Condition Zero commotion has golden ending

Valve details reasons behind the new Counter-Strike developer switch, confirms game has gone gold.

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Just when you thought things couldn't get more hectic over at Valve, word comes that clarifies behind-the-scenes turmoil regarding Condition Zero, the long-delayed single-player sequel to Counter-Strike.

Last week, a post from Valve founder Gabe Newell said Condition Zero would shortly go gold. But over the weekend, word surfaced that a new developer, Turtle Rock Studios, had been hired to take over from Ritual Entertainment to finish the game.

That fact raised a number of questions: Exactly when did Turtle Rock take over from Ritual? Why did Valve let Ritual go? When is the game going gold? If it has gone gold, how much of the final product is Ritual-designed, and how much is Turtle Rock-designed?

Naturally, those in the know were tight-lipped. Calls and e-mails to Ritual's lead CZ designer Tom Mustaine were not returned, and Ritual CEO Steve Nix commented politely that he couldn’t comment. Turtle Rock's Michael Booth did respond to a GameSpot e-mail, but would only confirm he was involved in the project.

Ultimately, Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi was kind enough to emerge from the media bunker Valve has occupied in the wake of the Half-Life 2 code theft and address the Counter-Strike community's concerns.

"Roughly four or five months ago, through internal play tests and from early press reviews of what was to be the final [Condition Zero], it became obvious that a change was needed to deliver a high-quality experience in CZ," said Lombardi, referring to Ritual's departure.

So why did Valve pick Turtle Rock? "[Turtle Rock CEO] Michael Booth has been developing the CS Bot for more than a year," Lombardi continued. "An interesting bot was something we've wanted for quite a while, so we partnered with him and tabled the 'how to distribute it' question until it became compelling."

Then there's question of how much of the final Condition Zero is Ritual's design and how much is Turtle Rock's. In answering that, Lombardi wasn’t quite as forthcoming. "Turtle Rock was in charge of creating the Official CS Bot, designing the final CZ game, and doing all the necessary code work to pull that together. In terms of art, they chose to leverage the extensive CS art library which contains player models, weapon models, maps, textures, etc., developed by Valve, Ritual, and the community."

However, on the biggest question of them all, Lombardi was quite clear. "Gold," he said, going on to confirm that the game will hit stores on its November 18 release date.

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