The Theory of Gaming

June 23, 2008

On the new pyro changes…

Filed under: Patches — Tags: , , , — spotpuff @ 11:34

Ugh. I’m beginning to think Valve does not play test these changes, which makes me wonder why they can’t release more of these things sooner if they’re just cooking up terrible ideas and releasing them.

The pyro is absolutely insane now. You absolutely cannot survive a close encounter with one no matter what class you are. Their high amount of ammo combined with no reload requirement, now instant crits from behind, beyond soldier level HP, excellent speed and “wall of fire so you can’t see shit” weapon means you are basically screwed when a pyro jumps on you. And for those saying get real bounce a pyro away with rockets/stickies/whatever, play some Dustbowl 3. Many maps have tight corridors and you cannot avoid a pyro if he jumps on you… you’re screwed.

Damage has been increased to the point where a pyro can take out a heavy and his medic if he gets the jump on them… in about two seconds. You can kill a heavy now before he spins up the gun if you jump on him, and the medic only has to eat about 1.5s of pyro fire before he is in death range from the burn.

Light classes? Light classes are screwed. Pyros will drop your health into “You’re going to die even if you run away” range within about 1 second now… as a medic or soldier even you’re screwed, so scouts, spies and engineers don’t stand a chance.

Spies have been rendered obsolete by what is basically AOE backstab with the Backburner. Instant crits from behind + no damage dropoff = omgwtfbbq. And for those saying “Well, just face the pyro” don’t forget he runs faster than 8/9 classes in the game if they’re backpedalling, never mind the strategy of having two pyros with backburners pincer a group of enemies… turn this way, you’re screwed, turn the other way, still screwed. The backburner basically amounts to AOE backstab, with range.

At least the Axtinguisher is, for all intents and purposes, totally useless. It’s the last unlock and it’s totally unnecessary; if you’re going to run up to someone and axe them, you might as well just run up and backburner them to death given how much damage it does now. It’s a great idea for a weapon, but also totally unnecessary. Things die so quickly to pyro fire now the axtinguisher is nothing more than a novelty. Again, that’s fine though.

The flare gun makes soldiers lives at longer than medium range hell. Pyros can duck around corners and flare gun you until you are on fire and they’re out of effective rocket range. It also gives snipers fits, but pretty much everyone is affected other than engineers right next to a dispenser.

Pyros have made Critzkrieg basically useless because if you get jumped and you’re on a soldier or demo, you’re both dead unless you bust out the uber, and you’ve wasted the charge. Half the time soldiers are self-rocketing to death on a pyro now because of the increased pyro and self-rocket damage. Makes sense, soldiers were so overpowered before.

Let’s not forget that Valve also released two new maps that are now considered official. Never mind that they are player generated custom maps. It makes total sense it takes this long to come up with map ideas. I look forward to future Valve map packs filled with Castle4, CanalZone, 32smooth and many other original Valve ideas.

Just like Blizzard used to rigorously play test all their new encounters without mods and ensured they were beatable before release, I’m sure Valve is rigorously play testing these new patches before release to ensure damage is reasonable and the pyro isn’t overpowered. Really. We won’t see any patches soon nerfing the pyro. He’s perfectly balanced and doesn’t require any changes to be a perfectly viable and balanced class to play. Valve is infallible when it comes to class balance, and the pyro is another shining example of that.

OK I’m all sarcasm-ed out for the day. I’m sure pyro players are loving the new changes, but it’s not a matter of adapting to the new pyro class… it’s a matter of holy crap everything falls over in 2 seconds now and there are too many hiding places to check while assaulting a base.

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June 6, 2008

Facestab explanation

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: , , — spotpuff @ 13:28

One of the big problems in TF2 right now is “facestabbing” where a spy will seemingly be in front of you, or even running right at you, but miraculously land a backstab one hit kill on you.

A thread posted in the Steam forums
has a brief explanation as to why this can happen:

The backstab problem is due to the time delay between when you fire and when the hit lands, and the discrepancy between whether it should be a backstab at the start and/or the end. If we make the start case authoritive, players get facestabbed if they turn around before the hit lands. If we make the end case authoritive, Spies claim they got screwed when they got a backstab animation and no instant kill. Right now we have a system somewhere in the middle, where we allow the Spy to keep the backstab as long as the receiver doesn’t turn to look almost directly at the Spy. This is something we’re still hoping to improve.

