PC Gamer

More Valve; more Halloween. Team Fortress 2 feels more suited to the festivities than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and already has a back catalogue of five previous scream-filled events.

In preparation for the sixth, the TF2 team are now reprising these events. "If we threw you into the 900-mile-an-hour hellride we've got planned this year without warming you up first, you'd essentially be going from an idle state of terrorlessness to a shrieking nightmare of solid 100% terror almost instantly," write Valve, who write this sort of thing. "It would be the equivalent of going from seeing zero skeletons to seeing a thousand skeletons at once."

As a result, you can now Quickplay any of the five previous events—providing easy access to terrifying scares comedy bosses. Expect details of TF2's sixth Halloween event to surface later this month.

PC Gamer

The Valve community hive-mind has spoken—well, pulsated—and the best Source Filmmaker films have been chosen. Unless they were wrong, which would fundamentally undermine Valve's entire business strategy for the last few years. Probably.

Here, then, are the official winners of the Saxxy Awards 2014:

Best Short

Best Comedy

Best Action

Best Drama

Overall Winner

A strong selection, I'd say. Rivalry Rush is a particular highlight of mine, with the winner, Animation vs. Animator, also providing a healthy amount of laughs. Still, it's a surprise to see that the winners are all TF2-based. Valve opened up a few different games for this year's competition, and there were some great entries for a few of their other games. I wonder if the community is just too heavily entrenched in the game, or if film makers are just more comfortable playing with TF2's cartoon-oriented antics.

If you've got a favourite that didn't make it into the winners list, post it in the comments for others to enjoy. You can see the full list of nominations here.

PC Gamer







Hey, you! Do you like frittering your life away on the internet, in a near-fugue state of YouTube videos and silent judgement? If so, you're needed for the 4th annual Saxxy Awards. Voting for Valve's Source Filmmaker awards has begun, meaning there's a big ol' pile of action-packed, funny, dramatic or, er, "short" videos to be seen.

The voting is taking place through

Steam's Saxxy page. It's a modified Steam Workshop page; modified so that you can't generate a list of the most popular videos. Instead, you'll be shown a random queue of hopefuls and asked to up or down-vote accordingly.

This year, the rules have expanded—the Saxxy's no longer being a specifically TF2-based award. Before the submission process began, Valve released a series of content packs for the tool, allowing users a greater range of both Valve and third-party assets. It will hopefully lead to some unusual cross-game situations...

Voting will end on 11:59pm PDT on Monday, 29 September. You can see last year's

Saxxy winners here

.
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title="Permanent Link to 4th Annual Saxxy Award voting begins">Saxxy



Hey, you! Do you like frittering your life away on the internet, in a near-fugue state of YouTube videos and silent judgement? If so, you're needed for the 4th annual Saxxy Awards. Voting for Valve's Source Filmmaker awards has begun, meaning there's a big ol' pile of action-packed, funny, dramatic or, er, "short" videos to be seen.

The voting is taking place through Steam's Saxxy page. It's a modified Steam Workshop page; modified so that you can't generate a list of the most popular videos. Instead, you'll be shown a random queue of hopefuls, and be asked to up or down-vote accordingly.

This year, the rules have expanded the Saxxy's no longer being a specifically TF2-based award. Before the submission process began, Valve released a series of content packs for the tool, allowing users a greater range of both Valve and third-party assets. It will hopefully lead to some unusual cross-game situations...



Voting will end on 11:59pm PDT on Monday, 29 September. You can see last year's Saxxy winners here.
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title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 poster mistaken for US propaganda on Russian state television">soldier

Image source: http://tjournal.ru/paper/1tv-team-fortress

As part of an effort to show how the United States uses propaganda to influence the mindset of its citizens, a historical documentary recently aired by Russia's Channel One offered up what it said was a First World War poster portraying German soldiers as monsters who literally eat babies. One problem: It wasn't a soldier, it was the Soldier, and the poster is actually Team Fortress 2 fan art.

The show, which presumably came about as a result of rising tensions between the US and Russia, offered the poster as evidence of US efforts to demonize its enemies, "regardless of any logic or common sense," according to the International Business Times. "The American public had to firmly acknowledge that Germans were evil," the narrator says.

And the guy on the poster certain looks evil. "Soldiers eat babies. That's a fact," it states, before exhorting readers to join Team Demoman, a giveaway that clearly eluded the show's non-English-speaking creators. TJournal.ru picked up on it, however, and noted that it was actually created by DeviantArt user TankTaur for a Team Fortress 2 propaganda contest.



We weren't certain at first that this was real, but the image posted by TJournal carries the Channel One watermark, and even better, we also managed to track down the program on YouTube. It's in Russian, but you don't need to speak it to get it.
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title="Permanent Link to Super Time Force Ultra comes to Steam next week, will (probably) feature TF2 characters">STf



Okay, congratulations indie games, you did it again. For a while I thought Capy's Super Time Force wouldn't make it to PC, which given the reviews of its Xbone version would have been a shame. Naturally, I was worrying over nothing. Not only will the 2D action time-travel-'em-up release on Steam on 25 August, but it'll arrive in a special Ultra edition.

