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TFPortal.de - Robin Walker Interview

A few days before the Sniper vs. Syp Update was released, we had the chance to ask TF-Founder Robin Walker 11 questions. Now Robin sent us the answers back for our relaunch. We know that some time ihas passed since the update. Because of that a few parts of the interview are a bit outdated. But don't worry we got lots of informations about other topics! 


TFPortal.de: In another Interview you mentioned about a 10th Class for Team Fortress 2? Do you think that would be a good idea? We have now 3 Supporter Classes, 3 Offense Classes and 3 Defense Classes. Also the part of 9 Classes which we got in Team Fortress Classic.

Robin Walker: We've got some ideas for further classes, but right now we're focusing on new game modes and items that are additive to all classes. A 10th class is something we'd really like to do, it's just an order of magnitude more work than adding a new unlockable. Also, the 9 classes provide a wide spread of gameplay for us, and often we find that new class ideas are more like subclasses of an existing class. In some cases, we're able to design an unlockable that provides a boost to that style of play, essentially creating the subclass in the game.

TFPortal.de: Do you think Valve will do a third part of Team Fortress ?

Robin Walker: Right now we're still learning a bunch from the ongoing support of TF2.

TFPortal.de: Which Meet the Class video will be the next? Will there be more Videos like Meet the Sandvich, where you present the Weapons / Items?

Robin Walker: Meet the Spy will be next. One of the reasons we did Meet the Sandvich was because we hadn't got our next Meet the X movie finished, and we wanted to still do something for the fans. Another reason was that we really enjoyed the way we could put a sandwich into an FPS and have it make sense, both from a gameplay and from an art direction standpoint. So, yeah, if we add another unlockable that's fun from a stylistic standpoint, I could see us doing another Meet the X movie for it.

TFPortal.de: In an E-Mail you mentioned a new demo type / format which you are developing. Many players have broken demo files after downloading new updates. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Robin Walker: It's getting close to being releasable in a beta form. The idea is that after you die or finish a round, and it was a round you were particularly happy with (maybe you scored an awesome kill, or saved the entire team with an ubercharge), you can ask the server to send you a demo of it. The server then sends you a demo that it recorded, which has the complete game state instead of just what your client saw, and it's in a format that's robust and won't break as easily when we update the game. In addition, the format has a some side benefits, like supporting full backwards & forwards time scrubbing.

TFPortal.de: In the last Update you gave the Community an option for resetting their stats. Will it be possible to reset just broken parts of the Stats? Maybe in an upcoming update?

Robin Walker: We're working on improving this. The first update will probably be to not reset your playtimes when you reset your stats.

TFPortal.de: TF2 Players reports often, that their performance declines with every new tf2 update. Do you know about the problems of Players with non high performance computers and are you working on solutions?

Robin Walker: We gather a large amount of performance data from TF2 world-wide, and that data shows us that actually, performance in TF2 has improved over the time since release, even when we account for people upgrading their machines. That said, we do a lot of working with specific customers with obscure hardware setups to try and find out what's going on. Much of the time, it's someone who has a great graphics card and not so great a CPU, and unlike most games, TF2 is CPU bound, not GPU bound. Another common reason is that we really didn't design TF2 for more than 24 players, so we budgeted our memory & CPU usage around a max of 24. There's a large performance cliff (a place where performance takes a big dip) that occurs on some machines right around the 26 player mark. These are machines that perform well at 24 players, and become unplayable at 32.

TFPortal.de: Why you keep the pyro and his history so secret?

Robin Walker: It makes the Meet the Pyro movie much more fun!

TFPortal.de: In the last Update a new backpack was included to the tf2 menu with a new place for Head Items? What can you say about that. Will TF2 become more like a MMORPG were we have to collect items?

Robin Walker: One of the biggest pieces of feedback we get from customers is that they don't like the way the unlockables are tied to achievements. There are reasons why we had to do this in the past, but today we don't have to do that. So we're soon going to switch over to players being able to find items in a variety of ways. Because of that, players will start to find duplicates of items, and may try to store more items than we're prepared to allocate space for them on our backend. As a result, we introduced the backpack, which allows you to manage what items you want to keep, and throw out the others. The head slots are for a different set of new items that we'll be releasing soon, which are aimed at letting you customize your appearance a bit.

TFPortal.de: Which strategy you use in choosing the different classes for the achievement and unlock-updates? With the medic, valve tried to make the medic much more popular. But why then heavy, pyro and now the scout where choosen and not spy or sniper, soldier, engineer or demoman ?

Robin Walker: Initially we chose classes based on popularity, but at this point, there are a variety of factors, ranging from ease of updating to the number of ideas we have already floating around for the class.

TFPortal.de: In many other Games we can collect achievements for collection 100 units of something. Or for 100 Kills, than 500, than 1000 etc. Why Valve dont ship some achievements like that for all classes to have much more achievements, but also for everybody something he could achieve. Something like 1.000.000 damage points as pyro for every class as well?

Robin Walker: We initially designed these kinds of achievements to provide a buffer between the players who really played that class and the player who only checked it out for a few weeks after the class received its update pack. We backed off on them a bit once it became clear that the tying of achievements to unlockables meant players responded badly to this kind of achievement. Now that we've decoupled achievements & items in the Spy & Sniper pack, we'll probably rethink that decision.

TFPortal.de: How would you describe the development of TF2 in 2009? What can we expect this year?

Robin Walker: Overall, you can just expect "more" from us. I think we're getting better and faster at providing this kind of service, and hopefully the result of that is you get more new experiences in TF2.

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