Multiplayer Game Backend Deep Dive – Counter Strike 2

Mar 7, 2024

Counter Strike 2 image. With copy Counter Strike 2 inside a blue square. With subtitle Multiplayer Game Backend Deep Dive.
Counter Strike 2 image. With copy Counter Strike 2 inside a blue square. With subtitle Multiplayer Game Backend Deep Dive.
Counter Strike 2 image. With copy Counter Strike 2 inside a blue square. With subtitle Multiplayer Game Backend Deep Dive.

Counter-Strike 2 (CS2), developed by Valve, represents a significant evolution in online gaming technology. Released completely by surprise on September 27, 2023, CS2 is essentially a remastered version of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but with substantial upgrades in graphics, content, and technical aspects.

The game is built on an updated version Valve’s Source 2 engine initially release in 2015, the successor to the original Source engine that powered classics such as Team Fortress and Half Life itself.

While the engine is nothing new, it remains one of the best optimized and most played game engine thanks to the competitive and eSport scene built around Counter Strike.

Backend Structure of Counter Strike 2

Counter Strike 2 invites its player base to host dedicated servers. Dedicated servers are either self-hosted or hosted on a third-party network, from paid services to open-source ones like Pterodactyl.io. While Valve has allowed player to host dedicated servers since CS 1.6, a major innovation of CS2 is the addition of running Docker container, including their community building a direct support. Here’s more details:

  1. Dedicated Server Integration: Unlike its predecessor, CS2 integrates the dedicated server with the game client (appid 730), a shift from the previous separation in CSGO where the client (appid 730) and the dedicated server (appid 740) were distinct. This integration simplifies the server management process for developers and could be a best practice for streamlining server-client interactions in games. The caveat is that server image could be bloated because it includes unneeded assets that only the client uses.

  2. System Requirements and Compatibility: The game requires a higher specification of hardware and software, including 64-bit operating systems and DirectX 11-compatible video cards with Shader Model 5.0 support. This emphasizes the importance for developers to communicate system requirements clearly to their audience and ensure compatibility with modern systems while considering legacy support.

    • It's noteworthy that CS2 does not support macOS, reflecting a strategic decision that game developers might have to make based on their target audience and platform feasibility.

  3. Server Configuration and Customization: CS2 allows for a range of command-line parameters and console variables (cvars) that can be used to configure and customize the dedicated servers. Parameters like -dedicated-ip-maxplayers, and -port are critical for setting up a server tailored to specific needs. This level of customization is crucial for developers to offer flexibility in game hosting.

  4. Hosting Tools and Helpers: The game supports Docker for server hosting, enabling automated updates and streamlined server management. Additionally, tools like CS2 Multiserver facilitate running multiple game servers on one machine, which is particularly useful for hosting large-scale tournaments or events. These tools represent best practices in efficient server management and scalability.

  5. Technical Improvements: Being developed in the Source 2 engine, CS2 showcases significant technical improvements over its predecessor. This includes enhanced graphics and new content, underscoring the need for continual technical advancement and innovation in game development.

For game developers, these insights into CS2’s backend structure provide valuable lessons in server integration, system requirement clarity, server customization, tool utilization for hosting, diversity in game modes, ongoing technical improvement, and community engagement. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in the success and sustainability of online multiplayer games.

One thing to note though is that by allowing players to host their own game servers, Valve could be leaving money on the table.

While Valve probably does not need new stream of revenue, a standard studio (like Iron Gate’s with Valheim) could benefit from a different stream of revenue by allowing players to host their own game servers, but through the studio itself. However, this revenue opportunity is mitigated due to the complexity of hosting servers; including the challenge of setting up customer service and payment systems.

Automated backend “container as a service” now allows for those studios to integrate and resell a dedicated, private game server. It allows for better understanding and analytics of the players behaviors and generate revenue in an area of their business typically seen as a cost center (game server hosting). With the new regulation allowing studios to sell outside of the standard app marketplace, they can make even more money.

The proprietary backend technology behind Counter Strike 2 may not be available to all game studios, as not everyone has Valve’s backing, that is why indie developers and game studios alike are turning to new platforms for help.

Edgegap is an automated game server and distributed orchestration platform that brings the world’s best latency reduction to all game developers.

Explore its benefits by selecting your game engine, or Netcode, of choice:

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