Commander

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The Commander is a scrapped, non-physical role in Team Fortress 2.

The Commander would overlook the map, providing air support, placing buildings and communicating tactics. Scrapped during the middle of Team Fortress 2's long development cycle, the Commander concept has been reworked into the coaching system.

Information

Origins

During the development of Team Fortress 2, originally titled Valve's Team Fortress, later titled Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms, the team pushed for a more realistic approach when designing the game. Valve worked to create a modern war game with the then state-of-the-art technologies and techniques, which included parametric animation; seamlessly blended animations for smoother, more life-like movement; and Intelligence's multi-resolution mesh technology dynamically reducing the detail of on-screen elements as they become more distant to improve performance (a technique made obsolete by decreasing memory costs, since today's games use a technique known as level of detail, which uses more memory but less processing power).

Included in this modern direction was the design of a military command hierarchy, introducing a Commander role; the player would have a bird's-eye view of the battlefield, reminiscent of Real-Time Strategy games, allowing for new influence in battle. With numerous innovations such as networked voice communication, the Commander would have been able to help coordinate attacks, alert to enemies, placing structures, call for parachute drops over enemy territory, to name a few; however, unlike the remainder of the classes, due to the RTS design, the Commander was a non-physical role, only able to passively influence battle.

Complications and Removal

In a Gravel Pit developer commentary with Robin Walker, he discusses the reason why the development time for Team Fortress 2 took a significant amount of time. Among the reasons were the balancing issues with the Commander role in gameplay.

In developing TF2 we tried out many many features, a few of which made it into the final product, but most of which were cut. For example, our initial versions of TF2 were focused on trying to build a game around the concept of a commander: a single player who had a real time strategy view of the battlefield. He would be responsible for building structures and providing a unifying strategy for the team. But there was significant design challenges involved. For instance, how do we design the game such that the commander can have fun and at the same time ensure that the players down on the ground can have fun? How do we ensure that the players and the commander value the output of each other? How do we ensure that the game is still fun if you have a terrible commander, or conversely, if you're a great commander with a terrible team? We spent many months working on these and other issues and never really reached a point where we were satisfied. In addition, our game has become overly complex, due to our attempts to add a strategy layer deep enough to warrant the addition of the commander in the first place. In the end, we made the hard decision to remove him from the game and moved on.
Robin Walker

The Commander, along with such features as a more realistic approach, were scrapped during Team Fortress 2's development and steps towards to the cartoonish final design then began.