Feature

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.


Procedural quest: Why there are so few police procedurals in gaming

Wes Fenlon at

Flip through the channels on cable TV for more than a minute, and there's a good chance the weathered face of Detective Lennie Briscoe or the salt-and-pepper shag of Jack McCoy will fill your screen. Law & Order reruns will be around forever; the original series ran for 456 episodes over 20 years. Throw in spin-offs and there are more than 1000 episodes. CSI and NCIS have run for hundreds of episodes. The popularity of procedural shows never wanes: day-in, day-out, the formula never changes, but we keep watching. Procedurals like Law & Order and CSI are the reliable backbone of entertainment: sturdy, consistent, always there to give you what you need without doing anything too new or exciting. We love procedurals. So why, if the genre is so enormously, enduringly popular, on TV and in books and even movies, are there so few police procedural video games?

Predictable-but-entertaining detective stories and courtroom dramas have dominated primetime for 60 years, but you can count the successful, well-known procedural games on a couple hands with fingers to spare. When HBO's True Detective did something bold and new with the formula, it became the most talked-about TV show in years. It also made me realize that police procedural games are practically nonexistent. I couldn't figure out why, so I decided to talk to game writers and designers, from the creator of Police Quest to the writer behind Spec Ops: The Line, to answer that question.


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.

Kings of comedy: the flourishing art of interactive humour

Chris Schilling at

Few games are designed to make you laugh. And among those that do, laughter is often a happy accident, the inadvertent by-product of a combination of systems that provoke moments of unintentional comedy.

“People laugh at videogames constantly,” says former Irrational Games alumnus Jordan Thomas, who recently worked as creative consultant on South Park: The Stick of Truth. “But largely it’s because they’re laughing at the clumsy and often absurd intersection between the designer’s intent and their own.” Thomas insists there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but the distinction is clear: we’re laughing at games, not with them.

For comedy writer and director Graham Linehan, it’s pretty low on his list of priorities when playing a game. “For me it’s like comedy in porn,” he says. “It’s kind of beside the point.” Valve writer Erik Wolpaw, who co-scripted Portal and its sequel, admits that he once likened the idea of comedy in games to “the guy who talks between dancers at a strip club. Nobody cares what that guy says and anybody who does is probably kinda maladjusted.”


4K Screenshot Showcase: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

The Witcher 2 was a watershed moment for videogame visuals when it launched in May 2011. From the river port of Flotsam set deep in a misty forest, the bleached bricks of the towering La Valette Castle, the sprawling Kaedweni camp and the lush green wilds beyond, it buckled all but the best rigs. In anticipation of the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which comes out early next year, enjoy these 4K screenshots of its picturesque predecessor.

The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

PC Gamer at

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team reactivate their opinion circuits to bring you their best and worst moments from the week of digital entertainment. We’ll start with the good news…


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.

Pixel Boost: Halo: Combat Evolved at 5120x2880

Wes Fenlon at

Twice a month, Pixel Boost guides you through the hacks, tricks, and mods you'll need to run a classic PC game on Windows 7/8. Each guide comes with a free side of 4K screenshots from the LPC celebrating the graphics of PC gaming's past. This week: Halo PC survives the death of Gamespy.

I lost the entire summer of 2004 to Halo on the PC. While my family PC was still an aging Pentium 4, my best friend (who lived a convenient five minutes away) scored a beastly gaming rig powered by a 2.8GHz AMD CPU and a 128MB ATI 9600. It could play anything, and in the summer of 2004, our game of choice was Halo on the PC. We'd take turns playing multiplayer for days straight, honing our pistol skills to get those crucial three-shot kills. Servers hosted CTF matches that lasted for hours. Today, Halo: Custom Edition still has a small but active playerbase thanks to a Bungie patch (11 years after release!) that replaced Gamespy with new master servers. The patch also added support for resolutions up to 4800x3600. You know what that means—it's time to Pixel Boost.

4k Screenshot Showcase: Dear Esther

Ben Griffin at

Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

For some, Dear Esther stretches the concepts of what it means to be a game. "It's got no fighting or people in it so it's more like a book or something," they say. Which is weird, really, as there's a very simple method of defining what is and isn't a book. If it's on Steam then that's means it's not a book. Simple. A word of warning, however: this doesn't necessarily mean that if it's not on Steam then it's definitely a book, because plenty of things not on Steam are not books, like tractors and prosthetic limbs and that. Anyway, get a load of these 4K stalactites in this not-a-book round-up of shots from Dear Esther's old caves.

The best and weirdest Steam skins

PC Gamer at

At one point in the last 24 hours, the number of concurrent users on Steam peaked at around 6.9 million people. A lot of time is spent staring at Steam's familiar grey interface, and it's time for a change. Fortunately you can reskin your Steam client with user-made varieties, which change the look, feel and functionality of Steam's familiar old tabs. Read on for our pick of the best Steam skins, and a round-up of some of the most outlandish designs.


