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The biggest change to CS in over a decade is good

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Expert
15th March, 2019
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Despite being one of the oldest esports franchises – arguably one of the inaugural ones – Counter-Strike hasn’t really changed that much over the years. Now, though, Valve is looking to switch things up.

The significance of reverting the price of the AUG to its pervious state remains to be seen. It saw play in Astralis’ demolition of NiP in the ECS, but it wasn’t as ubiquitous as it had been at the major.

Buffs to the M4A1-S are nice, but are unlikely to make the gun much more popular given that it has a number of other problems. Shotgun buffs are very interesting on certain maps, but they’re not what I’m here to talk about today.

I’m here to talk about the economy, stupid. These changes, well, they could make CS a very different game.

To recap for those of you who might not have seen this yet, the gist is that winning a round no longer resets your loss bonus. Instead, you will be set back a tier. In practice, it means the awful position of winning a round at 0-5, then losing at 1-5 will no longer set you back to the stone-age.

You’ll still be down 1-6, of course – changing the economy won’t make you hit more headshots – but at least the $2900 you now receive will mean you can put a decent buy together for the following round.

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If you’re reading this article as a fan of esports but not particularly of CS:GO, a couple of changes to the in-game economy may seem laughable. Games like League of Legends and Overwatch get patches with more changes than this on a regular basis, sometimes a couple of times a month in League’s case.

Counter-Strike isn’t like that, though. At least, it never used to be. Off the top of my head, the last major change to how the economy works was the removal of T-sided “save rounds.” This was a quirk of the money system going back even before 1.6, which Team9 famously exploited in their success at ESWC 2003.

Golden Age SK (the one with Heaton, Potti and Spawn) made great use of it during CPL Winter the same year.

Winning the round via timeout used to be much more punishing for the CT side, which led to some unintuitive situations. Winning the round with four kills to two would often leave the CT side worse off than the defeated Ts in the following round. It also led to some interesting T-side stacks, but some very boring game play. Hunting the terrorists and dying was utterly ruinous, so it was rarely worth it to hunt down the last player.

Even more bizarre were the rounds where a terrorist team simply wouldn’t even try to attack in the first place. It was sometimes better to just wait a round out and deny the CTs any kill bonuses. Thankfully, it all changed when ex-pro Shaguar wrote an open letter to Valve on GotFrag, but not before several teams had used this system to win championships.

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The point of this history lesson is two-fold. Firstly, it shows that these kind of changes are extremely rare in CS. I’m sure there are significant changes I have overlooked, but the fact that the first one my mind goes to is over 15 years old says a lot. Secondly: it sheds a bit of light on Valve’s reasoning for switching things out.

The 2003 change was made, in part, to improve the spectator experience. The inventive head-stacks and camping spots were funny, but not worth the minutes of time passing with nothing happening.

With the new changes to CS:GO, save rounds will be rarer than ever. Not gone completely, mind you, but much less common. Despite some grumbling for some members of the community, this has to be a good thing over all. More money means more equally-balanced gun rounds, which means, in theory, fewer one-sided nothing rounds.

Yes, there is a level of artistry to successful save rounds that will be marginalised, but I think it’s a price worth paying and I say this as a big fan of grenade-stacks.

Counter-Strike doesn’t have as many variables as a game like League of Legends. It’s great that Valve is showing an active interest in the game at last (more majors, please?) but there are only so many knobs for them to twiddle with. On top of that, there is a sense of CS not being broken so don’t try to fix it.

If you’re not convinced that the change is good in its own right, how about this? Like anything else, CS’ popularity has waxed and waned over the years. If we want it to continue waxing, changes like this are necessary once in a while to keep things fresh and to keep people interested. Besides, I think we can handle a meta-defining shift once every 15 years or so, don’t you?