TF2’s Problematic Learning Curve


♪ Bugle horn call ♪ Every time you play a new game, there’s gonna be some learning you have to do before you can really understand the game’s mechanics, but there’s a very thick line between a game trying way too much to tell you how to play, and not trying to tell you at all. I really hate it when the first two hours of the game is just tutorial. I get it, your game has some complexity to it, but I want to be able to jump into the core of the action without having to read a 30-page briefing of what to expect, how to handle it, what to do, where to go, how to feel, what to see, what to eat — — But ! There’s something I hate even more than that: something I hate more than phonies, the color magenta, titles that end with e-quest-clamations, and my own voice combined — It’s this trend in online games where they don’t try at all to teach new players how to play. Like, I get that they’re supposed to learn through experience, but I like it when games let you progress at your own pace. I like games that respect your ability to seek information, and not shove it in your face. I had never played a Dark Souls in my life, but when I jumped into the third one, it did a pretty radical job of teaching me the mechanics without forcing me to play through a virtual Simon Says to know how to play it. If you want to know how to do shit, you just run over the messages and read ’em. BAM! You’re done. I’m not talking about these games though; I’m talking about games that flat out don’t give you the information at all. Or at least they do, and it’s really cryptic and hard to understand. Team Fortress 2, a title that I hold closer to my heart than anything else in the world, is a repugnant example of this. TF2 doesn’t make any effort at all, any effort at all, to teach new players how the mechanics of their world works. When you first get the game, your first instinct is to just join a game, because well, it’s the first thing you see when you open a menu. Once you do that, and you find a game, and you join it, you’re put onto the “Pick Class” menu, and let’s pretend I’m a new player. Right now, I have no clue what the fuck’s goin’ on. We’ve got 0 medics, too many specialist supports, not enough power classes like heavy or demo, but none of that information is shown to new players. Instead, all they know is what classes their team already has, and mind you, they have no clue what any of these classes really do. So now you’ve got to blindly choose a class based on what their description tells you about them, but each description is extremely brief, and only paints enough of a picture to give you a vague understanding of their role. So now you’ve chosen a class, and you’ve chosen it at random, mind you, because this early in, you’re not gonna know what the concept of team composition or crucial picks is. The game doesn’t tell you that a healer is needed, or that you’ve got too many of something, so you pick a class based on whoever has the cutest head shot, and then you’re thrown into a game, without a clue of how to play it, no explanation of how your weapons work, no explanation of what your job is, you’re just tossed in and told FIGHT ! Now hear me out here, I get that when you play shooters, it’s inherently the player’s responsibility to teach themselves how to play it, ’cause it’s not like a single player game where you’ve got all the time in the world to listen to drones go on and on about controls, but that’s not really an excuse to make zero effort to do so. When a player has zero ways to learn the basics of a game, they’re gonna have a rough time trying to actually enjoy it, because they’re spending way more time trying to figure out what they’re doing than they are actually playing it. HOLD IT ! Hahaha, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was wrong all along. They actually do have a tutorial. Four classes. And it’s not EVEN FUNCTIONAL ! I’m serious man, I can’t even start the training, and I have no idea why. It just doesn’t work. Googling it shows that Training has been bug-ridden for years, but let’s say this is somehow only a bug affecting me. Even with access to the tutorial, it barely teaches you the fundamentals of the game. You learn how to jump, crouch, switch your weapons, which sounds like enough, but keep in mind there’s hundreds upon hundreds of factors and mechanics in the game that aren’t even so much as skimmed through it. Don’t even get me started on how this information is only available in the tutorial, and isn’t able to be checked when you’re in an actual game. But it’s alright, because there’s one other way to learn about the mechanics of the game. One system that could completely undo the fabric of all my arguments, a system that is accurately relaying information to the player, and that system is… Loading Tips. You heard me. This itty-bitty shitty right here is your best source of information as a player. These tips aren’t available as a viewable option per class on the loadout screen, they aren’t organized or categorized, just random tips you can skim through on your stats page or in the loading screen. WHY ? The system is fine as, like, a side addition to your already well-explained game, but they use it like it’s their primary source to learn new things you otherwise might not have known. And because there’s no organization you have to spam through it if you wanna find tips specifically about a class that you’re interested in. And even if, if, theoretically, you manage to get far into the game with virtually zero knowledge of how to play it, and you learned all the basics, you’re still left shit out of luck on learning all the deeper core mechanics of the game: airstrafing, c-tapping, crouch jumping, backpedal speed, damage ramp-up, random crits trickstabbing dominations
crit heals the spy’s hitbox the syringe gun trimping market gardening
rocket jumping the neon annihilator the force-a-nature flame mojo pushing to last [etc] –I didn’t even know what the fuck a Dead Ringer was, till I yelled at somebody for hacking their respawn, and they told me about achievement items! Yeah! Achievement items! That’s right! Because this game has UNLOCKABLE WEAPONS ! So now, you’ve got to learn what another hundred-something items do, and you aren’t even given them for free! You have to unlock them, craft ’em, trade for ’em, buy ’em! It’s stupid. Items like the Sandwich or the Ubersaw are so vital, you almost can’t even play competitively without owning them, and yet new players won’t have access to them, until they’ve clocked in like 100 hours in the game. As somebody who has 75 hundred (7500) goddamn hours in the game, the idea of not knowing what a weapon is, is pretty funny. As someone with 7.5 hours in the game, it’s probably kind of aggravating, and confusing, and dumb. So let’s compare this to another game: Overwatch! [Booing] [Booing]
