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The Sarge

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - ELEAGUE Boston Major 12-28 Jan

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Impressions

A few back reports surfaced on the internet that Valve was inviting top CSS players and select community leaders to their headquarters. The purpose of the meeting was completely unknown to everyone and speculation ran wild but we knew something important was brewing. Yesterday, August 11th, we all found out why we were here.

The “small” list of invited people included UK, German, Slovakian, and French CSS pro players, representatives from ESL, Zblock, and myself from ESEA (about 20 in total). Valve graciously flew us all out to Seattle for this "secret meeting" but the purpose was entirely unknown and so everyone's imagination were running wild. In fact, one international attendee who was asked for his visit's purpose into the US didn't even know what to tell a US Customs Agent... he's lucky he didn't get shipped right back home!

With anxiety levels high, we met Valve for lunch where we broke into three tables, mixed with Valve and Hidden Path, a third party developer, and guests. Everyone made small chit chat for a while until one of the German players finally abruptly asked, "so why are we here? CS2?" Each of us at our table got a little quiet and all eyes turned to Jess Cliff, one of the original Counter-Strike creators, who I was lucky enough to end up at a table with. Looking a little confused that we didn't already know, and without hesitation, he explained Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (sorry for my early misreport yesterday!) or what they called CS GO. We politely peppered the development team with questions throughout lunch and they very matter of factly opened up about the game and let us know we were here to play test the game.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is Valve's new version of Counter-Strike. Valve was quick to make clear that this wasn't "CS2" (or whatever that even really means) but rather a a multi-platform team based FPS similar to its predecessors, Counter-Strike 1.6, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, and Counter-Strike: Source. It is designed on the updated Source Engine, but is not built off of Counter-Strike: Source and due out in early 2012 with beta access beginning this fall. It will maintain the traditional de_ and cs_ map types and would not include new game modes. Valve was keen on hearing the input from top CSS players to make CS GO an e-sports title and that is reflected by the game featuring both casual and competitive game modes with a built in match making system and support for dedicated servers.

After lunch, we walked over to the Valve office and the anxiety from the walk to the restaurant was now uber excitement. I've been to BlizzCons, QuakeCons, E3s, PAX events, and had all sorts of industry meetings, but I have to admit that I was totally geeked out for this. I've been playing Counter-Strike since 1999 and remained a loyal Valve groupie since their acquisition of CS in 2000. I might not log the in-game hours that I once did but this was going to be really cool and for me was a dream come true...

We walked through their office to a small lounge area where they formally welcomed us, explained the game is pre-beta and that they wanted our honest feedback, and quickly released us into two game testing rooms, each with ten PCs. We loaded up the developer version of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and we were off...

Perhaps poetically, the first map we jumped into was de_dust, a map remains a sacred cow and the face of classic Counter-Strike and that at lunch Jess warned us was overhauled to become competitively played. My first impression was "WOW". I was surprised at how visually polished the game was. The maps look beautiful, the player skins and animations are smooth, and the gun models are cool! We got to play dust, dust2, inferno, and nuke with confirmation that other CS classic maps such as train and likely some new ones will be included in the release. Visually, the game looked a lot further along than pre-beta. Any new version of CS is going to have to look aesthetically beautiful for e-sports fans and spectators.

We've all seen and played pretty looking games before, but hands down and unanimously, everyone was most interested in the movement, weapon handling, and game play. It didn't feel like 1.6 and despite being built on the Source engine, it didn't feel like CSS. By design, Valve wanted to create a game with a different feel, and overall it was really smooth. The pro players seemed surprisingly happy with the player player movement and feel of the game but thankfully they weren't short of feedback and most weren't shy to share it. Tweaks and adjustments are needed, but in my opinion, it was a great sign that it didn't grossly offend anyone. Player movement is arguably one of the most important elements of any FPS game and I applaud Valve for the decision to create a new feel that both 1.6 and CSS players can hopefully each enjoy.

