Team Fortress 2

The Blapature Co. Summer Jam is a 24 Hour Team Fortress 2 charity livestream, featuring a host of personalities from the TF community. Their previous charity livestream raised over $800 for Child's Play, and their work with Rally Call has raised over ?4000 for International Animal Rescue. This past weekend, Blapature Co. supported Child's Play again, with a donation target of $2000, which they have absolutely blown away! But don't worry if you missed it! There's still time to donate and show your support. Click here to do just that and here to check out Blapature Co.'s Twitch channel.

Dota 2

The multiplayer online battle arena is not the easiest genre in the world to dip a tentative toe into. There's a lot of information, and learning the ropes in the midst of a hyper-competitive online milieu that's not known for being forgiving to newcomers can be off-putting, to say the least. To help ease new Dota 2 players into the action, Valve recently made a couple of changes to the game that it says are intended to help them "face as few barriers as possible" when they start playing. 

First, the hero selection system has been changed so that players will only have access to a "curated group" of 20 heroes, out of a currently total of 113, for their first 25 games. "This introductory group consists of heroes that we’ve learned are very successful in helping new players learn and enjoy the game," the Dota team explained. 

Even more importantly (in my opinion, anyway) new players will now be matched only against others with "consistently high behavior scores," to ensure that they have "a good social experience while they are first trying to learn the game." 

That's a good idea—I'd go so far as to say it's an excellent one—but it's also a tacit admission that the Dota 2 social situation isn't consistently good, and is in fact so bad that people need to be protected from it. It's hard to be overly critical of the way Valve has handled Dota's evolution so far (it's quite the success, after all) but if you have to lock out a significant portion of your existing player base just so they won't chase away newbies, then maybe that's an issue that needs a more head-on approach. 

The International Dota 2 Championships, or just "The International" as it's better known, begins on August 7, with a total prize pool of more than $23 million. Pick up some practical tips on how to enjoy the spectator side of the game as a newcomer right here.

Dota 2 - (Philippa Warr)


You know how sometimes you go to the swimming pool and in the grown-up full size bit there are boring lanes and people who tell you off for having fun but in the baby section there are inflatables and everyone is friendly and sometimes there’s a blow-up tropical island with a slide and you wish you could go in that pool instead of the boring adult pool even though there is also a lot of wee in there which you try not to think about?

That is how I feel about the newcomer-friendly changes to Dota 2 [official site]. Valve are making it NICER and more MANAGEABLE. No-one has mentioned a tropical island with a slide, but maybe it’s being kept secret. If it is I will KICK OFF. (more…)

Dota 2

Photos via Valve's official Dota 2 Flickr account.Every year, The International showcases players from across the globe who have spent countless hours, days and years mastering one of the deepest games ever made. The annual event is reliably one of the most exciting esports events of the year. The issue is that many don’t know where to begin watching it. More intimidating than the game itself is the fear of 'watching the game wrong'—but in reality, the only way to watch Dota 2 wrong is to not watch at all. If you find yourself worried about diving into The International, here are some quick tips that will help you out.

Just do it  

Like a child watches soccer, hockey or American football for the first time, we all experience Dota 2 for the first time in one form or another—and, likely, get overwhelmed by the exposure. It happens. After all, many will say that their introduction into the game was The International 3, and the influx in player count shows this. Plus, with millions of dollars on the line, every year draws more and more curious onlookers, whether from another video game or just someone that heard about the prize money. In other words, you’re in good company. 

Don’t be scared to dive in and watch. Dota 2 is like rugby or American football: much of what’s going on can’t be explained until you see it practically applied. Concepts such as creep pulling, laning, rotations and 'objective-focused strategies' are execution-based and look much better than they sound. 

This year, the Newcomer Stream will also make its return to The International. If you’re a first-time viewer trying to learn some of the basics of the game, this will be a likely first destination for you. It’s unknown if a separate explanation commentary will return, but at the very least, there will be tooltips to enhance your understanding of the game’s strategy and items.

Understand the event’s flow (and take breaks!) 

