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All Games: Show me the money!!!

By: Jason Bass - Published December 23, 2003 at 9:34 AM EST - Writer Archive
Griffin “Shaguar” Benger


Since the introduction of Counter-Strike, the unique money system has been one of the most interesting and often overlooked aspects of the game. Until recently, the majority of concern regarding this system was simply when to save your money for the next round, or to spend your money on the necessary weapons and armor to win, in hopes of forcing the opposing team to save. The actual Counter-Strike money system has never really changed, nor has the game, significantly, since version 1.3, so what’s the problem?

What has changed?

The significant increase in prize money has lead to more professional Counter-Strike teams, and in turn; has lead to an emphasis on attention to detail. With great minds leading these teams (Vesslan of Adrenaline[GX], Moto of [3D], Element of SK to name a few), and so many new fantastic aim players rapidly emerging onto the scene (Ph33r, Destructo of Forsaken, ntt of rdw etc…) it was inevitable they would be some of the first teams to find as many “intelligent alternatives” as possible to ensure victory against these talented players.

The most notorious “alternative” (alright, I’ll stop beating around the bush; exploit) first introduced by these teams was money control. One of the first instances that money control became so significant was at the CPL Winter 2002 event. Team 3D, using a new, bland, rather mundane tactic managed to take home 1st place in a slow game against GoL on de_dust2. After a strong CT half, and a T pistol round loss, 3D camped the B halls with deagles in hopes of taking out as many pushing GoL members as possible, while camping out the round time, essentially drastically depleting GoL’s finances. Whether or not the tactic was really first introduced by 3D is irrelevant, but the tactic was smart, and my hat goes off to Moto and the gang for using it as effectively as they did. But frankly, it was uneventful, boring, and most importantly, slow.

Now before you write off this article as a greedy eco cobra from up North ready to shed his skin, rear his head and mow down some armor less terrorists sporting glocks on the grassy fields during eco season, consider the following:

When 3D, and following their CPL performance pretty much every top notch European team (many US teams have still yet to see the importance of round camping as the offensive side, which I will expand on later) began camping out terrorists rounds, it started a trend that has turned Counter-Strike into a slow, less spectator friendly game. What makes camping out terrorist rounds so effective? The Counter-Terrorists get punished for it. They get practically half of what they would get if they were to win the round by defusal and/or killing all 5 Terrorists.

Why?

It’s simple. The Counter-Strike financial system was originally created for cs_ maps. Although many people regard the “oldschool” *map* as de_dust, the majority of maps when the game was first created were classics like cs_italy, cs_docks, cs_militia, cs_assault… get the trend? The reason that the CT’s get such a significant depletion in funds after winning a round by a T save out is because on cs_maps, the CT’s are supposed to be punished economically if they don’t rescue the hostages in time (I’m sure we all remember the good old pubbing days on cs_militia when we would kidnap the hostages as Terrorist and camp the sewers and let time run out). However, this was a punishment for NOT completing the objective, for NOT killing all the Terrorists, for NOT winning the round. In a competitive de_ CS match, when the CT’s kill 4 T’s and the Terrorist runs away and hides because he KNOWS he cannot complete the Terrorist objective, are the CT’s not still doing their job when the time runs out? Should the CT’s finances be punished? I certainly don’t think so, but they are.

Where’s your proof?

Want more examples? 3D vs GoL is miniscule compared to recent international tournaments, especially since 3D only did it during an eco round. Perhaps it is a bias example, but at the Electronic Sports World Cup Finals, which I competed in, team9 (now known only as Adrenaline[GX]) were victorious in the pistol round of their T side and then in the 2 eco rounds following. In the 4th round, our team (zEx) outplayed the seemingly important 4th round, killing 4 team9 members while only losing 2. At this point, having full understanding of the complicated and unfair money system, we attempted to take out their 5th member, quick. However, since we were chasing him (something the Counter-Terrorists, the supposed *defenders* of the map, shouldn’t be forced to do) he awped 2 of us, and sunman saved his gun to win the round. Could have been worse, right? Wrong. We had to save the next 2 following rounds, leaving Adr[GX] with a 5-1 advantage, after LOSING the supposed most important gun round of the game, leaving them with full money control for the remainder of the half.

