It's a bit of a quiet weekend for eSports, but DOTA 2 fans will at least be able to watch several games in the ProDOTA 2 Worldwide League. It's a new league, but a number of major eSports teams from the Americas, Europe, and Asia are already participating. It's divided into pro and amateur leagues, with the pros battling for a $20,000 season prize purse.
The action starts at 12 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, and you find the whole schedule here, and more information about this weekend's play over here. Casters TobiWan and Luminous will be calling the games for English-speaking audiences.
However, not to be outdone, the MLG had some big StarCraft and League of Legends-related announcements today.
Start with the big news first: the MLG Pro Circuit will now feature League of Legends, starting with the MLG Spring Championship in Anaheim (June 8 - 10). Eight teams will be invited to the Spring Championship, and another 12 will be able to sign up. At the moment, LoL will just be happening at MLG Championships, not the Arenas.
On top of that, the MLG also announced that Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm will be playable at the Spring Championship. A "large number" of demo stations will be available for people to try Heart of the Swarm's latest multiplayer build. This would probably be a good time to point you to where you can get a spectator pass.
Anything else going on this weekend that eSports fans should check out? Be sure to bring it up in the comments.
Valve announced today that Portal 2's in-game puzzle maker will be called "Perpetual Testing Initiative," and will be available free on May 8 for PC and Mac. The DLC will be capable of publishing puzzles directly to Steam Workshop, where users can browse, install, and vote on the community's creations.
Plans for the puzzle creator were announced last year, and we confirmed that it was in beta at GDC earlier this year. According to Chet Faliszek, Left 4 Dead 2 is next in line for the Steam Workshop treatment.
“You’ll see the Steam Workshop coming from there, then to Left 4 Dead and then we’re going to keep using it,” said Faliszek. “It’s not just for the modders, it’s for the players. It’s a super easy way to consume the creations of other people that are just really hard to do otherwise.”
Any plans to flex your physics muscles by making and playing custom Portal 2 puzzles next month?
Gabe Newell been talking about the Valve sequel everyone wants, Half Life 2: Episode 3, in terms of the Valve sequel no-one wants, Ricochet 2. With almost audible air quotes around each mention of a possible follow up to Valve's year 2000 disk-lobbing multiplayer arena title, Newell told Seven Day Cooldown that the silence surrounding the next Half-Life is intended to spare fans from the unpredictable "twists and turns" of Valve's iterative development style.
"We'd like to be super transparent about the future of Ricochet 2," said Newell, "but the problem is that the twists and turns that we're going through would probably drive people more crazy than being silent about it until we can be very crisp about what's happening."
Earlier he also said "we always have this problem, when we talk about things too far in advance we end up changing our minds as we're developing stuff. We're thinking through the giant story arc (which is Ricochet 2) you might get to a point where you're saying "something is surprising us in a positive way" and "something is surprising us in a negative way."
SDC asked Gabe if Valve's fluid "work on what you want" approach to management style (captured nicely by the Valve employee handbook that surfaced over the weekend) has caused people to move away from the project to work on other things.
"No," he said. "Everyone who's working on Ricochet 2 continues to work on Ricochet 2."
What would you like to see from Ricochet 2?
Apr 21, 2012
The Internet is often a place for things that don't belong on it. Things like a 56-page internal manual written for the people that work at the most private gaming company in the world.
Yep, you can read that now. What appears to be Valve's 2012 Employee Handbook has crept onto the web, and it's just as insightful to read as that incredible blog by Michael Abrash from last week.
It's a rare, detailed self-description of the company that includes mantras like "We are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers," policies like "Nobody has ever been fired at Valve for making a mistake. It wouldn't make sense for us to operate that way," and expressions of Valve's independence that include "Fortunately, we don’t have to make growth decisions based on any external pressures—only our own business goals."
Click inside to see the handbook.
