At Sony’s E3 booth in Los Angeles, Valve was invited to show off their latest build of the upcoming game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the next step forward for perhaps the most beloved FPS franchise in gaming history. Valve Experimental Psychologist Mike Ambinder was holding down the fort at the booth while gamers excitedly lined up to play against each other on the PlayStation 3 platform. During the chaos, Dr. Ambinder was kind enough to spend a few moments with us to talk CS, the new game and how gamers are reacting to this franchise in an era of HD console gaming.
GI: Sean Gibson, Gaming Illustrated at E3 talking about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Could you introduce yourself and your role with the Valve team?
Mike: Sure, my name is Mike Ambinder, I’m an experimental psychologist at Valve.
GI: (Laughter) Pretty interesting title, I haven’t heard that one before. I’m very excited to see this. I think it got announced only a few days ago. We’re finally seeing Counter-Strike in the age of 1080p if you will, high-definition graphics for the PC and for the console systems.
Mike: Yeah, we took every improvement we’ve made to the source engine over the last eight years and rolled it into the new release so we’re really excited about bringing it both to the consoles and then kind of giving the PC players a somewhat new experience as well.
GI: One of the things I was most excited about was the cross platform play. How well is that going? Are we really going to see a lot of adoption with that with the gamers?
Mike: We actually decided against it.
GI: Oh really?
Mike: Yeah, so we ended up having to make compromises. We’d rather optimize for each platform individually. So each platform essentially gets the best game possible rather than making a [bigger] compromise so we decided to remove that feature.
GI: We’re still going to see really good numbers across the board though playing this game?
Mike: Oh, we hope so yeah, we’d like to.
GI: Another thing is the graphics, the new maps, talk a little bit about not just the graphics but also how it’s going to enhance the game play, area effects, interacting with the environment?
Mike: Yeah, we added a whole bunch of new improvements to the physics engine, every map got tweaked, every weapon got tweaked, all the models got tweaked, the animations got tweaked, the sign effects got tweaked, the graphics obviously, significant upgrade there, added support for the Move on the PlayStation, a capacity keyboard on the PlayStation, yeah so, trying to pack as much as we can into a pretty affordable deal, it’s $15 bucks across all platforms, for eight classic maps, eight new maps, a couple of new game modes and then the Counter-Strike game play you’ve come to know and love, so.
GI: Yeah, for $15 bucks I think that’s a great price point because, I mean, a lot of the gamers, whether it’s nostalgia or just, “Oh yeah, this looks like a great fun thing” it’s going to be a small amount out of their pockets to try the game out. Where does Counter-Strike go then from there?
Mike: Yeah, so that’s an open question right, we’re going to release it August 21st, it comes out then across for PC, MAC, XBox and PlayStation and beyond that we’ll have to see how it goes. We don’t have any announced plans for DLC, but you know, we like to run experiments and we’ll see what happens.
GI: How’s the reaction been here with gamers here? We’re at the PlayStation booth so we’re seeing it on PS3, but your reaction to the fans playing the game, what do you think?
Mike: There’s a lot of Counter-Strike fans out there and they come in and you know if someone played it on PC back, you know, ten years ago they’re kind of excited to see it coming out again, and a lot of them have been curious about playing on the console, so it’s kind of good to see.
GI: I cannot wait for a PS3, at 1080p, I’ve got a 55-inch and a surround system, it’s going to be a different experience, but take me back to those great days of gaming.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. It’ll look really good man, and we’re hoping that the folks that play console shooters will really appreciate it.
GI: Is there any sort of nervousness, I mean, the Counter-Strike players are known to be a little bit fickle, to say the least?
Mike: There’s something to be said for respecting a game that kind of was crystallized in a pretty remarkable state the last ten to 12 years right so, we respect that. The core of Counter-Strike game play is the same, we don’t have aimed on sites, no running, you know you’re speeding run is based on the weapon you’re holding, things like that, right. So we’re trying to keep the game play is the same, we’re trying to update more functionality and hoping the folks who love Counter-Strike will still love Counter-Strike.
GI: And to those fans, any final comments from Valve?
Mike: Thanks for sticking with us all these years, and we look forward to being able to continue to provide you with the price and services as long as we’re around. Thank you.
GI: Thank you very much for your time.