Team Fortress 2: Unlocking… Pandora’s Box?

By Kieron Gillen on April 17th, 2008 at 8:13 pm.


A little late to this, considering we’re a PC site and it’s our favourite PC shooter since we started doing this thing, but I’ve been having a quiet think about the forthcoming new content for Team Fortress 2. Its contents have been finalised, with Shacknews having my personal favourite coverage. In brief, there’s three unlockable weapons weapons for the medic, a new map and game-mode and thirty six (Count ‘em!) medic achievements. Robin Walker’s talked about their commitment for doing similar expansions for the other classes. And the extra content is lovely and all but…

I dunno. I have reservations.

Which partially I feel bad about because – y’know – fanboy sense of entitlement is one of the most sickening things in the world, and this is free shiny stuff. And partially I think it perhaps shows a lack of faith in a team who’ve shown they, more than anyone else who released an online FPS game in the last year, know what they’re doing. They’re not unproven people, I should wait the couple of weeks then give it a crack rather than having little thinks. And also, I’m mainly a medic anyway, so this is extra toys for yours truly. But…

Okay, the new mode – one team pushing along a bomb-filled cart while the other tries to stop them from doing that – sounds splendid fun. More achievements are good, especially ones which are clearly trying to encourage good play. For example, number seven, Play Doctor: In a team with no medics, be first to switch to medic after a teammate calls “Medic!” and then heal 500 health. It’s a cute way to try and encourage people to do the necessary without needing a Messiah Complex.

But the unlockable weapons. For those who don’t follow the link, there’s three – the Blutsaugher, Critzcrieg and Ubersaw unlocked when you read 12, 24 and 36 achievements respectively. The Blutsaugh is a primarily defensive version of the syringe gun which adds to your health when it hurts someone else, at the expense of the (incredibly valuable for the medic) critical hits. The Critzcrieg is an alternative ubercharge, which rather than making its target invulnerable, increases its targets chance to deliver critical hits to 100%. That means you can kill a lot of people… but you’re still vulnerable. Finally, if you get them all, it’s an Ubersaw which is slower than the standard saw, but a single hit will increase the ubercharge by a hefty 25%. Its offensive possibilities are kind of obvious. And brutal. And possibly very humiliating for the opposition.

My problems are threefold – one which kind of applies to any FPS that does the unlocking thing, and the second which applies specifically to Team Fortress 2 and the third which will probably be the result of the first two.

The first is that unlocking in a skill-based game rises my purist hackles. If I found myself playing Kasparov in chess, I’d like him to beat me because he’s Kasparov, not because he has a piece I’m not allowed to use. It doesn’t matter if that piece is balanced to what mine is – its just that the game is no longer symmetrical.

(Which isn’t to say than a non-symmetrical game can’t be fun – e.g. Most RTS – but a game which has tiny bits of non-symmetry built on the top also lacks the courage of its convictions)

Secondly, Team Fortress 2 has been a poster child for clarity in games. We’ve spent much of our existence linking to pieces where we’ve seen Valve talk about how they studied the silhouettes to make sure everyone was identifiable, to make the individual pieces of the game clear. The problem now is when you add extra powers, which aren’t necessarily available to you, that becomes foggy. I see a medic now, I know what they can do and how to act. I see a medic in a few weeks time, I have a load of possibilities what they can do. I just don’t know until they display these abilities, and then it’s too late.

The third point is the direction it takes the game. There was something in Team Fortress 2 which attracted an impressively wide section of the PC gaming community – and I suspect it’s the combination of its clarity and purity. We could see how the game worked – the characters were iconic in look (Hey! Cute!) and action (He is a soldier – so I’ll know he’ll be doing this sort of thing). It was welcoming in a way which many FPS increasingly weren’t.

Conversely, this takes it back in the direction from whence it came. This is catering specifically to the player who only plays Team Fortress 2, who they’re trying to retain the interest of. Because neither of the two problems I describe above really matter if you’re playing the game that much – you’ll get all the unlocks soon enough, making the game symmetrical with your peers (but above newcomers) and the extra variety and unpredictability adds spice. And when they’ve gone through all the classes, the game may even have as many toys as the original Team Fortress… which would leave Valve in the somewhat amusing position of disappointing a new hardcore they’ve nurtured when they strip it back for Team Fortress 3. This is a move which sacrifices a sliver of its appeal to more casual players for the true devotees. It takes it a half-step towards all those gentrified gaming communities which may as well be on the boom on its own private internet for how accessible they are to newcomers.

