Why price shouldn’t dictate accuracy

There is growing speculation within the CS:GO Beta community that the development team behind the project are restructuring how the game’s gun market works and applying changes that will undermine the existing weapon hierarchy. They have done this by pegging weapon accuracy to the weapon’s cost in its game world, and by doing so offering life into the mostly unused premium auto rifle range, including the Styr AUG and SG 553. They become more accurate and powerful than the previously desirable standard auto rifle alternatives, in the M4A1 and AK-47.

The community has responded with either criticism to the move as regressive, counter to CS 1.6’s pure play approach, or supporting the move by suggesting that our “perceptions of the arsenal at our disposal needs to change”. Others believe, or are perhaps hoping, that the differences between weapon effectiveness is in fact a bug or merely an oversight. Personally I support the M4A1 and AK-47 remaining as powerful as they are in CS 1.6 and CS Source, and not be handicapped, or made less effective than the AUG or SG 553. This article will explain why.

We previously posted tests on long distance shots made by standard auto rifles and found that their first shot on target would miss. We then tested long distance shots on premium auto rifle range and the first shots from each weapon landed successfully on target. We reported on Tuesday that these changes may in fact be intentional, which would suggest that the development team have not in fact gotten anything wrong with the game mechanics, but purposely handicapping guns based on what we can only assume is price point.

 

Of course, this is pure speculation at this stage as the development team have yet to offer a response, but in case these tests were done to gauge public feedback, I am going to demonstrate how the move could be detrimental to the game’s potential as a competitive platform, and its adherence to some of the basic principles behind Counter-Strike as a skill based game.

With Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I believe there are two frameworks that we need to be aware of when offering an argument. While CS:GO is still in Beta it is still wrestling between two ideologies that have the capacity to determine its outcome, each in their own way.

In the first instance we approach CS:GO as a product of shared narrative, not dissimilar to a franchise. As long as CS:GO adopts the same scenario of Counter-Terrorist versus Terrorist with the bomb plant, hostage rescue, and elimination objectives that have been carried across from the earlier series, as well as most of the guns and maps players have come to enjoy, then it does not matter how much of the earlier version’s game mechanics are carried across. Essentially, as long as it appears like Counter-Strike, and plays somewhat like Counter-Strike, then it’s Counter-Strike all the same. This approach is arguably regressive, it takes the game’s implied narrative and offers a clean slate, attempting to build upon a scenario with a creative and exploratory direction, rather than sticking with what has been proven to work.

What has been proven to work? A Counter-Strike ‘purist’ such as Jimmy Whisenhunt would argue that CS 1.6 is the best available form in the tactical FPS genre, and believe the developer should take whatever steps they can to bridge CS 1.6’s pure form of play into this new engine. They see the game as more than just the shared narrative of Counter-Terrorists versus Terrorists, but the physics, recoil, accuracy, and general in-game mechanics that has made the game incredibly popular in competitive play. They see the game code as a surmountable learning curve, achieved through a lot of practice and talent as a measure of individual skill. In short, CS:GO to a purist is CS 1.6 repackaged in a new engine.

The first question that needs to be addressed is “should accuracy come at a cost?”, here gun accuracy would be measured by its monetary value in the CS game space’s simulated gun market. While speculation surrounds changes to the auto rifle range, extrapolating this idea to pistols and sub machine guns would severely subvert any existing value system in the game, with individual skill currency sacrificed for a thin argument that caters to an arbitrary value in the game. In theory, if we follow this train of thought, we would have pistols incapable of shooting the sides of barns, if you pardon the cliché. But that’s a very condensed response to a much broader question, particularly “why are weapons priced differently, if not for accuracy?”. To answer this I want to explore two different arguments, but want to place them within the framework of what I identified in the first instance as a regressive-compliant narrative view.

Firstly, I would argue that weapons from CS 1.6 and CS Source were not exclusively priced for their accuracy, but also reflected other factors inherent within CS game mechanics. These in-game factors include rate of fire, reload time, clip size, gun weight (movement speed), optics (scope), and so on. For example, the AUG may have a higher rate of fire and include a scope for zoom accessibility, while the M4A1 will offer higher damage in the hands of a skilled player, one who could tame long distance targets without the need for a scope. Here the player’s individual skill currency comes into play, where hand-eye coordination, reflex, and learned game lore, will determine the better player. By applying game code handicaps on these weapons we would be punishing skill, and instead rewarding the early round money manager who takes the frugal path to their premium auto rifles.

Secondly, if we were to expand on our narrative argument, we could consider Counter-Strike’s tactical FPS genre as pertaining to some outer world realism. Perhaps the weapon costs were not necessarily determined by popularity or tried and tested practices involved in structuring game mechanics across years of play, but rather from adhering to outside of the game, where it refers to the real world of Counter-Terrorists and Terrorists.

This argument requires little effort as we compare the simple, dated, mass produced and widely used AK-47 with the newly released (2009) Swiss Arms AG manufactured SG 553 currently used by only Malaysia. The price point matches the weapon’s accessibility outside the game, an issue that CS players will never face as weapon scarcity does not exist within the CS game space, but could be argued as instead reflected in their unit price per round. Further, there is no real world consideration that would price an AK-47 or a M4A1 out of accuracy; that a nation’s Counter-Terrorism unit, army or otherwise, would actively use an inferior, inaccurate weapon because of its cost – it is far too nonsensical to even consider a military issued weapon that misses on its first shot.

While purists would argue that all changes will detrimentally affect the game’s outcome, most would accept the inclusion of Molotov cocktails and a broader variety of weapons, as long as their staple arsenal used in competitive play remains true to CS 1.6 and CS Source. Even the regressive type, who would also prefer better competitive play, cannot in good faith align themselves with accuracy handicaps based on pricing as they would be adhering to what I hope to have demonstrated is an arbitrary, regressive, and unnecessary approach.

Over the course of the CS:GO Beta I would like to see, as the developers have indicated, a balance between CS 1.6 and CS Source; a direction that adheres to the functioning game mechanics of both the other versions, and that offers their superfluous additions within a modular structure that allows the competitive player the ability to disable them.

While this is purely in speculation at this stage, developers should still look beyond the game design and code and game mechanics, and to the skill currency exchanged by individuals whose hard work and dedication to the game must be rewarded and not hindered or handicapped because of refutable reasons. There’s more to the game than 1’s and 0’s.