Gaming Made Me: Counter-Strike

By RPS on May 21st, 2011 at 12:00 pm.

This week in our ongoing retrospective series on games journalists’ most formative games, we very proudly welcome Eurogamer‘s god-king and operations director Tom Bramwell to the word-stage. He’s here to tell you about his long years spent with arguably one of the most definitive PC games of all time, and what for one generation of gamers was a global obsession that today’s shooters, no matter how much bigger they might be, just can’t seem to match…

I also wanted to write this about Grand Theft Auto, and I might still do that another time if RPS will have me back. There were probably other factors, but no one game is so singularly responsible for my being a games journalist (or at least having been one) as DMA Design’s original PC game. But I’m really here today to bang on about Counter-Strike, and I owe that game a massive debt too, because it’s thanks to Counter-Strike that I don’t play Call of Duty or Battlefield or Medal of Honor or any of that stuff on the internet nowadays for a moment longer than my job requires.

It’s not that I don’t like them or think they’re good (they’re stupid and mildly offensive, but I do enjoy them and think they are worth the 8s out of 10 I’ve occasionally given them), and it’s not because I’m so smashingly busy and go-getting that I never have time to indulge myself.

It’s because my time – YEARS – playing Counter-Strike has rendered me mentally incapable of forming meaningful relationships with its modern descendants. The mod that Minh Le and Jess Cliffe (whom I once offended by posting ignorant rubbish about CS on Planet Half-Life when I was the 15-year-old editor) created together a decade ago was where I grew up.

Counter-Strike was and is a multiplayer FPS. There were two teams – Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists – and there were a few types of map to play on, the main ones being cs_ and de_. Cs_ maps (like cs_militia) were about the CTs rescuing hostages or the Ts preventing them doing so. De_ maps (like the most famous one, de_dust) were about the Ts planting a bomb and the CTs either trying to prevent them doing so in the first place or defusing it if they did. You could also lose a round by having your whole team wiped out. Nobody respawned until the end of a round.

Rather than classes, CS had you buy weapons at the start of the round using a sequence of number-key presses. This warm-up period only lasted about five seconds (or less if you were an HPB) and then you had to be really on it, so for me a typical round began like this: 1, 3, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 1, 4, 6. Or something last that. That’s probably wrong actually. (Apparently I can’t consciously interrogate muscle memory for the right combo for Deagle, Colt, Flashbang, HE, ammo. Shit, and I wanted armour too!)

I was in a clan – hell, I kind of still am in this clan – called Eat Electric Death. We had our own server (which we called Snatch) that we ran CS on. We used to hang out in our QuakeNet IRC channel and talk rubbish all evening and play CS against random people who ended up on our server (whom we called peons).

Depending on how magnanimous we were feeling, we’d be on Roger Wilco (a voice comms program – I refuse to sully this retrospective by using the term “app”) at the same time calling enemy positions. It was a public, so this was kind of cheating, but we generally only helped each other if one of the remaining peons was camping or being otherwise antisocial. In extreme cases (and sometimes in other cases, and sometimes just to amuse ourselves) we would use rcon to kick people off.

We had some stars, but our clan hierarchy was pretty much dictated by personalities rather than skills and we were a social bunch. We met up at the Dickens pub near Tower Bridge for drinks pretty often, and we went to the odd i-series LAN party. (We once accidentally terrorised i8 by doing a netsend to everyone on the network announcing that people who go to LAN parties to play Planetarion ought to be euthanised. We meant to send it to everyone on our switch.)

We also dabbled with some other games (Quake 2 was the genesis of the clan, I think, although that was a bit before my time), but it usually came back to CS. We played in a proper league and everything.

Now, I imagine if you’re reading this there is a half-decent chance you have done some organised gaming, and you may even have read Jim Rossignol’s excellent book where he talks a lot about the time he spent doing the same thing. The difference between Jim and my approach to organised gaming is that whereas he shaved down CFG files, lowered mouse sensitivity and plotted tactics in IRC, I practiced for Rocket Arena 3 games, for example, by bouncing around levels listening to Foo Fighters.

But CS was different. I can’t say I was much of a tactician, and I was a middling twitch player, but playing a real clan match against a team of unknowns really mattered. Making the team (such that it was) really mattered. I was a 16-year-old kid who worshipped his older 20-30-something team-mates. And against the anvil of CS I hammered out some lifelong memories.

The first concerns Afty, our affable Mancunian (Manchester might as well have been Sarajevo to a reclusive 16-year-old who never went north of the Watford gap, incidentally, so Afty was kind of exotic). We were playing a game on cs_backalley. Terrorists were guarding hostages, Counter-Terrorists had to get them back. The Ts would always round the hossies up into one of the upstairs rooms then hole up and listen for activity on the stairwell or the telltale sound of ladders and vents.

I was a terrorist (good morning ECHELON) and we were a few men down. I was in the upstairs bit playing it cool. Shinji (Rob Fahey – he writes for GamesIndustry.biz and Eurogamer and was also EED) was with me. I heard something on the stairs. There was definitely someone on the stairs. “IS THERE ANYONE ON THE STAIRS?” is what I said on Roger Wilco. I fucking said this. I asked the question. Nobody replied so I repeated it. So just for the record, I FUCKING SAID IT TWICE. No.

