Dota 2

For the first time ever, the International Dota 2 Championships are coming to the magical land of Canada, the home of hockey, poutine, telephone poles, and other such stereotypical touchstones. Valve announced today that this year's big donnybrook will take place August 20-25 in the Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks, in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Tickets will go on sale at 10 am/1 pm, and 10 pm/1 am, PT on March 23, and will be available in two types: Midweek tickets, which will go for $125 CDN ($96), providing access to the first four days of the event, and Finals tickets, for $250 CDN ($191), granting access to the last two days. If you want to attend for the full stretch, you'll have to spring for both, and no VIP tickets are being offered this year.   

Tickets will be available for purchase via, and Valve recommends that you have your account squared away and be logged in before the selling begins. That pretty much covers it, but if you have questions, the International Ticketing FAQ should be able to help you out.   

Dota 2

Valve has unveiled a new subscription-based Dota 2 service called Dota Plus, "an evolution of the Battle Pass" that will replace the Majors Battle Passes with an ongoing service that will be regularly updated with new features and content. 

Majors Battle Passes, like this one from fall 2016, included daily and weekly challenges, new cosmetics and effects, and other themed features. Dota Plus will be similar, with hundreds of new challenges including hero-specific challenges, but as an ongoing service rather than a scheduled, seasonal one. Heroes will advance through levels via XP awarded for matches played, earning level badges, new Hero Chat Wheel responses, and Shards, a new in-game currency used to unlock rewards. Subscribers will also have free access to weekly Battle Cup tournaments (non-subscribers can take part by purchasing Battle Cup tickets for $1 each) with special emoticons, profile accolades, and Shard awards for winners. 

But the real hook for serious players will likely be the Plus Assistant, a multi-function toolset that will offer hero, item and ability suggestions to help optimize builds. Those suggestions will be based on data taken from millions of recent games at each skill bracket—and if you decide to go in a different direction, a GPS-style "recalculate" button will bring up new suggestions based on your current inventory. 

Dota Plus subscribers will also have access to a "Death Summary" screen providing "a second-by-second timeline of incoming damage, stuns, and other disabling effects" in real-time, and a "Lane Strategy" feature with team-wide suggestions for lane configurations. A post-game analytics screen will wrap everything up with a full-game performance comparison based on multiple metrics and a breakdown of damage dealt by and to each hero based on sources abilities, summoned units, and attacks. 

And while the scheduling is gone, some seasonal flavor will remain: Dota Plus subscribers will get "Seasonal Terrain" visual elements on the map that will be active during each season. 

Dota Plus goes for $4 per month, with discounts for six and 12-month subscriptions. Full details are available at   

Half-Life 2

Gabe Newell gives a presentation at Valve about upcoming card game Artifact.

At a presentation for upcoming Dota 2-themed card game Artifact at Valve's offices in Bellevue, Washington today, Gabe Newell reiterated that Valve is getting back into developing new games beyond its current roster of multiplayer titles. After talking about Valve's focus on Steam and hardware during the past several years, which he described as "an investment in the future", Newell said "Artifact is the first of several games that are going to be coming from us. So that's sort of good news. Hooray! Valve's going to start shipping games again."

That's games, plural: Artifact isn't the only game Valve is working on. In a January 2017 Reddit AMA, Newell did confirm that Valve was working on at least one fully-fledged singleplayer game. And the following month, in roundtable interviews with PC Gamer, Newell said that Valve was working on "three big VR games." Today's statement doesn't make it 100 percent clear whether Valve has projects in development beyond these previously mentioned games, but it is a possibility. "We aren't going to be talking about it today," Newell said, "but sort of the big thing, the new arrow we have in our quiver, really, is our ability to develop hardware and software simultaneously."

Newell gave some background on Valve's projects from the last few years, like SteamVR and the Vive headset, explaining that the company was worried about the PC heading in the direction of an iPhone-esque closed ecosystem. "You can see that Microsoft was like, wow, how can we make Windows more like that? Or Zuckerberg is saying, 'well I tried to compete in the phones, I got my ass kicked, so I'm going to create this new thing, VR, which will allow me to recreate the kind of closed, high margin ecosystem that Apple's done.' And that really started to worry us, because we thought that the strength of the PC is about its openness … So we started to make some investments to offset that."

