PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

For the first part of our guide covering the CN and SEA teams of the Kiev Major, click here.

The regional qualifiers for Valve’s Dota 2 Majors have lately been a source of controversy, especially in Europe, and the developers have certainly taken notice. Some massive changes have been made for the regions that we’ll be looking at today for the Kiev Major qualifiers. 

Teams in Europe have argued that past qualifiers have been too cutthroat, and they’ve since advocated for separate qualifiers for EU East teams. Meanwhile, South American players often find it difficult to connect to their North American opponents, much less fight through them for a spot at the LAN event. These two continents’ issues clashed when teams in Europe switched to the Americas qualifiers for a better shot (with limited success) before the Boston Major. Valve approved the tactic, but only because there were no rules at the time stating that it couldn’t be done. 

Valve likely heard these regions’ cries for help and have added two new qualifier spots, splitting EU East from EU West and South America from North America. In addition to solving some regional congestion issues, this move will put a new spotlight on regions that were previously lumped in with their neighbors.They have also implemented a three out of five rule, where three of the five players must reside in their qualifying region or else be disqualified. This may cause some confusion for multinational teams, but open qualifier admins at FACEIT plus Valve will likely step in to help with decisions. 

So how will this affect the Kiev Major’s early rounds? Who will we be seeing in the regional qualifiers’ invites, and who will be invited to Ukraine without needing to suffer the regional struggle? 

Here, we’ll look at the remaining regions’ squads, with consideration given to their performances at this past weekend’s Starladder. 

Photo credit: ESL/Patrick Strack

Europe West (EUW)

Considered a hub for both LAN events and esports organizations, the Dota 2 scene in Europe has been especially tightly-contested the last few years. In previous years, it was considered a 'bloodbath' due to the mix of Eastern and Western European teams. Now, due to the split, teams have a bit more room to breathe—which isn’t saying much due to the high number of qualified teams in the region. Of course, there are some teams that stand out among the rest. 

The shoo-in for this event’s direct invite is OG, the winners of the Boston Major, who have continued to show potential in the time since the Major and 7.00’s subsequent release.  Despite their loss at Starladder to second place winners VG.J, they had a solid run at the event. The team’s experienced lineup and effective, smart captaining have make the team a force to be reckoned with.The bigger question on everyone’s minds is who will be invited into the regional qualifiers.  Ad Finem, the Greek underdog who caused a fan movement in Boston, may be invited out of respect, but the question is their ability to qualify. Their performance has been relatively weak outside of the Major itself, but Valve may be willing to give them another shot, as there will probably be plenty of room in the regionals for them plus others. 

Team Liquid will absolutely be a stronger contender here. Despite losing to Ad Finem in the Boston Major qualifiers, they kept working and, after one player swap, managed to qualify for DAC. Their Starladder victory will certainly be a golden frame on either a certain regional invite or a second direct invite, depending on Valve’s mood. 

A new player-run squad called B)ears gave Liquid a run for its money in the DAC qualifiers. The mixed-nationality team hasn’t had any other chance to shine yet, but Valve values the quality of a team’s players as much as results, and the mix of veterans and fresh blood may make them a solid choice for a chance to fight their neighbors. 

Although Team Secret has fallen out of favor due to scandal over its core players, they showed a bit of potential at Starladder and may be considered for an invite. Also fighting for a spot: Cloud9, formerly Imperial, who nearly won WESG but has been making the tier 2 rounds; Alliance, who make frequent appearances in tournaments with few tangible results; and ProDota, who have been consistently playing at the top of tier 2 tournaments.

Photo credit: ESL/Patrick Strack

Europe East (EUE)

It’s often difficult to talk about EUE teams without talking about the EU scene they used to be a part of. Still, the EUE teams have historically performed well internationally, so there’s quite a bit to look at for their region’s qualifiers. Virtus.Pro is the most stable presence in the scene. Despite their 5th-8th run at the Boston Major and lack of DAC qualification, they’ve shown up and performed well at a number of large and tier 2 tournaments with a solid roster.

At the very least, a consistent roster seems to be an important factor for Valve.Team Empire has made several major changes to their roster, but they managed to qualify for DAC through their EUE qualifiers. Working off this alone, they may snag a regional invite, but their hit-and-miss results may also make Valve unsure.

There are several other teams of note, including Effect, which revamped its roster and took second in the DAC qualifiers, and Vega Squadron, which has been training in the tier 2 circuit. Recently, the latter took down Team Empire in a tier 2 tournament. It’s unknown how many slots EUE will be given, though, as it’s an offshoot of the main EU qualifiers.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

North America

North America has always been a contentious matter in Dota 2, but strong showings by a select few teams have garnered a degree of international respect. Namely, Evil Geniuses will likely receive a direct invite after a notable Boston run and a win in China immediately after the 7.00 patch. 

Digital Chaos is still powerful for their region, having won ESL One Genting. However, they took last in Starladder, and they were taken down by NP in the DAC qualifiers, so they will likely be less preferred over Evil Geniuses. NP may be a sure choice for regionals as well. They have presence and star power in the scene, perhaps without the results of DC and EG but certainly with enough strength to put up a fight. They were present at the Boston Major’s main event, and they qualified for DAC, so a regional invite to secure their Kiev spot may be in order. 

