A sudden Greevil population explosion has cancelled Christmas in Dota 2, but teams Red and Blu face bigger problems in Team Fortress. The robot menace introduced in the MvM update continues to threaten the values that TF2's nine classes hold dear, like the right to not spend Christmas battling sinister robot versions of themselves.
A new, massive MvM map called Big Rock has been added to the playlist. The clanking hordes now feature robotic Engineers who can set up teleporters to help their robo-buddies leapfrog large chunks of the map. "Naughty" and "Nice" boxes will drop throughout the event, offering rare weapons and winter items respectively to those who have the festive frivolity to purchase keys for them.
The new weapons include "The Rescue Ranger," a high tech shotgun for the Engineer, a "Loose Cannon" grenade launcher for the Demoman and a new medi-gun called the "Vaccinator." It wouldn't be a Team Fortress event without a new comic. This one's called THE SHADOW BOXERS.
There's a large penguin on Steam's about page, so either TF2 has got itself a surprising 10th class, or Valve have released Steam's experiments in Linux delivery to the public.
It's the latter (although I really wouldn't put it past the TF2 team). Now anyone can join the Steam Linux beta, simply by clicking the install button from one of the relevant operating systems.
So far there are only 36 games available to try for the service, but between Team Fortress, Red Orchestra, Unity of Command and the selection of indie games, there should be plenty to keep you busy for now.
Valve have also set up a GitHub repository for bug reporting on any issues that will (inevitably) arise at this beta stage.
Lambent Stew's free, web-based Steam Time Analysis tool laid bare my backlog of shame by breaking down time spent (or not spent) on each of my library's games like some sort of cold, ruthless PowerPoint presentation. The breadth of information provided is quite impressive. Over email, Stew told us the new build includes a few new features that further visualize users' habits.
You're now be able to compare your profile with those on your friends list for games owned, how many were played, and total hours played. (Our own Executive Editor Evan Lahti only played around 16 percent of his over 1300-game stable, the lazy bum.)
Similar to another homebrewed utility, a new worth calculator also provides combined figures for minimum, maximum, and current game prices in your library. Locating your own profile should be easier with improved search: just type in your Steam profile ID, and the tool should easily zero in on your data.
Check out the tool for yourself on Lambent Stew's website. How do you rank against your friends? What's your most-played game?
I think Steam gets a bit jealous when you visit other places for gaming related information. That would explain why it's slowly trying to integrate every aspect of the internet into its darkened pages. The latest: game guides, previously the preserve of YouTube, wikis and £15 books that surely no-one actually bought.
Steam are currently beta testing an addition to their new game hubs, which adds a space for users to publish guides that cover any aspect of a game's experience. Think of it like a Steam Workshop for words: you can browse subcategories in game - like cheats, walkthroughs and modding - and can also rate each guide to ensure the most thorough rise to the surface.
Even at this beta stage, it's all looking rather slick. Guide creators can embed images and videos, and add subheadings to make sure the relevant information is easily accessible.
There's already an impressive range of information emerging. TF2's guide page hosts everything from class run-downs to tutorials on how to run a multiplayer server or ensure you don't get ripped off when trading. And while Dota 2 is currently looking rather light, it's sure to become an invaluable resource for new players in the future.
To access the feature, you need to join the New Steam Community Beta group. After that, you can find a game's hub page and click the Guides tab to see what's available.
We’ve been able to trade games for Team Fortress 2 items since last year. Expanding on that functionality, today Valve has made TF2 items sellable for real moneydollars through the new Steam Community Market public beta—with the caveat, of course, that Steam Wallet bucks can’t be extracted from Valve’s service.
The Market’s few categories remain limited to TF2 gear (paints, keys, and crates) for now, but Valve says they “may expand to include additional items from TF2 as well as items from other games” after beta. Considering TF2's roaring trade economy already allows you to barter unredeemed game gift codes for items, doling out Wallet dough isn't a major difference.
Also notable: Purchasing items carries a 5 percent anti-fraud transaction fee and a 10 percent TF2 fee collected by Steam, with the latter representing “a game-specific fee determined and collected by the publisher.” For the moment, a $200 limit on the maximum price (no minimum price) of individual items stands in effect. Both are open to change, Valve says, but baseline Market policy entails all purchases being final and non-refundable.
Head into the Market to browse a rapidly expanding listing of nearly 45,000 items. I half-expect some sort of hat tax when they inevitably show up on the Market as part of Valve’s diabolical plan to leave the video game industry and build a monopolistic headwear empire.
Project Cars may secretly be the best looking game of the year. It's only playable for Project Cars team members at the moment, but there's no shortage of gorgeous screenshots for the rest of us to gawp at. Efforts like this one from Darkdeus demonstrate how much closer racing games come to photorealism than other genres. Humans are safely hidden behind reflective windscreens, which makes it easier for racing games to navigate the uncanny valley and deliver sublime shots like this.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Chewiemuse
Bethesda's decision to support modders with Steam Workshop support and the Creation Kit have paid dividends in the year since launch. Texture packs, shader tweaks and new character models and armour have turned a good looking game into something a bit special. Chewiemuse shows us how with this shot of a warrior disposing of his foe with the archery equivalent of a triple tap. Boost your own copy of The Elder Scrolls V with the help of our Skyrim mods guide.
