Are you on it? Have you shot many men? Does it still feel like Counter-Strike? The starting gun has gone off, head-shotting a terrorist twenty metres away and signalling the launch of the Global Offensive closed beta. COUNTER-TERRORISTS WIN.
There's a video of the closed beta above, from Evil Avatar. It looks like Counter-Strike, it sounds like Counter-Strike, but does it taste like Counter-Strike? We won't know until we've jumped in and licked the sand on Dust. Valve have said that they'll gradually send out new beta invites until the closed beta is essentially an open beta, so don't worry if you're not in this round of testing.
Details are slowly emerging on Counter-Strike Global Offensive’s closed beta, which is due to start on 30 November. You'll need a key to join in, and it will initially consist of two maps: the ever-popular Dust, and, er, Dust2. “Can't wait to see people getting to play the changes in Dust,” said csgo_dev’s Twitter feed.
It’s very much a closed beta, though. To be in with a chance of playing you’ll need to have grabbed a key from PAX Prime or the Eurogamer Expo. There are likely to be beta key giveaways on certain popular gaming sites in the near future, too.
Don’t panic if you haven’t got a key. This initial closed beta is merely to nip any problems in the bud, and the testing period “will start small and grow until eventually everyone is in,” according to the Twitter feed. The Counter-Strike Global Offensive team are very open to feedback, too. “Everything. Everything is open to change in the beta,” they said.
This preview originally appeared in PC Gamer UK issue 233.
Since shortly after its first beta release back in 1999, this tactical, team-based Half-Life mod has dominated the competitive firstperson shooter scene, while countless hours of community yelling have made it a tight, balanced experience. A brief foray onto consoles in 2003 failed to expand the audience away from its PC home, so why are Valve attempting to create what they’re calling the ‘definitive’ version of a game that people like just fine as it is?
“We had been looking to create an XBLA version of Counter-Strike: Source as a sort of nostalgia thing,” explains Chet Faliszek, whose role on the game is loosely defined as ‘writer’. “But pretty quickly we began to realise how much we liked the game and it grew to something bigger.”
The team have decided to make some changes to the tried and tested formula. Classic maps such as Dust have been tweaked and, while other stalwarts such as Inferno and Nuke will return, they’re joined by new maps designed specifically for the Arsenal modes. The new modes are based on the popular Counter-Strike: Source mod Gun Game, in which players start with a pistol and earn a new weapon with each consecutive kill. Many of these new environments are said to be inspired by other titles in the Valve canon, though they’re holding back specifics.
The graphics have also undergone an overhaul, though they could hardly be described as beautiful so much as robustly functional. Eight new weapons have been added too. These pack tactical characteristics, as well as additional firepower. For example, the Molotov cocktail is intended as much for blocking off areas of the map as causing damage to enemies. Meanwhile, the Zeus is a oneuse, Taser-style weapon that costs an eyewatering $1,000 of your load-out bank.
Playing it though, it’s very much the Counter-Strike you’ll be familiar with, and Faliszek is keen to emphasise that the experience hasn’t been compromised through its shared appearance on consoles. “This is absolutely a PC experience,” he says. “One of the rules we had is that it’s going to be Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike. There is no auto-aim; it’s absolutely a game of skill. PC players will still be able to mod the game, host dedicated servers and all of the things that have made Counter-Strike such an enduring experience.”
Indeed, Valve looked carefully at what the community were doing in Counter- Strike and borrowed traits, including shorter round times and even entire match modes. Counter-Strike has always grown up in public, shaped by the rallying calls of the people who love it the most. While Valve are claiming CS:GO will be the definitive version, it’s still the community that will decide its future.
The Global Offensive closed beta was to kick off with 10,000 participants this month, but CVG report that Valve have pushed it back a while after criticism from the pro players they have testing the game.
"They gave us a lot of feedback on things we should get in the game before we release it, otherwise we're going to be getting a lot of bug reports or a lot of feedback and it would just be redundant," said Valve's Chet Faliszeck.
"The closed beta will gradually expand to include more and more players, until "by the end of it, everyone will be playing the game. It will be the released game that you're playing and then at some point we'll say, 'OK we're going to officially release it.'"
"We have no mandate from anybody of when we have to ship this. So we're more than happy to just keep working on this until it's ready to ship."
That means we probably shouldn't expect the full release any time soon, but there are already pro competitions popping up. Check out one hour of professional battling from the Intel Extreme Masters.
Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gave a fascinating insight into the pricing experiments Valve have been running with Steam at the WTIA TechNW panel in Seattle recently, revealing that Team Fortress 2's shift to free to play quintupled its player base.
During the course of the seven minute aside, covered on Geekwire, Newell also revealed that the conversion rate of the number of free players who go on to buy something is "20 to 30 percent" for Team Fortress 2, much higher than the 2-3% conversion rate seen by other free-to-play games.
Newell said that he thinks the announcement of Team Fortress 2 as a "free-to-play" game, and not just outright "free" was part of TF2's successful shift of payment model, perhaps underestimating the power of the raw, uncontrollable human drive to acquire and hoard sweet new hats.
"Why is free and free to play so different? Well then you have to start thinking about how value creation actually occurs, and what it is that people are valuing, and what the statement that something is free to play implies about the future value of the experience that they’re going to have," Newell said, suggesting that the implication that a free-to-play Team Fortress 2 would exist as a continuing service was a key motivation for new players.
It's likely that Valve's reputation for providing free updates and ongoing support was even more of a factor than the "free-to-play" label, but Newell admits that Valve are generally stumped by their observations. As an example, Newell commented on the remarkable but confusing success that Valve saw early on with Steam sales, saying "we do a 75 percent price reduction, our Counter-Strike experience tells us that our gross revenue would remain constant. Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40.
"Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40, Which is completely not predicted by our previous experience with silent price variation."
"We don’t understand what’s going on," he added. "All we know is we’re going to keep running these experiments to try and understand better what it is that our customers are telling us."
Team Fortress 2 players are currently gearing up for the incoming Halloween Update, which among other things, is sure to add new hats.
Pro gamers and invited guests will make it onto the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive closed beta early in October. Valve's Chet Faliszeck told The Reticule that they're planning to grow the beta in the coming months, and he hopes everyone will have a chance to play by the end of the year.
Counter-Strike pros have already had a chance to go hands on with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when they were invited to Valve HQ for testing earlier this year. A Counter-Strike: Global Offensive hands-on account from one of those testers uncovered new weapons like the molotov cocktail, and a tweaked and updated version of the Counter-Strike classic, de_dust.
The first Counter-Strike: Global Offensive trailer revealed more, including support for cross platform play with Mac and Playstation 3 gamers, and officially supported servers that will offer improved matchmaking and a ranking system.
Most recently, Valve announced that they have been working with the modders who created the original Gun Game mod, and will bring it to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with new modes and eight new maps.
Valve are incorporating the immensely popular Gun Game mod as official modes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Arsenal: Arms Race and Arsenal: Demolition are the two new modes. They'll be playable across eight new maps created with help from the creators of the original mod.
Gun Game replaces Counter-Strike's cash-for-guns system with a kills-for-guns system. Everyone starts with a pistol and gets a new weapon for every kill. Those unfamiliar with Counter-Strike might recognise a very similar mode appearing in Call of Duty: Black Ops, but the original CS mod was the real deal, and it will get official backing when CS:GO is released early next year.
Valve have sent over nine new screenshots, showing some lovely jungle areas. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive doesn't seem to be pushing the Source engine especially hard, but it's a significant step up from Counter-Strike: Source.
The best Counter-Strike 1.6, StarCraft 2 and League of Legends players will clash in New York next month, hoping to win a share of the enormous $93,000 prize pot up for grabs at the Intel Extreme Masters Global Challenge event. It all kicks off on Thursday October 13 and runs through until the finals on Sunday October 16. The best teams will also win the chance to participate in the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in Hanover, Germany next year.
Counter-Strike 1.6 players will be competing for the largest sum. The best team will take home $16,000. Top prizes of $12,000 will be awarded to the victorious League of Legends team, and the winning StarCraft 2 player stands to win $6,500. The rest of the prize pool will be divvied out among the runners up. For coverage of the qualifiers, and more information on Global Challenge New York, head over to the Intel Extreme Masters page.
The prize pools for each IEM competition seem to keep growing and growing as esports become more popular, and more exciting to watch. Many of the matches should hopefully be broadcast through ESL TV's standard streaming service, with paid upgrades available if you want higher quality video.
As rumor confirmations go, this one's pretty quick. Valve just issued a press release announcing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a standalone release that seems to be a full update of Counter-Strike: Source with new weapons, maps, matchmaking, leaderboards, and more. No screenshots have been released, but from Valve's language, it seems like more of an "anniversary edition" of CS:S that dresses up the existing content than a full-on sequel. CS:GO will also be released on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. Read the full press release within.
Update—Craig Levine, co-founder of the ESEA, has posted a lengthy write-up based on hands-on time with CS:GO. Within: weapon balancing changes, decoy grenades, a new heavy MG, molotovs, and holy hell they made the AK more expensive. Read it. (Thanks to Slasher for the link.)
VALVE ANNOUNCES COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE (CS: GO)
Next Gen Console, PC, and Mac Release Targeted for Early 2012
August 13, 2011 - 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 Lombard, VP of Marketing 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 http://store.steampowered.com/app/1800/
We have contacted Valve to comment on potential hat functionality. In all seriousness, we should've seen this coming--Hidden Path helped Valve update CS:S a year ago with achievements and a few other bells. But that patch was so modest; it seemed like an experiment that would precede something bigger.
That CS:GO will be multiplatform is interesting, if only because it's a surprise that it took Valve this long to bring CS:S to consoles.
In the middle of a thread on the Steam forums speculating about the possibility of a new Counter-Strike game, Valve employee Cliffe dropped two lone words "Global Offensive." Elsewhere, CVG report that anti-cheat providers ESEA post on their Facebook page with another simple message "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive... More info in the morning." Just below the post there's an image of ESEA man Craig Levine turning the gigantic valve in the lobby of Valve's headquarters in Seattle.
Finally, ESL Pro manager Bastian Vieser tweeted saying "Just spend all day playing the new Counterstrike Global Offensive #CSGO at the #Valve HQ ! God I love my job."
These strong hints appear in the midst of a sea of rumours suggesting that Valve have been flying out top Counter-Strike community members out to their HQ over the course of the past month.
Cadred's Richard Lewis spilled the beans on the trips, saying "Valve have approached several top players from across Europe, as well as J3di from the Zblock team, and have invited them to a meeting in their Seattle offices to discuss the future of the game."
In addition to this, Lambda report that senior level designer at Valve, Iikka Keränen has been answering questions from the community during an event on the TF2Maps server. One player asked Iikka if he is currently creating maps for Team Fortress 2. According to transcripts on the TF2maps forum, he responded to say that he's currently "working on some counter-strike stuff." When asked if there was anything new coming to Counter-Strike: Source, he said "can’t really comment right now."
Elsewhere, Cadred were stonewalled by returning pro player, Marek Kadek. When asked if he'd heard anything about the invites, or been invited himself, he simply returned "no comment."
There's no indications as to whether Global Offensive is a brand new entry in the Counter-Strike series, an add-on to Counter-Strike: Source or even a console version of the classic FPS. If the ESEA Facebook post is correct, we'll know more very soon.