From TF2 Wiki
Respawn may be used to refer either to the act of respawning, or to the place in which it occurs. For information about "respawn" as a location or place, please consult the respawn area or resupply area pages.
In Arena mode, players that die will not respawn until the next round has begun. However, some custom maps override this even if they are Arena.
When used as an event or action, the term "respawn" refers to the act of automatically rejoining the game-world after having been killed. The initial entry when you first join a map is simply called a spawn.
The term "respawn" may also refer to the reappearance of map pickups after they have been used, such as ammunition or health powerups.
Respawns occur in 'waves', for the following reasons:
- They provide a reward for the team that's doing well, in that if they wipe out a significant amount of the enemy team they're rewarded with a short grace period in which they can achieve objectives. Without them, we found teams felt like they'd been penalized when they cleared the enemy off the last capture point, only to have them all return immediately.
- They group respawning players together into squads, increasing the chances of strangers working together, or at the very least, moving to the frontline while maintaining some proximity to one another. Strangers aren't pushed together into groups when everyone respawns instantly, and we've seen that proximity to team mates is a fundamental requirement for impromptu teamwork.
- They provide some ebb & flow in the pacing of the battle. Without some cooldown inbetween the moments of intense combat at the frontline, many players felt fatigued much more quickly. In particular, some attack/defense maps feel almost completely static without respawn waves. That lack of progress, in either direction, was a big factor in players finding the gameplay monotonous.
- The spectator camera seen while waiting to respawn gives players some time to observe their team mates. This provides a minor help to teamwork, allowing players to see what other members of their team are up to. More importantly, we've seen that new players learn a lot of advanced techniques by spectating better players. This is one of the reasons why the spectator camera tries to find a team mate who's playing the same class as you.
The time it takes for the respawn wave to occur after being killed is variable, and a countdown is shown at the top of your HUD when your character has died. Respawn waves occur on regular intervals, based on the map settings. Most official maps use a 10 second respawn wave time. That 10 seconds is then modified by the map state, generally reduced for the team that controls the most capture points. Each team's respawn wave time is then scaled down if the team has less than 8 players in it, to a minimum of 5 seconds if team has 3 or less players in it. When you die, you are assigned to the respawn wave after the next one. So if the respawn wave time is currently 10 seconds for your team, you'll respawn somewhere between 10 and 20 seconds from your death. Your individual performance doesn't affect your respawn time in any way. Respawn Wave Time on a server can be altered by changing the "mp_respawnwavetime" variable.
The respawn time may also be modified by specific maps and server settings. Some servers feature 'Instant respawn' in which the waiting time for players to respawn is drastically reduced or eliminated for all players. It should be noted that during sudden death, no player is able to respawn upon being killed.
Some servers feature "instant respawn" times, where the waiting period for players to respawn is drastically reduced or even eliminated for all players. Servers can use either third-party custom plugins to enable this feature, or the in-built command mp_disable_respawn_times. The amount of time between death and actual respawn can vary if the server forces the deathcam to be displayed.
The respawn area refers to where newly-joined and resurrected players are placed. On some maps this may be a separate room from the resupply area. Frequently, the two areas overlap and there is no visible distinction between the two. The use of the respawn-area as a seperate room is frequent on Capture the Flag maps. In this case, there are sometimes automatic double doors leading to the resupply area. These doors frequently may only be opened from the inside, and when present provide one of the few safe places during humiliation.
You may change your class within the respawn area without committing suicide. On most maps it is also safe to change class within the resupply area, even if they are separate rooms. The point where you respawn is randomly chosen, but in control point maps it is often determined by which points your team has control over. Note that changing class may sometimes instantly place you in a different respawn area, if more than one are present.
In the GCF files of Team Fortress 2, and in unused sound effects, there is a turret that may have been used to guard the respawn room rather than the eventual invisible wall, similar to Team Fortress Classic.
In Poker Night at the Inventory, Heavy mentions that he has nightmares of dying in battle but then he wakes up. This could mean that the TF2 characters think their previous lives were dreams and are unaware of respawning.
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