Team Fortress 2

Videogames that are a decade old tend to be pretty well locked-down, which is a nice way of saying that their developers stopped paying attention to them years ago. Not so with Team Fortress 2, however. Valve announced in a TF2 blog post that new balance changes are coming to the game in a "major update," and this time around it's actually telling people about the update before it goes live. 

"In the past, we've made blog posts about changes we've already shipped or stuff we've tossed onto the smoldering scrap-heap of failed ideas," Valve wrote. "This time—based on your feedback—we're going talk about changes while we’re still working on them." 

The list of changes, "based on online community discussions, emails, playtime data, conversations with players of all skill ranges, and play testing," is not complete, but is instead a "sneak peek" at what Valve is moving toward. Some changes, to both items and classes, are still being worked on and aren't "ready for review," and some that are listed may be changed prior to the update's release.  

Valve is also "going deeper" with some classes than others. The Scout, for instance, will see a number of changes: The triple-jump enabled by the "Atomizer" bat, for instance, "is just too strong" because opponents don't see the bat and thus can't anticipate the Scout's enhanced jumping ability until it's too late. Because of that, the update will require that the bat be deployed, rather than simply carried, in order for the triple-jump ability to be used. It will also suffer a 50 percent "deploy time penalty" in order to prevent a "quick-switch by-pass." 

The Engineer, on the other hand, is getting far less attention: The only listed change for that class is that the "Rescue Ranger" weapon will consume metal (at a 4:1 metal-to-health ratio) when used to make ranged repairs to buildings. Previously, ranged repairs with the weapon required no metal, which made it a little too powerful.   

Ahead of the update, Valve is inviting player feedback as it tunes and finalizes these and other changes. "Hearing from you helps us prioritize our work and influences the direction the game moves in." 

A rollout date for the latest TF2 update hasn't been set. 

Team Fortress 2

I tried.

Without bagels, I’d probably live to be 100 years old. But I have regular access to bagels and sourdough loaves and this sandwich bread always in my house called Birdman that’s covered in seeds and I don’t know why. I eat the stuff so fast I’ll be surprised if I make it to 50. 

In videogames, bread often gives you health instead of slowly seeping it away, a beacon of hearth and health. It’s been this way since the earliest games, and as technology became more capable of producing detailed environments and uncanny human likenesses, so too advanced the fidelity of the loaf. But the evolution of bread didn’t happen in a straight line. Diverse genres, art styles, and game engines shifted the purpose and priority of bread throughout the ages.

To get a clearer picture of how game bread has or hasn’t evolved, we’ve taken a look back at its implementation in some best games ever made to some of the most obscure.

BurgerTime (1982) 

As one of the earliest depictions of a hamburger bun, BurgerTime did a decent job. And it should have, given the name. Notice the inference of sesame seeds on the top bun and how the light diffuses on the bottom bunk. Early pixel art set a high bar for bunwork. 

Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1992)

A decade later, the burger genre fell out of vogue and fantasy roleplaying games stepped into the limelight. Ultima IV didn’t feature bread in a major way, but was an early example of inventory art, proof that you didn’t need the latest in computer graphics to make a great loaf. 

Jesus Matchup (1993) 

As a preteen, I went to a Catholic church camp even though I’m not and have never been Catholic. I ate the body of Christ even though I wasn’t supposed to and my friend Brian chastised me after the fact. He said I needed to get confirmed first and that I broke some kind of holy rule. The bread was just a thin wafer, like a sugar cone without the sugar, and maybe the aftertaste of it was a taste of hell itself. Jesus Matchup’s brown lump captures my disappointment exactly.

Ultima Online (1997) 

Pixel loaves hadn’t evolved much between Ultima IV and Ultima Online, but for one minor detail that changed the bread game forever for a few months. Ultima Online’s bread features a small blemish, giving the impression of a bite or piece ripped away for light post-adventure munching. The loaf went from inanimate prop to inanimate prop with history

Thief: The Dark Project (1998) 

Whether Thief should commended or condemned for its early attempt at modeling a 3D loaf is beyond me. All I know for sure is this: that’s a log. 