In other words, yes, my problem with the unlocks is that it makes Team Fortress 2 more like everyone else.

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88 Comments »

  1. Jim Rossignol says:

    I think you might have a point with all this. Quake 3 appealed to me because it was minimalist. As soon as non-realist FPS ramps up the complexity I do start to lose interest, or at least play the simplest class.

    I’d rather have incredible new maps than unlocks.

  2. Larington says:

    That said, will any of the casual players really notice, or care? I’m not so sure, perhaps we’re guilty of over analysis?

    Thinking about it though, Planetside (Here I go again) would’ve been a lot more successful in the long term if instead of going for core combat it just created new continents semi regular and had a system of cycling the neutral continents in/out so theres never more than the original number of continents. But thats just me.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    No, don’t derail to a “what if Planetside” debate! We can do another one of those next week.

  4. Sebastian says:

    TF2 needs the unlocks. Go to onlinegamingzeitgeist.com, the player count is plunging. Simply adding new maps won’t help there in therms of long-time motivation, they have to bring new elements into the game. While this “simple” style of play might be appealing in theory or on a philosophical level it isn’t in reality.
    The new weapons are not overpowered, they rather expand the concept of “making decisions” which defines TF2.

  5. Ben Hazell says:

    Mmm, I’m wary.
    Despite the perks I’m never going to play medic much whatever they do. Reason – beam weapons arn’t fun. Regardless of if it’s healing or hurting, a guided beam is no fun to point, it doesn’t test me.
    Part of the joy for me in FPS games is accuracy, precision – because that’s what empowers me; be it a sniper headshot or twitching out a shotgun hit then they cross my sights or knowing where to place a rocket. This is especially true of such a fast, kinetic game.
    But the medic: they can buff it as much as they like, but I won’t play because the beam is no fun.
    Now a healing shotgun… that I might use…

  6. Chris R says:

    I think it’ll be fine though Kieron. You do make some damn good points, and they are valid, but we have to trust Valve to know what they’re doing.

    In the end it might not be as bad as you say. I’m sure they’ll make all the new weapons look very unique so that you can tell just by a glance that the medic has a different weapon than usual. Valve wouldn’t mess it up too bad, and if the whole community hated the new unlocks, I’m sure there would be steps taken to fix things. Have faith!! ;)

  7. Alex says:

    @ Sebastian

    If it needs the new elements provided by the unlocks, why not just add them without needing them to be unlocked? Exactly the same result for people who would have unlocked them anyway (unless they really really like having a bigger weapon than people new to the game, or really really enjoy the process of being given it), and a much better result for people who wouldn’t have bothered.

  8. Scandalon says:

    Larington:

    Yes, “casual” players will care. Or at least be confused. Consider someone that’s been playing for a few weeks (not every night), is getting comfortable with it, maybe he plays soldier, maybe sniper…he’s (or she’s) got a good handle on how medics work. He doesn’t read the news sites, maybe saw that TF2 updated, maybe not. Next he finds a medic isolated from his group, but this medic has the new leech gun (sucking our poor, abused player’s health)…now he dies rather quickly, knowing he tossed 3 rocket (or whatever) into the medic’s head…the game rules have now changed, and he doesn’t know why…

    The whole “culture” of TF2 is to make things (mostly) self explanatory (“Headshot? What’s that? Oh, that guy they just zoomed in on…he’s got a giant sniper rifle!”)

  9. derFeef says:

    I think its a brave move from Valve. I have high hopes to the unlocks, even if I dont play the medic that often but there other classes too and unlocks are coming to all of them.

    I dont want to compare it to the battlefield series because TF2 has much more depth and the unlocks are more then just stat updates for the weapons – TF2 is attractive for the players because its not “military” or “scifi” – its just pure fun and different. You can enjoy it even if you give a shit for the team (I dont do that!) and that cant be said about battlefield or cod4.

    So the unlocks are there for the gamers who knows they are there and they will aim for them, thats for sure – but you can enjoy the game without them, I think.

