PC Gamer
Counter-Strike Global Offensive - confused soldier in suburbia

An excitable post on the Counter-Strike blog announces that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be free to everyone from today through until Sunday to celebrate the climax of the Electronic Sports World Cup.

"This weekend? CS:GO is free. Download it. Play it. Love it. It’s free. Who knows, we might even put it on sale if you want to keep playing after this weekend," say Valve. They've recently updated their spectator tools with GOTV, an in-game service that should let you check out the pro action happening in Paris this weekend. If you're suitably inspired, you can start climbing the ranks and taking on CS regulars.

If you've never played Counter-Strike before, you won't have to worry too much about running into crack sharpshooters right away. "Ranked players will only meet Free Weekend players skilled enough to climb into their skill group." In the meantime, Valve have put out another Pro Tip video to give you a head start while the client downloads.

PC Gamer
Black Mesa Source

Nailing down the range of possibilities afforded by modding's creativity yawns past the comprehension of us mere mortals. Yet, for a platform housing exploding horses, rug-cutting Combine, and the nesting-doll appeal of Minecraft's game-in-a-game sandbox, the PC keeps its lot of closed environments precipitated by developers and publishers as a means for balanced gameplay or brand protection. In an interview with True PC Gaming, Black Mesa Project Lead Carlos Montero flatly stated such a hindrance for mod growth "doesn't make sense."

"When you think about it, modders are like the ultimate fans," Montero explained. "They love this game so much, they're doing real, difficult, skilled work that you usually pay people for. Not only that, but they can add so much value to your game for the rest of your audience. Yet you still see companies look at this as competition. They sue and shut down these projects and ignore or drop support for people to mod their games. It doesn't make any sense. In my opinion, it’s the product of businesses (or lawyers) looking at this too analytically and short-term without understanding the long-term value it can create for their games."

Although Black Mesa earned the silent blessing of Valve during its lengthy session in the testing chamber, other ambitious projects met a not-so-friendly response from license holders legally stifling efforts. Montero's thoughts—the rest of which you can read in the interview—reflect a sentiment by modder-turned-developer Tripwire Interactive expressing confusion over why companies would stop mods on their games.
PC Gamer
Valve offices

For Valve's employees, working at one of the most secretive development studios around constitutes a once-in-a-respawn experience. The leakage of Valve's employee handbook earlier this year colorfully outlined a flat management structure culturing a counterintuitive emphasis on peer-driven independence. Speaking to Seattle Interactive Conference attendees yesterday (as reported by GeekWire), Valve Product Designer Greg Coomer said the same free-form philosophy governing the company's work ethic also factors into firing someone.

"I wish that we had covered firing in the employee handbook," Coomer said. "It was one of the things that we left out. We tried writing it, but we didn't feel like we were capturing how Valve thinks about (firing) in a well enough way. It was almost a wording problem. We couldn't get it done in the time that we wouldn't to finish the handbook. The short answer of how we handle terminations, really, is the same as we approach all other decisions at the company: It's a peer-driven process.

"If it turns out that we made a bad hiring decision, or that somebody is just not working out, there’s a method we use to get the people who are involved in the same room and to walk through the decision about what should really happen as a result of this person not functioning very well. Some of the details are kind of boring, but the main answer is that it's peer-driven, just like we evaluate each other as peers.”

I wonder what a caricaturized "Termination and You" chapter in the handbook would look like—probably the Pyro immolating an office chair or something. Still, Coomer attributed Valve's higher rate of self-fulfillment to the significant flexibility it bestows upon its workers, saying, “There are attributes that other companies have quoted about themselves that they allow their (employees) to spend some fraction of their time actually deciding on their own what to work on, but at Valve that percentage of your time is 100 percent. Every single person is responsible for deciding what they do every day."
PC Gamer
Counter-Strike Global Offensive TV lines of action

The GO TV client for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will launch before the Electronic Sports World Cup finals kick off on November 1. That's according to a tweet from the official CS:GO twitter feed spotted by PCGamesN. "Everyone will have a chance to watch the show," say Valve. They've posted a screenshot of GO TV in action, which includes some tactical squiggles over a map, suggesting that casters will have the terrible power to draw anything they like live on the internet.

The ESWC is set to conclude next week during the Paris Games Week. Find out more about the tournament on the ESWC site, and grab the full schedule here.

PC Gamer
Counter-Strike Global Offensive pro tip video

Valve have sat down with Area 51's Semphis and a video camera to talk through some pro strategies for improving your odds in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Semphis offers detailed advice about how to fire the AK-47 at different ranges, and shows some of his favourite grenade arcs. Advice like "aim above the third strut to get a smoke grenade to the Library" is exactly the sort of precise instruction that'll come in handy the next time you find yourself rushing around that corner on de_inferno.

This is the first in a series of Pro Tip videos that Valve plan to film as they travel around visiting teams. Valve seem to be warming to the idea of producing films. They announced that they're working on a Dota 2 e-sports documentary earlier in the year. It'd be great to see some Dota 2 tips videos from Valve as well, but who knows what they'll do next.

PC Gamer
Counter-Strike Global Offensive Vertigo map

Valve updated Counter-Strike: Global Offensive today with two additional maps and a refit of the Classic Competitive matchmaking system. Vertigo, a classic Defusal map, returns with a Source facelift to its multi-leveled mayhem and shadowy camping nest corners, while Monastery chills things out with an Arms Race among the snowy promenades of a windswept temple.

