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Overview


CS b7 menubg
Counter-Strike Beta
Developer(s) Counter-Strike Team
Barking Dog Studios
Valve Software
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) June 19, 1999 (first)
September 13, 2000 (last)
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Multiplayer

Counter-Strike was in the Beta stages from June 19, 1999 until November 8, 2000 when Counter-Strike 1.0 was released. When development originally started on Counter-Strike it was a mod for Half-Life developed primarily by Minh Le with the assistance of Jess Cliffe. They formed the core of the original Counter-Strike Team, though other people were also brought in to provide textures and maps for the game. Valve Software became involved during the development of Beta 5.0.[1]

During this stage, many concepts were still being refined and new weapons and maps were also added periodically. When compared to the retail game, these beta versions were tremendously different in terms of environments, graphics, and even gameplay. Many different maps that were included were ultimately discarded.

Despite the fact that Valve has shut down all the WON servers (as of July 31, 2004[2]), these betas are still accessible and some even have their own running servers.

Development

Humble beginnings

Minh Le has been previously involved with developing mods in the form of Navy SEALs for Quake and Action Quake 2.[3] However, he felt that he wanted more control over development and thus decided to start development on his own mod.[4] As Le had already used the Quake and Quake 2 engines when working on previous mods, he felt that using the Half-Life engine was a logical progression.[5] The fact that Half-Life was based on a realistic setting helped sell the idea that it would be the most suitable for his concept of a realistic mod pitting terrorists against counter-terrorists.[3]

Csfirst urban-1

One of the first released Counter-Strike screenshots

Initial development started in January 1999. As the Half-Life SDK had yet to be released, it was not possible to create actual mods at the time so Minh started out by creating new weapon and player models.[6] In February, the first ever screenshots of what would become Counter-Strike were released coinciding with the first interview regarding the mod.[7]

Minh Le knew Jess Cliffe from before as they had both been involved with Action Quake 2. During an IRC chat, Le casually mentioned the fact that he was going to create his own mod. Cliffe was excited by the theme of the mod and offered to create a website for it, which is how he got involved with the mod.[6]

On March 15, 1999 the mod would receive its name following an ICQ chat between Le and Cliffe.[7] Le suggested names based on his favorite TV shows and movies.[8] Suggested names included Counterrorism, Counter-Strike, Strike Force, fRAG HEADS, Counter-Terror, Terrorist wars, Terror-Force, and Counter Force. They eventually mutually agreed that Counter-Strike sounded the best, thus it became the name of the mod.[7] Later that month, on March 24, the official Counter-Strike website was also launched.[9]

When the Half-Life SDK was released on April 7, 1999 it finally became possible to create actual mods for the game and actual coding on the mod started later that month.[9][10] Despite the mod not yet being released, Minh's reputation from his previous work on Action Quake 2 lead to considerable interest regarding the mod and only a few weeks after the official website had been launched it would receive its 10,000th visitor.[6]

Preparing for the first release

By the time May came around, the most urgent problem the mod was facing was the lack of mappers.[6] Cliffe had posted several requests for mappers on the official website but the response had been quite meager.[9] Thus, Cliffe resorted to contacting various Half-Life mappers directly. While the exact extent of this spree is not known, it has been suggested that Jess contacted pretty much everyone who had ever submitted a map to Radium (an old website for releasing custom Half-Life maps).[11]

Csprebeta rifle1

Pre-beta playtest screenshot

The maps for the initial beta release of the game were to be chosen in a contest type of setting where the Counter-Strike Team picked the best maps out of all maps that had been submitted for the game.[12] It is not known how many maps were actually completed by the time maps were to be chosen for the initial beta, but it would seem there was quite a limited choice.[6][13] However, at least two maps were mentioned that didn't ever see the light of day (a factory and a bunker map[9]) which suggests that some maps were discarded based on the outcome of this contest.

Before the first beta had even been released, a pre-beta was leaked and started circulating around the web. It has been suggested that the initial beta release was rushed as a result of this,[6] likely to prevent people from getting a negative impression of the mod by playing the early leaked build.

