PC Gamer

Aperture Science isn't the only one with a secret underground base. Deep in the Antarctic lies a hidden subterranean facility, filled with puzzles, lined with traps, and shrouded in mystery. Why is it there? What is its purpose? Below the Ice, a mod for Half-Life 2, invites you to find out. Just watch your step.

Looks simple, but this place is not your friend.

The mod begins with you arriving in the Antarctic, where you quickly stumble upon the entrance to a facility buried in a glacier. There's a sign warning against trespassers, which feels a bit pointless. You've either traveled all the way to the north pole and aren't going to turn around and go home because of a sign, or you're a polar bear and you can't read anyway.

Entering this facility requires passing a bit of an intelligence test in a number of grid-like puzzle chambers. Many involve the simple pushing of buttons, though figuring out how to reach those buttons, and what those buttons actually do, can take a while. The chambers aren't particularly forgiving if you make a mistake, either. Prepare to be crushed, fried, or fall to your death if you slip up.

This is how I solve puzzles. With a crowbar.

Once you've convinced the puzzle chambers you've got a brain in your head, you're granted access to the rest of the facility, which appears to have been abandoned. While exploring, you'll discover living quarters, science labs, and a series of offices. There, you'll begin to piece together the story behind the facility, which ties in to both the fiction of Half-Life 2 and Portal. It's not just a matter of walking around and reading notes: even though you've escaped the test chambers, there are still plenty of puzzles to solve to gain access to the facility's control rooms, observation chambers, and science labs.

I suspect they're not planning you give you a haircut.

The more you progress, the more the facility begins to reveal its secrets, and its true size. While you're navigating the place, unlocking doors, turning on lights, locating missing pieces of technology, dabbling in teleportation, and piecing together its history, also keep an eye out for a series of memory sticks. Find enough of them hidden throughout the mod and it will give you an alternate ending.

Companion cubes aren't quite as heartwarming here.

There's probably a few hours of play here, depending on your smarts. Some of the puzzles aren't particularly sophisticated: to progress, it's generally more important to carefully examine your surroundings for clues than to be some sort of 10th Level Puzzle Wizard. There's some decent music throughout, and while the map's set dressing is a bit plain, and a few custom textures are a little underwhelming, it's a nice mod if you're in the mood for some gently-paced puzzle solving.

Dude, I can't solve this with you watching me.

You can grab the mod here and untangle the mystery for yourself. To install, extract the folder into your sourcemods directory (\Steam\steamapps\sourcemods), and restart Steam. Below the Ice will appear in your library. You'll also require Half-Life 2 and Source SDK Base 2013 single-player. You can find the latter by viewing your Games Library in your Steam client, selecting "Tools," and double-clicking it from the list.

L4D Blog
Product Update - Valve
An update has been released for Left 4 Dead 2

- Fixed an edge case where a Survivor that should have been incapacitated from taking damage would be killed instead, even though the Survivor wasn't on third strike.
- Cheat-protected some sound mixer commands to prevent exploits.
PC Gamer

Welcome to schadenfreude corner. Today we submit for your approval the story of a CS:GO league player banned mid-match during an ESEA livestream.

YouTube user Megaberna captured the moment that ESP's Flex was booted from today's Main league game against Grandpa Berets.

According to ESP's leader 'espgodson', the team had no idea Flex was running hacks. In fact, Flex was only playing as a stand-in, as the ESEA require that two members of the previous roster are present for the first few matches of a season.

"Everything was very rushed and we only needed him to play 2 matches," 'espgodson' writes in a Reddit thread. "Anyways, just wanted to come on here to say that none of us had any idea he was cheating and absolutely no one on our team would ever intentionally do something like that."

Another comment in that same thread claims that, after the ban, Flex admitted to having used cheats on ESEA servers for the past week, and that he did it to stop himself from playing the game.

This is far from top-tier pro-drama; Main being the third division of the ESEA league—under Premier and Invite. Nevertheless, it's entertaining to see a competitive player get publicly shamed for cheating during a livestreamed match.

For more on cheating in Global Offensive, check out Emanuel's detailed investigation into what is a million-dollar business.

PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2. And Smite. It's about Smite now too, apparently. The amazing fan art above is by Reddit user Pitran.

I've played Dota 2 almost exclusively since July 2012. For a long time it was the only game of its type that I played, and I've spent an order of magnitude more time with it than any other game of, well, any other type. I wouldn't be surprised if the time I've spent learning to wizard exceeds the time I've invested in games generally over the last two years. I held, for a long time, that you couldn't play more than one of these games seriously. I still believe that. Over the last few weeks, however, I've made a concerted effort to learn another—Smite. It's taught me a few things about the genre as a whole, and made me question a few further things that I held to be true about Dota 2.

