PC Gamer

In a month, the top Dota 2 teams will descend upon Kiev, Ukraine, for the next in Valve’s series of official tournaments, the Majors. Modeled after the system introduced to CS:GO in 2013, these events began after The International 5 in 2015, each providing a $3 million prize pool and a $1 million grand prize. The event also introduced roster locks, preventing teams from changing rosters mid-season if they wanted to be given an invite to an event or its qualifiers.But the Majors also came with its own set of controversies and legitimate concerns. Namely, there are questions about how these Valve tournaments, regarded by the community as extremely important, have interfered with third-party events. 

For one, the roster lock was presumably intended to prevent organizations from abusing their positions and to protect players. Namely, roster locks reinforce the perception that “Valve invites players,” meaning that a banner doesn’t matter as much as the people who make up the squad. Stronger teams are more likely to stay together, giving players more stability. It was also a solution to the last-second shuffling of teams before The International or other large events, with the knowledge that banners were more likely to be invited to TI anyway. (For instance, Evil Geniuses, TI5 winners, were not directly invited to TI6 due to their frequent team changes; in previous years, the winner would be invited regardless of changes.)

Valve s lack of communication about large events has put many third-party tournaments on thin ice, particularly this year

A major side effect was how this weakened the post-event tournament circuit after each Major or International. These events were expected to be affected if they were too close to The International, but now they need to think about whether they want to risk being the first event after the Major. Massive tournaments now have to make the call about whether or not a squad should be allowed to play if a team locks in a different roster than its original. Plus, many players focus on Majors, and some may come to these other events exhausted or not at their 100% for other reasons.

Speaking of weakened tournament circuits, Valve’s lack of communication about large events has put many third-party tournaments on thin ice, particularly this year. The Boston Major was announced with just two month’s notice, notably affecting DreamLeague and almost affecting The Summit, a fan-favorite tournament. They did announce Kiev Major dates at Boston itself, but then they chose to change them, likely due to a mixture of factors: the stadium was being used for other sporting-related events, and the Dota Asian Championships were too close. DAC is hosted by Perfect World, which publishes Dota 2 in China, and it’s unlikely Valve would want to weaken relations.

Do the Majors affect tournament numbers? Two years in, it’s hard to tell quantitatively. Up until the “seasons” were implemented, there were more and more tournaments every year. In the 2014-2015 season, excluding Valve events there were 24 ‘premier’ and 38 ‘professional’ events, per Valve’s ticketing system, for a total of 62. The year before, 2013-2014, there were 20 and 48 respectively, for 68 total.

At a glance something has certainly happened, as in 2015-2016 there were 17 ‘premier’ and 22 ‘professional’ events for a total of 39. This year the scene is on track to reach similar numbers, though the elimination of a Major seems to have helped a bit. At this time last year, 11 premier and 14 professional tournaments had taken place since The International. The year before saw 11 and 14, and 2014-2015 saw 14 and 27 respectively. Still, as the Major system continues to settle in, we’ll see how it affects tournament production timeline-wise. There’s also the chance that outside investors don’t want to commit to Dota, given the increasing pool of esports that tournaments organizers can choose from.

Another tier down, meanwhile, smaller tournaments are affected by Valve’s lack of attention to unofficial events. While Dota 2 was originally acclaimed for hosting and being supportive of in-game tournaments of all levels, including during its beta years, in the past year or two several complaints had arisen from tournament organizers. The Reddit Dota 2 League, which has hosted many pros, including CompLexity’s Moo (and even professional actor Asa Butterfield) claimed that Valve had been ignoring its routine requests for in-game tournament hosting. Around the same time, other organizers reported similar issues, including UK’s BGL and a small university cup, and there have been other such complaints throughout the past few years.

If it s a change on Valve s side, one could speculate that they re trying to avoid too much money being drained from their own tournaments profitability

The issue likely began over two years ago, when the Dota 2 Canada Cup was informed by Valve that there were several changes to how tournaments were permitted to run. Namely, while tournaments ticketed as ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ were given similar permissions, Valve chose to restrict in-game item distribution to premier tournaments only. The Canada Cup wished to distribute a courier named Bearzky, stating “we felt this was the proper way to attract viewers, get sponsors, pay teams a fair prize pool in the North American scene and pay designers and casters, put the profits towards larger prize pools.” In this original PSA, some players did comment that they didn’t necessarily want to pay larger amounts to get the cosmetic, which was a trend among these tournaments.

In hindsight, meanwhile, there’s the chance that Valve also had an extra motive for slowing the distribution of in-game items: the Compendium system. Valve supposedly allows Compendiums for Premier tournaments that can boost the tournament’s prize pool, including DAC 2015, but the DAC 2017 Compendium has been the first since the DotaCinema Captain’s Draft in January 2016. (In 2014, when the system was introduced, there were five third-party tournament compendiums, and in 2015, when the seasonal Compendium by Valve was introduced, there were three.) Either Valve has been reprioritizing which tournaments should receive one, or tournaments aren’t focusing on the Compendium as a prize incentive.

