Monday, December 28, 2009

TF2 Recent Thoughts

Crafting items into hats is a good idea, even though you need something like 220 items to have good odds of getting a specific hat. I crafted a Pyro's Beanie on my main account, and I'm only one drop away from being able to craft an item on my alt.

I just wish they'd implement trading. I have two Heavy hats, and both Spy hats. (Camera Beard no longer counts as a hat, everyone has one, many people have several.) I'm sure there are people out there who would trade their dupes for my Tough Guy's Toque.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Soldier/Demo Weapon Thoughts

I have all the new items from the War Update, and I have to say I have mixed feelings. I have serious balance concerns about almost all of the weapons.

Soldier "Scotland is not a real country! You are an Englishman with a dress!"

The Direct Hit may be overpowered, it's hard to tell exactly how much damage it does, especially with the patch that just changed how much damage it does. I'll tell you one thing: it does a lot.

The Buff Banner seems to be quite balanced. You have to get into the thick of it to charge it up, so it's a game of risk calculation: getting into that fight might get you fully charged, but it might kill you right before you finish charging, too. Once you actually trigger the banner, it's totally awesome. 14 seconds of mini-crits for a pretty large area is incredibly significant, especially when your own Direct Hit rockets are buffed to the point where you can one-shot snipers/scouts/engies.

At first, I had a problem with the Equalizer being so good, I'm against items that are purely better than their alternatives. At the moment, the Pick is technically not purely better than the shovel, as you can't be medi-gunned when you're holding it, but it is a lot better than the shovel regardless. Previously, the shovel was the least damaging weapon in the game, so I think soldier melee needed a boost. Now they just need to boost the shovel to make it an honest choice. (Have you seen a Soldier at really low HP plow through an enemy team? Devastating)

Demoman "I'll notify your Next of Kin... That you SUCKED!"

I'm going to skip all the lead in: Everyone knows there's an overpowered weapon in this update, and Valve better nerf it before the game is completely ruined.

The Grenade Launcher. It's good at close, medium, and far distance. It does enough damage to one-shot low health classes, and two-shot everyone but a Heavy. It's the most effective weapon against a Sentry Gun. The pills go faster than the regular Rocket Launcher, and are nigh-impossible to dodge, unless you're pretty far away. Even when you do dodge them, they stick around to deal ~60 damage to whoever is unlucky enough to stand in their enormous blast radius.

The Sword and Shield are essentially an enormous boost to the Grenade Launcher. If you get 4 heads with the Eyelander, you have over 210 HP, along with Damage resistance that essentially doubles your HP against most classes. You also go about as fast as a scout. This lets you use the grenade launcher with impunity, and still allows you an occasionally instant-kill with the sword. If anything gets nerfed, it's going to be this. (There are few things more frustrating than Direct Hitting a Demoman in midair, only to see you did about 40 damage.)

PS. There are a lot of new visual options that default to being disabled: Go into your advanced multiplayer options and turn basically everything on. The new medic stuff is really good, it shows you where people are even when they're not calling for medic, and being able to see how much damage you're doing is incredibly useful, both for gauging how much HP the enemy has, and to train yourself to be more effective.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

War Update Thoughts

The War Update is TODAY! Have you killed your share of Demomen? Apparently not, as they've essentially caught up. Although I hope Soldiers win, I can't contribute enough kills to be significant, so I'm not going to kill myself trying to amass a few kills.

Unfortunately, Valve released the Achievements all at once, so we couldn't run the contest where we guess their purpose. Now I'm just thinking about how hard the achievements are. Quite a few of them are very difficult. Not as difficult as the stupid Medic achievements, but still harder than average.

It looks like they're not tying achievements to weapon unlocks initially, like in the Spy/Sniper Update.

Most of the new unlocks are pretty obvious: The Direct Hit can be worked out mathematically, the sword and shield turn the demoman into a melee fiend, the Pickaxe is a powerful melee, and the new sticky launcher seems to be less powerful than the normal one, but I'm not sure. The mystery element is the Bugle.

