The Pre-Match freeze is something that every TF2 player has experienced, something that you encounter every single match you play, and something that’s been in the game from the very beginning. And yet I think it may be one of the least-discussed facets of the game. I know I thought about making an article on it twice in the past two years and both times abandoned the notion due to lack of content.
Why does it happen? When I first wondered about it, I wasn’t even sure if it was intentional. Maybe the map’s loading, or something in the background has to prepare itself for the networking signals about to shoot from the server to at least 32 other computers. Or perhaps it’s trying to allow players with slower connections to load into the battlefield.
But as I learn more about coding from my Unity courses, I’ve since seen that isn’t the case. The best suggestion I’ve heard regarding that is that it gives the players a chance to collect themselves. The previous round just ended, players were either slaughtering their foe with crits or cowering in fear from the possibility of getting slaughtered by crits, and adrenaline is high. The freeze lets players recollect themselves and look around to get a headcount on their team consistency.
It also filled a minor role in rollouts since explosive-jumping classes could still blast themselves closer to the spawn doors. This proved to be important in competitive TF2 since the Soldiers and Demomen were in a race to see who could reach mid faster. However this part was changed during Tough Break, with “Players can no longer use blast damage to move during the pre-round freeze period” being part of the patch notes. Nobody’s really sure why, but it presumably has something to do with preparing for Matchmaking. What isn’t these days?
But it highlights a number of problems with the paralysis in the first place. What’s it really contributing to the game? It’s preventing players from reaching mid faster, but there are more elegant ways for solving that. This user has what I think is the best solution: Lock the spawn room doors for X seconds so that everyone can move freely, but nobody can leave until Valve wants them too. This has the added bonus of completely removing the relevance of everyone’s exact spawn point, which can affect rollouts.
Last interesting thing to mention is that for a long time, you could still Conga during the pre-round paralysis, but that was removed quite a while ago, no doubt for the same reason as the explosive-jumping thing. And as humorous as it would have been to see every single competitive match begin with both teams boogieing for the spawn room door for exactly five seconds, comp has had those taunts blacklisted since time immemorial for that reason.
I’m honestly rather amazed I managed to get 500 words on this topic.