The Internet is often a place for things that don't belong on it. Things like a 56-page internal manual written for the people that work at the most private gaming company in the world.
Yep, you can read that now. What appears to be Valve's 2012 Employee Handbook has crept onto the web, and it's just as insightful to read as that incredible blog by Michael Abrash from last week.
It's a rare, detailed self-description of the company that includes mantras like "We are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers," policies like "Nobody has ever been fired at Valve for making a mistake. It wouldn't make sense for us to operate that way," and expressions of Valve's independence that include "Fortunately, we don’t have to make growth decisions based on any external pressures—only our own business goals."
Click inside to see the handbook.
The document is also filled with custom illustrations. And at least one Half-Life 3 logo. Sections of special interest include the entries: "What is Valve not good at?" (p. 52) "How does Valve decide what to work on?" (p. 13) "But what if we ALL screw up?" (p. 23)
The handbook (PDF) was originally found here. A bottom-page watermark claims "handbook courtesy Valve." Well, duh. I've uploaded a copy to our server that you can read here.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive beta keeps getting bigger. The latest patch has added a new Arms Race mode playable on Shoots and Baggage. In Arms Race, every player starts with the same weapon, and gains a new one with every kill. The first player to get a kill with the final weapon, the knife, wins the round. Dead players respawn immediately and the round time is extended to give players time to murder their way through CS:GO's arsenal.
The patch adds a few new weapons, too, including the Scar 20, an auto-sniper for Counter-Terrorists, the G3SG1, an automatic sniper rifle for Terrorists, and the Zeus x27, a one shot insta-kill taser available to both teams in casual mode.
If you're looking for something less wild, the classic Aztec has been added to the map rotations. Here are the patch notes in full from the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive site.
Added Arms Race maps – Shoots and Baggage Added Aztec to Classic maps
Arsenal Arms Race game mode is a single extended round with instant respawn. All players start with the same weapon and get a new one each time they kill an enemy. The progression of unlocked weapons ends with the knife. The first player to get a kill with every weapon wins the match. Added ‘Find A Game’ to the Play options menu screen. Find A Game allows you to join an online game of a specific type. This update offers Arsenal Arms Race and Classic Competitive game modes. The map cycle groups include:
Classic Maps Arms Race Maps
Added new weapons:
Scar 20 – CT only auto-sniper. G3SG1 – Terrorist only auto-sniper. Zeus x27 – Casual Mode only weapon available to both teams.
Adjustments have been made to increase the base accuracy of all weapons.
Jump and land penalties have been decreased, and the rate of stamina gain has been increased.
Bot difficulty has been tuned.
HE grenade damage has been adjusted per pro feedback.
Added two new player skins:
Phoenix Faction GIGN
Death notice order reversed. Updated Italy mini map image.
Fixed a bug in the keyboard + mouse options screen where changes were resetting. Fixed the consecutive loss bonus persisting through halftime. Solves the problem of teams receiving extra cash early in the second round of the match. Fixed end match scoreboard saying it was a tie in Arsenal Mode. Fixed a bug where penetrating shots were doing full damage after the penetration. Fixed a bug where the desired distance required to defuse the bomb wasn’t being used. Fix for the HUD alert panel coming up incorrectly. Fixed for bots not being able to defuse bomb. Fix for bug in Demolition mode where players would start the first round of the second half stuck in level geometry. Fix for radio message font appearing quite large at higher resolutions.
Maps: - Added Arms Race maps Shoots and Baggage - Added Aztec to Classic maps
Gameplay: - Arsenal Arms Race game mode is a single extended round with instant respawn. All players start with the same weapon and get a new one each time they kill an enemy. The progression of unlocked weapons ends with the knife. The first player to get a kill with every weapon wins the match.
- Added Find A Game to the Play options menu screen. Find A Game allows you to join an online game of a specific type. This update offers Arsenal Arms Race and Classic Competitive game modes. The map cycle groups include: -- Classic Maps -- Arms Race Maps
- Added new weapons: -- Scar 20 CT only auto-sniper. -- G3SG1 Terrorist only auto-sniper. -- Zeus x27 Casual Mode only weapon available to both teams.
- Adjustments have been made to increase the base accuracy of all weapons. - Jump and land penalties have been decreased, and the rate of stamina gain has been increased. - Bot difficulty has been tuned. - HE grenade damage has been adjusted per pro feedback.
Models - Added two new player skins: -- Phoenix Faction -- GIGN
UI - Death notice order reversed. - Updated Italy mini map image.
