Aug 24, 2012
I’ve determined that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is from another dimension. It’s a game that doesn’t need to exist. PC gamers (thousands of them, according to SteamGraph) are perfectly served by Counter-Strike: Source and CS 1.6, content with the decade-something of tuning and attention those games have received.
But here’s GO: full of doppelganger Desert Eagles and de_dust déjà vu, quantum-leaping from some parallel timeline whose game industry briefly intersected with ours. Playing it is like running into a college crush at the supermarket. You immediately notice differences. Oh, you’re married? Your hair looks different. But that experience of reconnecting is pleasant—they’re mostly still the person you admired during geology.
In other words, GO’s familiarity helps and hurts. Minor deviations from the CS you might’ve known or loved are easy to identify. The MP5 is now the MP7, but it lacks the same clicky report and underdoggy “this is all I can afford, please don’t kill me” personality. The TMP is replaced by the MP9. Ragdoll physics don’t persist after death, curiously. You can’t attach a suppressor to the M4 for some reason.
I’m not particularly bothered by this stuff; I don’t need the MP5 reproduced precisely as it existed in 2004 or 2000 to live a fulfilling life. What does bug me are some small but significant changes to firing feedback. When you shoot someone in GO, they don’t wince. There’s a sneeze of blood, and audio that conveys that you’re hitting them if you’re within a certain range. But they don't do this, and I don’t understand the decision to omit a flinch animation on character models.
Especially at long range, it takes a little more effort and squinting than it should to tell if I’m hitting someone or not. And counterintuitively, bullet tracers, new in this version of CS, are an unreliable source of feedback. They seem to trail the path of your actual bullet by a few microseconds. With rifles and SMGs, my eyes would wander away from my enemy and crosshairs--what I should be watching--and try to interpret where my bullets were falling based on the slightly-delayed, streaky particle effects. The small upside to tracers is that they mitigate camping a bit.
The changes made to existing maps are clever and careful, though. Cracked glass is more opaque, making it modestly more difficult to go on a sniping rampage in areas like cs_office’s main hall. Adding a stairway to the bottom of de_dust makes the route more viable for Terrorists while retaining that area’s purpose of a bottleneck; moving the B bombsite closer to the center of the map discourages CTs from hiding deep in their spawn point.
Considering these smart adjustments to classic maps, it’s puzzling that GO’s “new” mode and the new maps bundled with it are so gosh-darn mediocre. Half of GO’s 16 total maps are new, but they’re all locked to the Arms Race (a rebrand of the famous community-created mod GunGame) and Demolition (GunGame sans insta-respawn, plus bomb defusal) modes.
After 50 hours logged, I’ve stopped playing these modes completely. In the shadow of Valve’s talent for mode design (Scavenge in Left 4 Dead 2, Payload in Team Fortress 2), Arms Race and Demolition are safe, unimaginative, and most of us have played their predecessor. I would’ve loved to see VIP scenarios revisited. It presents a ton of design headaches (if your VIP isn’t good, everyone hates them forever), but it’s an experience that’s absent from modern FPSes.
But yeah, the new maps. Aesthetically, they’re likeable. de_bank mirrors the indulgence of fighting around Burger Town in Modern Warfare. de_lake and de_safehouse let you duel inside a multi-storied cottage and on its surrounding lawn. But tactically, they’re trivial compared to their parent maps. Most of them are compact (de_shorttrain is literally an amputated de_train) and designed to support instant-action, meat-grinder gameplay that reminds me more of Call of Duty.
What I’m lamenting, I guess, is that Valve and Hidden Path missed an opportunity to add a new classic map to the lineup--something that could’ve joined the legendary rotation of Office, Italy, Dust, Dust2, Aztec, Inferno, Nuke and Train. They could’ve tidied-up lesser-known but beloved community maps like cs_estate or cs_crackhouse. Instead, the eight we get feel more like paintball arenas--too fast, relatively fun, but frivolous. They lack the personality, purpose, or tactical complexity of their predecessors.
Even with these questionable adjustments and shrug-inspiring new maps, GO produces quintessential Counter-Strike moments. Being the spear-tip of a rush with a P90. Being the last person on your team and feeling the glare of your teammates as you try to win the round. The feeling of each kill you make increasing the safety of your teammates. Knife fighting for honor. Accidentally blinding your team with a misguided flashbang and getting everyone killed. Building a rivalry with an AWPer over the course of a match. All of that is preserved.