Latency and multiple client synchronization is an ever-present problem in online gaming.  The server has to decide how to synchronize the data coming in with all the clients it is hosting.  A soldier with 200 ping may see a spy in front of him when the spy is actually beside him, resulting in an apparent facestab due to the server accepting the spy’s data instead of the soldier’s.

Melee in general in TF2 is problematic.  I’m sure most people have had an experience with being meleed seemingly from 10 feet away due to lag.  On your opponent’s screen, they’re right next to you, but on yours they’re 10 feet away.  The server accepts their data and says you are being hit, and you’re busy trying to figure out what is going on while avoiding death.

There’s no real good solution here with the spy since everyone is going to have latency when playing over the internet.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have very low ping, your enemies may have somewhat higher ping.  And while 50ms doesn’t sound like much, in terms of melee movement and directional-facing detection, it can mean the difference between a facestab and a harmless melee attack.

Personally I feel right now the facestab detection is horrible.  Backstabs land in a 180 degree arc behind the player on level ground and from the bottom and top of the player.  To avoid a backstab you essentially have to face where you think the spy is going to be when the stab actually lands, which is practically impossible.  Plus adding luck into a skill based game is sort of annoying, although for whatever reason a certain level of randomness is included in most games in terms of damage ranges, but when a weapon is an instant kill, the stakes are somewhat higher.

May 22, 2008

On TF2 stealth patch changes

Filed under: Patches — Tags: , , , — spotpuff @ 12:30

CdTrix started a thread on the Valve forums that has been an issue that’s for a long time: stealth patch changes. Valve will issue a patch, list 2 or 3 totally mundane things in the notes, but then you start playing and notice other huge, unlisted patch changes. I don’t understand why this happens as for sure Valve’s programmers know what changes are coming days or weeks ahead of time and “lock down” an update.

Here’s the original post:

We would like to know when the classes are getting balanced with each updates.

for this latest update:
-Right doorway to upper house on second cap first map of gold rush has been removed
-Changed structures on left spawn exit on first cap second map of gold rush
– Decreased rate of fire for the sticky bomb launcher

Gold Rush patch phantom upgrades
– increased rate of fire for sticky bomb launcher
– increased direct fire damage for pyro
– increased burning rate when on fire
– increased mid range damage for heavy
– increased back stab radius for spy (it’s easier to face stab now)
– increased front stab damage from 20 to 60

Random phantom updates
– added doors to granary to prevent scout rushes
– added fence at the last cp on each team for a sentry gun

These are updates that were not published in the “update news/change log”. People will have noticed or not and is subjective to how people play these classes.

Some people don’t notice a difference in heavy mid range damage but some will see the difference in front stab damage for the spy.

Unless everyone is notified of the changes, why make them a “do you feel the difference” type of testing? Just tell us you changed it to test out something and we’ll test it out. I don’t want to come on the forums to see if my theory that X class was buffed or Y class was nerfed.

While some of his numbers are off (front stab I remember being 30, not 20, but TF2Wiki.net lists the damage range as 30-50), I can definitely vouch for the demo sticky launcher nerf.  I think this is good, since after the Gold Rush patch stickies were ridiculous, but a lot of the other stuff is anecdotal.

I added some details in post #61.  Most are speculative, but the Engineer buff was very noticeable and welcome:

I’m surprised people didn’t notice the sticky nerf after the patch yesterday; I was playing demo (and I don’t play demo much at all) and I noticed both the increase from the gold rush patch and the nerf last night; even in set up when laying a bunch of stickies in an area the rate of fire decrease is noticeable.

I look at this post as an informational thing; the stupid thing is Valve knows FOR SURE what they are changing. Why not just TELL us? The gold rush patch seemed to buff soldier rocket crit rate, but I can’t really say for sure. I only noticed it because I play soldier a fair amount and I seemed to be firing a lot more crits than before. I have no statistical evidence to back this up though.

The hard part is “proving” these changes. As the OP said, we cannot undo patches and you can’t play this game offline, so how exactly do you compare between patches?

