Team Fortress 2 Sniper vs. Spy Update is controversial

sniper_vs_spy_posterThe Sniper vs. Spy update for Valve’s Team Fortress 2 went live two days ago.  The anticipation building up to this patch has been rather huge in the community because of all the changes being brought to the game.  Valve’s ongoing commitment to introducing new content for each of the classes is unmatched in the FPS genre and to have two classes receive their update at once is huge.  On top of the class update, new hats now drop for all classes and many classes received additional tweaks on top of fixes and changes brought to the game in general.  And if all of that wasn’t enough, new maps were introduced.

Ideally this would have been an amazing patch.  However, Valve made a rather large change to how items are unlocked.  Items themselves are the content and now they are found randomly just like purple or “epic” items would be found in games like World of Warcraft.  They’re random and lucky drops now instead of being unlocked via achievements.  I can understand why Valve wanted to make the change because achievement servers were rather silly and destroyed the spirit of the game, but this new way is full of confusing and frustrating elements.

I played for six hours yesterday and was on top of the score board many times.  I played multiple classes and even stayed as one class for several hours back to back.  In total over the past two days I have unlocked 4 items:  Sandvich, Force of Nature, Force of Nature, and Flare gun.  Yep, that’s two Force of Natures.  I already owned all of these weapons.  I played the game more than I normally would and all that I have to show for it are redundant items in my new “bag”.

The way items drop aren’t just from killing people either.  Apparently spectators can find them, afkers who just sit there can find them (which has introduced “Idle item farm” servers), and supposedly this is all based on some ‘time spent playing’ algorithm that gives you a chance at a random item.  So if the equations don’t work out in your favor then you could play all day legit and get nothing or get something you already unlocked.

Talking this over with other people (and complaining about it mostly), everyone is in agreement that Valve’s heart was in the right place.  They’ve brought the system closer to be about rewarding the player for simply playing the game.  That’s fantastic.  But why the random items instead of ones that you don’t have and why not allow players to get them by killing someone instead of by being killed or simply playing?  Adding “item trading” is silly because no one is going to trade their new sniper items for a Bonk! Soda.   The system can be fixed to work a whole lot better than it currently does.

Even though this new item dropping debacle has me disheartened, I really like the fixes, polish (I didn’t think it was possible for TF2 to get more polished), and new maps.  I think this is the first time that Valve has let me down and I don’t know how to react.   I’ve always considered them one of those companies that can do no wrong — a reputation they earned with me.  Let’s hope this can be resolved quickly.

  • I’ve yet to play TF2 (just bought it recently though). Valve’s move here, though, seems, as you point out, like a well intentioned way to reward players for actually playing the game and not simply farming achievements. Why wouldn’t item trading be a more effective implementation? Find multiple copies of some cool new item, trade it with someone else for something you haven’t found. Add vendors into the game to whom you can sell unwanted items for ***insert currency here*** that you can then use to buy some of these new items as well as temporary buffs, cosmetic items, etc. In any case Valve commitment to this game is unprecedented so I don’t think the community’s outcry will go unheard or unheeded.

  • When Valve changes something it is usually for the permanent. When they changes how many times you can punch in a row before a cool down of a second happens on punching. The community was so furious about it that you would have thought the change back would happen, but it did not.

    The people just learned to play with it and move on. However this seems a little out of line for Valve but I guess I see why they did this. Usually you had to play a lot to get achievements (the normal way)or go to a farm server. Now the playing field is equal so if you are really good it does not matter, everyone has a chance.

    The items that are dropped that you already have is stupid though. Either drop new items you do not have or do not drop anything at all. However that would make scene to trade those items you have already for new ones or ones you do not have.

  • Yeah I played for roughly 36 hours since the patch and the only item I have unlocked is the flare gun, which like you said I already had. The only unlocks I am missing are all the spy/sniper, and the energy drink. Granted I only need one more for milestone 3 for scout but I DON’T play ctf maps and most of them are that or related to double jumping, and since its sandman or nothing for me now I don’t see myself using the normal bat any time soon.

