Dota 2
dota 2 greeviling

Dota 2 correspondent Cassandra Khaw dives into the game's holiday event to evaluate and explain it.

Greevils. Greevils everywhere. You knew the wide-bottomed children of Dota 2's Diretide event were going to be trouble. But still, you persisted in pouring essences into their eggs. Now look what happened: they've gone and destroyed Christmas.

Welcome to the Greeviling. (Well, "Frostivus," if you insist on being pedantic.) Much like the previous Dota 2 holiday event, this festive salute is one entrenched in chaos, comedy and consumerism. For reasons unknown, the entirety of Dota 2 is now infested with Greevils. Shops have been plundered, gifts have been ripped open and precious items have been scattered all across the woods. Needless to say, it's your responsibility to restore order and make off with stolen goods along the way.

How does The Greeviling work?
Unlike Diretide, there is considerably less order involved in The Greeviling. Where the former required players to engage the game mode in three different stages, the Greeviling is a simple race to the finish: first team to obliterate 11 Greevil camps wins. To achieve this, teams will have wage battle against the nesting sites that routinely spawn throughout the match.

As elementary as that may sound, there are a few details to keep in mind. First and foremost, there are no shopkeepers to wheedle fine weaponry from. They've all fled, the cowards. The Greeviling provides just two ways to get items: by excavating the Christmas socks you begin each round with (these traditionally contain a Greevil whistle, a consumable and, in an instance of what might be called "Footwareception," a pair of boots) or by demolishing Greevil camps and picking up gifts from the ruins. What makes this somewhat challenging is the fact there is no guarantee that the items earned will, in any way, be of great use to your hero. To make things even more complicated, there is no guarantee that you will actually get an item—it's entirely possible that the game will randomly distribute your prize to the enemies instead. Ever wondered what it'd be like to play Sand King with nothing but a Ring of Aquila and an Ethereal Blade while facing off against a Life Stealer with a full armament? Now's your chance.

However, this isn't the primary feature. As the name of the event may have implicated, the Greeviling is all about these multi-colored, marauding pests. Before every match, you'll be asked to pick one of your domesticated Greevils to bring into the fray. If you don't own of one of these kleptomaniacs, a naked member of the species will be temporarily assigned to you. Each of these Greevils come with abilities and statistics of their own, both of which are dependent on the kind of essences that have been infused in their eggs. Unsurprisingly, the naked Greevils are usually bottom-of-the-barrel material—unless you get extraordinarily lucky—while those that have been enriched with a more exotic collection of essences tend to be potent opponents.

Like strange, organic Transformers, you'll be able to switch between your chosen Hero and pet Greevil at will—all it takes is a toot on the whistle. Is it worth morphing into one of those wretched beasts? Most of the time, the answer is yes. By and large, your Greevil is going to be significantly more dangerous than your Hero.

With snow everywhere, the river completely frozen over—nothing quite matches the hilarity of a Squiddles-wielding Tidehunter careening helplessly across the ice—and not a single creep in sight, The Greeviling can be a disorienting experience. Easily completed within the span of about 10 to 15 minutes, your mileage may vary. Some will like the unabashed silliness, others will not. Unlike its predecessor, The Greeviling won't allocate you additional cosmetic goods if you perform better than your foes. Everyone simply gets a box of shinies; it's merely a question of whether there is the opportunity for slighter better loot or not.

The Greeviling is not the finely-tuned juggernaut that base Dota 2 is. But I do see it as an opportunity to amass hoards of decorative accouterments for future usage or trade. After all, isn't this the season for wanton capitalism and bargains?
Steam Time Analysis

Lambent Stew's free, web-based Steam Time Analysis tool laid bare my backlog of shame by breaking down time spent (or not spent) on each of my library's games like some sort of cold, ruthless PowerPoint presentation. The breadth of information provided is quite impressive. Over email, Stew told us the new build includes a few new features that further visualize users' habits.

You're now be able to compare your profile with those on your friends list for games owned, how many were played, and total hours played. (Our own Executive Editor Evan Lahti only played around 16 percent of his over 1300-game stable, the lazy bum.)

