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Valve Complete Pack
When Portal 2 was announced, the news dropped through an elaborate scavenger hunt puzzle that sent thousands of players crawling all over the internet. Years later, we finally get to see some of the work that went into making that alternate reality game, as told by celebrated Half-Life modder (now Valve employee) Adam Foster in a blog post at Gamasutra.
Foster, one of the designers of the ARG puzzle from Valve, describes the elaborate trail of puzzles that the Portal-playing community was able to decipher. It began with a seemingly mundane game update for Portal 1: “changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations.” That update changed the radios found throughout Portal into Morse Code-dispensers. The code was deciphered into slow-scan television images. Somehow—my knowledge of information theory and cryptography ran dry a paragraph ago—these images were combined into an elaborate code, which was then hacked. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us.
The result? A phone number to an ancient modem in Foster’s kitchen that slowly drip-fed Portal 2 concept art to announce the game to the world. The ARG team at Valve did a fun thing with no budget, and it caught the attention of the world’s games media. It was also an intricately designed puzzle that, despite a few false positives, played out exactly as Valve designed. As Foster writes, “Estimated time to 'solve' the initial puzzles: seven hours. Actual time to solve: seven hours and sixteen minutes. This wasn't an accident.”
We are all just puppets dancing on Gabe Newell’s strings, aren't we? Check out the full blog post from Foster for a lot of fascinating details about ARGs and the devious geniuses at Valve.
There will be Negevs.
We recently set up a ridiculous number of servers for the latest and greatest games—plus a few classics. To celebrate, we want you to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with us tonight!
The festivities will kick off on our new Arms Race server that features some of the coolest Arms Race-compatible maps on the Steam Workshop.
We’ve also got plans for Community Fridays that’ll take place every single Friday here at PC Gamer. The game will change each week, but the time will always stay the same—5 PM PDT / 8 PM EDT.
How to join
Join the PC Gamer Steam Group to be notified of events
Subscribe to our CS:GO Steam Workshop Classic map collection and Arms Race map collection (this will auto-download and auto-update the maps we run on our server through Steam—MAXIMUM CONVENIENCE!)
Join the server (“PCGamer.com | Custom Map Arms Race IP: 126.96.36.199:27015) around 5 PM PDT / 8 PM EDT
Have fun; be the kind of person you’d like to play games with
Thanks to GameServers for hosting all of our amazing servers. Think we’re missing an amazing map, mod, or config? Shoot an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re not a fan of CS:GO, jump into some of our other game servers or join us this Friday for the first ever Community Friday.
Here at PC Gamer we like to play PC games. Sometimes, we even like to play them with other people. That’s why we’ve got a huge lineup of game servers hosted by GameServers.com. Feel free to hop on whenever, or join us on Community Friday or during our other random events.
CS:GO Arms Race
The in-game matchmaking system only lets 10 players duke it out in Arms Race. Our server has room for 24 players with the latest and greatest custom Arms Race-compatible maps from the Steam Workshop.
CS:GO Classic Casual
Our very first community events took place on the server we like to call: The Psychedelic Den of Map Experimentation. Try out some of the best maps available on the Steam workshop in our 24-player, 128 tick server.
Join the Axis or Allies as we battle it out on PCG’s Rising Storm server. Territories mode is the name of the game with our soon-to-be ranked server.
Part of the public hive, our DayZ server is a great place for you to scavenge for loot, meet new friends, or hunt down some bandit scum.
A 32-player Minecraft server with the Tekkit Classic mod installed. Download the Tekkit client before jumping on to play!
Team Fortress 2
Show off your hats and other accessories on the PCG TF2 server. We’re running the official maplist with support for 24 players.
Left 4 Dead 2
If you’re looking for a reliable dedicated server for your co-op zombie escapades, look no further than the PCG 8-man Left 4 Dead 2 server. Pick your favorite flavor of L4D2 and murder some zombies.
Unreal Tournament 2004
A staple of the PCG offices, now you too can join in on the fun with our 32-player UT2K4 server.
If it wasn’t already clear, PCG loves mods. In fact, we love them so much that we’ve set up a 16 player GoldenEye: Source server for you guys to play on.
Natural Selection 2
For whatever reason there’s a 10-slot maximum on our Natural Selection 2 server. We like to think that this encourages teamwork.
Another co-op zombie classic, jump into our 6-player Killing Floor server to play with other PCG community members.
If you’ve got server requests, plugins, mods, or other suggestions, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are we finally going to be able to play Half-Life 3? While Valve isn't exactly holding press conferences or sending marching bands through the streets yet, a recent slip in its system supposedly exposed the details of every project it's ever worked on—including the long-fabled conclusion to one of gaming's best series, as well as Left 4 Dead 3 and Source Engine 2.