The first beta was eventually released on June 19, 1999 featuring the hostage rescue scenario, an arsenal of 9 weapons, 4 maps and one player model for each side. According to Jess Cliffe, the release was well received by the community.[9]

Introducing more content

The two next releases (Beta 2 and Beta 3) would be released about a month apart. They mostly introduced new weapons, maps and factions. Beta 3 introduced a change which caused a lot of controversy, namely frags were removed from the scoreboard altogether. This was possibly done to strengthen the team play spirit, but the change was gradually reverted in future releases due to received negative feedback.[6]

The bomb defusal scenario was the new big thing in Beta 4.0. Shortly before its release, Cliffe was encouraging designers that were working on maps to utilize the new scenario instead of hostage rescue.[9][14][15] When the new beta was released it also introduced another new feature that allowed for more interesting map design - many entities would now be reset at the start of the round (which meant that things like breakable glass would respawn each round). At the same time this meant the end for an infamous tactic called gun-running, where players would stack weapons on the ground around their spawn before the end of a round as they could be picked up at the start of the next round.[16]

Valve intervenes

In late 1999, Minh Le started working at Barking Dog Studios while he was still finishing his studies. When Valve Software became aware of this, they asked if Barking Dog was interested in developing Counter-Strike Beta 5.[17] Valve offered to finance this development to show gratitude to the Half-Life community and mod developers.[18] Barking Dog Studios agreed, and they would do most (around 90%) of the work for the next beta as Le was very busy with university studies at that time.[17][3]

De train beta50 planting

Streamlined gameplay with clear instructions for bomb planting

They made many bug fixes and also generally cleaned up the code.[19][16] Additionally, the game play of the hostage rescue and bomb defusal scenarios was made a lot more straightforward. The interface was also worked on by artist Cory Lake in an attempt to make it look more consistent.[20] Valve Software also became more directly involved and would provide some coding help and contribute the new hostage models for the release.[3][1] Barking Dog Studios also helped out in the development of the following patch, Beta 5.2.[21]

Two new scenarios, assassination and escape, would be introduced with Beta 6.0. While the assassination scenario would enjoy moderate success, the escape scenario would eventually get phased out from the mod altogether.

On the road to retailers

On April 12, 2000 it was officially announced that Valve Software and the Counter-Strike Team had entered a partnership and that Counter-Strike 1.0 would be included in an upcoming Half-Life patch.[22] While not stated in the release, it is commonly believed that this statement was issued following the rights to Counter-Strike being purchased by Valve. Later statements indicate that money was involved in a deal made it early 2000,[23] supporting the theory that the rights were sold at this point.

Following this statement, two major beta releases would still be issued. Beta 6.5 was mainly released to introduce the updated netcode that Valve Software had written for the Half-Life engine. The last major beta release, Beta 7.0, saw the introduction of driveable vehicle support.

On August 31, 2000 it was officially announced that Counter-Strike would be sold as a standalone retail product in addition to being available as a mod for Half-Life.[24][25] On November 9, 2000 the retail version of Counter-Strike was declared gold and the mod version of Counter-Strike 1.0 was released, thus the game had left the beta stages.[26]

Gameplay

There were several gameplay elements that were trialed in the game during its beta stages. Some ideas would be iterated in future releases and improved while other ideas would end up getting scrapped.

When the radio was originally introduced in Beta 3.0, a commander was randomly selected each round for both teams. This commander had access to additional radio commands which were to be used for coordinating team efforts. When Beta 5.0 was released, the radio system was overhauled and team specific commanders were removed.

Cs beta ghost

Two visible spectator ghosts in Train

A substantial gameplay change introduced in Beta 3.0 was an overhauled scoreboard that no longer showed player frags. This was perhaps introduced to make the game more centered around winning a round for the team instead of trying to bolster ones kill count. Due to feedback received on this change, it was gradually reverted in future releases.[6]

Another less drastic game play feature introduced in Beta 5.0 was visible spectator ghosts. These had to be enabled through a console command and when enabled, would allow players to see other spectating player ghosts in the map. However, as these ghosts caused considerably amounts of lag, they were quickly removed from the game.[6]

Cs siege beta71 apc

Driving an APC in Siege

One of the last experiments in the Beta stages was the introduction of driveable vehicles in Beta 7.0. They were introduced into Jeepathon2k (a test map) and Siege. However due to the way the GoldSrc engine is designed, vehicles were very glitchy and they were thus removed from all official maps when Counter-Strike 1.0 was released.

There were a few gameplay elements which were considered but never implemented into the game. One feature that Minh Le spent a considerable amount of time trying to implement was persistent dead player bodies, but he never finished the feature.[27] Another idea was to provide some sort of entertainment for dead spectating players and one possibility was the introduction of a virtual casino where dead players would spawn. This idea was scrapped as Le figured that "if you die, you shouldn't be able to have more fun than if you were alive".[27]

Scenarios

When the first beta was released only one scenario was featured in the game. Further scenarios were gradually added in future releases.