Arma 2 by Blackhawk
The Arma 2 engine is certainly powerful, but it's not exactly pretty. It's rare for screenshots to capture the satisfaction of a well executed military manoeuvre, but Blackhawk does it with this shot of a team of soldiers securing a drop zone. Arma is as much about organisation and teamwork as good shooting, and the bleak colour palette is quickly forgotten in the tension and sudden drama of Arma's combat situations. Captured at just the right angle, Arma skirmishes look almost real, as ITV discovered when they accidentally used Arma 2 footage as part of a documentary last year.
Max Payne 3 by Glottis8
Yes, GTA 4 was a shoddy port, but Rockstar have done a much better job with recent releases like LA Noire and Max Payne 3. Glottis8's image of Max surfing an explosive shockwave shows off the improved textures and sharp lines of the PC version in dynamic fashion. It could only be improve if Max was perpendicular to the explosion. And his fingers were wrapped around a pair of handcannons. And he was wearing a trenchcoat. And it was snowing. In New York.
Okay, the third game got away from some of the elements that made Max Payne unique, but that's hardly Glottis' fault. Let's just sit back and enjoy imagining how good that explosion probably sounds.
The Mario Brothers in Garry's Mod by DOAmaster
What's this, the MARIO BROTHERS on PC GAMER? Thanks to the magic of Garry's mod and DOAmaster's screenshotting abilities, the impossible has come to pass. As pleasing as I find those blazing colours, I still haven't figured out exactly what's going on here. If I don't attach a narrative to this thing I'll never make it to the next page and we'll be trapped here in Nintendo world forever. Let's say that Mario and Luigi are holding a belt (small plank of wood?) and this squad of chipmunks (gophers?) is attempting to limbo (???) under it. Plausible? Good enough! Next.
Sword and Sworcery by Glottis8
The pristine and ageless pixel art of Swords and Sworcery is excellent subject matter for trigger happy screen-grabbers. S&S was released on iOS systems originally, but the artwork shifts up to larger screens rather nicely. That's lucky, because it's designed as a cohesive audiovisual tapestry, and it would be a shame for poorly upscaled graphics to spoil Jim Guthrie's marvellous soundtrack, Ballad of the Space Babies, which you can hear here. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery is available on Steam.
Project Cars again by Leviathan
Yep, it's more Project Cars, but look at the stupendous detail on show here. The foil folds of the headlights reflect the horizon of the approaching terrain. Every nut and bolt is present and correct. Look, you can even see the tiny silver mouse periscope popping out of the bonnet in front of the windscreen wipers. Impressive. This slot was a toss up between the picture above and this shot of a car carving up a shiny tarmac track. Not bad, eh?
Team Fortress 2 by Rossrox
Remember when Team Fortress 2 turned into a sparkling, cheerful extension of the Pyro's demented psyche earlier this year? I was happy to be reminded by Rossrox' glittery and violent portrayal of the conflict. I especially enjoy the fact that TF2 has chosen this moment to remind players to be respectful to one another, as a soldier lies burning to death on a floor, and another readies a rocket launcher against a charging Pyro. It's important to remain polite in the face of impending doom. Jolly good show.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Zloth
There was always going to be more Skyrim in this roundup. There's something about that world's frozen peaks that make folks want to take pictures. Screenshots can fail to do justice to the sense of discovery and wonder that Skyrim's most impressive vistas tend to evoke. This grab from Zloth does the job quite nicely, though. Unfortunately it means that any human who looks upon it must endure a sudden urge to jump back into the world and go adventuring again, sinking yet more hours into Bethesda's fantasy juggernaut. The only cure is to look away, so follow me as we go travel onto the next page and absorb the final selection in our round-up of the best screenshots from the PC Gamer community 2012.
Battlefield 3 by RPhilMan1
It's Battlefield! I was a little surprised that there weren't more shots of Armored Kill maps like Alborz Mountain, but this sandy overview of a sprawling industrial warzone will do quite nicely. Look upon it and imagine the different skirmishes that players are having down there. Engineers will be trying to out-ferret each other in the maze of storage crates on the left. The plume of black smoke hints at the presence of a flaming tank corpse behind the tankers in the centre. A small collection of squads will be having their own private war for the squared off mountainous base on the left. It's a good overview that lays bare the variety and complexity of Battlefield 3's maps and drops in a chopper for good measure.
And that's your lot for this year. You can see plenty more on the screenshot thread in our forums. Browse at your leisure, and feel free to drop in a few of your own favourite gaming snaps while you're there. You never know, you might secure a slot in next year's round-up.
Team Fortress 2's Saxxy Awards, Valve's celebration of its community's machinima mastery, doesn't have a red carpet. If it did, this year we'd see the Heavy hovering not-so-gracefully through in his new fairy ensemble, the Medic serenely chasing the red pigeon, and the Soldier rooting through the bins in an alley to the side. Four winners have been picked for the second of the now-annual Saxxy Awards, with each winning team receiving a Saxxy - an in-game gold plated Saxton Hale melee weapon that turns anything it kills into a golden statue.
The top prize, in the "Best Overall" category, is being kept under wraps until the Spike VGA's pre-show event on December 7th. The ultimate winner of the competition will be flown over to Valve HQ for a session with the company's own Source Filmmaker wizards.
You can see all of the nominations on the Saxxy Awards' site, and I've embedded the winners in each category below.
Action - Meet the Dumpster Diver
Replay - High-Five Fail
Comedy - Wishmaker
Drama - Bad Medicine
The release of the Source Filmmaker means the bar has been raised much higher this year. It's a powerful utility, and you can watch our picks for the best Filmmaker videos in our Top 10 round-up. Have you got a favourite that you think deserves an award?
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.