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Nov 16, 2012
Valve fired the starting pistol on the Saxxy video awards back in August, inviting fans to create the best videos they can using the Source Filmmaker tool released earlier this year. The entries are in, and the voting has started. You can start dishing out thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs by logging in and working through the queue on the Saxxy Steam page.
The quality is mixed, as you'd expect, but every so often you run into a gem that makes it worthwhile. My favourite so far is the Midnight Power short embedded below, a slow pan out on a fight scene that stretches the number of moving objects and characters the filmmaker can handle to its limit.
Discover more great filmmaker videos in our round-up of ten of the best.
After three years of work the user-created Back to School campaign for Left 4 Dead 2 has reached version 1.0. You can download it now from the ModDB page, where they've also uploaded a trailer that gave me a terrible hunger to play Left 4 Dead again. A terrible, terrible hunger that not even this egg mayonnaise sandwich can help with. If only those eggs were more, I don't know ... brainy. Weird.
Oh well, not to worry. I'm sure everything's fine. Let's just sit back and enjoy this trailuuuuurrrrrrgh:
Free to play "weekends" seem to be getting bigger and bigger, but you don't hear me complaining. As a relaxing aside to the spooky Halloween weather some of us will be experiencing, Valve's calming co-op zombie apocalypse shooter, Left 4 Dead 2, will be entirely free from today through to Monday. The expiry date is moot, however, as we'll all have been eaten by ghosts by then.
To tempt Left 4 Dead veterans back into the fray, Valve have added a new achievement called "Good Guy Nick" which will be awarded to those who help new players to survive a campaign. "Who is a free weekend player? You’re going to have to talk to each other to find out." Talking to people? On the INTERNET? 'Tis Halloween indeed.
Left 4 Dead 2 will go free at some point today according to the latest post on the Left 4 Dead 2 blog.
Oct 13, 2012
Since its launch, Valve's Source Filmmaker has helped budding directors create literally hundreds of movies - some good, some bad, most.... incredibly goofy. The Team Fortress 2 cast especially has sung seemingly every song, played out every meme and worn every hat and every expression - sometimes at once! But what are the ten best creations? We've scoured YouTube in search of the funniest, the most dramatic, and the just plain prettiest Source Filmmaker movies.
Scout vs. Witch
Easily one of the best directed SFM movies out there, mixing Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and a fine sense of timing. Scout (no relation to Scout) is one of the more popular TF2 mercs, with his cockiness the perfect antidote to all that zombie misery. At least, while the moment lasts.
Just One More Hat
And he's back, in this fashion-conscious spin on one of Disney's most parodied songs. More worksafe than Dirty Little Mermaid, more morally conscious than Slaughter Your World, it also wins bonus points for having an original TF2 version of a song instead of just looping in a more general one.
Meet The Family
Mostly made (naughty naughty) with the leaked SFM, this was one of the first epic projects to be finished and still one of the best. Scout and Spy team up as literal brothers in blood to kick off a perfectly choreographed race for that all-important Intelligence. Guest starring music from The Incredibles to add pace and more than a little style. No "da-da-da" sting at the end though.
Adventures Of The F2P Engineer
He's smart enough to whip up teleporters and sentries on the battlefield... but he didn't pay for the privilege, so he's probably doing it with his flies open and his shoes undone. When he's having this much fun though, can you really begrudge him? The answer is yes. Even if you're on the other team, sometimes it just gets... sad. Luckily, there are other engineers on hand, like...
An epic war between two professionals who know what they're doing, but don't know when to quit. A little parable about the importance of good manners, respect, and most importantly, not ****ing with another man's sandvich. A true Lesson For The Ages, with some fine music right alongside.
Meet The Soldier (Directed By Michael Bay)
We're firmly back in parody territory for this one; a relatively straight replay of Meet The Soldier, but with rather more boom and a surprising (though not unwelcome) lack of Alyx, Zoey, Rochelle or Chell forcibly being draped over a motorbike or anything at any point to complete the picture of one of cinema's most successful nostalgia murderers. Love or hate it, it's better than Transformers 2 any day.
The First Wave
It's not just a game mode... it's war! Mann vs. Machine gets dramatic in this epic four minutes of the mercs facing their durable doubles for the first time. Bonus points for a return of the disembodied Blue Spy, and a death scene with the power to spawn a thousand bits of erotic TF2 fan-fiction. Which exist. You'd better believe they exist. You have been warned.
