PC Gamer

Today, remakes, reboots and remasters are à la mode, however there's something to be said about the process in reverse. Vince Weaver, an assistant professor at the University of Main's Electrical and Computing Engineering department understands this, which is why he's recreated Valve's 2007 puzzle platformer Portal using Applesoft BASIC for the Apple II. 

In crude 8-bit visuals, Weaver reimagines protagonist Chell, sentient robot antagonist GlaDOS, and the game's signature orange and blue portal mechanics with aplomb—and he's even managed to capture the game's underlying tongue-in-cheek humour. The video below runs for close to eight minutes, however is at its best when Weaver gets to the final showdown around the 2.55 mark (if you're yet to play Portal, the following borders spoiler territory). 

Once the battle with GlaDOS runs its course, Jonathan Coulton's end credits song Still Alive plays and sounds pretty fantastic in chiptune style. We may not be getting Half-Life 3 anytime soon, nor HL2: Episode 3, and the same might be the case for Portal 3. If so, this might have to do us—head to Weaver's site to give it a bash via the downloadable emulator there, or this in-browser emulator

Thanks, Gizmodo

PC Gamer

You can still play the original Counter-Strike on Steam, of course, but perhaps you want to play it with the greater graphical fidelity and technological advances of the more up-to-date CS:GO? If the thought appeals, know that you'll soon be able to mash together both games, via the recently announced Classic Offensive mod for GO. On Steam Greenlight now, Classic Offensive (formerly known as CS: Classic Offensive, until Valve had a word) aims to replicate the experience of Counter-Strike version 1.6 in CS:GO, effectively uniting these disparate worlds in a way that should probably incite angels to sing overhead.

The creators don't want to be VAC Banned, so they say they're unable to replicate the more mechanical parts of 1.6 in GO—however, you'll still be able to play using the classic map layouts, using a "more simplistic" art style, and without the guns introduced in GO. (Less sweeping changes including scope and price tweaks will be present as well.)

It's a nostalgia mod rather than a slavish recreation of 1.6, and if that sounds like something you'd be interested in, best keep an eye on its Greenlight page for future developments. Or, if you want to play it now, you can grab the beta version of Classic Offensive here.

Ta, PCGamesN.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder/ESL. ChuaN is one of the most experienced figures in the Dota 2 scene.

With the announcement of the 2017 edition of the Dota 2 Asia Championships in Spring, it’s a make-or-break period for Chinese teams. After invites were handed out, a curious squad was announced by a famous team. Newbee.Boss, a revamp of a pre-existing B-team, includes a mix of three established players, ChuaN, Ferrari_430, Xiao8, and 'newcomers' axx and Zei9.

To the confusion of those who are unfamiliar with the fresh faces, the team has been called a 'troll' team, not to be taken seriously in the long run. Meanwhile, the Newbee Weibo playfully stated: “Yes, they are serious~”.

So what’s really going on? According to fans aware of the Chinese scene, the indicator of whether or not the team is legitimate is “the boss” Zei9, who is reportedly… well, literally their boss. 

One of the owners of Newbee is playing on the squad using that handle, according to reliable sources. He apparently isn’t too bad, as he’s reportedly in the 6k MMR range and trains regularly under ex-competitive player SanSheng. According to a Reddit comment by a user who has translated Chinese Dota 2 content previously, “People used to jokingly say the most hard working Newbee player is Zei9.” Past images have shown the CEO in the 5k MMR range (circa TI5) and some fans on social media claim they have seen this player in action on ChuaN’s stream.

She ranks in at an incredible 7100 MMR, and her tournament match win rate, according to DotaBuff, is an impressive 55%

Meanwhile, new recruit axx has the Dota 2 community talking up a storm. After all, she is the most recent woman player to be given a shot at making it to a large-scale LAN—and it’s no token appearance, if her stats tell the story. She ranks in at an incredible 7100 MMR, and her tournament match win rate, according to DotaBuff, is an impressive 55% in 539 recorded games (with an even more astounding 65% pub rate). Axx plays a magical Invoker, about 75% of 33 games, and has a strong record on other carry heroes including Alchemist, Shadow Fiend, and Slardar. Having played in leagues with other major names such as fy and old chicken, the popular streamer and in-house player could be an essential core for the new team and a strong new presence in both the Chinese scene and abroad. 

