Thursday, June 23, 2011

The TF2... Insult?

Let's get this out of the way. People aren't as dumb as I give them credit for. Which is why, for the past six months or so, there hasn't been a "Monthly Retard Jamboree". (Monthly is used loosely here... it's really tri-yearly, when you think about it, but hey, give and take). It seemed that, despite my best efforts, I didn't find anything dumb enough to truly make an issue of. My "the internet is a dank squalor" analogy didn't hold up like I had initially considered it would. Perhaps for the better, the internet is not as stupid as I thought it was.

Then Team Fortress 2 went Free to Play.

Fanboys. Eurgh. Fans, I can handle. Fans care about the things they're fanatic about, without making compromises so that thing can properly adjust itself. It's within yet without, if that makes any sense - which it doesn't, but I felt like paraphrasing the Beatles there. For example, though - I'm a fan of Star Wars. Big fan. Love the games, the books, the films. Great sci-fi franchise. But because I don't compromise my own integrity, I can happily say George Lucas is a hack of a filmmaker and that the original prequels and their canon plots are just plain... horrible. I'm still a fan of Star Wars, but I still know how to be outside it.

Fanboys, on the other hand, burrow themselves in deep to what they love and stick there. This breeds one or two things - one, self-entitled assholes, and two, false senses of smug superiority. In the case of Team Fortress 2 going free, pretty much every comment on every article, YouTube video, Twitter wall, Facebook post, was a "how dare Valve not treat their loyal customers with respect!" or "this is fucking lame! Fuck you Valve!" or, in very extreme cases, people threatening to uninstall Steam. Now, there are a few issues - if minor - so I'd like to comb through and maybe shed some light on what fanboys - yes, fanboys - are calling "the TF2 Insult".

People Who Paid Full-Price For Team Fortress 2 Should Be Compensated for their Purchase Now Being Void

Pulling the carpet out from under faithful, paying customers is just... well, awful. There, I said it. If Valve had any respect, they would not take the game they released for $60 at launch and make it free for everybody. This essentially means, if you are a long-time supporter of Team Fortress 2 from its inception, whether you pre-ordered it or what, the purchase you made - and thus, the money towards said purchase - has been removed completely from you. This game is everyone's now, after all.

What. Utter. Tripe. I take issue with this idea, because Team Fortress 2 is not the game you paid for at launch, anymore. It has changed. It's evolved. It's devolved, in a lot of cases, too. But point remains - this isn't Team Fortress 2 as you supported it. But, I suppose you must be compensated regardless. The game's not the same, but the purchase is, and that's $20 down the stinker, surely.

There are two parts to this. One, sure, the product itself is free now, but I don't know if you recall that when you bought Team Fortress 2 that you played it. You played the hell out of it. You were probably freakin' addicted at one point, as well all inevitably were. In which case, I want you to look at the hours played that Steam says you've spent on Team Fortress 2. I think the average Team Fortress 2 fan has accumulated at least 300+ hours, right? There are people who have spent 1000+ hours. Some people have played every day since the game was in beta. So, surely your $20 went towards playing the game. Those people who get it for free now are not playing that game, because that was your game. Those are your gameplay hours, your experiences. You paid for a game, and I'm willing to bet you got a massive timesink you didn't even know you wanted. That can never be taken away.

Also, it might be a little redundant - or even just downright ignorant - to say "Valve should support its loyal fans!", because for 3 years they have been doing that. Free updates. According to Valve, more than 200+ patches and addons. The game has gone from 4GB to more than 11GB, and it's expanding damn rapidly. Are you saying that, in that time, Valve didn't "support" their fans? Valve didn't care about you? Are you saying that they still aren't going to care about you well into the future? Just because a game is free doesn't mean they won't care about customers, and they do care about customers. It's the reason they did anything, they didn't have to do The Gold Rush Update, they could've just left the game as it is! No, they do what they do for their fans. They have supported you. They will continue to support you. It sounds cheesy, but I genuinely believe... they love you.

Noobs Will Clog Our Servers

At time of writing, servers are clogged. But, will it be clogged with any more "noobs" than if the game was on sale? I mean, last time I checked, being unable to buy a game (or unwilling to buy a game) doesn't mean that you're bad, or unwilling to learn. Sure, a few more people who are terrible will join, they always do, but who's to say people who are good won't join, too? They'll all be newbs, but we'll also get refugees from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of The Orange Box, no doubt. Team Fortress 2 will be clogged, overloaded, until servers can fight rising player numbers, but really, will it make the game worse? Is "too high" a player count hurtful to the game, in the long run? Of course it isn't. It's one of the best possible things that could happen to any online shooter.

I'm pretty saddened about this kind of rift. With a solid, patient community already in Valve's hands, you'd think that reaching out to a hell of a lot more wouldn't be an issue. Taken at face value, everyone who has wanted to try Team Fortress 2 has already done so. What bothers me is that these "old" fans, the ones who should be the most mature about letting in newbies, seem to have made it their business - whether they realize or not - to split the community in two. I mean, not all players are ridiculous like this, in fact I'm sure the silent majority will be mature and well-mannered to all who join new. But this very vocal, very aggressive segregation of - well, hate to use the term again, but fanboys - will spell their own doom by making a stand as those who rightfully deserve more. It's disappointing to see how shallow some people can be in what is otherwise just a simple old change of management.

Valve Are Idiots

No. I am a massive Valve fan, and looking at Valve from the outside, no. They aren't idiots. In fact, with Steam domineering the digital distribution market, they are easily the smartest, most self-productive development studio in the game industry today. Are they good people? I can't be sure. From the outset, yes, and they definitely care about their art. ...but in a way, it is a business, and their business model is wildly successful. No matter what they do, they wouldn't dare jeopardize that for anything.

But Valve's QA is amazing. I know, for a fact, that Valve does not make rash decisions. They do everything as slowly and methodically as possibly; they plan, they scheme, they make sure every piece of a puzzle is in place and then perfectly stitch it together. It doesn't work all the time, but it gauntness that they never make dumb decisions. They always look back at their old models, they learn from mistakes, they change themselves from the inside out to accommodate their ultimate goal of products as a service. Team Fortress 2 has long been their go-to for experimentation of core structures and such, but nothing that falls in the game has ever been put in without tremendous amount of hindsight and foresight. It's never perfect, and I'll say it again - with all that Valve has done with Team Fortress 2, I don't think it will ever culminate in one perfect, well-defined polish. It's lost a vision. But regardless, everything Valve has done, it has done for reasons. Smart reasons. Valve ain't dumb - they're the smartest businessmen and artists in the field. And they at least deserve massive props for that.

The Bottom Line

Really, though. Team Fortress 2 is free now? That's great news. It has, and always will be, a fun, enjoyable, team-based action-shooter. Is it a little bloated now? Yes. Are Valve's practices just a little shady? Only as shady as you allow it, I suppose. And has Valve made the right choice by doing this? ...absolutely. This isn't an insult at all, it's just an evolution in the way Valve does business.

You can legitimately complain that it's not the product you paid for, that Valve has disregard for a huge amount of relentless fans who deserved perhaps a little more warning, or at the least, compensation for the loss of a purchase. ...but if nothing else, take from this that Team Fortress 2 will never be the same, ever. It's Valve's goal - gaming as a service. It will constantly try to uphold this promise, even if it is perpetual. The game isn't perfect, and likely never will be. But the men behind it deserve better for what they have done than slobbering, self-entitled dicktwats who know nothing about what they're arguing about. Complain was you wish, but remember that Valve only ever did right by you.

Oh, also, surely Meet the Medic is worth all the hubbub. I mean, fuck. My ribs hurt from laughing.