Hostage rescue

The hostage rescue scenario was the only scenario featured in the very first beta of the game. Originally level designers were instructed only to make sure a map had no more than five hostages present,[28] thus the amount of hostages in early maps range between 3 and 5.

In the first few beta releases, there were no separately designated hostage rescue zones and the Counter-Terrorist spawn points would function as hostage rescue zones. The ability for maps to feature separate hostage rescue zones was added in Beta 2.0.

Cs hideout hostages bedroom

Scientist and G-Man hostage models in Hideout

Gameplay was also originally less intuitive as hostages would not be automatically rescued when they reached a rescue zone and player interaction was required. The fact that the interface didn't show that the player was in a rescue zone also made it difficult to know when hostages could be rescued. Barking Dog Studios streamlined the scenario in Beta 5.0 by introducing an indicator to the interface informing when the player is in a rescue zone and by making it so that hostages are automatically rescued when they enter a hostage rescue zone.

Also when originally released, the game used the scientist model from Half-Life as the default hostage model. Some official maps would opt to override this default and use the G-Man model for hostages. For Beta 5.0, a new hostage model was created by Valve Software.[3] Curiously this model was never made the default hostage model and the hostage entity info has to be separately scripted to utilize this model, meaning that old maps had to be updated to utilize the new model.

Bomb defusal

De dust beta40 c4

Originally the bomb could be planted anywhere

The bomb defusal scenario was originally introduced in Beta 4.0 and was quite different at this point. On the Terrorist side one player started with a bomb and had to plant it at a bomb site. It was not a separate piece of equipment per se (i.e. it could not be used as a weapon) and a designated key had to be mapped for planting the bomb. Also, planting the bomb was not restricted to the specific bomb sites and it could be planted anywhere on the map. If the bomb exploded at an improper location, the round could only be won by eliminating the opposing team. In Beta 4.1 it was made possible to pick up a bomb in case it had not been planted at a proper spot.

On the Counter-Terrorist side the scenario was also quite different. The defusal kit was originally required to be able to defuse bombs and around half of the Counter-Terrorist team would be randomly given the kit when they spawned. It was not possible to purchase the kit separately.

When Barking Dog Studios was working on the game during Beta 5.0, they streamlined the scenario by making the bomb plantable only at the designated areas and made it a separate equipable (and dropable) weapon. For the Counter-Terrorists, each team member would now be able to defuse the bomb and the defusal kit was changed into a purchasable piece of equipment that decreased the amount of time it took to defuse a bomb. Progress bars for both planting and bomb defusal were also added.

Assassination

Assassination was introduced in Beta 6.0. Originally the VIP was only equipped with a knife, however he was given a USP in Beta 7.0.

Escape

Main article: Escape
Es jail0020 armory

Armory in the map Jail

Escape was also introduced in Beta 6.0. It involved the Terrorists attempting to escape while the Counter-Terrorists had to prevent their escape. Terrorists were not allowed to buy weapons, but maps could have designated armories from where weapons could be found. Team would also be automatically switched after a certain amount of rounds in an effort to balance the scenario.

The scenario never achieved much popularity and in Beta 6.5 escapees would no longer vanish, effectively killing the scenario altogether.[29] Thus the scenario was eventually phased out by removing all the maps that utilized the scenario from official rotation.

Maps

Neither Minh Le or Jess Cliffe had much experience in the ways of level design and during the very early stages of development only a very simple box-like test map existed.[30] Thus actual maps for the mod would be contributed by other people that were not directly part of the Counter-Strike Team. As the community surrounding the mod was quite small at the early stages, the quality standards for maps were not set particularly high.[5]

During the beta stages of development, maps were rotated in the official release of the mod based on popularity.[9] This meant that numerous maps were at one point featured in the game but would end up getting cut during the beta stages.