Similar to another homebrewed utility, a new worth calculator also provides combined figures for minimum, maximum, and current game prices in your library. Locating your own profile should be easier with improved search: just type in your Steam profile ID, and the tool should easily zero in on your data.

Check out the tool for yourself on Lambent Stew's website. How do you rank against your friends? What's your most-played game?
Dota 2
Dota 2 Frostivus thumb

Valve have revealed the final five winners of the Dota 2 Polycount Contest, including the recipient of the Best Overall award. The modelling competition tasked entrants with creating a unique item set for one of the heroes, and the Dota 2 team have been listing their favourites over the past week.

The winning set, Rider of the Storm, gives a new mount and items to the Disruptor. Valve said of their pick, "the mount, Rampant the Scaled Hunter, is a wicked alternative to the default with both runed beak and feathers drawing attention and creating a sleek sense of direction. Disruptor himself looks battleready and grim. The beard design and eye-patch make the portrait stand apart and both also read well at game-distance. Technical execution is at the professional level."

Disruptor - Rider of the Storm

There were also sets announced for Doom Bringer, Dazzle, Shadow Shaman and Sniper. All eleven announced winners will be rolled into the game for Frostivus, Dota 2's typically strange Christmas event. The update promises "riotous behaviour," presents nestled under towers and possibly ice-skating.

The victorious creators will each receive a share of the sales from their in-game items, as well as their own special versions and a custom trophy-ward.

Doom Bringer - Elven Curses

Dazzle - Ancestral Trappings

Shadow Shaman - Mysterious Vagabond

Sniper - Gear of the Tally-ho Hunter
Team Fortress 2
Steam Guide thumb

I think Steam gets a bit jealous when you visit other places for gaming related information. That would explain why it's slowly trying to integrate every aspect of the internet into its darkened pages. The latest: game guides, previously the preserve of YouTube, wikis and £15 books that surely no-one actually bought.

Steam are currently beta testing an addition to their new game hubs, which adds a space for users to publish guides that cover any aspect of a game's experience. Think of it like a Steam Workshop for words: you can browse subcategories in game - like cheats, walkthroughs and modding - and can also rate each guide to ensure the most thorough rise to the surface.

Even at this beta stage, it's all looking rather slick. Guide creators can embed images and videos, and add subheadings to make sure the relevant information is easily accessible.

There's already an impressive range of information emerging. TF2's guide page hosts everything from class run-downs to tutorials on how to run a multiplayer server or ensure you don't get ripped off when trading. And while Dota 2 is currently looking rather light, it's sure to become an invaluable resource for new players in the future.

To access the feature, you need to join the New Steam Community Beta group. After that, you can find a game's hub page and click the Guides tab to see what's available.
Dota 2
Dota 2 Deadly Nightshade Polycount Contest

With bajillions over 180,000 players playing Dota 2 simultaneously on the daily, at least a few of the dedicated will know how to push around a digi-brush. The Dota 2 Polycount Contest collected nearly 75 high-quality entries of custom-designed armors to submit to Valve's judgement with the winners having their works included in the in-game store for purchase. On Dota 2's official blog, Valve revealed the first six lucky winners today and touted gorgeous new player-made duds for Crystal Maiden, Naga Siren, Beastmaster, Templar Assassin, Meepo, and Witch Doctor heroes.

Valve determines each contest entry by readability, design, detail, and character profile, offering thoughts and critiques on each winner through the blog. Though artistic flair always shows off a designer's prowess, Valve warned of the importance of exact attention to detail in color gradients and saturation for texture modeling, an especially critical element considering the model scale and viewpoint of most MOBAs. Still, that Beastmaster set is my favorite pick of the lot. Wow.

Valve will announce four additional winners tomorrow and a final grand winner on Friday. Keep checking Dota 2's blog for the latest announcements. Cyborgmatt's blog also contains images and snapshots of all the contest's entrants for browsing.


Crystal Maiden


Naga Siren

Templar Assassin

Witch Doctor
Dota 2
Dota 2

Dota 2's popularity hit a new peak on Saturday when it passed the 180,000 concurrent players point. A glance at stats gathered from Steam using Steamgraph turns up a new high for Valve's Dotalike, which has continued to gain popularity after a spike in September triggered by The International tournament. Dota 2's peak figure is second only to Skyrim, which hit 287,411 players shortly after launch late last year.