If it’s a change on Valve’s side, one could speculate that they’re trying to avoid too much money being drained from their own tournaments’ profitability. And, if that’s the case, it likely affects the prize pool of these premier tournaments, as Compendiums alone raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—sometimes into the millions—for these events.

Of course, the Majors circuit can’t entirely be just about Valve putting out cash cows. Otherwise, Dota 2’s infamously vocal pros and fans alike would be more critical (though they certainly were after teams were given only three weeks for the first roster lock). Valve clearly wanted to make a tournament system that added longevity to the core professional scene, and it has largely accomplished that task.

The roster lock system, especially with this year’s new “drop/add dates,” has been increasingly praised for protecting its players. For its all its flaws, as mentioned, it succeeds in making orgs and players less casual about shuffling and dropping its players mid-season. 

The presence of multiple Majors distributes the pressure of professional play more evenly throughout the year. Teams would arguably prepare for The International alone (for instance, Newbee streamed RPGs for several months after their TI4 win), but now they’re given motivation to work year-round towards each Valve event. 

Similarly, fans may be more likely to understand what’s going on throughout the year when they’re given a consolidated, official series of events to follow, allowing for greater scene loyalty. This is likely enhanced by Valve’s in-game advertising and the Compendium’s promotion of the Majors, including the True Sight documentary. (And speaking of Compendium, workshop artists’ creations are pooled into the Treasures within the Compendiums.) 

All in all, for players and Valve itself, the Majors system is a mostly win-win situation: players are given a reliable tournament circuit with good cash and more predictable stability, while Valve is profiting off the Compendiums and tournaments. Of course, there’s no denying that the system must affect other parties, but it has yet to be seen how the dust will settle. After all, a system that spans a year may take several years to show its true impact on everybody involved.

PC Gamer

In November 2004, an independent studio named Junction Point was formed by Warren Spector and ex-Valve employee Art Min. The following year, it was announced the new outfit was working alongside Valve to create a Half-Life 2 episode which aimed to "fill in one of the gaps in the Half-Life universe" by fleshing out a specific part of its story. This project was ultimately cancelled, however new images offer a glimpse at how it might've looked. 

As posted on Valvetime.net, the images from Junction Point's interpretation of Half-Life depict the second main series instalment's eerie zombie town Ravenholm—this time covered in snow. 

According to Valvetime, the leaked map files suggest this Ravenholm would have included "small puzzles, scripted sequences, and fights". Valvetime also notes Junction Point's Ravenholm episode should not be confused with Arkane's also cancelled Return to Ravenholm.

"It is implied that the player crashes into a warehouse in a gondola," says Valvetime of this episode's narrative. "He wakes up in a room with two unique characters named Duncan and Scooter. There is a train station and buildings nearby. A group of rebels and Combine Soldiers fight on the streets. Duncan (ravenholm_npc_mueller) and Scooter (ravenholm_npc_scooter) are unique entities. Duncan uses a generic Citizen model, while Scooter's model is unknown.

"Some entities use JPS as their prefix in their names, which obviously stands for the studio's name. In addition to this, some objects have fields called magnet and magnetization, which are related to the Magnet Gun mentioned by Warren Spector in the interviews."

The magnet gun mentioned there was supposedly "entirely different" from the existing gravity gun, so said Spector in this Reddit AMA, however "the two would have been super complimentary."

Alas, it wasn't to be but a snow-themed Ravenholm would've been cool all the same. If not Ravenholm, which other areas of the Half-Life universe would you liked to have seen redone? Let us know in the comments south of here.

PC Gamer

It’s another busy weekend in the world of digital sports and lots of tournaments are heating up as they near the finish line. There’s plenty of action from the CS:GO: Championship Series to the Overwatch: Carbon Series playoffs. We even have the Hearthstone: Winter Championship games to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Two of Europe’s best teams clashed in Week eight and Misfits desperately tried to put their H2K loss behind them. Game one started off slow, but a chaotic team fight broke out when Misfits went for Baron. G2 read the situation and Expect used Teleport to counter, while the rest of his team chased their retreating opponents. G2’s Zven breezed through Misfits and secured a quadra kill with Caitlyn, which allowed his team to break open the Nexus for the win. Game two fell to Misfits after a decisive mid-lane team fight, but G2 picked Misfits apart in the final game with clean dives and well-timed rotations. G2 remain undefeated as we head into week nine and it looks like Misfits have some catching up to do if they wish to rival them. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team Dignitas has made a huge comeback after they obliterated Team Liquid 2-0 in week eight, and their series against EnVy was also impressive. LOD went huge on Varus and he gave Dignitas the power they needed to secure a decisive victory in the third game. Meanwhile, Phoenix1 also managed to destroy Team Liquid after Ryu constantly punished Piglet’s aggressive plays in the mid-lane. Ryu used his advantage to roam and snowball other lanes until Team Liquid crumbled under the pressure. However, TSM still remain the team to beat with 14 wins, and we shall see if Phoenix1 have what it takes to topple the LCS leaders. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

