Everyone still wants Half-Life 3. People feel its continued absence like a pain in the gut. Some people carry this weight around with them every day, and may well do so for the rest of their lives. Some people, when you say something nice has happened, silently whisper to themselves "Half-Life 3 confirmed?"
This doesn't mean we ought to 'engulf' the lives of Valve employees, as a press release for a new crowdfunding campaign calls upon us to do. A ploy concocted by two interns at New Mexico ad firm McKee Wallwork & Co., the campaign is seeking $150,000 to organise a series of events and advertising sprees intended to persuade Valve to develop the anticipated installment.
It's a unique idea - and it's probably not as dodgy as it sounds - but some of the wording is very problematic indeed, especially in light of recent harassment campaigns in the games industry. According to the press release received by VentureBeat, Half-Life fans have "never truly shown a united front", though "a little concentrated effort might finally get us what we want. The press release headline reads Indiegogo campaign to engulf Valve employee s lives.
VentureBeat reached out to the campaign creators Chris Salem and Kyle Mazzei, and this is what they had to say regarding the potential for harrassment. Obviously, lines like [engulf people's lives] is a little sensationalized to get people s attention, Salem said. But we think we re doing everything in a good-hearted way. We aren t going to have people camped out in front of Valve headquarters for weeks at a time. It s just going to be a one-day thing.
The IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign involves the purchase of Google Ad Words, mobile billboards, a Valve doorstop campaign populated by Gabe Newell look-alikes and a concert. It's currently raised $36.
Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.
Watching ESL One New York last weekend made me realise just how long ago The International was. I mean, sure, technically it's only been three months. You
could say that, if you were going to be that guy. The guy with a calendar. In Dota time, though, three months is forever. This was one of the first major tournaments of the 6.82b (now 6.82c) era, and the first high-profile LAN in the west since the team shuffle process began after TI4. That great switcheroo is still ongoing, but for me this was the first time the game has felt anything close to stable in its new identity.
It was like watching a different Dota. Not simply because of the patch or the players but the effect that the two have in combination. Dota feels fresh again, a welcome sensation after the deathball doldrums that set in during the latter months of 6.81. This is in spite of a spate of embarrassing technical issues that riddled the tournament with interruptions. Maybe they helped, in fact: you've got plenty of time to ponder the state of the game when it's paused for two minutes out of every twenty.
Spoilers follow, naturally.
The long war
The best sets of the series
Alliance vs. EG in the quarter finals, EG vs. Vici in the grand final were defined by games that the casters simply couldn't call until deep into the midgame. This was extraordinarily rare in the previous patch, and demonstrates that the update has been successful in holding off the '8 minute GG' issue (at least for the time being). Longer, closer games mean that greater emphasis is placed on super-lategame carries, as demonstrated by Loda in Alliance vs. EG game two. Vici's Black^ said afterwards that this patch was going to be about three-core strategies with a single farming hard carry, and TobiWan put it a different way when he described Vici's winning strategy as "four-create-space-for-one" (a twist on "four-protect-one").
What was striking about this change for me, however, was that matches haven't become more passive as they've gotten longer. In some cases the early game is less active than it used to be it certainly doesn't outright the determine the rest of the game as it sometimes used to but we're seeing more brilliant, close teamfights in the midgame as teams wrestle to claim map control. There's something to be said for game-determining teamfights and they still happen but I appreciate the number of close trades we saw, particularly in the final. It's funny that the solution to a game that was losing some of its drama was to effectively curtail the long-term signficance of certain engagements, but it really works for me. More fighting is better fighting, after all.
The age of the support
This general shift has interesting implications for support players. I've seen the argument made that 6.82's lategame focus makes supports less relevant as fewer matches are decided by early rotations, but I don't think that's quite right. A combination of interesting Aghanim's Scepter upgrades and more gold going to supports in general means more interesting plays coming out of position four and five later in the game. Vici Gaming more or less won the tournament on this basis, whether that's fy's Skywrath Mage saving Super's Ember Spirit with an Ethereal Blade or the same player picking up Diffusal Blade on Sand King in two separate matches to counter Omniknight's Repel. I'd probably argue that Vici Gaming won the tournament because of fy in general, but there you go.
