Aug 30, 2012
The picture above was snapped by master patch eviscerator Matt "Cyborgmatt" Bailey at Valve HQ. As PCGamesN report, Valve flew him out to Seattle for The International, but failed to confiscate his camera and erase his memories. The images on his Twitpic account show a few Dota 2 trading cards and a sign inviting readers to "spend $40 to get a pack of cards guaranteed to contain 1 courier." A trading card game that can unlock in-game Dota 2 rewards? This could be the end of Owen.
A prototype Axe figure was also spotted with a plaque suggesting that we'll be able to buy it "summer 2013." Dota heroes would work perfectly as a collectible series of figures/cards, but which one would you want to own? I'd be interested in a six foot tall remote controlled Roshan myself. Pictures follow.
The fan-made remake of the original Half-Life in the Source engine, Black Mesa: Source, has now been in development for about 8 years. And, it seems, the end may finally be in sight. The team of volunteer Xenophiles has released a batch of new screenshots, and project lead Carlos Montero told Polygon he would "characterize our first release as being pretty close to completion."
For those of you just now joining us, Black Mesa: Source was a fan-created initiative that arose in direct response to the poor reception of Half-Life: Source. While Valve ported the same game we know and love into its now-legendary engine, it still had the same 1998 low-polygon, low-res visuals of the original game, when many gamers had expected a Half-Life remake with Half-Life 2's improved graphics. That is, essentially, what the Black Mesa team has been plugging away at for the better part of a decade.
According to Montero, the project will be released to the public in stages. The first of those stages, he told Polygon, is nearing completion. We've included the whole, fresh batch of screenshots below. Bonus points if you can identify where in Half-Life's interdimensional debacle each of them was taken.
Aug 24, 2012
I’ve determined that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is from another dimension. It’s a game that doesn’t need to exist. PC gamers (thousands of them, according to SteamGraph) are perfectly served by Counter-Strike: Source and CS 1.6, content with the decade-something of tuning and attention those games have received.
But here’s GO: full of doppelganger Desert Eagles and de_dust déjà vu, quantum-leaping from some parallel timeline whose game industry briefly intersected with ours. Playing it is like running into a college crush at the supermarket. You immediately notice differences. Oh, you’re married? Your hair looks different. But that experience of reconnecting is pleasant—they’re mostly still the person you admired during geology.
In other words, GO’s familiarity helps and hurts. Minor deviations from the CS you might’ve known or loved are easy to identify. The MP5 is now the MP7, but it lacks the same clicky report and underdoggy “this is all I can afford, please don’t kill me” personality. The TMP is replaced by the MP9. Ragdoll physics don’t persist after death, curiously. You can’t attach a suppressor to the M4 for some reason.
I’m not particularly bothered by this stuff; I don’t need the MP5 reproduced precisely as it existed in 2004 or 2000 to live a fulfilling life. What does bug me are some small but significant changes to firing feedback. When you shoot someone in GO, they don’t wince. There’s a sneeze of blood, and audio that conveys that you’re hitting them if you’re within a certain range. But they don't do this, and I don’t understand the decision to omit a flinch animation on character models.
Especially at long range, it takes a little more effort and squinting than it should to tell if I’m hitting someone or not. And counterintuitively, bullet tracers, new in this version of CS, are an unreliable source of feedback. They seem to trail the path of your actual bullet by a few microseconds. With rifles and SMGs, my eyes would wander away from my enemy and crosshairs--what I should be watching--and try to interpret where my bullets were falling based on the slightly-delayed, streaky particle effects. The small upside to tracers is that they mitigate camping a bit.
The changes made to existing maps are clever and careful, though. Cracked glass is more opaque, making it modestly more difficult to go on a sniping rampage in areas like cs_office’s main hall. Adding a stairway to the bottom of de_dust makes the route more viable for Terrorists while retaining that area’s purpose of a bottleneck; moving the B bombsite closer to the center of the map discourages CTs from hiding deep in their spawn point.
Considering these smart adjustments to classic maps, it’s puzzling that GO’s “new” mode and the new maps bundled with it are so gosh-darn mediocre. Half of GO’s 16 total maps are new, but they’re all locked to the Arms Race (a rebrand of the famous community-created mod GunGame) and Demolition (GunGame sans insta-respawn, plus bomb defusal) modes.