The tip-off comes to PC Gamer via ValveTime, who recently received alleged screenshots of Valve's internal project-tracking software (Jira) during a momentary lapse in which is the system was made public (it has, of course, since been locked up tight again). The images show a 42-employee mailing group for a project entitled "Half-Life 3," as well as a mailing group for "Left 4 Dead 3" with 68 recipients.
Meanwhile, the development of Source 2 appears to be plugging along nicely, with the numerous groups devoted to the project hinting it's in full swing. Other project listings include familiar names such as "Return to Ravenholm," "Steam Box," and "Episode 3," as well as the more mysterious "F-Stop" and "SteamMMO."
One of the screenshots sent to ValveTime.
Before we start waving about banners emblazoned with Gordon Freeman's handsome face, we have to keep in mind that this info dump is in no way an official confirmation of anything. Firstly, these screenshots come from an anonymous source and cannot be verified. Secondly, Jira catalogs everything that has ever been worked on within Valve's walls, regardless of development stage, and some of the listed titles may very well have been canceled years ago.
ValveTime hypothesizes that games further in their development cycle have multiple mailing lists, as Left 4 Dead 3 does—suggesting that it is in active development. This is in contrast to Half-Life 3's single group, which suggests that its development is either inactive or in the very beginning stages.
We'll be keeping our ears perked for further details. In the meantime, let's pray that a tiny Half-Life 3 embryo is kicking about somewhere in the Valve HQ, preparing to grow into something grand.
Jun 17, 2013
eSports network StarLadder TV has dropped the banhammer on Aleksey "Solo" Berezin and four of his teammates on Dota 2 team RoX.KIS. StarLadder TV claims RoX.KIS purposefully fed during a Star Series match to win a $100 bet placed on eSports betting site egamingbets.com.
Berezin has been permanently banned from all StarLadder competition while his teammates have received three-year bans. Team RoX.KIS has been banned for one year.
StarLadder TV got in touch with egamingbets.com to find proof of the $100 bet as well as the cash withdrawal into Berezin's account. StarLadder has a full post up on its site along with screenshots of the transactions, although it's all in Russian.
RoX.KIS maintains that the team is innocent, going so far as to say that the bet came from an unknown account with an IP that doesn’t match Berezin’s IP. “We think that the evidence base is very uncertain in this case. We've been able to insist on more thorough investigation of the incident and we believe in the innocence of our players and staff, and inadequate solution on the case,” said in a statement that was translated.
From where I'm sitting, it's suspicious that the $322 winnings were deposited into Berezin’s WebMoney account, even if the bet wasn’t placed with his usual IP. Addressing the alleged feeding, RoX.KIS says that the “match was just a formality,” because the team couldn’t have made it to the LAN finals.
After an even early game, the match seems to edge into zRage’s favor around 16 minutes into the VOD of the full match. To my inexperienced eye, the game doesn’t seem like an explicit attempt to throw—aside from a few bad plays. If anything, the fact that a loss for zRage would have meant relegation is just one more reason that zRage would try hard to win.
If the situation wasn’t confusing enough, fans betting branches in the GosuGamers.net non-money betting system clearly favored RoX.KIS with 84 percent of branches wagered on RoX.KIS’ victory.
Despite the strides that Valve is making in reforming the Dota 2 community, it seems that the eSports scene still has a bit of a ways to go. The strict response from StarLadder TV is the bright spot in a situation that doesn’t really benefit anyone.
Jun 17, 2013
Dota 2's Windrunner leads the charge on our cover this month in PC Gamer UK issue 254. We visited Bellevue to get inside development at Valve HQ as the Dota community prepares for The International tournament and Dota 2's long-awaited launch. Dota can be baffling to the uninitiated, but with a bit of knowledge anyone can enjoy the spectacle, chaos and depth of competitive play. That's why, in addition to our six page preview, we've created a six page guide to watching Dota 2 that will help demystify this fast-moving and famously complex esport.
But that's not all, of course. We've also taken an early look at The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, revisited some of the great old sim games kept alive by their amazing communities and put to paper Rich and Graham's two-year 300+ game Fifa rivalry. That's as well as our normal brace of previews, reviews and more. The issue is available now via the App Store, Google Play or Zinio. If you prefer the weight of a glossy tome in your hands, you can subscribe to get each issue delivered to your door. Read on to find out what else lies within.
In this month's issue...
We pay a visit to Valve for an inside look at the creation of Dota 2.
Breaking Down Dota 2: your guide to deciphering and enjoying the beautiful, complex chaos of a competitive match.