And no, it's still not out yet, but Valve are pushing out more and more invite tickets to current players. Valve have said that they're rolling Dota 2 out slowly to stop their servers from melting into a plastic puddle, which seems sensible given the consistent player uptake over the past year.

It's not just the expanding playerbase that makes Dota 2 one to watch, Valve's decision to allow tournament organisers to charge for tickets seems to be taking off. The latest post on the Dota 2 blog highlights the success of The Defense 3 tourney, which has "has earned several times more in its first week than The Defense 1 did in its lifetime."

Valve say that "while sponsors and ad revenue are useful sources for tournaments, they’re indirect – the funding doesn’t come from the tournament viewers themselves. We believe that long-term, for tournaments to be stable and grow year over year they need to be self-sustainable from direct revenue, and not at the mercy of changing attitudes in sponsoring companies."

As the year draws to a close it's interesting to try and guess which games will go nova next year. If Dota 2 continues to grow at this rate it could outstrip stern competition from League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and Blizzard's own long-teased version of Dota. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here's that graph showing how the Dota 2 beta has grown since November 2011.

Dota 2
PC Gamer GOTY Nominees

At the end of each year we hand out awards to honor the experiences that live in our best memories of the preceding months—the games that moved us with their ambition, quality, and pioneering spirit. None of the decisions are ever easy, and there's no secret formula: we pit opinion against opinion with straightforward, old-fashioned arguing until one winner is left standing in the GOTY battle cage. Look below for the first landmark of that exciting week-long debate: a list of our eligible winners in 11 categories, including Game of the Year.

Beyond recognizing what games we loved most this year, though, it’s crucial to call attention to a truth that connects them all: PC gaming is exploding. Our hobby is many-tentacled and unbridled—practically every niche, genre, and business model mutated in a meaningful way this year. Two shooters built on new, PC-only technology released (PlanetSide 2 and Natural Selection 2). Dota 2 grew into its adolescence. League of Legends’ Season 2 Championship drew an audience of 8.2 million—the most ever for an eSports event. Modders resurrected content that was thought to be lost. So many remakes and spiritual successors to old school PC games got crowdfunded that we're sure we’d miss some if we tried to list them all.

That said, the following list marks the peaks of this mountainous year, and you'll find out which games won in the next issue of PC Gamer, and here on the web soon.

Dota 2
Mass Effect 3
PlanetSide 2
The Walking Dead
Tribes: Ascend
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Crusader Kings II
FTL: Faster Than Light
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Guild Wars 2
PlanetSide 2
Rift: Storm Legion
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Diablo III
Mass Effect 3
Torchlight II

Borderlands 2
Far Cry 3
Max Payne 3
Spec Ops: The Line

Natural Selection 2
PlanetSide 2
Tribes: Ascend

Dota 2
League of Legends
StarCraft II

Black Mesa: Source
Crusader Kings II: A Game of Thrones
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod

Lone Survivor
The Walking Dead
Thirty Flights of Loving

FTL: Faster Than Light
Hotline Miami
Legend of Grimrock
Thirty Flights of Loving

Euro Truck Simulator 2
Football Manager 2013
Dota 2

The art of the tower-dive is a noble one. Exposing yourself to mortal danger in the hope of gaining a little gold and experience -- it's like sleeping with Lindsay Lohan.

Tower diving is the process of running under one of the opponents' towers to try and kill an enemy on low health before they get away. It's one of the situations where new players, and even some experienced players, die because they don't understand the risks involved.

When tower-diving, the odds are stacked massively against you for three reasons. The first is that you're taking a lot more damage than normal from the magical projectiles being fired at you. The second is that towers have 'true sight', meaning they can see through any invisibility skills. The third is that there's a big stack of enemy creeps heading your way, with none of your own creeps to distract them.

More often than not, you'll end up dead even if you're able the grab the kill.

But there are a bunch of situations when it's perfectly justified to tower-dive. The key is weighing up the risks against the rewards.

