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A Look at Counter Strike’s Evolution: from GoldSrc to CS:GO

It’s almost 17 years since the launching of one of the best, critically acclaimed Multiplayer Online First Person Shooters. A game that started its days as a humble mod created by two skilled guys and then developed further and further, going through some nice (and not so nice) changes and releases, to the monster it is now. A shooter that, when you look at it, brings you some sweet memories (if you’re from my school, of course), or if you’re new to the family, will help you craft those memories I’m talking about so you can feel this wave of nostalgia a few years in the future.

And here, at CSGO Legit, we want to pay homage by going back in time to take a brief look at the past and present of Half Life’s most famous mod, Counter Strike.

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Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Explosions

It’s the year 1999. Valve’s Half-Life showed to be a huge success among the gaming community, and people were excited to test new things on the aforementioned engine, “GoldSrc”, which was based on Quake’s, but heavily modified to suit their needs. Tweaks, mods, and other cool stuff began to arise and spread across the Internet to refresh the game and have a taste of new experiences.

Enter Minh Le (AKA, Gooseman), an enthusiast Canadian videogame developer who has been grasping the idea of creating a Police-Vs-Terrorist shooter based on HL engine, while at the same time programming a mod for Quake (called Action Quake 2), that allowed him to meet and befriend who would become his partner and co-developer, Jess Cliffe.

Cliff happened to be running the Action Quake 2 website at the moment, so they hold good communication. When Minh told him about creating this realistic game, Jess was very excited so he agreed in joining Le and thus, started working in what would be known later as Counter-Strike.

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CS: Beta phase

Development began around January 1999. Cliffe ran a website that would serve them to get feedback from the people to refine and clean up the product. Le’s idea consisted of a realistic scenario where a team of security forces would have to fight their way to take down all the members of the bad team (the terrifying terrorists) that would need to do whatever they can to accomplish their chaotic missions, such as holding innocent scientists as hostages or planting a C4 in specific places, all while foiling the counter terrorists’ actions of defusing the artifact or rescuing wimpy old men.

The duo was playing with a hand of possible titles for their “child”. Out of a bunch of potential names – these being fRAG-HEADS, Strike Force, Terrorist Wars, among others – they ended up with the catchiest one of all: Counter-Strike.

Once they put their hands on Half-Life SDK, they went full developing mode. Cliffe launched a contest to submit maps created by the gaming community (since they lacked mappers to help them build the scenarios), and the winners would have their stages included. July 9 was the date the first beta came to see the daylight. People liked it and positive feedback prompted Le and Cliffe to keep on with development.

Then in the last quarter of that same year, two patches (labeled Beta 2 and Beta 3) were released, introducing more weapons, maps and a diversity of character models, amid some minor bug fixing. But it wasn’t till Beta 4.0 that we would see the birth of the most iconic and played mode: Bomb Defusal. This one included a pack of 4 maps specifically for the new scenario, with Dust being the most representative map for the B.D. mode. Other tweaks and bug fix were issued in this beta, too.

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Valve’s Sweet intervention

During the programing of Beta 5.0, Le started to work at Barking Dog Studios, a videogame development company that was doing some work for Valve. When they noticed Le, immediately asked Barking Dog to help him out with his mod, and even offering to pay for it. With a “Yes” from the guys, programing of next beta was a fact.

By this time, CS was almost good to go with a retail release, and things would be better for Le and Cliff’s team. In early 2000, an agreement of partnership between both Valve and their team was announced, and the product (labeled as Counter Strike 1.0) would be released.

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“GO! GO! GO!”

Finally, on November 8, Valve released the retail version of the game as a standalone package called Half-Life: Counter-Strike. It was a huge success, hitting the local machines of players and cybercafés around the world. The concept of fast-phased, teamwork gameplay in realistic scenarios was so attractive not only for accustomed players (those who already knew about the game) but for casuals and newbies. And adding the fact that it was easy to access, and required so little power for running, thus making it installable on basically any decent computer of that time, only helped it to its popularity.

