CS:GO

missharvey column: Valve, here’s what CSGO needs to be great (Part 2)

Published: 8/Oct/2020 13:42 Updated: 20/Nov/2020 18:23

by missharvey

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After a storied career in Counter-Strike as a player, Stephanie ‘missharvey’ Harvey is issuing a call to arms for the CS:GO developers to act and help the game. After exploring the issues in Part 1, here’s what Valve needs to do before it’s too late.

In my last piece, I outlined a plethora of issues which I believe are the root of CS:GO’s drastic loss of momentum. While there’s no doubt that the statistics paint a positive picture for Counter-Strike, the grass is greener where you water it. Valve has neglected their community to the point where many are considering whether Valorant — a tactical shooter still very much in its infancy — will be the killer of CS:GO.

Viper in Valorant
Riot Games
Riot has built their tactical shooter with competitive integrity at the forefront of their priorities, but community feedback has been essential.

Let’s get CS:GO’s community back on board

As you may have noticed, the Counter-Strike community has a fond place in my heart. That’s no secret.— the CS:GO community is like no other, they’re loyal, extremely passionate about their game, and dedicated to making it an awesome experience for pros and beginners alike. And this is where Valve needs to start: everything needs to revolve around the community. 

So what can the devs do? Well, for starters, there needs to be a better global link between the player logging into Steam to play CS:GO and what the developers have in the pipeline. Easiest way to achieve this? Roadmaps. Planning the route ahead and sharing their goals with the players could be done on a bi-monthly basis, or from Operation to Operation. Either way, it would provide a level or transparency that Valve is yet to show. That way, if a player wants to know when to expect the next rotation of maps or hotfixes, they can do so by just consulting a roadmap that is frequently updated by the devs in-game. 

From a content standpoint, Operations are a gimmick. There is no season-based Battlepass system (which seems to be the modern way) and it feels like Valve are being left behind in an era where content can make or break player drop off rates. Other than love for the game, I feel like Valve are giving players no reason to continue their grind. Compare this with the likes of Valorant and Call of Duty, where players have always got a reason to grind — be it Riot’s Act-based Battlepass, or Activision’s Season-based system.

Warzone Battle pass
Infinity Ward
Incentivizing the grind beyond gameplay is key to player retention in the long-run, and can even help build character lore in the game!

And there’s so much more that can be done. A large majority of the community aspire to play like professional players. Instead of relying on third-party websites, why not embed features like player configs directly into CS:GO? This could be as simple as linking it to a verified Steam profile associated with a pro. You could even take this a step further than just downloading the whole config — why not show the user what’s being changed and give them the option to swap specific elements out? So, in practice, a player could take NiKo’s crosshair, juliano’s sensitivity and kennyS’ viewmodel. Again, food for thought, but this is just scratching the surface. Steam already has a profile system in place, and it’s begging to be more relevant than just a vanity item.

Valve: Are you in or out?

I think it’s fair to say, we need more of a ‘buy-in’ from Valve — and by that, I don’t mean a measly half-buy… I mean an all-out M249 full-buy with a Zeus sprinkled on top. Using content to drive interest in a game is just the tip of the iceberg. There are fundamental issues that need resolving. Aside from being on the ball with things like bug fixes and more frequent patches, why not make the playing experience even smoother and make 64-tick servers a thing of the past?

For those who haven’t dabbled with 128-tick servers, let me give you an example of how it feels. Imagine taking a shot at an enemy who is jiggle-peeking around a wall and connecting the bullets you fire. As opposed to seemingly getting killed from behind said wall… Honestly, the difference is night and day. The best part – there are community-run servers that offer a 128-tick rate as standard. 

In this one example, we have a problem and tons and tons of possible solutions. Let’s assume Valve doesn’t want to overhaul their server structure (which they should do), what else could they do? Reach out to third parties and embed their structure into your game? Give players the choice to play on 128-tick for a small monthly fee (while possibly reducing the amount of cheaters in that matchmaking category)? Slowly implement 128-tick to higher ranks and prime players and test out the outcome? As you read this, I am sure you are coming up with other ideas, and in my opinion, this is one of the things Valve should have been working on for years now. But even if they had been, the community is none the wiser!

64 tick servers in CSGO
Valve
If an enemy came around the corner here on 64-tick, they would have ‘peeker’s advantage’ and would stand a better chance of killing you.

Esports is thriving, now is the time to act!

The interest in CS:GO from an esport perspective has never been greater. More hours are being streamed on Twitch than ever before, and as a result, viewership metrics are higher from month-to-month. With so many tournament organizers wanting their slice of the CS:GO pie — despite being riddled with the logistical nightmare that is presented with online play — it’s obvious that Valve could be capitalizing on a huge demographic here.

Imagine a pro player’s Steam profile was their hub. Links to all their social profiles with the ability to subscribe to them. An entry level of subscription might issue fans with access to their demos, configs and notifications when they’re online and scrimming. An additional level might include access to exclusive content and the ability to exclusively watch your favorite pro’s point-of-view during a Major, with access to their comms during select portions of the match. Imagine Patreon, but for Counter-Strike.