The PC Gamer E3 Awards - The 10 Best PC Games of E3 2014

PC Gamer at

We made it. E3 2014 is over, and we survived the onslaught of Mario and Nathan Drake and Master Chief, pushing our way past the console exclusives to find the best PC games hidden within the massive LA convention center. Surprisingly, the search wasn't too hard. We saw and played more amazing PC games than we expected, from promising indies to big-budget stunners. It wasn't easy to narrow down our best-in-show, but here it is: our list of the 10 best PC games of E3 2014.


All the games of E3 2014, and their PC outlook

PC Gamer at

So. Many. Games. The release lineup from now until the end of 2015 is packed with promising titles, from The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inqquisition to newly revealed games like Rainbow Six: Siege. Imagine if there was a place where you could browse through all of the games shown this year, and learn about their prospects for a PC release. Well, imagine no more, for we have done exactly that. Read on for your comprehensive guide to the games of E3 2014.


The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Tim Clark at

It's an E3 special, as our team at the show (and back at the office) pick their personal favourite moments, and some less cheery stuff…


GTA 5 trailer analysis: cats, dogs, smog, and more new features spotted

Andy Kelly at

Rockstar say the long-awaited PC version of Grand Theft Auto V will “take full advantage of the power of PC” and feature “across-the-board graphical and technical improvements” including “increased draw distances, finer texture details, new wildlife, and upgraded weather.” So I thought I’d take a closer look at the E3 trailer to see if I could find any evidence of this. It’s also worth noting that Rockstar captured this footage on a PlayStation 4, so it might look even better on PC.


Hearthstone Help: Top 10 Worst Legendaries

PC Gamer at

You probably know the feeling. The rush of elation as you open a pack of cards, tap one and it erupts in an orange firework accompanied by the innkeeper shouting ‘Legendary!’, immediately followed by the crushing disappoint as it spins around to reveal… Well, one of these. Last week we brought you the 10 most valuable Legendaries in Hearthstone, as picked by the PC Gamer readers. This week, we present the least wanted Legendary additions to your deck.


10 things we know about Rainbow 6: Siege from yesterday's debut showing

Tom Senior at

Rainbow 6 is back, and not in the noisy, deliberately provocative, trying-too-hard manner of Rainbow 6: Patriots. Siege made its first appearance at Ubisoft's conference yesterday, showing an encouraging return to the tactical roots of the series, with the bonus addition of total destructability and tight 5 vs. 5 multiplayer. There's plenty to glean from the video demonstration, so we've picked out ten points of interest ahead of Evan's hands-on impressions.


Why GTA 5 will be best on PC

Andy Kelly at

So Grand Theft Auto V is coming to PC. Hooray! I’ve played a /lot/ of the Xbox 360 version—it’s my favourite GTA game to date—but I was always thinking in the back of my mind about how much better it would be with a smoother frame rate, sharper textures, and running at a resolution higher than 1280x720. The good news, then, is that the long-awaited PC version will have all of these things, as well as an array of new visual effects to take advantage of modern graphics cards. The lighting is better, the draw distance is greater, and Rockstar are finally giving the vast urban sprawl of Los Santos and its surrounding forests, deserts, and mountains the fidelity they deserve.


The E3 2014 press conference PC gamers deserve

Evan Lahti at

E3 remains the place for big developers and publishers to reveal and showcase their games. We love PAX, Gamescom, and GDC, but E3 is where Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, et al. come out swinging with millions of marketing dollars to try and outdo one another in spectacle in a series of Monday press conferences.

The PC, lacking a sole, corporate representative or elected monarch, doesn’t have its own press conference at E3. Our platform has a great presence on the E3 floor, which we’ll be covering tirelessly this week, but we can’t help but wonder each year: if PC gaming a press conference, what would it be like? As we’ve done in 2013 and 2012, here’s our vision.

E3 2014 predictions from the PC Gamer team

PC Gamer at

The Electronic Three is nigh. Next week, the entire gaming industry will descend on E3 2014, eager for big announcements at flashy press conferences and as many video games as can fit in LA's massive convention center. There will be new PC games and new PC hardware. That's all expected. But what about the unexpected? What E3 announcements will blow our minds? Is this the year Gabe Newell finally walks onto a stage and says "Half-Life 3 is done, and you can play it right now," and we all leave E3 early?

Probably not. As we psyche ourselves up for E3, the PC Gamer staff have made some wild and not-so-wild predictions about Oculus and Steam Machines and the biggest surprises we'll see at this year's show.


13 haunting Dark Souls 2 GIFs

Ben Griffin at

Dark Souls 2 looks beautiful by any stretch, especially at 4K resolution as I've demonstrated in my Screenshot Showcase, but there's nothing quite like seeing it in motion. The oozing lava, the flocking birds, the ash clouds swirling through the air. I got the idea from cinemagraphs—still images that contain moving pieces. Confessedly it's a term I find a bit pretentious, so I'll continue calling them GIFs. Now, anyone can make a video clip. The aim here was to create a series of living photographs. Personally, I think it's the closet you can get to Dark Souls 2 without playing it, which you should, because it's great.