Someone’s in the Kitchen! (1999) 

You may know Steven Spielberg for his hit films like E.T. and Jurassic Park, but did you know his name was once mentioned in a trailer for a game he probably had nothing to do with? Someone’s in the Kitchen! isn’t just good reason to call the police, it’s a bad point-and-click edutainment game with one hell of an opening theme song. Also, you make a sandwich in it while a demon toaster—who is going to kill me, I saw it in a dream—judges your creation. The bread looks like my little brother sat on it, and is a shade of yellow I’ve only ever seen in bathrooms built in the 70s. Clearly, the late 90s weren’t great for game bread. 

The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind (2002) 

Even the modern masters of 3D bread had to start somewhere. In Morrowind, Bethesda drew inspiration from something other than felled trees and instead turned their eye to the sky, probably. I’m guessing here. They managed to suggest bread by texturing a footballish shape with what look like photos from the visible surface of Jupiter, a perpetually storming gas giant. 

World of Warcraft (2004) 

Just two years later an MMO, known for prioritizing multiplayer features over looking good, managed to bake bread that an Orc could tolerate. While the left loaf looks like a water chestnut, the precise angles and light divots up top are a convincing enough illusion. The right loaf, except for it’s undercooked coloring, nails the shape. And the inner texture marks a defined border between crust and light, fluffy inside. I’m tempted to throw some mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of thinly sliced night elf meat on there just looking at it.

The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (2006) 

Maybe Bethesda should’ve prioritized bread resolution DLC over horse armor. At a glance, one out of ten times I’m going to say that’s bread. The other nine times I’m going to say that’s a large misshapen potato. I lived in Idaho for a while. Got invited to a ‘Baked Potato Party' and yeah, they get that big.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (2007) 

While 3D game bread moved into potato territory, Recettear reaffirmed that pixels were still the way to go. Its depiction of Walnut Bread takes a good squint to make out, but when you get up close, the shades of gold and brown and white light diffusing on the outer crust nearly flash the entire baking process on the back of your eyelids. “Walnuts, soft dough and a bit of sugar…” do more than an extra dimension ever could.

Dinner Date (2011) 

I’d flake on a guy who thought it’d be a good idea to dip that twisted loaf in some red shit too. And look at that distribution! I’m not sure what’s being distributed, but half of that isn’t even bread, it’s Dark Brown Stuff. Jesus, man. We should never be able to see inside the bread if the tech isn't ready and can’t simulate a good bake. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 

Star Baker goes to Todd Howard this decade. Look at the fidelity of this loaf. A nice rise, detailed textures, and I can nearly hear the muffled tip-tap from the even bake. Forget adventure and the snowcapped mountaintops and vampires and dragons—like a toilet in a Tarantino movie, a good loaf is the keystone of any open world. 

Minecraft (2011)

Well regarded for its wild redstone contraptions and horrifying monuments to pop culture, Minecraft’s bread has been largely ignored, and for good reason. You’re one of the most successful games of all time, and a brown lump is the best you can muster? I’ve felt more love radiating from an old hotdog bun.

Scribblenauts Unlimited (2012) 

You can tell this was made in a bread pan, small specks imply the bread is airy and light, you can summon it whenever you like, and nearly every humanoid creature will eat it. It’s a crude child’s drawing, sure, but Scribblenauts built put time into simulating natural, albeit simple, bread world behaviors. Consider it this immersive sim, the System Shock, of bread. Place it in the world, and the world reacts to its presence.

Bioshock Infinite (2013) 

Source: David Miles on YouTube

If one game knows how good its bread is, it’s Bioshock Infinite. If you were to press pause and inspect the 3D baguette, it’d be possible to nitpick small design decisions, like texture resolution, flour distribution, and grain density, but because the bread is sandwiched with context—the dancing bread boy and his believable reaction to owning a baguette inside a big patriotic amusement park city held up by balloons that Ken Levine imagined using his brain, his very own personal brain—it doesn’t feel out of place. Realism is helpful, certainly, but the game world needs to feel alive, like a natural home for bread above all else.  

