Jan 28, 2014
Looking for evening of multiplayer gaming? Come and play with us. We've recently refreshed our UK server list, providing a space for readers to explore, build and... okay, mostly just kill. Whether you enjoy a friendly round of competitive brutality, or a collaborative place to create and share, our Multiplay hosted servers are waiting for you to join.
Visit our version of Chernarus for pleasant strolls around picturesque towns and memorable encounters with local characters. It's a camping trip you'll never forget. Maybe you'll even run into long-term resident Andy Kelly. Pro-tip: Don't run into Andy Kelly.
If spawning unarmed in a brutal and hostile environment doesn't sound like your thing, Rust let's you start with a rock. Our 50-player server will give you plenty of chances to use that rock along the difficult road to survival.
If you've a hankering for creative co-operation and expansive exploration, our Starbound server is for you. You can build, fight, find and live amongst the game's mushrooms, brains and bird people, all with your fellow readers.
Prefer more depth to your builds? Our Minecraft server is a massive and beautiful testament to our readers' creativity. It's a museum of wonder, and one that you can add to. Presuming, that is, you can find some unclaimed land.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
We're a classy bunch at PCG, but that doesn't mean we can't also kick back once in a while. That's why our CS:GO server is running Classic - Casual, cycling through some of the best official maps. Yes, that includes Dust.
Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 is still brilliant, and for that reason it's the most enduring game on our server list. Thanks to its age there's a great map pool to pick from, and our 24-player server runs through eighteen of the best. No, that does not include Hydro.
When we last reported on Operation Bravo, it was a brand new baby event, unaware of the chaos and mayhem that awaited its short life. Now a grizzled veteran, it was all set for retirement. Unfortunately, the horror of war will stop for no man community event, and it's been called back for one last tour of duty. By which I mean it's been extended to February 5th.
Why extend past the original planned end date of January 20th? Probably because the event has proved exceptionally popular. According to the CS:GO blog, players have already spent 2.8 million hours fighting through Bravo's maps. Expect Valve to release more stats when Bravo does finally end in two weeks' time.
Bravo - like Payback before it - gives players access to official dedicated server support on eight community-made maps in Deathmatch, Casual and Competitive Modes. Buyers also receive a coin, upgradable through playtime and wins on Bravo maps, and a scorecard that tracks more detailed stats across their Bravo career.
For more details on the event, check Valve's Operation Bravo mini-site.
In 2013 Valve told us that it s making a controller, an operating system, and is sanctioning PC manufacturers to create Steam Machines. The three-pronged campaign to put Steam in your living room, deliberately revealed ahead of the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, was the biggest PC gaming news of the year. It s a move that establishes Valve as something that resembles a platform holder, something it s been hesitant to do despite being the PC s biggest online retailer.
We re glad that Valve is removing some of the obstacles to playing Civilization V on our couch. It gets us imagining PC gaming as a more social experience for friends, family members, and whatever other human beings you let into your house. That picture will come into focus at CES next week, when we expect a second wave of information from Valve on its initiative.
We ll also hopefully leave Vegas with a better understanding of how versatile the Steam Controller is, which we ve been investigating. But even if Valve s controller exceeds our expectations and plays a very wide set of games comfortably, there s an serious need for a keyboard and mouse platform that can be used effortlessly on a couch. I m challenging accessory makers like Razer and Logitech to make one.
Just 290 of Steam s 2,459 games feature full controller support, and 502 feature partial support a cumulative third of the library. Even if we give generous consideration to Valve s claim that the Steam Controller older games into thinking they re being played with a keyboard and mouse, I m still going to need to edit command lines, to chat with my Steam friends, to Alt + Tab, and no amount of virtual keyboards, haptic feedback, and autocomplete will ameliorate that. In particular, I don t have high hopes for how well hotbar-heavy games like Dota 2, Starbound, Path of Exile, RTSes and MMORPGs will handle on the Steam Controller.
The Phantom Lapboard. "Do you like typing on a keyboard that s locked at a significant angle to the natural plane of your hands? Of course you don t," Maximum PC wrote in 2010.