Oh, boo fuckin’ hoo! Overwatch has a functional tutorial to teach you the basics of the game. It also gives you a handy menu you can open at any time to see exactly what your abilities are and how to use them. And if you’re not sure of what hero to play, ‘ game has that covered too. It tells everybody on your team what the composition is missing, or what it might do well having more of. This makes it easy to pick a hero if you’re not sure what the game calls for. This is all pretty inviting to new players. The game might take more time to get used to than standard shooters because of all the unique abilities and heroes, but the game at least tries to make it as smooth as possible of a transition. So like, let me make an example: My older brother who has no extensive knowledge of the outside core shooters and titles, like Tony Hawk’s Madden NFL NBA 2K17 18 20 PGA Tour 08 & Knuckles. Basically, dude’s hooked on Overwatch now. ‘Started playing on my account. And even though he was going against Master Rank players in Quickplay, he still liked the concept of the game. When he moved on to a fresh account, he started climbing in rank already, because he gets to progress at his own rank, facing players of his own level, he can view information whenever he needs it. That’s a good introduction to a game! TF2 doesn’t even have a ranking system: in Casual there is pretty much no MMR, leading to 12v12 clusterfucks of the top two players on the scoreboard being Gods, and the bottom 98% being people ranging from “frequently plays”, to “just installed it three minutes ago’. Matchmaking in TF2 is also a COMPLETE joke! Ranks are meaningless, there are zero placement matches, and even if you’re the highest rank in the goddamn game, you’ll still get paired up against and with new players. Imagine if we made Little League kids play seriously in the Major League. That’s pretty much what competitive TF2 is right now. So what does this all have to do with learning curves? The point I’m getting at here, is that TF2 has an extremely steep learning curve, takes almost no steps to teach the player how to progress as an individual. Overwatch has a comparatively smaller learning curve, but does a *way* better job of making it easy to understand. If you’re bad at Overwatch, it’s because you probably still need to get comfortable with the game, and maybe develop some better gamesense. If you’re bad at TF2, nobody can even blame you! Because unless you sift through dozens of guides and videos amassed by the competitive community, which all get outdated after every weapon and class rebalance, you won’t have any way to know how to actually improve as a player. TF2 is like if we forced kids to assemble their toys like factory workers, before they were allowed to play with them. It doesn’t make sense! And don’t tell me the game being old is an excuse — It gets updated every other week, and has an active development team, while staying top 5 on Steam at all times. I don’t expect them to be able to explain every single weapon, and every engine-exploit-turned-stable-feature in the game, but even the most basic mechanics like hitting F6 to open a menu that tells you what your current items are capable of doing would fill such an essential hole that the game’s currently empty of. I like to think part of this is why the game is struggling so much to break back into relevancy. It’s hard to make you game popular, when no-one really quite knows how it’s meant to be played. Anyways, let me take a minute here to clarify something: good learning curves are not equatable with skill ceilings. Overwatch gets its easy learning curve by dumbing down mechanics and making it as baby proof as possible. Complex maneuvers are boiled down to hitting a key, and there are significantly less mechanics that factor into an individual’s ability to comprehend the game. TF2 is hard to master, but that isn’t inherently bad, because objectively, TF2 requires a lot more individual skill, to succeed as a team. The issue is, the game does a bad job of preparing players to fill in their role on the team. and part of this isn’t just because they don’t spoonfeed you instructions on how to abuse engine features, it’s because there’s no established global ruleset. The closest thing to one is Matchmaking, which limits you to six players, but has zero class limits, zero weapon bans, and nobody even plays that shit anyways, so obviously nobody takes the feature seriously in a sense that it’s what TF2’s future is gonna be. And I don’t think that’s because players are close-minded or stupid, and don’t get me wrong, they’re very close-minded and stupid, but that’s not why they hate Competitive. They hate *this* Competitive, because it sucks. Ignoring the fact that, like I said, Valve takes no effort to teach players their game, the game is also not balanced competitively. At least, not without community tweaks. There are weapons which become borderline overpowered in the right hands, there are also items that are borderline direct downgrades, but players use them anyways because they don’t realize it. My point is, it’s a bit of a fixer-upper. ♪ Background music ♪ TF2 would be a fuckin’ awesome e-sport if Valve took the proper steps of fixing up the game, in both rebalancing it as well as opening the gates for new players to get familiar with it. It has more creativity, soul, and personality than any other shooter I’ve ever seen, and that includes Overwatch! Overwatch has mountains of personality, but it doesn’t have the touch Valve titles have from their on-point writing and ability to make games fun at their core. In fact, all comparisons between the two games I’ve made here are purely to highlight the high points and low points of each game. It’s not even to directly compare them. Overall, I just think TF2 will struggle to find itself back at a high point of relevancy ever again, unless it manages to really outdo itself on improving. And I mean, as long as they don’t pull some stupid shit like taking an entire half a year to put out the first rebalance update after the matchmaking release, I think things might actually turn out alright. OH GODDAMN — ♪ Outro music in the description ♪

