Features & News

Interview: Chet Faliszek (Valve)

September 27, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

Valve have a knack for releasing consistently high quality games, whether it be Portal, Left 4 Dead, Half Life or Counter Strike. They know what makes a game good, but they also know that the most important way to get things right is by listening to your community.

After getting some hands-on with their latest game, Counter Strike: Global Offense, James O’Leary and Ray Willmott managed to corner Chet Faliszek, writer of the Half-Life, Portal and the Left 4 Dead games, and ask him some questions.

RW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. The first thing we wanted to ask about is the rather unique cross-platform capabilities of CS:GO. You have Playstation 3, MAC and PC working together on this, but can you tell us why Xbox Live is not included?

“It has to do with operating systems and the way they work. Steam connectivity was already accessible through Playstation 3, and we had a lot of success with that. However, in terms of how cross-platforming will work remains to be seen. Essentially, we need to see if Valve can keep this updated to a standard that we would like. There will be a lot of community involved in the beta to help us, and it will be down to them to decide how the cross-platforming is implemented, how it will play, and ultimately, if it works.”

JO’L: On PC, we’re used to a fast-pace with Counter Strike, however, the version we just played here on PS3 felt a bit slower.

“They’ll be running at the same pace on all systems. No omissions were made.”

RW: Do you feel any sacrifices needed to be made bringing Counter Strike to consoles?

“No, there’s a lot of modern shooters out there now which are running on consoles. Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3. Counter Strike remains Counter Strike, and that skill base will be just as intact on console as PC. There’s no auto-aiming here. You still have to kill the guy in front of you, and you still need to be good at your game to get good scores.”

RW: This is a downloadable title, but have you considered retail opportunities for Counter Strike: GO?

“We just want as many people to be able to play this as possible. This is primarily an online game, there is an offline component where you can play against bots, but it’s not the same. Retail audiences would be just as likely to download anyway. It’ll be downloadable in most territories, though I think Russia will have a boxed copy due to some legal issues. I’m not sure.”

RW: Does the game support local co-op?

“Yep. We’ll have LAN support, but we’ll also be supporting split-screen on consoles.”

JO’L: How many players will that allow for?

“2 players. With 4 players, I mean, who the hell can even see what’s going on with that anyway? I play Mario Kart with my nephew sometimes, and I can’t even tell which Kart is mine half the time!” *laughs*

RW: Way too cluttered! 3D is as big of a part of gaming now as it has ever been. Has any consideration been given to introducing a 3D element to Counter Strike: GO?

“Source does work in 3D, except some of the namespace will be flat against the screen. Maybe one day we’ll look into that, but for now, it’s not a priority.”

Oscar Mike

RW: Your following is obviously the largest on PC, mostly down to the incredible modding opportunities available. However, this is something that is still very much in its infancy on consoles. Do you think that’s something consoles should be focusing on? Do you have any plans to introduce that?

“I’ll just say that there’s some Portal 2 DLC coming out that will… show some things. Not DLC 1 but DLC 2. Things are in progress. As a company, we all work on different things, be it Left 4 Dead, Half Life or Portal, and we like to experiment with our games in new and exciting ways. We try out different concepts to see what will happen. Let’s just say that Portal 2 is going to bite at some different things, and it’ll be very interesting to see what happens.”

JO’L: There’s an age-old argument between gamers, that keyboard and mouse is better than a controller, and vice versa.

“I’ve NEVER heard that argument before.” *wink*

JO’L: Really? I get it all the time. *laughs* What I wanted to know is, do you think there will be any advantages/disadvantages to gamers for either format when playing CS:GO?

“Personally, I think keyboard and mouse is better for control, but no, that hasn’t been influenced or integrated into the programming. There’s a lot of hardcore FPS gamers who are awesome with a controller, just as there is with keyboard and mouse. I think the cross-matchmaking will determine how good a player is on as even a platform as possible. You will be playing against people who are as good as you are. Naturally, we will learn a lot from the beta and implement any changes that are deemed necessary by the community.”

RW: With COD releasing yearly installments, and big games like Battlefield 3 boasting strong online modes, how well do you feel Counter Strike will fare on consoles, especially with Valve’s unmatched ability to continually support their original product deep into its lifespan?

“Counter Strike is 12 years old now, and has had 25 million players since it launched. It is still the number one tactical shooter on PC, and a lot of games have come and gone during that time. I’m a big fan of Battlefield and Call of Duty, I’ll play those games, and I’ll enjoy them, but I don’t feel those games capture the level of skill that Counter Strike does. It’s just you against another guy, and you will die because that guy was better than you. Not because he got lucky, or because he had better equipment than you, or he called in an airstrike. I really enjoy games like Modern Warfare and Battlefield, and I play them, and they fit, but you won’t find those same elements in Counter Strike.”

