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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: how to communicate effectively in solo ranked matchmaking">Dendi Pudge

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

It's scary, talking to strangers. You probably spent the first ten years of your life being told not to do it, the second ten years of your life trying to summon the courage to do it, and the third ten years of your life doing it but wishing that you were somewhere else. Playing Dota 2 by yourself complicates this already complicated scenario. Language differences. Age differences. Wildly divergent opinions on topics like 'who's fault was that' and 'what are reports for'.

I'm going to outline the best ways to go about communicating in solo ranked matchmaking. You'll notice that all of the statements that I've chosen to highlight are preset phrases that can slotted into the game's chat wheel. These are automatically translated when you use them, which affords you an obvious advantage when matched with people who don't speak the same language as you. The best thing about using the chat wheel, however, is that it makes you look like you've been muted. This is the fastest way to convince assholes on the internet that you are one of them, earning you the kind of edgy cred coveted by awkward thirteen-year-olds everywhere. All of the benefits of being a histrionic pint-sized racist, without having to actually be one!


I find it helpful to always apologise clearly and well in advance, which is one of two things that my Dota experience has in common with my love life. Preferably, you'll apologise right when the game begins, as your heroes plop down into the fountain and you all begin the busy work of determining whose fault everything is.

Saying 'Sorry' at this point will make everybody feel better. In this way you can express sympathy for the 2800 MMR midlaner who knows that he's really probably actually somewhere in the 5700 range and yet somehow somehow! he's ended up trapped in the trench with shitbirds like you. Imagine being him. He dreams of restoring himself to his rightful place, playing mid against Dendi. He dreams of the moment when Dendi will give him a look and say good and then moments later he'll be onstage at TI4 lifting the Aegis of Champions into the air and then Dendi will walk over and clap him on the back and be like gooood and everything will be light and money and hope and maybe he'll get to meet Purge, too.

Your presence in this young midlaner's life is more or less proof that dreams are born to die, so damn right you'd better apologise.

Get back!

Let's be real: I have 'Get back!' bound to the 'B' key, and it's the best decision I've ever made. Do not allow cumbersome radial menus or finicky chat stand between you and and the ready expression of cowardice. There is no finer way to cover your ass than being the guy who thinks that everything you're currently doing is a bad idea. If you get wiped, it's because nobody heeded your warning. If both teams disengage, then it shows that you've got your finger on the pulse. If your team fights anyway, and you win, then at the very least you're the sensible one.

Never underestimate its ironic potential, either. Hammering your 'Get back!' key while your team is being relentlessly fountain-farmed at the end of an unwinnable game is a way of enlivening a difficult time with fun questions. Where would we get back to? Is it possible to climb into the fountain itself? What temperature is the water? Where does the water come from? Could Slark, like, get up in there and swim away? Questions.


'Dive!' is primarily useful because it lets you sound like a cool submarine captain: but don't believe for a second that this is the extent of its utility. Nobody likes a buzz kill. Plans are for StarCraft players. Call for a dive, rush in, fluff your disables, and die! Anybody who doesn't follow you in is obviously new. Except that 'Get back!' guy. He's cool.

Missing!/Enemy returned

There's nothing worse than forgetting to let your team know when an enemy has gone missing. This makes you culpable for anything that goes wrong in the match until that hero returns. By failing in this way you've handed everybody else on your team a free shot at calling you an asshole, and that is simply not how this game is best played. Dota 2 is about taking it in turns to call each other assholes.

For this reason, bind 'Missing!' and 'Enemy returned' and get used to spamming both along with your regular abilities or right-click attacks or whatever. Enemy hero wandered behind a tree? Missing! Enemy hero wandered back out from behind a tree? Enemy returned! Tree? Missing! Tree! Enemy returned!

Adopt the mindset of a toddler playing peek-a-boo: if you can't see them, they could be anywhere! They could be closing in on mid right now! Mid must be warned! Disaster must be averted! They are probably still behind that tree.

We need wards.

