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.
Three Lane Highway is Chris' column about Dota 2.
Remember the International? Twenty million people watched it, so chances are you do. I wrote a couple of things about it, too. But we missed something: one of the best bits of fan service to emerge from the entire event, particularly for people who have followed the pro Dota 2 scene for the last couple of years.
The 2014 International Dota 2 Championships attracted record-setting online viewership numbers, including more than twice as many peak concurrent viewers as the 2013 event.
The Saxxy Awards, Valve's annual Source Filmmaker competition, is now in its fourth year, and to shake things up a bit they're encouraging players/directors to make films about something other than Team Fortress 2 - namely Portal. All of Portal 2's assets (minus, er, the portals and a few other things) can now be downloaded into SFM as free DLC, enabling that Spy vs Wheatley crossover animation that (probably) hasn't been able to exist until now. That isn't the only content pack headed to the program either: Puny Human are offering up select assets from Blade Symphony too.
The latest Steam client beta carries with an interesting surprise: An update image of the Steam Controller buried deep within its files.
Aperture Tag is a mod for Portal 2 that removes the portal gun and replaces it with one that fires gel: repulsion gel, which makes you bounce higher, and propulsion gel, which makes you move faster. Jumping and running, in other words, replaces portals as the main tools to solve puzzles with. Unfortunately, there's no replacement for Portal 2's other elements, like enjoyable voice acting, excellent writing, and a well-balanced level of challenge. And, unlike most mods, Aperture Tag adds a price tag, meaning the first puzzle to solve is: should you pay for this?
You can find write-ups of all three previous days of play at the International here.
The fourth International is over. As a fan, there's always a hollow feeling that comes with this period - the sense that the last of the hype has finally burned away, that this event that has come to occupy so much of your time and energy has been suddenly brought to a close. Post-International blues are a real thing. This year, though, those inevitable doldrums have been compounded by a Grand Final that won't have been what many fans were expecting when the main event began. Below I'm going to explain why I came away from the finals largely satisfied even though I agree with some of the criticism, and what I think the course of those four games say about the state of Dota 2 as we enter the next year in its life. Spoilers, obviously.
Missed yesterday's report? Read it here.
The bloodiest day of The International 2014 began with a run of the tournament's best matches. Then, after a run of upsets in a tournament that has been defined by upsets, one team emerged that will face Newbee in the grand final today. It's certainly not the grand final I'd have expected a week ago, and if you'd told me these results a month ago at ESL One I'd have called you crazy. I'd also have asked what it was like in the future and if you could help me skip the queue in the Secret Shop, but that's another matter.
If you missed yesterday's list, you can find it here.
Almost nothing today went as expected. Well, some things. As far as day two's competitive matches went, however, extraordinary upsets and out-of-left-field performances were the rule. Today saw the fall of former champions and the continued rise of teams that almost everybody had counted out. While the matches I've chosen below reflect the best of the day, this was one of those essential runs that bears watching in full and analysing after the fact.
It might have been rumoured for a while, but it's still unprecedented. Tonight at the International Valve took the lid off Techies, a DotA hero with a cult following due to his continued absence from Dota 2. Like Valve's other great unfinished projects - Ricochet 2, Portal 5 - Techies have become an event so long-awaited that it seemed like it'd never happen at all.
Day one is over. Even though none of the teams in the upper bracket faced elimination today, success at this stage meant securing vast proportions of the prize pool in advance of the rest of the tournament. For the team that managed to earn their place in the grand final, it meant a guaranteed place in history as contenders for the single biggest reward ever offered in competitive gaming.
In response to an open letter written by a group of developers and "concerned citizens" criticizing the company for its inconsistent handling of security issues on Steam, Valve has created a new security web page explaining its processes for handling reports but says there are no plans to introduce a "bug bounty program."
The 2014 edition of The International Dota 2 Championships, better known to gamers as simply The International, will be broadcast live on ESPN3, while an exclusive preview of the final match that will include an interview with Gabe Newell will be carried on ESPN2.
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.
Mods, eh? The fun, free way to extend and/or fix your games. But what's this? Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative looks like a mod, behaves like a mod, and even has the word "MOD" in the corner of its Steam icon. The difference: it's not priced like a mod. This premium package offers a new campaign for Portal 2—one that does away with portals entirely, in favour of puzzles centred around the base game's gels.
Dota 2's The International has been immensely popular, with more than $10 million worth of crowdfunded prizes up for grabs. It's no surprise, given Dota 2's Steam domination. So it only makes sense that Valve should consider the same treatment for some of its other properties. Obviously, a Counter-Strike international tournament would not go astray.
Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.
'Metagame' is a sharp, cyberpunkish word for a pretty cloudy and unscientific concept. Which is not to say that it's impossible to get an exact read on a game's competitive landscape, but that sense of certainty is usually unsustainable. The moment a team does something that nobody expects and it works, questions are raised. Figuring out the answers to those questions - or watching other people do it - is one of the major draws of this part of the hobby. It's natural to chase certainty, to be sure, but it's doubt that creates drama.
Valve took a three day run-up to its Love and War update, with daily teasers for what, in reality, amounted to some new taunts and weapons. You'd think, then, that the introduction of a new game mode would warrant something spectacular. Instead—perhaps fittingly for a game made by the company responsible for Steam—it's being launched into Early Access. Yesterday's TF2 update added two new "beta maps" to the game. They're rough, unbalanced, and, in some cases, untextured, but one of them is our first taste of the new Robot Destruction game type.
Every week, we publish a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s. This week, Ben Griffin provides context and commentary followed by the full, original text of our Half-Life 2 review, published in the November 2004 issue of PC Gamer UK. More classic reviews here.
What more can be said about Half-Life 2? Jim Rossignol's words below still do a fine job of summing up just why the world got worked up over a singleplayer shooter. November 2004 was a standout month for PC gaming, and indeed PC Gamer.