    Apologies for bad my bad english ;)

  10. derFeef says:

    @ Scandalon
    There is no leech gun – the syringe gun is still shooting syringes, but give the user 3 heal per hit. So the victim still knows he was hit by a hurting weapon.

  11. Dinger says:

    I agree with everything but the notion that it’s a bad idea. Yeah, TF2′s genius was that it was accessible to everyone, and I know you guys were crowing about how “in six months, it’ll still be there.”

    In the videogame world, nothing is still there in six months. Heck, if Rossignol left Eve for three months (assuming he plays that game. I have no idea, really), he’d come back to an entirely foreign land.

    By saying TF2 captured the accessibility and fun that a MP shooter needed to have, you were only capturing part of the genius.
    Look: TFC had a steady playerbase clear through to the release of TF2. That wouldn’t be noteworthy if it werent’ for the fact there were nearly ten years between the two. Honestly, when was the last time one of you guys played TFC?
    Now, think back to what that experience was. Riding the long tail is different from selling the big splash. The fact is, you use the big splash to build your community, and, over time, it starts to feed on itself. They never get bigger than the first weeks after release (okay, I’m sure there are tons of counterexamples. My point is there though, somewhere). At some point, you need to recognize that your playerbase has become the hardcore grouped around things other than just the game, like the ‘community’ (a word up there with patria in my book of “terms used to convince other people to die for your cause.”), or madness, or blind dedication.
    The hard thing is for history: how do we, ten years from now, teach the ideas behind TF2, and how it was “rolled out” along the release/community curve, if all we’ve got is the late “hardcore” version (if that)?

  12. scopie says:

    I just hope they get the new achievements/weapons out the door for the other classes as well within a reasonable time frame. Which, for Valve, is about 2 years.

  13. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Heh, I was just about to e-mail asking where the TF2 love was.

    @Kieron: Now that the unlocks have been revealed and my doubts about their balancing assuaged I’d say that my last niggle with them is, as you point out, that they’re monkeying with the original streamlined concept. I’m not sure it’ll be too big a problem with this batch of unlocks though, as the very basic responses to a Medic (run from his uber, laugh at his puny syringe gun etc.) shouldn’t change too much. Whether that will hold for the rest of the unlockables remains to be seen however.

    Also, regarding “you’ll get all the unlocks soon enough”, I’ve worked out that I’ll need ~170 hours more Medicalising (on top of the 80 or so I’ve done already) to attain the 10 million heal point target.

  14. sana says:

    Valve could bypass this whole confusion thing entirely by making some kind of preview video shortly describing the new medic unlockables.
    Then they could make that video play the first time the player joins a server after the patch. You know, like a mix of the TF2 map explanation videos and the BioShock plasmid ads.

    Also, it’s “Blutsauger”, meaning “blood sucker” in German! No “h” after the “g”!

  15. Andrew Simpson says:

    Yeh, saying “soon enough” is a bit optimistic. Some of those achievements look nigh-on impossible to get!

    A lot of people will get the Blutsaugher, a large fraction will get the Critzcrieg and the elite few will get the Ubersaw. Which is a shame, because the Ubersaw looks amazing.

  16. Sprafa says:

    This is the first i’ve heard of the unlocks, and i absolutely loathe this decision, considering i used to play TF2 in short 5 minutes bursts, usually with a medic. Why ? Mostly because i enjoy playing what does become a sort of messianic guiding figure for an entire team cooperating in an FPS, and because a medic seems to me to be the easiest way to make quite a splash in any game. I consistently rank in the top 3 of any game i join, thanks just to the symbiotic relationships that’s formed between the top players and the medic. It’s easy and fun, and my continued playing is hell of a lot determined by the fact that i can do it in the shortest bursts.

    This whole “hunt the achievement” unlock mode will not make me play it for any more than 5 minutes, probably turn me off completely, but i guess it will make the hardcore just a bit more hardcore

  17. Steve says:

    My problem is that some of the achievements sound completely preposterous and either incredibly hard, or only likely achieved through luck.

    “Triage: Deploy an uber-charge on a teammate less than a second before they’re hit by a critical explosive.”

    “Placebo Effect: Kill 5 enemies in a single life while having your uber-charge ready, but undeployed.”

