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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: exploring the expensive e-sports hype trailers of tomorrow">Aegis of Champions

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

Today I watched a very dramatic and slick and expensive-looking trailer for League of Legends' Worlds 2014 tournament. I thought about it in relation to the game of my own preference, and how I spent part of July in a basketball stadium getting really worked up about international wizard conflict more or less because a man with a deep voice told me to. I've written about the narratives that surround the rise of e-sports before. Today, for these reasons and despite many others, I felt compelled to do so in the form of a science fiction press release.

Here you go and I am sorry.


The International 150 began in earnest today as Valve Software unveiled its latest demonstration of the ever-growing reach and relevance of digital sports. In a spectacle timed to coincide with both the 150th anniversary of the terrestrial Dota 2 tournament and the 45th anniversary of the first Lunar International, Valve's array of antique Overwatch satellites were fitted with high-yield nuclear weapons and explosively decommissioned at strategic points across the Mare Cognitum.

"Today, as it has ever been, e-sports are a vibrant and fast-expanding way to create value for our audience" said Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, speaking via the company's proprietary Steam Afterlife digital consciousness storage service. "Today, we create value for our audience by nuking the moon."

As glittering dust settled across scattered lunar colonies, the extent of Valve's explosive remodeling operation revealed itself: a vast plain of dark glass extending across much of the Moon's Earth-facing side. This, then, was the answer to weeks of speculation about hidden files uncovered in the game's latest update: a set of classic lunar spacesuit cosmetics for Techies; a new 'Nuclear Supernova' kinetic gem for Phoenix; a pre-emptive letter of apology to the people of Earth.

Then, the first images flickered to life across that blasted surface as beams of light converged from a ring of orbital projectors. Their lines traced the Dota 2 logo, along with all that it has come to mean since the great E-Sports Marketing Escalation Wars of the early 21st Century: wizards, competition, community, vast expense.

"Welcome to The International" boomed the voice of Robot John Patrick Lowrie as a hyper-accelerated montage of a century and a half of competitive wizard-clicking flashed before the eyes of every man woman and child on planet Earth. "Please stand for the national anthem."

Vi sitter h r i venten och spelar lite DotA

Synthesisers in the darkness. Then, from that bright blue world below, the traditional call-and-response.

I hear you, man!

Vi sitter h r i venten och spelar lite DotA

I feel you, man!

Great-grandparents wept as strains of familiar eurodance transported them back to their childhoods. They remembered days of innocence, when e-sports tournaments took place in football stadiums and not specially-constructed orbital thunderdomes; when prize pools capped out at a few million dollars and did not exceed the gross domestic product of the United States of America. A time when there was a United States of America, or indeed nations at all. Before civilization became a game played between supercorporations, before war became a battle to see who could produce the fanciest trailer for their digital sport. Before a video depicting teenage pro-gamers as magical lasers; before that first disastrous attempt to turn teenage pro-gamers into actual lasers.

Before the rise of the League Hierarchy and its on-again, off-again conflict with the people of the Dota Core. Before the Secession of the Storm and the exile of the Federation of Other MOBAs. Earth remembered, and listened to Basshunter.

"We really think that digital sport is only going to get bigger from here" said a masked and anonymous spokesperson for Valve, taking questions shortly after the event. "I mean, it's really big, isn't it. And it's only going to get better, isn't it? It's very, very, very important, and big, and good, and growing. That what everybody always says at these things, isn't it? Is this going well? Did I do it right? Please do not incinerate me."

This year's prize pool includes a gift from every extant human being, with the exact value of each gift to be determined via Compendium vote. Analysts are divided in their choice of favourite, but Earth Prime Team DK, Robo-Alliance and The Zephyr Memorial Medibears are all expected to do well. Na'Vi, most analysts agree, will come second.

The International 150 will conclude on August 21, 2161. In the weeks to follow the Earth will hold its traditional How Big Are E-Sports Really Festival, a celebration of traditional arts and crafts with headline events including 'Early 21st Century Gaming Op-Eds: A Guide' and 'Inside The Comments Thread: But Is It Really Sport?'

