Dec 29, 2014
We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.
Most of us are still out of the office this week for the holiday break, so we're doing something a little different this week in Triggernometry. I'm streaming CS:GO for an hour or two on our Twitch channel, and after that I'll continue to stream Team Fortress 2 on our community server. Come play!
How to join us for TF2 at 1 PM PST:
- Join the PC Gamer Steam group
- Look for a server announcement at 1 PM PST
Our server's on the West Coast of the USA, in San Jose, CA, so keep that in mind if you're joining from a faraway land. Hope you're having a nice end of the year.
Dec 24, 2014
In what comes as a nice Christmas present for any Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players who don't engage in nefarious deeds - or cheating, if you will - it's being claimed a huge amount of those falling on the naughty side of the fence have been banned.
The claims come from the Global Offensive community on Reddit, where estimates put the number of banned cheaters at around 1,600 - and that's a conservative guess. That's a lot of banhammers dropping through the Valve Anti-Cheat System.
The new detection abilities of VAC means more than 16 cheat-selling sites can be detected, and anyone caught using their hacks and the like risks being kicked, banned and losing everything.
Well, everything in Counter-Strike: GO. Probably not everything in real life. But they also lose the money they've put down on the cheats, so there's that.
Anyway, head over to the Reddit thread and join in the celebrations. Unless you've been banned, in which case probably just enjoy your lump of coal this year, you naughty types you.
Dec 22, 2014
We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.
Experienced players know the importance of fighting quietly in Counter-Strike. You're slower when you walk, but a single footstep or over-cautious reload can give away your position and intentions. I took a moment to talk over a quick eco round where I found success by taking advantage of my opponents' inability to hear over the sound of their own gunfire.
Dec 15, 2014
We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.
There isn t enough poetry being written about guns. Not literal limericks or sonnets (that would be creepy), but words that dig into and capture what makes one game s AK-47 more fun than another s.
Weapon feel continues to be the nebulous catch-all for the nuances that make guns fun. Most of the reviews of shooters I read offer the same praise: guns feel great or feel really powerful. If the writer s being generous, they ll use a word like punchy to describe an SMG. I ve been guilty of this too during my six-year term at PC Gamer.
Months of work goes into designing, animating, and balancing the things that put the S in FPS, so maybe we should take a moment to talk about what makes a good gun good.
I think the visual design of weapons matters far less than we think it does. There s a tendency, probably because they re planted right in front of our perspective at all times, to think of guns as a collection of aesthetics: firing and reload animations, SFX, screen shake, particle effects, and the death animations they produce. Those things make a gun, right? So if those things are good, surely we have an interesting and fun video game weapon, right?
No. Consider the AWP: it s olive green, it s bland, and its simple animations are more run-of-the-mill than Rambo. The only aesthetically remarkable thing about the most revered, iconic, and infamous sniper rifle in a video game is that it s a bit loud. And yet thousand-comment debates erupt when Valve tweaks the way the AWP s scope works. Why?
A gun s look and sound are part of its personality, sure. But if you ask me, great video game weapons have meaningful, interconnected relationships with other game elements. Those elements differ from game to game, of course. In CS case, the appeal of the AWP is born from the fact that CS is an FPS with body-part-specific damage modeling and no respawns. In that context, it s the only gun that grants an instant kill if you tag someone above the waist.
That feeling of possibility is fun within the strict rules of CS movement: if you can hit it, you can kill it… but you also can t be moving too much when you fire. With that power comes responsibility, too. Killed players surrender their equipped weapon in CS, and stolen AWPs not only save your team $4750 but act as a kind of trophy. This is doubly the case in CS:GO, where a player s custom AWP skin reminds all spectators which irresponsible player allowed their AWP to fall into enemy hands. Buying an AWP, then, to some extent, announces to the rest of the server: I think I m a good enough shot to protect this valuable asset from the other team.
All of this makes the AWP a weapon with abundant meaning. Even its shortcomings (slow rate of fire, difficult to use in close quarters) are a source of fun: the noscope is a revered skillshot.
In Tribes case, its weapons shake hands with its player movement really well, arguably the quality that defines it as an FPS. Again, like the AWP, the Spinfusor isn't visually extraordinary: it fires discs at a medium speed, and its animations and SFX are pretty modest. But the Spinfusor is the perfect fit, the perfect baseline weapon in a game where your targets are typically skiing along the ground at high speed. Its splash damage leaves room for error and its relatively slow travel time creates an exciting feeling of uncertainty as you admire your shot. Like throwing up a three-pointer in basketball, you get to experience that arc of Will it go in? It might not go in. It went in! as the disc travels toward its target.
