The Science of Pixel-Surfing


In a game as competitive as CS:GO, exploits
are kind of a big thing. Overpass has been notorious for sporting certain
boost spots which may not have been intended, and that some may even consider to be overpowered!
The most infamous example was the Olofboost, which was used to great effect by Fnatic back
in 2014 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against LDLC during the quarterfinal
stage… before forfeiting the match and handing the win back to LDLC. Exploits don’t pay!
(In official tournaments). That boost was patched up, but since then
numerous others have been found- likely through trial and error. But what if there was a way
of finding these things scientifically, using maths and stuff?
The people over at ExploitMafia, known as Vexadros, Classic & SmurfDestroyer (Who also
showed me the spectator exploit a few years ago), have done just that… as well as discovering
reliable methods to achieve them. They showed me pixelsurfs. These occur where
the top of one surface meets the bottom of another, like a texture or clip brush. You
can tell because the textures of both will usually look different, and by turning on
wireframe mode, if there’s a line between them then it’s pretty likely that they’re
surfable… provided you can get to the right height before jumping! There doesn’t need
to be anything sticking out- and they don’t even need to be visible textures! Once you’ve
jumped and have initiated the surf, you’ll slide along relative to the direction you’re
looking. To remain surfing, you must keep holding the direction buttons pointing towards
the wall you’re surfing along, or you’ll just drop straight down again.
Pixelsurfing will allow you to gain a view of the level that you otherwise wouldn’t.
You’ll be able to see over walls. It can suspend you in positions that other players
might not bother checking. Plus, while some of these spots require boosts to get you there,
once you start surfing you can do it alone. And if that’s not enough to interest you…
you can shoot while pixel-surfing. It thinks you’re mid-way through a jump, so your accuracy
with most weapons will be terrible. But SMGs work reasonably well at close ranges, and
the scout fires with decent accuracy! Valve please fix.
The values you need to know are these: The height of your view is 64.09 units.
A crouch jump raises you by 66 units. And your hitbox is 72.04 units tall.
And cl_showpos 1 will show your location in the level.
The easiest way to find a pixel-surf is to start with a slope- since getting the right
height is the hardest part. Next, somewhere along that slope you’ve got to find a connection
between two parts of the same wall. And now comes the science!
You find the height of the connection of the wall by lining yourself up exactly next to
it. Then you add your height to that number, then subtract by a crouch-jump. In short,
with all the maths done, for this type of pixel-surf you need to be 1.91 units below
the height of the wireframe that you want to pixel-surf along, and then you simply need
to run and crouch-jump at it. And in case you were wondering, when I show
an example that’s at a height of 256 units, that’s 256 units above the centre of the
Source-engine’s mappable area, and not 256 units above the floor below them. Any crouch-jump
pixel surfs you can do on your own will only ever be about 66 units above the floor below
them… otherwise you wouldn’t be able to do them.
Even once I’ve initiated a pixel surf, I’m not out of trouble. It will fail the moment
I run off the edge of the wall connection I’m surfing along, or if I stop holding
the keys that keep me running towards the wall. But with a bit of practice, I can turn
myself around, then with a scout can fire off some pretty decent shots. It’s often
easier to be facing roughly the right direction BEFORE the jump. So bear that in mind.
Not all pixel-surfs are created equally. Some- like this one- are easy to pull off. Just
get to the right height and jump! But others can be made to work by doing 2 more things.
Firstly, you need to get as close to the wall as you can. Simply running up to it isn’t
enough- you’ll still be .03 of a unit away. Jump at it while pressing A or D and you can
get that .03 down to a nice round 0. And then once you’ve found the perfect height, you
need to look directly parallel to the wall, so if you run forwards you don’t slide left
or right at all. This will make some of the pixel surfs a lot
easier to initiate. Sadly, maps are getting increasingly resilient
to this exploit! Old maps used to have their walls made of walls. It’s not of much use
any more, but I loaded up the old Dust2 and immediately found one that would let me slide
around the corner of short A. Armed with a scout, this would be dangerous indeed! This
was made possible because the wall is made of wall.
But newer maps- especially the Valve remakes and Cache- make everything out of displacements.
Effectively making everything out of bumpy ground… but without the bumps. I don’t
think this was done deliberately to stop pixel-surfing- probably more to do with optimisation. But
from my testing, this modern approach makes it a lot harder to achieve the pixel-surf
in the first place, and then to remain surfing even if you do manage to pull it off.
But these surfs DO still exist, and I’ll leave it to Exploitmafia to find and to showcase
these. Apart from a few which I’ll demonstrate now!
While I’ve only covered ones you can do on your own, the more exciting ones come from
boostable spots, which may allow for you to see over walls that aren’t often seen over.
Over on Exploitmafia’s youtube channel they have an example of one that requires a friend
to help pull off. Your friend needs to be stood 73.95 units below the height of the
connection between wall and clip brush. It has to be 73.95, since when stood on top of
his 72.04 unit-tall hitbox, it’ll bring you up to the magical 1.91 unit-mark we’ve
mentioned previously. This spot is ideal since the sloped sandbag
will enable your friend to find the exact height needed to pull this kind of boost off.
And there it is. Yet another quirk in the Source engine that Exploitmafia have bothered
to research and to master. And I’ve only covered the crouch-jump variety. There are
all sorts of others that they’ve also covered over on their channel, like the standard jump
type, and the run-boost type which they even used to replicate that recent boost discovered
on Overpass. They make it look easy, but it took them several
hours to suss it out! The difficulty came with closing that .03 unit gap from the wall
in the short period of time they had between hitting the wall, and falling to the pixel-surf
height. Continuously strafing left yielded the best results… though even that didn’t
guarantee success. It’s easy to take for granted stunts such
as these, but a lot of hard work and experimentation goes into this, even when they understand
the theory behind it. Check out a video of Vexadros’s here- as
he was the one who found most of these jumps- and he helped find some bugs with my de_newke
a few years ago. And see more examples of pixel surfs over on Exploitmafia’s channel
here- as well as a more in-depth tutorial on how to get it working.
Valve, pls fix.

Antonio Breitenberg

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