The state of public TF2 isn’t as bad as I thought

It’s far, far worse.

I was messing around with some of the new options Valve has put into the game, and happened upon the option to enable mouse cursor on the scoreboard. I then by chance clicked on a name on the score screen, and realized, as late to the party as I might be, that you can actually see all the statistics of the player you clicked on – kills, deaths, assists, healing, damage, everything.

Picture by Bob_Fillington.
Picture by Bob_Fillington.

The ability to have access to this information is huge for me, as when the team is doing poorly, I’m in the habit of checking what people are doing to make the team as such. My old method of auditing performance was to check connection time versus points (I consider 1 point per minute to be a reasonable standard for people to live up to), but now, I can look exactly what people are up to, and see all their statistics, which makes judging the performance of harder to call classes like medics a snap.

I have made some pretty upsetting observations with the full facts of what players are doing being transparent. My old belief was that when a team was doing poorly, it was usually due to the efforts of a couple people contributing nothing to the team. The huntsman sniper, the engineer built in spawn, the rocket jumper, etc. The actual truth is far worse. People have always sort of criticized when I say things like “my team is literally doing nothing”, but it was always my gut feeling when I push in, and have little to no teammate support on an objective. Now when I check what happened, I am noticing that 50-75% of a team at any given time is borderline useless to utterly worthless. I’m talking 2 kills and 22 deaths snipers, ranging up to 5 and 12 soldiers and 10:10 heavies. The spread of players who are performing above a 1:1 ratio are usually 1-3 of them on a team of 12 players.

I’ve also made the observation that the other team during this time will usually have less abysmal scores, with the spread of players with more than 1:1 ratios being about 4-6, and less severe degrees of negative ratios.

Essentially, what it looks like the autobalance does, is it will take one or two strong players, stack their team with people who are so ineffective as to be a waste of a team slot, and match them against much greater numbers of average to not so bad players, and as a result, it heaps all the responsibility on those 1-2 players who are stuck with the dead weight teammates. The autobalance continues this chokehold onto those players, giving them increasingly worse and worse teammates, until such time that winning is impossible, the good players leave or spec, or a mass ragequit happens (ironically, the first to ragequit are the guys with 2 and 22 like scores).

This whole system is obscenely stupid and unfair. First, it robs the people who matter (those who try to be useful team players) by forcing them to carry the slack of the people who aren’t making any effort at all. It makes a team based effort impossible in what is supposed to be a team based game. It forces team players to always get stuck playing the role they are strongest at to prevent the game from becoming a roll (you don’t ever get a “turn” to take a round off to play spy or sniper, because you’re being choked so hard to continue mass killing as soldier or demo).

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t feel the game should be built around coddling people who make no effort at all. A team that makes no effort should simply lose, because, after all, if you make no effort, you have no investment in the game, and you don’t have an argument to make as to deserving to win.

The autobalance system needs to reclassify how it weighs players based on the effort they are making, as opposed to how well they are doing score-wise.

What I would do is divide pub players up into three classifications: adepts (as damage classes, generally contribute more than 1:1 kills to deaths and have good damage numbers), middling (as damage classes, tow the line and are generally around 1:1), and maladroits (poor performance much under 1:1). Teams should be balanced to have a like number of players from each category as possible, as opposed to the current system of putting 1-2 adepts and a team of maladroits against large numbers of middling.

This way, people who make a genuine effort are guaranteed to have reasonable teams to play with, as opposed to being forced into an unfun, pre-determined game where nothing they do has any success due to team stacking. The game is, sadly, not determined by how many good players there are anymore, rather, by how many bad players are massed up on one team.

Another option is to cut down on the number of maladroit players. A sniper with a score of 2 and 22 really doesn’t belong in a game where people are playing objectives. That’s the kind of thing you should be doing in a 2fort, harvest, or hightower server, or simply playing offline vs bots until you can make something of a reasonable go at it. It would be helpful to have useless players redirected out of full servers to more casual friendly maps such as the aforementioned, to keep the match fair and fun for the rest of the team.

Matchmaking shouldn’t be expected to fix issues as big as this, because matchmaking at first glance appears only to support the small team format games (4s and 6s), and doesn’t offer up 9v9 or 12v12 which tends to give more of an experience that includes all the classes.

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