Late 2009 would be one hell of a year for me with online gaming, starting with me playing a console online for the first time: a friend’s Xbox 360. Battlefield Bad Company was still going hot, and Modern Warfare 2 would be coming out shortly. Before then, all of my online gaming consisted of PC games Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament ’99, so I started exploring “modern” online gaming. I logged into steam for the first time in a long time to see what I could get, and I eventually bought Half-Life Deathmatch. Eventually, I saw a game called Team Fortress 2 that I wanted and told some of my friends on IRC that I wanted to eventually buy it. For people wondering about the the need to buy it, it wasn’t until June 23rd, 2011 Team Fortress 2 was free to play.
One day, to my surprise, one of my friends gifted me a copy of Team Fortress 2 and I started playing right around when the Haunted Halllowe’en Special was going during that October. Still adjusting to newer gaming offerings, having class-based setups was quite different, but game modes like Arena and Capture the Flag were not. Trying to find a gaming style was interesting to say the least, especially when stuck with laptop’s touchpad. It made playing classes like the Sniper that required precision mouse movements very difficult. Over time, I became acclimated to mixing it up with the Engineer, Pyro, and Heavy classes. Being able to reign down bullets with sentries and heal/supply teammates, set everything on fire, and shooting everything with a minigun was hella fun. Even better than that, there was the map Harvest to play on, and the Ghastly Gibbus hat to acquire. Little did I know back then that Valve would actively maintain and update this game over the years for PC gamers. Unfortunately, as later I would fine out as being a Orange Box owner for 360, the console gamers got shafted. Some patches were released for the PS3 and 360, but due to licensing and fees involved with putting forth those kind of updates would make it impossible for (now) last gen gamers to experience all the wonderful new content Valve and the community would release over the years.
Besides the continuous patching to fix bugs and exploits, numerous items given at random drops, maps, the ability to craft items, and game modes were added over the years to either the enjoyment or disdain of the Team Fortress 2 communities. With the following WAR! update, players not only were in competition of seeing if the Soldier or Demoman could get more kills over each other, but crafting was introduced. It was an interesting concept at the time to be able to get items though random drops to eventually construct items or weapons- interesting only because it was overtly buggy, made the game quite crash-prone, and there was no help screens to tell what you could do. Most of this would be fixed with the next major patch, which also added the ability to play the game on the Mac! On September 30th, 2010, an update that would draw the ire of many players would be the Mann-Conomy Update, which introduced item trading, the Mann Co store, micro-transactions, and lots and lots of hats. One of the more common names that people started calling Team Fortress 2 was, and still sometimes is, called Hat Fortress 2. Not even a year after, the game went free-to-play with the Manniversary Update, which imposed item/crafting/item drop restrictions for people that got the game after June 23rd, 2011. People who bought the game before then, or purchased a Premium account did not have those restrictions, and the people who bought the game got a free hat and thank you. Woo.
People were afraid that the influx of free-to-play gamers would absolutely ruin the game so some people made server mods to keep free players out. While there are constantly new players coming onto servers to play, gameplay hasn’t changed that much in spite of those players. Trolling, mic spam, and other things still go on about the same whether the person paid for the game or plays for free. Things that have changed gameplay though, is the amount of weapon and item additions along with the re-balancing of items from community input over the years. One of the most notable that I’m able to think of right now is the Equalizer melee weapon for the Soldier. Back when it was released, it increased Soldier speed and damage as the health was reduced at the cost of the Medic being unable to heal a Soldier that was holding that weapon out. With the Pyromania Update, both boosts were separated into the Equalizer and the Escape plan, and after the Gun Mettle update in 2015, Medics were able to heal Soldiers at 10% capacity. It’s amazing how just one weapon evolves in such a fashion to two separate ones over the years.
Finally addition to adding game modes, weapons, items, and so on, a co-op experience was added with the Mann vs Machine Update, which pit up to 6 players against hordes of bots over six waves of increasing difficulty, not unlike any other horde mode that gained popularity in games during 2011/2012. It makes for a nice diversion when you don’t want to play against human teams, unless you’re playing the Halloween MvM map. Now that map is nigh impossible to beat unless you’ve got a full team and everyone is communication. Someday I’ll be able to beat Wave 666, someday! With four major updates every year, I can’t wait to see what is going to be coming though the pipeline this year. I loved playing it back when I got it in 2009, and I still do several years later