Community Announcements - SZ
Save the date. This year <em>The International</em> moves to KeyArena, taking place July 18th through the 21st in Seattle.

<img class="alignnone" title="mad purps" alt="mad purps" src="http://media.steampowered.com/apps/dota2/images/blogfiles/blog_tickets_ti4.jpg" width="576" height="340" />

For those interested in attending there are three types of tickets available:

- General Admission ($99)

- Floor Seats ($199)

- VIP package ($499) that includes:
<ul>
<li>Access to all 6 days of Playoffs (formerly Group Stage) taking place on July 8th, before the Championships Event</li>
<li>Floor Seating</li>
<li>Exclusive VIP Meet &amp; Greets</li>
<li>Access to the After Party</li></ul>
Every ticket includes access to all four days of the Championships Event at KeyArena. Tickets will be sold through Ticketmaster beginning this Friday April 4th at 3PM PDT, so check back later for more information.

This year there will be 11 teams invited directly as well as four Regional Qualifiers taking place May 12th through the 25th. The winner of each Qualifier will receive an invitation, with the four runner-ups competing in Seattle for the final spot.

Here's a handy list of times to help you get ready for the sale:
<ul>
<li style="text-align: left;">Seattle: 15:00 Friday</li>
<li>Rio de Janeiro: 19:00 Friday</li>
<li>London: 23:00 Friday</li>
<li>Moscow: 02:00 Saturday</li>
<li>Beijing: 06:00 Saturday</li>
<li>Singapore: 06:00 Saturday</li>
<li>Seoul: 07:00 Saturday</li>
<li>Sydney: 09:00 Saturday</li></ul>
Don't see your time listed? Here's a sweet <a href="http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/">time zone converter.</a>
TF2 Blog


The word "hero" gets thrown around a lot these days. Mostly by cowards who've never killed a man for no reason. But if you're a distinguished war veteran like me, you know that only three types of people deserve to be called "hero": men who dive on top of live grenades, men with the cahones to throw a live grenade, and the hard working men and women on the assembly line building live grenades.


That is it. End of story. No exceptions.


Having said that, if you're a distinguished war veteran like me, you also know how the chain of command works. So when some pencilneck down at TF2 HQ tells you to write a blog post adding someone to the Hero List, you do it! So listen up, because the hundreds of 3D modelers, texture artists, concept artists and other creative types who submit to the Workshop each and every day are the greatest generation of heroes, and Kritzkast is honoring them. These are just some of the many people who've made Team Fortress 2 what it is today, and by God, they deserve your respect until we are told otherwise.


Product Update - Valve
- Fix bug where players attempting to reconnect would be rejected with "Steam authorization failed", during a Steam service disruption

- Fix bug where the gameserver would not properly display notification messages when a player was marked as abandoning by AFK

- Fix bug incorrectly giving players abandons if the gameserver was unable to contact the Dota 2 Network at the time the match ended and players left rapidly.

- Players who have not yet picked a hero five minutes after the horn will be treated as abandoning by AFK.

- Fixed various solo matchmaking exploits

- Ranked matchmaking will no longer accept parties with an extremely large MMR spread.

- Several tooltip and ability description adjustments and fixes

- Fixed a few server crashes related to clients sending invalid orders

- Recalibrated the thresholds at which players are put into low-priority after receiving high numbers of reports.

- Spectators can now see when a commentator uses hero showcase mode
PC Gamer
Photo by Dan Tabar, from "Faces of Virtual Reality." Click for gallery.
Photo by Dan Tab r, from "Faces of Virtual Reality." Click for gallery.

Three days after Oculus announced that it was being purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, the VR company has hired programmer Michael Abrash, who has worked at Valve since 2011. Abrash has been working on Valve's virtual reality technology for the last couple years, and regularly posts deep technical discussions of VR on his blog. Abrash is joining Oculus as Chief Scientist, and in his introductory post on Oculus' website, he cites the Facebook acquisition--and Facebook's deep pockets--as "the final piece of the puzzle" necessary for VR to achieve greatness.

"A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it's engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach," Abrash writes in his introductory post. "However, it's expensive engineering. ... That's why I've written before that VR wouldn't become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware and that it wouldn't be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

"That worry is now gone. Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can."

Abrash previously worked with John Carmack at id on Quake. He's also worked on Windows for Microsoft and on software graphics rendering.

