Fixing Arena Mode

Discussion in 'Team Fortress 2 Talk' started by FishyUberMuffin, Sep 26, 2017.

  1. FishyUberMuffin

    FishyUberMuffin War Paints Everywhere

    Positive Ratings:
    How would you fix Arena mode to be played more then it is being played now? I would just add it to the Casual Mode map list and cut down the max amount of players to 20 players per sever. 9 v 9 with two extra spots. How would you fix this gamemode?
  2. Hipster_Duck

    Hipster_Duck L2: Junior Member

    Positive Ratings:
    Essentially, people hate sitting out.
    TF2 is not the sort of game that a one life gamemode works well with, it's too random. 1 random crit , 1 Sniper headshot across the map you could do nothing to avoid, 1 Demoknight suicides into you for a pick, and you have to sit out for an entire round (and potentially more than 1 round!).
    "Arena: Respawn" attempted to fix it, and from what I remember, it was pretty fun when it came out, I haven't seen it in ages, but I would definitely recommend checking it out.

    Edit: On a side note; most people who enjoy arena can get all they want out of it out of koth or cp, which are objectively """better""" gamemodes.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. norfolk terrier

    norfolk terrier L3: Member

    Positive Ratings:
    I've added a timer to arena mode, for a gamemode called MTK (minute to kill). It's currently broken now, but I quite like it otherwise.
  4. Xayir

    Xayir L3: Member

    Positive Ratings:
    I would add something like in mvm that meds can revive people
  5. Zed

    aa Zed Certified Most Crunk™

    Positive Ratings:
    I think it might be interesting if there was some way to move players into another match when they die, like having multiple arenas in the same map.

    EDIT: Or just put players in some sort of deathmatch arena so they can mess around between rounds.
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    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
  6. Muddy

    aa Muddy Muddy

    Positive Ratings:
    Arena is fine as is imo. I wouldn't say it's inherently flawed like Mannpower or Medieval Mode, so why fix what ain't broke.

    Sure, waiting out is boring, but nobody's forcing you to play it.
    • Agree Agree x 6
  7. rand0m

    rand0m L1: Registered

    Positive Ratings:
    Remove sitting out to force equal team size and make good maps for it. So far every map I've played during the tests has this "go in, whoever spams better wins, camp near meds, one big route" style. Arena maps need separate routes that only eventually connect with other routes. And a route to go for every class, not just soldier and scout. Draft is a very good example of a custom and good arena map, when it comes to official maps, Lumberyard, Ravine, Offblast, Sawmill. All of this doesn't matter though, because arena will never, ever be popular among casual players, it punishes for mistakes too much, and you need to track and have a good sense of whats around to do well. An average player just shoots at first thing he sees and doesn't know when to rotate.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Idolon

    aa Idolon the worst admin

    Positive Ratings:
    I think I've found that I enjoy arena maps that play quickly, which negates some of the frustration of sitting out. Deaths mean less, which can encourage more risky strategies.

    Having an objective open from the start also helps. Arena encourages risk-adverse strategies, and for a team that knows they have the advantage (more players), going for the objective is a safer bet than trying to kill the remaining players. On a map where the middle point opens a minute in, this means some teams will just park the bus.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  9. Another Bad Pun

    Server Staff Another Bad Pun punished bird

    Positive Ratings:
    I think these are primarily the reasons the original doge worked out pretty well. While technically kind of crappy, the small size and huge deathpit meant that players died quickly and rounds were short, (and when they weren't, it was a tense 1v3 between spies or something.)

    Additionally, when playing it I often found that my personal objectives were pretty consistent each round:
    1.) Survive the first 20 seconds - don't fall off or die
    2.) Finish off the enemy team or capture the point

    And this gave the map a pretty consistent flow, and I think the predictability of the rounds is part of the reason why it was fun. It was possible to anticipate what would likely happen before the round began, allowing players to experiment and strategize (short wait times meant players were not punished for doing this.) So as I played, I often would try out different ways to accomplish these two goals with the dream of an epic 1v1 and varied levels of success.

    tl;dr: doge is the best arena map
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. Yrr

    aa Yrr An Actual Deer

    Positive Ratings:
    personally i think i solved every problem inherent to arena and ctf in exsmol ;)
    • Funny Funny x 2
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  11. awk

    awk L1: Registered

    Positive Ratings:
    Hello. My name is awk, and grappling with Arena mode has sort of become my hobby in TF2.

    I worked with Arena for a bit back in 2015ish when I made Arena: Respawn, a gamemode born more out of frustration with Arena servers than any actual attempt at making something interesting. I've recently returned to working with Arena and trying to develop something new out of it. Along the way I've done a fair amount of playtesting and chatting with Arena fans so I thought I'd infodump what I've learned so far and how I view Arena in relation to other TF2 gamemodes.

    When I talk about my observations in how gamemodes play out, I should specify I mean pub/Casual levels of play. Stuff happens differently in matches where everyone is communicating. Ultimately, however, I'm interested in how pubs play because I'm trying to build a pub gamemode.

