GDC 2019 - Counter-Strike's creator says not standing up to players over game changes has led to lack of series innovation

GDC 2019 - Counter-Strike's creator says not standing up to players over game changes has led to lack of series innovation

The creator of the original Counter-Strike Minh 'Gooseman' Le has said that he wishes he had stood up to the game's community over changes the development team wanted to make.

Asked by what lessons he had learnt from Counter-Strike's development, the game maker said that he wishes he had stuck to his guns with changes he wanted to make to online shooter.

"Counter-Strike reached a point where there were so many players playing it that we were afraid to change things," he told

"We were afraid of doing anything different. We were afraid of annoying the player base. When it reached Counter-Strike 1.0, the players became so familiar with the play style and mechanics that it was really difficult for it was hard to change or introduce new things. We tried to introduce shields. At one point we tried to change the economy - the way people would buy guns. We made it so that the more a certain gun was bought, the more the price would go up, sort of like inflation. I thought that was a cool system, that it'd be great because it'd make these guns that were constantly purchased harder to be acquired.

"That was met with such a huge resistance that we immediately said: 'Okay, fine, we won't do it'. We pulled back so quickly. We were so scared of pissing off the community. It made it really difficult to innovate and evolve the game. At that point - at Counter-Strike 1.0 - the game was set in stone. We were too afraid to touch it. Even to this day, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) in its essence is just Counter-Strike 1.0 but really pretty. It really hasn't changed much since 1.0 when I look at CS:GO today. The buying the system is the same, the prices are all the same. Even when Valve makes new levels, its really hesitant to change the actual layout of the level. The developers don't want to add too many props or obstacles; they want to keep the flow lanes exactly the same. It looks really boring, but Valve is afraid to say: 'The players like a really open area'."

Pressed as to whether, much like he was on the original Counter-Strike, Valve is scared of a player backlash or if the PC games giant is simply anxious about breaking a successful formula, Minh says these are both factors, but admits that a lack of major changes to the game has had some benefits.

"It's a bit of both," he said.

"On the one side, as a developer, you're like: 'Well, if players like this then why put in the effort to change it'. It's interesting. In a way, it's become the FIFA series where each iteration is really just a slight overhaul. In a way, that's how Counter-Strike became such a popular esports game - it hasn't changed so much over the last 20 years. A player can spend five or ten years getting good at Counter-Strike knowing that their skills aren't going to be diminished in five years time."

You can read more about Le, the birth of Counter-Strike and what he is up to now at Korean firm Pearl Abyss in our upcoming interview with the industry icon

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.