I threw an HE grenade. It connected perfectly with the man on the stairs. In the face. He died. I headshotted him with a grenade. It was a perfect, perfect kill.

Shame it was Afty. A pause.

“Does anyone want to kill Tom right about now?” Thanks Shinji.

I was embarrassed and ashamed. I may actually have stayed off IRC for a day or so after that, although you always come back.

The second big memory though was what I will happily refer to as My Finest Hour.

My Finest Hour took place on de_dust. Dust is sometimes cited by reviewers and developers as a great example of level design, but to my mind it was as close as anyone has ever come to a perfect multiplayer FPS level.

It’s an asymmetrical map with two bombsites and two main choke points in the centre of it – a bridge under which people can move from one half of the map to the other, and a covered tunnel area that has a few exits. One bombsite is close to the CT spawn point, while the other is on the other side of the choke points but more exposed and still a bit of a trek for the Ts.

With the possible exception of the first track in Super Mario Kart, I have run around de_dust probably more than I have done anything in any other single space in a game ever. When I’m a CT, I race down the ramp and break right toward bombsite A, and using a bunny-hop launch a flashbang into the covered tunnel choke point area so it perfectly rebounds into the exact area the Ts will be rushing if they are heading for A. (That’s the plan anyway – sometimes I blind my own team.)

Unusually though, for My Finest Hour I found myself as a lone CT overlooking the bridge. My team-mates had just rushed the tunnel and presumably discovered token resistance, but within about 10 seconds of this I was able to inform people on RW that there were Ts in the tunnel. Quite a lot of them. All of them, maybe.

Help was not forthcoming.

This was quite bad news, because I had – in one of those wonderful flights of optimism that has also prevented me ever becoming consistently useful in organised team games – purchased an AWP sniper rifle with my funds for the round. Aiming not being a traditional strength of mine, things were not looking good. In these situations I usually focused on trying to get one good kill and then leg it or leap down and thrash around with the knife to take the enemy by surprise (the enemy often masked its surprise by efficiently shooting me in the face with an AK-47).

On this occasion, I racked up my one kill very quickly. But then something happened. The next Terrorist obediently ran into my crosshairs at the exact moment the lengthy AWP reload cycle completed, and just as my fat teenage index finger dabbed the LMB of what overpriced Razer nonsense I happened to be gripping. Headshot.

It happened again. I maybe had to move the mouse a bit, but in general the impression from the perspective of my clan mates on the other side of the map would have been this:

LOUD FUCKING NOISE
[EED]Mugwum [NME]ThisGuy

LOUD FUCKING NOISE
[EED]Mugwum [NME]ThisOtherGuy

LOUD FUCKING NOISE
[EED]Mugwum [NME]NowThisGuy

LOUD FUCKING NOISE
[EED]Mugwum [NME]AndThisGuy!

I think I got maybe five of them. We won the round.

I won the round. It was My Finest Hour.

For maybe five or six weeks afterwards, senior members of the clan who I basically wished I was would actually give me the AWP in matches – as in they would buy it and dump it at my feet, an unspeakable honour – and generally talk about my sniping skills without irony.

I often read war stories in game reviews, but I know most reviewers – even really good ones – enjoy the act of recounting an enviable experience in an entertaining way more than they probably enjoyed the act itself.

Most of the time games just aren’t like that, and especially multiplayer FPS games. Most of the time they’re that jaded cliché about getting shot repeatedly in the face by a whiny-voiced teenage homophobe from Rednecksville USA, although probably not as much as we claim.

Most of the time Counter-Strike is exactly like that, and even at the time that was why a lot of people found it really off-putting (our rcon behaviour probably didn’t help either). But I guess the reason CS is so special to me is that the memories of it that I’ve kept in my head for 10 years are all like the time I headshotted Afty with a grenade, and My Finest Hour.

If I close my eyes and think about Counter-Strike, I find myself staring down the alley on cs_Italy and optimistically firing the Scout at shadows, or I’m crawling over the rooftop on cs_militia, or I’m listening for the vents in cs_assault, or I’m watching someone crawling along the railing on the exposed mountainside part of de_prodigy and laughing as [EED]Lurks blasts them down the slope with his Desert Eagle.

I probably do have the time and inclination to get to this stage again with a Call of Duty or a Battlefield, but I’m not going to bother. Never mind the fact those games are disposable even in the eyes of their publishers – I can’t grow up again, and I don’t want to pretend I will ever have it as good as I did when EED was in its pomp.

So I suppose you could say Counter-Strike made me not give much of a toss about modern warfare games. But then on the flipside, it is also the reason that I give them so much space on Eurogamer and try to encourage our writers to treat them with respect rather than decrying their brown-grey empire as a death knell for creativity.

I know that somewhere out there somebody else is growing up like I did, and more power to them.

P.S. Run with the knife.

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120 Comments »

  1. Njordsk says:

    1.6 is THAT ugly?

    Man, it was better in my memories

    This game stole so many of my hours it’s not even funny

    • Dhatz says:

      did you mod it? I actually had tehnical memory and rememner polycount was minimal, but the gun skins can make it look almost as CSS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      It’s Half-Life engine circa 1998. What do you really expect for visual fidelity? 3D GPU’s were still in thier infancy back then.

