Counter-Strike’s weapon skins are as numerous because they are glamorous. The very best in tactical fashion, they’re bright, they’re weird, they’re occasionally very expensive. Many of us don’t care for them, but a lot more do. They’ve been an extraordinary success, so much so the rarest knives sell for more compared to Steam wallet’s cap of $500, and betting and trading sites are springing up all over the web.
I’m gonna be straight with at this point you; I really like the weapon skins. I wish I didn’t – I’ve spent more income than I’d like on stupid digital keys for stupid digital boxes. Some people know the CSGO economy and play it well. They earn money on rare knives, withhold crates until they’re discontinued and spike in price… they know very well what they’re doing, basically. Me? I’m not one particular people. I recently want a really pink, very ‘80s-disco’style Karambit Fade so I can look cool. Or rather, so I can see right now I look cool.
Counter-Strike’s cosmetic economy is a fascinating thing. Yesterday, I opened a case and it dropped a knife. My first thought was that I could trade it down with my old knife and get an improvement. I’m always wanting to obtain something better, something rarer.
Some time back I saw an incredible talk by Bronwen Grimes, a complex artist at Valve. Inside it, she discusses how the small CSGO team implemented them economy with weapon skins. She spoke thorough about how players value items and what Valve learned throughout the process csgo trade. The first half is mostly a complex dissection of how they made the skins but the next half is approximately player value and how the economy’s shaped itself. It even details what they considered for customisation before weapon skins.
For instance, the team looked at player model customisation, entirely new weapons and cosmetic mesh changes for existing weapons (so, to be able to reshape the gun barrel, or the grip or the butt, etc.). They eliminated every one of these. In Dota 2, you can always see your hero, so having a customisable character model is practical – you can appreciate it. But also for Counter-Strike, only other players get to see your character and the team discovered that lots of changes to the models caused confusion. There were visibility problems and team-identification problems. The more skins were made, the more severe the situation would get. Entirely new weapons would cause major balance issues and push veteran CS players away from the format they loved. And although the team got quite far with the weapon mesh changes, they realised that the silhouettes became confusing and hard to identify. Weapon skins, however, seemed promising.
We all know now which weapon skins sell for astronomical prices and which don’t. We have a tendency to like the exact same items, those that are flashy and colourful, and thus we drive the prices of the cosmetics up. But that’s not what Valve initially predicted.
At first, Grimes’team done recreating hydrographic camouflages because they’re easier than you think to accomplish as a beginning skin, and they imagined the CSGO community would value realistic-looking weapons significantly more than, well, tacky-looking ones. I don’t utilize the word ‘tacky’to be mean – I’m the proud owner of a Blood in the Water scout, so y’know. Tacky, in this context, works. And that’s what Valve realised.