Sam "RattlesnK" Gawn: Open letter to VALVE - Part one
This will be a series of articles by EsportsHeaven resident columnist Sam "RattlesnK" Gawn addressing the problems in CSGO and how they could be resolved. Part one: Regarding future updates & developments of CSGO
There is a time and place for positivity regarding the updates we do get, but I really think some individuals within our community need to wake up and smell the coffee regarding what little has been provided to us so far. We are simply not receiving enough updates that are capable of changing the game that drastically over a short period of time. If we wait for VALVE to continue updating at their current pace we will be five years older by the time the game finally reaches a stage we can be happy with. I really think this is becoming a problem when you consider that VALVE's apparent priority is in developing the skin purchase system even further. Granted this provides our community with higher prize pools but I can't help feeling we've missed a stage in the development of CSGO. What happened to fixing the fundamental problems with the game?
For a start VALVE needs to offer far more transparency towards the current updates they are working on by providing more frequent information on their twitter account (@csgo_dev) and website (http://csgodev.com). This would hopefully relieve some of the conjecture from the scene about what the developer team is actually working on so we can have something to look forward to. I would advocate that a step further would be to open a planning tool such as trello to note down any tasks the dev team are working on every day. I can't think of a better way of keeping in touch with the community their trying to please. It would also assist players in letting them know whether they are wasting their time fixing trivial issues and instead allow them to spend more time on major fixes the entire community wants. This whole concept of transparency is one of the most important elements which I believe is currently lacking and if used correctly alongside player input could assist the scene in getting the updates we all want. After all if VALVE provide us with a carrot rather than a stick I'm sure we will all feel a lot more full.
Operation payback was a nice start - but we need to keep an eye on the fundamentals before the game can fully flourish.
Another plea I would make is for VALVE employees to come out of hiding and choose to support our game instead of the many other titles at their disposal. I know our community can be quite negative regarding CSGO's development but we take pride in the CS franchise and want you to develop it together with us. I had the pleasure of meeting VALVE at DHW 2012 where I was informed that each developer is permitted to choose which project they would prefer to work on. Whether this was DOTA2, CSGO or another game was up to them and their personal preference. I was told this aspect of their company was 'what made them different to others' as they had an influence on how much input a game received and the amount of developers that worked on each game. It appears that CS has fewer developers than other games currently and I would firstly like to thank those that are currently working towards improving CSGO with us. Without them I really don't know where we would be. I really would like to convince others to jump ship and start working on CSGO, so if VALVE does manage to read this piece I hope we can convince you that our game desperately needs your help in updating it to what our community wants.
Toward the current development I have one small gripe that stems from how feedback is currently being provided to VALVE. At the beginning many top figures of CSS were lucky enough to be sent out to Seattle to test CSGO and give their opinion of what changes were required. I really believe this was a great step and an olive branch out to the CS community and something that could have been extremely useful. Sadly it appears to have ended with not much feedback being taken on board because it was at such an early stage of the testing process. If this was repeated and the knowledge was taken on-board then perhaps some compromises could be made between VALVE and the competitive community that would allow for it to be useful again.
However, what we currently have is NiP being used as an official mediation between the professional community and the developers which really does not provide a large enough demographic to take into account everyone?s views. It isn't their fault and its probably because of their early success in CSGO that this occurred but I feel this is a very dangerous precedent to follow if VALVE are valuing their opinion over other teams. A little snippet from 'Fiskooo' highlighted this danger when a gun price was determined because the NiP players agreed the price at $2,900. That?s not to say the price is even wrong, I think it works quite well at that price and was the correct decision, its more that there is the potential for another team disliking a decision that is made with out their voice being heard. I hope everyone understands this isn't me having a go at NiP but instead showing exactly why I dislike one team having so much control towards the development of the game.
So what would I suggest to resolve this? I would arrange for one person from each major team within the scene to become an ambassador to VALVE toward future updates. If they feel there is a gameplay change they are going to make then send an email to every ambassador asking for their opinion which could range from a detailed response to simply asking for a yes or no answer. This would provide VALVE with a way to gauge information quickly on what our community wants, whilst also giving teams a platform for discussion. The demographic would not only be larger, but it would also allow the ambassadors to get in direct contact with the developers on certain issues we all agree need updating and fixing. If this was done correctly it would allow considerable amounts of useful information to get to VALVEs hands that would help them make the correct decisions about our game. When several or all of the ambassadors keep suggesting the same fixes it should be clear to VALVE that this aspect of the game needs addressing.
Much like during Seattle meetings before CS:GO was even launched, we need a large group of pro's to give advice, not a select few. pic courtesy of esea.net
Another problem I had when I talked with VALVE was their differentiation between casual and competitive players as they considered both parties to require different changes to the game, which were not compatible. As I was told, the changes I wanted were not always possible because they wanted to keep certain things into the game for the 'majority' of casual gamers who participated in CSGO. It was a large stumbling block in trying to convince VALVE that any change would not impact too heavily on a casual player and make the game extremely hard for them. To provide some examples they didn't want to fix the deagle because they felt it would be too overpowered against casuals and they wouldn?t remove fog on maps or the AWP because it would make the game aesthetically poor. I felt it was all-more about pleasing the casual player as whenever I presented an idea to make the game harder to play and more skilful this was often rejected because it would make it more difficult for casual players. It was making me slightly angry having to try and justify my changes when I believed my adaptations were what the casual and competitive community would want.
After a year thinking about the subject I still believe I was correct in my view that the two are unified together and improving one improves the other. The competitive player is more informed about what makes the game more balanced and the changes required making it more fun and enjoyable for the casual player. When you first play the game you are unaware of the dynamics of the game and will adapt to how the game is presented to you. It therefore shouldn't be a problem that the game requires a high degree of skill to play because from my own experience casual gamers still find it appealing to overcome challenges in their chosen game. When I get hammered on games it makes me try that bit harder to improve and learn how to become a better player so I can hand out the punishment the next time I play. I think these are the qualities that gamers thrive on and make people want to continue playing as they know they have so much more potential. Not to mention that 'CSGO Match Making' should mean casuals slowly glide through the process of ranking up and playing against other gamers around their skill level.
I would further suggest that CS was not and should not be developed with the casual gamer in mind as there are numerous other series such as Battlefield and Call of Duty which cater far better for those types of players. I won't go into specifics as to why, but I really believe that generally most gamers would agree that CS was known to be a highly skillful and difficult game to get to grips with at a competitive level. I think somewhere along the lines VALVE have forgotten how and why the CS franchise developed into the most accomplished FPS of its time. I would ask those working on CSGO to take a step back and look long and hard at what they are trying to achieve for the greater good of the game. Gabe Newell: "If you don't have a good idea of what the player has going through their mind that's important, you're going to be a terrible game developer".
The next article in the series by Sam "RattlesnK" Gawn will address the issues involved with how the game plays. Stay tuned.