Tactically Intervening With Minh Le

By Lewie Procter on April 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm.


Despite having originally released all the way back in the year 2,000 Anno Domini, CounterStrike is still – still! – the number one game being played on Steam right now. That’s not even taking into account CounterStrike Source. It’s an astonishing achievement, and CounterStrike’s continued popularity is reason enough to pay attention to the new game from co-creator, Minh Le. That new game is Tactical Intervention, and it’s a project he quit his job at Valve to pursue. I sat down for a chat with him, and this is what ensued:

RPS: What makes Tactical Intervention stand out compared to the other FPSs?

Minh Le: Ten years ago when I invented CounterStrike, it was pretty easy to set yourself apart, but the way the industry has evolved, it’s much harder. You’ve got games like Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and we kind of focus on the game mission modes, try to expand it with modes that aren’t really handled in other games. Like with for example Modern Warfare 3, they kind of focus on the team deathmatch stuff, we want to get back to CounterStrike’s roots, where it’s more round based, and much more team orientated. So for that, we’re designed our levels towards encouraging team play, and also we have a lot of new elements in our game, like dogs and shields. A lot of these elements we use to change the fire fights, and change the dynamics of the gameplay. The gameplay is not as stale, static and predictable as other games. Not only do you have to worry about shooting, you have to worry about the other evolving environments. So it’s just an issue of balancing out these key new features, and trying to have them impact the gameplay in a positive manner.

RPS: How do you feel about going up against CS:GO? You’re going to be competing for the same player base.

Le: That is true. It’s a very awkward feeling, because I still have a very good relationship with the guys at Valve, I have nothing but the best feelings for them, I wish nothing but the best for them, and success. But at the same time, I’ve really got to worry about our future and our success. It’s not something I keep in mind, I’m not trying to compete with CS:GO, I’m not trying to directly go up against them feature for feature. Being such a small company, that’s not something that I would think about doing. I just want to focus on delivering a game that has very novel mission modes, I really want to expand with different game types that give the players a new experience. Myself, personally, I’m getting kind of bored with the bombing mode team deathmatch, I feel it’s just been done to death, and it’s just perfected. I feel that there’s nothing else I can do with them to make them any more challenging.

RPS: The car chase mode is cool. It seems kind of Hollywood inspired.

Le: Yeah, that’s a good point. One of the things that inspired me when I was making this game: I watch a lot of movies, I watch a lot of car chase scenes, in movies like Ronin & The Bourne Identity. I really wanted to convey that sense of excitement, and that sense of chaos, inside a game. I think that was my main inspiration for that vehicle VIP escort mode. I kind of want to capture that craziness of a Hollywood car chase scene. I expand that to my hostage rescue mode as well, by having the hostage take part in the firefight, and run around the environment, and having the environment be very interactive. I want to mimic some of the things I see in a lot movies. Not only is our game about shooting, but it’s also about using your environment to the best of your advantage. It’s challenging, but at the same time it offers a deeper amount of gameplay. I’m hoping people will enjoy it.

We also have been working on more mission modes down the pipeline. We’ve got the obligatory bombing mode, but as I said, that’s been perfected, so I’m not focussing too much on making that one work. I’m working on a car-bombing one, where you actually drive the cars and deliver the bomb to a moving target. That’s something I’m really looking forward to expanding on.

Having all these features in place gives me a lot of freedom to expand with new modes. Having the cars work, having AI hostages. I can come up with new scenarios that involved non-player characters. I’m really excited on working on new mission modes.

RPS: Compared to when you originally made CounterStrike, there’s been a lot of technology advancements. Have any of them changed how you’ve approached design?

Le: Not so much. It is ten years ago, but I think the thing that really changed with this game is that the graphics are obviously a lot better, surprisingly the networking hasn’t changed much at all, the networking code that we’re using is pretty much the exact same thing I used with CounterStrike. Physics definitely, that’s the biggest thing. Having a much more detailed, much more accurate physics simulation has allowed us to do this car mode. That aspect, having the physics evolved to the point where it’s useable at scale has really opened the doors to expand with this particular mission mode. I can’t really say much else has changed, this particular source engine that we’re using is really pretty old, it’s been around five years, and it hasn’t really changed too much. The technology behind it is not terribly cutting edge, but at the same time it’s not limiting me in what I want to do.

I’m really excited to finally get this out there, and really just get it out to the testers and players out there. One thing to note is that the game is going to be releasing in North America initially, and then we’re going to be going through Europe at some point down the road: Sooner rather than later. It’s going to be pretty much the same version.

RPS: What’s the reason for the different dates?

