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A few years ago, Valve rolled out a community-run tool for judging unwanted player behavior for the online FPS Counter-Strike: Global Offensive called Overwatch. Unrelated to the Blizzard FPS of the same name, Valve's Overwatch system gives select players the ability to watch replays of bad behavior reported by other players and impose penalties "proportional to" the offense: "Suspects who are convicted of griefing are given a moderate cooldown, whereas cheaters are removed from the game entirely," the CS:GO Overwatch FAQ explains. But the update released yesterday takes some of that discretion out of the hands of judges, and imposes significantly harsher penalties on repeat offenders.
Along with a small number of fixes, tweaks, and a wish for a happy Halloween, the October 25 patch notes states, "A temporary griefing conviction assigned by Overwatch will now be elevated to a permanent conviction if the suspect had a previous temporary griefing conviction." Two strikes and you're out, in other words, and even as someone who enjoys watching cheaters eat a hard swing of the banhammer, that seems a bit harsh.
Not everyone thinks so, though. This guy expressed his displeasure with his cooldown becoming a permaban, but most of the commenters in the follow-up thread, and quite a number of people in the CS:GO subreddit, seem to be in favor of the change and have little apparent sympathy for anyone who falls victim to it. The trouble, at least potentially, is that players who happen to be caught up in a false positive are faced with a real hassle: The "Competitive Cooldowns and Bans" FAQ opens with a stern warning, outlined in red, that "cooldowns and bans are non-negotiable and cannot be removed or reduced by Steam Support."
Watch your step, kids.
In the original Half-Life, as Gordon Freeman makes his way to work on that fateful day in the Black Mesa Research Facility, you find a break room. A scientist sits at a table drinking from a coffee cup, and another paces the room. Then you see it. A microwave with a container of some unidentifiable food within, begging to be interacted with. There s no button prompt on the screen telling you to do so, but you just know that if you press the use key next to it something will happen. Something incredible. Something messy.
So you press it, and it beeps. Nothing. You press it again, and this time it beeps at a slightly higher pitch. A clue that you should keep pulling this thread, even though it looks like nothing is going to happen. So you hammer the use key until, suddenly, the dish explodes. The microwave is covered in yellow gunk and the pacing scientist rushes over. My God! he exclaims. What are you doing? He sadly observes the mess you ve made, but Freeman says nothing. You walk away, no apology, no remorse. Classic Gordon.
Valve knows what we re like. If we see something, we re going to try and interact with it. Doubly so if it looks like it was never meant to be interacted with, or if it s out of reach. And it s great that games like Half-Life reward this very human curiosity. There are few things in videogames more satisfying than hitting the use key next to some prop, and something happening in response. When it doesn t, it s always a disappointment. It makes the game world feel somehow more lifeless, more artificial. Like you re in some kind of cardboard film set rather than a real place. If I ever move near a hand dryer in a videogame bathroom and it doesn t roar into life, my immersion shatters into a thousand twinkling pieces.
I feel for the developers, though. They have to dedicate time and resources to modelling, texturing, animating, and creating sound effects for the most mundane objects. But it s work that s always appreciated. In the latest Deus Ex game, Mankind Divided, Adam Jensen s apartment is a funhouse of stuff to switch on and mess with, from the flushing toilet to the washer and dryer that start rumbling when you power them on. Eidos Montreal didn t have to do any of this stuff, but it makes all the difference that they did.
Flushing toilets, incidentally, have become the go-to test of a game s interactivity. There are even websites cataloguing all the games that feature them. Because it s the internet, and of course there are. Be honest: the first time you encounter a toilet in a game, you try to flush it. You probably even do it without thinking, instinctively hitting the use button when you re near one. And if nothing happens, and you don t hear that familiar rush of water, you wonder if the game s even worth your precious time.
