Editorial

Three Lane Highway: exploring the expensive e-sports hype trailers of tomorrow

Chris Thursten at

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

Today I watched a very dramatic and slick and expensive-looking trailer for League of Legends' Worlds 2014 tournament. I thought about it in relation to the game of my own preference, and how I spent part of July in a basketball stadium getting really worked up about international wizard conflict. I've written about the narratives that surround the rise of e-sports before. Today, for these reasons and despite many others, I felt compelled to do so in the form of a science fiction press release.

Microsoft buying Minecraft: Won't somebody think of the children?

Evan Lahti at

The rumor that Microsoft may acquire Minecraft creator Mojang (now upgraded to a maybe), is an uncomfortable possibility. If the deal materializes, it would put a game whose spirit and mechanics are rooted in openness and tinkering in the hands of a closed, proprietary platform holder. It will put the best-selling individual PC game ever in the hands of PC gaming’s most obstructive opponent—a company responsible for timed exclusives, the closure of studios like Ensemble, and the mutant DRM known as Games For Windows Live (which continues to be purged).


Three Lane Highway: what tournament play has taught me about Dota 2

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

You're always learning, whether or not it feels like it. I've had games of Dota where I've felt like I've learned nothing at all, where my mistakes have been obvious to me (and probably to everybody else involved) and my victories have been conducted against enemies too busy screaming at each other or eating paint to make it mean anything. There is always, however, a way to learn.

Three Lane Highway: your Dota hero is having a good time and so should you

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

Dota 2 is funny, both by design and by accident. It's funny when people get angry. It's funny to screw up. It's funny to Force Staff your friends into the enemy fountain. It's funny to get a rampage as Axe. Laughing at the weird stuff that springs from Dota forms the basis of a healthy
numberofYouTube channels. It's as vital a part of the life of the game as the competitive scene or making items for the Steam Workshop.

Three Lane Highway: the seven stages of Techies

Chris Thursten at

The patch could be here tomorrow. Maybe? Hopefully. By the time you read this you'll probably know more than I do. Valve have promised Techies by the end of August; Valve have promised a lot of things. Anything - and literally nothing - is possible.

It'll probably be tomorrow. If it is, we'll finally begin the process of accepting Techies into the game. Techies, the argument goes, are going to change how pub Dota is played forever. All Pick is going to become a (literal) minefield. The old ways will be gone. It seems appropriate that a hero with a reputation for griefing should attract a seven-stage process of its own.


Amazon buys Twitch: 9 ways it can be a better platform for PC gamers

Evan Lahti at

Amazon bought Twitch for $970 million on Monday, a surprise acquisition after the rumor that Google was pursuing Twitch for a similar sum. It’s tough to predict how the purchase will change how we broadcast and spectate PC games, or how Amazon will fold the world’s biggest livestreaming service into its existing media and referral services. But to expect Amazon’s acquisition to have no impact on Twitch is unrealistic.

“We’re keeping most everything the same,” Twitch’s CEO Emmett Shear writes in a post announcing the sale of his company. In a separate press release, Shear says that Amazon ownership will allow it to “create tools and services faster than we could have independently.” As users and casters ourselves on Twitch, here’s a wish list (an Amazon Wish List, perhaps) of the new features we’re interested in seeing and the aspects of Twitch we’d like to remain in tact.

The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Phil Savage at

Each week PC Gamer’s writers meld minds until the most significant events of the previous seven days have been chosen. It’s honestly amazing anything gets done around here.

Three Lane Highway: why Culling Blade is Dota 2's most entertaining skill

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

Ultimate abilities are a good place to start whenever you're tasked with explaining why Dota is cool. They're silly, diverse, exciting to watch. If you're staring at an unconvinced game designer, show them how Chain Frost interacts with Chronosphere. Show them how Wraith King's Reincarnation power is both a safetynet and a mobile psychological deterrent. Show them almost any great Echoslam, but probably this one, because it's a tragedy and a comedy at the same time.

Why critics love Mountain, but Steam users are calling it "worthless"

Tyler Wilde at

According to The Atlantic, Mountain “invites you to experience the chasm between your own subjectivity and the unfathomable experience of something else.” It “hypnotized” the Los Angeles Times, and The Verge called it "the only experience that has ever made me feel sad about a geological phenomenon." Meanwhile, on Steam, user reviewers are gushing: Mountain is “worthless,” “just a screensaver,” and “a fucking joke.”


PC gamers have to fight for PC gaming, and Metal Gear Solid V is a big win

Tyler Wilde at

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is releasing on PC, and that’s great news. Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t releasing on PC, not right away, at least, and that’s not so great. But what it does mean is that console manufacturers see us as competition, and we’re doing pretty well. We attracted a massive game with MGSV, and we’re scary enough that Microsoft has gobbled up Tomb Raider for the Xbox.


Three Lane Highway: there are many Dotas, and other thoughts on custom game modes

Chris Thursten at

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

Dota 2's popularity goes against all of the received wisdom about game design I can think of. It is complicated and inconsistent and it pushes people to interact in a way that generates all sorts of well-documented discontent. What it offers can't be summed up in a single sentence, and even a documentary dedicated to explaining its competitive side can only do so much to explain what you actually do in the game, or why that is fun.

Three Lane Highway: surrender buttons, Gordian knots, and other thoughts on giving up

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.

