Of Choices and Requirements

by Hober Short

This just in from Valve: more details about the upcoming TF2 changes:

Valve are going to be gradually rolling out new, unlockable weapons for every class. These will be alternative versions of their current loadouts that, once unlocked by earning a certain number of achievements, you can pick and choose from on a new ‘Loadout’ menu.

The unlockables aren’t just beefed up versions of the weapons, they balance major advantages and disadvantages to fundamentally alter the role of that class. The first Medic unlock, for example, is called the Overhealer. Instead of temporarily buffing people’s health to 50% above their normal maximum, it permanently boosts them to double their standard health. The downside is that it’ll be dramatically worse at building Ubercharge – in fact, Valve are toying with not letting it Uber at all.

No details on what the second unlock they’ll be rolling out in this update will be, beyond the basics: it’ll be another Medic healing ray, and it’ll change the way the class plays all over again. The first is earned by acquiring half of the thirty-five new Medic achievements, the second for acquiring them all.

I’m very excited about this, in principle, however the actual mechanics of the unlock system worry me. After spending scores of hours playing through the Call of Duty 4 multiplayer — which works on a similar mechanic — I find that there is great wisdom to be learned there. See, every game-changing upgrade you get in COD4, like new guns or new abilities, come from just playing and levelling up. Sure, doing the “challenges” (here, the equivalent of the achievements) sped up that process, but you could ignore the challenges and just play your way and still get access to all the guns.

On the other hand, there are a great number of “challenges” that are extremely difficult, like getting 100 headshots with each shotgun. But not having them completed, I don’t lose out on anything. Once they are completed, however, I get access to special skins for the weapons, that make it a very rewarding way to show your accomplishment, if that’s what you like.

Contrast this with TF2, where I still have not completed all the achievements in my many hours of play. Having to complete each of some 35 medic challenges to gain access to the “full game” really does not sound like it’s going to be much fun at all.

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~ by Hober Short on January 23, 2008.

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