Rhys is an avid player of online FPS (First-Person Shooter) video games. Competing online has been a big passion of his for over a decade.
My Online Gaming Background
The beautiful world of player versus player gaming, full of camaraderie and rivalry, well wishes and toxic comments. Online video games have created an endless community of players looking to connect virtually, from the comfort of their own homes.
Growing up, I had a very technologically inclined older brother who was a talented computer programmer, web designer, and also a big video game connoisseur.
My childhood was full of nights under my brother's supervision, ordering in Chinese food and watching him play video games for hours.
My favorite game to watch him play was Counter Strike, a team based first-person shooter. First-person shooter (FPS), refers to a game that is centered around gun-based combat, in which the player takes on a first-person perspective (experiences game play through the eyes of the in-game character).
At the time, the latest and greatest version of the game was Counter Strike: Source, and that's what he played.
If I was lucky he would let me sit in and watch a few of the high-intensity competitive games he played with his "clan".
Competitive games meant stats were being tracked, and rank was being assessed based on individual skill and overall team performance.
Of course, whenever his performance took a downturn it was naturally my fault for sitting behind him, and I was effectively ejected from the bleachers.
I had developed a love for the world of online shooter games and eventually got my own PC set up (a hand me down of course), started playing on my own, and that was that. I was hooked on Counter-Strike.
The sheer hand-eye coordination and dexterity required to be a good player in this type of game was astonishing. So many little intricacies like cross hair placement and strafing techniques that could make the biggest difference in one's game. It was a simple yet infinitely complicated game and that's exactly what I loved about it
Over 20 Years of Growth
1998: Valve releases the immensely popular "Half-Life" - an offline FPS story mode game about alien invasion
1999: A modification to Valve's Half Life, originally conceived by a video game developer named Minh "Gooseman" Le, is launched as "Counter-Strike Beta 1.0"
1999 - September 2000: Regular updates and improvements to the original 1.0 Beta version, all the way to version 7.1 (final beta version)
November 8th 2000: Counter-Strike Retail Version 1.0 is released to the public.
November 2000 - October 2004: Regular updates to the retail version of Counter-Strike, culminating with CS 1.6
November 1st 2004: Valve releases a new version of Counter-Strike on their state of the art Source engine. Naming it as such, Counter-Strike: Source
CS: Source is where I began my journey into FPS games.
This new version of the game was built on a different engine, with updated weapon handling (spray patterns, movement speed etc..), more realism on grenade physics (trajectories, ricochets etc..) and various other improvements.
And I was lucky enough to start on this brand new version, equipped with the latest in video game technology.
Since then, Valve released the newest version of the game on August 21st 2012. This version, which has peaks of over 1.5 million concurrent players as of this year, is known as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or CS:GO.
I have been playing religiously for years. I love the concept of the game; Use tactical strategies and work as a coordinated team - kill the other team or complete the objective to win rounds and ultimately, win the match.
The inherent competitive nature of the game created a massive community of gamers who wanted to be the best. And as a result, Counter-Strike was propelled to the E-Sport ranks very quickly.
In 2001, the first major international tournament for Counter-Strike was hosted in Dallas Texas. The Ninjas in Pyjamas ended up winning the tournament and took home a cool $150,000 grand prize.
Ever since, the professional CS gaming scene has been growing exponentially, with major tournaments today boasting prize pools of over 1.5 million dollars.
So you are probably wondering, what is this Valorant game you mentioned?
Let me start with some context
Intro Riot Games: A high-tier American video game developer and publisher, founded by two University of Southern California roommates in September of 2006.
I know much less about Riot Games and their endeavors than I do about Valve and Counter-Strike's 20+ year history.
But I do know that Riot Games created arguably the most popular online game known to man. League Of Legends.
League of Legends is a team-based online battle arena game. The goal is ultimately to take control of the map and destroy the other team's Nexus, a structure found at the heart of their base. There are over 140 champions to choose from as a player, which creates endless team composition possibilities, and speaks to the sheer complexity of the game's design.
One of the main differences between League of Legends, and the FPS style Counter-Strike that I have been raving about, is the perspective through which the game is played.
League is played from a third-person perspective, meaning players see their character and the environment from a top down style view. As opposed to the first-person view mentioned earlier.