GO is a $15 ticket to reconnect with those sensations; it retains CS’ spirit as a competitive game driven by careful tactics, cooperation, and individual heroics alike. It's still a game about positioning, timing, and, say, thinking critically about how much footstep noise you're generating. GO preserves CS' purity in that regard--it remains one of the only modern shooters without unlockable content, ironsights, unlockables, or an emphasis on things like secondary firing modes.
Atop that, there are some touches that rejuvenate the game we’ve been playing for 12 years. The new scoreboard is terrific. There’s both a server browser and a party system, if you prefer that. There’s a slider for scaling the UI. New players can practice against bots offline. And although a few of the weapon models are unambitious (the Nova and sawed-off shotguns look like drug store toys; the AWP and the Scout resemble one another a little too closely), I love that there’s multiple sets of character models for both teams--cs_office and cs_italy’s Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists look and sound completely different.
I expect you’ll like most of the new weapons, too: the PP-Bizon is a cheap, 64-shot SMG. The MAG-7 shotgun is slow-firing (and slow-reloading, as it’s magazine-fed) but absolutely deadly. I like that heavy machine guns are no longer total novelties, and are viable in a few situations. The Molotov and incendiary grenade fold into Counter-Strike’s core concept (iterating on tactics between rounds) beautifully because they’re throwable walls of fire that can deaden the momentum of successful enemy tactics.
In summary: go, go, go. I’m hopeful that the competitive community will fill in the map and mode gaps left by Valve and Hidden Path. Zombie Mod is a good start.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive cinematic is just under four minutes long. It's easy to forget how much time goes into making these short teaser videos, so Valve have released a behind-the-scenes montage showing mo-cap actors performing military manoeuvres on a mat in a warehouse, a full orchestra recording the backing track and tiny details being tweaked in the Source Filmmaker. The video editing tools Valve released recently really are the same as the ones they use in-house. I can't wait to see some of the community entries for this year's Saxxy Awards.
And here's the finished product
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is out in just six hours, giving us the chance to jump into a buffed and polished rendition of a classic, which is nice. A beta patch arrived yesterday adding a zombie model that will be used in the Zombie mod, which will be playable with CS:GO later today. It also added a weapons course, which provides basic training in CS:GO's guns and gadgets.
The patch also cleans up the UI a bit and fixes a few bugs. Check out the patch notes and the cinematic trailer Valve released at Gamescom last week below.
• Added the Weapons Course to the game.
• Voice notification can now show more players talking.
• Updated the freeze panel to no longer show the heath for your killer in competitive mode.
• Added an option in the menu to disable the game instructor messages.
• Update to the player info panel to no longer show achievement alerts.
• Update to the leaderboard screen to default to “Friends” filter.
• Added the “Total Games Played” leaderboard category.
• Updated the Play With Friends screen:
-- Made the chat window bigger so text is no longer cut off.
-- Adjusted the size of dimming when the focus changes between friends list and lobby list. It used to obscure the friends list and a little of the chat. Now it only obscures the friends list.
• Updated the radio command panel so that the radio panel doesn't end up at the top of the screen during a mode that doesn't have a money panel.
• Set Classic Casual deadtalk to 0 to encourage fair play.
• Fixed the freeze panel dynamic positioning that would allow it to go too high.
• Fixed a missing text string displayed when player is not connected to Steam in leaderboards.
• Fixed a bug where the Mag7 could be bought by Ts via console commands.
• Fixed a bug where adding favorite server was not functional in the Community Server UI.
• Fixed a bug in the Play With Friends lobby where using left and right on keyboard or gamepad made the screen unresponsive.
• Fixed a bug in the Play With Friends lobby where typing in the Chat window would cause player names to flicker in the friends list.
• Fix for voice/chat/radio messages. Better unified the handling of voice and chat messages.
-- Chat messages now correctly use sv_allchat (instead of sv_alltalk), which should be more consistent with other source games.
-- Team-only communications now are not affected by sv_allchat/sv_alltalk, which means that private communications to one's team stay private, regardless of game mode.
-- Team-only communication is also not overridden by sv_full_alltalk, which allows teams to privately communicate strategy during warmup time and intermission.
-- Radio commands are considered team-only, so these should still be usable for tactics during games with sv_alltalk enabled (e.g. casual).
-- Spectators no longer hear team-only communications, except when sv_spec_hear is mode 2 (hear/see comms of the spectated teams).
• Increased the audible range of the c4 plant and disarm sounds.
• Fixed audio randomly chirping/screeching on certain levels.
• Tuned lobby distance computations when performing matchmaking.
