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The group stages of CS:GO's portion of the Intel Extreme Masters at Katowice 2018 are underway.
Running today in Poland's Spodek Arena, the first of Group A's matches—SK Gaming vs Avangar, and Renegades vs Astralis, the latter of which, at the time of writing, can be viewed here—are set to wrap up after 1pm GMT, with Group B's ties to follow. I don't know enough about the CS:GO esports scene to pass judgement/back a potential winner, but Ninjas in Pyjamas is some top tier team naming. I'm rooting for them.
Group stages run through March 1, with playoffs on March 2, playoff semi finals on March, and the competition's grand final on Sunday, March 4 at 4pm GMT/8am PT. Here's a look at the prize pool:
A full streaming schedule for all of that can be found here, as can more information on the event's format.
Elsewhere at Katowice 2018, PUBG and Dota 2 held their respective run-ins last weekend—marking Dota 2's first Polish major—whereas Starcraft 2 started its initial rounds of 76 yesterday. More details on those can be found here and here and here.
In July 2016, Twitch suspended James "PhantomL0rd" Varga, a streamer who at the time had nearly 1.4 million followers, over his association with CSGO skin gambling site CSGOShuffle. Esports journalist Richard Lewis said a record of email exchanges between Varga and CSGOShuffle coder Duhau Joris that he'd obtained "heavily suggest, almost to a degree of certainty," that Varga actually owned the site, a fact he neglected to mention in streams where he used and promoted it, and gambled with "house money" rather than his own.
That's in violation of FTC and Valve rules, which means it also violated the Twitch terms of service, and as a result his channel was suspended. But now Varga has filed a lawsuit (via Unikrn) against Twitch over the suspension, saying that Twitch improperly suspended his account and then terminated his contract without providing an explanation as to why.
The lawsuit alleges that Varga's contract obligated Twitch to provide written notice of violations, as well as an opportunity to correct them within 30 days, but neither the notice nor the corrective window were provided. Furthermore, the allegations that led to the suspension arose from "unsubstantiated, false accusations leveled at Varga by a third party, whose accusations were the culmination of an effort to publicly disparage Varga and take advantage of his popularity."
"It is clear from Twitch's conduct that the stated bases for suspension and termination were an effort to deflect negative press and scapegoat Varga, allowing Twitch to publicly decry alleged gambling conduct and divert attention from the fact that Twitch continued to knowingly allow such conduct to continue on other Twitch channels," the suit states.
Varga alleges that he wasn't given a reason for the suspension until January 2017, nearly five months after it happened, when a Twitch rep told him that his channel had fraudulent subscribers. At some point after that, however, he was told that the real problem was the amount of non-gaming content he streamed, including CSGO skin gambling, which violated content guidelines.
But Varga claims that he was told multiple times by Twitch employees that he could stream such content for up to 30 consecutive minutes at a time, and that Twitch "was aware that the representation was false."
The suit says Varga suffered significant financial and reputational harm as a result of the suspension, which occurred despite him fully satisfying all the conditions of his contract. He's seeking general, special, and exemplary damages, interest, legal fees (including "expert witness fees"), and whatever else the court deems appropriate.
Varga, as far as I can tell, has not returned to Twitch since his initial suspension, but he's been streaming on YouTube since last year. A Twitch rep said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
It's the weekend, which means it's time for the PCG Q&A. We ask a question to our PC Gamer writers, then you answer the same question in the comments below. This week brings out the worst in us all: What's the meanest thing you've done in a game?
Knights of the Old Republic 2 took a nuanced look at the differences between the light and dark sides of the Force, challenging what you think of as good and bad and the justifications for your actions. It was thoughtful enough to make me strive to be better, to do what I thought was the right thing, even when that thing had complicated repercussions. But the original KotOR wasn't that thoughtful, and its more traditional light vs. dark breakdown made the dark side way more fun.
The powers! The powers were so much better. And the rewards were, too! Why do a fetch quest for some dumb alien for 100 credits, when I could then bully him into giving me 200? Why would I listen to Carth Onasi blather on when I can make him miserable, crushing his moral righteousness with every decision? Why let Bastila be Malak's servant when she could be my own?
I think I made the meanest possible decision at every point in Knights of the Old Republic, and was rewarded each time with a more entertaining story and cooler abilities. Honestly, though, making Carth miserable was reward enough in itself.
