If you’re a player of the first-person shooter game Team Fortress 2, then you would know of #saveTF2. And for those who don’t, Team Fortress 2 is a critically-acclaimed game developed by Valve. Released in 2007, the game has accumulated an extremely loyal playerbase, who has continuously attempted to get the company to remove the bots ingame. These bots are not actually part of the game; rather, a bunch of player-hosted accounts that ruin matches by one-shotting the opponents, micspamming, posting offensive remarks, etc. Valve dropped its last major update in 2017, which was unsatisfactory, to say the least.
While small patches on minor aspects continue, it did nothing against the bots. The issues got worse overtime, with DDOS attacks to the server, causing mass disconnections. In a bid to get Valve to break radio-silence, a campaign began somewhere around May this year, where #savetf2 eventually got the game’s official Twitter account to acknowledge the efforts of the community. A few updates targeted on lessening the impact of bots began rolling out. It has since been three months since the response. The question is, was it good enough?
It is safe to say that the countermeasures are somewhat effective. Bots can still invade servers, but changes are evident. If a server isn’t completely filled with them, real players could vote to kick them out. Regardless, some issues persist. In one of the earlier efforts to combat the invasion, Valve took away the ability of communicating ingame for accounts that had not made any purchases. This essentially muted a large number of the playerbase, forcing them to either make a purchase or stay muted. It didn’t help that most of the bot accounts still had the ability for text and voice chat, rendering the ‘fix’ useless, and more importantly, an oversight; as free-to-play players are still muted to this day. When communication is a vital part of the game, players cannot have access to voice commands that help their respective teams. Attempts on tackling name changes to impersonate an actual player and get them kicked out have also been made, yet still remain an issue, as the problematic accounts could still rename themselves with a number before their username to validate access to the match.
The most prominent issues are Valve’s almost-nonexistent anti-cheat system. Regarded by most players of Valve’s games as a laughing stock thanks to its constant reminders of how cheaters get banned, it is incredibly outdated and no improvements have been made. This also affects other games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which is a bigger moneymaker for the company. Furthermore, the freedom in choosing what to work on as a Valve employee essentially meant that almost no one would want to work on TF2, especially due to its rumored ‘spaghetti code.’
Did the campaign bring any positive changes to the game? The bots are still rampant, although lessened. While getting a response from Valve is already an achievement in itself (due to how they kept avoiding inquiries on TF2 specifically), the game is far from being completely fixed. Playable? For sure, but the efforts in ensuring that the issues are cleared even for one patch would make one question whether it is really worth it for a 15-year-old game that is already complicated to work on. If anything, whether or not TF2 players will get a desirable state is up to Valve, and judging by how they treated one of their most beloved games, it seems that it’s about as much support that Valve is willing to grant, unless they are willing to prove the world wrong.
(Image credit goes to the TF2 community content creators)