Braxton ‘swag’ Pierce and Keven ‘AZK’ Larivière have surprised the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community by announcing that they are leaving Torqued just weeks before their biggest event to date, ESL One: Belo Horizonte.
At 21 years of age, swag is arguably the greatest tragedy of the ex-iBUYPOWER matchfixing scandal – an act which resulted in the culprits receiving bans from Valve at the start of 2015.
For throwing the match, and receiving some skins in return, swag, Joshua ‘steel’ Nissan, AZK, and a number of other notable members of the North American CS:GO scene all received indefinite bans from Valve and most tournament organizers followed suit.
This effectively ended the promising careers of some of North America’s biggest talents. None more so than swag, the youngest member of the team and widely regarded as the most promising talent in North American Counter-Strike at the time.
After over 2 years away from the professional CS:GO scene, swag and co. got thrown a lifeline after the likes of ESL and DreamHack announced that the banned players would be allowed to begin competing in their events and leagues once more.
Swag, steel, and AZK have been playing together on Torqued for a number of months now and recently qualified for their biggest event yet in the form of the $200,000 ESL One: Belo Horizonte tournament.
They also recently attended DreamHack Tours 2018 and have been on an upward trajectory throughout 2018. However, that all came to an abrupt halt on May 23rd when swag announced his shock departure via a TwitLonger statement:
“Hey all, today I have decided to step down from Torqued. I don’t want to go into details why I’m making this decision and I know the timing is really bad as they have a big tourney coming up in Brazil but I don’t think there was a good time to make this choice. I still have love for the players and wish them the best of luck
As for me, I know my “comeback” since being unbanned from ESL and Dreamhack has been underwhelming. I know i’m capable of way more and I just need to keep grinding.
I feel like I need a mental reset but for now I will start streaming and playing FPL/Rank S to try and reach my potential and consider other offers that come my way.
Thank you for continuing to support me throughout all of these ups and downs <3”
The news left Torqued in a tough spot as ESL One: Belo Horizonte begins on June 13th, giving the team a mere three weeks to find a replacement and get them ready for the Brazilian event.
However, things got even worse when AZK followed suit on May 24th, stating that he had found out that he was going to be benched in the near future anyway.
“During the last day of our trip in Europe, I was told that the team was going to bench me and that I would not be playing with them in the upcoming ESEA season and the ESL One Belo Horizonte event in Brazil.
After taking some time to reflect on everything that has happened, I’ve decided to leave Torqued to pursue opportunities elsewhere. I will still be playing CS:GO actively and I’ll be working everyday on trying to improve as a player. I wanted to finish by saying that there’s no bad blood between us and I sincerely wish the best of luck to all of the guys on Torqued.”
It is currently uncertain what Torqued will decide to do next. With Belo Horizonte looming they now need to find two suitable replacements or they could be forced to withdraw entirely.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.