CS: The Leader of Ages

It takes years to build an empire as they’re founded on painstaking sacrifices, crushing defeats, and glorious victories. They’re forged by unforgettable moments and acts that transcend into legend but empires are far from perfect.

As unrest spreads among its people so do rumors of revolution and from these whispers has emerged a usurper to the throne. A true contender backed by its history of conquest offering the promise of change. But these challenges are not interested in borrowing the crowd they’re playing for keeps.

Before we talk about the future we have to talk about the past because for nearly as long as there have been esports one tactical shooter has dominated i.e. counter-strike. For many fans and future professionals playing in crowded internet cafes and hotel ballrooms. The game was a love affair from which they never really recovered.

As esports grew counter-strike followed by global offensive became the premier first-person shooter in esports. Doug Lombardi, VP of marketing says that one of the biggest things about counter-strike just how it’s always been evolving but yet the fundamentals of it haven’t changed at all and it’s community involvement that he thinks has been so big to the growth of it over time.

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Empire: Nearing a fall

But games and players’ expectations were changing and tables turned for this empire. In one of the question asked on the live stream to Shroud that does he still like playing counter-strike and he replied with a straight no. Similar reactions were given by ‘Hiko’, ‘summit1g’, ‘PimpCSGO’, ‘w0xic’ and ‘screaM’. As stated by Shroud, CS was undeniably dying and yet players are still getting paid like 40 grand a month that is slightly crazy for him.

Just imagine if you were a player who wanted the same slow tactical feel of counter-strike but with more content and a more communicative developer, then there was nothing out there. And if you were a new player looking at playing your first tactical shooter starting counter-strike with no prior experience was an intimidating prospect.

Riot Games: 6 Years into Project A

But in 2020 Riot Games finally gave both of these groups were given an option. In news, there were rumors of a game codenamed: ‘Project A’ was under development for a long-long time. It was a character-based tactical shooter, it’s competitive, it has precise gunplay, it’s set on a beautiful near-future Earth and it has a lethal cast of characters, each with their unique abilities.

The road to get there had been very long as Valorant was over six years in the making according to the game director Joe Ziegler. But even as the first glimpses of gameplay saw the light of day, there were quite more dilemmas in mind like it still looks like CSGO with Overwatch ultimates. It somehow resembles realm royale for some reason. At first, it was unclear exactly what the game was as it had abilities, it had different agents, it has a res. so the thing

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Was this CS or was it Overwatch?

As the discussion raged there was nothing to do but wait until players and streamers could get the game in their own hands but as riot revealed more it was clear that the game formerly known as Project A got its genes from counter-strike as they had brought Volcano, Sal Garozzo, a legend of CS map design, onboard to help.

The game developer was going with a slower and more methodical approach with a lot of the movement in the game but also want those outplay moments where somebody does something incredible and they could win a 1v4 if they’re aiming well enough. In other cases, they added completely new functionality like the vision that CS just never had. There were other similarities too like a bolt action sniper rifle, conspicuously called the Operator. For the first time in decades, Counter-Strike had a global competitor that was trying to do what it did but in a more modern package.

Valorant Gained Hype, Valve Woke

To the pro players and streamers who played Valorant before it went public, the game was already in a great spot. In week one of the public closed beta, the game’s popularity skyrocketed on twitch with 1.7 million concurrent viewers, a record only surpassed by the league of legends world’s 2019 viewership. But even as the hype around the game exploded, Valve took notice and took action.

It seemed like Valve was aware of Valorant’s rising popularity but some players were a little skeptical. The official release of Valorant was set for June 2nd, 2020, and while offering keys to the beta as twitch drops surely helped. There was also a feeling that the game’s popularity meant it could be more than just a colorful second fiddle to CS, proving to be a true competitor.

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Valorant: A New Step

That feeling led many in the CS competitive scene to consider where their careers were headed and to pick Valorant as their next step. Big names like Hiko, Scream, and Nitro eventually took the opportunity to start fresh in a new game that shared plenty of similarities with the old one. Many other names like Wardell made their way to the game and found that they could shine brighter here than they ever could in CS.

Especially in North America where the region’s best talent had been mostly gobbled up by its tier one organizations. And for some like Brax, it was a fresh start a chance to create a career that is banned from official Valve CSGO events. As Valorant gained a foothold worldwide it was clear that Riot’s approach to making changes and adding content was very different from Valve but even at this early stage, Valorant was not without its controversies.

Vigilant Watch for Cheating

The game’s anti-cheat system was one of the first of its kind. Counter-Strike had witnessed several of its cheating scandals over the years and they had damaged esports organizations and even hurt entire regions, the prime example of Forsaken.

Riot’s solution for Valorant was the vanguard, the system’s kernel-level driver upset some players particularly as early versions of the anti-cheat interfered with programs that controlled cooling and fan speeds. Many issues regarding the driver level access were addressed after years of work but some people were still able to hack.

Keeping these security issues aside still Valorant is in its early days as with slightly slower movements, the Operator has become far more oppressive than its green predecessor. The Operator should be balanced and games need to have more ways to counter offers with a certain set of equal flashes, smokes, utilities to depart imbalance. The operator should be a risk versus reward kind of thing, so it should be a little expensive.

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Still Early Days

While Valorant got off to a hot start on twitch Counter-Strike has retained its spot among the rankings, at least so far. It’s still early days for Valorant and esports but the tournaments hosted so far like the riot-backed ignition series and now the first strike qualifiers have provided exactly what viewers want, an opportunity to see how their favorites stack up in the still-new competitive landscape and to see the game’s meta evolve, meaning a new stage for big names.

Valorant is a second chance for CS players fighting to prove themselves. The first opportunity for a bright new generation of stars. Sensing an opportunity some of the biggest organizations in esports have already stepped in to support those players without concrete long-term plans for Valorant esports future.

It’s still difficult to say exactly what the future holds but there’s optimism from some of the game’s biggest fans Valorant is just going to hit and it’s going to hit hard yeah once land starts jumping out. And what we know for sure is that for once there’s a new competitor in tactical shooters and whether you buy a Vandal or an AK-47 it’s making both games better.

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