The peripheral, though, isn t actually the problem it s the absence of a stable surface in the living room that rests above your legs. Our friends at Tested put it this way in an article from last July: If you just put your mouse and keyboard on the coffee table and perch on the edge of your couch, you're gonna hurt your neck and back, craning your neck to see the TV. Conventional mice and keyboards can work in the living room, but not without a desklike platform to rest them on.
Infinium Labs yes, that Infinium Labs now known as Phantom Entertainment, produced one of the only commercial solutions to this problem, the Phantom Lapboard: a $110, wireless, cantered keyboard and mouse combo. It s bad. The bottom line is that this thing is bad, our sister site Maximum PC said in its 2010 review. The keyboard only tilts at a single angle, the mouse only features two buttons and a scroll wheel, and there s no lip on the surface to contain it. The second you take your hand off the mouse to type something, that sucker s clattering to the floor, MaxPC wrote.
The Couchmaster is the weirder and even more expensive alternative, a hulking, 24 -wide, upholstered thigh prison that at least provides a stable, ergonomic surface. But it s a frown-inducing $180, and its cumbersome shape doesn t seem conducive to easy storage or use in any living room that doesn t feature a wide couch.
Apart from Ikeaing something wooden and rigid together, the two options PC gamers have are pricey and strange. If anything, they show us two designs that any future lapboards should avoid, or at least iterate on aggressively. With Valve s initiative, third-party manufacturers should be scrambling to produce a lapboard that accommodates gaming mice and keyboards, if only because it s an item that will help them sell more mice and keyboards. Razer has a small history of experiments like the Artemis prototype and the Razer Hydra, but more practically, they already make left-handed keypads like the Orbweaver and Nostromo, devices that would be the perfect starting points for a compact lapboard. Logitech would be another good candidate; they make plenty of mainstream wireless peripherals, and on the gaming side they have an ambidextrous keypad we like, the G13.
Valve should want such a peripheral to be available as an alternative to its controller. After all, a sturdy, inexpensive, versatile gaming lapboard would absolutely increase the adoption of living room PCs and SteamOS. Valve s goal isn t to sell controllers, it s to get you playing PC games on your couch, and we should all want that proposition to be as effortless as possible.
An innovative controller can t and won t replace the decades-long relationship PC gamers have with WASD because PC gamers don t like compromise we expect high framerate, high resolution, low cost, and total freedom to modify our devices and games. And while we re grateful for a controller that s built with PC gamers and PC games in mind, it s essential that we get a compromise-free way of bringing the core implements of our hobby, the mouse and keyboard, into the living room.
Before running away for a few days of competitive eating and cooperative gaming, Evan, Cory, and Tyler gathered to reflect on the most memorable victories, losses, and stories they virtually experienced in 2013. Watch the whole five-video series on the PC Gamer YouTube channel, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular content, gameplay footage, and conversations.
Valve's Steam Controller is a funny-looking thing—an owl-like game pad with dual trackpads instead of analog sticks. It pairs with Valve's free SteamOS and whatever living room PC it's installed on as a solution to the clumsiness of using a mouse and keyboard on the couch. In a new video demonstration, Valve does its best to convince us that Steam Controller really offers a level of control comparable to our traditional instruments of gaming.
First we see Portal 2, which demonstrates that—unlike analog sticks—the trackpads can be configured for 1-to-1 control. "Directly move your thumb a fixed amount of distance on the pad, and the view will correspond to the fixed amount of distance," says Hardware Engineer Jeff Bellinghausen. Meanwhile, he says, the left trackpad has been configured as a D-pad to simulate WASD.
Later in the video, Bellinghausen plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with great accuracy, though his aiming looks a bit slower than it might have been with a mouse—obviously, we'd need to see a comparison video of him playing with a mouse to know for sure. Civilization V and Papers, Please also demonstrate how accurate the trackpad is for mouse-based games.
It looks like it works—not just like a mouse, but like something more accurate and responsive than analog sticks. Trying to move a mouse pointer around with velocity-based control is miserable, and this doesn't look miserable. Seeing isn't believing—we need to feel this thing in our hands to judge it—but it does build confidence, and Valve will be posting updates like this "frequently."
Sep 27, 2013
Rounding out its set of living room-centric announcements this week, Steam Controller has been revealed by Valve, a 16-button, haptic-driven gamepad that Valve says is hackable, includes a touch screen, will feature sharable configurations, and has the ambitious goal of “supporting all games in the Steam catalog.” No price was announced for the controller, and it doesn't appear to feature motion control.
