After an eventful group stage, the International begins in earnest tomorrow. Of the nineteen teams in contention for the Aegis of Champions on the 8th of July, eight remain. Over four days at Seattle's KeyArena, those eight teams will fight to secure the lion's share of the largest prize pool in competitive gaming history. The winner will take away just shy of $5m. But this extraordinary reward, most players will tell you, isn't the point. The International is Dota 2's alpha and omega: it is where reputations are made, where teams are proven. Many of the matchups you watch this weekend will never come about in the same way again; the stress of falling short at The International is enough to tear lineups apart and force teams to start over. This is the end of the biggest year in the game's life and the beginning of the next.
Dota 2's The International is here. While the finals won't kick-off until Friday, 18th July, the playoffs for the main competition's few remaining places will start in just a few hours. Here's why you should be excited. One: it's the biggest event in e-sports, with a prize pool of over $10 million. Two: this year, Valve are providing multiple ways to watch, with a separate stream dedicated to those unfamiliar with the game.
It's an exciting month for fans of DIGITAL SPORT. We're only a few days away from the start of The International's play-offs and exactly two weeks from the main event. Valve are preparing for the Dota 2 tournament's kick... er, creep-off with the launch of the official International mini-site. With it, they've announced the competition's prize-pool distribution, and the multitude of ways for fans—and newcomers—to watch.
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.
Yesterday, I reported on the IeSF—the International e-Sports Federation—and how the gender segregation of their e-sports tournaments had led to a male-only Hearthstone qualifier at Finland's Assembly Summer 2014. Today, the IeSF released a statement announcing that they have removed the male-only restriction from their e-sports events. They also contacted us to explain their reasons for having one in the first place.
A user on Reddit's Hearthstone community yesterday shared this image—from an announcement page for a Hearthstone qualifier taking place during Finland's Assembly Summer 2014. What made "Karuta's" post notable was a single, highlighted sentence: "The participation is open only to Finnish male players."
That is, to state the obvious, a strange requirement for a Hearthstone tournament; and it makes the qualifier's organisers, the Finnish eSports Federation, seem like childish boys in a treehouse, hanging a "no girls allowed" sign on their front door. Only, the qualifier is for for the IeSF World Championship, and it's this global event that has stipulated the all-male line-up.
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.
Greetings Hearthstonians, Vincent Sarius here again, and today we're going to discuss the best moments from the biggest Hearthstone tournament held so far. Dreamhack Summer took took place this weekend in Sweden, and aside from a $25,000 total prize pool—of which, $10,000 went to the winner—the top three finishers all received spots in Blizzard's upcoming qualifier tournament for a chance to play at Blizzcon for an immense $100,000 prize. That'll buy you a lot of packs.
A month ago, Smite introduced a new game mode to stand beside Conquest, its traditional 5v5 three-lane battleground. Siege cuts the three lanes down to two and adds lumbering siege tower minions, earned through kills and clearing jungle camps, that can quickly knock down towers by themselves. The smaller map and siege tower minions make for a shorter, faster-paced game, and I was still trying to decide how I liked it compared to Conquest when Hi-Rez added another wrinkle. In the latest patch, they cut Siege down to a 4v4 mode, and now Siege produces some of the most fun, fast-paced lane-pushing matches I've ever played.
People are playing League of Legends right now. Millions of people. From May 8 to May 11, though, the best players in the world are going to be playing League of Legends in the All-Star 2014 tournament, and millions of people are going to be watching. But how will you watch? Where will you watch? Riot's put together a handy list of who's competing and when. Here's the coolest thing about this year's All-Star Challenge, which precedes the tournament: fans voted on which pro League players get to compete.
Hacks! An investigation into aimbot dealers, wallhack users, and the million-dollar business of video game cheating
Zero is a customer service representative for one of the biggest video game cheat providers in the world. To him, at first, I was just another customer. He told me that the site earns approximately $1.25 million a year, which is how it can afford customer service representatives like him to answer questions over TeamSpeak. His estimate is based on the number of paying users online at any given time, the majority of whom, like me, paid for cheats for one game at $10.95 a month. Some pay more for a premium package with cheats for multiple games.
As long as there have been video games, there have been cheaters. For competitive games like Counter-Strike, battling cheaters is an eternal, Sisyphean task. In February, Reddit raised concerns about lines of code in Valve-Anti Cheat (VAC), used for Counter-Strike and dozens of other games on Steam, that looked into users’ DNS cache. In a statement, Gabe Newell admitted that Valve doesn't like talking about VAC because “it creates more opportunities for cheaters to attack the system." But since online surveillance has been a damning issue lately, he made an exception.