Regional upsetters WanteD are centered around EG owner and ex-captain PPD, with a mix of nationalities playing. They registered in time for regional qualifier consideration and Valve's emphasis on players over team plus the limited nature of American qualifiers in the past are all factors in their favour. With that in mind, WanteD may be able to grab a regional invite. After all, if PPD knows anything, it’s how to play the metagame at every level. 

There's a question over whether NA mainstay CompLexity will be able to find a full roster in time for invites, as one player left recently (though it seems they’ve found a strong temporary replacement). There is also the newly-formed Onyx, spearheaded by several notable NA players in a similar manner to NP. Depending on Valve’s mood, both CoL and Onyx may need to show their worth in the open qualifiers due to a lack of solid results. 

Other than the above, a number of tier 2 teams are present to fill in the regional qualifier’s gaps, such as FDL, Freedom and Doo Wop. There’s also, of course, the classic personality/player wild card team and extreme crowd-pleasers Vegetables Esports Club. They could re-emerge for a shot at the prize. 

South America

This means that there ll be a massive fight for the open qualifiers spot, and new players or rusty vets can brush up and face more stable teams that have fought against more experienced squads.

The South American Dota 2 scene is highly unstable, but their perseverance has to be rewarded as they have one of the highest Dota 2 populations. The formation of a South American Qualifier will probably put their regional pubstars on their toes, but the new need for consistency and strength hasn't made the region any less prone to shuffles. As in many other regions, the top teams have undergone massive changes, so Valve may look for brand power as well as player ability.

The Peruvian brand Not Today has had some success, but the team underwent a full revamp since their last tournament. The players themselves have had varying degrees of success, though, with two players earning fourth at WESG as Infamous. Plus, with an influx of new members in the last few days, Valve may be keeping an eye on them. 

Speaking of Infamous, the squad was somewhat strong before the facelift, but now their future remains uncertain due to the changes. The team’s captain has remained on board, and so there’s a chance that he can lead his new members through whatever qualifiers they may need to accomplish.  

Other than these teams, very few are actually currently prepared to accept invites, and so it seems that only two will be directly invited to regional qualifiers. This means that there’ll be a massive fight for the open qualifiers spot, and new players or rusty vets can brush up and face more stable teams that have fought against more experienced squads. There’s hope that this will create a new burst of interest in the regional competitive scene—something the populous region needed.

PC Gamer

Your CS:GO rank is a badge of honor. Some players agonize over their level within the competitive matchmaking system, desperate to escape 'silver hell' or push to the towering heights of Global Elite. But despite the intense focus on these status symbols, information about how the system works is scarce. Collated below is the best knowledge available to help you understand your competitive rank and what factors influence it.

How CS:GO ranks work

  • When you begin your matchmaking journey, you’ll first be tasked with winning (not just completing) 10 placement matches, at a limit of two per day. These allow time for the game’s ranking system to determine your calibre. Note that an unranked player will be unable to queue with anyone of rank Master Guardian 2 or higher, unless queuing with a full team of five.
  • Once ten matches are complete, you’ll be assigned into one of 18 Skill Groups, depending on your performance. You’ll now be able to play as many matches as you like, but can only queue with players within +/- 5 ranks of your own (once again, excluding a team of 5 queuing).
  • Based on successes and failures, your rank will be adjusted at the end of each match, assigning you a higher or lower Skill Group if necessary. The mechanics behind this are still unclear, but the surest way to improve is by winning as a team.
  • Play no matches for a month and your Skill Group will disappear, requiring a win or draw to return it. Again, you’ll no longer be able to play with ranks above Master Guardian 1 until you’ve earned it back.

Rank distribution

CSGOSquad, an independent analysis website provides a breakdown of the rank distribution, showing the percentage of active players in each rank over a day, week or month. This data is collected through randomly sampled matches, so extending the catchment period to a month gives a good idea of how the ranks spread out.

In the sample above we can see in February that the average rank was Gold Nova 2, with around 35% of all players sampled in the Gold Nova bracket. If you’ve earned your way to Legendary Eagle, congrats, you’re in the top 10% of matchmaking players. In fact, you might be even higher than you think. The site’s random sampling technique means that because higher ranked players will, in general, play the game more often, they are disproportionately likely to be sampled. But what does each rank actually mean, and how does the game determine where to place you?

Elo and Glicko-2

Unsurprisingly, Valve has kept incredibly tight-lipped when it comes to the inner workings of its games, for fear that some players might game the system itself, prioritising their own progression over the success of their team. But back in 2015, a Valve employee let slip that CS:GO initially based its matchmaking on the Glicko-2 ranking system, though it has since been adapted and improved, involving some heavy modifications. 

The more games you ve played, the harder it will be to change your rank.

Chances are you’ve heard of Elo ranking. Designed for player vs player competitions such as chess, each combatant is assigned a number to represent their rank. The difference between two competitor’s numbers indicates the expected outcome of the match, with the victor claiming points from the loser. Should the player of higher rank win, he’ll take significantly fewer points than the lower player would, outcome reversed.

