After a series of community protests about the bot-ridden state of Team Fortress 2, Valve has released a new update for the game that has some tentatively hopeful change is coming, even if the patch itself is not a magical fix-all solution.
The update, which was pushed yesterday, includes a number of bugs and exploit fixes, most of which actually have nothing to do with botting. For instance, there's a fix to issues with animations on enemies that only appear during Halloween events and a fix for a years-old bug that occasionally showed placeholder names for players on kill cams and stat screens.
Many of these issues have been around for years and were mostly annoying, but not game-breaking. So their fixes, while welcome, are not exactly profound bot-fighting changes.
But there are a few changes in the update that has the Team Fortress 2 community cautiously optimistic. The biggest change is to the vote system: previously, Team Fortress 2 only allowed one vote to kick a player take place at a time, which made removing multiple bots from matches tedious and time-consuming, especially as they were quickly replaced with more. The new update allows both teams to have a vote running simultaneously, as well as a global vote to kick a player on top of that.
Valve has also removed the ability to change names during a matchmaking game, a feature that bots were exploiting by changing their names to be identical to those of players in the match, often causing inadvertent kicks of real players instead of the bots.
Though small fixes, the Team Fortress 2 community is responding well to the fixes, many of which are to bugs that have persisted for years. But it's not enough to permanently solve the botting problem. While one Reddit thread points out that player counts have dropped significantly post-update and the bot problem seems to have temporarily vanished, other commenters point out that this is something that happens every update due to initial bot incompatibility with new updates – they always return a few days later, as past updates attempting to curb the problem have demonstrated.
What's encouraging the Team Fortress 2 community this time around is that for the first time ever, Valve has actually said something publicly indicating it's aware of and working on the issue.
Over the last several months, the Team Fortress 2 community has been protesting the state of the game due to a years-long, overwhelming botting issue that has overrun public casual servers with spam messages, flawless snipers, and more recently, bots that can crash entire games.
Last month, the official Team Fortress 2 Twitter account acknowledged the botting problem in response to the protest, saying it was "working to improve things."
Aside from that tweet, it's unclear what, if any, future updates might be in the cards to continue to crack down on Team Fortress 2's bots. While the community is happy with the recent update and largely seems to recognize that larger updates take time, there's also a sense that this is yet another band-aid being applied to a problem much larger than Valve is willing to grapple with long-term. Given Valve's historically tight-lipped nature about its priorities, it seems likely that the only way to find out what the future of Team Fortress 2 will be is to wait and see.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.