PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games.

League of Legends takes the spotlight this weekend for its EU and NA Summer Finals (which just might draw the spotlight away from the recent controversies rocking the scene.) That s not your only option, however: there s plenty of fighting game tournaments taking place all over the world, Dota 2, CS:GO, and the return of PC pro Smite. Have fun!

League of Legends: 2016 NA and EU LCS Summer Finals

There's a lot of high-stakes LoL taking place over a short period of time over the next few days. On Saturday, the third place matches in both the NA and EU LCS Summer Finals will take place, with Unicorns of Love vs. H2K taking place in Europe at 08:00 PDT/17:00 CEST and Immortals vs. CounterLogic Gaming taking place in the US at 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. The timing for the grand finals on Sunday are the same. Find more information, and the livestream, at LoLesports.

Dota 2: World Cyber Arena EU Qualifier

You'll forgive me for not having too many precise schedule details for this one, as... well, beyond the matches that have already been played, they seem a little hard to come by. Nonetheless, there is some top-tier Dota happening this weekend even as the majority of the scene wrestles with the inevitable but still-spectacular roster drama that follows the International. This is the EU qualifier for the next WCA. The previous one was, by all accounts, a gigantic shambles that people only forgot about because the Shanghai Major was a higher profile shambles. But at least there's Dota to watch. Check Gosugamers for up to date stream and schedule info.

CSGO: ESEA Season 22, Power-LAN 2016, CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 Pro Series

There's a lot of mid-tier CS:GO taking place across the world this weekend, from North America to Denmark to Poland. On Saturday, check out the playoffs for Power-LAN 2016 starting at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST here's the official site for more info (it's in Danish, mind.) CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 will be running throughout the weekend, starting at 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST on Saturday and 11:30 PDT/20:30 CEST on Sunday (more info here). Finally, ESEA Season 22 concludes on Sunday with $50,000 on the line. Tune to the livestream from 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST.

Smite Pro League: Fall Split

PC Smite is back for another season and this weekend is your chance to get in on the ground floor. Matches began yesterday and continue through to Sunday, starting at 11:00 PDT/19:00 CEST each day in both North America and Europe. You can find out more information on the teams on the official Smite Pro League site and find the livestream here.

Capcom Pro Tour: Lots of Ranking tournaments

Look, we've got limited header space here, alright? Ranking Capcom Pro Tour tournaments this weekend range from Absolute Battle in Dallas, USA to Argentina Pro Gaming Series in Argentina to an Online Ranking Event in Europe to OzHadou Nationals 14 in Sydney to Fight in Rio: Olympia in Rio de Janeiro. As such, you can expect a decent standard of fighting game play regardless of when you tune in: check each official site, listed above, for further details. Keep an eye on Twitch s Street Fighter V section if that s the game you re after.

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

Change! Actual change! Other than, y’know, the three games that are here every single week, every single week I have to include them, every single week, they’re there, undying, changing, every single week, every single week.

Yeah! It’s the top ten best-selling games on Steam last week.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Valve imposed a new rule for Valve-sponsored CS:GO events yesterday that forbids coaches from interacting with players while matches are underway: They may now talk to players only during pregame warm-ups, timeouts, and at halftime. The problem, Valve explained, is that unrestricted access to teams during matches effectively makes coaches a sixth player, and since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal.

Not everyone agrees with Valve's assessment of the situation, however. A number of analysts and commentators took to Twitter to express displeasure with the new rule, some saying it's simply unnecessary and others claiming that it's outright damaging to the game.

Nonetheless, Valve seems determined to stick with the change. The ruling won't force the change upon all tournaments, but it will affect the Majors, which as you might expect are the largest tournaments in CS:GO. Valve began awarding $1 million in prize money for each major tournament this year.

Valve clarified its position on the ruling in a follow-up statement in which it said that it has spoken with pro teams about their coaches at past Majors, and had been assured that their focus was "on activities traditionally associated with coaching, such as preparation, support, opponent study, etc.

