Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
Release Notes for 3/26/2014

- Scoreboard changes:
-- Added ability to use mouse cursor in scoreboard.
-- Cursor will be enabled on the scoreboard by default in halftime and endmatch.
-- When alive or spectating, if the scoreboard is visible, the cursor can be enabled by using secondary fire.
-- Players in scoreboards have left click context menus that allow you to commend, report, block communcation, etc.
-- Scoreboard will adjust to the size of the number of players in the match. Max is still 24 players.
-- Combined clan tag and name tag into one field.
- Fixed the CZ-75A icon not showing overhead during freetime.
- Added Commonwealth of Independent States flag, uses alpha 2 code "CC".
- Fixing aspect ratio of a few flags.
- On community servers after mp_swapteams or vote to swap teams the game will also swap team names and flags.

- Adjusted the rules for dropping a grenade upon death: you now drop your most recently selected grenade. If you never selected a grenade, you will drop the most expensive one.
- Improved player hitbox alignment.
- Players shot in the head from the side will play a new left or right headshot flinch animation, instead of forward or backward.
- Defuse kit art has been adjusted to make them more visible.

- Reduced client virtual memory usage.
- Fixed an out of memory crash that could occur while downloading workshop maps.
- Fixed a hitch related to inventory icon loading.
- Players that fail to properly validate with VAC will no longer get the generic "Invalid STEAM UserID Ticket" message and instead see "An issue with your computer is blocking the VAC system. You cannot play on secure servers."
- Started a trial of official competitive matchmaking on servers in South Africa.

- Overpass:
-- Added connector from T water to T tunnels
-- Opened up small concrete hut near Bombsite A
-- Made wood stack near door to A tunnels climbable
-- Made it possible to shoot through wood wall near Bombsite B
-- Made area near fountain in park slightly larger
-- Tweaked environment light

- Dust2:
-- Removed some small gaps between crates in Bombsite B

- Inferno:
-- Added wallbanging on low wall near barbecue (Thanks Spunj!)
-- Revised clipping on balcony near mid
PC Gamer

One of three talks Valve delivered at the Game Developers Conference last week was Building the Content that Drives the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Economy, a session by Technical Artist Bronwen Grimes. Grimes presentation mainly focused on how Valve developed its method for mostly-automating the creation of new weapon skins that roll out regularly in updates like Operation Phoenix and Winter Offensive.

Late into the talk, though, Grimes brought up data from Steam Graph as a way of measuring the impact of CS:GO s content updates on its it s popularity, which is high enough lately to make it the second most-played game on Steam. I ve duplicated Grimes graph here with some additional annotations of my own.

Click for a larger version.

As the graph indicates, free CS:GO weekends doubled the game s peak concurrent users in November 2012 and May 2013. The launch of an item economy through the Arms Race update in August 2013 had a significant . As Grimes put it during her talk: After our economy launched, we had a pretty dramatic increase in peak player numbers, bringing us to regular highs that we d only achieved previously by making the game temporarily free.

Tournaments, though, have produced the most substantial upticks in concurrent users, presumably due to the fact that CS:GO allows players to watch competitive matches in the game client in real-time. This last spike here is Dreamhack. It s a big tournament for CS:GO with a high viewership, said Grimes at GDC. Our game was also on sale during this time period and that caused a huge player spike, nearly doubling our player count. There was a large influx of new players at this time, and they stuck around at a really high rate. In fact they stuck around at a much higher rate than players from previous sales. And so we can see that not only are our player numbers up, but our player retention is up.

The recent EMS One Katowice tourney seemed to skyrocket CS:GO s peak concurrent users by 50 or 60,000. Without access to numbers for Battlefield 4 and other games, we re left to assume that CS:GO s 2.2 million monthly unique players are enough to make it the most popular multiplayer shooter on PC.
PC Gamer

Building Crown is a three part series from mapmaker Shawn "FMPONE Snelling and pro Counter-Strike player/mapmaker Sal "VOLCANO" Garozzo, revealing the inspiration and building process for their upcoming map Crown. Their goal with Crown is simple: build the best competitive Counter-Strike map ever. In part two, Snelling breaks down Crown s level design and the tools used to build map geometry and textures.

The first step in making a multiplayer map is creating a layout. But what is a layout? For level designers, a layout is the floor-plan of a level lurking in their brain, which they often draw out as a blueprint and then sculpt into a 3D grey box representation in-game. For everyday players, a layout is how they visualize a level s available paths and make strategic decisions.

We spent nine months refining Crown s layout into the final map it is today. And now Crown is ready for the public. It s available today. You can download the map right now  on the Steam Workshop and play it in Counter-Strike: GO. Read on to learn how we built it.