Team Fortress 2: Love and War update (2014) 

Bread is only monstrous when left to mold, and Team Fortress 2’s Love and War update bottles the essence of in a cute, tragic short film. There’s little purpose to the bread in-game aside from a few dough-themed items. Personally, I interpret it as a commentary on the state of game bread as nothing more than a simple prop and HP potion skin, new ideas and advances left in the pantry to rot. I see you Valve.

I Am Bread (2014) 

As a goofy physics playground, I Am Bread is fine. I do take issue with how controlling a slice feels like maneuvering a heavy sponge. Bread isn’t heavy and sandwich bread isn’t durable. One fall off the table and it’s over, usually. I Am Bread forgoes natural bread behaviors for the sake of a joke, but I’m not sure we’ll be laughing when our kids start to think they can wash the dishes with a sandwich.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) 

Everything about The Witcher 3’s world feels hand-placed. Small villages, big cities, and even monster-infested caves are brimming with life and purpose, but in order to maintain such a sprawling illusion, nearly all props and people are static. NPCs sit in the same place spouting the same lines and props like bread just sit there, looking delicious, but forever out of reach. What an awful game.

Fallout 4 (2015) 

After setting a new standard for 3D loaf work in Skyrim, Bethesda dropped the atom ball in Fallout 4, spending more time on the bread box than any bread at all. Modders came to the rescue again, modeling slices, sandwiches, and adding recipes any old ghoul could follow.

Dishonored 2 (2016) 

Karnacan bakers know how to bake bread. Lovely rise, nice crust, but a bit low res I’m being honest. Eating it gives you a small dose of HP, but the animation is a simple swipe-and-swallow maneuver. It’s pan for the course, and not much else. In 2016, it’s a good bake, but it’s not a great bake. 

The future of videogame bread

How far have we come, really? From BurgerTime’s advanced bun art to Dishonored 2’s simple dark loaf, videogame bread feels without a sure destination—a lumpy mass that needs more time to prove. Perhaps the future holds loaves we never could have imagined, or abominations, such as virtual reality pumpernickel that virtually tastes like sourdough. 

Will Call of Duty: WWII pay proper homage to the history and show families turning their nose up at National Loaf? Maybe someday we’ll spend as much money on naan as we do on spaceships in Star Citizen. All we know for certain is that bread will be there, a short roll for every dodge roll and an abundance of biscuits to crowd every RPG inventory.

PC Gamer

Videogames have bugs. This is a fact of life. Some are obvious and easy to squash, and others are a little trickier to nail down. And then there are bugs like the one Valve fixed yesterday in Team Fortress 2. According to this Engadget report, it was around for a full decade—since TF2 was released in 2007—before it was noticed last month by TF2 Classic developer Nicknine, and reported by Redditor sigsegv_. 

The bug occurred when a player selected the Scout, Heavy, or Sniper as their first class upon joining a server. After that, switching to Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy on the same server would leave their local and server-side animations slightly out of sync. It worked the other way as well: Beginning as Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy, and then switching to Scout, Heavy, or Sniper would have the same effect.   

It sounds harmless enough, but the practical impact was most definitely not. As you can see in the video, the mismatch between local and server-side hitboxes meant that shots that should have hit sometimes would not. And once it happened, players were stuck: Switching back and forth wouldn't clear the error, nor would dying or going to spectator mode.     

"It's because the player models for scout/heavy/sniper have their pose parameters listed in one order, while the player models for soldier/pyro/demo/engie/medic/spy have their pose parameters listed in a slightly different order (move_x and move_y swapped)," sigsegv_ explained. "And it's also worth pointing out that in MvM [Mann vs Machine], the bots re-use the same 22 player slots over and over: when a robot dies, that player is switched to spectator, and then when it's time for another robot to spawn, the player is switched back onto blue team and changed to the class that the new robot should be. So, in effect, different MvM robots are somewhat equivalent to a group of human players who die, change class, and then respawn; which means that they were also susceptible to the bug." 

It's not a huge bug, as evidenced by the fact that it went unnoticed for ten years, but that's also what makes it so notable now. TF2 is not your average ten-year-old game: It's still one of the top five games on Steam, with tens of thousands of people blasting away at each other 24 hours a day, and is supported by a very active modding community. Yet somehow, this bug, which impacts the game at its most fundamental level—did you shoot the guy or not?—has slipped through the cracks until now. In a way, it's almost a shame that Valve fixed it.   

