PC Gamer

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.

Thanks, Kotaku.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

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'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.

PC Gamer


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.

Original story:

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.

Thanks, PvPLive.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

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.

PC Gamer

Another packed weekend coming up as both League of Legends and all of Blizzard's games close in on their respective World Championships. That's not all, however: there's also top-level Dota 2 in China, loads of CS:GO in Europe, the culmination of the Smite season, the first big event of this season of Rocket League, and Capcom Pro Tour stops all over the world. Enjoy!

League of Legends: Worlds 2016

After a dramatic start to the group stage, this is becoming the most competitive Worlds to date. There's loads more group stage play taking place this weekend, with games starting this evening and continuing through until Monday. Catch games starting at 13:00 PDT/22:00 CEST every day. As ever, your best resource for team info and the livestream is LoLesports.

Hearthstone: Europe/Asia-Pacific Last Call Invitational

These Last Call invitationals offer one last chance for top Hearthstone players to qualify for the World Championship at Blizzcon. This weekend, the tournaments will take place in Europe on Saturday beginning at 14:00 CEST/05:00 PDT and in Asia-Pacific on Sunday starting at 21:00 PDT, which is 06:00 Monday morning in CEST. Find the livestreams for both here.

World of Warcraft: Americas Regionals

Although not given the prominance afforded to Blizzard's other esports, WoW Arena still has many fans. This weekend, the best players in the Americas will fight for the chance to represent their region at the World Championship at Blizzcon. Play begins on both days at 12:00 PDT/21:00 CEST. Here's the stream.

StarCraft II: WESG 2016 Europe & CIS Qualifier

After a run of dramatic recent upsets, now is a great time to start watching top-level StarCraft II. This weekend, players in Europe and CIS will fight for a spot at the WESG 2016 main event, with a $27,000 prize on the line. Play begins at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT on Saturday and 16:00 CEST/07:00 PDT on Sunday. Here's the stream.

Dota 2: Shanghai Dota 2 Open

The best Dota 2 teams in China (with a few exceptions, like TI6 champions Wings) are about to reach the end of this $90,000 tournament. There's only the lower bracket final and grand final left to play, with only four teams left in contention Newbee, CDEC, and the winner of LGD.FY vs. EHOME, which is ongoing at the time of writing. BeyondTheSummit have the English language livestream.

CSGO: The World Championships 2016

There's $100,000 to be won in this contest between national CS:GO teams. The final eight qualified nations France, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Singapore, Tunisia, Canada and Argentina will do battle in the Kombank Arena in Belgrade. Play begins at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday and you can find the stream on Azubu.

CSGO: World Electronic Sports Games 2016

Meanwhile, in Kiev, loads more European CS:GO talent is going to war. There's about $75,000 on the line, and an unusual spread of teams that includes traditional powerhouses like Virtus.pro and EnVyUs alongside newly-qualified hopefuls and national teams for the Ukraine, Russia, and Norway. Games run throughout the weekend. Here's the stream.

Rocket League: Mid-Season Classic

There's $10,000 on the line as Rocket League Season 2 reaches its midway point. There's no specific start time listed, but the tournament is due to run over Saturday and Sunday. Find out more information about Rocket League's esports scene here and catch the livestream on Twitch.

Capcom Pro Tour: South East Asia Major 2016 and more

The latest CPT Premier event takes place in Singapore this weekend, joined by three Ranking events running concurrently in Dubai, Barcelona, and Raleigh, NC. In Singapore, expect top tier Guilty Gear, Street Fighter, King of Fighters and more running from 10:00 SGT, which is 04:00 CEST or 19:00 PDT the previous night. The final stages of the Street Fighter tournament are scheduled for Sunday at 10:00 CEST/01:00 PDT. Check out the Street Fighter V section on Twitch for streams of both the amateur and pro aspects of the event.

Smite: SPL Fall Group A

Qualification begins for next month's Smite Super Regionals, a vital step along the road to the Smite World Championship in January. This weekend, two teams will survive the battle for Group A a clash between Team eLevate, Sanguine Esports, Dignitas, and OrbitGG. Games started today and continue throughout the weekend starting at 17:00 CEST/08:00 PDT. Check out the livestream here.

PC Gamer

After years of player-led lobbying, Valve has reintroduced graffiti sprays to Counter-Strike. There is, however, a catch.

