Two or three weeks after I quit my full time job at Minecraft, Team Fortress 2 got a massive update in the form of The Mann-Conomy Update. Not only were all of the new items from the Polycount Pack included, but also a new store in which players can buy items for their roster of characters. Now, rather than having to play for hours and hours, hoping for the right random drop or collecting enough raw materials to craft, players can plunk down a wad of cash from their Steam Wallet and buy what they want, straight away. So I started playing again.
I was a bit apprehensive at first, but overall, the in-game item store is a good idea, really. It helps monetize a game that, even after 3 years out, is still going strong online, making it more sustainable for Valve to continue updating it (and for the community members creating the content, apparently). For players who don’t want or can’t afford to purchase items from the in-game store, the old item collection system is still in place, so they can continue to earn rewards the old fashioned way. And for now, store items cannot be traded, so found or crafted items retain lots of value among players.
Aside from a few small balancing issues with the scout and soldier, my biggest complaints with the update revolve around Mann Co. Crates, boxed items that can be randomly “found” while you play, which require the player to pay $2.50 for a virtual key to open. Sure, the fiscally broken player can trade the crate items to others who don’t mind paying to open them, but it still bothers me that they require real money to open.
And that leads to my other gripe. Unlocking crates grants players a mystery item, one of the items listed on the box’s description. This includes an assortment of normal items, hats, and “unusual” rare items that don’t spawn very often. This is all fine, and I understand why Valve did it; it serves to keep the money flowing in as people gamble on the contents of crates. But it further bothers me that even while paying $2.50 for every opened crate, there is still a very good chance that you’re going to receive a normal item that could have cost less in the item store, or which could be found or traded for free.
I understand that there is a balance to how good the loot in the crates can be versus how much you pay to open them, but there is a premium that comes along with paying for content, and it’s lame that people are receiving tons of ordinary items when they are opting to pay for the very chance to receive an item in the first place.
Other than all that, I’m enjoying the update a lot. It’s nice to be able to pick up cheap items for a buck or two, instead of having to wait for days or weeks to get them as a drop. Team Fortress 2 is as fun as always, and the mayhem is only further exaggerated by all the crazy items people have.
And just for kicks, you can check out my backpack here if you like.