We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.
When someone put these mirrored versions of standard Counter-Strike maps in front of me, I thought, "Well, that's cute. Let's give that a whirl." Little did I know that I'd be subjecting myself to the Counter-Strike equivalent of a lobotomy. I switched on the ol' Shadowplay to capture my reaction as I loaded flipped versions of Nuke, Inferno, Dust2, and Mirage up for the first time.
Positioning is a part of Counter-Strike that many players don't lend the proportional amount of consideration to. Where you are in relation to your teammates and the enemy (and when you're there) has a huge impact on how a round plays out. Positioning is also a massive topic—more than a 10-minute video can cover every aspect of—but for this week's Triggernometry I've focused in on the CT side of that most ubiquitous of maps, de_dust2.
The ESL is hosting what it says will be the largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament in the world this summer, in the biggest indoor arena in Germany. It also promised that 2015 will see more CS:GO action than any previous year in the ESL's history.
The Score reports that the 2015 Cologne tournament will see 16 teams battling for $250,000 in prize money, which will be funded entirely by the ESL. Last year's Cologne tournament offered a similar prize pool but was "community funded" through sales of the 2013 Arms Deal update. Ulrich Schulze, the ESL's managing director of pro gaming, said the ESL-exclusive funding demonstrates its commitment to CS:GO as a professional e-sport.
ESL One Cologne is going to be the largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event in the world," he said. "Taking place in the biggest indoor arena in Germany, we re sure it ll be a massive hit for fans from all over."
The ESL One Cologne tournament will take place at the 20,000-seat Lanxess Arena in Cologne on August 22-23. Tickets to the event will go on sale on February 23.
Evan Lahti, Editor-in-Chief, US
Evan is legitimately afraid of CS:GO becoming the horse racing of e-sports.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor
Tyler really hopes he comes out on top in this debate, because he s got five dollars on it.
In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Evan and Tyler argue whether or not betting on e-sports is a healthy part of its growth, or if it will only lead to more problems like the recent match fixing scandal.
Evan: UH, YEAH. Every week seems to bring another shocking revelation that more professional Counter-Strike players have thrown matches in order to win in-game skins through CSGO Lounge, a third-party betting site. These players have thrown their careers away in order to earn hundreds or a few thousand dollars worth of weapon skins. Their actions have devastated CS:GO s integrity as a competitive game. It s unclear how long these events will leave a scar on the scene, but for many, it s already gutted their interest in what was a thriving, growing e-sport. Say it ain t so, ShahZam.
Tyler: NO WAY! Sports and gambling go together like pure rocky mountain spring water and the best High Country barley! Where there are sports, there are bets (and watery, ice cold beer, mm). So, if e-sports are in fact sports, it follows that betting is inevitable, and I say it s healthy. Except when it s compulsive (unhealthy gambling is a problem of its own), betting on sports is an expression of passion. It s saying, I follow this so closely I can out-predict you. And it s just fun. It adds a layer of excitement and investment in the game, even if you ve only got a buck down.
Evan: If an e-sport needs that extra layer of excitement to survive, it doesn t deserve to.
Tyler: I don t think betting is necessary—people are still going to watch the Super Bowl even if they aren t in a pool—but the fact is that it does increase investment and help the sport grow. And that s good! Tomi lurppis Kovanen said himself: There is so much evidence in terms of viewership growth that betting is great for CS:GO that this really should not be a discussion.
Evan: Here s the difference: most e-sports don t have a singular governing body like the NFL or FIFA (which have their own problems, certainly!) to police these issues. Riot does the best job of it—they committed themselves to manicuring every aspect of their game a long time ago. But in CS:GO s case, it was actually CSGO Lounge—the betting service itself—that exposed players wrongdoing after noticing suspicious betting. That s completely absurd! That s like relying on the Mafia to report on racketeering.