Bug Fixes - Fixed a bug in the keyboard + mouse options screen where changes were resetting. - Fixed the consecutive loss bonus persisting through halftime. Solves the problem of teams receiving extra cash early in the second round of the match. - Fixed end match scoreboard saying it was a tie in Arsenal Mode. - Fixed a bug where penetrating shots were doing full damage after the penetration. - Fixed a bug where the desired distance required to defuse the bomb wasnt being used. - Fix for the HUD alert panel coming up incorrectly. - Fixed for bots not being able to defuse bomb. - Fix for bug in Demolition mode where players would start the first round of the second half stuck in level geometry. - Fix for radio message font appearing quite large at higher resolutions.
Valve, who continues to expand the beta for CS:GO before a release this summer, has been vocal about its cooperation with the eSports community. But Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen believes that message hasn’t been backed up by game design that’s conducive to a competitive game. In a thread on the official forums, Kovanen calls CS:GO “terrible” and “not by any means fun.” He adds: “That's what every top player thinks as far as I can tell.”
These aren’t the complaints of a forum wildman, they’re from someone who formerly led Evil Geniuses’ CS team, and who's earned $340,000 in (team) prize money playing CS since 2005. Why does Kovanen feel this way? I spoke with him to get more perspective on what he describes as a “handicapped” game.
In our interview, Kovanen, a CS 1.6 player, pointed to map changes, bad visibility, player movement, and recoil as aspects of design that he believes undermine CS:GO’s chances at being a good competitive game.
“I played CS:GO for three hours a night, four nights in a row for the CES Plantronics thing. And on day four I still couldn’t tell who was a CT or a T. So I just shot everyone at first to find out if they’re a teammate or an enemy,” Kovanen says of CS:GO’s “desaturated” lighting. “It feels almost black and white. It's really hard to see player models from textures or random objects in the map.”
See some of the differences between 1.6, CS:S, and CS:GO in the video above.
Changes to map geometry and layout are another sour point for Kovanen. “De_train is the worst with two towers, the bomb train in the middle of outside, oversized trains, ladders on the sides of trains, most of trains removed in the inner site, et cetera. De_nuke has a lot of its best parts removed without backstairs to lower and back bombsite and short hall in lower. It all feels like they just really want to handicap the game by making it easier.” From Valve’s perspective, these map changes are probably in place to shake up tactics that’ve held up for more than a decade and accommodate new items and new game balance. Kovanen later added: “The game even has casual and competitive modes, I don’t understand why they cant make them vastly different if necessary, sort of like a built-in ProMod.”
Kovanen is also unhappy about weapon recoil. “Right now it feels like the recoil is just too strong,” he says. “It’s really hard to control (if even possible) and it feels like you could never spray at a spot, turn 90 degrees and still be accurate at another guy. You're basically stuck one-bulleting people or going for mindless sprays which might result in two people emptying their clips at one another with both people surviving. The bullet tracers are also really annoying and I don’t understand why they’re even in the game, It seems like another effect to make it more console-like; it’s just something more that will get in the way of seeing things clearly.”
Other figures in CS’ competitive community have been outspoken about CS:GO’s current weapon feedback. Former pro and now-caster Jimmy Whisenhunt believes that screen movement is the issue, not recoil.
I asked Kovanen what aspect of CS:GO he’d like to see changed most. “Player movement. Not only does that play a giant role in the game being fun, it adds a lot of skill to it as well. One of the things that makes CS:GO so frustrating to play is that the movement feels sluggish and slow and you don’t feel in perfect control of your character."
But Kovanen, who played on Team Europe in Valve’s first big CS:GO showmatch late last year, says all this criticism stems from wanting the game to succeed. “I believe in eSports. And if there are a lot of people who enjoy the game like I have enjoyed CS 1.6 over the years, good for them. I’m sure there were people who disliked 1.6, yet it has played a big part in how the last seven years of my life, so I’d hope other people get to experience something similar in their lives. I hope it will be successful, but with the way the game currently is and how I believe it will end up without listening to us, I don’t think it can be successful. I wouldn't be surprised if it got picked up for one or two years at most, and then FPS games got dropped out as a whole because of lack of CS:GO popularity. The ironic thing is all the pros would wanna help to try to make it a decent game because they all know there would be more money, more tournaments, and so on if it was a good game and everyone switched.”
Valve continues to make changes to CS:GO leading up to the game's summer release. Will you watch CS:GO competitive play? How well do you think the game will do as an eSport?
Valve have updated Counter-Strike Global Offensive with a new map and mode. They also added 10,000 new players to the beta.
