Published on June 27th, 2012 | by rowsdower0
The TF2 Blues
rowsdower’s Dark Embarrassing Secrets Time: I used to regularly play Team Fortress 2. That fact, in of itself, is not embarrassing. TF2 is a good game: the gameplay’s fun, the world’s distinct and engaging, and Valve managed to spin a plot out of a gleefully plotless world. As someone who’s mostly just played TF2 and the first Modern Warfare, the class balance is what really sticks out as the best thing about that game. Each class has a role, and in order to play well you need some kind of mix of every class on your team. Everything has a counter or two: Sniper? Spy or a skilled enough Scout, if the Sniper’s got a Razorback and can’t be backstabbed. Engie? Spy disables their shit, or uber a Heavy or a Soldier to take out their aforementioned shit. Ubered Heavy? Pyro airblasts the Medic or a Medic ubers your own Heavy.
The embarrassing part was that I stopped playing because I couldn’t keep up with the updates.
I ended up taking about a six-month break from intense computer gaming and missed one too many content updates. That’s the other thing about TF2: all the new items can radically change the way the game is played. Some updates are more subtle: a Soldier with the Direct Hit plays a bit differently than one armed with the Black Box, as the latter emphasizes speed and accuracy and the former a more cautious approach that couples with another item (the Battalion’s Backup). Others are more radical: a Demoman with the Chargin Targe and one of the swords is all about speed and melee/regular grenade launcher damage, whereas a Demo with a sticky launcher can play a more traditional defense. Furthermore, there are no bad items: the “worst” item from when I regularly played, the Pyro’s Backburner (which had no airblasting), now just has a more costly airblast function. Of course, all of this depends on player ability and the map and whatnot, but the point is that there are many possible ways to play the game.
What ended up happening is that, after spending too much time away from the game, I couldn’t get back in. I don’t mind all the Hats hoopla (although there’s apparently like 28 different shades of Hat paint now? Man that sounds like a lot), but I started to notice a few things.
1. I wasn’t playing the game enough to get the new items. All the new toys look cool, but thanks to random unlocks and increasing amounts of schoolwork, I wasn’t finding the new items with any speed and wasn’t getting enough duplicates to smelt into the new items. The TF2 in-game store was an option, but there’s something real unsavory about paying Real Money for an advantage over other people in a video game. Plus, I was already losing money on keys for the mystery boxes (although I got a Strange Mad Milk out of the deal), so just buying all the new swag was an unappealing issue.
2. I wasn’t actually that good at TF2. I’m pretty bad at video games in general, but I was at maybe “semi-advanced pubbie” competence before taking my break and wasn’t adapting so great. This wouldn’t be a problem, except:
3. I have no self-confidence and feel bad when strangers on the Internet are mad at me.
So now I am An Ex-TF2 Player. Problems #2 and #3 can theoretically be fixed with intense practice and years of therapy, but Problem #1 keeps compounding as Valve puts out more content. Benevolent Dictator Stevesesy told me about this new Pyromania update, and even though all the new items seem a little underwhelming (Scout gets items that benefit running over jumping? Okay? Sniper gets a rifle that rewards accuracy, headshots, and staying scoped? Well I never! That new flare gun? That might be useful, but the flare gun’s arc is a little odd and setting people on fire never has the impact that igniting people seems like it should), but I know that I’ll never be able to get all those items, plus everything else from the Hatless Update onwards, without investing a lot of time in getting yelled at by strangers for being bad at video games. The entire enterprise feels more like a chore than a game.
The downside to TF2’s continually expanding volumes of content seems to be that, should someone miss too many updates or just drop out for a while, can be killer. The store seems like it should alleviate that issue, but I think that plays into most the major issues people have with microtransactions, i.e. they allow publishers to take the content of a traditional $20 expansion pack and stretch out across $30-40 worth of updates. For TF2 however, the store is optional (minus those keys for those infuriating mystery boxes) and the base game free, but the new weapons feel overpriced. It makes me feel a bit old to say that I got outpaced by a pretty low-intensity video game, but them’s the break, I guess. Now all that’s left is to figure out what to do with all this home-made Jarate…