      The player models were the only things which really bugged me so I always replaced them with better higher quality ones.

    • Gnoupi says:

      And that, my friend, is the most played game on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/stats/
      47 thousands players today.

      CS is (can’t really say “was” with this amount of activity) one of these games which are “the only game” for many ; many “non-gamers”, who have only this and fire it up on their computer from time to time.

      It has the advantage of running on most computers from the last 10 years, and it’s still popular, so it’s easy to just jump and play.

    • Premium User Badge

      El_MUERkO says:

      I started in 1.0 by buying Half Life Generations, my ping on my 56k connection to NGUK and Jolt servers hovered around the 270ms but I got some kills :)

      NESW fo’ life bitches!!!

    • BAReFOOt says:

      But my personal favourite moment, was when I got through the tunnels of de_dust so fast (as a CT), that I exited the tunnels through one exit, right while the Ts were lining up to enter them through the other entry. They didn’t notice me!!! So I tiptoed behind the last one, whipped out my knife, and *KILL*. Weirdly, still nobody noticed. I think because they all just looked forward, and couldn’t imagine someone being *behind* them. I knifed the next one. *SLIT` And the next one… already halfway into the tunnel. …and so on. Until the first one was all alone in the tunnel. With me right behind him.
      I think, he noticed something was wrong here. He turned around, and it felt like a century passed… but somehow he didn’t shoot. Maybe he couldn’t believe his eyes. And right when he lifted his AK… I slit his throat.
      My mates came around the corner about a second later. And couldn’t believe to see me standing there, among the whole, dead, T team.
      It was epic.

      We were also the first clan that used the now well-know admin-mod for CS. A friend of mine (not any more, actually) had the official site.
      For example, you could remote-remap keys with it, if you were the server admin. Which we used on some of the most annoying campers, by mapping their shoot button to self-kill.
      There also was “slap”, where you could literally slap someone for 20 HP, so he bounced around the level. And “bury”, which simply moved him about a fifth of his body length downwards into the stone. So on two-story levels, you could bury him until he hung on the ceiling by his head. And then knife his feet from below.
      And the last one I remember was “llama” and “unllama”, which transformed all chat messages (this was still in ISDN and modem times) into llama noises.
      It was hilarious.

      Oh, and the game got me my first, and well-paid, job. :)

    • Scare Tactics says:

      @BAReFOOT
      And right when he lifted his AK
      when he lifted
      lifted

      Cool story bro

    • Josh W says:

      I’ve never had anything like that, but I love it when you do something random and unexpected, or just really well, and the opposing team just has temporary reality failure! They sort of space out until they get a chance to think. I suppose counterstrike really emphasises those kind of moments, lets them ring a bit. In games like starcraft, you have to immediately jump on your advantage, in games with respawn, you just go again, but in counterstrike type games, the match can basically be over.

  2. pepper says:

    Bravo! Somehow, somewhere this game also holds a special place in my hearth, although mostly playing with bots due to the lack of dedicated internet at my machine.

  3. kyrieee says:

    It’s fun to read this because I grew up the same way, but I guess I didn’t grow up because I kept playing CS :P

    1.6 is THAT ugly?
    It’s uglier because everyone plays it at 640*480

  4. MrSnoobs says:

    I don’t think that any game will ever get under my skin as much as CS did. My finest gaming moment of all time was in CS, knifing 5 enemies in a single round. Beautiful.

  5. porschecm2 says:

    I’m not exactly a kid anymore, but I still have this sort of enjoyment playing CoD BlOps on Hardccore Search & Destroy (Tactical servers FTW!), which is probably as close to CS as you’ll get on a modern shooter. And of course the S&D mode owes itself directly to CS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Wouldn’t Counter-Strike:Source be “as close to CS as you’ll get on a modern shooter”?

    • Premium User Badge

      Devenger says:

      A game released in 2004 isn’t a modern shooter any more, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong. CS:S still holds up wonderfully, but it hasn’t been a new game for a long time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Yeah VALVe have such a terrible record of supporting their games. It’s not like they moved it to the latest version of the engine a few months ago. Oh wait.

      Just because it doesn’t have a disposable yearly release, doesn’t make it any less ‘modern’.

    • ShaunCG says:

      @Malibu Stacey

      Your definition of “modern” needs modernising.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Isn’t CS modern and COD:BLOPS, or wtf ever its called, post-modern?

  6. jimjames says:

    Everyone runs faster with a knife. That was a great story!

  7. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    Real men only buy armor and a deagle.

    (and then they get killed everytime they meet more than one enemy at a time because of reload)

    • TheCentralGovernment says:

      False. Real mean ECO the first round. And turn up with the big guns on the second round.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I real man would actually buy armour, keep his starting pistol, and follow a teammate with an AWP or M4/AK47, and exclaim over the mic, “The one with the rifle shoots”.

  8. Pictoru says:

    Hundreds of hours spent at “internet cafes” and thousands more at home over …8 years i think , and i wasn’t hardcore or anything :d , such was my adolescence.
    Every time when i play nowadays these STUPID respawn shooters i think about CS and how wonderful was having 1 life/round (campers and all) . Maybe that’s why i like World of Tanks so much.
    I can definitely say Counter-Strike made me.

