Sunday, 1 March 2009

We can't stop here, this is bat country!

Last Wednesday, the obscene marvel that is Team Fortress 2 recieved its fourth class specific update, for the Scout. In case you are reading this (unlikely) and have not encountered Team Fortress 2 previously (inexcusable), I shall attempt to explain. Team Fortress 2 is a class-based objective-focused teamwork-centric multiplayer FPS from the sterling gentlemen at Valve, creators of the vastly successful and critically acclaimed Half-Life series. The game involves a great depth of teamplay coupled with a Pixaresque art style to make the 9 classes available to play distinct and amusing characters, as well as representing different playstyles. Players must work together to accomplish various objectives, such as stealing an inteligence briefcase, capturing/defending territory, or pushing a cart of explosives into the opponents base.

Of late, Valve has been releasing updates to the PC version focusing on specific classes, and most recently this was for the Scout, the hyperactive, baseball-loving smartmouth from Boston, specialist in flag capture and rapid attacks. The Scout has been given alternate weaponry and achievements through which to obtain it. As something of a fan of the little fellow, I was quite excited. But there is a side effect to suddenly giving love to one class in particular: everyone will play that class. The usual variety of classes found in a server has become alarmingly skewed. Unfortunately, this means that the intricate teamwork and interaction between classes has gone out of the window.

As players of Team Fortress can see from my avatar, I LIKE the scout. I like the smartassed attitude, the speed and agility, the point-blank lethality of the Scattergun, the sheer bloody cheek of the bat (BONK!). I also like to think I'm quite good at playing Scout.

Unfortunately, my accursed team mentality forces me to pick a different class from the one labelled as having six players of a team of ten. So, on a Badlands match, I play Soldier, far from my favoured class, but one that seemed entirely necessary to remove the sentryguns that blocked our advance. Curiously, this rocket-jumped me to MVP in short order, despite my lack of experience. This suggested that most of the people playing Scout weren't actually very good at it. Why did they play, then? I could be generous, and propose that they were all practicing in an attempt to become a more rounded player. I might suggest they were all feverishly trying out newly acquired unlockables- selfish, perhaps, but understandable. I fear and suspect, however, that in reality, they pursued something darker- the achievement.

For me, Team Fortress's acheivements are merely a barrier between me and unlocks, a barrier that is needed to make owning the unlockables feel satisfying. To some people, the achievements seem to actually BE the goal. Fair enough, a token of your skill seems worth having. But, as seemed to be the case for these people, if no skill is present, then why force other people, who DO like playing Scout and ARE possibly capable of obtaining the achievements, to switch class?

I leave this with you.

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