Counter-Strike’s weapon skins are as numerous since they are glamorous. The very best in tactical fashion, they’re bright, they’re weird, they’re occasionally very expensive. Some people don’t look after them, but a lot more do. They’ve been a phenomenal success, so much so that the rarest knives sell for more compared to Steam wallet’s cap of $500, and betting and trading sites are springing up throughout the web.
I’m gonna be straight with you now; I enjoy 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. Many people know the CSGO economy and play it well. They generate income on rare knives, withhold crates until they’re discontinued and spike in price… they know what they’re doing, basically. Me? I’m not one of those people. I simply want a really pink, very ‘80s-disco’style Karambit Fade so I will look cool. Or rather, so I can see right now I look cool.
Counter-Strike’s cosmetic economy is an intriguing thing. Yesterday, I opened an incident and it dropped a knife. My first thought was that I really could trade it down with my old knife and get an improvement. I’m always wanting to have something better, something rarer.
A while back I saw an excellent talk by Bronwen Grimes, a technical artist at Valve. Inside it, she discusses how the little CSGO team implemented that economy with csgo trading sites weapon skins. She spoke comprehensive about how players value items and what Valve learned throughout the process. The first half is mostly a technical dissection of how they made the skins but the 2nd half is about player value and the way the economy’s shaped itself. It even details what they considered for customisation before weapon skins.
For instance, the team viewed player model customisation, entirely new weapons and cosmetic mesh changes for existing weapons (so, being able to reshape the gun barrel, or the grip or the butt, etc.). They ruled out every one of these. In Dota 2, you are able to always see your hero, so having a customisable character model is practical – you’re able to appreciate it. But for Counter-Strike, only other players get to view your character and the team discovered that a lot of changes to the models caused confusion. There have been visibility problems and team-identification problems. The more skins were made, the more severe the problem would get. Entirely new weapons would cause major balance issues and push veteran CS players far from the format they loved. And although 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 often like exactly the same items, those that are flashy and colourful, and thus we drive the values of these cosmetics up. But that’s not what Valve initially predicted.
In the beginning, Grimes’team done recreating hydrographic camouflages because they’re fairly easy to accomplish as a starter skin, and they imagined the CSGO community would value realistic-looking weapons a lot more than, well, tacky-looking ones. I don’t use 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.