Here's one new idea: surrender mechanics directly benefit support players. Back in July of last year, I wrote this article about why Dota 2 doesn't, shouldn't give its players a surrender button. I haven't entirely changed my mind about that. I still believe that the 'white flag' option makes these games less interesting overall. The Dota 2 experiences you remember are the late-game upsets, the incredible comebacks. Surrendering truncates the game, closes off possibilities, places hard limits on all of that fascinating complexity. In the abstract, I maintain that if a player is in a position where they must surrender then something has gone wrong with the game's provision of comeback mechanics. What I now realise, however, is that the decision to surrender is, in and of itself, a phenomena worth examining. The possibility of surrender creates new dynamics that alter the way you perceive the story of a match.

Dota 2's lack of a surrender option means that regular matchmaking games always end when one team destroys the other team's base. They can end no other way. It takes carries with good items and smart play by core heroes to do this, and the run of patches following last year's International have attempted to do away with ten-minute death pushes by giving defenders more options. Not only do games run longer, but the most important characters, in the end, are almost always the ones at the top of the farm priority pyramid. Earthshaker might start the ball rolling, but Faceless Void gets to kick it into the goal.

The same is true of Smite, to an extent. The role of the support, in both games, is to control the first half of the match so that it is your carries, not the other guy's, who ultimately succeed. This is where the 'Soccer Mom Crystal Maiden' meme comes from, and why support players are generally so rare—the role requires you to give up a substantial portion of your claim to glory. I've been playing support exclusively since I started to learn Smite because almost nobody volunteers to do it. As in Dota, everybody wants to play a solo roaming hero or carry. They want to make the big, game-ending plays—not the subtle supportive ones.

Teams can surrender in Smite, however, and this alters the prospects of what a support player can achieve. The goal stops being 'how do I ensure we have the best possible lategame' and becomes, in part, 'how do I break their spirits to the extent that there is no lategame'.

I'll give you an example. I've been playing a lot of Ares, a durable support who lacks burst damage but whose ultimate ability can completely turn a teamfight. The spell is called No Escape. Chains fly from Ares towards enemy players in a radius as he leaps into the air. After a few seconds he crashes down, dragging every player chained towards a central point and stunning them. Dota fans: imagine the lovechild of Magnus' Reverse Polarity and Disruptor's Glimpse. New Smite players tend not to buy the crowd control-breaking items that would get them out of dodge, so in these low-level brackets No Escape can act as a game-ending psychological weapon.

Case in point: my last game. The scoreboard is relatively even twelve minutes in. Both teams are almost entirely comprised of junglers and high-damage solo mages. As support Ares, I'm the exception. One of our guys disconnected at the beginning of the game and didn't come back for a few minutes, ceding an early gold and experience lead to the other team that we're only just clawing back. They've grouped up to push down middle lane. I tap two key combinations into the Tribes-style audio command system.

[VD2] Defend middle lane!

[VVVR] Ultimate is ready!

I approach the clustered enemy team from behind, from the jungle. The third-person perspective makes shooter-style sneak attacks a possibility. My blink is on cooldown, but I'm among the enemy team before they have time to do much about it. No Escape connects with all five. During the leap I draw them forwards, closer to our tower. They're dragged into a Chronos nuke; into that impassable ring thing that Odin does; into Loki, who presses a bunch of buttons I guess. (I'm still learning the gods.) Full teamwipe, a five-to-zero victory. They surrender immediately afterwards.

I wasn't the character who picked up the multi-kill, but I, the support, was the character who ended the game. I'd dealt the killing blow to morale in a way that I couldn't aspire to do to the enemy's base.

While I still don't think that a surrender mechanic is ultimately right for Dota, its presence in Smite has demonstrated the role it can play in redistributing power among the team. It allows for demonstrable displays of authority among 'subordinate' player roles, and creates scenarios where victory emerges from something other than a mounting lead in farm or experience. These kinds of psychological early wins play a huge role in Dota 2, of course, but I think the greater emphasis on the power of late-game carries makes them less visible to players who aren't specifically looking for them.

'Momentum' is a word that comes up a lot while discussing the way that teams win games of Dota, and I've written before about the way that this can be thought of both in terms of game mechanics and team psychology. Wins tend to beget more wins, because you've gained a material and emotional advantage. 'Snowballing'. Recently, I've been thinking about this slightly differently. I think there comes a point in the game where your team is in a position to decisively flip the 'victory switch', to turn an advantage into a done thing. This means more than just following the trajectory your momentum has laid out for you—it means identifying an exact methodology for ending the game and then pulling it off. It means closing off uncertainty and confirming victory; if a team's surrender represents a collective willingness to lose, then flipping the victory switch means collectively voting to win.