Since the adoption of Elo, many variations have been designed to combat some of the system’s flaws. Glicko-2 is one such alternative, assigning a Ratings Deviation (RD) around a base number. A player’s Match Making Rank (MMR) then becomes a range (e.g. [1000-2000]), rather than a single number (e.g. 1500). This improves accuracy; the system can then say it knows a player’s rank will lie within this bracket to a 95% certainty. The better the system knows your real rank, the smaller this range will be. Glicko-2 also takes into account a player’s 'volatility,' how much a rank is expected to fluctuate over time (increased through erratic performances, decreased through consistency).

However, despite Glicko-2 being an open system, clear limitations stop it from applying directly to CS:GO. Both Elo and Glicko were designed with 1v1 competition in mind. In a 5v5, team-based game, far more factors come into play. An individual player’s impact on a game is a difficult thing to judge. Sure, one player can earn four kills in a round, but that may only be because of an ally securing the bomb-plant, or placing a well-timed flash. From K/D ratios to MVPs, performance statistics are varied, and Valve has said nothing about how they’re taken into account with regards to rank. In response to this silence, some players have their own theories on how CS:GO’s ranking system works.

Player theories

Back in 2014, Steam user RetriButioN posted a lengthy record of his experience ranking up multiple accounts. He's since updated the guide, acknowledging that all claims are based purely off his own anecdotal evidence, but it makes for an interesting read regardless. He proposes that ranking is determined on a round-by-round basis, adjusting all players involved to redetermine the expected winner. This method could explain why players sometimes rank up on a lost game, given a close scoreline. The chances of this occurring are extremely low, but multiple players have reported unexpected changes in rank—see Infamous_Blue’s comment here as an example. However, these cannot act as hard evidence for a round-by-round system, as external factors (e.g. previous games being removed due to a detected cheater) can also influence your ranking during a match. These outside events are more likely to explain especially bizarre claims like deranking after a 16-0 win.

RetriButioN also goes on to claim that, aside from winning and losing the round, MVPs are the only factor to affect your ranking score. The logic behind this and the guide came from the use of console command, 'developer 1,' which revealed a ranking number that changed based on rounds and MVPs. However, Valve has dispelled this claim, confirming that files stored on the user-end no longer affect ranking. However, if MVPs previously played a role, there’s chance that they still do. Recently, reddit user dob_bobbs shared his own thoughts, covering the workings of the Glicko-2 system and suggesting that a high volatility may limit the loss or gain of points. The logic behind this is that a player may have an unusual bad patch or lucky streak, not indicative of their true skill, meaning that time to establish the trend is needed.

What we know for certain

With many fan theories floating around, it can be easy to get lost down a rabbithole of guesswork, but there are some key takeaways from what’s been learned. 

A wide number of factors affect your ranking, and it’s all stored by Valve.“All computations are performed on our matchmaking backend and multiple matchmaking parameters describing scientific set of rating variables of a player are represented to players as [their rank],” posted vitaliy_valve in response to RetriButioN’s guide. No matter how much data mining someone claims to have done, they cannot know the details of the matchmaking system. With a number of variables in effect, it’s better to focus on winning the game than arguing over factors like who gets to defuse the bomb, even if someone tells you otherwise.

The more games you’ve played, the harder it will be to change your rank.The nature of Glicko-2’s Rating Deviation means that the longer you play at a particular level, the more precisely the game will believe it has determined your appropriate rank. With a smaller RD, larger jumps in your MMR become improbable. If you’ve ever seen a popular streamer or Youtuber attempt to rank an account from Silver 1 to Global, you’ll notice that it usually takes a long time to progress during the Silver stages. This happens because the account has been intentionally deranked by a player losing repeated games on purpose. During this time, the rating system will believe it has obtained a good idea of the player’s true rank, and therefore responds slowly to subsequent victories. This isn’t to say you’ll never be able to climb the levels again. Given consistent hard work and competition with those above your level, your RD will widen again, allowing greater steps up.

A hiatus will reduce your rank’s certainty, but often leads to degradation.Quit playing CS:GO for a month, and you’ll find your skill group has vanished, requiring a draw or win to earn it back. If you stop playing for longer, there’s a good chance you’ll return at a different rank than before. It has often been suggested that MMR decays over time when inactive, but again it’s tough to find evidence to back this up. The most probable cause for degradation comes from increases in Rating Deviation. 

Your ranking range becomes less certain over time between games, increasing in RD. Each sudden drop represents a match played, letting the system believe it can more precisely identify your true rank.

The longer it has been since your last match, the less certain the game can be of your level, which means you could be matched against players of a wider skill range than you would normally. If you’re in the upper half of the skill groups, you’re more likely to be matched against those lower than you due to the larger pool of players. However, if you find your rank has dropped then it’s best not to worry, as your increased RD should allow faster recovery.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Helena Kristiansson/ESL

For more on the EU West, EU East, North American and South American teams of the Kiev Major, click here.

As the snow melts in the north, Dota 2 fans’ eyes shift towards western Europe, anxious but excited for Valve’s upcoming Kiev Major—and more importantly for now, for the invites to the LAN that are yet to be sent.

