Angels are never idle

Wow, what a shitstorm Valve have brewed up this time, and over something so stupid as virtual hats.

Fortunately it has more or less blown over now (and I missed it due to a poor internet connection making me unable to play TF2) but it just goes to show that a huge number of TF2 players are arseholes. The hats were supposed to be rare, if you want to play dressing up dolls go and play Battlefield Heroes. I’m not saying Valve were right to give out the rare hats randomly, that was a bit stupid. I would have had strictly limited numbers given out as awards, are you in the first 10,000 players to get 1 million lifetime kills as a Pyro? Have the fireman’s hat. With an achievements like this for each of them the hats would be rare and actually mean something.

To be honest that isn’t the point, the point is people who cheated the system have been punished and are now saying that the were not told it was wrong to cheat in that way. Well they were, the subscriber agreement states that you must not use any third party program to gain an unfair advantage. You might say that as the hats are purely cosmetic there is no advantage. Wrong. The people using the idler program did have an advantage, an advantage in getting hats, they had extra tickets for the lottery if you will.

Valve could have simply banned everyone using the idler as they had broken the agreement, Blizzard do that to people using a bot in Word of Warcraft. Instead they were quite nice about it, simply removing only the items that had been earned using the idler. Their next decision was possibly dubious, giving everyone who didn’t use the idler a halo hat. They did this as a bit of a joke I think, to show that they saw the funny side of the whole thing. It backfired because they didn’t anticipate how many total idiots there are who think that having a hat in TF2 is the most important thing in the world, it is these idiots who decided to play medic and refuse to heal anyone with a halo, it was these idiots who started screaming bloody murder on the official TF2 forums, it was these idiots who, by putting a virtual hat above having fun, are ruining the game for the rest of us.

Be patient, you may get the hat you want, you may not, but there are a lot more important things in life than a virtual hat. If you still find you can’t have fun in TF2 without the hat then I suggest you go outside and get some fresh air and possibly visit your doctor.


11 Responses to “Angels are never idle”

  1. September 10, 2009 at 10:46

    “are you in the first 10,000 players to get 1 million lifetime kills as a Pyro? Have the fireman’s hat. With an achievements like this for each of them the hats would be rare and actually mean something.”

    If only, but as Robin’s clearly pointed out in the past, any achievement-related stuff can be faked by servers – see the oldschool medic achievement maps where you healed insane amounts in seconds to get the grindy heal achievements. Robin’s even said that this was one motivation behind the random drop system. Which still isn’t a great system, and does need some way of working towards certain rewards ASAP.

    What you have missed, and what’s most interesting about this whole episode, is two points:

    1. First off, Valve are NOT punishing idlers because they’re idling, they’re punishing them because the used an EXTERNAL PROGRAM to idle. The NDA as always is vague, but Valve are perfectly within their rights to classify the idler as a cheat. They were right to do so. But what they are not going to do is stop folks using idle servers as they used to.

    2. The amount of time Valve took to deal with the program is interesting. The guy who made the program made something similar when the Scout Update hit – an Achievement unlocker, designed to net you the milestones instantly. Valve shut this down within the week it was released, and anyone who’d used it lost their achievements, but that was it. There was a humourous blogpost from our good friend the Announcer (http://teamfortress.com/post.php?id=2293) and the issue was dealt with – Quickly, with the minimum of fuss, and the minimum of drama. The author attempted to pre-empt any such repeat by asking Valve if the idler was OK, and specifically stated that if they asked him, he would cease distribution immediatly. That was back in May.

    Personally, I suspect Valve would have let the idler slip by, but in the end had no choice to crack down on the idler due to the number of users. It’s been around since May, remember. When it was 1000 users or so, it was small enough to let it slip by. It was up to 10,000+ simultaneous users towards the end, which is a much bigger group of your active TF2 players. Incidentally, a good chunk of those players are now back on achievement_idle servers ingame, which Valve are unwilling or unable to do anything about.

    In the end, it’s a pretty fair approach all round by Valve in removing the items. I think the angel halo is where most of the rage is focussed. Much more sensible would have been to give non idlers a random hat for their most played class. That way, they’re happy, the idlers have to wait for all their stuff to drop again, and life goes on. The halo is like some permenant lasting symbol of what’s been a pretty dire episode in TF2’s lifespan. As long as it’s around we’re going to find groups like “Halos against Idlers” and “Healers against Halos” lurking in public servers. Least PCG and JServer should be free of such rubbish.

  2. September 10, 2009 at 11:11

    What if the achievements for the hats were unannounced until all the hats had been given out? That would stop the farming for them.

    As for the time it took, you could be right though I suspect that it may have taken a long time to determine who unlocked what how.

    I still believe the problem is not Valve but the idiots who think the hats are important, but as you get people like that playing every game Valve should have seen it coming really. As you say it isn’t going to be a problem on a good server, even a good public server so maybe it is a good time to play as it will enable you to find out if your favourite sever is really worth playing on.

    Perhaps they should give people a chance to trade their halo for a hat of their choice?

  3. September 10, 2009 at 11:25

    Aye, it’s still a minority of idiots on both sides ruining it for everyone, though I’d argue Valve didn’t help matters.

    Hidden achievements is a nice idea, but there are problems – Folks can look at a lot of the game’s config and data files using the SDK, it’s very hard to hide anything well enough that people won’t find it. As an example, we’ve seen recently Valve Weapons, which are for the purposes of testing out weapon attributes. But from messing with the datafiles, we’ve known about the code for generating weapons with random attributes since the time of the Scout update (or before, possibly, I’d need to check). Also, regardless of how well hidden they are, once one person got his Pyro hat for 1 million kills, then the criteria is known. At this point, it’s a case of someone spending 2 minutes making an achievement_pyroburn map with constantly respawning NPCs.

