PC Gamer
"This won't hurt a bit."
TRIGGERNOMETRY

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

When you donate your body to science, there s a general understanding that you don t expect to use that body again. It s old, or parts of it are broken, and you hope that some doctor will be able to learn a valuable thing or two about pancreases or elbow cartilage with the help of your husk. Whatever the outcome of that mortal tinkering, it s a transaction with no return policy.

Despite the many transplants, facelifts, and amputations Valve has subjected Team Fortress 2 to, it refuses to die. No FPS, and perhaps no game in any genre, has endured such aggressive and continuous experimentation and lived to be one of the most-played games on PC. It s a body that s sustained 494 surgeries, including:

  • Becoming free-to-play
  • The addition of a full-fledged item economy (item drops, crafting, market, trading…)
  • Steam Workshop integration; transitioning away from primarily developing TF2 internally to sourcing a significant amount of TF2 s new content from the community
  • Continuous holiday events that transform TF2 into, among other things, bumper cars
  • The use of TF2 as a vehicle for greater Valve projects, like The Saxxy Awards (Source Filmmaker/replay editor), Mac compatibility
  • The addition of Mann vs. Machine, a cooperative horde mode
  • Numerous crossover promotions via pre-ordering other games
  • Having its nine carefully-designed classes (and meta) reinvented many times over by the addition of new items

TF2 is a guinea pig grafted to Frankenstein s monster created on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Over eight years it s become an organism that Valve exposes to new stimuli and learns from watching what happens in order to improve other games or aspects of Steam. CS:GO s post-launch addition of item crates is one example of something prototyped in TF2.

What makes TF2 so malleable?

But typically, there s a cost to all that tinkering, some unexpected side effects. Your hair falls out. You get a rash. TF2 s forced mutations probably would have killed weaker games. An MMO going free-to-play is often tantamount to defibrillation, and often to the detriment of original designs. If Gearbox had welded an item economy to Borderlands 2, added competitive modes, or handed off most of its development to community mapmakers and modders, what sort of unplayable mess would it be?

What makes TF2 durable enough to survive all these changes and emerge each time remaining one of the most-played and beloved PC games over the past decade?

Meet the Writer

TF2 s characters, and Valve s commitment to telling their story, form a thick, regenerating skin. However many hats, hoods, rainbow flamethrowers, Street Fighter references, mutant bread, or $10 Deus Ex arms Valve throws on its nine mercenaries, they retain their charm, and their personality carries TF2 forward.

Throughout its life, TF2 s characters have softened the blow of its big systemic and mechanical changes. They re the sugar in the medicine. When Valve strapped an economy to TF2, they didn t explain it as a series of dry bullet points (although there was a FAQ). A bare-chested Australian arms dealer shouted the news at us. When TF2 became playable on Mac, its characters visited a fictional Apple store to poke fun at the unexpected news that TF2 was coming to a platform that s considered to be one of the PC s rivals. It sounds like some kinda hospital for fruit, the Scout says.

When Valve strapped an economy to TF2, a bare-chested Australian arms dealer shouted the news at us.

When TF2 was about to become a free-to-play game, arguably the biggest single change to the game that s been made, Valve understood that it had to be handled delicately. (Perhaps revisiting this announcement could ve improved Valve s recent handling of paid mods.) Jog your memory: in 2011, there was still plenty of discomfort among western gamers about free-to-play. Even with League of Legends in the wild, Korean titles like Maple Story and Facebook games had given F2P a bad stigma.

When TF2 went free, the announcement was one piece of a five-day package of stuff rolled into the Uber Update, which Valve deliberately built and billed as The biggest, most ambitious update in the history of Team Fortress 2. Every class but the Engineer got new items, and most got a whole set. True to my point, the Uber Update culminated with one of its characters literally performing surgery on another, the Meet the Medic video—arguably the biggest piece of the update in all considering how wildly anticipated each of the class videos have been.

Image by Zummeng.

Valve s used a similar approach for reinventing individual classes. One of Valve s attitudes throughout TF2 is that they didn t want individual classes to stagnate around an optimal strategy. And in order to manage that aspect of the metagame Valve have been completely willing to put the very identities of each class on the chopping block. For the first couple years of TF2, sentry turrets were the hinge upon which most of the rest of the mechanics swung: it gave everyone else something to do, something to kill, something to support. Arguably no other single thing in TF2 was more integral to how the game was played.

