September 2, 2009

Injustice for All

Team Fortress 2 ragepost. Well, not really. As much as any post I do is a ragepost- I know my feelings on the matter, and those feelings are pretty strongly negative, but I can, as ever, appreciate the feelings of the other side. But this is just pissing me the hell off.

So, Team Fortress 2 has a problem. It has unlockables- two categories of them, really. One category is the unlockable weapons- they are pretty awesome, and offer different functionality than the regular versions. You could unlock a flamethrower that always gets a critical hit when you burn a target from behind (the Backburner, what a delicious tool), and that's just one example. Each class is getting 3 unlockable items, and 6 of the 9 classes have gotten them thus far. You can earn these unlockables through achievements, or... through a random drop system, that generates them spontaneously through a system of variables. And yes, you can get the same one over and over with this system, so it may not surprise you that most opt to try for achievements. The drop system, frankly, kind of sucks. But hey, at least there's an alternative.

More recently, though, Valve added hats. Wearable hats, 3-4 for every class, that are AWESOME. And in a game that, thus far, has had NO visual customization, the hats are a big freaking deal. And the ONLY way to get them is through the hated drop system, and they drop at a very, very low rate. The thing is... you don't actually have to play to get them. You just need to be in a server. Some of you may be seeing where I am going with this... people began to open up "idle" servers, where you could simply log in, and walk away, and let the items rack up.

People used these idle servers before the hats were added a few months back, but hats really made their useage spike, because there was no alternative. I have played TF2 at least 3 times a week, several hours every session, since the update, and I have not gotten a single hat, because the random number generator (RNG) does not love me. And this is INCREDIBLY frustrating, and pisses me off to no end. I did not use idle servers, though. It just... it seemed, to me, to make those items lose their value. That they weren't as special. Valve expressed sadness at the idea of idle servers, but seemed to consider it a necessary evil, because while in the past they were quite quick to take action when something displeased them, they did nothing of the sort here.

Then, someone came up with a special program- basically, you ran this dos-window style program, and it logged you into an idle server without wasting your system's resources on the none-too-shabby graphics of TF2. That was... a month ago, I think? And again, Valve did nothing. And I continued to hold off... until last week, I snapped. I think it was around the time the RNG decided to give me my SEVENTH pair of the boxing glove item (and no, the duplicates do NOT benefit you in any way- Valve claims they will someday, but for now they are just a slap in the face), and I still had NONE of the thirtysomething hats in the game. I was livid. And so I broke down, and downloaded the program. It wasn't that I had been holding off because it seemed wrong, against the rules- Valve had let it slide for a MONTH. Last time a program did something they didn't like, everyone that used it was punished inside of a week. I just wanted to earn the items. When I finally accepted that there was no such THING as earning with this terribly designed system, I got the idler.

The idler earned me no hats, in the time I have used it since, just more and more duplicates. And Valve has suddenly pulled a policy about-face, and stripped anyone who used the idler of their unlockable items. It was supposed to be just the ones gotten through idling, they say, but at least to me, and those I've spoken to, that's not what happened. We are missing way more than that. And it's not even about that anymore. It's about retroactive rule enforcement (they admitted themselves that they had no previous policy about it, and yet are suddenly taking action), and just plain insulting customer service.

I bought this game. Twice. I own it on 360 and on PC. I've convinced other people to buy it, to play it. I've never used any of the multitude of exploits that have been discovered- no building sentries under the map, no command console usage, no autounlock programs or data file editting, none of that. I finally used ONE piece of third party support because Valve seemed cool with it, got nothing from it, and then got smacked on the nose with a newspaper for accessing content that I own, bought and paid for. Valve is going to give us back the unlockables they didn't mean to take away. That's not what this is about. This is about them telling the community how they are permitted to play the game. We did nothing that gave us any kind of in-game advantage. And the in-game idle servers? They're doing better than ever! We are being punished for saving system resources, plain and simple.

Oh, but it gets better. Everyone who didn't use this idler program got a special halo for their "good behavior" and for taking the "moral high ground". Okay. This is where this stops being a debate on policy. This is where it becomes a straight-up "fuck you, Valve." You're giving halos to people who didn't use this idler, even those that previously used map exploits, data file hacking, third party unlocker programs, or are in idle servers right now. I would stake my goddamn life that there are people hanging out in in-game idle servers wearing their halos. I say again: Fuck you, Valve.

I am not a criminal. I am not even a rulebreaker. I did something that was entirely okay by your own rules until you decided to change them, and on the day that you changed them retroactively punish everyone who had done it the other way. I own two copies of TF2, I own Left 4 Dead, I own Half-Life and Half-Life 2. And until there is some apology or reconciliation, that is ALL I will own of Valve's products. I love their games. I love their design. And I will continue to play these games. But their customer service is straight up tyrannical, and it disgusts me.

And until they mend their ways... remember, Don't Fire Till You See the Tops of Their Heads.

P.S.: Every Valve employee has full hat access, and even access to weapons that the rest of the community can't touch. Are you going to ban them too?

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