Money control has become even more evident now; most infamously I’m sure, by SK during the recent CPL Winter 2003. Take the NoA vs SK match on de_inferno for example, SK won the pistol round and the following eco rounds, and on the 4th round, could only manage to kill 2 NoA members. However, the 5th member having saved out completely destroyed NoA’s finances, and was easily able to control the rest of the half by playing off NoA’s limited cash.

Just 2 matches earlier on de_cbble, SK faced off against [rdw] in a very close match. [rdw] was playing a fantastic defensive side, going up 7-1. However, SK practically saved out every round [rdw] won, and as soon as SK won a gun round, [rdw] had to save and ended up only winning the half 7-5.

Even in the finals match, which seemed like a blowout due to the nature of the score, NoA killed 4 SK pistol round while SK only managed to take out 2, but Element saving out the round left NoA with barely over $2000 the following round. It doesn’t end there, either. We (NoA) were faced to choose whether to completely save the 2nd round (remember, we had still WON the pistol round, completing the Counter-Terrorist objective), hoping SK didn’t buy deagles and armor (since they now have just as much money as we do, pretty much forcing another pistol round, but now with armor and nades, even though the pistol round should have already been legitimately won by us) or saving out and not buying anything at all, so we could barely get armor (I myself had only single armor and m4 the next gun round), leaving SK with the gun advantage (AKs with armor, since the AK47 is $600 cheaper). However, don’t get me wrong regarding SK. They are and probably will be the best team in the world for years to come, and they were better than our team and every other team at the recent CPL, but I’m just trying to offer you readers my point of view.

Who has and hasn’t been using this exploit?

The argument of Europe vs North America Counter-Strike will always rage on, and frankly, I do not want to discuss it in great depth, because it is not the issue behind this article. However, it is very apparent that North American Counter-Strike players rely much more heavily on individual skill than the Europeans, heck, I do myself, and therefore, it is inevitable the Europeans have so effectively mastered the Counter-Strike economic system before us. It is one of the main reasons why 3D does as well as they do at international events, they play off the money system as much or even more so than the Europeans, being really the only American team to have done it.

Examples?

NoA vs e7 at the CPL Winter 2003 event. One of the most controversial rounds of that de_train match was the fact that tool and destruct of e7 chased after Knoxville and method in the inner bombsite with only about 30 seconds left on the timer, and ended up losing the round. While the timer was winding down, the 3 dead players on our team were frantically typing to each other about how broke we were, and that neither Knoxville nor method could afford giving us guns the following round if the Terrorists saved out (which, at the time, they seemed to be doing). But, alas, the 2 remaining e7 members desperately chased them and lost the round by being killed, giving us not only the round, but probably the game.

Even teams that I have been with at international tournaments have used this money exploit to our advantage. Take zEx vs 4kings on de_inferno at ESWC for example. We were so confident in our 2nd round after a save out, we completely saved out the T pistol round from the beginning (didn’t spend a cent of our $800), then had 4 rush 1 area to try to kill as many as possible for even more money the following round, while one player camped in the T spawn, ensuring a time out. And what happened in that 2nd round? After 4kings essentially destroyed us in the pistol round? We killed all 5 4king members without losing one player, because we simply had more money than them. We controlled their finances for the remainder of the game, and walked away with a 12-3 half, pretty much securing a victory.

I’m still not convinced....

Then put this into perspective: It is no coincidence that the CPL had difficulty selling all of the BYOC and team spots for this past event. The game is becoming boring, slower, less exciting. Counter-Strike is dying.  There was something so enthralling and exciting watching the big screen when X3 and NiP squared off. It was relatively fast paced, and when a team saved, watching Ksharp ace them with an m4 was a great spectacle, that thrilled the fans and made the game more enjoyable to play as much as it was to watch, and this game is and always will be about the fans. I remember even last Winter how explosive the Hyatt was when a fast paced exciting game took place. After each great kill or eco spray there were cheers all over the BYOC. The 10 players weren’t the only people apart of the game, everyone was. Every fan, every scream, every jump out of a BYOC seat with hands thrown in the air, it was the reason I practiced and competed for so long to get to the level I am at now. It was THE reason I, and many people like me, have made so many sacrifices for this game, for this SPORT, because it is… no, it WAS like nothing else.

