Notch is currently busy "streaming development of something that probably never will be released at all," which seems a shame, because it's a lovely little Team Fortress 2 RTS. You can watch Noch magically turning numbers and letters into scenes of TF2's eight classes fragging each other in the livestream box above. Don't worry, "Herp Derp Herp Fortress" is only a working title for now. You can suggest some alternative names in the live chat happening alongside the stream on Notch's Twitch TV channel.
We've seen some impressive fan-made Portal guns in the past, but they've been rare, costly one-off projects. Valve are giving us the chance to get hold of our own Aperture Science Handheld Portal Devices without having to burn ourselves horribly putting together an injection mould. Joystiq mention that, at Valve's request, toy manufacturers, NECA have put together a life-sized Portal gun. It'll hit the shops this summer with a $130 price tag attached.
There will be lights and those lights will change colour, but will it make the "pwung" noise? There's only one way to find out, and that's to buy at least five. Perhaps ten. Maybe more. More. MORE.
NECA will also be releasing a line of Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life action figures, a few of which were shown off at the NYC Toy Fair. The Team Fortress 2 wiki has a snap of the new figures, you'll find that below along with a few shots of that Portal gun. Baggsy the Heavy.
Gamers eh? It doesn't take long. The Something Special for Someone Special item landed in TF2 yesterday, and it's already shrouded in filth. The $100 wedding ring is a one use only item but every time someone accepts a proposal, every TF2 player logged in to the server gets a notification. And PC gamers like expressing themselves publically.
Click through for some of the more amusing notifications, courtesy of reddit. Warning, one of them is a bit rude.
Let us know any proposals I've missed in the comments and I'll update the post accordingly.
The Something Special for Someone Special item was in a secret update back in December, but you can now buy it. For a hundred dollars. "It's ring-shaped, it's gift-wrapped, it's basically useless, and it's really expensive," say Valve. "In short, it's the most accurate simulation of an actual Valentine's Day gift ever made available to the public."
The ring will let you "marry" another player in the middle of a fire fight. You have to gift the item to make a proposal. If they accept, a big trumpeting message will tell everyone that you're in wuv, and you and your new partner will get matching diamond bands that you can "wear in the rain while you smooch up a storm."
That sure is a lot of bucks for a virtual band, but isn't the gift of a ring all about the gesture rather than the bling? Would you pay a hundred dollars for a TF2 item?
The Scout just got 15% more obnoxious with the addition of a great big ghetto blaster to Team Fortress 2. It'll tease your enemies with a selection of sick beats during every taunt, upgrading the Scout from "unbearable" to "must be killed at any cost" in your enemies' estimations.
It's described as a "level 1-100 Futuristic Sound Device," and will set you back a hefty £7/$10. A portion of that will go to a community member. The Boston Boom-Bringer is the latest item to be promoted from the Steam Workshop, which is still overflowing with nonsensical but brilliant items like an Anubis headdress for the Pyro, a Soldier plushie on a stick and this magnificent bug mask.
A new post on the Team Fortress 2 blog sketches out Valve's 2012 plans for the shooter, which include mention of not one, but two secret projects. We can so far confirm that the first will not be a hat, or a map, or as the blog post suggests, a freakish map-hat hybrid. The second will have something to do with this year's Saxxy Awards, which rates the community's best video replays.
"Expect the Saxxys to be much bigger and better, due to the imminent unveiling of another secret," the post says. Imminent unveiling! That's pretty soon. Could it be something to do with the cinematic tools Valve mentioned they were working on ages ago, which would let players create their own awesome cinematics? Cinematics which could then perhaps be rated by other players in the form of an Oscar-style award ceremony? I have no idea. I'm just trying to translate the squeaks of the PC Gamer Gopher of Speculation into something readable. Have a nut, Gopher.
Whatever those two secrets are, one thing is CERTAIN*. Meet the Pyro will be out this year, which will feature "lots of blood pretty much all the way through." That sounds promising. Valve have also launched the Steam Workshop blog, just in time for the Skyrim Creation Kit, which is set to arrive soon. Now I have to leave because the Gopher has stopped moving and may be dead. I'm all out of speculation, which means it's up to you. What do you think the big secret could be?
