Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>

Not Global Offensive. Not Source. I’m talking the original Counter-Strike. The Half-Life mod; the game that was more popular than its online competitors combined; the game that in many ways pioneered both games as services and games as playable alphas; the game that spawned two follow-ups but which even right now, as I’m writing this, has 20,211 concurrent players through Steam.

… [visit site to read more]

Community Announcements - Gautam ☁
The quality of workshop submissions has been steadily increasing. We’ve seen some incredible work by new and returning contributors. For the next case, in order to direct this amazing creative force in the most useful direction, we’ve decided to announce in advance the weapons we hope to ship.

Shipping a case means balancing an ideal case design against the available weapons on the workshop. Often we’d like to ship a particular weapon at a particular quality, but can’t find a match on the workshop. As a result we end up shipping some weapons more frequently than we’d like, and some a lot less.

While we expect to ship several of the items already on the workshop, we’re hoping this announcement can help guide artists to fill some gaps (marked with an asterisk below). Note that the list isn’t a guarantee of the final case design. With that caveat out of the way, here is the list:

Covert
  • M4A1-S
  • G3SG1*
Classified
  • USP-S
  • AK-47
  • SSG 08*
Restricted
  • M249*
  • P250
  • MAG-7*
  • Galil AR*
Mil-Spec
  • Glock-18
  • Dual Berettas*
  • FAMAS*
  • SCAR-20*
  • XM1014*
  • MP7*
  • MAC-10

We will be making our final selections after September 7th.

FAQ

Do I need to do anything special to be eligible for this case?
No, all you have to do is submit your designs by September 7th and make sure your item has been finalized on the workshop.

Do I need to use the new paint style in my design?
No, it’s just one more option that you can consider. As with any weapon case, we’ll be looking for variety in art style.

Do I get paid more for a weapon in a higher tier?
No. Every weapon in a case pays out an equal share.

How do I design for a specific tier?
It mainly has to do with visual salience and design specificity. Weapons with bright colors and designs that perfectly complement a weapon’s geometry end up in the upper tiers. Weapons with more subdued colors and/or more randomization in the pattern application end up in the lower tiers.

What can I do to stand out?
Give your weapon a story. This is more than creating a beautiful design; it’s giving the weapon a visible history that hints at a larger narrative. Good examples are the AWP | Asiimov, the P250 | Cartel, AK-47 | Wasteland Rebel, and the P90 | Elite Build.
PC Gamer

The ESL One Cologne Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament that wrapped up this weekend with an exciting win for Fnatic was the first event in which competitors were subject to randomized drug testing. And you'll never guess who was caught trying to cheat! Really, you won't, because I'm about to tell you: The answer is nobody.

A bundle of interesting figures came out of the Cologne event courtesy of ESL, including that it was the most-watched CS:GO event of all time. More than 27 million unique viewers spent a combined total of nearly 34 million hours watching the action on Twitch, including a a peak concurrent user count of over 1.3 million. That represents an increase of more than 30 percent over the ESL One Katowice CS:GO tournament in March.

"ESL One Cologne followed in the footsteps of ESL One Frankfurt in that it transformed a mere esports event into an esports festival," ESL said in a statement. "Visitors on-site were able to take part in many festival-like experiences including bullriding, testing their reflexes on a T-Wall, and getting an airbrush tattoo, brought to them by ESL s sponsors/partners."

That's all very positive news, but what I find more interesting is that the newly-implemented drug testing came up with nothing. "Following up on the earlier announcement of ESL s partnership with WADA and NADA to create and implement the anti-doping policy, NADA has prepared a prevention program which was presented to players and visitors during the event," it continued. "ESL conducted randomized anti-doping testing among players in the competition, which returned negative results for all tested players."

An ESL rep declined to say how many players were tested, citing the need to maintain confidentiality of its process. ESL said it will continue to implement the new drug testing policy at all future ESL One events.

PC Gamer
TRIGGERNOMETRY

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

Things were not going well for the best CS:GO team in the world. 

Yesterday on one of the biggest stages in esports, the grand finals of the ESL One Cologne major, Swedish superstars Fnatic were stumbling. $100,000 was on the line, and their opponent, Team EnVyUs (formerly Team LDLC), was crushing them on Dust2, the first map of a best-of-three. At this point in the match (and in the video above) EnVyUS led 14-7—they simply needed to win two more rounds to take the first map. Now, in the 22nd round, Fnatic had fragile control of bombsite B in a three-on-four situation. 