• Exposed a convar ("mm_csgo_community_search_players_min") for community quick match to look for community servers having at least specified number of human players already playing.
• Shipped zombie model to support the Zombie Mod
Aug 20, 2012
On the eve of Valve hitting go on Counter-Strike: GO, I thought it'd be useful to revisit why the once-mod continues to have its hooks in so many of us. Just like true love or a really outstanding taco, explaining what makes Counter-Strike good can be inexplicably tough to put into words. Go on, try. "It's, uh...tense? The guns feel nice. ...Teamwork?" Told you.
Read on for some notes on why I think Counter-Strike continues to be a classic. We'll have a CS:GO review up later this week.
Prompts the player to iterate on tactics; creates context for winning streaks, losing streaks, ties, coming from behind to win.
Death is a time-out to reflect on the next round, creates oscillation between tension (being judged/spectated by teammates) and relief (watching/judging your teammates).
WEAPONS THAT "HAVE A MIND OF THEIR OWN"
Takes skill, time to understand + control weapon behavior.
High-fidelity hitboxes—where you aim matters fundamentally.
But alternately, firing recklessly (spraying) can produce lucky kills.
Uncertainty is fun (“Who’s going to win this shootout?”).
EXCELLENT MAP DESIGN
Fixed spawns; easy to orient yourself (complexity rarely goes beyond two or three routes), nameable landmarks (“double doors,” “bridge,” “back office,” “near spawn,” “at B”).
Constructive asymmetry; when sides swap, they also typically swap tactics sets/roles (cs_assault: Ts are well-protected defenders, CTs are sieging).
Map design carefully tuned to account for player movement speed—equidistant chokepoints. CTs + Ts arrive at chokepoints if they both leave the spawn area with knives out. (e.g.: On cs_office as CT, if I’m going to snipe, I have to sprint to the outdoor hallway to get eyes on main hall in order to give myself an opportunity to catch Ts moving from their spawn to garage).
CS' levels generally have a totally pristine appearance: they generally don't bear any evidence of combat until the round actually begins. This "blank slate" not only creates opportunities for the environment to convey valuable tactical information about what's happened (bullet holes, cracked windows, opened doors, broken grates, turned-over filing cabinets), but damaging the world itself can be inherently fun.
Players can buy weapons and equipment at the start of a round. This is a system that suits competitive play and builds a metagame throughout a match, and it makes the decision to not spend/be conservative a cost/benefit decision (typical second round choice: save up and hope to loot a rifle from a dead player, or spend now and be better-armed).
In most situations, snipers can be countered by smoke/flash grenade, flanking, synchronized teamwork, or planting the bomb.
In some situations, rushing can be countered with good positioning, waiting and listening, and/or long-range weapons.
Dead players form an instantaneous graveyard chat room/peanut gallery/sideline. This shared social space with opponents creates an opportunity for rivalries or other relationships to form between players (clan recruitment, heckling, complimenting).
Weapons have reputations or even stigmas; knifing or pistoling someone wielding an AWP might be seen as a David/Goliath scenario.
Zany maps (de_rats, Mario Kart), sprays, and server mods that offset the seriousness, create opportunities for pranking.
Sound spatialization algorithms are not something the average gamer thinks about. It's a Carmackian phrase; I can already see your eyes beginning to gloss over from reading it. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, however, is making a big deal about its intention to provide unparalleled control in sound by opening up more audio tweaking options than the standard, "How loud is the yelling compared to the shooting and the music?" They've even provided colorful charts and graphs to explain what this means.
You may be looking at that and still be asking, "But what does it mean?" The devs explain in their blog post that previous CS titles used a single surround sound preset, optimized for 5.1 speakers, and mixed it down to fit less snazzy audio set-ups. CS:GO, on the other hand, will have optimized presets for everything from stereo headphones all the way up to those big surround speaker rigs. Plus, you'll get settings to tweak things like virtual speaker placement (if you wanted to, say, have your "left" channel sound closer to true left instead of the default front-left.)
CS:GO is currently pre-purchasable on Steam for $13.49 on Steam. This post details the pre-order plans and the huge patch going live on the 14th.
The appearance of a little silver plaque on the front page of the Counter-Strike site indicates that we'll be able to pre-order CS:GO later today ahead of its release in a couple of weeks August 21. It'll cost just $15, too, which is a good price for a modernisation of the classic shooter, which will come with extra game modes, new weapons, more maps and shinier graphics. If you're looking to buy early, keep an eye on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Steam page.