Tyler: Even if CSGO Lounge is the wrong entity to police this, it still did. Clearly there are people who want to make this work, and e-sports just needs to grow into it. We ll figure out which players and teams can be trusted, which ones police themselves and promote fair matches. There s a demand to put money on e-sports, and that demand is increasing viewership and getting more people into it. Because of that, it will get better. There s money to be made, which means cheaters won t be tolerated. Capitalism at work!
Evan: It s greed and immaturity at work. Look, I like that CS:GO and Dota 2 have open markets for items. It s generally a good addition to their ecosystems. But the extent that the CS:GO scene has given betting a full-on, legs-wrapped-around-each-other embrace makes me uncomfortable. Teams make their own weapon skins in hopes that they ll get officially released so they can get a cut of their Steam Market income. Leagues like FACEIT feature CSGO Lounge as sponsors and talk about betting like it s just another, normal aspect of commentary.
I m sure that betting has attracted a larger audience, but it s also permeated competitive CS:GO with paranoia. Was that poor performance by LDLC just them having an off-day? Was that victory by North American underdog Cloud9 legitimate? In the same way that hacks! has been a ubiquitous accusation, these events have undermined competitive play for the foreseeable future.
Tyler: But that s just the thing: over time, people will stop betting on matches clouded with doubt. No one wants to put money (or skins that cost money) on a suspicious competition. They ll take their money to tournaments and matches they can trust, and in return, those organizations and teams will get bigger viewership and the untrustworthy will falter. And the whole CS:GO skin thing is just one little part of this. I truly believe that right now we re just seeing growing pains. We re seeing a sports scene which hasn t quite matured discover the consequences of poor behavior, and it s going to get better.
Evan: In the meantime, betting s affecting everyone s spectating experience. It s gotten better, but DDoSing still disrupts matches to the point where they re rescheduled or need to be cancelled altogether.
Tyler: I ll return to lurppis to field that one. It is easy to blame DDoSing only on betting, but it was already taking place in the CS 1.6 days when betting didn t really exist, he said. Some people just want to see the world burn. And it s true, DDoS attacks are difficult to counteract, and they happen all the time for no reason whatsoever. Betting is just another excuse for dicks to be dicks, but they were already dicks.
Evan: If e-sports—CS:GO in particular—want to become truly mainstream, they need to kick their reliance on gambling for growth. They need to stop embracing betting as something that s married to the metagame. Match fixing remains a threat to competitive games, and more betting and fantasy e-sports sites are popping up. Consider this: there are no real safeguards in place to prevent underage people from using their parents money to buy in-game skins, then gambling with them.
Tyler: I agree that that s a problem. But hell, it s a problem in gaming as a whole. How many purchase systems in free-to-play games could be considered gambling? What about buying TF2 keys? One thing I think needs to happen is a move away from things like skins. Stand-ins for money won't do—there should be no way to pretend gambling isn't gambling. If you want to bet on CS:GO or any other e-sport, you ought to have to do it properly... you know, with a company that legally takes your money.
It may be seen as a low form of entertainment, but with safeguards against abuse (both from players and betters), betting is just a bit of fun and it ll do a lot to grow the scene. I admit that, right now, I wouldn t want to bet on CSGO or any other e-sport—I ll probably stick to hockey—but give them a few years and I think the market will figure itself out.
In the wake of the suspension of 26 professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players who were involved in match fixing, Valve has issued another statement that not only warns against such behavior, but explains why any kind of betting on matches is bad for everyone.
The statement opens with the same warning that accompanied the lengthy bans of pro CS:GO players in January and February: That players, teams, and anyone involved with professional events should never bet on matches or associate with those who do. But then it moves beyond that to explain that it's not just impropriety that's the problem, but also the mere appearance of impropriety.
"As a professional player, team manager or event production staff, it is common to have personal relationships and/or privileged information about other teams and players. Because of this, we will always assume that you have access to private CS:GO-related 'inside information' that might give you an unfair advantage when placing a bet on any CS:GO game or match," Valve wrote.