The document is also filled with custom illustrations. And at least one Half-Life 3 logo. Sections of special interest include the entries:
"What is Valve not good at?" (p. 52)
"How does Valve decide what to work on?" (p. 13)
"But what if we ALL screw up?" (p. 23)
The handbook (PDF) was originally found here. A bottom-page watermark claims "handbook courtesy Valve." Well, duh. I've uploaded a copy to our server that you can read here.
" is going to be free-to-play. It'll have some twists, but that's the easiest way for people to think about it."
As reported by Polygon, that's what Gabe Newell had to say on a recent Seven Day Cool Down podcast. Valve's big wheel has already admitted to playing the MOBA for a staggering 800 hours, and now he's talking cash. Valve have already developed some interesting ideas on how to reward valued members of the community: the Team Fortress 2 workshop allows people to create in-game items, and make a significant profit if they sell. Now Valve are hoping to reward player's good behaviour too.
"The issue that we're struggling with quite a bit is something I've kind of talked about before, which is how do you properly value people's contributions to a community?" says Gabe. "We're trying to figure out ways so that people who are more valuable to everybody else recognized and accommodated. We all know people where if they're playing we want to play, and there are other people where if they're playing we would be on the other side of the planet."
According to the master of Valve, individual games don't need to have completely separate communities. Valve have already experimented with this way of thinking in Steam's item trading system, where you can feasibly swap a Team Fortress 2 hat for a copy of Portal, if you find someone who's willing.
"When you start thinking about the different games that people play and you try to think about how people can create value or a service in one game and benefit somebody in a different game, you can start to see how the different games sort knit together," said Valve's big wheel.
We'll have more on DOTA 2 soon. If Steam stats are anything to go by (which they are), a lot of you are playing it right now.
Apr 19, 2012
The folks at youtube.com/lore just published a dense, remarkably coherent explanation of TF2's zany family feud. If you haven't yet, watch the animated lore mini-tales of Portal, Half-Life, X-COM, Magicka, and Elder Scrolls.
A new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and CS: Source tournament is offering players a shot at a slice of a £10,000 prize pool - with no entry fee.
It's called GameShadow Battles, it'll be run online, and it's being put together GameShadow, Fasthosts, and epic.LAN. The tournament will launch on the 14th of May, and give 128 5-man teams a shot at a £5,000 grand prize. Runners-up can take home between £750 and £2750, and there are other prizes on offer for teams that reach the top of weekly scoreboards.
It's good to see a tournament of this size taking shape in the UK. We've got a good history of LAN parties, but the big prizes have typically been given away in the USA or continental Europe.
You can register your interest on the GameShadow Battles website. Are you going to give it a shot, readers? We're thinking about it - we're not the greatest CS:S or CoD players, but as demonstrated in February's showmatch, our Tribes: Ascend is strong*.
Mar 30, 2012
Oh happy day. As someone who resents leaving the safety of his Ubuntu desktop every time I want to play a game or do some benchmarking, today's headline from Phoronix.com is frankly the news I've been waiting for for years.
Valve has been recruiting for at least one Linux specialist to help port Windows games with this job ad since January. But it looks like they're getting very serious, and keen to push on with the project. Phoronix' Michael Larabel has received an email from Gabe himself asking for help head hunting.
The email to Larabel, which has been confirmed as genuine, reads:
We are running into a bunch of performance issues in Linux drivers (e.g. 50 millisecond draw calls because thedriver is compiling a shader).
We'd like to hire someone to work on these performance issues. If you know of anyone we should be talking to, I'd appreciate getting connected with them.
This isn't overly surprising, but it is reassuring. With the rapid rise of Android as a gaming platform, and recent changes to the Linux kernel which integrate Android code, there's every reason for developers to start treating open source more seriously. The Humble Indie Bundle has proven that there's a market for Linux gaming too, as grateful Tuxheads spending more than Mac users.
It could well be that they're looking for someone purely for internal testing and research with no firm plans to bring Steam or games to Linux yet. But neither the ad or the email seem particularly speculative.