Here's an interesting fact: 'We need wards.' and 'Okay.' are the only preset chat options that end in a full stop. Is that an interesting fact? Probably.

In any case, this additional punctuation indicates that these are firm, assertive statements. There's nothing indecisive about saying 'We need wards.', and the full stop is there to ensure that you intone it in the same low voice you'd use when saying "we need to talk" to your partner.

That's what 'We need wards.' means, really. It means "this isn't working out". It means "our lack of vision on the other side of the river means that you don't take me seriously". It means "you don't care if I get ganked". But it's not all negative. By saying 'We need wards.' you are indicating a desire to open up a dialogue, as long as that dialogue concerns things that you do not like about somebody else.

Ultimate ready

Don't rely on strangers to check when your ultimate ability is going to be ready. Using the chat wheel or alt-click is a much more dependable way to indicate that you're hot to trot. Of all of the preset phrases that can be used passive aggressively 'Well played!', 'Game is hard', 'Nice' this is my favourite. Declaring that your ultimate isn't ready as your team rushes blindly into the enemy jungle is a way of suggesting a retreat without committing to a full declaration of cowardice along the lines of 'Get back!'

Best, though, is using 'Ultimate ready' to goad your team into fighting. I like to poke the button over and over, letting my allies know that hey! I've got something we could be making use of right now and hey! maybe we should initiate and hey! those supports aren't going to Culling Blade themselves, are they? Look at this! Echo Slam! You like it when I Echo Slam, don't you? Nudge, nudge, nudge.

If you keep it up, I've found that eventually somebody will give in and humour you. This is the other way that Dota is like my love life.


It's usually a good idea to apologise afterwards as well, I find.
Shacknews - Steve Watts
If you ve ever felt ashamed of games you ve picked up but never played, at least you can rest assured you aren t alone. A study into Steam playing habits has found that more than a third of all games purchased through the service have never been loaded up even once.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

These guys don't stand a chance.

Like any form of competition, speedrunning generates arguments over authenticity. Does a speedrun count if it relies on a bunny-hopping mod, in-game glitches and different runners tackling different parts of the game in short segments? I’m not sure I care either way. No matter the methods, Half-Life 1 being completed in 20 minutes and 41 seconds is an accomplishment of endurance, skill and effort. More importantly it’s a beautifully entertaining video, full of ingenuity and grace and physical comedy. The new record time is embedded below. You must watch it.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Half-Life gets new world record speedrun; watch it be finished in 20 minutes 41 seconds">Half-Life screen

You know that first level of Mirror's Edge? I'm quite good at that. Pretty quick. Adequate. Such limited achievement at being fast in games is a small comfort when faced with this: a new world-record segmented speedrun of Half-Life. The speedrunning team of quadrazid, CRASH FORT, coolkid, pineapple, YaLTeR, Spider-Waffle and FELip have completely demolished Valve's 1998 FPS, beating the previous record by nine minutes. If you've got a spare 20 minutes (and 41 seconds), it's well worth a watch. Gordon's balletic flight through the halls of Black Mesa is almost mesmerising in its fluidity.

According to the team, the run took "almost four years of painstaking planning, theorycrafting and execution". It's a segmented run, which means the game's been divided into repeatable (and perfectible) chunks. In fact, the video's description reveals that over 317 segments were used, over 200 of which were under five seconds in length.

Additionally, the run makes heavy use of custom scripts. As the runner explain, "the most widely used scripts are jump spam, duck spam, 180 turn for gauss boost and precise use-key actions."

For comparison, the best single-segment run is 36:58, by Max 'coolkid' Lundberg, who was also part of the segmented team. You can see that slightly less acrobatic achievement over at Speed Demos Archive.
Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia
There's a lot of nostalgia on this week's Twitch menu, but not until we take a look at one of the more recent (and divisive) games of the last few weeks. Chatty's inc77 plays through The Elder Scrolls Online and actually likes what he sees. Meanwhile, Sapiens plays through the shooter that continues to live on nearly a decade after it was first released, Team Fortress 2. And dael takes us back in time with the PlayStation 2 classic, Shadow of the Colossus.

