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The 4 Best Items In All Of Minecraft

November 22nd, 2011

Choosing the best Minecraft item is like choosing your favorite organ: it should be impossible but you can have a cleary favorite. I certainly do, ladies (and ten percent of gentlemen). The whole point of both systems is how wonderfully everything works together, but a few items embody the sheer joys of Minecraft servers even better than everything else.

The Saddle

The saddle allows you to ride animals, which is like saying the Shakespeare allows you to read the English language. The reality is so far beyond the literal description it embodies the very concept of the game. Because you can’t steer the pig. You saddle it, get on, and you have no idea where you’ll end up. There’s no clear goal, and absolutely no point, but you do it anyway because it’s fun. It couldn’t be a better embodiment of Minecraft if it was Notch. The only improvement it needs is to become craftable, and the odds of something becoming craftable in a future update is somewhere above 100%.

Until then, the saddle is a rare dungeon item — while the pig still has a mind of its own, and won’t give the saddle back. This forces you to form a relationship with the animal, lest you lose everything you’ve invested, but when your recalcitrant partner sometimes refuses to move the only way to start it is by hitting it. But hit it too hard and it dies and you lose everything. We really hope this situation doesn’t sound familiar to anyone.

Unfortunately not every update improves things. The Alpha 1.2.4 removed Minecraft’s ultimate vehicle: the 1-porkpower minecart! It used to be possible to push a pig into a minecart to harness its speed to the rails. This was removed on the minor grounds that it’s a ridiculous glitch involving pig trotters pushing through solid metal. Hopefully a future update will allow us to craft minecarts with trotter holes.

Move over Ferrari!

Clock

The clock seems an amusing novelty until you consider its true implications, just like the real thing. Timepieces are one of the most important breakthroughs in the real world. They were vital for navigation and exploration, scientific research, and suddenly becoming much better at getting lots of things done. All the things you do in a Minecraft server!

The recipe recognises the awesome value of the device, making it from some of the most precious and useful materials in the Minecraft universe. True, the original clocks weren’t made of jewellery and magic radioactive powder. But that’s because they weren’t effectively wireless smartphones. Once you make a clock, anywhere, you always have the time of day – just hit the button to bring up your statistics menu and the icon there will tell you the time, no matter where your real clock may have gone.

Lapis Lazuli Dye

Lapis Lazuli Dye is the most gloriously pointless item in virtual creation. It’s the second rarest dye in existence, and yes, that “dye” means all it does it change wool’s color. But it’s brilliant. It’s effectively more luxurious than the rarest dye ingredient, Cocoa brown, because you can get brown dye direct from brown sheep now. It’s effectively rarer than diamond because it’s just as rare by the numbers but randomly distributed so it’s much harder to find. All to make things blue, which you’ll only do because you can!

It’s like blue LEDs: there’s no reason to make things blue other than it looks cool. And the only reason it’s cool is because we couldn’t do that before. But while blue LEDs were limited by quantum mechanical energy gaps and the specifics of semiconductors, Lapis Lazuli is only rare because someone said it should be. And we hunt it down because that’s more than enough reason! Lapis Lazuli gives rise to the whole spectrum of blues, which might be only three colors but in Minecraft’s retro-styled land that’s like four rainbows.

Nether Portal

Oh man, if you thought wrapping a pig in bits of cow and sitting on it represented lunatic entertainment, that’s nothing. The Nether Portal requires you to mine (or make) the hardest material inside the bedrock bounds of the universe, using diamond equipment, then construct a portal and invoke fire just so you can go to hell.

That sounds like a great idea, and not at all like a horror movie!

Why? Because hell is there and you haven’t seen it yet.

It’s such a testament to constructive madness. The Nether Portal is one of the most demanding constructions in existence, and the only “benefit” is teleporting you to a ridiculously unfriendly place which will kill you, and you’ll lose everything you had there. The Nether only works as a distance multiplier as an afterthought. Traveling in the Nether means you travel eight times as far in the real world, making it a wonderful parallel for the Warp from 40k (another universe designed only to kill you), but to actually use that you have to build another Nether Portal in hell under constant enemy fire. You’d be faster and safer just walking in the real world. Hell, you’d probably be better off just waiting for continental drift to move you, and Minecraft servers don’t have that.

The destination reviews aren’t very positive

It’s brilliant. Making ridiculous efforts to do stupid things just because you haven’t done them before. That’s why we invent virtual worlds. Because if we indulged these urges in the real world we’d be extinct.