And Valve demolished that paradigm. In the 2010 Engineer update the Engineer went from being a gun babysitter to being a class that you could build as an offensive harasser, or an even more defensive (but more active) turret operator. Engineers gained a mini-sentry that deployed almost instantly, and an item that allowed them to manually aim turrets (and deflected two-thirds of incoming damage while doing it). The manual aiming of turrets even allowed Engineers to reach whole new areas of the environment with sentry jumping. If that wasn t enough, the update made the previously static guns movable.

Short of turning TF2 into a JRPG, I can t think of a more insane change than all of that. How did Valve sell it to players, some of whom had spent years getting invested in what it meant to be an Engineer? It wrapped the Engineer update in four days of mini-reveals, hidden links to images, and added a Golden Wrench competition across the entire event that was straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The teaser video tied the update nicely to the Engineer s personality, too: he s an inventor, and the update is a collection of his new creations.

The community has embraced TF2's incongruence. (Halloweiner from Steam Workshop.)

As an FPS critic, I have plenty of things to appreciate about TF2, about the way it mingles Quake s DNA with a playfulness that softens the blow of defeat, about how it applies Valve s ideas about readability so well. But its longevity, and its distinct ability to survive its own transformative changes, is owed to how consistently Valve has integrated storytelling and its international cast of mercenaries into practically every patch.

TF2 s updates aren t content patches, they're happenings in the Team Fortress 2 universe that inspire their own lore. The Administrator,  Zepheniah Mann, Saxton Hale, Australium, Australian Christmas, the Bombinomicon, the towers of hats, the Scout's mom—this stuff isn't window dressing, it's the connective tissue that's kept TF2's identity solid as it's mutated continuously over eight years. Valve has been able to spin and contextualize wild changes to TF2—many of which were made so that Valve could learn something about player behavior—not as new versions but as new episodes in an ever-evolving Saturday morning cartoon.

PC Gamer

For the past few Junes, right before one of the busiest gaming weeks of the year, we ve taken a moment to imagine the E3 press conference that PC Gamers deserve. It s become one of our tiny traditions (along with Chris questionable behavior in survival games). Mostly it s an excuse for us to publish something entirely detached from reality before we fly to Los Angeles and publish every scrap of gaming news and opinion that our bodies will allow. It s therapeutic to daydream about Gabe Newell materializing atop a unicorn through a fog of theater-grade dry ice to announce Half-Life 3.

We get valuable stories, videos, and interviews out of E3—you can imagine how handy it is to have almost every game-maker gathered under one roof for a few days. But it s no secret that the PC doesn t have a formal, organized presence during E3. Generally speaking it s the time of year when Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo jostle for position about who can create the most buzz. Despite being a mostly exciting few days of announcements, E3 has never given the biggest gaming platform in the world an equal place at the table.

That s our collective fault, not E3 s. One of our hobby s greatest strengths is the fact that there isn t a single owner. The PC has no marketing arm, no legal department, no CEO to dictate what should be announced or advertised. And thank Zeus for that. The fundamentally open nature of our hobby is what allows for GOG, Origin, Steam, and others to compete for our benefit, for the variety of technologies and experiences we have access to—everything from netbook gaming to 8K flight simulation to VR.

Everyone involved in PC gaming has shared ownership over its identity. One of the few downsides of that, though, is that there isn t really a single time and place for PC gaming to get together and hang out. We love BlizzCon, QuakeCon, DreamHack, Extra Life, The International, and the ever-increasing number of PAXes. But there s something special about the pageantry of E3 week, its over-the-top showmanship, its surprises, its proximity to Hollywood. And each June, even as we ve jokingly painted a picture of PC game developers locking arms in a musical number, we ve wanted something wholly by, for, and about PC gaming.

Well, hell, let s do it.

For the past few months we ve been organizing the first ever live event for PC gaming during E3, The PC Gaming Show. Tune into our Twitch channel on Tuesday, June 16 on 5 PM and you ll see a spectrum of PC gaming represented on stage: a showcase of conversations, announcements, hardware, trailers, and other stuff that makes PC gaming great. We ve been talking to everyone we know, big and small—if there s a game or developer you want to see—tell us! So far, Blizzard, AMD, Bohemia Interactive, Boss Key Productions, Paradox, Dean Hall, Tripwire, and more have signed up to be a part of this inaugural PC gaming potluck (Paradox has promised to bring nachos), and we ll be announcing more participants as we lead up to June 16. And hey, the endlessly friendly Day[9] is hosting. We love that guy.

We re sincerely, stupidly excited about this. The PC gaming renaissance we re all living in deserves a moment of recognition during the biggest gaming expo of the year—it s about time! Listen in on Twitter and on our Facebook page as we share more details leading up to June.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

I just thought the Spy looked like a bookie here okay.

