Hands up if you play Mannpower. Come on! Don’t be shy! Hm. Not a lot of you. But I’m sure if we check the server browser, we’ll fine loads of people playing Mannpower! Huh. Lots of people playing cp_orange, that’s a bit like Mannpower, what with its homing rockets and perma-crits, right? Um. No, apparently not. According to my server browser right now, there are only 10 not-empty Mannpower servers. Compared to the twenty five or so 2fort servers. Not looking good.
The previous beta game modes, pl_cactuscanyon and rd_asteroid may have had similar numbers. But Asteroid genuinely brought something new to the table – a twist on Capture the Flag that was genuinely fun to play, with a somewhat balanced map. Cactus Canyon was pretty balanced too. Both maps kinda disappeared off the face of Team Fortress 2. Asteroid is still getting its art-pass, but it’s been nearly a year and we’ve all kinda forgotten about it. Cactus Canyon on the other hand lost an entire stage for no real reason, and people moved on back to Badwater and Barnblitz, which were already finished maps that almost everyone has always loved.
The difference between Mannpower and the previous beta maps though is probably the attention. Every patch, there’s a ton of changes to Mannpower, while the changes to Cactus Canyon in particular were never really seen. Asteroid’s changes were pretty significant, but once that stopped and there was no easy Quickplay way of getting to it, Asteroid faded out of mind. It’s a recurring pattern. Valve releases an idea, but it fades away because they stop paying it any attention after a while. Asteroid, Hydro, Standin (kinda), Degroot Keep, Doomsday. All dead.
Valve seem insistent on not letting Mannpower die though. They’ll do anything to keep this monster alive. Mannpower has already outdone Robot Destruction and Special Delivery by having three maps made for the game mode. And the thing is, they ARE made for Mannpower. Yes, ctf_gorge, ctf_foundry and ctf_thundermountain are converted from original maps, but Thunder Mountain in particular has been incredibly heavily edited to create a new Mannpower map. None of this ctf/koth/arena Sawmill nonsense.
Thing is though, Mannpower just doesn’t seem to be popular. How are there more than double the number of people playing 2fort than people playing three maps? How is Turbine more popular? Generally on most things, you get a fairly even 50/50 split on things. On SPUF though, I’ve noticed that the majority either heavily dislike or simply do not wish to play Mannpower. /r/truetf2 isn’t much better, no one talks about it, and the one discussion I’ve seen basically made a mockery of it. For the more ‘serious’ players (i.e. those who care more about balance), Mannpower basically shatters the whole thing that makes TF2 what it is.
Valve though have been putting a HUGE amount of balance work into Mannpower. The last few patch notes, there’s been something about them tweaking the game mode. Already we’ve seen more care than other new game modes have had. But we’re also getting more Mannpower stuff than changes and bug fixes for the rest of the game. Mannpower seems to be worth more than the base game and Mann Vs Machine combined.
What’s also more annoying is that the legitimate balance complaints I have seen about the game mode have really kinda been ignored. People felt that the Grappling Hook was too powerful, especially on Heavy. Now you can hook onto enemies, cause bleed damage and travel at even crazier speeds, because of the altered physics and jumping mechanics. Some power-ups make classes unstoppable if there’s even a small skill gap difference. Entire classes are rendered pointless, because it’s easier to just pick up a power up rather than get someone to heal you or build a sentry. Even the things that Valve did that people agreed with got changed. Random crits were removed, but melee weapons were given crits back, then were given stupid damage buffs instead. Why? Who knows. And don’t get me started on the 30 second critical hit boost, which can be used alongside any power up of your choice.
The worst thing though is that Valve is making changes to Mannpower that people have begged for in the base game for years. They removed random crits and random damage spread. And they insist on trying to balance the whole damn thing.
But no one cares about Mannpower. People prefer normal Team Fortress 2. You know, the CLASS-BASED game.