Steam profile
Valve
There is so much that can be done to bridge the gap between Steam profiles and CS:GO.

By no means am I saying that all of the above will fix everything — there’s so much more that can be done. There’s a gold mine of content with custom servers that could so easily be embedded into the game. Again, look at Valorant’s Spike Rush. The community asked for a faster-paced game mode, and Riot answered. We have FFA Deathmatch modes, retake simulators, warmup arenas, movement (surfing) servers… The list goes on. Valve could easily take the community’s input here and really push CS:GO forward in a positive direction. So what’s the takeaway message?

Community first. As you can probably tell if you’ve got this far, I’m a firm believer in Counter-Strike’s loyal fanbase. The fact of the matter is, that everyone below tier-one pros are starving, and as it stands, there is no ecosystem to support these players — be it tier-two pros, aspiring pros or the casual gamer. So c’mon, Valve, the ball is in your court.

Opinion

Adam Fitch: Esports fans don’t exist

Published: 8/Jan/2021 17:30 Updated: 9/Jan/2021 1:32

by Adam Fitch

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The agreed-upon definition of esports is a form of competition using video games and in 2021 it’s almost unanimously adopted across the industry, but there may be something counter-productive with the premise of being an ‘esports fan.’

The early years of competitive video games saw plenty of tentative, widespread naming conventions for the industry that was being built from the ground-up. In the past five or so years, ‘esports’ became the de facto umbrella term for the dozens of games that are played competitively.

It’s handy to have a colloquial term for the industry for several obvious reasons, I’d not debate that. I do believe it doesn’t matter too much what the term we collectively agree upon is, as long as it’s not offensive or overly-complex, though.

What I believe may matter in the future is the use of ‘esports fans’ — effectively generalizing and collating a wide range of sub-communities. There are circumstances where this isn’t harmful at all but it’s not helpful when trying to understand the demographics that support those that comprise the industry.

London Royal Ravens hosting their home series event
Call of Duty League
Call of Duty fans are generally unrecognizable when compared to League of Legends fans.

Mischaracterization helps nobody

Esports is segmented by nature, much like the music industry or traditional sports. There are different genres that are unique in nature, thus appealing to people in different ways. There are strategic titles that fall under the banners of real-time strategy, shooters, fighting games, MOBAs, battle royale, and so on.

Each genre stands on its own for a reason; games under a particular banner all share characteristics. Let’s delve into a scenario. 22-year-old Tim is a fan of Call of Duty, he enjoys the shooter gameplay and simple objectives of the game modes within the franchise. He’s not been able to find any interest in strategy games and he thinks Dota 2 is impossible to understand.

He has more chance of understanding and enjoying a game like Halo which, while standing alone in its gameplay, shares characteristics with CoD. Considering his established interest in shooter titles, he may well find something of intrigue in Halo or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive but it’s almost-guaranteed that League of Legends won’t be something he’d enjoy — or perhaps even understand — when spectating.

It wouldn’t be a big stretch by any means to call him a fan of shooters but not a fan of MOBAs. Now, let’s say he’s just become interested in watching the world’s best players battle it out against each other in Call of Duty because he wants to improve. He’s now a fan of Call of Duty esports.

League of Legends Louis Vuitton
David Lee/Riot Games
Louis Vuitton identified League of Legends Esports as good means of advertisement.

Companies of all nature should want to understand audiences. Knowing the interests, tendencies, characteristics, and demands of an audience allows a company to better serve them and subsequently, in theory, have a better chance of becoming successful. This is especially important for sponsors, who comprise a crucial percentage of the overall esports revenue.

Considering his preferences and competencies as a spectator, banding Tim together with 13-year-old MOBA fan Jenny as the same demographic would not be a good idea for many companies. There’s no overlap between Tim and Jenny besides their general interest in gaming — the chances of a company having a product that appeals to them both, even if it’s a new video game, is unlikely.

Segmentation helps everybody

We often generalize when we discuss esports, which is an industry that’s heavily-segmented by nature. If we want to better understand the numerous demographics we serve, we’re better off keeping them segmented. A generalization of all competitive League of Legends fans is more likely to be accurate than a generalization of those across several genres and the dozens of games under those departments.

This is true for regions, too. The living experience in the United Kingdom is vastly different in many ways than it is for somebody who’s based in China. There are cultural and societal differences that must be accounted for.

Now, there are anomalies. There are certainly consumers who enjoy shooters, MOBAs, and battle royales, for example, but there’s an exception to the rule. It’s hard to identify these people without extensive surveying, though this is something I’d hope to see in the future for a couple of reasons.

I don’t believe there’s too much harm to be made on a general basis when discussing esports, but it’s within the business of the industry when this occurrence is stupid. Executives who think they can tap into the ‘esports audience’ don’t really understand the industry, because there is not an esports audience.

Hopefully, as esports continues to progress and develop over the coming months and years, we can further acknowledge the nature of the industry for what it is and then have more informed and precise discussions — whether that’s when making an important decision or simply trying to advance each other’s thinking when it comes to the industry.