Search This Blog

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Quest Begins

Hello, internet, they call me Xiant on Steam, and I'm watching G4's coverage of E3 2010. Currently they're talking about the Ubisoft press conference. As a goal of mine is to eventually reach the fabled halls of big name video game scriptwriters, I thought that a good place to start would be here, in the vast reaches of cyberspace, with my writing about the industry. At some point I might begin to write a script here when my traffic reaches a certain point, but first I just wanted to get started. So here we go.

With this blog, separate from my more personal ones, I'm going to talk about news, reviews and my interpretations of video game stories. Also, I'll give a sort of running commentary on the state of multiplayer games as I know them. This last bit is the topic of today's, the first, blog. The game of choice for today is my game of choice, Team Fortress 2.

Now, TF2, as I'll write it for convenience's sake, came out almost three years ago, but has changed immensely since then. Back then, there were only a few maps, Dustbowl, 2Fort, Gravel Pit, Turbine, Hydro and Granary. The nine classes (scout, soldier, pyro, demoman, heavy, engineer, medic, sniper and spy) all had only three weapons and their class's abilities to combat the enemy team. Players needed to adapt to the situation in ways today's player would likely find different and perhaps still more challenging. Medics had no ability to call out ten second non-stop critical hits; demomen couldn't lop off people's heads; the scout couldn't go invincible for six seconds; and, my favorite class, the spy had ten seconds of cloak with a thirty second recharge time. Map knowledge was paramount, especially for the spy, since if you uncloaked in the wrong spot, you were dead. Quickly. No one likes a spy.

Since then, over 120 updates have completely changed the game, giving each class save the engineer (forthcoming) three new items to play the game differently and more complexly (or cheaply, some argue). Since I talked a little more about the spy, that'll take up the rest of this entry.

I began my entry into the spy not long after I got the game, once I found my bearings. At the time, the December 11th, 2008 update was still a couple months away. For those new, or newer, to the game, it was that update that allowed spies to pick up ammo boxes and fallen weapons to restore the cloak meter. Valve got a great deal of flak for this update, since spies of even superficial skill, with enough map knowledge, to stay invisible indefinitely, picking their spots to uncloak. Or, if they knew the location of a full ammo box, they could camp (unless a pyro has half a brain and starts flaming the ammo locations) as long as they liked. 

The main argument beyond this, however, is that the spy was now so much easier to play. The tactical cloak uncloak was "out the door" so to speak, and optimal use of space no longer mattered. As long as there was ammo, you could uncloak wherever you wanted. To an extent this became true. Spy did lose some of its difficulty and more people started playing. Of course, the spy at this point remained a class that took a good, if not great, amount of skill. Uncloaking was perhaps harder since players with map knowledge now patrolled the ammo locations and began timing dropped weapons disappearing. Spies picking up ammo or dropped weapons became a dead giveaway. A team with competent pyros just needed to spray a couple puffs near where the spy just was or might be and suddenly twelve to sixteen players converge to send the spy into the ground. The spy was not invincible, and the play style changed to adapt to the new update.

Then came the spy update, which changed everything. Again. Two new invisibility watches created two new play styles, for better or worse. with the Cloak and Dagger, campy spies became vogue, since standing still now recharged the cloak. Map knowledge and troop movement knowledge still applied since you needed a safe place to wait for recharge. Also, since the C&D (as I'll now call it), used cloak faster, you had less time before good players knew exactly where you were and converged on you to end whatever your plans were. By the time of this writing, the C&D is the least used watch of all of them, I think, because of the stigma against camping and the reduced moving cloak time. However, the other watch they introduced, now the most used of all of them, is yet more stigmatized, and does essentially make the spy, physically one of the weakest classes, invincible for about 6 seconds.

I speak, of course, of the Dead Ringer (DR for short). With only 10% damage for 6.5 seconds and fake death to throw off your enemies, a full health spy can take several critical rockets, stickies, pills, even several backstabs (whose damage can go into the 1000's). However, after Valve allowed spies to recover DR energy with ammo as well, since this was not original feature, the DR became what has come to be called "easy mode." Valve attempted to remedy this by capping the cloak energy gained from ammo and reducing the amount of cloak energy left when you decloak (since it takes a full cloak to activate the DR). 

With the advent of the DR, spying reached a new, low level of difficulty, (though none of the classes are really "easy" to play well). As a consequence of the DR's ubiquity among all levels of spy play, and the length of time a spy remains on fire even after having the DR activated, made every single player, pyros especially, paranoid beyond anything before. Now spies who did not use the DR have a much more difficult time, since spy death went way, way up on the list of priorities. Higher, even, than it had been before. Regularly cloaked spies, since the DR forces you to stay visible until it goes off, fear the paranoid pyro (or soldier, or demo or anyone with skill). 

As for myself, since I play on large, 32 man servers on maps primarily made for 24, I use the DR if only because the choke points doing really allow for a good way around the enemy team to behind them. Better spies than I, of which there are many, will of course get behind anyway and have a great time. Lesser spies than I, of which there are an equal number, can do the same and have just as much, if not more success, with the DR. I can use the regular watch to great effect, but I'll admit I'm a bit rusty, since I play soldier and demo and medic more these days. 

My opinion on the matter is this. The DR is now an overpowered crutch that lesser spies use to get good scores and gain infamy on the servers they play on. However, I will say this in the DR's defense: every watch at the spy's disposal has a use depending on the situation. 

The end story to TF2, not just the spy, is that combat, how you play and the weapons you use are situational. For the spy specifically, the DR has its uses in crowded areas when there are nigh-impossible ways behind enemy lines. The C&D is good for wide open map with metal just far enough away to be inconvenient for the regular watch. The regular watch itself is good for almost any map with enough metal and/or hiding spots for stab-and-go tactics. Which ever watch works for you is the watch you should use. Whatever style of play you enjoy will dictate which watch you want to use.

In the end though, Team Fortress 2 is a game. Have fun with it. Don't over think it or put too much stock in it.

For tomorrow's post, I'll talk more about the spy, specifically his ranged weapons. Since there's not quite as much to talk about there, I'll branch out into some (maybe all) of the update weapons for the nine classes. The post after that will talk strategies I've discovered over the years. If I decide to get the Medal of Honor beta before all that's done, my initial impressions will appear here instead, with the finish to follow.

Thanks for reading, those of you that have, and I'll see you tomorrow.


No comments:

Post a Comment