Quake and Counter-Strike both shared their own respective milestones in the past week. It was a combined birthday week for esports’ two most venerable competitive titles. The games that started it all for PC esports at the end of the previous century will both be on show this weekend at Rush Esports
Quaking and shaking
On 22 June 1996, the very first game in what would become the Quake series was released. Quake was the successor to id Software’s immensely popular Doom series of first-person shooter PC games. For many of us, Doom was one of the first FPS games we ever played. In my case, it was in the computer lab at my primary school back when I was still a young and foolish console devotee. It was outdated already by the time I first played it, but it was a formative experience for me and many others. Doom was a pioneering title in the genre, itself following up on another pioneering title in Wolfenstein 3D. Quake introduced true real-time three-dimensional rendering to the First Person Shooter. It also was a major factor in growing the popularity of deathmatch in the multiplayer setting. The game eventually supported playable online multiplayer through the improved net code of the Quakeworld update in late 1996. Quake is the granddaddy of online multiplayer first-person shooters.
Quake II, Quake III: Arena, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and eventually 2010’s Quake Live all had success as games and more importantly as esports. QuakeCon, the yearly convention celebrating the franchise has been held since 1996. It’s done much to grow the esports side of the title. Legendary players like Shane “Rapha” Hendrixson, Alexey “Cypher” Yanushevsky and Johan “Toxjq” Quick have all won the 1v1 duel tournaments at QuakeCon multiple times. The franchise has been at the pinnacle of esports as the biggest esport in the business. The title has sadly waned in popularity with players and as an esports spectacle in the past few years. The 2017 launch of Quake Champions aims to address that. Whether it succeeds or not still remains to be seen. What is certain is that Quake boasts 22 years of illustrious history and should be celebrated for its contributions to esports and gaming.
From mod to the Majors
The first public beta of Counter-Strike was released as a modification for Half-Life by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess Cliffe on back in 1999 on June 19. The two were hired by Valve with the Half-Life developer acquiring the rights to Counter-Strike before releasing the full retail version of the game in 2000. Counter-Strike didn’t take long to become a smash hit. A tactical first-person shooter with a simple concept and deceptive depth, it quickly gained favour with players. By the definitive version in 1.6, it had spawned a vibrant esports scene that endures to this day. No other team-based title can boast the wealth of history that Counter-Strike possesses. It’s a history that’s still being written every week in the international professional circuit. CS created its own revered heroes in the form of all-time great players like Filip “NEO” Kubski, Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg and Raphael “cogu” Camargo.
Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Counter-Strike: Source followed. Interestingly the pro scene was very resistant towards Source, causing a split in the competitive community. This did cause the two games to face their fair share of difficulties in the early 2010s with neither title anymore enjoying the dominance that 1.6 had in its rather lengthy heyday. Thankfully 2012’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive arrived at the right time to unite the two disparate communities. Initially in their mutual hatred for the game’s lack of polish. Within CS:GO’s first year, the title started to enjoy strong support in part thanks to Valve’s focus on the esports side of the game. The introduction of the Valve Major tournaments helped grow interest even further and contributed to CS:GO’s success. The innovation of weapon skins of course helped massively as well. The game has been evolving and has seen steady improvement throughout its life. CS:GO has arguably the best independent professional tournament circuit of any esport. It boasts the highest Twitch viewership of all time on a single channel for an esport during the final of the Eleague Boston Major, with 1.3 million tuning in. It is an esport that has been at or near the top for nearly two decades. After 19 years, Counter-Strike is nowhere near the end of its story. The old girl keeps on going and keeps on giving.
Rushing into the future
Happily for South African fans, both titles are on offer at this weekend’s Rush Esports event at the Sun Arena in Pretoria. From Friday, 29 June, starting at 10 am you can experience CS:GO at the Vodacom 4U CS:GO Cup by Mettlestate. On Saturday there’s the MSI Quake Cup, brought to you by MSI and Evetech, also from 10 am. I’m casting at both competitions. Join me and many others as we celebrate 2018s first big LAN for both games and as we celebrate the anniversaries of two of the greatest esports of all time. Long may they both continue!