August 5, 2013
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On July 10, players found that use of the text mode method for idling no longer received any items via idling in Team Fortress 2. This coincided with an update to Team Fortress 2 that sought to balance out some of the weapons to improve their usability in-game. However, the disabling of idling was not noted in the change logs. Seven days later, Valve officially made an announcement, saying that the point of Team Fortress 2 was for people to play the game, not leave it running for the sake of accumulating virtual items. Thus, this update was in response to the trend and directed at keeping Team Fortress 2 “fair, fun and rewarding”.
- Since honesty is important, I’ll note that I idled with the aim of getting tools and new weapons. The end of idling for me simply means no more spending my Saturday open with the text mode idler and checking every few hours to see what I got. Otherwise, I’ll go back to playing Team Fortress 2 as I’ve always done.
Under the updated system, players only receive items for ‘actively’ playing the game: the criteria on the official Team Fortress 2 website state that an active player is simply someone who is running around and blowing up everything in their environment (i.e. not in text mode and running a single copy of the game). Players who have idled previously will not be punished with a VAC ban, although attempts to negate these updates may violate the conditions outlined in VAC (and will therefore result in a ban). With this announcement in mind, my idling guides are obsolete. Moreover, I do not encourage readers to find countermeasures: there are several guides out there that purportedly allow idlers to work around the system, but as they might involve altering the game client, there is a very real risk of a ban if not done properly. Personally, the effort it’d take to get a few cents worth of virtual items is not meaningful, and moreover, the value of virtual items is insubstantial compared to the worth of one’s Steam account.
February 19, 2013
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On February 14, Valve released Tux, a special promotional item for users of Linux for Steam. The item will be given to anyone logging in using a Linux machine between February 14 and March 1, 2013. In game, the Tux appears as a stylized version of the Linux mascot, Tux the Penguin, and is worn on the character’s belt.
- I’ve been a user of the Linux OS for the past four years, having done half of my undergraduate degree on Linux machines at the local university’s computer labs. As an operating system, Linux is immensely powerful, but also has a steeper learning curve compared to Windows and Mac. I signed in at the lab, and lo and behold, I have myself a Tux now! I’m hoping that this item will become as sought after as the Apple buds at some point in the future.
Of course, mere hours after the updates were posted, guides were popping up on how to acquire the item without performing a proper installation of Linux: their installation techniques vary dramatically, and range from the use of Virtual machines to a quasi-partition and, for the hardcore, a full partition that will create a dual-boot machine. Some of the methods, such as the Wubi installer, have the risk of corrupting the Windows root directory when installed: at least one user has reported that their machine was rendered combat ineffective and was forced to completely reformat their computer, leading me to wonder about the lengths to which individuals are willing to acquire items in Team Fortress 2. Elsewhere, folk on Steam Forums are left incensed over people attempting to capitalise on what could be the next buds. At the end of the day, I could care less: I have a hat that says Linux Represent!
October 7, 2012
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The Huo-Long Heater (火龍, literally ‘flaming dragon’) is an antique wooden machine gun with a traditional Chinese dragon’s head is mounted on the muzzle of the gun. While deployed, a flashing ring of flame and smoke surrounds the user, lighting enemy players on fire and inflicts afterburn damage. Maintaining this ring of fire costs the weapon six ammunition units per second while spun up, even if not firing. In addition, the Ring of Fire will not take effect if the weapon is out of ammunition.
- The Huo Long Heater was introduced during the Sleeping Dogs update. As a new heavy weapon, I was tempted to craft one because of its unique attributes. Unfortunately, the drop system did not provide me with one, nor did it provide me with the three Family Businesses required to craft it. I eventually traded a for one from a fellow who was interested in acquiring a Beggar’s Bazooka and had a spare Heater on hand.
- The Heater is an incredibly amusing weapon to wield, setting fire to that which is still alive, but chews through ammunition very rapidly. A heavy wielding a Heater can nonetheless use this weapon to great effect on smaller maps if they kill groups of enemies and picking up their weapons.
The Huo-Long Heater deals the same amount of damage as the Minigun and offers some protection from most spies (skilled spies may jump over the ring of fire to perform a Backstab without being ignited). Because the weapon consumes ammunition while spun up, it is advisable to pay attention to nearby resupply kits or stay near an engineer’s dispenser. I typically carry a shotgun or Family Business as a secondary weapon to engage enemies rapidly, switching to the Heater when in close proximity with a group of enemies. The ring of fire provides additional firepower at close range and deters spies from closing the distance for a backstab. Given that the Heater runs out of ammunition extremely quickly, it is suited as a defensive weapon at close quarters close to a dispenser, or for payload, where the constant resupply offered by the cart makes it viable to use this weapon almost non-stop.