This tournament is one of two events sponsored by Valve in the time between the annual International. These Majors offer $1 million to the winning team and a guaranteed spot at the next event so long as the team’s lineup remains locked in. The Kiev Major is also, notably, the first official event in the CIS region, which is known for its large population of players and fans. 

The invite process for the Major isn’t always clear, but Valve's commitment to including as much talent per region as possible is. The number of direct invites, or teams guaranteed to appear at the LAN event itself, has remained pretty inconsistent - even for their top-level events. For those that aren’t directly invited but worthy of consideration, there are also regional qualifier invites, where invited teams from several regions fight for a spot at the event. Within those are also the open invites in which any team - yes, even you and your recent MOBA converts - may participate for a chance at a spot in the regional qualifiers. Open qualifier teams have certainly gotten far: Peruvian team Unknown.Xiu was present at 2015’s fall Frankfurt Major, and some teams, suffering from shuffle deadlines, have had to fight back to the top - specifically for TI6.  

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out.

In part one of this primer, we'll discuss about two of these regions: China and Southeast Asia. Each of these Eastern areas are hotspots for Dota 2 competition, with a large number of in-houses in the Chinese community and a fierce, dedicated circuit of Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, and more fighting across the isles.

Much will be settled after StarSeries Season 3 this upcoming weekend, where many of these teams will fight it out. The Dota Asian Championships’ recently-finished qualifying rounds may be an indicator for who’s strong at the moment, as only four teams were actually invited, and the rest needed to fight in similar regional qualifiers. Valve is surely keeping their eyes on these results as open and regional qualifiers draw near.

In this first part of two previews, we’ll peek at who in the East to look out for during the Kiev Major’s invite process.  

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

China

As always, the Chinese Dota 2 scene remains highly competitive. The most recent international showing was at ESL Genting, where Newbee took out TI6 champions Wings. The latter was also knocked out fairly early in the Boston Major, and so Valve may not be keen to give them a direct invite. Meanwhile, Newbee has been giving a strong showing in the scene, and so they may be under consideration. If not Newbee, then perhaps IG.Vitality will have a shot: the team qualified for SL and will show their chops this weekend. 

Also strong in the running at SL is the VG.J team, endorsed by honorary captain Jeremy Lin, which also qualified for DAC and is participating in Starladder this weekend.

Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits

IG’s primary team may certainly be under consideration as well, as they won the second Chinese spot in the DAC. While their tournament results aren’t spectacular, their appearances are fairly consistent, and it would only be fair to hand an invite.

Many other teams in the Chinese scene have faced roster swaps and mild performances, including Boston Major teams LGD.Fy and their main LGD squad, and haven’t shown up in international settings. Still, Valve likely has at least once source keeping their eye on the in-house and Chinese circuits, and so the slots will certainly be filled with a tightly-packed open qualifier round.

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL

Southeast Asia

A label of “underdog” isn’t quite fitting for teams of SEA, but they’re often treated as such. With a bad reputation from public game behavior and connectivity issues, much of the community underestimates the power of this region, despite regularly consistent performances in official and/or major international tournaments.

For instance, Malaysian Warriors Gaming Unity took a 5th-8th place finish in Boston and have showed consistent top results in a number of tier 2 tournaments. However, their local rivals Faceless have been a constant presence in major tournaments, placing among the top international teams, especially impressive for their short existence. The two teams will likely be top contestants for a direct invite, and the other will certainly put up a fight in regionals.

After two major fall shuffles, Execration, hailing from fan-packed Philippines, seems to be doing well after recently curing three out of their five TI squad members. Showing consistent strength, TNC most recently won WESG and qualified for the upcoming SL tournament, and so they’ll more likely than not fight for a Kiev spot too.

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events.

Execration had been a regional powerhouse and received a direct invite to Boston, though they were tragically unable to participate due to visa issues. However, they won’t be appearing in Starladder nor DAC, and thus they won’t be able to show their strength. There’s a good chance Valve will give them another chance through the regional qualifiers, given their stellar reputation and massive Filipino fan base. 

Also from the Philippines is esports organization Mineski, which has two squads, GG and X. Mineski.GG has had consistent top results in regional tournaments, and the latter has certainly been training. If Valve had to choose between the two, GG would certainly make the cut, though there may be room for both. 

Normally, at least one iteration of Korean org MVP is given an invite, considering the respect shown for the country’s esports history and the consistent showing of the org at Valve events. However, their more renown Dota 2 team, MVP.Phoenix, split after Boston, and MVP.Hot6 hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet. Depending on whether Valve has their eye on other regional teams, they may have to fight through open qualifiers, but there’s no doubt that there’s potential in this team, given the mix of experience present.

If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining.

The region’s most famous team, Fnatic, has had some rocky times lately. After failing to qualify for Boston, which was captured in Valve’s True Sight documentary, captain Mushi left, as did many of their other members. It’s unknown if the org will pick up another group before at least the open qualifiers, but it leaves fans both local and international shaken for now. 

Fortunately for Valve and regional fans, SEA has no shortage of teams aiming for the win. In other words, even if any of the above teams don’t make it, there are squads such as Geek Fam, Clutch Gamers and HappyFeet with extremely limited experience but solid potential to keep an eye on. If nothing else, these open qualifiers will certainly be entertaining. 