Here's a compilation of some of the best Shacknews Twitch highlights for the week of April 12, 2014.
TF2 Blog

Register now to take part in the Second Annual Reddit vs Tumblr TF2 Match, a month of friendly competition between Tumblr and Reddit. In these show-matches all levels of experience are welcome to apply. In the words of the event's creators: "One of the cornerstones of the event is to create a venue for players with varying levels of skill to have a chance to play and have fun."

This season will have five teams representing each community from around the world: June 14th - US West; June 15th - US East; June 21st - EU; June 22nd - Aus/Oceania; and a "Mystery Game" June 28th. Check out the FAQ for more information.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to How Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s Overpass map evolved">overpass

The average player might not even notice the changes, but if you ve put a couple hundred hours into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive the evolution of the Overpass map makes a world of difference. As Valve explains, it is the first completely new defuse map designed with competitive play in mind, and since its release in December 2013, it has been updated seven times based on feedback and data.

Take for example the changes made to Bombsite A, which unlike most diffuse maps, is easier to defend from a distance. Retaking the site from the A tunnels was originally very difficult, because defenders could keep tabs on the area from many angles, Valve said in a post on the Counter Strike blog. Move the Terrorist s Target a bit so it s easier to reach from the tunnels, remove a car that was giving Counter Terrorists too much cover, and the area is completely rebalanced.

The post details a few of these small but fascinating changes that went into Overpass, and highlights them with fancy, interactive before and after screenshots. It s a good read if you re into Counter-Strike or map design in general. Even better is our three part series from mapmaker Shawn "FMPONE Snelling and pro Counter-Strike player/mapmaker Sal "VOLCANO" Garozzo, which reveals the inspiration and building process for their CS:GO map Crown.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: several exciting ways for friends to lose games of Dota 2 together">Disruptor

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes earnest, sometimes silly column about Dota 2.

I've been in a few teams in the two years I've been playing Dota. I say 'teams', but what I mean is 'groups of five people that agree to put up with each other's ceaseless theorycrafting'. I'm in a team right now, in fact. We're called the Hot Dukes and if you play on Europe West you've probably beaten us.

It's a lot of fun. One of the things I like most about playing with a dedicated stack is learning new and imaginative ways to throw matches. I mean, we're not terrible - our matchmaking ratings range from Questionable to Pretty Good - and we're all capable of big plays in the right conditions. But we're nonetheless capable of falling on our asses with a weight and precision that belies the fact that we'd rather not fall on our asses at all. We've developed a methodology for screwing up that approaches science, and it's this methodology that I'd like to share with you today. If your friends are looking for new ways to extend the range of your throwing arm, or are simply looking for an explanation for why you lost that game, I think I might be able to help.

METHOD #1: Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas

You can substitute 'Movie Ninjas' for 'Assassin's Creed Guards', if you prefer. Either way, this is a corruption of the Conservation of Ninjutsu principle: the notion that one ninja might be a deadly threat, but an army might as well be a disposable mass of mooks.

You'll usually experience Fighting One At A Time Like Movie Ninjas after your team has had a good start. One or two of you are full-on snowballing, and you feel like you can take on the world. You've become the Good Ninja and the entire enemy team is just a great big horde of Bad Ninjas waiting for your righteous sword. You could take them in their jungle, under their tier two towers, in the Roshan pit, in the river, anywhere. Teamfights can go to hell: it's time to fight like awesome movie ninjas.

The enemy team will usually experience this phenomenon as a very long, very strange teamfight in which a series of suicidal semi-carries gradually feed away their early advantage by throwing themselves one by one into unwinnable situations. As each one dies they'll be replaced by other, equally suicidal semi-carries, running to assist their predecessors. Then the supports will follow, and then the first guy will have respawned or bought back and TP'd in and the cycle will start over. Your team might get a few kills, in this scenario, but will end up losing much more than you gain. The only reliable way I've found to stop a ninja cascade is to suggest a smoke gank: this forces everybody to gather in one place, and ninjas love smoke bombs.