What’s nice about Dota 2 is that it keeps a fairly consistent pace throughout the tournament. Some teams will even become predictable, trying to drag out games or end them more quickly. It’s worth keeping an eye out so you can understand when are good times to get up and do errands, such as food breaks or bathroom trips, without worrying too much.  

For instance, in the larger scheme of things, while some first games of best-of-three matches can be interesting, you’ll come back and see the same two teams play again next game. There’s often about ten minutes between games, and fifteen to thirty between matches. 

On a smaller scale, the time between the walk-on and the end of the hero draft is often just given over to match speculation, and so this is a good 8-to-12-minute mini-break. The early stages of the game, after first blood, are often just intermediate kills, though it’s good to return before about twenty minutes on the in-game clock before teamfights pick up.

Don’t stick to one team  

Only following one team will often lead to disappointment (for most fans, anyway). After all, life comes at us fast, and teams get dropped from the eleven-day event as quickly as you discover them. Sixteen teams in, one out. 

Do not be scared to bandwagon if a team you chose loses: seriously, it’s you and the rest of the Dota 2 community getting behind that new team.

You don’t have to know everything 

A major myth in trying to watch Dota 2, from my experience with new spectators, is that fans assume they need to know every painstaking detail about the game to watch. Even experienced players can be intimidated by the level of play that they’re seeing. 

Knowing a lot about Dota 2 will help, but it’s absolutely not necessary. In fact, even if you know more than the average player, that won’t help predict or explain every decision made in a professional game. It won’t explain dives or odd item choices: that’s an analyst’s job, and even then, analysts can also hit a ceiling of knowledge. In other words, even players with thousands of hours in-game can only know so much, so you’re not alone. 

If you do think you need help understanding what heroes, items and strategies, there’s no shame in Googling items, asking online communities or consulting with friends. Most of these have more-than-thorough explanations of much of what’s going on. And, the worst case is, the people you ask don’t know either, and you all get to speculate and learn about the game together.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - (John Walker)

Well even if the Sun won’t shine, the Steam Charts can still spread brightness into our lives. By some manner of wondrous majjicks, this week’s chart doesn’t even include H1Z1, Fallout 4, nor The Witcher 3! I barely even know what to do with myself. I’m dizzy! Come, join the celebration. (more…)

Dota 2 - Valve
* The time Roshan dies is no longer printed in the death messages
Dota 2 - Valve
* The time Roshan dies is no longer printed in the death messages
Dota 2

As The International hits its seventh iteration, fans are anxious to see what this year's event will bring. The esports world will revolve around Seattle’s Key Arena for a few long August days, but for now, the meta is up in the air, and the rivalries between teams are close. After six days of intense matchups, it’ll all come down to two teams fighting with millions of dollars on the line in the grand final. 

The International’s grand final matches aren’t just deciders for millions of dollars. These matches are a reflection of the state of the Dota 2 scene, including the meta, the players and the atmosphere. Here, we rank all six grand finals of Dota 2's biggest event of the year.

6. TI4: Newbee vs. Vici Gaming

Has there ever been an otherwise-important match so predictable and formulaic that entire forums were speculating that it was rigged from the start? 

The whole event itself was considered to be one of The International's most flawed iterations. It was the first event in KeyArena, and Valve was feeling out the lay of the land. Only eight teams were present on the main stage, killing storyline potential.

The meta was considered stale in comparison to most other years, at least from a spectator’s viewpoint. This was the era of the “deathball strat,” in which players would pick pushing heroes and play super-aggressively, often ending matches in well under 40 minutes. 

It wasn’t that the players were unskilled and non-strategic, by any means: in fact, it was more of a case of perfecting a technique to the point where it has the opposite of the intended effect, turning skill into routine. Each game was decided not only in the draft, but about six or seven minutes in, when towers would already be under fire. 

Not a single grand finals match at this event went above 30 minutes. The longest game in the grand finals ended with an in-game timer of 26:11 (not including drafting and pre-horn). The final clocked in at 15:08. 

The worst part? 

