After a break, we're back. Chris, Tom Senior and Marsh discuss Antichamber, DmC, The Witcher, Destiny, the inner workings of Valve and a game called Half-Life 2 that is pretty good aparrently.
Also featuring an ass palace, places where one may or may not take a horse, the playground circular saw craze of the 1990s, a wonderous squirrel experience, and possibly the most inept attempt to begin a podcast since the last time we tried to begin a podcast.
We also talk about Rome II, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and the games of David Johnston.
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or download the MP3 directly. Follow PC Gamer UK on Twitter to be informed when we're putting the call out for questions. Alternatively, follow us as individuals:
Tom Senior - @pcgludo Marsh - @marshdavies Chris - @cthursten
Our review of Antichamber. Smudged Cat games. Half-Life 2 is a good computer game! Who knew. No link here: just registering my surprise. Again. Our review of the petition-tastic DmC: Devil May Cry. Some pictures of Destiny, Bungie's game about a magic space ball or something. A blurry screenshot of whatever Respawn Entertainment are doing. Via Eurogamer: the PS4 will not block used games. MAXIMUM SQUIRRELS "Nine out of ten." - Martin 'Marsh' Davies Our Aliens: Colonial Marines review, Kotaku's report on its troubled development, and a xenomorph with a tiny little invisible piano. Someone call a doctor. Chris has a case of not-really-thinking-this-through.
Every week two editors debate a new topic—it's a binary exercise we use to seek common ground conclusions or identify fundamental differences. The "my MOBA vs. your MOBA" argument is a heated one, so we reached outside our walls to SOE game designer and former PC Gamer Senior Editor Josh Augustine for his expertise. Josh was our resident League of Legends authority when he was here, so he's arguing on its behalf, while T.J. stands up for Dota 2.
Argue your own side in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Josh, you have the floor:
Josh: No one can question Dota’s contribution to the genre—heck, it created it—but in the second generation of MOBAs, League of Legends is the king. It innovates where Dota 2 stagnates, and provides a much better experience for new players.
T.J.: Innovation and stagnation in MOBAs is almost an entirely different discussion. The real innovators are games like Demigod (as comparatively unsuccessful as they are). At the end of the day, both of the big dogs have way more in common than they do in difference. But when it comes to those differences, I think Dota 2 is the more engaging contender. What it lacks in mass accessibility, it makes up for in depth. I’d say the spirit of PC gaming favors the latter.
Josh: I’d love to hear what you think gives Dota 2 deeper gameplay. It’s certainly not skillshots or mechanical complexity, like being able to respond to opponents’ abilities. Like Dota 2, there are a ton of abilities in LoL that must be targeted at a location rather than an opponent. In LoL, most of these abilities can be blocked with skillful dodging, creep manipulation, or sacrificial leaps by allies. You know how many skills allow for that complex variety of reactions in Dota 2? One. Pudge’s hook. Every other “skillshot” hits everyone in its way with no regard for collision. There’s no counterplay.
T.J.: Dota is all about counterplay, way more so than LoL. Sure, there may not be a lot of collision-deniable skillshots, but that’s a very niche case to hang your argument on. A lot of Dota’s heroes are designed to counter other specific heroes, or kinds of heroes. It creates an interesting rock-paper-scissors meta. Except if instead of rock-paper-scissors, you had rock-paper-scissors-garden rake-tow truck-banana cart-.
Josh: It’s not niche at all! That ability to counterplay enemy skills completely changes the laning interaction, making it much more important to gauge your movement, and track the positioning of creeps and enemy champions.
I want some examples of counterplay that Dota 2 has that LoL doesn't. Other than denying (which, let's be honest, is kind of a stupid mechanic), LoL has all the counterplay Dota 2 has and then some.
T.J.: I’ll go ahead and say it: I don’t find denying particularly fun. But at a high, competitive level, it gives you more to do in the lane (especially early on). And if you want another example, just look at the subtle differences in the maps. Dota 2’s lanes have more variation between top and bot, more potential gank paths, and the distance between towers means you can’t just camp out and farm XP.