In the event that both teams run at each other one at a time, this is not an instance of Fighting Like Movie Ninjas. It is a dance-off.

METHOD #2: Going To Camelot

Humans are social. We evolved to respond to one another in ways that serve the goals of the collective; we are built to cooperate. If we could pull this off perfectly 100% of the time we'd be absolutely unstoppable. We'd almost certainly have much better spaceships, and we'd definitely be much better at Dota. But we can't, we don't, and we're not. As the entire history of human culture has shown, our special degree of social intelligence is also capable of turning large groups of people into total morons.

Sometimes, when the circumstances are right, a team's natural empathy for one another can backfire. One person's stupid decision is taken as license for everybody else to make stupid decisions. The fact that somebody has spent an entire teamfight going "woooooooooooo" into her microphone means that everybody else will end up doing it too. Valve would argue that the wisdom of crowds is the most powerful asset at their disposal; unfortunately, their game often offers staggering proof that crowds can be dumb as hell.

Going To Camelot is what you get when one competent but disconnected group of people runs into five friends who probably lost the match when they spent the entire draft phase performing a mouth-trumpet rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. It is this principle that means that a team of five strangers sometimes has an advantage against a connected stack, because they are much less likely to overexcite each other and take the game to a silly place.

If you've ever found yourself wandering around the enemy secret shop with no clue what you're trying to achieve as your support Sand King gets stuck on a cliff while trying to de-ward and Disruptor uses a Clarity on Axe because he's forgotten which big red man he is then you are Going To Camelot. It feels innocuous, even harmless, at first: but you have recalibrated your social intelligence. You are idiots now. In five minutes your midlaner is going to be stuck in the trees near the enemy fountain and you will have no idea how he got there. At that point, mouth-trumpets are probably all you have left.

METHOD #3: Forgot About Dre

Counting is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to be good at Dota 2 or life, and one particular number is much more important than all of the other numbers. That number is five.

There are five people on your team. Go on - count them! Five. Now, count how many people on the enemy team that you've seen so far. Anti-Mage? That's one! Shadow Shaman? Two! Centaur Warrunner? Three! Ember Spirit? Wow, you've seen four!

Don't celebrate too soon, hero - don't you think you might be missing somebody?


Your team Forgot About Dre. And now you have lost the game.

METHOD #4: Roshan's Law

Roshan's Law is one of the best ways to know for sure that you belong about midway down the food chain. You are deep into the match, probably losing, and you're not doing anything in particular. There are no enemies on your minimap, so you wander off to mop up a couple of hard camps or push the offlane back out to the river. You're making yourself useful, but not that useful.

An idea starts to form in the back of your mind. You're sure you know what it means when the entire enemy team disappears or at least, you think you used to. This silence means something. You're sure it does! The answer is right at the tip of your tongue.

"Guys! Guys, I think they're doing Rosh."

Roshan has fallen to the Dire!

At some point in your Dota 2 career you have picked up an extraordinary power: you are able to anticipate enemy Rosh attempts at the exact point when they finish killing Roshan. As you hone your ability, you buy yourself more and more time. Eventually, you're able to call it anywhere up to four seconds before the Aegis drops. Your supernatural ability to anticipate a game-changing mishap exactly when the information is least useful to your team is truly a marvel, a thought that provides a little solace as you pick listlessly through the rubble of your ranged rax five minutes later.

METHOD #5: BKB Hipsterism

The enemy has drafted literally all of Dota 2's most magical dickheads. Silencer! Outworld Devourer! Invoker! Luna, Lina, Lion! The game hasn't even started yet and you are already up to your ass in wizard nonsense. You are going to be taking some magic damage this game, let me tell you.

However, this isn't your first wizard rodeo. Would that it were; the first one's always wild. You and your friends know exactly what you're going to do. You're going to muscle through the midgame, build Black King Bars on every single god damn hero, and swagger through teamfights like a bunch of giant golden swirly winners. "Whatever, asshole" you'll say, as magical tears bounce off your perfect untargetable golden abs.

