Friday, 9 March 2012

Tactical Intervention: Creating a New Counter-Strike

from : IGN
There were many things Minh Le wished he could have done with Counter-Strike. After helping create one of the most popular online shooters ever, he left Valve Software, embarking on a seven-year journey to create Tactical Intervention. After overcoming technical hurdles, as well as adapting the game to take advantage of a growing free-to-play market, Le is finally showing his baby – and hoping players will see it as an evolution of his prior work.

First, let's knock out the basics about Tactical Intervention. Like Counter-Strike, it's an online multiplayer first-person shooter, where players are split between terrorists and counter-terrorists. It's objective based, tasking players with doing actions like saving hostages. Alternatively, players can also wipe out the enemy team to win, as each player only gets a single life per round. Players are also much more fragile compared to other shooters, with no automatic recharging health system to be seen. 

With just a cursory glance it'd be easy to write Tactical Intervention off as a derivative Counter-Strike, but Le has strived to refine ideas he felt didn't work well the first time around. "I thought a lot of the scenarios in Counter-Strike were kind of flawed," says Le, adding that, "that's why the most popular scenario was the bombing map, because it was the most balanced." Bombing scenarios still take place in Tactical Intervention, as do hostage stages. The difference between Tactical Intervention and Counter-Strike's hostage scenarios comes largely down to hostage placement. The hostages aren't tucked away in a room that the terrorists ignore, but they are instead placed in a central, relatively open place. The hope is that this will change the dynamic, with terrorists coordinating with one another to better guard the hostages instead of just going out for kills. The hostages also no longer need to be escorted by the counter-terrorist team, but instead just have to be briefly interacted with. 

Other scenarios will also be included in Tactical Intervention. The most popular one in internal playtests is an escort mission involving vehicles. Here both teams start out in player-driven cars, with the terrorists assaulting the caravan and attempting to prevent the VIP from reaching the other side of the map. It looks much more chaotic than the normally slow-paced and calculated play associated with Counter-Strike and could work as a nice palette cleanser between more traditional matches. 

Another tweak to the design Le is has implemented is multiple spawn points for the counter-terrorists. Le wants to make every round on the same map play out as predictably, and give players more options to develop deeper strategies. For instance some counter-terrorists might rappel down a building from a rooftop, while others spawn in a lower part of the building for a two-pronged assault. 

Coordinated attacks take a lot of teamwork, which Le hopes Tactical Intervention will inspire in ways Counter-Strike didn't. Players can equip shields, ducking down and providing mobile cover for their teammates. Players can also use a limited healing resource to keep their teammates in the fight. Le understands that not all players are altruistic, and has implemented systems to reward these players with experience and in-game currency. 

The only items you have in a fight are those you take with you. Players don't start with a pistol and purchase items in-between rounds; instead, they permanently outfit their character in the in-game store. Along with guns, players can also buy more unique items like a dog companion. The dog can be given limited commands, and Le says they add a tactical benefit to campers, as they can use the dog to watch a second point of entry while they focus on some other choke point. He asserts that no player will be able to buy their way to victory, with paid-only weapons only being slightly more powerful and (hopefully) not a replacement for sheer skill level. 

While both Tactical Intervention and Counter-Strike play in first-person, Le's game gives additional movement options. In addition to leaning, players can blind fire from cover. They can also do a roll, allowing them to quickly move through a door way or cross a killzone. Le demonstrated the roll's effectiveness by breaching a doorway and then, while the smoke was still hanging in the air, quickly rolling into the room and clearing out the enemies. 

Other changes Tactical Intervention has made on the Counter-Strike formula are more subtle. The radar is no longer in the upper corner of the screen; now, it works as a circle around your crosshair. Intuitively players are already focusing on the center of the screen, so the idea is that pertinent information regarding other players is more readily available. Everyone can also soak up a bit more damage in Tactical Intervention, though the playable demo made it more than clear that you can still be killed in a split second.

Tactical Intervention enters closed beta soon with a full release coming around June. The game will never really be "finished" though, as Le repeatedly emphasized that community input will always have a huge impact on its continuing development. This may be Le's long-in-development project, but he knows his success is due to the outpouring of fans that still play Counter-Strike today and wants them to always be a part of Tactical Interventions future. 



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