Riot are expected to respond by engraving the League logo into the surface of Mars or something later in the year.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Someone has recreated Gone Home as a Counter-Strike map">gonehomecounterstrike

Not being able to shoot things really annoys some people. There are few better demonstrations of this enduring truth than Fullbright s first-person exploration game Gone Home. Not only has it spawned an hilarious parody featuring lots of things being killed, but now you too will be able to kill things in the titular home, thanks to this Counter-Strike: GO map.

"Your family is mysteriously missing again," so says the Steam Workshop description. "But you can figure that out later. Right now you have more pressing issues to attend to, like the fact that your house is full of terrorists and some dude has been taken hostage. Rescue him by taking him to the garage where you can make a swift getaway on that old bike thats been sitting there for twenty years."

The hostage map is recommended for less than 32 players, and can be downloaded here. Of course, you could go ahead and play Gone Home again, which comes highly recommended.

Thanks Joystiq.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Left 4 Dead 2 patch grants Australians access to uncensored version">9 left 4 dead 2

When Valve resubmitted Left 4 Dead 2 for classification in Australia earlier this month, many wondered whether the company had plans to re-release the game. Well, anything is possible, but in the meantime if you own the censored version of Left 4 Dead 2 a free patch is now available on Steam which will grant you access to all the gratuitous violence you've been deprived of.

It's good news for Australians, as until now we've had to jump through hoops in order to play the unedited version. Originally denied classification in 2010 due to its extreme violence, the game was resubmitted for classification following the introduction of an R18+ rating back in early 2013. The patch can be accessed via the Left 4 Dead 2 Steam page over here in the 'downloadable content' section.

To make matters better, if you've never played the game before then it's currently available with a 75 per cent discount, which is nice. There's never been a better time to hack zombies to death with wrenches.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Twitch chat bot plagues Steam users with wallet-emptying malware">items

If you've recently been invited to take part in a raffle for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive items while chatting in Twitch, the good people at F-Secure have a bit of advice: Don't do it.

The messages are being spread by a Twitch bot, according to a recent F-Secure report, which enters channels and invites users to follow a link in order to enter a draw. The link leads to a site that asks for the user's name, email address and permission to publicize his or her name, but once that information is entered, a Windows executable is run that does some pretty nasty stuff: It can take screens, add new Steam friends and accept pending friend requests, initiate trades with new Steam friends, buy items (if there's money present in the user's Steam wallet), send trade offers, accept pending trades and sell items at a discount.

Previous variants of this hack were selling items at a 12 percent discount but it's apparently now running at 35 percent. The software is able to completely empty wallets, armories and inventories. "Being able to sell uninteresting items will allow the attacker to gather enough money to buy items that he deems interesting," the report states. "The interesting items are then traded to an account possibly maintained by the attacker."

F-Prot notes that all of this happens from the victim's own PC in order to get around Steam security checks that kick in when a user logs in from a new machine. It's a good warning to take note of: Steam may be a very secure environment, but nothing is foolproof. Be careful what you click.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: what tournament play has taught me about Dota 2">Tidehunter Ravage

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

You're always learning, whether or not it feels like it. I've had games of Dota where I've felt like I've learned nothing at all, where my mistakes have been obvious to me (and probably to everybody else involved) and my victories have been conducted against enemies too busy screaming at each other or eating paint to make it mean anything. There is always, however, a way to learn.

If you work on your ability to pick apart a situation to understand its various components which is something I've written about in this column before then it's possible to derive rules and principles that are tremendously helpful. This is because your performance in Dota is made of up two things. The first is the obvious stuff: the mixture of game knowledge and mechanical skill that comprises the better part of your matchmaking rating. The second part is more nebulous, because it's bound up in things that are personal to you. Whether you have an ego or not. Whether or not you are calm. Whether you can comprehend and act on criticism. You are always able to work on the latter, and you should, because it'll make you happier and better at the game.

I've been playing in a couple of tournaments recently. I'm part of a games industry Dota 2 tournament called The Rektreational that has been running for a couple of months. I'm on team Venomancer, I Hardly Know Her? with Philippa Warr of RPS, freelancer Phill Cameron, PyrionFlax, and shaneomad. We've won our first two matches and are through to the third round.