    P.S. (to your ps) : i almost forgot …i hate SOOOO MUCH knifes in modern shooters “press “V” for melee” …..fuck off !!!

    • Balm says:

      Heh, in CS 1.3 I had a macro on “F” that woould take knife out and make secondary swing. I remember being a ‘lil dissapointed when i first played CoD:MW and saw melee button – that meant now other people can be as fast with knife as me :(

  9. Jasharin says:

    I’m a little shocked that you felt the need to explain the basic mechanics of CS. I mean, isn’t this stuff that everyone just instinctively knows?

    • gganate says:

      When you assume, you make an ass out of me and you….

    • jimjames says:

      ^ ha

    • Nick says:

      was.. was that deliberate?

    • Vinraith says:

      When you make an assumption, you make an ass out of you, and mption.

    • Bureaucrat says:

      I, for one, knew nothing about the mechanics of this game. Vague awareness of it as a popular multiplayer shooter, sure, but that’s a genre that never held much interest to me. I spent most of my gaming time back then on Civilization 2.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    I spent the best parts of my gaming years playing CS (and Day of Defeat, Enemy Territory, CoD 1 & 2) competitively. We never got very far in CS but clan gaming really was and is the best thing that ever happened to gaming. Spending all those nights in IRC just talking crap and getting ready for the next match. Figuring out new tactics as a group and then trying them in practice matches, even official matches was really a lot of fun.

    I was never much of a shooter. I tried to avoid sniper rifles because they required you to actually be rather precise. Instead, I was the master of making quick decisions and playing tactically on my own. I could hold the whole enemy team 1vs5 in Day of Defeat while waiting for my team mates to respawn. Constant movement, sneaking around, using sound to my advantage. Needless to say I wasn’t that good a player in Enemy Territory and Call of Duty 1/2 because those games were faster and required you to actually shoot good too. Surprising someone wasn’t an instant win anymore.

    Even though I had been gaming for ten years by the time first betas of CS were released, I can say that CS was the game for me. We played it in LAN parties, we played against bots, we played it competitively. We played a lot of CS. And then stupid new players came in and demanded that CS is to be played in only few selected maps. That was really the end of it as huge part of the fun was the dozens of maps that kept you guessing instead of just camping the same few spots in de_dust.

    • Springy says:

      I remember during my years of CS, DoD and, later, competitive CoD1 my aiming was actually pretty good. I was able to snap off reaction headshots with the bolt-action rifles in CoD, certainly. Now whenever I play a shooter online I can’t hit the broadside of a barn. My inner 17-year-old self is howling in horror at this decline.

  11. Frye2k11 says:

    Nice article sure brings back memories. I used to play CS for about 5 or 6 years with the greatest group of people ever. We had a very well moderated server with two simple rules : we don’t ever EVER cheat here and my kids should be able to play here so watch your language. I like to think ours was a great server.

    Listening well and being in the right spot was as important as aiming well, lost health could not be replenished. Spraying bullets was not usually a good idea. Skilled players dominated.

    The best thing about the game was the fact all the dead people are watching the others battle it out. Glorious moments are there for everyone to see and dying is….yes kids…..actually dead for as long as the round lasts.

  12. Spiny says:

    God, I miss those days.
    Dude, you know no one ever, ever leaves :) Your presence is missed at LANS, although we spend more time drinking & chilling now :)

  13. Bilbo says:

    Classic game. Mr Bradwell you say that your experience with counter-strike gave you a sense of respect for modern FPS in its “brown-grey” glory but CS was beautiful and varied by comparison – hardly any two levels look alike.

    Enjoyable read all the same

  14. Spacewalk says:

    CS was the only game I played more times than Doom 2 that year when 1.6 was still fresh and I flat out just don’t play any other game more than Doom 2, not even Hexen and that’s my favourite game ever. That was the effect CS had on me. I can’t remember why I stopped, maybe the Opera or Specialists was the cause.

  15. MD says:

    Great article! This is the kind of thing I love to read. Not specifically because it was about CS, but because it was sincere and full of passion, and genuinely entertaining. More of this please, and more of Jim reminiscing about Quake.

  16. Martha Stuart says:

    Admitting to useing an AWP is like admitting you used PEDs in professional sports, for shame sir, for shame.

    Famas for life

  17. Premium User Badge

    Alegis says:

    Reminded me of my finest hour in a clan match in CoD 1 (for the record, the only CoD I played), a match against my former teammates who abandoned the clan – causing it to dissolve. I joined a different one and got to exact revenge by taking them all down from behind.

    Good times.

  18. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Dope!

  19. Rii says:

    B42B82

    • Whenn says:

      B8? O.

    • Dom_01 says:

      B43B82B83B86 ,,,

    • sinister agent says:

      Twelve.

      (Am I doing this right?)

    • Neut says:

      B31O2O4O3,,,,,…. :D

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      B13B46B62. ’nuff said.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Look at you still using the menus to buy stuff.
      Writing buy scripts was one of the first things I did when i started playing Counter-Strike but then I played TFC & QuakeWorld before it so scripting was second nature to me. So much easier to press F8 & get either an AK on Terrorists or an M4 on CT’s with full ammo, Insert for armour & helmet, Home for HE Grenade etc.