Way back in 2008, Team Fortress 2 released it's second major update, centered around the Pyro. One of the new weapons was the Axtinguisher, an axe that would result in a critical hit to an enemy on fire. At the time, to unlock the new weapons, you needed a bunch of achievements first. So, I went to an achievement server and started grinding.
Some of the achievements required teamwork, such as delivering a certain amount of damage while being healed by a medic. At some point during my grind, another player appeared and offered to help me out. For hours this extremely nice guy helped me grind out all the Pyro achievements I needed to unlock all the Pyro's new goodies. Finally, my eyes bleary, my wrist cramping, I ticked over into completion and had my new Axtinguisher.
'Now help me?' the player asked in chat, wanting to farm his set of achievements. I glanced at the clock. It was about 3 am. I had to leave for work in three hours. There was absolutely no chance of me helping this incredibly generous person who had devoted his entire night to being my assistant. I know, it's a terrible thing to just quit without a word and leave him stranded. But even more terrible is what I actually did. I wanted to test my new Axtinguisher, so I set him on fire, hit him with the axe, killed him with a crit, and then I quit without a word. Damn me. Damn me to hell.
When playing Rocket League it is generally considered unkind to, while winning 8-0, score a ninth goal at the buzzer for no reason other than to watch your own replay, which as the timer hit zero will conclude with the match immediately ending. It's not the meanest thing in the world, but obviously unsportsmanlike, and I always feel bad about it, even when I do it on accident, and especially when I do it on purpose, which I only do because it's so hard to resist an open net. If that isn't mean enough for you, here's a college football game that ended 222-0, which is pretty mean.
Back in the early days of Runescape, long before its multiple overhauls, scamming was a pretty common and easy to pull off activity. There wasn't much moderation back then, so it was largely the player's responsibility to make sure that any trade deals wouldn't go awry. It was a lesson I learned the hard way after having a full set of adamantium armor—the second best at that time—stolen from me. The scammer used a well-known exploit to swap items in the trade window at the last second before both players accepted the deal, so thinking that I was getting an amazing deal for selling my armor, I instead got some useless bones. I was furious and looking for payback.
A few minutes later, walking along the road penniless and armorless, I spied another relatively new player wearing a set of steel armor. It was hardly expensive and I could've had my own set in just a few hours of grinding, but for a new player steel armor was a big deal. I wanted revenge, and this poor sap was going to be my victim. I walked up to him and asked about his armor and began telling him that it was possible for me to 'trim' his armor. At the time, the developers Jagex had recently rolled out variants on a few armor sets that had a cosmetic lining around their edges that looked pretty cool, so most players were after it. I told this poor sap that if he gave me his armor, I would return shortly with it trimmed.
Of course, that was a total lie, it was impossible to modify already existing armor like that. Still, he handed it over and I walked off with my new set of steel armor. I didn't even wait until I was out of eyesight to put it on. About an hour later, I started getting messages from the poor guy eagerly asking if I had trimmed his armor and when he could expect it back. I didn't have the heart to tell him, so I just ignored him. Every day for about a week he messaged me, and every time I wouldn't reply. It was a heartless thing to do—especially because the armor was barely worth anything to me. I had replaced it for something better within the day. I'm a monster.
I know I've done worse. I've selectively blocked these memories to maintain a healthy self-image, but yesterday's incident is too fresh to forget, I'm afraid. I'm no real monster like Steve or Chris, but last night during a session of Kingdom Come, I went through the woods just to see what I'd find. What I found was a hunter, someone I suspected of poaching due to how rude he was when I arrived. I walked up to say hello but he told me to get lost right away. I stuck around because fuck that guy. He brought out his fists, I brought out my sword, he brought out his sword, and I stabbed him enough times to send him running off through the forest. I could've let him go, but I didn't. I chased him for a few minutes, set on murdering the poor man. 20 hours in my Henry was a fairly virtuous kid, kind to strangers and non-violent whenever possible. But here I was running down someone because they were rude to me. Clearly I was imprinting a personal, petty desperation for revenge onto this Good Virtual Boy, and he would be my unwilling puppet until the deed was done. It took a few arrows to the back to slow the guy down, each smacking into his back with a dull thud. The final arrow dropped him to his knees with a groan. His body went slack and the woods were silent again. I didn't feel any better, but I made a decent amount of coin off flipping his clothes and weapons.
