PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games.

League of Legends takes the spotlight this weekend for its EU and NA Summer Finals (which just might draw the spotlight away from the recent controversies rocking the scene.) That s not your only option, however: there s plenty of fighting game tournaments taking place all over the world, Dota 2, CS:GO, and the return of PC pro Smite. Have fun!

League of Legends: 2016 NA and EU LCS Summer Finals

There's a lot of high-stakes LoL taking place over a short period of time over the next few days. On Saturday, the third place matches in both the NA and EU LCS Summer Finals will take place, with Unicorns of Love vs. H2K taking place in Europe at 08:00 PDT/17:00 CEST and Immortals vs. CounterLogic Gaming taking place in the US at 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. The timing for the grand finals on Sunday are the same. Find more information, and the livestream, at LoLesports.

Dota 2: World Cyber Arena EU Qualifier

You'll forgive me for not having too many precise schedule details for this one, as... well, beyond the matches that have already been played, they seem a little hard to come by. Nonetheless, there is some top-tier Dota happening this weekend even as the majority of the scene wrestles with the inevitable but still-spectacular roster drama that follows the International. This is the EU qualifier for the next WCA. The previous one was, by all accounts, a gigantic shambles that people only forgot about because the Shanghai Major was a higher profile shambles. But at least there's Dota to watch. Check Gosugamers for up to date stream and schedule info.

CSGO: ESEA Season 22, Power-LAN 2016, CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 Pro Series

There's a lot of mid-tier CS:GO taking place across the world this weekend, from North America to Denmark to Poland. On Saturday, check out the playoffs for Power-LAN 2016 starting at 02:00 PDT/11:00 CEST here's the official site for more info (it's in Danish, mind.) CyberPowerPC Summer 2016 will be running throughout the weekend, starting at 09:00 PDT/18:00 CEST on Saturday and 11:30 PDT/20:30 CEST on Sunday (more info here). Finally, ESEA Season 22 concludes on Sunday with $50,000 on the line. Tune to the livestream from 01:00 PDT/10:00 CEST.

Smite Pro League: Fall Split

PC Smite is back for another season and this weekend is your chance to get in on the ground floor. Matches began yesterday and continue through to Sunday, starting at 11:00 PDT/19:00 CEST each day in both North America and Europe. You can find out more information on the teams on the official Smite Pro League site and find the livestream here.

Capcom Pro Tour: Lots of Ranking tournaments

Look, we've got limited header space here, alright? Ranking Capcom Pro Tour tournaments this weekend range from Absolute Battle in Dallas, USA to Argentina Pro Gaming Series in Argentina to an Online Ranking Event in Europe to OzHadou Nationals 14 in Sydney to Fight in Rio: Olympia in Rio de Janeiro. As such, you can expect a decent standard of fighting game play regardless of when you tune in: check each official site, listed above, for further details. Keep an eye on Twitch s Street Fighter V section if that s the game you re after.

PC Gamer

Valve imposed a new rule for Valve-sponsored CS:GO events yesterday that forbids coaches from interacting with players while matches are underway: They may now talk to players only during pregame warm-ups, timeouts, and at halftime. The problem, Valve explained, is that unrestricted access to teams during matches effectively makes coaches a sixth player, and since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal.

Not everyone agrees with Valve's assessment of the situation, however. A number of analysts and commentators took to Twitter to express displeasure with the new rule, some saying it's simply unnecessary and others claiming that it's outright damaging to the game.

Nonetheless, Valve seems determined to stick with the change. The ruling won't force the change upon all tournaments, but it will affect the Majors, which as you might expect are the largest tournaments in CS:GO. Valve began awarding $1 million in prize money for each major tournament this year.

Valve clarified its position on the ruling in a follow-up statement in which it said that it has spoken with pro teams about their coaches at past Majors, and had been assured that their focus was "on activities traditionally associated with coaching, such as preparation, support, opponent study, etc.