"We've always been a little bit jealous of companies like Nintendo."

Gabe Newell

Those investments, Newell said, meant they hadn't released a new game since Dota 2—but that work wasn't wasted time. "The positive thing about the Vive is, in addition to making sure that nobody created an iOS closed platform for it, was also that it gave us the opportunity to develop our in-house expertise in hardware design. Five years ago, we didn't have electrical engineers and people who know how to do robots. Now there's pretty much no project in the hardware space that we wouldn't be comfortable taking on. We can design chips if we need to, we can do industrial design, and so on. So that added to that."

With Valve's new hardware chops, it seems like we can expect more than new games from the company. "We've always been a little bit jealous of companies like Nintendo," Newell said. "When Miyamoto is sitting down and thinking about the next version of Zelda or Mario, he's thinking what is the controller going to look like, what sort of graphics and other capabilities. He can introduce new capabilities like motion input because he controls both of those things. And he can make the hardware look as good as possible because he's designing the software at the same time that's really going to take advantage of it. So that is something we've been jealous of, and that's something that you'll see us taking advantage of subsequently."

Dota 2

Final Fantasy 15 and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 are both releasing to PC very soon, and if you own a Radeon graphics card, you can already download optimized drivers for both games.

AMD's new Adrenalin Edition 18.3.1 driver release is available now and promises to deliver the best performance in each of those games (on supported hardware, of course). The new driver package is also supposed to boost performance in Dota 2—according to AMD, Radeon RX 580 owner should see up to 6 percent faster performance compared to the previous driver release, though it's not clear if that's at 4K or 1440p. That's because the release notes (PDF) lists it as "3840x2160 (1440p)." 3840x2160 is 4K, not 1440p, so one of those is obviously incorrect.

The latest driver release also fixes a few issues. They include:

  • Radeon Chill hotkey may fail to reset when Radeon Settings is restored to defaults.
  • Sea of Thieves may experience an intermittent application hang or crash during gameplay.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War may experience texture flickering on trees or hills when using multi GPU enabled system configurations.
  • World of Tanks may experience color corruption when changing some game settings in multi GPU enabled system configurations.

Follow this link to download AMD's new driver package.

Dota 2

We are deep into Dota 2's mature years. Valve's superlative wizard-clicker left beta almost half a decade ago, and it's been 18 months since it finally achieved parity with (and subsequently overtook) the original Defense of the Ancients mod. Last year saw it unseated from its permanent spot at the top of the Steam charts—and not just unseated but utterly routed, the vast success of PUBG relegating it to distant second place.

It's important to contextualise 'second place'. Dota 2 has lost a few hundred thousand players, but is still comfortably more popular than CS:GO and significantly more popular than the vast majority of games on Steam (and that's a lot of games). It still has more players than six of the ten most popular Steam games combined, a list that includes Rainbow 6: Siege, Grand Theft Auto V, and Warframe. If this deep, strange, ruthlessly difficult game is becoming niche, then, it's still a really big niche.

As long as Dota 2 retains enough players to be viable, a shrinking community is not necessarily a concern: after all, this game has never particularly concerned itself with growth. If it did, it'd be less weird. Other developers have found ways to make DotA's fundamentals more accessible, but Dota 2's guiding star has always been the original mod's community-grown strangeness. As custodians of that strangeness, Valve has taken steps to make Dota 2 more approachable and more contemporary in its presentation. They've made Dota 2 more coherent, if not much more accessible, and this is appropriate as the game's community settles.

If Dota 2 is about anything it's about your ability, individually and a team, to adapt to a complicated and ever-changing strategic situation.

Dota 2's new update schedule, which sees a patch deployed every other Thursday, is a small but significant change that helps build upon the best things about Valve's management of the game—and protect against the mistakes they have frequently made. By comparison to other MOBAs, Dota 2 has traditionally been updated infrequently but suddenly. Valve doesn't talk much, IceFrog less so, and as such the arrival of a game-upending patch is often a surprise:  a shock that sends analysts scrambling for their video cameras.