Then, for whatever reason, nobody does that. Despite having established very clearly that this was going to be a BKB game - or a Linken's Sphere game, for some - almost everybody simply doesn't buy one. You get a Drum and a Mek, and then your ancient explodes. Good job, team!

This is an example of the phenomena known as BKB Hipsterism. It's a useful and sometimes essential item, yes. But everyone buys them. They say nothing about you. Besides, is there anything more gauche than turning gold? God, no. I mean, look at that thing. It's a gothy golden skull on a stick. You might as well walk in wearing a treachcoat and a fedora calling yourself Mystery. BKB could stand for 'Burger King Breakfast' for all that it's likely to appeal to people who consider themselves to be tastemakers. And so you grow a beard and buy a Pipe instead. AND YOU LOSE THE GAME. AGAIN. GOD. GOD ALMIGHTY, GUYS.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to EA’s new MOBA, Dawngate, opens its doors to a public beta">Dawngate

Dawngate has just leveled up and announced an open beta release. We wrote a bit about the closed beta almost a year ago, so EA's MOBA, developed by Waystone, has had a lot of time to marinate. If you re game for a new MOBA, head to the Dawngate website to sign up.

It s a new MOBA, but is it a different MOBA? When you drill down into it, Dawngate is trying a few new things. The game includes capture points, RTS-style, that provide a stream of resources to you and your team. Attack animations all seem more kinetic and interesting than in Dota 2 and League of Legends. The team at Waystone also mentions a flexible meta-game that allows players to approach the game how they'd like, though it isn't clear on exactly what that means.

Capture points, flash, and a new meta-game would be enough to stake a claim in the genre, but is it enough? Dota 2 and League of Legends are heavily entrenched in the MOBA ecosystem in the same way that World of Warcraft has dominated the MMO sphere for so long. It will take a game with a lot of new ideas and big risks to make headway Smite, for example, is doing well with a completely different perspective and control scheme. If it s too similar, there s no reason for players to step away from the heavyweights.

Speaking of new ideas: a look at Dawngate's website shows that EA has chosen to represent the game with three pieces of concept art. If you'll look closely, I think you'll find six reasons they think you'll be interested in Dawngate. Can you spot them all?

It's not like other MOBAs aren't guilty of the same, but it would have been nice to see a new artistic style from a MOBA that's apparently so committed to being different.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Building Crown, part three: collaborating with the Counter-Strike community">buildingcrown3-teaser

Building Crown is a three part series from mapmaker Shawn "FMPONE Snelling and pro Counter-Strike player/mapmaker Sal "VOLCANO" Garozzo, revealing the inspiration and building process for their map Crown. Their goal with Crown is simple: build the best competitive Counter-Strike map ever. In part three, Snelling talks about iteration in map design and listening to community feedback to improve Crown.

Releasing de_crown has been a fascinating experience for Volcano and I. When we decided Crown was ready for broader community testing, we released the first public build with the same mixture of anxiety and excitement that always accompanies a new map release. Thankfully, the launch went smoothly! Crown received over 1000 favorites in its first week on the map workshop (the highest rated map on the workshop is over a year old, and has about 1500). Crown ranked within the top five maps of all time virtually overnight. Crown was also the most played map on AltPug s community Matchmaking service during that time period, and the feedback we received there was generally positive.

The community was engaged, but Counter-Strike fans are used to playing high quality, nuanced maps with years of competitive polish. This is a high standard for any brand new map to compete with. Not all the news was positive. In public beta testing, several issues were identified which needed fixing, some of which such as the addition of a new path would require major surgery.

Generally speaking, I find that that the most effective feedback happens during a dialogue. I like to turn players into problem solvers, since many folks already have brilliant, innovative solutions in mind which I might never have considered.

As a result of one such discussion, we added a trick jump to Crown, which you can see below. This trick jump, though easy enough to implement, added a nice layer of richness to the B-Bombsite it s challenging to make the jump successfully, but will allow skilled players to go from lower B to upper B in seconds flat.