PC Gamer

The DreamHack Masters CS:GO tournament in Las Vegas came to an exciting conclusion last weekend, which saw Virtus.pro defeat SK Gaming 2-1 in a nail-biting final. League of Legends’ LCS continues to dominate the headlines, but there’s plenty of action to be had elsewhere. There’s drama from the Dota 2: StarLadder i-League to the Hearthstone: Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs. We even have the Smite SPL to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

In week five of the EU LCS we saw the leaders of both group A and B, G2 Esports and Unicorns of Love face off against each other. G2 took both games after they starved UoL of objectives and gold in the first game, while the second game was won thanks to Zven’s quadra kill in the mid-lane. Meanwhile, Splyce has improved tremendously and Kobbe’s Jhin managed to secure the team’s victory against Fnatic going 8/1/9. The competition is heating up and Misfits are still looking to rival G2 for first place. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team SoloMid have had another great week and their early game has improved considerably since the start of the LCS. In the third game in their series against Cloud9, Bjergsen’s Zed and Hauntzer’s Shen showed excellent control and synergy, which gave TSM an early advantage that allowed them to apply pressure all over the map. FlyQuest suffered an unexpected defeat against Dignitas when Hai picked Jarvan mid, while Team Liquid followed their same pattern of winning one game and losing the next two. Team Liquid may have been defeated by Counter Logic gaming, but they still have a chance to show improvements as we head into week six. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League Season 3

The Dota 2 StarLadder i-League is kicking off this weekend and only the best teams will advance to the playoffs. The finals of the upper part of group А's bracket, OG faced off against Team Secret. In the first game both teams were extremely close but, OG began to snowball a lead and won more team fights. The second round of the series followed a similar pattern and OG took complete control once again. You can check out the full schedule here, while the stream can be watched over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Playoffs

Last weekend the Americas branch of the Hearthstone Championship determined which four players (DrJikininki, DocPwn, Tarei and Fr0zen) will be competing at the Hearthstone Winter Championship in the Bahamas. This weekend we’ll see which players have what it takes to represent Asia and be crowned the HCT Asia-Pacific Winter Champion. The matches kick off today at 18:00 PST / 03:00 CET, and continue the same time Sunday. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

Smite: SPL 2017

The second week of the SPL will continue this Saturday where Elevate and NRG eSports will clash. Obey Alliance delivered a shocking blow to NRG when they beat them 2-0, but NRG will be hoping to put this loss behind them and beat Elevate this weekend. The last time NRG lost a set was to Paradigm at the Super Regionals in 2015, so the upcoming clash will certainly be interesting and could go either way. Make sure you tune into action at 10:00 PST / 19:00 CET. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

PC Gamer

The League of Legends LCS continues to dominate the headlines at the moment, but there are actually a fair few other events taking place this weekend. There’s plenty of action from the CS:GO: DreamHack Masters to the Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship. We even have the Hearthstone Winter Playoffs to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

H2K Gaming bounced back from their tough loss against G2 by beating Team ROCCAT, while G2 Esports earned its sixth straight series win after sweeping Origen 2-0. The Giants and ROCCAT are still the underdogs of the tournament, but both teams are determined to improve their scores this weekend where they’ll face H2K and Splyce. The competition’s looking extremely fierce and we can expect to see some exciting games as we go into week five. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Echo Fox had another fantastic week as jungler Akaadian snowballed his team with an early advantage that allowed him to apply pressure all other the map. Team Dignitas even managed to secure their second win when they defeated in EnVy 2-0. Meanwhile, Team Liquid narrowly lost their match against Cloud9, but Piglet and Reignover showed great potential with their jungle and AD carry plays. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

CS:GO: DreamHack Masters Las Vegas 2017

Following the success of the first ever DreamHack Masters in Malmö, DreamHack has taken their explosive CS:GO tournament to Las Vegas. The World’s best CS:GO teams have been busy battling it out at the iconic MGM Grand and Garden Arena for their chance to win the $450,000 prize pool. The competition is set to be fierce and we will find out whether anyone has what it takes to beat the current titleholders Ninjas in Pyjamas. The full schedule can be found here, while the stream can be found by heading over to Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Americas Winter Playoffs

Last weekend the European branch of the Hearthstone Championship Tour kicked off and determined which four players (Pavel, Neirea, GreenSheep, and ShtanUdachi) would be competing at the Hearthstone Winter Championship in the Bahamas, as well as crowning Pavel the HCT EU Winter Champion. This weekend we’ll see which players have what it takes to represent the Americas and be crowned the HCT Americas Winter Champion. The matches kick off on Saturday at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET, and continue Sunday at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

Heroes of the Storm: Global ChampionshipSeven teams have booked their ticket to the Western Clash at IEM Katowice. Tempo Storm, Team 8, and Gale Force eSports from North America made the cut during week four of play. Misfits secured their spot after defeating Team expert 3-0, while fellow European teams Fnatic and Team Dignitas will also be joining them. Both NA and EU schedules can be found here, while the stream can be viewed by heading over to Twitch

PC Gamer

Erik Wolpaw, a long-time Valve writer who has worked on game series including Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, and Portal, revealed today that he is no longer with the company. Marc Laidlaw, himself a former Valve writer, let the news slip on Twitter, while Wolpaw confirmed it in a status update on his Facebook page

Wolpaw joined Valve in 2004, and has credits on Half-Life: Episode One and Two, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Portal 2. Prior to that, he was with Double-Fine, where he co-wrote the outstanding platform-adventure Psychonauts, and before that he was one-half of the brilliant (and sadly defunct) gaming site Old Man Murray. He's currently involved in the development of Psychonauts 2, which was successfully crowdfunded in early 2016.