Attacking the OP is missing the point; there are for sure stealth changes made in patches, and an example was given (gold rush 1-2 door removal). The other changes are up for debate, but other than tremendous foresight of recording demos for everything you want to test in the future NOW (and realistically, how can you know what to test now when we don’t know what is going to be patched later?) due to the inability to roll back patches is a little unrealistic. Hindsight is 20/20; saying the OP should have recorded a video of demo sticky firing rate when he couldn’t have known it would be changed is unfair.

As for anecdotal evidence, there’s a few cases for things:

1. Pyros who KNOW a disguised spy is a spy and start flaming him. Spy charged pyro and stabs the pyro while being lit on fire; and apparent “face stab”. This could be due to changes in how TF2 resolves lag between clients; for sure due to lag people can seem farther away than they are (getting melee’d from 5 feet away is another example of this). A spy could easily be beside you on his screen (valid backstab) but not beside you on your screen (face stab), but when TF2 resolves these inconsistencies it says backstab.

2. Not sure if this is intentional or not, but it seems as a spy if you do the overhand backstab on one person, but then turn and stab someone else in the face, it still counts as a backstab. Only happened to me once and I only knew what happened because I was on vent with the spy who did it; he said he backstabbed someone else, missed with the overhand, and hit me in the face and I died to face stab.

3. A pyro getting the jump on a heavy + medic before had a hard time killing the heavy before the heavy would spin up and kill him but now a fully buffed 450HP heavy will die to a pyro if he doesn’t have his gun spun up. I don’t recall this ever happening before.

4. Sticky rate of fire; getting juggled indoors on gold rush 2-2 (the 2nd floor “small” houses), I noticed I would get juggled into a corner by a demo and he could fire 2 pipes before I even landed. It was a noticeable buff; the debuff for yesterday’s patch was equally noticeable especially when piping an area as a “trap”.

5. I don’t believe this change was listed in patch notes; engineers trying to upgrade guns that are shooting now will drain more metal but also refill the gun’s ammo in addition to the 25 ugprade per swing. This is a HUGE change and makes upgrading sentries much easier; previously when you wrenched a sentry that was firing, you would only use up 2-3 metal and refill the gun’s ammo but you would NOT get to upgrade the gun. This made setting up guns very difficult. Now, though, you use up say 32 metal per swing but refill the gun’s ammo AND the gun gets 25 upgrade. You use up metal faster, but the gun upgrades faster and as I’m sure most engineers can attest to, getting a gun to level 2 quickly is really important. I am not sure if you can also repair a gun and upgrade it at the same time now, I don’t think you can, but am not 100% sure.

I do not remember reading about the engineer change for sure, but the rest of the changes are anecdotal and “feel” based. Maybe it’s just play styles that have changed, and not the classes, but it’s impossible to tell right now since as mentioned several times we cannot uninstall patches.

The main issue I have with the flaming and mod response is we cannot undo patches.  How the heck are we supposed to test if we can’t undo patches?  We cannot know what Valve is going to patch next since the patches are unannounced, so how do we know what to record now for later?  If you don’t know rocket jump  range is going to be buffed then how would you know to record a video of it now?

May 5, 2008

Another take on the TF2 “Gold Rush” patch

Filed under: Game Analysis, Patches — Tags: , , — spotpuff @ 16:19

Achievements can be a bit of a mixed bag. When done right, they are a badge of honour; a mark to other players that you are either skilled or have way too much time on your hands and are probably obese with poor hygiene and smell funny. You know, the guy no one wants to sit next to at a LAN party.

When done wrong, achievements are the bane of any online game. They completely destroy any semblance of co-operative team play and instead degenerate the game to a state of achievement farming.

That’s exactly what happened with TF2.

There were a few problems Valve brought upon themselves with the release of this patch:

  1. They put achievements into the game, but only for medics, not for other classes.
  2. They put unlockables into the game. Unlockables are items you have to “unlock” to use, rather than being able to use them right away.