The Fusion Mortar creates the same sort of feeling while operating as a parabolic siege weapon. The design of the weapons actually encourages you to spend as much time as possible in the air: the threat they pose encourages you to master movement to have the best chance of staying alive. In each of these examples, the weapons strengthen the meaning and significance of core systems like movement, damage modeling, or weapon purchasing.
Valve gave classic Counter-Strike map de_train a makeover in this week's update (and thank goodness—it needed it). The overhaul to the map's layout and look has mostly been well-received—the new Train has a high-contrast look and a less complicated A bombsite.
But one new map element that Valve snuck in has already been removed: vile, map-unbalancing birds.
Not long after Train updated, players discovered that they could jump atop the pigeons that were placed along the long route to A from Terrorist spawn (aka "ivy") and pigeon-piggyback into the heavens, blissfully escaping the horrors of combat. Or, as the video below shows, players could use the pigeons as a flapping platform to glitch into the rooftops overlooking bombsite A, giving them a huge advantage over the CTs.
Valve has hotfixed the
foul fowl play, but the current version of Train pays homage to this "bird boost," as it came to be known, with a new sign along the way to where it was once possible.
I've used Word Lens on my phone to translate this cryptic glyph:
Immortal words that should inspire us all.
Beloved classic Counter-Strike map Train has been rebuilt from the ground up for Global Offensive. In addition to a graphical upgrade, the new Train map ushers in some "intuitive layout changes" and is available in the Operation Vanguard map group across a variety of game modes.
But what of these "intuitive layout changes"? The details can be perused over on this rather thorough blogpost, but whole sections of the map have been removed (such as the middle tunnel in the yard) while the bomb site has been shifted to another corner of the map.
Check out the video below for all the gory details. The map arrives as part of a new patch which is detailed here.
Dec 8, 2014
The last CS:GO major of the year, DreamHack Winter 2014, turned out to be an exciting tournament despite a significant amount of it being played on Overpass, one of the weakest maps in CS:GO's competitive pool. With a critical round from DreamHack Winter as an example, I took a moment to talk about why Overpass needs to be cut from competitive play next season.
Article by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen
Last weekend's fourth CS:GO major, DreamHack Winter, ended up as one of the most memorable tournaments of the year for a variety of reasons—some good, and some bad. Let's examine the biggest storylines that emerged from the event.
The Fnatic controversy
LDLC came into their quarter-final against Fnatic not only having never bested the Swedes, but having lost two straight tournament finals against them. They split the first two maps in their series, and then put up a strong 12-3 first half on the deciding map de_overpass.
Though Overpass is very counter-terrorist favored, LDLC managed to win their terrorist pistol round, thus giving them a very good chance of going up 3-0 in the second half—and practically eliminating fnatic. At 3-13, fnatic successfully used a previously unknown boost, which was so overpowered that it basically breaks the entire map, and thus was immediately ruled illegal by many.
After losing the second half 0-13, with olofm boosted on nearly every round, LDLC protested about the boost and DreamHack admins spent the next six hours determining what to do. Upon coming to a conclusion to replay the second half, Fnatic protested and the whole saga continued.
Ultimately DreamHack's ruling was that both teams replay the entire third map, as they found LDLC using another potentially illegal boost. The community was outraged with the decision, and soon after fnatic wound up forfeiting the third map and withdrawing from the tournament.
In reality Fnatic probably knew their odds of winning without the boost were non-existent. They took a risk in using it, as there were no clear rules against it—but it obviously breaks the map when you see it in play. It was a gamble, and it didn t pay off.
It s only too bad it took DreamHack so long to come to a decision, thus making the entire situation exponentially worse.
LDLC are world champions
The French came into DreamHack Winter as the world s second-best team, and were seemingly doomed as they drew their kryptonite Fnatic, who were upset by HellRaisers in the group stage, in the quarter-finals.
Once past the Swedes, LDLC took down Natus Vincere 2-0 in the semi-finals. In the grand final the former VeryGames trio of NBK, shox and SmithZz drew their long-time nemesis NiP, but this time they could not be stopped. LDLC split the first two maps, but came back from a 13-15 deficit on the final map (Overpass, appropriately) to win in overtime with in-game leader and HLTV.org MVP Happy leading the way.
