Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
|a game by||Valve|
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You know Counter-Strike Well the classic multiplayer game is set to be released as a single-player title with new multiplayer features. That means you don't have to rely on a last Internet connection to play your favourite game and you don't have to put up with abuse from other players if you're no good.
What's The Big Deal?
That's a stupid question. Counter-Stnkeis the biggest online game, and it's argued that it could be the most important PC game ot the last few years. Condition Zero isn't a full-blown sequel, but It does give those of you without access to a modem the chance to sample the delights ot a game that's been described as being more addictive than crack'. (By me.)
My working hours are ten in the morning until six in the evening. If I stay until after seven I have to sign to get out of the building. Why am I starting a Top Story with meaningless drivel like this? Simple. For the past nine months I've had to sign out almost every night, and the blame lies on the doorstep of one single game: Counter-Strike.
I've tried to fight the addiction, and since I've been back from E3 I've been pretty successful, even going as far as emerging blinking into bright sunlight on a couple of occasions. Then I heard about Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and like a cured smack addict confronted with a new bag, I can feel myself slipping again. Now before you get too excited, I should point out that Condition Zero is not the full-blown sequel to Counter-Strike (the real Counter-Strike 2 is currently in furious development and will hopefully see the light of day next year). It is a collection of brand new single-player maps (that can also be taken online) using an ever-so-slightly tweaked Half-Life engine. This means the unlucky few, the ones without modems, will finally be able to sample the delights of CS.
Valve is still fairly tight-lipped about the project, but we did manage to confirm that there will be new weapons (eight at last count) in Condition Zero. There'll also be 16 new maps (making 32 missions in total if you count playing them as terrorists and counterterrorists), new skins and a new player class, the Russian Spetsnaz.
In play, Condition Zero is going to be identical to its multiplayer originator. You control one character, and your team-mates and opponents will be supervised by the all-new AI. Valve is looking pretty smug about this side of the game, claiming it will go way beyond dumb hostage routines and that it will even surpass the hackneyed clamberings of the team.
One thing we're not sure about is what happens when you die. Assuming you're rubbish at the game and get killed after five or six seconds on every map, you could be faced with the prospect of watching 10-12 AI team-mates and opponents getting it on and enjoying themselves without you. Dem's de breaks though. There's still loads to iron out and Valve is staying tight-lipped at the moment. We'll have more next month, and even though we're yet to be totally convinced by the concept, we're also sure that if anyone can do it, Valve can. In any case, the thought of mixing it up in Counter-Strike battles with the Special Ops troops from Half-Life is one that's enough to push all thoughts of the outdated engine out of the window.
Download Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
Hands up those of you who remember life before Counter-Strike Anybody? Hmm? Yes you... at the back there? What's that? You're just scratching your armpit are you? Well stop being a filthy animal and pay attention, because I remember that time well. Let me refresh your Counter-Strike-addled memories...
You'd leave work before 9.30pm and go to bed before 3am. You'd go home to loved ones or out with friends into social environments. It was a time when holding a spoken conversation wasn't an alien concept, a time when you still remembered what daylight looked like and your appearance didn't resemble that of a corpse, a time when you heard your partner say something other than "You love Counter-Strike more than you love me," and "It's either me or the computer." But in time these cries and memories faded into the distance as you donned your can-like headphones in a specially designed shack at the back of your garden, submerging yourself into a new online family of frenzied fraggers, holding typed conversations in a strange new language invented by 12-year-old boys incapable of spelling or saying anything worthwhile other than: "Are there any girls on this server?" But now a new era is coming. One that will do away with the need for human company, the need for joining with your fellow man to fight for a greater good online A time when AI will take the place of the human brain and rise up against gaming communities the world over. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, the single-player version of the world's most popular online shooter is coming. And it's going to get you...
There have been quite a few companies associated with Condition Zero. We've heard you have redesigned it from the ground up. Is this true, and can you enlighten us on the reasons why so many developers have been associated with it?