Even with the lack of competitive experience of the two new players, the notable veterans in the squad are a force to be reckoned with. Those who are familiar with the Dota 2 scene will recognise all three of them as International winners.The Malaysian support ChuaN is a mainstay in the professional Dota 2 scene. As a part of Invictus Gaming, he won The International 2012, which started the West-to-East back-and-forth pattern seen in the annual Valve tournament. Since then he's had a rollercoaster ride in regards to his Dota 2 success, as other International victors have historically suffered. In late 2015, he left IG and joined Newbee instead, though he worked through similar ups-and-downs under this banner. He was last seen on the big stage at TI6 in August, where Newbee took the 9th-12th place slot; after this low placement, the took an indefinite hiatus from competitive play.

Newbee's championship team at The International 2014.

ChuaN’s ex-teammate and fellow TI2 winner Ferrari_430 has been hidden from the scene for a bit longer than ChuaN. According to his official DotaBuff record, the mid player’s last premier game with his former squad IG took place seven months ago as part of the TI6 China qualifiers. Since then, like many other high-rank players in China, he has been engaged in in-house leagues until his re-emergence into this new squad.

The team’s third International champion and captain Xiao8 won in 2014 as part of the core team of Newbee. Don’t be fooled by the relatively late win, though—the player has been around since 2010, notably in the first TI with IG in 2011 and with LGD in 2012, taking third place after being knocked out by some of his current teammates. In fact, he is one of the few players remaining who has made an appearance at the main event of every iteration of The International (Every. Single. One.), regardless of team affiliation. Most recently, he qualified for Boston as part of LFY (LGD.Forever.Young), but the team fell to eventual second place winners Ad Finem. 

He supposedly 'retired' after Boston for at least six months, though given Dota 2’s history of 'retiring' players, the meaning of this word may need to be reevaluated. Technically, this was his second 'retirement', as he did so after TI4 and returned in a serious manner not too long after. Still, it could contribute to why the team is not taken seriously.

So now that we can understand who all of these players are, we can start asking—what’s the deal with Newbee.Boss? Most likely, the speculation of the community is correct: this could be a 'just for fun' team, albeit with eyes on the main stage of DAC alongside the main Newbee squad. Between xiao8’s re-rise from retirement and the CEO of the company joining in, fans have found little reason to treat the squad like their A-team counterparts. Even with axx’s skill, some believe that she’s on the team just for kicks due to her streaming background.

Newbee.Boss looked strong in their first matches against Calvary and Rush.B

To be clear, this fan-pleasing combination of well-known players with personalities isn’t unfamiliar in Dota 2. In the Western scene, NA’s Vegetable Esports Club is a ragtag team of rogue pros and English casters that fights through qualifiers for several tournaments. It’s a worthy effort, as VEC only lost in the Boston Major NA open qualifiers to ProDota, the cross-server EU team that eventually fell in the main qualifiers. Given Dota 2's frequent use of open qualifiers, squads of free agents pop up often with varying degrees of success. Most recently, Evil Geniuses CEO and ex-captain PPD formed his own squad with several other pros for the Kiev Major qualifiers.

While Newbee.Boss may just be a fun dream team to play on for Newbee's boss, it’s certainly not an unworthy squad. During the Dota 2 Asia Championship 'pre-qualifier' for an abandoned qualifier spot, Newbee.Boss looked strong in their first matches against Calvary and Rush.B, displaying a strong sense of team cohesion, Newbee.Boss cleanly took two games straight per match. In fact, zei9 performed skillfully among the chorus of pros. The team must now fight through main qualifiers, full of powerhouse teams such as EHOME, LFY, and IG, but this means that they have a very real shot at making it to the main event.

