Conflicting Goals

The Team Fortress 2 Halloween event (not quite over) is a new map, Mann Manor. There are three capture points, with healing candy sprinkled about. It is a lovely piece of work with great backgrounds and details. But the new gameplay, items, and achievements are probably what you care about.

The Horseless Headless Horsemann will occasionally spawn on the capture point. He one-shots anything he can reach, and one person is “it” (melee an enemy to tag off). Kill him for an achievement and a hat, melee him for another achievement and a crafting item. Gifts will occasionally spawn randomly around the map. The first person to touch it gets an achievement and a hat. There are nine hats, a paper bag mask for each class. Get the full set and craft them together for an achievement and a hat; this is the only holiday hat you can wear after the holiday. Last year’s achievements and items are also around, and there are a few cash shop items.

How much farming of the new map is going on? A lot. The map spawns a present or three per game if the game runs its full time. Presents spawn only if there are enough (10, but reports vary) people on the map. Assume 1 present per 5 minutes, which is an hour or two of /played depending on how many players you have, so one person gets 9 masks for every nine to eighteen hours played. That is a significant investment for an imaginary hat.

The primary conflict on this map is not RED vs. BLU but rather players vs. farmers. Some people are there just to farm gifts, not to fight. There are several servers set up for this. Unless you have a mod there at all times, you cannot enforce rules to make peaceful farms, to keep people from capturing the point or blocking caps at inconvenient times, etc. Try the reverse case, where you are there to play the new map and some number of people are primarily there to farm achievements/hats. When the gift spawns, people scatter to look for it. That can change it from even teams to five-on-one, which is not a lot of fun in either direction. Worse, maybe a third of your team did not bother to leave the spawn until the present appeared.

This kind of thing happens in any group-based game in which there are awards for anything significantly outside normal play. Last year’s achievements (and hat awards) were variations on “kill people on this map.” All the new achievements (and hat awards) are for things other than killing your enemies or winning rounds. If the entire point of the game is team-based PvP, rewarding PvE and scrambling around the map is absurd. It incentivizes aberrant gameplay and encourages intra-team and meta-game conflict, both of which make the game itself less fun. There are ways to make PvP conflicts over PvE resources interesting, but this is just rewarding individuals for screwing over their team, with no way for the rest of the team to punish or exclude.

And that applies whether most people are there to farm or there to play.

: Zubon

And then there was a big sale. Hey, do the newbs on my team suck more or less than the newbs on your team? I miss our regulars some nights.