It's great to see lategame supports being given more to do than 'get your ult off' and 'don't die'. There seems to have been an increase in the skill ceiling of the role in general, and I love that many of the biggest plays are coming out of heroes with no gold in their pockets. It will, inevitably, take a long time for this line of thinking to filter down into pub play if it ever does. But with the rise of Omniknight as a ranked matchmaking 'win' button and Jakiro's steady shift from support to core, there's a rethink coming that should hopefully impact how people perceive these characters and their importance to the game.
Despite this, many people will still first-pick Faceless Void.
Size isn't everything
In terms of the game itself, then, ESL One NY convinced me that the next couple of months are going to be really exciting. The heroes that have clung to their top-tier positions from one patch to the next Brewmaster in particular are generally the ones that are the most entertaining to watch, and I'm happy to see Razor and Death Prophet (slowly) make their way back into the box of spares.
On the other hand, the tournament highlighted a few things about the growth of the sport in general that aren't entirely positive and I'm not just talking about the technical issues. The choice of venue is a sticking point for me. E-sports have always chased the old-media legitimacy that comes with being on TV or occupying a famous venue, but I'm not convinced that 'old-media legitimacy' is something that anybody actually wants. Going for Madison Square garden might have got Dota into the New York Times, but is that the real measure for success here? When high ticket prices and limited spaces are the consequence of a high-profile venue, I'm not sure it's the best thing for the game.
As Dota grows I hope organisations like ESL see the importance of balancing prestige venues with locations that support the volume of people who want to see Dota live and who want to do so affordably. The Commerzbank Arena where ESL One Frankfurt was held was actually a good balance of the two, in that regard. It's possible to have both, but I believe that the entertainment value of Dota is substantial enough that it doesn't need the extra flare all of the time. It's natural for a new form of entertainment, particularly such a generational one, to look to adopt the trappings of the things that preceded it. Traditional sport established our model for what success looks like. But because this is a new and generational medium it is an opportunity to challenge a few paradigms and high ticket prices are one of them.
Which is not to say that Dota hasn't earned its place in Madison Square Garden, nor does it undermine the effort expended to get it there (and to make everything work, most of the time.) There is a real opportunity here, however, to serve the Dota community with events that lots of people can get to to the point where live Dota is a natural part of the hobby, and not an exceptional extravagance available only to the fortunate.
To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
Every Monday in Triggernometry*, Evan writes about FPSes.
Aiming is one of Counter-Strike s central skills. Good aim can get you out of a bad situation, like a mistimed rush or a weapon disadvantage. Even if you ve been playing CS for a decade, I m willing to bet that, like me, you ve got some bad aiming habits.
I ll go first: I m awful with the AK at long range, and I struggle to get kills with the P250 on eco rounds. I ll probably get better with those guns as I keep putting hours into CS:GO s competitive matchmaking, but bad habits are easy to lose sight of in the middle of a match, when you re caught up in the emotion of the situation. CS:GO also hides a ton of its nuances—especially the bullet spray patterns of its weapons.
Aim maps have a way of immediately illuminating what you ve been doing wrong. Through repetition and drilling, they can teach you a lot about your own bad (and good) aiming behaviors. These are my three favorites.
How to play custom CS:GO maps locally:
- Subscribe to maps on Steam Workshop
- Launch CS:GO
- Click Play > Offline with bots
- Click Workshop, search for the map you subscribed to
- Select the map, select No bots
training aim csgo 2
This is CS:GO s best drill map, and it has a ton of customizability. You can tweak it to test almost anything you need to work on, from long-range AWPing to short-range spraying against targets that take multiple hits to break. I particularly like the sliding test, which lets you set up static or pop-up targets along different axes, letting you practice the rhythm of strafing, stopping, and shooting outside of a live environment. I also get a lot out of the Burst Training, which tracks how many of your shots connect on a full spray.
Training: Bot Aim V4b
You can work on any weapon on this map, but I ve found it to be best for building pistol skills. It loads a number of bots into a narrow corridor and has a few toggleable obstacles—crates and a pair of doors—that you can bring into the setting to make it feel more practical. Bots can be set to return fire or not. The god mode setting is really helpful if you want to focus on training one weapon for a sustained period.