Newbee.Boss is a strange mix of long-time legends and complete unknowns. After all, “three Chinese legends, a strong female player, and their boss make a gaming squad” sounds like the start of a cheesy joke (or a Hollywood movie). Even so, while some of the former TI champions have come in and out of relevance, this formation could let axx break out into the international scene—and give Newbee's boss a taste of the glory that he's helped others achieve.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: World Electronic Sports Games

This weekend, all eyes will be on China as the World Electronic Sports Games opens its doors. There’s plenty to watch, from top-tier Dota 2 to the League of Legends EU Challenger Series. We even have some top quality action from one of Hearthstone’s highest ranked players. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

Dota 2: World Electronic Sports Games

The World Electronic Sports Games event kicked off yesterday at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center, China. The LAN finals event is the last part in the race for the whopping $1.5 million prize pool. A total of 24 teams have managed to secure their place in the final stage after nearly five months of gruelling regional qualifiers. However, it’s not all about the money as the tournament marks a historic moment in the Dota 2 competitive circuit. The WESG is currently the only event to offer over a million USD prize pool to teams formed exclusively from five players of the same nation. The full weekend schedule can be found here, while the event can watched over on Twitch.

StarCraft II: World Electronic Sports Games

StarCraft II also has a fairly hefty prize pool up for grabs in China this week. The WESG will be giving out $402,000 in StarCraft prizes, which is considerably less than some of the others games, but it’s still a substantial sum. The quarterfinals start today at 22:00 PST / 07:00 CET, while the semifinals begin tomorrow at 19:00 PST / 04:00 CET. You can watch all the action over on Twitch.

CS:GO: World Electronic Sports Games

CS:GO also kicked off its group stage last night and will resume today. The quarterfinals start tomorrow, while the semi-finals and the grand final will be taking place on the same day, January 15th. There has already be an unexpected surprise as the Swedish CS:GO team GODSENT will no longer be attending the WESG grand final. GODSENT were set to compete against teams such as Signature, Team Kinguin, Space Soldiers, Bravado Gaming, and FIVE eSports Club before they bowed out. The full weekend schedule can be found here, while the event can watched over on Twitch.

Hearthstone: World Electronic Sports Games

Counter Logic Gaming is set to be the favourite for this year’s title, as North American esports organisation welcomed Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert to their roster on Tuesday. His most difficult opponent will likely be fellow European player Liam “Lbdutchboy” Brouwer from the Netherlands.  Xixo was the highest ranked Hearthstone player on the GosuGamers ladder last year, as he won the StarSeries Season 2 and defeated Jon “Orange” Westberg in the European WESG qualifiers. Make sure to check the WESG Facebook page to find the latest schedule times and streams.

League of Legends: EU Challenger Series qualifiers

League of Legends fans can tune into the European Challenger Series qualifiers today as the 12 teams from France, Spain, Germany and the UK as well as Fnatic Academy, will battle out for the final two spots in the EU Challenger Series 2017 Spring Split. The finals will be best-of-five series, with the winner of each advancing to the EU CS Spring Split. Games will be played on patch 6.24 and the tournament will be played under the old six-ban rules rather than the new 10-ban ones. Play kicks off today at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET, while the playoffs start at the same time on Sunday. The event can be watched over on LoL Esports

PC Gamer

"There’s something with that third episode that isn’t sitting right with Gabe and other people at Valve," an anonymous alleged Valve insider claims. "Ultimately it just starves to death."

The above is but a snippet of a thorough and intriguing interview published by Game Informer's Andrew Reiner, conducted with an unverified source at Valve (Reiner, while cautious of publishing the interview without verification, does however trust his source) who suggests Half-Life 3 has never existed, no matter how much fans of the series may wish otherwise. 

The source even suggests the elusive and much-anticipated third series instalment could have been a live-action choice-driven game or an RTS, had certain Valve employees seen their iterative ideas through to completion. The source chalks this up to the developer's fluid structure and in-house culture—something which has seen several developers working on projects they hoped would go onto become the next Half-Life, however without support from the powers that be, not least Gabe Newell, failed to get off the ground. 

Assuming the source is credible, Reiner's interview is absolutely worth reading in its entirety. Below is how the source responds to direct questions about the prospect of Half-Life 3, and the possibility of concluding Half-Life 2.