We were always open with them about our opinion that distributing the work of 5 players (e.g. keeping track of the economy, calling plays and mid-round calls, and general situational awareness) across 6 people was not in line with our goals, one of which was to make it possible for new teams to emerge and compete at the highest levels. We had no concerns with the other coaching responsibilities and at the time any potential harm was hypothetical, the statement says. Since then it has become apparent that teams are, in fact, transitioning away from fielding players that have a wider breadth of skills and instead relying on coaches to handle some of that work.

Ironically, what prompted the new rule was an email from a team coach, sent to an event organizer and forwarded to Valve, seeking a greater level of access to the players during matches. The forwarded email made it clear that despite the conversations we had with them, teams were further investing in coaching in a way that was contrary to the goals of the Majors and the concerns we had expressed. It was important to make a decision before teams further invested in coach IGLs and we decided to rein in the role of coaching in the next Major to exclude player responsibilities, Valve wrote.

We understand that there will be some short term disruption for teams that have made an investment in coach IGLs [In-Game Leader], it concluded. However, we intend the Majors and Minors to be events that can be won by any team of 5 players that demonstrate excellence in all skills of CS and this adjustment is intended to ensure that this remains true.

Short term disruption may be understating things somewhat: As HLTV pointed out, a number of high-profile teams including Natus Vincere, NiP, Liquid, mousesports, and FaZe make use of coaches, and losing access to them so suddenly is bound to have an impact on their performance. It won't take long to find out just how much, and which teams are best able to overcome it: ESL has adopted the rule as well, meaning that the first CSGO Major to operate under this new rule will be ESL One New York, which runs over the weekend of October 1-2.

PC Gamer

There's a decent spread of competitive games to watch this weekend, from Street Fighter V to LoL to top-tier CS:GO to one of the biggest Overwatch tournaments yet.

League of Legends: NA and EU LCS Playoffs

After last week's delays, hopefully this week's LCS playoffs will run a little more smoothly. There are two series to be played this weekend in both NA and EU, with EU kicking off at 17:00 CEST/09:00 PDT and NA starting at 21:00 CEST/13:00 PDT. In Europe, catch SPY vs. H2K on Saturday and G2 vs. UOL on Sunday. In NA, catch Immortals vs. Cloud9 on Saturday and TSM vs. CLG on Sunday. More information and the livestream can, as ever, be found on LoLesports.

Overwatch: Atlantic Showdown

There's $100,000 up for grabs in one of the biggest pro Overwatch tournaments to date. The best of the European and North American scenes will go to war to determine who rules the transatlantic Overwatch roost. If you've not watched pro Overwatch before, this is a great opportunity to learn what it looks like when 80% of your team is not Genji. Play begins at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream right here.

CSGO: ESL Pro League Season 4

The ESL Pro League is your best bet for top-tier CS:GO this weekend, with teams competing for a shot at the $750,000 grand finals in Brazil later in the year. Play begins at 16:30 CEST/08:30 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the livestream on ESL's official streaming site.

Capcom Pro Tour: Summer Jam

Summer Jam X in Pennsylvania is the latest stop on the ongoing Capcom Pro Tour, showcasing a wide variety of fighting games. If you're in for Street Fighter V, however, then the top 32 begins on Saturday at 22:00 EDT/19:00 PDT/04:00 CEST (the following day in Europe). Catch the top 8 an hour earlier on Sunday: 21:00 EDT/18:00 PDT/03:00 CEST. This event has a decent spread of livestreams covering different games, and you can find a full list on the official site.

PC Gamer

Inferno has always been one of the most iconic maps in Counter-Strike, both in 1.6 and Global Offensive. Many of the biggest tournament finals have ended on the map, along with some of the most memorable plays of all time. Almost every pro team knows exactly how to play it, and as a result Inferno matches were often the closest and most unpredictable.

Earlier this year, Valve dropped the bombshell that Inferno was to be removed from the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive active duty map pool and replaced by an updated version of Nuke. This change would have a major effect on the pro scene, as what felt like an entirely new map was replacing one of the staples of pro CS:GO. Teams would have to adapt quickly and devise new strategies for Nuke while forgetting everything they knew about Inferno.

