Out-Playing or Out-Thinking Unlocks

Gosh darnit Engineer, why must you STILL be around for me to type an article on? Everyone’s starting to question my relationship with you!

I ain’t leaven’ you alone until you start making your own GMod pictures pardner!

D’oh! Fine then. Where was I? Oh yes, the blog. Well as you all have discovered this Australian Christmas, a bunch of weapons have been changed, the Soda Popper now turns Scout into Rocket J Squirrel during the initiation of his Hype Mode via Alt-fire, Soldier gains maximum health and active health regeneration with the Battilion’s Backup and the Concherer respectively…

BUT FORGET ALL THAT! You all want me to rip the Short Circuit a new one! After all, anyone how knows me know my preference to Soldier as my, as you say, main class. Surely I LOATHE the Short Circuit and how that shock cannon ruining the offensive power and mobility potential of my beloved Soldier and, worst of all, shutting down his hard counter the Demoman right?

Ok, when you put it that way, it’s hard to say no.

In all honesty, I cannot really say since, shock of all shocks, I have been too busy to really play Team Fortress 2 and the times I HAVE gotten to play Team Fortress 2 was limited and prior to every TF2 personality demonstrating it as the best Flamethrower the Pyro will never get. Fortunately, this change has rekindled my thoughts on unlocks.

As most of you are aware, Valve added new weapons for the Medic in the “Goldrush Update” back in 2008 to help breathe some more life into the game with, gasp, new weapons. These weapons were unlocked through progress as in the achievements before future updates added more ways, including the somewhat beloved drop system and the somewhat to the contrary Mann Co. Store. These unlocks originally served to change how the classes played, giving them fresh alternatives to their fundamental gameplay, the Medic became a squadron buster with vampiric qualities of both blood and power, the Pyro terrified explosives with airblasts and everyone else with critical damage through fire of all ranges and so on.

So what is the problem? On paper, there really isn’t! Make some weapons that change play and Valve has us eating out of their hand! The problem is implementation, despite how it looks, trying to balance gameplay to be fair, enjoyable and unique is not an easy feat. First of all, the word “How?”, how should the game be balanced?

With the current class based warfare of Team Fortress 2, you’d think it would function with that in mind: The Demoman destroys the Engineer, the Scout curb-stomps the Demoman and the Engineer annihilates the Scout in a blink unlocks simply need to reverse the relationship and you are laughing. Sadly, this method only works under consistent conditions. Translation, hard counters can make this work.

Sadly, hard counters might be fair, but they are not really enjoyable. What’s that? You want to play Sniper? Well too bad, the enemy team has 12 Spies and the only way you can be useful and not raged against by your team is joining the Pyro brigade. What are you doing sticky-jumping everywhere Demoman? Can’t you see their Pyro Brigade? You and your fun is making all us Heavies on this team lose you ass!

Well, what if we make them all skill indexed? The Rocket Launcher is the best Swiss Army Knife ever known. It does formidable direct damage, it buggers up crowds with splash damage, it helps kick start a game of “Mann Pinball” and it makes for transportation that laughs in the face of safety precautions!

It probably isn’t the best at getting pebbles out of your boots, but whoever used Swiss Army Knives for that?

And sure, making weapons that are always skill-indexed is great, hell the competitive community might actually use those weapons then. There is a problem though, you can often get two kind weapons: the redundant ones that are barely anything different from the Stock weapons like the Original, and the forgotten which are seen as great weapons but “I think Stock is just better/easier”, sure there have been one weapon you can all think of the latter applying to right?

So, when you are a developer that has the meta of class counters combined with the promotion of skill index, how are you supposed to balance all of these weapons? Do you make your weapons encourage players to out-play each other? Out-think each other? Out-idle each other?

Hey, if the Engineer can go toe to toe with a Soldier and no Sentry to help, a weapon that is countered by idling can’t be too absurd!

Demoman may disagree…

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