Part 3: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?topic_id=97656
I will start this part with a small interlude of single player gaming as one game stands out throughout my gaming history. The rest will probably be exclusively about CS.
As shown by two popular polls on TL over the last year, 1998 was the best year PC gaming has had so far. Of course it saw the release of Starcraft, and FPS milestones like Unreal or Half Life. For me, it also introduced the demo, beta and finally the release, of the most addictive single player game ever: Jagged Alliance 2. It is a pretty singular genre mix of strategy, turn based tactics and role playing game, set up in a present day third world country, and, most importantly, with tons of real guns.
The demo was basically the complete gameplay but on just two sectors. Still I played those two over and over again waiting for the actual release. When the game was released I solved it on one weekend. Then again, better, then again, better. I planned my advance through the country down to the minute. My best run I think was with just 1 fighter and a crew of medics, drivers, gun and equipment carriers, mechanics, and militia training coaches. My hero liberated the country, every single sector, in 9 days, stacking up over 1000 frags.
I reinstalled JA2 over and over again over the last 10 years, usually after there was yet another invasion in Lebanon or some other display of para military equipment on the TV news.
Forever <3 for this game
But, back to 1999, and Counter-Strike. I remember this very vividly, we just had a small LAN of 3 people set up, playing Alien vs Predator king of the hill style. AvP made for some fun games too, especially the impossibly hard escape scenarios.
Anyway, I suggested we try this new mod I had heard about. This was easier said than done though, we needed to find it first. There was no Google back then and CS was completely unknown - the first beta had just been released a week ago or so. We finally found it on some clan server, but downloading the huge 11 Mb file and figuring out how to install it took another half day.
Finally, we tried a couple of games but as you can imagine it's not much fun with only 3 people who were used to nonstop action HLDM or Quake. Still, we recognized that this game must be insane fun with more people.
At the same time the national telco Deutsche Telekom had just announced country-wide DSL. I did not hesitate a second, and ordered it on the spot. More than the possible speeds I wanted the unlimited flat rate plan that came with it.
While Deutsche Telekom failed spectacularly and delivered my DSL 11 months (!) delayed some time in 2000, they granted me the flat rate for my ISDN dial up line right away. I remember this as if it was yesterday, I got home Friday after school, downloaded CS (now in beta 1.2), and started playing. For 17 straight hours.
An account of beta 1.0, 4.0, 5.2, 6.5, 7.0. lol how horrible it looked back then
It was amazing. When I started I had no clue about the maps (cs_mansion, cs_assault, cs_siege haha), the guns, movement, not at all. After 15 hours of non stop playing (10 on the same 24/7 cs_assault server) I had people offering me to join their clan. I continued playing the entire weekend and got completely hooked on CS.
What followed was the best time in gaming you can imagine. The CS beta community was just so great. Imagine a CS community but only and exclusively with good mannered people. If you were last man standing and still managed to take the round 6-0, everyone, including your opponents, would respect and congratulate you. Skill and seniority in the game was what everyone was measured by. And there were no cheaters. At all.
Quickly I had my few regular servers, including the 24/7 assault server from my first CS day. I can't exactly tell how much I played back then but it was several hours a day for sure.
What made the time especially great was the constant updates to the beta, the anticipation to them, and the preceding and following discussions, non-stop play testing and bitching or praising each new beta. So much changed every new instance, more and more guns were added. C4 maps were introduced. Only half of the CT team was equipped with defusers, the other just could not defuse the bomb. You could plant the bomb anywhere, and the CT didn't even win the round when it was defused haha.
Each month someone declared "the end of CS" because in the new beta dropped guns would not stay over to the next rounds (each team usually had 1 guy spamming GGGGG, carrying 15 guns back to the spawn point haha) or because they took the scope off the M4A1.
In Germany, the beta peaked in 5.2 or 6.0 regarding the community and the fun we had. It was still a largely unknown underground game to play. There were already the legends of BuBu, SK, or TAMM dominating the clan scene, but we didn't have big tournaments like Quake had and the media was generally oblivious of CS.
Each beta had a new start screen. Words can't describe the excitement you felt when the new screen load the first time
Beta 6.5 changed everything. The biggest German gaming magazine at the time, GameStar, put a copy of beta 6.5 plus a description of CS into every magazine they sold. It was doom's day. When the first screenshots of the magazine appeared online, everyone knew immediately CS as we knew it was over.
It literally took only hours and the hordes of newbies stormed the servers, shooting everyone on sight. I don't know if GameStar had bothered explaining that it was a team game.
Anyway, CS exploded within months. In retrospect GameStar did a lot to further e-sport in Germany. They suddenly realized what a huge, unaddressed market online gaming was, and wanted to get in on it. The first GameStar league was a total disaster as their tournament servers constantly failed, but it got ESL, other online leagues, and especially the vibrant LAN scene to recognize CS to it's full potential.