There's always been something exciting about the moment when a patch arrives, but the wait between them can be interminable: and with no fixed schedule, the Dota 2 community has endured long periods where very little seemed to be happening at all. This breeds discontent. If Dota 2 is about anything it's about your ability, individually and a team, to adapt to a complicated and ever-changing strategic situation. I'd argue that this is true of the game in a broader sense, too: what keeps people playing over the course of years is the challenge of developing your understanding of a sandbox that never stops moving. In the long wait between updates, however, both momentum and player enthusiasm can fade. A sort of metagame ennui sets in, with players locked into a playbook according to their skill level. Playbooks aren't Dota: setting playbooks on fire is Dota.

Valve didn't invent the concept of the fortnightly update, but if they're going to take any pages out of the League of Legends playbook I'm glad it's this one. Communication has always been a weakness of theirs: they don't employ community teams or PR agencies, and it seems unlikely that their company culture would ever allow that to change. Guaranteeing a patch every two weeks helps get around some of those issues because the most frequent question a hypothetical Dota 2 community manager would have to field would inevitably be 'when's the patch'. And Valve has always preferred to communicate via patch note: more patches is effectively more communication, albeit in their own specific mechanical way.

With a more manageable rate of change comes more manageable updates. The updates deployed in this way so far have felt, appropriately, like patches in miniature—far less extensive than the overhauls of old, but providing welcome balance adjustments that are well communicated through a new feature that highlights changes to heroes and abilities within the game itself. Dota 2 has always been at its best in the uncertain weeks following a patch, and while these latest updates have been less world-changing than the community might be used to, there's a fresh sense that the metagame is always on the edge of a change.

This is good for Dota 2, and rewards players who are good at parsing the current state of the metagame and coming up with creative ways to break it open—a narrow community, but a skill that every Dota player can aspire to learn. For everybody else, more regular changes means that there's a fixed term attached to on any given flavour-of-the-month hero pick or strategy. 

Perhaps given time the community will get used to this new rate of change and miss the days when you suddenly had to relearn whole swathes of the game: in the meantime, it's nice to be able to load Dota 2 and discover that something interesting has changed. 'Reliability' is a strange concept to apply to a game about managing chaos, but Valve is taking the right steps to make sure that this deeply weird, fascinating game reliably shows its best side. Will that help it reclaim the thousands of players lost to PUBG's wildernesses? Probably not. Is it the right approach for the hundreds of thousands that remain? Yes.

Dota 2

Nearly five years after the debut of Dota 2, lead developer IceFrog has decided that it's time to try something different. For the next six months, give or take, the huge, sweeping patches that followers are familiar with are out, and smaller, more frequent updates are in. 

It's not as though Dota 2 hasn't been updated on an ongoing basis prior to this, but those were generally small spasms of tweaks and tuning. More significant changes would appear in major updates, like the Dueling Fates update that went live last November. IceFrog didn't say what drove the decision to move to a more rapid-fire schedule, but as Dot Esports pointed out, the shift could have a real impact on the Dota 2 pro scene: Teams will have to adjust to changes far more frequently than they did under the old system, possibly including—unless Valve makes allowances for interruptions in the schedule—in the midst of tournaments.

It's possible that the whole thing will prove to be a bust, and that the old system held up for as long as it did precisely because it worked well and helped drive the excitement that's kept fans invested in Dota 2. Nobody likes to wait, but having a Big Thing to look forward to is arguably more engaging than routine bi-weekly maintenance.

IceFrog also said that, to help players keep up with the faster-paced schedule, a new feature will be added to the game to notify players of hero changes. As for which Thursday will see this new schedule get underway, has not yet been announced.

Dota 2

ESL has announced a deal with Facebook that will make the social media site its "main broadcast partner" for CS:GO Pro League and ESL One events. The move will enable ESL to offer esports fans "a much more advanced viewing experience which also connects to the existing Facebook pages of teams, players and talents." 

