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Thursday 27 September 2007

Removing Friendly Fire from TF2 [Lurks]

We really didn't see this one coming. This morning I go to update our server's MOTD with a clever bit of text from another UK FF server which had a handy guide to spotting spies with FF on, only there's an update. I read the news and Valve have removed Friendly Fire from TF2!

Removed mp_friendlyfire cvar for servers. Team Fortress 2 breaks in a number of ways if this is on

This is quite a remarkable thing to do. They did so by saying that basically the mp_friendlyfire cvar breaks the game in a number of ways. Without actually stating what ways those are. Certainly after 375 hours of TF2 being racked up by the clan in the last week, I think it's not unreasonable to suggest that Valve's statement is abject nonsense. The game is not broken in any single way at all with mp_friendlyfire 1.

I started off being pretty agnostic about friendly fire. Natural inclination to have it on based on our predilections with previous FPS games over the clan's ten year history. I remember when we were quite insistant in the distant past regarding weapon stay on Unreal Tournament leagues. They wanted it on, we wanted it off. We felt very strongly at the time, feeling that the game became a needless spam 'a thon and hence pulled out of the leagues. Six months later were vindicated when the leagues reversed that decision.

It must, however, be pointed out that there's a key contrast between that scenario and the one which hovers over the clan like an ominous cloud with a hint ofthe faint artificial tang of spam in the air. The difference is back then Epic agreed with us. Weapon stay was silly, they said.Now Valve are telling us that friendly fire has no place in TF2. There's a heated debate spilling over on the forums right now.

The thing is, in the intervening timehaving played a great deal ondefault FF off servers and our own FF on server,it's clear to me what the major gameplay differences are and by trial of battle, a preference has solidified in my mind. I prefer friendly fire to be on. It'd be nice if it could be 50% damage or so but it's better that it's there than it is. This is pretty much the view of the whole clan with the exception of one legendarily mecenary Irishman that would probably prefer to play with bots anyway, given the chance.

Let's quickly set out the pros and cons of friendly fire on and off. Let's start off with what's good about friendly fire being on:

No griefing. Spys are debuffed because everyone can simply shoot at everyone all of the time in order to find out if they're a spy or not. Players don't need to be aware of any of their team mates, they can straffe around to their hearts content, they can lurk as a spy around a corner being pill spammed, they can mow left and right with the heavy weapons dude with gay abandon.

How about what's good about friendly fire being off:

Players are forced to know where there team mates are and consider arcs of fire. Pill spam in enclosed spaces is seriously cut down as it makes it very difficult for players to get through with a constant stream of grenades. Large collections of turrets are nerfed because they tend to mow down defenders standing in front of them.

The case for Friendly Fire.

Too often with multiplayer games do you find that the game essentially consists of 24 random people, half of which just happen to be wearing the same colour and are pointing in the same direction, just like when you were paired up with that ugly chick in the biology practical. Friendly fire forces people to consider, who's job is it to cover that doorway. It cuts back on the genuinely silly levels of mass grenade spam seen in the game and demands a higher level of skill where players need to be pretty clear about where they're firing and not just fire in the general direction of bad guys speculatively.

Friendly Fire does demand better team play and players which are on the ball. This tends to work well when you've got mates playing versus mates. On our server it's common to see much of EED versus another clan.

Additionally, despite the game apparently - according to someone at Valve, having mp_friendlyfire level in by accident - we find that the Pyro actually doesn't damage team mates. This buffs a sadly maligned class considerably because it makes them great for flushing out spies running through the front line stealthed and one hanging back in your base becomes a major asset.

The case against Friendly Fire

There's a couple of key issues here: Firstly spys are simply too powerful in the game as it stands. Somewhat counter balancing that right now is the fact that you fire at your entire team periodically to see if anyone is a spy. I think this whole game mechanic needs a bit of an overhaul but the fact remains that right here and now, particularly with non-expert players who have learned how to work out if someone is spy from actual observation and smarts, Friendly Fire being off actually nerfs spys in a way that they kind of need to be.

Currently the FF ratio is basically 100%. It's somewhat normal to have this damage scaled back a bit just to cut down on a single shotgun blast being a fatal event. The game is quite manic, it's not a tactical shooter. There's lots of stuff flying around and people are going to die by accident with FF on.