I'm also in a team called the Hot Dukes and last night we took part in the qualifiers for the Epic LAN EGX Dota 2 tournament, the finals for which will be held at the EGX expo in London at the end of month. We won our first game and got crushed in the second. We learned a bunch of things. We'll turn them into rules and move on. That's how this stuff works.

Playing in this way has reinforced a bunch of things that felt like I knew about the game and myself and corrected many others. I'm by no means a good player, but I think I have an alright attitude and slowly but surely I've arrived at the point where I think I've got actual advice to share about playing structured Dota.

The first piece of advice, which anybody who was watching the Epic LAN stream last night will understand, is 'don't blink directly into a Disruptor ult'. Yep. Learned that one. The rest of this is somewhat more elaborate.

The theorycraft has no brakes

...and that can get you in trouble. The funny thing about Captain's Mode is that it looks and feels like the type of Dota that you see talented professionals playing. The thing is, you are probably not a talented professional Dota player. It is very, very easy to get carried away by imitating strategies you're not fully capable of pulling off, and to be led astray by a metagame that you think you understand fully but probably don't. That's the thing about the metagame: it's easy to learn because it's not, ultimately, about personal skill. It's about knowledge, and knowledge can be memories - and misused.

Adhering tightly to the same set of top tier bans because that's what the players you admire do can hold you in good stead when your opponents are doing the same thing, but it's not always right. If you know your enemy, banning out their favourite heroes is almost certainly better. If you don't, banning Razor, Viper and Void isn't necessarily going to save you. They might run Silencer, and that guy is a total prick unless you have the individual talent to outlane him and, later in the game, the team coordination to disengage from fights properly.

It comes down to humility, really. Don't bind up all of your hopes in theorycraft that you can't pull off. In turn, don't feel bad if your skill level restricts the kinds of strategies you can try that is just a fact of life. The moment you find yourself unable you pull off a strat you think you understand, you've identified something fixed and tangible that you should be trying to correct about your play. You've identified another rung on the ladder. Just expect to slip a few times before you get a hold on it.

It's okay to be a tryhard sometimes

This might seem contrary given what I've just written, but there are times when taking teamplay 'too' seriously is actually the best thing you can possibly do especially when it concerns all that ego and discipline stuff I won't stop talking about. Reining in your ambitions in terms of strategies and hero drafts is possibly a good thing. Learning to act and communicate like an actual team is, however, the best thing you can possibly do if you want to take Dota seriously.

When I started playing with a team we came up with communication rules that dictate how much we're allowed to rage at each other (we're not) and how we frame criticism and respond to problems. I've played in teams without these rules, and the difference is night and day. Around two weeks ago the Hot Dukes gave up four kills in the enemy jungle and went on to win from that disastrous start because we didn't freak out. A week later I played with a different team and gave up three kills in very similar circumstances. In that case, the game was lost from minute zero: people lost their shit, at themselves and at each other, and simply trying to coordinate properly was like fighting a losing battle.

The difference is that the former team had worked specifically to develop an attitude that could withstand an early game disaster. Ideally, we wouldn't have early game disasters at all. But being a bit of a tryhard paid off, and I'd thoroughly recommend it.

Figure out your tilt controls

Regardless, things will go wrong. They always do. People tilt, and games are lost because one setback is enough to send someone's confidence and with it, their ability slowly tipping over like a drunk at a house party. You need to figure out whatever it is that will make you feel better in that scenario, and more pointedly you need to work out if it's actually the best thing to do. It may be that your instinct, when you're tilting, is to mute your microphone, or sigh loudly, or play passively. There is a very good chance that these ideas are wrong because they broadcast your tilt to everybody on your team, exacerbating their own bad moods and worsening your collective position.

Your process for straightening your shit out needs to be quiet and internal, in this game if in no other context. That might mean stacking a few jungle camps and getting your next big item, doing some dewarding, or suggesting and acting on a rotation or a push. But it's on you to establish and follow the rules you set for yourself. Although it make you feel better, sighing your way through an uncontrolled tilt will lose you the game and make you feel worse.

