PC Gamer

The Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA have acquired Team Dignitas and Apex, becoming the first North American pro sports franchise to own and operate its own esports team. The 76ers said the two outfits will be merged under the Team Dignitas name, and will field teams in League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Smite.

The 76ers and its ownership group, which holds other pro sports teams including the New Jersey Devils of the NHL and the English Premier League team Crystal Palace FC, will directly manage the day-to-day operations of the newly-unified Team Dignitas, sharing best practices in sponsorship, sales, branding, digital marketing, merchandising, publicity and more, the team said. Michael O'Dell, formerly the managing director of the pre-merged Dignitas, will assume the role of president of the new team, while former Apex owner Michael Slan will step in as vice-president and general manager. Greg Richardson of Rumble Entertainment will serve as chairman.

The attractiveness of this deal is as much about the people as it is the opportunity, Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O Neil said. Bringing together gaming industry luminaries including Greg Richardson, Michael O Dell and David and Michael Slan puts us on track to build the most respected and dominant franchise in the esports space, spur fan engagement, and reimagine corporate sponsorship to create a vibrant, global e-arena where the greatest players in the world aspire to compete.

The 76ers aren't the first pro sports organization to get involved in esports: German soccer team Schalke picked up LoL team Elements earlier this year, and Premier League clubs West Ham and Manchester City have their own pro FIFA players. But in terms of scope, and also of visibility in the North American makret, this easily outstrips them all, and it puts Team Dignitas and the 76ers in a uniquely powerful and privileged position. I expect other teams will follow their lead.

PC Gamer

WoW fan art by Liang Xing.

Micah Whipple didn t believe in Real ID. It was unveiled in 2010 as a new social initiative in the Blizzard forums, effectively forcing players to register their real names instead of Battle.net aliases to cut down on the witch hunts and treachery that so often define anonymous, online public spaces. Whipple thought the policy would be unsustainable and unenforceable, but as a World of Warcraft community manager it was his job to go to bat for it. The CM role is simple: be a plebeian, embed yourself in the community, serve as liaison between publisher and community, and most importantly, stay optimistic.

What that really means: when the players got angry, Whipple was paid to run into burning buildings. Sometimes he was a firefighter, and sometimes he was a meatshield.

As a Blizzard fan, but also a staunch defender of a company I loved working for, I defended the proposal by giving people my real name as proof it wasn t going to be a big deal. My name was information that was freely available, so it seemed like a non-issue, says Whipple. But as one could expect I became a target for the whole thing and received a lot of death threats, threats of sending stuff to my house, releasing whatever info they could find. All the kind of stuff we re all pretty used to happening these days, but back then was not really something we were readily exposed to.

Whipple was doing his best to be a good employee and taking one for the team over an idea he didn t necessarily believe in. It s part of the job description. Developers behind the scenes cook up controversial mechanics or balance changes, and the community managers field the fallout. Most of the time he was able to find relief taking smoke breaks with his co-workers to scoff at the eternal scorn (generally the people in the department averaged a half-pack a day). All it takes is one patch, or dubious nerf, or broken mechanic for a passionate player base to turn the forums into a rebel state.

Sometimes community managers are firefighters, and sometimes they're meatshields.

Most bombshells that drop are known beforehand since they tend to come from outward announcements, but things like bad launches or service issues are sometimes harder to predict and will result in late nights and weekend coverage, says Whipple. If you ve done what you can do, and the only thing left is to ensure the feedback keeps making its way to the developers, it s usually not going to add a lot of value to continue to agonize over people s anger or continue engaging and repeating yourself. The trap you have to work hard to avoid is considering it solved, and disengaging from it entirely. Those things can smolder and burn for a long time if they re not put out decisively enough.

As violent as it was, the Real ID pushback was managed. But at a price. Real ID was one of the more painful experiences in his life. I think [Real ID] actually woke me up a bit, and made me realize my employment with any company is a partnership, and not any kind of debt or life-oath that I need to repay, he says.

