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Interview: Counter-Strike's creator talks about new game Tactical Intervention

In 1999 a team based multiplayer mode for Valve's first person shooter Half-Life was first released to the public. The creation of Minh "Gooseman" Le the mod was called Counter-Strike and its design (terrorist vs counter-terrorists in round-based gameplay) was an instant hit online. In fact the original version of the game continues to be one of the most played online shooters on the internet 11 years after the first beta mod version was released. In 2000 Valve bought the rights to the mod and turned the game into a commercial title later that year. In December 2008 Valve announced that the commercial version of Counter-Strike had sold a total of 4.2 million units in retail stores (the numbers do not include copies sold via Valve's Steam service).

Le was hired by Valve (along with Counter-Strike's co-creator Jess Cliffe) after the rights to Counter-Strike were bought by the developer. However after working at Valve for several years Le decided to leave Valve to work on an all new game. Working with developers in South Korea, the fruits of his efforts have resulted in Tactical Intervention, a Source Engine based multiplayer shooter that's being published by FIX Korea and will enter closed beta testing in the US on May 28.

In one of the first interviews about the game, Le talks about leaving Valve, the differences between Counter-Strike and Tactical Intervention and other topics.
First, you worked at Valve for a long time. Why did he decide to leave the developer which is arguably one of the most well known and respected game developers in the world?

I did work at Valve for about 6 years. I really enjoyed my time there as I got to work with arguably the best game developers in the business. Most of my time at Valve was spent working on a new game which would have hopefully have been CS2. I spent a lot of time just learning how to develop content for the (at the time) new Source engine. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a clear vision of what I wanted CS2 to be, so Valve and I came to a mutual agreement that it was better if I went off on my own and be free to develop a game that wasn't tied down by the CS aura.

The original Counter-Strike began as a mod for Half-Life. Do you still believe that making mods for games is a good way to make a mark in game development?

Yea, I believe it's the best way to showcase your skills and get your foot in the door of a company. It's really easy for a game company to hire people who have an extensive portfolio as it gives them a really good idea of what they're getting. Most of the people I've worked with have had extensive experience developing amateur mods and it's been really easy to integrate with them and get them up to speed.

Counter-Strike remains one of the most popular online multiplayer games on the net over 10 years after the first mod version was released. How do you feel about your creation having such a long life?

It's very humbling and a bit confusing. I sometimes have a hard time grasping why people still play CS 1.6 but I believe a lot of it has to do with community. People tend to play games that their friends are playing and it's hard to pick up and switch to another game. This is especially true for clan players who have spent so much time honing their skills.
Counter-Strike has also been a huge influence in the creation of multiplayer shooters. Indeed some current commercial games are clearly Counter-Strike clones. How do you feel about all of these games using your basis gameplay design?

I never really saw CS as a feature rich game ripe for stealing. It's a very basic shooter with a simple premise. Perhaps the only thing really unique about CS (at the time) was the round based element of not having dead players respawn. Though it's interesting to see this type of gameplay become less popular as more and more people resorting to "team" deathmatch style of gameplay. Personally, when I play a game like Modern Warfare on a public server with strangers, I'm always inclined to play TDM because I know how difficult it is to work as a team with a bunch of strangers. I reckon this is why TDM is so popular for casual gamers like myself. The thing I want to stress with our new game, TI, is to make it easy and rewarding for strangers to work as a team. In CS, teamwork only came about due to the layout of the map but with TI, I'm hoping people will stick together because of the tangible benefits that it offers.

How hard is it to develop an all new game after all of this time?

I'd say it's never any harder or easier than my time developing CS. I've learned a lot (which has made it easier) but at the same time, I've been attempting to do stuff that I never would have tried in CS (because I was too inexperienced as a programmer). The content developing aspect hasn't really changed too much. I actually find it easier to develop models and animation with the advancement of tools such as 3dsMax, XSI, Photoshop, Mudbox. However, the amount of content has certainly increased as game engines have allowed us to develop more detailed assets.

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