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You Can Finally Play Team Fortress 2 Again (For Now)

It seems like Valve cleaned up the bot problem that has been plaguing Team Fortress 2 for years. Let's see if that lasts.

Credit: Valve

Today, I played several normal, casual matches of Team Fortress 2 on public servers. This would not be unusual, but the game has been rendered largely unplayable in public for several years now. This has changed in the last week or so. “Are the bots gone?” I saw one player ask, to which several players immediately replied back, independently of each other, “For now.”

In June, the Team Fortress 2 community made a second, gargantuan push to publicly embarrass Valve, negatively reviewing the game and pushing them to “#SaveTF2.” As of last week, it seems like all that negative press finally sunk in. Valve not only instituted a massive ban wave for the game, but also introduced a new FAQ page tailor-made specifically for TF2 bans. At the top of the page, in big red letters, they state “Team Fortress 2 game bans are permanent, non-negotiable, and are not removed by Steam Support.” If you mess up here, you’re gone for good.

Valve to bots: Drop Dead. Credit: Valve

This is largely the language and tone I would expect to hear given the embarrassing scale of the problem. The gloves are off now, Valve does not seem to be messing around, and the results show. I spent several rounds playing good old-fashioned games of TF2. There were assholes, sure, but just the regular analog type. Every game was playable. I did not run into cheaters. I had a good time playing video games.

For now, the good outweighs the bad. Credit: Valve

As a result, there is now a massive uptick in active players, very clearly organic ones too. The reviews have gone from “overwhelmingly negative” to simply “mostly negative.” Reactions to the news from long term fans are mostly positive, but cautious. And for good reason! Valve has done ban waves in the past (see 2022), and simply banning cheaters and bots is not a permanent solution. Years of neglect cannot be healed in a week, and the type of problem they seek to address takes time and years of diligence, which Valve does not always have a spotless track record of. This is a community that has been burned before, and the official website of the movement, save.tf, has recommended players proceed with caution. As one player put it, “let see if it sticks first.”

save.tf remain cautious. Credit: save.tf

For now, TF2 is still the goofy, fun, low-stakes experience it always was. I went in and played engineer (my main), a little badly. I wasn’t the only one; a lot of the other players who hadn’t been hunkering in private servers were clearly trying to find their sea legs again. For now, the game is playable, and I truly hope it remains that way. I hope that Valve realizes how many people love this game and actively want more. Because I don’t think my heart could take it to see the game rot away one more time, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.

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