Just last year, Abrash gave a talk at the Game Developer's Conference about the challenges of VR and showed off Valve's experiments with adding VR support to Team Fortress 2. At the time, Abrash claimed it would take years, or decades, to help VR overcome the limitations of technology. But when Valve showed off its VR technology at Steam Dev Days in January, attendees claimed it was even better than Oculus' Crystal Cove prototype. With Abrash and Carmack now both working at Oculus, Valve's hardware likely won't maintain that edge for long.

Check out our predictions for the future of Oculus Rift in the wake of its acquisition by Facebook.
PC Gamer
Nyx Assassin


Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

Dota 2 is a complicated game. Everybody knows that. It's so complicated that nobody understands it completely, and that's why we surround ourselves with experts who are able to pierce through Dota's thick fog of mechanical noise to deliver sound commentary and guidance. Today, I am your guide. Tens of minutes have been invested in bringing you the following Dota secrets: cold scientific facts that they don't want you to know.

FACT #1: Wards exist in a state of quantum uncertainty.

You will note that Dota 2 does not keep track of the amount of gold each player has spent on support items wards, smoke, courier upgrades and so on. This is not an error. It is impossible for the game to record this information because support items do not exist in the way that you or I readily understand.

Like Schr dinger's cat, wards only exist when they are observed by the rest of the team. Until this happens they are both bought and unbought, placed and unplaced. As a support player you may believe that you have bought and placed wards, but this is not the case until your carry, offlaner or mid agrees that you have done so.

This scenario is complicated by several factors. Every skillshot your team misses reduces the number of wards that you have effectively bought. Every time your carry is killed, your wards cease to exist: you never placed them, they had no warning, and everything everything! is your fault.

If an allied Mirana misses enough point blank Sacred Arrows, for example, then it is actually possible to reduce the number of observed wards on the map below zero. Not only did you not ward in the way that this particular player would like, you have not warded in the entire game. In fact you have warded so little that perhaps you are reducing the number of wards in other people's games right now.

"GG support no brain" Mirana might say, as another Sacred Arrow sails past an immobilised enemy three feet away. "Report rubick."

Just as the world seemed complete and unchangeable to the peanut-brained tyrannosaur, Mirana's belief in your failure will be unshakable long past the point where the game is lost. You could protest, but science is on her side: you might think you bought wards, but if you had bought wards, I wouldn't suck so much, now, would I.

FACT #2: Every time you use the 'report' function for anything other than its stated purpose, a child's ice cream melts onto a life support machine which, short-circuiting, electrocutes a puppy.

This one sounds like a bit of a stretch at first so I'm going to walk you through it. Let's say that you're in a game and it's going badly. In particular, one of your teammates a stranger is having a rough time. Let's say they randomed Broodmother, demanded mid, and have fed ten kills to Death Prophet in less than twelve minutes. They are pushing right up against their respawn timer. It is actually quite difficult, mathematically, to fail as hard as they are failing.

You don't know them, and you don't know their circumstances. They could be ill, or tired, or simply having a bad day. What you do know is that they suck; that they are, to wit, a noob. You probably suck as well, of course, but the matter at hand concerns Broodmother.

"Lol gg reprot brood" you tap into global chat, like a dickhead.

You open the scoreboard, click Broodmother, and select report. You glance at the options available to you and note that in actual fact having a bad game isn't grounds for official complaint. You ignore this and choose 'Communication Abuse'. You opt to leave a message for Valve: "ban feeder nub pls."

You are setting a remarkable process into motion. First, an automated system will analyse your report and the match from which it originates to discern whether or not it is valid. Having determined that you are being a dickhead, the report is passed on to the AI that controls Valve's network of 'Overwatch' satellites. These orbital platforms normally facilitate the day-to-day running of the company predicting global trends, locating talented modders, tracking dissidents, and so on but a false report triggers several dormant subroutines.

The Overwatch network will then begin searching the globe for a very specific scenario. It will look for an infant with an ice cream, a deathbed, and a small dog. The search can take days, weeks, months, but Overwatch is patient. Having located its mark it will then deploy an array of sun-directing mirrors and lenses. A faint beam of warm sunlight is directed earthwards, at the sprinkled summit of a child's much-anticipated treat.

Melting! Falling! Zap, beep, woof! Silence.

Grief.

And all of this is your fault; all of this happened because you couldn't keep your shit together. Good job, player.

You might be wondering why Valve would install this functionality in this first place. You might argue that they have better things to do. To which I say: hey, man. They're an open company. If somebody wants to wheel their wheelie-desk over to Overwatch Control and install themselves some child-traumatising spacerays, then who are you to stop them? Stop being such a middle-manager. Jesus.

FACT #3: Regular Dagon usage drains ambient fun from the universe.