Counter-Strike: Source is Gearing Up For GO

September 26th, 2011
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has a harder act to follow than the Second Coming, and it’s even more important that it gets things right. Dedicated CS server players are a harder audience than stone golems listening to a dwarf tell mining jokes, and liable to react even more aggressively. Thousands of people are still playing the previous sequel, battling on Counter-Strike: Source servers 7 years after release, and thousands more still curse that as a newfangled aberration from the 1.6 servers which have been running continuously for even longer.

This picture excites us more than most cheerleaders.

Most players care more about changes to Counter-Strike than to the constitution, because it affects their lives more directly. (While you can say a thousand wonderful things about the Bill of Rights – including how it guarantees your right to do so – no-one enjoys sitting down to re-read it every night. Even though the second amendment is pretty much what CS servers are about.)That’s why Valve are preparing for CS:GO servers with the largest and best-trained playtesting group imaginable: Counter-Strike players! September 15th saw a massive overhaul of CS:S. They’ve always been good about maintaining stability, but this wasn’t some minor fix for an obscure clipping error when you spin round seven times while holdinga  glock: this installed an entirely new crosshair system and rebalanced the weapons. DaVinci couldn’t make more unexpected changes if he clawed his way from the grave to paint in elephants behind the Mona Lisa.

Reworking your own game after seven years instead of making a new one. Even 3D Realms didn’t do that, and they’re infamous for dragging games for far longer than possible or sane. Though they might have been better off if they had. Other companies can’t go a year without milking a franchise. Halo would have claimed this amount of rebalancing as a sequel – just add new powerup and box art and bang, sixty dollars. But this work has more at stake than enraging entrenched players. This is clearly field-testing changes to the most intensely beloved shooter formula of all time, so that they can make it even better.

The biggest change is the upgraded accuracy model, with altered firing mechanics when sprinting, ducking, or moving between the two. After almost a decade of expert play it’s like waking up and finding someone has reconfigured your fingers. We’ll call this “Pulling a Jensen” – even if the new system is better it takes some getting used to. Especially for players used to crouch-strafe-jumping to zoomed AWP to qq-double tap, or even knowing what that means.

GO will maintain this terrifying combat pose

Shotgun damage is increased, the m249 is better, even the zooming speed of the most holy AWP has been improved. Though we do wonder who thought that the problem with CS servers was that sniper rifles weren’t yet lethal enough. They even increased the cycle time for Dual Elites, proving that even the most pointless weapons got care and attention. They even fixed the timing of the Glock’s burst fire sounds, and if you’ve ever noticed that was a problem you’ve just admitted you’re a liar.Our favorite bit (apart from the fact they care so much about  CS:GO they’ve found a way to playtest it before even making it)? Private Counter-Strike: Source servers are now even more fun! The update lets private servers reset the max grenade count and max player speed – we’re already looking forward to insane grenade-dash playmodes, arenas of explosive death making Modern Warfare’s Shipment look like a relaxing stroll.

What Players Want From Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

August 22nd, 2011

Valve have turned revolutionary announcements into standard business practice. After making the greatest class-based combat game free for everyone, they casually announced “We’re making a sequel to the most popular online shooter of all time” as if they were pointing out there were biscuits beside the tea. EA made more noise about their being a Madden 2012, even though the only thing which could have prevented that was the sun exploding. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (rocking the most perfect acronym of CS:GO) will be shown off at the Penny Arcade Expo within the week even though it won’t be released until next year. That’s classic Valve – a playable game is just the starting point for another year’s work. Which is important, because getting CS:GO right is more important than defusing a nuclear warhead correctly.

It’s very easy to screw up sequels. Crackdown had the plot of “Superpowered cops destroys criminals,” and the sequel played like they went back in time to give themselves brain damage. Even Counter-Strike’s creator doesn’t understand what makes the game, with his Tactical Intervention sequel promising civilians and attack dogs and various other things which control from the player worse than hand-paralysis. Counter-Strike servers are purer tests of sheer skill than Shaolin Temples, while Promod servers are already working to upgrade the experience. Which is why we’re not just dribbling at the prospect of a new Counter-Strike – we’re laying what we’d love to see, while there’s still time.

Clan and League Support

Counter-strike has more established competition than the Olympics, because those amateurs only play once every four years. The competitive community is more essential to CS servers than electricity, but the software makes it easier to reset your advanced shader options than say anything about your team. That’s why most player’s names look like the file got corrupted.

