Why the Heavy Failed

Heavy has a lot of issues...
Heavy has a lot of issues…

The Heavy arguably represents the most argued aspect of TF2, perhaps only next to the mutilated pile of animal bones that may have once been the random critical horse. From Xxx360tommy420 to ESEA invite players, Heavy has been called overpowered, boring, painful to fight against,  painful to play, and many more terms that may not pass the pink hearts filter. So why is heavy so, for the lack of better terms, broken?

At the stock level, Heavy appears to be a kind of anti-scout. Sustained rather than burst damage, cripplingly slow speed rather than mobility, track rather than twitch, the comparison fits quite well; even to the point of brainlessness rather than skill. Heavy’s failure at the stock level is largely one of depth. He is a class bound by statistical upsides and crippled by his own uniqueness. To understand this we must first make a few key distinctions in the definitions of each class. The first being the difference between a statistic and an ability or a unique attribute. A statistic is, for the purpose of this thread, a constantly present value that exists outside the bounds of player ability or experience. Health, base movement, basic damage all fall under this category. The second category, is for lack of better terminology, an ability. The reason for which I state for lack of better terminology is the fact that ability confers some positive connotations. A much more accurate term for this would rather be “unique attribute”.  A unique attribute is an aspect of a class that may either limit or enhance it, is qualitative in nature, and is impacted by player skill. Therefore, we can conclude that all features of a class can be broken down into the quantitative statistics and the qualitative unique attributes.

Now that we have a way to break down the features of each class into categories, we can do so to more clearly identify the Heavy’s problems. For the purposes of comparison, we will break down both the Heavy, considered unbalanced by many, and the soldier, who is generally considered the most balanced class at stock level.

Heavy statistical values

  • 300 HP
  • 77% base movement
  • 500+ DPS

Soldier statistical values

  • 200 HP
  • 80% base movement

So they are not that different right? While not the most insightful look into these classes we can see that they are not too far from each other. The only main difference being that the reliable DPS of Heavy’s minigun is a far more statistical damage type than the extremely variable DPS of the soldier. On to the unique attributes, but before we start I am going to split them into positive and negative categories. Positive unique attributes are more like abilities, they are something you take advantage of using skill. Negative ones are attributes that you try to mitigate with skill.

Heavy’s unique attributes

  • Spin up time (negative)
  • Spin down time (negative)
  • Unable to avoid damage (negative)

Soldier’s unique attributes

  • Rocket jumping (Positive)
  • Variable splash damage (Positive)
  • Knockback (Positive)
  • Projectile timing (Positive)
  • Reload (Negative)

Not so small of a difference anymore. As you can clearly see the Heavy, for all his health and DPS, lacks a single positive attribute.

This is the key fact about Heavy that causes him to be “brainless”. The skill of a player in a particular class is measured by how well they can mitigate the negative unique attributes or constraints of said class and how well they take advantage of the positive attributes of said class; thought it primarily lies in the latter. As such, the skill ceiling of a class is dictated by how well it is possible to perform in those areas. As a soldier or any other class the room for improvement is without any limit even in unique skills. The only skill that applies to heavy is mechanical aim, which applies to most if not all classes. Heavies skill therefore does not grant him increased ability as he increases in skill, but rather only grants him increased coverage of his faults. As a soldier gets better he gains new ability. He hits more airshots, lands harder rocket jumps, juggles his enemies better, lands directs more often. However it is relatively early in a soldiers career that he learns to master his reloads, to not be caught without rockets. In this sense the positive potential for skill is infinite while the potential to mitigate negatives is very much finite.  To summarize, heavies main problem here is that he does not gain new ability with skill, but only becomes more proficient in cover weaknesses while processing the same ability he previously had.

This reason, once realised shows entirely why Heavy has failed unlocks as well as a broken stock game. The unlocks of a class, if well designed, enhance a positive attribute of it. The gunboats give a soldier better rocket jumps, the winger grants a scout better double jumps, and the crossbow rewards the awareness of medics. Heavies unlocks lack any direction, rather than enhancing a positive attribute (which does not currently exist) they are forced to rather assist him either in a statistical fact or to cover a weakness of his.  All of heavies unlocks have failed because they do not have any abilities to enhance and instead cover his weaknesses.  The sandvich attempts to solve heavies inability to avoid damage, the Tomislav attempts to solve his spin-up time, and the GRU attempts to solve his speed. The fact is:  The statistics and constraints of a class should never be “fixed”. All attempts to do this in the past have failed. The short circuit attempted to “fix” Engineers weakness against Demoman and is an abomination of balance that ruined a class relationship. The Darwins Danger Shield attempts to “Fix” snipers weakness against other snipers and is once again, horribly balanced. The Pomson attempts to “fix” engineers weakness against übers and spies, and is horribly balanced. The examples here can be seen in every unlock valve has created that attempts to remove or mitigate a class weakness through an unlock. To summarize, all good unlocks in the game to date have enhanced a pre-existing positive attribute of their class, all fundamentally* bad unlocks have either created a new positive attribute or attempted to fix a negative attribute.

*Fundamentally bad unlock: A unlock that is an entirely flawed idea. Some bad unlocks may be good concepts with the wrong trade off. Example = crit-a-cola.

So how can valve fix heavy? The answer is simple: The heavy needs a stock set of positive attributes that scale with skill, then he needs unlocks that enhance those skills for a trade-off.

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