A few months after the switch, teams have started to play Nuke more and more, with mixed results. Many of the top squads are comfortable on the map, whereas others are still banning it out. It has certainly shaken up the pro scene, but it seems like the top players in the world can t quite agree if this was a good change or not.

I m definitely not a fan of the new Nuke, says Robin "flusha" R nnquist, a former member of Fnatic, who were considered to be one of the best teams in the history of CS:GO. We played it a few times and we tried to get better at it and so on, but it's such a chaotic map, you don't know how well you can actually play it. There is just too many things to hold and the timings, if you have the wrong timing you are going to die. It s just a bad map.

This opinion seemed to be shared by many pro players when the switch first happened, as many players were critical of the map on social media and the majority of teams banned out the new Nuke in any pro matches. However, one team that seemed to be happy about the change was Ninjas in Pyjamas, who were one of the best teams on the old version of Nuke.

We are big fans of Nuke, says Adam "friberg" Friberg from NiP. We played Nuke a lot before it was removed and it was probably our go to map. We are very excited to have it back, but we probably need more time to be the best on it.

The original version of Nuke was a very divisive map. Some teams, such as NiP, would always pick it, while others would avoid it like the plague. This new version seems to have a similar reputation, but even players who were considered to be some of the best in the world on the original version are still not sold on new Nuke, and preferred the Inferno map that it replaced.

I was not a fan when they removed Nuke originally, I think people who didn't play Nuke back then didn't know how to play it properly, says Finn "karrigan" Andersen, captain of Astralis. As for taking out Inferno, I started to like it more and more. In the beginning it was very Counter-Terrorist sided but they made a lot of changes, especially with the new round time, to make it better. I feel sad that they removed it, especially switching it with a Nuke that I don't think is ready yet. What I worry about the most is that Nuke gets updated all the time, and they are making changes all the time on the map. So if I invest time now I am concerned that there will be a big update because something happened that Valve didn't like.

Of course removing Inferno was always going to annoy some people, especially the teams that played the map a lot. But looking at the competitive map pool there aren't all that many other options to take out, as the maps are all pretty settled outside of Nuke. Interestingly it was captain of the current world champions, SK Gaming, who offered up some alternatives that could have been replaced by Nuke.

SK Gaming's FalleN. Photo credit: ECS.

I don't think Inferno should be gone to be honest, says Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo. If I could remove one map it would be Cobblestone and maybe Dust II, but Dust II is a map that everyone knows CS for, so it is pretty difficult to remove it. But Cobblestone is pretty unbalanced right now. Ultimately it s not up to me, so we will be practising Nuke and we hope to make it a good map for us.

Again it was Ninjas in Pyjamas who provided a vastly different opinion on this matter. Team coach and Counter Strike 1.6 legend Bj rn "THREAT" Pers gave his thoughts on Inferno s removal.

Nuke is still way better than Inferno, which was the worst map in the map pool, says THREAT. It was the least tactical map and the most random map, because you cannot gain any information and you just have to guess. I didn't like that aspect at all.

Regardless of the players opinions on the Nuke and Inferno switch, they will have to get used to playing the new version of Nuke. Having a map that you just cannot play gives a team a serious disadvantage at the pro level. However from the pros that we have spoken to it certainly seems that this may not have been the right time to make the switch. There are still a lot of issues with Nuke, which really need to be sorted out quickly, while the classic Inferno map remains one of the best CS:GO maps of all time. What the future holds for these two maps is unclear, but right now it seems that Valve may have acted too hastily on this one.

PC Gamer

Deemed to give certain teams greater advantage over others, Valve has introduced new rules which limit coach communication during Valve-sponsored esports matches.

Although still permitted to converse with players during pre-game warm ups, 30-second timeouts, and during halftime, the new rules which have been endorsed by the ESL state coaches are now banned from interacting with their teams when actual rounds are underway.

Posted by HLTV, the email signed by Valve s Ido Magal reads as follows:

"With unrestricted communication with their players, coaches can currently function as a sixth player, and not solely as a source of guidance or training. Activities such as keeping track of the economy, calling plays, and general situational awareness are important components of CS gameplay. If a person is performing these actions, we consider them a player.