Update: Following his arrest for sexual exploitation of a child, detailed in our original story below, Counter-Strike co-creator Jess Cliffe has been formally charged with the crime of commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
As reported by Ars Technica, Seattle's King County Prosecutor's Office issued the charge on Monday and released this statement of probable cause. Within, Cliffe is alleged to have engaged in multiple instances of sexual contact with a minor, who he is said to have met through a website and paid for sex. Cliffe is also alleged to have recorded one of these instances against the unidentified "juvenile" (aged 16-years-old at the time of the alleged incidents) alleged victim's will.
Police are said to have served warrants to AT&T, Verizon, and SeekingArrangement.com who revealed messages sent between the alleged victim and the accused. As detailed in the above-linked statement, police attended Cliffe's home on January 31 to inform him he was "named in an assault investigation".
Cliffe thereafter met with investigators, and confirmed his use of multiple dating websites, some of which led to paid "arrangements". He denied recognising photos of the alleged victim. He was then shown message logs, and said he "was unable to recall or connect the communications or any other recollections to photographs" of the alleged victim. Cliffe later corroborated details of one of the paid dates, and provided a physical description of the alleged victim as "Caucasian" and "appearing to be 23-years-old".
At the time of writing, Valve has not responded to our request for comment.
Counter-Strike co-creator Jess Cliffe has been arrested in Seattle for sexual exploitation of a child, reports suggest. Valve Corporation, his employer, has suspended his employment until further notice.
As reported by Kiro 7—a local Seattle news outlet—Cliffe was taken into custody in the early hours of Thursday morning, and was not charged with a crime. Kiro 7 suggests Cliffe will attend a bail hearing on Friday afternoon, though Kotaku reports that he was denied bail.
Police did not say if an actual child was harmed, writes Kiro 7, while Valve told Kotaku Cliffe has been suspended while it awaits more information.
A Valve spokesperson told Kotaku: "We are still learning details of what actually happened. Reports suggest he has been arrested for a felony offense. As such we have suspended his employment until we know more."
Cliffe co-created Counter-Strike as a Half-Life mod alongside Minh "Gooseman" Le in 1999. Valve thereafter bought the rights to the FPS, which has since become one of the most popular multiplayer shooters of all time.
Nearly five years after the debut of Dota 2, lead developer IceFrog has decided that it's time to try something different. For the next six months, give or take, the huge, sweeping patches that followers are familiar with are out, and smaller, more frequent updates are in.
It's not as though Dota 2 hasn't been updated on an ongoing basis prior to this, but those were generally small spasms of tweaks and tuning. More significant changes would appear in major updates, like the Dueling Fates update that went live last November. IceFrog didn't say what drove the decision to move to a more rapid-fire schedule, but as Dot Esports pointed out, the shift could have a real impact on the Dota 2 pro scene: Teams will have to adjust to changes far more frequently than they did under the old system, possibly including—unless Valve makes allowances for interruptions in the schedule—in the midst of tournaments.
It's possible that the whole thing will prove to be a bust, and that the old system held up for as long as it did precisely because it worked well and helped drive the excitement that's kept fans invested in Dota 2. Nobody likes to wait, but having a Big Thing to look forward to is arguably more engaging than routine bi-weekly maintenance.
IceFrog also said that, to help players keep up with the faster-paced schedule, a new feature will be added to the game to notify players of hero changes. As for which Thursday will see this new schedule get underway, has not yet been announced.
Cloud9 became the first North American team to win a CS:GO major over the weekend, defeating the favored FaZe Clan in tight overtime action. The following day, a very different sort of eye-popping mark was set when a Dragon Lore CS:GO weapon skin sold for more than $61,000.
Dragon Lore ranks highly among the most expensive CS:GO skins to begin with, but this one was particularly valuable for a couple of reasons. First, it's a souvenir skin, which are available exclusively from souvenir packages that only drop during Valve-sponsored CS:GO tournaments. Dragon Lore is actually the rarest skin in the Cobblestone Packages, which currently sell for a little north of $30 each on the Steam Marketplace.
This particular skin is also "factory new," and its stickers are all "unscratched," each of which compounds its rarity even further. And the timely pièce de résistance is that it bears the autograph of Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, the MVP of the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 where Cloud9 made its mark.