DOTA Hero Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise
Not so much a 'parody' of the Potter Puppet Pals original as a straight copy with DOTA characters in it, this is still one of the more accomplished movies to come from that game. We just need another eighty or so instalments to cover the other characters, and I see no reason new players shouldn't have enough data to compete at professional level/troll like champions.
Heavy Doo, Where Are You?
I never understood "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" as a show title. Admittedly my memory is a little fuzzy about the actual cartoons, but I definitely remember Fred, Daphne and Velma doing most of the mystery-solving gruntwork, with Scooby's role being to blunder into helpful things. If you called him, you'd prevent him from doing that. The song makes no sense, is what I'm saying. This movie is more reasonable. If you had to fight Old Man Peterson, having a Gatling wielding Russian psychopath on hand definitely beats anything Scrappy Doo could serve up. Admittedly, so would a crouton.
Chell's life after Aperture isn't exactly unexplored territory, but this Exile Vilify backed slice is one of the more interestingly melancholic SFM movies so far. A little clunky in terms of animation, largely due to the poor Chell rig (at least one other movie opted to reskin Zoey instead of using it), but it makes up for it with a different kind of atmosphere to most and that lovely outdoor setting.
Those are our picks, but there are many more SFM movies out there. Have any particularly caught your attention, impressed you, or just made you laugh? Share their names below...
Sep 21, 2012
The Steam Workshop is coming to Left 4 Dead 2. That'll make it even easier for players to sample user created campaigns, but Valve are planning to take things a bit further and release an "expanded scripting tool" that will let modders create "deeper and more varied experiences inside of Left 4 Dead 2." That includes new rule sets that can be integrated into new campaigns, or traded as custom mutations through the workshop.
"To compliment the new access to maps, weapons, and items, we are also creating an expanded scripting tool to allow deeper and more varied experiences inside of Left 4 Dead 2," say the Left 4 Dead team on the Left 4 Dead 2 blog, though no further details are provided. Perhaps this'll take the form of an auto-update with a community spotlighted mutation of the week, but who knows. It might integrate a Spitter into your lounge for all I can guess. I really hope it doesn't do that.
The news heralds a change in this week's official mutation to a fresh one called Follow the Liter, which will only let survivors salvage a single can at any one time. This ought to focus the action a bit on those scattershot Scavenge mode maps.
Update: Oh yes, these bonus features are planned "also for Linux users as well starting in the middle of next month and rolling out from there." Woot!
Aug 20, 2012
The Saxxy Awards are back, giving budding film makers the opportunity to craft a masterpiece and win a Saxxy Award in Team Fortress 2. The winniest winner of the shortlist of category winners will be flown out to Valve for a sit down session with Valve's Source Filmmakers, which is a great prize because I don't know if you've ever tried it but flying is BRILLIANT. The Valve filmmaker folk are probably quite nice as well. Once there you'll have the chance to get your work "aired on GTTV's VGA preshow this December."
There are four categories, the most challenging of which is likely to be "Original Universe" which requires that all featured assets be custom made. There are other gongs available for best action, drama and comedy. All entries must be submitted between Nobember 1 and November 15. No sooner, no later.
That's one of a number of rules Valve have come up with to stop this thing getting out of hand and turning into a "who can make the best version of Homeward Bound using nothing but bits of the Pyro" competition, which nobody wants. NOBODY. Here are those rules.
Entries must be no longer than five minutes.
Each entry must be at least 720p.
All entries must be submitted using the Source Filmmaker's upload to YouTube™ and Steam Community menu option.
Only entries submitted between Nov. 1, 12:00 AM and Nov. 15, 12:00 AM GMT will be considered.
Voting begins Nov. 16.
Winners, selected by Valve from the community-chosen nominees, will be announced by Dec. 31, 2012
All co-creators must be finalized by submission deadline to be considered.
You are free to use any Valve IP.
If you use any non-Valve IP, you must be the copyright owner or have explicit permission from the owner.
Multiple submissions per person are fine.
Submissions must be free of advertisements.
Find out more on the Team Fortress 2 site. Note that you're free to use any of Valve's IPs. It'll be interesting to see if we get many Dota 2 entries.
It looks as though Valve are working on a proper follow up to the Source Engine they've been gradually improving over the course of the last decade. Valve Time have pulled numerous references to a "next-gen 'Source 2'" engine along with various "Source 2 tools" icons from the guts of the Source Film Maker.