In the years since Half-Life was released, the exploding microwave is still perhaps the best example of this kind of interaction. But there are others. Human Head s 2006 shooter Prey opens in a brilliantly interactive bar, boasting a TV with channels you can switch, playable gambling and arcade machines, and a jukebox with tracks by Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult and other classic rock groups. It s completely unnecessary, and doesn t reflect the rest of the game, but it speaks volumes that people still mention it now. In fact, I can t really remember anything about Prey except the bar scene.
Some games even make a feature out of switching things on. In Hitman, turning a radio on or getting a sink to overflow is a frequently invaluable way to lure a guard away from his post. But often you need a certain item to turn said thing on, such as a wrench or a screwdriver. IO Interactive has cleverly looked at how people love interacting with objects in games and designed a system around it.
Environment artists are doing incredible work these days, giving you increasingly detailed, atmospheric worlds to exist in. But no matter how complex the geometry is, how high-res the textures are, and how gorgeous the skybox is, it won t matter if we approach that toilet, press the use key, and it doesn t flush. As games get more expensive to develop and assets get more time consuming to make, I hope developers never forget that, above all, people just love turning things on. The toilet must always flush.
Hero shooters are the latest gaming trend, team-based competitive multiplayer shooters featuring objective-driven game modes and large casts of colorfully designed characters sporting fantastical weapons and abilities. That s a serviceable but still somewhat shortsighted definition. The hero shooters we have today already cover a range of styles and goals. They re all shooters, so we see a lot of overlap in how they actually play, but each one approaches things differently and has something distinct at its core.
Basically, hero shooters are like the Powerpuff Girls, so let s talk Chemical X.
We ll start with Blizzard s Overwatch, seeing as how it has become the poster child for the genre. Overwatch is popular for many reasons, but primarily because of its heroes and their diverse playstyles and personalities. Game director Jeff Kaplan said it best : the heroes are the content of the game.
More than any other hero shooter, Overwatch puts individual heroes first, not overarching classes. This wasn t always the case, though. In an April interview with , Kaplan said the Overwatch team started with a class-first perspective. It was lead hero designer Geoff Goodman who eventually proposed making as many classes as we could come up with and simply turning them into highly specialized heroes.
Overwatch heroes are roughly grouped into four classes, but hero-specific strengths are stressed more than in, say, Team Fortress 2. In Overwatch, you pick a hero based on who your team needs and who the situation calls for, whereas in TF2 you have more room to choose a class based solely on how you like to play, illustrating the subtle difference between team-based and class-based gameplay. A skilled Heavy can fill several roles and always be useful, but you can only do so many things with Roadhog or Reinhardt, which brings us to hero switching.
Instead of making individual heroes more flexible, Overwatch made all hero switching available on the fly. You can choose from several suitable heroes in any situation, but you can t take the same approach with all of them, at least not effectively. Reaper and Tracer, for example, are both offense heroes who can make short work of enemies, but they play very differently and have different counters.
This creates the type of rock-paper-scissors meta we see in MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm, which is a noticeable influence on the way Overwatch heroes interact, both as allies and as enemies. There s also a bit of fighting game spirit to Overwatch. The way they use huge casts to segment fundamentally similar gameplay forms an interesting parallel with games like Street Fighter V and Tekken 7, which also live and die by their rosters.
Heroes are obviously central to all hero shooters, but careful character design is of unmatched importance to Overwatch because each of its heroes must not only serve a unique purpose but also mesh well with tightly clustered teams. Everything starts there, and anything that encroaches upon the fun hero gameplay, , is swiftly changed. Furthermore, Kaplan told in July, maps and modes are quite deliberately designed to promote hero interaction by bringing teams together. This lines up with : "if and when we release a new game mode in the future, it will be about teams pushing on a single objective.
At the opposite end of the spectrum and it is a spectrum, this genre-hopping blur of a genre we have Gearbox Software s Battleborn, which doubles down on MOBA elements while turning Overwatch s character design on its head. Overwatch is about selecting and re-selecting the most suitable hero, but Battleborn is about building a hero that does what you want.