    • Zaphid says:

      I haven’t played CS for like…last 5 years, a month ago me and 3 of my friends got together and thanks to the wonders of portable CS installation we started playing it. I still remembered the key presses to buy stuff. It’s like remembering half of the codes in Deus Ex, something you can do out of the blue when woken up at 4 am in the morning

  20. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    Quake II and, later, Vietcong filled this niche for me.

    Was OK at CS for a bit back in the day but when I went to uni there seemed more important things to do with my time.

    But I think whilst the specific games may be different, anyone who has ever got semi-serious about an FPS can relate to this kind of story…

  21. Premium User Badge

    Malibu Stacey says:

    Similar thing for me but it was the pantheon of multiplayer Half-Life 1 mods not just Counter-Strike. Played far too much of Team Fortress Classic, Science & Industry, Firearms, Action Half-Life & latterly Natural Selection.
    Probably explains why I play far too much TF2 these days (and CS:S before TF2 came out).

    • Lightbulb says:

      Firearms was awesome.

      CS (and CSS) still claimed about 3 working years (9to5, 50 weeks ie 8000+ hours) of my life though.

      Pretty bad looking back on it…

  22. Robin says:

    Look at the steam stats: it still is (abundantly) the most played multi game.
    And it is not the same player base of that time; so it is not only you who can’t focus on new titles, the new player too can’t.

  23. gganate says:

    I’m not a gaming journalist, but I feel I could’ve written this exact article. I started playing games around 1998, when Half-Life came out and this was a time when your average pc game would run well on the average person’s pc. So a good portion of my high school buddies (and this was in a redneck Indiana town of 2500 people) joined me every night after school for counter-strike and team fortress sessions. We played Unreal Tournament too, but the Half-Life mods were what we played the most. Like Mr. Bramwell, I played so much back then that cs’s descendants (and if anybody remembers the first Call of Duty, its multiplayer was almost exactly like cs) aren’t any fun for me. I’ve had that experience and frankly I don’t think having random matches on your x-box compares to the fun of setting up your own servers with a group of buddies and taking on the rest of the internet. Anyway, nice piece.

  24. Hunam says:

    Basically the almost exact same experience I had growing up. I bounced about clans a few times with some people I’d never actually met but yet called good friends and spoke to daily. But soon after a friend of my introduced me to some other people at school in my year who to that point I had no idea existed even slightly. We quickly became good friends because we played counter-strike every single day after school till about 1am and all day on the weekends. This was broken up by school holidays where we would just play CS every day anyway. Sometimes UT if we fancied something different. Never quake 3 though, we sucked at that. I remember having lans that fed into bigger organised lans that compounded a nice 5 day binge of CS.

    I can’t actually play CS any more. I’m just kind of ‘done’ with the game. I wouldn’t say I’m bored of it but the thousands of hours/days I ploughed into that game reached my life time quota of them. Whilst I can still pop onto BF/CoD and have a bash I am kind of like Tom in the way that I just can’t get into a game as much as I did CS. I’m fairly certain I’ll never play another game like that in that way again.

    I think CS, the social side of it and the game itself will always be a big part of my life because again, like Tom, I basically grew up on it.

  25. Wang Tang says:

    I still remember the first time I played CS, I think it was around b0.7-ish. We we’re 4 people on a private lan-party, and one of my friends introduced it to us. We played 3 vs 1, but gave up after his stats were 30:4.
    But the game stuck, and I was playing it for years to come, only finally being replaced by NS (where my finest multiplayer-gaming moments stem from).

    • Whenn says:

      Sounds exactly like my experience, only that I was the guy who introduced them to it and pwned them all 30:4.

  26. Azazel says:

    Quakeworld was this for me.

    I suppose when you’re a spotty teenager all the rocket-based dramas of these things mean so much more and you can’t really recapture that feeling. Just can’t find that feeling man. I’m imagining Reo Speedwagon playing at this point.

    • apa says:

      Me too. First I played only QW deathmatch and made fun of my uni mates who played the original Team Fortress (“it’s too easy, too slow, dm is the ultimate game”). Then I played it once with them…and then TF with clan Humppa was how I spent the next few years until 3D cards and Action Quake. After the clan stuff faded away all of us stopped playing anything online, it burned us up so bad. I went back online only a couple years ago with L4D and BC2.

    • Nollind Whachell says:

      Ya Quakeworld DM & CTF was my first love as well but I spent a ton of time in CS too.

      Quakeworld DM just had a fluidity to it that I have not seen replicated in any FPS game to date. Being a lone player at the heart of a maelstrom of other players around you and walking out of a room still alive, while they’re all kissing the stone, is one of the most amazing solo FPS experiences I’ve ever had.

      Quakeworld CTF has to be my best team FPS experience to date and the mobility that the grappling hook added just made the experiences so unique and unforgettable.

      Counter-Strike is a close second in terms of best overall team FPS experience. Tons of fun and memorable experiences with the game as well. Due to my Quakeworld experiences though, I was pretty much bred to rush in CS. I could not sit around and wait for the enemy no matter how much I wanted to do so. Just loved to rush and be constantly moving / flowing. It’s funny because even when the enemy knew I was coming, I could still get the drop on them, more often than not, due to my nade and flashbang experience.

  27. Jamorobo says:

    I have fond memories of counterstrike, on Wireplay servers. My parents have less fond memories, especially over the £270 phone bill one month from 1p a minute dial up…

    • Antsy says:

      Good old Wireplay. Air Attack cost me a fortune in call charges.