Craig Owens dons his finest hat to preview The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.
We take an early peek at the fascinating indie sci-fi god game, Maia, promising kickstarted RPG, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Paradox grand strategy, Europa Universalis IV, ex-Homeworld developers' new RTS, Hardware: Shipbreakers and goon-punching simulator Batman: Arkham Origins.
Rich and Graham document the highs, lows of their intense, life-changing two year rivalry in Fifa 13 in the PC Gamer Champions League.
The Sim Imortals: we pay tribute the classic sims that, thanks to mods and dedicated fan communities, are still going today.
We review Remember Me, Zeno Clash 2, Dead Island: Riptide, Fez, Slender: the Arrival, Kairo, Tectical Intervention, Leviathan Warships, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Star Trek and publish our first alpha review of Prison Architect.
We evaluate the best SLI graphics cards set-ups in this month's hardware supertest.
Rich's story of survival against the odds continues in part five of our Game of Thrones Crusader Kings 2 diary.
Chris skis back into Tribes: Ascend to see what's new in this month's Update.
We re-install Doom Engine RPG/shooter Strife.
Tony returns to Amnesia and Tom drifts through Eve Online in Now Playing.
And lots more!
Jun 17, 2013
Valve's DotA sequel will ditch its closed beta status and become 'free for everyone' later this summer, Erik Johnson told me during a visit to the developer earlier this year. We mentioned Valve's comments on the Dota 2 release date in PC Gamer issue 254, and community-run Valve news site ValveTime have since confirmed the release window via an e-mail exchange with Valve.
Dota 2 is currently available via an early access purchase or - more likely - through one of the dozens of beta keys sitting in everyone's Steam Inventories. As such, full release might not seem like a big deal - but chances are this means a huge upsurge in interest. The game will open up prior to The International in August, the biggest tournament in the Dota calendar and a huge draw in and of itself. Dota 2 became the most-played game on Steam with hardly any marketing: with a multi-million dollar tournament and the publicity of full release behind it, the Dota population could be set to explode.
From my conversations at Valve I believe that the game's release will coincide with the launch of the next two heroes - Abaddon and Legion Commander, probably in that order. This may seem to clash with Valve's original assertion that the game would be released when it'd reached full parity with DotA 1, but it's not far off - there's only half a dozen heroes to go.
Valve have been inflating the prize pool for The International via the Compendium, an interactive book that acts as a reference document and theorycrafting minigame for the tournament. New rewards unlock as more Compendiums are bought, and the ultimate goal - still a way off, at the time of writing - is to give the community the ability to pick Dota 2's next hero. With the release window in mind, assume that this vote would take place during or after The International, and therefore that the pool of unreleased characters won't include Abaddon or Legion Commander. In other words, get ready for a lot of people to mash the 'Techies' button until their fingers bleed.
Jun 13, 2013
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is quickly becoming the go-to source for round-based shooting action—replacing both Source and 1.6. This might be because of the growing tournament scene associated with CS:GO, but it could also be because of the ample developer support.
The latest patch for the game has brought de_mirage into the map pool, added an “sv_grenade_trajectory” console command and fiddled with Overwatch and the UI. Operation Payback Passes are also on sale for $0.99 until Monday.
Like the other classic maps that have been added to CS:GO, de_mirage is coming back to the game with a few changes. Valve explains the overarching vision was "to improve the readability and graphics of Mirage without losing any of the gameplay, jumps, corners, timings and balance that has made it so incredibly playable for three generations of Counter-Strike players."
Valve has also added visual arcs for grenade throws that are only available in servers that have cheats enabled. Put “sv_grenade_trajectory 1” into the console on a server that has “sv_cheat 1” enabled and you’ll see indicators that should help you learn to bank grenades for maximum effect.
One particularly noteworthy change is the restoration of the “retry” console command. I've personally felt the pain of not having an easy way to reconnect to a server that you've just disconnected from. Typing “retry” into the console will zap you back into the last server that you were connected to and has been a staple of both Source and 1.6.
The full patch notes are below.
Added console command to help players plan strategic grenades. Set sv_grenade_trajectory 1 (cheat convar) to see a visual arc in-game.
Overwatch Investigators are now required to submit more detailed verdict reports after reviewing evidence.
Fixed interpolation issues during GOTV and Overwatch demo playback which caused the weapon of a shooting player to visually appear several ticks behind the moment a victim was hit.
Overwatch FAQ updated. http://blog.counter-strike.net/index.php/overwatch/
Operation Payback Pass on sale for $0.99 until Monday 6/17.
Added links to top streams on the main menu.
Added an audio option to reduce game music volume when Steam Overlay is activated.