Since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal. To address this problem, future Valve sponsored events will enforce the following coaching rules:

During a match, the coach may only communicate with the players during warm up, half-time, or during one of four 30 second timeouts that the coach or player can call. Obviously, third party events can use whatever rules they want but if you want to align your events with ours then we recommend using this coaching rule."

According to HLTV, the first major event to implement the new rules will be ESL One New York which kicks off towards the end of September. In light of the ruleset change, there s already murmurs among top players of inter-squad discussions on how to proceed, strike action and even union formations.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: ESL

In what feels like the end of an era, Swedish side Fnatic have announced a huge change to their CS:GO roster, releasing three players, JW, flusha and KRIMZ from their lineup. While some teams in CS are known for regular changes, there are also the stalwarts, NiP, Virtus Pro and Fnatic, who have maintained (roughly) the same core team for many years. It therefore holds significant weight when these mighty bastions finally crumble.

Rather than fully disband, the three players will be moving to join their former teammate, pronax, in team GODSENT, of which they will become co-owners and shareholders. This surprise announcement (released just fifteen minutes before GODSENT were scheduled to play a match) follows in the footsteps of Danish side Astralis, who left the TeamSoloMid organisation to form their own.To fill the void left behind, Fnatic have welcomed GODSENT players twist and Lekr0, both Swedish players of talent. The final slot has been taken by wenton, who will be looking to prove himself after Fnatic s lacklustre performance during his time substituting olofmeister.

New opportunities

It would be hard for onlookers not to see this change as a downgrade for Fnatic, given that they re losing two of their most experienced players in the form of JW and flusha. Both of these players were present at every Major victory during Fnatic s reign. However, the acquisition of GODSENT players gives Fnatic a real chance to revitalise themselves. Twist should acclimatise quickly, holding previous experience with olof and dennis under LGB. Lekr0, fairly new to the upper echelons of competition, could offer a fresh perspective and will be one to watch closely as he establishes himself in the coming months.

The swap to GODSENT represents a return to old ways for JW and Flusha, who competed with both pronax and znajder under the Fnatic banner back in 2013. Departing messages from each player hint at ideological differences within the team. This combined with the move to become co-owners of GODSENT indicates that the players rather than the organisation may have been behind the split.

Photo credit: ESL

Perhaps the most surprising change comes in the separation of olofmeister and KRIMZ, who were renowned as one of CS:GO s most efficient and dangerous pairings. The question for GODSENT will therefore be who can provide the star-player performance in their lineup. Having struggled to perform during olof s downtime, it will be up to KRIMZ to excel once more without his teammate to rely on. In addition, there s a real chance that the move to GODSENT will see JW return to primary AWPing, an opportunity for him to reassert himself through the quick-firing, aggressive play that brought him to fame in the first place.

Going down in history

Fnatic s core of olof, KRIMZ, flusha and JW will surely be remembered as one of the strongest forces in Global Offensive s history, producing a staggering display of dominance throughout 2014-15. In 2015 alone, Fnatic won no less than five $100,000 prize tournaments, including both Katowice and Cologne Majors. Few beyond NiP can rival their past success and it may be some time before we see another side in charge for so long. In contrast to NiP s slow decline, Fnatic ran into trouble when olofmeister suffered from significant wrist problems and was forced to take a break for his own health in April. Competing with wenton as a substitute, the swedes seemed to fall into disarray, never quite recovering even upon olof s return. Despite this, Fnatic hold a superb legacy in CS and their success will likely be remembered for years to come.

PC Gamer

Image credit: duncasaurus_ on Reddit.

Skins are a big deal in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Since launching in the Arms Deal update in August 2013, gun paint has become as much a part of Counter-Strike culture as defusing bombs and rescuing hostages. For most of us, a weapon 'finish' or skin is a fun way to liven up your arsenal a reward system within an already rewarding FPS. But skins are also a contentious business and, more importantly, a symbol of a player's status. And when it comes to showing off, there's no gun more likely to drive others green with envy than the M4A4 Howl the closest thing Counter-Strike has to a legendary gun.