TF2 servers prove how hard Valve listen to their fans. The Catholic church doesn’t pay as much attention to their practitioners, and they have an entire sacrament based on sitting in a dark cupboard with someone to tell them secret naughtiness. Items, maps, entire weapons sets have been integrated from fan support. The next generation of Counter-Strike should have clan identities at the options level, beside your name and spray. A simple request-confirmation system would allow clans to have creat automatic pages, clan servers, organise league matches and much more. Right now you can look into a random TF2 player’s backpack easier than you can find their clan affiliation, and even then you’re depending on people not lying.

Software support for clans would do the same thing for CS leagues as Free 2 Play did for TF2: a lot of initial whining, a whole bunch of beginners, and those who stay to play (everyone no matter what they claim) benefits from a far larger player base. Automated league matching and scorekeeping would eliminate 90% of the whining from shooting other people in the face. And in videogames, the real crime in that sentence was the whining.

Multiple Modes at the Menu

Counter-Strike has been subjected to more custom modifications than the Nissan, and they work far better.

LEGO cars look manlier

Counter-strike servers allow more alternate kinds of fun than a Hollywood sex club and you don’t have to mop them afterwards.GunGame, jump matches, surfing races, knife-ball, sniper duels – they sound like the X-Games stopped playing around with skateboards and really became Extreme. These mods aren’t hard to install (and you can have them included on your own CS server just by asking) but the fact you have to find them at all means many never hear of their incredible joy.

Counter-Strike itself started as a mod. Its entire heritage is how hard players rock when they’re allowed to make more fun things for free just because they want to. TF2 has already integrated a stamp system to support matchmakers – neglecting mod support in CS:GO would be blinder than throwing a flashbang at the Sun and staring at it.

The Ultimate In Anti-Cheat

The greatest joy in running your own server is instantly destroying cheats (here’s how to spot them.) VAC and PunkBuster do their best to defend us from scumbags, but Counter-Strike needs to better at detecting and destroying cheats than a Terminator turned referee.

In the future, people who use aimbots get to meet a real one. Briefly.

We’re looking forward to CS:GO. We can trust Valve to make a sequel because they want to make it better, not just make more money (see: Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2.) The name clearly recognizes the massive player base and global competitions. And the best bit?

We’ll always have the old games. CS: Source servers are still running with tens of thousands of players, and GO would have to ship with atomic warheads to end Counter-Strike 1.6. It’s the ultimate shooter, enjoyed by those who value actual skill over shiny graphics, and we’re not waiting for a replacement. We’re looking forward to even more of it.

Minecraft Piston Powers Into The Digital Age

July 25th, 2011

Minecraft may be the greatest game of all time. At $10 for what’s basically an imagination-powered life-stealing engine, it’s either the best or worst value software in history, but its true strength is the developer’s sheer love of gaming. While EA make you spend $60 for slightly updated stats and animated hand towels, and act like you’re the one who should be excited they’re getting away with it, Notch upgrades thousands of worlds for free with less ceremony than most people tweeting what they had for lunch.

The ten commandments didn't promise as much in the first line

The ten commandments didn't promise as much in the first line

Any new item revolutionizes Minecraft servers, and with pistons that’s a twofer: the Inustrial and Digital revolutions simultaneously. It took the rest of humanity centuries to manage that, and Minecraft servers pulled it off in one update. Every addition is invention combined with chaos theory and more skilled players than the Philharmonic Orchestra. In the weeks since they’ve arrived, pistons have powered everything from transforming castles to the invention of the transistor.

A single schematic hasn't changed a world this much since the wheel, and that wasn't so much a "schematic" as "a single curve"

A single schematic hasn't changed a world this much since the wheel, and that wasn't so much a "schematic" as "a single curve"

Powered pistons have shaken up the entire ecosystem, which is good because shaking things is exactly what pistons are for. They’ve built infinite data loops, ridiculous Rube Goldberg machines, and of course they’ve been used to kill Creepers because everything in Minecraft should be used to kill Creepers at least once and preferably forever WE HATE YOU CREEPERS. (Creepers have the bad luck to kill someone who can come back and bend an entire world to their murder.)

Unfortunately you can’t crush things directly, though that’s probably good because you’ll be working on your huge piston-powered contraptions from the inside and don’t want to be smeared into paste by them (another way Minecraft servers are far superior to the real Industrial Revolution). But if there’s one thing Minecraft players are good at its invention: pushing Creepers into lava, suffocating them with sand, opening trapdoors, closing trapdoors, and every single one is stupidly fun.

