Who is balancing this game anyway?!

Never. Give. The. Weld. Tool. To. Pyro.
Never. Give. The. Weld. Tool. To. Pyro.


Recently, Team Fortress 2 had an update  delivered to the game that changed some content, including changing how Quickplay is used, however something that really interested me was the weapon changes, or rather the change to the Short Circuit.

Underlined for easier reading.
Underlined for easier reading.

Now reading this somewhat confused me. Wasn’t the entire point of the Engineer’s beloved Short Circuit to make him more effective at safe-guarding his nest by more actively partaking in the defensive process? Why implement a downside that seems to discourage the Engineer playing defense?

I then started to think back to the Short Circuit’s use after recent reiterations, back when the Engineer’s Short Circuit was getting flak as an overpowered taser, people were suddenly more aggressive with their weapon. Suddenly, Shock Trooper Engineers tried to go Fat Scout (ok, maybe fat is a little harsh…husky, that’ll do) on Demomen or even some Soldiers and trap them in a corner with a deadly voltage! The weapon seemed to focus more on dealing a significant value of damage, while scaring these confused bombers with having their beloved explosives disappear.

An update later, the Short Circuit was given an increased consumption of metal upon destroying a projectile. While that undoubtedly stinted Engineers who tried to play defensively, it was disputable that those on the field felt much harm. Sure the victim could attempt to diffuse the damage dealt against them by firing back, but it didn’t seem to change these Husky Scouts’ strategy too much, now they simply needed to play like the Pyro and switch to their shotgun to finish off the wounded enemy…assuming they weren’t dead already.

Then this update came out, essentially turning the Short Circuit into an offensive secondary from the original concept of being a quirky defensive tool. Could it be that Valve presented an idea – A, the community said “We want B!” and Valve in turn made the switch?

The answer could very easily be yes!

Community and Communication in Games-As-Services (Presented by Robin Walker)

Linked is a YouTube video on the Steam Dev Days that has been released rather recently (or as recently as this post) at a point where Robin talks about a concept he calls “Bi-Directional Communication” with the example of the Gunslinger in the Engineer update teaser trailer. For those who though I just linked a screamer and refuse to trust me I will summarise by saying this:

When the teaser trailer was announced, the community was abuzz, particularly over the sketch of the Gunslinger behind the Engineer. This sketch, which initially was supposed to be used to conceptualise the robots for their Mann vs. Machine update, was turned into an Engineer update weapon because Valve discovered the community thought that the Gunslinger was supposed to BE a weapon. It made sense to the community, it was a right sided mechanical hand featured in the Engineer’s video, since we know the Texan has a thing for mechanical thingimajigs AND the Engineer always covered his right hand with a glove that just HAD to be true!

And when word got back to the development team that the community found this as fact, no sooner said was it done and it turned from possible cosmetic robot design into the melee weapon we all know and love today.

Gunslingers VS Highlanders IV
Don’t you feel so much better knowing that?

On topic, this could explain the balancing methodology Valve is taking with Team Fortress 2! They release a weapon (or more accurately with recent times, a CHANGE to a weapon), we play with it and start discussing, Valve in the shadows catches wind of our stance on the weapon and tries to make it true!

However, there IS a problem with standing by the idea that this is true, and it can be easily seen, once again, in the recent update change notes:

Once again, highlighted for your convenience!
Once again, highlighted for your convenience!

The Natascha, for those who do not partake in the ritual of scouring the entirety of this blog’s titular forum frequently, is a Heavy primary weapon unlockable that slows down targets it damages with the trade-off of dealing less damage than its original counterpart, Sasha (along with a rev up speed equal to that some say of the pre-119th update Sasha. Which is a bad thing). The problem with this weapon, along with a few others in a similar position, is that the community is generally under the belief that the core mechanic, in Natascha’s case the slowdown, is either just not fun or is too difficult to capture a perfect, viable balance. In spite of this, Valve refuses to address that factor.

Why? Well, I am afraid I cannot tell you, it might be that the production team doesn’t have the heart to tell the programming team that “hey, you know that slowdown mechanic you slaved and toiled months on end to get working in stable condition for the Natascha? Weeeeeell, the community loathes it, it has to go!”, it might be they are worried of confusing more casual or new players with radical weapon changes, it might be that such a change to the weapon would encourage removing weapons altogether since such a great change to the weapon’s function may as well be a new weapon entirely or it might be that they just want to still feel like they have some control over in-game balance.

Whatever the case, it is something I am curious to see contemplated. Could this lead to a brighter future for the game balance? Could we indeed see Demoknights suddenly all getting the radical mobility once exclusive to joypad exploits or the like, with the booties being re-purposed as Demo-Gunboats? Could the Heavy finally get a core mechanic that makes him more skill indexed regardless of weapon choice? Will the Soldier finally have primary weapons with balancing and purpose to the point that good Soldiers won’t swear exclusively to the Stocket Launcher or its Chest Burster counterpart?

ARGH! Why can’t I stop asking questions?!

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