Valve and Counter-Strike Team continued to issue patches that were shaping the game into what is remembered for. From patch 1.1 to 1.5, there were lots of weapons, maps, features, and mode adding and/or removing, bug fixing, and code cleaning. Some of the most important changes throughout the updates have to do with nerfing beta tactics like bunny jumping, firing SMG while jumping, the removal of the crosshair when scoping with a sniper rifle, and the cutting down of the AWP’s one-shot kill ability below the waist. Also, new features like voice-over communications and anti-cheating system were added.

Then, the final patch and the most memorable of all came to the light in September 9, 2003 with the release of Update 1.6, which introduced two new weapons, the Clarion 5.56 and the IDP Defender, a bunch of new maps (including the beloved successor of the also popular bomb defusal map Dust, Dust2), and the controversial tactical shield (damn you, tactical scum).

A release of Patch 1.6 was made to concur with the launching of Valve’s multiplayer platform, Steam. This one came to replace the networking platform Counter Strike was using at the time, World Opponent Network (WON for short). It also meant that future updates would be dispatched via Steam auto-updating system.

Here’s where people considered CS reached its sweet spot. Its gameplay balance, a plethora of maps, Steam supported networking, and constant minimal updates to keep maintaining the swift experience makes it one of the most played multiplayer FPS games still to this day, and a source of inspiration for future shooters.

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Condition Zero – Almost Zero improvement to the franchise (according to people)

Released on March 23, 2004, CS:CZ was the last installment to use the outdated GoldSrc engine, which has been updated to show high-quality models, better textures, got some tweaks in its maps and bots did finish high school (yeah, they’re freaking smart). It also introduced a single player campaign with a set of missions to go all Lone Ranger.

This iteration, per se, has its pack of good things to be praised for. But the community thought it was kinda late for the party. That’s because it lasted almost three years in development thanks to being handed over to four video game studios. Yeah, Valve was acting like a whimsical little girl not satisfied with anything until the last company the project was handed over (Turtle Rock Studios) finally managed to please them. Besides, the decision of reusing GoldSrc in a time where games released had greater graphics, even if it was tweaked to give a high-quality look, was a downside critics did not let it slip under their eyes. Still, it managed to sell quite well.

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“Source”, Valve’s next-gen engine (and next CS game)

While still developing CS:CZ, Valve asked the same company to start developing a remake of CS using their brand new engine, Source. With it, graphics were improved to match those of recent products for that time, and aspects of the previous iteration like bots with a degree and other stuff were thrown into the mixture. Finally, in November 2004, the product was released under the title Counter Strike: Source and it came bundled with the critically acclaimed, other Source-based game, Half-Life 2.

The game was noticeable for their many tweaks to the gameplay, graphics and sound effects that make it different from original Counter Strike. Aspects like bomb physics, recoil behavior, smoke effects and less stupidity coming from the bots stood out for the praising and acceptance of the community. And this would be the last official CS for a while.

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The offensive becomes worldwide: Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Almost eight years had to pass in order to see a new iteration of Valve’s most popular multiplayer FPS, but it was worth the wait, for August 21, 2012, was the release date of CS: Global Offensive. Powered by the latest version of the Source engine, it features up-to-date graphics, more realistic physics, really improved the multiplayer experience with a Competitive matchmaking system, a better economy, and inclusion of rewards and perks like weapon skins and other cosmetic stuff with real-currency value. It also marks the first incursion of the series in home consoles, specifically, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 (but we don’t talk about them, in fact, they don’t even exist. PERIOD).

It received a lot of positive reviews by critics and it’s a commercial success, being one of the top FPS played around the world and being a subject of local and global tournaments like ESL Pro League Season, ELEAGUE, DreamHack, StarLadder, among others. It also has become a good eSport for betting thanks to its competitive nature and popularity which adds a bit of profitability to the scheme.

Counter-Strike has definitely set a precedent in gaming history; an achievement both Minh and Jesse didn’t even dream about. To think that it has such a humble start and managed to be one of the first shooters you’d think about when someone asks you “Can you tell me a good multiplayer FPS game?” is something worthy of respect. We can’t but hope that Valve keeps giving CS the same love and dedication in future iterations, and of course, we plead to God to see future installments of this amazing franchise. See you in the next article!

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