When someone describes something as a Gordian knot the presumption is that it's waiting for the sword. There's virtue associated with solving complicated problems quickly and decisively—the legend of Alexander and the knot expresses a cultural preoccupation with the notion that twisted impossible things are deserving of a direct and just and violent 'solution', normally at the hands of somebody with unusual power and perspective (read: some dude with a sword.) Anything else, it follows, is a waste of time.

The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Phil Savage at

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team pile into the war room to fight over the best and worst of the last seven day's in gaming. Up first, the best bits. Read them quick, before the bombs fall...

Three Lane Highway: what it means when games become sport—and why you should care

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes serious, sometimes silly column about Dota 2. The image above is from the ESL Flickr account.

We've always had a complicated relationship with e-sports. By 'we' I mean not just PC Gamer but PC gamers: I think it's fair to say that the paradigm shift that e-sports represent hasn't always been widely understood or accepted. That makes sense—it's a form of gaming that the majority of gamers will never participate directly in, and this is a hobby that is defined by participation.

ESL One Frankfurt: Loda discusses Alliance's tournament performance, rat Dota, and the impact of winning The International

Chris Thursten at

Jonathan 'Loda' Berg has been part of the competitive Dota scene for as long as there's been a scene to be part of. He was the man holding the Aegis of Champions aloft at the end of The International 2013, and his team—Alliance—are one of the most effective, efficient, and idiosyncratic teams in the world. I first met Loda at TI3, when I interviewed him the night before the grand final. That interview became this article. After Alliance's loss to tournament champions iG in the semi finals of ESL One Frankfurt I spoke to Loda for half an hour about the current metagame, that incredible match against Cloud 9, and the way that winning TI3 has affected Alliance for better and for worse. This is a long interview, but I think most Dota fans would appreciate seeing the whole thing so you'll find it all below.


ESL One Frankfurt: day two in review

Chris Thursten at

Images courtesy of the official ESL Twitter account.

'Timing' has been the watchword of this entire tournament. It was a concern this morning, when another late start threatened to force the entire show to run long, with the last quarterfinal match - Na'Vi vs. EG - not starting until 10.30am. It was a concern when the arena's internet connection went down and when Fnatic's voice comms broke for twenty minutes. It was a concern in-game, too, as the strengths and weaknesses of today's greedy, ult-centric metagame came down to who had power at the exact minute when it counted.

Timing problems caused a fair amount of heartache today, but I also got to see a terrific showcase of what the best Dota 2 teams can achieve when they're moving to their own rhythm. In addition, the event itself held together despite the technical problems to deliver one of the best large-scale e-sports experiences that Europe has seen since TI1. Great casting and analysis and a hugely engaged crowd made Frankfurt a great place to spend a weekend - and I'm not just saying that because I've been surviving on beer, sausages and energy drinks since Saturday morning. Well, mostly. The point is: it's gone midnight and I've got games to discuss, so let's get into it. As ever, spoilers below.

ESL One Frankfurt preview: the matchups we're excited to see

Chris Thursten at

Later this afternoon I'll be heading to Germany to begin a weekend of coverage of ESL One Frankfurt, the last major Dota 2 tournament before The International. It's shaping up to be really exciting. The scene is in good shape, with varied and exciting play coming from a broad range of teams. Eight of those teams—Alliance, Na'Vi, mousesports, Fnatic, Cloud 9, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming and Invictus Gaming—will be competing in Frankfurt for a crowd-boosted prize pool of over $200,000. I sat down with fellow Dota nerd Janusz Urbanski to go over our predictions for the event.


Three Lane Highway: ways to think more usefully about your Dota 2 MMR

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes serious, sometimes silly blog about Dota 2.

Last week I wrote off the concept of MMR as part of a not-entirely-serious list of 'meaningless' numbers in Dota. My thinking at the time was that discussing the problems raised by ranked matchmaking at all was going to attract a particular attitude in the comments, so I'd be better off treating it as a punchline. That was an error. I tried to use irony to mask something that I think and care about rather a lot, falling into the same trap that I'd accused certain competitive players of falling into only a week earlier. Sly winks don't carry well on the internet, and when you're discussing the relative worth of somebody's internet wizard skill rating it's fair to assume that most readers are going to take it pretty seriously.

Why a CS:GO sale hurts CS:GO

Evan Lahti at

I want more people to play CS:GO. With caveats made for its flaws (64-tick servers, uninspiring stat tracking, the modest number of official maps, and imperfect cheat detection), CS:GO is the best competitive FPS on PC today. Until Evolve or Rainbow Six Siege come around, I expect that to continue uncontested.

But for the veteran player, someone who’s thrown hundreds of hours at that competitive mode, a CS:GO Steam sale like today’s—$7.49 / £5.99 until Friday—isn’t a happy event. It’s a harbinger of hackers and competition-souring “smurf” accounts.


Three Lane Highway: a guide to Dota 2's most meaningless numbers

Chris Thursten at

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes silly, sometimes serious column about Dota 2.

Dota 2 is a numbers game, but then again they all are, really, aren't they. Counter-Strike is about shooting numberbullets into the other guys' numberfaces until all of their numberbrains fall out. Football (see also: soccer) is about how many goals you score and how many shirts you sell and how much it costs to ship vast premanufactured chunks of stadium up the Amazon.

It's all numbers, and Dota 2 has no greater or fewer than any other game. But it does host some truly, spectacularly, galvanizingly pointless numbers. Digits that communicate nothing and convey no worth. They exist outside of any formula or algorithm, and to treat them as if they mean anything is to slip into the kind of superstition usually reserved for numerologists. We're dealing with the unknowable, here, with un-knowledge: you might want to sit down. Some people can't handle it.