Team Fortress 2 is one of Valve’s banner titles and is still going strong since 2007. With that said, I can’t play it anymore and no matter how many hats, guns, replay editor, in game store and tutorials will keep me playing.

I started playing TF2 when the Heavy update was released in 2008 and played it consistently until Left 4 Dead was released. Since then my time spent has declined gradually until this point where I’m giving it up. Originally, I thought I was the only one who felt that way, however the more people I’ve spoken to the more I hear about long time fans quitting the game as well.

 As I thought about Team Fortress 2 and compared it to other multi-player games I’ve played, it dawned on me as to what the problem was and who to blame for it. Team Fortress 2 is a victim of being too open to customization and the influence of a Meta game, and the blame is split between Valve and you, the fans.

I know that many fans are into the whole Meta game of getting items, but for me the game-play has to hook me first. My problem is that while Valve has gone to great lengths to improve the Meta-game but have done nothing to fix a problem that they let get out of control. The actual game-play has devolved into nothing but imbalanced death matches and the inclusion of a meta-game has further pushed this over the edge.

When Team Fortress 2 was first released, maps were supposed to be played with a fix number of players. The primary reason was to keep the game from being imbalanced. The map design falls apart when you have a huge # of players. Just about every map has bottlenecks or one way areas where all it takes is a few extra demo men or engineer turrets and the area becomes a death trap. When that happens the only options are to get multiple medics with uber-charges at the same time or wait for time to expire.

To give players more freedom with their options, Valve allowed people to set up their own servers and to alter settings at their leisure. Unfortunately as it turns out, gamers weren’t interested in balance. The majority of the servers available have re-spawn timers set very low and usually have a twenty plus player limit. This kills any kind of team strategy and devolves matches into meat grinders at bottlenecks. With the reduce spawn timers even if one team makes any head way, the other team will be back in full force in seconds.

Sadly Valve has made this problem worse with the inclusion of item drops. Valve designed the system to work on time spent playing ,which at first led to the idling problem which was soon corrected. The issue is that this kind of system rewards the wrong type of play. Instead of rewarding players who help their team or work together, it rewards that mindless game-play that I didn’t like before. Every game I join amounts to me running to one area, getting killed by seven rockets and six grenades and then replaying it three seconds later.

When items were originally introduced, they were a reward for getting so many achievements for a specific class. I agree with Valve that limiting items to achievements only was not a good idea. However with so much design spent on the meta-game, nothing was done to make sure that it integrates well with the actual gameplay. Currently with crafting, dueling, recipe formulas and the in-game store, the meta-game has become more complex then TF2’s actual gameplay.

Putting on my designer’s hat for a minute, here are the changes that I would implement. First, I would either remove the ability for servers to alter spawn timers and player limits or only allow items to drop on servers using the default settings for these. Second, I would keep the same item drop system in place but add the following additions. The team that wins the current round of play will have a positive modifier to their drop chance rate. On the other team the top three players for that round will also receive a modifier but smaller then for the winning team. Lastly on multi-map games, if a team wins every round they will automatically be rewarded with a random item.

These changes, while still giving some rewards to the people who just want to death match all day long will reward people for contributing and being a team player. The actual game-play should come first and not the Meta-game, as the former is supposed to hook players and the latter should keep them around. The more people I’ve spoken to, I hear the same story of how their departure from TF 2 began with the introduction of items.

There is a reason why in Left 4 Dead that you don’t see many servers that allow more survivors or special infected at a time, because the maps are not balanced for any less, or any more players. Why Valve has let it get out of hand with Team Fortress 2 is beyond me. In the past, I thought how cool it would be if Left 4 Dead had a similar Meta-game style as Team Fortress 2, but now I wonder if that would ruin Left 4 Dead for everyone.

The concept of Team Fortress 2’s Meta game looks good on paper, but when it comes down to it, a good meta game should be secondary to the actual game-play. If the designers mess up, we’ll have a situation where the Meta game takes precedence over playing the game when it should be used to supplement the gameplay.


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“Throwing My Pile Of Hats On The Ground Over Team Fortress 2.”

  • I'm not a very good FPS player but I liked my short time with TF2. I played through when drops were introduced properly and then drifted away.

    It's interesting that valve has experimented with gameplay tweaks in L4D2 in a much more controlled fasion with the mutations. I wonder if a lesson was learned there. While many of the mutations are crap (unlimited m60 ammo! Ok, great. . .) occasionaly some come along that are great.

    The greatest of course was realism versus. Me and mine were already playing significantly modified versus (ghosts can fly, infected special choice with enforced respawn timers, only pills in the starting area, and sometimes we used medpacks at the start but nobody could pick one up in map via the honor system) and this just took the cake. The regular versus game was too easy and had far too many 4 man teams finishing maps (some argue that should be rare; I do not. But it was too easy in vanilla L4d2 versus). We kept many of those mods but realism versus made everything perfect (except you still needed a water slow down mod for Hard Rain). Realism versus lead to 6 months of bliss.

    There have been other good mutations, though. Follow the lighter was a survival mutation where only 1 gas can spawn area would spawn cans at a time. We loved it; I wish it was an option.

    Hard 8 was a campaign mode where the special spawn limited was 8 and not 4, and you could get multiples. It was *fantastic*. It really uped the challenge and made Advanced mode really spicey (I've often longed for a difficulty between Advanced and Expert, where you get Expert level horde sizes/lenghts and special spawn rates but the damage rules from advanced).

    For my money, those sorts of things have been much better for L4d2 than the meta game was for Tf2. Tf2 is probably more popular and that's fine. The game requires more shooter skill than L4d2, which puts it outside of my comfort zone. So I drifted away as well.

  • Advanced realism was one of the best things Valve did for Left 4 Dead. It was a great medium between making the game more challenging for vets, while giving newcomers a chance to learn.

    Also I can't believe I timed this entry to come out on the same day that TF 2 went F2P.

    I honestly don't know what will come of this. I really hope it gives Valve a reason to better integrate the Meta-game with the game-play.

  • and by advanced realism I mean realism vs, won't let me edit the original message

  • Anonymous

    I agree entirely. Great post.

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