Ask yourself a few questions - QUICKLY, BECAUSE THEY'RE GETTING AWAY! Do you have the advantage in terms of numbers or levels? Do you have the ability to tank the hits from the tower? Do you have a getaway plan in case things go wrong? Is your life unimportant? (I'm not being metaphysical here, with great carry comes great responsibility.)

If the answer to all of those is yes, then the risks on your side are small. But what about your opponent? Do they have crowd control that could keep you under the tower's fire for longer than you planned? Do they have backup coming in? Do they have a getaway plan of their own?

Unless the answers to all of those questions are a pretty firm "no", then you're better off letting them get away and taking the unopposed gold and experience while they're out of lane healing up again.

While we're talking towers, did you know that there are some handy visual indicators as to where the towers' firing range is? It's true - check on the ground around towers and you'll see bits of debris - generally bones on the Dire side, and bushes on the Radiant.

These act as great markers for a hero that wants to get close to a tower whether getting inside its range. Stay behind them and you're safe, go past and you'll be taking a fireball to the face. How do you know which are the right ones? A bit of practice, and a glimpse at these images: , will help.

One final tip on towers. When you've taken down the third tier and you're staring down the enemy's barracks, always kill the right hand one first. That's the melee barracks. In a creep wave, there are far more melee than ranged creeps, so you'll be getting much more bang for your boom if you take that out and leave the ranged one.

Got any more tips for dealing with towers or buildings in Dota 2? Leave them in the comments below.
Dota 2

We love games like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Smite, but the myriad skills needed to master their complex gameplay can scare new players away. That’s why, twice a month, we pick a key skill and teach you how to master it, using a character that particularly excels at or relies on that skill in-game.

This week, we’re tackling the most basic and rewarding skill, last hitting NPC creeps. And there's no better hero to learn the ropes with than Dota 2’s long-range, kill-master Sniper.

Last hitting is the most fundamental skill in games like Dota 2, often called ARPGs or MOBAs. Like any mechanic worth its bytes, it’s easy to understand—deal the killing blow to NPCs by timing your attacks so that you're the last person to hit it—and yet impossible to execute perfectly 100% of the time.

The ideal we're striving for is getting the last hit on every single NPC creep (those little minions marching down the lanes) that we encounter in every match. Perfectionists beware: you will never achieve this lofty goal. Instead, this week we're focusing on simply getting closer to the ideal than we were before.

Every worthwhile skill needs a good motivation for learning it. In the big three—Dota 2, LoL, and Smite—nearby players get a pump of XP every time a creep dies. But you don’t score any of the delicious gold coins stuffed inside that pixel piñata unless you're the last person to hit it. That means last hitting is the fastest way to boost your character’s power.

In Dota 2 specifically, it’s also the most reliable way to stunt your opponent’s growth, thanks to the unique deny mechanic that allows you to last hit friendly creeps as well. Killing our own troops may go against every international treaty, but it denies our rivals XP and gold, so we do it happily.

It’s not really surprising that a hero named Sniper is really good at taking pot shots at minions. His Take Aim passive ability gives him the longest auto-attack range of any hero in the game, letting him finish off minions from a safe distance, so enemy players can’t harass him very easily.

He also has a 40% chance to score a Headshot on each of his attacks, adding bonus damage that can make up for your mistake of accidentally shooting a bit too early. And, trust me, that will happen a lot as a you try to master last hitting this week.

Usually, ranged heroes are more difficult to last hit with because you have to account for the time it takes for their attack projectile to travel as well. It’s a big enough of a challenge that I normally recommend a melee hero for learning to last hit, but Sniper’s shots are near-instant, thanks to a quick wind-up and super speedy projectiles.

On top of all that, Sniper is a Carry hero, meaning that he scales well with gear and will need a lot of last hits to earn the gold he’ll need to be effective. There’s nothing more depressing than a gold-starved Carry, so you absolutely need to last hit if you want to pull your weight.

Setting expectations
Wouldn't it be great if you could be a pro at last hitting just by reading this article? Well, you can't. Sorry. Even professional players miss at least one last hit in every game they play.

For your first game as the Sniper, let’s keep the focus simple and the goal low. Aim to last hit 50% of the creeps in your lane (start with 30% if you’re new to Dota 2). Sniper is better than most heroes at last-hitting, which is why the percentage is so high—even on your worst days you should be able to get 1 or 2 per creep wave. As Sniper, you'll usually be in middle lane by yourself, so the only player you’re competing with for last hits is the enemy carry.

