Team Fortress 2 is no stranger to crazy boss fights, but a Nolan North-voiced bomb spamming wizard is one thing, a floating skeletal head that shoots ubercharged spies is quite another. That's what you'll face in this insane TF2 community map, highlighted by Isaac creator Ed McMillen on his blog.
The map contains multiple levels and bosses from the game, and uses Blu team mercenaries in place of Isaac's varied cast of monsters. The video shows fights against Husk, Mom and Mom's Heart, as well as a representation of the Wrath of the Lamb expansion's super-final boss fight.
To play it you need to visit the Super Zombie Fortress server of the map's makers, the unfortunately named SLAG gaming. Annoyingly it's in rotation with the server's other SZF custom maps, meaning there's no guaranteed way to ensure a game. But you can still enjoy the absurdity of this boss fight round-up video.
Combating Thanksgiving food comas with the awe-inspiring power of the gaming binge, over 6 million gamers logged into Valve's digi-hub over the weekend after enduring the motions of spending "time" with "family." Undoubtedly spurred on by the Autumn Sale and its many wallet puns, the surge also rode the waves of numerous major releases such as PlanetSide 2, Assassin's Creed 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
The ballooned player count peaked around 11:00 a.m. PST Sunday with 6,045,912 users logged on, Kotaku noticed. Notice that's concurrent logins, not active game sessions—while games define the vanguard of Steam's excellence, the chart gathers numbers from simply having the program launched and running. That's where the always-handy Steam Graph service steps in with more numbers for your numbers.
Plugging in a few top releases into Steam Graph for the Thanksgiving weekend shows a fair spread across PC gaming's most popular genres. Dota 2's un-beta boasted a little over 170,000 simultaneous players on late Saturday, while soccer-sim Football Manager 2013's surprising strength topped at around 60,000. On Sunday night Black Ops 2 spiked at 51,000 soldiers, and PlanetSide 2's fight for Auraxia swelled to 30,000 Steam conscripts last night. Lastly, as many as 15,000 stone-faced killers were concurrently shoving sharp metal objects into various people in Assassin's Creed 3.
Conclusion? I'm really tired of turkey sandwiches, but Steam's powerful presence on the PC only increases with each passing year.
From December 12th, trading through the Steam inventory will be restricted to accounts that have had Steam Guard, Valve's account protection system, activated for 15 days.
Steam's trading service lets users exchange items from different games, as well allowing for the swapping and gifting of the games themselves. Mostly, of course, it's used to facilitate Team Fortress 2's strange hat-based economy.
So what's brought about the change of policy? For starters there was the recent allegation that Russian mobsters were using TF2 to launder money by purchasing keys in bulk, trading them for earbuds, then selling them at a slightly reduced price. Perhaps more tellingly, the change is being made just before Christmas, when Valve traditionally likes to perform weird experiments with sale achievements and tradable items. As this Reddit thread points out, last year crafty users were able to exploit the coal promotion to get more favourable trades.
Steam Guard is a free service that forces an additional email confirmation every time you log in from a new PC. Tying an extra layer of protection to virtual economies is becoming an increasingly common practice - Blizzard already require Battle.net Authenticator for Diablo III players looking to use the real money auction house. If you're a regular Steam trader who's yet to enable Steam Guard, you've until tomorrow to make the switch and ensure uninterrupted service.
In other trading news, TF2 recently doubled the size of its maximum backpack size to 2,000, provided players are prepared to spend the £47.43 it would take to purchase enough Backpack Expanders to reach the limit. That might seem overkill right now, but in the future, when all goods and services are purchased through a Bill's Hat bartering system, you'll be glad of the extension.
Valve fired the starting pistol on the Saxxy video awards back in August, inviting fans to create the best videos they can using the Source Filmmaker tool released earlier this year. The entries are in, and the voting has started. You can start dishing out thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs by logging in and working through the queue on the Saxxy Steam page.
The quality is mixed, as you'd expect, but every so often you run into a gem that makes it worthwhile. My favourite so far is the Midnight Power short embedded below, a slow pan out on a fight scene that stretches the number of moving objects and characters the filmmaker can handle to its limit.
Discover more great filmmaker videos in our round-up of ten of the best.
A user on the SteamRep forums who goes by base64 has potentially uncovered evidence of organized Team Fortress 2 market fraud. On Sunday morning, the community investigator noticed an unusual jump in the price (in TF2's common currency of Keys) and volume of Earbud trades. Earbuds, if you're not familiar, are an especially valuable TF2 item. Further investigation revealed that the Keys used to purchase the Earbuds at an above-average price had consecutive or regularly alternating (odd or even) original ID numbers, which indicates they were likely purchased in bulk directly from the Mann Co. Store.
That brought up questions, like, say, why would someone purchase thousands of Keys for $2.49 each, trade 28 to 30 of them at a time for Earbuds, and then sell those Earbuds for 700 Russian rubles, for a loss of about $47 each? Base64's thorough investigation can only lead to educated speculation, but it's all very suspicious.
The big drama version of the story is that Russian mobsters are using Team Fortress 2 to launder money. Since this isn't a Neal Stephenson novel, the more likely story is that someone's sitting on a few stolen credit card numbers. Some SteamRep posters say base64's research reveals "nothing new," suggesting that this activity is commonplace. Whatever the case, credit to base64 for uncovering so much via Valve's API and interviews with Earbud sellers involved—if nothing else, it's a fascinating study of digital forensics. Check out the post for the full investigation.
The good people at TF2 Mixup (actually a collaboration between Gamers United, Vanilla TF2, eXtv, and Kritzkast) are gathering another League of Extraordinary Internet People to fight for the benefit of Doctors Worldwide in Team Fortress 2. Announced today, the line-up includes StarCraft 2 emissary Day, TF2 creator Robin Walker, YouTuber Freddie Wong, Notch, Counter-Strike pro cArn, and me, apparently.