In Battleborn, hero abilities aren t static. Heroes bring the same skills into every round, but through the game s helix system of A/B upgrades, these can be tweaked to fit the play style you prefer. Characters fall into designated classes like healer and skirmisher, but they can still wield a mix of offensive, defensive or supportive abilities, just not all at the same time. So, rather than which hero to play, the question becomes how to play your hero.
You can further customize heroes through gear which augments stats like cooldown reduction and maximum health. Gear functions like the items in Dota and League of Legends: earn currency and buy pieces as the match progresses, with the added kick and progression of collecting gear through loot boxes and, from your collection, building character-specific loadouts. The influence of MOBAs is even more obvious in Battleborn s waves of minions and its base-destroying incursion game mode.
This should also sound familiar to Borderlands fans. Tailoring skill trees to suit different play styles? Boosting your most relevant stats with equipment? Hoarding gear? That s a day in the life of a Vault Hunter if I ve ever heard it. And come to think of it, Alani could pass as a sister siren to Borderlands 2 s Maya. There s plenty of Pandora in Battleborn, that s for sure, just as Overwatch s focus on individual hero characters can be traced back to Warcraft.
Beyond prominent MOBA elements, Battleborn brings some promising ideas to the still-developing hero shooter genre. For starters, it has a story mode. It isn t a particularly spellbinding tale (though the stellar opening cinematic helps) but it does provide welcome context for the game s world and the motivations of its heroes, not to mention a more in-depth tutorial and testing ground. Meltdown, Battleborn s take on payloads, is also noteworthy. In it, teams defend their minions as they march toward the goal and try stop enemy minions from doing the same. This means players have two objectives and can choose to defend or attack in every round, which ties into the game s split hero development.
Overwatch and Battleborn alone illustrate some of the balancing acts hero shooters have to manage. Through the strict limitations it places on game modes and character abilities, Overwatch gains the freedom to create characters like Mercy and Symmetra, who aren t at all suited for offense roles. Battleborn is all about customization, so it s possible for players to consistently play the hero they re most attached to rather than the hero their team needs right now. There are pros and cons to each approach: I can t see incursion working in Overwatch, but Battleborn heroes tend to run together a bit, and there s no doubt as to who s winning the sales race. Somewhere between these two extremes lies Paladins, Hi-Rez Studios free-to-play contender. Lead designer Rory Drybear Newbrough described Paladins as half shooter, half MOBA , and the current state of the game backs him up.
Although still in beta, Paladins foundation is well established, including its much-vaunted deck system. For each hero, you can build equippable decks of five cards which, once acquired mid-match, buff various abilities and help fine-tune your play style. It isn t as open-ended as Battleborn s helix system, but that s not necessarily a bad thing. The goal of decks, Newbrough said in a recent interview with , is to give players multiple build options without warping characters to the extent that they are difficult to identify or play around. This preserves the concept of instantly recognizable characters a cornerstone of hero shooters since Team Fortress Classic while creating greater room for player choice.
Paladins also pursues new combinations through its heroes, which, , are predominantly rooted in the studio s own Global Agenda despite similarities to Overwatch. Some heroes overlap more than others, but even familiar abilities can be interesting when rearranged. For instance, Androxus wields a defensive deflection ability, generous jumps, a six-shooter revolver and a rocket-powered ultimate. Similar abilities are seen in Overwatch but the combination is novel, and Paladins is not devoid of originality. As , Ying offers a good example of how to combine turrets and teleportation in a way that s powerful and satisfying.
Even so, and even for a beta, Paladins has yet to hit its stride. Everything checks out on paper: it takes inspiration from the most successful hero shooter yet, the biggest genre in esports and lessons learned from Global Agenda. It s also free, which is a good thing to be in an increasingly competitive market. The trouble is that it doesn t yet have an identity of its own. Overwatch is a dynamic team-based FPS, and Battleborn, while a bit of a commercial flop, is firmly a first-person MOBA with added objectives. Paladins isn t quite there yet. It seems to know what it s made of but not what it wants to be, and in this it echoes the state of the hero shooter genre as a whole.