August 21, 2012
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Kong King is a King of the Hill (KOTH) map released in the August 10, 2012 Patch. The first urban map in Team Fortress 2, it is set in the middle of an unspecified Chinese city and is based on the video game Sleeping Dogs. The goal is standard fare for KOTH to capture the control point and seize it for a duration of 3 minutes, while stopping the other team from doing the same. Kong King is one of the widest KOTH maps in Team Fortress 2, allowing players several alternative routes to the hill at the map’s center. The hill is unique in that it can be accessed from two levels, the upper and lower levels. This forces players to pay more attention to their defensive strategies, as flanking the hill is more effectively conducted from the lower level. The urban landscape also permits creative jumping opportunities owing to all the clutter.
- A soldier is best suited for providing long-range covering fire to defend those capturing the point and restrict the movement of the other team. Rocket-jumpers can easily reach the pagoda roof and start raining down rockets from there: from this position, a strategic view of the enter upper level is found, allowing soldiers to decimate high-value targets, such as Sentry Guns.
- Engineers will make a world of difference on this map with their ability to make teleporters, allowing team mates to rapidly reach the capture point. Sentry guns are less useful, as there are no defensive positions from which to deploy them. Instead, a mini-sentry is preferred, given that it is built more rapidly and can be wielded as a distraction.
- Medics play no differently than they would normally. The medi-gun is probably the best option: once another player is Über-charged from a safe position, it is possible to storm in and destroy all obstacles, whether they are sentries or other players. The clearing afforded may allow one’s team to recapture or revert the capture of the hill. Owing to the sheer amount of firepower being thrown around on the map, the Crusader’s crossbow might be a viable option.
- The heavy’s firepower is less effective in defending the control point because there are four points of entry. Thus, heavies should circle the upper level and keep an eye on the narrow corridors, where it is significantly more difficult for the opposition to dodge the minigun rounds.
Whereas other community members may not necessarily share my views, the name “Kong King” is likely a combination of “Hong Kong” and “King of the Hill”, reflecting on Sleeping Dogs’ location. There are numerous Chinese character signs scattered around the map: RED team has the name 可靠的开挖破坏 (“Reliable Excavation Demolition”) and BLU team is 建设者联盟联合 ( “Builders League United”). Other various signs on the map include: igns read 油炸鱼排加炒薯条 (“Fish and Chips” ), 傳統的餐廳 (“Traditional Cafeteria” ), 紅色藥房 (“Red Pharmacy”), 酒吧 (“Bar”), and 土木工程產業公司 (“Civil Engineering Industrial Company”). This latest addition to Team Fortress 2 is most welcome: the map is a highly amusing replica of Hong Kong, right down to the signs, building style and clutter. The dimensions of the map makes teamwork especially important: the difference between victory and loss could be as simple as the presence of a lone engineer and well-placed teleporters.
July 27, 2012
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Joining the Hitman’s Heatmaker in the rank of supressed weapons, the cleaner’s carbine is sniper’s latest secondary weapon and was introduced in the Meet the Pyro update. A submachine gun with a suppressor and folding skeletal stock, this weapon grants three seconds of guaranteed critical hits when it kills an enemy, similar to Killing Gloves of Boxing. To offset this boost, it has a reduced magazine capacity that is 20% smaller than the SMG and is further handicapped by a 35% reduction firing speed. Killing someone during a crit buff will reset its duration time to 3 seconds instead of adding it. When critical hits are active, the user gets the bonus for all weapons, rather than for just the cleaner’s carbine.
- In practise, a suppressed SMG is immensely useful for defensive purposes: weakened opponents can be picked off, giving the weapon increased firepower. The weapon doesn’t always glow: it’s typically a sleek, black colour.
- I’ve found the cleaner’s carbine to resemble the MP7 to some extent with respect to its appearance. The suppressed fire isn’t too much for stealth, but gives the carbine a heavier firing sound.
The cleaner’s carbine is more suited as a finishing weapon rather than a close quarters weapon for the sniper, given that it deals less damage per unit time compared to the standard Submachine Gun. The guaranteed critical hits for three seconds upon killing an enemy gives it utility in opportunistic situations, allowing for a handful of opponents to be dispatched. Given that the cleaner’s carbine fires more slowly, precision is more effective; reloading will consume a little over a second of the weapons’s critical hits.