"I don’t think there will be any more. But at any given moment, they make decisions as they come. If some people within Valve make something that they collectively feel is exciting, then it will happen. That’s going to be hard for that to happen now," says Reiner's source. "Every time a Half-Life project gets some gravity and then collapses, it becomes harder for the next one to start up. Because the business changes so much, and there are so many other things to do, it just gets harder and harder. It’s one of those things they’ll always have to accept. 

"People are going to harass them for more Half-Life. The idea of delivering a third episode of Half-Life 2, that’s dead. There’s no universe where that will happen. I think there is a universe where a standalone thing could come together to fill in that hole, but that’s tough."

Speaking to this point, Reiner questions why Valve doesn't hand development over to a third party, to which the source suggests doing so risks either upsetting fans by way of neglecting players, or by ultimately releasing a lesser game. Reiner counters by suggesting  Valve will forever continue to be harassed for more Half-Life by adopting this approach. 

"That’s why they won’t talk about it anymore," the source responds. "Every time they talk about it, the hunger comes back. That’s why they ignore it. The pain subsides with time."

Again, Reiner's interview is worth reading as a whole as, again assuming it's legitimate, it offers some valuable insight into how Valve works, and perhaps presents an argument why we might be best putting Half-Life 3—as an idea and/or possibility to bed. 

If you think that's giving up too easy, then you should definitely check out our Half-Life 3 unconfirmed collection which gathers every rumor, hoax, and leak which has surfaced since the conclusion of HL2.

Thanks, PCGamesN.

PC Gamer

It's easy to take the little things for granted when gaming like, you know, having two hands. That's what Jason, better known online as 'OneHandFPS,' discovered when a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed in his left hand. In an instant, the WASD setup that we all use, along with dozens of other things, became impossible for him. But, amazingly, that hasn't come between Jason and his love of gaming. I would know. I challenged him to a duel in CS:GO and he kicked my ass with what might as well have been one hand tied behind his back.

Though his accident was only eight months ago, Jason streams his attempts to get back into gaming on Twitch. Unable to play by traditional means, he uses a Razer Naga MMO mouse—the one with 12 buttons on the side—to do just about everything I would use a keyboard for. He's still able to use the weight of his left hand to push a button or two on his keyboard if he absolutely has to, but everything from moving to swapping weapons is done on the mouse. If it wasn't for the second webcam pointed at his hands when he streams, you might never notice that Jason is only using one of them. That's how good he is. But getting there, he tells me, has been a struggle. 

The road to recovery 

What was supposed to be another day of riding motorcycles with his brother turned into a disaster when Jason lost control and steered into a wall, flipping over and falling 35 feet to the ground below. "I broke multiple vertebrae," he says. "I have a T5 [spinal] fusion in my back. I broke my scapula. I broke my right arm, my left hand was severely dislocated. They said I broke all of my ribs. My spleen also exploded, so that had to be removed."

In all, he spent nine days recovering in the hospital. But when his left hand still hadn't regained feeling, Jason worried something was wrong. "After going through a bunch of tests, they determined that I severed some nerves in my brachial plexus which is in my neck," he says. "So they think I pulled them out of my spinal column." The diagnosis wasn't positive. While there might be some procedures to restore a little bit of movement, Jason's left hand was paralyzed.

For Jason, who tells me he's been playing on the PC for years, that was hard to take. "Gaming is a huge part of my life, it's like my favorite thing in the world," he says. "I was like, how am I going to play games? Am I ever going to be able to play Counter-Strike again? Am I ever going to be able to play games with my brothers and my friends?" 

But Jason didn't waste any time trying to figure out a way. He very quickly figured out that a game like Diablo 3 could easily be played entirely using the mouse, so he started slaughtering demons to help pass the time he spent at home in recovery. Take one look at the most played games on his Steam profile, however, and it's easy to see that Jason is a Counter-Strike guy at heart. Eventually he longed for the sandy corridors of de_dust2.