Classic Competitive matchmaking now involves queuing up until 10 player matches are found before starting a game. Group queuing and matchmaking with friends are also possible through a "Play with Friends" option. Head over to Global Offensive's website for a short FAQ on the new matchmaking.
PC Gamer
steam top sellers

Valve did a sneaky, small-but-significant thing recently: it expanded its "Top Sellers" list on Steam to include one hundred games. The sales leaderboard doesn't tell us exactly how many copies a game sold, but it gives us a vague idea of how well certain games are doing on Steam in a given moment.

It's an inherently misleading metric—take that as a disclaimer. Still, as we sit in the shadow of some of 2012's biggest releases, I'd like to take a crack at gleaning what we can from this moment in time.

2K's having a great end of the year.
The $50 pre-sale of XCOM is outselling everything but Borderlands 2 on Steam. We might be able to chalk that up to fairly generous pre-purchase incentives (which could include a free copy of Civ 5 if enough people pre-buy it). It might be mild evidence that demos still work, too. Borderlands 2's high concurrent user count over the past few days (reaching 123,758 last weekend) is also evidence that 2K will win the weeks connecting September and October on Steam.

Digital pre-orders are a thing.
XCOM isn't the only thing-you-can-buy-but-can't-play-yet doing well. Joining the unreleased are Dishonored at #7, War of the Roses at #12, Football Manager 2013 at #17, Company of Heroes 2 at #29, and Hitman Absolution at #51. Even though there's no chance of a game going out of stock, Steam users don't seem to mind putting money down in advance, especially if they're rewarded with bonus content or a small discount for doing so.

Where are the MMOs? Oh, right.
Zero MMOs appear in today's top 100. I might consider that unsurprising—we wouldn't expect too many people to be picking up competitors while Guild Wars 2 and Pandaria are drawing the attention, and neither are available on Steam. Still, it's a little surprising not to see RIFT ($10) or EVE Online: Inferno ($20) popping up anywhere.

Call of Duty remains a PC fixture.
The sense that Call of Duty remains a fixture for PC gamers is supported by SteamGraph data. Some form of Call of Duty make up 10 whole entries of the Steam's top 100. Many of those are map packs, but the performance of Call of Duty: Black Ops - Mac Edition (#41) is interesting to me. It released yesterday, September 27, and it's outperforming stuff like Civ V: GOTY and Natural Selection 2. Modern Warfare 3 is 50% off until October 1, and it's sitting comfortably at #5.

DayZ continues to have a long tail.
I don't think Arma 2: Combined Operations (what you need to play DayZ) has left the top ten of Steam's Top Sellers since it caught on in May and June. It seems to be outperforming other games that released in May and June like Sins: Rebellion (#56), Max Payne 3 (#76), Civ 5: Gods & Kings (#20), and Spec Ops: The Line (unlisted).

Below: the data, captured at 6:05 PM PDT. Ctrl + Fing encouraged.

Top Ten
Borderlands 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Total War Master Collection
Torchlight II
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Carrier Command: Gaea Mission
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Arma 2: Combined Operations
Empire: Total War

Castle Crashers
War of the Roses
Borderlands 2 Season Pass
FTL: Faster Than Light
Cortex Command
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Football Manager 2013
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard
Garry's Mod
Sid Meier's Civilization V - Gods 'n Kings
Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition
The Binding of Isaac
Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy
Left 4 Dead 2
Hell Year! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

F1 2012
Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
Rome: Total War - Gold
Company of Heroes 2
Total War Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai
Sid Meier's Civilization V
Counter-Strike: Source
Borderlands: Game of the Year
Worms Revolution
Total War Mega Pack
The Walking Dead
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Collection 3: Chaos Pack
Call of Duty: Black Ops - Mac Edition
Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb
Portal 2
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Game of the Year
Total War: SHOGUN 2
The Sims 3
Counter-Strike Complete
Hearts of Iron 3 Collection
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

Hitman: Absolution
Train Simulator 2013
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
Medieval II Gold
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Orcs Must Die! 2 - Family Ties Booster Pack
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
The Amazing Spider-Man
Orcs Must Die! 2
Saints Row: The Third
Dead Island: GOTY
Natural Selection 2
Orcs Must Die! 2 - Complete Pack
Half-Life 2
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Rome: Total War - Complete
The Orange Box
Borderlands 2 + Official Brady Guide
Batman: Arkham City GOTY
Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead
Grand Theft Auto IV
Endless Space
Killing Floor
Call of Duty: World at War
Max Payne 3
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
I Am Alive
Fallout 3: GOTY
Fallen Enchantress
Valve Complete Pack
Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition
Mount & Blade: Warband
New Star Soccer 5
Portal Bundle
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Collection 2
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Expansion
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare® 3 Collection 1
Arma 2
Might & Magic Heroes VI - Danse Macabre Adventure Pack
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD
STAR WARS: Knights of the Old Republic II
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Planets Under Attack
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Age of Empires III: Complete Collection

Reiterating: We don't know what formula or data drives Steam's Top Sellers rankings. It's probably safest to consider them a representation of what games are selling well in one moment of time on Steam.