June 19, 2009

Ten Years of Counter Strike: Part Two

Well, time for number four on my list of Triumphs and Failures. If there’s one good thing about having a horrendously messed up sleep cycle it’s that I have plenty of time to write. Number four on both lists is the same group, the CPL.

Triumph #4
The CPL till 2005

If you think about it, and I mean really think about it, the pre-world tour CPL was quite unequivocally the shit.

This organization started by hosting quake tournaments in Dallas, with large LAN parties attached. Being the astute business men they were or just by sheer circumstance and luck (I’m going with the latter since they’re in the failure list too), they noticed that a lot of people were playing a mod for Half Life called Counter Strike. They held impromptu BYOC tournaments culminating in the first official CS tournaments at the back to back CPL Cologne and Babbage’s CPL events in December of 2000.

In short, they held 16 events in the US and Europe from 2000 to December 2004. A lot of these events and matches were iconic for the growing CS scene. The CPL Europe events were a treasure trove of amazing matches with Europe’s best slugging it out in between the bi-annual Dallas events.

Some of this might be nostalgia, but seeing the world’s best beat each other up in pursuit of minimal financial gain was real and pure. We all wanted to play against and get destroyed by these titans of Counter Strike.

If I could have any CPL, I’d have the one that existed from 2001 to 2003. They had the perfect number of events with spring and fall events in Europe and summer and winter events in Dallas. Enough to keep the fans interested, but not enough to wear out the players, the media, and the fans.

Looking at the CPL only in this time period I would have thought that the CPL Founder Angel Munoz was a god or a genius. Unfortunately for him, we have 2005 to the present to judge him by.

On a side note: Turtle Entertainment (the guys behind ESL), who ran the CPL Europe events, emerged after ending their relationship with the CPL with some serious rep in Europe. They went on to host the Intel Extreme Masters. They are one of the few companies that has been able to see a good thing and not mess it up. I think each season is getting progressively better.

Failure #4
The CPL 2005 to the present

After becoming the biggest name in eSports, the CPL wanted to blow things up. They wanted to throw fuck you money at a global eSports tour and have the finals on MTV. Well they got what they wanted. They made it on MTV.

In the process they turned their back on the CS community and destroyed their brand.


There was the prize money fiasco at CPL Turkey for one. I don’t think BSL ever got the prize money for that one. Instead of cowboying up and paying the prize money from CPL’s coffers they pulled this lame it wasn’t our tournament bullshit and insisted that the local organizer was on the hook for the cash not them. So by weaseling out of a few thousand in prize money, the CPL did a lot of damage to their brand.

Then the summer event was scheduled over the ESWC event. Whether this was intentional or not who knows, but it was a disaster for the CPL. Not only was this event originally just a CS:Source event, but the registration for 1.6 was opened so late that most teams opted to wait for the last minute to try to get an ESWC berth.

So in 2005 they only had one classic CPL, and then in 2006 they lost Intel to WSVG and only recovered in time to host a winter event in 2006. In short, from the launch of the CPL World Tour to the present day the CPL hosted three legitimate events compared to the 16 before that (I’m not counting the tour stops because as they told BSL they were the local organizer’s tournaments not CPL’s).

In short, don’t forget where your bread is buttered. You made it on MTV, congrats. In the process you gave the market to your eager and willing competition. The half assed and poorly executed switch to source and giving away one million dollars to 25 Painkiller players took the CPL from the top esports brand to just another tournament.

I’m not even going to touch the sale of the CPL to a guy in Dubai with petrodollars, or the World in Conflict tour.

Ten Years of Counter Strike: Part One

So it’s Counter Strike’s 10th anniversary. Thinking back to when I picked the game up in Beta 6, things have come a long long way. The game itself became more Rainbow Six and less Action Quake while still holding true to its fast paced origins. The scene has matured from local scenes mingling in isolation to global sites and international leagues. Also, we dare call this game a sport with large corporate sponsors.

Counter-Strike offers a mixed legacy, however. We were often subject to unscrupulous business men and having our game hijacked by those who thought they knew better than the fans. These men were all hailed as visionaries and later all turned out to be visionless hacks who tried to make money by chasing others dreams … and not their own.

So without further bullshitting on my part, I'll run down the top five triumphs and the top five failures in ten years of CS.

Triumph #5:
The max round game type and format standardization

We all yearn for the days of charges only when Vesselan was a colt wielding badass with Nordic Division and not just another fruity Swede.

Personally, I look back to when the game was new and we were exploring how everything worked with a yearning that the game I love was as fresh and addicting as it was then.

I have to admit though by sheer luck (or some Darwinian bullshit out of the primordial cluster fuck that was early Counter Strike) we came up with an incredible way to play this game. Gone was the camp the militia attic to run down the clock, and running away in chargers only to screw over the T’s. We had defined goals, and a set metric to judge teams by. We also cut down the number of players to a reasonable size and other competitive games still copy these rules.

Not only did we come up with this great rules format …. but it was adopted by virtually everyone. Counter Strike can be played in any tournament anywhere in the world and, besides minor rules about exploits and such, is the exact same game. I think this is a phenomenal achievement for a grass roots “sport” with no organizing body.