Valve have previously played down the need for an entirely new version of Source, and have concentrated instead on updating the original version to keep up with modern engine tech. That's worked quite nicely so far, but if these references are correct, a more significant step up is on the way. Here are a few of the pulled strings referring to Source 2.
def setEngine( self, version=ENGINE.SOURCE ):
Set the engine version for the project, i.e. 'Source 2'
'''Return an str with the current engine version.
If key doesn't doesn't exist, assume 'Source', otherwise invalid -- assume next-gen 'Source 2'.'''
Exciting stuff. But it wouldn't be a post about Valve and the future without somebody saying something about Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Is the reason that it's taken so long that it's being built in a more advanced engine that will explode our minds when it's finally released? I have no idea. Here are the icons that Valve Time discovered. Look at that high fidelity hammer. Oooo.
Looks like it's about time to dive back into Valve's zombie apocalypse/gnome rescue/friendly fire simulator, Left 4 Dead 2. An update announced on the Left 4 Dead blog has added a finished version of the community made map, Cold Stream, and has opened up all mutations. These are custom rulesets created by Valve and the community which used to rotate every week or so that operate as tense and often ridiculous alternative game modes. Highlights include Taaannnkkk! which replaces all special infected in versus with Tanks, and Last Gnome on Earth, which requires survivors to rescue and protect Gnome Chompski on every map.
A bunch of tweaks have been made to Crash Course, Death Toll, Dead Air and Blood Harvest to crush exploits, and to celebrate the entire ordeal, Left 4 Dead 2 is on sale on Steam at 75% off. Absorb the latest round of tweaks in the patch notes below, and browse the many available mutations archived over on the Left 4 Dead wiki.
Patch notes, via Steam:
Updates to Left 4 Dead 2 have been released. The updates will be applied automatically when your Steam client is restarted. The major changes include:
- Made all mutations accessible from the main menu
Crash Course 1:
- Fixed survivors being able to climb into infected-only territory from the top of the white truck in the early alley.
- Survivors can no longer leave the map bounds near the riverfront.
- Closed off a shortcut method to bypass the howitzer event.
Crash Course 2:
- Survivors can no longer jump on the generators in the finale area.
Death Toll 1:
- Moved car near the tunnel entrance away from the drooping traffic light, as standing on parts of the car near the traffic signal could put you into a permanently stuck position.
- Moved a traffic sign that allowed survivors to climb the drooping traffic light prop up to the top of the tunnel entrance.
Death Toll 2:
- Added an infected ladder leading in to the upper pipe in the large drain room.
- Survivors should no longer be able to cross the bridge-lowering event before the bridge has fully lowered.
- Survivors should no longer be able to access the infected-only areas toward the end of the level.
- Survivors should no longer be able to leave the playable areas of the map from the areas beyond the saferoom.
Death Toll 3:
- Added "Checkpoint" flag to the nav square at the end of the intro saferoom to prevent versus rounds from starting when survivors stand next to the door.
- Removed a nav square by the next-level saferoom door to prevent infected players from standing there to prevent the round ending.
- Tweaked saferoom level transition trigger brushes to prevent infected players outside of the saferoom preventing the transition.
Death Toll 4:
- Players can no longer access the right-hand corner just outside the starting saferoom. This is to address a permanent-stuck spot when the saferoom door is opened.
- Survivors can no longer climb over the van in the ally leading to the onslaught area, which allowed them to skip most of the level.
- Survivors should no longer be able to leave the map/enter infected-only areas outside of the onslaught even street.
Death Toll 5:
- Made the roof of the picnic area inaccessible to survivors. This resolves an invincible spot.
- Players can no longer jump on the electric box prop facing the water on the side of the lakehouse.
Dead Air 1:
- Moved a bookshelf in front of the window in the second interior area (before the ladder climb) to prevent players from skipping parts of the level.
Dead Air 2:
- Move the trailer below the office building out of jumping range to prevent players skipping the offices.
Dead Air 3:
- Moved the fence and fence-climbing props at the entrance to the construction yard further back into the alleyway.
- Several tweaks to the area near the construction yard to prevent survivors from setting off the barricade fire event before they enter the event arena.
- Boarded up a window in the construction yard to address survivors accessing an invincible area.
- Survivors should no longer be able to jump over the barricade.
Dead Air 4:
- Infected players should no longer get stuck climbing over the rubble that divides the start of the map from the balcony leading to the escalator side .