CS:GO: Esports Championship Series Promotion

The European and North American promotion starts this weekend and the competition is looking fierce. Virtus Pro and Space Soldiers are kicking off the European semifinal matches on Saturday at 11:00 PDT / 19:00 CET, while Fnatic and North start their match at the same time tomorrow. The North American bracket will see compLexity tackle Renegades on Saturday at 16:00 / 00:00 CET, followed by Team SoloMid vs Bee’s Money Crew at the same time Sunday. You can catch all the action live over on the official ECS YouTube channel.

Hearthstone: Winter Championship 2017

The 2017 Hearthstone Championship Tour's first Championship stop lands on the sunny shores of the Bahamas. Sixteen of the best players from around the world will be competing for their share of the $250,000 prize pool and a seat at the Hearthstone World Championship. Long-time fans will have the chance to see previous Hearthstone world champions: Greensheep, Neirea, OmegaZero, Tarei, Yulsic, and the defending world champion, Pavel. There will also be a lot of new talented players from the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions, while underdogs like DocPwn, DrJikininki, b787, and SamuelTsao will be looking to upset veteran players once again. The full schedule and stream can be found over on battle.net.

Rocket League: Championship Series

Engines are revving up as the top eight teams from North America and Europe enter week two of the RLCS. So far G2 Esports look to be the team to beat as they had dominated Atelier before moving on to sweep Denial. If G2 can consistently maintain the level of play they showed against Denial they will definitely be on their way to earning top spot in the North American series. Meanwhile, European team The Leftovers took down both Flipsid3 and Northern Gaming 3-2, which has given them an extremely strong start to this year’s tournament. The North American matches are kicking off on Saturday at 12:00 PDT / 20:00 CET, while the European matches start Sunday at 18:00 CET / 9:00 PDT. You can catch all the action on the official Rocket League Twitch Channel.

Overwatch: Carbon Series Playoffs

The Carbon Series playoffs are kicking off on Saturday and the top four teams will battle it out to earn their place at this year’s finals. Immortals managed to take down LG Loyal in week five and they will now face compLexity in what’s expected to be an extremely close matchup. Top team LG Evil have looked extremely strong throughout the tournament and they will face the Renegades who are currently sitting in fourth place. The full schedule and teams/standings can be found by heading over to the Overwatch Carbon Series official site.

Smite: SPL 2017

The sixth week of the SPL will continue this weekend where Lion Guard and Obey Alliance will clash. Obey Alliance will be hoping to remain on top as they shot into first place after securing victories over Valance Squad and Team Dignitas. However, Obey Alliance are only two points ahead, so they will have to be extremely careful if they wish to increase their lead over the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, Team Eager are the current leaders in North America, and they’ll be tackling Luminosity who are currently in second place. Luminosity will be looking to land a critical blow to their rivals and steal first place from under them, so expect to see both teams going all out in this matchup. You can find the weekend’s schedule and official stream here.

PC Gamer

The open qualifiers for Dota 2’s Kiev Major were an opportunity for teams and players throughout the world to earn a shot at one of the biggest prize pools in esports. According to tournament organizer FACEIT it drew the most teams of any open qualifier for a Valve event yet, with over six thousand teams across the globe entering the various regional qualifiers. Unfortunately, even in an esteemed tournament, large crowds can draw troublemakers.

Case in point: a team called ‘Holocaust N****rs’ was able to progress through the first five rounds of the European open qualifiers. When a Reddit user drew attention to the team's name in a thread that has since disappeared, outrage and debate followed as the team continued through the event. The matter even drew ire from OG player Fly.

Many on Reddit and Twitter found themselves wondering where the FACEIT admins were during this period. When reached out for comment, a representative for the site explained that the team had worked around the administrators by using the offensive name in match lobbies. When used as a lobby team name, the FACEIT tournament system wouldn’t display the name to human FACEIT admins.

Had the team been caught before their loss, this means they would have been barred from playing for the duration of the tournament

“Their name while on the FACEIT platform was absolutely normal and contained no offensive language” FACEIT told us. “While on the FACEIT platform all team names are visible to our admins and can therefore be controlled.” “However, once the tournament has started and in-game lobbies have been formed, teams can then use a different in-game name from their FACEIT team account name. So in this instance once they joined the Dota 2 in-game lobby what they do within the new server client is outside of our control as it cannot be seen by our team and it’s no longer part of our platform. By the time the issue was raised the team had already lost the tournament so we were unable to take any action.” 

