Valve: Team Fortress 2 Random-Item Issues Improved Last NightS

Some tweaks on Valve's side of things may already have improved the controversial but still-evolving new system the company has been using to randomly grant players access to new items in Team Fortress 2.

It may have been invisible to players but Team Fortress 2 director Robin Walker told Kotaku today that some of the issues with the new item-drop system in the popular game have already kicked in, hopefully soothing some of the frustration some players have been having with it.

"Last night we fixed one major problem that accounted for a lot of those cases where people were finding multiple items at once and where other people weren't finding anything at all," Walker said. "So we fixed that. We're not at all sure that that fixed everything, so we're going to keep plugging away at that."

The change was made at the Valve server end and was activated without need for a title update.

That tweak last night was part of the TF2's team's attempt to improve the transition from the game's original Achievement-based item-unlocking system and the new one that is supposed to grant new character-improving weapons and other items on a random basis. Such a system has been crucial to enjoyment of the game, as the items in question afford characters in the game lasting improvements.

That transition began earlier this month and was explained on the game's official blog. Walker elaborated on the reason to switch from the old Achievement system to the randomized one for Kotaku today:

"The main reason we made the change came directly out of customer feedback to our previous system," Walker said. "That had its pros and cons. One of the pros was that people could work expressly toward unlocking something and they could get some sense of their progress. … But on the con side there were that a large number of people — in fact the bulk of our customers, because we get all the stats — who never managed to complete many of the achievements or unlock those things. And so we looked at the pros and cons and wanted to build another system.

"The reason we went with the current system which is essentially fully random is because it's a nice little step. Like everything we do, we like to iterate and take into account customer feedback. We're aware that this [new system] has some negatives. You can't really work toward finding things. But, on the other hand, all of our customers get to play with the new toys now, which for us is really nice. For us, the question is: 'Where do we go next?'"

Walker said that Valve will continue to iterate and improve the unlocking system and has already announced a plan to re-introduce ways for players to actively unlock items, though it doesn't sound like the team is reverting purely to the old model.

What Walker and the team first wants to do is ensure that the new randomized system is working the way it was intended. Tweaks like Valve's last night should make that happen. And only then can the developers truly determine which systems are best and what the best way to proceed is.

How best to reward players is a fundamental question. What should you be able to get through the hard work of playing toward a goal? And what should be accessible to all over some period of time? It's no easy question to answer and one which no system may be able to solve to everyone's satisfaction.