TF2: Halo Wars

Something amusing happened the other day. As described before, players can get random special items in Team Fortress 2 simply by playing a lot. Some players game this by just leaving themselves logged on and not actually playing — apparently there are special apps to facilitiate this, presumably by making the idling player keep rejoining matches as they end. Obviously this isn’t what the developers intended, and yesterday, they announced that they would be (a) taking away all items procured using external idling applications, and (b) giving everyone who showed no sign of ever cheating like this a new hat.

The hat was of particular interest to me. Hat items, unlike weapons, affect nothing but your appearance, but I wanted a hat simply because I didn’t have any yet. Well, it turns out the the hat, called the “Cheater’s Lament”, gives the player wearing it a glowing halo.

Now, the announcement states that “only about 4.5% of the players in TF2’s community” had cheated. I’d expect that the proportion among active players would be somewhat greater, because the casual or occasional players aren’t the ones likely to grow frustrated with not having every item available. On the other hand, there are apparently servers that cater to idlers without using an external app, and surely the hard-core players would know about those, so who knows? All I can really say is that when I played on a public server last night, only a minority of the players were haloed. (That minority included myself. It’s my only hat, so I wanted to wear it.)

Furthermore, there was a considerable amount of anti-halo sentiment in the chatter. The word “faggy” was used. “Aim for the people with halos!” was a much-heard battlecry. Perhaps there were people in the match who were encouraging this attitude to cover for their own shameful lack of halo, but it seems unlikely that this was the cause for everyone. More likely, the idea simply backfired. No one likes a goody two-shoes, and the halo smacked too much of parading your moral superiority — and without much justification, if it’s only superiority to 1 in 20 players.

The halos seemed to be gone the next day, during the lunchtime session at the office. That is, people still had the Cheater’s Lament equipped, but it produced no visible effect. Maybe the server was out-of-date. There are rumors of technical problems, that the halo’s glow was still visible on an invisible Spy. But maybe, just maybe, the devs decided that wasn’t working out the way they intended. Again, who knows.

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