Ever since the Two Cities Update, the face of Mann Versus Machine has been invariably altered. With the obscene buffs the Medic and Soldier received from this update (I’ll complain less about the Medic, because he really needed some love, and now he’s basically indispensable), MvM, for some, has come to an irritating middle-ground, where the older missions, namely Operation Steel Trap (and, to some extent, Gear Grinder. Yeah, remember them? Me neither) have become laughably easy, or something you run through with your friends as six Demoknights for a chuckle, and the newest missions are hair-pullingly difficult. To me, and hopefully at least one of you, this is bogus.
As someone who has sunk a considerable part of their TF2 experience into MvM, I remember the soul-crushing agony of trying to find a match on the night the update dropped, those encounters with blokes who had been on the same Expert Mission server for three hours trying to find a winning team, being a bloke who has been on the same Expert Mission server for three hours, and screaming in unison with the Announcer when an Engineer bot showed up (more on them later). And now, after slaving away at Empire Escalation for as many hours as I once had at Mannslaughter, I realized that, with all these updates to the Medic and Soldier, going back to those missions and still expecting a challenge would be impossible.
That being said, there are things that are positively infuriating about the way MvM currently works that could also make the experience more enjoyable. So, I’m going to propose some changes Valve could make to the way MvM works in order to keep MvM (all MvM) exciting for players at all levels, as well as improve the experience over all.
Changes to MvM That Will Make It More Fun:
- Buff The Spy (And Maybe Sniper) in The Next Major Update. Self explanatory. As a Spy main, I have a little journal by my bed with a tally mark in it for every time I’ve joined an MvM game as a Spy and heard someone say in a disgusted, disdainful tone “Spy?” or “Ugh, not Spyyyyy!” or even better “I’d rather have a Battle Medic!” It goes without saying that this journal is veritably filled with tallies. The Support classes need some, well, support! Valve did good by The Medic with the Two Cities Update, turning him from a class that no team wanted to the class that every team needs. It’s time to give the others the same treatment! I’ve always thought of a single, 500-600 point upgrade for the Knife akin to the Sniper’s Explosive Headshot would be interesting. Perhaps a Sapper upgrade that marked targets for death to increase it’s usefulness against giants? Transferring the Demo’s recent acquisition of Push Force resistance could be a fun solution for getting pushed away by Giant Soldiers whilst backstabbing them. Perhaps even… [crowd gasps in anticipation] Invis. Watch upgrades?
- Only Use Engineer Bots On Maps Designed For Them. Kind of a minor gripe, but boy golly is this one annoying on Disintegration (the Decoy mission in Mecha Engine). In a map where the default locations for Engineer Bots to build their sentries have direct lines of sight to the two bridges leading out of spawn, as well as any location your own Engineer might have built his teleporter, any stray engineer is going to kill one or two of your squishier teammates without them even knowing he was there. The behavior of the Engineer Bots spawning seemingly endless sentry guns during the initial phases of Waves 3, 4, and 6 in Empire Escalation is either poorly executed mapping and frustrating, or deliberate and even more frustrating.
- Add Ammo Regeneration. I seriously don’t know why this isn’t an upgrade. According to the TF2 Wiki page on the Upgrade Station, the files for an upgrade that restores a percentage of the player’s Ammo every so often are already in the game’s code. It’s about time they were used! Soldiers, Pyros, Heavies, and Demomen would eat up a boost like that.
- Stop Allowing Übered or Otherwise Invulnerable Enemies to Pick Up The Bomb. This one is also pretty obvious. How many times has a wave halted because an errant bullet struck an Über Medic attached to a Giant Pyro, who then promptly waltzed right through your defenses, murdered your own Pyro before he could do anything about it, and deployed the bomb with full health? If your answer was “more than once”, that’s good enough to justify this change. It’s a cop-outy way to make waves (lookin’ at you, Empire Escalation 5) that are already difficult even more so, often unnecessarily so, or to steal a potential victory.
Changes to Existing MvM Missions to Make Them More Fun, While Still Preserving Difficulty:
- On Older Advanced Missions, Reduce The Amount of Money Available to Players. This is the first solution because it’s probably the weakest of my three suggestions. Between Rocket Specialist and the Projectile Shield, Intermediate and Advanced waves that once provided enough challenge to be enjoyable are now laughably easy. This solution provides players with enough money to still buy decent upgrades, but not enough to fully kit themselves out, encouraging them to play smarter, and manage their character with limited resources.
- Apply The Two Cities Upgrades to Only The Two Cities Maps. This next one is exactly what it says on the tin. The Two Cities Maps, Mannhattan in particular, are difficult enough to warrant the upgrades added with them. Every other map is not (Except maybe Wave 666). The obvious solution is to simply only apply the upgrades introduced in the Two Cities update to missions played on the Two Cities maps. On the afternoon this article was written, a few friends and I went off and played one of the Intermediate Two Cities Mission, Big Apple Barricade, and it was laughably easy, so maybe it’s just the Advanced missions that require these upgrades.
- Allow Players to Alter The Difficulty Themselves. This one would arguably take the most effort on the part of the developers, but I think would ultimately be the most beneficial and fun. Giving the players the ability to modify the health, damage, crit-boosted-ness, move speed, and support bots themselves would offer players tons of variety and a different experience each time they played, even if it’s the same map, as well as providing as much a challenge as players want without being frustrating.
- Change Descriptions of Missions to Accurately Reflect Their Difficulty. If you were like me when you saw the Two Cities Update roll out, you saw that both missions were labelled “Advanced.” I figured that this mission, like the Big Rock advanced missions before it, would be a bit more difficult than the ones before it. Then I looked at the wave break down, which I’ve provided below here, juxtaposed against the first wave of the Expert mission Desperation. I’d like Valve to re-asses their classifications of the waves which, in the long run, will help all sorts of players. With more accurate descriptions of waves, newer players will be less likely to be sorted into games above their skill level, and veterans will be able to find more veterans much more efficiently.
Valve knows we love Mann Versus Machine. I know I love Mann Versus Machine. All of MvM. The Two Cities update was an excellent addition to the game, and I hope nothing I’ve said would indicate anything else. I’m just noticing that the older missions are getting swept under the rug as the Eternal Machine that is TF2 marches on into the future.