The full list of changes included in the latest TF2 update is below.

  • Improved Steam Voice support for servers that have enabled it
  • Removed sv_use_steam_voice convar. Steam voice is now selected via "sv_voicecodec steam"
  • Fixed demos not properly recording Steam Voice status, resulting in potential corrupt voice in demos with differing default settings
  • Will now use the native Steam Voice sampling rate, instead of clamping to 11kHz
  • Improved compatibility with Steam client beta
  • Fixed OS X voice communication sounding high-pitched when using the default CELT voice codec
  • Fixed an animation bug that would cause the client and server hitboxes to become out of sync
  • Fixed the Scout not playing the correct animation when using the Shortstop's Alt-Fire to shove someone
  • Fixed some missing VO sounds for the Scout when he picks up a baseball
  • Fixed Spectators seeing the fake death notices for the Spy when he feigns death
  • Fixed the Widowmaker not doing increased damage when the Sentry's target is a building, boss, or tank
  • Fixed not earning Crikey meter progress with The Cleaner's Carbine when damaging a building, boss, or tank
  • Fixed the Scout not getting assists for shoving players while using the Shortstop
  • Fixed not being able to use non-tradable Giftapults
  • Fixed powerups sometimes being removed from the game in Mannpower mode
  • Fixed a case where the scoreboard would not update properly when players volunteer to switch teams in Casual mode
  • Fixed a case where Casual servers would spontaneously terminate with "Server shutting down" upon losing connection with the matchmaking service
  • Updated the logic used to pick the maps players can vote on in the end-of-match map vote on Casual servers to help maintain healthier game mode representation across regions
  • Casual servers were often rotating to unrelated game modes during votes, resulting in partially filled servers in certain regions
  • Updated the player_bodygroups that are hidden when equipping The Dark Falkirk Helm and The Sole Saviors
  • Updated the model/materials for The Snowmann to fix some LOD issues
  • Updated the localization files
  • Added Gift Wrap back to the Mann Co. Store at a reduced price
  • Added TF2Maps 72hr TF2Jam Winter Participant 2017 community medal
  • Added Rally Call Charity Tournament community medals
  • Added ozfortress Season 18 tournament medals
  • Added new survey questions to the end-of-match survey for Casual and Competitive modes and fixed a bug where multiple surveys could be displayed at the same time
PC Gamer

Although skin gambling in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has been around for a number of years, last year saw Valve crack down on a series of sites—issuing cease and desist orders to several gambling outlets for using their Steam account for commercial purposes. Valve is now turning its head towards its other major online shooter, Team Fortress 2. 

If you're unfamiliar with how skin gambling works, Evan's detailed overview in relation to CS:GO is worth checking out as it's a similar process in TF2. At this stage, Valve hasn't revealed its next move beyond stating its intentions. 

As featured on the Team Fortress 2 website, Valve released the following statement: 

"In July of last year we outlined our position on gambling web sites, specifically noting that Valve has no business relationship with these sites. At that time we also began blocking many CSGO gambling accounts. You can view the original post here.

"More recently, some gambling web sites started leveraging TF2 items. Today we began the process of blocking TF2 gambling accounts as well. We recommend you don’t trade with these sites."

Following last year's crackdown, a number of shuttered CS:GO gambling sites suggested the way in which they operated was entirely legal, and that they'd relaunch following talks with Valve. A cursory Google search would suggest this has not been the case, which of course sends a pretty clear message to those still operating under the radar.

PC Gamer

Smissmas, the magical time of year when men with big guns, questionable morality, and an unusual commitment to a two-tone color scheme are given all-new, all-festive ways to inflict violence upon one another, has once again come to Team Fortress 2!. This year's magical event features a slew of new Festivizer weapons, 17 winter-themed community cosmetics, and—just in time for the holiday season—three new taunts. 

Apart from the new stuff, the holiday update will also make some improvements to Casual matches and autobalancing. At the end of Casual matches, players will now automatically be formed up into a new match with the same players and teams, and will be given the opportunity to vote on which map is played. A new autobalancing system will encourage players to switch sides when necessary by offering bonus XP to volunteer turncoats. 