They point to their policies, which state that an inappropriate name or avatar is cause for a one-week matchmaking ban. Had the team been caught before their loss, this means they would have been barred from playing for the duration of the tournament. This also raises the question of whether opposing teams or spectators in earlier rounds were willing to bring up the issue with the admins, or were aware of the anti-obscenity policies in place (or cared at all). 

Dotabuff co-founder ’Lawliepop’ also responded to the controversy, sharing the site’s official stance:

“This is a cut and dry situation. Names including hate speech are completely unacceptable,” she says. She explains that they already have anti-obscenity and anti-hate policies in place, including censoring avatars and team or player names. However, there’s only so much the site could do, given that they merely scrape data from the Valve API. 

“I think with this particular name, it's an egregious situation due to the fact that it is in a Valve qualifier,” she says. “Ultimately, this is a place where Valve has the opportunity to improve the standards they have for names in Dota. Anything Dotabuff does is just a band-aid on the problem and not a real solution.”

While the Dotabuff staff often comes together to figure out how to implement anti-hate policies, even the moral question of doing so as a data aggregator is tough to answer.

“I want to remove the names, but at the same time I feel conflicted. This is a part of the community, and often Dotabuff will be the only record of it. I don't want erasing the existence of hate to convince the community that these things don't happen. I don't think that part of playing a game should include subjecting yourself to hate speech to participate.”

“I really hope that 5 years from now we can look back on this as part of Dota's ugly past and something we have moved on from.” 

It’s already become a tricky situation. In the brief time between the statement and the time of writing, a Reddit user claimed that the word ‘negro’ got filtered out on the Dota 2 results site. This drew claims of anglocentrism: while the word is a slur in many countries, specifically both American continents (especially in the USA) and Europe, it’s the direct translation of ‘black’ in Spanish. 

Controversy surrounding racism and other “-isms” isn’t new to the Dota 2 community by any means. The most pertinent example of a race-related meme is 'three Merlinis,' referring to the respected Asian analyst, player and caster. The joke is meant to imply that three Asians on a stream look similar, even if they’re far from it.

The community has the ability and responsibility to discuss and inform about harmful actions that could hurt both those within the game and onlookers

Most recently, caster TobiWan became upset when a similar 'fat, normal, skinny Tobi' joke rose to the front page of the Dota 2 subreddit, featuring three white, blond men of different sizes, including Tobi in the middle. While the community came to support him when he expressed his discomfort, many pointed out that when woman personalities faced similar harassment, Tobi himself told them to deal with it or grow a thicker skin, highlighting a double standard in the community for different personalities.

Veteran player Singsing was also recently brought into the spotlight when his channel submitted and had approved racist emoticons, featuring blatantly crude black stereotypes, as well as mods with crude commands for ASCII art, including one that spelled out the n-word in a fancy font. It was also noted that Sing had some of the ASCII commands and modded bots for at least a few months, if not years. While Singsing himself was put under blast for the emoticons themselves, it brought Twitch’s credibility into question given they approved the emoticons. Plus, there was the issue of how Twitch staff would let the streamer use these tools when many staff would spectate and often participate in the stream and its chat.

The community and developers in the Dota 2 community have had mixed experiences with, and reactions to, the various offensive and crude happenings that come with such a vast and diverse international community. While the developers of the game and its peripheral sites hold a degree of power over what makes it into the public, the community has the ability and responsibility to discuss and inform about harmful actions that could hurt both those within the game and onlookers, especially given how user-centric the Dota 2 scene is. A politically turbulent age brings those looking to escape from everyday life into Dota 2, and the scene will have to learn how to confront hostile and exclusionary viewpoints so everyone can play fairly and safely.

PC Gamer

Unreal Tournament's Facing Worlds is easily one of the best multiplayer maps in the history of multiplayer maps—with its towering end-to-end monolith bases, arched thoroughfares, and gorgeous space-faring backdrop. Omri Petitte once described the arena as a "sci-fi uppercut right into your eyeballs", which I think is a pretty wonderful synopsis. 

An unnamed Counter-Strike: Global Offensive modder feels the same, it seems, having brought the 17-year old map to Valve's perennial war-torn shooter (with modder Jeisen having cleaned it up and filed it on Steam Workshop). 

As published by YouTube person Mr Error, here's a gander at Facing Worlds in all its reworked CS:GO-inspired glory: 

While I'm unsure if Facing Worlds would work quite as well in Counter-Strike, hearing that theme tune, marvelling at far-off planet Earth, and watching the player scoot around vantage points by way of teleportation really takes me back. 

