Oct 25 2013 - 2:00 pm

Was the massive success of 'Counter-Strike' just a lucky mistake?

Only a short time after its release in 1999, Counter-Strike (CS) eclipsed Quake to become the biggest online game and the most successful eSport in the Western world
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

Only a short time after its release in 1999, Counter-Strike (CS) eclipsed Quake to become the biggest online game and the most successful eSport in the Western world. It would go on to inspire a generation of tactical war games, including Call of Duty

After a decade-long wait, Minh “Gooseman” Le, the man who invented Counter-Strike, finally released his next game earlier this month: Tactical Intervention. Reviews for the new game are mixed at best and the player population is small. It has, on average, a relatively paltry 500 players at any given time.

But did Le learn enough from the first game's rapid success to pivot and transform Tactical Intervention from a slow starter into something great? Or was Counter-Strike’s success just a lucky mistake?

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At first, Counter-Strike, a Half-Life modification, was little more than a hidden sideshow at the Super Bowl of American eSports in the early 2000s, the Cyberathlete Professional League. However, once Doom and Quake players heard excited screaming and yelling from the Counter-Strike area, they wandered over and the rest is history. That was the start of Counter-Strike’s years-long turn as the featured game at CPL.

Here’s the catch: Counter-Strike was never meant to be an eSport.

"No, I didn't take eSports into consideration because it wasn't a big thing at the time,” Le said. “I didn't really care much as to why people played CS. I was just happy that people were in fact playing it, so the eSports scene was a great way to gain exposure.”

Over time, gamers, and not Le, decided how the game was played. Counter-Strike’s original game mode was hostage rescue. Later on, Le would add bomb defusal and assassination modes. The eSport crowd quickly distilled the game down based on what was the most fun to play: the defusal mode. Soon, they'd largely abandoned everything else, including much of the original work that Le had done.

“This occurred organically,” Le said. “The majority of maps in CS were made by the community so the direction that the game took was dictated by what they wanted to make. In retrospect, I would have tried to look at ways to make assassination and hostage rescue a bit more enjoyable.”

But Counter-Strike’s success was not a blind, lucky mistake.

After all, Le and other team members had already created successful online games like Action Quake 2 and Navy SEALs before hitting it big with Counter-Strike. They were a proven team who knew how to make good games that people loved to play.

Most important of all to Counter-Strike’s development: The community guided the game more than any single developer. Almost all the maps were community-made, which in turn drove the gameplay towards eSports success.

When Le was tapped to work at Valve, he naturally explored the idea of Counter-Strike 2. However, he couldn’t come up with a solid foundation for the game. It wasn’t until after he’d left Valve that he finally had a lightbulb go off.

Tactical Intervention is what I envisioned CS2 to be like.”

It wasn’t easy to make Tactical Intervention a reality. An “incredible amount of mismanagement,” according to Le, three publishers, distribution gaffes, the financial burden of going free-to-play, and the inevitable comparisons to Counter-Strike delayed the game for years.

Now that it’s available for free on Steam, the Web’s largest game store, Tactical Intervention has started slowly. Critics have largely panned the graphics and gameplay, though they have left some praise for the car chase mode.

"Le's new game borrows its predecessor's terrorist-on-counter-terrorist bloodbaths," Eurogamer's Rick McCormick wrote, "but the things [Counter-Strike] got so right - precision, tactics, consistency - are lost.

“I think we didn't do a good job of introducing new players to the game mechanics of TI,” Le said. “The lack of a tutorial really killed us but with a small team like ours, we had to prioritize our workload and a tutorial would have [eaten] into a huge chunk of our time.”

If you’re rooting for Le’s success (and you should be if you enjoy Counter-Strike), he’s laid out a roadmap to recovery. The TI development team is working on addressing the other major complaints of the game. New guns and characters are in the pipeline. Le says he’s happy with the new, improved maps that will be released in the coming weeks and months. The plan, as with any free-to-play game, is to keep releasing new content to grow the playerbase.

The publishers, OGPlanet, have pushed for the development of tournament and spectator modes. They’ll be launching the first European competitions in the near future.

After nine years of turbulence, Tactical Intervention is finally getting the same treatment that Counter-Strike did, the treatment that Le wished it had all along.

“My least favorite part of TI was not being able to develop TI in an open environment like how CS was developed,” Le wrote. "Over the course of TI's lengthy development, we never had the opportunity to test the gameplay mechanics of TI in a large scale environment. The majority of our testing was done within our company. However, the open betas did provide a lot of feedback and allowed us to see what the majority of players were feeling. I just wish we had that environment much earlier on in TI's development.”

In other words, the community is finally getting its say in the development of Tactical Intervention. And that could mean bright things for the game's future, if history repeats itself.

These days, Le doesn’t play any of the Counter-Strike titles. If that sounds strange, remember that back when he invented Counter-Strike, Le didn’t play any of the other Half-Life mods out there. He doesn’t seem at all concerned with competitors and comparisons.

Instead, he spends all his time trying to make games.

Image via Valve

Jan 24 2017 - 9:12 pm

Heroic benches Friis, cadiaN to fill in

Friis was one of the founding members of the team.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Fragbite

One of the strongest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive squads from Denmark is shaking things up.