Josh: So I guess the question is: What do you want your laning phase minigame to be? It can either be a complex game of cat-and-mouse poking with the enemy players, using creep waves as mobile defenses, or it can be shooting your own soldiers in the head.
I’m happy to admit that Dota 2’s map has some very cool elements, including those gank paths and the ability for some heroes to cut through trees to make their own path. That’s awesome. But so is LoL’s brush, which allows skilled players to perform great jukes and manipulate vision in the field. Dota 2 has some of that with its height variance, but it’s not nearly as interesting or fun to play with.
T.J.: Not to pop a scroll and concede defeat here- I think we’ve both made an argument for complexity. But that’s only one of many differences. So much of what I prefer about Dota is apparent when you’re not even in a match. LoL gives you a very small pool of rotating champs to start with, whereas Dota unlocks every hero immediately.
Josh: Yeah, it’s awesome that Dota 2 unlocks all the heroes at once (for free, too, if it ever actually leaves beta), but Dota has to because, like you said earlier, it’s built on hard counters for every hero. Without access to the full roster, game balance would be broken. LoL, on the other hand, is balanced around team compositions—a late-game team, a poke-damage team, an AoE ult team, etc.
I’m not saying that it makes paying for every champion individually feel better on your wallet—LoL is a much more expensive game if you want to own every champion—but you can be completely competitive with just the free champions, if you wanted to. And you can buy everything but skins for free, with currency earned from playing game.
T.J.: But that’s part of the problem. I like the idea of thematic team comps, but I think it puts you in danger of having a patch-dependant metagame. Balance changes always lead to early experimentation, but the über-teams are almost always going to eventually find a “best” way to do each of the strats you described as a cycle progresses, which can mean a smaller percentage of the champs being in the meta at a given time. Dota’s hard counters mean you can’t ever really feel safe in a draft, and you’re less likely to see a dominant comp emerge in any given patch. Both games will have their no-brainer, god-tier, autoban carries and what have you, of course.
Josh: I do really enjoy Dota 2’s balance—those heroes have been around forever and have been carefully tweaked with consistent skills and items in mind. But that also makes it feel a bit stagnant to me—LoL’s balance and meta is constantly changing, so that a great team comp may be dominant for a few weeks, until someone figures out how to counter it, and then everyone’s experimenting again. They both have their merits in this regard, I think it just comes down to preference.
T.J.: Absolutely. It’s a matter of preference. It’s just that my preference is objectively better. You made a good point about Dota’s heroes having a longer balance history. And Riot’s business model forces it to keep releasing champions to keep making money—whether they’re ready for primetime or now. We also haven’t even addressed how LoL’s rune and mastery system keeps you in a stat ghetto until you've invested dozens and dozens of hours into the game.
Josh: The Rune and Mastery system adds a ton of depth to stat tweaking and theorycrafting builds at high levels, and the matchmaking system keeps you playing with people around your same level. It is a minor penalty when trying to play with max-level friends as a brand new player, but I’ll trade that for a massive boost to customization at high-level. Another win for LoL's depth.
T.J.: I don’t object to the concept of runes and masteries, I do object to having to unlock them over weeks or months. And the difference between a beginner account and a maxed one makes you almost re-learn each champ at certain milestones. You can’t just go look up a good jungle Warwick build, because they all assume you have certain runes and masteries. But I can look up a pro-level jungle Lycan. And while I may fail utterly in the execution, at least that’s my fault, and not some stat deficiency I have to grind my way out of.
Josh: You know what else isn't your fault, T.J.? The fact that Dota 2 didn't bother to tell you that it chose to recreate bugs caused by the original Dota’s RTS engine. Are you familiar with creep stacking, T.J.?
T.J.: Why yes, Josh. Yes I am.
