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Today we're shipping some significant changes to the item drop system.
What are the net effects of these changes? Here's the quick summary:
We're still thinking about how to allow you to influence your drops. When we see discussions on the forums, people often ask why we don't tie it to some in-game performance (like your scoreboard position, or number of kills, etc). Many players understand that if we did this, idle servers would simply change into servers running plugins that generate those in-game events frequently (as we saw in the Soldier & Demoman WAR!).
There's another side of it that we care about just as much, which is the message it would send to all the players who don't want to idle. Any in-game performance metric we chose would result in there being specific maps, classes, tactics, and so on that resulted in more drops. We really don't want that to happen. When it's simply playtime, you're free to play the game however you like. If you love Payload, you can play Payload maps without worrying about whether you're earning less drops than the guys playing Arena maps. Community mapmakers don't have to worry about whether their maps earn item drops fast enough. Similarly, server operators can configure their servers however they like, without worrying about reducing the rate at which their players are earning drops. In short, while it's far from perfect, not tying to in-game performance is a lot less poisonous to your minute-to-minute game experience.