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Valve has announced the second annual Christmas-themed update for free-to-play shooter Team Fortress 2.
The Australian Christmas update part two includes two retro-futuristic "Dr. Grordbort" class packs for the Engineer and Pyro, designed by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore.
It adds CP_Foundry, a new five-cap control point map designed by Valve's Team Fortress 2 team and featuring 12 map-specific achievements.
The update also adds 14 new Christmas-themed weapons, hats and items made by the Team Fortress community's item creators using the Steam Workshop.
For Christmas, Valve has knocked up to 75 per cent off over 50 items in the Mann Co. in-game store. This sale lasts until 2nd January 2012. Valve has also doubled the in-game item drop rate for the first week of the event.
A Valve employee has been spotted out in the wild sporting a Half Life 3 T-shirt.
As reported by VG247, the unnamed individual was snapped by Chandana Ekanayake of Monday Night Combat studio Uber Entertainment at a Seattle developer event last night.
Ekanayake then posted the image to his Twitter feed, adding that he had asked permission to take the picture.
So, just a spot of cruel trolling on the part of the individual concerned, or is something else afoot?
Valve co-founder and CEO Gabe Newell believes piracy stems not from price, but from convenience. And as Steam boasts fast access to a dizzying selection of games, so piracy has become "basically a non-issue" for Valve.
"For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24x7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.
"Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company.
"For example," Newell added, "prior to entering the Russian market, we were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe.
"We were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe."
Gabe Newell, CEO and co-founder, Valve
Steam's digital distribution platform requires you download and log into a Steam application each time you wish to play a game. This simple check performs a service many DRM services are criticised for. Steam also ensures games are up to date, as well as offers multiplayer matchmaking facilities, friend lists, achievements and various other platform-based community features.
Such is Steam's persuasion that many top-tier publishers and developers now opt for Steamworks tools to be implemented deep within their games. This packages Steam's clever bits - multiplayer, cloud saving, authentication, etc. - so that developers can build them into games early on.
Half-Life 2 effectively launched Steam in 2004, but it wasn't until 2005 that the service welcomed its first third-party games. Today, seven years after HL2, Steam dominates the PC (and Mac) digital distribution video game market.
Team Fortress 2 item makers have made over $2 million selling their digital creations, Valve has announced.
Yesterday marked the first full year of the in-game Mann Co. Store, and during that time user-generated content creators have made millions selling their virtual wares.
The Mann Co. Store is where the community designs, buys, sells and trades items TF2 characters can wear, such as hats.
"The 'Mann Co. Store' represents an important new direction for games and game makers," said Valve boss Gabe Newell.
"By leveraging and extending the platform features of Steam, Team Fortress 2 has enabled a viable marketplace for independent content creators and significantly extended the gameplay experience in an incredibly short amount of time."
Meanwhile, Valve has made live the Steam Workshop, an improved submission hub for community-created content. It's designed to make it easy to upload entries, check their status and get feedback from Valve. The Team Fortress community can view, comment on and rate items there, too.
Valve's added 30 new hats and cosmetic items, an item decal system, a "try before you buy" system, loadout presets, improved game performance and a new taunt as part of the Manniversary Update, which the company describes as "one of the largest and most ambitious in TF2's four-year history".
Pre-purchasing Football Manager 2012 from Steam gets you a handful of exclusive in-game Team Fortress 2 extras, Valve has announced.
Put down your £29.99 now ahead of the Sega footie sim's release later this month and you'll receive the following:
For some, a video game doesn't stop when the power is turned off - their gaming experiences are bleeding into their day-to-day lives.
This can lead to video game-like reactions to real-life situations, Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University have discovered.
It's called Game Transfer Phenomena.
The study - Game Transfer Phenomena in Video Game Playing: A Qualitative Interview Study - interviewed 42 "frequent" gamers aged between 15 and 21 years old. "Many" of the subjects "appeared to integrate elements of video game playing into their real lives".