    I think its a load of bull that the more you play the more you unlock, I am sitting on 119 hours in the two weeks and I have only gotten one unlock. I think its backwards, the more you play the more you have to wait to get a weapon you already had. Granted I know most people do still have their jobs and can’t or don’t play as long as I do but still. Like take my friend for example, hes played a total of 14 hours of tf2. He was never a big fan of the game the moment he bought it, yet today he unlocked a total of 8 items for a whopping .6 hours played according to his steam page.

    Also I think the BB is useless now that the air blast removes flames. Why not the axe? its named after putting out flames…

  • Valve already reported that getting items is currently bugged and not working as intended, so lets get the working version first before we complain further.

  • @Hund

    The scout is useful in ALL gametypes if you play him correctly.

    All the best items are his stock items. Ignore his unlockables.

    Ask Keen. He’ll vouche for me. The scout is a class DEFINITELY worth getting good with. His weapon packs quite a punch, he is hard to hit and flexible in many situations.

    (off topic, i know)

  • @heartless_: I think they reported that item drops were bugged the first day but they fixed the problem. Having put in enormous hours beyond what I normally play to get very little still seems like it’s not working as intended.

    Quote from yesterday:

    If you’re someone who plays a lot of TF2, you’re going to get items a lot faster than that. In the first few hours after the release yesterday, we had some issues that prevented the system from working properly, so that timeframe was not indicative of the system as it’s designed.

    If you play a lot you’re going to get items a lot faster than what we saw the first day. I’m not seeing that at all.

  • If you read the website it explains the process.

    At certain (No real way to tell if they’re static) time intervals, you have a high CHANCE of getting something, not 100%, not guaranteed.

    I’ve played quite a lot and I’ve gotten a decent amount of items (Even though I’ve had a few duplicates), but as with all systems based on probability, you could theoretically get really unlucky and miss your opportunity on each of your chances.

    Personally I still think it’s better than the old Achievement Milestone system, but they really should’ve worked to get the trading system in with this patch, rather than later, since that would pretty much remedy most of the anger.

  • I don’t buy that all the bugs were cleared. I still haven’t seen a single item myself and keep getting a “cannot connect to Steam” error when opening my character info and setup page in game. Something is still wonky, so I’m hoping they patch again to fix the system further.

    However, I like the system (minus the obvious exploitable nature of sitting AFK on a server). It beats the old system, which absolutely required players to use cheat servers.

  • I just hope they implement the trade and “work up to specific upgrades” system soon to entice the new people trying it out and old ones to stay a while.

    Also, I really want that afro.

  • I saw a Heavy with the American Football helmet on today, looked awesome, Helmets seem really rare though, that’s the first one I’ve seen since the update, yet I’ve seen hundreds of weapons/gear being found.

  • Helmets do seem rare. I have never seen someone find one. Item upgrades, like being able to combine 4 flare guns to make a better flare gun, is an interesting concept. I’m worried that it will create a huge rift between the haves and the have nots though. In a FPS game skill is supposed to decide who is better, not gear. Sketchy path to take.

  • Keen I agree.

    I love FPS games but hate those where the items can make a differance as in better then you can get off the bat.

    This is why I love CS:S the weapons never change and for each side they pretty much have the same guns. The only thing that prevents that is money but if you are smart with your money it wont be a problem.

    Games like CoD annoy me since the more you play the better items you get. I do not want to go up against someone who has the best items when I do not. Can I still kill that person? Sure. But it is a lot harder. I want the fight to be about skill not about have and have nots.

    I do not mind this in TF2 because usually it does not make the much of a difference if you have the new item or not. The game is so well balanced that if you are good with a certain class you do not need the upgrades.

    Source never gets boring for me even though I have been playing the same maps for the past 5 years. It is the experience that is different but the game stays the same.

  • I think what he meant Keen was Valve’s plan, to implement a way to work towards a specific item, by submitting a required amount/combination to create the one you want.

    For example it could be something like:

    The Force-A-Nature + The Backburner + The Ambassador = The Huntsman

    This is supposed to go in the same time as the patch that adds the item trading.

