Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

April 26th, 2024

It was almost seven months ago today, on September 27, that Counter-Strike 2’s beta-in-all-but-name was released, and it’s safe to say we were all expecting to have more features and content available by this time. While many of the issues will require a large undertaking to fix, there was a simple and important gameplay aspect crying for a quick fix: the map pool is in dire need of a tweak or two, and it was the most straightforward lever for Valve to pull. I’m looking forward to rushing B again (and do not stopping).

New maps = new ways to have fun

September 27 is World Tourism Day, and in 2023, it marked the opportunity for Counter-Strike players all around the world to explore new and updated vistas in the Source 2 engine. While the maps may have remained the same, the new systems and gameplay mechanics offered more than enough of a fresh coat of paint to make things feel new on the casual and professional levels alike, but the pool was otherwise identical since 2022’s addition of Anubis.

(A quick peek behind the curtain: I was chipping away at a draft about this very subject earlier this week, but alas, events, dear boy, events, ended up overtaking me. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, great minds think alike.)

Now, I’m an old-school gamer at heart, and I never really became a fan of the arbitrarily quick patch cycles and nonsense seasons that plague live-service games (Seriously, I play chess at a semi-competitive level. What else do you need to know? Over there, patch cycles are measured in centuries, not months.) It feels like change for change’s sake, iteration over innovation, with a speed that often comes at the expense of quality.

Sloppy and unbalanced shiny stuff is dropped on us with large fanfare, then emergency patches come and go, and by the time we could finally sink our teeth into a more-or-less balanced metagame, the devs and the bean counters are ready to restart the same cycle again. I enjoy exploring marginal games and tiny late-stage innovations, and I’m confident in saying that fans should be careful what they wish for when they push for a faster pace of changes in Counter-Strike – a game whose main appeal is the unbroken lineage going back all the way to 1999.

Still, things definitely got stale at this point, and it only served to highlight how simple and impressive a solution Valve have at their hands: gently tweaking the map pool around the edges is really all we need.

I spent way too much time and effort looking at the CS2 map crests

The ship of Theseus and a way to keep CS fresh

Adding Dust 2 to the competitive pool, a hyper-popular map that was already ported to CS2 matches back in the closed beta stage, was a straightforward and simple swap, one that will tide many players over even when we could have realistically expected more content by this point in the sequel’s life cycle. I would have much preferred to see Vertigo plucked rather than Overpass, but it’s a change I can live with – in more ways than one.

Thing is, I don’t think Counter-Strike matchmaking really needs more than this for “seasonal” adjustments as long as the basics are right: swapping a single map in and out while maintaining the core, much like the ship of Theseus, is the right balance of change and continuity in my mind. Perhaps there could be an XP boost or some other small benefit tacked on to encourage people to play more with a new map (not that Dust 2 will require any sort of help in this regard) so that the adaptation process of a brand-new playground becomes less like pulling teeth in the eyes of the wider player base. And surely there’s more to come? If nothing else, Cache and Santorini are edging ever closer to completion.

I’m looking forward to the receding tide of Mirage in Premier play, even if the sandy vistas will remain all the same. Hopefully, the Hawaii holiday has come to an end, and the content trickle will turn into a flood: while I don’t need any larger changes than this to the map pool, the economy and the VACation issues definitely need a spring cleaning from Valve. This set of maps will tide me over until they get all that sorted out.