Game Development Reference
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and the years kept passing. The mega-hit Call of Duty 4 slammed into the
market in 2007, but, as you can guess, people kept playing Counter-Strike .
As of this writing, more than 13 years after its original release, Counter-
Strike is still the number one most-played game on the popular Steam PC
gaming service.
Why?
It 's not the fiction. There are many military games out there, some
successful, some not. No, the success that Counter-Strike enjoys is due to
its mechanics. It's because of the game's balance, pace, skill, and deci-
sions. Let's take a look at the decisions in a typical Counter-Strike match.
Counter-Strike generates decisions such as the following:
Should I reload now or later? What if the enemy comes around the
corner while I'm reloading? But what if I run out of ammo while I'm
fighting?
Should I move my position forward, backward, laterally, or not at all?
What if I get shot while I'm in between cover? But what if I lose because
I don't make my objective? What if I get killed because I'm too far out in
front of my team? But what if the teammates covering the other entrance
are killed and I get shot in the back?
Should I buy a weapon now? What if I run out of money when I need
it later? But what if I die this round because I'm unarmed?
As in all skilled flow-sustaining games, these decisions appear con-
stantly and at a rapid rate. A two-minute round might have 100 such deci-
sions. The density is so high that we can't practically analyze even minutes
of play in this game. To watch Counter-Strike work, we need to brake into
ultra-slow motion and examine a player's thoughts second by second. In
this case, I'll examine the first 20 seconds of a typical match.
Our player, Bob, joins a game. Bob doesn't start playing immediately;
he must first watch the current round until it finishes. This allows him to
gather some basic information: the map is de_aztec, Bob is on the terrorist
team, and each team has five players. The scoreboard shows that his team
is losing. Watching the round finish up, he sees that the opposing team
has an expert sniper named Alice, who is dominating the Main Courtyard
area from its western edge.
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