After a somewhat successful attempt to play the Overwatch beta, he decided it was time to give Counter-Strike a try. "What I did was I went into a deathmatch—I didn't change any [settings]—and I just sat there. I let people come to me and I'd just kill them." It was hardly playing, but it was just enough to motivate him to try a little harder. "I was like, if people are missing this bad while I'm standing still, it can't be too bad if I try moving around," he says. "So I decided to try to rebind [the controls] of Counter-Strike."

With some experimentation, Jason found a setup that worked. And with each match he played, a sliver of his previous ability came back. In the time that we spent dueling each other, it was obvious that Jason is the better player. His aim is deadly, but movement is where he can stumble. Using his thumb to control his character means that he can't strafe and peek as effectively as most players. He also tells me that in hectic situations he'll sometimes switch guns due to hitting the wrong button. Still, that hasn't stopped him from ranking at Gold Nova III. "I definitely get frustrated," he says. "I know where I used to play at skill-wise, so sometimes it gets frustrating especially when I'm in a [competitive match]. I always telling everyone that the only reason that I'm probably where I'm at right now is because of what [knowledge] I have of the game."

But knowledge in Counter-Strike goes a long way. The first few times Jason came out on top, his brothers would always brag in chat about him pulling it off one-handed. When players didn't always believe them, they started encouraging Jason to stream himself playing. Though he was apprehensive at first, he quickly realized how sharing his story could be a positive thing. "It's been amazing," he says. "Through the streaming and whatnot, I've met a bunch of great people. It's helped me tremendously—talking to these people, talking about my accident, and not just storing it away."  

Becoming King of the Kill 

Months later and Jason streams just about every single day of the week. Though his audience is small, he delights in sharing his moments of triumph. Just over a week ago, he had what might be the most meaningful of those experiences. Out of the 150 people that stepped into a match of H1Z1: King of the Kill, Jason was one of two still standing. His opponent crouched behind a large boulder while he took cover behind a tree. Using a molotov for cover, Jason broke cover and rushed his enemy. Just as he closed in, his opponent opened fire but Jason proved to be the better shot. His reaction to winning is priceless. 

"I play with two hands and I've yet to win," writes one commenter. "You put me to shame."

"I'm super proud of myself," Jason says of that win. "That meant the world to me at that moment."

And already he says he's pushing himself towards his next challenge. Fans have been clamoring to see him tackle the will-breaking monstrosities hidden within Dark Souls, a game known for its difficulty but that's already been beaten with a guitar controller, the world flipped upside down, and using only voice commands. He sounds nervous when he tells me about it, but says he's willing to give it a shot. That kind of attitude is at the heart of Jason's message: "After my accident, the only thing I could do was be positive. When I started playing games again the only thing I could do was be positive and know that I would never play on that same level," he says. "I want to tell people that, yeah, this happened to me not too long ago, but we can still work through obstacles in our lives and we can still be positive."

Jason might never reach that same level of skill he had before his accident, but I don't think he minds all that much. And you know what? Two hands or not, he can still kick some ass. If you ever see him in a game of CS:GO, tell him I want a rematch. 

PC Gamer

Mega City One isn't quite Half-Life 3, but it is a three hour-long single-player campaign which plants you in the shoes of Gordon Freeman and sets you off on an alternate timeline in a bid to save the world. Its version 1.0 is out now. 

Inspired by an unorthodox combination of the movie Dredd, and games Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, Mega City One sees Freeman again siding with the Rebels against the Combine this time in search of a lost Xen crystal. The next phase of your adversaries' invasion of earth is hinged on acquiring the ancient artefact thus you'll visit ancient ruins, old temples, villages, mansions, and ultimately the city in your quest to get there first.     

"All difficulty levels have been completely rebalanced compared to the main game, to make the experience more challenging and fun at the same time," explains mod creator Abdulhamid Cayirli, who goes by the pseudonym Crowbar. "On the hardest difficulty it is essential to explore and conserve ammo. The difficulty levels have also been smoothed out and the levels are all designed for every difficulty level."

Mega City One came to be when Crowbar entered RunThinkShootLive's mapping tournament 'The Hammer Cup' last year, designing various maps for the competition's five challenges. Following the event, Crowbar decided to rework his designs, remake areas, and implement the feedback he received from the tournament's players. He's since added entirely new maps in order to fill the gaps.