Josh: Then you’re, no doubt, also familiar with the fact that it is absolutely ridiculous to expect players to know that if they pull jungle camps far enough away from their spawn points, the game will create a duplicate camp on top of it. Oh, and that you can only do it at the minute mark because that’s when the map checks most jungle camps, and respawns the ones it thinks are dead. Gameplay is balanced around this opaque, archaic design! That is some of the stupidest, most unintuitive, lazy game design I've ever seen.
T.J.: Josh, do you know what the following things have in common? Potato chips. X-rays. Velcro. Post-it notes. Silly Putty.
Josh: They’re delicious in small doses?
T.J.: Yes. But they’re also inventions that came about by accident, and we kept them around because people like them. Both in a limited culinary sense, and for their original purposes. You can call Dota 2’s mechanics “archaic,” but if they were such a bother, people would have all abandoned the game by now.
Josh: 70 million people have, according to Riot’s last released registration numbers, with 12 million of them playing every day!
T.J.: And “Call Me Maybe” had 367 million views online last year. I never contended that LoL isn't the more accessible, or even more popular game. Consoles also tend to have a higher install base than high-end gaming PCs, typically, and Call of Duty is more popular than Crusader Kings. And yet here we are on PC Gamer, because we love things that aren't the most popular. I’m saying Dota is the superior experience. I could go on and on.
The stronger abilities and items combined with smaller health pools make team fights more interesting. It feels like a high-stakes samurai duel, where one misclick can result in a triple-kill for the enemy team in the space of seconds. I've been in too many mid-game brawls in LoL where a couple people die, and the other eight walk away with lowish health to lick their wounds. That’s just not as exciting.
Josh: Fights are definitely faster in Dota 2. Getting one- or two-shotted isn't uncommon, and that goes back to hero balance: Dota 2 makes everyone overpowered and hopes you pick the right counters for the enemy heroes. It’s a different playstyle.
Unreal Tournament’s fast-paced instagib mode, where everyone wields laser rifles that explode the enemy in one hit, is a ton of fun when we play it casually in the office. But when I want a competitive, team-based experience that relies on working together with other people, I want it to be at a pace where meaningful strategy can be coordinated during the fight. There are still plenty of burst damage moments in LoL—you just have to work a little harder to make them happen.
T.J.: Yeah, that one pretty much comes down to a stylistic preference. I know it sounds silly to try to frame MOBAs in anything resembling reality, but I prefer games where the lethality is a little closer to how an actual such fight would work. Hollywood aside, most sword fights last a couple seconds, then someone gets stabbed. (That’s the only conceivable reason fencing never took off as a spectator sport.) It’s the same argument I make about shooters feeling boring when you can soak up bullets for a half hour.
Josh: I've never actually been gored by a rampaging minotaur, but I do concede that I probably wouldn't last very long.
T.J.: Speaking of rampaging minotaurs, how’s LoL’s solo queue treating you? Now, before we get into this: Both games have a higher than acceptable percentage of bad-mannered, text-based shouting matches. And I admire LoL’s Tribunal system. But the fact is that a game with as many players as LoL has is inevitably going to attract a lot of... less than mature community members. Same thing happens in just about every explosively popular game. WoW, Call of Duty, you name it.
Josh: Yeah, and being free-to-play certainly doesn't help either game. Riot’s done a lot to help improve the community beyond just the Tribunal, but there are still plenty of jerks clogging up the chat channels. There are friendly people in both games, and as long as you queue up with friends, you’ll be okay.
T.J.: Oh, absolutely. Both games are far superior played with a pre-made.
Josh: And my teams learn from watching the best teams, and this is an area I think LoL stands as the uncontested champion.
Josh: ...Right, hero. LoL’s new league hosts 16 pro teams in NA and EU, pays them salaries and has them play weekly matches in a giant stadium in LA. Rivalries are developing, player stories are getting a spotlight, and it’s building a huge community around eSports, which is great for everyone.