Jeisen's Facing Worlds (UT 99) Final can be subscribed to over here. Before you go, let me share Omri's 'Why UT's Facing Worlds is one of the best multiplayer maps ever' video in full: 

Thanks, Kotaku

PC Gamer

It’s a busy weekend in the world of electronic sports and it’s not just League of Legends that aims to have fans excited. There’s plenty of action from the CS:GO at StarLadder to the Rocket League: Championship Series. We even have the Hearthstone: Trinity Series finals to look forward to. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Week seven of the EU LCS was crucial for the bottom-placed teams and Origen was desperate to pick up their first victory of the season. However, Roccat managed to win key team fights and after a messy back-and-forth game the series went to them. Technical difficulties came up during the Team Vitality vs Giants series and game two had to be replayed due to an Orianna bug. This break unhinged the Giants and Vitality took the victory despite losing a game. Meanwhile, the top teams also had to play each other this week, and H2k remained on top form in their game against Misfits, and Unicorns of Love managed to dominate Fnatic after a game-changing team fight in game two. G2 Esports are still the team to beat and we’ll see if anyone has what it takes to topple them as we enter week eight of play. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Phoenix1 had another great week and they decimated FlyQuest in both games, and now they’re only two wins away from rivalling Cloud9 for second place. Echo Fox’s series against Team Dignitas was very close, but in the final game jungler Chaser and mid-laner Keane managed to take complete control of the map and applied pressure until Echo Fox crumbled. Team Liquid made changes to their roster once again, but despite adding Doublelift to their line-up they couldn’t quite takedown Cloud9. However, they did manage to win an extremely close game against Envy after a securing Baron. Meanwhile, TSM had a very shaky week which saw them drop two games against both Envy and Immortals, but they did eventually pull through and win both matches. The competition continues to heat up as we enter week eight of play and all teams will be looking to climb the competitive ladder. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

CS:GO: StarLadder i-League Season 3

The American and European playoffs are taking place this weekend and only the top two teams from each bracket will secure a place in the LAN finals. G2 Esports and Space Soldiers are kicking things off in Europe today at 08:00 PDT / 16:00 CET, while Cloud9 and Renegades clash in America much later at 18:00 PDT / 02:00 CET. With $300,000 up for grabs you can bet that every team will go in guns blazing, and there’s sure to be plenty of high-octane action. The schedule and stream for both playoffs can be found here.

Rocket League: Championship Series

The 16 teams that will be competing in the Rocket League Championship Series over the next six weeks have been decided. There was a big upset in Europe as PENTA Sports will once again miss out on league play after falling 1-3 to RedEye and losing to Mockit eSports in the loser’s bracket. Another surprise was delivered by ZentoX who fought their way through the lower bracket to claim the last available spot in league play. Meanwhile, in North America Radiance managed to take down both Iris and Atelier for the first spot, but the biggest surprise came when Iris was knocked out by Selfless. Make sure you check out RLCS official Twitter handle to receive the latest schedule times and streams.

Hearthstone: Trinity Series

The top four teams from the online portion of the Trinity Series will be participating in the live finals this Saturday. There’s a $150,000 prize pool up for grabs, and the tournament will be hosted at ESL Studios in Burbank, California. So far Team Liquid is the favourite team to secure a place at the final, but the competition is looking extremely close and every player will need to be at the top of their game if they want to take home the title. The upper bracket finals and lower bracket semifinal starts today at 10:00 PDT / 18:00 CET, while the lower bracket finals and grand finals start the same time tomorrow. The official stream can be found over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Eastern Clash

The top Heroes of the Storm teams from China, Korea, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan will clash in order to crown the best team in Asia. Matches will be played in a double-elimination format and there’s expected to be rivalries between China and Korea, especially between organisations like MVP Black and eStar Gaming. With $100,000 on the line and a chance to claim bragging rights over Asia the Eastern Clash is expected to deliver an action-packed weekend. The full schedule and stream can be found over on heroesofthestorm.com.

PC Gamer

Valve has just announced a brand new addition to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's map line-up. Dubbed 'Canals', the map is based on an "historic Italian city" and is based on "real-world environments". The map's existence first came to light last year when players found references to "canals" in the game files. Now, it's finally here.

"The CT side is composed of a large, wide open area while the T-controlled territory forms a crescent of smaller spaces around it and provides multiple approaches to each bomb site."

The description continues: "While the map is based on a real-world location, the aesthetics are intentionally clean and uncluttered for good player visibility. In addition, many of the environmental models are built in a modular fashion so they can be easily re-used by community map makers." For a full detailed rundown on some of the design decisions, click on over here.

A few more pics:

The update will also usher in a visual upgrade to the Phoenix Terrorist player model, with the aim of "preserving character legibility and improving overall visual fidelity". Finally, there's also a new Spectrum Case containing 17 new weapon finishes designed by the community.

PC Gamer

For over a week, teams on nearly every continent clamored for the final eight spots at Dota 2’s Kiev Major. Now, eight days later, eight teams have emerged from regional qualifiers and must prepare for the next step.

