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Exclusive Interview with Valve's Robin Walker
posted in News
August 2, 2012

[b]CommunityFortress.com writer MMZ>eXtine emailed Valve's Team Fortress 2 Lead Designer, Robin Walker, and asked him some interesting questions. His exclusive answers are below:[/b]

[iq]Much to the delight of fans and customers, Valve has always believed in ensuring the longevity of their titles. Counter-strike's continued popularity is in large part due to the competitive scene that has developed around it, what are Valve's thoughts on the competitive TF2 scene at large?[/iq]

[ia]We're excited to see the steady growth of the TF2 competitive scene around the world, and we try to keep track of what we can do to help it. So far, most of that help has taken the form of feature additions to the game, but in the future I think we'd like to get more insight into what else we can do. In particular, I'd like to build some more bridges to organizers within the competitive community, which is something we've tried to do but still continue to have trouble with.

As an example of the kind of work we could do for them, several of the competitive organizations have built external tools, server mods, and scripts to help organize & run their tournaments. We'd like to see if we could move some of those systems directly into the game.[/ia]

[iq]The Team Fortress 2 community has produced many great videos of their own, such as EgadPit's "Soldja Boy", the Scout advertising the Slap Chop, and the countless highlight/training videos. While you recently discussed an upcoming change in demo formats to enable users to easily get videos of exceptional plays, are there also going to be changes in the ways that SourceTV works and how these demos are edited in game?[/iq]

[ia]Initially, the new demo system won't affect the SourceTV system, but we'd like to unify them at some point. Demos in the new format can be converted into a robust, "fatter" demo file that won't break, and supports a much greater editing capability than anything we've done before. In the first release the in-game demo viewer will remain similar to the previous version, albeit with full featured time scrubbing capability. In later releases we'll be improving the editing functionality within that viewer.[/ia]

[iq]Obviously a large focus of TF2 and the best way for new players to get involved with the game are the Public servers. These servers usually swing towards easy to understand maps that accommodate large player counts, such as: Dustbowl, Gold Rush, Badwater Basin, 2Fort, and Pipeline. With the vast majority of competitive TF2 matches being played using a 6v6 setup on CP maps such as Badlands, Granary, Well and smaller custom maps, how has this dichotomy affected the map making philosophy of the TF2 design team?[/iq]

[ia]The quick summary is that it makes us less efficient, because it almost forces us to divide our workload up into work for each group. It's also disappointing that a couple of our most popular public game modes (Dustbowl style Attack/Defense, and Payload) don't really work at all with small team sizes. Still, we're optimistic as always, and are trying to tackle some of the problems that cause this split. We've got a map where we're trying out areas that modify themselves based on the number of players in the game, in the hopes that both public & competitive players can use it. We've got another new Attack/Defense map that's aimed at shorter, fixed time limit so that competitive teams can play a full round of it within the same timeframe that they play a 5 point CP match currently (unlike Dustbowl/Payload where matches could take over an hour). And we're got new 5 point CP & CTF maps in the works that we know will work for everyone.[/ia]

[iq]This split between the well designed casual public server gameplay and the desires of more competitive gamers has always been a bit of a sore point for TF2. Do you feel like there needs to be an attempt to reconcile the two worlds of TF2 or does the competitive scene need to be accommodated separately from the public scene?[/iq]

[ia]Clearly the two groups have different goals, and from that different desires, so our job is to try and find ways to please each of them without hurting the other. While doing that, we try and be as efficient as possible by making changes that serve both. That said, we occasionally do work specifically for one of the groups because the work is valuable enough even without the wide appeal. Examples of that would be things like the Payload game mode for public players, or Tournament mode & its associated server settings for competitive players.[/ia]

[iq]It has been announced that Left 4 Dead will be implementing a match making system where four players can search for a Versus game together, it has also been previously reported that some of the L4D match making system might make its way into Team Fortress 2, are there plans to implement a similar system for Team Fortress 2 featuring 6v6 matches or even the "Highlander" game mode to help promote the competitive pick up game scene?[/iq]

[ia]We'd like to use the L4D matchmaking work, but they're still iterating on it right now, so we'll see where they end up. Highlander mode is always something we thought was really neat, but it wasn't clear how valuable it'd be, because public players seem to want more than 9 players per team, and competitive players want less. Since the class limit feature lets you essentially organize it yourself, we thought we'd done enough. If you want extra features or support around that though, feel free to send us your thoughts.[/ia]

[iq]When the random drop system was implemented with the Spy/Sniper update pack there was a backlash against it due to the random nature of unlocking the newly released weapons. There was also speculation that the system could be used to dole out randomized items in the fashion of Diablo and other RPGs. While the ability to unlock the new weapons through achievements satiated the hardcore players, did the backlash negate any such plans to expand the random drop system or is the current implementation and the help it gives new players all that was intended?[/iq]

[ia]I think we've learned that the random drop system is only good for some types of things, like the rare cosmetic hats. It's good for delivering items to newer players over time, so they're not swamped with choices when they're starting out, and they're not required to grind achievements to get them once they reach the point where they want to start making strategic choices. For competitive players, it's obviously a bad way to deliver items. At the very least, future packs will allow you to use achievements to get the new items, but we might move to a mode where we just give them to you. As part of our goal of supporting tournaments more, I think we'll probably add better tools for them to control exactly what players can & can't use within matches.[/ia]

[iq]With only two more class movies left to produce and 3 classes waiting to receive unlockable weapons (Soldier, Demo, and Engineer) we are getting closer and closer to the end of announced future content for TF2. Can TF2 fans continue to expect major modifications to the game or will most of the updates be of a smaller nature?[/iq]

[ia]We don't really know yet, to be honest. We've still got lots of ideas for what we could do with TF2, but in the short term we'll continue to do what we've done up until now: not plan too far ahead, so we can remain fluid and reactive to the feedback we get from players. We already have a couple of large updates in the works that aren't tied to a specific class, so we'll see what you think of those.[/ia]

[iq]While obviously a smaller portion of the TF2 audience, there is a significant audience of console players who love TF2 and are devoted to it despite the archaic version they are playing. Any comment concerning updates for the Xbox 360 version of TF2?[/iq]

[ia]We have a title update in certification right now that will address the server cheating that's going on, and adds a few of the requested settings to run matches. Unfortunately, we still don't have an update on shipping the class packs.[/ia]

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