Team Heroic AWPer and co-founder Michael "Friis" Jørgensen has been placed on the bench, the organization has revealed. Friis, who is listed as one of the co-owners of the organization, has played with the team since its inception in August 2016.

At the moment it's not exactly clear what prompted the team to bench the 27-year-old veteran (who will have been competing for close to ten years in 2017), especially considering the fact that Friis himself posted on social media about scrims at the beginning for the year. Additionally, the Danish squad placed 3rd-4th out of the eight teams that competed at DreamHack Leipzig on Jan. 13-15.

Shortly after being assembled, Heroic went on to place respectably at a number of international LAN tournaments. This included multiple top four finishes, as well as two victories at PowerLan and the 2016 International Gaming League grand finals.

Heroic said that the benching is temporary. The team will be fielding current Rogue AWPer Casper "cadiaN" Møller in its upcoming tournament matches. CadiaN is no stranger to the majority of Heroic's roster, having competed with them in SK Gaming's previous CS:GO roster between late 2015 and early 2016.

While the move does seem dramatic, it's not all too surprising. Given the fact that the ELEAGUE Major will be concluding on Jan. 29, plenty of teams will be looking to shuffle their rosters. We'll likely be seeing a lot more player movement in a week's time.

Jan 24 2017 - 3:36 pm

ELEAGUE favorites face elimination in tournament’s third day

Things are definitely getting interesting in Atlanta.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via ELEAGUE

After an astounding second day of games, the stakes are rising at the ELEAGUE Major. With tournament favorites facing elimination, and old faces return to former glory, this is where we stand heading into the event's third day.

North and OpTic one game away from elimination

The ELEAGUE Major has yet to disappoint in terms of upsets. North and OpTic, two of the highest-rated teams in attendance, are currently staring at elimination before the playoffs.

While the Danish North squad are entering the event off the back of several poor tournament performances, the team has still fallen short of expectations. After being trounced by Gambit and Fnatic, two teams that were not expected to perform particularly well at the event, in the past two days, the Danish roster will now face HellRaisers to decide whether their tournament run continues.

In stark contrast, North America’s OpTic have had to endure a trial by fire, as the team has so far been pitted against tournament favorites Virtus Pro and Astralis. Now they too stand on the precipice of elimination.

Magic at the majors

Each Valve Major seems to have its own fair share of absolutely stunning moments, and the ELEAGUE Major is no exception.

While a fair share of stunning plays have already happened at the ELEAGUE Major, no team at the Valve Major can so far compare with that of the Polish Virtus Pro roster.

In its match against G2 Esports yesterday on Nuke, the Poles snatched round after round in the most unbelievable fashion.

Gambit on track

Gambit was considered to be far from a favorite heading into the ELEAGUE Major. While the CIS team has had limited success in the closing months of 2016, there was nothing to indicate that Gambit would be one of the teams looking reclaim its legend status.

Somehow, however, Gambit are now only one game away from making that dream a reality. But while the team’s two victories against North and GODSENT were utterly convincing, the question remains: can the CIS squad can defeat the Polish legends in Virtus Pro?

Today’s hottest matches

North vs. HellRaisers - 12:30pm ET

As of right now, North are the biggest disappointment of the ELEAGUE Major. The Danish squad that impressed consistently throughout 2016 has delivered uninspiring performances against both Gambit as well as the current, less than stellar, Fnatic, North are now one loss away from being eliminated without a victory to its name.

On the opposite end, HellRaisers have nothing to lose. The Eastern European team was already rated as one of the teams with the lowest chance of advancing, and has already suffered two losses in the group. For them, elimination looks almost certain at this point, but with not nearly as much expectations placed upon them, one has to imagine that North will be feeling all the more pressured during the encounter.

VP vs Gambit - 1:45pm ET

So far everything has clicked for Gambit. Not only through the consistency of its star player Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev, but also through the in-game leadership of former Na`Vi veteran Danil “Zeus” Teslenko. The slow-paced and tactical style Zeus used to great effect on Na`Vi is once again working wonders.

But how will it fare against the unpredictability and sheer craziness of Virtus Pro? The Poles have made it their hallmark to never engage opponents on their own terms, and could potentially offset Gambit’s patient style through aggression or unpredictable prongs of attack. Can Gambit hope to stand against the unstoppable force of Virtus Pro, or will the immovable style of Zeus earn the Russian squad a spot in the playoffs?

G2 vs. Astralis - 3pm ET

Astralis succeeded in barely holding on against OpTic during the second day of the group stage. Similarly, G2 Esports just barely lost to Virtus Pro during the spectacular finisher last night. Both teams have endured some of the hardest opposition at the ELEAGUE Major during the group, meaning we can assume that, just like in the case of North and OpTic, that we will indeed be seeing yet another tournament favorite head ever closer towards elimination.

SK vs. Na`Vi - 4:15 ET

Reigning major champions SK Gaming, who off the back of an extraordinary comeback against FaZe Clan, are now only one victory away from advancing from the group stage.

The same can’t be said for the opponents the Brazilian’s are about to face. Eastern European supersquad Na`Vi has looked like the most clinical team in the ELEAGUE Major so far, losing only nine rounds in total across its two matches. Na`Vi’s competition has not been the fiercest, but the sheer dominance the team has displayed in these matches is not something one can simply ignore.