A gentleman named Lambent Stew has put together a webpage that gathers some of your Steam data and arranges it like little quantitative ducks in a row. How nice.
There are a number of homemade utilities that reconstitute Steam information, like a Steam sales tracker, and a Steam account value calculator. What's unique to this one is it outputs some useful aggregate data, like total hours played, and what percentage of games you've bought you haven't opened, you jerk. Good lord, I haven't played 1,006 games. Tonight, Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, it's you and me.
Jun 13, 2012
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has received a plump post-E3 patch today. The unerringly accurate bots have been stupidified a little to make things a little easier, the UI has been reshuffled to make things clearer, disappearing props have been bolted down, holes in reality plastered over, grenade arcs tuned and "hostage pain reaction voice overs" adjusted. This patch is laying the groundwork for some bigger patches further down the line, according to the latest post on the Counter-Strike blog. "Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a major audio update, play with friends, new characters, and of course more beta keys."
The devs also say pre-order customers will be able to get into CS:GO "about a month before release" and confirm that there will be an open beta period for everyone to try "sometime between the pre-orders and release." At E3 Valve announced that CS:GO will be coming out on August 21 at the budget price of $15, which is nice. Here are the patch notes in full from Steam.
Bot difficulty has been adjusted. They should be a bit easier now.
Added support for overriding values in gamemodes.txt via gamemodes_server.txt - See csgo/gamemodes_server.txt.example for instructions on how to modify it and define your own map groups.
Added support for map sidecar files, which allow mappers to distribute map-specific gamemodes.txt variables in a separate file - See csgo/maps/de_dust_se.kv as an example.
Fixed mp_timelimit not working properly when mp_maxrounds was set to 0.
net_graph has several changes that will allow players to better see values they (or the server operator) have configured incorrectly.
The most important difference is that the game tick rate is now shown in the bottom left, which is where “sv:” (server fps) used to be. Server fps is not really a useful metric for players except when it is below the tick rate (indicating the server is overloaded). Server FPS above the tick rate is meaningless.
The cl_updaterate and cl_cmdrate rate are now labeled as “up:” and “cmd:”, respectively. There is now color coding added to some of the values to indicate out of band values. If cmdrate or updaterate are set above the tick rate (requires a server operator to override the sv_maxcmdrate and sv_maxupdaterate), these values are shown in red. For optimal play experience, these values should match the server tick rate, which is the default behavior unless a server operator has overridden convars.
Fixed formatting so that the right aligned values are correctly aligned and text doesn’t shift and jump as displayed values change.
A banner element has been added to the Match Scoreboard to better convey Win, Lose, and Draw match results.
Hint text has been added to the bottom of the Loading screen.
Updated the Armor icon next to the Armor meter to include the Helmet when purchased.
Updated the dominated/dominating/revenge icons for freeze panel, mini-scoreboard, and death notices.
Updates to the Arms Race UI:
Now when someone reaches the Gold Knife level, the HUD shows a message in the chat text, displays an alert, and plays a sound effect.
The scoreboard now displays the winner of the Arms Race match.
The Arms Race weapon progression HUD element in the lower right now properly displays the data for the person you are spectating.
In Casual and Competitive modes, the weapon inventory in the lower right of the HUD displays the spectated player’s information now.
Voting UI updates:
Fixed the panel going away right after you cast a vote or saw a vote be cast as a client.
The vote panel has been made smaller and positioned so it doesn't cover other UI elements.
After you cast a vote, the game no longer shows the text instructing you to press F1/F2 to vote.
The Vote to Surrender option has been removed. Voting to Restart serves the same purpose.
When an attempt to vote fails because it had already failed recently, the error message is now more descriptive about what's going on.
If a player casts a vote when another vote is already in progress, they get a message letting them know.
If there are no players or maps that can be voted on when you try to cast a vote, those categories are disabled in the UI.
The vote panel now animates.
Added the proper sounds to the voting events.
A fix was made to a vote you cast in a single player game automatically failing.
Fixed the map you are currently playing displaying in the vote UI as "undefined".
Updated the size, look and translucency of the vote panel.
Added the ability to change the next map in the map list which overrides the next map in the mapgroup.
Changed the text, "Restart the map?" to "Restart the match?"
Voting for the same map you are playing as the next map will extend it and just restart the map instead of loading.
Fixed voting panel displaying during the freeze cam screenshot.
Fixed votes for a certain category failing if they had failed previously but had a different subcategory (for example, a vote failed for kicking player A wouldn't let anyone vote to kick player B)
Added a slider to the options menus that allow user to see and edit the numeric value directly.
