“It’s pretty safe to bet that new cosmetics will have something to do with the next generation of presents, due to a “Scream Fortress 2014″ Workshop tag being the only clue we’d received up until the recent blog post, but for more specifics, we’ll have to wait and see. I just hope Valve’s execution doesn’t cause too many complaints.”
~aabicus, as Scream Fortress 2014 approached
Valve’s execution caused many complaints. Honestly it was the worst possible interpretation of the present system yet.
For those who weren’t there (or blanked the experience from their memory banks) Valve’s first clue as to how the new present system would work came with this blog post dedicated to the topic. Three parts apologetic and one part ambitious, Valve discussed how the previous versions of the present system didn’t work out how they hoped and how they had a new system planned that they hoped would alleviate the problem. In particular, the part they really didn’t like was how some people would create idling servers that let them teleport around the various gift spawns while idling, letting whole servers of players farm the gifts like nobody’s business. “While some farming accounts claimed more than five hundred gifts just last year,” it notes, “the median numbers of gifts claimed was only five.” It goes on to note that in order to combat this, players will first receive a present just for logging in. Then they can get a second present by completing achievements, and “put together, these two bundles will grant more items per player than the median five gifts from last year.”
The event started, and Valve wasn’t kidding: each present released three new Halloween cosmetics, and six is more than five. Too bad that was literally the only way to get the new cosmetics without buying them from the Mann Co. Store, meaning that Valve basically just removed every aspect of the present system. And while it may seem odd for me to complain about that when it’s never done anything but suck, I can’t help but be a little bitter about the tone and content of the blog post they used to justify it. The post is almost entirely economy-focused, never once mentioning that the real problems with the present systems were the horrible things it did to gameplay, most notably the ridiculous amount of scouts. It then goes on to cite Idle servers are the real problem, as if the players care that somebody’s farming Halloween spells. Guess what Valve, that’s something that might bother you at the developer, but it actually doesn’t affect us in any way. In fact, it makes it better because the stuff will be dirt cheap due to inflation and we can afford what we want off the market for pennies. Because god knows relying on RNG presents to get what we want is an exercise in tedium.
On that note, Valve’s new system did the exact opposite. There were so few of every Halloween item in circulation that everything was stupidly expensive on the Market. Some things like Mr Mundee’s Wild Ride was so coveted that it was routinely more expensive than just buying it from the store, especially if you wanted it in strange or Haunted form. That’s certainly a good thing for Valve, but it’s insulting that they’d try to pretend this was somehow better for the players as well. And don’t get me started on the “more items per median” bit that I quoted from the passage above. Using the phrase ‘you’ll get more than X!‘ to mean ‘exactly X+1‘ is a dick move no matter how you look at it and should be reserved for used car advertisements and Tinder profiles, not smiling attempts to justify a cash grab to a community you are about to screw over.
Scream Fortress 2015 will be here in just over a month, and a lot of people have added some kickass Halloween items to the Workshop despite knowing they’re going to make jack for money, and it’s almost certain that we’re going to get presents again. I almost wish we didn’t, because it’s a kick in the pants every time, but who knows. Obviously there’s a chance Valve strikes gold and releases a present system just as awesome as the real-life one it’s based on, but after that blog post I’m not optimistic. At least the map itself is almost always a crazy fun racket.
I also didn’t enjoy the way they implemented the presents last year, but one thing struck me when reading your article. You lamented the fact that for players in general, the Hallowe’en cosmetics weren’t nearly as cheap last year because the market wasn’t flooded with them like they usually are. You said that last year’s system benefits Valve instead of the average player, and I entirely agree. That said, though, you also pointed out that the content creators who make the Hallowe’en cosmetics haven’t historically made much money off of sales, but isn’t the reason for that *because* there have always been so many cosmetics flooding the market?
While Valve certainly made a better profit from last year’s system, I’d guess that that resulted in the players who made the content making more as well. So while I personally didn’t enjoy the changed drop system as much, it certainly seems fairer to content creators, and they’re a big part of the TF2 community. As such, if Valve employs the same method of free gift dispersal this year, I’ll remain a happy camper.
You’re right in that the new system benefits the item creators somewhat, if only because more people buy the keys since all other forms of obtaining the cosmetics were blocked, I didn’t think of that. But I was more upset with the way Valve phrased it, because they tried to claim that the old system was unfair for regular players or something, when it was the exact opposite. The recent blog post indicated that they’re probably not changing presents a single jot this year, so I guess we can take the money earned by item-makers as a silver lining.