Skip to content

TF2 Engineer update musings

Valve has now released content packs for eight of the nine classes in Team Fortress 2. The last class, the Engineer, represents some tricky game-design work because of how out-of-the-ordinary he is. Instead of using his own weapons to fight, he generally relies on building static defenses. Plus, most of his “real” weapons–the buildings–are not actually “weapons” in the same way the other classes have them, so debate continues as to whether he will get alternative first-person-shooter weapons, alternative buildings, or both.

Recently Valve created a new loadout slot for the Spy, to hold a humorous accessory known as the “Camera Beard”, ostensibly so that you could equip it at the same time as equipping a hat accessory. I propose that there was a deeper purpose to this than mere fashion sense…

Valve is front-loading the work of creating a new arbitrary non-weapon slot for a class. I think that ultimately the Engineer will have an additional loadout slot besides primary/secondary/melee. It may be a single slot, ex. “Toolbox”, or a slot for each of his signature buildings: The Sentry, the Dispenser, and the Teleporter(s). It makes a lot of sense for Valve to split “What wrench you have” from “What buildings you can make”, especially if an Engineer accidentally triggers a loadout change and all his buildings explode.

But let’s step back: What kinds of issues and opportunities are there in an Engineer update?

  • His Sentry weapon is “binary”, it is very effective against  new players and very ineffective against seasoned ones.
  • In the first case, the Sentry generally takes care of itself. In the second, map layout often forces the Engineer to continually repair the sentry as opposed to harassing the enemy directly.
  • Boredom! If the Sentry does it’s main job–deterrence–then the Engineer has very little to do except run around and check for spies. It’s really quite monotonous. (And no, engineering “mini-games” would be terrible.)
  • If the Engineer doesn’t stay (possibly bored) by his sentry, and runs out a little ways to get into the action, his death tends to mean the sentry goes down. So the choice is often between effective boredom or ineffective engagement. (And since it’s a game, engaging the player is a good thing.)

I think the prime goal of the update should be to increase the level of interaction an Engineer has with the battle. Of course, the Engineer is fragile. He’s not very fast, he doesn’t have high health, and his main weapons aren’t that great by comparison.

So here’s an archetype for the “interacting engineer”:

  • Moves quickly (ex. Medic speed)
  • Builds quickly
  • Structures build and operate much more quietly. (No “Buildin’ an X!” automatic squawks.)

More details later.

Posted in Games.

Tagged with .