But that’s nothing compared to the computer revolution.

The transistor! The invention so powerful a league of lawyers were formed just to prevent anyone getting a patent because that would make them the most powerful person in the world, and we’re now building them for fun. So what do the developers do as well as giving you a brilliant new component to invent things with?

Invent something with it. This is Minecraft. The Sticky Piston alchemized Slimes from ridiculous resource and pseudo-currency to the core of master machinery. Sticky pistons can pull as well as push, and the real Minecraft players aren’t even reading this part of the sentence as they drift into a mental world of conveyors and simulated factory lines.

Minecraft servers are well on the way to everything we asked for, a real world of invention and electronics. We’re just waiting for uranium blocks and aerodynamic interactions and we’ll move there permanently.

Minecraft: The Only Real Open World Game

June 2nd, 2011

Open worlds have become compulsory, which is a contradiction and also a worse travesty than beginner cooking classes using recovered Dodo eggs. An open world demands awesomely talented developers who can create a living, breathing world. Not cut-rate 3D artists whose manager decided their copy of Shootin’ Stuff XV would work better without pacing, level design, or progression. Most open worlds are like microwave dinners – they achieve the first word at the expense of the second.

For example: scattering the same locations over a map like sprinkles, but less enjoyable, does not replace design. Which may be why there has only been one: Minecraft.

red faction
Wow, a revolutionary building physics engine! And they’re, they’re using it for yet another basic shooter. Great.

Every other open world is about as free as smoking on an oil rig. You can go any direction you like, but not very far, and it always looks the same and ends in the same explosions. Which are incredible fun (don’t ever think we’re complaining about that part) but shouldn’t be confused for incredible freedom. When your only decision is whether to blow things up now or later, you’re about as free as a smart bomb (though at least you get to respawn.)

Just Cause 2 was a literally giant example of this. The largest virtual world in console gaming to date, an entire fictional country with exactly three things you to do: shoot someone, hook them, or blow them up. While we contend that setting an action game on an island composed entirely of military installations and petrol tanks was an act of entertainment genius, the fortieth time you run in, blow things up, and run away until you regenerate things start to feel a little samey. It’s less a virtual world than a vast Easter Egg hunt as you locate every explosive barrel in the world, and if we wanted to run around hunting objects hidden by the developer we’d be playing Crackdown again.

Which isn’t a bad idea.

crackdown
If only they’d made a sequel (because they really didn’t)

Grand Theft Auto does a better job of it, but “it” is always the same thing: Drive there and kill people. There are Army Humvee drivers with more varied jobs because sometimes their vehicle breaks down. At the other extreme freedom has slowly evaporated from first person shooters because it’s simply not wanted. In the olden days we’d run around Doom maps searching for an exit (and more importantly, ammunition), but nowadays repeating a section because you were shot in the face is about as enjoyable as actually being shot. Call of Duty saves slightly more often than an investment bank and makes a hell of a lot more money.

So what makes Minecraft different? Why isn’t it the same thing over and over? Why doesn’t it suffer from a lack of design, which should be kind of a problem when the entire world is randomly generated? Because it’s not finished. The same reason Minecraft is so successful is also the reason it can’t become more successful, because it has no victory condition.

minecraft head
And if there was this sure as hell wouldn’t be it

The result is a masterpiece of multiplayer, not just despite but because the players have nothing to work for. Even Fallout eventually drags people back to their primary quest, but Minecraft servers are less linear gaming and more LEGO. The lack of a goal is more than compensated for by the multitude of methods to get there, once you decide where “there” is. If there was any objective – get somewhere, dig deep, build big – there would suddenly be a best way to do it and everything else would be wasting time. And while gamers do deeply love wasting time, we’re still aware of the difference. With nothing to do, suddenly everything is worth doing. And in a game where everything can range from “farming” to “constructing a vast glass skull overlooking the night lit from within with the fires of a burning forest”, that’s more doing than any other game has even dreamed of.

It might be impossible to give a goal that doesn’t waste half of what the community has built. It might be that Notch spends forever adding items, planes, and new monsters to run like hell from. And we don’t think we’d want it any other way.

Minecraft Mod Fees Scrapped by RAGE!

May 23rd, 2011

Minecraft creator Notch recently generated more hatred than the Alderaanian-emigrants “What we think of the Death Star.” club by daring to care about money and quality control. Which is a bit of a problem, as indie developers need to make money and quality products. His release of paid mod development tools was met with more concentrated screeching and whining than fifteen dentists drills in one mouth, and was even more painful – forcing him to scrap the small fee within 30 minutes of the announcement.