There are too many unknown factors that go into the Bugle to make any definite predictions, but here are my thoughts:
  • 14 Seconds are a long time, it's about 50% longer than an Uber/Kritz
  • Minicrits are obviously not as good as real crits, but they are still extremely good. As I've mentioned in a previous post, they don't just increase damage by 35%, they also prevent damage from falling off with distance. This means the damage increase can actually be as much as 150%.
  • I think we can say a banner is worth the same as an uber, if you can apply it to two or more people. What determines the value now is how difficult it is to charge up.
  • We don't know if the bugle confers crits to the user. The writing says "ally", so probably not. This is problematic; the guy who got his "rage meter" up to 100% is probably pretty good, and he's the only guy not getting mini crits.
  • The area the bugle affects is also an unknown (and incredibly significant) variable. If it's small area, that limits the classes that can usefully use the item: Pyros would be limited to using flares, or repelling attackers. (Come to think of it, Kritz Pyros turn reflections into crits, would mini-critting Pyro turn reflections into mini-crits?)
  • Regardless of how big the area of effect is, Heavies, Soldiers, and Demomen are going to get the best bonus out of this. I suppose Snipers could use their SMG's, they could get some good damage with the damage drop-off eliminated.
So, is the Bugle worth it? I'll need to know the two most important variables (Charge difficulty and Area of Effect) before I can say for sure, but I certainly want to try it out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Demo Sword and Shield

I assume you've seen the Demoman's new equipment. Most unlockables for TF2 have been things that change the class's role in a mild way: bow and arrow makes for a mobile sniper, but he still shoots at guys from a distance, Backburner encourages attacking from behind, but you still run at people with the hopes of them burning to death. The Eyelander and Chargin' Targe are a different animal all-together.

The sticky-launcher is an odd item: it's good at anything but the longest and closest ranges. It can get instant-kills with a couple seconds of preparation. If a Demoman is hiding at the end of a narrow tunnel, there are few ways to approach him and not be killed without even seeing him. Additionally, the stickies themselves do a lot of damage, and can be detonated in mid-air, making aiming a lot less difficult, (especially since they have the largest blast radius of any TF2 explosive).

Let's compare that to the Shield. By itself, the shield makes you the toughest pill-shooting guy on the planet, with essentially double health against explosives and fire. And you'd be capable of an occasionally devastating charge that goes faster than a scout. If nothing else, he could use it to retreat without possibility of being captured. (Unless it requires some sort of cartoony "wind-up" period, where he takes a step back before he charges. That would explain the difference between medium and long-distance charges in the explanation: different wind-up times.)

With the Sword and Shield together, the Demoman becomes something more like a pyro that gets bonuses when he gets kills. Charging people that have become isolated looks like it will be a devastating strategy; you can get a guaranteed critical hit with the shield, and get the health and speed bonus to hit the next one even faster and harder. The only problem I see is that it'll be almost worthless against a large group, unless you get them from behind.

The charge in particular raises so many mechanical questions: will you be seeing yourself from third person, like the scout's "bonk" drink? Will you be able to "pull out" of a charge? Will there be that "wind-up" period before you can execute the charge? (If there is a wind-up period, that would actually remind me of the stickies; you lurk around the corner, then trigger the attack as the enemies approach, then you get an instant kill.)

PS. It looks like the Sword/Pickaxe theory from the monkey comic was legit, we can expect the Pickaxe for the soldier today. I don't really care for it thematically. Soldiers did use entrenching tools like shovels, but it's not like all they did was dig holes. I would have expected something more like a trench knife, much more soldier-ey.

PPS. A while ago, some people tried to do a "medieval" game on CP_Castle, natch. You could only use Huntsman, Jarate, and Kukri as Sniper, and you could use the Flamethrower, (but only to ignite arrows,) and the axe as a Pyro. All the other classes didn't have appropriately medieval weapons. But with the Demoman's new stuff, it's like an SCA meeting in TF2 Land.

