CSGO: Conflicting Design Choices

There has been an obvious miscommunication over at Valve. Well, that is to say I doubt there was any communication at all. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive received two new features in the recent “Operation Bloodhound” update, a rank system upgraded through XP gained in matches and missions that provide XP for playing matches in a specific way. While these two systems work well together for the most part there is a specific combination of aspects that work against each other, and this combination is pretty common once the player gets into the later missions.

Most of the early missions have simple requirements to complete. “Get 25 headshots in casual matches” or “Plant the bomb five times at Dust 2.” However, the latter half of the missions mostly revolve around winning a specific amount of rounds in competitive matches on a specific map. These missions come in eight, sixteen, and thirty-two round variants. These numbers aren’t random either. Competitive matches last 30 rounds so a winning team would win 16 of them. Mission progress is carried over between matches, but if we are looking at completing these missions the most efficiently — and thus assuming we are winning every match we play — we can view these conditions as win half of a match, a whole match, and two matches. What if I said this was actually the slowest way to finish the missions?

There is an aspect of the leveling system that actually impedes completing multiple missions in a day if they have the “Complete X amount of round in Competitive” requirement. The “Operation Bloodhound” also introduced a way to slow down smurf account — high skill players making new accounts with the intent to win against the new players. All accounts have to get re-ranked for competitive play. This involves only allowing two competitive wins in a 24 hour period. After the second win the account is locked out of competitive play for 20 hours. This restriction is lifted after ten competitive wins. It’s pretty obvious how this works against completing multiple competitive win missions.

A perfect example is found at the end of the Marksman mission track. We have three missions back to back that are win 16 rounds, win 32 rounds, and another win 32 rounds. Optimally we would need to win five games of competitive, which would take three days with the restriction. Or we could simply win about 10 rounds each game and have all three missions completed in eight games. So now the player is presented with a choice. Either play to win and wait to complete missions or play to lose and get the missions completed in a third of the time. This isn’t a choice that any game should present to a player. Losing should not be the optimal strategy to success, especially not if the game mode was designed for “serious play” without exterior rewards motivating specific play.

Interestingly, both systems work well on their own and no issues would have presented themselves if they were released at two separate times. It is for this reason that I feel there was a lack of communication between the people who created these systems. This is why it is key for mechanics to be tested outside of a controlled environment that isolates the system’s interactions. While this isn’t a game breaking issue, we have seen larger issues arise from a lack of communication between developers before — Colonial Marines *cough cough*.

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