This grand final was on a Monday.

5. TI1: Natus Vincere vs. EHOME 

The first International was a strange, awkward affair, as it was Dota 2’s first public display. The casters were unrefined, and while the players knew DotA (the Warcraft 3 version), they were just learning the ropes of this new Valve remaster. That didn’t stop Valve from gathering the top DotA players in the world to showcase the new game. 

Spectators can feel all of the above in TI’s first-ever grand finals, in which $1 million was at stake for the winning team. The skill was there, but it’s strange to watch with the lack of hero diversity caused by the obvious lack of heroes imported into the game at that point. The players worked with what they had, and they did spectacularly. As always, watching Na’vi’s mid laner Dendi on Puck is quite a sight. 

More than anything, TI1 is a great way to reflect on what’s changed in Dota 2, and the competitive community, from the prize pool to the casting. But in terms of gameplay, especially compared to even recent modern matches, it’s fairly typical. Not that it’s bad. Just not as excitingnd Finals.

4. TI2: Invictus Gaming vs Natus Vincere 

A year later, Dota 2 was much more fleshed-out, less of an awkward shell of what it could be and more of an active version of what it was going to be. It was imperfect, but not less exciting. For the most part, it was a “protect the carry” meta, with heroes such as Anti-Mage and Alchemist thriving, so it won’t be entirely unfamiliar to today’s fans. 

The most notable IG vs. Na'Vi moment at TI2 was actually in the winner's bracket semifinal, not the grand final. Esports veterans will remember 'The Play', a teamfight that still defines Dota 2’s unpredictability and ingenuity to this day. As Invictus Gaming initiated with an Enigma ultimate, Black Hole, they trapped everyone—except Dendi on the Rubick, who could steal the spell and turn it around. This he did, and Na’vi ended up taking down the entirety of IG, grasping the victory of particular game from their hands.

Despite this amazing moment, IG still took the Aegis of Champions at the end of the tournament. But that’s not to say IG didn’t deserve it—in fact, IG’s were extremely dominant, and it was a well-earned Aegis. This grand final was an absolutely exciting set of matches, with great plays and strategy from each team.

3. TI5: Evil Geniuses vs. CDEC 

When TI5 started, very few expected the Chinese wild card team, CDEC, to go as far as they did. But they did, and they breezed through the upper bracket of the event, setting up a highly-anticipated grand final for fans of the dark horse. 

Meanwhile, Evil Geniuses dipped down into the lower bracket—but EG is known as the lower bracket team for a reason, and they re-emerged for the grand finals. This was the year Sumail, the legendary Pakistani mid player, was discovered, bringing a new wave of fans from around the world. Led by the "salty" yet genius captain PPD, now the CEO of the org, the team was considered a top pick for the event—and possibly the only American team even close to that title.

It was the North American dream versus the Chinese dark horse, and it had fans across the world at the edges of their seats. In the end, Evil Geniuses snagged it; to this day, many accredit it to PPD’s incredible drafting. The captain, who had been blogging his recent adventures, even agreed to discuss his drafting mentality after a slew of fans requested such. Of course, there was the symphony of skill as well, with Sumail leading a youthful, aggressive mid lane style and Universe’s iconic Six Million Dollar Echo Slam with Earthshaker.

Most importantly, in an era when North America was considered too weak to exist in the competitive scene for any esport, it brought North America into relevancy in Dota 2—and, possibly, esports as a whole.

2. TI6: Wings Gaming vs. Digital Chaos

TI6 was quite an affair. For one, the main two familiar meta picks, Mirana and Shadow Demon in specific, weren’t “winning picks,” but instead just what made sense at the time. 

The winning strategy here was actually hero pool diversity. The top two teams, Wings Gaming and Digital Chaos, were praised throughout the event for their massive range of hero picks. After all, you can’t ban a strategy if you don’t know what strategy is being deployed. 

