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.
eSports network StarLadder TV has dropped the banhammer on Aleksey "Solo" Berezin and four of his teammates on Dota 2 team RoX.KIS. StarLadder TV claims RoX.KIS purposefully fed during a Star Series match to win a $100 bet placed on eSports betting site egamingbets.com.
We're coming up on the biggest weekend for StarCraft II eSports in 2013 so far, with both the Korean and American WCS Season 1 finals concluding the first round of Blizzard's new, worldwide tournament format. The Korean finals between INnoVation and Soulkey will have already started by the time you read this, but you should be able to check out the WCS archives shortly after the broadcast. The American finals, beginning with the Round of 8, will run throughout the weekend.
A potential bank holiday scenario: You're halfway through a long weekend buried face-deep in a monitor, blasting through some games. Then, all of a sudden, your body kicks you out of the digitally enhanced stupor, complaining of aching fingers and a distended bladder. Look, you're getting older. There's no shame in that. Luckily, with the WCS Europe Season One finals, due to take place this weekend, Blizzard can help you extend that gaming marathon through the vicarious thrill of watching professionals at work.
After the Dota 2 community blasted through the second stretch goal for the International's prize-pot-boosting Interactive Compendium, Valve have gone back to the bonus board to remap their targets. New stretch goals have added to the virtual document, filling in the previously colossal gap between Smeevil's mount at $1.85 mil, and the new Immortal item at $2.6 million.
Valve's clever Dota 2 Interactive Compendium has found its way onto enough Steam accounts to unlock the second stretch goal for owners of the virtual eSports sticker book. Sales of the item have raised the prize pool for this year's International tour to over $1.9 million, up $300,000 from the original pre-Compendium total. In celebration, International courier Smeevil is getting an upgrade - a selection of mounts to save his poor, wearied feet as he ferries your items across the lanes.
StarCraft II pro Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri announced on a livestream today that he intends to retire from professional gaming this August, returning to school with his over $200,000 in winnings. The French Zerg player is arguably the most successful non-Korean in the history of the game (indisputably, based on winnings alone). His most recent major victory was at the 2012 Blizzard WCS European finals, since which he has been showing less impressive performance.