Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Team Fortress

Team Fortress is a team-based first-person shooter franchise that began with a mod for QuakeWorld by id Software, which was ported to Valve Software's famous first-person shooter, Half-Life.

It began life for me on a disc, one of a collection that formed what Valve sold as the Game of the Year edition of Half-Life. It was one hell of a grouping, with the original game and a handful of others, including what was then called Team Fortress 1.5. It was a new concept at the time, teams that could choose a specialization for combat in a first-person shooter, one of nine classes that are still in use today. Sniping, sneaking, scouting ahead, or just general explosions and mayhem were a handful of the options, and as such, still are.

You can go on a variety of missions, from capturing the flag to escorting an unarmed civilian or an outright siege, all depending on what map the server you were on decided to fling at you. Usually you had two teams, evenly balanced, though the game allowed as many as four, even though this was comparatively rare - having played it for many years, I have never seen an evenly balanced game with all four teams active. Thanks to some innovation from the players, new ways to use the weapons arose, and so, new maps to help polish these crazy skills followed - like using a rocket launcher like an exploding pogo stick, or a concussion grenade to the same end. Maps that were mazes that needed to be navigated hopefully without being turned into splattered goop or just being sent back to the beginning were made as well.

And always the promise of a new chapter loomed like a cloud on the horizon - as early as 1998 - claims were made that Team Fortress 2 was in the works. Maps came and went, servers were set up and taken down, nine years later and near the end of 2007, the new version came out - featuring the physics of the much-hyped Source engine, and nine characters that were no longer pieces of animated cardboard with faces - nine personalities arose.

Team Fortress 2 hit the shelves like a rabid elephant - gamers old and young wanted a piece of this new team-shooter with the animated and cartoony character that were larger than life - as if they came from the same part of the human soul as Brock Samson (Copyright from the Cartoon Network)  and the deeper and darker places that animation had crawled and charged and full speed with teeth like knives.

And so it came like a storm, hyped, lauded, but ultimately, it hits a major problem head-on - the achievement complex. In order for you to get upgrades or drops as such, you have to play the game a lot, or so it was at the beginning. There have been special rare items associated with this event or that promotion, dominantly in the form of headgear for the various characters - sometimes weapons would appear, with the balance of combat changed slightly or drastically. Unfortunately, this system led to some very underhanded exploits... Servers where a player could visit and simply contrive a way to earn achievements or game time or both...

And now, to add insult to injury - Valve has decided to sell clothing items and equipment for your characters using real-world money.

Why spend money getting yourself a new hat, when you can get a new strange and funky virtual hat that will be visible only to people on a computer network?!


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