Such supremely fast response is a benefit of small, smart and involved independent developers, so it’s a pity he has to waste caring about customers on such stupid complaints. Complaints stupider and more overprivileged than Donald Trump complaining he can’t find a helicopter to match his hair (though since all helicopters are artificial, it should be easy.) There’s a real danger that this problem could drive Notch to hate the gaming public, and when a company hates their public they start doing things like banning private servers and selling alternate costumes for real money.

Minecraft mod tools could be the most powerful addition to any game since the Doom marine was first issued with ammunition – it could make it awesomely fun or destroy things. We’ve discussed before how adding new items to Minecraft could create the first multiplayer game to directly rival civilization itself – not the game Civilization, but the actual human society – but that depends on them not sucking.

It needs to not suck. And with random internet strangers making the mods, you’d have a better chance of finding things that don’t suck in a Dyson showroom. Notch’s idea was that maybe restricting the ability to corrupt his masterwork to people prepared to make the smallest, tiniest bit of effort might be a good idea. He was wrong – it was definitely a good idea, which is why thousands of people with nothing better to do than sit at their computers and hate their favorite developer the second he showed his face.

The majority of the haters disqualified themselves by swearing, cursing, or writing on the official Minecraft forums with their official Minecraft account about how much they hate the guy behind Minecraft (while their signature begs you to visit their Minecraft server.) It’s the same thing you see everywhere online, but to read it in action feels like some kind of species-wide intelligence test. One we’re failing. Badly.

Checking through the most vocal complainer’s post history reveals their number one hobby to be complaining about how lazy Notch is. Which is exactly the sort of support you should show when the developer already has your money but continues to update the game for free anyway.

The also interpreted the statement that any submitted mods could be included in future updates to mean that the evil Notch was going to steal everyone’s ideas instead of doing any work (because, you know, the guy who wrote a multimillion-selling game, where you can construct an entire world, in his own time isn’t a big one for effort). As opposed to absolutely basic legal protection so that the company wouldn’t end up utterly unable to program whole classes of objects like gems or electricity just because some idiot twelve year old started a mod with that subject six months earlier and couldn’t be bothered to finish it.

The result? Free mod development for all, which means we can look forward to a set of mods as small and high quality as the internet’s collection of Harry Potter fan fiction. It also puts paid to Notch’s vision of a future TF2-type store, full of quality items, replacing it with an infinite sea of “CHECK OUT MY COOL RETRO NO-TEXTURE BLOCKS!” where finding a quality mod takes longer than programming it yourself. After learning to program.

But don’t worry. We’ll find them for you!

3 Ridiculously Fun Counter-Strike Maps

April 11th, 2011

Counter-Strike is the most popular PC shooter in existence, not just despite but because it hasn’t had a sequel. While Call of Duty was devalued by yearly iterations released when the developers checked the calendar, instead of when they had better ideas, Counter-Strike hasn’t been hooked up to the franchise milking machine and still shoots people for fun. Instead of for outrage and free publicity in a Moscow airport. This lack of financial pressure and mercenary executives means that CS servers enjoy a flood of free upgrades. Not expansions, not “DLC” or other for parts of the original game which were hacked off and sold separately, but fun free extras offered by people simply because they love it so much.

This means they’re not just free to download, they’re free to play with ridiculous modes even EA would feel embarrassed to ask money for, and those guys sold the part of their brain responsible for shame years ago. Behold three Counter-Strike maps stupider and funner than the Marx brothers with assault rifles, and much longer lasting.

Glass Fortress

Glass fortress is the most ridiculous fun possible in a videogame level because bouncy-castles filled with robots just don’t translate into binary. Two teams  start in a multi-story death arena of breakable glass and boxes, making it the first game ever where other people are the least fun things to shoot.

glass breaker
It’s like Dig Dug with a glock

It looks like someone programmed automatic weaponry into a Minecraft server. Genius idea: someone should program automatic weaponry into a Minecraft server. It’s a lunatic catastrophe of a level, the perfect antidote to uber-serious professional play and it somehow reverses both game design and real-world common sense by turning chaos, design flaws and broken glass into the funnest things you can share with friends. Some players complain that bots can’t handle it, but come on – if you’re playing this level with bots you’re not “playing” at all. And don’t know what the word “playing” means. There’s also the obvious tactic of shooting your way down to the concrete ground floor at the start and taking out new arrivals as they drop through, but “winning” this level through “tactics” is like winning a bar table quiz by taking an accountancy exam instead.

