Valve’s recent move to remove items gained through idling on Team Fortress 2 has resulted in a serious community uproar.At present, Valve’s Team Fortress boards are full of threads debating the fairness of the item removal, with some threads dedicated to tearing apart Valve’s estimate of 4.5 per cent of the player base affected, some arguing the fairness of this punishment which was issued apparently without warning, while others are simply raging against the halo hat. In case you missed the earlier news story, players who used an external idling program to gain items through the system’s random drop mechanics have had those items removed, while players who didn’t partake have received a (purely cosmetic) hat shaped like a halo.Judging by the threads, the majority of hardcore users – those presumably most likely to frequent the forums – loathe the change.One of the more regular arguments given says that stating only 4.5 per cent of players are affected is misleading, with groups springing up around it. These players claim that 4.5 per cent is either representative of the total number of people who have ever played TF2, or is representative of the number of people who own Team Fortress 2 – which will likely be significantly higher than those who have played due to the game being included in Orange Box purchases.Perhaps the most balanced and well-thought-out post is from a user named “slayerofmuffins,” who writes: “What is the point in using such heavy handed tactics on such an enormous percentage (4.5% is a misleading representation, since that number includes people who bought the Orange Box and don’t play TF2, and people who have stopped playing) of your playerbase? [… This decision] is ill-thought out and will have noticeable effects on the number of people idling.”slayerofmuffins goes on to explain that the problem stems, at least partially, from the fact that the promised item trading system has yet to be implemented. With the random drop system (which has since been recombined with the achievement-based weapon acquirement system) most players will get a hat after a few months of play, but “few will have the hat for their preferred class. So people will trade to get the hat they want. It’s a good premise marred by one, obvious flaw. THEY NEVER RELEASED THE DAMN TRADING SYSTEM.” Check the above link for the full post.“Idling servers” cropped up, filling the server lists, but an idle program was released, which led to the rapid decline of the idling servers, as players no longer had to actually have the game operational while they idled. (As an aside, according to this thread the program’s creator stated several times that the program would be shut down if Valve ever told him it was considered cheating.)And now, those who have used the idling program have been punished. The downside, it seems, is that people will now migrate back to idling servers, similarly to the achievement servers that cropped up in the past, as opposed to the idle program which left the actual in-game servers free. Others will idle in games, upsetting player balance.The result of this is anger, plenty of which is targeted at those with halo hats who are presumably considered to blame for this. Some players have started groups which will refuse to work with or assist anyone using a halo hat. Others use the hat as a huge bullseye, marking their first targets. Some others appear to have taken the opposite stance, working only with players who have halos. Whichever way you look at it, the community has further split. Glancing at the current front page of the Team Fortress 2 boards, I can see thread titles such as “Why was there no warning?”, “Whats [sic] happening to the community?”, “People aim for the halos first.”, “I won’t play TF2 for a while now…”, “This Halo hat is doing more damage to TF2 than the idler”, “4.5% is Rubbish it more like 50%+ [sic]”, “Personal View: lol at idlers”, and far, far more.Speaking personally, as someone who has barely any time to play my beloved Team Fortress 2 anymore, it’s hard to know where to stand. On the one hand, the players were using external methods in order to acquire things that were supposed to take a lot longer. On the other hand, this seems to have been the community response in order to get the most out of the system, and as we all know – and as Valve should know, considering the Achievement servers – plenty of players will do everything in their power to get things for the least effort.Where do you stand, readers? Do you think that this is all an overreaction from a vocal minority that’ll blow over in a few days, or is this a problem that urgently needs to be fixed? Let us know.We’ve contacted Valve for comment and will let you know of any follow-ups.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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