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

Valve’s Dota 2 [official site] championship The International isn’t until August (though it already has a community-funded prize pool of almost $9 million), but is about to settle the four positions earned through regional qualifiers. Eight days of non-stop professional Dota 2 matches are kicking off on Monday, meaning very little sleep. A large number of prominent Dota 2 players, casters, fans and analysts are taking this opportunity to have join together in Bucharest to cast the whole event.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

I've never played the Killzone games, owing to the fact that I don't possess the precise living room box required, but now at least I've gotten a taste of the Helghast. Killzone Source doesn't recreate an entire Killzone game in HL2, but provides a particular mission called Strange Company.

It represents several years of work by Moddb member zombiegames, and while I can't personally vouch for its representation of Killzone, it's pretty cool and looks great. With an AI companion, you fight your way through the interiors of a multi-floor building, battling Helghast at every turn, then proceed outside for more gunplay. You can carry a pistol and one of several rifles, use frag grenades, and are also armed with a knife. The Helghast look great, and I don't know if this is true of the original game, but they scream entertainingly when they die. Every time. I couldn't get enough of it.

They're tough as hell, too. Even on normal difficulty they killed me repeatedly. I had to disable AI using the Source console just to get close enough to them to take their pictures. At one point a dropship appeared over a shattered courtyard and they rappelled down on ropes in front of me. They're also pretty good at using grenades.

My AI companion was a little worthless in a fight, but she's still cool to hang out with. While I was remapping my keys (the default keybindings are a little odd) she helped herself to a soda from a vending machine. 

The guns are fun to use, and plenty challenging due to recoil, and the maps are dressed with various bits of detail like Helghast propaganda. There are some other touches, like flying enemy drone that I presume has roots in the original game.

To play, you just need a Steam account and to have the opt-in beta of Source SDK Base 2013 Singleplayer installed. For the beta, right-click the SDK base on Steam, select properties, open the Beta tab and choose '-upcoming' from the list. (You don't need to input a beta access code.)

As for the mod itself, here's its page on Moddb. If you've tried it, and you have experience with the Killzone games, I'd love to hear if you think it's a faithful recreation of the mission.

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

It takes a very special something to make me excited about a pinball game. I played Pokemon Pinball to death, way back when, but very few pinball games since have really captured my attention. Until now. Until the Aperture Science Heuristic Portal Pinball Device. It s a Portal themed table for Zen Pinball [official site] and it looks fantastic. See for yourself in the trailer below the cut.

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
* Fixed a bug that could cause the last player on Dire to be unable to purchase items
Product Update - Valve
- The hero who gets a kill is now always considered as part of the AOE for gold bounty purposes
- Moon Glaives now properly kill Zombies (they now work like Flak Cannon and Split Shot)
- The courier's "Retrieve Items" ability and the "Courier Deliver Items" button will now work properly if you have items on the courier but no items in the stash
- Fixed a recent bug with Techies' Land Mines when flying units were nearby
- Fixed the smaller Mud Golems not leashing back to their camp
- Added missing portraits for unlocks for the Virtus Werebear courier
- Fixed VMT error for Vengeful Spirit submissions through the workshop
PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2, Smite, and wizards in general.

Last weekend I spent almost exactly two and a half hours in the International Open Qualifiers. I wrote beforehand that I'd have been delighted to get through the first round, and technically that's what happened. Technically. As it happened, our first round opponent didn't show up and we waited, waited, waited for the game that'd determine our next match to finish. It started late and ran long, meaning that we were sat on Skype for almost two hours building KSP rockets and tinkering with Invisible, Inc. Eventually, we got to play. Then, soundly outmatched, we lost in under half an hour.

I'd hoped to be able to roll into this week's column with a better story than that, but that's more or less the extent of it. We didn't acquit ourselves terribly, but it turns out that if you lose all three lanes and they have a draft that can teamfight early and push then it's pretty hard to fight your way back into the game.

We were disappointed but neither particularly surprised nor particularly disheartened. We had some very specific shot-calling and strategic problems to solve, but we understood them and they seemed solvable. A similarly positive line of thought was this: that we'd lost but understood why, knew that our opponents had much more experience of the game than us but could also see the road from where we are to where they are. And so on. There's comfort in seeing your failure in these granular terms, in picking out the little things that went well and appreciating the skill it took to make other things go so badly.

That's the note we ended on. Since then, I've been thinking about a lot. I've started to suspect that, in reality, that sense of a linear course between you and a superior opponent is actually pretty misleading.

For one thing, your ability to parse why an opponent has been successful is very much grounded in your own experience of the game—in the sorts of things you value, and therefore in your own conception of how you win. When you watch somebody play well and think 'I could do that', you're probably focusing on the aspects of their play that you already understand—i.e, exactly the stuff you don't need to learn.

That's a pretty disheartening thing to realise, particularly because it means that raw practice isn't a catch-all solution to an experience deficit. It's not enough to dump time into the game: you have to learn to invest that time into the right places. With that in mind, then, it's useful to identify the way in which the nature of skill changes as players become more experienced. Not 'improved'—changed.

