PC Gamer

This year's catalog of GDC panels included some Counter-Strike: "Community Level Design for Competitive CS:GO" a series of words that are alarmingly up my alley. There was no way I wasn't missing a panel dedicated to competitive CS:GO, especially when retired Counter-Strike pro player Sal "Volcano" Garozzo and Shawn "FMPONE" Snelling (who we've featured previously on our site in the series "Building Crown") were doing the panelin'.

I'm still writing up my notes and recorded audio from the presentation, which I'll share soon in a separate story. After the panel, though, I pulled Garozzo and Snelling in front of a camera to get them talking about the state of CS:GO's esports scene and the immortality of de_dust2, likely the most-played map in the history of gaming.

PC Gamer
TRIGGERNOMETRY

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

When someone put these mirrored versions of standard Counter-Strike maps in front of me, I thought, "Well, that's cute. Let's give that a whirl." Little did I know that I'd be subjecting myself to the Counter-Strike equivalent of a lobotomy. I switched on the ol' Shadowplay to capture my reaction as I loaded flipped versions of Nuke, Inferno, Dust2, and Mirage up for the first time.

Product Update - Valve
* You may now peek inside a charm to see the contents of the treasure you can win
* Fixed problem where client would occasionally fail to connect to a gameserver, with the error message “bad challenge”
* Earth Spirit will correctly move into range when casting Boulder Smash
* Fixed heroes with undroppable Aghanim's Scepter Upgrades being able to gain their upgrades from Scepters owned by other players (Meepo, Ogre Magi, and Treant Protector)
* Fixed Duel and Supernova Aghanim's Scepter upgrade interaction
* Fixed top bar buyback indicator sometimes being inaccurate
* Corrected an issue where the combat log was not being displayed
PC Gamer

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2 and related games.

One of the best things I read about Dota 2 this week was this JoinDota article about the impact of cosmetic item bundles on the competitive scene. Their evidence is compelling, and it's hard to read through the entire thing without wanting Valve to rethink the way that tournament tickets are marketed and sold.

The article both rests upon and reveals the fact that players really covet cosmetic items. That's not a groundbreaking observation by any stretch, but it's one of those things that gets weirder the more you think about it. I mean, I collect Dota items and I'm not even entirely sure why. I am guilty of buying tournament tickets for the cosmetics first and the tournament itself second.

Players desire this stuff to the point where that desire eclipses the game it supports. I gestured at this last week—Dota events traditionally stumble because players will do literally anything, even if it isn't fun, to get a shot at free stuff—even if it makes them less likely to continue playing the game those items are for. I sometimes wonder if we're guilty, generally, of just assuming that 'hats are popular' without interrogating why—of missing a broader point about the game itself because the mania that surrounds cosmetic items has become a running joke.

A pet theory: collecting cosmetic items provides everything that traditional Dota 2 does not. They allow you to make clear, visible progress in a way that is quick and easily broadcast to other players. You can work on it entirely alone, and the factors that might mitigate your progress—money, time, luck—are all nontheless things that you can control. The ineptitude of four other people does affect your chances of getting items unless there's an event on, and the way the community behaves during events backs up what I'm saying.

(This doesn't mean that collecting items is always compensatory—it's perfectly reasonable to covet something because you, you know, like it. This is more about figuring out why collection gets taken so seriously, how it ends up valued above and beyond aspects of the game that, if pressed, most players would agree are more 'important'.)

In this sense, the negative influence of cosmetics on e-sports is symptomatic of a broader malaise experienced by Dota players: the drive to derive instant gratification from a game where almost everything you aspire to do or be takes significant time and effort. Watching a tournament requires engagement, investment of energy, learning, and so on. Collecting hats requires clicking on the hats.

The only thing that makes you better at Dota is playing more Dota. The best way to show your commitment to e-sports is to watch more e-sports. These are easy notions to forget, or at least it's easy to be distracted from them. It's so tempting to look for shortcuts to that feeling of progression that you may not even realise that you're doing it—at least, that's been my experience of this hobby over the last couple of years.

I had this fact hammered home late last week. I'd spent a week teaching four total newcomers to play Dota, colleagues from PCG's UK office with less than ten games played between them. We faced off against Rock Paper Shotgun's more experienced lineup—two and a half experienced players, two and a half total newcomers (one had played the game years ago for a hundred hours, but not returned since.)

I'd theorised that it was possible to break Dota down into general, easily-remembered principles that would ultimately give my wizard-babies the edge even if they had no idea what the majority of heroes did, how the majority of items worked, or even how their roles functioned. I attempted to explain what a gold and experience advantage looked like, what staying safe looked like, what map control was and how you got it—and I think I succeeded, to a limited extent.

What I realised, though, as we lost that game, was just how much Dota has passed into the lower, reactive levels of my brain. As I attempted to formulate a simplified conscious approach to Dota, I remained ignorant of just how much I'd picked up simply by playing a lot of the game for a long time. I can see it, now, in every screenshot of that match. A level 4 Sniper pushing a tower right next to an incoming TP belonging to a level 7 Puck who would inevitably kill him. I realised how natural it was for a new player to think nothing of another glowing effect among so many glowing effects; I realised how many different experiences contribute to me seeing that image in such a powerfully divergent way. Where the Sniper sees nothing wrong, I see imminent disaster: and I see it because I've lived it, in thousands of different ways, over the course of thousands of hours.

