Valve’s obligatory post-Major update has finally shipped, and it’s a big one–Nuke is being added to the Active Duty map pool while Inferno is unceremoniously moved to the Reserves pool while it receives an aesthetic overhaul. Valve have also launched a new experimental feature for the game’s Matchmaking service: a ‘Prime’ queue that users can opt-in to after they connect their phone numbers to their Steam accounts.
Inferno Out, Nuke In
Well, folks, it finally happened–Inferno has officially been taken out of the Active Duty map pool. What does this change actually mean? Here’s a rundown:
- Nuke will replace Inferno in the map pool at the next CS:GO major, ESL One Cologne 2016.
- It’s somewhat unclear what different online professional leagues will do about Newke. Since ECS, ESL, CEVO, as well as smaller online leagues are either close to the completion of or about halfway through their respective seasons, it would be unfair to add Newke to the map pool partway through. Most leagues will likely keep Inferno in the map pool until their current seasons are over, and then make the same switch as Valve. Of course, Leagues are entirely free to use whatever map pool they choose to–the popular map de_season, for instance, was included in ESEA and CEVO’s professional leagues as recently as halfway through 2015. (Season was, interestingly enough, the map that the now-infamous iBUYPOWER vs. NetcodeGuides match was played on.) As Valve continues to carve out its unique role in the CS:GO scene, the company has become fond of issuing strongly worded suggestions for leagues and tournaments to follow–after some initial grumbling about traditions, the scene has welcomed the changes Valve made to the round and bomb timers in December. It would be both bold and counter-productive for any league starting after this update to include Inferno in their map pool instead of Nuke.
- Valve is presumably going to spend the next six months to a year giving Inferno a makeover. We don’t know what it’s going to look like, whether they’re making substantial changes to the layout of the map or limiting themselves to strictly aesthetic and visual considerations, or, really, anything at all. Valve hasn’t confirmed this explicitly, but this seeming lack of clarity is their modus operandi for CS:GO–keep plans vague, but let people read through the lines pretty clearly enough. There’s no way that Inferno is gone for good–it’s one of the iconic Counter-Strike maps, and the community would collectively implode if it never saw the light of competitive play again.
- You will still be able to play Inferno in MM and third-party PUG alternatives. If Inferno is your favorite map, there’s no reason to be concerned–you’ll still be able to spend your Saturday nights pretending to be the King of Banana.
- After Inferno is remade, we don’t know what map it would replace in the Active Duty pool. Some pro players, including Luminosity’s Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, have suggested that Dust2 should be the next map on the chopping/revamping block.
Inferno is way cooler than dust2. But that could be my opinion only. What you guys think?
— Gabriel FalleN T. (@FalleNCS) April 22, 2016
Esports Edition is going to be spending some quality time with Newke in the next couple days, so look forward to reading a collection of strats, tips and tricks, useless wallbangs, and questionable boosts in about a week or so.
While the Inferno/Newke switcharoo has massive ramifications for play at the professional level, the update also shipped with a massive quality of life feature ‘experiment,’ known as Prime Matchmaking, designed to cut down on the number of cheaters and smurfs in the game’s official MM service.
The idea for Prime Matchmaking is simple, and, admittedly, brilliant: connect your phone number to your Steam account, and you’ll be matched with other people who have done the same. A phone number can only be connected to one Steam account–if you want to change which account your number is registered to, you’ll have to wait six months to do so. In exchange for linking your phone number and participating in Prime, Valve will put you into games with other people who have Prime enabled. There will, hopefully, be less cheaters in the Prime queue, especially since Valve has included some stipulations about what constitutes an eligible phone number. Here’s how the system works, in Valve’s words:
Here’s everything we know–and don’t know–about Prime Matchmaking.
- We don’t know for certain if it’s live yet, but it almost certainly is. Reddit has been debating this for several days now–some people think that it won’t be but Valve’s official explanation is, again, vague enough to let people read through the lines. As they put it, Prime Account Matchmaking will go live as soon as there are “enough” accounts registered, and we have no idea how many accounts that is. Do they need 20,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? There’s no reason why Valve would wait to start experimenting once people have registered, and I’m sure that we’ve hit “enough” players for them to begin calibrating their systems and testing out how it works. Also, I’ve won and either top- or middle-fragged almost every single game of MM since the Update, and that never happens, so either I got way better, way luckier, or there’s actually something going on.
- It’s an experiment. There’s no guarantee that you won’t play against a cheater or a smurf. I have an alt account for solo-queuing–it’s ranked higher than my main account, oddly enough–and borrowed my partner’s phone to register it for Prime Matchmaking, and that took me all of three minutes. All it does is add another hurdle for players looking to easily create new accounts that they can cheat on. And in the 21st century, hurdles are actually enough to stop people a lot of the time. When was the last time you torrented a movie? Probably never, because it’s illegal and you could go to a jail–you wouldn’t download a car, would you? But if you were the torrenting type back in the day, you’ve probably made the natural evolution and moved on to streaming content–it’s much simpler to load up Netflix than it is to go through the hassle of sketchy torrent sites and download a video that may or may not have hardcoded Swedish subtitles. Since everyone will want to be in the Prime Account Matchmaking queue, serial cheaters will have to buy a pallet of burner phones to link to new Steam accounts after old ones receive VAC bans, or risk linking a personal phone number to an account that is likely to be either OW or VAC banned in the future. I am sure there will still be people who take the latter route, and those people are idiots. If you want a cheat-free experience in online CS:GO, ESEA is your only option.
- It’s free. For now. We have no idea whether or not Valve plans to monetize Prime down the road, but for now, it’s completely free. For Valve, Prime Matchmaking might be the equivalent of Amazon’s Free Super Saver shipping, the internet marketplace’s spiritual predecessor to Amazon Prime–in time, it might cost money, but it’ll be worth it if it gets that far. Hopefully.
- We don’t know how it works. At all. Is everyone who opts in to Prime Account Matchmaking treated equally? Are accounts that only own CS:GO but have a phone number connected put into the same Prime queue as seven year old accounts with Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator, 200+ games in their libraries. and $1000+ inventories? What happens to a phone number when the account it’s attached to is VAC banned? Or OW banned? Are players with a large number of reports for cheating de-prioritized in the Prime Matchmaking queue? How about players who have received griefing convictions?
- If it’s successful, it’s going to make people happier and better at the game. When it’s easy to call cheats, you don’t focus on getting better–all you focus on is how it wasn’t your fault because that player is “sketchy.” When the voice in the back of my head stops whispering “this dude is totally walling,” I can come to terms with the reality that it was my terrible decision-making which lost my team the round.
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While this update doesn’t include any gameplay adjustments, the changes to the Matchmaking services are going to have a huge impact on the way that newer players are introduced to the game. I’ll save my personal opinions on the Newke/Inferno situation for another article–there’s a lot to talk about. For now, get out there and sign up for Prime Matchmaking.