The good news is that the concern is not what hero shooters can t do, but what they haven t done so far. Creating new and interesting heroes is great, but they stand the best chance of finding an audience if they do something we haven t seen in hero shooters before. The only guiding principle seems to be to build game modes that intuitively support your heroes abilities, something Overwatch and Battleborn both managed despite being wildly different. There s no limit on what those game modes can be, only on what type of heroes suit them.
Overwatch makes a good argument for hero-driven design, and Battleborn shows that unconventional elements can be folded in without upsetting the core FPS gameplay loop. More importantly, Overwatch s 22 heroes can t do everything, nor can Battleborn s 25. Meanwhile, Paladins is still trying to figure out what its heroes are best at, something its forthcoming new mode, which Newbrough as a co-op experience against challenging AI, may answer.
This is perhaps the most valuable lesson for budding hero shooters like Gigantic, Lawbreakers, Battlecry, Dirty Bomb and who knows how many games to come. I don t want to see this genre become a race to dethrone Overwatch by way of character design. That s a loser s market, and hero shooters have the potential to revive and improve so many game types. It s all a matter of finding a niche and creating a good-sized roster of heroes who really synergize with it.
For one, objective-based multiplayer goes way beyond 'defend the thing and push the thing', or in Paladins case, 'defend the thing then push the thing'. Where s the fast-paced capture the flag hero shooter that promotes mobility and map awareness using heroes couched in creative movement? Lawbreakers definitely has a shot at filling that slot, but it often feels like more of an arena shooter that happens to have five classes which is fine, by the way. The point is, CTF is another classic game mode that could benefit immensely from a broad cast explicitly engineered with it in mind.
Then there s the big, white elephant that seemingly nobody is talking about: where is the hero shooter that shamelessly apes the original Star Wars: Battlefront? With droidekas, shock troops, engineers and plenty more unique classes, it s already half a hero shooter. Just imagine a modern spiritual successor, divorced from the tapestries of Star Wars but informed by the years of MOBA refinement on display in Battleborn. Sprawling, ever-changing battlegrounds peppered with command posts and crawling with NPC squadrons led by heroes I have a dream!
Future hero shooters should also consider options outside PvP. Players can work as a team without fighting other players, and PvE-focused games like Left 4 Dead are crying out for hero shooter cousins. Overwatch proved this in its recent dalliance with horde mode, the Junkenstein s Revenge brawl. As our own Evan Lahti said, because Overwatch doesn t have the maps or heroes to support it. Where is the hero shooter that does?
For once, the bewildering vagueness of the term hero shooter can be called a positive thing. This cockamamy genre could become a nearly boundless formula for reinvigoration, a way to explore and experience familiar game modes from a refreshing new perspective via dozens of fun characters.
Team Fortress? More like Scream Fortr oh, I see Valve already did that, as it's the name of TF2's annual Halloween event. Joe brought the slightly disappointing news that there would be no all-new giant spookathon this year; instead, the game is getting a few new titbits, while all the old Scream Fortresses will be returning, as with last year.
The TF blog announces that Scream Fortress VIII has just kicked off, bringing with it "three new Halloween maps! All classic Scream Fortress Maps! All-new contracts! New taunts! And a Creepy Crawly Case with the chance to get our newest unholy Halloween creation: a taunt Unusualifier!" Yeah, that's right, an Unusualifier look it up in your Lexinomicon.
What's more, for the duration of Scream Fortress VIII, "all unusual cosmetics that you unbox from any case or crate will have a Halloween 2016 unusual effect, and the chances of receiving an unusual cosmetic across all cases, even old ones, will be DOUBLED," says Valve. Double-things are almost always good news whoever heard of Single Fine, for example?
Although League of Legends' upcoming semifinals dominate the headlines this weekend, there's plenty to watch from top-tier CS:GO on both sides of the Atlantic to fantastic Street Fighter V to Rocket League and Smite. Have a great weekend!
