Valve has been announcing the “Über Update” for their iconic shooter Team Fortress 2 over the past week, the biggest part of which was announced yesterday: the fact that the game is now going with a free-to-play model.
In an FAQ, Valve mentions that anyone can download the game and play it for free. These players will become “Free” players, and have limits placed on how many items they can have in their backpacks and other limits. Anyone who bought the game in the four years prior to it going premium, or who buys anything in the in-game Mann Co. store is automatically upgraded to a “Premium” account. People who have owned the game or who buy a retail version will receive a “proof of purchase” hat for an in-game character to wear. People who are pointed out as being helpful to a free player who goes premium will also get a wearable item via the game’s “coaching” feature. To address the potential of more cheaters and “griefers”, Valve will be looking out for exploits that will come from more people playing the game.
Along with the change to a free-to-play system, the Über Update features additional weapons and wearable items for various classes, as well as a new Payload map and the “Meet the Medic” video. It is the largest update in the game’s nearly four year existence.
Some gamers are less than pleased with this announcement, and have taken to the Steam forums to demand a refund. Among their complaints is that there will be a flood of “newbies”, similar to when TF2 had free-to-play weekends to entice new players to buy the game in the past.
Team Fortress 2 was released for the PC and Xbox 360 as a part of The Orange Box in 2007. A standalone retail version was released for Windows in 2008. The game has since migrated to Apple’s OS/X system when Valve created Steam Play for select games to be played in a cross-platform environment. It is among the most critically acclaimed PC games in history.
Analysis: One thing that I never cared for were those free to play weekends, mainly because my games would be flooded with clueless idiots. Even on my clan server, the quality of play died, and the griefers invaded. However, the benefits ultimately outweigh the negatives: it got more people buying Team Fortress 2, who went on to become better players, and keep the game going. Online-only games require a steady influx of new blood, and this will ultimately help that. As for griefer concerns, I recommend clan servers to get around that, even if most of the good clans require paym– er, I mean, a “donation” to get a reserved slot. Ultimately, people demanding a refund and otherwise whining need to get over themselves. Valve fans prove one thing: if you take care of your customers, those customers will bitch like schoolgirls when you do one thing they don’t like.
Of more concern to me is the game’s balance. It’s been awhile since I’ve played TF2, but when when I was playing it, all of the updates were affecting the game’s balance, something that is important in TF2. This time around, some of the updates seem almost unfair. Check out the updates to the Demoman! There are no drawbacks to any of those items that I can see. An already annoying class has just been made invincible, especially since one of the few classes that could affect it (the Pyro) has been neutralized. I see heavy limits on Demos coming on clan servers to counteract an already spammy class.