So, in the Team Fortress 2 update on the 23rd of January, something changed. Quickplay changed. Other stuff changed too, of course, because that’s what happens in updates. But this Quickplay change was important. It goes to show that Valve might actually be listening. I’m talking about the Official Servers checkbox. And other stuff.
Alright, does everyone remember the old Quickplay? Of course you do. It wasn’t THAT long ago, unless you started playing Team Fortress 2 on the 23rd of January. Do you remember the Quickplay before that? Maybe not. Originally, as long as you followed a set of rules, such as running official Valve maps and had random critical hits enabled, your server would be eligible for Quickplay and you’d get, essentially, extra traffic for your server. Weirdly, these rules didn’t exclude pay-to-win servers, in which you donate to get game-breaking bonuses. No, not end-of-round immunity, I mean triple speed and infinite ammo. But that wasn’t too common.
Then Pinion and a host of other money-making schemes came along, placing adverts on the MOTD screens. You all remember that. First it was optional. Then you were forced to wait 5 seconds, then 10, then 20, then 30, then full minutes before you could play. After some outrage, things were changed so that using Quickplay meant you could avoid the adverts on the MOTD, but you’d still hear them and have annoying white text on your screen.
But things got worse before they got better. The pay-to-win servers started popping up in huge numbers. Whenever you clicked that Quickplay button, you either ended up in a Valve server, a pay-to-win server like Saigns or the Big Corporate servers like Skial, all with hundreds of servers running 24/7. Some servers managed to get around the no-ads matchmaking option by redirecting players to other servers which DID have ads on, to maximize revenue. On top of that, half the time, you ended up playing with bots instead of actual players. These bots were often disguised as players.
Wait, it gets worse! Valve needed to use their TF2 servers for other things, particularly for Mann VS Machine and the DotA 2 Christmas (Frostivus?) event. The normal Valve server, with its bog-standard vanilla gameplay, went extinct. All that was left were the money-maker servers. Quickplay was not a fun place, and it certainly wasn’t a place for new players.
Alright, you get it now. Really, when you think about it, the few changes in the recent update aren’t much at all. The fact that you can’t be redirected to other servers means that you get what you chose. The Official Servers Only button, which is on by default, means that new players will experience what Team Fortress 2 should look like. Even the Valve servers aren’t that good. But the thing is, we didn’t realise we missed this stuff until it was gone. You know, you miss what you no longer have.
Things are getting better. Better is always a good thing.
Unless you’re one of the nice community servers. Then this might be a bad thing. But I don’t know, I think it’s a bit early to tell yet.