It’s exciting to finally have reliable eSports scheduling. I've been watching at least 3 days a week and I can’t get enough. Ive learned a lot from the great commentary and play of the pros, and I've never been more motivated to play LoL.
Best of all, the entire thing is livestreamed in HD for free, while Dota 2 fans are often asked to pay real cash for tournament passes to watch tournaments in the game client. That constant entertainment is reason enough to choose LoL.
T.J.: Technically, StarCraft II has had regular eSports scheduling for years in Korea... but that’s beside the point. (Though I’d gladly argue “StarCraft II is the best eSport ever” any day.)
You’re right, though. I objectively can’t argue that LoL eSports has way more going on, more of an in-person tournament scene (which I think is a far superior format), and more viewership because of it. But part of that is due to Riot not having... really anything else going on. LoL has been out for a while, and their resources are dedicated to it. Valve has a lot more on its plate, including but not limited to a little thing called Steam. And their game isn't even out yet. Give it time.
Josh: That’s a good thing for LoL players—they get their dev team’s full attention all the time. As a gamer with choices, I don’t want excuses, I want the highest quality content as frequently as possible.
T.J.: And I’ll give you that one. In terms of how much eSports goodness you can get, and the regular spectacle of it all, LoL is a more fun scene to follow at the moment. But Dota 2 is like the early days of mixed martial arts, when it was all underground, and only a select, cliquish cadre of fans could see that it was going to be something bigger. It’s a microcosm of eSports itself. And the core part of Dota 2’s scene that really matters—the game—is superior. I think time will vindicate that, like a late-game tower dive on that jerk who’s been ganking you over and over.
Ultimately, I enjoy playing and watching both. The rivalry is almost silly, with how similar they are at the end of the day. I choose Dota if I have to choose, but I don’t see why they can’t coexist.
Josh: Yeah, I think both games are going to thrive and do well—and they should! We don’t have to forsake one for the other, and it’s probably better that we specialize in different games. You carry me in Dota 2, and I’ll get your back in LoL. Teamwork OP!
Follow Josh, T.J., and PC Gamer on Twitter to react to our debates as they happen, and see how the community responded to this one on the next page.
@pcgamer Dota. Hero roles are vastly more flexible and you're less likely to get flamed for "not following the meta". Also no region locks.— Alex (@alexg) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Dota while better from depth standpoint, lacks accessibility. And vice versa. But, I do prefer depth over accessibility.— Ian Nowakowski (@SW4Y1N) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer It always seems to be the first one you play, for me that was Dota— Charlie Webster (@LordWoley) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer LoL. Masteries, Runes, champion buying add character customization, persistence, progress. Way better than DOTA2 visual junk.— Jason (@TeslasButler) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Regardless of any other features included or excluded, DOTA wins by giving level playing field with full hero roster and no runes.— Trevor Christman (@Jaqenn) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Both have too steep a learning curve to put up with their abusive communities.— Ryan Romain (@RyanIsABigNerd) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Hard to say. LoL is easier for newcomers to the genre, Dota2 is hyper professional and balanced better. I say LoL becuase it's fun.— Mike Reilly (@ReilzSH) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer I prefer league, the UI in Dota 2 is horrible and i have no clear idea what's going on with stats or items.— Jonathan Freegrove (@JonathanFreegro) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Dota, because hats, and everyone I know has 12 copies— Arcon (@Arcon_) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Warcraft 3 DotA!— Břetislav Krejčí (@Darth_Dovahkiin) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Really depends on what you're looking for. I prefer LoL because its easier for non-MOBA friends to pick up & understand— DerekDennis/Halfblud (@KCallDay6) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer Whenever I'm feeling masochistic both games have perfect communities to erode my self esteem with verbal abuse!— djbriandamage (@djbriandamage) February 27, 2013
@pcgamer They cater to different overall play styles.Neither is better than the other. They just provide different experiences.— Raymond Harris (@DrD4nger) February 27, 2013
After using a Xen relay to slingshot itself across an interdimensional portal known as "the Internet," Black Mesa and its updates to Half-Life 1 continue to influence satellite mods that restore extended chunks of Gordon Freeman's tale. Next in line for Black-Mesa-fying: the Hazard Course, Gordon's optional and educational pit-stop for teaching movement and shooting basics.
