Valve, TF2 and DOTA 2 (and some Zynga)

So the MANN-CONOMY update dropped not to long ago for Team Fortress 2 and I am pretty much done with the game (No you can’t my items, it might get better again randomly)! Before I go onto things any more, if you’re wondering why someone would not be thrilled about the update, lemme say two things. First, it wasn’t THIS update alone, it’s been the direction of the game for awhile that was bothering me. Second: Go back and listen to the developer commentary. Go read the development blog about the careful decision making that went into the game — the game was a beautiful example of minimalism and reduction from the original TFC model.

So what do we have now? Maximalist, crazy design. Now, I won’t lie, I got into TF2 sometime before the Sniper/Spy update. The whole ideas of unlocks was kinda dumb to me at the time, but they seemed fairly careful. The whole ‘farm achievements’ nonsense was also painful. That alone was new, horrible design to the game. The weapons were theoretically fine, but the unlock system was both tedious, encouraged bad play and in many ways, undermined the purpose of an achievement system

Through all the class updates, there was other problems, including the drop system which was the dumbest system conceived by man ever (Someone should be fired), balance and…. well, basically those two things. The game was also getting crowded. The game had more design space then what was left in the original game and they were exploring it. You could argue either way if the game was better or worse without alternative weapons, but I’d say either way, the game was reaching it’s bursting point. In my perfect world they’d have finished the last class update and end there. Instead, they did something that made me feel worse than anything else.

community items D:

For the most part, each weapon for each class was carefully conceived. Sometimes they were duds, but you could always see that Valve was trying hard. I didn’t have nice words to say about everything though (stuff like passive bonuses against certain damage with the targe rubbed me the wrong way — also more ways to instantly die), but clearly they were trying. But the community items were clutter. Passive bonuses, slight tweaks. Tweener nonsense. MMO gear. This stuff added almost nothing interesting to the game. New and interesting strategies didn’t come to be with the community items — they just were there to tweak things. Now every class wasn’t an immutable, easy to recognize identity. Now they weren’t one of two different things. Now they were…. a bunch of random crap surrounding a base concept.

So the Mann-Conomy update? God damn, this stuff hurts. But there are two things more than the rest. First, the class hats. Sure you can craft them now, but crafting a hat costs a ton. So not only are hats that do something super expensive, but if you’re using all the items in a set THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON NOT TO WEAR THE HAT. It isn’t a trade off or an alternative. If you happen to like the two class weapons in the update, you have ZERO REASON NOT TO ALSO RUN THE HAT. If you don’t run the hat, you are weaker arbitrarily. So why go through this nonsense? Why keep the dumb drop system? Why not make them cheaper at least?

Oh wait, THE SHOP. Now, a pay shop for a game is not inherently evil. Adding a pay shop to a game is PROBABLY not inherently evil. Adding a pay shop to a game like TF2, which had no gear or anything ot begin with though is absurd. Whats worse, is it encourages them to do the wrong thing design wise. Don’t get me wrong, months ago I’d pay for unlocks, but it’s clear to me that what they want to do now is just fill the game with crap. The one thing I don’t want them to do they are now encouraged to do. More items, more money, worse game! Things like the hat — they may have thought “Hm, maybe make them nice a cheap so it’s fair” “No way, then no one would BUY THEM”. With the inclusion of bullshit such as the Zynga-esque crates, Valve clearly is interested in milking this for all it’s worth.

The best I can do now is never buy another multiplayer Valve game. Not even as a boycott, I am just literally 0/3 on my Valve multiplayer games. DWP nonsense in CS, TF2s updates and uh… Left 4 Dead is entirely made up of fake team work (well, Versus as infected takes team work, but that sucks for different reasons). But theres a little bit more to say.

First; I’ve seen a lot of people defend facebook games recently in game design circles….

“Hey, just because YOU don’t like farmville doesn’t mean it’s BAD. Let people HAVE FUN”.

But really thats not it at all. What is it is…. when a game becomes concerned with tricking you into giving additional money and hooking you in, rather than just giving you a great experience, then the game suffers. Farmville for example isn’t designed to be fun, it’s designed to be addictive, so they can trick money out of you. In TF2’s case, the pay system is encouraging them to do bad things for the game. They will add more sets. They will come up with more gimmicks. They will beat the game until it collapses under it’s own weight…. Just in time for DOTA 2. Now, I’m exaggerating a bit. I’m also sure Valve is trying not to be all out evil about this, but from the crates alone you can tell that they can’t stay totally honest. Now, TF2 is a game for the ADD crowd that can only be entertained by more stuff. The long term players have been robbed — some will quit, some will keep playing, but few of those players are excited.

So before DOTA 2 was announced, a lot of people I know assumed the pay system was a test bed for a DOTA 2 pay model… or perhaps with Valve implementing such a model for it, the TF2 team just made use of it first (possible, Valve seems to have a boner for IceFrog)… Seems odd since I haven’t read anything about a shop for DOTA 2, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t plan to eventually do something similar to the League of Legends model. In fact, my assumption was that it’d be such a Free to Play game. Oh well, things can become more apparent or change, so we’ll see.

Still, Valve has lost a lot of my trust.