Don't call it a comeback: T.J. is misguidedly given dominion over the podcast for a second week running as we discuss whether the new Black Isle Studios has anything to do with the old Black Isle Studios, what our plans are for the launch of Guild Wars 2, and whether we will actually see the World of Darkness MMO before the apocalypse. Plus, new DayZ storytime from Evan, T.J. proposes to Crusader Kings II, and Tyler asks new Associate Editor Omri Petitte what (railgun) is best in life?
Saddle up for the content-crammed extravaganza that is PC Gamer US Podcast 327: Pixel Blood
Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext 724 or email the mp3 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Saxxy Awards are back, giving budding film makers the opportunity to craft a masterpiece and win a Saxxy Award in Team Fortress 2. The winniest winner of the shortlist of category winners will be flown out to Valve for a sit down session with Valve's Source Filmmakers, which is a great prize because I don't know if you've ever tried it but flying is BRILLIANT. The Valve filmmaker folk are probably quite nice as well. Once there you'll have the chance to get your work "aired on GTTV's VGA preshow this December."
There are four categories, the most challenging of which is likely to be "Original Universe" which requires that all featured assets be custom made. There are other gongs available for best action, drama and comedy. All entries must be submitted between Nobember 1 and November 15. No sooner, no later.
That's one of a number of rules Valve have come up with to stop this thing getting out of hand and turning into a "who can make the best version of Homeward Bound using nothing but bits of the Pyro" competition, which nobody wants. NOBODY. Here are those rules.
Entries must be no longer than five minutes. Each entry must be at least 720p. All entries must be submitted using the Source Filmmaker's upload to YouTube™ and Steam Community menu option. Only entries submitted between Nov. 1, 12:00 AM and Nov. 15, 12:00 AM GMT will be considered. Voting begins Nov. 16. Winners, selected by Valve from the community-chosen nominees, will be announced by Dec. 31, 2012 All co-creators must be finalized by submission deadline to be considered. You are free to use any Valve IP. If you use any non-Valve IP, you must be the copyright owner or have explicit permission from the owner. Multiple submissions per person are fine. Submissions must be free of advertisements.
Find out more on the Team Fortress 2 site. Note that you're free to use any of Valve's IPs. It'll be interesting to see if we get many Dota 2 entries.
Valve has rolled out its final batch of reveals for the upcoming Steam Community revamp. Highlights include a Facebook-esque feed of your friends' activity, which will let you rate almost any tidbit of information that's caught in your radar screen and share it to various social media outlets. If you happened to be one of the first people to earn the "Pillar of the Steam Community" badge (an accolade that involves rating screenshots, recommending games, and other social actions on Ye Steam Community of Olde), you'll be getting two invites letting you past the velvet rope to be one of the first to check the new features out.
The rest of us aren't being left out in the cold darkness of the present, though. We can admire the future ourselves with the live web version of the Team Fortress 2 game hub, and discuss the upcoming changes in the Community Beta group. Let the world know if you would describe this new coat of paint as "nifty," or you'd rather have less social media applesauce in your games distribution peanut butter.
Are you ready to FIGHT? Are you ready to SCRAP until every ROBOT you see is SMASHED INTO A PILE OF ASSORTED BITS OF CASE AND WIRING AND OILY BITS OF COLD MECHANICAL SOUL that is conveniently for the purposes of this sentence ALSO called SCRAP?
Of course you are! It's MANN VS MACHINE TIME AND...oh, hang on.
IN AN ESTIMATED 32 MINUTES, IT IS MANN VS MACHINE TIME!
Yes, the latest patch for Team Fortress 2 is out - and it's a popular one. I've been trying to get into a game for the last hour and a half, and have yet to actually manage it thanks to full-to-bursting servers and connection errors after patiently queuing up like some kind of polite, quiet person. I was originally planning to bring a quick hands-on verdict of a round or two. Instead, all I can say is that the matchmaking screen is very calm and soothing, and a credit to menu screens everywhere.