Along with the standard face(granite?)-lift to the Hazard Course's bunker-like training areas and twisting pipes, the mod hopes to add a few new characters and areas for that extra bit of distraction as you eternally run late for that silly test chamber appointment. A notable planned addition is the tram station and the brief meeting with a few scientist overseers from the PlayStation 2 version of the game (here's a video), which is a rare opportunity to see one of the lab's normally stuffy pencil-pushers shirk procedure over a liability contract.
The mod just moved into its alpha stage after its team announced the first connection of all playable areas just yesterday. You can track the mod's progress over at Mod DB, and here's a few more screenshots showing off the completed work so far.
Forget for a moment about debating what happens to horror's impact whenever another player enters the scene. When you open a murkily lit doorway framing a pitch-black hallway seething with malevolent abominations of shadow, you'll want someone close by to cling to...or a giant, stuffed teddy bear. The Black Snow mod for Half-Life 2 is sadly bear-less, but its new co-op mod-in-a-mod revisits the atmospheric creepiness with up to four players and up to four pairs of pants ready for wetting.
Piggybacking (with permission) on the original single-player Black Snow, the co-op mod adds a few necessary communication binds such as a character, radio, and inventory key. You're also equipped with a flashlight, since foraging for items in the dark sort of gets easier when you have a bit more light. That's just me, though.
The objective in Black Snow's co-op stays the same: gather items, solve puzzles, and fight bravely run away from Very Scary Things. As part of a response team sent into the eerily silent Amaluuk Research Station housed within the icy grip of Greenland, you need to figure out what happened, where everyone went, and oh my God what is that thing runrunRUN.
If you're ready, head over to Black Snow co-op's website and give it a download. Be sure to grab your nearest teddy-friend for support.
Worried that the download copies of BioShock Infinite will sell out, when it lands on the 26th of March? You might want to sit and think about that for a moment, or alternatively you could pre-order the game from Steam - you know, before you know whether it's any good or not. Your wallet may or may not thank you in the long run, but at least you'll get a bunch of free stuff, including the spin-off Industrial Revolution puzzle game, some in-game tat, and a copy of the original BioShock. If an unspecified number of other people put their money down as well, you'll also get a copy of XCOM and several TF2 items, but I don't see how anyone would be interested in those.
Those TF2 items you won't be interested in include Vox Diabolus (a "Vox Populi anarchist mask"), The Pounding Father ("Heavy cannot tell lie. Heavy is first President of United States. Of crushing little baby men"), and The Steel Songbird ("Why not treat yourself to the haunting rhythmic symphony of bolts being constantly pooped by this mute, easily terrified incontinent bird?") However, they will only be unlocked if other people pre-order too - the counter is currently at 19%. The reward tier after that doles out a copy of the excellent XCOM.
BioShock Infinite is out in just a few weeks, and Tom was rather impressed with it in his recent hands-on with the game.
This week in eSports: EVE Online gets its first ongoing, competitive league. The IPL could be changing hands. And only the final four remain in the GSL Code S. Get ready to face-check your weekly helping of competitive gaming news. gl hf!
EVE launching Syndicate Competitive League
Organized, competitive spaceship scraps have been around for quite a while in EVE Online. Now, for the first time ever, the Syndicate Competitive League is framing structured PvP in an ongoing format with regular, live streamed tournaments, commentators, and rankings. The prize pool will be drawn from sponsors within the EVE community, such as Monocle Madness and EVE-Bet.
You can check out the official site for more.
