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Generally, the first two letters of a map name indicate what type of map it is. All standard maps use this convention.
- CS: Hostage rescue
In hostage rescue, the Terrorists are holding some number of hostages (a varying but consistent number for each map, and in unique locations). The Counter-Terrorists must rescue the hostages, get the hostages to follow them, and bring them to predefined areas called rescue points. Counter-Terrorists can get hostages to follow them by hitting the "use" key while facing them; the hostages will then respond vocally (which can be heard by nearby Terrorists), and then will follow closely behind the Counter-Terrorist who collected them. Hostages will stop following their rescuer if the Counter-Terrorist uses him again, or that Counter-Terrorist is killed. When the hostages are brought to a rescue point, they disappear and it is announced to all the players as, "A hostage has been rescued." The Counter-Terrorists win a round when they have rescued all the hostages or killed all the Terrorists; otherwise, the Terrorists win.
Counter-Terrorists: Rescue the hostages. Terrorists: Stop them.
- DE: Bomb/defuse
In bomb/defuse, one Terrorist is chosen at random at the start of each round to carry the bomb (which appears as a backpack on his model); which Terrorist carries the bomb is not immediately known to the Counter-Terrorists. That Terrorist must take the bomb to one of the bomb sites (marked with red concentric circles), plant it (by wielding it and holding the fire button down for a period of time), and ensure its detonation (which takes place some period of time after it is planted). The Counter-Terrorists must stop the bomb from being planted, or if it is, defuse it. Once planted, the bomb can be defused by Counter-Terrorists by standing over it and pressing and holding the "use" key; the time it takes to defuse the bomb can be decreased by purchasing a defuse kit beforehand (which appears as a belt accessory on the Counter-Terrorist model). When the Terrorist with the bomb is killed, his backpack falls on the ground and can be picked up by another Terrorist; similarly, a Counter-Terrorist with a defuse kit drops his defuse kit on the ground when killed, which can be picked up by other Counter-Terrorist. The Terrorists win if they plant a bomb which successfully detonates; the Counter-Terrorists win if they kill all the Terrorists or defuse a bomb which gets planted.
Terrorists: Plant the bomb and ensure its destruction. Counter-Terrorist: Prevent the bomb from being planted, or if that fails, successfully defuse it.
- AS: Assassination
In an assassination game, one Counter-Terrorist at random each round is designated as the VIP. That Counter-Terrorist is equipped with only a H&K USP and extra armor; he cannot pick up weapons on the ground. Which Counter-Terrorist is the VIP is not known to the Terrorists at the start. The VIP must try to reach the escape point, and the Terrorists must try to stop him. The Counter-Terrorists win if the VIP escapes; the Terrorists win if they stop him.
Counter-Terrorists: Escort the VIP to the rescue area. Terrorists: Assassinate the VIP.
- ES: Escape
Terrorists must escape to an evacuation area, and Counter-Terrorists must prevent this. If enough of the Terrorists escape, the round is declared a Terrorist victory.
The Escape maps were part of an early beta and are no longer used.
Some custom maps do not follow the above conventions, but most do. Some custom maps don't follow one of the standard four types. Custom map makers have used other prefixes to indicate different "types" of games; some have become de facto standards, although since they are chosen by mapmakers what follows below are only guidelines. Usually these maps are "survivor" style games, where there is no particular objective save killing all the members of the other team, but in some cases combat is not even the emphasis of the map.
- AIM: Aim
Aim maps usually start with no real buying round, but rather weapons on the ground at the spawn. They have no particular goals other than killing the enemy.
- AWP: Sniper maps
These maps have heavy domination by the AWM, often available on the ground so that they need not be purchased.
- BA/JB: Jail break
Jail break maps -- not to be confused with Escape maps above -- are a variant of Deathmatch where the Terrorists start in jail cells and have to be let out. Usually this is used on clan servers where people are more interested in goofing around rather then actually playing.
- CSDE: Hostage rescue and bomb/defuse
These maps typically have both hostages and a bomb point, making them in essence a dual objective map; both sides need to accomplish their objectives and prevent the other team from accomplishing theirs.
- DEATHRUN: Deathrun
Deathrun maps involve an obstacle course that players run through to try to reach the end. Combat is not intended to be involved.
- DM: Deathmatch
These maps tend to be pure team "deathmatch" maps with no particular objectives for either side.
- FY: Close quarters
These maps are close quarters battles, typically with weapons available on the ground, little or no available armor, and restricted purchasing (either no purchasing at all, or the buy area is in an exposed area that is dangerous to access during the firefight).
- GG: Gun game
Gun game maps are mods along with special maps that do not involve purchasing or even picking up weapons. Instead, players start with a weapon and move up through different levels -- each level giving them a new weapon -- as they acquire points by killing the enemy. Typically the weapons start out poor (pistols, submachine guns) and get better (assault rifles, sniper rifles), and then culminate in the final levels with very difficult weapons to use (grenades, knives).
- HE: Grenade fight
Grenade fights (the HE comes from the "high-explosive" in high-explosive grenade) involve no weapons except grenades (usually lying on the floor). Often there is a barrier between the two sides so that grenades must be lobbed over to the enemy, rather than directly thrown at them.
- MG: Minigame
Minigame maps tend to involve a central arena with vehicles that can be driven around. The vehicles can kill players (including friendlies) and so these, like several other custom maps, tend to be more experiments rather than straightforward battles.
- KA: Knife arena
Knife battles leave each player equipped only with a knife in a close quarters melee. Typically there is an explicit area of the map which is the "arena," where once players enter they may not escape.
- SURF: Surf
Surf maps are not about combat; they're about using terrain to get going as fast as you like. This is another one of the recreational variants that doesn't really involve much actual fighting.
- ZM: Zombie
Zombie games are mods with special maps that are designed to be cooperative; all the players join the human (Counter-Terrorist) team, and bots serve as the zombie (Terrorist) team. Zombies are dumb and fairly slow but can take a lot of damage without going down, and only have melee weapons available to them. The goal is to survive the zombie onslaught as long as possible.