I never was and never really will be a big fan of third person style games like this. As a result, Riot Games was never really on my radar, I always knew them as the League of Legends guys, and that didn't interest me.
Fast Forward to April 7th 2020..
Riot Games launches the closed beta version of their BRAND NEW FIRST PERSON SHOOTER - VALORANT
A New Era
This was huge news for me. I had been waiting on someone in the gaming industry to create another first person shooter that was similar to Counter-Strike.
AND RIOT GAMES FINALLY DID IT.
Now if you look back you'll see I mentioned the launch of a " closed beta" version of the game at the beginning of April 2020.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, a closed beta refers to a game that has not been released to the general public, but instead is being offered to a select number of individuals who qualify.
The terms of qualification vary, but in this case the only way to access the beta version was to acquire a "key" that would allow you to download the game from the official Valorant website.
For a variety of obvious publicity and marketing reasons, Riot partnered with Twitch - a live streaming platform mainly dominated by the gaming scene, and launched a program to distribute this finite amount of access keys.
The system was simple, watch a verified streamer playing Valorant, and you could receive a random "Drop" to your twitch account that contained 1 access key. From there, you could visit the Valorant website and download the game.
This created pandemonium among my group of online gaming friends.
Everyone wanted a key. Everyone wanted to be the first to play. The first to learn the game and get that competitive advantage.
I had my computer on and my favorite streamer's channel open 24/7. For two days I had no luck, and I was slowly hearing success stories from others. One of them made a second Twitch account and landed 2 keys in 2 days.
I was getting anxious, watching other people play on stream and experiencing second hand how great the game was.
Finally, on day 3, after putting my PC through the ringer, jacking up that power bill, I got a notification on my Twitch Account.
My Valorant Career Begins
I spent the next week playing 8 - 10 hours of Valorant a day. The game was incredibly entertaining and ran surprisingly smoothly for an early release beta version.
Keep in mind this was April 2020, smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world and continues to impact our everyday lives. As a result I was unemployed, collecting income from the Canadian government, and admittedly couldn't have been in a better position to dump all of my time into the game.
One of my favorite things about Valorant, was the fact that the developers added another element to the bomb defusal style that Counter Strike was so well known for. In Valorant, each player is required to choose an agent (specialized character), who has a unique set of abilities (called a kit) that players must master and use tactically in combat.
This is a big pivot from the old school Counter-Strike style in which all players use identical characters, and have access to identical utilities (grenades, flashbangs etc..)
The Official Launch
On June 2nd 2020, Riot officially launched Valorant to the general public. Although there are no confirmed player count statistics available since this launch, Riot released a statement revealing that an average of 3 million players logged on each day during the closed beta release period. Staggering numbers for a brand new game, but with Riot's prestigious name on the back of it people were interested, and I was one of them.
I continue to play at least 4-5 times a week and with new updates, new agents and new maps, Riot is keeping the game fresh and exciting for gamers.
Counter Strike Global Offensive Trailer
Valorant Official Launch Trailer
I wanted to conclude by providing a look into both games from a cinematic point of view.
Each game had a production team create a trailer that would accurately depict in-game situations, while allowing for a degree of theatrical artistry to enhance the viewing experience.
As you can see, the Global Offensive trailer created by Valve is classically gritty and familiar in terms of the Guerilla warfare style combat scenes. In my opinion, the trailer is very well done and should be commended.
The Valorant trailer on the other hand is full of super high octane sequences in which a variety of agents and their abilities are showcased, character catch phrases come out, and an element of lore is created. I found this trailer incredibly effective and intriguing, hats off to the team over at Riot for putting together a great piece.
Although I could dive into another 2000 words about the differences and intricacies of each game, we might have to save that for another article.
I will always be a strong supporter of Counter-Strike, the community, and their future success. That game represents the roots of my online gaming career, and will forever hold a special place in my heart.
With that being said, I think that Valorant is poised to become one of the most played and most watched online video games of the next decade. In my opinion, the game platform is incredibly well built in terms of mechanics and anti-cheat systems, making it ready for professional competition on the international stage. On top of that, the added dimensions of agents & abilities, ongoing plot line developments, and the potential for an awesome lore aspect will create an even larger and stronger community.
Thanks for reading, I'll see you in the kill feed.
© 2020 Rhys McIntyre