Restored the "retry" console command.
Players can only submit griefing reports for teammates.
Jun 12, 2013
The press conferences that precede E3 set the tone for the event, they determine the conversations and questions that follow. With no single unifying organisation to set up such an event, it's one of those rare occasions when the open nature of the PC can prove a detriment. The consoles have had their say, now we can't help but wonder what a similar a show for the PC would look like. Who would take the stage? What would they show? What song-and-dance numbers would we get?
Take your seat, make yourself comfortable and put those Doritos away as we welcome you to this year's purely hypothetical show, the E3 2013 conference that PC gamers deserve.
Introducing - our host! A lone spotlight picks out a trundling figure on a wide, dark stage. It grinds noisily to a halt to rapturous applause and spreads its tiny plastic arms wide. "GREETINGS. I am Medianbot," it drones, bionic monotone dripping with the collective charisma of a platoon of Microsoft presenters. "I have been selected by a vast conglomerate of PC developers as a completely impartial neutral representative for this event. My collective masters to remind you that not one of them owns the platform. We are multitude. We make things we think you might like, and we'd like to show some of those to you this evening. Enjoy."
The auditorium goes dark. A Roman appears on a huge main screen, charging up a beach as flaming rocks soar overhead. XBox One conference attendees sigh, for a moment they think it's the new Roman hack-'em-up, Ryse.
It isn't. The camera's pulling out. There are dozens of Romans. Hundreds. Thousands charging battlements under a a storm of arrows. A mouse cursor appears and it's controlling every last one of them. It's Rome 2. The Creative Assembly are on stage. They talk about diplomacy, subterfuge, politics and war on a huge scale. They talk about players crafting their own stories on the stage of history. They explain that there's no grunting and quick time events. This is a game for grown-ups.
It's Blizzard's turn. Dustin Browder takes to the stage and introduces a trailer for Legacy for the Void, but when the lights come back up, two booths have appeared on stage. In one, Flash, in the other, Life - veteran StarCraft and StarCraft 2 esports players. Browder explains talks about the PC not just as a platform for space adventure, but as a field for sport. He introduces top shoutcasters Tasteless and Artosis as our commentators, and the contestants go to war. There's no awkward, staged banter, only two athletes, laser focused on their screens.
In the coming ten minutes both players demonstrate the agility and quick-thinking that makes them masters of their game. The retiring "GG" is met by a resounding cheer.
A tough act to follow? Perhaps not, when you have a huge open world RPG to show off. CD Projekt RED take the mic. They talk about Geralt's final adventure, they show us the cities and forests we'll be able to explore in The Witcher 3. We've had competition, we've had huge strategy, now we're getting a huge explorable RPG. The showing of their debut trailer sends a ripple of excitement through the crowd.
But CD Projekt RED change tack. New zones, monsters and characters start appearing on the conference screens. They're not officially part of The Witcher 2, or The Witcher 3, it's a modding showcase. It's not about picking out individual examples, it's a catalogue of creations only possible on PC - whole new free campaigns, weapons and options, and the power to reshape entire worlds. Another video plays. Geralt walks into the swampy town of Flotsam - familiar to players of The Witcher 2 - only instead the tyranny of a malicious local thug, the Witcher finds that the town is under attack from a twenty foot tall fire-breathing horse. Modding at its finest.
Medianbot rolls back onstage to thunderous applause. "Greetings and thank you revellers. The soundwaves generated by your slapping meat-paws sustains me. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the angry man with two swords doing things, but not less or much more than any prior or following presentation, for this is about mathematically identical representation for all aspects of the platform. Farewell."
ANGRY MACHINE NOISE. STROBE LIGHTING. It's DICE. It's Battlefield 4. It's running on PC live. It's big. It's loud. It's full of guns. Now, a while tundra - the THUMP of an AT-AT's boot crunching into the snow. It's Star Wars: Battlefront. Then it's Respawn's mech-blasty game, Titanfall. It's loud and angry, polished and beautiful, because the PC can do all of that too, but faster, and prettier.
Another changeover. A video. A montage, devoted to the low-budget, innovative games that wouldn't normally get their time in the limelight. We see interactive fiction games, Dwarf Fortress, Princess Maker, Kentucky Route Zero, Receiver. As if in a frenzied music video, bouncing between everything from Transistor to Minecraft to Project Zomboid to Frozen Synapse in quick but stunningly done style and backed by anything except bloody dubstep. Anything but that.
