Why TF2 is Hard

There’s a lot of talk about the states of publics nowadays, but one of the things that’s really hard to remember once you’ve got good at TF2 is how it is to be a new player. Most players worth their salt have played for a couple of hundred hours. To these people, TF2 is a fairly easy game.

And why wouldn’t it be? TF2 is a game where most of the characters are extremely accessible. Soldier rockets splash. Grenades splash. Stickies splash. Flamethrower requires low aim. So does the minigun. So does Engineer. And especially Medic.

But what if I told you, that for most TF2 players, it goes a lot deeper than that. After seeing a thread on SPUF about the state of pubs, I thought of a reason why it might be that your Average Joe appears to be subhuman. Instead of posting a theory, I decided I’d have a cheeky peeky around to see if I was right. I went on a few pub servers and asked a few questions, did a bit of spectating, added a few players and talked a bit. I’m now pretty certain I’ve rediscovered the truth.


Is this the reason that all public Heavies are unable to hit anything at all?

No, it isn’t. But it’s close enough. This picture is of a client running fake lag of 200ms on a local server. But it is very relevant.

1): Net settings. 

Having asked around on Valve servers what net settings people are using, the main response I got was one of confusion. This leads me to think that the vast majority of players are just using the default settings, which is dreadful for a number of reasons. Now I’m not exactly an expert in this field, but I know how it works, I’m not going to go into too much detail, I’m just going to explain how it’s bad. If you see something wrong, PM me and I’ll correct it.

So, there’s 2 main net commands which are absolutely vital for decent performance on tf2, the first of which is cl_updaterate. For those of you who are not in the know, updaterate basically says how many times per second your client asks the server where everyone and everything is. So this is about as important as your FPS, as the hitboxes move in time with this. The default is atrocious, it’s 20. So this means, on your client the hitboxes update every 50ms. Except actually, these are just snapshots which are basically blended on your screen by cl_interp. It interpolates these snapshots over a period of time to create a smooth hitbox on your end. The default is 0.1, so 100ms. So therefore, basically it creates a smooth hitbox from 2 points.

This sounds great, but there’s a huge downside. Firstly, an interp of 100ms means that every enemy coming round the corner you only see after 100ms, as the entities are constantly 100ms behind in order to be interpolated. That’s easily enough time for the enemy guy to get a shot on you, 2 if he knew you were there (prefiring.)  Secondly, imagine all of the inputs that a player can do in 100ms. They could have changed direction twice.

Imagine for a second that you boost that time by 10. So in 1 second, someone could be moving to the left for 0.25 seconds, standing still in the middle for 0.5, then moving again for 0.25. With defaultx10 settings, what your client would see the hitbox as will be a slow movement from the beginning point to the end point. This is different to the server, therefore you would not be able to hit this player if you were tracking him, except at the middle where you pass over the part where the guy is actually standing still. When you add in ping, it gets even less accurate. It gets extremely complex with air strafing players, as the hitbox essentially gets extrapolated outward or something like that god knows.

I’m not really sure how it works, but what I do know, is that you can put cl_updaterate at 60, which is 3 times the amount of snapshots. So with that, your client would catch the fact that the enemy was standing still at some point.  You can also put the interpolation to 0.0152 which is 6 times less the amount of time entities are behind where they should be. And also 6 times more accurate hitboxes because the amount of snaps that are being smoothed is less or something. Imagine the advantage you have against a valve server scout.

Also, players catch spam because to them, the rocket was 100ms away from hitting them when it kills them.

Also, players have that weird motion where the rocket takes an extra 100ms to come out then speeds up weirdly before exploding 100ms after it hits something.

So considering that, is it really any wonder the last time you died to a direct nade from a Valve server player was 2012? It’s very hard to learn how fast the projectiles are going. It’s also very hard to play projectile classes in general when the game treats you like your ping is 150.

So the real question we should be asking isn’t “why can’t pubs aim” but more “why the hell are the default net settings so awful?” They were like this by default because at 2007 we didn’t have the same connectivity we do nowadays. There is no reason for these settings to be so archaic.

2): Some other stuff

Pub players aren’t just limited to that though. There’s a slough of stupid default settings which are awful. The default FOV is 75, which if you spec most Valve pub players, they are almost all using. Yuck. Quickswitch is also off, so players have to click before switching. This is pointless and serves only to slow weapon switch times. VSync is probably on, which means input lag. They probably have motion blur as well which will wreck their awareness when on the move and when aiming. A view model that probably takes up the whole screen. (to avoid the argument, I actually have mine on, at about 90.)

Non-FPS players will probably have mouse filtering, acceleration, and a sensitivity which is way too high to ever achieve anything with sniper. If you spec a Valve sniper scoped in, you can actually sometimes see the skipping from the stupidly high sens.

3): There’s nobody left to teach them

This is the real kicker, since quickplay now just shoves you into a game with other dreadful gamers and people who just want to eat you for breakfast, these people now have absolutely no chance of ever getting off of these useless settings. The fact of the matter is that with the default settings, I would say that it is borderline impossible to compete with people with decent settings. I’ve gone on a few lower skilled MGE servers with people who can barely airstrafe, and been absolutely spanked by most of them with my 100ms interp and other stupid settings.

I still have the guy who gave me decent settings added on my friends list (thanks Hildreth.) I’m also aware that in my days of community pubbing, we certainly used to help give our new community members advice on their settings.

One of the pub players I added to ask about their settings came from cs:go, where default settings are somewhat more playable. He had absolutely no idea that interp affected his rockets and was absolutely stunned when he’d got my net settings. Said the game felt much better. He’ll probably make it as a pubstar now.

So what?

After this experience I kind of lost my idea that all pubbers were just lazy mongos that didn’t want to learn. Why would most gamers nowadays even consider that net settings could be changed? If they did, why would they think Valves weren’t the best? It really just made me consider what the new wave of FPS players are. They’re not people who tinker. They’re people who just launch the game, play, and go. That’s what the crowd is nowadays. Valve partially made it that way with quickplay, and they need to take responsibility for that.

It’s time for TF2 to step up and give new players tools to get better. Change the default settings, and for gods sake just let me design the tutorials, please. This game is easy to teach, it is such a shame that players have 0 tools in game to do it. And it’s also a shame that it’s the players that take the blame for it when it’s valve that just haven’t kept up with the times.

Please, take a public player today to be your protege. Safeguard the future of TF2 publics. Teach someone to rocket jump. I think we as a community have the ability to teach people where valve just haven’t done it. It’s easy to say pubs are dead. It’s a lot harder to do something about it.


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