In that Ares game, the 'switch' could be defined as the moment we planned and achieved a one-sided teamfight victory. In a game where the majority of players on both teams had found themselves taking inconclusive trades in the jungle, a single convincing five-on-five was needed to establish dominance. In a sense, our opponents were right to surrender when they did: that fight in mid demonstrated superior capability stemming from a better-rounded draft, and it is reasonable to assume that we'd be able to repeat that success throughout the game and ultimately win. It was the beginning of the end and therefore, in some ways, the end itself.

Teams throw away their leads when they fail to make their advantage appear insurmountable. In Smite, the version of this I've seen most often is the single-lane death push. The key objective in the game is a Titan which, unlike the Ancient, can fight back against an attacking team. It loses power with every lane of buildings that you eliminate, but players on a roll typically attempt to punch through a single lane and win the game the most direct way they can see. This is often a really good sign if it happens to you, because it demonstrates that your opponent is willing to take risks—they are keeping the possibility space of the match open even as they attempt to end it, giving you options rather than decisively flipping the switch that takes your options away.

In a Smite match like that, that 'switch' might constitute the destruction of a second lane of towers, another Phoenix, or the Fire Giant. In Dota 2 it might be a faked-out split push that baits enough teleports to open up Roshan, followed by a jungle invasion that catches the smoke gank designed to counter the push your opponent believes is coming. These strategies are rarely seen in mid-level pub matches because they require teams to stop, assess what it would take to undo their own advantage, and then act decisively to reduce the chance of that happening to near-zero. It requires a desire to end, not just finish fast.

Learning to play a game with a surrender option has helped me to get better at identifying these moments, because it gives you unique insight into the mind of the enemy team. A surrender call tells you the exact point at which you have successfully drained hope from the equation: where even they agree that the victory switch has been flipped, and flipped by you. Over the course of a couple of weeks you learn the various shapes that moment can take.

That it sometimes takes the form of a play by the guy who buys all of the wards is a bonus, all things considered.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

PC Gamer

The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive professional scene has suffered another gutshot, as evidence has come to light appearing to corroborate claims that an August 2014 match between iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com was fixed. Text messages posted by Ashley Blacklotus Leboeuf, a former girlfriend of Torqued player Derek "dboorn" Boorn, indicate that the outcome was prearranged, and that alternate accounts were used to place bets on behalf of other team members.

The authenticity of the exchange was confirmed by The Daily Dot, which posted screen caps of the exchange as part of a detailed investigation into the affair. Boorn acknowledges in the messages that iBUYPOWER "really did throw the match," and that community member Duc "cud" Pham used alternate accounts to place bets on the outcome. Information provided by the betting site CS:GO Lounge, meanwhile, confirmed that Pham used "smurf accounts" to place nine maximum-value bets on the match, each of them earning him a return of nearly $1200.

Perhaps most incriminating, CS:GO pro player Shahzeb "ShahZam" Khan, who now plays with Cloud9, issued a statement acknowledging that he placed a bet on the match based on advance knowledge of the outcome. Leaked images of a chat between Khan and an anonymous third party prior to the match were the first indication of a fix, although prior to this he had refused to comment on their authenticity.

"The day of this match I had placed a bet on iBUYPOWER. I brought up the bet while talking to Casey Foster, he then voice-called me on Steam Friends and told me to change my bet. He made it very clear the match was going to be thrown," Khan said. "I didn't want to get involved with any of it but I changed my bet, as I thought would be logical at the time while also sharing this information with a friend whom I assumed to have bet the same."

The CS:GO Lounge said in a statement that it does not tolerate match fixing, and that "hopefully this will now bet he last of match-fixing drama that we have."

PC Gamer

One of the most common things I hear from CS:GO players is that they have no intention of playing Competitive mode. For a variety of reasons, too: it's intimidating, it's unfamiliar, and it's a 45-minute commitment to being judged by strangers, potentially. But it's also the best way to play CS:GO—if you've been reading along, you already know.

I wanted to create a guide to getting into competitive play, but I decided that doing real-time coaching for a Competitive virgin might be an interesting. I grabbed GamesRadar's Lucas Sullivan, whispering sweet tactical nothings in his ear throughout his first match. What we recorded, I hope, represents a collection of some of the adjustments in mindset, positioning, and behaviors that players need to make when transitioning to competitive play.

Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Fixed a problem with the how the server reports gamestats
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:
  • Fixed a problem with the how the server reports gamestats
Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Added the TF Tomb contest winners and runners-up to the Mann Co. Store
  • Fixed AE_CL_BODYGROUP_SET_VALUE animation events not working properly
    • Fixes the Demoman's sticky note not drawing, Soldier's rocket reload missing the rocket, etc.
  • Fixed an exploit related to the Sniper’s scope HUD panel
  • Fixed being able to pick-up buildings while reloading the Panic Attack
  • Fixed the Medic not being able to deploy a Quick-Fix/Vaccinator charge while carrying the flag
  • Fixed the Professor Speks moving around on the Soldier's face
  • Added the Pubstars vs. Pros 6vs9 medal
...

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