The weapons were one of the areas that in the group's opinions still needs the most work. Valve wanted to create a more balanced weapon system that would expand beyond the main four weapons (AWP, M4, AK, and Deagle). They wanted shotguns and sub machine guns to have situational value and so they really took some "creative liberties". They wanted sub machine guns to be good mid-distance alternatives and for shotguns to provide a unique close range use. The AK and M4 rifles felt weak and inaccurate while sub machines like the P90 were overpowered and soon became the weapon of choice during some casual pugs. Many pro players voiced concerns about the spray control and recoil patters, feeling that it was too easy and simple, and unanimously felt that the first three bullets of the M4 and AK in particular were too inaccurate, which took out the art and skill of "tapping". In the pro players' points of view, headshots were difficult to score and came at a premium - another area that needs tweaking. The developers eagerly listened to feedback, prying for explanations and more information to improve. They informed us that the game is built to have adjustable weapon variables and made it seem that everything the group was pointing out could presumably be tweaked based on our feedback before launch and even before beta. I think it was put best when some pros suggested that instead of tweaking the M4 and AK to make the other guns more balanced, they instead should remain untouched from 1.6 / CSS and the other weapons should instead be tweaked to provide purpose.

While old guns are being tweaked and re-evaluated, a few new weapons were added, including a new heavy machine gun rifle, new pistols, and a new shotgun, but I think the biggest addition was with the equipment. They added molotov cocktails, an expensive $850 item, which can be used to slow down opponents and re-route opponents through AOE damage. Moltov cocktails could be used to slow down T rushes through the tunnels into B on Dust2 or by Ts to slow CTs on retakes. Moltovs are currently stackable and bounce (versus an instant break), which might need to be revisited. Decoy grenades are also a new item that can be thrown to emit gun sounds and give the illusion of there being a player. The decoy grenade currently produced an AK / Glock when thrown by Ts and M4 / USP when thrown by CTs. It was suggested by players that decoys should instead produce gun sounds of a weapon held by your team, which was a well received suggestion. While decoy grenades realistically won't fool any real player, I can see them potentially being used to make opponents hesitate for a quick second and at times provide the extra split second needed to secure better positioning.

When we first head of the moltov cocktail and decoy grenades, everyone's minds immediately rushed to Valve's failed attempt at incorporating the riot shield but I think if done correctly this provides an interesting twist. If done right I think each item has the potential to be change the way traditional competitive CS maps are played. They can change the dynamic of rushes, bombsite holds, and area retakes. IF done right, they can provide a new tool for strategies and breathe new life into classic maps.

Flashes were effective and smokes laid down a thick layer of cover that is useful. I think players were generally happy with how each were implemented. HE grenades currently are way too overpowered as one well placed grenade can take down a player with full health and armor. We had a few rushes thwarted by one HE taking out two or three of us in one fell swoop. Something that needs to be tweaked... Other changes include CS GO experimenting with automatically equipping a random member of the CT team with a defuse kit at the beginning of each round. Valve wanted to try and make the defuse kit a special item like the T’s bomb, but the group was quick to explain how in competitive game play multiple CTs buy kits each round so that at a minimum, there is one kit per bombsite. Another easy fix if they take our advice. Valve also was experimenting with including fresh Kevlar as the standard player load out at the beginning of each round, removing the need to decide between buying Kevlar with or without a helmet (in fact, like the kit, it was removed from the buy menu all together). This initially seemed really interesting as it could help balance ECO rounds, but upon group discussion it became apparent that if everyone always has full armor, then it in a way becomes obsolete.