I found this chart, by Redditor Ave-Nar, pretty interesting. Here's the original thread. It illustrates the changes in hero win rates both across different patches and across multiple skill levels—normal, high and very high in this case. There are some really interesting patterns, and these patterns tell us not just about the heroes themselves but how they relate to player skill.

Take, for example, Necrophos in 6.82 and Omniknight in 6.84. Both show a high winrate that declines linearly as you progress from normal to very high—a downwards diagonal slant. Although they are played in different positions, both heroes also have a similar impact on the game (tremendous teamfight sustain and laning presence) and are, crucially, straightforward to play. An Omniknight only needs to press R at the right time to completely tip a pub-level teamfight where half of the players have locked physical damage carries. A sub-par Necrophos can get away with spamming Q and using R to steal everybody's kills—the fact that he is also healing his allies and extending enemy respawn times as he does it is a bonus that the normal skill-level player doesn't really need to think about too much.

As a result, winrate declines with skill—because better players know how to work or counterpick both of these heroes, and neither of them have very many options when they've been outmaneuvered or outplayed. That linear decline demonstrates something basic: that as players get better, they get better at denying the enemy an easy way to win.

Contrast with Undying in 6.84. His pattern is similar to Troll Warlord in 6.83—lowest winrate in normal skill, highest in high skill and then a dip down again in very high skill. This inverted 'check' shape is really interesting. Undying in particular is a hero that requires a bit of expertise to use properly. You need to know how to gauge the impact of stolen strength on an enemy. You need to understand how to position a tombstone, and particularly how the many recent changes interact with his skillset—I still encounter people trying to counterpick Undying with Bristleback who look surprised when the quills do nothing to the zombies. In short, you don't need to be a great player to use Undying effectively but you need a fundamental understanding of how Dota works and how it has changed over time.

You also need to understand drafting, to a degree. You need to be able to both pick a partner for Undying and know where to lane him to do the most damage to the enemy's laning phase. All of this is what signifies a high skill player—and explains why Undying's winrate takes a huge leap between the two brackets.

Then, in very high, he falls off. With good reason—the best players can do all of the above and understand that their opponent is also doing all of the above. If an Undying pick is likely, a very good player will have planned for it. The process of getting better at Dota—as with other competitive games—is one of gradually transitioning from a focus on you to a focus on them.

Put it another way: as skill increases, player aspirations change. This is a generalisation, but the trend is for lower-level players to enter a game with a plan that they intend to execute. Land a lot of Pudge hooks. Play Void—whatever it is. They understand this plan in and of itself, they understand the hero and the items they need, but the plan doesn't take into account the enemy. Thing is, the enemy isn't thinking about them either. Two self-focused plans smack into one another and 50% of the time yours comes out on top.

Then comes outdrafting, whether by directly countering picks or simply by playing the meta. This involves a better understanding of the game and some sense of what the enemy's strategy might be, but it's still ultimately a series of decisions that are focused on the self. The composition of most pub drafts is, I think, the product of these two forces acting against each other: someone vanity picks, so somebody does an obvious counter-pick, and so on, where actual team-wide synergy is a rarity.

Improvement, then, is a matter of moving steadily away from understanding what you want to do—or what you might be able to do—and towards what your opponent wants to do. Towards figuring out what their dream looks like, and breaking it. It's never that simple, of course—if I understood everything that went into making that work, I wouldn't be shit at Dota. But thinking along these lines is useful because it gives you the shape of a solution if not the steps to get there: getting there is, after all, is a matter of time. It's not enough to look at an opponent and think 'that could be me'. When you have that extra experience, you don't want to want to be them. You want to look at the way they play and see all of the holes.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Product Update - Valve
- Nexon's South Korea matchmaking region is now available to all players.
- The client UI now displays creep health with full accuracy based on the server values.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

Cap casting at ESLOne Frankfurt 2014

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na Vi s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be chatting to Dota 2 caster Capitalist about the upcoming ESLOne competition!>

I went to the inaugural ESLOne Frankfurt event last year. It featured one of the best games of pro Dota 2 I’ve ever watched (Alliance v Cloud9) and, as it took place shortly before Valve’s mega-tournament The International, it was an interesting opportunity to size up some of the competitors before Seattle. This year’s event will offer similar fare big-name teams and a chance to see how they perform on LAN in front of a massive audience but a lot has changed over the past year. Teams have undergone massive shakeups and enchanted mangoes, octarine cores and glimmer capes abound on the battlefield. In case you’ve lost track of competitive Dota 2, here’s caster Austin ‘Capitalist’ Walsh on the current meta, the teams to watch, and the relationship between casters and players.

… [visit site to read more]

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 crash when getting a malformed KeyValues buffer (thanks to Nathaniel Theis for the report)
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 crash when getting a malformed KeyValues buffer (thanks to Nathaniel Theis for the report)
...

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