The Rise and Fall of the Spy Named a wild PHILOSORAPTOR

Once upon a time, there was a wild PHILOSORAPTOR who wanted to write a blog post. The topic of the post was to be skill in video games and he hoped that by writing something that was witty and accessible that he might help the citizens of teh interwebz better appreciate the effort and discipline that gamers exert learning to play skillfully. Hoping the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” applied to videos, he began looking for videos that would demonstrate some of the staggering complexity and conditioning that gamers cope with for the sake of playing better.

“Hmm… what would really show how much gamers have to learn to be good at games?

” the PHILOSORAPTOR asked himself, “Some footage with lots of things happening at once might be good for showing the sheer volume of information that gamers deal with, but it wouldn’t really help demonstrate how a more skilled player would react to the situation as opposed to a less skilled one. Really skilled players usually make it look way easier than it really is.

“Maybe showing people learning skills that they don’t like learning in real life would help, especially with examples where these skills make a big difference. Let’s see… one example might be coordinating that wombo combo with your team in League of Legends. That requires communication and leadership skills. Or another one might be deciding what items to keep in Torchlight 2. For that you need to develop value appraisal and mathematical comparison. Oh, and another good one might be playing the Spy in Team Fortress 2 because it requires good positional understanding and the ability to read one’s opponents.”

Satisfied with his plan, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR shuffled off to the video archives of teh interwebz to look for the evidence he needed to demonstrate his point. The archives were vast and untamed; finding a perfect flower amid the jungle overgrowth required a keen eye and an unshakable determination. Many leads went cold, and still more seemed like they could go on forever without yielding any sort of bounty. Finally, after a endless 20 minutes of searching, the PHILOSORAPTOR contented himself with his findings and returned to his dashboard to refine the materials that he had gathered into a blog post.

The dashing BLU rogue himself.

Among other things, the PHILOSORAPTOR found this video which depicted the accomplishment of 32 backstabs in a single life as a Spy in Team Fortress 2. It was a down to earth video with undubbed annotations pointing out the decision points and reasoning of the player as he made his plays. Distractions like killstreak announcements, player nameplates and the HUD were omitted, providing a clear focus on the mindset and decisions of the player rather than the fanfare of performing well.

“Wow, that almost looks easy!” the PHILOSORAPTOR thought, “All the explanations in the annotations make sense. Besides, that other player looks like he’s having a grand old time at outsmarting his opponents with clever use of positioning and staying a step ahead by getting into the heads of his opponent. You know what? I ought to give playing Spy a go next time I boot up Team Fortress 2!”

…Hat? Check! …Badge? Check! …Goggles? Check!

True to his word, when he next played TF2, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR made an attempt to play Spy. Now, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR hadn’t really thought about which tools he wanted to use for his adventures in espionage. Rummaging through his backpack, he realized he didn’t really have very many options. You see, this wild PHILOSORAPTOR hadn’t really played too much TF2 before this and didn’t really have a large range of weapons available to choose from.

But, resolved to make do with what was available, and taking confidence in the fact that the stock loadouts were tried and true, he threw together a somewhat basic loadout. He brought a knife for stabbing his foes in the back, an electro sapper to get rid of any bothersome machinery, and a revolver for the inevitable thing that goes wrong. Sadly, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR didn’t get to make much of a choice with these tools; he didn’t have any alternatives to choose from. However, with his invisibility watch, the PHILOSORAPTOR did have an option that he could use for customization. He could choose to either use the Dead Ringer or the Invis Watch. After an interminable 10 seconds of agonizing decision, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR went with the Dead Ringer because the idea of playing mind games with his opponents made him happy.

Content with his loadout, the wild PHILSORAPTOR jumped onto a server to test his mettle and got placed on RED team. His team’s goal: stop the BLU team from pushing the bomb cart to the RED base by stalling/shooting/exploding any BLU team members who got in the way. After making his way out of spawn, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR used a secondary path to get behind enemy lines. Through this door, up these stairs, hug this wall, down this hill, made it! Dropping into a tunnel from an angle that he knew wasn’t watched very often, he saw a heavy-medic pair lumbering out of spawn towards the cart. One heavy backstab and a feign death later, the PHILOSORAPTOR leaves a confused medic behind and continues on. After a quick detour to grab some metal to recharge his Dead Ringer, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR continued his inverse trek towards his spawn and the pushing cart.

Three BLU players on the cart. The wild PHILOSORAPTOR leaves the cart with two back-stabs and a BLU player shooting wildly at thin air. Slinking back into the shadows, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR survives to stab another day. Continuing this pattern (with a few fatal interruptions) BLU team’s time limit finally expires, making RED team the winner.

After such a successful day protecting a hat factory, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR lay down his head and went to sleep.

The very next morning, with a renewed excitement for espionage, the wild PHILOSORAPTOR checked the official TF2Blog for the latest updates and happenings in the TF2 Universe. To his distress, he found this post. The Dead Ringer was overpowered? Valve was planning on nerfing the Dead Ringer? Oh no!

Ruined! Every strategy and technique developed over that long 24 hour period! All gone! The wild PHILOSORAPTOR knew he could never, no, would never again grace the Gravelpits and Hoodoos with his genius espionage. TF2 was ruined! What a horrible game it was now that strategy and tactics had be so completely removed! This is the problem with making a game free to play, all the no skill nooblords who don’t want to pay for the game come in and complain about whatever it is that they can’t beat so that it gets nerfed. How dare they ruin his game!

Then the wild PHILOSORAPTOR got over it.

~ ~ ~

I still Spy (in between bouts of Phlogistonator Pyro), and I still use the Dead Ringer. I haven’t gotten as many chain stabs as before, but I’m actually quite content with the changes. Even though the one strategy that I started with is potentially less effective (and credit to Valve for nerfing the Dead Ringer in a way that players can overcome with skill), I think this change overall made Team Fortress 2 a better game.

Many of the other strategies have become more common and having a greater diversity of strategies being used makes the game more dynamic. Interestingly, many of these strategies that have been surfacing have already been in the game, but are making appearances now because they aren’t being squeezed out by another dominant one. My contentedness with Dead Ringer nerfs aren’t all altruistic either. Having a greater diversity of viable strategies gives me a more diverse set of options with which to react to opponents and also requires that opponents learn how to adapt to more things as well.

Furthermore, the game does not belong to me. No matter how many hours I play, how many blog posts I write, or how much content I contribute to the game, it’s Valve that owns the game. They have the research, they put in the effort to make the game, and they have the perspective required to understand the game holistically in ways that I don’t even know about.

So even though it was a little off putting to have something that I had fun with be more difficult, I think keeping an open mind to changes like this creates the opportunity for the game to become more fun overall. What about y’all? What do you think about buffs and nerfs? How do you adapt?

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2 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of the Spy Named a wild PHILOSORAPTOR

  1. I wonder if there’s a main stream game where the players decide the buffs and nerfs. I wonder how quickly that would go bad, if for example the lol community decided buffs and nerfs by popular vote.

    Like

    • In non-competitive games balance by democracy is usually called “feedback” or “bug fixing”.

      As to how quickly a community can mung a game, that would be an interesting psychology research question, but one that I doubt is being investigated at the moment since it’s such a frustrating environment for developers.

      Like

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