Jun 20 2014 - 4:43 pm

7-year-old 'Team Fortress 2' hit with game-changing update

Seven years after its release, Valve's resiliently popular shooter Team Fortress 2 just fundamentally changed the game will be played at the competitive level
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

Seven years after its release, Valve's resiliently popular shooter Team Fortress 2 just fundamentally changed the game will be played at the competitive level.

Valve dropped the bombshell on the small but dedicated Team Fortress 2 competitive scene yesterday.

The company snuck in an unexpected balance change into what it's calling the “Love and War” update. This added fifteen new taunts, the “Bread Box” item that was used in the recently released Expiration Date short film, some new items,  and a few surprise weapon changes. That included included this doozy: “All Demoman stickybombs now have damage ramp up. Full damage is reached 2 seconds after firing.”

The demoman is one of the game's playable characters. The sticky launcher is his secondary weapon, but don’t let that “secondary” tag fool you. It was a versatile weapon capable of putting out huge amounts of area damage extremely quickly in any situation. You could use it to attack enemy positions as a primary damage dealer. You could set up traps with the sticky bombs, locking off a chokepoint from the enemy, or hiding the bombs to secure a free kill. It was the most powerful weapon in the game.

At least, it used to be.

Now, stickys do half their regular damage when they're launched, and only reach full damage after two seconds. That severely limits its ability to dish out damage in hectic deathmatch situations, where even half a second is the difference between life and death.

The change makes the “secondary” label have more meaning for a Demoman. The Sticky Launcher is no longer the best weapon in all situations, with the Grenade launcher relegated to the a last resort weapon when you’re out of stickies.

The demoman used to be the focal point of most Team Fortress teams, the player dealing the most damage on the team and capable of controlling the flow of the game with his spam and traps. Now, demomen will need to re-learn how to best impact the game.

“When b4nny [five-time ESEA champion Grant Vincent], the best demoman to ever touch this game, starts literally bottom damaging for his team, you know something is wrong,” posted one user on a TeamFortress.TV discussion thread.

The change has a competitive community up in arms, with some embracing it as a welcome adjustment to a stale metagame and some lambasting the move as the death of competition.

It’s certainly an unexpected move from Valve. The company has largely left Team Fortress 2 to its own devices over the past few years, adding fan-made item contributions but mostly leaving the game itself untouched.

And despite Valve’s heavy esports involvement over the past two years with Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, its largely ignored the esports scene in Team Fortress 2, even while pioneering the item systems that help crowd fund tournaments for their other esports title in Team Fortress—and with Team Fortress bringing in more revenue than Dota 2 last year, over $100 million.

Valve likely implemented the balance change with no thought given to its esports impact, a fact more glaring given the timing of the update: two weeks before the Esports Entertainment Association (ESEA) Season 16 finals, a live playoff with nearly $15,000 on the line. That makes the stakes high for players who have precious few days to get used to a major change in the game.

“This is the biggest change to a comp class since gunboats were unbanned and completely changed roamer's playstyles, and I expect this change to do the same to demo,” said Brandon “Seagull” Larned, the roamer of Classic Mixup and a veteran in the Team Fortress competitive scene.

The gunboats are a Soldier secondary weapon added in the WAR! update back in 2009, and greatly reduce the self-damage taken during rocket jumps. While losing your shotgun heavily impacts your ability to fight in all situations, the increased mobility opened up an alternative play style for Soldier centered around distraction and bombing your enemy from the sky.

The demoman may have viable options outside the typical Sticky Launcher, but most of them have been rarely used thanks to the gun’s prominence.

Alternative demoman play styles, like using the Charge and Targe item, a shield that replaces the Stick Launcher which blocks of explosive damage and allows the user to charge into the enemy team, waslong seen as a gimmick. But now it may become a staple in some teams' lineups. The same is true with the Scottish Resistance, an alternate Sticky Launcher that can place twice as many sticky bombs but requires the user to aim at them to manually detonate them.

But teams and players will barely have any time to learn what works before the ESEA tournament.

Some players want to implement a “pro mod” to revert the change, but others believe that could cause an irreparable schism in an already niche part of the Team Fortress community at large.

“Lots of soldiers quit over gunboats, and the same will happen for the new demo class,” said Larned. “Attempting a reactionary ‘promod’ is the fastest way to kill the game, and I hope that no league actively implements it,” Larned said. European league ETF2L has already put that idea to bed, and given ESEA’s past history, it’s likely they will do the same.

