A lot of gaming news sites and blogs trumpet Valve as one of the finest developers in the industry, regularly producing excellent games and otherwise shitting gold. Iâ€™ve certainly suggested that I think of them highly, both here and elsewhere.
Recent events have shifted this view of mine somewhat â€“ particularly the Team Fortress 2 Scout update.
I donâ€™t think I would draw much ire if I were to state that TF2 isnâ€™t a great competitive game (regardless of what my review says; it was written when I wasnâ€™t really knowledgeable about the game, and I should probably delete it). The game, in the form that itâ€™s played on public servers, tends to revolve around explosive/flamethrower spam, choke points and the use of ubercharges to get past these choke points. The presence of the ubercharge is pretty much the only reason why the game even holds together at this level, if you ask me â€“ itâ€™s the only tool available to get through chokepoints and break stalemates, outside of perhaps an unusually coordinated Spy rush. And letâ€™s not forget about critical hits and random damage.
(The competitive format of the game has none of these problems. obviously â€“ the 6 vs 6 format and class limits on Demomen and Medics mean that spam never becomes an issue. And of course, crits and random damage are turned off)
So given that the ubercharge is pretty much a tool designed to break stalemates (a design goal specifically called out by Valve in their developer commentary for TF2), I have no idea why they thought that giving the Scout a new weapon that would basically nullify ubers would be a good idea. The motivation behind this weapon (and at least one of the other unlocks) seems to have been â€˜the Scout doesnâ€™t survive too well in the spam-dominated public game environment, so letâ€™s give him something to cope with them.â€™
As if that wasnâ€™t enough, the same weapon basically makes the Heavy useless. He already has trouble dealing with Scouts when he doesnâ€™t have his gun spun up, and now heâ€™s basically a walking bullseye target when he does have his gun spun up.
If anything, that betrays a key flaw in the way Valve is approaching TF2 balance â€“ competitive games should be balanced with high-level play in mind. More often than not games that are balanced for high level play (Starcraft, Quake III Arena, any number of great fighting games) end up being good games at lower levels too. Instead of trying to balance the game for pubbers they really should be balancing it according to the needs of competitive players â€“ for instance, making the Heavy, Sniper, Pyro, Spy and Engineer more viable in high-level play than they are now. Granted, if they had done this, the game would probably not be anywhere near as popular as it is now, but shouldnâ€™t good design trump marketing considerations?
On another Valve note â€“ Left 4 Dead.
Iâ€™ve been playing Versus mode a lot recently, and I have to say that playing as the Infected is great fun. Thereâ€™s nothing quite like when a good plan comes together. Unfortunately, the other half of the experience â€“ the Survivors â€“ is considerably less interesting. The best strategy is to camp in a corner or a chokepoint while spamming your melee attack. Melee attacks donâ€™t do that much damage, but they do keep you from taking damage rather effectively, and you can basically spam it infinitely. In theory the Smoker is supposed to counter this tactic, but smoked Survivors can easily be freed by hitting them with a melee attack, and you only ever have at most one Smoker on the Infected team. I really think that the melee attack needs to be given a longer cooldown, or they need to have some sort of timer that prevents you from melee-ing non-stop.
On a side note, Iâ€™ve recently been playing Quake Live, and if anything itâ€™s revealed to me how terrible I really am at multiplayer FPSes. Of course, Iâ€™ll be playing it a lot more because itâ€™s basically Quake III, and Quake III is awesome.