Everybody throws

From the trench to the International, there are very few teams in the world that don't screw up from time to time. Even DK with their legendary control threw a game against LGD by allowing it to go too long. Everybody does this, even you, and even the opponent you feel hopelessly outmatched by. In team games, it is tempting to call GG after a few bad encounters or even a lost lane of rax the point, more or less, where the game feels like its over. It probably isn't. It is always possible for your opponent to make a mistake. Even if there's nothing you can do, simply surviving for an extra couple of minutes gives the enemy team a little more rope with which to hang themselves.

Most of the time they won't, and you'll be left to figure out whatever lessons you need to learn. But sometimes you'll go on to win the teamfight that turns the game and you'll remember that game forever. And it's not a cheap or chance victory, either: you got there because you stuck it out when other people would tilt or give up. You might not have the most effective trilane and your offlaner might keep blinking into Disruptor ults for no reason, but you kept your shit together. Good job, hero.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The best CS:GO tips I’ve received from angry teammates">csgo-aug

Every Monday, Evan writes about first-person shooters.

Playing a competitive online game means being subjected to a certain amount of unsolicited criticism. I think you receive a bit more of it in CS:GO, though, because your dead teammates form a kind of peanut gallery who can talk to you from beyond the grave. Being the last one alive as four other players hover over your digital shoulder is a quintessential CS experience.

I ve been that digital shoulder hundreds of times, struggling to clutch while a person I ve never met tells me which gun I should grab to retake Nuke s A bombsite, or chastises me for using a grenade in a one-on-one situation. It s annoying, but I m actually grateful for a lot of the harsh feedback that s been handed to me in these moments because it s shaken me out of some bad habits.

Below, a selection of some of the criticism that s been condescendingly muttered at me in CS that turned out to be great advice:

Don t reload.

Shooters, single-player shooters especially, condition us to reload as a Pavlovian response to getting a kill. Resisting that urge is one of the first things most new CS players have to unlearn. Most weapons in CS:GO take between two and four seconds to reload: plenty of time for someone to peek around a corner or move through the space you should be defending. But maybe more importantly, in close-quarters, reloading betrays your position with sound. Consider the trade-off: would you rather have a full mag and an enemy who knows where you are, or a shallow mag and an enemy who s out of position?

Don t underestimate how much you can do with four or five bullets. With a rifle, it takes three or four non-headshots to take an enemy from full health to none and in late-game situations, it s even less likely that the enemy around the corner has 100 HP.

Don t pretend.

A few months ago one of my teammates in a match I d solo queued into called me out on this. What are you doing? I bet you saw that on Twitch or some shit, right? He was right. I was ADAD spamming (quickly tapping A and D in alternation) to hold a corner on de_inferno. There was no purpose or tactical value to what I was doing, I was just miming something I d seen in a tournament. It was the equivalent of doing a bunch of fancy dribbling in soccer with no one playing defense against me.

It s great to experiment with stuff you see in competitive play, but understanding the situational benefits of each maneuver is a huge step toward pulling it off successfully. After the ESL, I started backing away from my own flashbang grenades on entries, something I loved seeing in that tournament. But then I realized that my grenade placement wasn t nearly good enough to guarantee that I was flashing enemies at all I was just imitating for the sake of imitating.

Please, please don't throw that grenade.

Put the pin back in. I see so much misplaced faith in the frag grenade in CS:GO, partly because I used to be that guy who d start a bombsite retake with a frag toss, often coming around corners while still in the follow-through animation for the throw. Here s what I learned, after someone finally scolded me: your frag isn t going to kill anyone. Even if you re the Joe Montana of grenades and toss directly into the enemy player s mouth, it ll do 57 damage. If you played a lot of CS:Source, where grenades did a max of 72 against armored opponents, take a moment to realize that a perfect toss will only inflict as much as about two bullets.

