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: