TF2: Halo Wars (cont’d)

It turns out that the lack of visible halos is isolated to the server we play on at work — which is mysterious, because we didn’t do anything to disable them. At any rate, the halos are still around, and stirring up all manner of trouble on the Steam TF2 forums.

I don’t normally read these forums — good gravy, why would I subject myself to that? — but one of my colleagues drew my attention to them. He was trolling them. Fanning the flames, so to speak. He hardly needed to, though. I realize that pretty much any change to any online game is going to produce angry forum posts, but this one drove out all else. People saying that they’ll ban anyone with a halo, refuse to heal them as a healer, etc. I haven’t seen any evidence of this behavior on the servers I’ve played on, though, which seem to have gotten used to them pretty quickly. That doesn’t stop the vocal minority from declaring that “Valve is tearing the community in half”. It’s all pretty childish. Some people were threatening to stop playing. Considering that Valve isn’t charging subscription fees or anything, I can’t imagine they’re much concerned. If these people do stop playing, it’ll probably improve the experience for the remaining players.

My trolling colleague pointed out the thing that really sticks in the vocal minority’s craw here: These are completists. They cheated precisely because they wanted all the special items in the game, and now there’s one that they don’t have and can never get. Well, I self-identify as a completist too, so I can sympathize a little, but not very much. Cheating, to me, defeats the point of completism. The virtual items in your virtual inventory are just tokens of the feats performed to acquire them. Heck, I’m even a little leery of acquiring pokémon by trading with people who aren’t actively playing.

And ultimately, if you’re going to be a completist, you have to learn to discern which games, and which aspects of those games, are and are not suitable for completism. Take Kingdom of Loathing. There are a number of collectibles and unlockables there, many of which have been available only for a limited time. The most extreme case I know of is a trophy that you could only get for being logged on and not wearing pants at the stroke of midnight on New Years Day 2006. There were apparently some oblique hints about this beforehand on the forums, but the vast majority of players are simply ineligible for that trophy. Some players grumbled when the developers started pulling stuff like that, but in the end, it set a precedent that probably altered the tone of the game for the better. The completist will was broken. I suppose that that’s what Valve is trying to do now. I hope it’ll be successful.

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