In almost all situations, but especially in one-on-ones, your rifle is going to be able to kill someone faster and more safely than any sort of offensive grenade. Flashes are handy in a lot of situations in CS, but they re also unreliable: you can t be sure how well you ve blinded someone. If I had just kept my gun out instead of reaching for that 4 key, I would ve won many more rounds for my team.

Don't turn a three-on-one into a series of one-on-ones.

This is the one I ve started to preach most to players that I solo queue in Competitive mode with. It s easy to take a round win for granted when you re in a 3-on-1 or a 4-on-2. The easiest way to give away an easy win, though, is arranging your team in a way that the enemy can encounter you one at a time, on their own terms. When you re defending a bombsite against a shorthanded enemy, your goal should be to guarantee a trade: put the enemy in a position where they must cross the firing line of Player B if they want to kill Player A.

Are you afraid of your own pistol, or something?

Pistols have an amazing amount of utility in CS:GO. In the current build, the CZ75 the only automatic pistol has a ludicrous amount of value as a short-range, spray-and-hope-for-the-best gun when your AWP isn t cutting it or your M4A1-S runs dry. Even with the recent change to price it at $500, the cost of two grenades, it s a strong backup for serial AWPers who fear being rushed.

Dude, why would you ever crouch-walk?

This is ancient, ancient advice, but it s something that I still occasionally see players doing on casual servers. Crouch-walking around a corner will always grant advantage to someone who s watching that corner they ll always be able to see your gun poke out, then your knees, and blast you before you see them. If you need to check around an object, shoulder peek: dart out of cover while revealing as little of yourself as possible, then back in as quickly as possible, purely to see where an enemy is.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to ESPN boss claims e-sports are “not a sport”">International

In many ways, this year's Dota 2 International was a turning point for e-sports perception as a mainstream event. Not only did it boast the highest prize pool of any e-sports tournament, but it also found traction with North America's ESPN. The network broadcast the tournament through the streaming service ESPN3, and aired an exclusive grand final preview on cable channel ESPN2. But if you were looking to ESPN president John Skipper to validate a belief that e-sports are a sport, you're in for some disappointment.

Skipper was asked about Amazon's acquisition of Twitch at the Code/Media Series: New York conference, reports Re/Code, and gave a full appraisal of his perception of e-sports. "It's not a sport, it's a competition," he said. "Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I'm interested in doing real sports."

Previously, it seemed, ESPN were "delighted" with The International's performance. "ESPN have seen enough recent successes with e-sports and are about to double down," a source "close to ESPN" told The Daily Dot. "The numbers they hit with The International have only cemented the view that the time is right."

In other news: this.

Thanks, CVG.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 poster mistaken for US propaganda on Russian state television">soldier

Image source: http://tjournal.ru/paper/1tv-team-fortress

As part of an effort to show how the United States uses propaganda to influence the mindset of its citizens, a historical documentary recently aired by Russia's Channel One offered up what it said was a First World War poster portraying German soldiers as monsters who literally eat babies. One problem: It wasn't a soldier, it was the Soldier, and the poster is actually Team Fortress 2 fan art.

The show, which presumably came about as a result of rising tensions between the US and Russia, offered the poster as evidence of US efforts to demonize its enemies, "regardless of any logic or common sense," according to the International Business Times. "The American public had to firmly acknowledge that Germans were evil," the narrator says.

And the guy on the poster certain looks evil. "Soldiers eat babies. That's a fact," it states, before exhorting readers to join Team Demoman, a giveaway that clearly eluded the show's non-English-speaking creators. TJournal.ru picked up on it, however, and noted that it was actually created by DeviantArt user TankTaur for a Team Fortress 2 propaganda contest.

We weren't certain at first that this was real, but the image posted by TJournal carries the Channel One watermark, and even better, we also managed to track down the program on YouTube. It's in Russian, but you don't need to speak it to get it.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: your Dota hero is having a good time and so should you">Storm Spirit

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

Dota 2 is funny, both by design and by accident. It's funny when people get angry. It's funny to screw up. It's funny to Force Staff your friends into the enemy fountain. It's funny to get a rampage as Axe. Laughing at the weird stuff that springs from Dota forms the basis of a healthy number of YouTube channels. It's as vital a part of the life of the game as the competitive scene or making items for the Steam Workshop.

