On Grenades

 

Note: To live a long and healthy life, The Daily SPUF encourages you not to spend your time literally on grenades.
Note: To live a long and healthy life, The Daily SPUF encourages you not to spend your time literally on grenades. Picture by Medic.

 

Let’s cut right to the chase: Grenades were famously removed from Team Fortress 2. Why? I’ll let Adrian Finol of the Hydro Developer Commentary speak for me:

One of the main changes between Team Fortress Classic and Team Fortress 2 was the removal of thrown grenades.
Most classes could carry a standard hand grenade along with a secondary grenade, tied more closely to the class. Team Fortress 2’s focus on unique class roles led us to notice that the standard hand grenade was a more powerful combat decider than some of the primary weapons. This made the classes more similar in combat-not a desired effect. In addition, when we looked at some of Team Fortress Classic’s map stalemates, they often resulted from large amounts of grenade spam. Two cases were particularly problematic: That of players throwing grenades repeatedly through doorways, hoping to kill any enemies who might be there, and players on the verge of death throwing all their grenades in rapid succession, hoping to get a kill after they die. Removing standard hand grenades made the game more fun almost immediately, especially for new players who were often confused as to why they died, when a grenade went off at their feet. When we examined the class-specific grenades, we found similar problems. Eliminating them from playtests gave us yet another boost in making the game more fun. Once we’d decided on removal, we analyzed each class to see what capabilities might have been lost as a result of the decision. In some cases we added other capabilities, where we felt a class had lost the ability to make some interesting decisions, related to its special grenade type.

Like shotguns, throwable grenades have been a staple of first-person shooters, but not one that came from Doom. The earliest back I can find them is Duke Nukem 3D,which contained ‘pipebombs’, improvised weapons Duke could throw and detonate on command. Before they were detonated, they could be destroyed via gunfire or (if you’re a ballsy motherer) picked up, wherupon they would switch allegiance and join your inventory for throwing. The Terminator: Future Shock had the more standard throwing grenades we’re all familiar with, though you couldn’t ‘cook’ grenades by holding them and they would detonate immediately on a direct hit with an enemy, something most modern grenades will not do (unless fired from a grenade launcher).

Grenades were a part of the earliest Team Fortress build, back when it was a Quake mod. These grenades could be cooked but lacked throwing animations; they just kinda emanated from the center of your body and rolled along the floor. This was justified as Quake itself had no grenades and therefore no throwing animation. Team Fortress Classic, being a Half-Life mod, is less-justified in having the same visual problem. However the limitation Quake put on Quake Team Fortress ultimately helped the game because it forced them to classify the grenade as something other than an ‘equipped weapon’ per se; you didn’t have to switch to them like your other loadout items, you merely press a unique key and your dude cooked/flung one regardless of whatever item you were holding at the moment. This proved vital for QTF/TFC flag runners who were designed to keep the enemy at bay long enough to cook a grenade and then just fly away into the night, as it’d be quite annoying to have to be weaponless every second you were priming and preparing grenades. It also fit with the ammo system, since the backpacks/crates scattered around the map granted you all types of ammo except grenades, and grenades needed their own unique pickup.

This added a peculiar bug when playing Half-Life DM maps in TFC. The server first stripped all weapon pickups from the map...but grenades weren't weapons so they stayed. These 'phantom grenades' could be picked up but not used.
This added a peculiar bug when playing Half-Life DM maps in TFC. The server first stripped all weapon pickups from the map…but grenades weren’t weapons so they stayed. These ‘phantom grenades’ could be picked up but not used.

Fun fact: Ever wondered why TFC Sniper was the only class without a custom secondary grenade? He actually had a Flare in QTF that functioned as a secondary grenade; it would hit a wall and light everything up around it. This was removed because TFC gave everyone a flashlight, plus maps don’t really have dark places so a flare would be wholly unnecessary.

Few TF2 players wouldn’t disagree with the gist of Yachtzee’s words when he elegantly says “The complete omission of grenades…means that new players don’t feel alienated by those tiresome obsessives who were all mastering the fiddly little bastards while everyone else is out having sex with girls.” But there was one class whom the removal of grenades created a large balance problem, and that was the spy. Since they weren’t weapons, a spy could throw a grenade without losing his disguise, and this was a huge part of his role as a sentry buster. But with the removal of grenades, the TF2 Spy had no real method of using his ample stealthing abilities to counter Engineer. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Picture by TwistedGrim.
Picture by TwistedGrim.

So there’s your random TF2 fact for the day; the Sapper was added to replace the Hand Grenade. That would have been a great fact to stick in the sapper entry in Things You May Not Know About Stock Weapons.

This article is part of my “On Shooters” series, where I compare multiple games by focusing on a specific game mechanic or developer objective. To read the rest, click here!

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