What are people REALLY saying?

Volcano and I participated in playtests and spectated matches anonymously in order to understand how players really felt about Crown, because people typically temper their criticism somewhat when they know they re in the same server as a map creator. We heard lots of people saying Crown felt big and too open, so we added more horizontal details at eye-level and new architectural features designed to bring the map down to scale, in addition to reducing or closing several sightlines. A lot of times, making these gameplay adjustments is positive aesthetically, too: the map feels a lot more natural now.

An archway Volcano suggested

We also got tons of great feedback about Crown on Reddit. A few common themes about Crown which popped up on r/globaloffensive were that the map s rotation times were too long, the lack of a middle-connector was creating static gameplay, and the map s balance seemed T-sided. It was important for us to immediately make changes to fix these issues.

In many instances people took to Photoshop to actually illustrate how they wanted to see us implement the new changes (another example of how the community already has solutions in mind), and these illustrations were frequently very similar to one another, indicating that a consensus had formed.

Already Pro

Because Volcano is a professional Counter-Strike player in addition to being a level designer, pro feedback is cooked into Crown very deeply. I believe that Volcano and I make a great team because we know that if the other person raises an issue, that he speaks on behalf of a large segment of the community. I consider priority one of my job asking Volcano about the competitive repercussions of every design decision we initiate: leaving this window open vs. closed, the readability of this area, whether this area needs more cover, and so on.

The community was widely requesting a new path cutting from middle to CT courtyard due to lengthy rotation times and Volcano also felt that this was a necessary change to make. My stance was that I was satisfied with how Crown was playing, and that proper team coordination would give CT s enough time to rotate, especially once people were more familiar with the map. Volcano didn t necessarily disagree, but he was pretty certain that the community would be happier if we implemented the change, and that not implementing the change could ultimately limit Crown s variety in competitive play.

We had considered such a path early on in Crown s gray-box stage, but decided not to implement the path back then because we wanted to emphasize identifying fakes and making timely call-outs about what the Terrorists were doing. As it happened, the community didn t love the lengthened rotation times, perhaps because rotating places huge emphasis on the teamplay aspect of Counter-Strike, but truly relying on your teammates can be frustrating outside of a tournament-style setting.

I personally enjoyed the way Crown was playing, but sometimes as a mapper you have to accept that your personal preference might be in the minority. Sometimes you have to give the people what they want. Because Volcano was adamant that this was the right thing to do, because shortening rotation times was going to make the community happy, and because it would positively impact gameplay for players at all skill levels (especially in less formal settings like matchmaking), we implemented the new path.

View of the new path from Middle

View of the new path from CT Spawn

Another view of the new path from CT Spawn

The Ripple Effect

When major changes are made, other areas typically have to be adjusted to accommodate them. Here you can see the ripple effect the new path has already had.

We received some feedback that this sniper s nest felt overly large, out of place, and sort of pointless. Adding our new path mitigated those concerns.

We also needed to adjust the Armory area. We were told by Valve that Crown could benefit from some more lighting variety, and layout considerations required closing one of the walls in this area. Details like candles added some visual interest and narrative to the map while helping to sell the new changes.

Removing all vents was a top priority for us, because they hindered free and easy movement along Crown s various paths:

Here, much like on de_cache, players only need to jump one time in order to swiftly reach higher elevation at Middle.

We also added a well to CT Courtyard, giving players some minimal cover, helping the map s scale, and livening up the area.

Crown Continues

All in all, major surgery on Crown is now complete, but your feedback is still invaluable. If it weren t for the community, Crown might not have matured so much post-release. You made your voices heard, and Volcano and I were listening.

Check out the next page for a photographic tour of Crown's full evolution, from the blocky gray-box it once was, to the shippable, polished map it is now. We hope you continue to let us know how we re doing. Most importantly, we hope you enjoy the newly updated Crown when its big update goes live on the workshop very soon!


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