Newell explained that there are paid cheat providers that confirm players paid for their product by requiring them to check in with a digital rights management (DRM) server, similar to the way Steam itself has to check in with a server at least once every two weeks. For a limited time, VAC was looking for a partial match to those (non-web) cheat DRM servers in users’ DNS cache.
I knew that cheats existed, but I was shocked that enough people paid for them to warrant DRM. I wanted to find out how the cheating business worked, so I became a cheater myself.
Wargaming.net has offices from Sydney to Singapore and a player base of 60 million, but their recent tournament in Poland was the biggest eSports event in their 16-year history. I speak, of course, of the Wargaming.net League Grand Finals. It was bloody massive.
From April 4-6, 14 teams waged war in World of Tanks for the chance to take home $300,000 and a safe-sized trophy carved from steel intimidatingly called ‘The Monolith’. These were the best of the best: Fnatic and SIMP from America, Energy Pacemaker and E-Sports Club from China, ARETE and NOA from South Korea, PVP Super Friends and UAD from Southeast Asia, Na’Vi and RR-UNITY from CIS region, and Lemming Train, Team WUSA, Virtus.pro and Synergy from Europe. These eight-man teams (and they were all men, late teens to twenty-somethings) qualified from a pool of over 300,000.
Free To Play, Valve's Dota 2 e-sports documentary, comes out later today. And while you could watch it from the relative comfort of your Steam library, wouldn't it make more sense to see it in a setting more synonymous with e-sports? By which I mean on Twitch, next to a chat box that's spamming emoticons.
Luckily, you have that option. Valve and Twitch are collaborating on an online viewing party that's set to go live in a few hours. It will start at 9am PDT or 4pm GMT, and be shown running throughout the day. Because timezones are confusing, there's also a countdown timer ticking down to when that party gets started.
If you know your eSports, you may have heard of Gfinity, who run tournaments for pro players and amateurs alike. Up until now they've been mainly concerned with Call of Duty, but they've recently announced their roster for 2014, which includes tourneys for DOTA 2, Counter-Strike GO and StarCraft 2 across February and March. There are cash prizes on offer for teams that wish to enter, and you don't have to pay anything for the privilege - but signups do close Monday at 17:00 GMT, so if you're interested in participating you'll need to get a wriggle on. The rest of us will be able to watch the events on their Twitch channel. Details below.
If you've got three friends and the urge to break into the pro Conter-Strike: Global Offensive scene, MSI's Beat It! Open Qualifiers open for US teams this weekend. There are slots for 64 teams, the top two of which will advance to face the likes of Curse and Complexity in an eight team playoff. The winner of that playoff gets to go to Beijing to compete for $22,000 in prizes.
Last night, Seattle's Benaroya Hall hosted the grand final of The International 3, Valve's humongous Dota 2 tournament. We sent Chris along to report from the event, cheer himself hoarse, and attempt experimental breakdancing moves. You can find his thoughts on the final inside.
All of the tournament's matches are available from The International 3 site. Both that link, and this post, contain spoilers.
Collectors of Dota 2's virtual e-sports bible, The Compendium, have boosted the prize pool for the upcoming International tournament by an extra $1 million. That's not quite as much as Valve themselves have contributed - with them supplying the base $1.6 million that fans have built upon with their Compendium purchases. But then, most International fans don't have Steam's money hose continuously flooding their building.
League of Legends has been (somewhat reluctantly) deemed a professional sport by the US government, after a lengthy campaign by Riot and others to get LoL's pro players recognised as professional athletes. This is more than just an empty title, however - pros will now be able to come to the US on working visas, which will make it considerably easier for international players to appear in tournaments. "The United States government recognises League of Legends pro players as professional athletes, and award Visas to essentially work in the United States under that title," Riot eSports manager Nick Allen revealed in an interview with GameSpot. "This is groundbreaking for eSports."
For most multiplayer FPS's a 96-player map would be considered pretty big. For PlanetSide 2 and it's continent wide military manoeuvres, it's a vast reduction. It's one being made with a view to better supporting e-sports - reducing the size of the conflict to something more suited to competitive play. SOE have produced a video showcasing the first planned map, Nexus.