And of course there will be stuff to buy in the Mann Co. Store, much of it on sale. It doesn't look to be the biggest Smissmas update of all time, but then again, as Valve says, giving people gifts can bite you in the ass. Maybe you should just be thankful for what you get. Speaking of which, you can get the details at teamfortress.com.

PC Gamer

Hero shooters are the latest gaming trend, team-based competitive multiplayer shooters featuring objective-driven game modes and large casts of colorfully designed characters sporting fantastical weapons and abilities. That s a serviceable but still somewhat shortsighted definition. The hero shooters we have today already cover a range of styles and goals. They re all shooters, so we see a lot of overlap in how they actually play, but each one approaches things differently and has something distinct at its core.

Basically, hero shooters are like the Powerpuff Girls, so let s talk Chemical X.

We ll start with Blizzard s Overwatch, seeing as how it has become the poster child for the genre. Overwatch is popular for many reasons, but primarily because of its heroes and their diverse playstyles and personalities. Game director Jeff Kaplan said it best when we spoke with him at BlizzCon 2015: the heroes are the content of the game.

More than any other hero shooter, Overwatch puts individual heroes first, not overarching classes. This wasn t always the case, though. In an April interview with GameSpot, Kaplan said the Overwatch team started with a class-first perspective. It was lead hero designer Geoff Goodman who eventually proposed making as many classes as we could come up with and simply turning them into highly specialized heroes.

Overwatch heroes are roughly grouped into four classes, but hero-specific strengths are stressed more than in, say, Team Fortress 2. In Overwatch, you pick a hero based on who your team needs and who the situation calls for, whereas in TF2 you have more room to choose a class based solely on how you like to play, illustrating the subtle difference between team-based and class-based gameplay. A skilled Heavy can fill several roles and always be useful, but you can only do so many things with Roadhog or Reinhardt, which brings us to hero switching.

Instead of making individual heroes more flexible, Overwatch made all hero switching available on the fly. You can choose from several suitable heroes in any situation, but you can t take the same approach with all of them, at least not effectively. Reaper and Tracer, for example, are both offense heroes who can make short work of enemies, but they play very differently and have different counters.

This creates the type of rock-paper-scissors meta we see in MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm, which is a noticeable influence on the way Overwatch heroes interact, both as allies and as enemies. There s also a bit of fighting game spirit to Overwatch. The way they use huge casts to segment fundamentally similar gameplay forms an interesting parallel with games like Street Fighter V and Tekken 7, which also live and die by their rosters.

Heroes are obviously central to all hero shooters, but careful character design is of unmatched importance to Overwatch because each of its heroes must not only serve a unique purpose but also mesh well with tightly clustered teams. Everything starts there, and anything that encroaches upon the fun hero gameplay, as Kaplan puts it, is swiftly changed. Furthermore, Kaplan told Kotaku in July, maps and modes are quite deliberately designed to promote hero interaction by bringing teams together. This lines up with what assistant game director Aaron Keller told us in September: "if and when we release a new game mode in the future, it will be about teams pushing on a single objective.

At the opposite end of the spectrum and it is a spectrum, this genre-hopping blur of a genre we have Gearbox Software s Battleborn, which doubles down on MOBA elements while turning Overwatch s character design on its head. Overwatch is about selecting and re-selecting the most suitable hero, but Battleborn is about building a hero that does what you want.

In Battleborn, hero abilities aren t static. Heroes bring the same skills into every round, but through the game s helix system of A/B upgrades, these can be tweaked to fit the play style you prefer. Characters fall into designated classes like healer and skirmisher, but they can still wield a mix of offensive, defensive or supportive abilities, just not all at the same time. So, rather than which hero to play, the question becomes how to play your hero.

You can further customize heroes through gear which augments stats like cooldown reduction and maximum health. Gear functions like the items in Dota and League of Legends: earn currency and buy pieces as the match progresses, with the added kick and progression of collecting gear through loot boxes and, from your collection, building character-specific loadouts. The influence of MOBAs is even more obvious in Battleborn s waves of minions and its base-destroying incursion game mode.