Team Fortress 2's loot drops crept in to my brain. At first, random items were enough. Then I had a stint of trading with friends. Then those friends became random internet men. Eventually I replaced "trade" with "buy" and "drops" with "purchases." I started buying hats and name tags and paint and... DAMN you Valve and your clever ways, exploiting my weak brain and its desire for virtual loot.
As highlighted by Reddit, this fan-made game uses your Team Fortress 2 crafting knowledge for good. You're tasked with creating rare stuff from an ever-expanding inventory. It's both educational and fun.
Don't know your Refined Metal from your Reclaimed Metal? Start here.
Here are ten TF2 kill clips to make you go "whaaaat," courtesy of CommFT. They've taken the best of all the kill replays submitted to the Extelevision site during December and ordered them according to their awesomeness. The list features some blinding kill streaks, a jammy but spectacular reflected grenade triple-kill, a remarkable string of headshots and a stunning three-rocket juggle kill. The list demonstrates how TF2's calamitous physics can result in some baffling mid-air encounters. Only the very best players can exploit these to earn game-winning ubers and vital kills. It's fantastic to watch.
Looking for a big new fantasy RPG to play? Kingdoms of Amalur might just fit the bill. A new demo is now available on Steam, giving everyone a chance to dive in and fight the various things that live in artist Todd McFarlene's head. There's a "destiny" system that lets you switch between combat styles in the middle of a ruck, and there should be plenty of mad weapons to mess with. Completing the demo should unlock some bonus items for Mass Effect 3 as well.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is available to pre-order now. If you grab it on Steam you'll get some Team Fortress 2 hats. The Origin pre-order comes with nine weapons designed to "give players an edge from the start. It'll be released on February 10, here's a pic of those TF2 hats.
With New Year celebrations just around the corner, it's understandable that you might not have time to trawl through our weekly Best Free PC Games archive, analysing every write-up to construct your own top ten list. So, since we understand the importance of ranking free games in order of perceived quality, we've done it for you. Here are PC Gamer's ten favourite freebies of 2011!
10. Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story
Christine Love. Download it from Christine's website.
With its anime style and graphic novel format, Christine Love's Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story might not seem like the most enticing prospect to a lot of players. Push past the presentation, though, and you'll find an intricate and notably human story of what it is to be responsible for the lives of a group of teenagers.
You play as a teacher who gets a little too involved in his students' issues. And while the game is only minimally interactive, it does present you with some genuinely affecting moral choices, the likes of which even the biggest videogame developers struggle to get right year after year.
9. The Wager
Surprised Man. Download it from the official website.
An exploration game whose stretches of planet are generated on the fly each time you start, The Wager is a much smarter game than its often primitive presentation would let on. You take to the seas in search of new lands, whose resources you might exploit, or whose co-ordinates you might sell to others eager to spread their feathers into new climes.
It's smart because of the requirement to make decisions about how you'll deal with the game's obstacles, and because of how neatly the often bizarre writing slots into its place in the game. It also received a substantial update recently, making the already compulsive title even more of a delight.
Joost van Dongen. Download it from the official website.
Proun's developer recently revealed that the game's 'pay what you like' sales pitch didn't do as well as he'd hoped. When people treated it as a freebie, though, the response was overwhelmingly positive. It's a gloriously presented indie title that sees you rolling a ball around a frantic racetrack, avoiding obstacles as you go.
Its crowning achievement is the speed at which you travel, and the sense of kinetic energy the game manages to convey. Performing well on the slowest speed setting, 'fast', allows you to unlock unimaginable paces for later races. Let's hope the £23,000 van Dongen did make is enough to convince him to make another game this good.
LittleLoud. Play it on the official website.
Channel 4 gets educational games. Commissioning talented and renowned developers with proven track records, they manage to take concepts that our young could find tedious, and transform them into experiences that even proper grown-ups can get something out of. Sweatshop is one of those games, a title designed to teach of the ills of the horrible forced labour that goes on around the globe.
You play as an aspiring factory manager, hiring, firing and tweaking your factory's workforce. What initially starts as a genuinely amusing title quickly grows dark as your workers begin to tire, you start hiring children for cheaper labour, and you quickly realise you've become the horrific being you promised yourself, at the start, that you wouldn't be.
