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Jul 24, 2012
For the benefit of children, TF2 Mixup invited me to play a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 with some Important Internet Individuals. The roster: Notch (Soldier), Freddie Wong (Sniper), Robin Walker (Demo), our pal Brian Brushwood from Scam School (Heavy), and more. The first round of three, on cp_gorge, is watchable below. Any ad money generated from the video is being donated; and hey, you can still donate yourself.
At last, I realize my small dream to help children by plunging a switchblade wrapped in Christmas lights into others. I told you I'd make something of myself, mom.
Hero Academy, Robot Entertainment's tactical, turn-based team battle game is coming to Steam on August 8th, and it's bringing some PC gaming all-stars with it. The entire Team Fortress 2 crew we know and love (and sometimes hate...I'm looking at you, Spy) will be playable. Read on to see how they fit into Hero Academy, and check out the TF2 hats you can get by playing it.
From the press release:
Team Bonus: Relentless Action - Stomping enemies grants an action point.
Spy – A cloaked unit who cannot be targeted at range. The Spy deals massive damage when attacking an enemy from behind.
Scout – A fast-moving recon hero; Players gain an AP when deploying the Scout. The Scout automatically hops backwards when hit by an opponent.
Sniper – The Sniper can target enemies anywhere in his row. At the end of your turn, the Sniper crouches. If he remains unscathed until your next turn, the Sniper gains increased power on his next shot.
Medic – The Medic heals and revives allies; He can link to a full-health ally to increase their power.
Engineer – A defensive hero with a basic ranged attack. The Engineer can upgrade allies' weapons.
Heavy – The Heavy does AOE attack at range. Every successive attack deals more damage as his minigun spins up.
Pyro - He does full damage to two enemies in a row; The Pyro’s attack can hit cloaked Spies.
Demoman – The Demoman lobs grenades that do AOE damage. He does bonus damage when attacking crystals.
Soldier – The Soldier is a ranged hero. He uses powerful rockets to knock enemy units back.
And here's a look at the new, Hero Academy-inspired headwear for TF2:
Steam Greenlight was announced last night, detailing a project that will give PC gamers the power to dictate what ends up on Valve's massively successful digital distribution platform. Just over 12 hours later, Valve business development director, Jason Holtman took to the stage at Develop to talk about the roots of the idea. It all started with Team Fortress 2.
Holtman acknowledged that TF2 is "a hat manufacturing game. And that's awesome," but the systems surrounding the hat economy, and Valve's internal development attitudes all contributed to the inception of Steam Greenlight, a practical demonstration of Valve's motto: "anyone can ship anything."
Jason referenced the official TF2 blog as an example of the company's internal attitudes towards creating entertainment. He suggested that the key to its success wasn’t in polished press releases created by marketing men. It was in the freedom for all Valve employees to create all kinds of content for the projects they’re working on. "If the content team hadn't been involved in this activity, including things such as blogposts, it would have sucked," said Jason.
Then Valve opened that involvement up to the community, and the snowball started rolling. “We had customer involvement too. Hey: why don’t you make propaganda posters. That would be fun. People went crazy. They created all this content that started to get consumed as part of the war update.”
“It was the first inkling of what we’re thinking about now,” said Jason, referring to last night’s announcement. “Getting customers involved in the business.”
The popularity Mann-conomy update, which gave players the chance to buy new items with real money, was an important step. Cash incentives for item creators and general enthusiasm for TF2 resulted in a storm of interest among fans. Valve launched the Steam Workshop, to make it even easier to submit items for the game, and were overwhelmed with the response. “Make this hat, make that hat make my grandma’s hat. The amount of stuff we had coming in looked like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Holtman said.
“We hardly make anything anymore. Not that we’re lazy, There are people who are far better at working out what the engineer should have, what the Demoman should have."
Valve had a similar problem with Steam. There were more indie developers applying for Steam spots than Valve's team of ten could handle. "We had a problem of how do we filter the large number of new indie games out there and put the best ones on Steam," Holtman said. "We also didn't have the ability to encourage people during development."
Greenlight will let players and developers rate projects, crowdsourcing Steam's quality control function and giving indie developers a fair, equal shot at a vaunted Steam spot. Holtman is certain it will succeed: "It provides fans and creates fandom. People will want to do this."
We'll have to wait until August to see how big Greenlight will be, but it's a tremendously exciting prospect for upcoming indie developers.
Jul 2, 2012
It's not simply about being nice, or even generous, explains Valve economist Yanis Varoufakis in his latest blog post, the snappily named TO TRUCK, BARTER AND EXCHANGE? On the nature of our digital economies. In it, he discusses things like the role of gifts as a way of proving dominance, pure vs. impure exchanges, and the role of gifting in the current Team Fortress 2 economy.
It's interesting stuff, if not exactly light reading. Perhaps imagine it read out by the Heavy?
CREDIT TO ECONOMY! I think you'll agree. Check out the full post here.
Jul 2, 2012
It's only been available in closed beta for a few days, but already crazy directors are cracking open Valve's Source Filmmaker and creating their own crazy movies. Wondering what kind of thing you'll be able to put together when it goes live to the rest of us? Here are a few videos to offer a taster.
