Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Much as Valve has previously done with Day of Defeat: Source and Counter-Strike: Source, the developer yesterday launched an opt-in public beta program for Team Fortress 2, letting players test changes which may be rolled out to the regular game.

While the initial release focuses on balance tweaks--affecting Natascha and other slowing weapons--plus a few map changes, Valve notes that the beta program may also be used for "testing new technologies without the risk of breaking the game" and "running higher level, game-wide experiments (like doubling player health)."

Valve previously held a TF2 closed beta program with TF2 clans, focused on balancing the class-based shooter for competitive play. The forum for this new beta has separate feedback sections for 'public' and competitive play, showing attention to both.

This beta uses a completely separate installation of TF2, so you can still play the regular version when you please. If you own TF2, you can enter the beta by moseying on over to the Steam client's Library section and installing "Team Fortress 2 Beta" from your list.

Here's what's in the initial beta release:

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Tycho Brahe's watch, a new gun for the Heavy and other new Team Fortress 2 items will be unlockable in Poker Night at the Inventory, Telltale and Valve have announced.

In special rounds of Telltale's cross-over poker game, players will use personal items as ante, which you will unlock as TF2 items if you win the hand. The four players--Max of Sam & Max, Penny Arcade's Tycho, Homestar Runner's Strong Bad and TF2's Heavy--each have their own prized possessions to toss into the pot, as listed below:

  • "The Iron Curtain" weapon, for use by the Heavy in TF2

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Valve has kicked off Team Fortress 2's Second Annu-Hell Scream Fortress Hauntedead Halloween Special on PC and Mac, a ghoulish festival celebrated with new maps, masks, items, achievements and a rampaging Horseless Headless Horsemann.

My own adventures with the Horseless Headless Horsemann.

At the centre of the festivities is Mann Manor, a macabre 'attack and defend' map that's festooned with exploding pumpkins and home to the Horseless Headless Horsemann. The spectre of Silas Mann, the Horsemann spawns seemingly at random on control points to chase after players with his bloody great chopper. If he's after you, you'll need to melee an enemy player to pass the curse on. Helping defeat the Horsemann, without dying, will earn you a pumpkin head hat

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Shacknews - Brian Leahy
With the launch of Team Fortress 2's Mann-Conomy, which brought paid items to the game, Valve also allowed users to submit and sell their own created items.

Five people were able to participate in the first round of community content sales and Valve has sent them checks for the "first two weeks of sales, with royalties ranging from $39,000 to $47,000 per person." Yikes!

"At a time when content creators are struggling with changing markets and evolving technologies, the Steam community is sending a clear message with these checks," said Valve president Gabe Newell

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Shacknews - Brian Leahy
Valve has added an in-game store to Team Fortress 2 where players will be able to purchase items, previously available by playing the game, crafting, and trading. The update is not yet live, but here is a rundown of what will be contained in the patch.

The purchases will be made with funds in a player's Steam Wallet--now we know why that was added--and players will be able to add any amount they wish to their bankroll. Funds in the Wallet can be used anywhere in Steam to make regular purchases as well.

Item sets with bonuses will also be added for five classes

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Shacknews - Jeff Mattas
A couple of new happenings, in the form of a contest and a themed costume update for the Soldier class, have been revealed on the official Team Fortress 2 blog today.

First are hats in need of names. "Compete with other fans to write fictional missives about the glory of your favorite TF2 hat, with the prize of getting your words right into TF2 itself," explains the TF2 Team. "The text will show up in the item descriptions, so it should be short and fun." Experts in chapeau nomenclature can participate on the contest's Steam forum page.

Apparently, the TF2 Team is also a big fan of Team 17's Worms franchise. To celebrate the PC release of Worms Reloaded this week, those who purchase the game before Thursday, September 2, will also get humorous (though purely cosmetic) Worms-themed wardrobe adjustment for the Soldier class in Team Fortress 2. The update changes the Soldier's stock grenades into "Holy Hand Grenades," of both Worms and Monty Python fame, and also gives him a stylish helmet with a worm on it. Check out the top-story image to see for yourself.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Around twenty new items will be added in a Team Fortress 2 update next month, Valve's Robin Walker has told PC Gamer, as well as the ability to trade items with your chums.

The winning items from modelling community site Polycount's TF2 pack contest--such as the soldier pack pictured left--will all be added in the update. Walker reveals that another Polycount pack entry, not named as a winner, will also be added as a surprise--"now not a surprise," he realises, adding "Fail."

The Polycount items will be more unique than most other community-made items, Walker explains. "We definitely have lowballed those in the past, in that we've chosen something that's more underpowered than overpowered, because we can just make it a little better later. The Polycount items have had a lot more time on them as a whole, so, we're doing more interesting stuff there than in general we have with the other items."

Valve expects to release the update next month, though I believe we're bound by the laws of the video games media to point out that anything goes in Valve Time.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Video games should be recognised as "services" rather than mere products, according to online gaming consultant Thomas Bidaux's talk at the Develop 2010 conference, as good service can turn even a "really, really bad game into a great user experience."

Team Fortress 2--"a very good service."

"At the moment, the majority of games are sold as products... like a book" Bidaux said, but as games are intangiable experiences he insists they are "consumed as services." "The game experience goes beyond gameplay," he explained, encompassing everything from installers, registration and patching to payment and community support.

Team Fortress 2 was named as boasting "a very strong service." Developer Valve continues to issue sizeable updates two years after launch

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Shacknews - Xav de Matos
Valve has finally released the long awaited, and incessantly teased, Engineer update for Team Fortress 2. Included in the update are four new maps: Thunder Mountain, Hightower, Upward and (the "community built") ColdFront as well as 35 Engineer-based achievements, among a slew of other bonuses.

Engineer fans will have new weapons and items in their arsenal, including the wrench-replacing "Gunslinger" that allows engineers to build mini-sentries, the sentry-controlling "Wrangler" and the devastating shotgun replacement, the "Frontier Justice."

Today's Team Fortress 2 update (which will automatically download after a Steam restart) adds, changes and fixes the following:
    Team Fortress 2 -- Engineer Update
  • Added The Frontier Justice.
  • Added The Wrangler.
  • Added The Gunslinger.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
[Update: 4:05pm] Shacknews tipster Obesity discovered another hidden image on the Engineer subsite (found by clicking the bullseye) featuring a metallic claw hand, dubbed "Handyman" in the image URL.

[Original Story] Valve continues to teasingly dribble tidbits of information on Team Fortress 2's Engineer class update, revealing another new Payload map and a brutal new community-made wrench replacement plus what appears to be a transportable turret.

A page hidden--as Valve love to do--on the Engineer Update subsite shows what certainly appears to be an engineer packing up a turret and moving it to a new location.

Taking a turret on a trip and the map pl_hightower.

A gruesome wrench replacement by TF2 player 'WatchMaker' will also arrive with the update, though Valve notes that this "isn't the only melee slot item the Engineer's getting...just a bonus!" A guitar is looking a likely candidate for the true melee slot item.

The Engineer Update is due to be released on PC and Mac later today.

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