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.

16 thoughts on “Valve, TF2 and DOTA 2 (and some Zynga)

  1. Sorry about TF2 :(. Seems like a pretty interesting game. Anyways I was wondering what you mean about a shop thing for League of Legends. Since I play LoL (my favorite in the MOBA genre) I was thinking about DOTA 2 and it’s interesting to hear about what other people think the effect will be. My gut reaction was just that League of Legends would keep doing their free thing and try to make their game as attractive to people with no money (like me) instead of trying to risk and make “paying” a way to be more competitive. Is that what you meant by shop?

  2. I bought and played TF2 on day one of release. I put more than 1000 hours into the game according to Steam. I really really really liked TF2, and I completely agree with Kayin here. EVERYTHING was fine with the game and things went straight downhill with the very first major update. It became too much for me at the Soldier/Demoman update and I had to just uninstall the game.

    I played on a Clan server with a lot of really good players, not professional but we knew what we were doing. Pretty much all of us have quitted TF2 at this point. I truly miss the old days of Vanilla TF2. It’s really sad. ;_;

  3. I really don’t like MOBAs my self (super heavy team based games go against my introvert instinct and the fact that people can actively fuck me over by feeding the other team is a bit much for me. Nothing wrong with the genre, just not my cup of tea. Still, I have a few friends who like it and I find it interesting to hear about. So from what I UNDERSTAND (correct me if I’m wrong), LoL gives you a bunch of stuff you can buy with in game points, gives you free heroes on a rotational basis and allows you to side step all that by purchasing stuff directly with real money, right? Because thats sorta what TF2 does (only it’s a horrible mess of random drops) and what I fully suspect DOTA 2 to do. From the friend I talk to, he says it’s hard to play seriously without spending real money, but I’m not sure how true that is. Either way I’d be shocked if such a model didn’t pop up.

  4. Such an innocent and pure time. Personally I think I could live with all the class updates AND NOTHING ELSE, forever. Theres some stuff I like (I like the direct hit even though it’s strictly worse than the RL in like 80% of situations) and like some of the stuff added, but man, even that is a bit too much. I TOTALLY understand you hating all of it. I’d play with nothing before playing with everything.

    I think it also doesn’t help that some of the official items are a bit too dumb. Demo knights are just poorly designed and unfun to deal with even if they suck. Dead Ringer spies have WAAAAAY too much damage resistance, theres a million and one ways to die extra fast now (I’d gladly give up my DH to get rid of all that stuff)… All for maybe a hand full of significant, beneficial items to the game. Kritz, Jarate, axetinguisher and flaregun, the Equalizer…. All cool things, but not worth all the junk items that just make the game stupider. What I think is the biggest travesty is you bought a game you loved and had it disappear forever. I think Valve was irresponsible to tack on that much craziness post release with no warning. Well, hopefully you won’t be screwed over twice by them. =/

  5. Agreed 100%, community items are such a bad fucking idea. The experience would be much better if they just didn’t have the whole drop/crafting system. It greatly cheapens a game that I used to have so much fun with.

  6. Oh okay. That does sound like a mess in TF2 Goodness! What was the way you were thinking they could get additonal “pay for” content in the game without it being so ridiculous? I thought the game was popular enough to where they didn’t need to do that. In League of Legends you can spend exp points that you earn every time you play whether you win or lose. Champions (in case you don’t like the 10 that are free) and Runes (very very small bonuses to champion like mana regen and armor) are the only things you can purchase with that money. Now you can also purchase (with legal tender) Riot Points which allow you to buy Champions faster than you usually would and also Skins to look pretty. Runes cannot be purchased with Riot Points so I guess what I’m saying is there is almost no advantage to giving Riot your money besides getting more in game currency with 4 win or 5 day IP boosts and not wasting it on champions.
    Haha you’re so right about Valve being in love with IceFrog. What is that all about?? Hopefully just marketing. Anyways I’m curious to see how DOTA 2 makes profit and draws more than just fanboys to it because the HoN crowd certainly isn’t leaving as far as I can tell.

  7. In TF2, I would say “No store at all” is the right way to go and, if you REALLY MUST, it should be skins only. I think a developer has a responsibility to the players to not trick them into a system like this. LoL’s system seems mostly fine, but seems a little complicated. I think as long as players know the system they’re getting into is a pay system, things are fine. Being upfront is important.

