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An Active Solution to an Idle Threat

July 17, 2013 - TF2 Team

Your time is valuable, and the fact that you choose to spend it on Team Fortress 2 is awesome. When we introduced the Item Drop System back in 2009, one of our goals was to reward you for spending your time with us.




We recently made a change that helps ensure players are playing TF2, not just leaving their computers on in order to get item drops. As of last week, players can no longer receive item drops unless they are actively playing the game.


As with any update, this change is meant to keep the game as fair, fun, and rewarding to as many players as possible. We will continue to examine how the Item Drop System is used, and make any adjustments as needed to benefit the players.


Questions and Answers:


  • What is the definition of “actively playing” Team Fortress 2?

    • From an item drop perspective, a player is considered to be actively playing if they meet all of the following criteria:

      • Is connected to a VAC secured server.
      • Is responding to in-game drop notifications while not utilizing external programs to do so.
      • Is running only one instance of the game.
      • Is not in textmode.
    • A player who meets all of those criteria is earning time towards random item drops (subject to the weekly cap).
  • Will I be VAC banned for not actively playing the game, also known as ‘idling’?

    • No, you will not be banned for just idling. You may be banned if you use external programs to circumvent idle detection. See VAC FAQ.
  • Will I lose my drops if I'm idling? Will it affect my weekly drop cap?

    • No, drops are not lost and the drop cap remains unaffected. Players will simply have their item drops paused. Item drops will return when normal play is resumed.
  • Why are you changing how the Item Drop System works?

    • This change is designed to make the TF2 experience equally rewarding for all players. The previous system had flaws that allowed players to collect rewards without actively playing TF2.
  • I don’t idle. How does this impact me?

    • The new system ensures you won’t become disadvantaged for playing TF2 the way you always have.

Move That Update Up!

July 10, 2013 - TF2 Team

Over the last week we've taken you through some of our thinking around maps, weapons and items. We thought you might find it interesting if we walked you through the process we use to ship an update to TF2.


There we go, update shipped.




Move Those Votes Up!

July 9, 2013 - TF2 Team

Three weeks ago, we introduced an item import tool that lets item creators locally verify that their items meet a set of technical and performance standards. This helps item creators ensure that anything they create is more likely to be game-ready; and it also helps the community as a whole, by giving the TF2 team more time to devote to other aspects of the game.


Since we released the tool, this verification process (which grants items a “Gold Star”) has led to over 900 Gold Star Workshop submissions. We've been blown away by the speed and quality of the TF2 community's response.


Thanks to this verification system, we've been able to select a whopping 64 Gold Star items for this coming update. But how do we decide which to ship? Below, we've run this classy-looking Medic coat through a set of questions we ask when reviewing submissions. We hope this will give item creators and everyone voting in the Workshop a bit more insight into our decision-making process.




  • Does the item's vote count show support from the TF2 Workshop Community? This is a big one: We're not going to ship an item that the community has no interest in shipping. (Remember: Even if you're not an item creator, you can help the item selection process by up-voting and down-voting.) Our sample Medic item, for instance, had sufficient support to examine further.
  • Does the item introduce something unique and different compared to items already in the game? The Medic does not yet have a coat cosmetic that makes him look ready to dance the night away as if it were 1776. Let’s check this box as a "Yes".
  • Does the item interfere with class identification? Even in this new coat, the Medic is still easily recognizable as the Medic. The author has taken care not to remove areas that display team colors and has made sure the geometry complements the base character model underneath.
  • How well does it complement other items already in the game? Because the geometry is contained within the Medic silhouette, it will avoid clipping with most other cosmetics, allowing users to customize their look further.
  • Does this item fit well within the TF universe? It might seem at first glance that the TF universe is pretty flexible—flexible enough, anyway, to accommodate a Victorian-era aristocrat costume for the Medic. However, there are limits. Photo-realistic items or overly cartoony items are just two examples of art styles that probably won't mesh with the TF2niverse.
  • Lastly, Is your item Darth Vader's helmet? Because we don't own Star Wars. Here's a comprehensive list of other things we don't own: Everything that's not TF. Luckily, Darth Vader doesn't dress like a foppish 18th century rogue*, so this item's in the clear.

And remember: much like the game itself, the import tool is a work in progress. If you're a Workshop author and want to get advance notice of changes or to request support for new features, make sure to sign up for the brand-new TF Workshop/import tool mailing list.


*Note: We haven't seen Episode VII yet.


Move Those Weapons Up!

July 8, 2013 - TF2 Team

One of our goals as we continue to work on Team Fortress is to support a wide variety of play styles. In order to achieve that, it's been vitally important that the weapons in the game are fun not just to use, but to play against. We want players on both the winning and losing sides of an engagement to feel like their skill is being rewarded. In other words, when someone beats you, it's because they played better, either through pure combat skill, or through their strategic choices in selecting their loadout. Consequently, we are always reviewing both real world player sessions and player feedback to hunt down items that aren't meeting this standard.


We'll be tweaking the stats on dozens of weapons in this next update—but we thought you might find it interesting if we walked you through the decision-making process on a select few.