The M4A4 Howl stands alone when it comes to gun finishes in Counter-Strike. Though you ll occasionally see other guns and knives listed at a higher price, the StatTrak M4A4 Howl (Factory New) is uniquely valuable. The rarity of the Howl doesn't come from its gorgeous red striping and the fiery creature emblazoned along the left side of the receiver, but rather from the story of theft, DMCA takedowns, and banned players that made it famous. It could've just vanished from the game forever, but Valve made it a legend.

Image credit: TH3X on Steam.

It's just skin

The story of the Howl traces all the way back to 2010, when Valve made huge changes to one of its most popular games, Team Fortress 2, that introduced a microtransaction economy called the Mann Co. store. At the time, no one could foresee how this move would impact just about every Valve game as players began trading, crafting, and buying a variety of items using Team Fortress 2's virtual marketplace. Only a year later, Valve expanded on the system by creating the Steam Workshop, where modders and artists from the community were invited to submit their designs to be used and voted on by other players. If those designs were especially popular, Valve would officially include them in updates to Team Fortress 2.

It could've just vanished from the game forever, but Valve made it a legend.

In the two years that followed, the Steam Workshop began creeping its way into other games like Dota 2 and Skyrim, providing a unified marketplace for user-generated content and, for Valve's games, creating a birthing ground for one of the most complex microtransaction economies in all of gaming. It wasn't until 2013 that the Workshop found its way to CS:GO for players to design and share new maps and game modes. At the time Counter-Strike was still a divided community, with many players choosing to stick with the two previous iterations Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike 1.6. It was only after Valve released the Arms Deal update finally letting players purchase and trade custom skins for their weapons that CS:GO transformed into the multiplayer and esports phenomenon that it is today.

Image credit: Nitor_cs on Reddit.

In 2014, the marketplace for skins was exploding with players routinely trading rare knives and gun finishes for hundreds of dollars. Artists, inspired by the wads of cash modders were making if Valve chose their designs to be sold in their games, began flooding the CS:GO Workshop with their ideas for the next hot skin that would have players in a frenzy but not all of those ideas were original.

On March 30, 2014, a skin and a sticker were uploaded to the workshop under the title 'Howling Dawn' by Steam users Auzzii and sic. The skin, which would go on to earn more than 4,500 positive ratings, was supposedly the original work of Auzzii. In the description he wrote, "I wanted to make an intresting [sic] illustration, so I created this. It originated from a picture of my dog, it's kind of taking the out of him in a way as he's the complete opisite [sic] to the wolf."

A month later that skin and sticker were officially added to CS:GO as part of the Huntsman collection because of their popularity among the Workshop community. These collections would drop special cases in-game that players could purchase keys to open and earn one of the skins contained within. Those that were lucky opened up a case to find a flashy new M4A4 Howl.

CanisAlbus's original artwork that Auzzii stole.

Crime and punishment 

While the Arms Deal update that brought skins to CS:GO played heavily on themes of illegal black market trading, it was never intended to facilitate actual theft. But in June of 2014, Deviantart user CanisAlbus discovered that's exactly what had happened the popular Howl skin wasn't inspired by Auzzii's dog, it was a shameless copy of his own artwork.

"Someone has stolen one of my artworks to make a custom skin for a gun in a game called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," CanisAlbus wrote in his Deviantart blog. "I'm just letting you know(sic) that I did design this piece, but I didn't upload the items to the stream [sic] marketplace and the spineless worm who submitted it didn't have my permission to do so. However, I have reported both copyright infringements and I'm hoping that the items will be removed soon."

As CS:GO continued to become more popular, the price of a Howl skin skyrocketed.

Days later, Valve announced that they had received a DMCA takedown notice regarding the use of CanisAlbus's artwork without permission and responded. "When we launched the CS:GO Items Workshop, our goal was to provide artists with a space to share their creative ideas," Valve wrote in a blog to the community. "By design, the Items Workshop has very low friction for artists to submit their work new contributions do not require Valve review or approval." They do however, require that modders sign a legal agreement before uploading their creations.