Absent since Counter-Strike: Source, graffiti sprays have now been added to Counter Strike: Global Offensive as consumable patterns which means players can obtain them in one of three ways: purchasing individual patterns from the Steam Market; purchasing Graffiti Boxes which "feature art created by Steam Community Artists"; or collecting patterns via free weekly drops as rewards for ranking up.

Now, while modern Counter-Strikers are pretty accustomed to monetisation a process which inadvertently facilitated the recent skin betting scandals Valve has also applied restrictions to the use of the sprays in-game.

As outlined in this Steam Community Q&A update, once players unseal graffiti, they can apply the pattern 50 times (players who unseal a graffiti pattern already housed in their inventory will receive an additional 50 charges to their existing supply). Players can only apply graffiti once per round, however or every 45 seconds if matches run longer and one application of graffiti lasts just seven minutes and "degrades over time until it is no longer visible."

Check out the Q&A in its entirety for the minutiae of the matter. A few threads have popped up on the CS:GO subreddit, where some players don't seem best pleased with Valve's decision see here and here many of whom consider it a cash-grabbing exercise.

I've not played CS:GO for a long time myself, so I'd like to put this one to you guys: how do you feel about the return of graffiti sprays in this guise?

PC Gamer

Over the last few months Valve have released a steady stream of updates for CS:GO, replacing the audio for every gun and tweaking many other aspects of the game. Behind the scenes they ve also been hard at work fixing some of CS:GO s longstanding bugs and peculiarities. By tying the camera to the player model, hitboxes have been improved significantly, leaving no more excuses for those missed headshots at least until the next issue is found. Also gone are bizarre aerial exploits in which a player could land precise midair shots by counter-strafing or weapon swapping, as shown below.

These changes have been long-awaited, and it s great to see a renewed interest from Valve in fine-tuning the game. However, CS:GO is no stranger to bugs, and plenty have haunted it for a long time. Collected below are some of the strangest ones that you can still find in the game today.

Ethereal ‘nades

The inclusion of bouncing projectiles in hitscan shooters is always going to cause trouble, but grenades still provide more than their fair share. Clip a teammate when throwing any grenade, and you ll find it no longer collides with doors. Used on Cache s A-bombsite, defenders can be caught by an unexpected flashbang.

Line up the angle just right and the grenade will skim your teammate without slowing, allowing you to set up useful smokes and Molotovs from a position of relative safety.

Highlighted as far back as 2013, Valve don t seem in any rush to release a fix. Fortunately doors are far from common in competitive maps, reducing this bug s impact.

Invisible Molotovs

There s no questioning how dangerous molotovs can be, with even the best falling victim from time to time. Despite the large visual warning, It s easy enough to step accidentally into the hotzone during a firefight. A risk which becomes all the more deadly when the fire itself is invisible.

If a Molotov or incendiary detonates just as it hits a player s feet, they will appear to smother the flames, spawning no fire around them. This won t stop the damage or audio, however. Moving will cause the flames to reappear, and few will stick around when a Molotov comes their way, making this bug unlikely to offer much of an advantage.

Run boosting

Like bunnyhopping, run boosts offer players an alternative method of movement with which to catch opponents off guard. While Valve has done much to curb use of the former, run boosting remains an effective strategy. By standing one player on top of another and running in tandem, the boost-ee is flung forward at high speed when jumping. Most often put to use in reaching unconventional spots on the map, it can also be used to take a waiting AWPer by surprise.

Requiring two players to work in synchronisation, run boosting necessitates a high degree of risk in it s setup, making it a situational option at best. Popular with pros and fans alike, however, it s unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Watch Virtus.Pro put this to use against G2 here.

Venting frustration

Valve s approach to updating maps is far from consistent. Levels are chosen here and there for revamps. It s great to see older maps receive a bit of polish, but it can also lead to some unusual differences worth knowing. For an AWPer, it s crucial to land that single-shot kill, an advantage removed when firing through any object. Shoot through a vent on Cache, Nuke or Mirage, and you ll find your damage drop below 90, even when aiming through the gaps. Repeat the exercise on Cobblestone however, and you can shoot through without breaking the vent itself.

Vents have proven an interesting testbed in CS:GO, behaving differently on each map, and even made open and closable in Nuke s revamp (a change since revoked). An AWP failing to kill in one hit can be a matter of life and death for the shooter, making it well worth learning each map s individual quirks.