    As for the disparity between those who have and don’t have in TF2, it’s really not that bad, there are some “clear” better weapons that have been put in the update (For example, The Ubersaw), but the vast majority of items have positives and negatives that differ enough to make you think about which to use.

    The new items they add, although very cool, almost all have negative effects. The Razorback (100% defense against a backstab) has the -15% runspeed for example, even the aforementioned Ubersaw cannot crit whereas the normal Saw can.

  • People were unlocking the weapons too fast, in days without trying too hard, even on normal servers.

    At least this way you have to play the game a reasonable amount of time to achieve it.

    It’s not the best idea, but a small step in the right direction from the previous concept, IMO.


  • @Knqui: That makes more sense, the combination of items to make another item. If that were the case then I think it would be better. I’m still bothered by the drop rate. I played all day yesterday and most of today without a single drop. Then, within 2 hours of afk idling, I got 2 items that I already had (flare gun and boxing gloves). I have yet to receive a new item at all and I have clocked over 5,000% more play time than I normally would in TF2.

  • While I truly love TF2 and the teamplay aspects of it (as it’s probably the best FPS team game I’ve played in a long long time), I’ve pretty much resigned myself not to play it anymore because of the lack of class “knowledge” that people seem to have, even though the game has been out for years.

    For example, one of my favorite classes is the Engineer, yet many times I’ve seen our team get bottlenecked in our base by enemy snipers, yet no one can seem to break it even when we have 3 or 4 snipers on our walls trying to take them out. So I switch to a Soldier and unload volley after volley of rockets to kill their snipers and break the blockade in about five minutes, only to have a scout break through our defenses and grab our flag (even with 2 other engineers still guarding our base).

    Then I notice that we aren’t even pushing forward, so I switch to a Medic and quickly jump to assist people heading in, only to find them stopping and hiding in spots rather than taking advantage of the heals and rushing in. So nine times out of time the person who I’m healing dies after killing maybe 1 or 2 people and I switch to my dart gun and kill 3 or 4 people before I die in the process. So in effect, I can almost solo with a Medic / dart gun and kill more people than if I was healing someone. It’s nuts.

    All said and done, I obviously can’t play all classes at once, so after playing the game for a month or so, I finally give up in frustration until six months goes by and I decide to try it again, only to realize after a couple of weeks why I left it in the first place. 🙂

  • @Engrey: “This is why I love CS:S the weapons never change and for each side they pretty much have the same guns. The only thing that prevents that is money but if you are smart with your money it wont be a problem.”

    Well said. At my peak with CS, I excelled at the game because I learned to master the cheaper basic guns like the MP5, to the point that even if I had tons of cash, I’d still go with it rather than purchase a more powerful gun (thus I could buy a sniper rifle for a team mate with the extra cash). What I loved the most about the MP5 though was the stopping power, as it pretty much stopped runners in their tracks long enough for another teammate to drop him.

    Anyways, this pretty much relates directly to what Bartlebe said about learning to master the basic weapons of each class in TF2 (like the Scout and his bat).

  • After some more play time, item drops are much more reliable now. I have suffered from multiples of the same items (damn Natascha x3), but the rate at which I get the drops makes me feel like my play time is worth it. It feels good to know I don’t have to waste time trying for achievements unless I actually want to achieve them. This makes it a lot more enjoyable on my part, as I know over time, by simply playing, I will get what I want.

    Of course, for most of us, with a good number of the previous unlocks, the system is a bit skewed. Had it been in at launch with all of the items available, it would have been a better system. For new players, it is a great system and new players is where Valve is making their money.

  • “I love FPS games but hate those where the items can make a differance as in better then you can get off the bat.”

    Thay don’t make that much a differance in TF2, a person just starting is still on even playing ground, I’d take bow and arrow over a sniper with a gun anyday. I think of any job that the added weapons make them much stronger.

    I thought you could still get weapons from acheavements, I was shur thay sead thay were keeping them in, and that there would be multiple ways to get the weapons. I’v not played enough to get to milestone 1.