This Major’s qualifiers have been more intense than ever. In SEA, where not a single team was given an invite, teams fought for two chances to represent their region. Meanwhile, South America had its first-ever regional qualifiers, separating its unique community from that of North America, and CIS was given its own chance after being stacked with European teams. Champions of the Winter Battle Cup, the in-game tournament system, were given a chance to participate as well.

To fill out the final eight slots of the Kiev Major LAN event, South America, North America, Eastern Europe/CIS and Western Europe were each given a qualifier spot, and China and SEA fought for two.

With these changes in place, hundreds of teams entered the heat of battle. Now, we have our winners.

Will they surprise in Kiev like they did at TI6?

The first team to reach the finish line was Faceless from the SEA region as the Singaporean squad, which includes vets Black^, iceiceice and xy-, took down three regional rivals with scattered Filipino pros. After tying with two other teams 7-2 in the group stages, they were given a run for their money, especially against TNC Pro, which delayed the inevitable after their base was torn apart. The team has already shown a solid record in its short time together, Kiev aside, and if their LAN run is anything like their qualifiers, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

In the final day of qualifiers, Filipino org TNC Pro caught up in the loser’s bracket to earn the second regional spot. Like much of the region, they also had a hard battle to the top, especially against ex-finalists and local rivals Mineski.GG. They eventually earned the privilege of being their country's representative. After reuniting TI6 member Raven with fellow teammates Kuku and Sam_H, they’ve been one of the more prominent teams in the region (and even internationally) in the time before the qualifiers, so it's a matter of how they’ll stand once again against elite teams. Will they surprise in Kiev like they did at TI6?

In the western hemisphere, Team Secret picked up a hard-fought EU West spot after a difficult run in what’s considered to be a “stacked” region. Alliance, the TI3 champs, had come from defeating fan favorite B)ears in the loser’s bracket for the grand finals, but Secret were able to take them down in a tense but clean 2-0 match. Secret, which is a former European favorite banner that now features vets pieliedie, MP, KheZu and MidOne, had their reputation tarnished after Puppey and Kermal, respectively the captain and owner, were accused of holding back money from winners; EternalEnVy of Team NP claims some is still missing. Kiev will be Secret’s first Majors appearance since the claims surfaced after The International 6.

The neighboring team in EU East/CIS to win the local spot was Virtus Pro, the aggressive Russian team that was favored during the pre-Boston competitive season and won The Summit. With Solo in the captain’s chair and a star squad beside him, they had a perfect group stage and were able to pull off a full run through the winner’s bracket, defeating the roster of long-standing CIS banner Team Empire. After dropping game one, final two games in the match were won in dominating and persuasive fashion, each wrapping up in under 22 minutes. VP will need to bring this fast and furious game to Kiev and hope other teams won’t learn how to shut them down like they did in Boston.

The atmosphere of the North American qualifiers was tense, especially with recent shuffles and drama hanging in the air. BuLba had just left Liquid to form international squad Team Onyx, and CompLexity rose up from the open qualifiers after their mid left, bringing in pub star and 9k MMR player 747.  It came down to these two teams, and Team Onyx rose to the occasion to win for the NA spot. The team is certainly an all-star lineup, especially with DemoN returning from his time with TNC and Fnatic to help the SEA region improve, and now they’ll set out to be the newest crew of celebrity power in NA.

South America’s qualifiers were packed with a few small and unfortunate, but fortunately resolved, controversies. Unknown, whose banner once represented the region at Valve’s Frankfurt Major, ragequit mid-game long before what’s politely acceptable. In another match a caster was assigned to the region but reportedly wasn’t informed on their active channels, and international casters scrambled to cover for them.

In the end, SG e-Sports from Brazil came out on top with an emotionally-charged victory over established squad Not Today

Despite these issues, the South American qualifiers proved entertaining to watch. In the end, SG e-Sports from Brazil came out on top with an emotionally-charged victory over established squad Not Today. Each player has been working hard to succeed in the local professional scene since 2014, and now the recently-formed squad will represent their region and proud country in Kiev.

China’s qualifiers were fairly stacked, as many the teams that fought for Kiev were considered to be fairly equal in tier. In the first set of finals, two different Invictus gaming squads, the main roster and the Vitality squad, faced off against each other for the first qualifying spot. The two sister squads had intense battles, but IG.V proved their worth and took the prize.

IG’s main roster, featuring renown vets BurNing and Q, still had a shot at the second slot, and Vici Gaming’s main roster came up from the loser’s bracket to give them a run for their money with an intense rematch series. IG still proved stronger and won the second spot, filling out the sixteenth slot for Kiev’s main event. 