Le: It was a business thing. We had some issues with our former publisher, we ran into some really bad relationships with them, the relationship just broke down. Right now we’re in a legal fight with them. I really can’t go into the details, but it’s a really unfortunate turn of events. It’s just the nature of the beast. Being in a business where there’s a lot of publishers that are not really set up to do decent publishing, we just made a few mistakes. I’m hoping to rectify it sooner rather than later. Right now we’re with another publisher, who are really competent, and have a lot of experience, so I’m really comfortable working with them. I’m looking forward to the launch.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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54 Comments »

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  1. Torgen says:

    Sounds like Strategy First or GMX, both publishers who have screwed over friends of mine.

  2. Radiant says:

    I stopped playing CS in 06.
    That’s not 2006.
    Nor is it 1.6

    Beta 0.6

    Now if you don’t mind; my zimmer frame is behind your hover boards.

  3. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    I’m liking the vibes of this game. The thought of a counter strike with a more light-hearted, action movie-like tone is appealing. Will be interesting to see if it delivers.

    • hench says:

      Indeed. You don’t find many good classic 1.6 servers that plays the old school maps just for fun. Most servers are just filled with tryhards that plays D2, Inferno, Nuke and Train all day. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great maps to play competively but on public servers I just want to lame around and have fun.

      Biggest dissapointment with CS:GO so far is that they probably wont make a comeback with the classic assassination gamemode. RIP as_oilrig, you were a champion.

      • LionsPhil says:

        as_oilrig was some good times, and I say that as someone who greatly preferred TFC to CS in general. It beat TFC’s runtish Hunted mode.

  4. MondSemmel says:

    Thanks for the interview, Lewie. That being said, I think this transcript (it is a transcript, right?) has spelling errors above some kind of critical threshold. Please fix :(.

  5. Terragot says:

    This looks like my cup of tea. I’m glad it’s not restraining itself with the pseudo-realism that the mass market seems to demand. Can’t wait for the inevitable rope antics.

  6. Aloe says:

    I like the hostages, haven’t played a game using hostages like that since…. forever.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also, more games need vicious attack dogs.

      • Grovy says:

        I definitely won’t play any games where I’m meant to use dogs as weapons or have to kill them to be effective. I know it’s a strange double standard to be coldly 3-shot bursting human heads and balk at killing dogs but that’s the way it is

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          PoulWrist says:

          You would’ve shot AI computer generated killer robot drones, but not computer generated AI dogs :|

        • Skabooga says:

          I remember reading an article a long time ago about Deus Ex. The wife of one of the developers of the game was in the section where you are trying to shut down the NSF generator. During the course of the mission, she was forced to shoot and kill a guard dog which was attacking her to save her own life. She was so overcome with guilt that she stopped playing the game and never went back to it.

          • LionsPhil says:

            (Should have invested in more minicrossbow tranq darts.)

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            It’s really not fair- when I shoot the MiBs and commandos later in the game, they make such satisfying sounds, but the dogs make this sad whine when you shoot them. Cloaks up, run away!

          • Wunce says:

            My approach was the opposite: Tranq, stun and avoid the humans, hot lead for the dogs. If I could have knocked the dogs out I probably would have.

            I’ve never understood why people have such strange double standards.

          • Colej_uk says:

            It’s not completely psychologically backward I feel. You can assume the terrorist are there because of their choice, while attack dogs would of been trained that way and have no decision in the matter.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          I could shoot vicious dogs all day. Dogs suck, IMO, particularly if they want to eat my face off. I just await the day someone mods a game with attack dogs so they become chihuahuas with glittery pink collars or something similar; you know, those tiny, pointless yapping fuckers that very silly women carry around. You could build some sort of horde mode around that…

  7. Arglebargle says:

    Thumbs up for the Ronin reference. Frankenheimer! Best car chases of the modern movie era. Starting with good inspiration, anyway.

    Me, I’d really want to see some sort of random or procedurally generated maps. Maybe even a system where each team gets to choose certain features that get plopped into the enviornment. Probably a pain in the ass to do though; otherwise we’d have most likely already seen it.

  8. Phantoon says:

    “new game from it’s co-creator”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH

    please fix this thank you

  9. hosndosn says:

    I wonder how this one will turn out. The previews look incredibly cheap. Like some 2005 Source mod. Also the non-CS features, i.e. anything that’s actually new about the game seems suspiciously gimmicky.

    But it’s still from the guy who invented CS. Does that mean anything? At least he might be motivated to bring back some of the original feel of pre-CoD multiplayer shooters. Grittier but cleaner, more punishment for death, less cinematic and more uncompromisingly gameplay-oriented pacing. Maybe no unlocks? I’m so tired of having to “unlock” half the content for hours with all those new mp shooters.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, it’s decidedly “old” looking at the moment.

      Mind you, I think part of that is having such a high FOV, exacerbated by so many modern games having one which is very low.