For this we have to thank the CPL. Without CPL and their early CPL Europe events international CS would not have grown as quickly as it did if at all. By being the premier international CS event their rules and standards became what the players viewed as the acceptable format for CS. I’ll hit on the CPL more later on.

Failure #5
Counter Strike Source

This isn’t a slam on CSS but more a slam on what Valve was thinking.

Let’s be totally honest. Releasing a game that played nothing like the original and was virtually unplayable out the gate was idiotic at best. Taking a game that grew up with the people playing it and then dropping this bastard child in their laps (ok I lied it is a Source slam) was essentially giving their fans the finger.

Sure it has pretty graphics but the reason Counter Strike is so popular is that it has AMAZING game play. I think Valve forgot this. I’d hate to have been the guy that did the projections at the Valve HQ. I bet they thought this game would grab CS’ player base and then some. It must annoy them to no end that this 10 year old game is still their most popular title.

Beyond the fact that the game was half baked and I personally hate the way the it plays, the game split the Counter Strike community in two. The CPL tried to run just a Source event in 2005; they were forced by the complete lack of sign ups to bring back the original and run two tournaments. Then the CGS cleaved the community in two with their league. They lead on CGS hopefuls by promises of farm squads and expansion teams that turned out to be a whole lot of bullshit. Hey, I guess you’re willing to say anything to convince people you’re the second coming of Christ.

Do I blame Valve for trying to cash in on the Counter Strike franchise? Hell no. Do I blame them for not keeping with the spirit of the first game? God damn right I do. Do I blame the bandwagoners and "marketers" who have no clue about our community foisting something on us to make a buck? I hope they realized what could have been and how much damage they did with their blind greed.

Check back soon for more of Triumphs and Failures!

June 14, 2009

Inzane quit school for CS


While getting my eSports fix and stalking the armory profile of the highest ranked rogue/priest 2v2 team on SK-Gaming, a video of caught my eye. It was of Inzane from the Female CS team Zinic and the headline read: "I quit school for CS."

I am a believer in people doing whatever they need to do to be happy. Well, to the extent that it doesn’t hurt me. However, I really have to question this young woman’s decision making process. Let’s take a step back here and look at the forest and not the trees.

This young woman is trying to make a living as a professional FEMALE Counter-Strike player. Now think about that. Take a few moments to let it soak in. I guess how ridiculous this sounds depends on what you consider “professional” to be. I consider being a professional to be about bringing home the bacon. You can be professional in your attitude, practice, schedule, or whatever else but unless you’re making money off of it you’re an amateur. Hell, most Olympic athletes are amateurs.

My big question is how can you be a professional anything when there is maybe one event that pays out any sort of prize money? That sounds to me like being a pool shark at your local bar. Even in Counter-Strike’s heyday there were maybe two female tournaments that paid out any substantial amount of cash. To be professional in female gaming back then you had to win all the tournaments or your team had to perform some serious public-relations work (aka booth babes).

Now I’m all for a young woman chasing her dreams, but in all seriousness all a sponsor wants is a return on their investment. For a good team the draw is having their brand associated with the team and rock star players represent their brand when need be. For a team that is average at best, it’s pretty clear what the plan is ... especially with how the interview was produced. Sex sells and the people behind Pink Zinic have goods and services they want to sell to you.

To me it seems like a case of Anna Kournikova versus Maria Sharapova. The former is smoking hot but on the tennis court kind of a dud. The latter is smoking hot and is pretty damn good. While the comparison isn’t fair, female tennis has a much larger player pool than female CS and who knows how Sharapova would fare versus male tennis competition, the point is if you can’t perform all you are is a sexual object to be used to promote your sponsors products. How the hell is that professional and how is there any future in that.

Right now I would question the judgment of anyone quitting school to play CS for any reason, but a 17 year old girl to play with an all girls team in one tournament a year? I think I’d be staging an intervention if I were her parents right now.

I'm Back!!


Hey worldwide eSports fans! Welcome to my blog!

I know I’ve been missing in action for some time now, but due to some contractual thingamajigs and a little burn out I decided to take a step back from eSports for a bit. Now that I’m back, it’s time to have fun. Where before I held myself back in order to deliver news as impartially as possible … now it’s time to let it all hang out. I hope you’re ready.

In case you don't know me, I'm a former Counter-Strike 1.6 and Call of Duty "pro" who placed in the money at two CPLs (one placing for each game). I decided to do more and more community related things to pad my resume in preparation for joining the workforce. I had previously worked with Trevor "Midway" Schimdt on the CAL-Draft team Infinite Impact and was a very visible troll on the Domain of Games website. One thing led to another and I began working at GotFrag.

I started writing predicitions, then recaps, to news, then to features and suddenly I was incharge of running the editorial department. From here it wasn't long before I became Assistant Editor in Chief. I took over the Editorial reigns of the website in June of 2006 and ran GotFrag until November of 2008. In that time I kicked ass, took names, and had time to chew some bubblegum too. It was a blast and I'm sad that I'm not working there anymore but as they say: C'est la vie!