The big fish that got away. Valve’s Chet Faliszek speaks to VG247 on the bullet-proof longevity of Counter-Strike and why no concessions were made for the console versions of Global Offensive.
I’m going to tell you this story because I can. I went to San Francisco a few weeks ago to see some of Xbox 360 games. One of them was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Turned out Valve’s Chet Faliszek was manning the pods, which was cool, so I did a bit of an interview then started playing. I’m a total CS newb. I had honestly never played it before. After two minutes I was glued to my seat. Chet had chosen to show Demolition mode, which involves terrorists planting a bomb and counter-terrorists trying to stop them. Nothing more. The mode handicaps you with progressively worse weapons if you do well. You’re in an fighting before you can blink.
Chet was a terrorist. He was hiding up some stairs. While he positioned himself, I ran up after him and tried to knife him to death. A knife kill would have finished the round and I would have have been legendified, in my own head at least, for all eternity. I nearly had him. On the brink of death he shot me.
He saw the name of the 360 I was playing on and looked over.
“Nearly,” I said. He scrunched his face up and turned back to his screen.
“Yeah,” he said.
And that was my introduction to Counter-Strike. The game I’d always seen on office PC screens was full of weapons-buying and menus, but this was about running around a house like a monkey trying to beast people.
“This is a really good mode for new players to just jump in and get their feet wet, to not have to worry about all that progression and complications,” said Chet.
“It’s fun. In this game you don’t have to wait ten minutes before you shoot somebody. You’re five seconds in and exchanging bullets. It’s a really intense, quick battle.”
That I could get hooked on an 11 year-old game so quickly and stand up to one of the people that makes it is testament to Counter-Strike’s bewildering success. Global Offensive is the fourth incarnation of PC’s most popular competitive shooter, and is sure to add handsomely to the franchise’s tally of 27 million units sold. This is the first time Counter-Strike’s released on 360 – the original came out on Xbox in 2004 – but Chet isn’t concerned about the formula making the console transition. After playing it, neither am I.
“It doesn’t cloud the central issue: are you better than the other guy? There are loads of games out there now – which I love and play – that allow you to be better because you have better weapons, because you have a better load-out.”
“One of the things we learned from the Left 4 Dead series is that PC and 360 players are the same people,” he said. “There’s a control difference, but they’re the same gamers. So we didn’t make a lot of concessions. We didn’t dumb it down or consolize it. One of the goals right from the very beginning was to bring Counter-Strike to consoles. That was really important to us, that Counter-Strike be Counter-Strike. There are gamers on the 360 that are just as good and able to play this kind of game, right?
“It was fun watching the first showing at PAX, and seeing people going, ‘Oh gosh, it’s on console. I don’t know. I’m a big PC player.’ But the skills they have for the PC version map directly to this version.”
While the game works well on 360, there’s a fearsome reputation to overcome. Counter-Strike is hardcore, and that’s essentially why I’ve never got involved. Who wants to die every two seconds for no other reason than boosting someone’s kill-count? Valve’s aware of the issue.
“All versions will have skill-based match-making,” assured Chet. “Counter-Strike has a reputation for being really hard, and there are players that are really, really good. We have players who come in and they will own you. I don’t want to play against them. They will devastate you. You want to be matched against people of your own skill, so you’re always going to have that good experience. You want to feel, ‘Hey, I did good this time. I’m getting better.'”
I’m sold. When’s it out?
“We’re looking for summer. We’ll see. We’re letting the beta community drive a lot of the decisions. We release stuff, we get feedback, we collect data, we look at the data behind the changes, we roll that in and we get more feedback. We keep doing that. It’s a cycle. We’ll see when we’re done.”
The central issue
That doesn’t sound like it’ll be with us any time particularly soon. And if you’re hoping for a beta run on 360, forget it.
“No,” Chet told me when I asked if there’ll be a console test.
“It’s really simple for us to do a beta on the PC. We’re actually making a lot of changes. Some betas are basically demos, but this is a real beta. With all those rapid changes it’s a lot easier on PC.”
The Microsoft event lasted for two days, and there was a bunch of downtime between interviews. I kept drifting back to Global Offensive. We had some great sessions. Some young kid joined in for one – I have no idea why he was there; it was a press event – and he kicked ass. We were on the same side, him crouching in front of me moving forward, both of us with AKs covering doorways, soldiers walking into withering fire, Chet hooting in the background. There’s something so pure about it: you, other people, map, gun. Chet’s under no illusion as to why it works, and why it’ll continue to work.
“It doesn’t cloud the central issue: are you better than the other guy? There are loads of games out there now – which I love and play – that allow you to be better because you have better weapons, because you have a better load-out. It’s a really competitive game. It’s been around for 11 years, and on PC it’s still the number one competitive shooter.”
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ships for PC, Mac, 360 and PS3 this summer.