KRIMZ's work over the next minute may have saved Fnatic. He makes a strong entry frag through tunnel to secure the site, then takes a position behind car on bombsite B. He eats a pop flash thrown by the CTs, who are in the site before he recovers from the flash. Popping back up, KRIMZ chews through two of the attackers, going deep into his spray, adjusting beautifully from right to left. Now in a one-on-one, with nine bullets in his mag and his gun recoil jumping like an angry bull, he sees Happy emerge from window. Initially at a disadvantage, KRIMZ absorbs a hit before crouch-dodging behind cover to his right, squaring his crosshairs as he shifts to score a headshot onto the EnVyUs leader.

Three kills in three seconds, and zero bullets in his magazine by the end of it.

Fnatic would win eight of the next nine games to force overtime, win the OT (including one round with a hilarious quad AWP setup), and then win the second map, Cobblestone, comfortably at 16-7 to take the championship. Moments like this one demonstrate how much momentum plays a role in Counter-Strike.

PC Gamer

survey fridays

Every week we ask you to rank a series or just reminisce about PC games in a not-very-scientific survey. Look for the survey link in our  Twitter and Facebook feeds each week, and the results every Friday. Previously, we ranked the Mass Effect and Call of Duty series.

You guys really love hard games, or at least, you love whichever game you remember as the hardest. In my latest survey, I asked respondents to rank the hardest game they've played on a scale of 1-10. Over 40% scored their most challenging experience a 10, and 70% scored it an 8 or higher.

You also love a lot of different hard games, and have different ideas about what makes a game 'hard.' Among 2,660 respondents, the top game cited as the hardest they've ever played was only mentioned 385 times—around 14% of the total. (Actually, one person wrote in SEGA Bass Fishing 1,006 times, but I've cut that from the results, along with several variations of "your mom.")

What's the hardest PC game you've played?

the top 10

Click the icon in the upper right to enlarge.

Unsurprisingly, Dark Souls got the most mentions, with 14% saying it was the hardest game they've ever played. It was followed by Dark Souls 2, which took in about 5% of the results. From there, though, the results are immediately diverse, with shooters, platformers, puzzle games, strategy games, and MOBAs all bunched together. When I cut out jokes, console games, games with specific caveats, and those that received only one or two mentions, I was still left with over 70 games. (Here's my curated list of the top 77.)

The top 10, naturally, are the most popular hard games—and games that are arguably best known for being hard—so the results actually get more interesting the deeper into the list I go. At number 11, for instance, you'll find I Wanna Be The Boshy, a fan game based on number six, I Wanna Be The Guy, an intentionally difficult tribute to early platformers.

Further down (and I'm skipping around a bit), we find StarCraft II, STALKER, Insurgency, Alien IsolationKerbal Space Program, the Touhou seriesVVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, SpaceChem, Dustforce, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, and, of course, Bad Rats, a notoriously awful game which has accrued a positive rating on Steam, because ironic Steam reviews are all the rage.

It's good to see the Touhou Project's bullet-hell games earn some mentions. We recently published an introduction to the series, which is currently being localized by Playism.

VVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, Dustforce, and SpaceChem all come recommended (I don't think I ever made it past Vogarr's first stage, though). I did expect to see a few more puzzle games. One game no one mentioned, I presume because it's newer and a bit more niche, is TIS-100. It's made by the creators of SpaceChem and Infinifactory, and might be one of the most challenging puzzle games I've played (though it's presumably easier for experienced programmers, and anyone who paid more attention in school than I did). Print out the manual if you can.

Choosing difficulty

difficulty levels

Click the icon in the upper-right to enlarge.

All of the games I mentioned up there can easily be described as 'hard,' if for different reasons. Against skilled opponents, CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, and StarCraft 2 are very hard, and they're complex. Dwarf Fortress and Kerbal Space Program require a lot of learning. Super Hexagon, and the bullet-hell games and platformers, require precision control.

But plenty of games which aren't known for being hard can be very hard. The Witcher 2, for instance, came in at 19, in part due to its permadeath mode and first boss. Those damn RC missions from GTA: San Andreas also came up. Civilization V on Diety difficulty, too.

In the survey, I asked which difficulty setting (based on four generic settings) the takers were most likely to choose when starting a new game. The distribution is about as I expected: almost no one takes the easy route, the most people (39.8%) leave it on the normal difficulty, and slightly fewer choose the hard (28.7%) or the hardest modes (26%).

Broken mice and broken bones

When asked to tell us the worst thing they've done to express frustration with a game, plenty said that they don't react physically—they curse, uninstall the game, go outside, or do other healthy-sounding things. "[I] stopped playing for few months to get over my anger and hopefully renew my interest," said King_Matt. A calm and wise king is Matt. We can all learn from the great King_Matt.