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

The Intel Extreme Masters in Poland came to an exciting end last weekend, with CS:GO’s FaZe Clan stomping Astralis 3-1 in a nail-biting final. Meanwhile, Team Dignitas beat Fnatic during the Heroes of the Storm Western Clash and StarCraft II’s TY secured a victory against Stats. Currently, League of Legends’ LCS continues to dominate the headlines, but there’s plenty of action to be had elsewhere. There’s drama from CS:GO: StarLadder to the Rocket League: Championship Series. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

Misfits have continued to impress fans as they proved that they could even rival the best teams. In week six Misfits managed to take down Unicorns of Love after they closed out the series thanks to a crucial Baron fight. Meanwhile, H2k took on their old rivals Fnatic and both teams appeared to be evenly matched, but Fnatic started to crumble under the pressure. Game two also went in favour of H2K and they took the top spot in the group B bracket. G2 may have suffered a disappointing loss against Flash Wolves in IEM last week, but they beat back the opposition to claim the top spot in the group B bracket. It’s looking extremely close between G2 and Misfits and time will tell who will remain on top this weekend. This week’s schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

Team Liquid entered week six with a shakeup to their roster to help steady their disappointing start to this year’s LCS. They faced Immortals and their new ADC Youngbin had trouble finding his feet on to the LCS stage, but Team Liquid eventually secured their third win of the season.  However, Echo Fox managed to steal a win from Team Liquid, but Echo fell to Cloud9 after Akaadian got out-jungled by Contractz. Meanwhile, Team SoloMid was back to their dominant selves after they beat both their former rivals Counter Logic Gaming and Team Dignitas. The competition is heating up as we enter week seven of play and all teams will be looking to climb the competitive ladder. The full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

CS:GO: StarLadder i-League Season 3

The best American and European teams will clash for their chance to secure a place in the LAN finals of the StarSeries, and with potential $300,000 at stake, only the top two teams from each bracket will secure tickets to the finals, held in Kiev, Ukraine. Matches will be played in a best-of-three single elimination, which will heighten the pressure and leave little room for error. OpTic Gaming and Eanix are kicking things off in America today at 17:30 PST / 02:30 CET, while the European games kick off Saturday with Team EnVyUs vs. BIG at 07:00 PST / 16:00 CET. The schedule and stream for both playoffs can be found here.

Rocket League: Championship Series

Rocket League is back with season three of its famed championship series and eight teams from North America Europe will compete for the $300,000 prize pool. Season three will also include players from Oceania for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how they compete against their North American and European rivals. There’s also been a host of roster changes in the offseason and we expect this year’s RLCS to be more intense than ever. The North American open qualifier final is kicking off on Saturday at 12:00 PST/ 21:00 CET, while the final of the European open qualifier starts at 04:00 PST / 17:00 CET. Make sure you catch all the action over on the official Rocket League Twitch channel.

Dota 2: Kiev Major Regional Qualifiers

The Kiev Major qualifiers have been taking place all around the world and the best teams will be fighting it out in the regional qualifiers today. In Europe, Elements Pro Gaming, Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, B)ears, ALTERNATE aTTaX, Cloud9 and Alliance will battle it out. Elements Pro Gaming and ALTERNATE aTTaX are kicking things off at today at 04:30 PST / 13:30 CET, but the action doesn’t stop there as various matches will be played throughout the day.

In North America Team Freedom, NP, Onyx, Complexity Gaming, Wheel Whreck While Whistling will clash. NP and Onyx start their series today at 13:30 PST / 22:30 CET, while the South American branch begin their battles at 13:00 PST / 22:00 CET when the Mad Kings take on Midas. The South American bracket delivered a major surprise this year as neither Infamous nor Not Today managed to reach the top four of the first open qualifiers. Instead, the four South American squads advancing into the regional qualifiers are Union Gaming, Team Unknown, Mad Kings and the Argentinian squad Vultur Gaming.

Meanwhile, over in the Chinese bracket Young Elite managed to win the open qualifiers, while EHOME missed their second major after they lost to Vici Gaming Team Max. China is kicking things off with a match between CDEC and Cavalry at 18:00 PST / 03:00. The competition is certainly looking fierce and the new meta changes from 7.02 will make this an event you won’t want to miss. The full schedule for all the regional qualifiers and links to each stream can be found here

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Valve

The dust in the Dota 2 scene has settled, and eight squads have been chosen to battle for millions in the Kiev Major.

Hailing from three international regions, they have been directly invited to the LAN finals of Valve’s event in Ukraine in late April, each eyeing a slice of a multi-million dollar prize pool. While eight teams have yet to be brought into the ring from their own regional qualifiers, those guaranteed a spot are already among the top of the world.

The teams given direct invites are as follows:

  • Wings Gaming (China)
  • OG (Europe)
  • Ad Finem* (Europe, with a fully-Greek lineup)
  • Team Liquid (Europe)
  • Evil Geniuses (North America)
  • Digital Chaos (North America)
  • Newbee (China)
  • Vici Gaming “J” (China)

* Ad Finem have subsequently let their Dota 2 team go, but the invite stays with the players who are expected to announce a new team soon.