After 50 hours logged, I’ve stopped playing these modes completely. In the shadow of Valve’s talent for mode design (Scavenge in Left 4 Dead 2, Payload in Team Fortress 2), Arms Race and Demolition are safe, unimaginative, and most of us have played their predecessor. I would’ve loved to see VIP scenarios revisited. It presents a ton of design headaches (if your VIP isn’t good, everyone hates them forever), but it’s an experience that’s absent from modern FPSes.
But yeah, the new maps. Aesthetically, they’re likeable. de_bank mirrors the indulgence of fighting around Burger Town in Modern Warfare. de_lake and de_safehouse let you duel inside a multi-storied cottage and on its surrounding lawn. But tactically, they’re trivial compared to their parent maps. Most of them are compact (de_shorttrain is literally an amputated de_train) and designed to support instant-action, meat-grinder gameplay that reminds me more of Call of Duty.
What I’m lamenting, I guess, is that Valve and Hidden Path missed an opportunity to add a new classic map to the lineup--something that could’ve joined the legendary rotation of Office, Italy, Dust, Dust2, Aztec, Inferno, Nuke and Train. They could’ve tidied-up lesser-known but beloved community maps like cs_estate or cs_crackhouse. Instead, the eight we get feel more like paintball arenas--too fast, relatively fun, but frivolous. They lack the personality, purpose, or tactical complexity of their predecessors.
Even with these questionable adjustments and shrug-inspiring new maps, GO produces quintessential Counter-Strike moments. Being the spear-tip of a rush with a P90. Being the last person on your team and feeling the glare of your teammates as you try to win the round. The feeling of each kill you make increasing the safety of your teammates. Knife fighting for honor. Accidentally blinding your team with a misguided flashbang and getting everyone killed. Building a rivalry with an AWPer over the course of a match. All of that is preserved.
GO is a $15 ticket to reconnect with those sensations; it retains CS’ spirit as a competitive game driven by careful tactics, cooperation, and individual heroics alike. It's still a game about positioning, timing, and, say, thinking critically about how much footstep noise you're generating. GO preserves CS' purity in that regard--it remains one of the only modern shooters without unlockable content, ironsights, unlockables, or an emphasis on things like secondary firing modes.
Atop that, there are some touches that rejuvenate the game we’ve been playing for 12 years. The new scoreboard is terrific. There’s both a server browser and a party system, if you prefer that. There’s a slider for scaling the UI. New players can practice against bots offline. And although a few of the weapon models are unambitious (the Nova and sawed-off shotguns look like drug store toys; the AWP and the Scout resemble one another a little too closely), I love that there’s multiple sets of character models for both teams--cs_office and cs_italy’s Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists look and sound completely different.
I expect you’ll like most of the new weapons, too: the PP-Bizon is a cheap, 64-shot SMG. The MAG-7 shotgun is slow-firing (and slow-reloading, as it’s magazine-fed) but absolutely deadly. I like that heavy machine guns are no longer total novelties, and are viable in a few situations. The Molotov and incendiary grenade fold into Counter-Strike’s core concept (iterating on tactics between rounds) beautifully because they’re throwable walls of fire that can deaden the momentum of successful enemy tactics.
In summary: go, go, go. I’m hopeful that the competitive community will fill in the map and mode gaps left by Valve and Hidden Path. Zombie Mod is a good start.
Aug 24, 2012
Don't call it a comeback: T.J. is misguidedly given dominion over the podcast for a second week running as we discuss whether the new Black Isle Studios has anything to do with the old Black Isle Studios, what our plans are for the launch of Guild Wars 2, and whether we will actually see the World of Darkness MMO before the apocalypse. Plus, new DayZ storytime from Evan, T.J. proposes to Crusader Kings II, and Tyler asks new Associate Editor Omri Petitte what (railgun) is best in life?
Saddle up for the content-crammed extravaganza that is PC Gamer US Podcast 327: Pixel Blood
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The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive cinematic is just under four minutes long. It's easy to forget how much time goes into making these short teaser videos, so Valve have released a behind-the-scenes montage showing mo-cap actors performing military manoeuvres on a mat in a warehouse, a full orchestra recording the backing track and tiny details being tweaked in the Source Filmmaker. The video editing tools Valve released recently really are the same as the ones they use in-house. I can't wait to see some of the community entries for this year's Saxxy Awards.