And apparently, a lot of us need to. The word "broke" came up 222 times and "smash" was included in over 100 responses. Banana peels came up an awful lot, too. Here are a few examples:

I chucked my keyboard at my brick wall. It dragged the desktop with it. It corrupted my hard drive, broke my keyboard and most functions on the case didn't work properly. - Abernath

Thrown a banana peel out the window. But I picked it up later. - Kenu

I once got so frustrated while just trying to get fuel up to my ship [in Kerbal Space Program] that was trying to get to Mun that I decided to fly all my rockets into Kerbol (the sun). I spent about 5 hours just designing the booster/fuel ships to help get my whole fleet there and give them the last push into its blinding embrace. Once every single one was burned to ash, and all the crew with it, I deleted the save and went to bed. It was only after I woke up that I realized what I had done. To say the least, I cried. - Nerd__Guy

 Threw my lamp out the window. It was a damn good lamp too. - Anonymous

Literally ripped out a chunk of hair in frustration once. - Nate Dogg

I actually broke my grandfather's trackball mouse while playing when I was a kid on his PC. I had to buy him a new mouse from Walmart. - Brain

Threw more money at it. This is a recurring theme with me in multiplayer games. - Ryan Daniels

In my grandest fit of frustration, I suppressed my volatile feelings with the warm, cheesy comfort of Hot Pockets. A lot of them. It turns out one man can eat a lot of Hot Pockets. They come out a lot faster than they go in. - Chudbunkis

Threw a banana peel at the screen. - As7iX

Broke a finger. - Dodie

So is Dark Souls really that hard?

I predicted that Dark Souls would be the most popular game in the survey, so I added an extra question. I asked everyone, regardless of which game they put down as the hardest, to agree or disagree with the statement "Dark Souls isn't even that hard, ugh." I think we can all agree that I chose an extremely unscientific way to phrase the question, but we definitely can't all agree on whether or not Dark Souls is hard. 

PC Gamer

The 2015 edition of ESL One Cologne is now underway, with 16 top-ranked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams battling in the Group Stage for entry into the quarterfinals. Four teams will make the move today, and another four will advance on Friday.

The teams in competition are divided into four groups: Group A features Team SoloMid, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Renegades, and Counter Logic Gaming; Group B contains Team EnVyUs, Luminosity Gaming, Team Kinguin, and FlipSid3 Tactics; Group C has Fnatic, Natus Vincere, Titan, and Team eBettle; and Group D boasts Virtus.Pro, mouseports, Cloud9, and Team Immunity. On Friday, the groups will be redrawn for eight more Decider/Elimination matches.

Right now the favored teams are perpetual champions Fnatic followed by Team SoloMid, a team formed in February that hasn't yet won a major.

ESL One Cologne is also interesting this year because, for the first time ever, ESL will conduct randomized drug testing during the competition. The move comes in response to a claim by former Cloud9 player Kory "Semphis" Friesen that he and his teammates were on Adderall at ESL One Katowice.

The real action will begin on Saturday, with the first quarter-final match scheduled to begin at 4:45 am EDT. Semi-final matches are slated for 5:45 and 9:10 am EDT on Sunday, followed by the big finish at 1 pm EDT the same day. Follow all the action at esl-one.com.

PC Gamer

ESL has revealed the details of its anti-doping policy for the upcoming ESL One Cologne tournament, which for the first time ever will see players subjected to randomized testing for a wide variety of substances proscribed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"Our main goal is and always will be to maintain the fair play spirit and the integrity of our competitions, and we re confident that the anti-doping policy is an important improvement that will help us advance as a sport," ESL Head of Communications Anna Rozwandowicz wrote on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive subreddit. "It is a small, but in our eyes essential and meaningful step forward for professional gamers across all games, ESL as an event organizer, and the esports industry as a whole."

ESL originally announced that skin tests would be used to detect banned substances, but it has determined that saliva tests, conducted at random throughout the duration of the tournament, are a "better fit." The list of prohibited drugs is based on WADA's own 2015 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods, but players with a legitimate prescription for medication, including Adderall—which is what started this whole business—may avoid penalties if they provide proof that the medication in question is actually required prior to the start of the first scheduled match.

Interestingly (and I won't say tellingly but we're all thinking it), the restriction on marijuana use is centered out to be somewhat more specific. "Marijuana is on the list of prohibited substances for [use] during the competition. This means that recreational use of it outside (before) the event days will not be punished," Rozwandowicz wrote. "Using it during the tournament—from the start of the first day until the end of the last day of competition—is strictly prohibited."

