There’s been a couple of posts on SPUF recently about Dominations and I think now is a good time to make a post about them, both as a recently dominated Medic and a Medic who got a bunch of dominations, but also as an average TF2 player and someone who sees other people getting dominated or dominating.
Let’s start with a recap on how dominations work. Simply put, you get 4 kills or assists on someone without them killing or assisting in killing you, you dominate them. A notification appears on the scoreboard, showing that you have a domination and/or who you’re being dominated by. The dominating person is often referred as a Nemesis. The only way to remove a domination is to kill or assist in killing your nemesis.
Alright. That’s the basics of the domination system. The idea behind the domination system is to warn players that X is better than them and they should stay away from them. This is mentioned in the Developer Commentaries and can be viewed here. Or in-game, which is more interesting. So basically, dominations are a giant sign that says “STAY AWAY FROM THIS PERSON, THEY ARE DANGEROUS.” Most people though don’t see it that way.
We’ve all been dominated. How do you feel when you’re dominated? Probably not great. It’s annoying, it’s just been announced to the entirety of the server that this other person is kicking your ass. Nothing actually says that, but it’s assumed. Your new nemesis may remain silent, or they’ll rudely gloat about how awful you are. Whether the domination was fair or not (we’ll come to that later), this one person now has a giant emblem over their head saying that they’re dangerous. People don’t see it like that though, and this is impounded further if the dominator starts stroking his ego over it all.
Now, a very mellow player will just ignore the domination. The majority though won’t. Dominations are the game’s way of saying “dude, you’re crap!” and this makes people angry. Many people’s reactions to being dominated generally consist of trying their hardest to get rid of a domination, sometimes tunnel-visioning completely, their personal objectives being to utterly destroy whoever their nemesis happens to be. Normal objectives, like winning the game, are sometimes ignored completely. This behavior though isn’t restricted to newbies or bad players. Even average or competitive players can fall to this feeling, being subconsciously drawn to proving that they’re not crap. After Sunday’s competitive match, half the SCUD team wanted to stick around to clear their dominations. Even I, a rather passive player, was tempted.
There’s a flip side to this. Class counters are always ignored. A Demoman will probably get dominated by a Scout. A Spy will get dominated by a Pyro. Heck, it’s a Medic’s job to be dominated, since he offers pushes and healing, not actual damage. Then you have wonky situations where people are wrongly accredited for assists and kills. Or when people are ‘finished off’. Jarate will always net the Sniper an assist, no matter how little he did after throwing that large area of affect jar. Then there’s the sort of person who gets a domination because he’s been spamming 3 damage bullets across the map and that Sniper who just hides in spawn. Needlessly frustrating. What about dominations during Humiliation, when you can do nothing but attempt a kill taunt, assuming you even have one. How are those dominations even fair? Yes, that Soldier is a threat, but only when he’s got 100% critical chance and everyone on your team has -10% movement speed and can’t actually fire their weapons. And there’s little point saying that “this Scout who’s spamming pistol bullets from the other side of Hightower” is a threat you need to avoid.
On top of all this, dominations are not good for the dominators. Dominate someone and they gain extra visibility on you. Dominate more people and half the server can now easily see you wherever you are. This isn’t important in a pub, but extra visibility is always important in more organised play. Dominating someone is a net negative. For the small ego boost, you get angry and harder to dissuade enemies and the risk of being seen more – bad enough if you’re playing Soldier, but very bad if you’re playing Spy or Sniper, where remaining hidden is required for success.
Thing is, the domination system does have a good idea. It’s worth knowing who is a real threat, but the domination system does it all so wrong. The system could be so much better. In fact, there’s already such a system in place.
Enter the Killstreak. Now, killstreaks are currently a paid-for thing. There’s no way of getting them without spending money, which is a real shame, because it does the job of the domination system so much better. You KNOW someone is a threat when they’re on a killing spree. You KNOW you have to team up to take down a guy who has 10 kills and hasn’t died yet. You KNOW a Medic really needs to be taken out when he goes on an ‘assist streak’. Apart from possibly the Sniper hiding in spawn, someone spamming rockets across the map is not likely to be getting a true kill streak repeatedly.
Of course, there are still flaws. One of the main issues is assists. Assists are currently not granted correctly, with a Medic overriding most assists if they’re healing the killer, instantly losing the assist if they aren’t connected while the killer gets his kill. A Scout can do 180 damage to a Soldier then find he doesn’t get an assist because said Soldier ran into a Pyro and an Engineer. Snipers can get assists just by chucking jars into crowded places. The assist system needs to be tweaked to use more intelligence. If a Pyro did 99% of the damage before their target ran into a Heavy/Medic combo, the Pyro should get acknowledgement.
Another flaw with using killstreaks is the lack of an emblem. A Nemesis has a symbol over his head. If the Killstreak system were to take over, there’d need to be a symbol saying that X is on a 5 kill streak or whatever. There’s also the issue of random crits, as a single lucky crit sticky near a payload will easily net you a killstreak of 3-4, but the issue with crits is solved by, you know, not having them in the first place. You’d probably also need an Assist-Streak, since Medics getting killstreaks by healing makes no sense.
The biggest issue though is that killstreaks are a pay-in system. Which makes me sad. Most people don’t have the patience to get themselves killstreak items, and many are incredibly expensive, even just for plain ones. It’s a pity, because killstreaks are a stock feature in many, many games (not just shooter games) but in TF2, you have to have dosh to get a look in, whether it’s buying from the market or playing MvM or opening crates. This can be easily fixed, mind you. You don’t have to automatically give everyone killstreak weapons, you could make them drop like weapons, like a Medic Secondary Killstreakifier or a Scout Primary Killstreakifier. Then all you do is add a new level of killstreak effect above Professional and you still make money.
As to those who say “just ignore it!”, well, that doesn’t always work (especially on sv_pure servers). It’s no fun being dominated by someone when nine times out of ten it’s for an unfair reason.