The match will take place in early December. More importantly, you can win a chance to play alongside us by donating to Doctors Worldwide through the tournament. The more you donate, the higher your chances of earning a spot on the server. How much are you willing to spend for a chance to shoot Tay Zonday with TF2 weapons?
The last TF2 Mixup, videoed below, was a happy success, raising $14,462.25 for Child's Play.
Hopeful applicants of Valve's Linux testing survey have much to rejoice today as a limited-access beta client for Steam's Linux version awaits testing starting today. Valve's official announcement states the studio received over 60,000 entries for its request for testers, and a slowly increasing group of players will receive access to the client going forward.
Steam Linux operates on Ubuntu 12.04. "An overwhelming majority of beta applicants have reported they’re running the Ubuntu distro of Linux,” Steam Linux team member Frank Crockett wrote. “We intend to support additional popular distros in the future, and we’ll prioritize development for these based on user feedback.”
Team Fortress 2 leads the pack of two dozen games available for Linux users which is viewable from the client itself. Valve still seeks more testers for future Linux betas, so head over to the survey page if you're interested.
Meanwhile, GOG's Trevor Longino recently criticized Valve for supporting only one distro. While GOG doesn't yet have Linux support, Longino says "...we want to try to get it where the majority of gamers, if they’re on Linux, will be able to get a game and expect it works."
For Valve's employees, working at one of the most secretive development studios around constitutes a once-in-a-respawn experience. The leakage of Valve's employee handbook earlier this year colorfully outlined a flat management structure culturing a counterintuitive emphasis on peer-driven independence. Speaking to Seattle Interactive Conference attendees yesterday (as reported by GeekWire), Valve Product Designer Greg Coomer said the same free-form philosophy governing the company's work ethic also factors into firing someone.
"I wish that we had covered firing in the employee handbook," Coomer said. "It was one of the things that we left out. We tried writing it, but we didn't feel like we were capturing how Valve thinks about (firing) in a well enough way. It was almost a wording problem. We couldn't get it done in the time that we wouldn't to finish the handbook. The short answer of how we handle terminations, really, is the same as we approach all other decisions at the company: It's a peer-driven process.
"If it turns out that we made a bad hiring decision, or that somebody is just not working out, there’s a method we use to get the people who are involved in the same room and to walk through the decision about what should really happen as a result of this person not functioning very well. Some of the details are kind of boring, but the main answer is that it's peer-driven, just like we evaluate each other as peers.”
I wonder what a caricaturized "Termination and You" chapter in the handbook would look like—probably the Pyro immolating an office chair or something. Still, Coomer attributed Valve's higher rate of self-fulfillment to the significant flexibility it bestows upon its workers, saying, “There are attributes that other companies have quoted about themselves that they allow their (employees) to spend some fraction of their time actually deciding on their own what to work on, but at Valve that percentage of your time is 100 percent. Every single person is responsible for deciding what they do every day."
Not even a Medic can help them now. Zombies are coming to Team Fortress 2 as part of the fortnight-long Halloween event that will add an undead MvM mission and a new King of the Hill map haunted by the ghost of the Soldier's nemesis/angry housemate, Merasmus. He's placed a magical booby trap on the control point that will spin a "wheel of fate" every time it changes hands. What it does, no-one knows. Apart from Valve. "One of many potentially horrible fates await you! Or maybe something good!" they say.
According to the latest post on the Team Fortress 2 site, magic spells will also drop randomly throughout the event. These can be cast on backpack items to give them "shifting paint colors, ghost summoning, flaming footsteps and more." There are also a couple of new achievements to chase. You'll get the first for killing Merasmus (properly, this time). To secure the second you must "get to Skull Island and claim your reward!" Intriguing.
The event starts today, and will run until November 8.
Let's face it: default game UIs often don't have the flexibility we need. TF2's is actually generally excellent, with a number of specific settings that lets you toggle stuff like the appearance of Diablo-style damage numbers when you score a hit. But there's always room for improvement; that's why it's great that we have a PC gaming community full of enthusiasts willing to poke, nudge, and sometimes set fire to UI elements to create a more optimized experience.
We took a look at a payload of TF2 UI modifications and found the following fit for duty.
NoirHUD The menu screen was gray, flat. Everything was out of focus. I knew I needed to find a way out. A way to bring more contrast to this rat-infested slum of a Backpack screen. NoirHUD came sashaying out of the internet with curvy buttons and deep shades to fill in all that negative space like a moonlit river spilling over a dam. I knew I was about to have the hat-buying experience of my life.
Improved Minimal HUD Less is often more, and appropriately, there's not much to say about this mod beyond that it carries our endorsement for anyone that prefer's TF2's existing Minimal HUD mode. This mod takes the existing mini-UI and makes it easier to read, while fixing issues with text getting cut off. It's also multi-lingual, though (obviously, I hope) incompatible with the default TF2 HUD—you have to enable Minimal HUD mode in Advanced Options. You won't be disappointed.
KBNHud My personal favorite, KBNHud is less obtrusive than the default display, and adds some cool conveniences like positioning health and ammo on either side of your crosshair so you don't have to look all the way down in the corner to know how many bullets you have in your gun and/or your torso.
Disable Pyrovision HUD Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you want to have a plucky Baloonicorn follow you around, but you can't handle the sickeningly-sweet alterations to your perception that it causes. This lightweight tweak will allow you to equip items that normally cause "Pyrovision" while keeping your ocular nerve firmly grounded in the realm of the less physically painful default UI.