A Comprehensive Timeline of Counter-Strike’s Evolution
IX.a. Beta Versions:
IX.b. Retail Versions:
Video games we’re a huge part of my life as a kid/teenager, they still are. The original Counter-Strike is one of my favorite games of all-time. I have so many memories of playing this game from so many different points in my life. Today, I still find myself very much fascinated with Counter-Strike’s past and evolution, most likely because of the nostalgic value: it really brings me back. I turned 9 years old just 12 days before the first beta for CS was released on the 19th of June, 1999 (beta 1.0). I don’t remember the exact date of when I first played it but I believe it was somewhere from the 27th of June (at the earliest) to the 20th of July (at the latest). This was beta version 1.1 in which they added burst fire to the Glock 18 as well as the classic cs_assault and cs_desert maps, before “bunny hopping” was around (if I recall correctly). I was living in Kuching, Malaysia at the time and had many friends from school that would regularly hit up internet cafes and compete against one another. One of my friends invited me to play Counter-Strike one day and I was really blown away, I had honestly never experienced competition quite like that through a video game. I pretty much lived in those internet cafes from then on and as they say: “the rest is history”.. and I plan on covering that history in this chronicle (not my history, the game’s). 😀 Hope some of it brings you back like it does me! Enjoy.
A Vietnamese-Canadian computer game developer by the name of Minh “Gooseman” Le‘s first mod was for the original Quake and went by the name of Navy SEALs (1997). This game was almost like the harbinger of Counter-Strike, it was his original project and took him about a year to make. In addition to three new maps it also had authentic reloadable weapons with realistic ammo management, flashbangs and the ability to land headshots.
Gameplay video from one of Counter-Strike’s precursors, “Navy SEALs”.
After finishing up work on SEALs, Minh worked on the Quake II mod called Action Quake 2, which was also considered to be a spiritual predecessor of CS. This game was very fast paced and had maps modeled after real-life settings, authentic weapons and two game modes: free-for-all deathmatch and team play with rounds. In DM all players start with a MK23 pistol and a knife, all of the weapons are unique and can be found laying about in locations across the map. AQ2 had a more realistic damage system, if you took a bullet to the leg you would be crippled and bleed until you could find time to bandage yourself. It was working on this project when Minh started conceptualizing Counter-Strike, he also made good friends with the project’s webmaster Jess Cliffe.
“Action Quake 2” frag movie.
During Minh’s fourth year at Fraser Simon University he began working on Counter-Strike, a mod for Valve Software‘s immensely popular game titled Half-Life. Minh reportedly spent more time working on this mod than he did on his actual schoolwork while attending, although he did eventually graduate with a degree in computer science. He released the first beta version of Counter-Strike in June of 1999. As the mod’s popularity skyrocketed he and his team released several more beta versions in the following months.
By the release of the fourth beta Valve began assisting in the development of this modification and by April of 2000 they had bought the rights to Counter-Strike and hired both Minh and Cliffe to work for their office in Washington. Minh was working on “Counter-Strike 2” at this time but Valve put the project on hold indefinitely. The first non-beta public retail version of Counter-Strike (v 1.0) was released in November of 2000 with six official versions coming in the following years, the latest being Version 1.6 (September, 2003) which effectively coincided with the release of Valve’s Steam content delivery system. On July 31, 2004 Valve (who had bought to rights to Flipside.com’s World Opponent Network) shut down all WON servers and all online portions of Valve’s games were transferred to their own Steam system.
In this section I will provide a comprehensive timeline of Counter-Strike’s evolution. If you are someone who didn’t play CS earlier in it’s history, you might find it pretty astounding how far this game has come. I provide links to certain changes (official map additions, changes or additions in weapon models/sounds, etc). This information was compiled using beta patch notes (pretty vague), any articles relating to the game’s mechanics as well as early footage of gameplay.
- Light blue links/text indicate Map additions or changes.
- Bright orange links/text indicate Weapon additions or changes.
- Purple links/text indicate a General game state or change.
Counter-Strike beta 1.0 “splash screen”.
- Only four maps were included in the first beta version: cs_prison, cs_mansion, cs_siege, and cs_wpndepot. As you can gather from the map names: the only game mode was hostage rescue.
- Both teams could choose from the following weapons (there were no guns exclusive to teams): AWP, usp, m249 PARA, M3 shotgun, TMP, m4a1, mp5 navy, G3/SG-1 and the glock.
- The m4a1 had a scope (default crosshair with the screen zoomed in); the TMP was the only gun that had a silencer, and it couldn’t be removed.
- If you died in this version of CS your gun would be laying on the ground right where you left it during the next round. You could also pick up a dead enemy’s ammunition.
- Only two player models: ST6 and Phoenix Connection.