There's actually only been two phases of Condition Zero development -before Gearbox and after Gearbox. Interestingly enough, I had actually begun speaking with Valve about some things that could be done with Counter-Strike quite a while ago. Unfortunately our plans didn't allow Gearbox to actually be involved back then. As the popularity of the online version of Counter-Strike grew, it became clear it was very important to give fans a single-player experience as well. Initially, another group here in Dallas was enlisted to help develop the game, but things didn't work out for a variety of reasons that aren't worth going into. As luck would have it at that point, Gearbox was finally wrapping up the PS2 version of Half-Life and were able to talk with Valve again about doing the CZ project. Very quickly, it became clear that the best path for this title to succeed would be for Gearbox and Valve to collaborate, as we have in the past, with primary development being located at our offices in Texas. Gearbox was in a unique position to enlist many of the original CS developers to work with our veteran talent to create the new single-player content and game modes. At the same time, we're all working with the CPL to make the new multiplayer features shine.
Are you still going to be using the Half-Life engine?
An important goal hr Condition Zero is for the game to be completely compatible with Counter-Strike online. This means we couldn't change engines. What we have been able to do, however, is enhance the engine with a variety of features that very specifically benefit a game like Condition Zero. This new technology includes added features to the model-rendering engine including alpha blending, which allows us to add a lot more detail to the environment, added special effects functionality including weather effects and a materials-based feedback system, and a bunch of other cool things that you'll see in the game.
Will the weather effects have any influence over the gameplay?
Other than thick snow reducing visibility, no. However, the weather effects do bring a new sense of believability to the game. There'll be a whole set of scenarios which take place in an Arctic setting, so this will come into play quite a lot.
Are there going to be new and defined character classes?
Character classes aren't defined rigidly, but are more about which people the player recruits, what skills they have and what areas the player wants to improve them in. Some squad recruits may have some inherent talent as a sniper or runner, but other guys may require lots of training to build up their skills. The more highly skilled recruits will cost more to hire, but will require less investment in training to build up specialised skills. You can train recruits by spending money to improve their skills. Each of the recruits have their own names, personalities and voices.
Will there be any new skins?
Condition Zero adds a new unit type to each team - a Russian Spetznaz on one side and a militia extremist to the other. Also, with all new units, custom uniforms are available for every environment type. When the squad has to go on a mission in snowy conditions, theyil have Arctic gear. In the jungle or in the desen there is appropriate camouflage available. There's also a classic urban uniform that's based on the real-world designs for each unit. Each unit type also offers unique characterisations so that when you add up all of the combinations, there are more than 160 varieties of guys in Condition Zero. In the singleplayer game, the uniforms will be selected automatically based on the environment of the mission selected. In multiplayer, you'll be able to use the variety to make your player model unique and distinguishable front others in the game.
The gameplay in Counter-Strike was very different to most FPSs, involving stealth and teamwork. How will the computer AI reflect this?
We've enlisted the help of the author of the POD bot, which is among the best of the AI bots for any FPS game out there. Since he's been involved with Condition Zero, the AI has improved significantly. Now, the bots will be fully integrated into the game and have been adapted for single-player mode as well. In blind tests with experienced CS players (including some members of the press), people were fooled into diinking that the bots in the game were actually human players.
Will there be any safeguards to stop people using bots online and pretending it's a them playing?
In multiplayer mode, bots are identified on the scoreboard. You won't be able to put your superbot in there, pretend it's human and get it to kill everyone so it looks like you've managed to get a higher score. Server operators will have a lot of control in deciding whether or not they let bots onto their servers. If the server operator doesn't want bots in the game, then they won't ever be able to be added.
What team orders will there be?
The standard radio commands are there and are understood by the Al. In addition, we plan to give some attention to the radio command system to make it more approachable and probably extend it to offer more appropriate commands for the single-player game (as well as include a few new radio comments that would be useful in multiplayer games but don't currently exist).
Will CZ incorporate classic online Counter-Strike action? Will you be able to play online with both bots and humans on one team?
Yes. Not only will you be able to add bots to any multiplayer game, you'll be able to play any of the single-player missions co-operatively.
How many players will be able to play on each side, both in the single- and multiplayer games?
Condition Zero supports 32-person multiplayer games. Memory requirements are greater than the minimum specification for large servers, though.
Will the free version of Counter-Strike continue to be updated after Condition Zero is released?
Yes. In fact, initially there will be a patch that makes Counter-Strike totally compatible with Condition Zero. Beyond that, there are always improvements to be made and new technology to be added that can improve social aspects and/or foil cheaters.
As a single-player game, how will you implement a coherent sense of continuity, and will there be any consequences from succeeding at a previous mission, but not executing it perfectly?