I think there's not a lot in it. I enjoy both game types but I enjoy FF more. Ideally I would have liked to have scaled the damage a bit and perhaps reduced the respawn time on a team-killed player a bit. However when the chips are down,I find itmore fun playing on our server and another FF server I have in my favorites list, than otherwise. Spys can be a huge problem, particularly since the Pyro situation is not widely known, but I do pretty well versus spys normally, as an engineer.

Surely any rational view is that you let people decide unless there really is some game breaking reason why friendly fire wouldn't be in. We've voted, collectively, and we're running the server. By what right does Valve come along and just decide sorry, the gameplay you find more enjoyable is simply not how we think you ought to be playing it. I'm seeing parallels, right away, with the many dubious multiplayer choices Valve has made in the past, all of which were aimed squarely at their own style of inexpert game play. Such as the ridiculous spray 'o matic headshot lottery which Counter-Strike ended up being when they took ownership of it.

I have a massive amount of respect for Valve. I respect the way they've re-done TF from the ground up to appeal to a wider audience. I appreciate that we are probably not part of the mass new audience they've been going after. However I think I can voice some collective dismay that Valve would basically hold us in sufficient contempt that they wont even let us decide this issue for ourselves.

What are you playing at Valve? I'd dearly like to know.


  1. I agree with all of the above; and can only add that in my opinion, FF should be an option turned on or off by those that run the public game servers.

    FF forces folk to think and act more as a team rather than a collection of random players each seeking solo glory. You would think therefore that given the game is called TeamFortress 2, such an option would be welcomed by the players and indeed judging by the forums over at, there are a lot of folk equally unhappy not with the official position that FF "breaks things" (which we know is not the case) but that the option should be so firmly removed from them.

    FF should therefore be re-instated as previously; an option set by the server administrator.


  2. Well you know where I stand.. on the Pyro thing by the way, with FF On their flame thrower can still damage their team-mates, it just can't give them the "set on fire" DoT effect afaik. I'd be interested to see what exactly "breaks" when FF is on. I'm not a fan of FF but that reason sounds a bit spurious to me.


  3. It breaks weenies' hearts :/


  4. It's quite frustrating that this is the stuff they chose to 'fix' when they still wont fix the highly fucking annoying broken alt-tab.


  5. The forums gave me a new favourite phrase to describe Valve's attitude towards those who want FF as an option - 'Shut up and colour'...... heheh.....


  6. I actually like FF off, on public servers at least, because with the best will in the World you can never ensure your team will actually behave in a cohesive manner. This is further compounded by the fact that in public non-clan matches people are dropping, automatically reassigned to balance teams, etc. Having FF off means that an individual, or a like-minded few can make a difference without fear of being obliterated by a teammate who is content just to pill-spam.

    As for FF off being a nerf to Spy - I don't see it myself. The games I've played with halfway competent Spies they're usually near the top of the scoreboard. Sure the x2 point bonus for backstabs helps, but the fact remains even with teammates spy checking eachother Spies tend to do pretty well if they use their head. I personally think Spies are too strong in a FF on environment as there is no reliable way of "spy checking".

    All in all I agree with Valves motivation - they want to ensure the game is first and foremost a "fun game". I don't think they want it to become the next eSports/xleague mainstay, and they obviously believe there are enough people who just want to be able to pick up and play the game without having to overthink it - in that respect it does fit well with the "cartoony" presentation.


  7. Well about spies and FF on/off then... how come I've had situations where I've shot at a player who I've suspected is a spy - at close/medium range - and because nothing has happened I've left them be and they've gone off and sapped a turret?

    How many times do I have to shoot a teamie as a spy test? I assumed anything that causes dmg>0, but maybe it is and I was just experiencing a latency issue (3G ~150ms).


  8. Well, I've shot enemy Spies (disguised) as a spy check and not seen any blood splatter. The only fail-safe test is with Pyro really... just torch anyone who comes near you and if they set alight they're a Spy :)

    Depending on your class a shotgun blast normally unnerves most enemy spies into trying to attack you (and thereby coming out of disguise), only the really shrewd ones continue acting like a teammate.