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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.

The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 11

PC Gamer at

Steam's sales traditionally end with the most popular offers from previous days being resurrected for a sort of victory lap, and this year is no different. They've put most of the daily deals on offer again, so if you missed out on Dragon Age or Skyrim or XCOM and you've been ruing your indecision ever since, now's your chance to make up for it. It's also your last chance to pick up any other games on offer in the sale, now that there's no chance of them being reduced further in a daily or flash sale.

Don’t forget to check out GOG’s summer deals, too, which coincidentally will be ending at around the same time. GOG have resurrected all of their previous daily deals, along with a ton of flash sales refreshing every couple of hours.


ESL One Frankfurt: Mousesports' Pajkatt talks Axe, iG, and why Dota 2 should be played live

Chris Thursten at

Image via the official ESL Twitter account.

Per Anders 'Pajkatt' Olsson Lille has been playing competitive Dota since prior to the first International, which he attended with Online Kingdom. He played for LGD.int at TI2 and will return this year with Mousesports, formerly Team Dog, who earned their place in TI4 with a fantastic performance in the European qualifiers. Yesterday, they got knocked out of ESL One Frankfurt following a close-fought – and very exciting – series of matches against Invictius Gaming.

I spoke to Pajkatt an hour after the game to talk about that first blood, the reasons why they lost, the danger of Pugna and the plan between now and TI4.

ESL One Frankfurt: day one in review

Chris Thursten at

Images courtesy of the ESL Twitter account.

What an incredible day for DIGITAL SPORTS. You get used to the idea that these events are always going to get bigger; that the next step up is always going to mean a larger stadium and more impressive production values. But there's something pretty startling about seeing games played at the highest level in an environment like the Commerzbank Arena. It's more than you get from attending other kinds of large gaming convention: it's not just about having something in common with thousands of other people. It's about the catalysing impact of sport, the way a hobby can grow and grow and grow until it becomes a spectacle.

The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 10

PC Gamer at

It's always a bit weird seeing how quickly game prices depreciate, particularly when a Steam sale is involved. The pick of today's deals - Wolfenstein: The New Order - is only a few weeks old, but it can now be had for a delicious 50% off. The question is, with only a few days left of the summer sale, what other surprises lie in store? The other question is: can your wallet take any more of this? If the answer is 'yes', join us after the break.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 9

PC Gamer at

There aren’t any big surprises in today’s Daily Deals (how many times has GTAIV been discounted?), but cheap games are cheap games and there are some good ones today. There are also some holdovers from previous days, such as the BioShock Triple Pack, which has only lost 8% of its discount since Wednesday. Peek at our picks from previous days to see if any former Daily Deals are still discounted.


Dota 2's Compendium raises $10 million for The International prize pool

Phil Savage at

And, thus, the Dota 2 community did buy many internet sticker books. And yea, they did fill those books with non-corporeal points. And so, Valve did set aside 25% of each purchase—creating an International prize pool of $10 million, and much wealth and happiness for their own accountants.


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.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 8

PC Gamer at

The Steam Summer Sale is always dangerous, threatening to take money from your wallet and hundreds of hour of your life away with tantalizing games. But today's best deals feel especially life-threatening, because there are some masterful strategy games on sale. Civilization 5, Rome 2: Total War, and Europa Universalis IV are all heavily discounted, and any one of these games could keep you occupied for months of economic planning, political trickery or open warfare. The deal of the day, though, is Dishonored, a top contender for 2012 game of the year.


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.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 7

PC Gamer at

We've now been living and breathing the Steam Summer Sale for a week, losing sleep for every flash sale, antsy with anticipation every time the new deals tick over. We're feverish from the savings, but it would be madness to stop saving now. Today's deals fuel our appetite for strategy, shooting, and launching valiant little green men into space on absurdly oversized rockets.


Sony Worldwide Studios boss admits scepticism towards Steam Machines

Shaun Prescott at

Sony is in an enviable position at the moment: it’s claimed an early victory in the next-gen console wars, with sales of the PlayStation 4 edging ahead of its closest rival the Xbox One. Of course, gaming is a volatile industry and you just never know what’s going to happen. Sony Worldwide Studios boss Adam Rohde agrees, admitting in an interview that the Steam Machine may compete in the same space one day, but that Valve has a lot of work to do to make this happen.


Two Asian teams denied US visas for Dota 2 International championships

Shaun Prescott at

Two teams appear to have been denied US Visas for next month’s Dota 2 International tournament. China-based CIS-Game and Southeast Asian team Arrow Gaming are both facing the possibility that they’ll lose their place in the tournament, which takes place July 18-21 and offers a prize pool of nearly $10 million dollars.


How the internet tried to rig the Steam Summer Adventure, and how Valve is trying to stop them

Evan Lahti at

A few days ago, members of the Steam community schemed to rig the Steam Summer Adventure competition, a metagame running in parallel with Valve’s 12-day Summer Sale. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a malicious plan, but a kind of alliance meant to bring equal victory to everyone on Steam. As intended, Team Pink won Sunday. Blue won Monday. Purple will win next, if things go smoothly. On Wednesday, a Red victory is scheduled, then Green.

Is a small collective actually having this big of an influence on a Steam-wide, public competition? Valve has already amended the contest to encourage more competition. I took a look at the evidence and spoke to a few of the people caught up in the dark business of virtual trading card market-manipulation.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 4

PC Gamer at

Just when you thought you were out of the Steam sale racket, they pull you back in - today's crop boasting some delectable bargains across a variety of genres, including the pork-bunniest game of recent years.

Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal. Also, GOG.com are having their own, equally terrific summer sale at the moment, so be sure to check that out too.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 3

PC Gamer at

It's day 3 of the Steam Summer Sale, and though your wallet might be pleading with you to stop throwing money at your monitor, the bargains keep on coming - and some prime deals await you today. There's a couple of very good deals in the dailies right now, so if you've been waiting for a steep reduction on a certain dragony shouting game, this is your moment to swoop. In case you'd forgotten, GOG.com is having its own sizzling summer sale as well, so be sure to check that out too.

Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal.


The best Steam Summer Sale deals: Day 2

PC Gamer at

After a good start yesterday, day two of Steam’s dozen-day Summer Sale isn’t necessarily obliterating our minds with savings, but there’s still some great values available today or through shorter-term flash sales. Within, find our picks for the best current deals on Steam. Don’t forget that GOG is having a summer sale of its own, too.