If I close my eyes and think of childhood memories and the spaces that contain them, my mind might touch upon a bedroom, a school playground or a muddy playing field, but it might just as easily come to rest upon Q2DM1, Q3DM17 or de_prodigy. The angles and textures and travel times of certain multiplayer maps are seared into my brain through repetition, their tiny details lacquered by the tension of triumph and defeat.
But I like that they’re more than just memories. I don’t find much time to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but it’s a wonderful thing and Valve have been doing great work in gradually reviving and revitalizing maps from older versions of the game. They’ve done just that today to de_train, an old favourite, and if you’ve ever played Counter-Strike it’s worth watching the video below and reading the post on the Counter-Strike blog which explains the changes.
CS:GO walks a careful line, attempting to win over new players to the aging game while also satisfying the aged and professional players who are perhaps most resistant to change. You can see those thought processes in every part of the blog post, which aims to make things clearer for everyone while adding more tactical options, not fewer. For an example of the kind of thinking at work:
Since this is a main gameplay area of the map, we strived to ensure the increased graphical fidelity did not interfere with gameplay. For example, the fallen train car containing the bomb target has caused damage to the environment, but the damage is contained to the ground where readability is not an issue. The same consideration was made to the texturing of the surrounding space. The walls are simple and bare towards the player area, but graphical fidelity increases towards the top of the space. To make it easier to judge distances, we added human scale references such as handles, utility props and more.
Given the existence of CS1.6 and CS: Source, GO initially seemed like a game without an audience who wanted it, but Valve have gradually done what Source never could and won over most of the competitive scene. It won over me with its ranked matchmaking, because I only want an occasional game without needing to know a friendly local server. It won over Rich Stanton with guns and esports.
I used to maintain a non-Source install of Half-Life on my computer, so I could re-visit long ago forgotten versions of Counter-Strike re-visit levels from beta 3, 4, and 5.2 which were jettisoned before its initial retail release or which never made the leap to the newer versions. Running around those empty maps, dead through lack of use, was like looking at the outside of houses you no longer live inside. Brr.
If you’re interested to know how small parts of Valve’s community are reacting to de_train’s changes, I believe this video will tell you everything you need to know. Personally, I think it’s great.