Counter-Strike is one of My Games. One of those games that made me. One of those games that caused me to run up a huge phone bill when 56k modems were a thing. One of those games where I can still close my eyes and get a little jolt from imagining the rattling fire of an unsilenced M4A1.
In the weirdest way considering that it's the 4th, 6th and 9th most popular games on Steam, it's only recently begun to feel like one of Valve's games. They're now honouring the M4A1 fetishism of the game's tens of thousands of players by adding player-created Weapon Finishes.
Valve have added the Workbench to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a tool for viewing and creating Counter-Strike skins. The community has been making those for themselves since something like CS Beta 3, but Valve's tool lets creators work with materials that resemble the materials of actual real world gun decorators. From that blog post: "CS:GO is a realistic game, so we researched real-world finishing techniques. We reproduced spray-painted camouflaging, hydro-dipping, patinas, and more. We also wanted to represent what happens to weapon finishes in the field. Even the most durable finish gets chipped with heavy use, so every finish is available in a variety of states of wear."
The best player-created skins or sets of skins will then be considered for inclusion in future official updates to the game, much like Valve's work in Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. It's a new way for the passionate modding community to make dolla dolla from all their hard work.
CS: GO is the latest version of Counter-Strike, released as a separate game to sit alongside CS: Source and Counter-Strike 1.6. It was aimed at maintaining Counter-Strike as a competitive game, but it also made bolder changes than Valve (or the game's community) had previously appeared comfortable with, including new modes like the gun game-style Arms Race, new maps, and proper matchmaking. I wouldn't play any other version of Counter-Strike today.
Counter-Strike: Source was more of a straight re-make of the original 1.6, updating (most of) its maps and modes to the Source engine. That game was popular, but split the community across two games, as passionate (and mad) players felt like the Source version was different in unquantifiable ways. Even small changes by Valve to either game - like adding a riot shield, or removing the riot shield - were met with widespread scorn from its audience, even as the player numbers continued to tick up.
That harsh reaction might partly be because Counter-Strike's original creator, Minh Le, left after working briefly on a Counter-Strike 2. While some of the original mod team remain at the studio - like Jesse Cliffe - the situation maybe felt, at first, like Valve making Dota 2 without the guidance of Icefrog.
That all said, Le never seemed to have a particular long-term goal for Counter-Strike, instead following the whims of its vocal audience. He's since developed and released the similar and sloppy Tactical Intervention, which contains some of Counter-Strike's original-but-removed ideas. Also dogs, which I hear are popular these days.