Relatively speaking, the parts of Dota that are designed to be funny - particularly the writing - get less attention. This is a really interesting aspect of the game, specifically as it relates to a broad shift in the tone of multiplayer games over the last decade or so. In the 90s, competitive gaming on PC was characterised by grit. Quake looked like a prog-metal album cover. Counter-Strike was a Tom Clancy game given a shot of adrenaline. The early MMOs chased realism (elf realism, anyway) and Team Fortress Classic took place in some vague modern military otherworld where mercs with furrowed brows fought over the same flag forever.

Notable exceptions to this rule were games by Blizzard, which had always been funny, and, to a lesser extent, Valve's debut. The first Half-Life had a streak of black comedy running through it, though this wasn't something that manifested in the series' multiplayer until the second one allowed you to fire toilets at people. Then, all of a sudden, Valve became really funny. Portal came out, and Team Fortress 2 emerged from multiple attempts to create a 'serious' shooter as a kind of FPS Adult Swim cartoon.

This shift took place everywhere. Blizzard's sense of humour resurfaced in World of Warcraft and, as a consequence, comic characters and situations are now a stock part of an MMO gameworld. The lane-pushing genre grew out of Warcraft 3, inheriting Blizzard's tonal sensibilities along with DotA's game mechanics. The most successful games of this type, Dota 2 included, are cartoons of one sort or another. The characters may kick seven shades out of each other, but they do it while smiling.

To an extent this is done with the goal of attracting a large audience, but it's not entirely marketing-driven. In fact, marketing often complicates this general trend towards lighter, more accessible games - I can think of a number of games that might have had decent art if somebody in a suit hadn't stapled boobs to everything. Nor does it suggest that games have become easier or more infantile. Overall, the trend has more in common with the influence that Pixar have had on kids' movies.

Dota 2's character roster is so varied that it borders on incoherent. Its writers have always been reluctant to use backstory for anything other than flavour, and wisely so: it'd be quixotic to try to wring a plausible fantasy narrative out of a hundred-plus heroes. I mean, okay, yes, George R. R. Martin did it, but his characters are not - in the main - helicopters or bears. These characters, their backstories and their voices are designed to be emblematic of the types of things they do in the game, not to serve a function within a wider plot.

And yet, despite all of that variety, one remarkably consistent quality of these characters is how happy they seem to be. There's very little actual nastiness or complaining or strife, except - perhaps - from Troll Warlord, who is intended to be a send-up of his comments thread counterpart. He's one of the only characters that doesn't vocalise a genuine 'thank you' when the player types 'ty'. I mean, even Doom says thank you, and he's literally Satan.

There's a lot of funny writing in Dota, and the net effect of that funny writing is that the characters themselves come across as funny people. Windranger is funny. Storm Spirit is funny. Juggernaut and Brewmaster are funny. And so on, and so on. I'd go for a drink with most of these people. Hell, even Bane - I mean, he's a little weird, but everybody has a friend like that. That sense of personality plays an enormous role in balancing Dota 2's tone. If it was a game of tooth-grindingly serious battle between serious warriors I suspect it'd be unbearable: it's bad enough when you're stuck in a game with somebody who only wants to scream at you. If your character seemed to be hating the experience too, what would be the point?

But here's the conundrum - and, I guess, the irony. The way Dota characters speak and interact with one another sets a standard for behaviour that offsets the bad attitudes of other players but - in itself - doesn't succeed at influencing or moderating that behaviour. Nobody who is so self-serious that they're willing to scream obscenities at a stranger is going to be dissuaded from that path by the fact that the ancient undead ice wizard that they're controlling is actually kind of a nice guy. The game can demonstrate a model for competitive behaviour that doesn't involve being a dick, and it does so well - but most people ignore it.

As a result, Dota 2 is a game where Satan is - more often than not - more polite to his rivals than most of the people you'll meet in solo ranked matchmaking. There's a punchline there somewhere, I'm sure.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

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