And here's the finished product
The déjà vu flows strong through the beta of Webzen's free-to-play multiplayer FPS Arctic Combat. Not because of its familiar modern setting or armory, nor from hearing soldiers shout "reloading!" 20 times per second. No, the cause mostly lies with one particular map, Sand Storm, which is a very close replica of Counter-Strike's de_dust2.
Aside from slightly tweaked hallway/corridor dimensions and crate emplacements, AC's map might as well be Dust 2's neglected sibling, right down to the Middle Eastern motif and recognizable choke points. Admittedly, Arctic Combat's deathmatch-style combat fits well with Dust 2's tight corners and circular design, especially with randomized spawn points. But I'd probably get pasted multiple times standing on a bomb point wondering why my C4 isn't coming up.
Arctic Combat is in closed beta, but keys aren't difficult to obtain. This video drew our attention to the similarities between de_dust2 and Sand Storm's very close homage.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is out in just six hours, giving us the chance to jump into a buffed and polished rendition of a classic, which is nice. A beta patch arrived yesterday adding a zombie model that will be used in the Zombie mod, which will be playable with CS:GO later today. It also added a weapons course, which provides basic training in CS:GO's guns and gadgets.
The patch also cleans up the UI a bit and fixes a few bugs. Check out the patch notes and the cinematic trailer Valve released at Gamescom last week below.
• Added the Weapons Course to the game.
• Voice notification can now show more players talking.
• Updated the freeze panel to no longer show the heath for your killer in competitive mode.
• Added an option in the menu to disable the game instructor messages.
• Update to the player info panel to no longer show achievement alerts.
• Update to the leaderboard screen to default to “Friends” filter.
• Added the “Total Games Played” leaderboard category.
• Updated the Play With Friends screen:
-- Made the chat window bigger so text is no longer cut off.
-- Adjusted the size of dimming when the focus changes between friends list and lobby list. It used to obscure the friends list and a little of the chat. Now it only obscures the friends list.
• Updated the radio command panel so that the radio panel doesn't end up at the top of the screen during a mode that doesn't have a money panel.
• Set Classic Casual deadtalk to 0 to encourage fair play.
• Fixed the freeze panel dynamic positioning that would allow it to go too high.
• Fixed a missing text string displayed when player is not connected to Steam in leaderboards.
• Fixed a bug where the Mag7 could be bought by Ts via console commands.
• Fixed a bug where adding favorite server was not functional in the Community Server UI.
• Fixed a bug in the Play With Friends lobby where using left and right on keyboard or gamepad made the screen unresponsive.
• Fixed a bug in the Play With Friends lobby where typing in the Chat window would cause player names to flicker in the friends list.
• Fix for voice/chat/radio messages. Better unified the handling of voice and chat messages.
-- Chat messages now correctly use sv_allchat (instead of sv_alltalk), which should be more consistent with other source games.
-- Team-only communications now are not affected by sv_allchat/sv_alltalk, which means that private communications to one's team stay private, regardless of game mode.
-- Team-only communication is also not overridden by sv_full_alltalk, which allows teams to privately communicate strategy during warmup time and intermission.
-- Radio commands are considered team-only, so these should still be usable for tactics during games with sv_alltalk enabled (e.g. casual).
-- Spectators no longer hear team-only communications, except when sv_spec_hear is mode 2 (hear/see comms of the spectated teams).
• Increased the audible range of the c4 plant and disarm sounds.
• Fixed audio randomly chirping/screeching on certain levels.
• Tuned lobby distance computations when performing matchmaking.
• Exposed a convar ("mm_csgo_community_search_players_min") for community quick match to look for community servers having at least specified number of human players already playing.
• Shipped zombie model to support the Zombie Mod
Aug 20, 2012
On the eve of Valve hitting go on Counter-Strike: GO, I thought it'd be useful to revisit why the once-mod continues to have its hooks in so many of us. Just like true love or a really outstanding taco, explaining what makes Counter-Strike good can be inexplicably tough to put into words. Go on, try. "It's, uh...tense? The guns feel nice. ...Teamwork?" Told you.
Read on for some notes on why I think Counter-Strike continues to be a classic. We'll have a CS:GO review up later this week.
Prompts the player to iterate on tactics; creates context for winning streaks, losing streaks, ties, coming from behind to win.
Death is a time-out to reflect on the next round, creates oscillation between tension (being judged/spectated by teammates) and relief (watching/judging your teammates).