[Being a community manager] requires a huge amount of empathy, so of course if you re reading negativity day in and day out it s difficult not to take at least some of that with you, continues Whipple. With enough experience you can kind of catch it before it gets bad and take a step back, but more than a couple times I found myself in really dark depressive states for quite a while just due to, essentially, surrounding myself for eight hours a day with people s hate. Pile on top of that just all the standard stuff that s going on in life, and it can get very real very quickly. Looking back, and having a better understanding of what depression actually looks and feels like, it s probably something I should ve sought professional help for.

Those controversies seldom deserve the antipathy they inspire. When Blizzard introduced a subpar card for the Priest class in Hearthstone, lead designer (and public face of the game) Ben Brode was forced to take to YouTube for an apology tour. There was a months-long political panic centered on a Tracer victory pose. There are legitimate reasons to be angry about videogames, but the righteous fury we re used to usually looks extreme after a controversy blows over. In the moment, when a community is on fire, part of the citizenship is going to pour on gasoline, and it s the community managers who get burned.

Fundamentally I can at least understand what might lead to someone to be pissed off at a six percent changed to a five percent, [but] I found myself resenting and dismissing people more and more that just didn t seem to have anything of constructive value to say, Whipple says.

Maintaining optimism seems like a nearly impossible part of the job, but great community managers always find a way to care, no matter how bad it gets.

Staying invested

Alex Leary has worked as a community manager for over a decade. He says one of the biggest issues he faced professionally was during his stint on Everquest after the Shadows of Luclin expansion. Essentially every 12 to 24 hours servers would shut down randomly, immediately smiting anyone who happened to be online.

Everquest was a hardcore game. If the server crashes while you re fighting monsters you re gonna come back dead, and you re going to lose experience by dying. It was like someone reaching through the screen and poking every player in the eye, says Leary.

Bad server code isn t really a storm you can prepare for. The average community manager doesn t have the correct skillset to decipher a faulty network much less explain it to the masses but that s the deal. Nobody else is going under the bus. It's you, every time. After years of being held personally accountable for every mistake, you think it d be easy to grow numb. According to Leary, that s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

You have to stay tapped-in, he says. If you can t keep that in balance and you start tuning out and ignoring customers you want to make people feel listened to. You want to empower those advocates, those hardcore players who will then turn around at 3am when you re not on the forums and have your back. That s how you keep the pitchforks away.

Still, Leary is probably painting a more idyllic picture of what goes on in your average video game forum. Anger incited by server crashes is understandable, but a lot of dust-ups center on far more subjective things like the AWP s damage output (one shot to the body to kill? Really? How am I supposed to counter that?,) or Hanzo s dodgy hitbox (fix your game Blizzard!). Most of the time the community doesn t have access to the hard data, and naturally, a lot of them don t know what they re talking about.

From a very high customer service level I believe everyone s complaint is legitimate, because it s legitimate to them. That said, most people are wrong most of the time about most things, says Whipple. There are a lot of cognitive biases that lead to the different types of online community interactions and herd behaviors, and one of the greatest challenges and greatest powers is learning how to counter them. The biggest challenge, and one that I think mostly goes without a good solution, is that a fairly large contingency of any large community believes they re smart and right most or all of the time. And the infuriating thing (to me) is that a lot of times people believe they re right because someone else said it, and they read it or heard it somewhere.

That s the core paradox of being a community manager. You re locked in a permanent debate. You might enlighten a few, but there s an endless stream of righteous complaints waiting in the wings.

Online discussions are some of the biggest victims of a lack of curiosity, of creativity, and of an overwhelming belief in personal superiority over others. And it s not just a couple people being pigheaded. Negativity is an increasingly popular way to perceive and communicate with the outside world, says Whipple.

But maybe that s why community management is so vital. The job is to resist cynicism and remind the commonwealth why they fell in love with the game in the first place. They may never stem the tide, but the community managers who can weather the storm sometimes build lifelong connections.