Water Polo

In the craziest bit of evolution since the duck-billed platypus, armies of people playing on CS servers led to knife-fight modes, where people sacrificed their AWPs, deagles, and the other guns that seem to be in the game for some reason for the chance to run around with knives. This tactic-free hilarity spawned a team of soccer-stadiums, and that plus lunatic hilarity put something less likely than Jack Thompson on a CS server – water polo.

polo score

The least probable way to kill 12 people ever seen

Players can stab each other or knock the ball through the net, killing the entire enemy team and winning the round. There’s also a complete stadium around the pool for no other reason than it’s fun, and it’s in this spectator area that Lolobubu creates more random joy than finding a winning lottery ticket in a free box of chocolates. First, he gives you the greatest present any gaming man can give another:

red button
A great big red button to push!

This moves a diving board out over the pool, and walking along it boosts you into a higher dive than Superman jumping from the Moon.

weeee

You’re boosting so far that the pool seems to blue-shift, and the fact you’re not moving near light speed, but simply so far that the graphics engine has to change its mind about how to deal with you, is hilarious. And the fact you got that far without being stabbed means it’s a greater height-based achievement than climbing Everest.

Skystone Knife Fight

ka_skystone provides the ultimate in motivation by bringing an XM1014 shotgun to a knife fight. A knife fight two miles up on a grid of disintegrating stones, and possibly the most frantic stabbing environment in (temporary) existence. Every round is the ultimate in frat-boy chest-bumping, as everyone hops into the center in a lunatic race for what we’ll laughingly call “survival.”

preciou
I must have it! (As preciouses go, this blows the hell out of any wimpy rings.)

With stepping stones disintegrating after every use, the entire map disintegrating after two minutes, and a single gun with effectively infinite ammunition this is an adrenaline shot in the middle of an evening-long CS session. Add it to your server rotation, set the maptime to four minutes at most, and bask in more temporary violent madness than an elevator ride with the Joker.

Top 5 Weapons We’d Love To See In Counter-Strike

March 21st, 2011

Counter-Strike’s weapons have been set in stone for almost a decade. You’d meet with less rage and hatred if you tried to alter the Mona Lisa, despite how this armory is less balanced and more lethal than an atomic warhead perched on a slingshot. There’s the AWP, the deagle, and a pile of other rubbish to show you can’t afford either of those yet.

Rock Paper Scissors EXTREME!

Rock Paper Scissors EXTREME!

That’s why we’re looking at other weapons we’d love to see on a CS server.  The key is that these aren’t the most lethal weapons possible. Those would make the game less fun, Doom’s BFG requires less skill than appearing on a reality show, and if you really wanted to kill everyone ever you’d just need to bolt an AWP to a sentry gun.

Effective, but boring

Effective, but boring

These are fun guns! And that’s a brilliant sentence! As long as you’re talking about video games!

5. Grappling Hook

Rope beats Attack Helicopter, rather counter-intuitively

Rope beats Attack Helicopter, rather counter-intuitively

Just Cause 2 taught us that every game should have a grappling hook, and that it’s fun to fight your enemy on an island-sized gas station. A grappling hook would revolutionize Counter-Strike strategies as experienced players rediscovered the best paths through their favorite maps (assuming their hard-wired reflexes don’t short-circuit at shock of taking a different route through cs_italy.)

Beat this, Spider-Asshole!

Great responsibility my Spider-Asshole!

Of course there’d be a bit of tuning to remove exploits, but there already are exploits in CS. And being shot in the head by grappling hooker still saves you the indignity of dying to a “bunny hop.”

4. The Fluorescent Decoy

An ancient idea saved for single-player by sensible programmers, but recently resurrected by Halo 3, the decoy hologram has always annoyed multiplayers. It’s always either obviously fake, and therefore useless, or not, in which case it’s incredibly annoying because there’s no way to use skill to tell. But they could do great things on CS servers: add decoy holograms which run and register as real characters but have incredibly obvious signs that they’re fake. Make them wireframes, or glow bright red, or carry huge signs saying “I’m fake and anyone shooting at me is using an aimbot.

hologram

Anyone shooting the obvious fake is instantly booted from the server – think of it as an online anti-cheat Corbomite maneuver. This would only catch the most obvious cheats (where the computer does all the firing, as opposed to other scumbags who use systems where the computer aims but the person shoots), but anything which boots even a single scumbag cheat is worth it.