- After killing someone or dying you would hear the familiar “beep beep” flat-line sound from Half-Life.
- Flashbangs were included in this version; the blind animation was pretty crude, and in this version you could cook flashbangs (pull the pin and throw them right as they are about to pop).
The early AWP’s crosshair when zoomed in.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 1.1 [27.06.1999]
- Added two new maps: cs_assault and cs_desert.
- Added the option for burst fire on the Glock 18 and tweaked the economic system.
- Implemented the option to toggle friendly fire for server admins.
- Fixed a bug which would cause your ammunition to randomly reset and your armor to disappear.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 1.2 (initially called 1.9) [20.07.1999]
- Added a “molasses period” (lol) to beginning of round to “dissuade rushing tactics” and allow players to buy without being penalized with loss of round time. This is what is now referred to as the buy or freeze time.
- Refined prices of a few guns, altered the cash bonuses for rounds and added a $16,000 cap to a player’s total cash.
- Made the kevlar more effective by covering players’ arms, also made jumping and shooting much less effective across the board and tweaked the flashbang’s effectiveness.
- Added the ‘kick‘ command for server admins (pz).
- New maps included cs_alley1, cs_bunker, cs_docks, cs_facility, cs_zoption.
- Three new guns were added in 2.0: the SG-552 commando, the infamous AK-47, and our beloved Desert Eagle (or deagle as we like to call it). Silencers were also added to the usp and m4a1 (neither of which could be removed).
- The deagle sounds like a cannon when fired.
- Night Vision goggles added. This item was actually somewhat useful earlier in the game’s history when the maps were all much darker. However, it wasn’t quite optimized at this stage of the game and everything was way too green and yet it still had dark spots; it was removed shortly after. They again re-added these goggles in beta 6.0.
- Made a display for the round timer that showed how much time you have left during the round and a team score sheet that showed rounds won. Also implemented the user’s ability to assign keys to all of the commands from the controls menu.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 2.1 [17.08.1999]
- Added players’ ability to drop weapons and changed the price of the AK-47.
- New version of cs_assault with an accessible bridge, a red box just inside of back door, and a ladder instead of ramps up to the rafters that lead towards hostage room (and a weird desert skybox).
Counter-Strike beta 3.0 splash screen.
- New maps in this version included: cs_hideout, cs_militia, cs_ship, and cs_tire.
- Changed the flashbang to the concussion grenade. Not only would this baby blind you, if you were close enough to a cooked one: you just might die from small shrapnel pieces that would come out of it.
- The knife was added as well as the kevlar + helmet combination.
- Added the Elite crew and German GSG9 models.
- The FN P90 was the only gun added in this version. This gun was essentially a fully automatic laser blaster. They also slightly modified the M3 shotgun.
- Added the first batch of classic radio commands: “Stick together team!“
- In this version the developers greatly improved hostage pathing AI and the look of the scoreboard.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 3.1 [16.09.1999]
- Reduced damage from the shrapnel of the concussion grenade. Removed the exploding sound from this grenade as well as the flat-line sound from HL.
- Reduced the volume of the radio .wav’s in relation to other sounds and added the ability to ignore these .wav’s.
- Changed the disorientation system slightly and fixed a bullet penetration bug.
Counter-Strike beta 4.0 splash screen.
- Added the demolition scenario. This is still the standard map mode in competitive Counter-Strike. You didn’t take out the bomb like a weapon in beta 4.0, instead you just hit “P” and it would instantly plant on the ground below your feet.
- Demolition maps added were as follows: de_dust, de_nuke, and de_prodigy. Also added the hostage map cs_station.
- “Gun running” is removed. Loose weapons from the previous round will now disappear upon the beginning of a new round.
- Two new firearms: the P228 and the Steyr Scout sniper rifle. The HE grenade is also added.
- The AWP became a little less accurate when firing from the hip, in previous versions it pretty much hit the center of the crosshair when standing still. In 4.0 it seems to hit the edges of the small crosshair (you had a crosshair when not scoped in).
- Weapons ammunition is now simply categorized into either ‘primary’ (pistols) or ‘secondary’ (others). It was quite complicated before this transition, each weapon had its own ammunition on the buy menu (unless they both happened to be 9mm).
- The economic system was made more dynamic in this version. From now on the losing team gained more money than the winning team, this gave them a fighting chance! Players got $500 for talking to a hostage and if I’m not mistaken the cost of weapons for the CT team was cut in two (for the next round) upon winning by way of rescuing these hostages.
- Hostage rescue mode was altered in that rescuing only half of the hostages would result in a CT win.
- This was the version in which they added a new Desert Eagle sound. Re-added the exploding sound to the concussion grenade.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 4.1 [01.12.1999]
- Toned down the P228’s damage. Brought down the amount of money given to the losing team slightly.