    That’s not to say Valve couldn’t do it, but there’s a lot of extra security and the like needed – you’d probably need a Battlefield style Ranked Server option, which forces you to keep certain settings (Similar to the current sv_pure cvar, but more directed at server communications with Steamcloud). Even then, if you don’t manage to plug every loophole, you’ll generate even more rage.

    I think you need is hats with some varying degrees of rarity – people only want hats because we like to customise out characters to make them more unique. I spent more time in the CO beta making heroes than I did playing it. I’ll happily spend 15 minutes at the start of Fallout or Oblivion customising the face just right, despite the fact I never even see it ingame.

    If Valve want to stick with purely cosmetic items, there needs to be a lot more of them. So provide some common items via achievements – little things like a Spy-pen for the Spy’s suit pocket, or a different pair of goggles for the engie. Little things that aren’t too tough to get so that folks don’t care if you achievement grind them or just get them normally. Then keep some ultra rare ones for free giveaways or the like. Saw the Valve stand at PAX? Have the exclusive zombie clown wig! First 10,000 to preorder HL2 Ep3? Here’s a Resistance Soldier beanie! And so on.

    Though really, I’d rather the time that’s been spent on stuff like hats had instead been channeled into improving the gameplay itself, and into more class updates. Last year, L4D took most of the TF2 staff off of the game for a few months; hoping that doesn’t happen again. If we’re not seeing any more new content before February I doubt the Classless update will sustain us :p

  4. September 10, 2009 at 13:52

    I never thought I’d say this, but I think the free updates for TF2 are getting a bit much now. I hope they just finish off the class updates and their rebalance testing then just stick to new maps. I don’t like telling them how to make their game, but it’s getting to the point where the game is flooded with new ideas. Never before have I supported the purists argument, but lately I’ve been getting all nostalgic for the way it was originally, and I say this as someone who is in support of the unlocks.

    I originally thought that linking the hats to achievements, such as the top class achievements suggested in the article, or possibly for acquiring all achievements, would be a good idea. But now I recognise that it isn’t such a good idea due to how easily people can acquire achievements without any effort.

    The people who were idling are either idiots or people who got swept along, Valve probably should have nipped it in the bud sooner but surely it’s obvious that the idling program isn’t a fair gameplay tactic? The only defence I have heard is that Valve said it was okay, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that. If Valve did say this then they share some of the blame, but the idlers should still have known what they were doing wasn’t quite right.

    As for hats, I’ve become completely disenchanted with them. Back when it was the original set I was eager to get one, but now I just don’t care. Customising your character can be a lot of fun, but I don’t think it fits with the TF2 theme. The hats can make people too distinctive.

    Maybe Valve should just delete the hats all together, now that would stir up some fuss…

  5. September 10, 2009 at 14:02

    Yeah I have thought about the idea of getting rid of all the hats. Personally I think it is a good one, the character designs are ruined by some of the hats (notably the Heavy Football Helmet) and they don’t all fit in with the aesthetic. I would certainly rather they finished off the rest of the class updates before working on anything else.

  6. September 10, 2009 at 14:12

    “The only defence I have heard is that Valve said it was okay, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that.”

    Slightly wishful thinking on the part of idlers. Robin made a comment in an email reply which read as follows:

    “The idle server is essentially “cheating”, but they’re not able to earn items any faster than someone who’s playing during that time, which is something they would be able to do if we added performance related rewards.”

    The logic for turning this into “Valve are OK with the idle program”:

    1. “Valve know about the program and haven’t shut it down yet”
    2. “They’ve said it’s technically cheating but isn’t an advantage over people ingame, so doesn’t break the terms of the EULA”
    3. “Valve don’t stop people idling on achievement_idle servers, and this is no different to that”
    = “Valve must be OK with the program”

    It’s flawed logic, mind. Essentially, Valve changed their minds on point 2, which is fair enough, and mostly dealt with it appropriately.

  7. September 10, 2009 at 15:19

    Ah, thanks for clearing that up.

    I have spent quite a bit of time reading the Steam forums in the past but completely missed this until it was posted on the PCG forums. I know many people have asked the devs questions and received very good answers so I thought it was plausible that something had been said.

  8. 8 congofx
    September 10, 2009 at 17:22

    I’m not overly interested in TF2, so I’m not really taking much notice of what happens in steam groups but what is the idle program, what does it do? How is it used and what benefit does it give the player?

  9. September 10, 2009 at 17:31

    Basically it was a program that fooled Steam into thinking you were online playing TF2, as the item drop lottery is run based on play time this gave users an advantage in more chances to get a hat than if they only had their own genuine play time to get chances. As it was a third party program emulating the Steam protocols it was against the ToS as as such Valve could have simply banned every user, they didn’t but the people using it still claim they did nothing wrong or that Valve should have told them first.

  10. September 10, 2009 at 22:29

    I was pissed off that I lost the items I already earned via achievements. Thats what caused my rage at first. And the bastards going ‘I have a hat now. Nerr nerr’ just made me angrier.

  11. September 10, 2009 at 22:31

    There was never a danger of being banned, breaking the EULA or not. The EULA is essentially designed to be vague enough that they can act on their own discretion.

    As an amusing example I saw on the forums, Ventrilo is a third party program that offers users a distinct benefit over people who don’t use it. You can talk while dead, point out spies or snipers to your living teammates, and so on. By their own EULA they could happily VAC ban anyone who uses Vent instead of built in voice comms (That’d be every clan ever, I believe :p).

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