Everyone and their brother has commented (no links, too boring) on the new TF2 randomized loot system, so I’ll save a lot of venom. It’s not that it is broken, it just turns a game of skill+luck into a game of pure luck, like a slot machine.
When one is rewarded, they look to a condition that caused that reward to repeat. It’s Skinner. When there is no cause to the effect, there is no behavior to reinforce. Since games are “a series of interesting choices”, choices being behaviors, it ceases to provide the player with any means to achieve – there is no interesting choice for him to face. The game is less fun as a result.
But let me defend Valve – they aren’t stupid. Reading between the lines, they clearly ran out of time. They were working on two class updates, six new items, sixty new achievements, five new maps and a list of bug fixes. They had a system that was functional, but not enough time to drop the -ctional. Instead of delaying the entire update, they allowed a half-assed system to go out the door which was probably the right decision. From the backtracking on their blog, it looks like they know what they’ve done and will patch it to something useful in a minor update. In the meantime, slot machines aren’t so bad. Sixty thousand grandmothers at the Seminole Hard Rock can’t be wrong.