Remember that you can kill your own creeps in Dota 2 by attacking them (hit A then left-click) to deny the enemy the gold that it drops. That means you have twice as many health bars to monitor as you do in League of Legends and Smite, both of which do not have a shoot-your-friend deny mechanic.

Our ultimate goal for the week is to last hit 80% of the minions in our lane. We’re going to build up to that, but keep that long-term goal in mind when starting to practice.

Also worth keeping in mind: lightning attacks look awesome. Style points matter, people!

Getting started
As Sniper, we’ve got a few advantages in our corner. The biggest is that our attack range is outrageous, so make sure you hang back as far as you can behind your troops. There’s no need to get close and expose yourself to potential ganks when you can safely last hit from a mile away.

Start off by making last hitting enemy creeps your top priority, and deny only when you have free windows of time in between. However, if the enemy hero is melee, they’re going to have to run into the danger zone to score their own last hits. When you find yourself in this situation, definitely take free potshots at them whenever they rush in to make them have to think twice about whether getting that last hit is worth it. In the extreme, your quick shots can even force them back to base to heal, giving you time to farm without opposition.

Even against ranged heroes, you will always out-range them if you need to harrass. But for now, play it safe and hang back against anyone that can engage you easily. Remember, we’re just focused on improving our last hit skills at this point.

At the start of the match (and then whenever you buy a new item), it’s a good idea to take a few practice shots at full-health creeps to get a feel for how long your hero's animation is and how much damage he or she character is doing.

These dead triceratops say my damage output is doing just fine.

On the next page: builds and items, micro tips, and your homework.

Builds and items
I’m not going to walk you through an all-purpose build guide for Sniper here. There are plenty of sites for that if you’re interested. This guide is about learning to last hit well, so I'm going to give you a basic gameplan for building Sniper to practice last hitting in casual environments: co-op matches vs. AI or practice maps by yourself. This build is not meant to be your new secret to success in PvP games.

Put your first ability point into Headshot, and then work on maxing out Take Aim as soon as possible (level 7), while dumping the leftovers into Headshot. This will maximize your auto-attack range and damage, allowing you more wiggle room when last hitting. Don’t even worry about Shrapnel (an AoE DoT and slow) until later—the damage is negligible for our purposes.

Attack speed is a huge help when learning how to last hit on a new hero, because it reduces the punishment for attacking too early and will often let you swing a second time before the follow-up minion attack hits.

You want to balance it out with attack damage as well, though, which gives you a larger health margin to aim for. Start with Slippers of Agility to boost your low base damage and a Boots of Speed to help you duck in and out of harassment range while last hitting.

Build up towards Power Treads (switch it to Agility stat, unless you’re facing heavy pressure and need the Strength), and go for Butterfly as your first big item. It’s a beautiful blend of everything you want: attack speed, attack damage, and survivability. Shadow Blade is another very fun Sniper item that’s incredibly useful in teamfights or in situations where you really need an escape tool, but you can leave it in the bin during solo practice.

Wishing I had bought the Shadow Blade right about now...

Making adjustments
Sadly, you won’t be able to simply sit in place and blast at minions all day. The battlefield is constantly in flux and you need to react to it.

If you find yourself trapped under a friendly tower, don’t try to outshoot it. It will kill most creeps in 3-5 hits. Watch the amount of health it’s taking off the creep it’s targeting and wait until you know the creep won’t survive the next tower hit to shoot it. It’s impossible to give a catch-all solution for how to beat a friendly turret, but the easiest mistake is to simply blast it willy nilly. If you’re really worried about it, just last hit minions that the turret isn’t currently focusing. It’s not too bad to burn down half-health creeps at that point because you can push the lane a bit without getting into enemy territory.

Likewise, it’s tough to deny your allied creeps under an enemy tower, but keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to get the last hit—you just need to make sure the enemy hero doesn't. It also doesn't hurt that you outrange turrets by level 7, so just keep the auto-attack pressure on any enemy melee heroes to let the turret eat the minions and be content with the draw.