Also, they're quite funny. Which is nice too.
Expect to see a lot more of this one. MEME IS CREDIT TO TEAM!
This one ends up in the Twilight Zone for some reason...
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have been invited to the party yet.
Want to get your hands on it yourself? Sign up for the closed beta here and prepare to show Pixar how it's done. For no budget. In your room. And if Pixar's goal was to create surreal weirdness with the Team Fortress 2 characters. What? It may well be. I've not seen Brave yet. It might star the Medic...
Have I told you how brilliant Orcs Must Die! is recently? I probably have, I say it a lot. Did you know the developers, Robot Entertainment also made an IOS turn based battle game called Hero Academy? Well if you didn't, now you do, and you should also know that Eurogamer are reporting that it's coming to Steam.
The Steam version of the game will allow for cross platform play with the iOS version, letting you show those trendy Apple folk just who knows more about turn based combat. Oh, and if you own the game on both formats, they'll sync up too. Also, getting the PC version gives you a new squad of heroes based on adorable big headed versions of Team Fortress 2 characters. There's nothing about this announcement that isn't brilliant.
Hero Academy has been out on IOS for several months now, and has gotten a lot of praise so far. Even PC Gamer's own Chris Thursten has spent many a lunchtime furiously tapping away as his iPhone because of it. The game is simple, two teams face each other across a battle grid trying to destroy each others crystals. Each turn lets you re-arrange your troops, bring in new ones or use abilities, then you send it off. When the other player has figured out his move, the game proceeds. Like Frozen Synapse, you're free to have as many games as you want on the go at once, so you're never just sitting around waiting for your opponent to log in.
Hero Academy will arrive on PC on the 8th of August.
Jun 28, 2012
Team Fortress 2's latest update has landed and it's magical. A whole new batch of items have been added that allow the wearer to see the world as the Pyro does. And if you don't know what that means, be sure to watch Meet the Pyro (embedded above) before reading on.
Watched it? Good, then I'll carry on.
The update gives every class a pair of Pyro goggles, which allow them to see into the magical world of Pyroland. A whimsical, beautiful place where no-one dies and everyone is friends.
In Pyroland, everything is brighter and more colourful. There's no blood or pain, instead hurt enemies spray balloon and confetti, and laugh in excitement. Medikits look like cakes, and dominations are friendships. Also, all the signs read "MMM MMMPH".
The goggles aren't the only way to visit Pyroland, using any of the new items (many of which we saw in Meet the Pyro) will do it. Weapons include there's the Rainblower, a flamethrower that fires rainbows, a giant lollipop shaped axe called the Lollichop. While miscellaneous items like the Burning Bongos, The Infernal Orchestra and the Balloonicorn will do it. These items look like default weapons to anyone who can't see into Pyroland, but those who can will perceive them in their full glory. Oh, and did we mention you can buy a real Balloonicorn? Well you can, and it comes with the item code too.
There's a hilarious summary of the new items on the Team Fortress update page, but more details can be found on the Team Fortress wiki. Meanwhile, we've included some screenshots of our own journey into Pyroland below.
Valve appended a tiny, incendiary surprise bomb to the end of the Meet The Pyro video: they've announced a free tool called Source Filmmaker. It's going into closed beta (apply here) and currently only supports Team Fortress 2. But beyond that, it seems like a suite that will equip machinima creators to truly tinker with what they produce; Valve says it'll let you "repurpose the video game world into a virtual movie studio." Among the tool's capabilities, you can make adjustments mid-playback, hand-animation of models, GPU-powered facial animation, and, amazingly—using Team Fortress 2 multiplayer to capture editable shots.
Valve created a video walkthrough of Filmmaker that also provides a behind-the-scenes glance at the creation of some of their TF2 shorts. Come watch within.
Jun 27, 2012
Yanis Varoufakis, Valve's new economist-in-residence, has posted his first investigation into Team Fortress 2's economy. The hat trade is more fascinating than I anticipated. Varoufakis' educational post explains (in terms non-economists can understand) two notable observations: the existence of an unusually complex barter economy in TF2, and the room for arbitrage -- buying low and selling high -- within it.
Varoufakis explains that barter economies are "cumbersome" because trades require a "double coincidence of wants" -- that is, two parties who each want what the other offers. Because of this, he says, economic complexity breeds currency, and that's why we've never witnessed "truly sophisticated barter economies." In TF2, however, the story is different.
"I was expecting to find that some item or asset would emerge as currency in the context of games such as Team Fortress 2," he writes. "However, a close study of our Team Fortress 2 economy revealed a more complex picture; one in which barter still prevails even though the volume of trading is skyrocketing and the sophistication of the participants’ economic behavior is progressing in leaps and bounds."
In his exploration of TF2's "peculiarly sophisticated barter economy," Varoufakis goes on to explain the concept of economic equilibrium, and charts periods of high arbitrage potential. He outlines economics fundamentals clearly and concisely, and I highly recommend reading the whole post. Especially if you strive to have more hats and guns and stuff than everyone else.