The first invite went to The International 6’s defending champion Wings Gaming, which had a versatile and fiery showing at the annual event back in August. While their performance hasn’t been outstanding since their 5th-8th place finish in Boston, they’ve held onto their roster and held their own against many other teams across the globe. At the very least, it seems that at least the stable TI6 roster and regular appearances kept the team worthy of consideration. Wings can always rise again, though they may have to fight through other regionally-strong teams—and further, those at Kiev—to reach their peak potential.

Boston Major champs OG had the opposite issue (if one can call it that) in the past year. While they fell in an unexpectedly-difficult match at TI6, the squad worked back to full strength through a new lineup and won December’s Major. The European squad returns for a fourth potential Major win after maintaining an impressive regional showing, led by a strong captain who thoroughly understands his teammates’ strengths and has adapted to the changing tides of several patches. They now need to overcome the resurging momentum that other teams have picked up since Boston. Of course, any team can have tricks up their sleeve, and OG is no exception. 

Photo credit: Ad Finem

As the Greek 'underdog' team, the squad formerly known as Ad Finem’s main showing was in the Boston Major itself through their inspiring second-place run. The team brought high energy and mind-blowing individual performances to the stage that garnered a quick, passionate following and brought hope to the Greek scene. However, their focus on Boston seems to have let everything else fall to the wayside: that, or their lack of presence in tier-one matches forms a vicious cycle. Still, Valve rewards stability in regard to their own events, and with this in mind not inviting Non Finem would work against the developers’ own ethos. Now that they’ve been invited, the community will be kept asking: will they step it back up for Kiev?

The third and last European invite, Team Liquid, was once dubbed the rivals of reigning regional champions OG, and now they’ve proven yet again to be a formidable foe with cohesive and memorable performances. They took the sole European qualifying spot for the Dota Asian Championships, and they ran from the qualifiers of last month’s StarLadder tournament to take the grand prize. Team Liquid hasn’t showed up this well since the lead-up to last year’s spring Manila Major, where they came second, only falling to OG. Now, their new post-Boston lineup looks to repeat last spring’s run, but hopefully with the optimal outcome this time.

Photo credit: ESL/Steffie Wunderl

North American teams also brought their A-game to the Boston Major, and they’ve kept it up since then. Even immediately after 7.00 dropped, Evil Geniuses maintained their pace by winning the China Top cup the following weekend. They’ve been dominant in their few professional experiences since then (minus the offbeat Elimination Mode tournament), and regionally, they’ve been unshakable as the top North American team in the game, as they have been since their TI5 win. It’s just a matter of how they will emerge of their training, then, into both DAC and Kiev. If their recent history alone could talk, it’d say that their opponents need to stay on their toes.

Speaking of opponents, much of the same could be said for Digital Chaos, which took second at TI6 and fell to Wings. Since then, the team has shuffled, but they’ve kept presence in both the regional and international scenes. After their surprising loss to Ad Finem during the Greek team’s hot streak at Boston, they’ve gone on to win ESL One Genting and qualify for DAC, maintaining the versatility that made the TI6 squad successful. Their wins overall haven’t been as persuasive as regional counterparts EG, but they certainly aren’t a force to be reckoned with and are a competing regional name against the TI5 winners.

The region recognizes their power as well, as they were directly invited to DAC where they ll show their chops before Kiev.

On the other side of the world, despite complaints about the presence of five Chinese teams at Kiev, nobody can say the remaining two invited teams haven’t worked for their spots. In a trying time for the region, Newbee, playing under the TI4 champions’ banner, have performed well, taking second at ESL and winning the Dota 2 Professional League. The team has kept their place at the top of the region with a uniquely safe but proven approach to their lineups, playing to their team’s strengths. The region recognizes their power as well, as they were directly invited to DAC where they’ll show their chops before Kiev.

Last but absolutely not least is Vici Gaming J, where the “J” represents the official endorsement by Chinese-American basketball pro Jeremy Lin. If he had any say in putting the squad together, it shows that he’s absolutely in the loop for the Chinese scene, with a mix of proven players and rising stars. While their individual picks are somewhat predictable, their strength individually and as a team have been more than enough to push them to the top. The formula clearly works well, as they were one of four teams Chinese qualifier teams that made it through a tough pool for DAC, and they qualified for and nearly won the StarLadder event, defeating OG and only falling to Team Liquid. In Kiev, VG.J may be looking to establish themselves more formally on an international scale as a dominant Chinese force.

With a month and a half between now and Kiev, eight teams yet to qualify, and plenty of matches and tournaments until then, it’s hard to say who of the above may come out at the top if any. The Majors have already been a source of pride and surprise, even in the short time since their inception. Of course, with teams like these already leading the pack and an already-vibrant new meta from 7.00 to 7.02, we can be confident that it’s going to be the Dota event to watch. 


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