Does Valve Prove That Gamers Just Can’t Have Nice Things?

Every developer has the aim to be financially stable, whilst still maintaining their creative essence, but in reality, the business orientation of gaming has forced studios to compromise on various aspects to survive. Companies like Electronic Arts and Activision live and die by their profit margins, which given the high stakes - sometimes amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars - reduces the likelihood of boldness in game design. Valve on the other hand, is the very pinnacle every studio should aim to be; they are a private entity, answering to no one but themselves. Well funded by Steam and microtransactions, they can choose to take the time to develop their games and explore groundbreaking ideas, and as a result they can go years without releasing a game. Their financial stability is among the reasons they can choose to release free to play games like Dota 2 or continually add content to games like Team Fortress 2, 5 years on after its release. In short, PC gamers have been spoiled by this company. But many have chosen to exploit what Valve has done for the community - whether it be for fame or notoriety, I€™m still not quite sure which. Nonetheless the elite nature of PC gaming coupled with Valve€™s unique ideas, has indirectly fostered an almost toxic attitude of greed and selfishness, that continues to hinder the development of a better community. When additional items were first introduced into Team Fortress 2, players would have to grind achievements to gain their items. Achievement servers were created to alleviate some of the grinding, but didn€™t solve the issue of players using the same class in regular servers, which ultimately disrupted gameplay. Valve tweaked the system and settled on a reduced threshold on achievements and implemented a drop system, where items would drop periodically over time during their gameplay. Unfortunately the decision to implement item drops on a periodical basis would bring about the rise of idle servers. Players would simply connect to a server and leave the game running in the background for long periods of time. At the time, the game was still reasonable resource intensive on most systems, so despite it being a solution, it wasn€™t ideal. It was then Tony €˜Drunken F00l€™ Paloma (now employed by Valve) who became infamous for developing a third party program that would resolve the issue: SteamStats, which was a command line interface, allowed players to connect to servers and idle without actually launching the game. Those who used the program were able to gain access to many new items quickly, that otherwise would have required long hours of gameplay. Ultimately though, Valve invoked their terms and conditions which disallowed the use of third party programs and stripped players of their items. Players who didn€™t use the program were awarded a hat or in this case, a halo called the Cheater€™s Lament. However, a large amount of players who used the program and saw their items stripped began to berate Valve and began to foster a hatred against those who had the Cheater€™s Lament, and to this day, it remains a sore point for many players who feel they were wronged.

In July 2010, Team Fortress 2 had received an update to their engineer class. The update would be like any other class update Valve had put together in the past. However, one element called the €œGolden Wrench€ would make it the most infamous update in all gaming history, for what transpired and how it culminated something good from so much animosity. The Golden Wrench, still is the rarest item in Team Fortress 2: only 102 wrenches were awarded, 101* specifically for the update, with the final one given to a charity auction for Child€™s Play. As of today, approximately 80 remain in existence. To gain this item, players were required to use the crafting system: upon crafting an item, there was a small chance that they would receive the Golden Wrench. Such was the rarity of the item that I digress in saying I was lucky enough to witness one being awarded in the server I was in. Valve maintained that the Golden Wrench dropped randomly, but a leaked document obtained by none other than Tony €˜Drunken F00l€™ Paloma showed that the item would only be released at certain times, and players who did use the information to their advantage were banned and had it stripped from them. The larger issue at hand though came from the community: even before the leak came to light, many players felt betrayed that they would not be able to own the item. I still feel that a small amount of those who complained were achievement hunters or die hard fans who wanted to own every item, but even so the vast majority of complaints that came through, were self entitled players who believed that they deserve it. By the time the leak did come to light however, there was uproar, with players claiming that anyone who had the Golden Wrench were cheaters and should be banned. Others claimed that Valve had lied and needed to scrap the whole thing altogether. In the original update post Valve stated that €œdistribution has been designed to be fair to all timezones.€ The problem was that you cannot award 100 items randomly worldwide and not expect some disparity of distribution in each timezone. Valve needed to make sure their was an equal distribution of the Golden Wrench and therefore created a timed approach despite their statement saying it was random. It was needed to protect the integrity of the event, yet people chose to exploit it and others became sour over it. Something good did come of it though. Jon €˜WiNGSPANTT€™ Tran, an owner of a Golden Wrench put together a charity for Child€™s Play in which 14 Golden Wrench€™s were destroyed. The event raised $31,000 and reminded players of their own shortcomings in complaining about the Golden Wrench. Another event came to light only just a few weeks ago: Valve had released a new mode in celebration of Halloween called Diretide. The mode was a competitive/co-op situation where players would initially face off against each other before having to combine their forces in slaying a powerful boss called Roshan. The co-op part was a timed event, whereby the 10 players who set the fastest time would be awarded a Golden Baby Roshan. However, the fastest times that were being set were clearly being exploited. The mode is only available in matchmaking, parties are only allowed a maximum of 5 players, and since the mode requires 10, players would queue on less popular servers (off peak South East Asia for example) and decline matches until both parties were matched together. Once in game, players would feed each other to make themselves stronger, whilst using a series of bugs to weaken Roshan, prior to the start of the co-op timed event. At one point a team took .09 seconds to kill Roshan. For perspective's sake, done in a normal situation, 3 minutes isn€™t a bad time. To combat this situation, Valve created cycles whereby the glitch used was patched out and a new rotation of times would begin, but even so players continued to find glitches. There is a match that went for 7 hours, resulting in Roshan being killed in 0.36 seconds. This was done by creating a stalemate, preventing the timer from starting, and then using a hero called Pudge, who grows stronger every time he kills and who got to a stage where he was able to kill Roshan in one hit despite it being at full HP. Players began to vent their frustration at being denied a proper chance at winning. What€™s worse is that one of the players who managed to win a cycle and gained a Golden Baby Roshan sold it for $1000. Searching the forums, players who are selling their Golden Baby Roshan are being offered up to $2000+. To be clear, this is a cosmetic item that people are paying for and unlike the Golden Wrench, the Golden Baby Roshan is tradeable; which is why such prices are being offered. I spoke with Jon €˜WiNGSPANTT€™ Tran about his thoughts and he told me that €œin some ways it seems similar , though it appears Valve wanted a more skill based method of getting these items. Obviously hackers have subverted that.€ And to be honest, I am in agreement: I played two games of Diretide, and I really never expected to win the event. Still it would have been nice to see a more balanced playing field. Asked what he thought about the items being sold he stated €œI feel more had for the buyers than everyone else. These people wasted tons of money instead of using it for something with real value or, hey, charitable works.€œ Even so, he felt that despite the rarity of the item, €œI feel players are worked up over nothing. Having a shiny virtual item is a temporary joy after all.€ I believe Valve to be a great company, and I don€™t say that simply because they continue to support the PC platform, which is my platform of choice - I say it because of their willingness to engage the community and help move the industry forward. The events they come up with are great for the games they develop and help to actively drive interest without having to resort to paid DLC. What they do is for their customers. I cannot help but feel that our attitude is one that is unappreciated for all that they continue to do: at every opportunity we exploit the systems that are in place or indulge in a self-righteous stance when we don€™t receive the items we think we deserve. This attitude is everything wrong with gamers today. We bemoan the likes of Call of Duty for their repetitive games year in and year out, we trash the reputation of Ubisoft for their intrusive DRM and we vilify Electronic Arts every chance we get - and yet when something good comes to us, we chastise it. Valve proves we can€™t have nice things. *One was awarded twice after the account was hacked and the Golden Wrench destroyed
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Raymond Ly hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.