We were always open with them about our opinion that distributing the work of 5 players (e.g. keeping track of the economy, calling plays and mid-round calls, and general situational awareness) across 6 people was not in line with our goals, one of which was to make it possible for new teams to emerge and compete at the highest levels. We had no concerns with the other coaching responsibilities and at the time any potential harm was hypothetical, the statement says. Since then it has become apparent that teams are, in fact, transitioning away from fielding players that have a wider breadth of skills and instead relying on coaches to handle some of that work.

Ironically, what prompted the new rule was an email from a team coach, sent to an event organizer and forwarded to Valve, seeking a greater level of access to the players during matches. The forwarded email made it clear that despite the conversations we had with them, teams were further investing in coaching in a way that was contrary to the goals of the Majors and the concerns we had expressed. It was important to make a decision before teams further invested in coach IGLs and we decided to rein in the role of coaching in the next Major to exclude player responsibilities, Valve wrote.

We understand that there will be some short term disruption for teams that have made an investment in coach IGLs [In-Game Leader], it concluded. However, we intend the Majors and Minors to be events that can be won by any team of 5 players that demonstrate excellence in all skills of CS and this adjustment is intended to ensure that this remains true.

Short term disruption may be understating things somewhat: As HLTV pointed out, a number of high-profile teams including Natus Vincere, NiP, Liquid, mousesports, and FaZe make use of coaches, and losing access to them so suddenly is bound to have an impact on their performance. It won't take long to find out just how much, and which teams are best able to overcome it: ESL has adopted the rule as well, meaning that the first CSGO Major to operate under this new rule will be ESL One New York, which runs over the weekend of October 1-2.

PC Gamer

There's a decent spread of competitive games to watch this weekend, from Street Fighter V to LoL to top-tier CS:GO to one of the biggest Overwatch tournaments yet.

League of Legends: NA and EU LCS Playoffs

After last week's delays, hopefully this week's LCS playoffs will run a little more smoothly. There are two series to be played this weekend in both NA and EU, with EU kicking off at 17:00 CEST/09:00 PDT and NA starting at 21:00 CEST/13:00 PDT. In Europe, catch SPY vs. H2K on Saturday and G2 vs. UOL on Sunday. In NA, catch Immortals vs. Cloud9 on Saturday and TSM vs. CLG on Sunday. More information and the livestream can, as ever, be found on LoLesports.

Overwatch: Atlantic Showdown

There's $100,000 up for grabs in one of the biggest pro Overwatch tournaments to date. The best of the European and North American scenes will go to war to determine who rules the transatlantic Overwatch roost. If you've not watched pro Overwatch before, this is a great opportunity to learn what it looks like when 80% of your team is not Genji. Play begins at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream right here.

CSGO: ESL Pro League Season 4

The ESL Pro League is your best bet for top-tier CS:GO this weekend, with teams competing for a shot at the $750,000 grand finals in Brazil later in the year. Play begins at 16:30 CEST/08:30 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream on ESL's official streaming site.

Capcom Pro Tour: Summer Jam

Summer Jam X in Pennsylvania is the latest stop on the ongoing Capcom Pro Tour, showcasing a wide variety of fighting games. If you're in for Street Fighter V, however, then the top 32 begins on Saturday at 22:00 EDT/19:00 PDT/04:00 CEST (the following day in Europe). Catch the top 8 an hour earlier on Sunday: 21:00 EDT/18:00 PDT/03:00 CEST. This event has a decent spread of livestreams covering different games, and you can find a full list on the official site.

PC Gamer

Inferno has always been one of the most iconic maps in Counter-Strike, both in 1.6 and Global Offensive. Many of the biggest tournament finals have ended on the map, along with some of the most memorable plays of all time. Almost every pro team knows exactly how to play it, and as a result Inferno matches were often the closest and most unpredictable.

Earlier this year, Valve dropped the bombshell that Inferno was to be removed from the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive active duty map pool and replaced by an updated version of Nuke. This change would have a major effect on the pro scene, as what felt like an entirely new map was replacing one of the staples of pro CS:GO. Teams would have to adapt quickly and devise new strategies for Nuke while forgetting everything they knew about Inferno.