Dark Age of Camelot, via Gamercrash.com.

When it's worth it

Sanya Weathers was hired off an EverQuest rant site to serve as the CM for an upstart MMO called Dark Age of Camelot. She was paid very, very little money, but dived into the gig headfirst. I am not sure if I m the first in the games industry to treat this job like relationship building, but I was at least in the first wave, she says.

I learned very quickly that my biggest weakness and my biggest strength was missing the forest for the trees. That is the main thing that causes anger and frustration for players, continues Weathers. What sounds like constant moaning is actually a hundred different complaints when you zoom in closer, and almost all of the issues can be handled by giving more information, by including people in the bigger picture. So I don't get numb to it, because I'm right there in the trees with my players. I can then take that feeling and use my privileged access to get the whole story and share it.

Weathers calls herself incredibly lucky. She s never had to deal with a truly destabilizing controversy. Small ones, though? Sure. There was the time a typo in a class ability spreadsheet turned a 0.05 percent boost into a 50 percent boost, or how, after months of conspiracy theories from players, it was finally discovered that a mechanical error was causing charisma to have a measurable weight on all combat rolls. She s also dealt with some sizable customer service issues, in her words a corrupt developer or a grossly-biased [corporate social responsibility], which had to be removed. It was in those moments where Weathers thrived.

It's funny, things like that which actually are big and I've lived through too many for my taste don't register as big with a community that has had proper communication, she says. No, what registers as big is when a player is caught cheating, and insists he wasn't cheating, and suddenly a routine CS matter is now this psychotic Rorschach test, this net-wide referendum on whether or not the company has earned the trust of the customer. But that's where I earn my paycheck. Not by how I react in the moment, but whether or not I was able to communicate my company's integrity before the trouble hits.

I earn my paycheck not by how I react in the moment, but whether I was able to communicate my company's integrity before the trouble hits.

Sanya Weathers

Weathers treats community management like a batting cage in the park. The balls keep coming, she keeps swinging until the machine runs out. Then you have the shakes and pee yourself, whatever, while it s going, you keep going.

Years later, long after that game closed and its developer Mythic Entertainment was absorbed into the greater EA hierarchy, her prodigal return is beseeched in a post on the subreddit for the Kickstarter-funded revival Camelot Unchained. I know it's way off and I know she is already employed but I will be damned if I don't say anything. That woman was amazing at connecting with the community and keeping everyone posted, it reads. If one of your stretch goals is to hire her you would get a lot more money... just saying.

None of these people have left the business. Whipple works as a content manager at NCSoft now, but he stayed on Blizzard's community team till 2015 five long years after the community's worst uncovered his home address during the Real ID fiasco. Leary started his career as an EverQuest game master, and has since CM d in City of Heroes, Pocket Legends, and currently The Pokemon Trading Card Game. Putting out those fires is exhausting, but it must also be a little bit rewarding for them to stick with it.

Blizzard's community gathers at BlizzCon, via Nerdist.com.

All of my jobs come from people who have seen community management in action and realize how tremendously it amplifies their work and how it builds momentum and goodwill and word of mouth, says Weathers. Good community, one that is based on human exchanges and not on collecting likes like a squirrel hoarding acorns, is magical. Likes are nice, but all they represent is potential potential for action. Not a goal in and of itself. A good CM knows the player has already bought the game and doesn't need to be sold anything. A good CM genuinely cares if the players are having a good experience. A good CM builds real relationships, based on give and take, with players, the press, and the people who are both.

Community management can often feel static. The outrage is cyclical. No matter how many minds you change or egos you soften, there s always another flare-up around the corner. But if you do the job right, those bonds can last forever. Weathers listened, and sympathized, and returned the next day. The bellyaching is in the past, and what's left is a lot of appreciation for someone who was always there.