3. Eyelander

THIS, as the man says, IS A KNIFE!

THIS, like the man said, IS A KNIFE!

In a game with guns that can kill you from clear across the map, the knife isn’t just badass – it’s heroic. Being brave enough to bring a knife to a gun-fight, Italian style, already gives you a speed boost on CS servers. But kills should give you even more! The Eyelander’s speed and health boost are a perfect model. Getting knife kills should make you a better person, or at least give you a cash bonus, because you are a better person than the guy whose spine you just stabbed.

Or at least, you are now. What with him being humiliatedly dead and all.

2. Holy Bolter

The deagle is the most lethal thing you can hold in one hand without being Galactus. It’s the king of all pistols.  If you’re going to have an instant-killing gun anyway (assuming you can headshot) it may as well look the part. Which is why we want this incredible Holy Bolter model from Crysis imported across.

real bolter

The best bit? That gun’s user is gigantic genetically-engineered power-armored warrrior, a warrior from beyond the stars, and true to the spirit of deagle he can still be dropped in one headshot.

Helmets are for wimps.  Or survivors.  Whatever you call those pansies!

Helmets are for wimps.  Or survivors.  Whatever you call those pansies!

1. Split Portal Gun

Of course people want the Portal gun in everything, because it’s the most incredible weapon every made (and it’s already appeared in Half Life 2 for people who want to shoot their enemies through tears in reality), but we don’t want the full model.  That would be the worst thing to happen to a CS server outside of AI hostages. Instead, split it into two of the one-sided portal launchers from early in the game, and give them to different team members – just as the bomb is assigned to one player each round. This forces team-work, and a well co-ordinated team can pull off incredible approaches and surprise attacks, while beginners would die even quicker than before. The special forces call doorways “coffins” for a reason, and if your strategy is creating a glowing target circle then running straight through it then you’ve just reversed the meaning of “strategy.”

With the new routes through de_dust (a priceless joy and the automatic VIP aspect of how the portal-wielders become higher-value targets than TF2 medics who are also the heads of a foreign governments, it would be a whole new game.

The best bit? It’s bound to happen. It’s incredibly obvious that Half Life Episode 3 will feature the portal gun and more, and then it’ll be mere moments before someone unlocks it all for a Counter-Strike Source server.

Counter-Strike Kicks Ass In 5 Other Games!

February 28th, 2011

Counter-Strike started off as a mod made by a bunch of players in their spare time and it’s become the most popular shooter in history. It’s an “underdog did good” story of Hollywood, except the disadvantaged kid who believes in himself never grows up to kill ten thousand terrorists a minute, even if he’s Rambo. Advanced Counter-Strikers know their maps more intimately than their own genitals (and have more fun with them). This dedication to the pinnacle of first-person-shooting is so intense, some people play Counter-Strike even when they’re playing things that aren’t counter-strike. Behold, five insertions of anti-terrorist gameplay into other games.

1. Black Ops Counter-Strike “Mod”

Call of Duty Black Ops: one of the biggest shooters of the year and some people are already bored with it. Possibly because of Treyarch’s idiotic exclusivity deal where they’re holding “private” servers hostage. This is a brand-new definition of “private” which apparently means “You can only rent them off the company we tell you to.” They’re so mercenary in this monopoly that you have to pay extra for teamspeak, and an attitude like that is worse for gaming than a power cut. That’s why advanced players are coming up with their own voluntary, player-side mods – like Counter-Strike for Black Ops.

With voluntary “No knife, no prone, no sights except sniper” rules, players recreate classic CS gameplay with far superior graphics. And until you’ve seen people crouch-strafing with an assault rifle with the very latest in video-card lighting, you haven’t seen anything.

2. GTA: CS

In a fever dream of great gaming confusion, behold: Grand Theft Auto’s CJ running around our favorite maps with a machine gun.

It’s an amazing mod, and we especially love how they’ve cushioned the shock of seeing de_dust2 in heretical third-person with that chillaxed shirt and shorts combination. Though no amount of holiday clothing could convince us to play Counter-Strike with the drunken paralysis-simulator GTA calls an aiming system.

3. DOOM!

The greatest grandaddy of all shooters is always welcome, especially when it’s remixed with the most successful offspring any shooting game could hope for.