100 thoughts on “TF2’s Problematic Learning Curve”

  1. I already knew you were gonna make an Overwatch comparison at the beginning of the video because of this moment right here: 1:40
    The second you mentioned how "the team needs this and has too much of this" I was like "yep, he's gonna make an OW comparison"

  2. However, almost all games dont go as deep into the mechanics of the game as you just described (except a few like overwatch). Sure, knowing all the effective strats would be nice, bnut that changes per meta and really is more the task of the player to find out. it would be weird to ask a game to fully discuss every itty bitty detail from a-z, when its an online game that has all these things described on online forums. Furthermore, the game dopesnt even ahve competitive. It really doesnt matter if you dont have the strat, cause all the games are jsut casual fun. Even if you have 100+ hours on it.

  3. This is basically the core appeal of the game for me personally. To be fair though, my other favorite game is Eve Online.

  4. I love tf2 and I started playing it in 2015 properly, I never new how to jump onto the higher ledge on the lower section of turbine and that's when I learnt crouch jumping exists, and a really kind guy went into the in game chat and jumped up there multiple times to demonstrate until I got it right

  5. the time it took me to grasp tf2 was magical to me, to me it was like going to the hogwarts school of fuckin magic

  6. if your a new player playing TF2 I would stop all players are extremely good at the game now (like overwatch) and you would get rekt and go nowhere

  7. For me, the chaotic confusion of not knowing what the fuck was going on prepared me well for the years to come. I now know what every class does and I still have no idea what the fuck is going on. I just charge into battle blasting a flamethrower, get headshot by a sniper and teabagged on by the whole team and then respawn and start over.

  8. Honestly who the fuck needs tutorial for TF2? How is it possible to be frustrated as a new player in a “shoot them” game??

  9. I think palz did an ok job having a simple tutorial but you wanna,play ying… learn from the menu so some stick to victor

  10. I read the reddit post at 9:16 – it's a shit post, the guy wasn't serious (I checked the post). You can tell when he starts suggesting buffs to the spy: increase knife range and stab while cloaked??