- Implemented the terrorists’ ability to pick up the bomb if it was planted somewhere other than the bomb site. (lol yea.. you could do that.) In fact, for an entire month people were able to plant the bomb anywhere on the map and you couldn’t pick it up! Upon exploding it simply ended the round in a tie.. /facepalm
- Set default C-4 timer to 35 seconds.
- Team chat while dead enabled.
Counter-Strike beta 5.0 splash screen.
Almost all of Beta 5.0 was developed by Barking Dog Studios with the help of Minh Le. Later, in 2002, Barking Dog was acquired by Take-Two Interactive and made part of the Rockstar Games subsidiary, they are now known as Rockstar Vancouver. Hence, the iconic de_train map was created by devs currently working for Rockstar.
- This is the first version of CS where you could actually hear other players reloading. Its true!
- Added the M1014 auto shotgun. Another new deagle sound..
- Added new hostage model and skin, as well as a new player skin: the SAS.
- Added cs_backalley, cs_iraq and de_train maps.
- ‘Concussion grenade‘ (or flashbang) still exists but it no longer does damage upon exploding.
- The AWP in this version was given a much longer bolt animation (this was later reversed).
- C4 can now only be planted in bomb sites, and is treated like a weapon (slot 5) that you must hold down for 3 seconds to plant (though you could run around while planting the bomb all the way up until Counter-Strike 1.4).
- Ability to drop C4 to teammates added.
- Defusing system changed: instead of instant defuse upon hitting a button, you now had to look down and hold the use key. Defusal kits added, allowed a counter-terrorist to defuse in 5 seconds instead of the new 10. If a bomb is defused it now wins the round for the CT.
- Hostages are now instantly rescued upon entering a hostage rescue zone.
- New hud icons included: money, kevlar, C4, kits, buy zone, bomb site and hostage rescue location indicators all added.
- New radio commands added and are broken up into three separate groups: standard, group and support commands.
- Three observer modes implemented: classic ghost, locked chasecam and freelook chasecam. Auto-find teammate in observer mode is also added.
- In this version spectator ghosts could be seen by other ghosts as a little luminous ball floating around.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 5.2 [10.01.2000]
- Scoreboard shows more than 20 players and automatically shows at the end of the map.
- Implemented a lower bandwith spectator system.
- Players are prevented from changing names while dead.
Counter-Strike beta 6.0 splash screen.
- Maps in this version: de_fang, es_jail, es_frantic, as_oilrig, as_riverside, cs_railroad and cs_747.
- Weapons added: Mac-10, Steyr AUG. Allowed players to switch between the left and right hand viewmodels. Deagle sound! xD
- Implemented a new pump shotty sound and new mp5 model/animations/sounds. The AWP‘s no-scope accuracy decreased again by a smidgen.
- Two new game modes implemented: Assassination (as_) and Escape (es_).
- Assassination Gameplay: One member of the CT team will serve as the VIP.
The object is to get the VIP safely to the pre-defined escape points. If he
dies, the CT’s lose the round. If he makes it safely, the CT’s win. VIP has
a unique skin, only carries a knife, and has ample body armor. Certain
weapons cannot be purchased by each team in this gameplay scenario.
- Escape Gameplay: The T team starts out in a fortified location and must
“escape” to one of the pre-defined escape points. The CT’s must exterminate
them before they can escape. The T’s win the round once 50% of the team has
successfully escaped. They can also break into the armory to steal weapons,
or just get out of there. The two teams will switch roles after every 8
rounds of play.
- New radar tracking for teammates. More new radio commands.
- Re-added the Night Vision goggles to the game.
- Tweaked player speeds (before this patch you could run almost 50% faster with your knife out.)
- New player models included the terrorist Arctic Avenger model and the CT side French GIGN.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 6.1/6.2 [24/26.03.2000]
- Greatly improved the look of Night Vision. Made 120 round limits for the mp5 and TMP.
- New penalty against team killing players preventing them from playing a round.
- The ‘off center’ shooting fixed as well as the ammo bugs from the recent patch. Also changed the AWP’s firing accuracy while no-scoped, this time increasing it ever so slightly.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 6.5 [08.06.2000]
- Integrated Valve’s rewrite of the HL networking system.
- Added the smoke grenade! The smoke would bloom slowly and it would move about as if there was wind (note that the grenade wouldn’t pop off the ground after deploying like in some later versions).
- Added maps: as_forest, de_cbble, de_aztec, as_tundra, cs_italy, es_trinity, and cs_estate as well as a new map voting system.
- Added new terrorist guerilla warfare model
- New models for M3 shotgun, m4a1, usp and SG-552. The m4 and usp are now bought without the silencers attached, though they can be put on at any time.