"The great thing about this is that all maps have been extensively play tested, so you can expect a very polished experience in terms of gameplay," says Crowbar. 

Mega City One's version 1.0 is out now—head over to ModDB for download links and installation instructions.

PC Gamer

At the end of an intense weekend of Dota 2 Digital Chaos took the grand prize at ESL One Genting in the mountains of Malaysia, the first-ever LAN win for the squad. The team took home $125,000 for the victory, while runner-up team Newbee, hailing from China, ended their own impressive run with $50,000. 

Each player beamed with excitement as they stood together with the trophy. MoonMeander barely had words as the stage host asked how he felt. It was their first LAN tournament victory, a massive milestone given how close the TI6 challengers came to holding title before losing to Wings in the grand final.

Reso1ution even grabbed the mic to brag. “Our first tournament! Woo!”“We won Saksa a LAN, guys!” joked MiSeRy, the captain and one of the support players. “First LAN win ever, guys! Congratulations!” 

As a last word to the venue, Reso1ution made his feelings clear for the enthused crowd: “I love you!” And because a winner can’t be excited enough, he added again— “Woo!”

 The victory came after an intense series versus Chinese team Newbee that spanned the full best of five, including a 51-minute match two taken by DC. Both teams were seen as strong contenders going into the matchup, with Newbee’s relatively fresh blood seemingly tapped out and DC’s full potential being similarly exposed after each suffered rough runs at the Boston Major. Aside from the strength of the finalists, competition was tight for every team going into the tournament.

CIS favorite Virtus Pro was predicted as a reliably strong pick at the beginning of the event. They were looked upon as a mid-game powerhouse, spawning an aggressive meta after winning The Summit in November that other teams picked up into later tournaments. Unfortunately, the team dropped to the lower bracket, tried to fight through, and were eventually defeated by the versatile, soon-to-be champions DC in an action-packed semifinals matchup.

The semis between Chinese rivals Newbee and Wings were nothing to shake a finger at as each team kept their eyes on big late-game plays. Newbee stomped their national rivals in a short first game, but Wings had to be dragged out kicking after winning the second game. The teams went back and forth in tense and exciting second and third maps that brought the ticker over 45 minutes. Ultimately, in a final game, Newbee held control of the map despite a Wings draft, including Broodmother, that attempted to do otherwise.

Malaysia had its eyes on Fnatic, a local team recently featured in Valve’s documentary True Sight during their failed fight through the Boston Major qualifiers. Led by veteran Mushi after an anxious post-Major shuffle, the team sadly fell through both the group stages and losers bracket after losing to, respectively, VP and Canadian fan favorite NP.

Also representing the locality were Execration from the Philippines and WP.Unity from Malaysia, both of which won their respective local qualifiers. Execration likely had a bone to pick with WP.Unity, as the Filipino squad took second to WP in the SEA Kappa invitational cup in December. After a strong three matches, Execration eliminated their local rivals, though they fell to Wings in the next round.

NP remained a crowd favorite despite losing to VP in the quarterfinals. After losing to the eventual 2nd place winners in the group stage, they showed potential after wiping out Fnatic 2-0 in the first Bo3. Unfortunately, VP gave the same treatment. The team still got a lot of love from its fans due to the team's openness about its everyday life (including its affinity for anime, as the team lists its MyAnimeList links on its homepage). For instance, MSS shared his experience with food culture after buying “Sky Juice”—meaning water (“juice” taken from the sky, meaning rain). The incident became an inside joke throughout the event and its segments.

Beyond the rivalries and memes, there was no shortage of interesting drafts during the event. Meepo was drafted not once, but three times: once at a loss for none other than DC’s w33ha, famous for his “w33po” gameplay; another time victoriously for the Filipino Execration player Gabbi, against local rival WG.Unity; and finally for Newbee’s uuu9, in a winning game against Wings.

Every pub's favorite hook-thrower Pudge was picked five times by four different teams with varying results. In alignment with Wings’ reputation for unusual picks, they attempted to win with Broodmother in their third semifinal match against Newbee, unfortunately to no avail. Overall, 63 heroes were picked throughout the tournament, which is a great sign: every match was gripping for spectators.

