CSGO – How To Watch CounterStrike: Global Offensive in eSports

When it comes to CS:GO and its eSports scene, there are few shooters that can combine the frenetic pace matched with strategic team play. So much so in fact, that it can be a little bit overbearing to initially get into. But maybe you’ve played Call of Duty, Halo or Battlefield, and fancy getting your teeth into the shooter that many would describe as the ultimate spectator sport in the world of videogames.

Well that’s where we come in! We understand that coming into any new sport can be a little confusing at first, and CS:GO – with its round-based combat, fast-paced action and the importance of equipment choice, can sometimes need a little explaining so you can enjoy the best of the action easily.

So to give you that helping hand, we’ve broken down what competitive CS:GO really is, why it’s worth watching and some of the exciting things you should keep an eye out for during a pro game.

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What exactly is Counter Strike: Global Offensive?

To the uninitiated, CS:GO is just another multiplayer shooter in an industry overflowing with them, but its heritage is actually so much richer than that. See, Global Offensive is just Valve’s most modern, most up-to-date version of the game, a series whose titles actually number very few.

The original Counter Strike was released as just a mod for the original PC game Half Life, utilising the system’s core gun mechanics for a more realistic shooter that – at the time – was uncommon. The mod’s creator, Ming Le, wanted to create a more realistic shooter based on the world of counter-terrorism military, instead moving away from more arcade multiplayer shooters such as Doom and Quake.

That meant realistic weapons, hostages and a modern day military setting, a tone that has been carried through to this day.

Because of the mod’s originality it quickly became extremely popular as it was shared among friends and via popular mod sharing websites online. Many other modders got involved, too, and in fact many of the game’s maps that are still played to this day were created by modders during this early period.

It popularised the contemporary warfare setting, and soon after the games industry saw the release of games like Call of Duty and Battlefield were born, with the setting being the single-most popular one for FPS games even still.

Valve bought the rights to Counter-Strike in 2000, and brought in the modders working on it as employees for the company. Counter-Strike Source would be released in 2004, a recreation of the mod on Valve’s newest engine, but the original game – left at version 1.6 so called CS1.6 among fans – remained the most popular version of the game.

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But what made Counter-Strike truly interesting was the way it gave way to the eSports scene, a fact that was mostly unheard of at the time. This was significant, because when Valve released Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in 2012 it would focus on bringing the game’s competitive nature to the forefront.

With eSports on the rise, CS:GO focused more heavily on the team play driven gameplay of Counter-Strike while retaining the important gameplay elements that kept it so interesting to watch.

One such feature is the use of an in-game economy, that allows players to earn cash for playing well and then giving them options to purchase better or new equipment to use in new rounds. The progression of a match can be intense as this economy drives different strategies by both teams.

Over the last few years the popularity in CS:GO as a competitive game has regularly increased, with more and more teams getting invited to Major tournaments, Valve’s sponsorship of certain events meaning there is often a large prize pool to play for and the explosion of live streaming platforms such as Twitch bringing a huge audience to the game.

Additionally, gamers can buy skins to use in-game to celebrate upcoming events and even stickers to declare allegiance for their favourite teams around major events, helping to foster a sense of personal interest in the results of particular eSports contests.

As a result it’s become the number one FPS for eSports, even overtaking the likes of super popular titles like Call of Duty and Halo. There’s never been a better time than now to get into Counter-Strike eSports, so we’ll show you the ropes.

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Why should you watch CS:GO?

It’s all well and good detailing the heritage of CS:GO, but that doesn’t do all that much for examining why the game is worth tuning into tournaments for.

Maybe you’re a fan of FPS games and want to see them played by the very best gamers? Maybe you’re enjoying the eSports scene for other shooters, such as Call of Duty or Halo? Perhaps you want to get into the CS:GO competitive scene yourself and need to know what’s what?

But what makes CS:GO such a great eSport to watch? You’ll get a different response from different fans, of course, but many will point to its heavy reliance on strategy, teamwork, individual player skill and speed of play.

The strategy comes not only from the sorts of weapons any particular player chooses to use – and therefore the playstyle they’ll be using on any given round – but also how they choose to spend their in game money. This is one of CS:GO’s most distinctive features, and an element we’ll discuss in more detail later.

But it’s the required level of skill that makes the competitive scene with CS:GO especially compelling. It’s a game that requires the keenest of senses, with split-second trigger finger reactions simultaneously making and breaking practically every match.

That’s the kind of tension a CS:GO match creates. The fact that only the sharpest of sharpshooters come out on top is what separates the elite competitive players from… well, us, you and the majority of Global Offensive players.