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      Same here. I loved Air Attack. I still miss my Hurricane.

  28. makute says:

    I’m really jealous of your good memories for CS. The only thing I ever learned of it, is to run away from MP FPS (too many cheaters to be fun).
    Until Quake Wars, I never touched a multiplayer shooter, and maybe never will again :(

  29. Novotny says:

    We are all potentially fecked when CS2 eventually comes out, as it must. Probably with HL3. If they get it right, I predict job-losses and a matrimonial wasteland.

  30. Whenn says:

    I love how there’s no mention of CSS. IMO Valve’s greatest downfall. I know it has a big playerbase as well, but anyone who considered themselves 1.6 players couldn’t bear to play it for more than a few minutes.

    It’s like Valve showed total ignorance as to what made 1.6 so amazing – it was literally worse than CS clones at the time.
    I’m still waiting for Tactical Intervention, even though it’ll probably suck.

    • King Kong says:

      That’s bullshit.

      There are a few changes, obviously, like the model height, not being able to shoot through walls (which does suck) and the thing that really pisses me off, not being able to start a weapon animation (put on silencer), switch to another weapon and not have it cancel the animation

      but, other than that, it is remarkably similar to 1.6 and is as good as it could be, unless you expected Valve to literally just update the graphics (and even then, the engine would be different anyway)

    • kaiserbob says:

      Bullshit?

      I will just leave this here:

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I have to say that there was a time when I would have agreed with you, but, after about a week of playing CSS instead, I couldn’t bear having my retinas burnt by 1.6 ever again. CSS is a good fucking game.

    • The Hammer says:

      Kaiser: actually, I believe they fixed that in 2007, but if not…

      “The reason for the recent update was to move Counter-Strike Source (CSS) from the older HL2 version of the Source engine to the most recent version. This brings the CSS codebase in-line with our other games. This resolves long standing issues associated with the older engine and allows us to benefit from features and bug fixes in other source games as they come online, such as improved graphic effects and more accurate hit registration.”

      http://store.steampowered.com/news/4033/

  31. The Pink Ninja says:

    My finest hour on CSS: Last T standing on office, took out six CTs in a mad rush with the machinegun.

    But I gave up on CSS after I realised I was just a point to be scored by the top three or four players on each side.

    I put a lot of time in CSS but I put even more time into the Zombie and Zombie escape mods.

    Its sort of redundant now I have the glory that is TF2 but Modern Warfare and the like could learn a lot from its map design

  32. Premium User Badge

    dartt says:

    O 2, B 4 3, B 1 4, O 4, O 3, O 3

  33. sexyresults says:

    Thanks for sharing Tom, thoroughly enjoyed.

  34. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    I failed high school because of CS… And I’m not even ashamed of it :D

  35. Daryl says:

    Sadly, I never played CS back in the day. I have spent quite a bit of time playing CS:S though. I’ve tried to play 1.6 since then, but I can’t get into it.

  36. Turbobutts says:

    I approve of this “Gaming Made Me” episode as for myself as well there isn’t a single game that made me clock more hours on it than Counter-Strike 1.6. I wouldn’t be surprised if I passed 2500 hours by now. It really is not only a milestone for competitive multiplayer shooters but also the whole online gaming scene in general. And I fear that never again will a multiplayer FPS be this big, universally loved and spectacular as this one. 1.6, thou art my truest love.

  37. hamster says:

    CS ftw. Hate the way all the CODs and BFs just kept getting in the way by forcing you to aim through the sites…also hated the way none of the guns have any bloody recoil.

    Oh and CS:S is an abomination.

  38. flamingmenudo says:

    I spent so many hours playing this game in college, and I too have vidicon memories of the game spaces. I’ll never forget how I learned of 9/11 as I was playing as a counter terrorist in the 747 airplane map and people were chatting about what had happened. It was kind of creepy how the real and virtual entertained that day.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I remember lots of servers switching to either cs_747 or de_highrise that day.

  39. Fumarole says:

    This warm-up period only lasted about five seconds (or less if you were an HPB)[...]

    I was playing Team Fortress Classic as an HPB for years before the wonderful world of DSL came into my life. Every once in a while I’d go to a friend’s house who had it and the difference in my score was remarkable. I made it my goal to become an LPB and haven’t gone back since.

    • bjohndooh says:

      Ah I still remember the pain of playing Tribes as an HPB.
      Luckily I was an LPB before I got into TFC.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    CS was slightly before my time. I did have a great time playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein in a clan. Boy, that was fun :)

  41. Forceflow says:

    Bravo – brings back a lot of memories.

  42. sightseemc says:

    Excellent piece, lots of memories.
    For me, the best thing about being an Admin on a CS server was that you could fuck over cheaters by randomizing their client-side command keys (which stayed that way until corrected even once the logged off) then turning them into a chicken then banning them.
    Our server was on our corporate stack that we could – by policy – fire up at 5:01 pm. Since the head of corporate legal was a big player it was set in stone. Good times.

  43. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    So what is the problem a lot of people have with CS:S? AFAIK, it has slightly different recoil handling. Other hten that..