Smoke bomb

Counter-Strike s terrorists have tried as hard as possible to make their bomb noticeable, attaching a huge blinking light to the front. This might make it easy to find should you leave it lying around, but can also lead to some unintended downsides. Try to sneak through a smoke grenade while carrying the bomb, and you may find yourself an easy target. Those with a careful eye can also take advantage of this to spot when a dropped bomb is picked up inside smoke.

Visibility of the bomb through smoke grenades is wildly inconsistent, but seems dependent on the bomb's position relative to the grenade. To reduce the chances of showing up, try to make sure you stick to the centre of the smoke or the far side of your opponent. When trying to recover the bomb, make sure the smoke overshoots the bomb s position slightly.

Assorted oddities: stairs, swaps and sound

Beyond vents, GO s maps exhibit some further irregularities in design, including smaller but noticeable differences in the way stairs behave. While some act as smooth ramps, others cause the player s viewpoint to bump up and down as you traverse them. Youtuber 3kliksphilip does a fantastic job of explaining the differences here.

If you ve ever had trouble picking up a gun at a crucial time, you re not alone. GO contains a 'press E to swap weapon' feature which proves unreliable at best. Should the gun lie anywhere near a grenade, the bomb or even another weapon, you may be unable to retrieve it, a problem which even causes the pros some consternation. Given the option, swap by dropping your original gun instead.

Far from a bug but still an issue, CS:GO s surround sound leaves a lot to the imagination. While Horizontal audio is acceptable, verticality is all but indistinguishable, made most dangerously evident on Nuke s overlapping bombsites. A remedy would likely require an overhaul of the map, and that's unlikely to happen any time soon. CS:GO may have a long life ahead of it, but it s likely that many of these bugs will be along for the ride.

PC Gamer

Update: In response to my inquiry, Valve's Doug Lombardi referred to the "In-Game Item Trading Update" posted in July, which states that using Steam to run a gambling business "is not allowed by our API nor our user agreements," and warns that action will be taken against sites that do.

"Our position has not changed and so far we ve sent cease and desist notices to over 40 sites," Lombardi said.

Original story:

The Washington State Gambling Commission is demanding that Valve halt the transfer of CS:GO skins through the Steam API, which it says contravenes state gambling laws. In a press release posted by the Esports Betting Report, the regulatory agency gave Valve until October 14 to "explain how it is in full compliance with Washington's gambling laws," and warned that failure to do so could lead to civil or criminal action being brought against it.

The WSGC contacted Valve about the use of CSGO skins in online gambling back in February 2016, initially "to determine if any additional action was needed." As a result of its investigation, the Commission has ordered Valve to "take whatever actions are necessary" to keep third-party sites from using the Steam platform to engage in skin gambling activities.

"All third party gambling sites have Steam accounts and use the Steam platform to conduct their gambling transactions," the commission said in the release. "These gambling transactions are automated and performed by a software program or 'bot,' and have proliferated so much that a recent market report by Esports Betting Report indicates that one specific gambling website, CSGO Lounge, brought in approximately $1 billion in 'skin' gambling between January 1st and August 1st this year alone."

"In Washington, and everywhere else in the United States, skins betting on esports remains a large, unregulated black market for gambling. And that carries great risk for the players who remain wholly unprotected in an unregulated environment," Washington State Gambling Commissioner Chris Stearns said. "We are also required to pay attention to and investigate the risk of underage gambling which is especially heightened in the esports world. It is our hope that Valve will not only comply but also take proactive steps to work with the Commission on future measures that will benefit the public and protect consumers."

The spotlight was turned on CS:GO skin gambling earlier this year when it was revealed that YouTubers Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin and Tom 'ProSyndicate' Cassell were the owners of CSGO Lotto, a site they had heavily promoted to their viewers without disclosing the relationship. Shortly thereafter, another YouTuber, PsiSyndicate, admitted that CS:GO skin gambling videos he'd posted to his channel were also rigged. That led Valve to issue a cease-and-desist order against more than 20 CS:GO gambling sites a big move, but apparently not enough to satisfy the Commission.

We took an up-close look at the ins and outs of skin gambling, including a breakdown of how it works and questions about its legality, that you can dig into here. I've reached out to Valve for comment, and will update if and when I receive a reply.

