In recent times, official in-game Counter-Strike events—Operations, as they’re known—have grown rare. Valve only created/curated one in all of 2016. Today, though, without any real warning, they’ve kicked off a new one. It’s called Operation Hydra. Operation Hydra is set to run for 18 weeks. It adds new community-created maps, an Operation pass with a full Guardian mission campaign, an upgradable Operation coin, event XP and leaderboards, and Operation weapon drops and cases. Business as usual, for the most part. What makes Hydra more than just a scaly, green re-skin of what’s come before, however, is a series of new modes called Hydra Events. Hydra Events are special game modes that pop up on a week-by-week rotation. There’s Wingman, a 2v2 best-of-16 match that’s all about companionship and resisting the urge to scream at each other when the pressure’s on, Weapons Expert, a 5v5 best-of-30 match where any weapon you purchase can’t be used again for the rest of that match, and War Games, which is a grab bag of outlandish game types; you vote on which you’d like to play. Your War Games options are as follows: Advertisement Heavy Assault READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
Not everyone who watches the Super Bowl plays football, and it turns out the same is true for the League of Legends World Championship. According to research done by analytics firm Newzoo, 42 percent of esports viewers surveyed do not actually play the games they watch. Advertisement Specifically, Newzoo studied the esports viewing habits of people in 10 different Western countries: the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden. Their findings focused on three heavy-hitters in esports: League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 191 million people surveyed reported watching esports “frequently,” and another 194 million reported “occasionally” watching esports streams. Because almost half of these viewers don’t play the game that they watch, Newzoo speculates that esports live-streams and commentary provide a source of engagement for “lapsed” players who don’t have the skills to keep up with the pros. Newzoo also found that 70 percent of esports viewers only focused on following one game in particular, with League of Legends raking in the highest share. Advertisement Newzoo also found that Overwatch viewership has exceeded Dota 2 viewership in READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
Vanessa Arteaga had been playing fighting games since she was a child, long before she became one of the highest-paid women in competitive gaming history—but her tens of thousands in winnings still pale in comparison to the millions that her male peers have made in competitive gaming in the years since. Advertisement Her older brother started her off, because he needed someone to play fighting games with and she was nearby. In 2000, when she was 12 years old, he brought home Dead or Alive 2. She was skeptical. She hadn’t ever played a 3D fighting game before. Right away, she enjoyed everything about Dead or Alive 2: the characters, the style of play, the moves, the stages and what would become the game’s signature emphasis on counter-attacks. Advertisement She also noticed that, unlike other fighting games she had played the ‘90s, Dead or Alive 2 had a majority-women roster of fighters. As a young girl, she liked having the option to play as a woman: “I did gravitate towards the females – you look at them, even if they are video game characters, and think: ‘They’re so cool! I wanna be like them!’ Especially when I was young, I…
Late last week, news broke that a women’s CSGO tournament hosted by ESL rejected a team of trans players because they couldn’t provide official documentation stating they were female. The incident was eye-opening for everybody involved. Advertisement Sly Buehl Rigilio, a transgender player who lives in Sicily, Italy, tried to register her team in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 5on5 Female Open Summer 2017, a tournament hosted by ESL and organized by Munich Finest Gaming. As first reported by BuzzFeed, however, Rigilio’s dreams of competitive glory were cut short by a very rude awakening. Upon submitting her request to ESL, she received the following response: “No males are allowed. Please take care fake your gender can be penalized.” Advertisement Surprised and more than a little upset that her and her team had apparently been rejected based on their appearances, Rigilio reached out to Munich Finest Gaming, who said they’d need to see passports that designated Rigilio and her teammates as female. They also said they couldn’t understand why she was so enraged about the whole thing. ESL head of communications Anna Rozwandowicz added that the two READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
GIF This is what happens after you shout “Fuck you all, god save the queen” to a crowd full of Aussie Counter-Strike fans. Advertisement In a showmatch prior to the IEM Sydney grand finals for CS:GO this morning, analyst Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill led his Australian team to a dominating win over British caster Henry “HenryG” Greer’s UK team. As a result, HenryG, whose shtick for ESL Counter-Strike is being a cheeky dick or something was tied up and carried over to a giant rolled up tarp covered in “pie stuff” and left to plummet into the abyss of a 1950s punchline. The gag was part of an ongoing “beef” between HenryG and everyone else at the Sydney tournament, I suppose in part because he’s a condescending Brit and Australia began as a former penal colony of England’s. Advertisement This is some Counter-Strike “smack talk” prior to the showmatch. And this is the crowd flipping HenryG off during the showmatch. And of course, here’s HenryG getting thrown into a trough of complex sugars after losing to Australia. READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