And, as a result, that’s what makes it such a fascinating eSport. It’s like watching the Premier League or the finals of the US Open; it’s abundantly clear you’re watching the very best at the top of their game – a peak many viewers will be unable to achieve.

Then there’s the speed of it. Compare it to competitive Call of Duty and you might not think there is a noticeable difference, but rounds are considerably shorter simply, often ending even before the allotted two minutes per round is up. With each map being played as an effective Best of 30 of these rounds, CS:GO is a blend of both fast-paced action and a longer narrative, as both sides battle it out for supremacy.

Consider an eSport like League Of Legends or Dota 2: here are titles whose games last multiple minutes, with a more gradual progression than the immediacy of CS:GO. For more traditional comparisons, think of CS:GO as inhibiting the same sort of pace of a game of ice hockey or basketball, with MOBAs perhaps best seen as more akin to football, soccer or American football.

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How does a match work?

Unlike MOBAs, a match of CS:GO is fairly simple to understand. The core details are this: two teams of five play take turns to play each other as Terrorists or Counter-Terrorists, capturing or defending objectives, scoring kills, and earning in-game money to spend on better weapons and other equipment.

Competitive tournaments play the standard Bomb Defusal game type. Here the Terrorists must attempt to plant and detonate a bomb at one of the objective locations, while the Counter-Terrorists must prevent the plant or disarm the bomb.

If the latter happens then the Counter-Terrorists win the round, though CS:GO features a no-respawn system. This means that when a player is eliminated they cannot act until the next round, and if a team is completely wiped out then the round is won.

That is unless the bomb has already been planted. In this case, even if all the Terrorists are eliminated, then if the bomb is not disarmed before the timer has finished then the point still goes to the Terrorists.

15 rounds are played before the sides are swapped, and another 15 rounds are played. That might sound like a lot, but at two minutes maximum per round – and the majority even finishing before that – it’s surprising how much a single tournament can cram into such a short space of time.

Since opposing teams don’t immediately know where their opponents are during a round, there’s a necessary amount of communication, but it also means that most rounds are first about scouting out the enemy, trying to find out how they’re setting up, and ideally forcing them into making mistakes.

Win rounds and score kills and each player will earn in-game currency, a fact that gives each match a gradual progression as teams try to earn a fuller set of kit to give them the advantage, and deny their opponents from building too big an equipment advantage or bankroll.

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What is game economy?

It’s this system of currency and gradual kit upgrades that makes CS:GO considerably more strategic than other eSport FPS games. The more kills a team can get and the more rounds they can win, broadly speaking, the further the financial gap grows.

Each team starts with $800, a knife and a pistol. From there it’s up to each individual player – and the team as a whole – to decide how that money is spent. Each round begins with a short period where any items can be bought from the store.

But it’s not enough to just spend the money as and when it’s acquired. Different teams and players have different strategies in this regard, but it’s here where the core tactics of the game are borne.

Economical, or “Eco” rounds, for example, are strategies used by teams or players to save their cash for a particular “buy” of a set of items. It means playing at a possible short-term disadvantage – providing the other team does buy some upgrades – for a greater upgrade later on in the match.

It’s worth noting that different actions and situations will reward different amounts of cash. A kill with a knife, for example, is worth $1500, while pistol kills are only worth $300. This can mean choosing to get an SMG early on – for $600 value a kill – will give a player more cash per kill than if they chose to stick with a pistol, with the poorer accuracy of the SMG offering a risk/reward scenario.

Teams will share their budget on occasion, purchasing weapons for one another to ensure that they have what they need for the strategy they’re using. The most expensive items will need a greater sum of money, and to reach that as quickly as possible weapons and items are often bought by one player and given to another – ensuring they are not playing at too much of a disadvantage while retaining their larger bank of money for the more expensive items. For example, any sniping player (or “AWPer”) on a team saving for an AWP sniper rifle may well be bought for in this way, leaving their banked money intact to be saved towards buying that weapon as quickly as possible.

Since a death means that a player will generally lose acquired weapons (and therefore the money they spent to buy them), dying multiple times in a row can have a significant effect on the team’s strategy. Such is the varying intricacies of CS:GO’s economy; you’ll likely note different playstyles within different teams, but that’s the sort of thing you’ll discover naturally as you watch more and more matches.

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Core strategies you’ll see

As with any game played at a competitive level there are always familiar, recurring situations, strategies and playstyles; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is no different.

Map control is the most significant thing to pay attention to. Counter-Terrorists will want to ensure the objectives are safe first and foremost, least of all until they figure out which objective the Terrorists will be focusing on.

The Terrorists, meanwhile, will want to focus the bomb site objectives, and ideally take one by surprising their opponents, whilst sustaining as few casualties as possible. Though a full team elimination will win the round for either side, since there is a time limit the Terrorists are generally better pushed to try and play for an objective win. It’ll earn them more kills, but force the CTs to change strategy.

