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Nailing down the range of possibilities afforded by modding's creativity yawns past the comprehension of us mere mortals. Yet, for a platform housing exploding horses, rug-cutting Combine, and the nesting-doll appeal of Minecraft's game-in-a-game sandbox, the PC keeps its lot of closed environments precipitated by developers and publishers as a means for balanced gameplay or brand protection. In an interview with True PC Gaming, Black Mesa Project Lead Carlos Montero flatly stated such a hindrance for mod growth "doesn't make sense."
"When you think about it, modders are like the ultimate fans," Montero explained. "They love this game so much, they're doing real, difficult, skilled work that you usually pay people for. Not only that, but they can add so much value to your game for the rest of your audience. Yet you still see companies look at this as competition. They sue and shut down these projects and ignore or drop support for people to mod their games. It doesn't make any sense. In my opinion, it’s the product of businesses (or lawyers) looking at this too analytically and short-term without understanding the long-term value it can create for their games."
Although Black Mesa earned the silent blessing of Valve during its lengthy session in the testing chamber, other ambitious projects met a not-so-friendly response from license holders legally stifling efforts. Montero's thoughts—the rest of which you can read in the interview—reflect a sentiment by modder-turned-developer Tripwire Interactive expressing confusion over why companies would stop mods on their games.
After three years of work the user-created Back to School campaign for Left 4 Dead 2 has reached version 1.0. You can download it now from the ModDB page, where they've also uploaded a trailer that gave me a terrible hunger to play Left 4 Dead again. A terrible, terrible hunger that not even this egg mayonnaise sandwich can help with. If only those eggs were more, I don't know ... brainy. Weird.
Oh well, not to worry. I'm sure everything's fine. Let's just sit back and enjoy this trailuuuuurrrrrrgh:
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."
Oct 28, 2012
Doesn't it look tranquil?
I don't like playing with others in Dota 2. I find team fights deeply stressful. I get way too nervous while ganking, and unless I have a huge level advantage, I don't like even getting too close to enemy heroes if I don't have to.
You might think that kind of attitude is a little against the spirit of a five-a-side team game. It's a bit like the winger in a football team just playing keepy-up on his own on the sidelines. But in Dota, there's a place for me. A place where I can be alone. That place is the jungle.
Jungling in Dota 2 is a solitary activity. It's about killing neutral enemies instead of the those of the opposition, leaving more experience for the rest of your team. A good jungler will combine this solo slaughter with darting out every so often to pull off a gank, or diverting neutral enemies against your own creeps so that you deny your enemies the experience for killing them. I am not a good jungler, so I generally just hide in the trees, minding my own business.
I started with Ursa. Ursa, for those of you unaware, is a huge great big bear with some of the best burst damage in the game, but who is very susceptible to being disabled. My strategy was to stay in the jungle, farming, only popping out occasionally to rip Roshan apart, and then dart back in before enemy heroes could come and get me. That was okay for a while, but Ursa's playstyle is a little simplistic, and has to eventually involve ripping apart heroes.
FOR THE CUBS!
That was too much for me. So I tried Nature's Prophet, and found my gaming soulmate. Prophet, or "Furion" as old-school Dota players insist on calling him, has four main abilities. The first, and most important, is that he can turn trees into treeants, allowing him to take out the big camps of jungle creeps early in the game. The second lets him teleport ANYWHERE ON THE MAP. With a cooldown that gets down to twenty seconds at maximum level.
The third puts a ring of trees anywhere -- around enemy heroes to trap them, around Prophet himself to stop heroes from attacking him while he teleports away, or just in the middle of a path to look pretty. His ultimate, "Wrath of Nature", zaps around the map hitting every unit that's in vision, raking in the gold at high levels.
Combine those together, ideally with an invisibility-granting Shadow Blade, and you've got a hero that's everywhere on the map at once. He can teleport to wherever the enemy isn't, and by the time they get there, he can just go invisible or surround himself with trees to give him enough breathing space to port back to the opposite side of the map again. A well-played Nature's Prophet will rarely, if ever, be killed.
Ow, you're treading on my eye.
