Design Review: TF2’s Heavy Class

9 Jul

Thanks to everyone who participated this week!  Valve was nice enough to give the site a look-see, and plan to update their TF2 blog weekly; so for those who missed out on this exercise, rest assured that there will be more TF2 related challenges in the future.

As we are just getting this off the ground, we are still working to structure the exercise and review process.  The plan is to release the review post on Mondays, and start the new exercise on the following Tuesday.

This means you will see an exercise go up on Tuesday, and you should try to get your comment submitted by the next Monday.

This week, however, the next exercise will be going up tomorrow, on a Wednesday.

Now let’s take a look at the top three most viable designs from the Heavy exercise.

First up is Scott’s idea to give the Heavy a pair of big red boxing mitts to replace the standard fists in melee.

New Melee Weapon (Boxing Gloves)
The heavys big mitts are covered in big red boxing gloves. As a result the heavy loses the ability critical and gains a knockback ability (like the pyros). The heavys normal melee is rarely used and usually because the player isn’t really trying to play rather just trying to be silly.

As the Heavy fills his primary combat role with the minigun, this melee weapon doesn’t risk imbalancing Heavy/Medic pairing, while producing a new game mechanic for the Heavy to consider: pulling out the gloves to knock someone around or push enemy shots away.  This gives the Heavy some more utility, but doesn’t change his main role.  It fits with TF2’s style, and seems like it would make sense to users — it would also be easy for others to see if the Heavy is using the big red gloves.

The only concern is what governs the ability to knock back enemies; for the Pyro to blow back projectiles he has to use a substantial chunk of his primary ammo, but melee is inherently ammo free.  Changing another variable, like punching speed, might be something that would balance the knockback effect.

While officially the idea was to come up with a new weapon for the Heavy, StillBetterThanSasha’s idea still works towards the goal of making solo Heavies viable, although it does so indirectly.

Get Up Dummkopf!

Medics gain the ability to give fallen heavies a swift kick in the butt to get them back into the fray with 1 starting HP. It works like a taunt, the medic renders himself defenseless for the duration of the animation – better hope the sniper or spy that got the heavy isn’t still hiding somewhere… The ability only works on killed but not gibbed heavies (if characters take a lot of explosive damage they gib into pieces of meat). I think this is my new favorite idea, mainly cause it solves the problems I have with the class and plays off the already existing medic – heavy relationship. It’s too risky to use in battle so it should mainly work to drastically reduce the downtime for heavies that got picked off as easy targets on the fringes.

How does this help the solo Heavy at all?  By reducing the risk of death, the Heavy player will be inclined to fight and wait for a Medic to show up, instead of pairing up and then attacking.  It appears fairly balanced, as there is still a chance — especially with Sentry rockets, etc — that the Heavy will go down completely anyways.  But it’s enough of a gamble that perhaps players would change their play style a bit to accomodate such a feature (ie. Medics would tear their attention away from healing to see if any Heavies needed help up).

The only problem with the idea of a taunt that has such an integral role in play is player awareness and positioning.  But by adding a new icon to indicate to Medics which Heavies can be helped up, it would become easier for Medics to use and understand the ability (a key prompt might be needed as well, to show new players where taunt is!).  There would also need to be some sort of ‘sticky’ positioning, to halt the Medic for a couple seconds and lock him in the appropriate place over the selected body.

Last but not least, Scott has suggested a replacement for the Heavy’s coveted main weapon, the minigun.

New Main Weapon (Yasha and Roids)
The heavy loses his beloved Sasha and instead gains a one handed, lighter mini gun in his right hand and a syringe full of roids in the other. The smaller mini gun, Yasha, would need no ramp up but the damage would be decreased. Replacing the ability to spin the barrel (alt-fire) would make the heavy inject himself with the steroids or stim-pack or what have you, and take 50-75% less damage for 5-10 seconds. This new alt-fire would be either on a timed cool-down or something the heavy must build up (like the medi-gun) by killing enemies.

Of course, the most direct way to make the Heavy more viable on his own is to give him some of the Medic’s functionality.  This idea is especially clever in that the Heavy takes a hit to his damage output with his main weapon, making him less of a threat when paired with a Medic (he’s no longer a powerhouse to throw into the fray) but making him more balanced otherwise.  The idea of a smaller one-handed minigun and a syringe shouldn’t be foreign to TF2 players, and enemy players and teammates would be able to clearly see if the Heavy was lugging his minigun around, or his lone wolf combo.

The downside is that there may be, at least initially, some confusion surrounding the combination of the stim ability and a Medic’s healing power.  Since the syringe doesn’t render the Heavy invincible but rather reduces damage taken, the Medic’s Ubercharge ability would have to override the damage reduction should the two overlap.

But only playtesting could determine whether the Medic’s new critical charge ability would be overpowered if it worked alongside the damage reduction, or if it should override the syringe’s effects as well.  It may very well turn the Heavy back into the support role that he had forgone when choosing his new gear: He would output more damage, and still be able to survive with his healing ability (which would be boosted by the kills he has accrued with the critical charge).

Well, that’s it for the Heavy exercise.  Thanks again to everyone who participated, and I hope everyone had some fun thinking about this.

Stay tuned tomorrow for this week’s belated exercise.

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