Community managers wear a lot of hats. They re social media arbiters, PR reps, and occasionally meat shields. But more than anything else, they re paid to believe the angry mob is an illusion, and that civility is only a good conversation away.

PC Gamer

Earlier this year, Valve s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive made the headlines on several occasions after the unlawful practices of skin gambling and betting sites were revealed. Evan penned this handy overview of how skin gambling works and investigated the legalities (or lack thereof) of the industry, before Valve itself slapped a number of operators with cease and desist orders. Although it's unclear at this stage which game they were leveraging, two British men have now been charged with offences under the UK Gambling Act.

As reported by the BBC, both Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas have been charged with promoting lottery and advertising unlawful gambling, while Douglas has also been charged with inviting children to gamble. These prosecutions are thought to be the first involving betting on videogames.

The UK s Gambling Commission has been looking into the rise of video game gambling over the past few months, writes the BBC, with the regulatory body now issuing warning to parents of potential underage victims. Both men accused appeared in Birmingham Magistrates Court earlier today, however the case has been adjourned to October 14.

It has been estimated that the global market in betting on video games is worth as much as 4 billion, reads the report. A more comprehensive overview of skin gambling as it applies to CS:GO can be found via that there link.

PC Gamer

Update: The report originally indicated that all 11,000 bans were handed out to CS:GO cheaters. However, vac-ban.com indicates that fewer than 4000 CS:GO players were banned that day, while the balance, according to this thread, went to Dota 2 players. SteamDB doesn't break down VAC ban numbers by game so it's impossible to verify without confirmation from Valve, which I would guess will not be forthcoming. Even so, it seems very likely that this was a bad day for CS:GO and Dota 2 cheaters.

Original story:

Today was not a good day to be a cheater. According to a story by Kotaku, more than 11,000 people have been banned by the Valve Anti-Cheat system for breaking the rules, one of the largest spikes of VAC activity this year.

Valve Anti-Cheat is continually banning players, but in this case it appears that the system has become able to detect previously untouchable cheats. The Kotaku report includes an image of banned dickheads sobbing into the empty space where their knife collections once rested (that quote is just too good not to use). The Steam inventories of banned players are essentially frozen: they cannot trade or sell items from their inventory for that game.

There's also an indirect acknowledgment from a large cheat provider in this CSGO subreddit thread that his software isn't currently performing as it should. The thread also contains messages about people with previously good cheats ie, which VAC could not detect who have suddenly found themselves locked out.

The tricky bit about this sort of thing is that these ban waves very rarely come with explainers that break down how and why a particular round of bans was implemented (although I guess the 'why' part of it is fairly self-evident), or even to confirm that something out of the ordinary has happened at all. But the war against cheating in online games is an ongoing one, and so it only makes sense that, as systems improve, there will be these sudden upticks in activity as Valve 'cracks a code' somewhere and trips people up. Of course, the opposite holds true, too: players determined to cheat will come up with new ways to do so, and around and around it goes.

I've emailed Valve for more information about the sudden uptick in bans, and I'll update this post if and when I receive a reply.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Blizzard Entertainment/Carlton Beener

Plenty to watch this weekend, from top tier Heroes of the Storm and CS:GO in North America to the last-chance battle for survival taking place in the western LoL scene. Plus: fighting games absolutely everywhere, as ever, the cream of team StarCraft II, and a renewed focus (on our part) on smaller-scale events taking place around the competitive community.

We want to start highlighting more community and grassroots competitive gaming events in this weekly feature, so if you've got a weekend event that you'd like to draw our attention to then email pcgamerpro@pcgamer.com with details: game, start time, stream link, and so on. We'll feature the most promising submissions every Friday!

Armored Warfare: EU PVP League

Something a little bit different, here, for a game we don't cover too often: a night of community-run competitive PVP in Armored Warfare, Obsidian's tank warfare MMO. Tonight (September 2nd) is the Soldier of Fortune league, a clash between up-and-coming players in Europe. The livestream starts at 19:30 CEST/10:30 PDT and you can find out more information on the official tournament site.