"Betting using inside information, or even the perception or suspicion thereof, carries a significant risk of damaging your personal brand, your team, your community, and may lead to exclusion from future Valve-sponsored events," it continued. "To avoid these risks, we recommend that you never bet on any CS:GO game or match. This recommendation applies both to current professional players and anyone who wishes to participate in a Valve-sponsored CS:GO event in the future."
Valve said it's important for players to consider the impact they can have on the "health and stability" of the CS:GO sport. E-sports are tremendously popular but it's still a relatively nascent business, and if the perception of widespread corruption takes hold, it could seriously impinge upon its future growth. "Performing before an audience of millions of fans, you are ambassadors for your game," it wrote. "The strength of professional Counter-Strike comes from the integrity of its players and teams."
[Update: Valve and ESL have lifted the ban on the former ESC Gaming team, and reinstated its invitation to the Katowice 2015 offline qualifier. "The ex-ESC players were restricted from participating in Valve-sponsored events because their historical account activity matched allegations of misconduct," Valve said in a statement. "However, further investigation has clarified their role in the matter, and the restriction has been lifted."]
Valve's ongoing investigation into pro-level Counter-Strike: Global Offensive match fixing has resulted in the suspension of another 19 players from its sponsored events. The ban means that three teams—Epsilon eSports, the former ESC Gaming, and WinneR—will not be eligible to compete in the offline qualifier for the upcoming ESL One Katowice 2015.
ESL One has scheduled a "last-chance tournament" for February 8 to determine the teams that will replace Epsilon eSports and ESC Gaming, while LGB eSports and 3DMAX will take WinneR's position. The league noted that those two teams had been slated to play a third-place match in the second European qualifier, but that will no longer be necessary as both teams will now advance.
14 of the players determined to be involved in match fixing have been given indefinite suspensions that won't be reviewed prior to 2016:
- Kevin Uzzziii Vernel
- Joey fxy0 Schlosser
- Robin GMX Stahmer
- Morgan B1GGY Madour
- Damian DiAMon Zarski
- Michal bCK Lis
- Jakub kub Pamula
- Mateusz matty Kolodziejczyk
- Michal michi Majkowski
- Karol rallen Rodowicz
- Mikolaj mouz Karolewski
- Grzegorz SZPERO Dziamalek
- Pawel innocent Mocek
- Jacek minise Jeziak
Another five have been declared ineligible for ESL One Katowice while the investigation continues:
- Robin r0bs3n Stephan
- Tahsin tahsiN Sarikaya
- Koray xall Yaman
- Ammar am0 Cakmak
- Antonin TONI Bernhardt
Valve again said that professional CS:GO players and teams "should under no circumstances gamble on CS:GO matches" or associate with those who do, a position echoed by the ESL. "At ESL, we want to underline the fact that unsportsmanlike behavior, such as match fixing, will not be tolerated, and therefore the banned players will not be allowed to take part in any ESL CS:GO tournaments until these cases are reviewed by Valve," it said in a statement.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament at ESL One Katowice 2015 runs from March 12-15, and features a $250,000 prize pool.
It's time to check out the best video of the week. We got Arma wizards, Counter-Strike ninjas, and as always, a bunch of clowns killing themselves in Grand Theft Auto V. Enjoy!
Leonard Nimoy had a long and distinguished career, but some of us might remember his iconic voice best from Civilization:
You don't even have to be a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive expert to be impressed by this highlight reel of pro player Snax.
I know they still prefer Arma 2, but it's always nice to see the ShackTac crew play Arma 3. Watch them try to hold this town in the newer and shinier engine.
Ever wanted to sleep to soothing hum of Fallout 3's Vault 101? Well, this 12 hour video of ambient sounds should do the trick.
These Grand Theft Auto V players have given me an even greater appreciation for the Blue Angels.
Every morning I spring out of bed screaming at the heavens that there aren't more games today like Descent. Finally, my prayers have been answered.