A top-down view of Crown's layout.

The sheer number of revisions Crown has gone through over the course of nine months reveals the enormous challenge of mapping an environment from your imagination. Grey boxing is very much like sprouting a new world out of thin air like a creative big bang and for that reason it is a frustrating, difficult stage of a map s development that many people never get past.

Volcano and I spent countless hours pondering layout details both in our grey-boxed version of Crown, and once the map evolved into a more visually detailed environment. I think almost every level designer in the world recognizes that no matter how well thought-out, a level will always go through a maturation process once it becomes a playable space. Thankfully, Crown s earliest stages are well documented, allowing us to show screenshots of Crown in its infancy.

Above: an early image of Crown as a grey box. Below: finalized version of the same part of the map. Can you spot the subtle changes in geometry?

The right path
Our primary goals with Crown s grey boxed layout was to maintain the spacious, open feeling of Dust2, without losing sight of the precise efficiency of Inferno s layout. It's also about the size of Dust2, making it a fairly small map. For this reason, Volcano and I decided to make the map s geometry imposing and impressive.

To focus on one area which evolved during our discussions, this path outside of CT spawn, for example, would become the focus of continued revision throughout Crown s development.

Another grey box shot of Crown featuring a fountain "prop."

The fountain is removed as final geometry begins to shape up.

To further highlight Crown s evolution, the window pictured in this (near) final image has since been removed.

Volcano s goal with this epic walkway was to include elements of verticality similar to a map like Nuke verticality which extends all the way into the B bombsite without creating awkward firefights where players are forced to look straight up at the sky. The path leading up to this vertical terrace was a challenge: although we wanted verticality, one consequence of creating higher ground is that it can make surrounding areas obsolete. Our perch needed to have drawbacks and limitations which would make the lower path viable. Over time, we added a slot above the terrorist entrance leading into this route which would allow an attacking team to coordinate smoke and flash grenades to block visibility along this long sight-line.

Much later in the development process, we added a route into the area commonly referred to as armory. We observed players having difficulty retaking the bombsite due to limited entry points and the additional route alleviated the issue and made the armory a crucial area to control in the bombsite.
The editor

The view from the Valve Hammer Editor

Counter-Strike: GO maps are made with Hammer, an aging tool which isn t easy to use. In Hammer, geometry is mostly composed of brushes, a fancy word for cubes, and mapping resembles playing with LEGO.

Walls or other flat surfaces can be brushwork. Other intricate elements you might see in a level such as a chair, a light fixture or an ornamental doorway, are props models imported from programs like Maya or 3DSMAX. Here you can see editor screenshots of Crown s brushwork, as well as flat screenshots which place emphasis on Crown s total geometry (brushwork + props).

Clockwise: Wireframe view, flat-lighting view, differentiating between props and brushwork, final lighting

Source unfortunately hits a brush limit fast. It would be difficult to make 1/4th of Crown with brushes alone; we needed to convert much of the brushwork of the map into models in order for the map to compile. Compiling is a process which converts the map into a file readable by the Source engine. In practice, compiling means sitting around at your computer for an hour and a half while lighting is baked. Every time you make a change in your level and want to see those changes in-game, a new compile is required.

Behind every map ever made for Counter-Strike, Half-Life, or Day of Defeat, was a level designer staring blankly at this screen. A level designer most likely staring, snoring, or eating.
Textures: the lifeblood of a map
Textures really are the lifeblood of a map. Simple geometry is nice, but a texture controls so much about the color of a map, the feel of surfaces, and the way our eyes process an environment.

Here you can see an excellent example of a common texture used throughout Crown, made by the artist PenE (from Crytek Germany), which I made some minor alterations to for the sake of color.

While I did make a few textures, most of Crown s textures are made as a favor by my friends. When texture re-use or borrowing isn t an option, I tend to ask myself what do I actually need to match what I see in a photographic reference?

In the case of this eagle plaque, I grabbed an open-source image of the Spanish army flag. I liked this image of an eagle because it conveyed the strong, resonant power Volcano and I wanted to echo throughout Crown. I then overlayed that eagle onto a marble texture used frequently throughout the map, on loan from the brilliant artist Kikette from Arkane (the developers who made Dishonored). From that point on, I focused on building a convincing diffuse map by painting on staining, highlighting, and other details. Although making custom assets is time consuming and difficult, I try not to make sacrifices in my own vision of an area, simply because GO s default assets don t resemble what I need.

The Crown eagle plaque, based on a Spanish army emblem
The fun part
Contending with Hammer is tough, but seeing your work come alive is a thrill. And thanks to GO s updated lighting engine, level geometry is lit so beautifully and naturalistically.