The single-player game is driven by a narrative that makes the player understand why it's so important to succeed in each mission. Each scenario requires a number of objectives to be completed, nine out of ten of which are new. As objectives are completed, additional funding is earned for the squad that enables the player (as the squad leader) to invest in an improved arsenal, squad training or recruitment of new members. There are some other surprises that money can be spent on as well. Completing all of the objectives of one scenario will yield more funding for the squad, which will give that squad the resources to be better equipped to deal with the next scenario. In some cases, however, it will be necessary to move ahead and acquire things from later missions before the player can go back and complete every objective in an earlier scenario. The single-player game is very well layered and there are tons of incentives to just keep going. I'm very proud of the design for this one as it's clearly the most innovative thing Gearbox has ever done.
Will resources and weapons be transferred from one mission to the next?
Will there be any kind of storyline? If so what will it be and how will it be developed eg in-game-cut scenes, FMV etc?
Each mission will have a narrative that includes a sense of place and purpose and a compelling incentive for the player to succeed. Beyond that, we'd like to leave the specifics for fans to discover as they play the game.
How many single-player missions will there be?
Right now we have about 21 scenarios planned, but that number is likely to change before the game is complete. Each scenario has at least ten mission objectives offering more total play time than all of the games we've released thus far added together.
Will there be any other mission goals apart from the classic ones such as hostage rescue and bomb defusal?
Yes. Nine out of ten mission objectives in each scenario are new. In every scenario there will be key missions such as rescuing hostages and defusing bombs. However, there's also going to be a couple of others too, but we haven't named them yet. We've created a new mode where any member of the team has to get to a specific location and perform an action, like demolish a computer or something. Which means that any member of the team could act as that key player. Another mode is where your team has to escape from somewhere. You start with no weapons, and have to work together as a team to get yourselves out. Whatever happens, there will be at least two completely new game modes, maybe more.
In each scenario there are also a load of other objectives you can go for. You can gain further income by earning certain rewards. For example you could earn a reward for doing nothing but headshots. If you kill every single enemy with a headshot then you gel a reward. If all of your team survive, or you're the only person scoring kills, then again, you can get a reward. There'll be other modes of play too. In one of them we'll be putting specific challenges into the objectives for each map. So we can limit the way you can approach a map. So for one map, you may just be allowed to use an MP5. In another map, you may not be able to use guns at all, meaning you have to sneak round using just flash bangs and grenades to complete your objectives. This way we can use the skills that are needed in Counter-Strike to challenge players in different ways. Most people just use the same few weapons every time they play. Our goal is to get people to experience the whole game and challenge all of their skills in various ways. You don't have to complete every single objective throughout the game, but if you do you'll earn more money, which will make it easier to complete later missions.
How does it work with buying equipment when playing in single-player? Do you choose what your hot team-mates buy, or do they get to pick their own equipment at the start of each game?
As squad leader, you can purchase equipment for your team and load them out as you wish depending on the mission parameters. Or you can simply select a default load-out and head straight into battle. Once the team is in combat, however, the A1 will sometimes make their own decisions about whether or not to pick up an enemy rifle and use that instead of what you've chosen for them.
Can you give us some locations for the new maps?
The missions are varied and extreme. One mission takes place in the locker rooms and concession areas of a soccer stadium in London. Another mission takes place along a massive oil pipeline in the cold Siberian tundra. Yet another scenario takes place in a Middle Eastern city that has been nearly reduced to rubble. One of my favourite missions is an assault on a militia extremist base camp that is assembled from mobile homes - great stuff.
What spec machine will it run comfortably on?
We haven't locked down a target system specification yet, but if you're running Counter-Strike well, you'll probably be just fine with Condition Zero. We are increasing the polygonal detail of characters by about 75 per cent with the new High Definition models and most of the other content in the game is being improved, so there are some performance considerations there. But, we're also adding level of detail technology to characters to optimise performance with the upgraded content, and we're paying much closer attention to efficient texture usage and brush techniques with level design. So, in some cases Condition Zero will actually perform better than Counter-Strike as it stands.
When do you think the game will be finished?
Although we haven't yet announced a firm release date, I would expect Counter-Strike: Condition Zero to be ready sometime this winter. So are you excited yet? With a company as proven and reputable as Gearbox at the helm, how can it be anything but mind-blowing? Warn your loved ones now, because come winter they're going to be seeing even less of you than they do already. And rest assured we'll keep you posted about any developments. Just remember where you heard it first.