Super Time Force Ultra will, according to the developers, bring "50 new Helladeck challenge levels, inter-dimensional Ultra Force powers and 3 super-awesome, super-secret new characters". Those characters appear in the trailer as silhouetted figures. The second looks extremely like the TF2's Pyro, and the third like TF2's Saxton Hale. The first? If we stick with the TF2 theme, it could be Miss Pauling. Otherwise, I've no idea. If you think you know, jump into the comments.

In Super time Force, you get to battle through levels. You also get to rewind time switching characters to re-battle through levels with your past self at your side.

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title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 now accepting merchandise designs through the Steam Workshop">TF2 Clothing



Team Fortress 2 has shown that people will pay good money for virtual headclothes that sit upon the crown of the cartoon murderers they control in first person. Now Valve are trying something daring: seeing if people will pay for non-hats not in the game, but in real life. The TF2 Workshop is now accepting community designs for new lines of merchandise to be sold through the Valve Store.

As per the regular TF2 item popularity contest, users can upload their designs to the Workshop to be judged by the community. "We ll curate the top-rated entries," write Valve, "and the best of the best designs will be made available as official merchandise at the Valve Store and various online retailers. You won't just be ensuring your place in history: You'll also get paid a handsome royalty for every unit sold."

If you have a question, and if that question has been frequently asked, you can find the answer here. Otherwise, take a look at the current submitted designs, and perhaps dream of the day when they'll swaddle your fragile meat-frame.

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title="Permanent Link to Valve announce 4th annual Saxxy awards, opens floor to Portal submissions">Saxxy 4



The Saxxy Awards, Valve's annual Source Filmmaker competition, is now in its fourth year, and to shake things up a bit they're encouraging players/directors to make films about something other than Team Fortress 2 - namely Portal. All of Portal 2's assets (minus, er, the portals and a few other things) can now be downloaded into SFM as free DLC, enabling that Spy vs Wheatley crossover animation that (probably) hasn't been able to exist until now. That isn't the only content pack headed to the program either: Puny Human are offering up select assets from Blade Symphony too.

The deadline for submissions this year is September 24th, giving you just under two months to create your masterpiece. You'll find the guidelines for the awards here.

If you need inspiration and/or films to compare your efforts to, be sure to check out the winners from last year. This one won best short:

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Valve took a three day run-up to its Love and War update, with daily teasers for what, in reality, amounted to some new taunts and weapons. You'd think, then, that the introduction of a new game mode would warrant something spectacular. Instead perhaps fittingly for a game made by the company responsible for Steam it's being launched into Early Access. Yesterday's TF2 update added two new "beta maps" to the game. They're rough, unbalanced, and, in some cases, untextured, but one of them is our first taste of the new Robot Destruction game type.

In Robot Destruction, teams are tasked with taking down the robots that patrol the other team's base. These aren't the deadly bots of Mann vs. Machine mode, but rather rotund, defenceless machines that attempt to flee your aggression. Once killed, they drop points, which can be collected to increase your team's total. In addition, each team has battery, which can also be captured to steal some of the enemy's collected points.

The new mode takes place on a map called Asteroid. As the name suggests, it's set in space. At least it probably is there's no skybox at the moment. Valve previously revealed concept art for a moon base map, suggesting that the Mercs might soon be leaving the precious gravel of their own planet. Also in this update is a new Payload map: Cactus Canyon.

The new maps can be found by selecting the 'Play Beta Maps' checkbox from the 'Multiplayer' menu. Alternatively, you can find them in the server browser. Valve say you can expect plenty of iteration as the maps are tested anything from moving a medpack, to rebuilding entire sections.

For more details, head over to the TF2 blog.
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A few days ago, members of the Steam community schemed to rig the Steam Summer Adventure competition, a metagame running in parallel with Valve s 12-day Summer Sale. Surprisingly, it wasn t the sort of malicious plan you might expect, but a kind of cease-fire alliance meant to bring equal victory to everyone on Steam. As intended, Team Pink won Sunday. Blue won Monday. Purple will win next, if things go smoothly. On Wednesday, a Red victory is scheduled, then Green.

Is a small collective actually having this big of an influence on a Steam-wide, public competition? Valve has already amended the contest to encourage more competition. I took a look at the evidence and spoke to a few of the people caught up in the dark business of virtual trading card market-manipulation.
How Valve makes money from the metagame
First, a run-down of how the Steam Summer Adventure works if you ve been blissfully unaware over the past week, buying and playing discounted PC games rather than being concerned with your gamified game client. Most of Steam s seasonal sales have included a unique trading card set. Craft a full set of these seasonal cards, and you get something like a unique wallpaper or Steam chat emoticon or in-game reward for a few participating games. The 2014 Steam Summer Sale has its own special set of cards you can badge-ify, but with a twist: participating Steam users are randomly assigned to one of five teams during the sale: Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, or Green. Crafting a badge earns points for your team, and 30 members of the winning team get three free Steam games off their wishlists. Oh, and a few extra cards that they can use to keep crafting.