The lights come up again, and the stage is full of figures playing games on big screens. It looks like the indie showcase that the PS4 put on, but it's vast. Dozens and dozens of developers are playing their games on tiers and tiers of screens. Look - three tiers up on the left - Koakim "Konjak" Sandberg is playing the latest build of Iconoclasts. Hey, down there on the right - Introversion are quelling a riot in Prison Architect. Over there, Mitu Khandaker is climbing a starship's social ladder in Redshirt. Here, in the front row, the Fullbright developers are showing Gone Home. The message here is simple. Yes, you can play some fun games on console. On PC though, you get a whole world of gaming that no one company controls. And it's brimming with honest-to-god new ideas.
But it's not just about the games. The Oculus Rift developers take to the stage arm and arm with the Omni Treadmill creators. They talk about how hardware is advancing all the time, how static systems will inevitably fade in the face of new hardware from the big PC manufacturers. They mention that the consoles are still talking in familiar terms, about streaming via Twitch, about a camera that watches and listens to you, as though such concepts haven't existed on the PC for years already. The PC is a tool, they say, not a living room lifestyle choice. It does what you tell it, and it can show you the future.
Then up on stage, we get the Oculus Rift team to show off their latest prototype, along with the Omni Treadmill and the Epoc mind-reading headset. In front of a gasping audience, we see - live - someone step into Skyrim and kill a mud crab with his mind.
A cheerful Belarusian fellow walks out now. Who is he? It's hard to tell, but it's clear before he's even said anything that he loves tanks, because he's wearing a T-shirt that says "I <3 TANKS." Aha! it's Wargamng CEO Victor Kislyi, and he's here to talk about World of Tanks, kicking off a section about all the games you can play on the PC right now for no money. Quality games like League of Legends, Tribes Ascend, Team Fortress 2. Games that demonstrate that, while the initial cost of the PC may be expensive, a single buy opens up a world of free entertainment. Oh, and it does Netflix. AND you don't need to pay a monthly subscription to go online and try your free games out.
It's been a few hours. But who walks out now, at the end of it all? Is it Newell, talking about Dota 2, Team Fortress 2, how Valve think player-created content that adds value to their games should be rewarded monetarily? Is it CCP CEO Hilmar, talking about player run economies, betrayal and intrigue in Eve Online? Is it Bioware, talking about how they plan to tell stories on the PC we've never seen before? Is it SOE, talking about how they managed to get hundreds of players to fight a galactic war on a single battlefield in Planetside 2? Is it Arenanet, talking about dynamic MMO battlegrounds in Guild Wars 2? The question is posed to Medianbot. Its chrome head explodes.
It should be all of them. Perhaps PC gaming is just too big for one conference. Too varied, too niche, too wonderfully weird to play the same PR game as the platform holders.
Oh, what the hell. Let's go with Gabe.
Microsoft has demoed the Xbox One. Sony has shown off the Playstation 4. Then, in an equally big hall, the lights go down, Gabe Newell steps onto the stage. He says nothing. He just coughs. He points at the screen. A Half-Life 3 logo appears. The crowd goes wild. He walks off, still silent.
Then a minute later, he casually pokes his head back round the curtain. "Wait, did I forget to mention it's free and available on Steam right now?" he asks. "Sorry it took so long. Also, you can trade Steam games now. Don't mind that noise, it's just a pig taking off. Ah, one second. Someone needs to Heimlich Steve Ballmer's tongue out of his throat."
But before he can leave, a single voice cries from the audience. "Why, oh Gaben? Why?"
And the man pauses, the sound of choking from somewhere off stage echoing slightly. Slowly, he pulls on a pair of sunglasses. Half-turns. Smiles. Replies, quite simply, "Because we can."
For the latest from E3, check out our complete coverage and our pick of the best games of E3 2013 so far.
Remember Team Fortress 2's Robotic Boogaloo? You have a terrible memory - it was less than a month ago. Well, it was a pretty memorable update nonetheless, comprising 57 entirely new items created by the community, accessible from locked RoboCrates. Now, Valve bring word that the pack has raised nearly $250,000 for the sixty-odd creators responsible - but that's just a fraction of the overall amount. The TF2 Workshop's 400-plus contributors and 'partners' have collectively raised over $10 million since the thing opened in 2011, which I'm told by my robot butler is a lot of money.
You've probably just quit your job after reading that last sentence, so you'll be pleased to hear that Valve have done some work to make the submission process easier. As that blog post explains, "the tool now automatically tests new creations against a set of standards, meaning anything you create is now significantly more likely to be game-ready." Pass these tests, and you'll even get a gold star for your trouble. Valve's next TF2 content update will consist entirely of gold star items, by the way, and there will be "no limit on how many we'll include".
In related news, a recent TF2 update allowed players to trade the extremely rare Unusual hats. As you might imagine, they're going for silly money.