A reason for Wolpaw's departure wasn't given, but it does appear to be legitimate this time around. A report that he had left Valve also surfaced last summer, but in that case it turned out that he'd just called in sick for the day. 

I've emailed Valve for more information, and will update if and when I received a reply. 

Update: The report originally stated that writer Jay Pinkterton had also left the company, but apparently not.

PC Gamer

Videogames have bugs. This is a fact of life. Some are obvious and easy to squash, and others are a little trickier to nail down. And then there are bugs like the one Valve fixed yesterday in Team Fortress 2. According to this Engadget report, it was around for a full decade—since TF2 was released in 2007—before it was noticed last month by TF2 Classic developer Nicknine, and reported by Redditor sigsegv_. 

The bug occurred when a player selected the Scout, Heavy, or Sniper as their first class upon joining a server. After that, switching to Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy on the same server would leave their local and server-side animations slightly out of sync. It worked the other way as well: Beginning as Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy, and then switching to Scout, Heavy, or Sniper would have the same effect.   

It sounds harmless enough, but the practical impact was most definitely not. As you can see in the video, the mismatch between local and server-side hitboxes meant that shots that should have hit sometimes would not. And once it happened, players were stuck: Switching back and forth wouldn't clear the error, nor would dying or going to spectator mode.     

"It's because the player models for scout/heavy/sniper have their pose parameters listed in one order, while the player models for soldier/pyro/demo/engie/medic/spy have their pose parameters listed in a slightly different order (move_x and move_y swapped)," sigsegv_ explained. "And it's also worth pointing out that in MvM [Mann vs Machine], the bots re-use the same 22 player slots over and over: when a robot dies, that player is switched to spectator, and then when it's time for another robot to spawn, the player is switched back onto blue team and changed to the class that the new robot should be. So, in effect, different MvM robots are somewhat equivalent to a group of human players who die, change class, and then respawn; which means that they were also susceptible to the bug." 

It's not a huge bug, as evidenced by the fact that it went unnoticed for ten years, but that's also what makes it so notable now. TF2 is not your average ten-year-old game: It's still one of the top five games on Steam, with tens of thousands of people blasting away at each other 24 hours a day, and is supported by a very active modding community. Yet somehow, this bug, which impacts the game at its most fundamental level—did you shoot the guy or not?—has slipped through the cracks until now. In a way, it's almost a shame that Valve fixed it.   

The full list of changes included in the latest TF2 update is below.

  • Improved Steam Voice support for servers that have enabled it
  • Removed sv_use_steam_voice convar. Steam voice is now selected via "sv_voicecodec steam"
  • Fixed demos not properly recording Steam Voice status, resulting in potential corrupt voice in demos with differing default settings
  • Will now use the native Steam Voice sampling rate, instead of clamping to 11kHz
  • Improved compatibility with Steam client beta
  • Fixed OS X voice communication sounding high-pitched when using the default CELT voice codec
  • Fixed an animation bug that would cause the client and server hitboxes to become out of sync
  • Fixed the Scout not playing the correct animation when using the Shortstop's Alt-Fire to shove someone
  • Fixed some missing VO sounds for the Scout when he picks up a baseball
  • Fixed Spectators seeing the fake death notices for the Spy when he feigns death
  • Fixed the Widowmaker not doing increased damage when the Sentry's target is a building, boss, or tank
  • Fixed not earning Crikey meter progress with The Cleaner's Carbine when damaging a building, boss, or tank
  • Fixed the Scout not getting assists for shoving players while using the Shortstop
  • Fixed not being able to use non-tradable Giftapults
  • Fixed powerups sometimes being removed from the game in Mannpower mode
  • Fixed a case where the scoreboard would not update properly when players volunteer to switch teams in Casual mode
  • Fixed a case where Casual servers would spontaneously terminate with "Server shutting down" upon losing connection with the matchmaking service
  • Updated the logic used to pick the maps players can vote on in the end-of-match map vote on Casual servers to help maintain healthier game mode representation across regions
  • Casual servers were often rotating to unrelated game modes during votes, resulting in partially filled servers in certain regions
  • Updated the player_bodygroups that are hidden when equipping The Dark Falkirk Helm and The Sole Saviors
  • Updated the model/materials for The Snowmann to fix some LOD issues
  • Updated the localization files
  • Added Gift Wrap back to the Mann Co. Store at a reduced price
  • Added TF2Maps 72hr TF2Jam Winter Participant 2017 community medal
  • Added Rally Call Charity Tournament community medals
  • Added ozfortress Season 18 tournament medals
  • Added new survey questions to the end-of-match survey for Casual and Competitive modes and fixed a bug where multiple surveys could be displayed at the same time
PC Gamer

Anti-cheat software has a lot of weight to pull in the modern age, with few major games going to market without some form of online competitive mode. Detecting and smiting cheaters is a thankless task too, with most folk ignoring anti-cheat technology unless it stops working effectively. Typically enough, Valve has a new approach in mind.