This should also sound familiar to Borderlands fans. Tailoring skill trees to suit different play styles? Boosting your most relevant stats with equipment? Hoarding gear? That s a day in the life of a Vault Hunter if I ve ever heard it. And come to think of it, Alani could pass as a sister siren to Borderlands 2 s Maya. There s plenty of Pandora in Battleborn, that s for sure, just as Overwatch s focus on individual hero characters can be traced back to Warcraft.

Beyond prominent MOBA elements, Battleborn brings some promising ideas to the still-developing hero shooter genre. For starters, it has a story mode. It isn t a particularly spellbinding tale (though the stellar opening cinematic helps) but it does provide welcome context for the game s world and the motivations of its heroes, not to mention a more in-depth tutorial and testing ground. Meltdown, Battleborn s take on payloads, is also noteworthy. In it, teams defend their minions as they march toward the goal and try stop enemy minions from doing the same. This means players have two objectives and can choose to defend or attack in every round, which ties into the game s split hero development.

Overwatch and Battleborn alone illustrate some of the balancing acts hero shooters have to manage. Through the strict limitations it places on game modes and character abilities, Overwatch gains the freedom to create characters like Mercy and Symmetra, who aren t at all suited for offense roles. Battleborn is all about customization, so it s possible for players to consistently play the hero they re most attached to rather than the hero their team needs right now. There are pros and cons to each approach: I can t see incursion working in Overwatch, but Battleborn heroes tend to run together a bit, and there s no doubt as to who s winning the sales race. Somewhere between these two extremes lies Paladins, Hi-Rez Studios free-to-play contender. Lead designer Rory Drybear Newbrough described Paladins as half shooter, half MOBA when we spoke with him last December, and the current state of the game backs him up.

Although still in beta, Paladins foundation is well established, including its much-vaunted deck system. For each hero, you can build equippable decks of five cards which, once acquired mid-match, buff various abilities and help fine-tune your play style. It isn t as open-ended as Battleborn s helix system, but that s not necessarily a bad thing. The goal of decks, Newbrough said in a recent interview with PaladinsWorld, is to give players multiple build options without warping characters to the extent that they are difficult to identify or play around. This preserves the concept of instantly recognizable characters a cornerstone of hero shooters since Team Fortress Classic while creating greater room for player choice.

Paladins also pursues new combinations through its heroes, which, according to Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris, are predominantly rooted in the studio s own Global Agenda despite similarities to Overwatch. Some heroes overlap more than others, but even familiar abilities can be interesting when rearranged. For instance, Androxus wields a defensive deflection ability, generous jumps, a six-shooter revolver and a rocket-powered ultimate. Similar abilities are seen in Overwatch but the combination is novel, and Paladins is not devoid of originality. As Blizzard grapples with Symmetra s place in the meta, Ying offers a good example of how to combine turrets and teleportation in a way that s powerful and satisfying.

Even so, and even for a beta, Paladins has yet to hit its stride. Everything checks out on paper: it takes inspiration from the most successful hero shooter yet, the biggest genre in esports and lessons learned from Global Agenda. It s also free, which is a good thing to be in an increasingly competitive market. The trouble is that it doesn t yet have an identity of its own. Overwatch is a dynamic team-based FPS, and Battleborn, while a bit of a commercial flop, is firmly a first-person MOBA with added objectives. Paladins isn t quite there yet. It seems to know what it s made of but not what it wants to be, and in this it echoes the state of the hero shooter genre as a whole.

The good news is that the concern is not what hero shooters can t do, but what they haven t done so far. Creating new and interesting heroes is great, but they stand the best chance of finding an audience if they do something we haven t seen in hero shooters before. The only guiding principle seems to be to build game modes that intuitively support your heroes abilities, something Overwatch and Battleborn both managed despite being wildly different. There s no limit on what those game modes can be, only on what type of heroes suit them.

Overwatch makes a good argument for hero-driven design, and Battleborn shows that unconventional elements can be folded in without upsetting the core FPS gameplay loop. More importantly, Overwatch s 22 heroes can t do everything, nor can Battleborn s 25. Meanwhile, Paladins is still trying to figure out what its heroes are best at, something its forthcoming new mode, which Newbrough describes as a co-op experience against challenging AI, may answer.

