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.