PC Gamer

2016 is well and truly behind us and it’s time to look forward to what 2017 has to offer. There’s plenty to watch this weekend, from top-tier Dota 2 to the Overwatch Winter Premiere. We even have action from the Hi-Rez Expo as both the SMITE World Championship and Paladins Invitational are set to thrill fans. All the details on this weekend’s action can be found below. Have a great weekend!

Dota 2: ESL One Genting 2017

ESL is kicking things off in style with the first Dota 2 stop for ESL One in 2017, at the Resorts World Genting in Malaysia. The first ever Malaysian ESL One event will see eight of the world’s best teams battle it out for their chance to win the $250,000 prize pool. The event will take place today at 03:40 PST / 12:40 CET and will carry right through to Saturday, while the finals start very early Sunday at 02:00 PST and later at 11:00 CET.  The full weekend schedule can be found here, while the event can be watched over on Twitch.

Overwatch: Winter Premiere

Overwatch’s Winter Premiere kicked off Tuesday, with eight teams vying for their share of the $100,000 prize pool. The Premiere has already been filled with a few surprises as both Cloud9 and Fnatic made the decision to drop out of the tournament despite qualifying, while the Renegades took down FaZe Clan (Fnatic’s replacement) 2-0 in the first round of the group stage. Things continue to heat up as we enter day three of the group stages and there’s plenty of action to look forward to. You can find the tournament schedule and stream here.

CS:GO: ESEA Season 23 Global Premier Challenge

The last major CS:GO tournament of 2016 saw Astralis outgun OpTic at the Esports Championship Series in an explosive final at the Anaheim Arena. It was a great event and many of us will miss the frenzied firefights, but you needn’t worry as we have another CS:GO tournament to look forward to. Eight teams are heading over to Burbank, California to participate in the ESEA Season 23 Global Challenge for their chance to play in the in the Season 5 ESL Pro League. Semifinals begin Sunday 09:00 PST / 18: 40 CET, while the finals start later at 16:40 PST / 01:40 CET. Check out all the action over on Twitch.

SMITE World Championship

The SMITE World Championship at Hi-Rez Expo 2017 will once again feature the top PC SMITE teams from around the world. Players will compete for their share of the $1,000,000 prize pool and will battle it out to determine who the best team is in Season 3. The event will be held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. Make sure you check the schedule times and stream over on the Hi-Rez expo site.

Paladins Invitational

There’s a newcomer to the world of digital sports as the first-ever Paladins HRX Invitational started yesterday at the Hi-Rez Expo. The eight teams who qualified from regional tournaments in North America, Europe, LATAM/Brazil, Australia/New Zealand, and China will compete for their chance to win the $150,000 prize pool. Group play resumes today, with the first match beginning at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET. The semifinals start tomorrow at 07:00 PST / 16:00 CET, while the finals begin the same time Sunday.  You can find the full schedule here and watch the livestream over on Twitch.

PC Gamer

Now that our game of the year awards are out of the way, we can get to the serious stuff: ventilation shafts. They’re a pillar of modern game design, shunting players from one level to the next, telling spy wannabes that a square aluminum tunnel is all espionage requires, and giving the hunted a temporary haven from their mouth-breathing pursuers. The most iconic protagonists in PC gaming depend on inexplicably designed air convection systems to save the world time and time again.I'm going to revisit a few of the most recognizable vents from PC gaming history and evaluate them based on rules I’m making up as I go. One lucky duct will win the coveted PC Gamer Gust of Approval for best vent.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution 

Gif sourceThe original Deus Ex invented the concept of ventilation shafts, and as a result is exempt from competing. Unfortunately, further iterations of ventilation shafts from the new handlers at Square Enix didn’t do much to blend them into the environments or make them feel like genuine air ducts. Instead, they serve as well-lit (somehow), long graves where you hide your dead. How many bodies can you fit in an impossible space? Deus Ex: Human Revolution steps beyond the veil.Even worse, the vents aren’t in compliance with the ASHRAE standards for acceptable air quality. According to section 5.1.1 of the guidelines, “Where interior spaces without direct openings to the outdoors are ventilated through adjoining rooms, the opening between rooms shall be permanently unobstructed.” These dead bodies are breaking the law.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

