Tech by VICE

How a Little Gun Drove Millions of 'Counter-Strike' Players Crazy This Week

Valve 'nerfs' another weapon.

by Ian Birnbaum
Dec 12 2015, 11:24pm

Change in competitive video games is never easy. When real money and fame is on the line, every little modification to a game is met with howls of protest and at least one Change.org petition. Valve's flagship multiplayer shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, attracts almost a million players every single day, and it's suffering through a wave of community backlash this week after players complained that a new gun is too powerful.

The R8 revolver is, basically, a giant revolver. It's supposed to be slow and powerful, but players are finding that it's more powerful than most other weapons. At a fraction of the price of more expensive weapons, like the AWP sniper rifle, the R8 has turned every game of Counter-Strike into High Noon. The revolver was added on December 8, and after several days of of uproar, Valve agreed on December 10 to "nerf" the R8, meaning make it less powerful.

The issue for the R8 wasn't just its power, but its accuracy. In addition to being dead accurate, it didn't suffer any kind of penalty for movement. This means that in the fast, twitch-sensitive world of Counter-Strike, someone running around with this hand-cannon could turn it into a series of brutal killshots. Players swarmed the popular Counter-Strike subreddit, posting videos and GIFs of the R8 blowing away entire squads.

In Valve's defense, Counter-Strike has existed in one form or another since 1999, so it's pretty hard to make any kind of change at all without enraging some of the playerbase. Still, Valve is getting pretty good at walking back these changes. The exact same thing happened earlier this year when an assault rifle, the M4A1-S, was introduced and quickly toned down. It also happened last year, when an automatic pistol, the CZ75a, was introduced and quickly toned down. These repeated incidents aren't just annoying for players, they're having really expensive consequences.

Counter-Strike has grown to become one of the biggest eSports games in the world, with circuits of professional tournaments and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. With so much prestige and cash in play, the game needs to be delicately balanced and stable so competitors have an even playing field. When something like this happens, it throws the game out of whack. If the timing is wrong, like it was this week, tournaments have to adjust. The ESL Proleague Season 2 Finals are happening right now, but they're being played on the older version of Counter-Strike.

With this much money in play, you'd think that Valve would learn how to communicate with the professional teams, networks, and fans that help it dominate the PC gaming space. Valve has proven again and again that the opposite is true. Valve is a company with notoriously bad customer service and media relations. Its customer service is so routinely bad that the Better Business Bureau gave it an F for customer support. Valve management has given interviews offering mea culpas, and revising timelines for the day when they're not so terrible.
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