League of Legends: World Championship Semifinals
Not long now until League of Legends crowns its 2016 world champions. This weekend, the four remaining teams will convene in Madison Square Garden to determine which two Korean teams have what it takes to advance to the grand finals. One of those teams could be European hopefuls H2K, of course, but... yeah. We'll see. Check out Cassandra's preview for more on the semifinalists, and find the livestream via LoLesports.
CSGO: ELEAGUE Season 2
CSGO's Friday night cable TV league starts up again today with $1,100,000 to play for between now and early December. Group A including mousesports, C9, FaZe and Immortals will play tonight from 15:00 PDT/midnight CEST. If you don't have TBS, you can also catch the games on Twitch.
CSGO: Epicenter 2016 Playoffs
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the best of European and CIS CS:GO clash in Moscow for a share of $500,000. Play begins at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST on Saturday and an hour earlier at 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST on Sunday. Epicenter's Dota 2 finals earlier in the year were fantastic, so the CS:GO community should be in for a treat. Watch the livestream here.
Rocket League: League Play
There's another weekend of Rocket League season 2 play ahead, with NA going at it on Saturday from 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. On Sunday, the best of Europe will compete from 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST. The official Rocket League Twitch account has the stream.
Capcom Pro Tour: ranking events
A relatively modest weekend of fighting games ahead after a busy couple of months. This weekend sees two ranking events: Malaysia's FV Cup and an online event in Asia-Oceania. Many top Asian Street Fighter V players are attending FV Cup, along with the UK's Ryan Hart. Play continues throughout the weekend, starting at 20:00 PDT every evening, which is 05:00 CEST the following day. Here's the livestream.
Overwatch: Alienware Monthly Melee
Despite the Blizzard scene being deep in preparation for the opening week of BlizzCon next week, there's still some Overwatch to be found if you know where to look. Another round of the Alienware Monthly Melee will take place this weekend, with a selection of top NA teams competing for a share of $5,000. Play kicks off at 14:00 PDT/23:00 CEST and you can find the livestream at GosuTV.
Smite: SPL Fall Group C and European Challenger Cup Finals
The Smite schedule is only going to get busier ahead of the Super Regional in November. The two remaining teams in the European Challenger Cup will fight for a spot in the big leagues on Sunday, while group stage play among the top teams continues from today through to Sunday starting at 10:00 PDT/19:00 CEST. Catch the action at HiRezTV.
Valve has now issued a response to the Washington State Gambling Commission's call for action on the matter of CS:GO skin gambling, saying that it does not "facilitate" gambling through Steam, and that "there is no factual or legal support for these accusations." The company said it is "surprised and disappointed" that the WSGC has chosen to pursue the matter publicly, but added that it has taken steps to discourage skin gambling on third-party websites, and is "open to further cooperation with the Commission."
In the firm but amicable letter, Valve's legal counsel notes that the company has no business relationship with gambling sites, does not promote them, and does not earn any revenues through them. These sites take advantage of two well-used Steam services in order to operate: the ability to purchase and trade skins, and the "ubiquitous" OpenID system of authentication that "allows a Steam customer to identify himself on a third-party website by association with his Steam account, without having to give his Steam credentials to the third party site."
"We do not want to turn off the Steam services, described above, that skin gambling sites have taken advantage of," Valve's response letter says. "In-game items, Steam trading, and OpenID have substantial benefits for Steam customers and Steam game-making partners. We do not believe it is the Commission s intention, nor is it within the Commission's authority, to turn off lawful commercial and communication services that are not directed to gambling in Washington."
Despite expressing doubt that it is in fact breaking any laws in the first place "If there is a specific criminal statute or regulation you believe Valve is violating, please provide a citation," the letter says Valve points out that it has already taken action against more than 40 skin gambling sites so far, first with cease-and-desist letters, and then by shutting down their Steam accounts. In the eyes of Valve's lawyer, though, it isn't realistic to expect Valve to hunt down every item-trading bot created by these websites. "Cleverly designed bots can be indistinguishable from real users," reads the response, "and their methods and techniques are constantly evolving."