List of removed maps

This is a list of maps that were present during the beta stages of the game but removed before the mod exited beta stages. For a complete listing of maps, see history of official maps.
Map name Scenario Release date Removal date Designer
Alley1 Hostage rescue August 13, 1999 September 14, 1999 Jason Castillo
Bunker Hostage rescue August 13, 1999 March 10, 2000 Matthew Van Sickler
Desert Hostage rescue June 27, 1999 November 5, 1999 Timm Stokke
Docks Hostage rescue August 13, 1999 August 26, 2000 Justin DeJong
Facility Hostage rescue August 13, 1999 March 10, 2000 Graham Nardone
Fang Bomb defusal March 10, 2000 June 8, 2000 Jo Bieg
Forest Assassination June 8, 2000 August 26, 2000 John Attea
Frantic Escape March 10, 2000 June 8, 2000 Christopher Auty
Hideout Hostage rescue September 14, 1999 November 5, 1999 Stefan Quathamer
Iraq Hostage rescue December 23, 1999 March 10, 2000 Cameron Wu, David Marsh
Jail Escape March 10, 2000 June 8, 2000 Kurt Stassen
Jeepathon2k Bomb defusal August 26, 2000 November 8, 2000 Jason Blum
Mansion* Hostage rescue June 19, 1999 November 5, 1999 Magnus Lind
Prison Hostage rescue June 19, 1999 August 13, 1999 Patrik Opacic
Railroad Bomb defusal March 10, 2000 August 26, 2000 John Corwin, Kevin Anderson
Riverside Assassination March 10, 2000 June 8, 2000 Jukka Nolvi
Ship Hostage rescue September 14, 1999 March 10, 2000 John Attea
Station Hostage rescue November 5, 1999 March 10, 2000 Stephen Superville
Tire Hostage rescue September 14, 1999 March 10, 2000 David Johnston
Trinity Escape June 8, 2000 August 26, 2000 Mike Rosser
Wpndepot Hostage rescue June 19, 1999 August 13, 1999 Leon Nieuwoudt
Zoption Hostage rescue August 13, 1999 November 5, 1999 John Attea

*Mansion was excluded from the game between August 13, 1999 and September 14, 1999.

Weapons and equipment

As the early betas had a limited arsenal available compared to later releases, the weapons of choice were also quite different. Early on, the MP5 had proven to be the most popular weapon.[6] When Beta 4.0 was released the P90 was introduced. It was accurate, cheap and powerful and would stay the dominant weapon until Beta 6.0 was released.[6]

P shield beta4

Early shield model

Originally the ammunition system was quite complicated as each weapon had a separate buy menu entry for its ammunition. This system was abandoned in favor of the primary and secondary ammunition system in Beta 4.0.

When grenades were originally introduced, the first grenade introduced was called the concussion grenade. It would blind the player just like a flashbang, but it would also cause damage to players nearby. Eventually the HE grenade was introduced and the damage inflicted by the concussion grenade was removed and it was renamed to flashbang.

There were also ideas for weapons that eventually did not make it. These included the HK69 grenade launcher which would have inflicted serious damage but took a long time to reload.[31][32] Another weapon being considered was the SIG SSG 3000 which was to feature exceptional accuracy and high damage.[31] It was scrapped in favor of the G3SG1.[9] There was also the shield which was intended to be a Counter-Terrorist exclusive item providing cover against enemy sniper fire.[33] It was put on hold as the Half-Life netcode couldn't handle it at the time.[34] Minh Le had also wanted to add a revolver to the game in the form of either the Colt Anaconda or the Manurhin MR73, but due to lack of time it was never implemented.[35]

Factions and player models

Cs factions evolution

Diagram showing the evolution of factions and their names

When the first beta of Counter-Strike was released, only one faction was included for each side. These player models were criticized for being very hard to tell apart.[7] Subsequent releases would introduce new factions as well as tweak the old ones. At times, there was an uneven number of factions available for each side (e.g. in Beta 5.0 there were only 2 Terrorist factions but 3 Counter-Terrorist factions). During development, the names of the factions were also frequently changed.

By the time the last beta was released, there were already four factions present for each side and except for the player models they were mostly finalized.

Interface

Cs vgui menu

VGUI model selection menu

The main menu interface of Counter-Strike was frequently revised during the Beta stages and most major releases sported a new look for the main menu.

Barking Dog Studios also made some major changes to the in-game interface. They introduced an auto-help system which provides basic instructions for new players on how to play the game. Various new indicators were also added to the HUD, e.g. for hostage rescue zones and buy zones.

With the release of Beta 7.0 another major overhaul was done to the interface as the mod started utilizing the VGUI technology developed by Valve Software. It replaced the old completely text-based interface for team selection and the buy menu.