During a discussion on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Reddit page, one user asked why Valve doesn't implement auto-detection for spinbots – bots that literally spin on the spot, auto-killing every player in range. Other users posit quite reasonably that it wouldn't be hard to detect this supernaturally quick and effective player behavior. That may be true, but according to a Valve spokesperson writing in the thread, it wouldn't be the best approach.

"So some bad news: any hard-coded detection of spin-botting leads to an arms race with cheat developers – if they can find the edges of the heuristic you’re using to detect the cheat, the problem comes back," the spokesperson wrote. "Instead, you’d want to take a machine-learning approach, training (and continuously retraining) a classifier that can detect the differences between cheaters and normal/highly-skilled players."

That sounds simple enough if you don't know what's at stake, but actually, it's an approach to anti-cheat which ups the ante entirely: both in possible effectiveness and the sheer cost of operating it.

"The process of parsing, training, and classifying player data places serious demands on hardware, which means you want a machine other than the server doing the work. And because you don’t know ahead of time who might be using this kind of cheat, you’d have to monitor matches as they take place, from all ten players’ perspectives."

The spokesperson continued: "There are over a million CS:GO matches played every day, so to avoid falling behind you’d need a system capable of parsing and processing every demo of every match from every player’s perspective, which currently means you’d need a datacenter capable of powering thousands of CPU cores."

Apparently Valve has "started this work" and already has an early version of the system deployed to Overwatch – a self-regulated community dedicated to reviewing cheat reports in the game. The company will "continue this work and expand the system over time".

PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL/Adela Sznajder

It’s no secret that the esports industry has exploded in the last several years, and with fresh investors and sponsors rolling in, established professional organizations have more room to grow than ever. Throughout this expansion, Dota 2 has proved to be a staying force in competitive gaming, and now some brands that once pursued failed ventures in the scene are giving it a second thought.

These re-established teams must now work to not only live up to the orgs’ powerful reputations in esports in general, from FPS legacies to investments from NBA teams, but also distinguish themselves from their banner’s Dota 2 history. Here, we take a brief look at three of these well-known organizations’ past and present in the game.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Originally founded as a Counter-Strike team in the early 2000s, and with a focus on Swedish players and tournaments, Ninjas in Pyjamas was a forerunner in the blooming days of the modern esports scene. After a hiatus, in the early 2010s, the organization returned to CS and re-established its brand with a legendary roster, cementing their status as a regular name in the CS:GO circuit.In January 2015, they drove forward with this momentum from their reformed FPS legacy and picked up the Swedish Dota 2 squad LAJONS, with The International 5 as their likely end goal. The team notably contained Era, the former Fnatic player, along with current CompLexity player Limmp. NiP teammates Apemother and Chessie also worked in the Swedish scene as stand-ins to Alliance at different times when the TI3-winning squad was undergoing drastic changes. Unfortunately, NiP underperformed and were dropped after the 2015 Frankfurt Major qualifiers.

NiP picked up three former members of the recently-disbanded Escape Gaming late this past December. Instead of matching the org’s purely-Swedish past in this game, there is now a mix of representation: German members qojqva and Khezu, Era from Sweden, Trixi from Finland, and captain-support Synderen hailing from Denmark. So far, the team has only played in the Dota Asian Championship qualifiers, which they lost, and Moonduck’s Elimination Mode 3.0 (ongoing as of writing). However, as there are solid reputations for these players in the Dota 2 scene and the NiP name across esports fans are keeping their fingers crossed.

Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson

Cloud 9

Esports organization Cloud 9, which is relatively young compared to the other organizations discussed here, has its roots in League of Legends after a rocky team faced a number of brand changes. It formed in 2012 from the remnants of Quantic Gaming and saw a rapid rise to fame, soon branching out into other esports. Its LoL team is a major part of the League Championship Series, and it has a team or player in almost every notable active esport, including star Melee player Mang0.

Perhaps just as interesting, though, is the drama behind C9’s first Dota 2 squad in 2014, formerly Speed Gaming. Speed was formed in 2013 as an international iteration of Chinese org Rattlesnake, but complaints quickly arose about the manager, Marco Fernandez, from the team’s players. Each member—Singsing, EternalEnvy, Aui_2000, pieliedie, and bOne7—is at least a minor celebrity in the Dota 2 community, and so their accusations were not taken lightly. It culminated at the MLG Anaheim 2013 event, when their manager badly scheduled a flight that left the team with little time to rest before the tournament began. At this point, other accusations came out of the woodwork, including Marco having called himself a “babysitter,” a massive, demoralizing pre-finals rant by Marco himself, and issues with team salaries. After sharing their cautionary tale, the team quickly left Speed and re-formed in early 2014 under the C9 banner.