The hierarchy of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gets a shakeup at the IEM Masters Championship in Sydney, Australia as the European powerhouses make room for the resurgence of South America’s SK Gaming. Even Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač, bought earlier this year for $500,000, couldn’t save FaZe Clan. Advertisement The shadow hanging over the IEM Sydney grand finals was in the shape of a star. Despite SK Gaming thrashing Optic Gaming in the semifinals, it was FaZe Clan’s triumph over rivals Astralis seemed more prophetic. If one of the top teams in CS:GO was able to unseat the champion of ELEAGUE 2017, the IEM XI World Championship, and Esports Championship Season 2, than it seemed almost axiomatic that they would go on to eek out a win against whoever they met in the grand finals. But SK was the only team in the tournament to go 3-0 during the group stage, and while Optic might have looked like a mid-tier scrimmage partner during the semis, the clockwork performance by the Brazilians spoke for itself. GIF A quick double-tap from Fallen was symbolic of SK’s edge all series long. That said, FaZe looked to be closing the distance in the second half of game…
Back in 2014, Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian was cut from a major CSGO team called Titan after he got VAC banned for using a cheat program out of competition. The team collapsed not long after. At the time, he remorsefully declared his career “over.” Now he’s back, and people aren’t happy about that. Advertisement Recently, an organization called Vexed announced that KQLY will be playing for them during the upcoming ESL France event. Now, players who’ve received VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) bans aren’t allowed to compete in Valve-run majors, but ESL recently instituted a controversial rule that allows red-handed rule-breakers to rejoin the fray after serving two-year suspensions. So Vexed, a relative unknown, picked up KQLY, a former heavyweight of the scene. A handful of pros, including two members of Vexed, are not pleased. Steve “Jarod” Cohen and Léonard “SmyLi” Michelino are refusing to play altogether. Advertisement “We were not informed of this decision that was imposed to us,” they said in a statement translated by FlickShot. “We were informed of it right before the official announcement. We cannot imagine ourselves working with someone that has harmed, READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
When Astralis bested Virtus.Pro in the grand finals of the ELEAGUE Major in January, Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye tweeted that his team “underperformed” in its 2-1 victory. A member of Virtus.Pro took offense, and promised to crush Astralis when they next met. That meeting happened today, in the semifinals of DreamHack Masters Las Vegas 2017. Over three rounds, Virtus.Pro did exactly what Wiktor “TaZ” Wojitas said it would: crush. On the first map, a 12-3 advantage going into the half for VP led into an undefeated four rounds in the second half. Paweł “byali” Bieliński put up 24 kills total in both of Virtus.Pro’s won rounds, and in total, the team dominated on the maps it won on: 16-3 on Nuke, and 16-4 on Train. In the post-game interview, Wojitas was asked about his tweet and replied, “What can I say? I told you. I told you this would happen.” He added that he was already eyeing SK as a potential opponent in the grand finals, saying “I want to play against SK. They are probably very sure they will win. I want to destroy them as well.” Advertisement Wojitas READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
Image credit: DreamHack CS:GO A fevered back-and-forth series between Gambit Gaming and North took game two of the DreamHack Masters Las Vegas quarterfinals match to double-overtime. Advertisement After North established a 10-5 advantage during the first half, Gambit surged back in the second with a 10-5 of its own, forcing the game into the first OT. A tied 3-3 in the first brought up 2OT, and on match point, it was Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and René “cajunb” Borg who came up big for the win. North, a squad of former Dignitas and FaZe Clan pros picked up by football club F.C. Copenhagen, took 5th-8th in its first showing at the ELEAGUE Major. After the win over Gambit, the squad will move on to the semifinals and its highest-ever placing in a tournament after only a few weeks together with the current roster. READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