Heroes of the Storm: North America Fall Regional 2

For the second time this year, the best Heroes of the Storm teams in North America go to war with $100,000 and a shot at the world championships on the line. The regional runs from today until Sunday at Pax West in Seattle. Play kicks off at 10:00 PDT/19:00 every day. Heroes of the Storm's competitive scene has been rife with Cinderella stories over the last few months: tune in and you've got a decent chance to see some underdogs make it big. More info and livestream links right here.

League of Legends: NA and EU Regional Qualifiers

As Cassandra wrote in her column this week, the upcoming 'gauntlet' qualifiers in the LCS are going to be brutal. These matches will determine which of the remaining teams in each region can attend Worlds as the third seed: for some teams, this could be last-gasp effort. Games in the EU start tomorrow at 17:00 BST/08:00 PDT and continue Sunday at the same time. Play in NA starts at 21:00 CEST/12:00 PDT on both days. As ever, the best place to find more information and the livestream is at lolesports.com.

CSGO: Northern Arena 2016

An array of talented North American CSGO teams converge on Toronto for this $100,000 LAN tournament. Group stage play has been ongoing since Thursday with the playoffs set for this weekend. Matches start on Saturday at 10:45 EDT (07:45 PDT/16:45 CEST) and at 10:15 EDT on Sunday (07:15 PDT/16:15 CEST). Find the official tournament site here including links to both livestreams.

StarCraft II: 2016 SK Telecom Proleague

This team Legacy of the Void tournament has been ongoing for months, but you've still got time to catch the finals on Saturday. Jin Air Green Wings will go head-to-head with KT Rolster at 18:30 KST, which is 02:30 PDT and 11:30 CEST. The winners will take home $45,475. Find the English-language livestream here.

Capcom Pro Tour: There's loads of fighting happening, again

Another weekend, another four Capcom Pro Tour Ranking events taking place at the same time. This week we've got East Coast Throwdown in New Jersey, USA; First Attack in Peurto Rico; Celtic Throwdown 2016 in Dublin, Ireland; Ze Fighting Game in China. That's a lot of punching. As our fighting game expert Andi notes, Daigo Umehara will be at East Coast Throwdown looking to claim his third ranking victory in a row. Check out each tournament's site for schedule and stream details. These are massive tournaments, as you'd expect, so look for the top 32/top 8 towards the end for the highest standard of play.

Hearthstone: ONOG 2016 Circuit Finals

Pax Prime plays host to the climax of this year's One Nation of Gamers series of open tournaments, with a $25,000 prize pool on the line. The event runs Friday through Monday, with Admirable and TJ handling the casting on ONOG's Twitch channel. The start time each day is 13:00 PDT / 16:00 EDT / 22:00 CEST. Notable players include Dog, Frozen and Chakki, and promisingly this is the first big event to feature all the cards from One Night in Karazhan. Maybe that means we'll see some new decks beyond Dragon Warrior, Aggro Shaman and Zoo.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games.

League of Legends takes the spotlight this weekend for its EU and NA Summer Finals (which just might draw the spotlight away from the recent controversies rocking the scene.) That s not your only option, however: there s plenty of fighting game tournaments taking place all over the world, Dota 2, CS:GO, and the return of PC pro Smite. Have fun!

League of Legends: 2016 NA and EU LCS Summer Finals

There's a lot of high-stakes LoL taking place over a short period of time over the next few days. On Saturday, the third place matches in both the NA and EU LCS Summer Finals will take place, with Unicorns of Love vs. H2K taking place in Europe at 08:00 PDT/17:00 CEST and Immortals vs. CounterLogic Gaming taking place in the US at 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. The timing for the grand finals on Sunday are the same. Find more information, and the livestream, at LoLesports.