    The way I think about Arena's place among TF2's other gamemodes is in terms of how "volatile" it is. Certain gamemodes play more consistently than others. For example, Payload and KOTH are more consistent in gameplay than the gamemodes they originate from, Attack/Defend and 5cp.

    In A/D or 5cp, bad positioning or defensive coverage can cost a round very quickly. "Sneaky" or "cheap" tactics can be employed like spycapping or backcapping. When I say "cheap," I don't mean "invalid" - these kinds of strategies are perfectly valid and are technically punishing the opposing team for bad defense. But if a round is won while most of the fighting is happening elsewhere, I think it's fair to say it's a less satisfying end than a final climactic push into last.

    Contrast this with Payload or KOTH, where you can completely wipe the opposing team but you still can't win the round until you Push Kart to the end or hold onto that point for the next 3 minutes. There's still plenty more fighting to be done, plenty of opportunity for a comeback from the other side, and plenty of opportunity for the balance of power to shift wildly between RED and BLU without the danger of a sudden unsatisfying ending. Matches have to go on for a good amount of time before the game finishes. For this reason, Payload and KOTH play more consistently in pubs. While cheap final caps are possible, they are a lot more rare because the final objective is almost always smack in the middle of the action.

    (Incidentally, I think CTF is a mix of both - when no one has the flag, the game is a very consistent stalemate with both sides having time to build up nigh-impenetrable defenses. Then, the moment someone gets the flag, their journey to capture it is extremely volatile - every step the flag carrier makes toward friendly territory is a step towards an easier capture. Letting the flag carrier slip early in their journey makes them that much more likely to successfully cap. In CTF, minutes go by in which nothing counts, then someone gets a flag and suddenly every second counts. This is, at the very least, a contributing factor to why CTF pacing is so atrocious.)

    Then we get to Arena, the most volatile gamemode in the entire game. No gamemode punishes teams or individual players so brutally for their mistakes as Arena does. Play poorly and your team won't even last a full minute. If you perform one useless rocket jump, mess up one headshot, or fail to protect the Medic or Dispenser keeping your team alive, you won't get a second chance. In the words of the eponymous Navy Seal, "You're dead, kiddo."

    Arena can and does work, but only ever in the context of community servers. Arena communities come up with rules and etiquette that act as patches to cover up the inherent inconsistency in how Arena plays out. Over time, you learn when it is appropriate to go for the midpoint and end the round and when you should give the remaining players a fighting chance; you learn that when the last man standing pulls out his melee weapon it is considered dishonorable to use anything besides melee against them (to make the final fight less of a stomp); you learn which strategies are universally frowned upon (Cloak and Dagger, hiding behind a Level 3 Sentry); you learn, above all, how to play Arena not just well but in a way that keeps the game interesting for everybody.

    When people talk fondly of Arena, they almost always talk fondly about it in the context of one of these communities. There have been attempts to codify these kinds of rules with server plugins or by making rule violations a kickable offense, but really, they only work on the honor system. The rules themselves aren't what's really important. What's important is the community banding together to keep the game playing consistently, because it won't do it by itself.

    This is why Arena doesn't stand up to as much punishment as any of the other gamemodes in TF2. If everyone were playing optimally, or were just ignorant of server culture, Arena would be a lot more boring. Of course the 1v3 fight is going to end poorly for the single player without a healing source if everyone is really playing to win. There would be a lot more playing around the midpoint as well instead of treating it as a last-resort "round end" button. In other words, Arena is the only gamemode I can think of where it only works if you don't play by the game's actual rules.

    If I were tasked with fixing vanilla Arena mode, the only thing I could think to do is to port the timer system from Respawn. In Respawn, it works like this: after the first kill, the round timer starts ticking down the time until the team with the numbers advantage wins. Each kill against the winning team adds time to the clock. If the other team gets the numbers advantage, the timer now represents the time until they win, and any kills against their team add time to the clock. Ties are handled by a "most recent advantage" type system - if RED has 8 players up and BLU has 7 players, BLU won't be considered the winning team until they have at least one more player up than RED (e.g. if, later in the game, RED has 5 players up and BLU has 6).

    Of course, Respawn has the advantage of representing the winning team by making the central control point owned by that team at all times. If the winning team changes, the point owner changes, so it's always obvious who is going to win when the timer hits 0. (In fact, behind the scenes, all that's really happening is that I'm telling the team_control_point_master to consider both teams valid winners instead of neither of them.)

    I'm not sure how well that would work in vanilla Arena. It could make a certain amount of sense since that means a mid capture can only be performed by the losing team, which seems fair enough as it gives them a potential second avenue to victory. The winning team just has to wait it out for a short amount of time if someone is turtling, and people fresh to the gamemode will quickly learn that turtling is ineffective since there is an ever-present element of time pressure. Getting kills and keeping the game exciting, however, alleviates that time pressure and encourages risk-taking in desperate situations.

    Beyond that, though, I don't think there's much more that can be done for the mode. In a gamemode where a handful of fast kills can decide victory, it's difficult to keep the game stable without resorting to "house rules". I've been tinkering with adding my own game mechanics on top of Arena, but I think my additions take it outside of the realm of Arena. If anyone is interested in that, I'd be happy to make another thread on what I've done so far and why.
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    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017