A few months after the switch, teams have started to play Nuke more and more, with mixed results. Many of the top squads are comfortable on the map, whereas others are still banning it out. It has certainly shaken up the pro scene, but it seems like the top players in the world can t quite agree if this was a good change or not.

I m definitely not a fan of the new Nuke, says Robin "flusha" R nnquist, a former member of Fnatic, who were considered to be one of the best teams in the history of CS:GO. We played it a few times and we tried to get better at it and so on, but it's such a chaotic map, you don't know how well you can actually play it. There is just too many things to hold and the timings, if you have the wrong timing you are going to die. It s just a bad map.

This opinion seemed to be shared by many pro players when the switch first happened, as many players were critical of the map on social media and the majority of teams banned out the new Nuke in any pro matches. However, one team that seemed to be happy about the change was Ninjas in Pyjamas, who were one of the best teams on the old version of Nuke.

We are big fans of Nuke, says Adam "friberg" Friberg from NiP. We played Nuke a lot before it was removed and it was probably our go to map. We are very excited to have it back, but we probably need more time to be the best on it.

The original version of Nuke was a very divisive map. Some teams, such as NiP, would always pick it, while others would avoid it like the plague. This new version seems to have a similar reputation, but even players who were considered to be some of the best in the world on the original version are still not sold on new Nuke, and preferred the Inferno map that it replaced.

I was not a fan when they removed Nuke originally, I think people who didn't play Nuke back then didn't know how to play it properly, says Finn "karrigan" Andersen, captain of Astralis. As for taking out Inferno, I started to like it more and more. In the beginning it was very Counter-Terrorist sided but they made a lot of changes, especially with the new round time, to make it better. I feel sad that they removed it, especially switching it with a Nuke that I don't think is ready yet. What I worry about the most is that Nuke gets updated all the time, and they are making changes all the time on the map. So if I invest time now I am concerned that there will be a big update because something happened that Valve didn't like.

Of course removing Inferno was always going to annoy some people, especially the teams that played the map a lot. But looking at the competitive map pool there aren't all that many other options to take out, as the maps are all pretty settled outside of Nuke. Interestingly it was captain of the current world champions, SK Gaming, who offered up some alternatives that could have been replaced by Nuke.

SK Gaming's FalleN. Photo credit: ECS.

I don't think Inferno should be gone to be honest, says Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. If I could remove one map it would be Cobblestone and maybe Dust II, but Dust II is a map that everyone knows CS for, so it is pretty difficult to remove it. But Cobblestone is pretty unbalanced right now. Ultimately it s not up to me, so we will be practising Nuke and we hope to make it a good map for us.

Again it was Ninjas in Pyjamas who provided a vastly different opinion on this matter. Team coach and Counter Strike 1.6 legend Bj rn "THREAT" Pers gave his thoughts on Inferno s removal.

Nuke is still way better than Inferno, which was the worst map in the map pool, says THREAT. It was the least tactical map and the most random map, because you cannot gain any information and you just have to guess. I didn't like that aspect at all.

Regardless of the players opinions on the Nuke and Inferno switch, they will have to get used to playing the new version of Nuke. Having a map that you just cannot play gives a team a serious disadvantage at the pro level. However from the pros that we have spoken to it certainly seems that this may not have been the right time to make the switch. There are still a lot of issues with Nuke, which really need to be sorted out quickly, while the classic Inferno map remains one of the best CS:GO maps of all time. What the future holds for these two maps is unclear, but right now it seems that Valve may have acted too hastily on this one.

PC Gamer

Deemed to give certain teams greater advantage over others, Valve has introduced new rules which limit coach communication during Valve-sponsored esports matches.

Although still permitted to converse with players during pre-game warm ups, 30-second timeouts, and during halftime, the new rules which have been endorsed by the ESL state coaches are now banned from interacting with their teams when actual rounds are underway.