LDLC are now the official CS:GO world champions and arguably also the best team in the world, given the importance of the major, and their long track record of second place finishes.
It s a shame some will place an asterisk next to their win due to the Fnatic controversy, but LDLC can sleep knowing they had the game in the bag by then, if not for Fnatic s shenanigans.
Fnatic are no longer invincible
Since their loss at DreamHack Stockholm, Fnatic have been seemingly invincible. In J nk ping last weekend that aura was seemingly gone from the get-go, with HellRaisers coming back from a 4-11 deficit in their match to top group A ahead of them.
Though their 5-8 th place finish only comes due to withdrawing from the tournament following the previously covered controversy in LDLC decider, it s hard to make a case for Fnatic standing a chance anymore at the 3-13 deficit they faced on Overpass.
The kings of CS:GO for the past three months have been slain, and with the drama surrounding the team anything but done, it remains to be seen what happens with one of the most dominant teams of all-time.
NiP return to the top
NiP were the defending champions from the previous major in August, but had not made the top four in any tournament since then, or qualified for any online league s finals. Following their roster change that in early November saw Fifflaren retire and Maikelele join on a trial basis, it was unclear what shape NiP would show up in.
The best team in CS:GO history delivered once again, making their fourth consecutive major grand final. Along the way they lost to LDLC in the groups, defeated HellRaisers easily in the quarter-finals, and survived a thriller of a series, including a double overtime game on de_nuke, against their long-time rivals Virtus.pro.
Despite falling just short in the grand final, it s safe to say NiP has returned to the very top of professional Counter-Strike. They have found a way to fit Maikelele in their system—or adjust the system around him—and will only get better as the team has more time to gel.
You can expect an official announcement of Maikelele becoming a permanent fixture in NiP any day now.
What s next?
Coming up next will be ESEA Invite Season 17 Global Finals this coming weekend in Dallas. The event features eight teams in Fnatic, Virtus.pro, Titan, mousesports, Cloud9, iBUYPOWER and two North American underdogs, but three of those six are using a stand-in.
For Titan, their coach ioRekan, ESWC champion from a year ago—is replacing VAC-banned KQLY. mousesports star player allu can t make the trip due to school commitments, and former ALTERNATE member and mouz legend from CS 1.6, gob b, is stepping in. Finally, iBUYPOWER s new member desi is not allowed to play, and ex-member adreN will take his spot temporarily in Dallas.
Although it pales in comparison to DreamHack Winter, ESEA Finals will provide three days of solid action, including an all-star match on Friday, and should keep fans entertained for a little longer before the holiday season.
In 2015 the first big tournament will be MLG Aspen, scheduled to take place at X Games on January 23-25, with eight of the world s best teams attending. NiP, Fnatic and Cloud9 have been invited, and online qualifiers for both Europe and North America are set to begin soon.
Nov 26, 2014
Article by Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen.
DreamHack Winter 2014, one of the year's biggest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments, will be held in J nk ping, Sweden on November 27-29, and will play host to the fourth community-funded $250,000 CS:GO major (livestream schedule here). 16 teams will be hoping to remain in competition come Saturday, and in this preview we will take a deeper look at the squads most likely to make a difference.
(flusha, JW, KRIMZ, olofm, pronax)
Champions of the first major a year ago, fnatic changed two players in July and since then have won four of the seven tournaments they have attended, including three dominant victories in a row. They also placed second at the previous major in August. KRIMZ has been their best player recently, but virtually anyone aside from in-game leader pronax can carry them in a series. They are clear favorites going into DreamHack, but their players have been named as suspects in the recent cheating scandal, which could affect their play even if none of the rumors turn out to be true.
(Happy, kioShiMa, NBK, shox, SmithZz)
Built in the French reshuffle in September, LDLC have made the final in four of five tournaments they have attended. They can t seem to beat fnatic, yet consistently defeat everyone else. LDLC are favorites to reach the semi-finals unless they face their kryptonite early in the playoffs. Happy is the team s in-game leader and a solid fragger, NBK is the most versatile player, and shox is the superstar of the team. They play a skill-heavy style that suits the current counter-terrorist heavy meta-game of CS:GO, but as a result struggle on the terrorist sides.