Here you can observe the way geometry, lighting, and texturing come together over time compared with our real-world reference.

Photo via

Above: Pathway to Crown's bombsite B and a reference photo from Barcelona. Below: Crown's Terrorist spawn and a Barcelona reference photo.

Photo via Tabitha and Dave's European Adventures blog
Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay
In summation, Crown went through several distinct creative processes. First, imaginary geometry was transferred from Volcano s brain, to paper, to the editor. Secondly, we refined our basic grey box map into something which reflected not just our initial visions of Crown, but also a practical map because you always notice things about a grey box you hadn t considered before actually making it. Thirdly, we tested this grey box. Fourthly, we tried to meld our grey box into a plausible approximation of Barcelona, Spain by using default assets or by creating what was needed. Finally, we tested and refined some more.

Then we had a map. Then we had Crown the real, playable level. You can download it on the Steam Workshop and play it now, and you can read about the inspiration for Crown's design in part one of Building Crown.

In the final article of this series, we will explore professional play testing, and the iterative process that happens when Volcano and I walk around our map. We will examine our approach to playtests, the expectations we have, and how we talk through changes to the map. Our goal is to give you insight into each step of the creative process of making a Counter-Strike map.
PC Gamer

Sometimes you have to watch the professionals at work to appreciate how brilliant a game is. After watching some of the highlights from this weekend s 2014 EMS One Katowice Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Championship, I was reminded how tense and thrilling Counter-Strike can get. Here are some of the best moments from the event in Poland, from some of the best players in the world.
My favorite video by far is of Janusz sNax Pogorzleski from Virtus.Pro (the team that also won the championship) silently taking down three NiP members. The restraint he demonstrates here, waiting for the perfect moment, is unbelievable:

From markeloff vs. Titan, a completely different, chaotic moment. Cornered and almost out of ammo, markeloff pulls through:

Four shots with the AWP, four kills. Brutal:

More incredible AWP skills:

And finally, here s Virtus.Pro winning the championship. Listen to that crowd!

In addition to a giant trophy, Virtus.Pro also won $100,000 of the $250,000 community-funded prize pool.
Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Sunday at 10AM Pacific Time
PC Gamer

Building Crown is a three part series from mapmaker Shawn "FMPONE Snelling and pro Counter-Strike player/mapmaker Sal "VOLCANO" Garozzo, revealing the inspiration and building process for their upcoming map Crown. Their goal with Crown is simple: build the best competitive Counter-Strike map ever. In part one, Snelling dives into the inspiration for Crown's design and the essence of a great competitive map.

This is Crown: a new map for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive nine months in the making. After over 100 substantial revisions across those nine months, Crown is nearly finished. It was designed with two goals: to make CS:GO s hardcore fans happy while disrupting GO s stagnant competitive map pool. It s inspired by classic maps like Dust2 and Inferno. But it s built to be even better. Just as CS:GO is a new evolution for the Counter-Strike franchise, Crown is a map which seeks to learn from the best and build upon the principles that have kept Dust2 and Inferno in competitive play for more than a decade.
Before Crown: rebuilding Cache
At heart, a map is an idea. Great maps conjure singular, iconic images in our minds. Dust2: the sandy desert village. Inferno: a labyrinth of grainy alleyways. Nuke: a towering facility. These places do not exist except in-game and in our collective consciousness.

Real-world inspiration for de_inferno

One map, Cache, only recently entered that collective consciousness. Cache was originally designed by Sal Volcano Garozzo for Counter-Strike: Source in Spring 2010. When CS:GO was released, Cache was ported to the Steam Workshop, where it became a staple of professional competitive leagues. After I created two GO maps of my own, I took a look at Cache and was impressed with what I saw. Maps like Cache have a unity to them a clean, simple flow. I wasn t surprised to learn that Volcano was originally a professional CS player, and a legend in the scene. What was surprising was that Cache was the very first map he ever made. This was someone I had to work with.

Before we tackled building a new map, we set about modernizing Cache. Cache has since been featured in two of CS:GO s Operation map-promotions, included in many of the game's most prestigious tournaments, and is played by thousands of players for more than 11,000 hours every day.

Even before our work on Cache was complete, though, Volcano and I were imagining that new, original project we had put on hold the map which would become Crown.

Dreaming up Crown: level design fundamentals
When Volcano and I were brainstorming a new map, we broke down what we liked and didn t like about the existing map pool. I have a confession to make: other than Cache, it's rare to see me playing any map other than Dust2. Just talking about Dust2 transforms into Captain Ahab from Moby Dick: the old sailor who got his leg bitten off by that white whale and forever-afterwards harbored a maniacal, obsessive grudge against it. I want to make a map better than Dust2 almost more than I want to breathe.