Fun is a zero sum game. They won't teach you that in school, but it's true. If you're having fun, somebody else isn't. Fun is, much like Hungry Hungry Hippos or capitalism, about stealing everybody else's marbles and hiding them where the 99% will never find them.

There are a couple of ways this applies to Dota 2. Carrying is the most obvious. Players who auto-lock mid for themselves have something of the Goldman Sachs intern about them, too; I can imagine them using the word 'rainmaker' without irony. But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about Dagon. A Dagon is more than a magic wand that incinerates people. A Dagon is a declaration. A Dagon says "this game is about me. This game is a fun-funnel, and the fun-funnel is in my mouth, and I am going to have all of the fun, and there will be none for you, peasant."

FACT #3.5: The sound effect for Dagon is actually a sample of Donald Trump's toup being blown off.

Here's the setup. You're half an hour into a game and your team is doing well. You're Io or
Necrophos or somebody and you're sitting on a pile of assist gold. You think to yourself: what do we need? You could pick up a Pipe of Insight, or a Veil, but it's kind of late for that. Your mouse cursor hovers over the Necronomicon. This would be a solid choice. When you're listening to your better angels you are a team player, and that extra pushing power, that bonus damage, that truesight: yes, you think. We could make use of a Necronomicon.

We. We we we. Why never 'me'? Why never 'I'? This is when you decide to take matters into your own hands. It's at this point that you make a stand for you. You queue up a Dagon and step confidently into the goddamn winner's bracket.

You'll feel great. You'll punish an Armlet-toggling Slardar with your hair-trigger 'fuck you' button and yell something like "beep boop buh-zap, motherfucker!" I know I have. What you can't know at this moment is that the life you have chosen will catch up with you. This feeling of power can't last. All the fun you're having is actively and exponentially draining creation's supply of goodness and joy. Every innocent Keeper of the Light that you pop is a sacrifice on the altar of your hungering id.

You blaze through the midgame like a streak of light the colour of hot blood. You are a ruiner; you create ruins. You sound like the crack of God's belt. You're the goddamn Laser King. But this story does not have a happy ending. You start stealing farm to make that next 1250G recipe. You do shameful things in the jungle. You bottom out alone in the Rosh pit, cursing whoever decided that you couldn't double-tap the hotkey to turn your Dagon on yourself.

You are responsible for accelerating the Fun-Death of the Universe. I'm no mathematician, but if there was a formula for calculating the impact of a Dagon on a Dota 2 match I'm pretty sure it'd look something like this:



Where n is fun, x is the level of your Dagon, and y is Keeper of the Light's pathetic old man tears.

FACT #4: Everything you believe in is a falsehood. Order, pattern, number, sense and hope are lies you tell yourself to give meaning to a meaningless existence. You are a speck, a mote of nothingness, clinging desperately to the notion that you have a purpose. There is no purpose. Reality itself hates you, and you are doomed.

This is more or less the principle behind solo ranked matchmaking.
Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
Release Notes for 3/26/2014

[UI]
- Scoreboard changes:
-- Added ability to use mouse cursor in scoreboard.
-- Cursor will be enabled on the scoreboard by default in halftime and endmatch.
-- When alive or spectating, if the scoreboard is visible, the cursor can be enabled by using secondary fire.
-- Players in scoreboards have left click context menus that allow you to commend, report, block communcation, etc.
-- Scoreboard will adjust to the size of the number of players in the match. Max is still 24 players.
-- Combined clan tag and name tag into one field.
- Fixed the CZ-75A icon not showing overhead during freetime.
- Added Commonwealth of Independent States flag, uses alpha 2 code "CC".
- Fixing aspect ratio of a few flags.
- On community servers after mp_swapteams or vote to swap teams the game will also swap team names and flags.


[GAMEPLAY]
- Adjusted the rules for dropping a grenade upon death: you now drop your most recently selected grenade. If you never selected a grenade, you will drop the most expensive one.
- Improved player hitbox alignment.
- Players shot in the head from the side will play a new left or right headshot flinch animation, instead of forward or backward.
- Defuse kit art has been adjusted to make them more visible.


[MISC]
- Reduced client virtual memory usage.
- Fixed an out of memory crash that could occur while downloading workshop maps.
- Fixed a hitch related to inventory icon loading.
- Players that fail to properly validate with VAC will no longer get the generic "Invalid STEAM UserID Ticket" message and instead see "An issue with your computer is blocking the VAC system. You cannot play on secure servers."
- Started a trial of official competitive matchmaking on servers in South Africa.