Dead Air 5:
- Fixed a visual bug caused by a cube map being hidden inside of a prop.
Blood Harvest 1:
- Survivors should no longer be able to leave the map by jumping to the left toward the end of the rope bridge..
Blood Harvest 2:
- It is no longer possible for survivors to climb in the vent above the alarm room.
- Survivors can no longer stand on the horizontal pipes under the catwalk in the area following the alarm door event.
- The high pipes along the sides of the train tunnel are no longer accessible to survivors.
Blood Harvest 4:
- The roof of the starting safe room is no longer accessible to survivors..
- Survivors can no longer jump on top of the “Richardson Atlantic” building.
Blood Harvest 5:
-Removed some of the crossbeams in the hay storage building.
Cold Stream 1:
- AI infected can now access the roof of the watchtower.
- Survivors can no longer jump on top of the roof of the single-storey cabin at the far end of the area after the rope bridge.
Cold Stream 2:
- It should no longer be possible for survivors to jump up to the top of the tunnel entrance pipe near the start of the map.
- Survivors should no longer be able to jump over the fence on the bridge toward the end, skipping the barrel explosion event.
- Changed the M60 spawns into weapon_item_spawn to be more mutation friendly.
Cold Stream 3:
- The walls toward the back of the bridge (opposite of the direction players go to progress the level) are no longer accessible to survivors. This is to prevent survivors from getting into infected-only areas below the bridge, which they may not be able to escape from.
- Changed the M60 spawns into weapon_item_spawn to be more mutation friendly.
Cold Stream 4:
- Hooked up a quick conversation between the chopper pilot and the triggering survivor.
You love Steam sales. I love Steam sales. EA, however, don't love Steam sales. Just a few weeks ago their senior vice president made his opinion clear, claiming that they "cheapen" intellectual property. A few days ago the Origin Summer Sale kicked off anyway.
We asked Valve's director of business management, Jason Holtman, whether Steam sales have any affect on day-one purchases during last week's Develop conference. He doesn't agree with EA. Not even a little bit.
"If that’s what we thought was happening, or that’s what we saw happening, we wouldn't do it. Actually, all the data is contrary to that. A promotion is not a policy; a promotion is just a feature to give people more value," said Jason, speaking to PC Gamer.
"It’s not as if a 75% offer or a 50% off sale at some point in time cannibalises a sale that would have happened earlier, it’s just not true. We’re actually seeing both of them growing. We don’t see one cannibalising the other. If we did, we wouldn't do it." he continued.
Steam sales go from the sublime to the ridiculous-ly cheap. There's even one going on right now. Check out this real time evidence of a Steam summer sale in progress. It's a wonderful time for bargains.
"We put Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal 2 on sale. If we thought that was killing our franchise, or hurting the value of games, or hurting the revenue we could generate as a company, we wouldn't do it," continues Jason. "We've even gone so far as to give away Portal for free a couple of times. Whole days where it's not free for a day, it's just free."
Valve's sales still weren't dented: "We looked at this amazing data afterwards. The day after the sales were exactly the same, if not more," he says.
"People aren't making a decision thinking 'I'm always going to wait for perfect pricing.' There are time elements to it, there are fan elements to it, there are value elements to it. People sometimes like paying the full amount on the first day because they want to play it now and they want to be a fan.
"Those features you’re talking about - like the sales - we just think of them as customer features. They're not policies or mandates. Things like this are super smart: this would be fun; people would play this game; they’d pick it up if they didn’t have it; they’d tell their friends about it."
For more from Jason, check our story on how TF2 inspired Greenlight. We've also posted his views on Greenlight's rating system.
Thanks to Dan Griliopoulos for the image.
VG247 are reporting that Valve have finally announced a release date for Left 4 Dead 2's Cold Stream campaign. Now I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "But Tom! Isn't that campaign out already?" To which I reply "How can I hear what you're thinking, am I telepathic now?" But also "Nope, it's just been in beta testing. For a year." Which is a fairly speedy release in Valve time.
Cold Steam has spent the last year in community testing, with Valve gathering data on how the players perform on the map and adjusting it accordingly. But it's technically never been released until now, or rather until July 24th.
Assuming other Valve projects follow this release pattern, we estimate we'll be able to review Dota 2 sometime around 2014. In fact the truth is Half Life: Episode 3 was actually finished in 2009, but Valve feel it needs another six years of testing to be sure they got it right.*
*Probably not the truth.