The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Idling

Responding to an Active Solution to an Idle Threat

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.

How to idle with multiple accounts in Team Fortress 2

As of July 10, 2013, the methods described in this post are no longer operational. This guide is intended for reference only and the procedures described cannot be used for idling.

Last time, discussions focussed around getting a single account to idle properly in Team Fortress 2. That said, for individuals who’ve got access to a few more accounts and are interested in maximising their item drops from all of these accounts from a single machine, there is a means to go about doing so. This method assumes that one has a reasonable machine: for instance, my old school XPS machine can run idle seven accounts simultaneously while I’m playing Crysis. Generally speaking, a machine with around 3 GB of RAM and a Q6600 Core 2 Quad should handle this without any issues. One must also have at least two premium Team Fortress 2 accounts and a copy of Sandboxie. The trial version of Sandboxie will allow one sandbox at any given time, allowing a maximum of two accounts to be idled at the same time.

  • When all is said and done, you should have something that looks like this; the full version of Sandboxie will require a fee to download, and as such, I will do this tutorial assuming people are interested in the trial (i.e. free) version of Sandboxie.

The first step is to download and install Sandboxie. Ensure that Steam is not running during the installation. Once this is complete, delete the default sandbox and create a new one. Rename it as necessary. Once this is done, right click it, and select the sandbox settings from the drop-down menu. Go into Restrictions, and find Drop rights: from there, ensure that Drop rights from Administrators and Power User groups is unchecked. Next, under the Resource Access root, go into File Access, and then Full Access. From here, add the directory that Steam is located under. This is the most important step, as it tells you where steam.exe is located.

  • This is what Sandboxie looks like. Delete the default sandbox by clearing out its contents, and then removing it. When you right-click on it, a drop down menu appears. Choose Sandbox settings and you will end up with a pop-up window like the one below.

  • All the guides say to disable drop rights, so that’s what needs to be done to make this thing work. For the next step, people often say to make an additional copy of your Steam directory, such that it won’t overwrite any game files. If you choose not to do that, login informations may conflict, causing problems. To overcome this, ensure that you are logged out of all of their accounts before running Steam. Log in to your accounts one after another (that is, log in from either Sandboxie or Steam first, then upon successful login, log in to your other account).

  • Once the directory is added, you are more or less done, and you should be able to produce similar results to those shown in the first image.

Once this is done, right-click on the sandbox and choose Run Sandboxed, and subsequently, Run Windows Explorer. From here, navigate to the directory where Steam is located, and log in to the alternate account. Apply the idling settings and run TF2 as per usual. There is one caveat to this method: when idling, it appears that starting the idlers one after another (waiting for one to connect before the other) is more efficient than starting them concurrently because of port mapping issues. Once everything is working, it is possible to even trade items between accounts. Simply add your other accounts as friends and then trade as you would do normally.

How to idle in Team Fortress 2

As of July 10, the methods described in this post are no longer operational. Please do not use this guide for idling.

The current drop system for Team Fortress 2 ensures that players find items between 30 and 70 minutes (items are found about every 50 minutes on average). The approximate cap for obtaining items is around 10 hours of game time per week, so players can find around 6 to 12 items per week. I imagine many people simply do not have the time to play traditionally to obtain items, as that would be rather impractical.

Idling is a means to circumvent this limitation; in the past, dedicated third-party utilities allowed players to idle, although the use of such software led Valve to remove all items from players who used these applications. Fortunately, in the present era, there is an exceptionally easy way to idle. The first step is to create a shortcut to Steam.exe. Go into your main hard disk and find Steam.exe (typically located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam). Right click on the .exe and choose “Send To -> Desktop (Creates shortcut)”. This creates a shortcut called “Steam- shortcut.lnk” on your Desktop. Rename it to something that is easy to identify, say, “Team Fortress 2 Idler”.

  • Unless you are a power user and modified your machine, Steam should be in your C:\ directory. On some machines, the settings have been set such that extensions are off by default. Thus, “Steam.exe” will appear simply as “Steam”. Right click on the “Steam” that is around 1200 kb in size (the smaller one is an icon and won’t run), and you’ll be on your way. Alternatively, you can co to your folder settings and make the extensions visible.

Once you have a shortcut on your desktop, right-click on the shortcut. You should get the window below.

  • The section to change is highlighted. Don’t change anything else.

Paste the following into the “Target” field (this is under the “Shortcut” tab). Hit “Okay” to finish.

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\Steam.exe” Files (x86)\Steam\Steam.exe -applaunch 440 -textmode -nosound -window -nopreload -novid -dxlevel 81 +map “itemtest”

You can now run Team Fortress 2 by clicking the new icon. Steam will first open and then load Team Fortress 2 in text mode. It should look like the window below. You can then minimise the window and leave it, allowing to run without consuming an excess amount of system resources. When you are done with your session, hit “Ctrl-C” to close the text mode window. The new items will be placed in your backpack when you start the game normally from inside Steam.

  • When run this program normally, a lot of information will be shown: you can safely ignore most of it. Stuff about your IP and ports will also be shown. They are blanked out here for the sake of privacy 😛

There are several caveats about this system: firstly, idling will not work if your version of Team Fortress 2 is outdated. Make sure you are running the latest and greatest version. The text window will tell you that the item schema is out of date or an item is queued: in this case, exit the text mode window and restart it. The second problem is that the 10-hour cap still exists. If you notice that you have idled for more than 2 hours and have gotten no items, stop: you’ve run over your limit, which resets every Wednesday at 00:00 UTC. Through this method, you will be able to get weapons (and the odd hat or tool) much more easily without having to play countless hours every week. Whether you’re a university student or have full-time employment, this makes all the difference in the world.