Removed the Random mapgroup choice from multiplayer Find a Game screen.
Various improvements have been made to the loading screen to improve the layout.
Changed the default bot difficulty option in the Offline with Bots screen to be "Easy" instead of "No Bots".
Fixed some vphysics console error spew by turning off collision on static props that don't have or don't need collision.
Moved some fill lights out a bit from the wall to reduce highlight intensity.
Fixed some prop fading glitches.
Adjusted the Buy Zone edges to make sure all of the spawn points are completely inside the zones now.
Set static props with no physics hull to non-solid.
Added clip brush to a crate at B that fixes an issue with the player getting stuck and dying.
Fixed the misaligned Humvee windows near CT spawn.
Adjusted the Buy Zone edges to make sure all of the spawn points are completely inside the zones now.
Fixed some red console spew with static props without physics.
Fixed a spawn point at T spawn that was intersecting a pillar.
Fixed a number of lighting issues.
Fixed an error message regarding the slide show projection.
Fixed hard to see into entry way from back porch on the T side.
The bush prop is now placed against the wall on the T side of the house.
Fixed a hole that went through to the skybox creating a bright blue spot under the CT side porch next to the stairs.
Removed certain phys props.
Fixed a number of bad fade distances for cover props.
Turned some phys props to static props.
Fixed some bad fades on overlays.
Fixed z-fighting in fence.
Moved the forklift and added clip brushes to prevent collision issues.
Added clips to the blue beams in lobby room.
Turned a number of phys props to static.
Deleted certain phys props.
Fixed a few bad fade distances.
Fix for the ding sound not playing consistently when a new weapon is earned in Arms Race.
Updated the bomb planting sounds.
Updated the helmet hit sounds.
Adjusted hostage pain reaction voice overs.
Some minor optimizations to the explosion effects that may help sorting a little bit.
A few more minor optimizations for the explosions.
Fixed a bug in initializing a dedicated server.
Fixed a bug with the ‘Expert Marksman’ achievement.
Fixed the ‘Primer’ achievement not awarding properly.
Adjusted the weapon achievements award criteria to more suitable kill counts.
Changed Game Mode based achievement restrictions. All achievements can now be earned in Arms Race game mode and Arms Race-specific achievements are restricted in other game modes.
Fixed ‘Cold War’ achievement only being awarded to the Terrorist team.
Fixed ‘Wild Gooseman’ Chase achievement.
Fixed incorrect description for ‘Street Fighter’ achievement.
Fixed ‘Dead Shepherd’ achievement not getting awarded.
Fix for spectating your killer by default after freezecam/deathcam – camera will now follow a controllable bot first if applicable.
Fixed 'Magic Bullet' achievement.
Felicitous Fun Fact Fixes
Fixed "A former player" shown occasionally.
Adjusted requirements for many fun facts so they no longer show when inappropriate (e.g. "most kills with 1 kills")
Tweaked parameters in order to provide more interesting funfacts.
Require team elimination for fun facts mentioning eliminating the enemy team.
Fixed a case where a bot damages a victim and then a player takes over that bot and kills the victim and the death message shows the bot controlling player as the assister and the killer.
Fix for the hitch just before the Gold Knife kill in Arms Race matches.
Removed the display of the crosshair when the C4 is equipped.
Fixed error in grenade throw angle calculation.
Fixed main menu medals disappearing after returning to menu from a game.
Fix for losing mouse cursor after joining a game with Community server browser.
Fixed crashes/errors related to more than 10 players.
Fixed a bug where the taser had no reticule.
Fixed a rare crash in the weapon selection UI.
Fixed some weapons in the UI not showing properly when you were the first player to join a server and it immediately restarted.
Fixed not being able to pick up the C4 if you have a grenade in your inventory.
Fix for the defuse kit icon displaying on the HUD of a T.
Fixed the Warmup panel showing ‘%s1’ at the start of a match.
Fixed medal ranks on the scoreboard not going away in a player slot when that bot or player has left the game.
Fixed the "next weapon" element showing if you were spectating at the end of a round in a non-Arms Race match.
Valve has just announced the launch date of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: August 21. A collaboration with Defense Grid developers Hidden Path, Valve also mentioned that CS:GO will cost $15 "on all platforms."
The beta for the game continues to expand. A May 22 CS:GO update increased player capacity from 5 vs 5 to 15 vs 15 and added all-important chickens to de_inferno.
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.