In the meantime, he's pushing two lanes of creeps at once and zapping all three with his ultimate, while the rest of your team concentrates on teamfighting. If you're playing Nature's Prophet well, and the rest of your team are winning more fights than they're losing, then you'll almost always win the game.
Late-game, once he's really farmed up, Prophet does actually get rather lethal. An armour-stripping Desolator and an attack-speed-boosting Assault Cuirass, plus a ring of trees, can very quickly chomp through any hero wandering around on their own.
My favourite of all tricks takes inspiration from one of the lessons in Sun Tzu's Art of War -- to only engage in a battle when you've already won. It involves porting directly into the path of an enemy hero running away from a battle with low health. The last thing they see is a ring of trees pop up around them, before the undergrowth takes them in its dark, gnarled embrace.
Dota 2 is a team game, but the way I'm playing it with Nature's Prophet, I can contribute significantly while still running away any time I see an enemy hero.
You might call me a coward. I'm fine with that. But next time you're just getting one last bit of farm before heading back to base to heal up, don't go down to the woods today. You're in for a big surprise.
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.
Oct 25, 2012
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.
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.
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.
This season's Team Fortress 2 Halloween event is almost upon us. According to the latest edition of the reliably hilarious series of TF2 comic strips, evil ghost lord Merasmus will indeed be behind this weekend's spooky shenanigans. Based on events depicted within the strip, we may get to see some zombie Raccoons. Or a Ghostbusters style Marshmallow Man made of sour cream. Or, more likely, none of those things. Still, it's worth a read for the gags alone. You'll find the whole thing on the Team Fortress 2 site.
Free to play "weekends" seem to be getting bigger and bigger, but you don't hear me complaining. As a relaxing aside to the spooky Halloween weather some of us will be experiencing, Valve's calming co-op zombie apocalypse shooter, Left 4 Dead 2, will be entirely free from today through to Monday. The expiry date is moot, however, as we'll all have been eaten by ghosts by then.
To tempt Left 4 Dead veterans back into the fray, Valve have added a new achievement called "Good Guy Nick" which will be awarded to those who help new players to survive a campaign. "Who is a free weekend player? You’re going to have to talk to each other to find out." Talking to people? On the INTERNET? 'Tis Halloween indeed.
Left 4 Dead 2 will go free at some point today according to the latest post on the Left 4 Dead 2 blog.
Oct 24, 2012
Quick! Flee like you're out-sprinting a zombie and head to Team Fortress 2's webpage. See anything different? That's right, The Spy, usually so dapper, looks like he's been singing "Klaatu Barada Nikto". As is the case with things that suddenly appear on the Team Fortress electronic blog, when you click on it it takes you down a rabbit hole. Tap your mouse on his head and join me. Wheedly whee, wheedly whee, wheedly...
...whee! Thanks for following me down. Ooh, look! It's a page of the Teufort Reader, advertising all kinds of things. I'm going to hazard a guess and say the Wizardcon advert is the salient detail. It's dominated by Merasmus, who plucked the Demo Man's eye from his skull to unleash the Monoculus. What foul beasties he will be responsible for this time around? As usual, it's probably impossible to tell with Team Fortress 2. They're already playing games: if you'll note the bottom right corner, under the torn page. It's clearly a code. No doubt the beginning of a torturous game that'll unleash the info when unlocked. Fiends! I remember when they would just tell us what they were up to. Good times.
A Slashdot user has spotted that the beta version of Team Fortress 2 has received a sneaky update, introducing changes which emit the heady and appealing whiff of Linux support.
"Among the modified files are some Linux-related files including a hardware driver compatibility list, optimal graphics settings, and a shell script launcher (previously only for OS X, now with a case for Linux as well)," writes Slashdot submitter spacenet.
Valve have only acknowledged the existence of this update in a forum post, but not its content, and have yet to update the changelog. Hm! Hm? Hm.
This comes on the back of Valve's announced Steam for Linux private beta, which was said to be going live this month - but has yet to emerge. The interest in Linux also mirrors the inroads the platform is making on Mac - anything, it seems, to put distance between itself and the Windows 8 "catastrophe", as Gabe Newell put it. Can Valve single-handedly usher in a future in which PC gaming is no longer largely synonymous with Windows-gaming? Putting Team Fortress 2 on Linux is certainly a big step in that direction.