Opinions are mixed on the change, and it’ll likely take a while for its real impact to be realized.

“The moral of the story is that this update brings demo down to a level similar of importance to a scout or soldier,” said Mike “Platinum” Miles, demoman for Classic Mixup.

The demoman of ESEA invite playoff team Exertus, “bdonski," added: “Truthfully there hasn't been enough time to fully evaluate the update,” “but I just don't see it being good for the game."

Image via Valve

Today - 12:04 am

The new LCK meta: Singed top?

LCK Season 7 kicked off last night, giving us an early look at the new 10-ban meta.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Image via Riot Games

Competitive League is back. Most professional leagues kick off the Spring Split later this week, with League of Legends Champions Korea getting the ball rolling last night. After a crazy offseason, we finally get to see what the pros make of the meta, how they’ll play around overpowered tanks, and what they’ll do with jungle plants.

One of the key questions going into this season was what the new draft phase would look like with the implementation of 10 bans (5 per team). We saw some of the effects of that last night. The first match involved a fascinating storyline with the ROX Tigers facing former top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho for the first time.

But from a meta perspective, the more interesting match started after Smeb and KT walked off with a win. That’s when Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy both busted out pocket picks.

Wait, what? Singed top?

The craziness started in game one, when Samsung, playing on the red side (and picking second), inexplicably left Rengar available. That allowed Longzhu to first-pick the terrifying jungle assassin. In return though, they got Ezreal, Poppy, Zyra, and Viktor, strong picks themselves and ones that Samsung is familiar with.

Then with the last pick, top laner Gu "Expession" Bon-taek went with Singed.

Singed is fun and unique champion who can push minion waves in a way few champions can match. His mechanics have led to some pretty ridiculous strategies. But he’s not known in professional play because of his low overall damage and uselessness in team fights. Singed players typically play with a one-versus-five mentality, something that usually doesn’t agree with the typical Korean focus on team cohesion.

For Longzhu, Singed was honestly an afterthought for most of the game. That’s because Rengar took over. Lee "Crash" Dong-woo was all over Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong’s Lee Sin from the start, taking over the blue side jungle and enabling his bot lane to push with impunity.

That can be risky against Samsung’s strong solo laners, but it paid off as the Longzhu duo roamed around for turret after turret. Kim "PraY" Jong-in’s Jhin was absolutely incredible, pushing people off turrets and sniping them from range.

Samsung tried to turtle and defend, but that’s where Singed came in. Having built Zz’rot portal, he made life hell for Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin’s Poppy. Poppy wants to teamfight, but with Singed constantly pushing, CuVee had no priority and Longzhu romped.

We are not sure that Singed will continue to be a popular pick; he’s too easy to camp if there isn’t pressure elsewhere. But we’re also excited to see more team strategies being built around previously off-meta champions. 

More pocket picks to come

Image via Riot Games

Samsung responded in game two with a new champion: Camille somehow made it through the first ban phase. But then Longzhu came back with a counter pick of their own: Jax.

This game was what 10 bans was all about. It was incredibly fun watching these two top laners duel. At first, Camille had the upper hand, taking on Jax and then Song "Fly" Young-jun’s Ekko, beating both. But after Jax got a couple items, he became the stronger bruiser, getting a solo kill back. Stuns, dashes, and ults combined in a terrific dance. It was an incredible display of skill from two players and everything we hoped 10 bans could be.

Game 3 was a more straightforward Samsung win, but we got even more champions. New jungler Kang "Haru" Min-seung picked Kha’zix, and a level one invade got him first blood. In the mid lane, Lee "Crown" Min-ho picked Corki, someone we hadn’t seen in a some time. His range advantage kept Fly pushed in and Samsung played a steady game to win.

Three games, full of creative strategies and pocket picks. This is likely what Riot envisioned when they moved to the 10 ban system. But of course, these are the highest skilled players in the world—can players in Europe and North America, perhaps with smaller champion pools, recreate the success we saw last night?

In just a few days, we’ll find out.

Jan 17 2017 - 11:07 pm

How to Watch the ESL Hearthstone Trinity Series: Players, Format, Times, and More

It's the biggest team league the game has seen in over a year.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Blizzard Entertainment

It's been well over a year since Hearthstone last had a major team league in the West—something fans have been crying out for. Tomorrow the wait ends, and the ESL Trinity Series begins.