It will of course settle down once the entire internet has stopped hammering it, and in the meantime you can read the player guide right here to see the robots you'll be fighting and how the character upgrade system will work. The most surprising thing though is the addition of "Mann Up" tickets for an extra fee. You don't have to buy these to play, but they do buy you access to special servers where rare items can be found. Tickets are only used up on completion of a successful mission though, so you don't have to worry about wasting one on a bad team. There's also a progress tracking element involved, but as far as I can tell it looks like it's a similar deal to the existing crates - an option if you want to fast-track your collection of weird and wonderful gubbins, but by no means mandatory.
There are three MvM maps, Decoy, Coal Town and Mannworks, each with three "Missions" - one Normal difficulty and two Advanced for each. Unlike regular Team Fortress, you earn money for kills, which can be spent on character upgrades that last the duration of the match, with the addition of canteens for instant mid-game power-ups like a five second Ubercharge.
I'm looking forward to trying it all out.
Please would everyone else stop connecting for a few minutes so that I can.
The final reveal leading up to the launch of Team Fortress 2's co-op vs homicidal robots mode, Mann vs Machine, gives us a glimpse at a clockwork armful of new achievements, and details how you'll be able to earn some epic, new cosmetic items. For a small fee.
The big reveal here is the new "Mann Up Mode," which will pit you against the mechanical hordes on an "Official Mann Co." server with a chance to earn the new rewards, which largely seem to run along the theme of strapping broken robot parts to yourself and your guns. To be eligible for these (cosmetic only) drops, you'll need to buy Tour of Duty tickets for 99 cents each. Each ticket will allow you to complete a mission toward completing a Tour of Duty badge: a new item that levels up with you and grants you a random rare every time you level it up. Each level of your Tour of Duty badge will require you to complete a set of fixed MvM missions, at the cost of one ticket each. Tickets are only expended on a victory, so succumbing to horrible, metal death won't "eat your quarters" like the arcade games of yore.
Also available for $2 are Squad Surplus Vouchers, expended at the end of any given (successful) mission in MvM that give everyone on your team an item drop. If you're rolling with a full team of six that each bought one, you're all getting six drops if you win.
All of this aside, Mann Up mode can be completely ignored. You can still play MvM on non-Mann Co. servers and earn random drops over time, just like in TF2's competitive modes. All you'll be missing out on are chances at the new cosmetic gear and leveling up your Tour of Duty badge. You can read more in the official FAQ. We're still sorely lacking in an ETA for Mann vs Machine beyond "Today," so keep an eye out. The machines should be marching soon, and we plan to meet them. With bullets.
A brigade of new details on Team Fortress 2's Mann vs Machine update reported for duty sometime last night (after I finally stopped F5ing the page and left the office.) In case you missed our reveal, the new mode will bring a co-op vs AI horde mode to Valve's free to play shooter. The Day 2 update details what you can spend all of the cash you get from blowing up robots on.
Firstly, a new action slot item is being added: the Mann Co. Canteen. These military-grade receptacles can be filled with three doses of one of several different effects: Temporary invincibility, temporary 100% critical chance, instant ammo refill (I don't know how drinking from a canteen accomplishes this, and I don't want to know), instant teleport to the respawn point, and instant building upgrades for engineers.
In addition, you'll be able to throw down your cash at an Upgrade Station throughout the course of the match to beef up your primary weapon. These upgrades won't transfer into future matches or into multiplayer, however, adding a MOBA-like progression to each bout. The example of the Demoman's trusty grenade launcher was given, which can improve in the areas of Damage, Ammo Capacity, Firing Speed, Projectile Speed, Reload Speed, Clip Size, and Health On Kill. Each category has three or four progressively more expensive levels.
Powers that be permitting, Mann vs Machine should go live sometime today.
After posting a comic that heavily hinted at an organic-mechanical showdown in Team Fortress 2 this morning, the cinematic team at Valve have finally released a video confirming what might be their longest-hinted update ever: Mann vs Machine. It looks like the eternal, chromatically-opposed enemies of Red and Blu will be banding together to fight off a greater, technological menace in a new co-op mode. Check out the truly epic reveal below.
