Accusations of cheating begin flying around when Valve came forward with an “official” statement about the SteamStats idler program created by Drunken F00l, developer and owner of SourceOP. A small portion of the Team Fortress 2 community was punished for using this program while no one was given an official warning or comment that Valve didn’t agree with the program.
Since the incident, a small percentage of players have set out to boycott Valve in protest of the stunt they moved. Every boycotting player that I’ve spoken to agrees with one thing, “It’s not about the hats; it’s the way they did it.”
Valve, with no prior warning, suddenly began deleting items obtained by the idler from flagged accounts. Logging onto the idler program even once with your account could get you flagged. In the official TF2 blog, these players were then labeled as “cheaters” and those who took the “moral high road” were rewarded with a new hat in the form of a halo (Cheater’s Lament).
Users of the idler program believed it was no different than using achievement idle (achievement_idle) servers or the same way that people would use achievement servers in the past to obtain unlockable weapons. Neither of these latter practices was ever reported by Valve as cheating and these servers were never shut down.
Hence the surprise and confusion from players using the idler program which essentially did the same thing by connecting players to Drunken F00l’s own idle servers. The program in no way circumvented Steam or TF2 and would not give you items without being connected to a server, nor increase your chances of getting an item or give you items in any way different from the random drops from Valve.
This is why players using it believed it was okay to use. After three months without so much as a message from Valve to shut down the program or warning TF2 players not to use, even more people considered it ok.
Then they come out of nowhere with their “cheater” labels and special hats for those who didn’t use the program. It was another way to rub it in the face of players who didn’t even realize what they were doing was wrong. While Valve may have thought their stunt was cute, a great number of TF2 players thought it was a cheap and unprofessional move.
It wasn’t the removal of the items that got these people and it wasn’t the stance that using the program was cheating. What these boycotting players felt was inappropriate was to take the action without any prior warning or explanation and then to taunt paying players by labeling them as “cheaters” and giving a reward to everyone else.