The CS:GO beta is evolving. A post on the official Counter-Strike site yesterday announced the addition of more players to official maps. The update is one of the "most requested map features", according to the devs, and arrives as part of a larger update that rebalances a bunch of weapons based on feedback and data gathered from the community. Burst fire has been smoothened out, bullet tracers are more visible and, most importantly, chickens have been "added to inferno", which is a monstrous patch note if ever there was one. Here's the full changelist, as it appears on Steam.
Updated weapons based on performance metrics: Slightly increased the damage for the fiveseven to keep it on par with other pistols. Lowered the max width of the recoil patterns for the MG's to make them better for their price point. Lowered the spread on the Negev to be more in line with the m249. Improvements have been made to burst fire and tapping. Added player spawns to all maps to support up to 30 players. Player spawns are now randomly selected from a prioritized list of spawn locations in order to better support more players per map. Adjusted bot behavior to fix the “antline” looking behavior. Added support for server operators to specify tick rate with the –tickrate parameter. Physics simulation tick rate now set to be the same as the game tick interval. Bullet tracers have had improvements made to speed, visual effect, and frequency. Chickens added to Inferno
The Server Browser sorts Favorites and Lan tabs by ping rather than Tags. The radar will no longer display an ‘X’ for dying players when they are not within sight of the player or player’s teammate. Weapons with a burst mode will now show which state the gun is in on the ammo panel. Input device is now locked to whatever device launched the game session. Updated the Kevlar and Kevlar + Helmet buy menu images. Updated the Domination icons.
Footsteps update position more often by shifting position determination to client side entity tracking. Tuned ambient sounds in most maps
Fixed a bug with individual pistol round-based achievements. They can only be earned in Classic game mode now. Fix for changing video settings while in game sometimes causing a deadlock. Added a popup message triggered when a player attempts to initiate a vote on a server with voting disable. Fixed bug where player's nav area would be reported as being on the floor below them causing the radar location to be displayed incorrectly. Fixed several UI related crash issues. Third party map and _SE map names no longer display in the scoreboard with the #SFUI_MAP_ localization token.
Dota 2 is doing rather too well for a game that hasn't been released. According to Steam stats, it's the second most played game on Steam right now, ahead of Counter-Strike: Source, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim and lots of other games that have actually been released. Dota 2 is currently in an ever-expanding beta that's been running since late last year.
Back in September, Dota 2 dev IceFrog posted on the Dota 2 site to say that Valve had decided to speed up work on Dota 2 after the success of The International tournament. The original beta plan had been to keep the game in beta for a year to get the roster up to size. Given how well the beta seems to be doing that might not be such a bad plan after all.
Here's a graph built using Steam Graphs showing Steam player stats over the last few days. At peak times in the US Counter-Strike: Source and the king of Steam, Counter-Strike 1.6, retain the upper hand. Dota 2 overtakes both during those downtime hours, which suggests a strong, growing international community.
Fans on Dota 2 Reddit have spotted a blog post by Chinese esports team DK E-Sports which suggests they're among the first to be invited to the Dota 2 International 2 Seattle Invitational tourney, which is exciting. Valve have said that the sequel to last year's very successful Gamescom competition will have a prize pool of at least $1.6 million. We'll hopefully get to watch it using Dota 2's lovely spectator tools.
Are you playing Dota 2? What do you think of the beta so far?
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.
A new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and CS: Source tournament is offering players a shot at a slice of a £10,000 prize pool - with no entry fee.
It's called GameShadow Battles, it'll be run online, and it's being put together GameShadow, Fasthosts, and epic.LAN. The tournament will launch on the 14th of May, and give 128 5-man teams a shot at a £5,000 grand prize. Runners-up can take home between £750 and £2750, and there are other prizes on offer for teams that reach the top of weekly scoreboards.
It's good to see a tournament of this size taking shape in the UK. We've got a good history of LAN parties, but the big prizes have typically been given away in the USA or continental Europe.
You can register your interest on the GameShadow Battles website. Are you going to give it a shot, readers? We're thinking about it - we're not the greatest CS:S or CoD players, but as demonstrated in February's showmatch, our Tribes: Ascend is strong*.
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.
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?
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.
CS:GO should be with us come summer, according to Valve, giving us a bit of time to train our mouse hand muscles and hone our twitch headshot skills before inevitably suffering repetitive death at the hands of seasoned CS 1.6 pros on release. Those pros can't touch console bros, though. Valve's Chet Faliszeck yesterday told Joystiq cross-platform play is gone from CS:GO. Awww.
There's a good reason, though. "The beta has proved we want to update not just the beta, but the game itself post-launch frequently on the PC," Faliszeck told Joystiq, "To do that we need to separate the platforms so one doesn't hamstring the other. So for that, we have removed the idea of cross-platform play -- essentially make all platforms stronger by not mixing them."
Seems fair. It'll mean more updates for us PC players, most likely. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is currently in beta. You can complete a Steam survey for a chance to claim a spot ahead of release. Meanwhile, let me introduce you to some new CS:GO screenshots. I'm sure you'll get on like a house on fire.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team just published a blog update detailing how future sets of beta keys for the game will be sent out. Key recipients will be selected from a pool of people that've completed a survey. The survey is a simple template intended to judge your CS savviness, combined with an automated peek at your hardware. Copy this into a Windows Explorer address bar to open Steam and start the survey: steam://takesurvey/2/
Being absolutely honest about your skill, as I have above, is probably in your interest. "Over the coming months we will make selections from the survey participants. Sometimes we might add experienced players, other times new players. Sometimes 1.6 players, sometimes CSS players, sometimes people who have played neither."
"If you don’t fill it out, you won’t be getting a key," reads the post. Of course, Valve also states that active, current CS:GO players can expect to receive keys to gift to their friends through Steam.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive beta has sprung into action after a quiet couple of months. Last week the CS:GO website updated with the announcement of the addition of "more maps, more weapons, and most importantly more players." A massive patch added three new maps, Inferno, Train and Nuke and the weapon selection has been expanded with the addition of the Nova shotgun, Bizon and MP7 SMGs.
7,000 beta invites were also set out last week, with another 2000 planned for today. Valve say that they're sending out invites to active Counter-Strike community members, and are running contests on big CS sites like Gamebanana. "We will also have a survey up in the coming weeks that can help you get your name on the list for a key," they say.
The new Counter-Strike blog also mentions Valve's plans to balance the game based on feedback from top CS pros. Their main focus at the moment is on weapon recoil, which is essential to the feel of Counter-Strike's finely balanced guns.
"Recoil is tricky. It isn’t just math. It’s also about feel and one of the defining parts of Counter-Strike," say Valve in the latest blog post. "A few weeks back we had pro player Salvatore “Volcano” Garozzo by our offices and one of his biggest pieces of feedback he gave us was about recoil. It was still too hard to control."
Valve have adjusted weapon recoil twice in the last week, bringing it down and then asking players for their opinions each time. "During this Beta, community feedback is really important to us," they explain. "Counter-Strike has been around for 12 years and has been played by over 25 million players. We want to make sure to capture all of that experience and knowledge as we make Counter-Strike: Global Offensive the best version of Counter-Strike."