[REPOST] Evaluating Pro CS

By: Trevor Schmidt, last updated August 5 2004 at 1:27 PM EDT

We’ve dug up the old article published on August 18th 2004 (shortly after CPL Summer 2004) by ESL’s Vice President Trevor “midway” Schmidt for the format change proposal from MR12 to MR15, and CPL made the official change to MR15 for CPL Winter 2004.

Trevor "midway" Schmidt interviews Griffin "shaGuar" Benger at CPL Winter 2004 - the first ever MR15 event.

Post-CPL leaves many questions for the gaming community, but this summer’s event has left a great deal more then usual. With the anticipation of Doom3 as the CPL World Tour game, it requires everyone in Counter-Strike to take a hard look at the game being played in the professional scene. It’s not time to give up, not at all, just time to re-evaluate how to structure the game more professionally.

The community wants Counter-Strike, or team-based games, to become the dominate platform in eSports; however, it seems that every time the 1v1 format re-emerges with its supporters stating that its more fun to watch and simply provides a better spectator experience. It’s time to stop kidding ourselves in this community and understand they have a point. They may not all be entirely correct in their conclusions, but they do have a point; a point we would be remiss to not at least pay attention to if the sport is to gather further audiences.

In the corresponding Prime article that I have released, I discussed some disturbing trends we have seen in the game and the results of these trends. I will use this as a base from which to discuss the changes that I think need to be made in the game in order for Counter-Strike, as well as all team-based games, to shake the 1v1 format stigma.

The Prime article recognizes problems that create a residual effect on the game, specifically a residual effect called camping. The community accepts the status quo that it’s not in the best interest of teams to make an all-out attack at the beginning of a round. This is a problem for both the spectators and players, even though neither side seems to recognize it.

Spectator friendly games, small changes

The end result is obvious for spectators: a 2:30 round, often with only 10 seconds of action. Teams would rather sit and wait for the other team to make a mistake instead of forcing the action through their own efforts. This leaves tournament directors and fans in a tough spot. Everyone needs to demand more from the teams, yet the teams from a tactical point of view fight this urge to provide their fans what they seek. A team still sees the old money system game where camping equates to winning.

Teams don’t realize it, but it’s in their best interest to not sit around. The actual number of peeking or rushing defensive teams in professional Counter-Strike is so limited that while it’s enough to keep teams from doing organized offensive rushes, it’s not enough to produce consistent results. The best answer is to push teams towards preparation on a level that will create consistent results, which will still be exciting and fun to watch in return.

How can we accomplish this? Often it seems that answers involve Valve in some way; however, the solution to this problem does not lie in Valve’s hands, but rather our own. We as a community have to be willing to demand more from the players, and in turn put them in a more stressful and action-packed environment that will result in more tense and quick-paced play.

Accomplishing this is as simple as reducing round times. The current 2:30 round timer is a year long in comparison to other sports, ranging from the 24-second shot clock in basketball to the 30-second play clock in football. Both provide solutions to this problem for their respective games, and both have clearly improved them. Counter-Strike now sits in between those two games in a virtual “no-man’s land” that no one wants to touch or seems to fear fixing.

We have reached a decisive time in the history of eSports team-based gaming. We continue to prove that there is a spectator base for the game, but we are unwilling to develop it so that we see the regular numbers needed for the game to grow. We must choose which direction to go.

Basketball plays a continuous format, where the only stops in play take place if a coach or player calls a time-out. The limited size of the court and distance between baskets creates a dynamic fast-paced style of play that is not otherwise enforced outside of the 24-second shot clock. Similarly, soccer plays a non-stop style of play that involves harsh tackles and constant maneuvering of a double-digit number of players. The opposing view is that of American Football.

American Football provides a different format for us to follow, and what I believe is the correct format. The 30-second play clock forces a start to the action, but only 10-20 seconds pass before the next round or play begins afterwards. This rapid style of play creates a continuous action format, but also provides for the fans to catch their breath and build tension with the addition of the short breaks. Counter-Strike is better built for this format, while 1v1 games are more geared towards the aforementioned basketball format.

1v1 games are built around a non-stop style of play because they have no reason to stop. A player is relying on himself or herself rather than a team. On the other hand, team-based games are completely different. Even basketball has created a hole in that formula as most will say “Wow, the last 5 minutes of a basketball game takes an hour to play.” They aren’t lying, but is this really how we want our game to be played?

So, the choice must be made. The reduction of round times and the increase of freeze time before the round start seem like natural conclusions.

These simple changes force teams to more fully prepare for matches, play more effectively, and also play with greater speed and action. This pushes us to into a format that can also allow for an increase in rounds, allowing pistol rounds to be reduced in importance and create a large sampling field from which to decide who the better team is. Let’s look at the issue of time.

Current and Proposed Systems: Match Time

The following tables show you exactly how the proposed new system will effect match times, under both Maxrounds 15 and Maxrounds 18 scenarios (as opposed to the current Maxrounds 12 system). Maxrounds 15 under the new system will let a match complete before the current system, and provide much more action for spectators.

*An additional 10 seconds is added because bomb plants after the 35 second mark would be increased dramatically, therefore making up for the additional resulting time.

Three simple changes to the game could alter many of the problems the game has developed. Both spectators and players alike can benefit from this format. Fans who seek more intense and exciting matches will be satisfied, and players will be satisfied because of the reduction in the amount of unpredictability the game now features. It will also put more pressure on the teams to come prepared and to play well; challenging their skills in a way we haven’t seen since their early betas of Counter-Strike, and that is definitely a good thing.

Read the Prime article with more strategic analysis.