      (Stating the obvious: “old looking” trumps BLOOM EVERYWHERE.)

    • YourMessageHere says:

      It looks really rough, but it also looks really fun. The weapon models are dreadful (mirrored ejection ports, nooooo!), I’m assuming they and the hud are placeholders, and the animations need some work, but the basic pace and gameplay seem interestingly frenetic, and the car chase idea is superb.

      I too hope there’s nothing to do with unlocks in here. I don’t object to it per se, I just think it’s in too much stuff now.

      • ffs_jay says:

        I’d imagine the mirrored ejection ports are because of Minh’s habit of modelling guns to be viewed left-handed, with the option of ‘flipping’ the view for those who absolutely must. Looking at the trailer there’s definitely lefty options in there, so I guess he never shook that off.

  10. yobobjm says:

    I really hope they get rid of that weird circular hud thing, it juts bugs me idk why.

  11. wodin says:

    I nearly drowned in apathy watching that trailer.

  12. Robin says:

    Can’t wait to play it.

    Bring it to Europe ASAP.

  13. kanaka says:

    I can almost feel Minh Le’s pain on this one: http://youtu.be/Qid4J82ny78

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      PoulWrist says:

      I can’t remember last time I saw anyone be that inept at a game..

  14. Bungle says:

    I feel bad for this guy. He should have stayed at Valve.

  15. PitfireX says:

    I wish they would stop using the word “Tactical” in shooters that are not.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I wish people would stop using it altogether, it’s like ‘content’, a word that’s basically had it’s meaning diluted down by cramming it into everything and using it in ways that it was never intended for, until it’s become useless and nondescript. Deciding to do something and then doing it = a tactic. It’s no less apt here than anywhere else, really, in fact as tactical is defined as “of or pertaining to (military or naval) tactics” it’s considerably more applicable here than e.g. when talking about ‘tactical rails’ on a gun, but there you go. I think they ought to call it ‘Tacticool Intervention’ just to annoy people.

  16. Roshin says:

    Why did he leave Valve?

    • Kadayi says:

      It’s not for everyone it seems. People do leave.

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      Mo says:

      Polygon / The Verge Gaming had a great article on Minh a couple of months ago. He talks about why he left Valve, under “The Valve Years” section:

      “I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted [Counter-Strike 2] to be,” he said. “I didn’t have a clear game plan or a game design so it was very hard for me to convince anyone that this is a good idea for the new Counter-Strike. I was given a huge amount of freedom and they never really put any stress on me. There were never any deadlines for me. It was basically … self-imposed.”

      The pressure to perform, self-imposed though it may have been, ultimately prevented Le from being able to take advantage of the opportunity within Valve, and stalled the company’s progress with Counter-Strike 2. After two years, he had failed to come up with so much as a design document for the sequel.

      “I wasn’t able to do that as a designer,” Le said. “I wasn’t able to produce that document. So that’s why we broke up. We both felt mutually that I work better in an environment where I’m not bound by certain standards.

      http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2012/2/28/2830701/gooseman-counter-strike-valve-tactical

  17. Duke of Chutney says:

    my guess is he left valve because he felt that with CS:GO and other games they weren’t pressing the genre forward. I expect CS:GO will repeat and update the formula as this is what sells and this is how it will compete with COD for the competitive crowd.

    In general i always like to see folks trying to break a mold in games. I wonder whether the old engine will be an issue. Left4dead has done well on it, so perhaps people don’t care about the ‘latest’ tech these days. I’ve always felt that source is a good bench mark, even in the modern era, it does the job.

    Also the car bomber mode whilst awesome, is prefect Ammo for the gaming causes terrorism lobby. Because reality is based on games right? not the other way round.

  18. WotevahMang says:

    If you see Minh Le in interviews, he seems like a pretty fun guy to hang around with. I like how this is more in style towards Action Quake 2 than CS.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      This. I really miss the chaos and speed of AQ2; this seems to have it.

      • ffs_jay says:

        Ah, AQ2, my first real online ‘thing’. The amount of time I spent playing that on my shitty old dialup is borderline embarrassing. I really hope this goes more back in that direction, might even manage to sucker me back in.

  19. HelderPinto says:

    As much as I would like to see this succeed, something tells me it’s not gonna happen. ;

  20. 0mer says:

    I played the beta and to be honest, the game is pretty trashy. The animations are really bad, the movement is jerky, and the feel of the guns is all wrong. The game doesn’t know what it wants to be. The worst part is that the netcode is really bad, but I’m not sure if it’s because no decent dedicated servers were up or whether it was an inherent flaw of the code.

    This is definitely no successor, spiritual or otherwise, to Counter-Strike. It’s not even a good game.

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