"Valve can enforce its user agreements against the Steam accounts of skins gambling sites, where we can identify the site and identify the corresponding account. In fact, we would be happy to cooperate with the Commission, if it is able to identity more skins gambling sites that are illegal in Washington and the Steam accounts through which [they] operate," the letter says. "We welcome the change for further communication with the Commission, if it would like to clarify the legal allegations against Valve, or alternatively to work with Valve to identify offending Steam accounts of gambling sites."
It is in many ways a bold response, although if the commission hasn't identified which laws Valve has broken after 18 months of talks, Valve is probably in a strong position within Washington State. But it also lays bare the complexities of the matter: Can Valve he held responsible for Steam users "cashing out" on third-party sites? Can it be held accountable for the actions of those third-party sites, whether or not it is actively "facilitating" them? Is Valve's sluggishness to police skin gambling an issue? To my non-lawyerly eyes, it would seem unlikely, but that 18 month stretch of negotiations works both ways: The WSGC clearly thinks it has some basis for complaint.
On an unrelated but interesting note, the letter also confirms that Valve's employee headcount is "approximately 360." This is the first updated measure of Valve's size that we've seen in years: Wikipedia lists it as having about 330 employees, but that's based on data from 2013.
A couple of weeks ago, the Washington State Gambling Commission gave Valve until October 14 "to respond and explain" how Steam, and specifically the role it plays in skin gambling, is in compliance with the state's gambling laws. Failure to do so, it warned, could lead to "civil or criminal action" begin taken against the company. This was from an official state agency, so unlike our weekly cat gif email, the request could not be ignored. But this is also Valve we're talking about, and so naturally, the response did not arrive on time.
"At the close of business on October 14, 2016, a representative of Valve Corporation notified Commission staff that the company is still working on a reply to the Commission's Letter and a reply will be provided Monday, October 17, 2016," the WSGC said in a press release put out today.
It almost feels like a gag, doesn't it? Valve can't even respond to an inquiry from a powerful state regulator on time. But unless there are some shenanigans afoot that go beyond even the most elaborate Freeman-based hoax, this is all entirely legit: The link to the release is front-and-center on the official WSGC website.
"I am disappointed that Valve Corporation missed Friday's deadline, but encouraged that they have committed to responding today," WSGC director David Trujillo said. "I look forward to reviewing their response in detail."
Protip for Dave: I look forward to playing Half-Life 3 someday, but I'm not penciling anything in on my calendar. You may have legislative clout on your side, but you can't change the tides. All you can do is learn to swim.
I've reached out to Valve for more information and will update if and when I receive a reply.
Although many of you will be glued to the League of Legends Worlds quarter finals this weekend, there's plenty to watch elsewhere in the world of competitive gaming. Get your regular fill of Dota 2 and CS:GO, check in on the Blizzard scene on the eve of BlizzCon, and don't miss some of the best Street Fighter V players in the world fighting for a shot at the Capcom Cup in the EU finals. Plus: Rocket League, Smite, and more!
League of Legends: Worlds Quarter Finals
The month of Worlds continues with the quarter finals in Chicago. You can catch favourites SKT vs. China's RNG tonight from 15:00 PDT/midnight CEST, with ROX vs. EDG at the same time tomorrow and H2K vs. ANX on Sunday. That last one's going to be a heartbreaker, as H2K are the last European team in contention and ANX are the wildcard-done-good. Only one team can advance to the semi-finals and claim the honour of being taken apart by a Korean team as per tradition. More info and the livestream can be found on LoLesports.
Dota 2: The Summit 6 qualifiers
Qualifiers for November's $100,000 Dota 2 tournament are taking place all over the world this weekend. It's a great chance to take the pulse of new lineups like Team NP and remember that Dota 2 is a videogame and not just a deep reservoir of esports drama (though Valve have got you sorted on that account.) There's play happening more or less all day over the weekend, so just check out the livestream for the latest action.