Dota 2: World Cyber Arena EU Qualifier

You'll forgive me for not having too many precise schedule details for this one, as... well, beyond the matches that have already been played, they seem a little hard to come by. Nonetheless, there is some top-tier Dota happening this weekend even as the majority of the scene wrestles with the inevitable but still-spectacular roster drama that follows the International. This is the EU qualifier for the next WCA. The previous one was, by all accounts, a gigantic shambles that people only forgot about because the Shanghai Major was a higher profile shambles. But at least there's Dota to watch. Check Gosugamers for up to date stream and schedule info.

CSGO: ESEA Season 22, Power-LAN 2016, CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 Pro Series

There's a lot of mid-tier CS:GO taking place across the world this weekend, from North America to Denmark to Poland. On Saturday, check out the playoffs for Power-LAN 2016 starting at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST here's the official site for more info (it's in Danish, mind.) CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 will be running throughout the weekend, starting at 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST on Saturday and 11:30 PDT/20:30 CEST on Sunday (more info here). Finally, ESEA Season 22 concludes on Sunday with $50,000 on the line. Tune to the livestream from 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST.

Smite Pro League: Fall Split

PC Smite is back for another season and this weekend is your chance to get in on the ground floor. Matches began yesterday and continue through to Sunday, starting at 11:00 PDT/19:00 CEST each day in both North America and Europe. You can find out more information on the teams on the official Smite Pro League site and find the livestream here.

Capcom Pro Tour: Lots of Ranking tournaments

Look, we've got limited header space here, alright? Ranking Capcom Pro Tour tournaments this weekend range from Absolute Battle in Dallas, USA to Argentina Pro Gaming Series in Argentina to an Online Ranking Event in Europe to OzHadou Nationals 14 in Sydney to Fight in Rio: Olympia in Rio de Janeiro. As such, you can expect a decent standard of fighting game play regardless of when you tune in: check each official site, listed above, for further details. Keep an eye on Twitch s Street Fighter V section if that s the game you re after.

PC Gamer

Valve imposed a new rule for Valve-sponsored CS:GO events yesterday that forbids coaches from interacting with players while matches are underway: They may now talk to players only during pregame warm-ups, timeouts, and at halftime. The problem, Valve explained, is that unrestricted access to teams during matches effectively makes coaches a sixth player, and since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal.

Not everyone agrees with Valve's assessment of the situation, however. A number of analysts and commentators took to Twitter to express displeasure with the new rule, some saying it's simply unnecessary and others claiming that it's outright damaging to the game.

Nonetheless, Valve seems determined to stick with the change. The ruling won't force the change upon all tournaments, but it will affect the Majors, which as you might expect are the largest tournaments in CS:GO. Valve began awarding $1 million in prize money for each major tournament this year.

Valve clarified its position on the ruling in a follow-up statement in which it said that it has spoken with pro teams about their coaches at past Majors, and had been assured that their focus was "on activities traditionally associated with coaching, such as preparation, support, opponent study, etc.

We were always open with them about our opinion that distributing the work of 5 players (e.g. keeping track of the economy, calling plays and mid-round calls, and general situational awareness) across 6 people was not in line with our goals, one of which was to make it possible for new teams to emerge and compete at the highest levels. We had no concerns with the other coaching responsibilities and at the time any potential harm was hypothetical, the statement says. Since then it has become apparent that teams are, in fact, transitioning away from fielding players that have a wider breadth of skills and instead relying on coaches to handle some of that work.

Ironically, what prompted the new rule was an email from a team coach, sent to an event organizer and forwarded to Valve, seeking a greater level of access to the players during matches. The forwarded email made it clear that despite the conversations we had with them, teams were further investing in coaching in a way that was contrary to the goals of the Majors and the concerns we had expressed. It was important to make a decision before teams further invested in coach IGLs and we decided to rein in the role of coaching in the next Major to exclude player responsibilities, Valve wrote.

