As an avid gamer, I must admit that I’ve, erm, “wasted” far too much time playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the past two months since its release. It’s an excellent game that delivers both a graphical overhaul to the aging Counter-Strike: Source, circa 2004, and a much friendlier online user experience thanks to new and improved game modes, leaderboards, quickplay, and matchmaking. All for the low low price of $14.99, so even those who say it’s “just an update” can’t complain, because it’s priced like one. So, to wit, I love this game and I highly recommend it to all you FPS fans out there.
But unfortunately (you knew it was coming), the classic competitive game mode currently suffers from many frustrating issues. It’s a shame that what is arguably the ultimate CS experience feels very neglected by Valve, because it prevents me from properly enjoying a game I fervently want to play. CS:GO’s biggest pre-release promise of a proper ranking system coupled with skill-based matchmaking is still conspicuously absent, and updates have been slowly trickling out to tack on minor features one at a time. The result is that the game feels like it’s still in beta, and Valve merely released it early to take advantage of a large pool of paying testers.
Picking A Game Type And Map
The trouble immediately starts with the game type selection screen, where you choose one of four standard game types (arms race, demolition, classic casual or classic competitive) and a map. When playing classic competitive, you can choose to pick a specific map, or have one selected randomly from a small map pool, grouped by mission type.
However, some maps are missing (office, in particular), and it’s not possible to simply select all the maps to increase your chances of getting into a game quickly. It’s a shame, because queue times can be long (often over five minutes), and sometimes I just wanna play now, regardless of the map. Both of these issues, although minor, have seemingly no reason to still be around after so long, and they just feel sloppy.
Joining A Queue
Once you’ve made a decision, you hop into a queue, where you get to waste the next few minutes of your life staring at this window:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think a queue system is the way forward for competitive gaming. Just look at StarCraft 2 or League of Legends. Yes, you need to wait a few minutes, but ultimately you benefit because while you’re waiting, you get matched with players of a similar skill to ensure a better and more balanced gaming experience for everyone.
CS:GO, on the other hand, still doesn’t have any ranking system whatsoever. A standard ELO-based ranking system has been promised for a long time, but here we are still waiting. Which begs the question, why the hell am I forced to wait in a queue if I’m just going to get matched with completely random players anyways? I cannot think of any good answer to this question, because I might as well just play classic casual instead. The only sensible explanation is that Valve is throwing each individual component out the door as it gets finished, and cohesive matchmaking system be damned.
Then, there are the random drops. Every so often, after having waited several minutes in the queue, you’ll get randomly dropped back to the main menu, with a friendly message telling you that you were given a game, but “failed to accept it” when in fact no such accept window was ever shown. You then have to restart your queue from scratch, and have a nice day. I won’t even try to understand what fishy things the matchmaking algorithm is doing with my precious internet connection to cause this bug, but luckily a simple fix was recently found. Still, issues like this really get me feeling like I’m just a guinea pig, stress testing the queue system before the next minor component gets tacked on, as I endlessly wait for the eventual complete package to be done.
Oh, and one more thing about this wait window… I’m fairly certain that the “expected wait time” is a dirty lie. It always shows the same small set of numbers, and it only ever goes up by varying but consistent increments. The moment you start to approach the listed time, it’ll jump to the next one such that your current time is never higher than your expected wait time, making it feel unreliable and useless.
Actually Playing The Game
So, you’ve finally gotten into a game and you’re happily going around blowing people’s brains out. I wish I could say that your troubles are at an end, but alas. The moment anyone leaves the game (which happens often), every remaining player must unanimously vote in agreement to continue the game with a bot in his stead. One single person votes no? Game Over. One single person doesn’t vote? Game. Over. Insert more coins, restart your painfully long queue, better luck next time. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about the Internet, it’s that you can’t trust random strangers to do anything right. The result is that it’s now exceedingly rare to ever finish a game of classic competitive.
There Must Be A Better Way
There is plenty of good news, however, as it’s not all that hard to fix these problems. First, Valve, you already have a game with a ranking and matchmaking system, Dota 2! Surely you canborrow their code or even their programmers, I mean your desks have wheels for Pete’s sake. Secondly, stop treating us players as free testers. Get rid of the queue system for now and come back when it includes a functional ranking system. Just make sure to polish it nicely and work away the rough edges in-house, since we’re not playing a beta anymore; we paid for this game and it’s only fair that the experience reflects that.
Now, I know it’s all too easy to be a critic, but you have to understand that I’m writing this because I care. It’s nothing personal, I still thoroughly enjoy playing all of CS:GO’s other game modes. I just want the classic competitive experience to be up to par so I can spend even more time playing it.