Valve explains TF2’s new item system

Valve has posted a new entry on the Team Fortress 2 blog about some of the new content in TF2 this week. Butner’s article discussed some of the new changes aside from the weapons, and some of us chimed in via the comments with our initial reactions. The most talked about thing from this update is the new item system that some are considering to be very much like an MMO because players are awarded random pickups instead of rewarded for achievements like the old days. This follows with the earlier addition of the backpack and talk of “hats” that would randomly drop. Valve was pretty mum about the whole thing, using most of their time to talk about the new weapons and the game modes (new map “Hoodoo” pictured above), but with all the player response on the web and in-game I had a feeling a response was coming in some form. In the post they attempt to answer the following nagging questions:

Why did we build a new system? What did we [Valve] do? How long do you have to play to get an item? Is this the way we’ll find items from now on?

Answers after the jump.

Here is the basic gist of their answers. They built the new system because A) they were disappointed with the number of players able to use the updated weapons versus the number of total people playing the game, and B) they realized that some of the achievements were fun as they were meant to be (scout) and some were tedious and hard to get (medic). The system that has been implemented tracks the average amount of time that people play TF2 per day and figures out a good interval at which to hand out items. Currently they say you get about 20 items every couple weeks if you fall on the average of time spent. But, that being said, if you play a lot more than the average you will get more items. It was also reported that in the first few hours after the update, it was not working properly resulting in less drops. The reason people get doubles and receive items they already obtained, is because they want to implement a trading system down the line (so don’t delete the doubles like I did!). Lastly, they mention that there may be some ways for players to work together towards specific rewards in the future.

So to some up, yes, a lot of fans who had fears that the update was MMO-like, you were right. However, Valve is a smart developer, and they listen to their fans. I really don’t think they are going to break such a well designed and well loved game. MMOs are not always based on skill as much as they are based on how much time people have to play them. Despite the changes, TF2 remains a game that hinges completely on skill in the long run. Though you don’t have the Ambassador today, you will. The system will keep getting tweaked.

Change is hard. Things won’t be going back to the way they were after all this effort was put into the new system, but just because things have changed, does not necessarily make them bad. I will refer you to TF2 not having grenades, and adding invincible characters. When I made the switch from Team Fortress Classic, I hated all the weird changes in TF2. Now, I love it. Give yourself time to find the balance. Frankly most people who are getting actually mad about this are just really impatient for new weapons. As I said in the comments of the other story, I like not having to fight a team of spies for 2 weeks.

Let’s keep the discussion going. What do you think now that a day or two has passed?