    Not to mention the fact that after this comes out we’ll be seeing two to three times as many medics as we do now. Admittedly not the biggest problem in the world since there are too few medics at present, but going into a full server and seeing two dozen medics is going to get very tiresome, very fast.

  18. RLacey says:

    Oh man… this article utterly crystallises the thoughts I’ve been vaguely having since I heard about the proposed changes.

    Maybe I’m just jealous, since I know I’ll never hit half these achievements (hell, I’ve somehow managed to avoid getting the ‘World Traveller’ achievement yet). The chances of me ever killing 50 medics with a bonesaw is next to zero, anyway. But the whole idea still makes me uncomfortable. Particularly as I like the whole simplicity of the game as it currently stands.

    That said, it’s only going to be the real regulars that ever get anywhere near the final weapon. But I can’t help but feel that, since they’re likely to be better players than me, giving them extra options is just cruel.

  19. Matu says:

    The main counterargument against all the points made thus far: It’s Valve. If you could show me something they have seriously screwed up in the past, I’d be a bit concerned. Until then, we can all sleep well. Or play TF.

  20. Jamie says:

    I like the unlocks, I think it will give me a sense of progression. If I spend a couple of hours playing TF2 I want to be rewarded.

    Can’t wait for the update, does anyone have a release date for this?

    Or at least an estimation?

  21. sana says:

    Shacknews:
    “The new TF2 content is scheduled to go live sometime in the next few weeks.”

  22. Noc says:

    @Sprafa: Why should it change the way you play at all?

    Part of the reason I’m NOT worried about this update is that the Medic works fine as it is. And the unlockables don’t necessarily make the medic BETTER than he was before – a Critzcrieg’d fellow would get demolished by one with a vanilla Ubercharge, the Blutsauger doesn’t really do any more damage (less, actually, without the crits), and using the Ubersaw involves an extremely risky charge into close combat with an inferior weapon. The unlockables don’t lead to a “better” Medic – rather, they open up the possibility of alternative strategies.

    I also suspect that since these are replacing items, you’d have to chose them at spawn . . . so you’d have to know beforehand which version you want to use. So it won’t be like “Okay, I’m a bit low on health, time to swap to the Blutsauger.” I’m also working on the assumption that these new weapons will look noticeably different from the existing ones. So if casual players can learn to differentiate between a Demoman grenade and a mine, then they’ll be able to pick out if they’re being shot at by a needle gun or leech gun.

    And I like most of the achievements, too. They look like they’re layered on top of TF2s existing, if completely unofficial, reward system; when you, Uber someone and then wade into a chokepoint and demolish all in your path, that’s already a really cool moment. The Achievements just itemize the “awesome moments,” and eventually reward you for being wicked cool.

    My only reservation is that a lot of them look like they’re going to be farmed . . . but there’s no avoiding that, since TF2 doesn’t have a “Ranked Matches” system like X-Box Live. And since the unlockes are balanced enough that the fellow with the Ubersaw isn’t going to unequivocally kick everyone’s ass, I don’t think it’ll hurt too much.

  23. Stick says:

    I have similar reservations. (And, yes, reservations about my own reservations.)

    My main gripe is, several of the achievements just aren’t very good ideas. (“Run around killing folks with your Uber at 100%”, “Uber a Heavy and have him *punch* out 4 guys.”)

    Then again, yeah. It’s Valve. It’s not too much of an effort to postpone the panicked screaming and angry letters.

  24. c0wb0ys7y13 says:

    I can already tell that none of these unlocks are going to be allowed into compeditive play. Case in point: the blotsauger trades crits for health leeching, but comp players dont use ubers, so their is no tradeoff. Also, comp players done use crits, so the critzkrieg wouldnt make much sence (unless that would be the ONLY time that anyone could crit, and that might not be ballanced right since you cant crit the critter =P).

    Everytime I see valve make a content boost it helps pub players (who arnt really people) and harms compeditive players (the people who really know how the game is played).

  25. sana says:

    Everytime I see valve make a content boost it helps pub players (who arnt really people)

    Uh, yeah?

