A lot of games show you your killing stats by default. Originally Team Fortress 2 wasn’t one of them. Then Valve decided they’d like to try making some money and in the Uber Update placed a single key between you and the stat-tracking weapon of your dreams. Like it or not, this was amazingly successful. They followed up on this by adding stranges (and most of the other item qualities) into Dota 2 when that totally-not-a-sequel-to-anything-owned-by-Blizzard became a thing. However, while I don’t play Dota 2 myself (I tried it once but I didn’t inhale) I’ve heard from my friends that stranges didn’t really catch on. Unusuals did (one glitched courier sold recently for $38000, and then hilariously got patched into just a regular not godly-tier unusual 15 days later) but the community in general doesn’t put a lot of stock or value on the stat-tracking items in the way the Team Fortress 2 community did.
Why is this? Well, in an effort to get some trading cards, I jumped back into Dota 2 for a brief period of time, and even bought a strange for research purposes. After speaking to some of my Dota 2-playing friends and exploring the differences between the two strange economies. Here’s what I’ve come up with for the disparity.
Note: I am not trying to criticize Dota 2, nor am I saying TF2 is better just because their strange economy is more thriving. I admit to being far more knowledgeable about one game than the other, and I’m writing for a TF2 audience. Nevertheless I’ve taken steps to keep this article accurate and have had it beta read by two of my Dota 2 friends.
Stranges in TF2:
Before we talk about stranges in Dota 2, let’s cover what they did in their parent game. Stranges were announced by Valve as primarily stat-trackers; learn how good you were at certain weapons and show off your prowess to your friends! Of course, it was quickly this second feature that everyone grew attached to. Despite the ridiculous easiness of farming them, many wanted to show ludicrously high numbers and increasingly-congratulatory prefixes in their killfeeds. With the ever-increasing amount of silver botkillers entering the market, it’s also pretty cheap and easy to afford the primary 9 weapons that you would need to track most of your action in the game.
Stranges in Dota 2:
Nominally, stranges are for the exact same purposes as in TF2. But the game itself does not support the second feature nearly as much as TF2 did. For one, when you kill somebody, they get to see a portrait of your player character, but said portrait does not display your strange weapons unless you feel like clicking through the profile for some reason. Also, rank upgrades are not broadcast in anyway, meaning that really the only person who will ever notice your stranges are yourself. Also, cross-character stranges are unheard of. TF2 is the same way, but there are only 9 classes in TF2. The dozens and dozens of player characters in Dota 2 make any given strange a pretty paltry unit of your arsenal.
Also, there’s something of a difference in the way player attitude approaches the two games. I had a wonderful conversation with Nethero about this, and he brought up a good point; the third-person bird’s eye POV of Dota 2 is far less immersive than the first-person POV of TF2. In TF2, the camera and the map combine to make you feel as if you are on the battlefield, and every kill with your strange weapon feels like something you did. In Dota 2 it feels more like you’re merely sending orders to the little guy down there, which is no better or worse a mindset but it doesn’t condone itself to caring as much about the stats on the character’s weapons.
On the other hand, the thriving of Dota 2 unusuals makes perfect sense. At least you can see your own cosmetics in that game.