IGN ProLeague looking to change hands As part of the restructuring that was announced for IGN and its affiliated sites this week, Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah has announced his intentions to sell off the IPL. He revealed in an e-mail (via Polygon) that Ziff is "actively engaged with parties interested in acquiring IPL. IGN's role going forward will be to broadcast and cover a variety of eSports events."
IPL is a relative newcomer to the eSports scene, having launched in 2011 with a focus on StarCraft II. Their most recent season offered a $100,000 prize pool, with the top spot claimed by Leenock. If you havee a chunk of change sitting around and want to own an eSports league, this kind of opportunity probably isn't going to come around terribly often.
We're not sure how this will affect the IPL Season 6, still tentatively scheduled for March 28-31 in Las Vegas. We'll let you know as soon as we know more.
Blizzard released its final preview video for Heart of the Swarm this week, focusing on eSports-centric features. Resuming games from the exact moment of a hardware failure and fully-customizable observer UIs are sure to change the way we watch StarCraft II over the course of the next year. And it's all coming just in time for some of the most intense events of 2013.
Four players remain in the GSL Code S: Symbol, Curious, TaeJa, and RorO. By this time next week, only two will stand. The most prestigious match in all of competitive StarCraft, the GSL Code S finals, are scheduled for March 9.
Watch it: GomTV
MLG's Winter Championship Showdowns have qualified five more players for the main event in Dallas on March 15: Ret, Creator, Mvp, Seed, and MarineKing. We're more than halfway through the Showdowns series, with the qualification matches of prominent players such as MC, TaeJa, IdrA, and HuK still on the line. MC vs aLive, this Sunday at 2 p.m. PST is a particularly anticipated match.
Watch it: Major League Gaming
In a cosmic twist of fate, Day's recent Funday Monday (focused on Terran drop harassment) featured players "TheButcher" and "DaMilkMan," two current roommates who went to school with yours truly. In Johnson County, Kansas. Where Day also went to school, a couple years earlier and a very short drive away. And here I am writing about it.
He also released a Heart of the Swarm-focused Newbie Tuesday, for those of you looking to jump in/jump back in when the expansion releases in a few short weeks.
In StarCraft, I constantly have this problem where I'm trying to engage something, but I've forgotten the rules for doing so. Axslav has us covered again this week, as usual, with Rules of Engagement. Check out the high-level breakdowns of the ongoing Winter Championship Showdowns. MVP vs Curious is particularly interesting, showing off how a top-tier player uses Reapers in their new (and probably finalized for HotS at ship) role.
League of Legends
Curse is currently leading the LCS Season 3 with an undefeated 6-0 record, followed by Dignitas at 5-2 and TSM Snapdragon at 4-2. You can check out the full match schedule on Riot's eSports Pro Site. Check out some highlights from Week 2 put together by theoveNTV in the video above.
New player looking to get in on the competitive LoL action but aren't sure where to start? Have a look at long-standing community resource site MobaFire. It's continually updated with guides for specific characters that are voted on by the community, and generally does a pretty good job of making sure things relevant to current patches and metagame strats are easy to find.
Eizo, prominent sponsors of DreamHack (possibly Europe's biggest eSports event) have announced a partnership with joinDOTA to bring their Eizo Cup to Valve's MOBA. 16 teams will compete every month for €1,750 in prizes. joinDOTA has announced coverage in English and Czech, with more languages provided by "all other streamers who are interested in broadcasting the matches." The fight begins Monday.
Watch it: Eizo Cup
The list of surviving teams in The Defense 3 is shrinking. Only Dignitas, Virtus Pro, Team Liquid, Mousesports, Evil Geniuses, and Fnatic remain. The next match is Liquid vs Mousesports in the lower bracket, scheduled for Monday.
Watch it: The Defense
Valve has announced the addition of user-submitted Hero Guides to Steam. You'll be able to create, share, and browse strategies for specific heroes right from the Steam client, with more functionality than currently exists with the standard Steam Guides. You can read more in this blog post.
