Meet my love
Duncan. Duncan… he was a pest on the old boards.gamers.com forums, an annoyance par excellence. If you’ve ever seen Rushmore, you’ve probably got as good an idea of who Duncan is as you ever will. When Counter-Strike first came out, he’d spam the boards with screenshots of it, of him going 44-2 on cs_siege or cs_assault. When asked what the game was like, he’d explain how realistic it was – terrifyingly realistic to those of us who grimaced when comparing the fast, lethal Quake with the slow, plodding Quake II.
The FS and GX staff didn’t dislike CS initially because of it being different, but because it was taking games in the wrong direction. Rather than highlighting skill levels, it diminished them. What was this nonsense about bullet spread and recoil? Sniper rifles being more powerful than the railgun, which was partly responsible for the slow pace of Quake II? Loud footsteps, crouching? This was anathema to anyone who savored the fast pace of Quake. So, publicly, we laughed at him.
Regardless, Duncan’s temptations got to me first. Perhaps because I was the least hardcore, with the least to lose, I downloaded the CS Beta. It was probably beta 3, though I might have caught the tail end of 2. My memories of the game were that weapons were horrible imbalanced – there really was no reason to use some guns at all. That would be fine in a game like Quake where controlling weapon spawns was a strategic necessity. The other guy could have the nailguns as long as you kept control of the rocket launcher, shaft and, depending on your foe, grenade launcher. But a game in which you spent money you earned by fragging and winning, having useless guns? Seemed like such a waste. The maps weren’t particularly good either, and people quickly figured out the most efficient ways to beat them.
And yet, despite all these problems, I found myself hooked. CS rewarded skill in its own way, with money (not to mention not having to waste time in observer once you died). It forced players to co-operate on public servers with the objective system, so you’d see a semblance of strategy develop even with raw recruits. The challenges were quite different, having to manage recoil and remain stealthy. Sure, the game might not identify individual differences of skill very well, but it was “fun”.
Being incredibly driven at the time, popping out two or three articles per week, I couldn’t play as much CS as I might have wanted to, yet I followed the steady progress from the earliest betas, through the highs of the mid-betas, to the gradual standardization with the release of 1.0. My fondest memories stretch back to beta 4/5, though 7 ranks highly as well.
Most of FS and Gamers staff were playing by 6, and GX-The Romero was already a local legend when beta 7 came around, an AWP whore without comparison, but he showed his Quake roots by being a lethal close-quarters fighter. And yet, many have quit by now. There seems to have been a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with the pointlessness of the patches, the lack of direction. Version 1.0 was a grave disappointment, not because it was terribly worse, but it was the official final version, and added nothing nor was markedly better than some of the betas. Most additions to CS since then have felt rather whimsical, while the changes strive more and more to bring the guns to a boring parity.