Monday, December 14, 2009

War Update Thoughts

It looks like Soldiers are going to win the War, they've been ahead consistently since the beginning. The fact that the gap is narrowing by percentage is concerning, but the margin is still large enough for my comfort.

Since it's an update week, I'm obsessively checking my feed reader and the blog itself to check for today's update, (which I imagine will be the melee weapons hinted at in the secret link from the Saxton Hale comic, the sword and pickaxe). While reading my feeds, I noticed Age of Conan is completely free to play until level 21. I then heard the content from levels 1-20 is the best part anyway. With a price of 0$, I was sold. After all, I thought, I can play this until the blog updates, right?

I underestimated the power of updates, though. While Valve can delay a blog update like a boss, Age of Conan has to download years of content to my computer before I can see the starting island. So here I am, waiting for two interminable processes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soldier War Strategy

Turns out I was partially right with my last prediction: soldiers and demos are competing for an item, it's just there's only one item at stake, not the whole update. (I wonder what they've designed that works for both classes? I've been meaning to write a post about how Soldier and Demo are mirrors of each other, like pyro/heavy, and Scout/Engie, but that'll wait for another time.)

You may be wondering how to win it for the good guys, the Soldiers. Mostly, just playing Soldier as hard as you can should work if you're good. Target Demos first, except for maybe Medics. (Come to think of it, targeting medics, then demos should always have been my strategy.) If it looks like a Demo has you cornered, jump into holes to your death, but don't kill yourself through the console or with a rocket if they've done any damage to you; they'll still get the kill. Play more carefully, if you're at low health, don't be afraid to let your team lose if it means not dying to a demo. If nothing else, try to get killed by

If you're not so good with Soldier, run Medic. If you want to be a team player, only heal Soldiers, never Demos. Try to take health packs before Demos can get to them, even if you have to get hurt to pick them up. Remember, the Soldiers on the other team are on your side too.

I wonder if Soldiers will get an attitude of just nodding to each other as they pass by. The only problem with that strategy is that any Soldier I don't kill could be killed by an "allied" Demoman. I've seen some Soldiers in good positions against Demos and just walked away, but I don't think we'll ever see a fully-fledged peace treaty.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Demo/Soldier Update?

You've probably heard of the announcement made concerning the Demo/Soldier "Friendship" business. I have a new theory about it.

What if it's not an update for either class? What if it's a stat-tracking contest where the "faction" that gets more kills, for example, gets to have the next update? That would explain the Competition idea.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cultural Values

Why do we value things that produce nothing for ourselves or for society? It's a serious question.

I don't know the numbers, but millions of people are employed in industries that produce nothing: Gambling, Sports, etc. It's not that no one should gamble (Although that would be a good life strategy), or that no one should participate in sports. The question is: "Why do we have professional leeches on society?" If there were no professional sporting facilities or broadcasts, we could spend the same money on nothing at all, and society would be better off because there would be no overhead. If Tiger Woods was payed millions of dollars for watching TV instead of golfing, society would be no worse off.

I just wonder about how much labour is devoted to things that benefit no one. Surely, this labour could be driven into institutions that feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and cure the sick. You know, what Jesus said we should do, and what few Christians do? (Church decorations also fall into this wasted category. If the Catholic Church tried to live up to Jesus' ethics, they probably wouldn't have vaults full of gold.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Star Wars Cartoon

This Star Wars Cartoon is rather poor quality. Episode 5 of this season is a good example: The entire narrative of the episode is, "Go kill those guys", They do.

It would be OK for a movie to have a 20 minute sequence about an invasion of a hostile force. That's just about standard for most war movies. But those war movies still have the currency of the character development in earlier parts of the film. This Star Wars battle means nothing, because none of the characters change as a result of it.

The Clone Wars of the show's title seem to resemble modern insurgencies, battles are won or lost, but there's no change in the character of the war. If the war isn't changing, and the characters aren't changing, that means nothing happened at all.