A Look Back – Team Fortress Classic

Team Fortress Classic is the direct predecessor to TF2, released in 1999. It was, in fact, made by the same people, and in many ways does inform the setting and gameplay of TF2. However, and I do not say this lightly about a game, TFC was terrible. I don’t mean that it was terrible in a way that relates to the actual game’s intent, though, or any facts about the thought process that went in to making the game. No, it was a competent team-based game, one of the first FPS games to have different classes, and had graphics that were on-par with the time, if that matters to you. TFC was terrible because of what it did to competitive gaming, and it will continue to be a terrible memory for all of history, until humanity purges all traces of it from its collective knowledge. TFC represents an aspect of online play that I despise.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself, though. Let’s start over. Forget that stuff for now. TFC was enjoyable to play when it was popular, though now you would be hard-pressed to find a server with real people (there are some with bots). It didn’t have as many classes as TF2 does, but it had enough differentiation between them that it was still fun to try different classes.

Also, every class used the same model, set apart by gear and weapons.

Like I said before, the team aspect was competent, though roles were definitely not as clearly defined as they are in TF2, and there were less weapons overall. Despite that, classes in a multiplayer FPS were a pretty new idea, and it added unique flavor to a type of game that was already becoming common. Also, the classes were still special in their own ways, and I though it was a good way to get different types of players interested, even if there was a bit of sameness. Most classes had a nail gun of some kind, and everyone had access to grenades. It is important to note that with a few exceptions (the demoman class, unusable cosmetic ones, and a soldier taunt), TF2 does not have grenades. This is because they were totally unbalanced in TFC. A person who was good at chucking grenades was unstoppable, and newbie players could only submit and hope for mercy, which ISN’T a whole lot of fun, unless you’re in to that sort of thing. This grenade issue was only part of a larger problem with the game, though, which I’ll get into later.

TFC may look like garbage now, but that is how games looked in the 90s. Those were not bad, and graphics actually only matter to me if they reach one of the extremes –  incredibly beautiful or eye-bleedingly bad. I am willing to overlook them in most cases, but I do appreciate when work has been put into them. What I’m saying though, is that graphics are not a reason to dislike this game. Let’s focus that deathray of hatred somewhere else.

Like, say, on to what I was talking about earlier: what TFC did to competitive gaming. Here in the future, we know that while TF2 does have competitive gaming circles and those players are a cut above, the game is not truly built to be the hardcore 6v6 deathmatch to decide who is the best, forever and ever amen. TF2 is built more towards fun and noob-friendliness (except for spies), and the community is better for it. For the most part, the fans of the game are nice, and try to help new players.

Not so, with TFC. I was really too young to grasp this back in 1999, but TFC brought out the worst in a lot of people. I would liken it to the current XBOX-Live fanbase: a howling mass of unlikeable twits. The game offered many ways to completely and constantly destroy any new player as soon as they entered, over and over, until they left. There was no way to learn or grow in the game, and certainly no fun to be had. This could be accomplished by grenades, or heavy gunners, or team-killing, or spawn camping (note that TF2 has removed or fixed all of these methods of abuse), or whatever, and it happened all the time. TFC was the first real introduction I had to the depths of elitism video games (of all things!) could bring out in people, and the lengths people would go to be jerks. This is not the fault of the game, but it is definitely the reason I stopped playing it and didn’t bother to think about it for 13 years.

An anecdote: My friend and I (both in our teens) decide to play some TFC. We get on to a server with a handful of other players, and start to have fun. One of us says hi on the microphone, and suddenly the rest of our team is angered by the sound of a child’s voice (maybe a child had murdered their parents. It is not up to me to wonder why). We are immediately team-killed and spawn camped while profanity is yelled at us by the rest of the players. Never in our lives had we encountered such hostility, and I cannot remember ever playing the game since then. However, I soon found that this was common behavior on the part of the community from talking to other friends, adults, and forums. To this day I’m not sure how it got to be so bad, but I do know (and this is mind-boggling to me) that other people fondly remember it as a time when noobs and children were kept in their place. In fact, there is a very active portion of gamers who protest TF2 on the basis that TFC was more skill-based, and less friendly to newer players.

If I have to explain to you how this attitude is poisonous and BAD FOR GAMING AS A WHOLE, then you are clearly asleep. Or dead. Acting like a jerk is one thing, but celebrating that behavior is even worse. How can video games be taken seriously when whole communities have a track record like this? I know that competition brings out the edge in people, but have some self-control. In the end, I’ll remember TFC as a game for jerks, whereas TF2 is a game for people who want to have fun, but not at the expense of other players. So really, the most innovative change TF2 brought to the series is fun, and that’s the entire point of video games. Thanks for listening to me rant, I promise it won’t be common.



Posted on March 14, 2012, in Games, Kind of a rant and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. i was 14 in 1999 and I absolutely loved TFC. I will say that I turned off mic audio and played with just the regular game sounds. Servers that had some awesome sniperer camping or whatnot, I would just leave.

    I suspect that TFC didn’t poison the gaming community in anyway, but that it was just among the first games to give people the opportunity to spew forth what was going on in their heads.

    I was never particularly skilled at the game, but I always had fun. I have to wonder if you aren’t reacting more to your first contact with the unfilitered internet than the game itself.

    • I doubt it will have a lasting impact on gaming, but I think that it is indicative of a problem that persists. Also, you may be right, but I had played Counter-Strike for years, and while it isn’t known for the best community either, I had seen the abuse it dished out and been alright with it. TFC seemed to evoke a particularly strong brand of hatred, and I am unable to put my finger on the cause.

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