The full study must be bought for $30. One amusing excerpt reported on The Metro website describe a 15 year-old boy wanting to use a gravity gun from Half-Life 2 to fetch something from the fridge. And why not?
One 19-year-old Price of Persia: Sands of Time enthusiast dropped his sandwich and immediately his finger used to press the rewind-time button twitched. A natural response.
Another 19-year-old thought he could use World of Warcraft's search function to locate his brother in a crowd. What a good idea.
Apparently half of the gamers interviewed said they'd looked for something from a video game to solve a real-life issue. One interviewee apparently saw a menu of topics available for him to think about (Heavy Rain?); another formulated a list of possible responses after being insulted (Mass Effect 2?).
Of course, there is a darker side to all of this. Use of aggressive, criminal and/or violent fantasies as solutions to real-life problems were reported by "a few" of the players.
The Daily Mail focused on one particular 15-year-old who said that "sometimes" he wants to be able to get a gun and "shoot down" people. "Irritating people", mind you.
"A recurring trend suggests that intensive gaming may lead to negative psychological, emotional or behavioural consequences," concluded report author professor Mark Griffiths, "with enormous implications for software developers, parents, policy makers and mental health professionals."
This research is being followed up by a study of 2000 gamers.
The Game Transfer Phenomena report hits headlines a day after Grand Theft Auto was linked to a shooting spree and eventually a murder onboard a Royal Navy submarine.
Code possibly belonging to Half-Life 2: Episode 3 has been spotted in the leaked beta client for Dota 2.
The lines of code are for something called "ep3". Take a leap and transform that to Episode 3, and the code suggests the project lives on.
Not only that, we're also given an insight into some weaponry - an ice gun, a flamethrower and a "weaponizer".
Half-Life 2 was released in 2004; Episode 1 in 2006; Episode 2 in 2007.
Four years and many Valve games - Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2 - have passed since. And now Valve concentrates on Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The absence of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 from Valve press releases, coupled with suggestions that the runaway success of Steam may have impeded Valve's game development, have led many to give up hope.
Has the boat sailed for Episode 3? Should Valve instead concentrate on Half-Life 3?
The Dota 2 beta client link comes from Vietnam. Lambda Generation has rounded up the data mined from the leak.
Video: Half-Life 2: Episode 2.
Inspired first-person puzzle game Portal is free to download on Steam until 20th September.
Maker Valve is running the deal to showcase how Portal and Portal 2 can and have helped kids grasp trickier aspects of science in an enjoyable way.
Apparently Portal makes things like physics and problem solving "cool and fun". And that "gets us one step closer to our goal: engaged, thoughtful kids!"
Portal, a short game, is a calm and bullet-free puzzle solving experience. Twists of humour and taxing, portal-based conundrums made it one of the best games of 2007.
Eurogamer's Portal review awarded 9/10.
Steam has officially launched its new Trading feature today following last month's open beta.
Thanks to an auto update which has just gone live, you can now trade Steam Gifts and in-game items from Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and Sega adventure Spiral Knights with other members of the Steam community.
Valve is apparently working with other developers to incorporate the service in their games, with further announcements expected over the coming months.
For the full lowdown on how item trading works, check out the Steam FAQ.
Quake mod Team Fortress launched 15 years ago today. To celebrate, Valve is giving anyone who plays Team Fortress 2 today a goody bag of TF2 swag.
What do you get? A free hat, naturally - of the party variety. A free noisemaker - which you can use as much as you like today and then not again for another year. Plus free cake and gifts (remodelled health kits and ammo packs).
Valve has also turned on Birthday mode - meaning levels get a "Happy Birthday Team Fortress" beach ball.
The Celebration Gib is also active, which turns exploded players' blood and guts into showers of balloons and confetti.
Team Fortress, a mod for id Software classic Quake, was followed by Team Fortress 2 in 2007. Valve has been tinkering with it ever since, and earlier this year made it free-to-play.