Beta 7 came around with some fun stuff. Anyone remember the map where you could drive around in Jeeps? You could drive to the bomb spot, drop the bomb inside the car and drive off playing 40 second car bomb. Insane fun. Or they introduced the double Berettas, but didn't give them a delay - so people would bind Attack1 on the mouse wheel to empty both Berettas in 1 sec.
Oh yeah you could do some fun stunts with those jeeps.
It was 2000, Deutsche Telekom still could not deliver on their country wide DSL promise, so the LAN scene was still growing. I used to go to more and more public LANs that spawned everywhere.
Eventually I was approached by a couple of people from the area to help setting up the biggest LAN around - The "Atlantis", 500 people. It was a great time for esports, sponsors were immediately found and setting up this huge network in the city's exhibition hall was fun too. Plus Flying Horse shipped a whole truckload for free for the event. I don't think I slept that weekend, at all.
The announcement of some of the legends of BuBu and TAMM to come to the LAN made it a real esports attraction. During the tournament a huge crowd gathered behind them and marveled how they tore through all the other scrubs. A couple of friends of mine played them in the Ro8 - after 3 rounds they decided to just play 'who can stay alive the longest' per round.
On the LAN I played my first large BW tourney too. Fortunately it was a 2vs2 tournament so I can blame being eliminated in the 3rd round to my team mate haha. BW or RTS in general was on the decline though, FPS completely dominant.
The LAN was a total success regarding the gameplay, fun, esport character etc. Unfortunately none of us had thought about the power consumption of 500+ computers and equipment. I don't think anyone ever payed the roughly 7000 on the electricity bill back to the city.
After the LAN the friends I used to play with got more serious with CS. They started playing clan wars and formed a team for ESL. I still played a lot with them and naturally I improved a lot too but I never wanted to commit to regular practicing hours. That was the line for me.
They got insanely good though. One of them was on SK briefly, but he went back to Quake or something I don't know. Where ever we went our group dominated the local LANs, of which there were many - from 2000 to 2002 there was basically a public LAN every month.
The original GameStar league (Beta 6.6). The commentary is legendary
When CS 1.0 and HLTV came around I played less and less, not only CS but all games, and started to get more interested in esports as a fan. I tried to get as many tournaments as possible. ESL was already the standard of esports back then, but other leagues tried to compete too. Around the time broadband had finally hit in Europe, and you could watch top international games online.
On the pubs, CS quickly became what it is today. Filled with BM, kiddies, cheaters. The gameplay didn't seem as smooth and as fun anymore.
I really got back into playing CS hardcore with version 1.3 though. Version 1.3 was for me the best CS there ever was after 6.0. It brought back the really fast paced, action filled games of beta 7. My beloved AK-47 was buffed again. They had removed the crosshair and the accuracy of sniper rifles when not in zoom, but I just got the "feel" for the exact center of the screen and quickly relearned double tab AWP railing.
In early 2002, it was time for "Atlantis 2". With 200 people is was smaller, and under strict control of the city. It promised to be the lamest LAN ever. They were going to crack down on piracy completely, wanted to strictly prevent 18yo+ games being played in the public area, etc.
It was the time the main stream media had broadcasted a series of campaigning against the "LAN subculture" and "Killergames". I think the public image of esports and computer games still suffers today from how they portrayed LAN events and gaming back then.
The first night indeed there were social workers from the city visited the LAN to make sure we wouldn't do what ever they thought we would do. Once they left the LAN quickly went back into fun mode though. Everywhere people were rolling joints, drinking, watching porn. On the big screen there was the IPs of currently running Python B.net servers where the leaked Warcraft III beta could be played.
The CS winners from last year were there too. They got completely faceraped by the group of friends who had been playing in the ESL and in clan wars for a year. I hardly played CS at that LAN though, I was busy getting stoned and stomping everyone in WC3 with the imba tanks. You could load 4 of those rifle dwarfs into a tank and when it finally died they were still alive at full health haha. The third day me and my friend were banned from all B.net servers on the LAN.
I played a bit of the WC3 beta online after the LAN too, but I quickly lost interest. It just didn't do it for me. I didn't bother trying the release beyond playing the campaign.
Then CS 1.4 was released later in 2002, and it killed CS for me, completely. They removed everything that made 1.3 so great. The gameplay got incredibly slow. The leg breaking after every single jump would drive me nuts. Especially as it didn't break your leg if you jumped off a roof - you got stopped only if you jumped without losing HP. AWP railing didn't really work anymore. You couldn't hit anything anymore while moving, 3rd bullet spray was off. The spray patterns of all guns were randomized so you couldn't compensate manually anymore. You couldn't jump off or on boxes while planting the bomb. It was horrible.
I just stopped dead playing CS with version 1.4, forever.
Since there was no other great game to take it's place, I stopped playing computer games in 2002, altogether.
With the exception of yet another round of Jagged Alliance 2 or Civilization 3 now and then, I did not play anything, up until 2004, when during a slow phase at university, I figured "why not try this age old RTS, Starcraft, again?".
To be continued.
Endless, endless hours. Damn you, Civ3