This past week Valve did something that they have never done before- they completely reverted a major update due to community backlash. The winter update had so many changes that the community disliked that Valve has changed almost all of them. Unfortunately, some of the changes were actually productive for the game and the fact that they have been reverted shows a penalty that comes as a result of Valve adding so much content at once. With the recent update Valve released a statement entitled Recovery Time. In the statement, Valve wrote that they “failed to anticipate the reaction of the community to changes in such heavy-use weapons, and we clearly need to re-evaluate our process for making and communicating about changes in that space.” The backlash Valve received came in many forms. The most damning was a movement of many users writing negative reviews of CSGO on steam to show their disdain for the changes. Valve clearly needs to make changes to their process if the entire pro and casual community are infuriated at changes made to the game. There are many factors that make it possible for such a disappointing update to be put in place without the developers being able to anticipate the reaction of the community. Here I will break down the problems with Valve’s current method of updating the game, along with solutions to those problems.
Prototype before profit
One of the major issues with the addition of the revolver is the fact that it was completely untested before being added to the game, and valuable skins were released at the same time of its addition. The result being that once the gun is added, it becomes impossible to remove from competitive play because users have purchased skins for it. The simple solution to game breaking weapons becomes invalid in that atmosphere. So instead of removing weapons that cannot reasonably exist within the game, Valve must instead nerf them to the point of being useless. This change only adds more unusable weapons to the game. If Valve instead either play tested weapons in the professional community or added them before skins were available for purchase, then any changes or removal of weapons could be made before players invest their money into skins.
Valve knows best
A root cause of the backlash of this update and many like it is that Valve introduces changes that are completely unwanted and were never requested by the community. Valve does this under the notion that they know more about what changes need to be brought into the game. This notion is completely ridiculous. A unified community frequently asks for changes that are rarely delivered by Valve. Instead Valve puts forth changes that neither the casual or professional community have requested. Examples of this are: the R8 Revolver, the rifle change, the round and bomb timer change, and the AWP change. None of these changes were asked for and they all received backlash from the community. Currently there is an uneven balance of power in how decisions are made in regards to gameplay changes. Valve should listen to the community, and act on popular and logical requests when updating the game. These changes should be balanced around the professional community and tested by professionals before implementation. A Valve employee does not understand more about the relationship between different gameplay mechanics than a professional player who has invested his life into finding ways to abuse different tools and mechanics present in the game. Therefor changes that are balanced within the professional community will show the ideal relationship between different mechanics.
You May Like
Small cautious steps
Updates like the recent winter update simply contain too many major gameplay shifts to understand how they will effect the larger metagame as a whole. There are also too many changes for the community to isolate their concerns in an articulate manner. For the recent winter update, players had few concerns with the changes made to pistols. However, there were so many changes that players didn’t like, that Valve applied their complaints to the entire update and reverted all gameplay changes. If Valve tested and patched the changes in small steps, giving the community time to find glitches and inconsistencies, along with voicing their concerns; Valve will be able to more accurately interpret data and isolate complaints to specific features.
How to test gameplay changes?
As seen from the winter update, Valve clearly needs a method of testing gameplay changes before they are brought into the game. The way that this is done is dependent on one’s philosophies about how the game should be balanced. Personally I believe that the game should be balanced around the pro scene, because the professional scene has the most skilled players who will abuse any broken mechanic in order to get the upper hand. The professional scene can also be directly credited to the game’s success. While mechanics that are balanced at the pro level are often also balanced on a lower skill tree, things that are balanced at lower skill levels can be completely broken at the pro level. Examples being the CZ75a was balanced at the lower skilled levels, but obviously broken at the pro level. Vice versa, low skill weapons like the P90 outclass rifles at low ranks, but are balanced among pros. Therefore it is safest and most moral to hold the pro level as the balance point for gameplay changes. Pro players should be invited to play their pick up games in Valve hosted test servers. Pro players then give feedback to Valve. Pros will be motivated to do this through either basic altruism, and also by being given permission to stream the matches. This will not only allow them to gain viewership because players will want to see the changes in effect, but also will help maintain an open relationship with Valve and the community regarding changes made to the game.