  26. Elyscape says:

    I don’t like the idea of unlocks being tied directly to achievements. I think it would be much nicer if Valve either let you have the new weapons without doing anything special or separated the unlocking process from the achievements. That said, I do hope that they add a server variable to disable unlocks, as well as one that gives everyone on the server all of them.

  27. Will Tomas says:

    I agree completely that TF2′s genius lies in it’s simplicity. But I haven’t properly played it for weeks, and I recognise that whilst I like the fact that it’s there, and I will fire it up occasionally, I’d also like there to be people to play with next time I do. So if this keeps people playing is it a bad idea?

    Still, I’d prefer more maps.

    As has been mentioned, though, Valve do seem to be being intentionally silly about the achievements. They’re there to be rediculous. You’re more likely to accidentally fall into some of them than not, and others will only ever be got by truly, truly dedicated players.

    In conclusion… Hmm.

  28. Okami says:

    I was going to write something really clever and witty, but I like RPS flame free, so I’ll refrain from doing so.

  29. Matu says:

    Hey c0wb0ys, People here. And I’d like to know what you mean.

    Thanks.

  30. Smee says:

    10 million heal points?

    That’s…that’s a joke, right? When am I going to unlock that? This time next year?

  31. Jives says:

    Fucking competitive players… seriously

  32. KingMob says:

    I’m unbearably positive about this move. First of all, I play a medic most of the time but I’ll be happy to switch to something else for the next few weeks while everyone else tries out the new toys. And of course I’ll love the new toys myself when I get them.
    Second and on a less selfish note, I think Valve is beginning to cater to a more ‘hardcore’ or at least an ‘intermediate’ audience by introducing new stuff to try to lure them back to TF2. The casuals already spent a month playing TF2, went on to COD4 and so on. The intermediate and hardcore may take this as an excuse to come back, which in the long run is good for the game.
    It’s possible that all games are forced to cater to their niche as time goes on if they want to keep players. Hopefully in TF3 they’ll strip all the complexities out again.

  33. Arathain says:

    I’m most excited about the unlockables. I love getting shiny icons I can collect. I was (and still am, to a degree) dubious about the whole unlockable weapon thing, but the Medic stuff sounds pretty decent, and I’ll reserve judgement until I try it.

    Competitive players are a little odd, aren’t they? Why would you remove so much fun stuff from a game just for some sense of balance? Different priorities, I guess.

  34. MisterBritish says:

    It may end up like the dynamic market thing they did for CS:S. 50% hate the change, 50% don’t mind. I don’t think anyone actually liked it.

  35. Larington says:

    Just to clarify, I asked that question because sometimes it has to be asked. Personally, I wonder if they’ll end up having a traditional setup as it is now and an expanded setup that includes the medic and other later upgrades, configurable by the server admin.

    Time will tell…

  36. Steven Hutton says:

    Everytime I see valve make a content boost it helps pub players (who arnt really people) and harms compeditive players (the people who really know how the game is played).

    Actually, I rather think it’s the competitive players who’re the problem. One of my personal pet peeves is playing on servers with uber or crits turned off or with a class limit. Which is why I simply don’t do that anymore. The general argument I hear is “An unskilled player can beat a skilled player with a lucky crit.” to which the answer is: Yes! Exactly! That’s the whole point!
    The arcane rules imposed by the self declared elites in online games can be a serious barrier to people who want to play and enjoy a game without dedicating their lives to it. I say this having viewed the phenomenon from both sides of the line.
    Warcraft has a particular problem with this hardcore/softcore devide. I’m personally in favour of anything that benfits the softcore gamers. The hardcore are more than capable of taking care of themselves.
    I should note that I also despise players who demand NORUSH in RTS games. I’m not a rusher, but nor am I such a spoon that I can’t protect against a rush and have to take my ball and go home if anyone attacks me before I say I’m ready.

  37. nobody important says:

    Are you guys serious? You honestly believe this will in any way affect the way you approach playing and dealing with medics? It doesn’t matter if you can see what weapon he has BECAUSE IT DOESN’T AFFECT YOU. I highly doubt leeching a measly 3 points of health per hit will make much difference with the kind of damage other classes do. The ubersaw? What are you doing letting him get that close anyway? And the critzcrieg will definitely have a different appearance when activated so you know if he’s still vulnerable. It’s not a bloody big deal people.

