain. "Wait, did I forget to mention it's free and available on Steam right now?" he asks. "Sorry it took so long. Also, you can trade Steam games now. Don't mind that noise, it's just a pig taking off. Ah, one second. Someone needs to Heimlich Steve Ballmer's tongue out of his throat."
But before he can leave, a single voice cries from the audience. "Why, oh Gaben? Why?"
And the man pauses, the sound of choking from somewhere off stage echoing slightly. Slowly, he pulls on a pair of sunglasses. Half-turns. Smiles. Replies, quite simply, "Because we can."
For the latest from E3, check out our complete coverage and our pick of the best games of E3 2013 so far.
Jun 10, 2013
We used the only viable fuel source with the world's only time machine to visit E3 2014, and bring back the gaming news of the future for you, our loyal readers. The haters will say we could have done something more beneficial for humanity with this singular opportunity, but we usually just ban people like that. What new boxes will you be able to plug into your TV? Will everyone own a Rift? Do your emotional scars from Game of Thrones Season 3 ever heal? We have the 100 percent accurate, non-speculative answers to all this and more.
Be sure to stay tuned to PC Gamer all week for our coverage of this year's E3. It's not as cool as time travel, but we still think it's pretty nifty.
Xbox One. PS4. What effect will the poster children of E3 2013 have on the future of PC Gaming? Will new hardware architecture mean more high-profile PC ports or—dare we say it—PC-led titles that are ported for consoles afterwards? Are Microsoft's touted 15 exclusive launch titles going to be anything we'd even want in the first place? Will the pull of the indie scene be enough to turn gamers away from hardware manufacturers that shun them? We chew on this, and feed you our analysis like a mother bird to her chicks.
If that metaphor didn't scare you away forever, check back tomorrow when we read the portents of E3 2014 in the burned bones of a bull shark.
Valve’s next Dota 2 documentary titled “Free to Play” is just about ready for public consumption, but the developer wants to hear some additional opinions before hitting start.
Kotaku received a forwarded email that says Valve will privately screen its documentary to a select few throughout the month of June. The film shines a spotlight on the personal tensions professional Dota 2 players face and how they deal with them—all this might sound a little familiar, considering that Valve did a documentary on the annual Dota 2 tournament, The International, last November. However, Valve Marketing Director Doug Lombardi told Kotaku that this year’s film will focus more on the players than the tournament itself.
As someone who has been fascinated with the eSports scene, I’m looking forward to getting an inside look at how professional gamers live when they aren’t playing in a glass prison on stage. How difficult is it to have a social life when you’re consumed with making minor tweaks to your strategy only a few others could possibly understand? I guess we’ll know the answer in the near future.
Jun 3, 2013
Valve has created a special Dota 2 patch for those players who spend more time watching and talking about the game than actually playing it.
The latest update to the free-to-play MOBA adds a list of improvements to the commentator system. Commentators and casters now have the tools to highlight statistics and items through pop-up messages, and can set up questions and polls for their viewers.
While not everyone will use these tools, it should be invaluable to the game's commentator community. eSports isn’t a new concept, but very few of the games covered in eSports offer in-game tools for commentators. Starcraft II has menus showing off build times, army value and other basic statistics, but doesn’t allow commentors to visually notify spectators with custom notifications.
A secondary patch was also added that includes six new taunts for the Anti-Mage, Crystal Maiden, Pudge, Lina and Drow Ranger. We doubt these taunts will be used to move the eSports scene forward, but you never know.
Either way, the added spectator tools shows Valve is interested in fleshing-out the eSports scene by designing a toolset used exclusively for commentating. Time will tell whether Blizzard or Riot will follow suit.
Anyone who plays online multiplayer games is familiar with players using anonymity to misbehave: abusive, whining, foul-mouthed trolls sucking the joy out of every game, free of repercussions. Some games issue bans, some games implement a mute button, but few games ever seem to solve the issue.
Valve's Dota 2 team, though, is trying something a little different. In a detailed blog post, the team lays out the hows and whys of their new communication ban system, which makes players with established "patterns of behavior over time" unable to communicate via in-game text or chat.
The team focused on this problem after analyzing some data on why players quit the game. They found that most players who quit are not, in fact, simply sore losers.
"he outcome of matches doesn’t correlate at all to the likelihood of quitting... But one thing that did stand out in the data was the amount of negative communication between players. Put simply, you are more likely to quit if there is abusive chat going on in your games."
"Since the ban system has been implemented, there’s been a 35% drop in negative communication interactions.
Less than the 1% of the active player base (players who have played Dota 2 in the last month) are currently banned.
60% of players who receive bans go on to modify their behavior and don’t receive further bans.
Total reports are down more than 30%, even after accounting for the reduction in the number permitted per week."
Pretty stellar results so far, and it's still early. The core concept is as fascinating as it is common sense: banning players reduces the player base, and a smaller player base hurts the overall game community. By permanently muting abusive players, the game base continues to grow and players who cross the line have a chance to continue playing and, hopefully, reform their ways.
Image via Joystiq.com.