This is perhaps the most valuable lesson for budding hero shooters like Gigantic, Lawbreakers, Battlecry, Dirty Bomb and who knows how many games to come. I don t want to see this genre become a race to dethrone Overwatch by way of character design. That s a loser s market, and hero shooters have the potential to revive and improve so many game types. It s all a matter of finding a niche and creating a good-sized roster of heroes who really synergize with it.

For one, objective-based multiplayer goes way beyond 'defend the thing and push the thing', or in Paladins case, 'defend the thing then push the thing'. Where s the fast-paced capture the flag hero shooter that promotes mobility and map awareness using heroes couched in creative movement? Lawbreakers definitely has a shot at filling that slot, but it often feels like more of an arena shooter that happens to have five classes which is fine, by the way. The point is, CTF is another classic game mode that could benefit immensely from a broad cast explicitly engineered with it in mind.

Then there s the big, white elephant that seemingly nobody is talking about: where is the hero shooter that shamelessly apes the original Star Wars: Battlefront? With droidekas, shock troops, engineers and plenty more unique classes, it s already half a hero shooter. Just imagine a modern spiritual successor, divorced from the tapestries of Star Wars but informed by the years of MOBA refinement on display in Battleborn. Sprawling, ever-changing battlegrounds peppered with command posts and crawling with NPC squadrons led by heroes I have a dream!

Future hero shooters should also consider options outside PvP. Players can work as a team without fighting other players, and PvE-focused games like Left 4 Dead are crying out for hero shooter cousins. Overwatch proved this in its recent dalliance with horde mode, the Junkenstein s Revenge brawl. As our own Evan Lahti said, that brawl didn t really work because Overwatch doesn t have the maps or heroes to support it. Where is the hero shooter that does?

For once, the bewildering vagueness of the term hero shooter can be called a positive thing. This cockamamy genre could become a nearly boundless formula for reinvigoration, a way to explore and experience familiar game modes from a refreshing new perspective via dozens of fun characters.

PC Gamer

Team Fortress? More like Scream Fortr oh, I see Valve already did that, as it's the name of TF2's annual Halloween event. Joe brought the slightly disappointing news that there would be no all-new giant spookathon this year; instead, the game is getting a few new titbits, while all the old Scream Fortresses will be returning, as with last year.

The TF blog announces that Scream Fortress VIII has just kicked off, bringing with it "three new Halloween maps! All classic Scream Fortress Maps! All-new contracts! New taunts! And a Creepy Crawly Case with the chance to get our newest unholy Halloween creation: a taunt Unusualifier!" Yeah, that's right, an Unusualifier look it up in your Lexinomicon.

What's more, for the duration of Scream Fortress VIII, "all unusual cosmetics that you unbox from any case or crate will have a Halloween 2016 unusual effect, and the chances of receiving an unusual cosmetic across all cases, even old ones, will be DOUBLED," says Valve. Double-things are almost always good news whoever heard of Single Fine, for example?

PC Gamer

After six years of consecutive harrowing Team Fortress 2 Halloween events, Valve took last year off to work on its then new Invasion update. It seems the same is true this year, as the developer is instead "working on something even better."

Similar to last year, every prior Scream Fortress event will briefly return including 2015's Merasmissions while a new Pyro Pack, improvements to Comp Mode, a new update, a new campaign, community maps, and a new taunt are but a few of the things TF2 is introducing to ensure All Hallows' Eve doesn't pass us by.

In typical Team Fortress fashion, here's some weird words taken from the game's blog:

"And it wouldn t be a Halloween pre-announcement blog post if we didn t scare most of you TO DEATH. For instance: What if just now you heard the rattling moon-lit sound of a SKELETON? No, nothing? Everybody still alive? Okay, but what if that sound was coming from INSIDE YOUR OWN BODY? Because there s a SKELETON in there RIGHT NOW? Oh, you already knew that, did you? Well, what if we were to tell you it s STEVE BUSCEMI S SKELETON?

"How did it get INSIDE you? What did he do with YOUR skeleton? Why don t you ask him, because he s RIGHT BEHIND YOU! No, look down! Farther! Because he s just a puddle of flesh with two BULGING EYEBALLS staring up at you! And a SNAGGLE-TOOTH! That s right, you just BODY-SHAMED STEVE BUSCEMI! Because it was YOU writing this blog post the WHOLE TIME! AWOOOOO!"