If you find yourself under heavy pressure from constant ganks, narrow your focus to only getting last hits and run back towards your turret when there are none to be immediately had. There’s no reason to stand in the open waiting for the next creep wave when the enemy team is roaming.

By the time you realize you're surrounded by enemy heroes, it's too late.

Master tweaks
Once you feel like you've got the general hang of last hitting and can regularly amass 50% of the lane creeps in last hits, it's time to add some finesse to your play.

It’s easy to put yourself out of position while last hitting. Left untouched, the creep waves will hover near the middle of the map. But if you’re making bad last hits and sniping every enemy NPC two times before it dies, the flow of battle is going to shift towards the enemy base. And, contrary to your gut impulse, that's bad because it means you're going to be fighting on their home turf, where every tree hides a ganker hungry for your delicious dwarven flesh. A good rule of thumb is that you want to keep the creep conflict on neutral or friendly ground so you don’t overextend yourself. If you need a guideline to follow, make sure that you take a shot at one of your own creeps for every shot you take at an enemy creep.

There will often come a time when you have to choose between last hitting the enemy’s creep or denying your creep. There can be a lot of factors involved, including where the enemy is, what abilities they have at their disposal, and which direction you want to move the creep wave, but my default preference is that I will always take an enemy creep kill over a deny. The reason is straight greed: killing an enemy minion nets me gold, denying doesn’t.

Outside of practice matches, it's just as important to last hit enemy heroes to score the sacks of gold and XP that comes with their bounty. Thankfully, Sniper excels at that as well courtesy of his death-summoning ultimate ability, Assassinate, which locks onto a target and puts a bullet through their head/shell/membrane/metal casing from long range.

Now here comes the tricky part. All of the hundreds of heroes in all the many MOBA games have different ranges, animations, and particle speeds that will affect the timing of your last hits. You may have mastered Dota 2’s Sniper, but you’ll need to learn each hero individually and practice them until it becomes a sort of muscle memory. You’ll know you’ve truly mastered a hero when you aren’t constantly thinking about last hitting while playing them.

Go forth and poke towers until they crumble!

Your homework
Good luck out there this week, Snipers! As always, you can download Dota 2 on Steam, although you'll need a beta invite if you aren't already in. Hopefully some friendly folks can help out by offering friend invites in the comments below. Once you're in, all of the heroes, including Sniper, are 100% free, so there’s nothing stopping you from joining the PC Gamer community in-game this week.

Five goals to aim for as you learn to last hit with Sniper:
1. Hit level 6 without using any healing items or returning to base to heal.
2. Deny an entire creep wave by yourself while laned against enemy players.
3. Don’t let your opponents deny any creeps in a single wave.
4. Get 200 creep kills in a game.
5. Have the most creep kills on either team for two games in a row.
Team Fortress 2
Steam concurrent users graph

Combating Thanksgiving food comas with the awe-inspiring power of the gaming binge, over 6 million gamers logged into Valve's digi-hub over the weekend after enduring the motions of spending "time" with "family." Undoubtedly spurred on by the Autumn Sale and its many wallet puns, the surge also rode the waves of numerous major releases such as PlanetSide 2, Assassin's Creed 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

The ballooned player count peaked around 11:00 a.m. PST Sunday with 6,045,912 users logged on, Kotaku noticed. Notice that's concurrent logins, not active game sessions—while games define the vanguard of Steam's excellence, the chart gathers numbers from simply having the program launched and running. That's where the always-handy Steam Graph service steps in with more numbers for your numbers.

Plugging in a few top releases into Steam Graph for the Thanksgiving weekend shows a fair spread across PC gaming's most popular genres. Dota 2's un-beta boasted a little over 170,000 simultaneous players on late Saturday, while soccer-sim Football Manager 2013's surprising strength topped at around 60,000. On Sunday night Black Ops 2 spiked at 51,000 soldiers, and PlanetSide 2's fight for Auraxia swelled to 30,000 Steam conscripts last night. Lastly, as many as 15,000 stone-faced killers were concurrently shoving sharp metal objects into various people in Assassin's Creed 3.

Conclusion? I'm really tired of turkey sandwiches, but Steam's powerful presence on the PC only increases with each passing year.

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