Giving everyone full Kevlar each round also impacts a key strategical element that is so often the unsung art of Counter-Strike: the money system. Without needing to purchase Kevlar, Valve tweaked the price of some guns (most notably the AK, which is now more expensive) and money rewards. The money system is the second area that we felt needed the most work, and I think ultimately should be the last area revisited once we understand how useful different weapons are and what is done with kits and Kevlar. When the pros began talking about the money system, it quickly started to feel like CS Money System 101 and eventually 200 level lectures. They educated the developers on how the money system is used and how if not carefully crafted can be exploited. I am sure the developers knew that the money system is an important element of CS, but I don’t think they (or even most competitive players) understand how supremely important it is. The money system in Counter-Strike is what separates it from every other FPS and was beautifully perfected thanks to years of community feedback and a now famous article a few years ago. The money system is an easy tweak that Valve will need to listen closely to the competitive gamers for guidance on and it will likely be a long exercise in trial and error through beta depending on how quickly the other areas get finalized.

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I can go on for hours with in-depth analysis and more details, but it is important to remember that our first hands on experience with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is pre-beta. I have my fair share of concerns about how what apparently seems to be a console game built on the Source engine will port over to the PC. Is this a "half game" that serves a greater strategic purpose for the development of the Steam platform? By their own words, CS GO is a new game not meant to replace 1.6 or Source. Is this simply a political statement to help fend off unrealistic expectations?

None the less, it is very encouraging to see Valve tapping the community for feedback and is a step I’ve never seen them take before. For CS GO to have a chance as an e-sports title, the weapon system is going to need the most work, but remember that this is pre-beta game play. Valve still has plenty of time to get it perfected, and most importantly they seem to be building CS GO on a platform that allows for this to be "easily" done (says the guy not doing it and little understanding of the game's architecture!). If they can get the player movement, weapon handling, and game play tweaked right for the PC then CS GO has a real shot.

There were about six developers floating around between the gaming rooms, each eager to hear our every thought and jotted down notes, comments, and feedback. They seem to have a genuine and sincere interest in making a game ready for prime time e-sports, but to get there they will need to implement a lot of what we discussed during our first few hours with the game and continue an open dialogue with the competitive gaming community through open beta.

It would be great if CS GO can be a rallying point to usher the Counter-Strike franchise back to the global e-sports stage that has recently seen games like StarCraft 2 and League of Legends take all the limelight. Although the Quake franchise pioneered North American e-sports, Counter-Strike ushered it to a new level, and I remain hopefully optimistic that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will most importantly be a great game that players will want to play and can bring together rather than divide the already fragmented CS community.

In sports we measure greatness by championship rings and trophies and Valve has a track record of producing blockbuster hit after block buster hit. Like the Yankees, Packers, Celtics, and Canadians, Valve has the hardware to back it up and gives them the benefit of the doubt for whatever they end up doing with CS GO.


Next Gen Console, PC, and Mac Release Targeted for Early 2012

Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Team Fortress) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO).

Targeted for release via Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and Steam (for PC and Mac) in early 2012, CS: GO will expand upon the team-based action gameplay that it pioneered when it was launched exactly 12 years ago (CS beta 1, August 1999).

CS: GO features new maps, characters, and weapons and delivers updated versions of the classic CS content (de_dust, etc.). In addition, CS: GO will introduce new gameplay modes, matchmaking, leader boards, and more.

“Counter-Strike took the gaming industry by surprise when the unlikely MOD became the most played online PC action game in the world almost immediately after its release in August 1999,” said Doug Lombardi at Valve. “For the past 12 years, it has continued to be one of the most-played games in the world, headline competitive gaming tournaments and selling over 25 million units worldwide across the franchise. CS: GO promises to expand on CS’ award-winning gameplay and deliver it to gamers on the PC as well as the next gen consoles and the Mac.”

CS: GO is being developed by Valve in cooperation with Seattle-based Hidden Path Entertainment. The title is targeted for release in early 2012 and will be playable at this year’s PAX Prime and London Games Festival.