We understand that there will be some short term disruption for teams that have made an investment in coach IGLs [In-Game Leader], it concluded. However, we intend the Majors and Minors to be events that can be won by any team of 5 players that demonstrate excellence in all skills of CS and this adjustment is intended to ensure that this remains true.

Short term disruption may be understating things somewhat: As HLTV pointed out, a number of high-profile teams including Natus Vincere, NiP, Liquid, mousesports, and FaZe make use of coaches, and losing access to them so suddenly is bound to have an impact on their performance. It won't take long to find out just how much, and which teams are best able to overcome it: ESL has adopted the rule as well, meaning that the first CSGO Major to operate under this new rule will be ESL One New York, which runs over the weekend of October 1-2.

PC Gamer

There's a decent spread of competitive games to watch this weekend, from Street Fighter V to LoL to top-tier CS:GO to one of the biggest Overwatch tournaments yet.

League of Legends: NA and EU LCS Playoffs

After last week's delays, hopefully this week's LCS playoffs will run a little more smoothly. There are two series to be played this weekend in both NA and EU, with EU kicking off at 17:00 CEST/09:00 PDT and NA starting at 21:00 CEST/13:00 PDT. In Europe, catch SPY vs. H2K on Saturday and G2 vs. UOL on Sunday. In NA, catch Immortals vs. Cloud9 on Saturday and TSM vs. CLG on Sunday. More information and the livestream can, as ever, be found on LoLesports.

Overwatch: Atlantic Showdown

There's $100,000 up for grabs in one of the biggest pro Overwatch tournaments to date. The best of the European and North American scenes will go to war to determine who rules the transatlantic Overwatch roost. If you've not watched pro Overwatch before, this is a great opportunity to learn what it looks like when 80% of your team is not Genji. Play begins at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream right here.

CSGO: ESL Pro League Season 4

The ESL Pro League is your best bet for top-tier CS:GO this weekend, with teams competing for a shot at the $750,000 grand finals in Brazil later in the year. Play begins at 16:30 CEST/08:30 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream on ESL's official streaming site.

Capcom Pro Tour: Summer Jam

Summer Jam X in Pennsylvania is the latest stop on the ongoing Capcom Pro Tour, showcasing a wide variety of fighting games. If you're in for Street Fighter V, however, then the top 32 begins on Saturday at 22:00 EDT/19:00 PDT/04:00 CEST (the following day in Europe). Catch the top 8 an hour earlier on Sunday: 21:00 EDT/18:00 PDT/03:00 CEST. This event has a decent spread of livestreams covering different games, and you can find a full list on the official site.

PC Gamer

Inferno has always been one of the most iconic maps in Counter-Strike, both in 1.6 and Global Offensive. Many of the biggest tournament finals have ended on the map, along with some of the most memorable plays of all time. Almost every pro team knows exactly how to play it, and as a result Inferno matches were often the closest and most unpredictable.

Earlier this year, Valve dropped the bombshell that Inferno was to be removed from the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive active duty map pool and replaced by an updated version of Nuke. This change would have a major effect on the pro scene, as what felt like an entirely new map was replacing one of the staples of pro CS:GO. Teams would have to adapt quickly and devise new strategies for Nuke while forgetting everything they knew about Inferno.

A few months after the switch, teams have started to play Nuke more and more, with mixed results. Many of the top squads are comfortable on the map, whereas others are still banning it out. It has certainly shaken up the pro scene, but it seems like the top players in the world can t quite agree if this was a good change or not.

I m definitely not a fan of the new Nuke, says Robin "flusha" R nnquist, a former member of Fnatic, who were considered to be one of the best teams in the history of CS:GO. We played it a few times and we tried to get better at it and so on, but it's such a chaotic map, you don't know how well you can actually play it. There is just too many things to hold and the timings, if you have the wrong timing you are going to die. It s just a bad map.

This opinion seemed to be shared by many pro players when the switch first happened, as many players were critical of the map on social media and the majority of teams banned out the new Nuke in any pro matches. However, one team that seemed to be happy about the change was Ninjas in Pyjamas, who were one of the best teams on the old version of Nuke.