Arsenal Mode removes the traditional Counter-Strike purchasing options and replaces them with a mechanic that might help ease new players in. Anyone who gets a kill will have their weapon downgraded for the next round, effectively nerfing them a bit. After five rounds, the teams switch sides. A bespoke map has been introduced for the new mode too: de_Lake funnels the action into a multi-story house next to a picturesque lake.
The offensive team are still tasked with arming a bomb, and the defence defusing it. Alternatively, you can kill everyone on the other team as by shooting them in the head. That happens a lot.
Arsenal Mode is influenced by classic Counter-Strike mod "Gun Game" where players are rewarded with more deadly weapons as they get kills, effectively making the skilled more powerful. That's also due to be patched in, only it'll be called Arsenal: Arms Race. I fear it.
How are you getting on with Arsenal Mode? Does it result in more competitive Counter-Strike: GO matches or do you get as many kills/killings as usual? Let us know in the comments. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is currently in closed beta, follow Valve's instructions to be in with the chance of an invite.
New - Enabled Arsenal Mode: Demolition ( Gungame-objective ). - Set quickmatch to Arsenal Demolition, de_lake.
Graphics - Replaced Source shadow engine. - Added support for Intel integrated graphics chipsets. - Added FXAA.
Sound - Radically reduced dsp on 3rd person footsteps to address directionality problems. - Remixed ladder footsteps to prevent players thinking someone was right next to them when they weren't. - Decreased weapon shot volumes relative to footsteps. This should cause one to increase their volume locally to the level they are used to playing, thereby loudening footsteps in the mix. - Reduced number of dynamic audio channels, thereby increasing the number of static ones. This is to counter the overrunning of static audio channels and dropping sounds. - Updated win round music. - Remixed deathcam music. - Added round start and team auto select countdown beeps. - Adjusted soundscapes on most maps.
Game - Edited existing knife hit wall/world to be more universal for all surfaces. Added three more variations. - Lowered AK47 position to match m4. - Fixed crouch/jump-crouch seeing through the ceiling. - Casual mode limit changed from 30 minutes to 10 rounds. - Fixed exagerated neck hitbox that made headshots much easier. - Refined most hitboxes to better match player geometry. - Fixed one-way smoke grenades.
UI - Implemented achievement medals. - Dynamically resizing the pause menu panels to match the number of options present. Fixing the back button on the subpanel to swap to a button hint string for console/controller. - Fixed renaming of files when pressing F5 for death cam. - Fixed overlap between Health/Armor panel and spectator panel. - Adding playing joing messages and playing as bot message to mini scoreboard - Adding hud alerts panel for telling you match state - Changed art and animation for alert, achievement, info and defuse panels. - Added icon for defusing without a defuse kit to defuse panel. - Updated some weapon images. - Added element to the team miniscoreboard that displays when you're currently controlling a bot as well as what team you are playing on every time you spawn. - Added alerts for last round of first half, last round of match, and match-point. - Fixed some defuse panel data. - Added CT defusing state to player ID.
General - Fixed bug where spectating player's view would pop back up when observed player was in full duck. - Fixed miscellaneous map bugs. - Remove capping mouse accel values (caused negative in-game effects) - Reducing the latency between bomb defuse thinks, which causes the defuse HUD to feel laggy and allows a non-fixed duration of time where you can let go of the defuse button and still be counted as defusing as long as you press defuse again before the next c4 think.
As reported on Eurogamer, Valve's DOTA 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive will both support the Razer Hydra, a motion control device which uses magnetic motion sensing to track its two controllers in space.
The Hydra costs £125/$139.99 and already works with over 250 Steam games. Hydra users also got access to six exclusive Portal 2 levels when the device got released last year.
Counter-Strike though, really? I can barely get a headshot when playing with an lazer mouse and four-ply mouse mat - attempting it with a waggle wand in 3D space all sounds a bit much. Still, I've not actually used the Hydra, I just fear change. And the chap in the following videos appears to get on just fine. Click through to watch a man explaining the Hydra's FPS controls, and playing a bit of Skyrim with the space-age apparatus.
The best StarCraft 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike 1.6 players are duking it out in Hanover this week for massive cash prizes at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship. We're on day two, but we're still in the group stages, so there's still plenty of competition left.
The whole event is being livestreamed, and you can watch them for free on the ESL World site. Counter-Strike and League of Legends teams are competing for a $50,000 first prize, while StarCraft 2 individuals are fighting for a top prize of $35,000. Not a bad week in the office for those who claim the top spot on Saturday.