This rifles-and-pistols map is the best one I ve found for working on killing enemies who are moving laterally. The bot movements are a little unnatural (you can also set them to move faster than players can in-game, as in the GIF above), but you can set them to mirror different ADAD patterns (alternating left and right strafing), which can be a particularly tough maneuver to counter. There s a good amount of setting customization, too, including boxes and uneven ground. You can also toggle on impact visualization, which will produce a wireframe of the bot hit that lingers in the environment.
*[Hats off to Reiniat, who suggested that we call this column "Triggernometry" instead of its original, inferior label "Shooterology." If you're listening, get in touch with me in the comments below to collect a prize that I have not yet determined. —Evan]
Here's a strange addition to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: you can now customise the game's music. Rather than a simple option to stream your own music from, say, Steam Music, the functionality is a virtual reskin of the music. That means new, specifically composed music for the Main Menu, win and fail screens, death camera and so on.
Dubbed music kits, the functionality is designed to help "establish your identity" in the game. "You can share your music kit with anyone you are playing with," the blogpost reads, "and they include a special broadcasted MVP anthem that players whenever you are MVP."
Nine music kits are available at launch from artists including Austin Wintory, Sean Murray, Skog and Sasha.
The ESL One Dota 2 championship tournament in New York City is now live, with eight teams vying for the trophy and a prize pool worth more than $100,000.
The first-round match pitting Natus Vincere against Vici Gaming is already underway, to be followed by Team Secret versus Natus Vincere US, Alliance against Evil Geniuses and Cloud 9 against Sneaky Nyx Assassins. The tournament is following a single-elimination knockout format, with each match, including the finals, a best-of-three contest.
Some people complain there are too many zombies in video games. Well, you know what? There are. That's why you need to kill them. The newest undead invasion is hitting the Counter-Strike universe, with Counter-Strike Nexon: Zombies releasing on Steam today. It's free-to-play too, so getting involved in the extermination won't cost you a cent.
For anyone who took part in the open beta, Nexon has released a list of new bug fixes and improvements to coincide with the official release. These include important design changes including the ability to craft and disassemble certain items without using Points, through to cosmetic changes like the length of chat messages, prettier colour coding and more.
The game currently boasts 50 maps, over 20 game modes including both PvP and PvE, and more guns than Nexon's previous effort Counter-Strike Online. Most interesting is the crafting system, which allows players to change the appearance and statistics of weapons. Nexon is also promising to continue adding new content for the game, so if you hate zombies, or love them, you should be set for a while.
The Dreamhack Winter 2014 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship tournament being held in November will be the latest to put a $250,000 prize pool up for grabs. And for the first time ever, all the teams taking part are being invited to train at an advance "boot camp" in Stockholm, Sweden, with accommodations provided by Valve and Dreamhack.
Following the 2013 DreamHack SteelSeries Championship, the EMS One Championship at Katowice, Poland, and the ESL One Cologne even in August, the Dreamhack Winter 2014 tournament will be the fourth beneficiary of Valve's community-funded prize pool, with prize money raised through last year's CS: GO Arms Deal update. The tourney will feature the top eight teams from ESL One Cologne—NiP-Gaming, Fnatic, Titan, Team Dignitas, Virtus.Pro, Cloud 9, Epsilon and Na'Vi—and eight others that will earn spots in online qualifiers held through October.
Announced in August 2013, the CS:GO Arms Deal update was intended to help boost the prize purses at CS:GO competitive events, and thus their visibility amongst gamers and the e-sports audience. It appears to have worked: The number of Global Offensive players has grown by more than 250 percent over the past year, while three million unique viewers tuned in to the ESL One Cologne event.
The Dreamhack Winter 2014 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship will run from November 27-29 in J nk ping, Sweden. Dates and locations for the Stockholm boot camp have not yet been announced.
Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.
The first step in getting better is knowing that you have a problem. I've never played a game as much as I've played Dota 2. In the space of a little over two years it's overtaken every MMO I've ever loved, every other competitive game—hell, every other hobby I've ever had. I'm writing this wearing a Dota 2 hoody and drinking from the flask they gave out at The International 2013. Dota 2 has become an intractable part of the fabric of my life as a twenty-something. I couldn't stop playing it without compromising dozens of friendships, opportunities, and so on.
