On Friday, Valve announced it was removing the CS:GO’s Dust2 from the Active Duty group. While the beloved map will still be playable in casual matches, it’s been replaced by Inferno for tournaments, making it the end of an era for the biggest shooter in esports.
Valve made the switch in the aftermath of the ELEAGE Major 2017, stating, “Inferno has returned to Active Duty, replacing Dust2, and will be featured at the next CS:GO Major. As in the past, the updated Active Duty pool is automatically selected when you enter Matchmaking.”
Dust2 was instead given its own category, meaning players can select to only play that map in casual and deathmatch modes—a testament to the level’s popularity and iconic status.
But while teams in qualifying for the upcoming IEM Katowice 2017 tournament still played on the map this weekend, going forward they will need to be prepared to compete on its replacement: Inferno. Featuring a village with narrower streets and busy architecture, Inferno is a big departure from the sand blasted compound feel of Dust2.
Dust2 was originally designed by David Johnston back in 2001 as a follow-up to his first Dust map. Writing about his design process a few years ago, Johnston said he wanted to create a worthy successor to Dust that was nevertheless its own thing. “I had to ensure that this new map had everything in common with Dust, without actually being Dust,” wrote Johnston.
This meant borrowing the iconic features of his earlier map, like its arches, roads, and building trim, but not overusing them. For the trim in particular, Johnston wrote that it was “incredibly important in a world that was almost otherwise entirely made of the same color stone.” As a result, he came up with rules for how to break up the monotony of the maps buildings and backgrounds without making them too busy.
“The trim would never appear on a floor or ceiling, or anywhere a player could stand on it. It would never be striped or tiled vertically across a surface. Finally, for any given flat wall, it would never appear more than twice (e.g. at the top, and at the bottom, but never in the middle as well.)”
As for its layout, Johnston wanted to keep the compact form of the original while also letting the action breathe a little. “In it’s most basic form, Dust was little more than a figure-of-eight that had grown a pair of arms and legs, centralizing the battles but providing tactical wiggle room,” he wrote.
Most notable about the map’s overall design, however, was a random mistake on Johnston’s part that ended up being responsible for one Dust2’s most memorable features. Like an artist who starts painting a still life without organizing its composition on the canvas first, he literally ran out of space.
“I had inadvertently built the map and filled in the details in such a way that I was now hitting the very edge of the permitted space allowed by Worldcraft,” wrote Johnston. “But, rather than just moving the entire map a few thousand units in the opposite direction, I stuck with it, and that’s how the Terrorist spawn area ended up so long in the final revision.”
But it turned out to be for the best. Worried at the time that his creation was too compressed, Johnston recently tweeted that it was was a blessing in disguise. “It completely changed the map—and for the better,” he said few days ago. “It could have been another mideast.bsp monstrosity were it not for this.”
Instead, thanks to a serendipitous lack of planning, Dust2 went on to become one of the most loved and quintessentially Counter-Strike maps out there. “Honestly I still find it remarkable people still want to play Dust2 as I never expected the map to survive longer than a few months,” said Johnston in an email. He’s not sad to see it removed from competitive play either, since he thinks it will help restore more variety to the map pool. “There are so many fantastic CS:GO maps that really don’t get the playtime they deserve, so it’s about time too,” he said. “The fact there’s now a Dust2-only pool is a nice throwback to the old days of the server browser being flooded with ‘Dust 24/7' servers!”
Inferno returns after being reworked in a major update last fall, and some are hopeful that Valve has similar plans for Dust2. But in classic Valve fashion, the company remains cryptic about what exactly the future holds for classic map and the esport that has grown up around it.