I can’t be the only one who thinks there’s something elegantly ground-breaking in that simple, simple change during today’s double-update. To quote directly from the update notes:
“Made the Spellbook Magazine a base action slot item for players to equip and use when playing on a server that uses Halloween Spells”
For gameplay, this means that if you join a server that has spells enabled (which can be any server thanks to a new cvar, but also plr_hightower_event by default) and your action slot is empty, it’s autofilled with this:
A very minor change, at the moment almost inconsequential. Valve clearly just wanted all players to be able to use Halloween spells and didn’t feel like repeating what they did last year (flooding every single TF2 account with a free Unique-quality spellbook magazine.) This way, we can avoid all those problems where you try to play koth_trainsawlaser and feel like you’re cheating by using spells because 66% of the server joined after October 2013 so they can’t shoot bats out of their hands. (We actually had this identical problem during both the 8v8 Medieval Highlander and Stupid Subclasses, Stupid Maps tournaments.)
But the way they solved it is, to my knowledge, unique in the history of Team Fortress 2. Since the game came out, Valve has never added normal-quality (also known colloquially as Stock-quality) anything to the game (not counting a few glitched items here and there). The 27 weapons the nine mercenaries started with in 2007 have remained the hard-and-fast base standard for this game and no subsequent addition has ever attained that level. Even the Mercenary badge, which you get just for starting the game up, still comes in Unique quality only. You can’t even rename, describe, or killstreakify stock weapons; it’ll grant you a Unique-quality version with the custom additions instead.
This means that the Normal-quality Spellbook breaks a couple of cool records:
*First Normal-quality item with a description
*First all-class Normal-quality item
*First Normal-quality cosmetic/action item
*First Normal-quality item whose Unique-quality version comes in levels other than 1.
In addition, this means a couple of nice changes for the base game. You can now cast spells even when the item server is down. Running out of ammo with all your weapons causes this to happen even on non-spell-enabled servers. The spell HUD actually shows up outside the Halloween event, meaning it’s now possible to see what spell you’ve picked up without using it. Luckily the spell HUD doesn’t show up on non-spell-enabled servers.
Also, if you equip your stock spellbook magazine and use a Resupply Cabinet/the Upgrade Station to switch to the Power-Up Canteen, you can now cast spells and activate Canteen charges in the same life. This means custom MvM mapmakers can factor spells into balance if they like. This also ties into another change made during this update: “Halloween spells can now be enabled and controlled on servers via ConVars tf_spells_enabled and tf_player_spell_drop_on_death_rate” and “Halloween spells can now be enabled by map authors via HolidayEntity by setting the flag HalloweenSetUsingSpells“. This makes it very easy for servers to turn Halloween spells on and off regardless of map/other settings, and mapmakers can now very easily factor spells into their designs (they could already do this somehow but I don’t think it was particularly easy).
The most important thing this update implies is that Valve hasn’t forgotten about spells, which I’m glad about because they were an excellent addition to plr_hightower_event and I felt they were underused as a concept if their story ended after a single map. I honestly like my Normal-quality spellbook even more than my unique version and hope that somehow it’s going to factor into this year’s Halloween event. Which honestly should be any day now; we can only wait.