    • YourMessageHere says:

      It’s different, changed and also not the same! Things have been added to it, like physics, and it looks prettier, and the guns are less robotically predictable (i.e. act more like guns). Therefore, it is terrible. Apparently.

  44. Gravy says:

    Such Nostalgia, like many who posted here I grew up and spent so much time (for me TFC more so than CS), starting out running colossal phone bills on dialups playing TFC and CS before begging my parents for ISDN to get that lovely low ping. Hanging round on IRC just to chat nonsense and play clan matches in the UKTFCL. Some of my most epic gaming moments back then shared with two close friends. In many ways it seems sad (Ruined my exams) but in others you’ve got to grasp hold of your gaming up bringing and never let go.

  45. The Hammer says:

    I love these personal retrospectives on the formulative days of PC multiplayer, with the likes of Quake III, Unreal Tournament and Counter-Strike all dissected.

    The first time I ever encountered Counter-Strike was through playing it on LAN at the advanced IT department of my school. I can hardly remember anything about those afterschool nights, other than the fact that the map of choice was often CS_Assault. For a console-playing kiddy like me, it was a hugely enlightening experience (similar to the one I had when I played Age of Empires 2 at a Scout camp). This felt realistic, tactical, and freeform. This, I realised, was PC gaming.

    I didn’t have the Internet in my house until the Christmas that Half Life 2 – and with it CSS – came out, so I missed playing the original inception of Counter-Strike at home. I did have fun playing Condition Zero, which allowed you to play with bots, but that, of course, is hardly the same.

    I got a lot of worth out of CCS, though. de_dust 1 & 2 really are fantastic, and David Johnston (how on earth do I remember that name?) went on to make de_dust 3 for an issue of PC Gamer. Only played that one twice, I think (actually, I notice that Johnston is a level designer for Splash Damage now, which might be a reason why that game has so many chokepoints).

    But I think one of the key aspects of Counter-Strike is its design. Its iconic design. The maps are characters in themselves, and their coded names are somehow more memorable than any maps in games of the past five years. cs_militia, cs_assault, de_italy. de_nuke. I can remember the layouts and the landmarks. They all seemed so finetuned.

    Then there are the avatars themselves. Outlcassed in the personality department by Team Fortress 2 they might be, but the globular roster of goodies and baddies is so unique to the game. Each player model on each team is distinctive enough to lend the game much needed variety, yet uniform enough to evade untidiness. I always went for the SAS and Guerilla blokes.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get stuck into a multiplayer manshoot and its community more than I did CSS. I think part of this is down to how not many games these days can hold a candle to the extensive skinning/modelling community of both CS games: FPS Banana was my go-to site if I ever wanted to change the dreary base weapon models – not to mention the sounds. A lot of FPSes these days have withheld the tools of creation from the players.

    Another reason probably lies in the sheer number of multiplayer manshoots out today, and the Best Before tags they all have. Counter-Strike was a game built to last, whereas a lot of the commentary about Brink is centred around the premise of a sequel. Counter-Strike was a core product that evolved, and evolved, and evolved, but once you had it you had it for life. Team Fortress 2 has had a similar life to this, of course, but I can’t really think of many other games with as long a life.

    Apart from MMOs. That’s where I find my community now. I’m not entirely sad about this, as it does mean the players you meet tend to be from broader backgrounds, but I certainly don’t regret those days when I’d come in from school to prepare for some of our riduculously unskilled clan matches.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I have gigabytes of archived replacement models. Literally. I learned how to model in Milkshape because I wanted to mess with them. Never did manage mapping, but I always wanted to. But it was all free, and all community-created. Now, we’re almost at the stage where you have to *buy* replacement guns if you want them (already there with maps), and as commercial products they are still not at the quality levels CS modellers have been creating for many years for free. The tools are out there, it’s just that the games are made to not support modification, on the offchance that the accountants greenlight producing some visual DLC. So much for creativity.

    • The Hammer says:

      God yes, I totally agree with this. The prevalence of developer-made, paid-for DLC is one of the most depressing things about the world of PC gaming today, when beyond half a decade ago, if you wanted a gun, the chances were some amateur modder had made an excellent version of it.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I would posit that a that a large number of modders and those who might’ve otherwise become modders have instead turned to indie game development.

      This is, IMO, an extremely good thing. Like fanfic authors writing their own stuff. Don’t mourn the mods, celebrate what’s now possible with tools like Unity.

  46. Jonnycab says:

    Great retrospective. I racked up thousands of hours of counterstrike using the Jonnycab name, but despite a number of invites never bothered to get involved with clan matches.

    I used to regularly get accused of cheating, as I always used to end up topping the kill board, and I was at the peak of my twitch gaming (im older now and am probably crap). My favourite matches used to be the 16 players per side matches, purely for the sheer number of enemy players you could take out in one round. I found that the size of teams radically changed the way many of the maps played, with larger teams forcing people to play more cautiously.

    My weapon of choice was the silenced M4, because it was that much harder for enemy players to get an idea about where you were, when you were hunting them down. Some of my finest matches were clearing 10+ players from an enemy team and I specifically remember a couple of de_dust games where my team of random noobs went and got themselves killed, and I cleaned out the entire other team solo.

    I agree that modern fps games just dont feel the same, and I find I cant get into them. I guess CS was just a never to be repeated classic.