Posted by HLTV, the email signed by Valve s Ido Magal reads as follows:

"With unrestricted communication with their players, coaches can currently function as a sixth player, and not solely as a source of guidance or training. Activities such as keeping track of the economy, calling plays, and general situational awareness are important components of CS gameplay. If a person is performing these actions, we consider them a player.

Since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal. To address this problem, future Valve sponsored events will enforce the following coaching rules:

During a match, the coach may only communicate with the players during warm up, half-time, or during one of four 30 second timeouts that the coach or player can call. Obviously, third party events can use whatever rules they want but if you want to align your events with ours then we recommend using this coaching rule."

According to HLTV, the first major event to implement the new rules will be ESL One New York which kicks off towards the end of September. In light of the ruleset change, there s already murmurs among top players of inter-squad discussions on how to proceed, strike action and even union formations.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL

In what feels like the end of an era, Swedish side Fnatic have announced a huge change to their CS:GO roster, releasing three players, JW, flusha and KRIMZ from their lineup. While some teams in CS are known for regular changes, there are also the stalwarts, NiP, Virtus Pro and Fnatic, who have maintained (roughly) the same core team for many years. It therefore holds significant weight when these mighty bastions finally crumble.

Rather than fully disband, the three players will be moving to join their former teammate, pronax, in team GODSENT, of which they will become co-owners and shareholders. This surprise announcement (released just fifteen minutes before GODSENT were scheduled to play a match) follows in the footsteps of Danish side Astralis, who left the TeamSoloMid organisation to form their own.To fill the void left behind, Fnatic have welcomed GODSENT players twist and Lekr0, both Swedish players of talent. The final slot has been taken by wenton, who will be looking to prove himself after Fnatic s lacklustre performance during his time substituting olofmeister.

New opportunities

It would be hard for onlookers not to see this change as a downgrade for Fnatic, given that they re losing two of their most experienced players in the form of JW and flusha. Both of these players were present at every Major victory during Fnatic s reign. However, the acquisition of GODSENT players gives Fnatic a real chance to revitalise themselves. Twist should acclimatise quickly, holding previous experience with olof and dennis under LGB. Lekr0, fairly new to the upper echelons of competition, could offer a fresh perspective and will be one to watch closely as he establishes himself in the coming months.

The swap to GODSENT represents a return to old ways for JW and Flusha, who competed with both pronax and znajder under the Fnatic banner back in 2013. Departing messages from each player hint at ideological differences within the team. This combined with the move to become co-owners of GODSENT indicates that the players rather than the organisation may have been behind the split.

Photo credit: ESL

Perhaps the most surprising change comes in the separation of olofmeister and KRIMZ, who were renowned as one of CS:GO s most efficient and dangerous pairings. The question for GODSENT will therefore be who can provide the star-player performance in their lineup. Having struggled to perform during olof s downtime, it will be up to KRIMZ to excel once more without his teammate to rely on. In addition, there s a real chance that the move to GODSENT will see JW return to primary AWPing, an opportunity for him to reassert himself through the quick-firing, aggressive play that brought him to fame in the first place.

Going down in history

Fnatic s core of olof, KRIMZ, flusha and JW will surely be remembered as one of the strongest forces in Global Offensive s history, producing a staggering display of dominance throughout 2014-15. In 2015 alone, Fnatic won no less than five $100,000 prize tournaments, including both Katowice and Cologne Majors. Few beyond NiP can rival their past success and it may be some time before we see another side in charge for so long. In contrast to NiP s slow decline, Fnatic ran into trouble when olofmeister suffered from significant wrist problems and was forced to take a break for his own health in April. Competing with wenton as a substitute, the swedes seemed to fall into disarray, never quite recovering even upon olof s return. Despite this, Fnatic hold a superb legacy in CS and their success will likely be remembered for years to come.

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

I cannot in good conscience be seen to apparently promote the number one game, so here's Captain Blood instead.