CSGO: ECS Season 2
Lots of top-tier CS:GO this weekend in both EU and NA as ECS Season 2 rolls on. There are games happening right now (here's the stream) and play will continue through the weekend. Thanks to matches taking place in both EU and NA, you should find something to watch whenever you tune in. Failing that, the full schedule is visible on Gosugamers.
Hearthstone: Americas Last Call Invitational
BlizzCon is very, very close, and the majority of the studio's games have wrapped up their qualification processes for the biggest event in the Blizzard calendar. Not so Hearthstone, which is providing players in the Americas with one last chance to qualify for the forthcoming World Championship. Tune into the official Hearthstone stream tomorrow from 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST to catch the action.
Heroes of the Storm: Nexus Games North America
These one-off Heroes of the Storm tournaments are intended to give teams a shot at competitive play on the latest patch ahead of the Fall Championship at BlizzCon. This weekend sees the finals of the NA schedule, with games on Saturday and Sunday starting at 15:00 PDT, which is midnight CEST. Watch them on the official HotS stream.
Overwatch: MGA 2016 Championship Regional Finals
Regional finals for this international Overwatch competition began today and continue through to next week on a region by region basis. Today and tomorrow sees play in the Americas starting at 18:00 PDT (02:00 CEST the following morning.) One team from each region will earn a spot at the grand finals in London in December, with a $40,000 grand prize on the line. Here's the stream.
Rocket League: Season 2 League Play
With the Mid-Season Classic behind us, there's another two weekends of regular league play ahead in Rocket League's pro scene. NA plays on Saturday, as usual, with EU following on Sunday. Expect games throughout the day and check out Rocket League on Twitch for the livestream.
Smite: Pro League Fall Split
Group play is ongoing in the biggest event of the Smite season. Tune in from 10:00 PDT/19:00 CEST from today until Sunday to watch some of the best teams in NA go at it. As ever, you can find the stream on HiRezTV.
Capcom Pro Tour: EU Regional Finals and SoCal Regionals
A relatively modest week for the CPT this weekend with only two premier events. How will you cope? You can catch the SoCal Regionals on west coast time from today until Saturday click here for the stream schedule and here for the stream itself.
As Andi notes in this week's column, the EU Regional Finals at Milan Games Week represent many players' last shot at qualifying for this year's Capcom Cup so expect drama. Loads of top talent are attending, with the livestream starting at 03:00 and 04:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday respectively (noon and 13:00 CEST). Find the livestream on CapcomFighters.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's esteemed Inferno map has been given a fresh lick of paint and a host structural renovations bringing its 2012 design in-line with the world of today.
In doing so, three main areas have been the focus of improvement: to advance visibility across the map; to make it easier to move around in groups; and to "fine-tune the gameplay based on community feedback."
Fresh from a stint in its beta phase, the new slant on Inferno is now available to all in the Reserves Map Group, and Valve is keen for Counter-Strikers to test it out and file feedback. Full details on what's been changed and why can be found here, but you can check out how each area has been reworked via the sliders below.
"We focused on increasing the readability of positions, and giving the attackers more ways to utilize their equipment such as smoke grenades and flashbangs before entering the site itself.
"The overhanging roof on the site was removed, letting more natural light flow in. This also makes sniping between library and balcony more viable for both sides, and allows you to land smoke grenades on the site itself.
"The infamous truck that served as the path onto balcony has been replaced with a simpler cart, which has a more solid shape making gameplay more manageable, and makes navigating onto the balcony easier.
"The upper platform features improved visibility, with less parallaxing geometry for attackers to sift through to be able to spot a defender."
"In addition to these changes, the path leading to balcony has now been opened up, to allow attackers to flashbang into site before exposing themselves. This forces a defender playing from pit to stay alert.
