Removing One Of Counter-Strike's Best Maps Was A Mistake

About a week ago, Valve unleashed one of the greatest changes to Counter-Strike to date: they removed Inferno from the active matchmaking pool. In its place is the revamped Nuke, a map yet to properly find its feet in CSGO.

It's understandable why Valve would want to change the status quo. But all Valve has done is make a terrible mistake.

A little bit of background: according to the HLTV.org database, Inferno is one of the three most popular maps in competitive history. It's just about as popular as Dust 2 in top-tier play, and gets played twice as much as Cobblestone and Train combined. It's become less popular in 2016, although that's understandable given that teams are more apt to ban the other newer maps (Overpass and Train in particular).

Note that these stats don't include what's played in matchmaking or other third-party services, like ESEA, FACEIT and so on. And if you consider matchmaking, the popular maps get even more popular. You can find a match on Dust 2 in a heartbeat. Games on Mirage are just as common. Something on Overpass? You could end up waiting a few minutes, depending on your level and time of day.

But the thing is: Overpass is one of Valve's newest maps. So is Cobblestone; Valve substantially reworked the map before introducing it to active service. So given that the new Nuke has only been out in the wild for a few months, Valve obviously wasn't going to let that sit in the wilderness.

Counter-Strike's competitive rotation only supports seven maps. Mirage is one of the most popular maps across all levels of play and one of the most vibrant for spectators and players. Cache has settled into the public consciousness well. And Dust 2? That's the face of Counter-Strike. So Inferno had to go.

That's the logic, anyway.

The problem with removing Inferno is that it still remains one of the most balanced, most dynamic maps in the Counter-Strike rotation. It's one of the very few maps where players of all levels feel comfortable attacking -- and defending -- both bombsites. That makes it one of the most fun to play -- and one of the most enjoyable to watc.

How maps are played varies depending on the ability of the players, of course. But even top-tier teams on Cobblestone, for instance, will exclusively use all their smokes, flashes and grenades focusing on the B bombsite. It'll become the focal point of their attack. They might wander to A occasionally; largely it'll be used as a decoy for the real attack. Amongst the lower skill levels that lack of variety becomes even more frequent, with players simply attacking the sites and angles they're comfortable with.

It's a problem that Mirage and Dust 2 even have to some extent. If the attackers don't have a skilled sniper, taking middle can be incredibly daunting. If you don't have a good spawn for long on Dust 2 as Terrorists, it can be a massive pain to push through the doors once defenders grenade, smoke and flash the entrance. The B site on Inferno, and the banana particularly, can be rather cramped -- but the ability to bomb flashes and molotovs over the walls makes it a more even fight.

There's a practical element too. Nuke is still in dire need of optimisation for users on low-end machines, although the Counter-Strike community blows that out of proportion somewhat with complaints about getting less than 200fps.

And that's not considering the fact that the map isn't quite ready. The recent remake of Nuke has ravaged the structure of the outside area, making it a defensive nightmare. The upper bomb site is now harder to defend, while it's easier to defend a bomb plant underneath thanks to the added doors, hiding and plant points.

If Valve wanted to refresh the competitive pool, Overpass would be a far better candidate for the chopping block. It's one of the slower maps in the pool and it's a popular target for teams to instantly ban in tournaments. It's also nightmare to play, because the mid-round experience often boils down to finding which one of several corners the defender is hiding behind. There's even more of an argument for temporarily removing Dust 2 from competitive play.

Valve's aim is admirable, though. They want to keep the competitive experience fresh, not just for casuals playing the odd game of matchmaking here and there, but for people earning hundreds of thousands a dollars and the hundreds of thousands of fans watching. But there's no point replacing one of the best maps in the game's history with one offering a vastly worse experience -- although it's not the first time Valve has adversely patched the game without widespread consultation.


Comments

    Next update will hit with an updated Inferno.

    That's the only reason it was culled.

    Nothing wrong with swapping out Inferno for a while. I don't think it's as good of a map as the article claims. It's solid but there are problems, particularly with B site and its approaches (you have to attack through a small chokepoint unless you want to basically run past the other bombsite making rounds where the T team decides to attack B extremely similar).

    It's most likely been removed because it's next on the slate for an overhaul. Although I'd expect it to be largely visual with only small changes to the actual layout in the case of Inferno. I still think it's a good choice - the map looks pretty ugly these days, especially compared to the new train and nuke.

    I think the new cobblestone is still a bit rubbish and would probably have preferred that they fix that first, though.

    Personally I'm hoping we see a bit more Train being played in the meantime.

      It's more dynamic than Dust 2 and leagues ahead of Overpass and Cobblestone, although that doesn't mean it doesn't have a lot of problems of its own.