WEAPONS THAT "HAVE A MIND OF THEIR OWN"
Takes skill, time to understand + control weapon behavior.
High-fidelity hitboxes—where you aim matters fundamentally.
But alternately, firing recklessly (spraying) can produce lucky kills.
Uncertainty is fun (“Who’s going to win this shootout?”).
EXCELLENT MAP DESIGN
Fixed spawns; easy to orient yourself (complexity rarely goes beyond two or three routes), nameable landmarks (“double doors,” “bridge,” “back office,” “near spawn,” “at B”).
Constructive asymmetry; when sides swap, they also typically swap tactics sets/roles (cs_assault: Ts are well-protected defenders, CTs are sieging).
Map design carefully tuned to account for player movement speed—equidistant chokepoints. CTs + Ts arrive at chokepoints if they both leave the spawn area with knives out. (e.g.: On cs_office as CT, if I’m going to snipe, I have to sprint to the outdoor hallway to get eyes on main hall in order to give myself an opportunity to catch Ts moving from their spawn to garage).
CS' levels generally have a totally pristine appearance: they generally don't bear any evidence of combat until the round actually begins. This "blank slate" not only creates opportunities for the environment to convey valuable tactical information about what's happened (bullet holes, cracked windows, opened doors, broken grates, turned-over filing cabinets), but damaging the world itself can be inherently fun.
Players can buy weapons and equipment at the start of a round. This is a system that suits competitive play and builds a metagame throughout a match, and it makes the decision to not spend/be conservative a cost/benefit decision (typical second round choice: save up and hope to loot a rifle from a dead player, or spend now and be better-armed).
In most situations, snipers can be countered by smoke/flash grenade, flanking, synchronized teamwork, or planting the bomb.
In some situations, rushing can be countered with good positioning, waiting and listening, and/or long-range weapons.
Dead players form an instantaneous graveyard chat room/peanut gallery/sideline. This shared social space with opponents creates an opportunity for rivalries or other relationships to form between players (clan recruitment, heckling, complimenting).
Weapons have reputations or even stigmas; knifing or pistoling someone wielding an AWP might be seen as a David/Goliath scenario.
Zany maps (de_rats, Mario Kart), sprays, and server mods that offset the seriousness, create opportunities for pranking.
Aug 20, 2012
The Saxxy Awards are back, giving budding film makers the opportunity to craft a masterpiece and win a Saxxy Award in Team Fortress 2. The winniest winner of the shortlist of category winners will be flown out to Valve for a sit down session with Valve's Source Filmmakers, which is a great prize because I don't know if you've ever tried it but flying is BRILLIANT. The Valve filmmaker folk are probably quite nice as well. Once there you'll have the chance to get your work "aired on GTTV's VGA preshow this December."
There are four categories, the most challenging of which is likely to be "Original Universe" which requires that all featured assets be custom made. There are other gongs available for best action, drama and comedy. All entries must be submitted between Nobember 1 and November 15. No sooner, no later.
That's one of a number of rules Valve have come up with to stop this thing getting out of hand and turning into a "who can make the best version of Homeward Bound using nothing but bits of the Pyro" competition, which nobody wants. NOBODY. Here are those rules.
Entries must be no longer than five minutes.
Each entry must be at least 720p.
All entries must be submitted using the Source Filmmaker's upload to YouTube™ and Steam Community menu option.
Only entries submitted between Nov. 1, 12:00 AM and Nov. 15, 12:00 AM GMT will be considered.
Voting begins Nov. 16.
Winners, selected by Valve from the community-chosen nominees, will be announced by Dec. 31, 2012
All co-creators must be finalized by submission deadline to be considered.
You are free to use any Valve IP.
If you use any non-Valve IP, you must be the copyright owner or have explicit permission from the owner.
Multiple submissions per person are fine.
Submissions must be free of advertisements.
Find out more on the Team Fortress 2 site. Note that you're free to use any of Valve's IPs. It'll be interesting to see if we get many Dota 2 entries.
Dota 2 is more than a game. It's a lifestyle. It's an obsession. For some, it could even be a career. Valve's first documentary project goes behind the scenes of the pro-gaming community in the run-up to The International, to see what it takes to be the best - both the skill, and the cost. Gametrailers has the exclusive trailer, and you'll find it embedded here for your entertainment and enlightenment.
Release date? Please. It's Valve.