    And if you think all the new achievements affect the game’s “simplicity” then just don’t even think about them. They don’t change the actual game.

    I was impressed by the weapons because they are exactly the opposite of what everyone is complaining about. They are perfectly balanced and don’t over-complicate things in the slightest.

    Honestly, I’m as much of a ‘purist’ as anyone. But if you really think about this, only good can come of it.

  38. Margin Walker says:

    One of the things that I have really enjoyed about TF2 is that I didn’t need to worry about points or achievements. Not that unlocks will change anything for me because as a person who plays the game once a week for a few hours, it will take me a long time to get to enough achievements to matter, especially as I don’t play medic all that much. Coming out of playing BF2 for 2 years, this has been exactly the sort of thing that I was looking for that allows me to frag my friends and play for fun. I don’t relish the changes that unlocks are likely to bring a la BF2 point whoring.

    I know that there is already at least one custom map out that plays gold rush as we are running it on our server. I believe that it is called “es_mining” or something similar, and it is fun, although there are about 2 too many checkpoints before the end. It takes everyone a good 5 minutes to figure out wtf is going on the first time they play it, which is entertaining to hear on the comms :D

  39. Radiant says:

    Completely agree with what Gillen wrote.

    Actually to be honest they are probably aiming these tweaks right at the kind of people who play as medics.

    That’s right you people.

  40. nobody important says:

    “it will take me a long time to get to enough achievements to matter, especially as I don’t play medic all that much”

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Enough achievements to matter!? Just because they’re there you HAVE to freak out and obsess over them thus ruining your enjoyment of the game?

    And what you you mean by matter? You believe you won’t be competitive unless you get all the new weapons? Someone explain to me how someone with these weapons has any tactical advantage over anyone else. Please.

  41. Mataway says:

    I’m a full time medic for the most part, so I’m pretty jazzed about these changes. I love medicing, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with spicing the game up a bit. All three new weapons seem pretty balanced to me; I’m really torn about which ones I would use.

    The achievements are intense, but doable. I suspect ones like 4 heavy kills with fists are more doable when he is throwing nothing but crits. Robin Walker has also said they are looking for ways for players who don’t want to deal with the achievements to unlock the weapons, so we’ll see how that goes. I think tying them to achievements makes sense for new players in that they won’t be overwhelmed by optional loadouts to start; they’ll slowly get new toys as they play the class.

  42. Down Rodeo says:

    I’d like to firstly say that I love Valve in an entirely unhealthy fashion so this will likely be a biased comment, but ah well.

    One thing I feel about TF2 is that it is a really deep game; you need to know what you’re doing to get anywhere in it without dying repeatedly (not that that stops me, of course). The difference with TF2 is that it teaches you all these things not only gradually but also very well. I’ve never felt overwhelmed (in terms of information on-screen) when playing a round.

    In terms of differentiating what loadout a medic will be using, the new CC weapon looks pretty different, the “Bloodsucker” is differently coloured I believe and the Critzkrieg will give itself away by the colour of beam (I seem to remember reading in an article). If you think you won’t be able to spot this, you tell me how many spies you’ve shot at and killed because there was something unknowably ‘wrong’ about them.

    Also, even if a lone medic has all three unlocks and you happen across them as a scout you’re still going to beat them to death with the baseball bat. Or attempt to, anyway. Then be a jerk about it by taunting.

  43. wyrmsine says:

    I’m not ambivalent about the changes, in fact, I’m looking quite forward to them… that said, I reckon there’s going to be a steep imbalance curve for a bit when players start picking up that Ubersaw. A three-medic assault combo can already be pretty deadly on it’s own, with rolling ubers and bonesaws. Add to that the tendency for hardcore players to unlock the harder achievements with buddies in a controlled environment, and it looks like a big hill to climb.

    BTW, why do they call them competitve players if they have to change the rules to avoid dying? If you’re that good and someone kills you with a lucky shot, isn’t a respawn just another chance to prove superiority?

  44. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Well, I was simply going to read, nod sagely, and leave, but then someone brought up the issue of “hardcore vs. softcore” players.

    On the level of principle, I can’t say I’m too happy to see TF2 slipping from its simplicity promise. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since I’ve played TF2, mostly because it lacked the addictive “grinding” qualities of other recent shooters.

