Clearly, we’re running out of ideas. For a game about identical mercenaries shooting each other and capturing objectives by standing on them, we have a LOT of ways of making ourselves different, as much as all those lime green Fast Learner Scouts will protest. It’s all over the place, but Valve want to make money (since they’re a business and all that and kinda need to make money) so they need yet more ways to get us to stick around and eventually buy things we don’t need. Weapons are one thing, but Valve isn’t stupid enough to make us buy our way to victory. So cosmetics are the way to go.
They started off simple. We were given hats to wear on our heads. Just a couple, designed to somewhat match each class’s personality. A batter’s helm for Scout, an otolaryngologist’s mirror for Medic. Back in those days, hats were rare, but people would trade weapons for them, since weapons were equally strange and rare.
Slowly but surely, more hats were added. But at first, they were only meant for your head. Occasionally though, something different would appear. A cosmetic that DIDN’T go on your head. Misc cosmetics were rare at first, and often sought after, for good reason, as cosmetic slots were limited supply. Restrictions changed from a hat and a misc, to a hat and two miscs, to three slots in which you can wear any cosmetics that go together.
The advent of a proper TF2 workshop meant that hats could be added more and more quickly. Robotic Boogaloo is a good example of this, LOTS of hats were added, even if they were mostly mechanical, bolted variants of existing hats.
Hats and misc items made Valve lots of money, but now we have so many hats that it’s silly. Not just Boogaloo variants, but hats that are too similar in general. Miscs are no better, we’re running out of things to put on our bodies, to the point that now we can have cats dangling on off us. Multiple cats. Not just one in your pocket.
There’s also the DIY cosmetics. Flair, the Photo Badge, Clan Pride and the Conscientious Objector are the only items in the game which can be decorated individually by players. The concept was really good, but it’s clear Valve scrapped the idea. Plus, no one was interested once Valve disabled the Painterly effect, which allowed you to use full-colour images. Whether the various workarounds still work or not, depends on one’s mood. No other items were ever added though, despite some items having the properties to enable decals.
Of course, with so much variation, hat sales were guaranteed to slump. So Valve made weapons cosmetic. They’d already done it in CS:GO, where everyone on a team looks the same and has access to (mostly) the same weapons. There, the only cosmetics are your guns, and in a rather drab and dreary, more life-like world, having brightly coloured guns is the only way to show off your riches. It was almost guaranteed that a similar system would work in TF2, which is already brightly coloured.
That wasn’t enough. Valve added unusual weapons, to go alongside our unusual hats. And on top of that, they let us put festive lights on our brightly coloured decorations.
The question is, where do we go from here? What else can Valve do to let us decorate ourselves? Taunts, both unusual and otherwise, are a thing, but they only work temporarily. Valve seems unwilling to allow us to paint weapons, even if it’s just stock ones. I suppose that’s a readability issue, and for the same reason, we haven’t had any cosmetics for non-stock weapons. Although, unusually, the fact that reskins have existed for years (the Vita-Saw was intended to be one!) doesn’t seem to bother Valve in the slightest.
The next logical step is to copy more stuff from CS:GO. We’re yet to get stickers to put on our guns, although how well they’ll show up is anyone’s guess. Would be quite nice to see pro TF2 teams get a little revenue, the same way CS:GO and Dota 2 teams do though.
After that, who knows? Will we end up with body paint and tattoos? Or maybe everything will be available in unusual and festive forms?
It’s pretty worrying actually. Maybe we’ll all just devolve into piles of pixellated rainbow puke.