Hullo! One day later than usual because I spent yesterday on a beach next to an industrial estate, but as always, here’s what sold best on Steam last week. It is ever so faintly possible that you might have a very slight inkling as to what is number one. I could not possibly comment myself.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Image credit: duncasaurus_ on Reddit.

Skins are a big deal in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Since launching in the Arms Deal update in August 2013, gun paint has become as much a part of Counter-Strike culture as defusing bombs and rescuing hostages. For most of us, a weapon 'finish' or skin is a fun way to liven up your arsenal a reward system within an already rewarding FPS. But skins are also a contentious business and, more importantly, a symbol of a player's status. And when it comes to showing off, there's no gun more likely to drive others green with envy than the M4A4 Howl the closest thing Counter-Strike has to a legendary gun.

The M4A4 Howl stands alone when it comes to gun finishes in Counter-Strike. Though you ll occasionally see other guns and knives listed at a higher price, the StatTrak M4A4 Howl (Factory New) is uniquely valuable. The rarity of the Howl doesn't come from its gorgeous red striping and the fiery creature emblazoned along the left side of the receiver, but rather from the story of theft, DMCA takedowns, and banned players that made it famous. It could've just vanished from the game forever, but Valve made it a legend.

Image credit: TH3X on Steam.

It's just skin

The story of the Howl traces all the way back to 2010, when Valve made huge changes to one of its most popular games, Team Fortress 2, that introduced a microtransaction economy called the Mann Co. store. At the time, no one could foresee how this move would impact just about every Valve game as players began trading, crafting, and buying a variety of items using Team Fortress 2's virtual marketplace. Only a year later, Valve expanded on the system by creating the Steam Workshop, where modders and artists from the community were invited to submit their designs to be used and voted on by other players. If those designs were especially popular, Valve would officially include them in updates to Team Fortress 2.

It could've just vanished from the game forever, but Valve made it a legend.

In the two years that followed, the Steam Workshop began creeping its way into other games like Dota 2 and Skyrim, providing a unified marketplace for user-generated content and, for Valve's games, creating a birthing ground for one of the most complex microtransaction economies in all of gaming. It wasn't until 2013 that the Workshop found its way to CS:GO for players to design and share new maps and game modes. At the time Counter-Strike was still a divided community, with many players choosing to stick with the two previous iterations Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike 1.6. It was only after Valve released the Arms Deal update finally letting players purchase and trade custom skins for their weapons that CS:GO transformed into the multiplayer and esports phenomenon that it is today.

Image credit: Nitor_cs on Reddit.

In 2014, the marketplace for skins was exploding with players routinely trading rare knives and gun finishes for hundreds of dollars. Artists, inspired by the wads of cash modders were making if Valve chose their designs to be sold in their games, began flooding the CS:GO Workshop with their ideas for the next hot skin that would have players in a frenzy but not all of those ideas were original.

On March 30, 2014, a skin and a sticker were uploaded to the workshop under the title 'Howling Dawn' by Steam users Auzzii and sic. The skin, which would go on to earn more than 4,500 positive ratings, was supposedly the original work of Auzzii. In the description he wrote, "I wanted to make an intresting [sic] illustration, so I created this. It originated from a picture of my dog, it's kind of taking the out of him in a way as he's the complete opisite [sic] to the wolf."

A month later that skin and sticker were officially added to CS:GO as part of the Huntsman collection because of their popularity among the Workshop community. These collections would drop special cases in-game that players could purchase keys to open and earn one of the skins contained within. Those that were lucky opened up a case to find a flashy new M4A4 Howl.

CanisAlbus's original artwork that Auzzii stole.

Crime and punishment 

While the Arms Deal update that brought skins to CS:GO played heavily on themes of illegal black market trading, it was never intended to facilitate actual theft. But in June of 2014, Deviantart user CanisAlbus discovered that's exactly what had happened the popular Howl skin wasn't inspired by Auzzii's dog, it was a shameless copy of his own artwork.