As our ancient exploded, I realised that there's no shortcut to that kind of experience—no way for me to simply beam it into the heads of my newbies with a couple of simple instructions. I realised, also, that there was no way I was going to get better through anything other than more experience. I had been on a losing streak, otherwise, from the finals of the Rektreational industry tournament (3-2, damn!) to my recent return to solo ranked. And all of it comes back to the same thing: hours invested, energy committed, losses accepted, lessons learned. It is so, so tempting to go back to 'proving' myself with a hat collection, to amass the badges and stack up the tournament ticket stubs and get the cosmetics that say this guy cares. But that is, I think, a placebo. It's a behaviour pattern that resembles nothing less than a mid-life crisis: the attempt to spend your way out of some broader sense of inadequacy.

It's actually kind of a relief to arrive at that understanding. It takes the pressure off. You really probably don't need every item set that comes out. You probably don't even need to worry about your MMR, or your winrate, or your all-time records. You probably just need to play more, and that is the least demanding thing Dota ever asks of you.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Product Update - Valve
- Fixed flying units not moving correctly when issued move orders off the playable area of the map.
Product Update - Valve
- Fixed various pathfinding bugs
- The Year Beast Brawl hero picking now uses the Ranked All Pick rules (players take turns picking their heroes)
- Rescaled some values used for Year Beast Brawl's Refresher Aura
- Fixed a rare bug with Ember Spirit getting stuck after using Fire Remnant
- Fixed Ember Spirit sometimes becoming invisible after Sleight of Fist
- Fixed Fire Remnant buff icons remaining stuck after Remnants expire
- The experimental auto-repeat feature dota_player_auto_repeat_right_mouse now interacts with the minimap
- The experimental directional move feature dota_unit_allow_moveto_direction has been changed to pivot in place to face the direction before starting to move
- Added a new confirmation particle effect to dota_unit_allow_moveto_direction movement commands
PC Gamer

The ESL has announced a $1 million prize pool for the 2015 ESL One Dota 2 tournament series, which it says represents a quadrupling of its investment in the series last year.

"We re starting with ESL One Frankfurt 2015 in June this year, where the prize money has been raised from US$150,000 to US$250,000 - and this is just the beginning," Ulrich Schulze, ESL's managing director of pro gaming, said in a statement. "ESL One is here to set a new standard for professional Dota 2 events at this level. We re dedicated to pushing the boundaries, and giving players from around the world more chances to make their careers as professional gamers is a key aspect of that."

As MCV UK pointed out, last year's Dota 2 series consisted of two events, in Frankfurt and New York. Assuming my math is correct, 2015 will see that number at least double, with tournaments set to take place "in some of the world's most iconic stadiums and arenas."

The news follows closely behind last week's announcement that the ESL will hold the world's largest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament in Cologne, Germany, with its own $250,000 prize pool funded entirely by the ESL. I'd say it sounds like things are going pretty well over there.

PC Gamer

Positioning is a part of Counter-Strike that many players don't lend the proportional amount of consideration to. Where you are in relation to your teammates and the enemy (and when you're there) has a huge impact on how a round plays out. Positioning is also a massive topic—more than a 10-minute video can cover every aspect of—but for this week's Triggernometry I've focused in on the CT side of that most ubiquitous of maps, de_dust2.

Product Update - Valve
Fixed Towers denied while in the fog of war taking too long to disappear

Year Beast Brawl:
Refresher Aura is now tracked per-ability and has a slightly greater chance of initially triggering, but a diminishingly lower chance of triggering for each subsequent proc
Tower Flak shots now apply Skadi
Teleport cooldown reduced from 60 to 30 seconds
Teleport channel duration increased from 3 to 4.5
Product Update - Valve
- Released the first New Bloom Treasure along with a Charm version.

Year Beast Brawl:
-Global Active Abilities now scale based on game time, similar to the Beast Passive Upgrades:
-Thundergod's Wrath:
350 damage to 0-10 minutes: 125 damage, 10-20 minutes: 250 damage, 20+ minutes: 375 damage
-Global Chakra :
100% mana to 0-10 minutes: 60% mana, 10-20 minutes: 80% mana, 20+ minutes: 100% mana
-Hand of God:
300 health to 0-10 minutes: 200 health, 10-20 minutes: 300 health, 20+ minutes: 400 health
-Global Silence
5 seconds to 0-10 minutes: 4 seconds, 10-20 minutes: 5 seconds, 20+ minutes: 6 seconds.

-Fixed using beast actives while the game is paused

General:
-Fixed KOTL Illuminate, custom spirit models now appear when custom Illuminate is used with Spirit Form
- Support for High-DPI (4k) displays has been added. This requires Windows 8.1 or later. Dota 2 will now use the native resolution of High-DPI displays and will use larger mouse cursor sizes when available.
...

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