Make of that what you will. No exact date just yet, however you'll be able to revisit your favourite TF2 Halloween events at some stage "next week."

PC Gamer

The Church in the Darkness plays like top down Hitman-lite in a 1970s religious cult. Your character decides to check in on a relative and infiltrates the sect to figure out how they're doing and what's really going on at church camp.

You navigate buildings and avoid the scrutiny of the cultists by staying out of sight, but unlike most stealth games, they won't get suspicious if you're in their line of sight, only if you get too close. By investigating the buildings around camp and searching for supplies, you'll find tools to help out with the denser parts of camp. For instance, I found a worker outfit that decreased the 'suspicion' cone around each camper so I could navigate more freely. I got in without alerting anyone, but you're free to go guns blazing if you like. I have concerns about the stealth feeling a bit too simple, but until I know what kind of challenges and tools the final game has in store, I'll keep checking in.

All the while, the church leader spouts their doctrine over the loudspeakers, but it's never quite the same every time. Voiced by videogame VO power couple Ellen McLain (GLaDOS) and John Patrick Lowrie (TF2's Sniper), the two leaders' teachings change with each playthrough. During one, they might actually be a fairly peaceful, if peculiar, religious group. During the next, they might be getting ready to take the world down with them. It's a creative form of narrative direction that I hope will influence how players choose to go about infiltrating camp. If they're a nice crew, the moral impetus might be to get in and out without harming a fly. If they're bloodthirsty zealots, well, a few flies won't matter.

The Church in the Darkness arrives some time next year.

PC Gamer

Every once in awhile you find a crossover between two different videogames that on paper makes no sense until you see it in action. That's how I feel about Steam user Pancake's "MegaMan 6" collection of TF2 maps. Divided up into eight separate arenas themed after a different boss, you can now wax nostalgic about how much harder videogames used to be while cracking headshots as Sniper.

"It was really a combination of boredom and seeing how people create maps based on other old videogames," Pancakes tells me. "I saw that people loved playing Mario-themed maps and I wanted to test the limitations of how closely a map could resemble the original game it borrows from."

In that pursuit, I'd say Pancakes has done a damn fine job. The project has taken him over five years to complete, and it hasn t been easy. Serious limitations in the Source engine made running a map with eight separate stages quite a challenge, Pancakes tells me, and that's not to mention all the effort it takes to rip the sprites and artwork from Mega Man 6. Each arena is also accompanied by the respective music from that stage, which does wonders for driving home that Mega Man nostalgia.

While this is technically just one map, it's actually divided into randomized arenas that you'll be placed on each round. There's a standard king of the hill version but also a 'VS Saxon Hale' mode to use if you have the required mod. So far, the only caveat is that, unlike other custom maps, this Mega Man 6 bundle doesn't play nice with bots. You're going to need to spend quite a bit of time setting up proper navigation meshes instead of just letting the console do that all for you. There's a few guides to help you get started if you're interested, but you're better off forgetting the bots and wrangling up a group of friends to play with.

What amazes me is that this isn't even the first time someone's had the idea of doing a crossover between Mega Man and Team Fortress 2. DeviantArt user AgentMidnight made some excellent artwork depicting what TF2 would've looked like as a Mega Man game instead of the other way around.

If Mega Man was never really your jam, there's no shortage of Team Fortress 2 custom maps inspired by the games of yesteryear. Steam user Litronom has taken this obsession to a whole new level by creating several dozen inspired by old Nintendo games, including everything from Bomberman 64, Zelda, Banjo Kazooie, and more. Unlike Pancakes' maps, which strike a nice balance between being a homage and also being fun to play on, Litronom's maps are almost exact recreations of their source material not exactly the place to have a competitive match.

Either way, I love that mods continue to be a venue for people to express their passion for other games. They might just be a passing curiosity, but there's something so inherently satisfying about reassembling videogames inside of other videogames. So if you have any particular fondness for that golden age of consoles and are keen on reliving those memories, be sure to download the whole lot from the Steam Workshop.

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