The community didn't react kindly. In a Reddit thread one user wrote, "[it] took me a damn week to finish the artwork for my skin, disregarding the time spent modifying the pattern to fit the gun properly. Auzzii is a tool for doing this, and honestly I'm pretty surprised it hasn't come up sooner."

A comparison of the old Howl (left) and the new (right). Click the arrows to enlarge.

Howl, the Howling Dawn sticker, and the five other guns from the Huntsman collection that sic was involved in making were removed from the weapon cases though they would still remain in player's inventories. In the case of Howl and its sticker, both were given original redesigns by the CS:GO team to reflect their original aesthetic but avoid infringing CanisAlbus's copyright.

For sic, this revelation of theft was a slap in the face. He had been making CS:GO skins for months, and compared to first-time contributor Auzzii, stood to lose a lot more. In an update to the Howling Dawn's original Workshop page, he implied his ignorance of the theft. "Guys please take note that I am not the guy to stole the art. It was proposed by Auzzii that I use HIS art to make a skin or sticker, which was the worst decision I've made by far looking at what's happening. I've already contacted the artist Canis about this matter and apologized, hoping to get a solution for this matter."

Unfortunately for sic, the only solution was a lifetime ban from Steam for himself and Auzzii.

Making a legend

What makes the Howl such a remarkable story is that Valve simply could have remade the skin and wiped its hands of the matter. Valve s redesign was its own property, so there was no need to pull new copies of the weapon from being generated in weapon cases, but in doing so they created CS:GO's most unique skin.

Following the redesign of the finish and sticker and the announcement that neither would be attainable beyond the stock that already existed in player's inventories, Valve embraced sic and Auzzie's illicit activities and bumped Howl up into a category all its own by assigning it 'Contraband' level of rarity. To date, no other item in CS:GO carries this descriptor.

With the skin no longer available for purchase, the remaining stock quickly became valuable items for any CS:GO player's collection. Using archive.org to view CSGO Analyst, we can see that by the end of 2014 the skin was being listed at roughly $270. As CS:GO continued to become more popular and the esports scene took off, that price skyrocketed to the $1,800 it is today.

The new Howl noticeably changes the wolf in CanisAlbus's work to a more non-descript beast.

Skins in CS:GO come in different qualities, but the Factory New with the StatTrak add-on that tallies kills has become an icon among professional players. GuardiaN of team Natus Vincere hoards six StatTrak Howl (Factory New) M4A4s in addition to lesser quality ones a total worth an estimated $12,000.

There's no telling how many Howls are still in circulation. Because the Steam marketplace places limits on the price of items, those being sold are through third-party CS:GO trading websites. Stickers can still be purchased right now for over $150, however. But if you've got a lot of money to burn and are looking to own one of the most sought after finishes in CS:GO, a StatTrak M4A4 Howl (Factory New) is the closest thing CS:GO has to an Excalibur or a Mj lnir. And it's all thanks to two thieving artists.

PC Gamer

Valve has rolled out a major patch for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive which amends the recovery rate of three of its most-used rifles, as part of a new accuracy recovery method the studio has developed. With the new changes, players should be able to fire off short bursts with better accuracy, as the recovery method can now account for a wider range of firing intensity.

As part of the new method, recover rates have been adjusted for the AK-47, M4A1-S, and M4A4. Previously, the weapon's accuracy would return to its baseline after firing, but now there are "initial and final" values.

"Now shorter firing sequences can be designed to recover accuracy faster than longer ones, and the recovery rate for tapping/bursting/spraying can be tuned independently," the update reads. In short, expect CS:GO's guns to respond a little differently based on which firing technique you use, whether you're spraying, firing a burst, or tapping out single shots.

The new recovery method comes after previous changes to recovery rates to the aforementioned weapons that were previously reverted. The former system didn't allow for enough subtlety when it came to tapping and bursting, which prompted Valve to rework the system completely. "We reverted that change and went back to the drawing board, still with the same goal but without those trade-offs. Ultimately that led us to this new way of handling recovery rate."

