For months now, Team Fortress 2 has been wilting under a concerted assault from spam bots, many of which overwhelm chat with racist and homophobic messages. Now Valve, which has otherwise largely abandoned the game, has stepped in. But that doesn’t mean the problem has been entirely solved.
In a new set of patch notes this week, Valve said that it has “restricted certain new accounts from using chat in official matchmaking modes.” It does not, however, consider the spam bot threat done and dusted. It added that “work is ongoing to mitigate the use of new and free accounts for abusive purposes.”
For now, players are reporting that many free accounts (TF2 has free and premium options) cannot use chat, whether they’re bots or not. This is a double-edged sword and, as a result, probably not a long-term solution.
“I got the game four days ago,” said one player on the TF2 subreddit. “I really like Medic, but am unable to communicate with the team because of this. I get [Medic ability UberCharge] and cannot tell my team before they rush in.”
On top of that, it appears that bot users are coming up with new tactics to continue vomiting vile garbage into chat. The most prominent of these so far involves changing team names repeatedly to spell out offensive messages that fill up chat. Fortunately, there’s already an in-game option to filter name changes out of chat. Other bots spam voice chat instead of text chat, and many use hacks to straight up cheat and ruin players’ experiences that way. While Valve has clamped down on one method of abuse, their numbers remain strong.
At this point, at least, if bot users want to continue going ham with their spam, they’ll have to spend money. That will not deter all bot users, but inconvenience and cost will likely convince some to seek out better uses of their time. By all indications, though, Valve has a long fight ahead of it.