First, a bit of background. Team Fortress 2 was my first online first person shooter. Ever. I instantly fell in love with the great class balance, the tongue in cheek style, and the fast paced action. Even after getting to Call of Duty 4, I continually went back to Team Fortress 2, if only to feel the freshness of an FPS without regenerating health.
Contrary to the original email (Email: My thoughts on Valve) that finally inspired me to write about my sorrow for the state of the game I put over 700 hours into before quitting, I don’t feel the weapon unlocks and MMO-esque aspects killed the game. Valve had amazing post-release content…at first. Valve released an update for each class in the game. In each update, every class got around 3 new weapons, not to mention at least one new map and one new game mode. Even the non-class updates were good, adding maps and even a new game mode or two. Even the random item drops and crafting were pretty solid for an FPS, and the hats were neat visual items that helped your sniper to look a bit different from the 50 other ones lining up at 2fort.
No, what ultimately killed the game was user-generated content. The first signs of trouble started in November of 2009, when Valve began giving a special hat away to people who preordered Left 4 Dead 2. Keep this in mind, because it was the start of a trend that contributed to TF2′s fall. Then, in January of 2010, Valve began letting users submit stuff they created to a site where it would be reviewed and, if deemed good enough, released in the main game itself. Users had been creating their own maps for a while, and that was good. User created hats were “meh”, but nothing really to complain about. Valve let users submit class weapons. Furthermore, Valve had just launched an item store where people could buy randomly dropped items, and the creators of the weapons got a cut of the profit. Sound familiar? In other words, Valve let users effectively tamper with the game’s balance. To you, this is probably sounding off all sorts of alarm bells. At the time, I was worried, but thought Valve might have some sense to keep it under control.
Soon, user weapons and content were staring to flood the game in a sea of dogcrap. There were too many weapons to keep track off, and in many cases, the user weapons turned out to be either overpowered, bland, or useless. The quality of the game took a severe hit. Vale got three strikes from me before I completely quit the game.
Strike One was the Polycount Update, which was Valve holding a contest with a community of professional CG artists to create a bunch of new “sets” for each class for the game. Each set had weapons and a hat, and Valve only added their effects after they were put into the game. Let me reiterate: Valve let a bunch of CG artists not only make items, but only decided what their stats would be once they were in the game. Even worse, having the whole set of items gave the player a special additional ingame bonus. Since hat drops were so rare, the only way you’d probably ever see the bonus was to pay on the store for the full set. I don’t need to get into the problems with that. This strike alone caused me to give up the game for half a year. Speaking of the store and random drops…
Strike Two was the crates. In addition to the random drops of items, you could also get crates. Said crates could contain one of a certain set of items. The only problem was that the only way to open the crates was with a key. The only way to get a key? The game’s store. The cost of a key? $2.49. And you might not even get the item you want. In short, this made a lot of drops a waste of time, and I usually just took the crates and turned them into scrap metal to possibly get a hat.
The final and biggest strike was when Team Fortress 2 went free to play. The game was already overflowing in user-generated crap, not to mention the absurd imbalances. Valve’s was freely exploiting the work of their community. The switch to free to play indicated three things to me:
1. More focus than ever was going to be put on the ingame store
2. Cheaters and hackers would more easily proliferate, not to mention the dip in player quality.
3. Valve doesn’t give a damn about their game. Why should I?
So Team Fortress 2 was uninstalled, and with one exception where I played the game four months ago to see how badly it had degraded, I haven’t looked back. Team Fortress 2 is the first game that I’ve ever seen that was done in by being flooded with too much content. Which is sad, because the game was amazing until Valve started showing in user-generated content.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions? None of this. Which, for some, could mean that they currently have the superior versions of the game. And that, Master Malstrom, is tragic.
Keep up the good work.
P.S: Valve’s showers attention on some parts of their communities, while others are absolutely ignored. The remaining fans of TF2 would tell you Valve is the best company other. The fans who are still waiting for Half Life 2 Episode 3/Half Life 3? Not so much. Problem is, any criticism of Valve is usually buried under a slew of Valve-worshiping zealots who believe they can do no wrong. Thank goodness some are finally starting to speak out against them.
P.S.S: There are many things I could say about Gabe Newell, but I will say this: He is a master PR man who has the uncanny ability to make those arguing with him look unreasonable and foolish through a very good choice of wording in his statements. Maybe it’s also because he looks so non-threatening?
With Gabe Newell, all you have to do is point out the lack of games. Everything in gaming revolves around games. Valve Corporation isn’t interested in making games. Why not? Instead, we get stories about how there are wheels on the desks in the Valve Corporation.