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Team Fortress 2's latest strike against bots is silencing new players

If Team Fortress 2‘s last update cut the fingers off the game’s unruly bots, then Valve have followed it up by cutting out their tongues. This week’s update for the venerable hat-blaster has doubled down on muting suspicious accounts, removing voice chat from players who’ve had their text privileges removed. But while that might keep the troublesome bots at bay, it seems some unlucky new players have been left without a voice in the teamwork-heavy shooter.

This week’s update comes as something of a renewed push to make TF2’s lobbies a bit less miserable, even if Valve haven’t exactly communicated as much. Last month, the scant handful of Valve employees keeping the violent hat collector ticking pushed an update to crack down on TF2’s racist bot problem by preventing “certain new accounts” from using the game’s text box.

In the patch notes for yesterday’s update, Valve are now doubling down on that action (cheers, PCGamesN). On top of being blocked from text communication, those same suspicious accounts have now been locked out of using TF2’s voice chat. In hindsight, it’s sort of wild that wasn’t already the case – what’s to stop a muted player from picking up a microphone – but fair play for getting around to it.

Unfortunately, like this mute also extends to TF2’s voice commands – in-game character barks for things like taunts, healing requests, calling out spies and such. With little to differentiate a legitimate new account from a potential nuisance, players like Redditor Cool_Doggy have found that free-to-play TF2 accounts can no longer even say a simple “thanks”. Later comments in that thread suggest this was to stop bot accounts from flooding both the chatbox and your headphones with noise, even if Valve put those sounds there for good reason.

While it’s good that steps are being taken against unruly robots, it’s a blunt approach that’s coming at the expense of new players – folks who’ve seemingly now found themselves completely unable to communicate with their team. It seems like restrictions are lifted once an account goes Premium (attained by buying something from the in-game store), but for the time being, newcomers may have to get used to playing Team Fortress 2 without the teamwork.

At least, until Valve can find a more nuanced solution to their robot problem.

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Natalie Clayton

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