"Someone has stolen one of my artworks to make a custom skin for a gun in a game called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," CanisAlbus wrote in his Deviantart blog. "I'm just letting you know(sic) that I did design this piece, but I didn't upload the items to the stream [sic] marketplace and the spineless worm who submitted it didn't have my permission to do so. However, I have reported both copyright infringements and I'm hoping that the items will be removed soon."

As CS:GO continued to become more popular, the price of a Howl skin skyrocketed.

Days later, Valve announced that they had received a DMCA takedown notice regarding the use of CanisAlbus's artwork without permission and responded. "When we launched the CS:GO Items Workshop, our goal was to provide artists with a space to share their creative ideas," Valve wrote in a blog to the community. "By design, the Items Workshop has very low friction for artists to submit their work new contributions do not require Valve review or approval." They do however, require that modders sign a legal agreement before uploading their creations.

The community didn't react kindly. In a Reddit thread one user wrote, "[it] took me a damn week to finish the artwork for my skin, disregarding the time spent modifying the pattern to fit the gun properly. Auzzii is a tool for doing this, and honestly I'm pretty surprised it hasn't come up sooner."

A comparison of the old Howl (left) and the new (right). Click the arrows to enlarge.

Howl, the Howling Dawn sticker, and the five other guns from the Huntsman collection that sic was involved in making were removed from the weapon cases though they would still remain in player's inventories. In the case of Howl and its sticker, both were given original redesigns by the CS:GO team to reflect their original aesthetic but avoid infringing CanisAlbus's copyright.

For sic, this revelation of theft was a slap in the face. He had been making CS:GO skins for months, and compared to first-time contributor Auzzii, stood to lose a lot more. In an update to the Howling Dawn's original Workshop page, he implied his ignorance of the theft. "Guys please take note that I am not the guy to stole the art. It was proposed by Auzzii that I use HIS art to make a skin or sticker, which was the worst decision I've made by far looking at what's happening. I've already contacted the artist Canis about this matter and apologized, hoping to get a solution for this matter."

Unfortunately for sic, the only solution was a lifetime ban from Steam for himself and Auzzii.

Making a legend

What makes the Howl such a remarkable story is that Valve simply could have remade the skin and wiped its hands of the matter. Valve s redesign was its own property, so there was no need to pull new copies of the weapon from being generated in weapon cases, but in doing so they created CS:GO's most unique skin.

Following the redesign of the finish and sticker and the announcement that neither would be attainable beyond the stock that already existed in player's inventories, Valve embraced sic and Auzzie's illicit activities and bumped Howl up into a category all its own by assigning it 'Contraband' level of rarity. To date, no other item in CS:GO carries this descriptor.

With the skin no longer available for purchase, the remaining stock quickly became valuable items for any CS:GO player's collection. Using archive.org to view CSGO Analyst, we can see that by the end of 2014 the skin was being listed at roughly $270. As CS:GO continued to become more popular and the esports scene took off, that price skyrocketed to the $1,800 it is today.

The new Howl noticeably changes the wolf in CanisAlbus's work to a more non-descript beast.

Skins in CS:GO come in different qualities, but the Factory New with the StatTrak add-on that tallies kills has become an icon among professional players. GuardiaN of team Natus Vincere hoards six StatTrak Howl (Factory New) M4A4s in addition to lesser quality ones a total worth an estimated $12,000.

There's no telling how many Howls are still in circulation. Because the Steam marketplace places limits on the price of items, those being sold are through third-party CS:GO trading websites. Stickers can still be purchased right now for over $150, however. But if you've got a lot of money to burn and are looking to own one of the most sought after finishes in CS:GO, a StatTrak M4A4 Howl (Factory New) is the closest thing CS:GO has to an Excalibur or a Mj lnir. And it's all thanks to two thieving artists.

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

I’m no expert when it comes to firing accurately in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but I’ve been playing with the series’ AK-47s and M4A4s for long enough that it feels like my fingers know their fire rates and kickbacks instinctively. I could now test that theory by seeing whether I can tell the difference after a recent update changed accuracy recovery rates for those two weapons plus the M4A1-S.

… [visit site to read more]


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