And then I talked to Volcano, and he actually prefers Inferno!

A timeless view of de_dust2's spaciousness

Volcano and I have slightly different perspectives. I dig Dust2 because it s easy to play, is spacious, and has a warm-feeling aesthetic. Volcano likes Inferno because its layout is probably the best in the game for competitive play: teams have a large number of different strategic choices, and they never feel predictable.

To boil it down, I was thinking sort of abstractly about visceral things how the map would feel to play while Volcano s emphasis was first and foremost on making a layout for competitive play. We both recognized, however, that a great map must have both of those elements.

de_inferno's pristine layout

Cache also influenced Crown substantially, but not how you might expect. Because Cache places so much emphasis on its middle area, Volcano told me that he wanted to create a map that went in the opposite direction completely: a map without a traditional middle.

This made me nervous. When Terrorists plant the bomb in one of two bombsites, any Counter-Terrorists on the other side of the map have to either rotate to that bombsite or flank around and kill any Terrorists in the area, while the bomb is still ticking, before they can try to defuse it. A map without a middle means there is no central path allowing the CTs to get to the ticking bomb more quickly.

Cache's infamously dangerous middle

Rotating on Crown is a special, stressful challenge. Entire Terrorist teams will have to either barge into one bombsite, or split up to create confusing diversions in both. Counter-Terrorists will need to predict the Terrorists' intent, or rotating will be down-to-the-wire or futile.

No other map used in competitive play will place as much emphasis on rotation, and I think the consequence of this will be game-defining sieges or Alamo-style defenses. It s going to be do-or-die from start to finish, and individual players will need to come up big for their team. Or their team will lose. For these reasons, we are confident Crown will place equal emphasis on skill and strategic play.
Eye on the Crown: back to the visceral
Many Counter-Strike purists are skeptical of maps with good graphics. I can't blame them. Nice-looking maps are often poorly optimized, which is an absolute game-breaker for competitive play. Nice looking maps are also often superficially designed they rarely take into account all of the layout features that make a league map actually work. Even if a nice looking map runs well and has a nice layout, it generally makes sacrifices in readability (the ease of seeing other players in a sea of detail).

Valve designed its TF2 characters around the readability of their silhouettes

Great graphics are not negotiable, though, especially if mappers are trying to get their map promoted in a Valve Operation. But because Volcano and I are so focused on league play in addition to promotion in an Operation, Crown is designed to maintain a high frame rate and be readable.

Crown sets out to please competitive players by choosing a setting which naturally defuses their concerns about readability. Barcelona, Spain has beautiful, classical architecture with smooth, clean surfaces. This provides a perfect back-drop for the easy identification of enemies. Much like the orange walls of Dust, the smooth, beige surfaces of Crown create a warm, welcoming and satisfying space for players.

Above: Classical architecture in Barcelona, Spain. Below: Crown.

This visceral pleasantness is one of the less-obvious aspects of aesthetics I learned from Volcano when working on Cache. During that project, Volcano talked a lot about how surrounding players in a lively, upbeat environment would associate our map with positive emotions over time.

Our discussions about mood ultimately made Cache a less grim environment. While Cache still takes place in a somewhat grungy Soviet facility, areas of vegetation and overgrowth make it more satisfying to play.
Breaking ground: ready to build
With a setting established and our perspectives joined in a coherent philosophy, Volcano and I set to work on Crown with a distinct purpose. This new map had to echo with ambition. It had to be presumptuous not to politely ask to be considered alongside Dust2 or Inferno, but to boldly shoulder into them like an NFL linebacker, recover the fumble, score the touchdown and then spike the football. It had to be loud and self-evidently great hence the name Crown.

But that's just talk for now. Empty words until you play the map for yourself.

This was our vision. In the coming weeks, we'll show you exactly how a map like Crown is made. We'll dig into the nitty-gritty details in the next article, discussing 3D map tools, texture work, and the mechanics of level design. In part three, we'll dive into the feedback and iteration process that takes place over nine months of daily hard work. We'll also present a video tour of the finished map.

And then you'll be able to play it for yourself: Crown will be released on March 18th, two days after the conclusion of CS:GO s $250,000 EMS One Katowice tournament.
Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
Release Notes for 3/6/2014

[EMS One Katowice 2014]
- Added EMS One Katowice 2014 CS:GO Championship Sticker Capsules:
- Each capsule contains a single EMS One Katowice 2014 participant sticker. A portion of each capsule's proceeds is shared equally among the included organizations.