In review: buying games earns virtual cards which can be crafted into virtual badges which increase the rate at which you earn booster packs which contain cards which you can use to upgrade your badges. It s a circular system designed to keep you inside the Steam client, either nickel and diming you to complete your incomplete set of cards or by selling the cards you ve been given to encourage you to spend that money on a game.

A competition to see who can craft the most badges, of course, makes money directly for Valve and developers by creating more activity on the Steam Market. Valve takes a 5% cut of all transactions, and the developer of the corresponding game takes 10% (a minimum of $0.01 in both cases).

If I sold one of my Steam Summer Adventure cards for its current value, $0.25, Valve would take three pennies and I d get $0.22. The Steam Market tells me that 91,650 copies of that card have been sold in the past 24 hours, meaning Valve s profit of a single Summer Adventure card in a single day could be about $2,800. There are 10 of these cards, and another 10 foil variants, which run about $2 each.


The community s plan
Bottom line: we celebrate Steam s price cuts, but in the middle of the Summer Sale Valve has integrated a system that stimulates the Steam economy and nets them thousands of dollars a day from virtual, non-existent goods. Many cards and booster packs have risen in price throughout the sale; Dota 2 booster packs, for example, went from trading consistently at about $0.25 for the past month to hovering near $0.40 over the past six days.

The more trading volume and competition, the more the house wins. But a segment of the Steam community is wise to this. They know that a 12-day period when a five-dollar bill can get you our favorite PC game of all time isn t the best time to be engaged in what s essentially a spending war. So to discourage, or at least mitigate, frivolous trading card spending, some Redditors and Steam forum members have organized a coalition to take competition out of the equation. They ve called themselves Team White, and they ve proposed that each Steam team should win twice, on designated days, through June 28.

I spoke to one of the initial organizers behind the plan, Reddit user DayZ_slayer. It's not really a fun competition when the only real way to win is to spend a lot of cash, the European 20-year-old told me. If they did some kind of event that involved playing games it would be a lot more fun to compete, but they didn't, so I figured we all may as well work as a group and give everyone a fair chance at winning some games.

This seemed to arise naturally, according to DayZ_slayer: many of the teams who had organized individually were planning to compete harder on specific days, he told me, so suggesting that the colored teams take turns simply formalized that process. I checked the Steam groups/subreddits for the teams and saw which days they were planning on winning, the first five days or so didn't really clash. I made the list showing who should craft on what day and then posted it on all of the team's subreddits under the name Operation EWT. A little later I made the thread on /r/gaming and some other guy posted it to /r/steam.

I also spoke to Phil Lendon, a 16-year-old living in England who s bought into the concept of Team White. I first noticed the schedule on Reddit on /r/SteamTeamRed which then spread to /r/Steam and I thought it was a really good idea because here on Team Red we're all about teamwork and communication. When I asked Lendon how much he s spent toward the contest, he told me that he s traded hundreds of pounds to support Red on Wednesday. Too much that it's unhealthy, he says.


Valve's response
Up until today, the plan had gone smoothly. Each team won on its designated day. But today the plan is showing signs of falling apart. Valve, apparently unhappy with the lack of competition between teams, changed the contest to award second- and third-place prizes to the runners-up each day. Purple may still come away with first place, but at the outset of today it s already a tight race between the colors. The game has changed, a post on the Purple team subreddit reads. We need to let purple win but go for second, a member of team Red comments. "What the heck guys? It's purple's day!" a Pink thread exclaims. Lendon, the Red team member I spoke to, wrote back to me this morning after he noticed Valve's change to the competition. "It's turned into a free-for-all, once I had heard of the news I knew it was going to go to hell. However, I believe, as many other Redditors do too, that the new rules for the competition were to prevent the rigging of the competition, as we saw yesterday when Pink one with over a million points above everyone else, Valve had to take action. However, I personally don't believe the changes to the rules are even worth it, as people's chances are even more reduces to win, as-if it wasn't hard enough already to get a winning three games, it'll be even harder for the 2nd place and 3rd place and not even worth the effort."

It s unclear whether this change will encourage competition enough to disrupt Reddit s plan. On the surface, it seemed wild to me that a small percentage of people could be driving the massive point swings we saw in the initial four days. After all, there s only a few hundred people each in these colored Steam groups, and just 140,000 on the Steam subreddit, most of whom probably aren t aggressively participating.



But the Steam Market tells us that just a small number of tokens that steal 1,000 points from another team the most valuable item for influencing the Adventure competition are trading hands. In the past 24 hours, just 88 have been bought off the Steam Market at between $8 and $5 each, and about the same amount of 500-point tokens were sold in that period. Even if a single team were buying those tokens, it isn t that much of a swing relative to the 1.2 million that the Blue team earned yesterday.

More likely, the organized non-competition pact by Reddit and the color-specific Steam communities created single, dominant leader, which not only discouraged the other big spenders who are engaged in this competition but probably discouraged some amount of casual crafters from chipping in too.

With the adjustment made by Valve, today will be an interesting test of the internet s ability to dictate the outcome. Purple, who s meant to win today, has a modest lead as I m publishing this, but we ll have to see if the Steam Trading Card Illuminati s grand plan survives through the week.
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