We have an odd relationship with gambling in the UK. You'd be hard-pressed to find a high street or city centre that doesn't have at least a couple of bookmakers' shops mixed into it, offering bets on everything from horse racing and football to whether or not Kate Winslet will cry if she wins an Oscar (yes that was a real thing). But how does esports fit in?
On 5th August, five expert Dota 2 players sat down to play against a team of bots created by non-profit research lab OpenAI. They lost decisively. Just a few days from now that same team of bots, perhaps with the benefit of a few more weeks of training, will appear on stage at the biggest tournament in Dota 2 - The International - and play against a team of the world's best professional players. Winning there that would be a huge victory, a milestone for both AI and the games industry, and after seeing the bots' performance earlier this month it seems like the most likely outcome. You might be forgiven for feeling like this was the end of an era for game AI as we know it.
Well, that was Amazon Prime Day 2018. The summer sales festivities are now over - if you managed to grab some bargains, good on you - but if not, fear not - Black Friday 2018 is just around the corner, like it or not. We've already got our guide to the best Black Friday gaming deals up and running, ready to update with all the latest deals and discounts as and when they arrive, so be sure to bookmark that one.
Five months ago, Gabe Newell, perhaps the most beloved video game developer on the planet, called James "2GD" Harding an ass on Reddit.
The best item in Dota 2 is the Force Staff.
Last week our Dota 2 noob superteam took on actual humans for the first time. They got taken apart like a bad sandwich, and vowed to get their revenge. Here's what happened next.
The employee handbook that hit the internet earlier this year pulled the curtain back on Valve, suggesting staff float about the company's Seattle offices working at desks made of gold and sitting on chairs made of clouds.
Welcome back! When we left off, our Dota 2 noob superteam was about to have its first game against real humans.
This started in a pub. Of course it did. I remember agreeing to something about Dota 2 between a fourth and fifth pint of foamy lager.
Tom's already offered you a rundown of this year's Actual New Games - the ones that are offering, in their own ways, something unique - and now here's the slightly less glamorous look at the other side of the coin.
They're big business, these blockbuster sequels, and for all that we lament the lack of innovation it's these big-budget series that inevitably garner the most attention and inspire the most devotion from the majority. That's nothing to be scorned - iteration's an important thing in games development and indeed the development of games - and a composite of evolved features designed to fulfil a particular desire, be that the needs of a sports fan or those wanting a fresh shooter fix, can be just as important to the progression of the medium as the advent of a new game mechanic or control concept.
Sequels take many forms and capture our attention for many reasons. Some build their features up year by year, like FIFA and Call of Duty, and will continue to be brilliant when we encounter them later in 2012. Others build on the storytelling or world-building of games a few years past, like Gearbox's brilliant-looking Borderlands 2 or the sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Shepard's tale in Mass Effect 3. And some are interesting because of their circumstances - Halo 4, for example, is another big-budget sequel on the near horizon, and with a new and as-yet unproven developer filling Bungie's big boots, we're just interested in that out of morbid curiosity as devotion to the series.
I must be going soft, or I must be getting old. Perhaps both. Maybe I've become pulpy and aged, like an over-ripe fruit that's due for the bin, because the Dota 2 beta is punishing me.
It may well be that I've spent far too long amongst the warm comforts of its accommodating and enormously successful peer League of Legends, with that game's gentle tutorials, helpful replays and precisely-tuned player matchmaking. Side by side, a game of LoL now seems like a finely-honed fencing match where opponents parry and riposte, while Dota 2 is an unforgiving broadsword duel in which one false move spells disfigurement or even death.
What's more, while opposing LoL players may give knowing winks as they feint and strike, more than a few Dota 2 players practically spit in each other's faces. Like the original Dota, Valve's Source Engine update has no sense of sympathy. That's not what you play it for. Nor is it what you expect from the remake of a game whose beginner's guide is simply titled "Welcome to Dota. You suck." Highlights include a section on "DISGUSTINGLY COMMON NOOB ITEM MISTAKES," you disgusting new person, you.
Gabe Newell sits proudly inside Valve's Gamescom booth knowing his company's latest game, Dota 2, has a fantastic chance of being a huge hit. Outside, hundreds are watching it being played live in a tournament with a huge $1 million grand prize. Online, thousands are poring over every detail. Things are going well.
"Being honest, I don't know how DOTA got as big as it did, given how hard it is to sit down and play it with your friends," says Erik Johnson, the man charged by Valve boss Gabe Newell with the task of heading up the Dota 2 project.