We are big fans of Nuke, says Adam "friberg" Friberg from NiP. We played Nuke a lot before it was removed and it was probably our go to map. We are very excited to have it back, but we probably need more time to be the best on it.

The original version of Nuke was a very divisive map. Some teams, such as NiP, would always pick it, while others would avoid it like the plague. This new version seems to have a similar reputation, but even players who were considered to be some of the best in the world on the original version are still not sold on new Nuke, and preferred the Inferno map that it replaced.

I was not a fan when they removed Nuke originally, I think people who didn't play Nuke back then didn't know how to play it properly, says Finn "karrigan" Andersen, captain of Astralis. As for taking out Inferno, I started to like it more and more. In the beginning it was very Counter-Terrorist sided but they made a lot of changes, especially with the new round time, to make it better. I feel sad that they removed it, especially switching it with a Nuke that I don't think is ready yet. What I worry about the most is that Nuke gets updated all the time, and they are making changes all the time on the map. So if I invest time now I am concerned that there will be a big update because something happened that Valve didn't like.

Of course removing Inferno was always going to annoy some people, especially the teams that played the map a lot. But looking at the competitive map pool there aren't all that many other options to take out, as the maps are all pretty settled outside of Nuke. Interestingly it was captain of the current world champions, SK Gaming, who offered up some alternatives that could have been replaced by Nuke.

SK Gaming's FalleN. Photo credit: ECS.

I don't think Inferno should be gone to be honest, says Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. If I could remove one map it would be Cobblestone and maybe Dust II, but Dust II is a map that everyone knows CS for, so it is pretty difficult to remove it. But Cobblestone is pretty unbalanced right now. Ultimately it s not up to me, so we will be practising Nuke and we hope to make it a good map for us.

Again it was Ninjas in Pyjamas who provided a vastly different opinion on this matter. Team coach and Counter Strike 1.6 legend Bj rn "THREAT" Pers gave his thoughts on Inferno s removal.

Nuke is still way better than Inferno, which was the worst map in the map pool, says THREAT. It was the least tactical map and the most random map, because you cannot gain any information and you just have to guess. I didn't like that aspect at all.

Regardless of the players opinions on the Nuke and Inferno switch, they will have to get used to playing the new version of Nuke. Having a map that you just cannot play gives a team a serious disadvantage at the pro level. However from the pros that we have spoken to it certainly seems that this may not have been the right time to make the switch. There are still a lot of issues with Nuke, which really need to be sorted out quickly, while the classic Inferno map remains one of the best CS:GO maps of all time. What the future holds for these two maps is unclear, but right now it seems that Valve may have acted too hastily on this one.

PC Gamer

Deemed to give certain teams greater advantage over others, Valve has introduced new rules which limit coach communication during Valve-sponsored esports matches.

Although still permitted to converse with players during pre-game warm ups, 30-second timeouts, and during halftime, the new rules which have been endorsed by the ESL state coaches are now banned from interacting with their teams when actual rounds are underway.

Posted by HLTV, the email signed by Valve s Ido Magal reads as follows:

"With unrestricted communication with their players, coaches can currently function as a sixth player, and not solely as a source of guidance or training. Activities such as keeping track of the economy, calling plays, and general situational awareness are important components of CS gameplay. If a person is performing these actions, we consider them a player.

Since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal. To address this problem, future Valve sponsored events will enforce the following coaching rules:

During a match, the coach may only communicate with the players during warm up, half-time, or during one of four 30 second timeouts that the coach or player can call. Obviously, third party events can use whatever rules they want but if you want to align your events with ours then we recommend using this coaching rule."

According to HLTV, the first major event to implement the new rules will be ESL One New York which kicks off towards the end of September. In light of the ruleset change, there s already murmurs among top players of inter-squad discussions on how to proceed, strike action and even union formations.


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