Opinion: Valve needs to save TF2

In-Game Screenshot. Photo via Tai Goodman.

The Valve Corporation is a giant in the gaming industry. Without Valve, some of your favorite video-games wouldn’t exist. Beginning with their greatest achievement, “Half-Life 2,” Valve took big steps forward. “Counter-Strike” helped influence the tactical FPS genre. “Left 4 Dead 2” started a popular format of zombie shooters with four-player co-op, and special zombie types. However, the class-based shooter, “Team Fortress 2,” has left its mark on numerous titles, most notably “Overwatch,” and is still unmatched and active.

“Team Fortress 2” is a sequel to its ‘90s predecessor that improves every aspect. From the cartoonish-look to the better action, there’s much to love, especially the classes, or characters you play as.

Every class is important, and has a likable personality. On the offense side, there’s Scout, a Bostonian who captures objectives fast and trash-talks faster, Soldier, an American trooper with a bazooka, and Pyro, a mute flamethrower-wielding enigma. For defense, you have Demoman, an alcoholic Scotsman who specializes in explosives, Heavy, a slow but strong Russian who clears paths with his minigun, and Engineer, a Texan whose relaxed southern draw contradicts his sentry-turret’s lethality. Finally, there’s support: Medic, a crazed German healer, Sniper, a dangerous accurate marksman from Down Under, and Spy, a sly Frenchman who could be disguised as anyone.

The game pits two teams of these nine classes against each other to compete for objectives. Gamemodes like Control Points, Capture the Flag, and Payload have been adopted by many FPS games today. As for games in general, you can thank “Team Fortress 2” for a popular system called “microtransactions.” Yes, this game was the birthplace of battle passes, virtual cosmetics, and loot boxes. It’s a safe bet to claim that “Team Fortress 2” has accomplished a lot in terms of influence. However, today, there’s an issue that has slightly lessened its player-base.

“Team Fortress 2” acquired a casual matchmaking system in 2017 to make official servers easily accessible. Come 2020, everyone began to notice an upward trend of bots that joined servers and became nuisances. This is due to their aim-bot, a cheating method that locks onto the nearest player and allows instant kills.

Bots can be easily identified, though. In the game, bots only spawn as a Sniper with a potentially different hat, possibly goggles and/or a backpack (an item called ‘The Cozy Camper’), or any primary weapon but the bow and arrow (‘The Huntsman’). Upon moving, they automatically go to the objective, but turn in random directions while still going that way, or even stare up at the sky. When they’re in an enemy’s sightline, they will immediately headshot them, and can never kill them in any other way. Therefore, nobody is safe- not even cloaked or disguised Spies.

Over time, bots have evolved, which made the situation worse. Bots became able to play obnoxious music through in-game voice chat upon joining, were able to call a vote to kick actual players, spam the chat, and still be able to join other games.

With a precise level of skill, you can kill bots in the split-second it takes for them to cock their rifle per shot. However, other ways of avoiding bots are kicking them, or going to where they are not present, like skill-based gamemodes such as “Pass Time” or “Mann vs. Machine,” or one of over 600 community servers.

As the problem escalated, a hashtag, “#SaveTF2,” was formed and garnered a lot of support from the community in an attempt to grab Valve’s attention. Eventually in May 2022, the “Team Fortress 2” Twitter account responded: “TF2 community, we hear you! We love this game and know you do, too. We see how large this issue has become and are working to improve things.”

It had almost seemed like nothing changed, but around the time of writing this, I noticed some differences. In April 2023, bots were seemingly gone all of a sudden. That was until I joined a game of Capture the Flag, where both teams were riddled with bots. Every other gamemode like Control Points and Payload were bot-less. After looking through the update history, there’s nothing that directly targets bots, but there are repairs that prevent bugs, exploits, and cheating. With that being said, the sudden scarcity of bots was either a huge coincidence, or Valve is slowly and steadily combatting the bot issue. At this point, the game is in better condition, and is still more active than it ever was.

Either way, bots are still on “Team Fortress 2” and still need to be removed. Capture The Flag isn’t the most popular gamemode, but it is a classic, and so is the whole game overall. It would be painful to know that gamers wanting a nostalgia trip come back to “Team Fortress 2,” only to see it like this, whether it’s in one gamemode or not, with no way to tell if the issue will grow or be eradicated. While Valve hasn’t made a game in three years, and is notorious for never making a game in any series with a “3” in the title, the least they could do is honor their promise and #SaveTF2

Tai Goodman is a Writing and Communication major at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College from Tifton, Georgia who works as a Staff Writer at The Stallion. Their dream is to become either an author, a screenplay writer, or a film director, and their hobbies are writing books, and playing old video-games. Winner of 2nd place for "Best Entertainment Story" at the Athens GCPA Conference 2023.

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