Counter-Strike Beta Version 6.6 [22.06.2000]
- The new sniper crosshair added!
Counter-Strike beta 7.0 splash screen.
- Added maps cs_office, as_highrise, cs_arabstreets, de_foption and de_vegas.
- Added the dual Berettas, a new knife model with a secondary attack (stab).
- New SEAL Team 6 model. New player animations.
- Gave the VIP a usp pistol.
- Added driveable vehicle support and a vehicle test map named de_jeepathon2000 (these vehicles were extremely buggy, especially at this point).
Counter-Strike Beta Version 7.1 [13.09.2000]
- Driveable APC added to cs_siege. Slightly improved the vehicles.
- Included new death icon for headshots!
- Tweaked the burst fire accuracy system.
- Fixed player heights (player’s POV was now representative of the third person player model). Fixed crosshair not expanding when lagging bug.
- This was the last “beta” version of the original Counter-Strike.
Counter-Strike 1.0 (mod version).
- Added three new weapons: the H&K UMP, FN Five-Seven pistol, and the SIG SG-550 auto-sniper.
- Remade all the models and incorporated Valve’s model blending technology.
- Maps included: cs_thunder, de_vertigo, de_inferno, de_dust2 and de_rotterdam.
- Added spectator mode!
- In this patch they once again made jumping while shooting more inaccurate if using a submachine gun. They also removed the crosshair from your screen whilst using an unscoped sniper rifle.
- AWP leg shots became non-lethal!
- Re-added the terrorist bomb back-pack and the CT defuse kit pack. Upgraded player models to 512×512 textures. Swimming animation added to models.
- Added some console commands and changed how the game’s map cycling logic works. Fixed an issue with Incorrect Hitboxes when holding specific weapons.
Counter-Strike 1.3 (retail version).
- “Removed bunny hopping“.
- In this version radio commands could be heard by nearby enemies.
- Added Multicast spectator, voice communication and server chat to logging. Redesigned the multiplayer scoreboard. Fixed more hitbox issues.
- New maps cs_havana and de_chateau.
- Added Anti-Cheat protection.
- Added first-person view to spectator modes!
- They once again adjusted player jumping values to minimize bunny hopping.. 😦
- Dead bodies now remain on the ground for the entire round.
- Players now must stand still when planting the bomb (including no jumping) and players can’t move or shoot while defusing the bomb. Changed so only Terrorists are notified when the bomb is dropped or picked up.
- Removed players’ ability to hear enemy radio calls.
- Adjusted pistol accuracy while jumping (all pistols).
- Speaking players flash in team members’ radars and a dropped bomb blinks red on the Terrorist team’s radar.
- Plays a sound effect when kevlar and kevlar/helmet are purchased.
- New command “cl_autowepswitch” (default is 1) which controls whether or not a player auto switches to picked up weapon.
- Enhanced in-game spectator mode to include HLTV features and the HLTV user interface was redone.
- New map de_piranesi.
- Added logging of the anti-cheat system catching and kicking detected cheats. Also added logging “kick” and “banid” commands.
- Fixed many bugs.
Counter-Strike Version 1.6 splash screen.
Come at me, bro.
- New map de_airstrip.
- Removed dependency on WON protocols. Added skins support to Steam.
- More bug fixes.
On November 1, 2004 Valve released another edition in the Counter-Strike series on their Source engine, which took advantage of modern graphics and hardware. Counter-Strike: Source retained many aspects of the original game’s team-based object-orientated style of play, featured state of the art graphics, all new sounds, and introduced a new real world physics system. Source, like its predecessor, is still hugely popular worldwide and it’s successes as a competitive team-based shooter are very much testimonies to it’s worthiness of the Counter-Strike title. There were those of us who thought that 1.6 would fade out (Minh Lee, himself, said that he had thought his original Counter-Strike would completely die upon Source’s release), those of us who played the original and who were displeased with the new “remake” of CS (as dubbed by it’s developers), and those of us who played both games and have great memories from each of them. Some say the community “split” with the coming of a new CS, but as you can imagine, this is not entirely true. What happened was this: some of the 1.6 players moved on (out of boredom, sequence or simply preference) and Source began attracting a new generation of competitive first-person junkies at a rate higher than the original CS with so many years under it’s belt. Two communities did come out; but it wasn’t, as I said, a literal split, it was more like schizo-genesis: Counter-Strike got a little lonely so it decided to cut off an appendage, which then generated a new body (another community, if you will) 🙂 It must be mentioned that 1.6’s hypothetical appendage grew back just as strong; the last thing the 1.6 community did was die, it stayed alive with a solid player base and more prize pool money in competition than Source, itself, for years after.
Counter-Strike’s future is still bright with the recent release of a new title, Global Offensive, and just like after Source’s release, there is much speculation about what is to come next..