That's it for this week, eSports faithful. Let us know in the comments what you think of this week's stories, if there's anything to add, and what eSports events you're most looking forward to in the coming weeks.
Since their launch last month, Steam's user-guides have provided an invaluable resource for community help. Want to learn how to effectively punch shit in Skyrim? The guides have got you covered. There's some useful stuff in there too. Probably.
What those guides haven't done, until now, is integrate meaningfully with a game. Dota 2 is changing this with Hero Builds, subscribable character guides that you can overlay in your game, for a real-time lesson in the abilities you should pick and the items you should buy. And unlike your team-mates in chat, it won't surround each instruction with frustrated expletives.
A Q&A on the Dota 2 site explains their use. "A Hero Build is a way for players to gain knowledge about a specific hero. Builds provide helpful advice on which abilities to level up and when, and what the best items are for your hero. Builds also contain tooltips on strategies, tactics and any other knowledge the author saw fit to share."
You can create your own Hero Build from the Dota 2 website, or browse and subscribe those made by others. Builds can be overlayed with a new in-game option, fittingly called the "Hero Build Panel". While the scheme's still too early for effective ratings to be established, I'm sure the community will handle the task of judging each submitted Build in a calm and reasonable fashion.
For Rohan! Valve's Left 4 Dead team writes that Left 4 Dead 2 servers now run Team Chivalry and SeriouS Samurai's LOTR-inspired Survival mode map by default for players who subscribe to the map's Workshop entry. It's a celebratory move for a recent dedicated server fix and the ongoing beta for the Extended Mutation System, but c'mon—do you really need a reason to defend a massive stone fortress against waves of Saruman's mightiest undead?
I haven't run for my life in Left 4 Dead 2 in quite a while, but awaiting rescue from Gandalf while possibly yelling "AND MY CHAINSAW" into my microphone sounds like just the kind of fun to hook me back in.
Whenever you download and install a game on Steam, the files rest neatly on your hard drive like a well-pressed stack of laundry for quick access and organization of custom mod files. Some older Source games creak along on an older format from an earlier age in Steam's saga, but in a new FAQ, Valve says it's converting the guts of these games to use the SteamPipe content delivery system for faster load times and an updated file layout.
Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, and Team Fortress 2 will soon traverse over to the steamapps/common section of your Steam folder instead of the older steamapps/ destination. The conversion is automatic: Valve says you'll need enough disk space "for about two full copies of the game" as it changes over.
Modders and mod users have a little bit of extra homework to do to ensure everything works. Custom files will need to be copied manually over to the new directory, and mod authors should start packaging their works as VPK files instead of in a ZIP.
ZIP files still work in a pinch, as Valve describes it:
"For example, if the ZIP contains custom player models that look like (heaven forbid) ponies, and one of the files is materials/models/player/scout/scout_head.vtf, then you might make a dirctory such as tf/addons/i_love_ponies. You should unzip the mod such that the custom scout head texture ends up at tf/addons/i_love_ponies/materials/models/player/scout/scout_head.vtf."
Check out the rest of Valve's FAQ for more detailed info on the changes SteamPipe brings. You can also download and join the ongoing Team Fortress 2 beta to see the updates for yourself.
As I hoped, CS:GO’s appearance on Steam Workshop eased the map drought irking Global Offensive players since launch. About 700 Defusal, Hostage Rescue, Deathmatch, Arms Race, and other maps now populate Steam Workshop, and all are available for easy download (and auto-updating) through Steam. I’ve played a bunch of them with our community over the past week.
All the maps I’m recommending can be played on our official CS:GO server, “The Psychedelic Den of Map Experimentation,” hosted in St. Louis. Thanks to GameServers for being a helpful provider of our community servers. Download everything that our server is running in a single click by subscribing to our CS:GO map collection on Steam Workshop.
