In 1999, Gamespot explains, a lack of realistic gameplay platforms urged Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe to develop a mod for Half-Life that took on a life of its own, becoming one of the most popular competitive video games in existence: Counter-Strike. Valve Corporation, the company behind Half-Life (as well as Steam and Dota 2) saw the project’s potential and obtained the rights for its release in 2000. One particular fact should be noted, however. Counter-Strike was brought about by a collaboration between Le and Cliffe and the gaming community. The latter made the levels, which the former reviewed and integrated.
A simple first-person shooter “terrorists vs counter-terrorists” scenario was able to combine well-paced combat action that required teamwork and effective use of equipment and skills in order to win. It soon overtook existing titles, like Unreal Tournament and Quake, this making just under $700 in revenue with Quake Champions in 2017 as opposed to the $8 billion enjoyed by Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, also boasting 2742 players. The ESEA CS: GO, the latest in a long list of eSports competitions, is currently taking bets for its challengers: Flipsid3 Tactics Academy, Funky Monkeys, Pride and more. Nevertheless, the game’s rise to stardom has had its setbacks.
Confident in their success, Turtle Rock Studios created CS: Condition Zero (2004) before Valve followed up with CS: Source (2004), in an attempt to improve upon their predecessor. Unfortunately, while things like better graphics and sound have been appreciated in Source, negative reviews have highlighted issues related to bugs that affect gameplay, already considered overrated and too demanding in terms of system requirements – not to mention weighed down by a hostile community. The race to the top tilted towards other first-person shooter franchises – Call of Duty and Medal of Honor – inspired by the original Counter-Strike recipe.
Underwhelmed by the mixed feedback, the game’s founders returned to the drawing board and focused on making the next instalment as glitch-free, graphically and realistically advanced as possible, the aim being to provide a superb competitive gaming experience. And they delivered. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012) is at the top of the best video games in eSports, featuring high quality lighter and shader improvements, clarified on the Counter-Strike Map Workshop, new modes, weapons and maps. A topic of controversy has been the ranking systems and competitive matchmaking introduced to better form effective teams, distribute ranks – or badges – and to promote a team-based rather than individualistic mindset, which simply means that you advance if you win enough matches as a team. PC Gamer offers a helpful breakdown of the rules, news and theories.
The eSports industry has as much to do with skill and performance as public opinion, something which has appeared to be a contributing factor, not only to the Counter-Strike franchise’s evolution, but in fact to its very foundation. With every instalment, it has generated an impressive fanbase, demonstrated a the peak number of 845.81 concurrent players noted on Steam in 2016, second only to Dota 2′s 1,286.62. For the time being, CS: GO is evidently a strong step in the right direction.