The skin was originally purchased for $35,000 by a collector named Drone, who told Polygon that the selling price, despite being so much higher than what he paid (which seems absolutely nuts to begin with), was as low as he was willing to go. "I didn’t originally get into this game solely for profit," he said. "I just got very lucky a couple of times, and money is more valuable to different people. I’m very lucky in my financial state to where I can afford to buy these skins and it does not affect me."
Well, you can add Team Fortress 2 to the growing list of entries into the Steamed Hams meme. A mapper called Whomobile has created a Steamed Hams map for TF2, in which players collect steamed hams and deliver them to Skinner's house, which intermittently catches fire. Players, upon dying, drop steamed hams. (That's what Skinner calls hamburgers. It's an Albany expression.)
If you're not familiar with the Steamed Hams meme, it stems from an episode of The Simpsons called "22 Short Films About Springfield," in which Principal Skinner invites Superintendent Chalmers over for dinner, accidentally burns his roast, and attempts to cover it up by passing off Krusty Burgers as his own cooking. The skit culminates with Skinner's house burning down with his mother trapped inside while he pretends the flames are the Aurora Borealis, in an attempt to avoid embarrassment in front of his boss. The episode has been the source of a number of video remixes posted to YouTube, including a surprisingly good "Steamed Hams but it's Metal Gear Solid."
The features list for the map, at least, is breathtakingly honest:
I didn't see anyone actually playing the map on any community servers, but I ran around it solo for a few minutes. There's an approximation of the Krusty Burger across the street from Skinner's house, and there's huge stack of newspapers in Skinner's garage area, presumably a nod to the episode where he got pinned underneath them and was presumed murdered.
Also, I sincerely doubt the meme will die off in a month, or ever. Memes are eternal. Plus, "Steamed Fortress 2" has a nice ring to it.
It’s been a long wait for North American fans, but after five years of waiting, they finally have their home-continent heroes. The all-American squad of Cloud9 fought their way through a murderer’s row of the best CS:GO teams in the world—including the #1 ranked SK Gaming—to make it into the finals of ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, then emerged victorious from a grueling, three map, double overtime match against the European superteam of FaZe Clan.
On paper, this looked like one of the most lopsided grand finals in CS:GO Major history. FaZe Clan is notorious for being “the most expensive team in Counter-Strike history”, having bought out the contracts of the best players from several of the best teams in the world. One of their players has won two Majors in the past, and the rest of them have made it deep into the elimination brackets at previous Majors. With SK Gaming, the only higher-ranked team in existence, suffering from the loss of one of their core players, the consensus was that this was FaZe’s tournament to win.Cloud9’s current lineup, on the other hand, is composed entirely of younger players with fairly modest winnings to their names. As a team, they’ve never even made it into the top eight of a Major, and most of the individual players have never made it anywhere near this far in this caliber of tournament. Few people were predicting this outcome.
Not only did the American underdogs come out on top, they did so in a manner that made for one of the most spectacular grand finals in Counter-Strike history. They started things off inauspiciously, losing their own map pick in a 16-14 nail-biter; this set them up to have to face FaZe on Overpass, a map that Cloud9 has lost four times in a row to FaZe in previous tournaments.
Despite that history hanging over their heads, the young team put on a clinic in the early rounds, pulling out a variety of aggressive, exciting plays to drive the score up to an imposing 15 rounds to 4. FaZe showed signs of rallying after half-time, as Håvard "rain" Nygaard found his groove and started posting some big frag numbers, but the comeback was eventually shut down by Cloud9 for a final map score of 16-10.This set the stage for a final showdown on the final map of the tournament, Inferno, where both teams had demonstrated strong tactics in previous matches. Cloud9 got off to a strong start on the CT side, eventually settling for a respectable first-half score of 7-8 in FaZe’s favour. Things began to look grim for the Americans during the second-half, however, as FaZe strung enough rounds together to cripple Cloud9’s economy, driving them to the brink of death with a 15-11 scoreline.
Then, to the visible frustration of a FaZe Clan who felt that this tournament was theirs for the taking, and with the hometeam crowd threatening to bring down the arena roof, Cloud9 posted four consecutive rounds to bring the score to 15-15 and force overtime.
It took them two overtime sets, and a few scarily messy-looking rounds, but Cloud9 finally got the job done. Final score: 22-19.