Players caught juicing will face sanctions ranging from deductions from their prize money or tournament points, to outright disqualification and a ban from ESL events for up to two years, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. In all cases, ESL said it will take steps to ensure the full privacy of all players involved.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

Early Access games are here to stay, but is that cause for concern or celebration? We gathered to discuss whether early access benefits developers or players in its current state, and how we’d make it better. Along the way, we discussed the best alpha examples, paying for unfinished games, our love of regularly updated mods, Minecraft and the untapped potential of digital stores.>

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
North American CS:GO team Cloud9 at ESL Katowice, in March. Images via ESL Flickr.

When a member of North American CS:GO team Cloud9 unapologetically admitted that he and his teammates used adderall during a tournament in March, esports league ESL reacted swiftly, announcing that it would enforce randomized drug testing at its next event before it pursues a larger policy in partnership with two organizations dedicated to anti-doping practices.

An incident with performance-enhancing drugs was inevitable for esports, which are growing more than ever alongside the popularity of competitive games and livestreaming. ESL s stopgap measure of implementing random tests for ESL Cologne in August is welcome, but how will drug testing be handled going forward? How will a league like ESL react during a tournament weekend when one of its players tests positive for a banned substance?

To get further clarity on the ESL s perspective on this issue I spoke with Michal Blicharz, Managing Director Pro Gaming at ESL.

PCG: Why is the implementation of player drug testing necessary to the ESL?

Michal Blicharz: We are a company with the word sports in the name. The integrity of our competitions is paramount to what we do. We have already invested enormous amounts of resources to combat online cheating with our ESL Wire Anti Cheat software and the time has come for us to do something about performance enhancing drugs. In the past 18 months the salaries of the best esports players have risen about ten fold and the prize money aggregates per game have gone into high millions. The temptation is there for players more so than ever and it s on us to educate gamers, preserve the integrity of our competitions and, if necessary, punish those who break the rules.

"The reaction from the video games and esports industry has been overwhelmingly positive."

Do you believe that other leagues will follow your example?

Blicharz: What other leagues do is really up to them. We are of course willing to share our experiences and best practices if they reach out for help.

Is there currently, or are you planning, any retroactive investigation into teams' activities?

Blicharz: We have considered it, but we do not think that it is realistic for us to gather enough conclusive proof retrospectively. We are currently focusing our efforts on establishing good procedures for future events.

Has the ESL spoken directly with Cloud9 about the admission that its players used adderall during ESL Katowice?

Blicharz: When we first heard about this issue, we focused our energy on what we can do moving forward. This is not to say that we are indifferent to what may or may not have happened in that specific case, but it was clear that a more urgent need was to find real ways to prevent those situations from happening in the future.

As for the player himself, or his team, we are unable to retrospectively test the team for PEDs, therefore any investigation would likely prove to be inconclusive.

How has the new policy been received by teams?

Blicharz: The reaction from the video games and esports industry has been overwhelmingly positive. At the core of it, teams are interested in being provided a fair playing field.

It's also on the teams to make sure gaming is clean and I hope they will actively play their role as well.

If a player is prescribed adderall, or another drug, by a doctor, would they be permitted to use it during an ESL competition?

Blicharz: We are currently consulting with NADA on how to handle it and to learn what the best practices are that we can apply to what we do. We certainly do not want to disqualify players who have legitimate medical conditions.

Section 2.13.3 of the current ESL rulebook reads, "If a participant gets disqualified from the ESL One during an ongoing stage, all it's members get banned until the end of main event." If a player tests positive for a banned substance at an ESL event, what will happen?

Blicharz: Our league operations and legal teams are working on updating the rules, and the exact terms of all sanctions are yet to be determined. We want to treat doping like any other form of cheating. This is something our Director of League Operations should speak to, but we will very likely punish illegal doping the same way we would punish cheating in a match. In essence, those things are not different from each other as far as the integrity of the competition is concerned.

Along with incidents like the betting scandal in Counter-Strike earlier this year, do you believe there's a need for the CS scene, or esports in general, to become more mature?

Blicharz: Of course esports has to mature. It's not even 20 years old! At the same time, in many ways it's outgrown some sports that have been around almost a century. It takes time but we will get there.

Thanks for speaking with us, Michal.

Community Announcements - Gautam ☁
Have you wanted to give the AK-47 or the Sawed-Off an engraved or patinated look, but also replace the wooden stock? You asked for it but until now the weapon finish system hasn’t supported it.

In response to workshop contributor feedback, we have added the Gunsmith paint style. This style combines features from Custom Paint Job, Patina and Anodized Multicolored. Read about it in the Weapon Finishes Guide .
...

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