There’s nothing worse than going on a tear in Counter-Strike, only to get gunned down by some asshole who’s spinning around, one-tapping everybody. He’s obviously cheating. Why hasn’t he been caught? According to Valve, it’s complicated, but they’re working on a new system to bust fun-killers. Advertisement First, here’s the reason Valve hasn’t augmented their Overwatch (not to be confused with the game) anti-cheat system—which has qualified players review reports of suspected cheaters after the fact—with auto-detection software for obvious cheats like spinbots: “Some bad news,” said Valve on Reddit. “Any hard-coded detection of spin-botting leads to an arms race with cheat developers–if they can find the edges of the heuristic you’re using to detect the cheat, the problem comes back.” Advertisement Valve’s solution? Machine learning. Reason being, machine learning, unlike other automated solutions, isn’t static. It’s a kind of AI that parses data and, well, learns from it over time, adapting its behaviors in the process. So, why isn’t this system busting every cheater already? Because it’s extremely complicated in a game like Counter-Strike. “The process of parsing, training, and classifying player data READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
In a ban spanning several lifetimes and then some, third-party Counter-Strike tournament service ESEA has banned a user until 3016 for allegedly harassing a minor. Advertisement This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia. The ban was dolled out to Reece “bloominator” Bloom, whose ESEA account will remain banned until June 6 in 3016, or 365,000 days to be precise. The official reason listed on the account is “Malicious Activity”, although the specifics come down to a series of chat logs and photos between Bloom and an alleged 15 year old. Advertisement The chat logs, which are still available online, show Bloom saying things like “there’s just something about being able to influence young minds” and “I just don’t care that I’m a paedophile”. Bloom was announced as a member of Armor Esports, although most of his profile in the Counter-Strike community was courtesy of his time on the ESEA Invite team Exertus. Exertus has since disbanded, but it once sported players that would go on to gain prominence in other teams, including Mike “shroud” Grzesiek and Jaryd “summit1g” Lazar. Bloom’s ban makes him the READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
On Friday, Valve announced it was removing the CS:GO’s Dust2 from the Active Duty group. While the beloved map will still be playable in casual matches, it’s been replaced by Inferno for tournaments, making it the end of an era for the biggest shooter in esports. Advertisement Valve made the switch in the aftermath of the ELEAGE Major 2017, stating, “Inferno has returned to Active Duty, replacing Dust2, and will be featured at the next CS:GO Major. As in the past, the updated Active Duty pool is automatically selected when you enter Matchmaking.” Dust2 was instead given its own category, meaning players can select to only play that map in casual and deathmatch modes—a testament to the level’s popularity and iconic status. But while teams in qualifying for the upcoming IEM Katowice 2017 tournament still played on the map this weekend, going forward they will need to be prepared to compete on its replacement: Inferno. Featuring a village with narrower streets and busy architecture, Inferno is a big departure from the sand blasted compound feel of Dust2. Advertisement Advertisement READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
Counter-Strike player Sean ‘sgares’ Gares, new member of Misfits, back when he was with Rick Fox’s Echo Foxes. The Counter-Strike players for the esports organization Team SoloMid have all left following a dispute with owners over which leagues they could play in. Instead, the squad have all joined with Misfits, an organization that just this week announced its new partnership with the Miami Heat. Advertisement News came by way of two announcements, first from TSM, acknowledging the departure, and later in the afternoon from Misfits, revealing the roster for its new Counter-Strike team. Sean ‘sgares’ Gares, Russel ‘Twistzz’ David Van Dulken, Shahzeb ‘ShahZaM’ Khan, Skyler ‘Relyks’ Weaver, and Hunter ‘SicK’ Mims, a week after the team earned a spot in the North America EPL, will all be outfitted in uniforms to match the Heat’s colors before long. The rift between the players and their former team began late last year when the owners tried to restrict them from playing in certain leagues. TSM were partners in a newly formed league called the PEA, one that would be owned and operated by the teams themselves rather than a third-party. The teams involved READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!
The sheer number of games on Steam is overwhelming, and more new ones come out per day than ever before. Despite that, Steam’s upper echelon has calcified, with an Old Guard looking down from the top of the most-played list at all the peasants below. Advertisement GitHyp, a tool that tracks Steam’s most-played games (among other things), posted an analysis of the most-played games of 2016. A few findings stand out. First off, if you look at average number of players per hour throughout the year, you get a top five list that looks awfully similar to 2015’s, with zero games that came out in 2016: Dota 2 / 636,607 avg. players per hour (#1 in 2015) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive / 360,600 avg. players per hour (#2 in 2015) Team Fortress 2 / 50,802 avg. players per hour (#4 in 2015) Grand Theft Auto V / 40,258 avg. players per hour (#5 in 2015) Sid Meier’s Civilization V / 37,885 avg players per hour (#9 in 2015) Steam users like Valve games. Shocking, I know. But it is surprising to see Civ V gain ground in the year that Civ READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!