PC Gamer

If you play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, prepare to see a lot of guns being hurled over walls in the coming weeks thanks to a dramatic clutch victory by team Natus Vincere. During the ESL One New York semifinals, European team Natus Vincere (Na'Vi for short) squared off against Team Liquid a team so fearsome even rapper Ice-T shook the dust off his shoulders to step into the spotlight to send a warning: "Don't fuck with Liquid 'cause they're going to bust that ass." Apparently, Oleksandr s1mple Kostylev, a recent addition to Na'Vi and one-time member of Team Liquid, didn't get that message.

During the third and final game of the match, s1mple once again lived up to his reputation for stylish gunslinging. In the final moments of round five, he faced off solo against Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella. With nitr0 ready to plant the bomb inside bombsite B on Dust2 and s1mple stuck on the outside with no backup, things weren't looking great for Na'Vi. And then Kostylev did something ludicrous.

Just as Cannella planted the bomb, Kostylev approached the window leading into bombsite B, directly above Cannella, and hurled his AWP over the wall. Cannella, sensing movement, turned to face the flying rifle in a moment of confusion as Kostylev came through the window a split second later and planted a few pistol rounds in Cannella's head. The crowd went wild, the round was won, and the commentators were stunned. "What even is that?" asked one of them immediately following the play as both struggled to comprehend s1mple's strategy.

In CS:GO, throwing weapons isn't uncommon. Players will sometimes hurl a pistol around corners or over walls to try and make enemy players believe it's a flashbang, as Swag did so memorably a couple years ago. As enemies turn away to avoid the flash, players can rush and catch them off guard. But hurling an AWP is practically unheard of and certainly took Cannella by surprise. In the tight corners of bombsite B, the AWP wasn't going to be of much use to Kostylev, so using it as a distraction does make sense but it's still bold as hell. "That is just him styling on nitr0," one of the ESL's commentators explained. "That is him just mentally breaking him, saying I'm going to utterly dominate you in this one on one."

And dominate s1imple did. Na'Vi would go on to secure the win over Team Liquid and eventually claim first place and a cool $125,000 cash prize thanks in part to s1mple's ability to make amazing clutch plays. Even if you don't play CS:GO, I absolutely recommend watching some of the highlights from this weekend that can be found on the official ESL CS:GO Twitter account. S1mple also made another clutch play when he went toe-to-toe with four members of Virtus.pro using only a Desert Eagle. The CS:GO community has also put together some amazing videos following the tournament, including this highlight reel by YouTuber 'Virre CSGO' which captures all of the excitement of the weekend.

PC Gamer

I started playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when it was in open beta. It was a scary time for a Counter-Strike nerd like me. I had played CS 1.6 (the version before Counter-Strike: Source and Global Offensive) since early 2005. In some ways it felt like the end times. My beloved game that had kept me sane through my years in school was slowly but surely dying.

After a few months of complaining about the details that separated CS:GO from 1.6 (why would they have firebombs in a Counter-Strike game, I cried) a friend of mine suggested that we attend the upcoming Dreamhack Winter event in J nk ping, Sweden. I had never been to a LAN of that size before so I accepted and we put together a team consisting of friends from the 1.6 days, as well as a friend named John that had never played CS before. At all.

If my memory serves me right it was about four months until the event when we started to practice. We had just learned that the bring your own computer tournament was going to serve as a qualifier for a main event that happened to be the first-ever CS:GO Major. After a few nights I must admit that I was ready to give up. John was terrible. A nice guy, but he just couldn t play the game.Then something changed. After a couple of weeks I noticed that John had started to hit his shots, and that he understood the basics of teamplay and positioning. I went to his Steam profile and noticed that he averaged just under ten hours (!) per day.

With a few days left we decided to meet up at a friend s house closer to J nk ping to get some LAN hours under our belt before the tournament. We had so much fun, both in-game and out. It really felt like we were making progress each day.

When we finally got to the venue and set up our computers I started to get nervous. Was this a mistake? I mean we re pretty good, but not that good, right? We signed up for the tournament, went over the strategies in our playbook one last time and then later that same evening it was go time. Our first game was on the map Inferno. We won that game 16-0. Maybe we d make it out of the groups after all?

Fast forward to the next game. We were going to face a British team that had travelled all the way to Sweden for this event. Obviously, they meant business. This time the game was going to be played on Mirage, our strongest map at the time. In the first round we decided to go for a B-split. We took control over mid and then pressured their defenses from two sides. My teammates racked up a few quick kills and we found ourselves in a 5-versus-1 situation. I hid inside the kitchen and managed to remain unseen until the lone counter-terrorist had passed by me.