But that's not my problem. My problem is that I am bad at it.
And so are my friends. So are the people we play against. So are the people they play against after they're done playing against us. Dota 2 is complex enough that everybody is bad at it, in one way or another. Throughout the year we hold all of these exciting competitions to determine who sucks the least out of a player-base of millions of people who suck. It's an unsolved problem that only the most talented come anywhere close to finding a solution for, and then only briefly.
In every cold objective sense, you and I and everybody we know are bad at Dota 2. It's what you do with that knowledge that matters; how you act in the face of the enormous task set out in front of you.
If you responded to the paragraph above by thinking "not me, I'm great" (or skipping to the comments to write something along those lines) then you are making the mountain harder to climb for yourself, and likely also for the people you play with. This is why Purge's guide is called what it is. It's why pro players rarely take pubs seriously. The game is seriously hard, and millions of people will expend thousands of hours on it and never reach the point where they could be called good. That truth can be tough to deal with. It's Dota 2's game over screen for some.
One argument goes that if you seriously considered just how far away you were from being 'good' you'd quit and never come back. You'd realise the futility of the endeavour and pack it in. That the Dota addictions of huge numbers of players depend on the illusion of competence provided by a matchmaking system that will sometimes put you in a position to go fifteen kills up against people who seem to know what they're doing.
Sometimes. Seem to. The truth is that you are only ever relatively good or relatively bad, on an upswing or a downswing, and that outside of that bubble you'll always be below where you need to be. When the bubble bursts, the argument goes, the magic of the game bursts with it.
I don't think that's the way your time with Dota 2 has to end. In fact, I've come to suspect that it is because I suck that I've invested so much time in the game. Unique among almost any other game I've ever played—although admittedly I never really clicked with a competitive game before this one—Dota 2 offers things to improve about myself in perpetuity. Unlike an MMO where many of those things are numbers attached to my character, here they are nebulous, personal, far-reaching. The sensation is of tuning an engine that is always getting faster but is never exactly fast, of turning a corner and realising that the road just keeps going on, further and further and further away to the horizon. Broadly speaking you can either be repelled by infinity or attracted to it: I strongly endorse the latter. It's how most good things start.
Blitz puts it like this: "there's two kinds of people in this Dota. There really is. There's the ones that know they suck and want to improve, and the ones that can't accept that they suck and think they are being limited by others around them."
Dota 2 is effective at eating your time because you are always getting better even if you never get good. That's an important distinction, and well worth internalising. Obsessing about whether or not you're 'good' leads to blaming your teammates when things go wrong; to misjudging the things you need to learn; to letting the Dunning-Kruger effect freefarm away in your subconscious. Focusing on the process of your own improvement rather than the end result allows you to focus on what's most important, and most enjoyable, about play. It starts by admitting that you're bad - and ends, hopefully, with you becoming a little bit less bad, step by step, forever.
You're less likely to be a dick, too. Everybody wins.
The Valve community hive-mind has spoken—well, pulsated—and the best Source Filmmaker films have been chosen. Unless they were wrong, which would fundamentally undermine Valve's entire business strategy for the last few years. Probably.
Here, then, are the official winners of the Saxxy Awards 2014:
A strong selection, I'd say. Rivalry Rush is a particular highlight of mine, with the winner, Animation vs. Animator, also providing a healthy amount of laughs. Still, it's a surprise to see that the winners are all TF2-based. Valve opened up a few different games for this year's competition, and there were some great entries for a few of their other games. I wonder if the community is just too heavily entrenched in the game, or if film makers are just more comfortable playing with TF2's cartoon-oriented antics.
If you've got a favourite that didn't make it into the winners list, post it in the comments for others to enjoy. You can see the full list of nominations here.
Attention New York area-dweller and/or person capable of teleportation: we re giving away two tickets to the ESL One New York next weekend, October 9-10. If you like Dota 2 and you ll be in the area to attend, we d love for you to win these.
The big prize is two premium tickets, valued at $270 each. Enter here. Eight teams will be competing for a more than $113,000 prize pool over two days in Madison Square Garden. We'll select winners early next week. We've also got a secondary prize of 10 ESL One New York t-shirts (shown below), so even if you won't be in town to watch some Dota, there's a secondary item to win.