To start with, let's look at the "banner" items for the Soldier. The most popular of these by far is The Buff Banner, which provides an offensive buff enabling nearby teammates to do additional burst damage. Conversely, The Battalion's Backup, another Soldier "banner" item, is barely ever equipped. The Backup's owner-equip rate is well below what we'd consider healthy, with less than 15% of players who own it ever equipping it. If this data wasn't enough, the feedback we've gotten from the Backup's owners easily corroborates the lack of interest.


Clearly, we needed to bring The Battalion's Backup up to parity with the usefulness of The Buff Banner. Previously, The Battalion's Backup rewarded players for taking additional damage, making it a frustratingly high-risk item. We found that most Soldiers would die well before they were able to build a full charge. When the next update ships, The Battalion's Backup builds up its charge by dealing damage rather than receiving it and provides additional damage resistance while active.




Let's look at another example with the opposite problem: The Dead Ringer. At roughly 80%, the equip rate for the Dead Ringer is staggeringly high. Given the many other items available in this category, this means that players feel they don't have any other viable option but choosing the Dead Ringer. We've gotten emails from players who describe the item as frustrating to fight against, requiring too little skill from the Spies and too much from their opponents.


In our next update, the Dead Ringer will work generally the same way it always has, letting Spies feign death to escape from damage that would have otherwise killed them. However, now any damage the Spy takes after his "death" will decrease the maximum length of time he can spend cloaked. This gives any players chasing the Spy more of an opportunity to catch up and deal a real finishing blow, while also requiring more skill from any Spy trying to make his way to actual safety.




Finally, we'd like to talk about item sets. Historically, item sets have been thematically consistent sets of items that provide a unique gameplay effect when worn together. Unfortunately, these gameplay effects had two negative effects. For one, they limited player choice, making players feel like they would be underpowered if not wearing the complete set. For another, it was a balancing nightmare. An individual item that might be balanced as part of a set could feel underpowered (or overpowered) on its own.


One of the main goals of introducing a new weapon is to give players more choices that will help them explore the game in fun new ways. Set bonuses had the opposite effect, making many players feel constrained in their choices.


Set bonuses also required players to have full knowledge of other players' loadouts, including currently "invisible" items like melee-slot weapons. For example, the Croc-o-Style Kit set bonus gives any Sniper equipping it immunity to headshots. But there was no way for a Sniper to know whether a targeted Sniper had the bonus simply by looking. And this wasn't an isolated problem. Similar issues cropped up around the Scout's Milkman set bonus (extra health) and the Demo's Expert's Ordnance set bonus (extra fire resistance).




For all of these reasons, as part of this next update, we've decided to change the way item set bonuses work. Players have traded for, purchased, and crafted these items, many in order to complete the sets and get these bonuses, and we're not abandoning the bonuses outright. Instead, we've moved the gameplay bonuses to specific items within the sets, and introduced new bonuses to these sets that won't affect gameplay balance.


We look at this as an ongoing process. We want to provide more choices, more variety, and more clarity—all of which will hopefully result in a game that's even more fun. But more importantly, we want the TF2 community to feel as invested in this as we are.
So please, let us know what you think.


Move Those Maps Up!

July 5, 2013 - TF2 Team

If you'd rather not get spoiled on whether or not there's an update coming soon, you'd better not read the rest of this sentence, and you also might want to skip directly to the last paragraph of this post. Then also don't read it, because SPOILER: This post is allllllll about an upcoming update.


First off: this update is going to have a list of patch notes longer than a stalemate on Hydro. Rather than just dropping all of that in your lap with no explanation, we figured we'd spend a few blog posts taking you through some of the soon-to-be-released update content, so you'd get an idea of the process behind some of the changes and additions we're making. Let’s start with maps.


TF2 has been evolving since the day we released it back in 2007. Unfortunately, as players' tactics and abilities have grown, so have the bugs and exploits in some of the maps. For example, since Badwater shipped in The Heavy Update, TF2 has added more than 140 weapons to the game, some of which introduced new capabilities: sentry jumping, rocket jumping with no health cost, the ability to pick up and move your buildings. All of these are just a fraction of the many ways players can now turn maps like Badwater upside down.




It didn't take long before clever players discovered how to use sentry jumping to build on roofs, Jumpers to move quickly behind enemy lines and spawn camp, and sneakily place buildings inside of their spawns. While we love players coming up with new and inventive ways to win, let's face it: It's never fun to be gunned down from above and behind.






And Badwater is just one of the maps with fixes in this update. In fact, the majority of maps in TF2 have gone through the same process. By eliminating these exploits and bugs, players can once again feel like they understand threats and the dangers presented in combat spaces.


Secondly: Sure, it’s great to fix the old maps, but we’re also adding two NEW community-created maps by Ian Cuslidge that, and here's another spoiler warning, are fricking awesome. Introducing two all-new Capture Point maps: Process and Standin. Beyond a great polish, both of these maps offer unique and exciting gameplay; Process with its five streamlined Capture Points and Standin with its triple Cap Point free-for-all.



cp_process


cp_process

These maps were selected by the TF2 team in part for their straightforward and intuitive layouts, and in part because they were a hell of a lot of fun to play. These CP maps were designed with little visual noise, were easy to understand and fun to navigate through. If you're a community map maker and want to see us ship your map, here's another spoiler on how to do that: Make it better than these.



cp_standin


cp_standin