Past the initial drama, C9 itself was a fairly successful venture, though jokes quickly emerged from their consistent second place losses in major tournaments. The team’s playstyle and reputation at that point were largely defined by EternalEnvy, who would often make risky moves with varying degrees of success. After a devastating 9-12th place loss at TI5, the team split up, though the umbrella C9 org was quick to invest in a new NA squad. Unfortunately, it was plagued by regional drama with controversial player Ritsu at the forefront, including accusations of harassment and leaking scrim data, and after they released him from the team, they were never able to recover.

In the final days of 2016, tier 2 Danish squad The Imperials left their organization and returned to their old name Danish Bears, sparking rumors that they would be signed to C9, and in early January, the team’s new organization was announced. C9’s faith likely isn’t misplaced, as under the new banner, they have already won 2nd at WESG, losing to Filipino TI6 underdogs TNC Pro Team, though they failed to qualify for DAC and Starladder.

Liquid's TI3 roster.

Team Liquid

It’s hard to understate European organization Liquid’s presence in the esports scene. Team Liquid itself began with Starcraft: Brood War in 2000 and soon rose to the top of the emerging competitive community by representing high-level, well-performing SC pros. With the introduction of their website and forum in 2001, when forums were the primary social outlets of the internet, TL’s user base quickly sprawled across the young competitive gaming fandom.

Their site, including the forums and “wiki” Liquidpedia, remains an essential site for aggregation of esports information across a large number of esports-heavy video games, and TL is still a force in a number of major esports. In September 2016, they were the prize investment of Axiomatic, a new esports investment group founded by basketball team-runners Pete Guber and Ted Leonsis, with investor names including Magic Johnson.

Their first roster was announced at the end of 2012, consisting of mostly North American players. The fanbase was a strong contrast to Dota 2’s “bandwagon” culture. It was a North American squad when very few formidable ones existed, and the Liquid brand carried over well from the Brood War and recent Starcraft 2 scenes. Its most notable players during this era were BuLba, a mainstay in the NA Dota 2 community, and DeMoN, who has since moved on to help the Southeast Asian region’s teams. To the disappointment of many fans, this iteration was shaken after losing at TI3. After a number of roster changes over its active years, the team disbanded in 2014 when their performance faltered.

TL re-established a team in 2015, this time changing things up with a decidedly European squad. While many rooted for the renewed team, the European scene at that time was described as a “bloodbath,” with each team needing to fight through a slew of well-performing teams to win European qualifiers for many events. Since then, for as strong as the organization itself has been, its Dota 2 history could be described as “grass in a storm”: rarely stable, but persistent and consistent. Though TL wasn’t present at the Boston Major after losing in the highly competitive EU environment, they most recently qualified for DAC and the next Starladder season.

PC Gamer

The Rainbow Six Siege: Invitational came to a thrilling conclusion last weekend with Continuum outgunning eRa Eternity in the final. This weekend, there’s action from the League of Legends EU and NA Spring split to the Dota 2 Asia Championships. We even have the latest drama from the Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017: Europe qualifier

So far the B)ears and Team Liquid have been the teams to beat as they claimed the first two spots in the playoffs from the European DAC qualifier. Ad Finem and NiP were the first two teams to be eliminated and so far the competition has been extremely fierce. The loser’s finals start today at 06:00 PST / 15:00 CET, while the grand finals kick off at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET. Make sure you head over to Twitch to catch all the latest action.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Misfits have improved a lot in their past few games as they managed to secure a win against Fnatic, proving that they are a top contender in their group. Meanwhile, G2 had their first perfect game of the split when they took on the Giants. G2 kept all their members alive and didn't lose a single tower in their first game, while their late-game aggression secured them the victory. However, Vitality are still having a rough time as they lost their series against H2K. Origen have also not shown any real progress and both teams will need to improve their performance if they want to secure a victory this weekend. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team Liquid had a rough start in week three when EnVy used their superior macro play to devastating effect. However, Liquid managed to dust themselves off and defeat Echo Fox after a series of back and forth games. Phoenix 1 tried to desperately hold off Team Solo Mid, but Inori failed to stop a Svenskeren Kha’zix from decimating his squishy team. We enter week four of play this weekend and Cloud9 are still undefeated, so it will be interesting to see if anyone can topple their reign. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship

We’re now less than a month away until the Western Clash at IEM Katowice and last weekend we saw a few upsets in North America and Europe. Both No Tomorrow and BeGenius had their hopes of attending the Clash crushed as they lost their games. Meanwhile, there was significant shakeup in the leaderboards as Tempo Storm overtook Team 8 in North America, while Misfits replaced Team expert in Europe. Both NA and EU schedules can be found here, while the stream can be viewed by heading over to Twitch.

Hearthstone: 2017 HCT Europe Winter Playoffs

The European branch of the Hearthstone Championship Tour kicks off this weekend with 72 participants being narrowed down to just four. It will be a Swiss Format for the first part, before the top eight players go head-to-head to see which four will get a trip to the Bahamas for the Winter finals in March. The matches kick off on Saturday, Feb 11 at 11:30 CET (2:30am PST), and Sunday, Feb 12 at 12:30 CET (3:30am PST). You can find all the details on schedule and bracket here, and watch on the official stream here.

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