- Fixed a bug where the sticker peel animaton played when opening the apply sticker panel.
- Centered the names of stickers.
- Demo highlights now show a "Fast forwarding to next highlight..." message while fast forwarding.
- Demo highlights now include bomb plant and bomb defuse.
- Fixed dsp canceling and a few other exploits.
- Added competitive match scores to in-game friends list status display.
- Added rich presence display in friends game details in Steam Overlay.
- Fixed a hitch on stattrak kills for players with large inventories.


- Mirage:
-- Made it easier to peek short from B apartments
-- Made cover at back of B bangable
-- Horizontal metal bars on catwalk no longer block bullets or grenades
-- Made corner to the right on Bombsite A scaffolding bangable

- Overpass:
-- Added more cover in Bombsite A
-- Widened gate at back of Bombsite A
-- Blocked fence completely at back of Bombsite A
-- Color coded tunnels under A
-- Removed dropdown into water near bombsite B
-- Made cement bags around bombsite B easier to climb
-- Added cover near construction
-- New connector between upper park and bathrooms
-- Widened tunnel near T spawn
-- General polish and optimization

- Dust2:
-- Fixed tiny gaps between boxes in Bombsite A
-- Fixed killer box in Bombsite B
Community Announcements - CS:GO Official
Release Notes for 2/27/2014

- Fixed the molotov not having the same collision bounds as the rest of the grenades.
- Fixed some grenades allowing radar visibility when they shouldn't and vice versa - this fixes bugs like players showing up on radar through smoke volumes when they shouldn't.
- Increased radarvispow from 0.2 to 0.4.
- Fixed icons on the radar not fading out properly when they should have.

- Fixed frequent connection errors when starting private casual matches with friends on a local server.
- With sv_grenade_trajectory on, the debug overlay boxes now reflect the size of the grenades bounds when they collide and bounce.
- Added an option to the options menu to use raw number keys or weapon binds for selecting players when spectating and voting for maps at round end (spec_usenumberkeys_nobinds, defaults to 1).

- GOTV watch requests for matches with significant number of spectators will always get directed to GOTV relays.
- Added convar host_name_store to indicate whether host name is revealed in queries and GOTV. Host name is always printed in status command output.
- Added convar host_info_show, operators can set it to the following values: 0 to block server info queries; 1 (default) to respond with all details excluding identities; 2 to respond with all available details.
- Added convar host_players_show, operators can set it to the following values: 0 to block server players queries; 1 (default) to respond only with max players and uptime; 2 to respond with all players details.
- Server operators can now list game rules cvars in gamerulescvars.txt file, those cvars when marked as FCVAR_NOTIFY will be included in A2S_RULES response packet to server management software and 3rd party clients. The total size of A2S_RULES response packet must be within approximately 1Kb (MTU). File gamerulescvars.txt.example is provided.
- When a server is running with the -nomaster parameter, it will not register on GMS and will not respond to direct queries.

- CS_Downtown: Fixed bug where players could spawn outside of map in Deathmatch
- DE_Favela: Fixed exploits where players could get out of map, various other polish
- DE_Inferno: Fixed exploit where players could see through roof near Bombsite A balcony
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - (Graham Smith)

Whoever paints these CS:GO images is amazing.

I used to review Counter-Strike maps as a teenager, for free, for fun, for fansites. If you’d have told me then that thirteen years later, I’d still be writing about them for fun, but as a career, I’d have said, “Well, obviously.” What else was I ever going to do?

Global Offensive’s new Operation Phoenix pack (or, “Pho3nix”, but I’d rather not) let’s you play eight top-voted community maps through the game’s competitive mode. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Valve have released a new CS:GO 'Operation' pack, bringing unlimited official server access to a selection of community made maps. For Operation Phoenix, the maps were chosen by popular vote - and as such, round up some of the best battlegrounds featured in previous operations. Although, if you're anything like me, the quality is less important than the variety. When you're inevitably killed in the first few seconds of the round, it's important to have some nice level design to enjoy through the death camera.

The returning eight maps are Cache, Motel, Seaside, Downtown, Thunder, Ali, Favela and Agency. All will be available to play in Casual, Competitive and Deathmatch modes, ensuring a busy few months of battle in the constant war between terrorism and not terrorism.

Purchase of the $3 access pack also provides buyers with a Coin, which can be upgraded through playtime and wins. The Phoenix Coin is also a scorecard - giving players a complete run down of their stats across the included maps. Throughout the event, chests containing a selection of new weapon finishes will also drop.

Head over to the CS:GO blog for a statistical rundown of each map. Operation Phoenix will run until June 4th.

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