One of the driving forces behind the decision to partner with Facebook is Facebook Watch, a video-on-demand service announced last year that supports 1080p/60fps and VR streaming. Facebook's "viewing with friends" function, which enables private chats with Facebook friends who are also watching the broadcasts, and Messenger service will also encourage a more "collaborative experience," as ESL described it, when watching streams. 

"For years ESL has used Facebook to nurture its global community while broadening the audience for esports competition to millions of fans worldwide," Facebook Games Partnerships global director Leo Olebe said. "Having two of ESL’s most adored properties for CS:GO and Dota 2 streaming exclusively on Facebook is the next step in our efforts to delight the passionate esports community on Facebook." 

The move to Facebook might seem like an odd one to esports fans used to getting their fix on Twitch, and replies to the announcement on Twitter make it clear that fans aren't universally thrilled with the new primary platform. But ESL expects that it will actually help expand its viewership and bring esports further into the mainstream. "We’re excited to now be at a stage where we can take the next step towards realizing our shared ambition to grow the overall esports audience and to bring our sports to an even broader group of viewers than ever before," the company said. 

The cost of the deal wasn't announced, but I'm willing to venture that it was probably steep. SportsBusiness Daily reported last week that Twitch paid $90 million for a two-year streaming deal with the Overwatch League. 

ESL streaming on Facebook will begin with Dota 2 at ESL One Genting, running January 23-28, and CS: Pro League Season 7 on February 13. If you can't watch on Facebook, or for some reason just don't want to, embedded streams will still be viewable on the ESL website. 

Dota 2

Following recent changes to Filipino government regulations, Valve has pulled its support of the proposed Galaxy Battles 2018 Dota 2 Major. Set to run between January 15—21 in Ciudad de Victoria's Philippine Arena, Valve has rescinded its Major designation but is now working to run a similar tournament with the invited and qualifying teams.  

"Based on information we’ve recently confirmed regarding new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines, we have decided to rescind the tournament’s Major designation, including the Pro Circuit qualifying points, for the Galaxy Battles 2018 tournament," reads this post on the Dota 2 blog. "This is based on what we feel are unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country. The tournament itself may still proceed, but without any involvement of Valve or the Dota Pro Circuit."

Valve underscores its decision does not reflect how it feels about the Philippines itself, and apologises to anyone who'd planned to attend. 

According to the information listed by the Republic of Philippines' Games and Amusement Board, professionally recognised athletes hoping to perform in the Philippines must ascertain these credentials. A number of Reddit users in turn speculate Valve's decision to pull support reflects the country's ongoing drug problems

Speaking to the event, the Dota 2 blog post adds: "As a result, we’re talking to tournament organizers to try to find a way to run a Major with the invited and qualifying teams, including the Pro Circuit points that would have been available in Galaxy Battles 2018."

Dota 2 may have Destiny 2, but Steam has millions of simultaneous PUBG players. GOG may have the best collection of DRM-free games, but Valve has, well, PUBG again. And Dota 2, and CS:GO. Competition has increased a lot in the past 10 years, but despite the growth of GOG,, Origin,, the Microsoft Store, and others, Steam is still the gaming store on PC, and Valve runs two of the biggest esports in existence. Its influence on PC gaming can't be understated, so it naturally receives heaps of criticism and suggestions from players and developers alike. That's how it goes when you're on top.

Ruling out obvious fantasy, like a DRM-free release of Half-Life 3, here's what we hope PC gaming's de facto leader does in 2018.

Is a new Steam interface on the way?