For more information, please visit the CS: GO Steam page


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Interesting to see how it fares on a console, this really is the epitome of twitch shooting. If it's in anyway gimped or changed to suit the control pad then it'll be dead before release, The one shot to the head and dead and being able to kill an entire team of enemies by being calm and controlling your fire. Seeing how spraying was the viable way that players went so far in the game worries me somewhat, but to be fair hearing pretty much a consensus that it wasn't the way that CS has been is reassuring. Personally I have no qualms with it being as hardcore as it's always been because that's why I play. It punishes (and I mean 0-infinty deaths) new players, but once you understand and can play half decent nothing comes anywhere close.

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If it's in anyway gimped or changed to suit the control pad then it'll be dead before release, The one shot to the head and dead and being able to kill an entire team of enemies by being calm and controlling your fire.

The first three shots being all over the place make it sound like they might have tried to move away from that. Or it could just be something they haven't tightened up yet. But yeah that's the key, it needs to be punishingly difficult to new players in order to be so absolutely fucking rewarding and addictive once it clicks for them.

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God I loved 1.5/1.6. I've never been able to put my finger on why I didn't like CSS though.......it felt like there was a layer of something between you and the game which isn't there in the gold source version. Or some bollocks

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The first three shots being all over the place make it sound like they might have tried to move away from that. Or it could just be something they haven't tightened up yet. But yeah that's the key, it needs to be punishingly difficult to new players in order to be so absolutely fucking rewarding and addictive once it clicks for them.

And it was also commented on by the players, most are saying the gunplay needs work. If valve want it to be an "eSport" as they seemingly want it to be then yes it'll be just like Starcraft 2 is and playing as a new player gets you violated.

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I never could get into CS as much as I wanted to, but always interested in something new from Valve, maybe this time around it will grab me, tempted to give CSS a go this weekend as well.

I assume this will get similar support as Valve's current multiplayer games on the PC, so I wonder how that will work on the consoles, Xbox especially.

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I assume this will get similar support as Valve's current multiplayer games on the PC, so I wonder how that will work on the consoles, Xbox especially.

The only game Valve really did that for was TF2, it's not something they do for every game. Also CS players are averse to change, so they'd hate updates ;)

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The only game Valve really did that for was TF2, it's not something they do for every game. Also CS players are averse to change, so they'd hate updates ;)

When the changes are "Dynamic Weapon Pricing", then yes change can fuck right off.

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When the changes are "Dynamic Weapon Pricing", then yes change can fuck right off.

Dynamic weapon pricing was a good idea, albeit with a flawed implementation. The majority of weapons in CS being unused remains a huge unaddressed problem with the design of the game.

The CS player base hate change, even when it means fixing design problems. They just want CS 1.6 with improved graphics.

This is partially due to a treacle slow development cycle for many years and a highly entrenched userbase. I bet the existing userbase will find a reason to whine about GO.

I'm not sure they should bring back the riot shield, though.

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Although I love CS & CS: Source, I'm a console gamer most of the time and really enjoyed the original Xbox version of CS.

If they can get the game to control well on a pad and keep the frame rate up, this could steal my time away from Battlefield 3 & Modern Warfare 3.

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Although I love CS & CS: Source, I'm a console gamer most of the time and really enjoyed the original Xbox version of CS.

It's all about the reflexes though, man. CS on a pad would be a bitch to control.

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http://www.eseanews.com/index.php?s=news&d=comments&id=9969

Marek ".PhP" Kadek is one of the players in seattle. This is what he wrote on Playzone.cz :

- this game is not going to replace CS 1.6, or CS:S, it is primary made for consoles, PC version is just kind of a "bonus"

- at the moment, the game looks more like HL2DM

- There is no recoil and there will never be. (because of the consoles)

- the game runs on L4D2 engine

- SourceTV is NOT a priority

- they are working on match making system

- new money system

- no kevlar (this should be fixed in the future)

- maps are simplyfied for XBOX style, less ways, most fights are close range

- Hidden Path (Valve only finances the game) is trying to make all weapons balanced.

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