Now normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the achievements are not practical at all. Some of them are not achievements you would get if you were playing medic as a team player. For example, needle gunning 50 scouts to death, or bone sawing 50 medics to death. These are NOT things that happen in a regular team fortress game. 99% of the time if you are a medic and you don’t have your medigun out you are doing it wrong. The bone saw has a place in spy killing and last-ditch melee attacks, and the needle gun is useful, just not against scouts. If you needle gun a scout to death the scout either sucks or you got lucky or both, but realistically you should have been healing someone who kills the scout for you. So why did you have the needle gun out in the first place?

After the patch team composition went out the window as people tried to get achievements. Joining a pub server would result in a team that was 90% medic trying to get achievements for the new toys, instead of having a balanced team that would be better at winning the game. If Valve had released achievements for all the classe,s then they wouldn’t have had this problem. People would play their favourite classes, end of story. I understand medic was the most underplayed class (and with good reason; the medic is boring as hell to play), but instead of making new achievements and unlockables for the medic they should have focused on finding ways to make the medic more fun to play.

Give medics an electric field that is only active when healing, so they can run into people and zap them. Make it so healing a target also heals or buffs the medic past 100% health. Something to make it so holding down the heal button and standing around trying not to get knifed in the back or lit on fire is not the only thing medics can realistically do in the game.

Even with the new unlockables, medics are first and foremost the healers of the team. The new needlegun does almost nothing to improve a medic’s killing power (it heals you 3 health per hit but also cannot crit) and the new ubersaw is just plain overpowered when two medics use it together, but bone sawing 4 people without dying is still a challenging prospect and getting two medics who both have the ubersaw to do an ubersaw train is even more unlikely now that the achievement_unlock_all exploit has been patched and people have lost some interest in obtaining medic achievements.

I have a problem with unlockables in general. I paid for this game, and there’s new content in it that basically is only available if you jump through hoops to get it. There is now an achievement farming map for medics called “achievement”. It’s basically a small map that will let you get all the medic achievements if you have enough people and enough time. This is not how TF2 should be played, on a server with your clanmates farming achievements; achievements should be unlocked through teamplay and skill. As I mentioned though, some of the achievments are plain impossible to achieve without “farming” them or prohibitively screwing your team out of a useful player for the duration of the game.

Part of the problem is a question of reward and entitlement. Should the players who spend the most time on the game be rewarded with gear that gives them an even larger advantage over their more time-constrained peers? Or should everyone have access to the same weapons and skill be the main determining factor? The more time you invest in the game, the better you should be at it anyways. It’s one reason I stopped playing World of Warcraft and started playing DOTA and TF2: skill determines how well you do, not time invested. The two are correlated, but not absolute. I am decent at TF2 and DOTA so I can beat some players who play more than I do based on skill, and that’s the way it should be. Unfortunately that’s not the way it is. TF2 should not be about who has more time to mindlessly grind out achievements, it should be about who has the better teamplay, individual skill and map knowledge to win. If Valve continues on in this direction TF2 will become a game of haves and have nots based not on skill but who has the most free time available to do stupid repetitive tasks.

April 30, 2008

GG Valve

Filed under: Game Analysis, Patches — Tags: , , , , — spotpuff @ 13:22

Alright you rogue, I’ll play your game.

Valve released a new patch yesterday for Team Fortress 2. It’s the “Gold Rush” patch that includes a new map and 36 new achievements for the medic class.

For every 12 achievements you attain, you receive a new weapon. The first is a new needlegun that heals you when you damage oppponents, the second is a new medigun that gives 100% crit chance to your target instead of invulnerability, and the third is the ubersaw which converts bonesaw kills to ubercharge; 4 bonesaw kills = 1 full ubercharge meter.

After spending 3 hours grinding these out last night for Kodene, I found out there is a command to do it. If you open the console and type achievement_unlock_all, you get all the achievements and new weapons.

Ah Valve. Pitiful content patches for 6 months and now this. How are they going to rectify this without rolling everyone back? Maybe they can scan everyone’s console log for that line and if someone typed it they lose everything?

Time will tell, but this is a major screw up on what was supposed to be the first major content patch of TF2. It does not inspire confidence in their ability to either deliver new content or patch existing imbalances in the game.

UPDATE

Well, they patched it and rolled back everyone, but some of the cheaters still kept their achievements.

And Kodene did too, so yay! He is the proud owner of an Ubersaw and the envy of other medics with their puny regular saws.

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