    If its being taken out for a refresh, I'm okay with that.

    However, if it was dropped because 'we had to drop something', it would have been better to take out Cbble. Whilst I don't mind Cbble, its definitely failed as a competitive map IMO.

    "The problem with removing Inferno is that it still remains one of the most balanced, most dynamic maps in the Counter-Strike rotation. It’s one of the very few maps where players of all levels feel comfortable attacking — and defending — both bombsites."

    Almost stopped reading at that point. Inferno is amazingly CT sided and so boring to watch it hurts. Current issues relating to tight choke points and smoke duration/effectiveness on CT side make it boring to watch, its basically a game of "Will the T's attempt to take nana at some point inbetween 3/4 CT smokes."

    "If Valve wanted to refresh the competitive pool, Overpass would be a far better candidate for the chopping block. It’s one of the slower maps in the pool and it’s a popular target for teams to instantly ban in tournaments. It’s also nightmare to play, because the mid-round experience often boils down to finding which one of several corners the defender is hiding behind. There’s even more of an argument for temporarily removing Dust 2 from competitive play."

    Overpass isn't insta banned, hell it was played substantially at IEM and I think possibly MLG Columbus, its a niche map for specific teams, I think CLG managed to get it 3 times or something absurd during IEM and Navi have also shown that the map is still evolving considering the new boost discoveries on T side. I'd also counter the "slower map" aspect. The map favors early CT aggression for information and control falling away in the midgame due to map size and then ramping up again when T's move in and take back the map control lost during the early round. And the statement of "because the mid-round experience often boils down to finding which one of several corners the defender is hiding behind." can be said of I dunno, nearly all maps in CS if you feel like it. I find it odd to read that statement regarding Overpass when Inferno is one of the most complained about,if not the most regarding the crazy amount of CT angles and difficulty regarding visibility of said CT's.

    "It’s a problem that Mirage and Dust 2 even have to some extent. If the attackers don’t have a skilled sniper, taking middle can be incredibly daunting. If you don’t have a good spawn for long on Dust 2 as Terrorists, it can be a massive pain to push through the doors once defenders grenade, smoke and flash the entrance. The B site on Inferno, and the banana particularly, can be rather cramped — but the ability to bomb flashes and molotovs over the walls makes it a more even fight."

    Not sure about this either, T side mid mirage control centers primarily around early smokes for space and timed pop flashes, not a straight out Awp V Awp battle, considering you can smoke nearly every point of attack the CT's have from T spawn. Dust 2 long is indeed a solid choke point, as is nana on Inferno, its why neither point is generally contested in the early round (High level, not including eco). Except at least with D2 long you have the advantage as a T to at least take that long spawn and try for a pick, this just isn't possible on Inferno due to CT spawn advantage and the ability to smoke the choke points from literally the other site.

    end rant.

      It's fair to say you don't like watching Inferno, but the stats don't back up that it's "amazingly" CT sided. Counter-Strike traditionally has always offered a slight advantage to defenders anyway; that's partially why their guns and equipment has always been more expensive.

      There's definitely a visibility issue with Inferno, but that's a reason for fixing the map not removing it entirely. But we could go on and on and on. And it's worth remembering that Valve factors in statistics from all levels of play, not just what happens at IEM/MLG/the majors. And it's worth asking: if you're bored of watching Inferno, you must be getting real tired of Dust 2, because bugger all has changed with that in the last few years.

      Anyway, appreciate the comment.

        Actually some of the stats do line up with what I'm saying.

        http://www.g2esports.com/mlg-columbus-infographic/

        Going from the last Major event alone it shows a higher CT round win rate compared to ALL maps. I know Counter-Strike has traditionally always offered a slight advantage to CT, something you should have picked up at some point in my rant is that I have some slight idea of what I'm talking about.

        And we listen to what Valve decides half the time because its right? Statistics from low levels of play are worthless, and if its CT sided in professional play you can bet its more so in public, hence the rework.

        Dust2 is a least still evolving in interesting ways, mid B splits, Short to CT drops, rotating awps CT side. Inferno is stagnant, smoke Nana 3x wait out the round. Until the map or smokes are changed it will stay that way.

        Either way I agree that the addition of Nuke is a bad plan, but the removal of Inferno is long overdue.

          The figures I used were from 2016-current and 2012-current; one event might be an indication of where the meta is shifting, but it's far too little data to be statistically relevant.

          I think the evolutions in Dust 2 aren't substantial enough to be called evolutions, but more adjustments players make from simply having to play it over and over again (more so than any other map besides Mirage, although thanks to Valve forcing the issue with the rotation and a change in formats that is changing somewhat).

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