The studio provided some before and after images to show how accuracy has changed following the patch:

The full patch notes are over here, while other general changes, including some audio adjustments and miscellaneous fixes, can be seen over here. Early reactions to the changes have been mostly positive, considering these adjustments have been long requested by the community.

PC Gamer

The CS:GO skin gambling controversy that kicked off in June seemed to come to a head a couple of weeks ago when Valve issued a cease-and-desist letter to more than 20 gambling sites, including CSGO Lounge, one of the first and biggest websites in the questionably legal industry that grew around Valve's game. It was a fairly straightforward proposition: Commercial use of Steam accounts is unlicensed and in violation of the SSA [Steam Subscriber Agreement], Valve wrote, and could lead to penalties of various sorts, including the loss of the account outright.

The general expectation was that gambling sites would be forced to shut down, although once such site, CSGOBig, said the closure was only temporary and vowed to return. But CSGO Lounge has taken a different tack by embracing its gambling heritage, even as it denied that it was ever actually a gambling site at all.

From the very beginning, the lounge service was intended as an entertainment service for the esports community of Dota2 and CS:GO, and we have never considered it as a real money betting. Virtual items in CS:GO and Dota2 have no monetary value and any community interaction with the virtual items is meant only for entertainment, without any profit interest, a recently-posted notice explains. We did not collect any commission or similar until June 2016, where we started doing it in order to improve our items drafting and quality of winnings, compensate items losses due to issues related to our product or issues with Steam community trading, to enable giveaways for the community and add more features to our service in near future.

After all the recent events around virtual items and the official letter by Valve, which we have received as well, we were left out alone without any additional information or communication by Valve on this matter. We had to make a decision on how to proceed with Lounges as community place and entertainment service. The situation is highly confusing we are not offering games of luck, we are not offering any transactions with real money or equivalents. Despite those facts, in order to avoid or reduce the confusion, we have decided to acquire a license to legally operate in most of the countries and be able to accept the esports bets by our community, as if it would be real money, it says.

Gambling laws differ significantly across the world and even within individual countries, and essentially Lounge is only now making an attempt to implement systems that comply with them. As Evan explained in his breakdown of the CSGO skin gambling scene, Lounge itself has been operating for about three years without any meaningful checks against a user's age or location. To me, Lounge's rapid move to implement these systems is a tacit admission of wrongdoing.

Starting from Monday, 1st August 2016, we will start limiting the access to the betting functionality for users visiting us from countries and regions, where online esports betting is forbidden. We will add additional registration and verification process and we require you to comply with our new Terms of Service if you want to keep using our service. We also remind that our service is only for users who are at least 18 years old, it continues. We will be operating according to the new terms and any transactions related to the items betting functionality will be handled accordingly to the new terms of service, and only on the territories, which do not forbid it by law.

The betting feature will be disabled in the following countries and regions, although users will still be able to withdraw any existing winnings and deposits:

  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Belgium
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • Guernsey
  • Gibraltar
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Martinique
  • French Polynesia
  • Reunion
  • Mayotte
  • Turkey
  • Spain
  • Scotland
  • Israel

The ban on betting from the US, UK, and parts of Europe in particular should severely impact the number of CS:GO items that are bet on the site. CSGO Lounge said it is trying to come up with ways for people in those regions to stay engaged with its site, although it also warned that it can't guarantee the safety or sanctity of items on the site if and when Valve decides to drop the hammer.

That's the big question mark hanging over this whole thing. CSGO Lounge appears to be making moves toward legitimacy, but Valve's C&D specifically cites the unlicensed commercial use of Steam as the problem here not that these are gambling sites, but that Steam and Steam services are licensed for personal, non-commercial use only. Even if the Lounge gets squared away as a proper, up-front gambling site, in other words, if it's still making use of Steam, it will presumably still be in violation of the SSA. Theoretically, it could disentangle itself from Steam and operate independently, but given how tightly integrated it, that seems unlikely or at the very least, unlikely to succeed.

I've reached out to both Valve and CSGO Lounge for comment.

PC Gamer

Last week we talked about how to best use HE grenades and firebombs. Knowing how to deal damage and control areas of the map is great, but before you can make use of that knowledge you need to know how to take control in the first place. That s where smoke grenades and flashbangs come in.