[MAPS]
- Overpass:
-- Added connector from T water to T tunnels
-- Opened up small concrete hut near Bombsite A
-- Made wood stack near door to A tunnels climbable
-- Made it possible to shoot through wood wall near Bombsite B
-- Made area near fountain in park slightly larger
-- Tweaked environment light

- Dust2:
-- Removed some small gaps between crates in Bombsite B

- Inferno:
-- Added wallbanging on low wall near barbecue (Thanks Spunj!)
-- Revised clipping on balcony near mid
TF2 Blog


Donations are now open for Tip of the Hats, an annual charity livestream event benefiting One Step Camp and hosted by the competitive Team Fortress 2 gaming community. The event will start streaming live at twitch.tv March 29th at 12:00 PM EST. Last year's inaugural event lasted 36 hours and raised over $35,000 towards camp experiences and other educational and excursion programs for children with cancer. Players from around the world participated in the livestream and helped to make it one of the biggest events in Team Fortress 2 history, with more than 65,000 people tuning in.


Community Announcements - SZ
<a href="http://www.dota2.com/leaderboards"><img src="http://media.steampowered.com/apps/dota2/images/blogfiles/blog_leaderboards.jpg" width="100%"></a>

Today the Dota 2 team is introducing <a href="http://www.dota2.com/leaderboards">public leaderboards</a>. These leaderboards show the players with the highest solo MMR in four geographic divisions:
  • Americas
  • Europe and Africa
  • China
  • Southeast Asia
Here is an FAQ with some details. (We may need to change the requirements in the future. The latest information will always be on the Leaderboards website.)

<strong>Q. Who is eligible to appear on the leaderboard?</strong>
To qualify, a player must have all of the following:
  • At least 300 lifetime matchmade games played. (Unranked or ranked PvP matches only.)
  • At least 100 lifetime solo ranked games
  • At least 15 solo ranked games in the last 21 days in the same division
  • Official player info on file
<strong>Q. How do I know what division I'm in?</strong>
It's the division in which you have played the most solo ranked games in the past 21 days. (In case of a tie, we use the division that has the more recent match.)

<strong>Q. Does a match still qualify towards the recency requirement if somebody abandons, times out due to network problems, etc?</strong>
Yes, provided that MMRs are updated. If the match is thrown out for any reason, then it is not a qualifying match.

<strong>Q. How do I give you my official player info?</strong>
If your solo MMR puts you within reach of a leaderboard, and you meet the eligibility requirements but have not provided your official information, we'll send you a notification in game that will make it possible to provide this information.

<strong>Q. Which server regions are assigned to which divisions?</strong>
  • Americas: US West, US East, South America
  • Europe: Europe West, Europe East, Russia, South Africa
  • China: Perfect World Telecom, Perfect World Unicom
  • Southeast Asia: South Korea, SE Asia, Australia
<strong>Q. When are leaderboards updated?</strong>
Daily at 22:00 GMT.

<strong>Q. Where's the global leaderboard?</strong>
The MMR of each division is on a different scale, and comparing MMRs across divisions is not currently meaningful.

<strong>Q. I’m on the leaderboard and I want to change my official information. Is it too late?</strong>
We’ve unlocked everyone’s official information, giving all players one more chance to make edits. Once you enter the information again, it will be locked for a period of time and you will not be able to change it! Please note that there may be a delay of up to one day between the time you change your information and the time the new information shows up on the leaderboard.
PC Gamer
counter-strike-go


One of three talks Valve delivered at the Game Developers Conference last week was Building the Content that Drives the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Economy, a session by Technical Artist Bronwen Grimes. Grimes presentation mainly focused on how Valve developed its method for mostly-automating the creation of new weapon skins that roll out regularly in updates like Operation Phoenix and Winter Offensive.

Late into the talk, though, Grimes brought up data from Steam Graph as a way of measuring the impact of CS:GO s content updates on its it s popularity, which is high enough lately to make it the second most-played game on Steam. I ve duplicated Grimes graph here with some additional annotations of my own.

Click for a larger version.

As the graph indicates, free CS:GO weekends doubled the game s peak concurrent users in November 2012 and May 2013. The launch of an item economy through the Arms Race update in August 2013 had a significant . As Grimes put it during her talk: After our economy launched, we had a pretty dramatic increase in peak player numbers, bringing us to regular highs that we d only achieved previously by making the game temporarily free.