(byali, Neo, pasha, Snax, TaZ)
Virtus.pro won the second CS:GO major, EMS One Katowice, but have since then struggled to play at the same level. They won Gfinity 3 in August, but otherwise have mostly crashed out in the quarter-finals of the biggest tournaments. They are known for stepping up during the majors, but a win would require strong play from all three of their heavy hitters, namely pasha, byali, and Snax. The Poles haven t been able to fire on all cylinders since Katowice, but a strong individual showing could propel this team over their competition. They may be the world s best terrorist side team at their peak.
(f0rest, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Maikelele, Xizt)
The most storied and successful team in CS:GO, they recruited Maikelele to replace Fifflaren earlier this month. Despite winning the most recent major, ESL One Cologne, they have struggled since then. GeT_RiGhT and f0rest are the superstars of the team, and if they wish to make the semi-finals they will need those two to play to their potential—which hasn t been the case in recent months. Their current level remains a mystery as no one has seen them play much with Maikelele, thus adding to the intrigue surrounding the team.
(Edward, GuardiaN, seized, starix, Zeus)
Na`Vi broke out in May with a victory over Titan and NiP at SLTV StarSeries IX Finals, and have since then been a consistent top five team with multiple top four finishes in recent months. Their team relies heavily on star AWPer GuardiaN, though riflers Edward and seized can also take over matches at times, but neither is very consistent. They play a very strategic style with one of the all-time great leaders Zeus running the show.
(Hiko, n0thing, Semphis, sgares, shroud)
After adding shroud, Cloud9 exceeded most expectations with their ESL One Cologne performance, but most recently failed to advance from the group stage at two tournaments in Europe. They have been bootcamping in Europe for all of November, so this is a do-or-die event for this team—it s hard to imagine they will ever get better conditions than now to perform. Their star player is hiko, but n0thing and shroud are just as, if not more, explosive at times.
(cajunb, device, dupreeh, FeTiSh, Xyp9x)
These Danes were one of the most consistent teams in the world for the first eight months of 2014, but have since then seen their level of play, as well as consistency, drop. They removed aizy to bring back former member cajunb, adding more skill to an already skilled lineup that may lack in leadership. Their star player device is one of the most skilled all-around players in the world, but often chokes in big matches. dignitas should be one of the teams competing for a top four finish, and this exact roster made top four at the second major.
(ANGE1, Dosia, kucher, markeloff, s1mple)
HellRaisers are a team who seemingly hold endless potential, but can never realize it in a best-of-three setting, or at the right times. They are incredibly skilled with players such as Dosia, markeloff, and new recruit s1mple leading the way, but lack in team play and tactics. Since their last event they have added well known ex-dAT in-game leader B1ad3 as a coach, so depending on how effective he is we could see a much improved HellRaisers squad at DreamHack.
(AZK, desi, nitr0, Skadoodle, swag)
iBUYPOWER failed to make the playoffs in Europe for a long time despite a few good showings in North America, until finally scoring a second place finish in late October. However, the team was then stripped as they cut their in-game leader DaZeD and another versatile member steel to add two inexperienced players, who likely still need more time. There is a lot of pressure on their star rifler swag, and very skilled AWPer Skadoodle. Making the playoffs would be a good showing for this American side.
(cadiaN, gla1ve, Kjaerbye, Pimp, tenzki)
The second Danish team got into DreamHack Winter through the Last Call qualifier on Saturday, and therefore likely aren t in the best shape going into this tournament. Their biggest strength is gla1ve s leadership and the skills of Pimp and youngster Kjaerbye, but they are not favored to reach the playoffs from their group.
Admissions of hacking by three professional CS:GO players have cast a shadow of suspicion on the CS:GO competitive scene. The outed players, Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian, Simon "smn" Beck, and Gordon "Sf" Giry each received in-game bans through VAC earlier this week. The revelations call into question the players past performances, both during online tournaments and at LAN events, where the cheat, which allegedly connects through a player s Steam Workshop, could have been used. For some in the scene, the news also presents the uncomfortable possibility that other professional players have used similar, still-undetected cheats in tournament play.
These revelations could not have come at a worse time for CS:GO e-sports—we re days away from the biggest tournament in the game s history, DreamHack Winter 2014.