A big part of map control comes down to the grenades to use. Smoke grenades will likely be the first being used, obscuring vision and essentially limiting movement of anything through the area. Expect to see this in key areas, often the same corridors, building exits and in front of objectives.

Molotov cocktails, meanwhile, offer a similar value, used less for their AOE damage and more for their ability to block off areas. Flashbangs have more use in direct encounters, affecting a player’s ability to react to a situation while HE grenades are used almost entirely for dealing damage and forcing players to move away from their defensive positions.

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In terms of map movement, that’s something that you’ll pick up more naturally as you watch. Where common choke points are, which routes are safest and most dangerous and how players will scout and react to situations is just something you’ll have to pick up.

However, you’ll see a lot of familiar patterns in the way pro players move and position themselves. Short burst movements – where they abruptly stop themselves from moving – give them better control not only on the movement, but on the aiming too. While aiming down a scope this is important to get those perfect, split second shots.

In other times you’ll see them not moving at all, staring through a very specific door. It might not look very interesting or effective, but in these situations the player is waiting for the enemy to pass through a particular area, sometimes through the slightest gap between a door and a wall through a sniper rifle scope.

And why do these players keep switching to their knifes? There’s a lot of speculation around the objective reasons, and some just claim it’s a bad habit for CS1.6, but there are some reasons. For one thing, it’s quicker to move while holding the knife, but also by pre-selecting another weapon (or the bomb, for Terrorists) by switching to the knife they can press Q to quickly switch out to the prepared piece of equipment.

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Where to start watching…

When it comes to CS:GO there’s plenty of choice to pick from throughout the year, with both straight up tournaments and longer leagues with players competing over a course of multiple matches.

Leagues will be the ones you’ll see more often on places like Twitch.tv, with top teams competing on a weekly – perhaps even daily – basis. Since these are often a single match, they’re easier to get into figuring out how CS:GO plays, and who the top competing teams are.

The big tournaments are the true tests of skill, however, with teams battling it out over multiple matches in a best of five format. Unsurprisingly these tournaments will take longer to watch if you want to see the whole event unfold, but the excitement is rarely matched with leagues due to the knock-out nature of these tourneys.

Though there aren’t divisions as such, there are generally two classes of events: major and minor. Some are classifying the highest tier of competitions as ‘premier’, though this is often not an official term. As you might expect, the prize pools different considerably between the three types, with the better teams able to qualify for prize pools of up to $1,000,000.

There’s always a match to watch and get stuck into, so check out Twitch.tv whenever you fancy seeing a stream, but here’s a run-down of some of the more significant tournaments that will be played in 2016:

  • MLG Major Championship: Columbus – March 26 – April 03 2016 – Live Now!
    • Hosted in Columbus, USA, this year’s MLG Major is one of the biggest events of the year for CS:GO. It is sponsored by Valve, and will feature the biggest teams for the most prestigious title of 2016.
  • DreamHack – April 12 – November 27 2016
    • Rather than one big tournament, DreamHack instead hosts multiple tournaments across the globe with smaller individual prize pools per event. Over the course of the year, DreamHack events will give away more than $750,000. Here are the different dates and times for different events:
      • DreamHack Masters Malmö 2016 – April 12-17
      • DreamHack Austin 2016 – May 06-08
      • DreamHack Summer 2016 (Jönköping) – June 18-21
      • DreamHack Bucharest 2016 – September 16-18
      • DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2016 – October 28-30
      • DreamHack Winter 2016 (Jönköping) – November 24-27
  • ESL Pro League Season III – February 09 – May 15
    • This season’s ESL Pro League has already begun and will take part over the course of the first few months of the year. The league takes part with two separate brackets – North America and Europe – with the Finals taking place between May 11 – May 15 with $750,000 up for grabs. Tune in on Twitch.tv at most times of day and you’ll likely see an ESL Pro League season game underway.
  • ESL One – July 08-10
    • Separate from the Pro League, ESL One is a large tournament competition with $250,000 available in prizes. Taking place in Cologne this year, it will be one of the year’s most watched tournaments.
  • ELEAGUE Season 1 – May 24 – July 30
    • Perhaps proving the clout of CS:GO’s eSports scene more than any other competition this year, the first season of the ELEAGUE will be an important one – and not only because of the $1,200,000 in prize money that is available. The ELEAGUE has been set up by American broadcasting company Turner – known for its channel TBS – and will be aired live across streaming services and American TV. If the league takes off this year, it could lead to a significant change in the way mainstream media views CS:GO and eSports in general.

Categories: Esports