In place of analog sticks, Steam Controller features two circular, clickable trackpads. Valve claims that PC gamers “will appreciate that the Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse,” and goes as far to promise that the controller makes games that aren't traditionally suited to playing from the couch--RTSes, 4X games, simulations, and others--controller-friendly.
To compensate for the trackpads’ nature as less-tangible input devices than conventional analog sticks, Steam Controller includes “dual linear resonant actuators” that produce vibration. Valve adds that the controller can serve as a speaker. What seems to distinguish the Steam Controller’s square touch screen from other touch screens is click functionality. “Actions are not invoked by a simple touch, they instead require a click. This allows a player to touch the screen, browse available actions, and only then commit to the one they want,” Valve states in the announcement.
Although Valve was vague on how it plans to implement this policy, it emphasized the openness of the device. "We plan to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering. We can’t wait to see what you come up with," Valve says.
We'll await details on price, materials, and an opportunity to try Steam Controller ourselves soon. Snuck into the very end of the announcement is a mention of Steam Machines and SteamOS, the prototype of which Valve says it will share "detailed specs" of next week.
In the meantime, you can become eligible to beta test Steam Controller by following the same steps outlined for the Steam Machines beta.
Sep 24, 2013
By announcing SteamOS yesterday, Valve declared that PC gaming is more than desktop gaming, that Windows is not our master, and that—finally—cats can own Steam accounts. The free, Linux-based, cat-friendly operating system is designed for gaming on living room PCs, because PC gaming according to Valve isn't about WASD and DirectX—it's about openness and collaboration.
We're free to choose our hardware, our software, our mods, and soon more than ever, how we play, where we play, and whether or not Microsoft gets a cut. If SteamOS takes off, PC gaming will undergo one of its most dramatic changes ever—possibly one more significant than the introduction of the free-to-play model and crowdfunding. That's thrilling, but also scary as hell, so we've worked through our fears with a list of SteamOS pros and cons, followed by deep breaths in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement.
It's free. If you have a living room PC, or plan to build one, you can ditch Windows for free. That feels really good to say, but the adoption rate hinges on SteamOS launching with native support for everything we want in a media and gaming center. Streaming games from a secondary PC is neat, but we'd rather run them natively on the machine we paid to put in our living room. It also needs native Netflix and Hulu apps, and all the other media services offered by the consoles.
Valve says it's got this covered, announcing that it's "working with many of the media services you know and love," and that "hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS," with native "AAA titles" to be announced in the coming weeks.
It encourages competition in the console market. May the best Steam Box win! Windows isn't designed for TVs, so neither are many PCs. Now Valve is giving away a platform for games, movies, and music, challenging hardware manufacturers to make systems that are powerful, quiet, and inexpensive. It used to be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo fighting for the top of the living room ecosystem's food chain—soon it may be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Everyone.
It should run some games better. One of the few advantages consoles have over PCs (whether or not they always make the best of it) is an OS specifically designed for gaming. Meanwhile, we have Windows, which is clearly not designed to be an ideal gaming platform. With SteamOS, however, Valve claims it has "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing," and is now working on "audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level."
Last year, Valve posted a performance test of Left 4 Dead 2 running on Windows 7 and on Ubuntu, and the Linux build came out ahead, saying that the test "speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL." This isn't close to being an objective experiment—and we'll look forward to making our own evaluations—but it is encouraging.
It means more Linux games, and more couch-friendly PC games. SteamOS is as much about ditching Windows as it is putting PC gaming in the living room, so it affects even those firmly planted in their desk chairs. If SteamOS achieves the install base it needs for developers big and small embrace Linux, the Microsoft shackles may be broken forever.
Steam Boxes may struggle to compete in price. A PC designed to run SteamOS skips over the Windows fee, but unlike a console, the manufacturer can't rely on game licensing fees to recoup costs—that money goes to Valve. Sony and Microsoft, however, can price their consoles competitively with that revenue in mind, which gives them the advantage. Valve itself could price hardware this way, but that would undercut third-party hardware manufacturers and could turn out to be anti-competitive. Unless, of course, Valve makes the unlikely move to subsidize the cost of these systems.