6. At A Distance
Terry Cavanagh. Download it from the dev's blog.
This is the renowned indie developer's take on co-operative play. Two people sit at separate computers, preferably side-by-side but certainly on a network. Each player is lost in some kind of colourful maze. But it is by exploring the world that the other person inhabits, and seeing what effects your actions are having on your friend's game, that you'll solve the overarching puzzle of At A Distance.
It's clever and inventive, and a shame that the requirement of network play might put some people off one of the more interesting two-player games in recent times.
NPlay. Play it on NPlay's website.
BeGone has become quite the thing in 2011. Initially launched as a competent and impressive multiplayer shooter, this browser-based gem quickly grew to become something that could rival a lot of full games. There are now several maps, all nicely balanced, and the presentation has been spruced up considerably.
It's a bit like Counter-Strike, basically - and that's hugely impressive, considering this runs in a nice little window right in the middle of a web page. It's a game that requires some decent skill, which it rewards handsomely. And it keeps getting better and better.
4. Stealth Bastard
Curve Studios. Download it from the official website.
A tactical action-platformer, as if Metal Gear Solid were reimagined in true retro-modern style, Stealth Bastard sees you sneaking past robot guards and security systems that aim to take you out in a millisecond. It's fortunate that you can put your sneaky know-how to use across a variety of beautifully imagined levels.
And if those aren't enough, you can even create your own in an initially confusing but eventually fairly sensible level-editing suite that comes free with the already-free game. It's baffling when a developer releases so much of such quality for no coins at all, but it's probably best not to complain too much, or they might stop.
Damp Gnatt. Play it on the dev's website.
One of the most joyously creative games of the year regardless of price, Wonderputt is a crazy golf experience like no other. The game plays out on just a single screen, but it's a landscape that changes radically across the 15-or-so minutes it'll take you to see it all.
That might not sound long, but every second of Wonderputt is remarkable: from the changing landscapes, to the immaculate ball physics, to the splendid music that plays throughout. It's an absolute labour of love, a game that seems to have had layer upon layer of attention gifted unto it throughout the course of its development. 18 holes have never been so delightful.
DigiPen. Download it from the official website.
Nous is creepy. This seemingly sentient AI says it's a psychoanalysis system, but it appears to mean you harm. Or does it? It also enjoys confusing you at every turn as it judges your performance across a series of neon-lit and action-packed levels.
The game's ability to craft such an atmosphere from so little is an extraordinary feat, and it's coupled by engaging game mechanics that see you striking a fine balance between killing your foes and turning them into health by herding them through special converters. It's fantastic fun, gorgeously presented, and both captivating and unsettling as the story plays out.
1. Team Fortress 2
Valve Software. Grab it via Steam.
Well, of course. What else could it be? It's the best multiplayer shooter ever released on the PC, and you can play it for no pennies. We are, quite truly, being spoiled.
We've written about Team Fortress 2 a lot, you may have noticed. Some might say we've praised it to death. Others will be quick to point out its original 2007 release date. But this is the year when TF2 became a free game, and as such it would be barmy not to position it right at the top of the list.
Its quality lies in every aspect of the game. Beautifully and distinctively presented, it's also fantastically balanced, each class playing its own unique role across a variety of maps that, in their immaculate attention to detail and playability, could only have been created by Valve. It's also a game that's filled with personality, as evidenced by the vast amount of fiction that's cropped up around this wonderful shooter.
You get so much for no money at all. It might as well be the full game. In fact, it's not quite, but to upgrade all you need to do is buy a single item from the store. The cheapest item is 29p. That's all you need to pay to unlock a premium account - but if even that seems a bit too much, you'll lose barely anything by playing at the most basic level.
Craig re-reviewed the game this year, upping its original 93% score to a PC Gamer UK 'highest score ever' of 96% as a result of the carefully planned additions and refinements that have trickled in over the years, in what must be one of the most comprehensive post-release support campaigns a developer has ever committed to. We don't give out scores that big lightly - but not only is Team Fortress 2 the best free game in the world, it's also now one of the best in the world regardless of cost.
Found a better free game in 2011? You should totally let us know about it in the comments!