And now that I’m finally here, that I have finally got to the CPL finals, after 4 struggling CPLs without breaking into the top 5, I had more fun and enthusiasm as a spectator of the finals then, than I did as a player now. At the recent event, I rarely remember any screams, o0o’s and ahh’s in the BYOC, but I do remember the first kill of the CPL Finals from the CT middle on de_dust2 by Knoxville was vaguely reminiscent of the good old days, as the audience’s reaction fueled me and the rest of my teammates, and pumped us up to what felt like an inevitable victory. But after waiting 3 minutes for the final SK member to camp out that pistol round, and then 3 more minutes for SK to camp out the 2nd round, I finally came to the realization that CS is not what it used to be.

Why didn’t teams like NiP and X3 exploit the money system back then? The core of both those teams now exists in the teams that so infamously exploit the system (SK, 3D), so why is the exploiting only really becoming so apparent now? They simply just weren’t aware of how game changing it could be. People say ignorance is bliss, and I’m starting to believe it myself.

What is the solution?

There are a few ways that the Counter-Strike money system can be changed, and the game saved:

1. Fix the money system:

After the Terrorist forces save out a round, whether it’s when they all have glocks or have just been outplayed in an important weapon round, do NOT punish the Counter-Terrorists, reward them. Not only should they receive the same amount of money if they were to win the round by defusal or killing the 5 Terrorists, but they should receive more. Why? It will ensure a much more exciting competitive game environment. Think about it; when was the last time, before the bomb was planted, you saw an awesome professional CS player attempt to win a 1v4? 1v3? 2v5? That would be exhilarating to watch, and would also ensure that the better team and/or players, win the important rounds. But if the Terrorist(s) so desperately need the weapons for the next round (for instance, they need 1 round to tie the match with 2 rounds left in the game, 3 of their members get killed right away, so the remaining 2 save out their guns to use them for the all important final round), they can save out those guns fully aware that the CT’s will be fully rewarded. You could even punish the Terrorists by giving them less money for saving out to further emphasize a full attempt at completing the objective of the map.

2. Pro Mode Counter-Strike:

Valve doesn’t want to change the entire money system? They are content with the system and how it is used on cs_maps? Create a Professional Mode of Counter-Strike, as ID Software did for Quake 3, with all the necessary changes to fix the money system and other aspects of the game that need changed for competitive play (The dreadful Riot Shield for example).

3. Create a different money system for de_ maps only:

If Valve is fully content with the cs_map money system, just make it so that there is a different money system for de_maps, not punishing the Counter-Terrorists for doing their objective by protecting the bombsites.

4. Chargers Only:

One of the most exciting games of Counter-Strike to watch was Chargers Only. Predominantly used by European leagues of old, the rules were that there was a time limit on the half (20 minutes), and only the rounds won by Terrorists count. Sounds really fast paced and fun right? It is, but the main problem with it was that the CT’s ended up running away and camping out rounds rather than the Terrorists to kill as much time as possible, which simply didn’t make sense, and we are faced with the same problem we are faced with now. If Valve were to refuse to change the money system, and Chargers Only were to be introduced by leagues and tournaments, we’d still be faced with problems.

What can we do?

Whether or not Counter-Strike is dying is open for discussion, but for those who insist in the countless forum posts that it is, the fact the game is getting boring and slow is one argument that I will agree with. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. Allow me to take this opportunity to call out to not only the fans, spectators, and players, but also the organizations that are holding these fantastic events. We need to get to the source. We need to make Valve understand how vital it is to fix the money system. Whether or not they anticipated Counter-Strike to grow to become so competitive or not is irrelevant, the point is that the game is on a downhill slope, and I hope this article helps opens up everyone’s eyes to that depressing reality.

If the CPL, CXG, ESWC, and aspiring leagues alike want to continue to not only promote the expansion of gaming and Counter-Strike, but also further guarantee a fair playing environment for the players and teams, contacting Valve about fixing the money system is the first step, and I guarantee you it will be a big one, in the right direction.

In life, money isn’t everything (unless of course you are unemployed, lacking a high school diploma, cooped up with a bunch of Europeans thousands of miles from home playing computer games for a temporary living… like this friend of a friend of mine…).
But in CS, money IS everything.

Special thanks to CPL|George for inspiring me to write this article, and all the fans and spectators that followed NoA’s matches at the recent CPL, we couldn’t have come as far as we did without you.

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