Well-known Counter-Strike mapmaker FMPONE, he of de_crown and de_season fame, is working on a new map based on the Santorini island in Greece. FMPONE or Shawn Snelling as he's known IRL announced the map earlier this month but has just released a bunch of screenshots on the Mapcore forums. The map currently lacks texture work, but it still looks beautiful.
"For this level, I'm trying to purely map 'tones', until I'm ready to add in actual textures," FMPONE wrote on Mapcore. "The tones allow me to control for contrast without being overwhelmed by the need to balance specific colors within a scene. This also allows me to understand the types of props I need in an area without being biased by color preferences beforehand.
"This means I'm building a lot of geometry in place of meshes, for the time being, and the meshes will be added later by a talented artist named Dimitri."
The map layout is already playable (check out the link on the Mapcore forums) but remember: it's not complete. Check out the rest of the screenshots below.
Seven professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players have been banned from Valve-sponsored events, including the upcoming ESL One Katowice. The bans come as the result of an August 2014 match between iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com, which has now been confirmed as having been fixed.
The allegations were detailed last week by The Daily Dot, with evidence that included screen caps of current Cloud9 player Shahzeb "ShahZam" Khan acknowledging that he was given advance notice of the outcome. Players involved in the fix used "smurf accounts" to place high-value bets on the match through the CS:GO Lounge, according to the claims, which have now been substantiated by the powers that be at Valve.
"We can confirm, by investigating the historical activity of relevant accounts, that a substantial number of high valued items won from that match by Duc 'cud' Pham were transferred (via Derek 'dboorn' Boorn) to iBUYPOWER players and NetCodeGuides founder, Casey Foster," Valve wrote on the CS:GO blog. "All together, the information we have collected and received makes us uncomfortable continuing any involvement with these individuals."
Seven players will be excluded from "participation in any capacity in Valve-sponsored events," according to the post:
- Duc cud Pham
- Derek dboorn Boorn
- Casey Foster
- Sam Dazed Marine
- Braxton swag Pierce
- Keven AZK Larivi re
- Joshua Steel Nissan
Valve also laid out the ethical obligations of pro players, managers, and team staff, who "should under no circumstances gamble on CS:GO matches, associate with high volume CS:GO gamblers, or deliver information to others that might influence their CS:GO bets."
"As CS:GO grows, it s important to consider the substantial impact an individual professional Counter-Strike player has on the health and stability of their sport," it wrote. "Performing before an audience of millions of fans, they are ambassadors for their game the strength of professional Counter-Strike comes from the integrity of its players and teams."
The ESL, which recently announced a $250,000 prize pool for the upcoming CS:GO Katowice 2015 tournament, confirmed on Reddit that it would uphold the ban. "Like the blog post said, none of these players will be able to participate or contribute in any other form to ESL One Katowice or future Majors run by us, and we are currently finalising our verdict regarding other ESL leagues and these players," ESL rep theflyingdj wrote. "We do not have any tolerance for match fixing, have always made clear in our rules that players are not to be involved with any kind of betting and will continue to work on a clean and fair competitive environment for CS:GO."
The ESEA has also issued bans against the seven players in question, saying that while the bans are currently set for one year, it reserves the right to extend them indefinitely. It noted that it has since implemented its own policy explicitly forbidding players, managers, and sponsors from betting on their own matches, adding, "We strongly encourage all organizations, regardless of their affiliation with Valve, to mirror and enforce these bans so that a clear message is sent—there is no place for match fixing in professional gaming."
The number of players affected by the ban is relatively small, but the severity of the punishment sends an unmistakable message that match fixing will not be tolerated. Given the growing popularity of professional CS:GO, and the ballooning value of purses attached to tournaments like Katowice, it's a welcome development—and, I'd say, long overdue.
Last week I schooled Lucas in his first-ever CS:GO competitive match. This week, we continue on Dust2, focusing on crosshair placement, timing, AWPing, and a bit of grenading.