This article is part of our Beyond the Game series.
Being a developer for an online video game in this day and age is an insanely tough task to ask of anyone. Given the prevalence of the talking heads on Twitter, Reddit, and other online forums, the vitriol that developers bear is loud and constant. So with everything that will follow, know that I totally get that being a developer is an unenviable position that I would never wish to hold.
That being said, it's hard to look at what Valve is doing with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and think that they're doing a great job. Sure, the game is fairly balanced, which is not something that can always be said with games like League of Legends and Overwatch. Valve's problems, however, lie in what decisions are made outside of the game. While I could probably go on for quite some time on this, I have three main gripes that will make up the meat of this post.
Harsh (and continued) bans for the iBUYPOWER debacle
Back in 2014, members of one of the best teams in North America were given indefinite bans from Valve for match fixing. The reaction to these bans from members of the community were, both at the time and even now three years later, somewhat outraged. While there is no doubt that match fixing is something that certainly shouldn't happen and should definitely be punished, a lifetime ban is a bit much.
Which is apparently the conclusion that ESL came to this past week when they announced that they would be lifting the bans against these players. This means that these players could now participate in the ESL Pro League, among other events sponsored by ESL. There's just one problem, ESL is only one of the major organizations that put on CS:GO tournaments. What about the others? I'm so glad you asked.
Turner, the company behind ELEAGUE? Yeah, they've decided to uphold Valve's ban. DreamHack? Yeah, they also upheld the ban. The ECS has so far been silent on the issue, but if I were a betting man, I'd say they follow ELEAGUE and DreamHack just based on pure numbers. Okay, but what if ESL gets a Major? They could play in that too, right? Wrong. Since Majors are put on by Valve, ESL stated that should they host a Major, they would have to uphold the ban there too.
While it was all well and good that ESL lifted the ban, are these players in any better of a spot now than they were six days ago before ESL's announcement? I'd argue no. Because what team will sign one of these players and not be able to use him in every event the team participates in? I suppose you could bring them on as subs, but these are some very talented players that deserve to start. Especially with the North American CS:GO scene essentially being on life support.
As long as Valve continues to uphold these lifetime bans, they will continue to hinder the careers of these players who have more than paid their dues for their transgressions.
Unwilling To Address Game-Changing Bugs
During the PGL Major last week, a new bug was discovered that could be exploited to give a team, usually the Counter-Terrorists, a major advantage. Essentially, a player can use a combination of a crouch and jump movement to peek above cover to see enemy positions without the enemy being able to see the player. The bug was used extensively by BIG during the group stages at the Major, and helped them in big wins over FaZe Clan and Cloud9.
The players were understandably perturbed about the use of this bug, and as such, brought it to Valve's attention at the Major. Now, one could have expected a bug that can change the outcome of a match to be a major focus for Valve to preserve the integrity of the game. If that was your assumption, you were, in my best Alec Baldwin Trump voice, wrong. Valve's response?
Valve answer at the major: Its skill based jump, so why are you not adapting? Just avoid places where they can jump they said 👌- FaZe karrigan (@karriganCSGO) July 28, 2017
So instead of actually wanting to fix this, Valve just says players need to work around it. That's just not how a developer should respond to a game-breaking bug. This sort of nonchalant attitude towards an issue like this is a bit alarming, if you ask me. Sure, teams can easily make gentleman's agreements to not utilize the bug, but that shouldn't be necessary. A developer should fix bugs, and Valve is simply ignoring them.
Making Major Rule Changes Before Big Events
Five days before the PGL Major kicked off last week, Valve made a big change to how map vetos proceed. Instead of simply alternating bans, Team A bans two maps before Team B bans three maps, and Team A then picks the map between the two left while Team B picks the sides.
This is a pretty big change. It fundamentally changes how this entire process works, which is not a bad thing at all. It brings a bit of fresh air to the veto system, in my opinion. The problem is that this change was implemented just before a Major was set to get underway and none of these teams had a chance to even test it out in a real situation beforehand.
Mind you, this is an event with a $1,000,000 prize pool. These kind of sweeping changes should be saved until after an event like this. The fact that Valve decided to do it at this moment once again shows off the lack of foresight that Valve seems to have. It's bad enough that the Major used the questionable Swiss system for the group stages (that's a whole different issue that I don't even want to get into right now), but to then add this into the fold? It's just not a recipe for success.
At the end of the day, we all want what's best for the game of Counter-Strike. The problem is that I'm just not sure Valve is ready and willing to get the game to that point. It's not that I think they are actively trying to bring the game down or anything. It's just simply that they now have a track record of making questionable decision after questionable decision.
There is plenty of time to course correct here and walk back on these issues. Valve can easily lift the ban tomorrow and check off that box. They can fix the jump spot bug and check the box, too. They can simply save big changes for after big events and easily get out of that hot water.
Am I confident that these boxes will get checked? Not particularly. Prove me wrong, Valve. For the integrity and longevity of the game, prove me wrong.