After Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s beta branch went live with a fix for the stuttering that has plagued Nvidia users for several weeks, Valve pushed the update to CSOG’s live branch. When released, we thought Half-Life Alyx’s commemorative pins looked better than anything we’d seen before graphically. Looks like our eyes weren’t playing tricks on us.
It turns out that the pins, stickers, and patches CSGO released alongside Alyx’s debut this week had some interesting options enabled inside the game’s client. The new items had advanced graphical upgrades that were somehow transferred over from Half-Life: Alyx to Counter-Strike’s items including ambient reflections, self-illuminated alpha masks, and an advanced Anistrophy setting.
These seem to have been accidentally enabled in Counter-Strike’s engine over the past weeks leading up to Alyx’s release.
While Alyx was coded in Source 2, the game still uses many leftover strings and materials from the original Source engine. It’s common for developers to reuse older parts of engines over time, but Valve’s reaction once they realized they had left these strings looked like nothing other than panic.
The graphical upgrades were brand new strings and commands added to the Counter-Strike client, but that’s not what gave up the ghost. No, what gave Valve away was what happened how the developer reacted when it found out about the visible code.
In one of the most dramatic updates we’ve ever seen, Valve packed up every single associated file, zipped them up, and put them away. It was the virtual equivalent of finding a stain on a shirt and throwing away your entire wardrobe.
As SteamDB noted that Valve was pushing an update to CSGO, it also noted updates to several other games coded in Source, including parts of Dota 2. In real-time, Valve zipped up all of the files needed to run Counter-Strike and Dota 2 from Linux, Ubuntu, Windows, and MacOSX and replaced them wholesale.
Since these high-level files are often shared between games that utilize similar engines, the files’ inclusions alongside specific CSGO items probably means that the game has some serious graphical updates ahead of it. CSGO is currently far behind Dota 2 in the developer’s quiet effort to migrate more than just the game’s UI to Panorama, Source 2’s nickname for it’s upgraded UI package. As of right now, WIN.gg estimates that 90%-95% of CSGO’s UI has a Panorama component.
Since many of these changes are made behind the scenes, Valve has slowly but surely migrated Counter-Strike’s entire UI over to panorama. It might not look different, but it is. Some parts of CSGO’s panorama move, including an expansion of the poorly named “coupon” section of the main menu into a fully-realized item store, are currently in the client but inactive.
If this update and the ensuing public branch push by Valve are any indication, there was something in the client that they didn’t want anyone to see. Adding to its overreaction to the client strings, Valve’s patch notes were unusually sparse.
In the developer’s efforts to hide its mistake, they ended up drawing more attention to it. If they had hidden the changes under or between then multiple updates to CSGO’s localization files, it’s likely no one would’ve noticed.
Whatever Valve’s reasoning for their swift reaction, CSGO players and fans can be content in knowing that Valve hasn’t forgotten about their favorite shooter. In fact, Counter-Strike is about to have its moment in the sun. A shiny, anisotropic, self-illuminated alpha sun.