From the official site: "Mann vs. Machine is a new co-operative game for Team Fortress 2 that lets you and five friends wage a desperate battle to stop a lethal horde of robots from deploying a bomb in one of Mann Co.’s many strongholds. Take advantage of breaks between waves to upgrade your abilities and weapons. Survive all the waves in any of a variety of missions to earn incredible loot."
Something big is afoot in TF2 land. A post on the Team Fortress blog confirmed that, on Saturday night Valve "launched our most fiendishly difficult ARG yet," an ARG they declared to be "diabolically, even needlessly complex." The TF2 community swiftly solved the conundrum revealing a comic unveiling a third Mann brother Gray Mann. Cold, calculating, fiendishly smart and quite evil. Essentially, he's Team Fortress 2's G-Man.
But what's this mysterious stranger plotting? The evidence at the moment points towards "evil robot army."
Folks on NeoGaf and ValveARG have been picking out clues from the Team Fortress 2 updates of the past year or so, and have discovered, via secret rooms in Foundry and Doomsday maps, regular coded references to "Gray," who we have now been introduced to, and "MvM," which is thought could refer to an incoming Man vs. Machine mode that could see Red and Blue factions uniting to fend off the metallic menace.
Community members have picked out blurry background photos and bits of background art that seem to hint at humanoid robot designs, fuelling speculation that a third, robotic, AI controlled faction may be on the way. The robotic army part of that theory is supported by the discovery of these robotic head model tucked away inside the Source Filmmaker files. They look like this.
Then there's the tank that's started appearing in map skyboxes. It's big. Big enough to carry an elephant. Or a ROBOT ARMY.
The whole saga is helpfully summed up by the video below on Kotaku. A Kotaku reader also explained how the ARG went down:
"Someone found out by equipping an item that was not supposed to be equippable and high fiving someone, the person you high fived would receive a secret message in the form of a joke. The jokes turned out to be hidden hex code, which then revealed nine things. Eight of them just revealed a word, but the nineth one revealed a zip with a password lock (a Keepass thing). Using the words as a PDP code list somethignsomthingsomething(I'm not exactly sure here), people found a link inside linking to tf2.com which turned out to be a crafting recipe in game. Crafting all the items together caused a GAME wide message, linking the comic."
The clues have been building for months, but the release of the comic suggests that the Man vs. Machine update is imminent, which is exciting. And genuinely a bit menacing. Allow the music in the MvM evidence video to strike to strike the necessary conspiratorial tone.
That's the kind of office discussion Team Fortress 2's Triad Pack encourages. It's all thanks to the Pyro's new melee weapon, The Neon Annihilator, which gives 100% crits towards wet players. In theory, this means Pyros can set people alight, then whack them for a crit as they douse themselves to survive the burning. Or you could keep an eye out for players covered in piss and/or milk and target them.
The pack also includes the Heavy's Huo Long Heatmaker. It's a monstrous gun that pumps out a ring of flames at the cost of ammo, resulting in a cool-looking anti-spy tool. The flying guillotine is a secondary weapon for the Scout which (predictably) causes players to bleed heath points. The Spy also gets a new toy: the Red-Tape recorder is a unique sapper which reverses enemy building construction, playing the animations backwards before the deployable packs itself into a toolbox. Spies love that kind of thing. Engineers don't.
There are also a few cosmetic items included: a gold chain that's worm outside your shirt, a sexy tattoo, silly glasses and a crash helmet.
All of the above items are also available in the Team Fortress 2 shop for real money, as well as for players who pre-order Sleeping Dogs.
What's your favourite Team Fortress 2 item so far? I spent 3:49 on this taunt. I regret nothing.
For the benefit of children, TF2 Mixup invited me to play a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 with some Important Internet Individuals. The roster: Notch (Soldier), Freddie Wong (Sniper), Robin Walker (Demo), our pal Brian Brushwood from Scam School (Heavy), and more. The first round of three, on cp_gorge, is watchable below. Any ad money generated from the video is being donated; and hey, you can still donate yourself.
At last, I realize my small dream to help children by plunging a switchblade wrapped in Christmas lights into others. I told you I'd make something of myself, mom.