One-way smokes

Is there anything more annoying than to get killed by someone you can t see? A well placed smoke screen will result in what s called a one-way smoke which basically means you can see through it but no one can see you. Spread across the maps are a few known one-way smoke-spots. If you see a smoke in one of those spots it can be a good idea to fire a few shots just to be sure no one s hiding behind it. Here are a couple of examples of one-way smokes:

Pop flashes

A flashbang that pops as it enter a player s field of vision is called a pop flash. The purpose of pop flashes is to give your opponent as small window to turn around as possible. Often you want to stand just behind a corner and call for a teammate to flash you in. By doing this you ll either find your enemy completely flashed or with his back facing you if you time it right.There are also a few really good pop flashes that can be used without the help of a teammate. A lot of those flashes are used to take control over areas on the map. This flash on Cache is a basic one but really effective as you don t have to turn around: you can just push.

Another spot that can be hard to push without using at least one flashbang is short on Dust2. Aim at the slope right next to the stairs and run in a straight line as you throw it. If you succeed it doesn t matter where they re peeking from they re gonna think it s Christmas.

Play around on empty servers and try to find flashes like these two. Watching pro matches is probably one of the best ways to find new throws that you didn t know about. HLTV.org is a great resource when it comes to pro demos.

 Smoke grenades and timing

It takes 15 seconds from when a smoke grenade detonates until it has completely evaporated. Knowing this is key when you want to time plays or just want to delay your opponent s attack.

Let s say you re defending B on Dust2 and you ve saved your smoke. They have 40 seconds left on the clock and your teammate on long just saw an enemy. You know the terrorists need four seconds on the clock to plant the bomb. In this scenario you have to make a decision. Do you hold on to the smoke for a few more seconds or do you use it? I d say you should wait and see what happens. If it turns out the terrorist over on the other side of the map didn t fake, you still have your smoke. If it on the other hand was a fake, it s highly unlikely that the rest of their team will push at the exact same time. You can also use firebombs or flashbangs in order to delay the push even further. There are no right answers to these questions. Play the game and eventually you ll find what works for you. Just make sure to pay attention to what usually happens when you do a certain thing and try to learn from it.

Another thing that s important when it comes to using grenades is that you don t want to stand out in the open when you throw them. If you peek a spot and want to smoke off that spot you should always back off a bit before you throw it. Most of the times I ve died with a grenade in my hand could ve been avoided and it s really frustrating when it happens. Try to stay focused when you practice. Sloppy play during practice will result in sloppy play in those games that really matter. After all, we are creatures of habit.

Strategic use of utility grenades on attack

The true beauty of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is found in how well a team coordinates their plays. Watching teams like fnatic or SK Gaming execute their attacks is like standing before the Mona Lisa. If you ve played CS:GO in a team environment you know just how difficult it is to time your smokes and pop flashes perfectly with your teammates. Even if you ve planned all the grenades you re going to use you still need timing and move like a single organism to make the most out of your strategy.

Spend some time with your team tightening up your timings. If you don t already have a team I strongly recommend you to try it out if you want to take your game to the next level. You can either try to join an existing team or form one with friends. Both are super rewarding in their own way. Here s a great example of how to execute a strategy as a unit:

Na Vi not only shows us the strategy as a whole, but you also get to see what each player does from their point of view. Watch and learn.

Find all of our other Counter-Strike: Global Offensive guides here:

Inferno Counter-Terrorist guideInferno Terrorist guideCache Counter-Terrorist guideCache Terrorist guideOverpass Counter-Terrorist guideOverpass Terrorist guideCobblestone Counter-Terrorist guideCobblestone Terrorist guideTrain Counter-Terrorist guideTrain Terrorist guideMirage Counter-Terrorist guideMirage Terrorist guideDust2 Counter-Terrorist guideDust2 Terrorist guideSupport role guideEntry fragger role guideLurker role guideAWPer role guideTeam leader guideSMGs guideSniper rifles guideAssault rifles guidePistols guideWorst weapons guideHE grenades and firebombs guide

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