  8. I think you should give LOL a try someday.

    – Champions you can buy with in-game and real money. There are 10 free every week on rotation.
    – Runes, things that give you permanent stat bonuses, you can buy only with in-game money.
    – Character skins, purely visual things, you can only buy with real money (baring a giveaway, contest, prize etc.)

    Honestly, that’s one of the best systems a free to play game can have. The designers and other developers often post on forums. They’re basically making the very opposite of what you wrote about FarmVille. They want to make a fun game first and foremost, so that you’ll want to spend money on it, so they can make more stuff.

    Here’s a recent post from one of the game designers: http://www.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?p=3470475#post3470475
    Probably something you already know since you design yourself and talk about design a lot, but I found it interesting.

  9. I actually had a brief exchange with Zileas recently, as he showed up on a forum I post on. Mostly involving me saying how I appreciate a lot of things he writes about even though I don’t like MOBAS (in this case, his anti-pattern post). Then I said “OH ALSO FUCK YOU STONE TROPHIES ARE AWESOME”. He seemed to find that funny.

    Still, I don’t like MOBAs. I just really don’t like team work — or less, a dislike for team work and more a dislike for really deep, integrated team work. When I played TF2 I could go out, be super aggressive and help my team just by killing outs of people and if I died, oh well. You really can’t be a ‘feeder’ in TF2 — well, at least not to the same capacity.

    Also leveling up and stuff? eeeeeeeh. It’s just not my kind of game, though I’m glad it exists.

  10. Whatever suits you. I get it that you can just not like a genre, for instance I have “Metroidvanias” and you not only love them, but are making one yourself :P

    Still I also hate pretty much any form of -competitive- multiplayer. I didn’t play much of TF2, CS, MW (I bought it for the singleplayer), L4D… I like playing with friends and maybe dabble in the MP a little bit, but after an hour or two I’m done.
    LOL however has that magic something in it that makes me want to solo queue and let matchmaking do it’s job a lot. Also, I think DotA kind of sucks.
    They did a lot in LOL to eliminate things that plague the genre and although it’s not perfect, it’s very very good.

  11. I’ve never had much interest in TF2, but you’ve once again reminded me how much I love the “D:” emoticon. Maybe one day I will be able to comment something useful/interesting. =p

  12. It was strange to drop TF2 right after the Pyro update and then come back in recently with all this crap added on. It’s a different game, and a worse one. I’d elaborate but you pretty much enumerated my complaints about TF2, Kayin.

    On a side note, Alien Swarm is quite good last I played and has a bare minimum of gimmicks to keep you playing with a group (parasites & computer locks are about the only team requirements), but it falls smack dab into the genre you dislike (deep, integrated teamwork). Then again, Alien Swarm was made by Black Cat Games and less by Valve. So you have that.

  13. I just wanted to drop a /signed post here because I totally agree. I played TF2 extensively about 2 summers ago. It was amazing fun and, like you said, was still fairly clean, balanced and thoughtfully minimal.

    I saw the class updates as more or less a necessary evil. By adding some new content to the game, Valve was working to keep it fresh and, to be honest, seeing them continue to put effort into something that many people bought years ago was pretty cool.

    However, I totally agree with everything else. Crafting, drops, community shit… it’s all the completely wrong direction. Hell, I admit I haven’t even read about the Mann-Conomy thing yet. Jussec….

    Okay, back. Holy hell that’s off the walls crazy. If an in-game store isn’t a sign of TF2 jumping the shark, I don’t know what is.

    D: indeed.

  14. I definitely agree. TF2 sucks now. Even though there currently isn’t anything overpowered you can get with money yet, it’s bound to happen. People I used to play TF2 with don’t get why I don’t play anymore, since they’re like ‘the items are optional!’ and don’t understand why the new system is an obvious cash grab. I’ve had people tell me I’m ungrateful because Valve’s supported the game for free for years, but as far as I’m concerned the new stuff made the game worse overall (barring some genuinely interesting weapons and some good maps).

    If I shit in your yard you can’t complain because I did it for free.

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