HAS COUNTER-STRIKE KILLED OFF ONLINE GAMING?
Counter-Strike, one of the most popular game modifications ever for Half-Life has now been around for a few years, far longer then most online games last and credit to Cliffe and Gooseman for producing something gamers obviously love, but how many games have suffered due to this phenomenal mod, and how many copies of Half-Life have been sold just because of this mod?
If you look at the past few years in terms of games with multiplayer, Counter-Strike is the only one which sticks out. However because this game is so popular it has meant that other games being released have had some very stiff competition to deal with and many of them have died out. The fact that within weeks of a game being released most people are back to Counter-Strike shows just how hard it is going to be for developers to break down this modification and take the number one spot.
BattleField 1942, released last year is one of the more popular online games at the current time. Being able to control vehicles, infantry or aircraft has made it a winner for DICE and the inevitable sequel BattleField Vietnam is now in production. But even though BattleField has enjoyed success for both EA and DICE, had Counter-Strike not existed would BattleField have become even more entrenched into the online gamers library. The answer is yes and no.
Counter-Strike in my opinion is incredibly popular for two reasons; low system requirements and its not hard to become relatively good at which is again a credit to both Cliffe and Gooseman. BattleField 1942 would have probably been more popular had CS not been around, but not to the extent that most would expect. BattleField 1942 requires a quite powerful PC just to run let alone max the graphics out, and really to play 1942 online requires a broadband connection. So CS may not have affected 1942 as many would probably like to think.
Counter-Strike has not been without its problems however and many games are learning from this. Punkbuster is being implemented in a variety of online games now to stop people using client side cheats, which became prolific in CS a few years back. With the recent release of 1.6 and Steam Valve is hoping that cheating is a problem of the past for Counter-Strike as do other development teams who have chosen to implement Punkbuster into their games.
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and CS has definitely had its imitators. Tactical Ops, a Unreal Tournament modification like CS made it to retail but hardly made a dent into Counter-Strikes online prescence. What differs CS so much from TO? They both feature team based online play, they both feature somewhat the same objectives and they both are online. Another such mod is Urban Assault, again somewhat the same objectives and gameplay, yet CS has won out why? Probably because it was the first out and people don't feel a need to move on as they still enjoy the modification and this is where the problem for new games lie.
When a new game comes out, for instance Halo (which has recently been released in the US and due for release in Europe and Australia soon) people will play it online for a little while but because the majority stick with Counter-Strike, the servers don't get put up and therefore the servers are either full or no one is playing. The other problem is Linux servers. CS has one, a majority of other games don't. Most online game servers are run with Linux, so really the developer has already lost out in a big way if they choose not to develop it. Some try to add it later in games such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and BattleField 1942 but by then usually the horse has already bolted.
So while Counter-Strike is the most popular game online by far at the current time it offers a challenge. It offers a challenge to both developers and mod teams to create a mod that can knock it off its perch. Imagine being able to tell the world that you knocked Counter-Strike from its number one position with your game. CS hasn't killed online gaming, in fact it may have change it for the better. Without CS we probably wouldn't have the punkbuster cheating system, without CS we may not have had the brand new game types which developers are coming up for with their new games. So sure you can blame Counter-Strike on the fact that no one is playing your favourite game online, but give credit where credits due. Counter-Strike has changed the online gaming world forever and no game is going to change that.