"Another change inside of apartments is the removal of the 'dark' bedroom. This room was a very powerful defensive position for CTs, and Ts would be forced to use some of their grenades in clearing it before even reaching the site.
"This has been changed to a cubby (similar to the 1.6 version of Inferno), which is easier to check, but remains a powerful position for a defender."
"The final stretch leading into the bombsite has been widened, along with giving Terrorists some additional cover before committing to the site itself.
"The skybox in this area has been tweaked as well, it no longer allows CTs to smoke off B site from other areas of the map.
"On the site itself, there have been some changes. The gap between 'newbox' and the pillar has been closed off, the position near the entrance to the site is now climbable and visibility in general has been improved."
"The biggest change in the middle of the map is that the underpass connecting middle and alt-mid is now halfway walkable. You still need to crouch to be able to enter from middle, but about halfway through the tunnel you are able to walk upright.
"Another minor, but impactful change; the lightpole that has absorbed millions of bullets over the years has been removed, so there is one less object to blame if you miss your shot."
"The T Spawn now finally has its second exit opened up, which puts you directly into alt-mid."
Valve signs off the update with the following: "While there have been upgrades and adjustments throughout the map, the core gameplay remains more or less the same. By releasing the new Inferno early as a beta we were able to collect valuable player feedback and made many fixes ahead of this official release.
"Thank you to those who contributed. We will continue to observe the gameplay and make tweaks and fine-tune the map as we collect more feedback."
As part of Dota 2's latest Battle Pass, Valve are releasing a new series of documentaries covering the wizard-'em-up's thriving esports scene. Although the developer has produced a number of short videos to support The International over the last couple of years, this new series called True Sight is their most substantial documentary effort since 2013's Free To Play.
This new series will follow teams as they reshuffle in the aftermath of August's International and prepare for the $3m Boston Major in December. The first episode follows South East Asian hopefuls Fnatic and 2015 International champions EG, both in the aftermath of some significant roster changes.
Access to the series is limited to owners of the Fall Battle Pass, which costs $9.99 and includes the usual array of cosmetics, quests, cosmetics that you earn from doing quests, and so on. You'll be able to watch the first episode through Valve's own streaming platform starting at 16:00 PDT today, which is 01:00 the following morning CEST. Click here for the English language version.
If you can't make the first showing, don't fret: broadcasts will repeat every two hours for 24 hours following the first one. After that, Battle Pass owners will find the documentary available to view at any time through their Steam library.
After six years of consecutive harrowing Team Fortress 2 Halloween events, Valve took last year off to work on its then new Invasion update. It seems the same is true this year, as the developer is instead "working on something even better."
Similar to last year, every prior Scream Fortress event will briefly return including 2015's Merasmissions while a new Pyro Pack, improvements to Comp Mode, a new update, a new campaign, community maps, and a new taunt are but a few of the things TF2 is introducing to ensure All Hallows' Eve doesn't pass us by.
In typical Team Fortress fashion, here's some weird words taken from the game's blog:
"And it wouldn t be a Halloween pre-announcement blog post if we didn t scare most of you TO DEATH. For instance: What if just now you heard the rattling moon-lit sound of a SKELETON? No, nothing? Everybody still alive? Okay, but what if that sound was coming from INSIDE YOUR OWN BODY? Because there s a SKELETON in there RIGHT NOW? Oh, you already knew that, did you? Well, what if we were to tell you it s STEVE BUSCEMI S SKELETON?
"How did it get INSIDE you? What did he do with YOUR skeleton? Why don t you ask him, because he s RIGHT BEHIND YOU! No, look down! Farther! Because he s just a puddle of flesh with two BULGING EYEBALLS staring up at you! And a SNAGGLE-TOOTH! That s right, you just BODY-SHAMED STEVE BUSCEMI! Because it was YOU writing this blog post the WHOLE TIME! AWOOOOO!"
Make of that what you will. No exact date just yet, however you'll be able to revisit your favourite TF2 Halloween events at some stage "next week."