I haven’t tried everything the community’s produced, of course, but I’ll continue to update this list as I encounter CS:GO maps worth your time. By all means, recommend maps that I should take a gander at. (de_library, which released on Monday, is at the top of my list.)
de_seaside Compact and straightforward, this is CS:GO’s best custom map. The CTs are steps away from covering both bombsites, so the onus is on the Terrorist team to find creative ways to draw attention, distract, or outright outgun their opponents. I love the waterworn surfaces that cover the dock setting—they remind me of The Parish from Left 4 Dead 2.
Bombsite B itself is a miniature siege—a long wooden bridge (and another that passes underneath it) are the most direct routes for the Terrorists, and any would-be bomb-planters taking this path need to be covered from the dock, where snipers can protect themselves behind large boxes as they line up shots on B. Separating A and B is a hazardous middle lane that represents a high-risk flanking route for both teams.
de_conduit Conduit is conventional and damn good. Like Seaside, its rectangular layout offers a left, right, and sniper-friendly middle lane for both teams. Unlike it, Conduit feels suited (as creator ds- describes) for competitive play.
Bombsite B is a choked concrete room with an aluminum ledge that sits right above the planting point like a hat. Securing B relies on an aggressive push from the Terrorists, encouraging some members of Team T to die for the cause so they can secure a foothold on that side of the map. A is a more open construction yard—a secret tunnel in the middle provides a secondary route to it from the middle of the map. Vibrant colors (yellow paint, neon red and green lights, contrasting light and darkness) give Conduit character against the odds of its industrial setting.
de_cache Cache’s flat, three-lane layout is the handiwork of competitive CS legend Salvatore “Volcano” Garozzo. Its industrial setting borders on boring, but terrific balance compensates. Cache features a middle lane similar to Seaside and Conduit—a coverless no-man’s-land that’s treacherous to cross and can be ignored entirely, but one that opens up flanking routes to both bombsites if you push through.
Bombsite B is overlooked by a nest that CTs have ladder access to, and I love the way fights play out here when Terrorists pop a smoke grenade to make an aggressive entrance into B.
cs_museum Museum is GO’s most gorgeous map. Outside, stone arches overlook a street entrance lined with gardens. Inside, golden light filters through an atrium onto carpeted stairs, a T-rex skeleton, and scaffolding. Creator Shawn “FMPONE” Snelling called upon fellow modders to build custom assets for the map, and the extra help is evident in every corner.
In the nearly 50 rounds I’ve played so far, Museum has favored the Terrorists. Raised windows, scaffolding, and an elevator shaft give the Ts some great vantage points for getting the drop on the CT assaulters who spawn outdoors.
Snelling wrote a terrific explanation of his design decisions on Museum (and the research that informed them) for Mapcore.org.
cs_motel It’s a novelty map, but in lieu of a worthy, ridiculous successor to de_rats (de_rats_ol_shack for CS:GO hasn’t impressed me), Motel has been a huge hit on our server, and our go-to for unserious Counter-Striking. Two floors of cramped bedrooms open out into a parking lot and small swimming pool. Four hostages spawn randomly in the rooms, and most rounds play out like hide-and-seek. The Terrorists have an incentive to camp the rooms that hostages spawn in, but this is mitigated slightly by hostages only appearing on the CTs’ radar. I also like that Motel makes shotguns preferable to rifles and SMGs.
cs_parkhouse_go A port from CS:S, Parkhouse hands the CTs a dozen different sniping options from a rock ledge that hugs one side of the map’s centerpiece, a two-floor modern house moated by a lake. Two pairs of hostages are isolated on a top and bottom floor. With scoped weapons, the CTs have a serious advantage, but there are moments of fun in this asymmetrical siege map that remind me of classics cs_assault and cs_militia.
Against the threat of sniping, turtling is usually the best option for the Terrorists, and things get wonderfully messy when the CTs are forced to take the fight indoors. I wouldn’t call Parkhouse balanced, but I've enjoyed it.