  11. plaintside 2 how to system or Liberty drop you into a middle of a battle but then it got changed to a tutorial that was unskippable

  12. Ik I'm way late to this, but I feel like this is a trend among other Valve games. They players the basic industry-standard mechanics but neglect the unique mechanics. For example csgo's tutorial teaches u about basic aim but not about how movement effects accuracy and counterstrafing

  13. "If you're bad at tf2, nobody can blame you!" Well let me tell you yes, haha ​​basically those who already have too much experience in the game do. Hey, I have 462 hours played and I still don't dominate most classes! and those of higher rank usually criticize me for that, but hey it is not my fault ok nobody taught me the tricks of the games, absolutely nobody hahaha what I know, I know it by tutorials and because I have learned it by myself xd

  14. Now to be fair you can win a round of tf2 with half the team being one class and that's somthing overhype can't do that game forces you to stick to class combos, example you can't run tank flank and healer like tf2

  15. Why I love Splatoon single player mode so much. It allows the player to experiment and learn at a gradual pace before getting thrown into online matches.

  16. I just got into TF2, and while I love playing Medic, the learning curve is insane. I feel useless half the time and I worry for the future of the game because I can’t see a lot of people sticking with it through the learning process.

  17. It's an old video and probably this comment will get lost in the ether, but I think it would be cool if valve were to create special "school" servers in which expert players can join as teachers and using voip they can teach the classes and mechanics to new players, who can join as students

  18. February 10, 2020
    It's been 3 years since jungle inferno and valve has yet to do a non-hat update and care about its community.

  19. 0:01

    DOOM: Wow, this new game I’ve never played looks cool! I can’t look up and down but it’s fine. BFG9000 is very overpowered woah

    DOOM 2: Wow, this new game I’ve never played looks cool. I need to LEARN the mechanics of this game

  20. Valve should put TF2 on the consoles again. Hear me out. We get the latest version, item drops, understandable achievements, Basically, give it a modern-day makeover. 15 days Shooters have evolved past the Baseline of Team Fortress 2, and yet the game itself hasn't changed to adapt to the common market. I feel like I could get away with releasing the simplified version for free kisses that you want steamed, but you could also pay $15 for Kind of a full version. What this will really be is a starter pack. The pay this fee and you'll be able to collect all of the starting weapons and all the starting item to get you started for lack of a better term Oh, and it can get you into competitive gameplay much faster. However, this version would still be fully playable. Even if you had the free version, just like on Steam. It's just a way to get more bang for your buck. A properly upgraded version of Team Fortress 2 on consoles for the new generation would be an incredible move in a marketing standpoint. The game is still immensely popular, And this could increase the player Base by adding console Gamers and promoting cross-play. With this they could even attempt to streamline matchmaking by ensuring that players of a similar level would be paired up. . Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that players of a similar level are of a similar skill, but this will at least allow more of a chance. . Doom for example has a similar way of thinking about matchmaking. When players reach a certain level. They are unable to play the beginners matches and move on. TF2 should really incorporate this

  21. back when people's consensus on overwatch was positive because it wasn't bloated with too many gimmicks and tf2 still had a reasonable amount of updates

    2016, those were the good days

  22. This is really accurate, because for me to learn how to play tf2, I had to slow myself down and stop playing for a while, then slowly piece information together and finally learn that you dont hold w while rocket jumping.

  23. I've been playing this damn game for 7 years, I have around 800 hours in it, and yet I still walk away from about 1 out of every 5 fights I get in, and see how your highest points as pyro is 200 some? Yeah mine is 40

  24. God FUNKe
    I know I’m 3 years too late for you to ever read this but I wanna thank you for indirectly introducing me to Ozma
    They’ve quickly become my favorite band ever and it’s all thanks to you playing Light Years Will Burn as the credit song to one of your videos
    So, thank you very much

  25. “It’s like we made kids assemble their toys like assembly workers before they could play with them!”

    Nervously stares from the Warhammer community

  26. No tutorial should ever tell you "WSAD to move". I played Aer: Memories of Old recently, and the tutorial tells me "WSAD to move" but doesn't tell me "to open the shrine you were directed to, go to the next town over, find the two shrines, pull out your lantern near them … and I forget the rest of the process". Tell them "WSAD to move" only in the top right of the screen and until they move 1 or 2 metres.
    BASICALLY, TUTORIALS ARE NOT FOR CONTROLS.

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