May 21, 2013
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Invision for XBOX/AP Images
Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal this morning didn’t present any immediate or obvious implications for Our Dear Hobby. Conspicuously few games were shown during the debut of a new video game console, and no games were demonstrated live. Microsoft mostly spoke about the new utilities (Skype!), partnerships (NFL!), and living room takeover (Kinect!) we’ll expect from the Xbox One when it releases this year. From a technical perspective, 8 GB of RAM is the only concrete hardware spec Microsoft dropped.
Our response around the office to the presentation was an uncynical but collective shrug. The modest amount of information Microsoft let out gives us little to react to as PC gamers, as Microsoft spent so little of the precious hour that it held the attention of the internet showing us what kinds of gaming experiences we could expect to have on its new system. Those will be revealed next month at what should be a memorable E3.
Still, we’re interested in thinking about how Microsoft’s decisions could have a direct or indirect impact on PC gaming, something that has happened before. Microsoft used the talents of Age of Empires creator Ensemble Studios to produce a console-exclusive RTS (Halo Wars) and a cancelled Halo MMO. The MechWarrior license lingered in limbo until recently, in our opinion, because Microsoft wasn't sure if it could make a profitable mech game on Xbox. Microsoft’s attempt at extending Xbox to the Windows platform birthed the disastrous Games For Windows LIVE, a service so frustrating that it was newsworthy when developers told us they weren't using it.
Based on what we know and a little bit of crystal ball-gazing, here’s three possible ways PC gaming could be affected by the release of the Xbox One.
Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will get 15 exclusive games in its first year, including eight new franchises. One of those exclusives may be a new Remedy game, Quantum Break, which appears to cross-over with a live-action show.
There’s hope, however, that some of these exclusives will sneak onto PC. Over the past console generation, marketers have made the term “exclusive” synonymous with “timed exclusive,” acknowledging the distinction only at the last possible moment. Remedy's Alan Wake, for instance, was eventually ported to PC.
A majority of Xbox 360 games announced as exclusives, however, remain firmly stuck on the platform. We’ve never seen a Forza game or a Gears of War after the first, and Microsoft Game Studios seems to have given up entirely on Halo ports.
The good news is that many of the Xbox 360 exclusives were Kinect titles best suited for the living room anyway, and others, such as Rare’s Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, weren’t games we ever expected to be developed for PC in the first place. Let’s hope it stays that way.
The best-known developers owned by Microsoft are 343 Industries (Halo), Turn 10 (Forza), Lionhead (Fable), and Rare (Banjo-Kazooie). Expect exclusives from them—we already know a new Forza is coming—and a few from its third-party developers, such as Crackdown creators Ruffian Games. Ideally, the games we expect to be multiplatform, such as the first game from Respawn, will stay that way. We'll have a much better picture come E3 next month.
Growth of streaming, new Steam features
A casual survey of the web pretty clearly pegs PC gamers as the leading producers of gameplay videos and livestreams, but console gamers may soon catch up. Both Sony and Microsoft now promise that their new consoles will make it easy to capture and share gameplay video, a task which formerly required capture hardware. If streaming is a part of that plan, it could be good news for services like Twitch.tv, which we'd expect to be flooded with new members as the console crowd joins the show.
If that happens, we can also assume that more players will start watching streams, possibly growing eSports awareness and viewership and acting as a catalyst for overall improvements to streaming. That's our loose, foggy prediction, but we do expect some concrete effects—Steam will likely start responding to the features of the Xbox One and PS4, especially with Steam box on its way to directly compete for living rooms. At the very least, integrated video capture and sharing seem very likely. At the most, Steam becomes the same kind of media center Microsoft showed off today, offering much more than games.
Valve has already dabbled in film by offering Indie Game: The Movie for sale on Steam, and recently added non-game software to its catalog. Its most recent major updates have been about expanding community features and giving us more to do in Steam, both in and out of our games. What's next? Our gut feeling is that it'll be significant.
More free-to-play PC games, and they won’t be MOBAs
Microsoft didn’t drop the phrase “free-to-play” once during its reveal of Xbox One, but we’d be baffled if free-to-play games don't become a prominent new category on the system. And we’d be more surprised if some of those hypothetical, F2P Xbox One games didn't make their way to PC.
We expect the success of free-to-play as a business model on PC and mobile (in 2011, free-to-play earned more revenue than paid games in the App Store) to create a gold rush within the industry. Plenty of developers have to be eager to become the Riot Games of the console world, to gain a foothold through early adoption rather than reacting to the potential success of the business model on Xbox One.
On the safe assumption that mouse and keyboard won’t be native to the Xbox One, the free-to-play games that propagate on Microsoft’s system will probably be multiplayer action games and low-budget, indie experiments that can be played with a controller: shooters, platformers, puzzle games, action-RPGs, and MMOs. Most of those are portable to PC. Microsoft has already dabbled with F2P a bit with Ascend: New Gods, an unreleased action-RPG, as well as with advertising-supported free games. Our pals at OXM speculated that a free-to-play Fable MMO could be in the works.
This feels like an incredibly safe prediction to us. One or more free-to-play games being part of the Xbox One launch lineup would be a feather in Microsoft’s cap—it’d be a way for early adopters to justify their (probably fairly) expensive purchase, and a novelty to console owners who’ve never played something like League of Legends or PlanetSide 2.