A Steam interface overhaul

A big update to Steam's interface was teased last year, and it's about time. While Steam has changed a lot since 2003—mostly as new features were tacked on—it still leaves much to be desired. Better automated sorting of our libraries would be a start. If you have tags, why not let us use them? The controller settings are weird, opening in a Big Picture Mode-style window and changing my Steam overlay to the same as if there's no way someone would use a controller at their desk. The music section of my library is a mess, with repeat entries that don't play. In other words, the tacked-on features feel tacked on. Without entirely throwing out the interface we're used to, an extensive UI and feature refresh would be welcome. (GOG Galaxy's version rollback feature would be welcome, too.) —Tyler Wilde

CS:GO on Source 2

The biggest thing on the wishlist for CS:GO players heading into the new year is the long-awaited move to the Source 2 engine. Rumors have been circulating about when this change-over will finally happen for at least two years now, since shortly after Dota 2 was moved to the new engine in the fall of 2015. Valve confirmed back in April that they’re working on giving CS:GO the same treatment, but so far this update has yet to materialize.In addition to the presumed graphical optimizations of moving to the new engine, the content creation tools for new maps, new skins, etc. are allegedly a vast improvement over the original Source tools. Hopefully, this means we’ll see a glut of new user-created content when the update drops, thanks to the modernized and more user-friendly creation tools.

Similarly, the other big item on the wishlist is the promised upgrade to the new “Panorama UI”, a complete overhaul of all of CS:GO’s menus and interfaces using the panel-based UI that Dota 2 has already adopted. Just like the Source 2 update, this change has been in the works for quite some time now; Valve confirmed they were “preparing” for the UI switch at least as far back as the summer of 2016, but as with everything else Valve does, they’ve been rather tight-lipped about any sort of timeline for the Panorama implementation.

Below these big-ticket items on our 2018 wishlist, there are a litany of smaller changes we’d like to see happen:

  • Classic maps like Mirage and Dust would benefit from the same sort of overhaul Inferno, Nuke, and Dust 2 have received over the last couple of years. 
  • The map pool could use some fresh entries (or some revivals of classic entries) to keep the competitive meta interesting. 
  • An unranked version of CS:GO’s core 5-vs.-5 competitive format has been a popular community ask for years now.
  • Valve’s anti-cheat technology is lagging behind third-party services like ESEA, and could use a serious upgrade.

The astute observer will notice that almost everything mentioned herein could’ve just as easily appeared on a similar list at the end of last year. It often feels like CS:GO is a lower priority for Valve than its other esports juggernaut, Dota 2, so while there are plenty of updates we’d like to see in 2018, it seems unwise to get our hopes up that many of them will happen particularly soon. Nonetheless, we’ll keep our fingers crossed. —Mitch Bowman

A little warning before Dota 2 changes

The TI7 contestants were announced abruptly. The Pro Circuit system was announced abruptly. The games contest was announced, and soon extended, abruptly. Gameplay mini-patches were released abruptly, at one point abruptly breaking custom games. 

A surprise is nice sometimes, but when it comes to Dota 2, one of the biggest games in the world, not everything should come as such. At least a million players likely clock in every day, and a significant chunk of that population—plus some non-players—follow the competitive scene that’s grown from it. Basically, there are a lot of players trying to just play the game and keep up on a fundamental level. 

So, for many out there already irrevocably attached to the experience, frequently needing to stay up-to-date and ready-to-go is exhausting. Maybe it’s just become part of the Dota life: you wake up, see if Valve has done something, and then continue with life. But why does it have to be like that?

Dota 2 players could use a little communication. Just a bit. You can put something off for six hours to get us ready, and you don’t have to give a Riot-length explanation, nor a Developer Diary. It can be a six-hour heads-up on a patch, an announcement of an announcement, or a new way to share what teams are heading to TI. Have someone sit at a computer and press the buttons so people don’t guess teams from the source code. Or all of the above. Valve, you’re allowed to steal these ideas. In fact, please do. 

Of course, we’re also talking about Valve here, and that’s just part of how they do things. I’m sure they’re aware, but the reason why they haven’t changed anything is beyond me and anyone else in the scene who isn’t actually a Valve employee. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. —Victoria Rose

Improved moderation and curating

Steam Direct is great for new developers who don't have publishers, but the consequence is an influx of ripoffs and shovelware. In theory, Steam's algorithmic discovery tools and Curators should surface only the best games, and truthfully, my store page is looking pretty nice during the Winter Sale—a healthy mix of good deals and games I might be interested in. But that's not quite the case in the Popular New Releases section, which is consistently full of free or free-to-play games. Free games aren't necessarily bad, but the 'popularity' metric means free clickers and gags naturally get promoted over anything with even a small price tag, potentially burying great games that dare to cost five bucks. 