They are deeper, wider, and more Jensen-sized. Seriously, they’re massive. And they’re always hiding behind vending machines and small crates, leading directly to and fro with plenty of slats along the way just in case you need to see where all the guards are hanging. Subtlety doesn’t circulate in the near future, I suppose. Air isn’t getting through those suckers in a sensible way. It’s a fact: these vents blow.

Watch Dogs 2 

Pitiful, but so pitiful, I can’t help but love it. There’s been no effort made to hide that this vent in a multi-billion dollar tech company building was built specifically for drone passage. (Just a heads up, this is how you get raccoons.) Watch Dogs 2 makes little effort to mask its videogame vents as anything but transparent chunks of level design. It’s one of the bigger problems I had with the game, that it promises options for infiltration, but vent layouts are so arbitrary and assured to lead directly between points of interest that they start to feel like a big billboard, stating ‘Sneak here!’

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes 

Gif sourceOK, so it’s more of a drainage system, but it might also push some air around. Note the more rectangular design gives the impression that they’re a tighter fit than most videogame vents, which makes for a more immersive ventilation shaft experience. Were I in a crime film, I’d consider using such a discreet, small passage as a good place to hide the murder weapon. Were I in a videogame, I’d glitch through the floor and fire my weapon with reckless abandon. In conclusion, I love the compress of MGS5’s passages, but otherwise, they rarely make sense. Often, they’ll just lead from a hole outside a building in a direct line inside. You’re going to get raccoons, damnit.

Half-Life

So very, very dark. Like a damn vent should be! If I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief that these big metallic crawlspaces are mean for air circulation and not hiding headcrabs, I want them to at least distract me with tension. The vents are otherwise featureless, vanilla shafts. Four walls, grey, nothing particularly special about them. At least they acknowledge you’re going to get critters with such impractical vents, even if they’re interdimensional face suckers.

Half-Life 2

Talk about sequelitis! No innovation. Expect more flat, boxy aluminum textures, more headcrabs popping out to say hello, and most grievous, of course, are the impractical air convection layouts. The thought makes me shiver, not because it’s abhorrent, but because damn, it’s cold in here, Gordon!

Batman: Arkham Series

Gif source

Gotham’s vents are comically large. Bruce Wayne isn’t a small man, especially with an extra few inches thanks to bat ears. And crouching isn’t easy in all that armor—it’s going to bunch up, Bruce. I’m sorry but your tummy is getting pinched beneath those plates. God forbid you drop a quarter. To accommodate all that batmass, the vents essentially serve as a venue for badguy shadow puppets and an echochamber for the Joker’s prolonged loudspeaker monologues. They’re a nice place to hide in if you’ve been spotted, but their design won’t win any awards from us. Often they serve as a comically short passage between two rooms, ensuring the only air they’re circulating is Wayne’s big ego.

WINNER — Alien: Isolation

We praised Alien's production design during release, and Creative Assembly's extraordinary attention to environment detail extends to the design of its vents. The aperture entrance to each vent is accompanied by a slick cylindrical animation and shrill soundbite that sounds like a sword being pulled from its sheath. Foreboding, a bit, considering there’s probably a hungry alien in there.Isolation’s detailed lighting and shadows give the impression that Sevastopol is a hulking, intricate tangle of retro-futurist industrial design. As you crawl through every vent and maintenance shaft, you’ll get small glimpses into the guts of the station, a smoky mess of pipes and dim lights and scattered tools. The result is a space station that feels so vast and cobbled together that its tiny passages and maintenance systems feel plausible. Vents that don’t make sense, make sense on Sevastopol.To the team at Creative Assembly, you’ve creatively assembled good passages behind the walls for players to bonk around in that don’t feel like a mad maintenance man’s pet project. Your congratulatory PC Gamer Gust of Approval should make it your way soon.

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