It could increase development costs. Major game developers aren't going to ditch Windows, the platform with the world's largest install base. If SteamOS becomes a competitive gaming platform, competitive developers will have yet another version to make, soaking up more resources.
The pessimistic angle is that this can only result in either lower quality games or more expensive games. The optimistic angle is that SteamOS will be embraced and prioritized by developers with the same enthusiasm as the consoles.
It could further fragment games and smother certain genres. If SteamOS eclipses the popularity of desktop gaming, developers will have less incentive to develop desktop games. Just as developers rushed into mobile and Facebook development, we could see a flood of controller-based Steam games that push niche and classic-style PC games into the slums.
It's a scary thought, but when we un-jerk our knees and really consider this scenario, it's a very minor concern. Crowdfunding has proven without a doubt that there's still a huge appetite for old fashioned mouse and keyboard PC games. The positive—and more likely—angle is that we'll see just greater diversity in the Steam library.
It gives Valve even more power over PC gaming. Valve isn't PC gaming. We know that, and millions of League of Legends players, World of Tanks enthusiasts, GOG.com users, modders, and more know that. But Steam is the most popular digital distribution service, and soon, it will be a platform. SteamOS may be free, but it's only as open as Valve allows. We don't know yet if we can use SteamOS to play non-Steam games, or if Valve will make exclusivity deals. We've asked, and Valve's answer will be a huge indicator of its intentions.
If you've got a passionate thought about SteamOS, we'd love to include it in our next issue of PC Gamer. We're always listening at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valve have launched the second community map event for CS:GO, after the first - Operation Payback - proved hugely successful this summer. Once again, eight locations have been chosen as this season's must-visit destinations for the discerning terrorist. For a $6/£3.50 downpayment, you'll secure official server access to each user-made map in casual, deathmatch and - for the first time - competitive modes.
As with Payback, Operation Bravo also supplies buyers with an event coin that displays next to their avatar. The coin can be upgraded through playtime and wins, and grants access to a scorecard, which tracks competitive performance throughout the duration of the event, on both Bravo and regular maps.
And look, there's more. The Bravo pass also grants access to 15 map-themed weapon skins, which will drop periodically during play. Special Bravo-themed cases have also been created, and will get delivered to players' inventories, whether they own a Bravo pass or not.
The new maps for the event are Agency, Ali, Cache, Chinatown, Gwalior, Ruins and Siege. Bravo also includes the return of Seaside. Of course, as with Payback, all maps are currently available through the Steam Workshop, with the pass making them playable on official servers until the end of the event on January 20th.
For more details, see the CS:GO blog's Operation Bravo page.
If you've got three friends and the urge to break into the pro Conter-Strike: Global Offensive scene, MSI's Beat It! Open Qualifiers open for US teams this weekend. There are slots for 64 teams, the top two of which will advance to face the likes of Curse and Complexity in an eight team playoff. The winner of that playoff gets to go to Beijing to compete for $22,000 in prizes.
Check-ins for the open qualifier are first come, first served... so keep your browser pointed at the check-in page on September 8 at 5 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m. Pacific. The qualifier will progress in rapid-fire rounds, with the finalists to be decided by 10 p.m Pacific. So you might want to have some snacks on hand if you're planning to go all the way. The playoffs for the US Qualifiers are scheduled for the 10th, 11th, 14th, and 15th.
You can read more about the competition on the official announcement page.
The Arms Deal Update for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is live, adding in a Team Fortress 2-style system of random drops, over 100 new weapon skins, two new stock weapons, and a purchasable item that helps fund competitive play.
The new weapon skins will drop randomly while you play CS:GO, much like new items in Team Fortress 2. Unlike TF2, all of the modifications are purely cosmetic. You will also occasionally find weapon cases, similar to TF2's crates, which must be opened by a key. These come in two styles: standard variety, and a special eSports case. The proceeds from eSports case keys will go towards larger prize pools and greater visibility for competitive CS:GO.
It's not all just paint jobs and microtransactions, though. We're also seeing the return of the silenced variants for the M4A1 and the USP, which feature a smaller price tag and magazine size than their louder brethren.
Arms Deal is available now, and you can read more about it on the official announcement page.