Tournaments, though, have produced the most substantial upticks in concurrent users, presumably due to the fact that CS:GO allows players to watch competitive matches in the game client in real-time. This last spike here is Dreamhack. It s a big tournament for CS:GO with a high viewership, said Grimes at GDC. Our game was also on sale during this time period and that caused a huge player spike, nearly doubling our player count. There was a large influx of new players at this time, and they stuck around at a really high rate. In fact they stuck around at a much higher rate than players from previous sales. And so we can see that not only are our player numbers up, but our player retention is up.

The recent EMS One Katowice tourney seemed to skyrocket CS:GO s peak concurrent users by 50 or 60,000. Without access to numbers for Battlefield 4 and other games, we re left to assume that CS:GO s 2.2 million monthly unique players are enough to make it the most popular multiplayer shooter on PC.
PC Gamer
GDC Steam Controller


The new version of Valve s Steam Controller is out in the open at GDC, playable for anyone in attendance. We ve spent some time with it on the show floor, playing Portal 2, Broken Age, Dirt 3, and Strider.

This was my first time using the Steam Controller, Valve s gamepad designed to work with all the games on Steam: past, present, and future, and meant as a companion to SteamOS. Our last chance to play with the controller was at CES in January, when Cory said that he was hopeful after an admittedly short playtime that such a device could be fantastic.

My experience was far less encouraging. I was able to fit in more than half-an-hour with the controller on the GDC show floor. I played every game that Valve had on display one from four different genres and in each, I would ve absolutely had more fun and been more effective with an Xbox 360 controller.

The high sensitivity of the controller s dual, haptic trackpads was constantly frustrating. In Dirt 3, it was very hard for me to make fine steering adjustments; I seemed to only be able to oversteer left or right. As a result, my driving method boiled down to essentially see-sawing left, then right, then left again to correct and then over-correct my oversteering. I crashed a lot. My car was a wreck by the time I crossed the finish line, a lap time of 6:55 on Dirt 3 s Lake Gratiot course. The top AI racer finished in 3:04. Trying it mid-race, I actually drove best while using the Steam Controller s new d-pad.



Portal 2, one of the games using native support of the pad (as opposed to mouse and keyboard emulation) wasn t much better. I was able to clumsily and inelegantly solve a room in the first couple hours of the game, one where you re moving reflector cubes to change the direction of lasers emanating from the wall. When I put my thumb at the edge of the right pad, which controls your aim with the portal gun, it doesn t perpetually rotate your character. If I wanted to make a 90 or 180-degree turn, I had to swipe the pad right-to-left or left-to-right. And as I did that, the vertical alignment of my aim would shift a little, and I d have to correct it. I felt like a loading crane, moving along one axis at a time, picking up an item, rotating, and then moving again. It was so hard to be swift. I gave up after dying twice in the following room, where I needed to use orange (acceleration) and blue (bounce) gels to advance. It was a struggle to simply pan the camera downward, toward my feet, so that I could check that I was making impact with the blue gel.

I m glad to chalk some of my errors up to my inexperience with the device, but it s surprising how unwieldy the trackpads were in every situation. I didn t once feel comfortable, in control, or that Valve s hardware configuration was in any way an upgrade over a controller with analog sticks. I watched a lot of other players use the controller for the first time, and almost all of them echoed some version of The pads are way too sensitive. Valve employees scattered around the kiosks emphasized that you ll be able to adjust the sensitivity to a greater degree once the controller is fully released, but it s curious that Valve would showcase the controller in such a clearly unpolished stage everyone I saw using it at GDC seemed to be having a tough time.



The Steam Controller didn t strike me as either a good fit for casual, undemanding games as an upgrade to the Xbox 360 pad in first-person, 3D games. I thought that Broken Age would be a safe, easy context, but it was just as frustrating as Dirt 3 and Portal 2. How is that even possible? It was a fight just to put the cursor exactly where I wanted, and overshooting static objects made me feel completely silly.

At least at the outset of using this prototype, the new ABXY buttons feel shoehorned into the architecture of the pad. It s an odd placement for them, and they re maybe 80 percent the size of an Xbox 360 pad s buttons. I have pretty big hands, and the X button felt too distant to me. Even as I was navigating menus, I kept hitting B (cancel) when I meant to hit A (confirm). At the very least, I think it s a configuration that s going to require you to un-learn some of your muscle memory, which is unfortunate.

It s evident that the Steam Controller is still in development. At this prototype stage, Valve is actually still 3D printing the body of the controller itself, and the rigid, low-quality plastic doesn t quite feel comfortable. From a gameplay perspective, though, I m completely unsold on the Steam Controller as a viable way of playing PC games at this time. The games Valve had on display weren t flattering uses of the controller, and it s disappointing to know that I would ve played better with an Xbox 360 pad in every case.
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