For the young players of Cloud9, this marks a new high point in their Counter-Strike careers, and for fans of Cloud9 and North American Counter-Strike in general, it marks the end of a drought that had stretched on so long that it began to feel like an unliftable curse. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, the quiet Cloud9 player who was awarded the tournament MVP trophy, was asked in the post-match interview what was ahead for Cloud9. His answer was simply, “a lot of tournaments.”We can only hope those future tournaments are half as electrifying to watch as this weekend’s has been.
For as long as CS:GO has existed as an esport, North American teams have played the role of the underdogs, perpetually overshadowed by European—and recently, Brazilian—squads who always end up taking home the hardware at the big tournaments. Since the advent of the Valve-supported Major tournaments in 2013, no North American team has ever won one; today, at the penultimate day of ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, the Americans of Cloud9 have brought themselves tantalizingly close to ending that drought.
After a rocky start in the group stages, Cloud9 fought their way back into contention with a convincing 2-0 win over the French squad of G2 Esports. The vagaries of the tournament bracket meant that this victory set them on a collision course with CS:GO’s current team to beat, the top-ranked Brazilians of SK Gaming. Riding a wave of momentum, and with the hometown crowd cheering their countrymen on, Cloud9 nonetheless entered their semi-final match as the heavy underdog.
As soon as the first map got underway, it was clear that it was time to throw rational predictions out the window. A series of incredibly well-executed rounds and some huge individual plays led Cloud9 to a crushing 16-3 victory to start things off, shocking the analyst desk and driving the crown into a frenzy. Despite the second map not going quite as well, resulting in a 16-8 victory for SK Gaming, Cloud9’s momentum appeared unbreakable, and they rallied to win 16-9 on the third map to clinch their berth in the tournament’s grand finals.
This outcome marks only the second time a North American team has managed to make it into the finals of a Major, after Team Liquid reached (and subsequently lost) the finals of ESL One Cologne back in 2016. If they pull off a win tomorrow against the formidable opposition of FaZe Clan, they will make CS:GO history, and perhaps begin to turn the reputation of American Counter-Strike around.
They’ll also have faced one of the toughest roads to victory of any Major-winning team in recent memory, due to their lacklustre performance in the group stages putting them in a very tough bracket position. Making their way through G2 Esports, SK Gaming and FaZe Clan, the fourth, first, and second best CS:GO teams in the world respectively, is a feat that will finally put to bed any question about Cloud9’s legitimacy as a top-tier team on the world stage.You can catch the grand finals at 11:00am PST on Sunday morning on ELEAGUE’s Twitch channel.
ESL has announced a deal with Facebook that will make the social media site its "main broadcast partner" for CS:GO Pro League and ESL One events. The move will enable ESL to offer esports fans "a much more advanced viewing experience which also connects to the existing Facebook pages of teams, players and talents."
One of the driving forces behind the decision to partner with Facebook is Facebook Watch, a video-on-demand service announced last year that supports 1080p/60fps and VR streaming. Facebook's "viewing with friends" function, which enables private chats with Facebook friends who are also watching the broadcasts, and Messenger service will also encourage a more "collaborative experience," as ESL described it, when watching streams.
"For years ESL has used Facebook to nurture its global community while broadening the audience for esports competition to millions of fans worldwide," Facebook Games Partnerships global director Leo Olebe said. "Having two of ESL’s most adored properties for CS:GO and Dota 2 streaming exclusively on Facebook is the next step in our efforts to delight the passionate esports community on Facebook."
The move to Facebook might seem like an odd one to esports fans used to getting their fix on Twitch, and replies to the announcement on Twitter make it clear that fans aren't universally thrilled with the new primary platform. But ESL expects that it will actually help expand its viewership and bring esports further into the mainstream. "We’re excited to now be at a stage where we can take the next step towards realizing our shared ambition to grow the overall esports audience and to bring our sports to an even broader group of viewers than ever before," the company said.
The cost of the deal wasn't announced, but I'm willing to venture that it was probably steep. SportsBusiness Daily reported last week that Twitch paid $90 million for a two-year streaming deal with the Overwatch League.
ESL streaming on Facebook will begin with Dota 2 at ESL One Genting, running January 23-28, and CS: Pro League Season 7 on February 13. If you can't watch on Facebook, or for some reason just don't want to, embedded streams will still be viewable on the ESL website.