Making new players stick around a bit more

Team Fortress 2 isn’t as popular as it used to be. For the longest of times, it sat happily at the top of the most played games right now list on Steam, grinning like a lunatic. Now? Not so much. Both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have overtaken Team Fortress 2. They basically tripped it up and kicked it in the bollocks. Dota 2 is strong because of the HUGE fan base that already existed, plus cosmetics plus a competitive environment. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive builds off the popularity of the previous games and is a more modern shooter that already attracts players, plus cosmetics, plus a competitive environment. Team Fortress 2 only really has the cosmetic part.

But there’s more places where TF2 gets its ass kicked by its fellow Valve-made games. Dota 2 actually has a tutorial now. CS:GO has a casual mode and a competitive mode. They both also get quite a lot of attention from Mother Valve. Unlike, say, the Left 4 Dead series.

That’s not to say that Team Fortress 2 gets a lot of traffic. It does. But TF2’s problem isn’t the lack of traffic, it’s making sure the traffic sticks around. Right now, how many players actually stick around and become seasoned players, leaving the confines of the Valve server and going, well, anywhere? Probably not many. What TF2 needs is a reason for people in general, not just veterans and people with money to burn, to stay for longer and actually become part of the TF2 community. But how?

First off, Valve need to sort out the tutorials. Team Fortress 2 has gotten far bigger over the years and the very basic tutorials we have just don’t cut it any more. New players don’t like not understanding anything at all. “Why did that sparkly rocket kill me so fast?” “How did that Spy fake his death?” “How do you sticky┬ájump?” “Why did that Medic not die to my headshot?” “What gun allows you to fire exploding flares?” “How do I get sparkly rockets?”These are all questions that aren’t answered in any way by the game. You want to know? You have to use the wiki. Which means alt-tabbing or leaving the game and looking it up.

This is compounded by the fact that weapons, apart from the achievement ones, are found. All weapons in Dota 2 are cosmetic and don’t actually affect your hero. CS:GO weapons are per-game. In TF2, you can only find them and that’s only random. Being able to rent weapons is a step in the right direction, but apart from achievement weapons, the only way to definitely get a weapon is to wait for it to drop or, if you’ve got premium (which not all new players have), trade for one. But you’ve got to pay to do that, or wait until you can sell enough name tags and stuff. That takes time and new players don’t have time for that.

So now you’ve got all your new weapons. What now? Well, probably what’s happening is that said new player is running out of backpack space. 50 slots is silly. That’s five weapons per class, plus a couple of crates or whatever. New players simply don’t have enough space to collect every weapon. Yes, some weapons are crap, I agree, but most weapons have their niches. On top of that, new players can’t explore with new weapons because they can’t collect them all. So how about some more backpack space, Valve? Premium players are alright with 300 spaces, but 50 for new players is just being tight.

All the things I have mentioned so far are things that Valve should do to help keep everything fresh and friendly for new players. But Valve isn’t the only one responsible for new players sticking around. The community has a big hand in this too. So what can the community do?

To be fair, the community already does a lot. There’s a lot of material out there, full of information for new players to learn from. The official wiki is mostly community-run. There are groups of all kinds willing to accept new players and teach them how to play. And there are hundreds of TF2 videos, teaching all the little tricks and tips. Maybe we should spread this information out a bit more. Get it to the new people.

Even as individuals, we can do more to help. The first step is to not rage at the new people on your team, but to talk to them. Help them learn. Alright, some people won’t want you to help them and will just tell you to fuck off, but if that person listens even a little, help them get there.

Another way we can help is to give new players spare weapons. When Dekky first started playing TF2, I gave him a couple of spare weapons. I didn’t have to, but I did because I’m nice and because it helps you enjoy the game better. Unfortunately, the “Give Weapons To Newbies” thread on SPUF is dead, but if you’re a newbie and you ask, someone on SPUF will surely come along and give you a hand.

What is more important though is explaining who, what, why, when and how things happen in TF2. Do it in game. If someone asks a question, answer them. They’ll learn something and you’ll get a nice tingly feeling. Maybe you’ll even get some professor speks or something. It’s something to do to keep TF2 alive while Valve ignores us.

In the end, new people learn from old ones. We pass wisdom and knowledge down to each other. Why does this stop when it comes to video games? All it takes is a bit of patience to make someone a better person.

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