  47. shinygerbil says:

    TFC was this for me. Being in a clan at that age was an awesome experience. Feeling like you had a home on a particular server even if it was public was also great – especially when we all met up IRL which was a big deal as we had players from all over Europe.

    For all the TFC i may have played, and no matter how much I derided CS for being “full of cheaters and campers” credit for My Finest Hour still goes to CS. Getting about five headshots in a row with a cheap pistol, and then getting kickbanned for cheating. Nothing boosts the ego more than that. :D

    Oh man, I am so tempted to actually start playing TF2 again now!

  48. Kevin says:

    As much as we decry the game for creating that population of angry preteens shouting over their mics and somehow, in text form, and for the anguish of games where 7 bunny-hopping players with one-shot AWPs caused. I cannot bring myself to say that a game like Call of Duty 4 (my favourite multiplayer game in the series), Team Fortress 2, or all the other modern adverserial multiplayer shooters out there are “better” than CS.

    Rainbow Six: Raven Shield may have been the pinnacle modern military shooter experience for me, but there’s absolutely no denying that it was the likes of Counter-Strike and Battlefield 1942 that laid that groundwork for me.

  49. Schmung says:

    God I hate CS. I hate it so completely that my meagre communication skills cannot even begin to describe my feelings with any degree of accuracy.

    I played a lot of CS. A hell of a lot. I think I hate it so much because it was so successful and because it’s informed so much about the FPS multiplayer gaming since, but (in my view obviously) in entirely the wrong fucking way. It’s like everyone played it and drew all the wrong bloody lessons for it. I loathe it because it’s gargantuan success enabled, but also crippled every other HL mod out there, because it’s tied (however correctly) in my mind with the never end hordes of screaming, demanding, reactionary fuckwittish manchildren that are everywhere now, because it embodies the absolute worst in elitist bullshit cockwankery that gaming produces and because it stagnated. Because the devs, with a huge captive audience capitulated to the screaming hordes and left it and people still called it great. I hate the mechanics of the game and I hate that people view it as some sort of perfection.

    I think mostly I hate it because I disagree with it – which is normally not something that bothers me, since we all have different tastes, but because it’s fucking ubiquity turns that niggling dislike into something I can’t ignore.

    • The Tupper says:

      Hey, Schmung.

      While I don’t share your dislike of CS, I appreciate a good vent of spleen that’s well elucidated. I’m interested particularly in the last part of your comment, where you say that you ‘disagree’ with CS. Can you elaborate?

    • Schmung says:

      I disagree with a number of gameplay choices that they made and subsequently never revised or improved. Gun balance and behaviour is a biggy. The gun behaviour in CS 1.6 is basically nonsense and it’s a game with (however many) guns where people only ever use 4-5 of then. Of course, some guns will always be more popular, but ahving 3 that utterly dominate (M4, AK, AWP) is absurd. There’s so much baffling stuff in there that started off as gameplay bugs and engine errors that they never fixed because the fully clanned up types kicked off whenver they so much as thought about doing so and so it’s become cannon somehow when all it is a shitty bit of baffling behaviour that makes no sense within the rest of the context of the game and is maintained only because a large enough number of people crow about it.

      The loudest people in your community are often the stupidest and most offensive and as a mod team with free reign you’re entirely within your rights to tell them to fuck off to better your game. They never did and it hurts everyone else because of that – for me it formed a kick off of that horrible entitlement complex so prevalent in most gaming communities.

      It’s probably not justified and certainly not provable, but that’s deffo when I started to notice it’s emergence more.

    • The Tupper says:

      Great points well made. On reflection, I’ve realised that the impossibility of me ever voluntarily choosing (for example) a shotgun in CS may well be a game flaw. I also share your concerns over the sense of entitlement (and the sheer loudness) of small sections of the community that invariably attach themselves to any potentially great project (see Minecraft).

    • rebb says:

      So very very true.

    • Yanko says:

      (almost) this.

      I think CS could be pretty fun in the earlier betas, while you could still move enough to flee after getting shot, and there were tons of fun levels (anyone remembers one where you were a GI Joe in a toy store? it was balanced badly, but it was tons of fun, buggy beta vehicles included).

      Many people that I know love it and think that other faster shooters like the Unreal or Quake series are terrible, just because they can’t operate outside the slow pace – and because they’re not “realistic like CS”. Go figure!

      Anyway, that. I also have a beef with CS because whenever i went to a cyber cafe to play with a few friends, all the kids were playing that instead of Battlefield 1942, which was made of awesome, but wouldn’t work with only 3 sane people in the server.

  50. Hurion says:

    Oh man… I haven’t played CS in quite a while.

    Starting around 2000, I played the hell out of this game. My clan all met on the Llamas On Fire server and we did pretty well in the original leagues (that have now since gone under). Eventually we had our own server. Internal drama (one of the founding members being a dick) caused the clan to break up a while back, and I really miss it sometimes.

    My finest hour was on office. I was a CT, and had the pump shotty. Most of my team was dead, and there was barely any time left. I was headed to the hostages through the long back hallway (bad decision with the shotgun most of the time). I came around the corner, but for some reason, no one was covering it. I rushed to the projector room, and there they all were.

    I headshot 5 people in a row, with as many shots.

    It was fucking glorious.