A second later I had drawn my knife, secured the round and humiliated him at the same time. At that moment I felt like a superstar. I was on top of the world. However, that feeling wouldn t last for long as that was the only round we won in that game. 1-16 was the final score and our dream was crushed. After yet another game we finished second to last in our group and our run in the tournament came to an abrupt end.

That weekend we watched the Major, and when it was time for the grand final you could really feel the hype. The world s best team NiP was going to play the underdogs, Fnatic. A few rounds into the game the crowd started to chant Friberg! Friberg! Friberg! after some great rounds from NiP s Adam friberg Friberg. At that moment I knew that this wasn t the end times. This was the beginning. That s part of the beauty of Counter-Strike: it never truly dies, even if it's come close at times.

Then we got to see the biggest upset in the game s short history up to that point, as Fnatic won the title.

What is CS:GO, really?

You might wonder why I told you that story about our somewhat na ve attempt to qualify for the first Major tournament. For me that s the core of what CS:GO is: it s competition at its purest. You don t have any special abilities. No silly magic, no heat seeking missiles, no nothing. You have a basic arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Apart from that it s just you and your teammates. Your objective is to plant a bomb at one of two bomb sites and make sure the counter-terrorists can t defuse it before it goes off 40 seconds later. If you re on the other side your objective is to prevent the terrorists from doing so.

What truly makes Counter-Strike: Global Offensive unique is the economic system. It s a round based game and in the first round you start with $800 and a basic pistol. That money is just enough for you to get body armor, some grenades or a better pistol. You have to choose wisely. If you win a round you get more money for the next one. At the same time you get bonus cash for consecutive losses. This system adds another layer of strategy to the game. Sometimes you re better off not buying anything at all. Even if that means that you re likely to lose that round it also means you have more money left for future rounds and that ll increase your chances of winning a round and swing the momentum your way.

The simple graphics and clean textures make players easy to spot. It s not like in Battlefield where you can hide in a bush and kill people without getting seen. Because of how accurate the first few bullets are with most weapons, the connection between your hand movements and what happens on the screen is extreme. It s a lot like a hockey player and his stick: easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master.

Aside from your physical dexterity, CS:GO will push your mental capabilities to the test. The number of different strategies you can employ is so great that it s probably close to infinite. I d go so far as to say that CS:GO doesn t have a skill ceiling. It s always possible to get better.

What do you need? 

You need a Steam account and a copy of the game. There are no hidden fees. No DLCs you have to pay for. If you buy the game you gain access to all the content you need to play.

There are however weapon skins that you can buy either from other players through the Steam market or by buying keys to open crates that you get from playing. These skins are entirely optional and you gain no advantage whatsoever by doing so. Apart from looking cool and a potential confidence boost if you re the kind of person that enjoys wearing the fanciest clothes or driving flashy cars.You ll also need time. Like I mentioned earlier, it s easy to learn how to play CS:GO, but it s impossible to fully master. If your goal is to improve you ll have to put in a lot of work. Read guides, watch professionals play and above all else: practice a lot! If you on the other hand want to have fun and play a game every now and then all you need is a little over an hour to spare, and that s really stretching it. Most games end way before the 60 minute mark.

It s also helpful if you re friendly towards teammates and opponents: sadly, there are a lot of people who aren t. Unless you ve played competitive games online in the past you re likely to encounter more obnoxious people in CS:GO than you ve ever had the bad fortune to meet before. Luckily, you have the option to mute people.

Finally I recommend you to get a headset with a microphone. Being able to hear footsteps around you is a big part of the game and being able to use voice chat to communicate enemy positions to your teammates is equally important.

Resources for beginners 

Twitch's CS:GO section is an amazing way to find your favorite players and watch them play the game. Try to learn from them. Why did they position themselves like that, in that situation? There are also an almost infinite number of useful videos on YouTube. Search for things like spray control, flashbangs and smokes. Learn from the more experienced players.

Once you ve picked up the basics you might want to watch pro matches. Not only will they help you improve faster but they re also a great source of entertainment. Especially once you get to know the players and teams. Over at HLTV.org they have detailed schedules where you can find information on when teams are playing. They also provide links to the match streams. Check it out!

Finally, I d also like to recommend the range CS:GO guides I ve written for PC Gamer over the last year. You ll find some neat tricks to use on different maps, how to use grenades and even guides for how to play different roles on a team. All of these the guides can be found below.

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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