Eight trios, flying the banners of some of the biggest franchises in esports, will compete in best-of-11 matches until Mar. 2. The top teams will advance to a live finals at the ESL studios in California, with $75,000 up for grabs for the winning team.

This is a big moment for Hearthstone esports. After growth slowed in 2016, this league could get 2017 off to a big start as the major players in the scene attempt to stabilize and consolidate their positions.

Here's everything you need to know about the league, the teams involved, and how the matches will play out.

What is the format?

For each match, the teams will submit nine decks—one for each class in the game. Each team will ban out two of their opponent's decks, leaving seven decks from which the teams pick a final lineup of six.

The teams then play a best-of-11 match in the Last Hero Standing format—once a deck loses a game it is locked for the rest of the match, and you lose when you have no decks left. Unlike the Archon Team League Championships where each player was assigned a couple of decks to play, all six players will be playing every game of every series. They will do so with open communication, which viewers will be tuned in to throughout the broadcast.

The format requires a huge amount of strategy, deckbuilding skill, and team work. The teams will have to argue out each individual play, make their move within the short timeframe of a turn, and try not to fall out in the process. Matches will be long, and real-life fatigue will play a part.

How will the league be broadcast?

The broadcasts will be presented from ESL's studios in Burbank, California, with TJ Sanders and Brian Kibler slated to call the action.

The players themselves will be playing from home, adding another level of difficulty to the communication, until the league reaches its final stages.

The matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting tomorrow, with two matches per day. Games will start at 1pm ET (10am PT) for the duration of the seven week season and will be aired on ESL's Hearthstone Twitch channel.

Who are the teams?

The lineup features some of the biggest brands in esports. Two Hearthstone world champions, over a dozen tournament winners, and some wildcards too.

G2 Esports are easily the favorites to win it all. The trio of Dima "Rdu" Radu, Thijs Molendijk, and Adrian "Lifecoach" Koy is the most decorated in the game, with the Archon Team League Championships title also under their belt. The weight of expectation is firmly upon this European trio.

Although the team is relatively new, having just brought on a third member in time for the league, Alliance will be one of the teams to watch. The Swedish organization picked up a trio of players to represent the team and their country in three-time major winner Jon "Orange" Westberg, 2015 world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall, and consistent journeyman Harald "Powder" Gimre.

Virtus Pro will be a force to be reckoned with. After starting out as rivals at the 2016 European Winter Championship, Artem "DrHippi" Kravets, Ole "Naiman" Batyrbekov, and Raphael "BunnyHoppor" Peltzer have formed a formidable unit. The team has been represented in countless major tournaments this year, with DrHippi finishing second in the world championship.

CompLexity will be looking to turn potential and underdog determination into results. Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen was impressively consistent throughout 2016, but did not win a major title. Simon "Crane" Raunholst has long been considered one of the best minds in the game but he has also not borne this out with results, while perennial prospect Tugay "MrYagut" Evsan will be looking to show just why he was so highly touted for so long.

The only all-American lineup in the tournament, Luminosity Gaming will also be hoping to live up to their billing. Branded a U.S. "super team" when they were formed last year, DreamHack Austin winner Keaton "Chakki" Gill and the experienced Paul "Zalae" Nemeth will be partnered by top young talent Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang.

The experienced but somewhat out-of-favor hand of Peter "Gaara" Stevanovic will look to guide Tempo Storm's young prospects David "JustSaiyan" Shan and Victor "Vlps" Lopez to success, while the veteran Team Liquid trio of David "Dog" Caero, Jeffrey "Sjow" Brusi, and Yevhenii "Neirea" Shumilin will aim to prove the value of experience.

Speaking of veterans, 2014 world champion James "Firebat" Kostesich, early leader Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and 2014 World Esports Championship winner Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener will round out the lineup for Cloud9. With Firebat having casted more than competed in 2016, StrifeCro having made just the odd appearance and TidesofTime having spent the past two years struggling with whether or not he loved the game anymore, this lineup will now have to deliver on a big stage.

Though 2017 is only a few weeks old, the ESL Trinity Series promises to be one of the most entertaining and competitive events of the year. The players will be tested to the limits of their skills—and Hearthstone fans will finally have another team league to get invested in.