    I’m also not worried that this harms the casual audience because, well, *I’m* casual to TF2, and I got lured away by simple, if not quite “competitively level” things like unlocks in other games. I imagine it’s only the hardcore that really complains about this sort of thing. The even *more* hardcore impose those rules on themselves that Steven Hutton mentioned. They’re an insular community that turned inwards, while for a community to thrive it needs to grow outwards. And maybe bring in the easily-motivated casuals to come back and aim for those new Medic Achievements. (Only to realize that they’re all quite silly, actually.)

    I can’t quite say I’m “hardcore.” I never could sympathize with–going for the most accessible reference, a console one–Smash Bros. players who impose a number of restrictions on themselves in the name of balance. Nevermind that the developers themselves don’t want things too even, because that way casual players would never have any fun against the superior-skilled hardcore. It’s what led to the fall of the fighting game as an industry, and it’s what makes me afraid of touching any game with a public and loud “hardcore crowd.”

    What does that have to do with this, you ask? Well, er… come to think of it, not much.

    The best Medics will be able to get the Ubersaw, a few will get Critzcreig, and a bunch may get the Blutsauger. While that seems to promote a hardcore more than the casual gaming group, at first glance, you have to remember that the unchanging “level playing field” kind of bored casual players like me. This gives a bone to both groups. A reward for the hardcore’s work, and an exciting and marketable shake up to the status quo to lure back some lost casual players.

    A quick look at the unlocks’ abilities and how they would affect a medic’s performance also seems to imply that these new unlocks don’t make a stronger medic. In fact, they might make a slightly *worse* medic. However, they’re new, different, and provide alternative tactics for people who *aren’t* completely bored with playing the game normally.

    I guess I’m saying that I’m not distressed by this news in the least. On the contrary, as a not-hardcore gamer, I’m actually kind of getting excited to play TF2 again.

    And I think that’s what Valve is trying to aim at, here.

  45. Mark says:

    I like playing Medic. I’m terrible at games so Medic, where I don’t have to aim ever, is the one class that I can pretend like I’m being a bit useful. I can’t wait to try the new weapons.

    Problem is, I can’t get those achievements. I know I can’t. I’m simply a bad player. I will never get to use them. And even if I were good enough, I’m not sure I’d want to take the time out of my normal play-style just to hunt down achievements.

    Unlockables, in general, are bullshit. I just want to play the damn game. Don’t make me work.

  46. caramelcarrot says:

    Having initially had reservations about the CoD4 unlockable system, I have to say it’s quite fun in some ways – if frustrating at times. First, the barrier to progression against people with a higher rank isn’t so high that it’s impossible to progress, I quickly rose through the various ranks as soon as I started playing. For a game with so many weapons, such a system is almost needed, it sort of gives you the opportunity to try out all the weapons.

    However, for a game like TF2, I enjoy occasionally dropping in for a half-hour game. These sort of RPG-items geared towards grinders really doesn’t help. Either they have to be so nerfed that they’re not any different to the other weapons, or they’re too powerful against casual players. One way to go with this is purely cosmetic enhancements as rewards – some of the unlockables in CoD4 are just different styles of camo.

    In addition, balancing a game in which one class might randomly have better weapons seems like a bit of a tricky task.

    Personally I think they should’ve gone with bringing in grenades on a limited scale as a more interesting turn to the game.

  47. wyrmsine says:

    Mark’s post made me think of an alternate way to unlock the new content. It’d be nice if Valve would let you “gift”, say, a Critzcreig. You could always unlock another one…

  48. Chiablo says:

    All I know is… on launch day, there will be 99% medics… and one Heavy named Chiablo getting all of the healing love!

  49. Stick says:

    @Chiablo:

    Heheh. Well, I’ll be hanging up the medigun on launch day, so beware my really healed Pyro.

  50. brainwashed says:

    I’m looking forward to this. I played TF2 obsessively for around 4 months or so, solely on public servers, mostly as the medic, and then it grew stale. I’ll definitely be pulling out the rusty bonesaw when this update is released.

    Only concern – two skilled medics with ubersaws and the standard medigun…. permanent invulnerability while they are getting melee hits. (I actually think this is more hilarious than concerning)