The man, himself.

JO’L: With MLG being so big in America, continuously introducing new games to their line-up, I wondered whether you were thinking of making a push towards that with CS:GO?

“We’ve never pushed to get a game on the scene via e-sports, the league themselves adopt the games. There’s levels of sophistication. They look at a game in a smart way to see how it will impact the leagues.

We have been talking to a lot of the CSS guys, 1.6 and we’re going to be in New York next month at the Extreme Masters Tournament and talking to people there to see what happens. Essentially, though, we make the best game we can, then we listen to their feedback so as to ensure there is a skill ceiling high enough that can help players distinguish themselves and see what happens. Past that, it is up to them to adopt our game, but we also need to mindful of it from our point of view as well.

It’s really hard to get new games into 1.6, and of course, all leagues want the best possible quality for their players. However, overtime, we’ll showcase more features from CS:GO, put them out there and see what happens. If the leagues adopt it, great!

What is happening, however, is that the top two teams from 1.6, once they’re done with the tournament later this year, are going to be playing CS:GO live on stage in an exhibition tournament. That’s also getting broadcast, I think.”

JO’L: Have any of the pro players played the build here?

“They actually played an earlier build, and they’ve given us some feedback on it. We find the best feedback comes from people playing our games, whether that’s the community, pro players, whoever. Naturally, that’s where we get our most useful responses. In addition to all of that, we’ll also be having our own private discussions behind closed doors to see what they think about the game, perhaps suggesting areas for improvement there. That will continue all throughout the beta process.”

RW: We’ve heard that bank robbers may play a role on some maps, can you shed some light on that?

“When talking to the community, one of the key features they enjoyed was the gun-game. This is a really popular mode. So, we took all of the feedback we’ve had from that, which, after 12 years, is a lot of feedback, and we’ve come up with something. On one level, there is a professional, and you will come up against him in Demolition, one of the gun-games. In fact, we’re actually doing a recording session with the voice actor for this in the next week. Damn, I got to get to work…” *laughs*

Previously... on Lost...

JO’L: Will Valve be approaching any major voice acting talent like they did with Stephen Merchant?

“At this point, we haven’t. We feel in a game like Counter Strike, the voices need to have a weird level of generic to them, and be iconic for each individual model. It’s still CS, so there is limited writing and we are keeping it very tight. We don’t want to cloud the game with a bunch of noise. Although, if there is someone famous who is reading this and wants to be casted, then please send me an e-mail. *laugh*

Let’s just say that there will be some familiar voices in CS:GO, but you’ll be hearing them in ways you’ve never heard them before.

It’s funny, when we were doing Left 4 Dead 2, Hugh Dillon, who was a massive Left 4 Dead fan ended up voicing Nick. We’d originally sourced a voice actor for this, but he’d apparently told his agent he didn’t want to do it. Then, when we brought Hugh in, we found out he was perfect for the role. There was no prompting needed, so when we said something like ‘Get in the Saferoom’, he knew exactly what that meant, and did his own thing with that in true Left 4 Dead spirit. We were also able to write around him when creating Nick, and in real life, Hugh is a great character, really tough. It was a real pleasure.”

JO’L: As a lot of people talk about how important sound is for a game, how much have you worked on the audio for CS:GO?

“Don’t get me wrong, audio is huge for CS:GO. Hell, we even have people who can tell you what a footstep sounds like from the game. We have people working on that. Kelly Thornton is a gun nut (I know he won’t mind me saying that..) and he records a bunch of stuff like that. People who worked on Portal are involved and Mike Morasky is onboard. We get that some people don’t like the audio, and will turn it off, but we know that some people like it and will keep it on. When you have so many people playing your game in so many different ways, you need to be ready to openly accommodate them all as much as you can.”

We fight as one!

RW: Speaking of Portal, do you have any news on the Portal 2 DLC you can share with us?

“VERY, VERY soon. We have a busy season and lots going on, but we’ll have things to share with you shortly.”

JO’L: Especially with the CS:GO Beta launching in October, it’s certainly going to stretch my gaming time. When will GO be released, or will that all depend on the Beta?

“All depends on the beta. We’ll see how that goes. The community will tell us when it’s ready.

We’re actually doing beta testing with Cold Stream for Left 4 Dead. This has allowed us to give out fragments of the code to the community so they can try it out piece by piece and then we get feedback from that. We like working in that way, and it’s a model we’ll certainly consider in the future. Essentially, the community drive the release date for that and continuously give us feedback.”

RW: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. It was a pleasure to meet you.

“Pleasure to meet you, too.”

RW: I can’t believe we managed to go a whole interview without mentioning Half Life 3…

“GAH! Almost!”