Valve has implemented its Final Solution against Team Fortress 2 players who used the third-party Steamstats program to gain access to time-based random item unlocks.
Beginning yesterday, Valve exterminated items indiscriminately and awarded who survived the purge with angelic halos as an symbol of moral superiority. Understandably, there has been mass outrage amongst TF2 players.
“I think its bullshit,” Kenneth “Neth” Tan from team VCO told GameSync. “They removed all the items without warning, even the ‘legally’ earned ones. I don’t see what’s wrong with using [Steamstats]. It’s just saving system resources from launching TF2 and idling.”
Steamstats is a third-party program created by “Drunken F00l”, developer of the SourceOP plugin for TF2. It is not a cheat or hack unlike most third-party software and instead uses Valve’s own developer tools to simulate idling on a TF2 server.
While some say that the blame lies with players for using a third-party program to “fake idle”, as the practice has been called, many fingered Valve as the one to blame.
“I’m not complaining about my items being removed,” said Edward “Glimmerous.Fop” Pang, a journalist with GameSync. “But still, it was the fundamentally retarded item unlock system that led to this whole mess.”
The reason why Steamstats has become so popular – indeed, the only reason why it exists – is because of the way Valve implemented item unlocks. In the course of normal play, players had a random chance to obtain a weapon unlock which granted new abilities, or more rarely, a hat that served a purely cosmetic function. Even if you had the item before, you could still get duplicates.
The essence of this system meant that only those who played long hours would benefit, by gaining access to more items. Sound like an MMORPG? Right on. Join the grind if you want to keep up with the rest.
Neth idled for over 900 hours over the past two months and lost 3 weapons and 5 hats in Valve’s extermination exercise. While his main motivation for idling was to gain access to the rare hats, there are those for whom idling is the only way to gain access to the new weapons.
I, for one, can’t afford to spend long hours playing TF2. In a typical month, I get in less than 5 hours of play time. To gain access to the shiny new weapons in a reasonable amount of time, I used Steamstats. Valve’s extermination exercise resulted in me going from having all weapons to only three, on top of those I already unlocked from achievements.
Was using Steamstats wrong? I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t really care. All I want to do is to jump in and play the game with the new weapons delivered in content updates. Therein lies the crux of the problem: If I’ve already paid for the full game, why should I have to grind for new content? It’s not an MMO, it’s an FPS for crying out loud.
While writing this article, I was not able to get the views of those who did not use the Steamstats idler, mainly because I don’t know any regular TF2 player that didn’t use it. If you are such a person, please feel free to post what you feel about this whole episode as a comment or in the forums.