2018 should see an even bigger influx of new games—thousands upon thousands—and I'm skeptical that these automated and community-driven tools will be able to keep up. At the minimum, I hope Valve more aggressively cuts asset flips—which it did a bit of in 2017—and outright insulting games, and sets a clearer policy on nudity and sex. It's been totally inconsistent in that latter regard, even receiving criticism from a porn game distributor.

An increase in moderation is doubly needed in the Steam community. It took me five seconds to find a group advertised with a lynching icon and a swastika. Delete. —Tyler Wilde

As always, a game

Valve says it's working on a few, but we aren't holding our breath. And no, nice as it was, Bridge Constructor Portal doesn't count. —Tyler Wilde

Dota 2

In the PC Gamer Q&A, we ask our panel of writers a question about games. This week, the theme is neglecting loved ones. Which game have you snuck off from family to play during the holidays? Let us know your suggestions in the comments. 

Jody Macgregor: Terminal Velocity 

Terminal Velocity was one of the only shareware games I owned the full version of, thanks to a rich uncle who was my main source of videogames. (He also gave me a copy of the original Warcraft, which I still have in a jewel case somewhere.) It was a flight sim that played like a first-person shooter, similar to Descent but with more open levels where you flew through the sky over alien planets. After I unwrapped Terminal Velocity I spent the rest of the holiday ignoring the rellies to play it, and I still remember the way trees popped into sight before the ground they sat on, the way Target Destroyed appeared up in big white letters every time you turned an installation into a blocky explosion, and the sections where you flew inside the planet through hexagonal tunnels and I always hit the sides.I tracked down a digital copy a while back but still haven't played it again. It's enough to know that it's there in case I ever feel the need to get away from everyone. I bet I'll still get crushed by the steel doors that iris shut in the tunnels.

Andy Kelly: Euro Truck Simulator 2

Spending time with family and all that other holiday stuff is fine, sure, for a bit. But sometimes I get the urge. The urge to truck. This festive period I'll be enjoying a bit of Euro Truck Simulator 2, which has recently been expanded to include Italy. So while people are watching films they already own on DVD on the telly, peppered with adverts for January sofa sales, I'll be delivering 16 tonnes of ice-cream from Rome to Milan. But because it's the holidays I'll be doing it accompanied by rich chocolates and luxury ales. Keep on truckin'? I never stop, mate.

Philippa Warr: Dota 2

Let me tell you about a small, obscure game you may not have heard of: Dota 2. A few years ago it was a far bigger part of my life. Writing about it as a freelancer helped me pay my bills and playing it with a regular crew helped me build up a framework of friendships, new and old, after a horribly drawn-out breakup. As a result it ended up as part of my new routine and I leant on it during newly solitary holiday periods. Playing Dota 2 on my terrible laptop over Christmas in 2012 during an in-game event called The Greeviling is one of my fondest memories in gaming. It was daft, it was funny and it was time with people I love.

Tim Clark: Metroid Prime

Will anyone mind if I answer a console game? Probably, but on we go regardless. One Christmas I received Metroid Prime for the GameCube, and managed to make it to the first boss just as Christmas lunch was being served. Without being able to save before the boss, I refused to sit down and eat (bear in mind I would have been 26 at the time) until the fight was done. Somehow, despite the stress induced by my mother's obvious fury, I managed to down the boss with only a sliver of health to spare. But as soon as I entered the corridor leading from the boss room to the save point a small bat flew into my head and killed me. With it went several hours of progress. I sat silent for the most of the meal, cheeks burning with a mix of shame and resentment. The most magical time of the year. 

Samuel Roberts: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

A few Christmases ago, instead of politely talking to my parents while they were making dinner, I sat in my room and played the challenge rooms of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood over and over again. First, it taught me that this game has some amazing kill animations, and secondly, I learned that Assassin's Creed's combat really isn't the best match for score attack modes. Still, I appreciate that they tried. 


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