Team Fortress 2

Mann vs Machine

posted in Team Fortress 2

It's been quite a while since I played Team Fortress, due to both my departure from clans and my growing rather disillusioned with the amount of items the game was gaining, but a few days ago they added the "Mann vs Machine" mode to the game. Having recently spent a rather heavy amount of time playing Orcs Must Die 2 (if you enjoy tower defence I would recommend buying it btw) so the mention of a TF2 horde mode type thing, I picked it back up and have been playing on and off since.

My reactions are... let's just call it mixed for now, the jury is still out - getting a snack most likely - but seem to be edging towards the door marked 'disappointed'. So let's see if I can break it down, and maybe even avoid mentioning the wimpy dim-witted players that I've been plagued with. Edit - looking back over my various rants, most the negatives are from an implementation/server side, rather than gameplay, so bear that in mind.

The Bad
Mann vs Machine puts 6 players vs an army of robotic versions of the standard TF2 classes. To play the idea is you load TF2 and click the new co-op button on the main menu, grab some friends and join a matchmaking queue. The problem is that unlike most games that use matchmaking or such small player numbers you still need a server. So for most people it's now 'Team Fortress Queue', average wait being 45mins so far. Alternative is to trawl the server lists for one playing the correct map and hope you can find one with around 4 people playing before someone else does. Looking around it seems the majority of the players have had a variety of errors preventing them from even reaching that point. Myself? I got into a game because Fatbuddha (Guess what class he plays?) has a good enough internet connection to run a dedicated server that we could password.

The game-mode just feels half-assed, I'm sorry to say it because honestly reading the TF2 blog does make me chuckle and that makes me feel a touch warm to Valve. The problem is it's not really a new mode... you need a 32 man server to run it (most companies charge by the slot) but this literally only allows for 6 players, the other 26 are the robotic team... which consist of the pre-existing TF2 bots. The only difference is the bot's spawn in groups and follow a path to try carry a bomb to the end of the map, while the players have access to weapon upgrades if they loot the spoils of war.

Don't get me wrong it can actually be very enjoyable, but 26 opponents at once (max - it actually drops if someone joins your server and sits in spectator) isn't what I have come to think of for "Horde" type gameplay, although that is largely just pre-conceptions on my part. The way the difficulty increases is with giant versions of the classes, the same robots but with more hitpoints/damage. Waves seem to vary between just holding down fire and 'I saw the giant heavy, time to respawn'. Mostly my disappointment comes from it requiring a dedicated server, and using pre-existing bot functionality just with automated spawns. Oh, if one of your team quits half way through a wave then the bots will make use of the extra slot to spawn another one, preventing you getting a new player. There are many other games that can handle game modes like this without needing dedicated servers or such low player counts - the only reason for the bot limitation I can see is CPU usage but that doesn't seem right either.

The upgrades, whilst I think they can make the game really fun, it saddens me a little that there isn't more variety. Every class has the same generic upgrades (speed, jump height, damage resistance, HP regeneration - I'm surprised there's no HP boost to be fair) and the same canteen (consumables)... where's the more class specific ones? Maybe even the purchase of some new whacky abilities. Almost all the weapons have the same options as well, I can't help but feel Valve ran out of creative juice here.

The Good
Ahem yes, now that I've had my usual rants (I thought that's what blogs are for. What do you mean no? It's mine I'll do what I want!), let's try get something positive here!

The upgrades you can get can completely transform the way you play and really the teams that co-ordinate upgrades or think sensibly, are the ones that do the best. They can bring classes into the game that you really didn't expect to be any good. Turning a Soldier from a slow firing slow projectile nutter into some sort of rocket-machine gun toting speed freak or a sniper into a fairly effective area of effect damage dealer.

There is an ability to select a difficulty and I have so far only completed one of the hardmodes (although I'm pretty sure this is down to the players I've met rather than it being that hard, and the bot's actually show a decent degree of intelligence for something that is tied into a set path.

Lastly, whilst I am fairly disappointed in how the game mode runs and it's limitations, the models of the robotic merc's are fantastic, the way they announced and displayed the update on their site is top notch and honestly... it still feels like TF2 - Chaotic as always.

Note: Whilst the bad section here may go on longer than the good section, outside of the connection issues it's honestly not anything that will affect 99% of players. It's simply the thought process I've been through whilst trying to set up a server these past few days that has led to most of these irritants.

The Downright Ugly, Smelly and Irritatingly Git-Faced
I wanted to avoid mentioning the players but I can't! The server we have been 'running', is setup (after much frustration) to be permanently on the hard difficulty due to us finishing the easy one of all the maps within the first hour or so. We even put in the title (although whether it's there at the moment of writing I don't know, we reinstalled the server) HARDMODE. But it seems after 2 failures at a wave the server empties, or people whine and ask for it to be made easier. The best example of this was someone who tried to vote for a difficulty change every 2minutes, eventually saying "I won't play until it changes"... our response was why not just go to another server to which he said "No, because then I can't vote at all" ... !?!?!?! What would it matter?

I am aware that people don't always want it to be super challenging (I'm working on adjusting the scripts to make it MORE challenging however) but when the server says it's on the hardest difficulty in the name, you'd think they'd like... not complain or just not join. We've come very close to completing them on several occasions but when a player quits you have to restart (not by force, but so that the replacement can get some upgrades) and sooner or later the rest leave too.

Now, the other thing which has actually made me grow frustrated with Valve is something that polarises the TF2 community - Free 2 Play. Like many others I bought TF2 when it was released, a few years later Valve made it available for free, due to the introduction of an item store. Fair enough I and many others thought, we will be able to get items that the F2P players can't and they make up for it by buying from the store that makes sense... except there is nothing 'owners' get that they don't. More frustratingly they introduced crates/keys, crates being one of the most common drops and main way to get the rarer items.. but the keys to open them cost money. What does this have to do with the MvM update? Well there's new items with MvM mode as well but they only drop in "Mann Up" mode, which requires you to buy a ticket (that is consumed upon completion of the map).

So I, like many others, am rather frustrated that there seems to be no advantage to my purchasing the game all those years ago. There is no access to the extra game modes/items etc, whose sales allow the game to be F2P. Sense of entitlement perhaps, but given that we paid for it(and many pay for the servers that keep the game running) I feel justified. In contrast, Guild Wars 2 is coming out (as if you didn't know) and costs approximately £10 more than I paid for TF2 all those years ago, like TF2 it has no monthly subscription, but unlike TF2 it's store is purely cosmetic and the servers are run entirely by the company.

I mentioned above I am trying to ramp up the difficulty, I imagine there are players out there who really enjoy high difficulty as well, but unlike a regular server it's not like you can get server regulars or build a little community over your unique server.. because you are limited to 6 at a time, and with the bots constantly spawning/dropping mid-game if you do find a favourite server you can't exactly set it to auto-join.

Again, I'd just like to note the majority of my frustrations are from a server side, as a game itself it is still very enjoyable. And on that note, the current IP for the server is:

Comments [3]


Shifty @ 21/08/2012 13:16
[size=150]The Downright Ugly, Smelly and Irritatingly Git-Faced and [b]] couple of formatting issues matey

Crimson @ 21/08/2012 16:53
Whoops! Thanks for that, fixed!

FatBuddha @ 27/08/2012 17:10
I think that if a player joins a game that has progressed beyond the first round, that they should be given the credits achieved from previous rounds - it would avoid the need to restart a level after somebody leaves. Anyway - I'll probably leave it a few weeks now, and come back later to see if any changes have been made.

Blog Calendar