Professional CS:GO players have been VAC banned before, but arguably not such high-profile players. KQLY, the most prominent player of the three, admitted in a statement on Facebook (that I ve translated from French using Facebook s integrated tool) that he had used a third-party program for seven days. KQLY denied using the program while he was a member of Titan (during the DreamHack Invitational, for example, which Titan won). As you may have seen yesterday, I was banned by VAC and unfortunately it was justified, KQLY wrote. I wanted to say that I am really sorry for all the people who supported me, I am aware that with my bullshit, my career is now over and my team in a very bad position. They did not deserve it.
When he was offered use of the program, KQLY says, the provider reassured him that many pro players were using it.
This is a cheat that doesn t have anything visible on the screen. The only way you d know if someone did it is if you caught them at the point they installed it on that machine and activated it.
KQLY has been cut by Titan, who along with Epsilon have been disqualified from DreamHack Winter 2014 by the tournament s organizers. Their expulsion is a huge blow to both organizations, who have spent weeks training for a chance to compete for the event s quarter-million-dollar prize pool. Speaking to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, DreamHack s Head of e-sports Tomas Lyckedal expressed surprise. "I don t think a pro player has been banned like this since 2001. Of course people have been caught cheating but it s always been semi professionals, never established players. And it s a shame it has to happen so close before the tournament, he said. I really hope that this doesn t happen to more teams, but this has to be a clean sport so if it happens then so be it.
Lyckedal also pledged that DreamHack will take special precautions at DreamHack Winter 2014. Playing in Titan and Epsilon s place will be the winners of a Last Call Qualifier organized by DreamHack that takes place on Saturday.
On Friday, Titan issued a statement condemning KQLY s actions. As it did so, Titan also criticized Valve for not working directly with teams to remedy the situation. After KQLY s ban was revealed, Titan says it contacted Valve but was eventually met with dead silence after their initial email exchange. "Valve opted for a unilateral decision, handing out collective punishment with complete disregard for team involvement in the problem solving process. I contacted Valve earlier today for comment but have not received a response.
The nature of the hack
KQLY s ban was preceded by the ban of Simon "smn" Beck on ESEA, a third-party client used by competitive players to find matches and pick-up games. According to ex-pro and HLTV.org contributor Tomi Lurppis Kovanen, Valve contacted ESEA when it learned of the cheat. The bans of KQLY and Sf that followed, it would seem, were a result of Valve updating VAC to detect the cheat that smn used on ESEA.
The cheat in question is allegedly very difficult to detect, so much so it s not out of the question for it to have been used at live LAN events. E-sports commentator Duncan Thooorin Shields took to YouTube (embedded above) to speak about the scandal—primarily to call for calm and an end to the witch hunt for other potential hackers that s overtaken some fans in the scene in the past few days—but he also gave his own explanation for the type of hack that was allegedly used.
It s a cheat that doesn t even have an extreme effect—unless you really abuse it—it has layers to it where it can just give you a slight advantage in aiming, says Shields in the video. So if you re already one of the best players in the world, it ll make it so you just look like you re having your best game. It won t even seem like you re hacking and that was an impossible movement. He continues, This is a cheat that doesn t have anything visible on the screen. The only way you d know if someone did it is if you caught them at the point they installed it on that machine and activated it.
Titan and Epsilon s disqualification from DreamHack Winter sours the excitement around CS:GO s biggest tournament of the year. For some, the bans have created a cloud of suspicion around other teams and players. Smn, the originally banned player, commented on a livestream on Friday about his ban and the incident, allegedly saying that as much as 40% of the pro scene is using hacks.
Of course, that's one person's statement, and it should not be taken as the certain truth. It remains to be seen whether more players will be VAC banned, and whether Valve will take further action, though some members of the community are already anticipating more bad news. I believe it s important to temper our suspicion and not jump to conclusions that any one team or player is guilty until there s hard evidence to suggest that they cheated.
It s been exciting over the past year or so to watch CS:GO blossom into an e-sport that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators at once. And it s been exciting to see the scene grow to support dozens of players and teams around the world. Fighting the hack-making industry, as we ve previously investigated, is a constantly evolving struggle for studios like Valve, who can t be expected to quash every single assistance program—it s part of the cost of building a popular competitive game. Valve does, however, in cooperation with leagues and teams, have the power to make the punishment for hacking so unpalatable that fewer pros and non-pros would pursue it. Whatever happens next, it s going to make for a fascinating tournament at DreamHack next week.