For that reason, the grand finals were played both in the drafts and the game itself. While DC had opportunities to shut down Wings in-game, Wings absolutely owned their lineups and the map, showing the world what Dota 2 is really about: perfecting a spectrum of skill, intellect, and strategy. There’s very little to say about this level of play, as a team perfecting such a high level of Dota 2 play is simply a spectacle that must be seen. The way Anti-Mage re-entered the fourth and final game, for instance, is a perfect demonstration of effective and efficient farm as well as reclamation of a game. 

Unfortunately, Wings won’t be returning to TI7 due to a roster breakup, but the team has inspired others such as Virtus.Pro to widen their skillset.

1. TI3: Alliance vs Natus Vincere 

Many still claim to this day that The International 3 grand final was the best set of Dota 2 matches ever played.

For one, Dota 2 was starting to come out of its awkward beta stage, as it ended in early July, open for all players to access. This meant an influx of spectators—and friends who tagged along—for the biggest event in esports. And it was sure big, as it was the first year to offer the Compendium, thus increasing the prize pool healthily over $2 million. 

In the competitive world, Alliance won several straight tournaments, even closing one out with a “perfect” game of 22-0 in team kills, utilizing “rat doto,” a strategy involving objective-oriented play. This means that instead of all of the work being oriented towards teamfights, a player is more likely to go solo and work towards taking down towers and barracks, while the other four manage and control the map. It’s technically difficult, as it’s easy to get killed if done incorrectly. 

One matchup popped up constantly: Alliance versus Natus Vincere, the Dota 2 El Classico. So one couldn’t blame anyone for wishing the two would meet at the apex of the biggest esports event in the world. Alliance knocked Na’vi into the lower bracket early on, but the CIS team kicked its way back into the grand finals. And they were certainly grand. 

While rat doto, in public matches, is accused of being an avoidant and obnoxious strategy, in its highest levels, it’s a long game of chess, a tense cat-and-mouse situation. There are only two ways to weed it out: nip it at the bud and win the draft stage, or outrace the other team. Alliance perfected the art of draft order, though, and made it impossible to outdraft their “ratter,” AdmiralBulldog, so he would get his pick of competent heroes. Instead, Na’vi had to create an in-game chase as they themselves tried to simultaneously push into their opponents and take them down at the same time. 

In the end, it came down to two bare ancients and The Million Dollar Dream Coil—a Puck ultimate by Alliance player s4. It turns out that s4 cancelled an essential teleport by Dendi by mere milliseconds, costing Na’vi the Ancient, and thus, the entire tournament.

Dota 2 is a game of clutches, close calls and milliseconds, and TI3 was a perfect example of the moments that keep bringing players back to the field.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - (Samuel Horti)


Well, East me Enders and Pano my Rama: live Esports is coming to to the BBC this month. BBC Three (which is now online only) will broadcast the new Gfinity Elite League Series One, which means four hours of Rocket League, CS:GO and Street Fighter V on iPlayer every weekend for the next six weeks.

There’s a proper schedule and everything: Fridays at 9pm is for Street Fighter, which in a massive programming screw up clashes with Gardener’s World. Saturday nights from 9-11 is CS:GO (no Casualty for me then), and Rocket League is happening Sunday afternoon from 5. It’s all coming live from the Gfinity Arena in West London, with eight organisations taking part.


Jul 28, 2017
Dota 2 - Ward

Some of the most satisfying moments in Dota are found in the first stages of learning the game, as you begin to see intricate strategies take shape in the battles around you. However, there have also been some issues that caused unnecessary challenges for new players in the past. With today's update we're introducing two features designed to help new players face as few barriers as possible to enjoying Dota.

The first feature is a change to the hero selection system. To help new players, we are now restricting hero selection to a curated group of twenty heroes for their first twenty-five games. This introductory group consists of heroes that we've learned are very successful in helping new players learn and enjoy the game.

Today's update also introduces a feature that matches new players against players with consistently high behavior scores. It is especially important for a new player to have a good social experience while they are first trying to learn the game. The matchmaking system will now ensure that new players will play with and against appropriately-skilled players that also have a track record of good behavior.

The International is soon approaching, and we look forward to welcoming you to the Newcomer Stream!

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