Some demented pixel artist updated GZDoom (already an outpost of retro-love) with all the weapons the modern counter-terrorist could need – although he does betray a lack of understanding by starting off with the shotgun. Which no CSer would even consider. The dropped weapons show the love lavished on the imported hardware, because blocky as they are the level of details forces the guns to be bigger than the corpses they came from. Particularly enjoyable additions are the programming of grenades, and the way the pixelated AWP is an insta-kill one-hit-murder machine. Just like in the real thing!

4. The Quake III Killer

This video clip isn’t so much gaming as “CSI: Counter-Strike”

We’ve got nothing but a few seconds of grainy video, four corpses (but they were Quake server corpses so they disappeared shortly after), and the knowledge that whoever this mysterious killer is we wouldn’t want to be on his bad side.

5. Left 4 Dust

The mysterious “Masterofsomthn” lives up to his name, as long as you extend it to “something BRILLIANT!”

He demonstrates the glory of the source engine, especially how NAV files make it possible for infected to sprint around de_train in pursuit of survivors. And if you thought dust couldn’t get any better, it’s because you didn’t dare to dream you’d be able to use Left 4 Dead 2‘s chainsaw mutation there. UNTIL NOW!

5 Skin Packs To Decorate Your Minecraft Addiction

February 14th, 2011

Minecraft is the ultimate triumph of gameplay over graphics (despite having 3D the the Doom crowd would have killed real people for fifteen years ago). Its success is not despite but because it’s got more in common with Lego than modern games: great big clunky squares but you can build whatever you like with them. When you’re able to construct a vast skull fortress, then set it on fire, you don’t really need a narrative beyond “The Story Of Because I Wanted To.

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The first First Person Builder

But because developer ‘Notch’ is a real gamer despite having a made-up name and earning millions of dollars, which should technically make him a corporation who treats all open-sourcers as evil communist pirates. The latest version of Minecraft allows you to easily install your own graphics packs, and if you’re going to spend approximately far, far longer than you meant to in that pixelated world of addiction we thought we’d find the prettiest packs for you. Because time saved searching the internet is more time to find some bloody obsidian.

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The packs instantly update the menu graphics, which is brilliant.

The Painterly Pack

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The most popular yet basic, customizable yet true to the original material. That’s a double-contradiction and the result of unimaginable hours of sheer love: there are diamond wedding anniversaries resulting from less care and effort than the Painterly Pack. It’s an all-round upgrade to the basic graphics without any point of its own to make, other than “Notch is really busy building upgrades to our favorite game so we thought we’d improve the graphics for him.

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The second option: You’ve got to love people who understand their players

Quandary

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Quandary keeps faith with the original even more than Painterly, gorgeously – and considerately – adding a seasonal progression to the virtual world. Because if you’re going to spend such a stupidly long time in this embodiment of addiction you might as well see the seasons passing. Or if you can view this as a true labor of love, because the real proof that you care is when you do things the other person will never know or appreciate. Like coding a complete seasons for the trees in a game where people spend all their time underground!

quandary june

Retribution Games also provide the excellent Texture Rotator, a must-have for anyone upgrading their MineGraphics. Instead of picking a pack, the script automatically cycles you through all the seasons and any other addons you have installed every time you play.

Cel pack

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I’m feeling Viewtiful, or is that Okami just me

The ultimate mockery of the “simplistic graphics” detractors, the Cel-Pack makes things more beautiful by showing less detail. Instead reality is rendered in a gorgeous cross between cartoon graphics and Mario-grade blockiness. The only thing blockier than that is Tetris.

TRON!

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The remake even agrees that liquid can exist here!

If you’re going to simplify the style, you might as well take it to the raddest extreme of the 80s (and a recent remake.) The TRON pack takes cel-shading to its minimalist maximum, by removing the shading. And the content of the cells. The result is astoundingly like what we thought the Matrix would be back when that was a term in sci-fi books, and if they’d had it before 1995 would probably have had an entire movie to itself.

It’s the glory of style over substance, with the numbers to prove it. The entire TRON pack is less than a megabyte – many modern games spend more than that on blood-spatter dynamics without achieving one ounce of this mod’s tons of soul. And yes, we know souls are insubstantial. That’s how much soul these graphics have!

Mixcraft HD

For those who think 16×16 graphics blocks are an insult to modern gamers, behold: HIGH DEFINITION32 x 32!

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Behold, the future of retro!

Mixcraft doubles the resolution of everything in your world. And if you want more than that, ask yourself: in those modern games with realistic lighting and detailed textures, have you ever created something instead of destroying for no other reward than the fact you could?