Reception

When the initial beta was released, there was a relatively small community surrounding the game.[5] By November 1999, there were already more people playing Counter-Strike online than there were people playing Half-Life though it had yet to achieve the same level of popularity as Team Fortress Classic.[36]

The popularity of the mod increased significantly around the time of Beta 5 and Beta 6,[5] and in early 2000 Counter-Strike had taken the position of the most popular online game according to the CLQ.[37] When Counter-Strike was nearing the end of its Beta stages, the player base had tripled in amount compared to the numbers in early 2000.[38]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 FiringSquad - Gooseman Counter-Strike Interview. Archived from the original on 2001-08-12.
  2. GameSpot - Valve to shut down WON servers
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Eurogamer.net • Minh Le of Counter Strike team
  4. Ministry of Development - Article - Interview with Gooseman of Counter Strike. Archived from the original on 1999-10-01.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Gamasutra - Interview with Minh Le
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 CS-Nation - Counter-Strike: Year 1. Archived from the original on 2000-08-15.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 COUNTER-STRIKE: A Retrospective In Pictures; A Comedy of Errors. Archived from the original on 2001-06-03.
  8. Twitter - Minh Le: "@armanguy yea, we were brainstorming names, and i just suggested my favourite tv shows / movies
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Counter-Strike: www.counter-strike.net - News Archive - Older News. Archived from the original on 2001-06-10.
  10. Half-Life Editing Resource Center - Archived News - April 1999. Archived from the original on 2000-12-05.
  11. Counter-Strike.de - Interview mit dem Author von de_train. Archived from the original on 2000-10-31.
  12. Counter-Strike: A Half-Life modification - Mapping Info. Archived from the original on 199-05-08.
  13. 3DAction Counter-Strike - Interviews - Magnus Lind. Archived from the original on 2000-09-04.
  14. Clan FiRE! - Hobbit Interview. Archived from the original on 2000-08-18.
  15. LevelDesign.nu - Intervjuer - MEEEEDIC. Archived from the original on 2002-08-22.
  16. 16.0 16.1 STOMPED - I N T E R V I E W : Gooseman - Counter-Strike Creator. Archived from the original on 2001-04-16.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Counter-Strike.de - Interview mit dem Author von de_train. Archived from the original on 2000-10-31.
  18. Mod Central HL - Counter-Strike beta 5 coming. Archived from the original on 2000-03-02.
  19. Counter-strike.dk - Interviews - Chris Mair. Archived from the original on 2000-10-23.
  20. Counter-Strike.de - Interview mit Scorman alias Cory Lake. Archived from the original on 2000-12-14.
  21. The official Counter-Strike web site - "rocka-my soul in the bosom of Abraham...". Archived from the original on 2001-08-05.
  22. Press Release - Counter-Strike Team Partners with Valve. Archived from the original on 2001-04-05.
  23. STOMPED - Half-Life: Ricochet Preview. Archived from the original on 2001-12-14.
  24. Press Release - Sierra Studios and Valve Announce Half-Life: Counter-Strike
  25. The official Counter-Strike web site - News Archive for September 2000. Archived from the original on 2001-08-05.
  26. The official Counter-Strike web site - News Archive for November 2000. Archived from the original on 2001-08-05.
  27. 27.0 27.1 PC Zone - Counter-Strike: The Mod that Rocks. Archived from the original on 2001-06-02.
  28. Counter-Strike: A HL mod -- www.counter-strike.net - { Hostage.Rescue.Mapping }. Archived from the original on 2000-01-24.
  29. B-F Total Gaming Network - Cadaver Interview. Archived from the original on 2002-06-19.
  30. Hodgson, D. (N.d.). Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (Uncorrected Proof), p. 110. Roseville, CA: Prima Games. ISBN: 0-7615-4364-3.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Counter-Strike: A Half-Life modification - Weapons. Archived from the original on 1999-05-08.
  32. Counter-Strike Beta 1.0 - CSWeapons.txt
  33. riva extreme - Gooseman interview. Archived from the original on 2000-08-17.
  34. CS-Nation - Interviews - Gooseman. Archived from the original on 2001-04-29.
  35. Counter-strike-the-movie.com - Interview with Gooseman. Archived from the original on 2006-12-05.
  36. Champions League for Quake, popular games. Archived from the original on 1999-11-19.
  37. Champions League for Quake, popular games. Archived from the original on 2000-03-02.
  38. Champions League for Quake, popular games. Archived from the original on 2000-10-16.

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