I'd never be as foolish as to predict the rise of the Linux desktop, but the operating system is pervasive in other ways that might become a more common desktop alternative.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive beta keeps getting bigger. The latest patch has added a new Arms Race mode playable on Shoots and Baggage. In Arms Race, every player starts with the same weapon, and gains a new one with every kill. The first player to get a kill with the final weapon, the knife, wins the round. Dead players respawn immediately and the round time is extended to give players time to murder their way through CS:GO's arsenal.
The patch adds a few new weapons, too, including the Scar 20, an auto-sniper for Counter-Terrorists, the G3SG1, an automatic sniper rifle for Terrorists, and the Zeus x27, a one shot insta-kill taser available to both teams in casual mode.
If you're looking for something less wild, the classic Aztec has been added to the map rotations. Here are the patch notes in full from the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive site.
Added Arms Race maps – Shoots and Baggage
Added Aztec to Classic maps
Arsenal Arms Race game mode is a single extended round with instant respawn. All players start with the same weapon and get a new one each time they kill an enemy. The progression of unlocked weapons ends with the knife. The first player to get a kill with every weapon wins the match.
Added ‘Find A Game’ to the Play options menu screen. Find A Game allows you to join an online game of a specific type. This update offers Arsenal Arms Race and Classic Competitive game modes. The map cycle groups include:
Arms Race Maps
Added new weapons:
Scar 20 – CT only auto-sniper.
G3SG1 – Terrorist only auto-sniper.
Zeus x27 – Casual Mode only weapon available to both teams.
Adjustments have been made to increase the base accuracy of all weapons.
Jump and land penalties have been decreased, and the rate of stamina gain has been increased.
Bot difficulty has been tuned.
HE grenade damage has been adjusted per pro feedback.
Added two new player skins:
Death notice order reversed.
Updated Italy mini map image.
Fixed a bug in the keyboard + mouse options screen where changes were resetting.
Fixed the consecutive loss bonus persisting through halftime. Solves the problem of teams receiving extra cash early in the second round of the match.
Fixed end match scoreboard saying it was a tie in Arsenal Mode.
Fixed a bug where penetrating shots were doing full damage after the penetration.
Fixed a bug where the desired distance required to defuse the bomb wasn’t being used.
Fix for the HUD alert panel coming up incorrectly.
Fixed for bots not being able to defuse bomb.
Fix for bug in Demolition mode where players would start the first round of the second half stuck in level geometry.
Fix for radio message font appearing quite large at higher resolutions.
Revenge! Charity! Stamps! These will be the dominant market forces in Team Fortress 2's economy of death over the next week or so. A post written in the guise of TF2's announcer on the TF2 blog announces that three "absolutely unique one-of-a-kind hats" have been added to TF2. They won't go on sale in the Mann Co store, though. One of each will be awarded every day to the player that gives the most gifts, wins the most duels, and buys the most map stamps during that 24 hour period.
Tying rewards to map stamps is quite a nice move. Each stamp corresponds to a community made arena and all proceeds from stamp sales go to that map's creator. The investment needed to take the duelling hat is harder to justify. You need to buy an item to initiate duels in TF2. The cheaper way is to incite others to duel you and then win, sidestepping the item cost and earning an additional tick towards hat victory. The hat earned for giving gifts could prompt some players to clear out old items they've been hoarding in their backpacks, which will hopefully result in lots of apparently random acts of generosity.
"LET ME GIVE YOU FREE STUFF!" "GIVE ME FREE STUFF!" and "DUEL ME YOU COWARDS!" may become standard battle cries in the TF2 in the days to come. As the madness unfolds, you'll be able to track stats like headshots and gib shots using Strange Parts, which can now be found in crates. These can by used with Strange Weapons to keep track of your actions. "Strange Parts are still a work in progress," says the blog. "So if the mood takes you, visit the TF2 forum and let him know what you're interested in tracking."