I lost interest in Team Fortress 2 [official site] around the time that I became good enough to regularly top public servers but had neither the skill nor the interest to jump to organised competition. A little matchmaking, pitting me against other pubstar-tier fraggers, would’ve been wonderful. So huzzah! After many, many years, Valve are finally planning proper matchmaking.

Details are a little thin for now, based on memories of conversations that TF2 community folk had during a recent visit to Valve, but one thing’s clear: competitive matchmaking is coming.

… [visit site to read more]

Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Fixed a dedicated server crash related to the dispenser
  • Fixed a client crash related to the material system
  • Fixed a client crash related to ragdolls
  • Fixed a client crash related to demo playback and skipping ticks
  • Fixed not being able to launch the game in fullscreen on Windows 10 Preview
  • Fixed sentries not being able to hit players who are ducking while airborne. This was most noticeable when used in conjunction with the B.A.S.E. Jumper.
  • Fixed not being able to preview paint changes in the backpack, Mann Co. Store, and Workshop import tool
  • Fixed the Strange Dalokohs Bar incorrectly counting food eaten
  • Fixed missing ambient sounds in some maps
  • Fixed the Festive Targe not using the correct Blue team material
  • Fixed the Ap-Sap causing stuttering on dedicated servers
  • Added ETF2L 6v6 Season 20, ETF2L Highlander Season 8, and ETF2L Ultiduo 5 medals
  • Added the Tip of the Hats community medal
  • Added a "no hat" style for the Batter's Helmet
  • Updated the localization files
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:
  • Fixed a dedicated server crash related to the dispenser
  • Fixed a client crash related to the material system
  • Fixed a client crash related to ragdolls
  • Fixed a client crash related to demo playback and skipping ticks
  • Fixed not being able to launch the game in fullscreen on Windows 10 Preview
  • Fixed sentries not being able to hit players who are ducking while airborne. This was most noticeable when used in conjunction with the B.A.S.E. Jumper.
  • Fixed not being able to preview paint changes in the backpack, Mann Co. Store, and Workshop import tool
  • Fixed the Strange Dalokohs Bar incorrectly counting food eaten
  • Fixed missing ambient sounds in some maps
  • Fixed the Festive Targe not using the correct Blue team material
  • Fixed the Ap-Sap causing stuttering on dedicated servers
  • Added ETF2L 6v6 Season 20, ETF2L Highlander Season 8, and ETF2L Ultiduo 5 medals
  • Added the Tip of the Hats community medal
  • Added a "no hat" style for the Batter's Helmet
  • Updated the localization files
PC Gamer

Valve is bringing matchmaking to Team Fortress 2 as a 'high priority', a feature that has been rumoured for a while and craved by the competitive community for even longer.

Details are thin on the ground right now, mainly because Valve apparently hasn't got very far into implementing its system, but the team does have plenty of other, successful competitive online titles to draw from.

You can watch the video where the matchmaking elements - and a few other things - are talked about right... here:

The folks at TeamFortress.tv will be offering up more details of what they learned on their trip to Valve on Friday, so you'll have to wait until then to get a clearer picture of what's going on. But for now, the competitive community can probably afford to smile a bit, right?

TF2 Blog



The European Team Fortress 2 League are about to kick off their 21st 6v6 season, with applications open to all skill levels. To sign up, join a team or simply find out more about competitive TF2, head over to http://etf2l.org.

To further whet your appetite, check out the best frags from Season 20 in this video made by Premiership Medic Beater!

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Would you pay 33p for this?

It used to be that the only way to make money from a mod was a) make a standalone sequel or remake b) use it as a portfolio to get hired by a studio or c) back in the pre-broadband days, shovel it onto a dodgy CD-ROM (and even then, it almost certainly wasn’t the devs who profited). As of last night, that changed. Mod-makers can now charge for their work, via Steam.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Team Fortress 2 would probably work as a musical, but, unless Valve has something spectacular planned for the game's ninth year, we'll have to make do with this mod. Created by 'Vincentor', it replaces every piece of dialogue in the game with exactly the same piece of dialogue, only auto-tuned.

The mod covers all vocals—including every class, NPC and the announcer. To install, just download the mod and extract it into "tf/custom" folder inside your Team Fortress 2 root directory. You'll have to supply the house backing track yourself.

TF2 Blog



Florida LAN is bringing Highlander to the competitive LAN scene this May 16th with the Highlander Tournament, hosted by Apocalyptic Gaming Center in Winter Park, Florida. Registration is still open enter now for a full day of fragging, raffles and cash prizes.


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