How will Counter Strike counter Call of Duty? Mostly, by ignoring it

Chet Faliszek talks us through Global Offensive

Valve has made a pretty damn good living off games that riff on the idea of tyrannical, all-powerful, all-seeing eyes. Portal gives us the legendary GLADOS, her voice booming out inescapably as you enter each area, cameras blinking at every twist and turn. Left 4 Dead has its "AI director", conjuring up the picture of a cackling fatso with a loudhailer, marshalling zombies behind the scenes.

Neither game exactly intimidates, of course. The AI director is a B-movie nerd playing the buffoon, out to provoke and entertain rather than annihilate, and for all the lethal machinery at her disposal, GLADOS couldn't outwit a potato. Counter Strike: Global Offensive's equivalent array of monitoring software lacks a name or persona but sounds considerably more sinister, tracking your every little move with unsmiling efficiency and filing it all away on Valve's central server.


Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be part of a plan to develop cyborg soldiers incorporating the behavioural traits of the deadliest players; the idea (eventually) is to give those players as much personal data to chew over and learn from as possible. Counter Strike may be catering to a wider audience these days, but it's still very much a game for perfectionists, an aggressively bare-bones team shooter where skill is its own reward. You can buy new guns between rounds, or earn them mid-round if you're playing Arsenal, but there's no ranking up, no automatic unlocking, no reassuring drip-drip of XP.

The stats go into dribble-worthy detail. "We tell you what your kill-death ratio is if you're moving, if you're moving with this weapon, if you're fighting at this distance," gloats Chet Faliszek, Valve's long-serving writer and designer. "We have a psychologist on staff that helps us leaf through the data and make sense of it. For instance, if you're running you might as well just hold down the button and fire because your chance of hitting the target is equal to if you were standing still and spraying."

Then there are the "death maps", reducing Global Offensive's 16 old and new battlefields to scattershot blueprints of mortality. "I can show you the death maps if people are running and fighting," Faliszek goes on happily. "This is the deathmap for the team who wins. This is the deathmap for the team who loses. So if you're shooting here, you're probably going to lose. You're making bad choices. We've had pros in, and they go nuts over it, they want every advantage."

Valve is still deciding how exactly all this will be made available to Xbox 360 players. It probably won't take the form of an in-game database. "If you start exposing the data in the game it becomes this really messy, hard-to-parse thing. But outside the game, we'll try it." A PC-based tracking service similar to Halo Waypoint, Battlefield's Battlelog or Call of Duty: Elite seems possible, and Valve obviously has some experience in this department, thanks to Steam.


Is Valve worried about comparisons with Halo, Battlefield and Call of Duty? Shouldn't everybody be worried about comparisons with Halo, Battlefield and Call of Duty? "We play games like those games as well. But we think this is different. We care about it in the sense of we want to make sure that, as gamers ourselves, we're giving something new, something we would want to play that's different.

"Not everybody's playing those games - competition wise we don't have a 'thing' about it. If there were only 40 million gamers and all 40 million were playing that one game and not anything else, then you'd have competition. Those games are fun and they do a bunch of cool stuff, but we kind of strip a lot of that away. We just want to make it about the competition, the sport of the game, and that's what Counter-Strike is."

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