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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
The Mac version of Left 4 Dead is now available, fulfilling Valve's promise to launch the Mac version before Halloween. It supports Steam Play, which means that owners of the PC version will snag a shiny Mac copy if they are equipped with an Apple machine.

It also means that Mac players will be able to play on the same servers as the PC players. To celebrate the launch, gamers can pick-up Left 4 Dead for $9.99 (50% off) or bundled with Left 4 Dead 2 for the low, low price of $14.99--though not as low as the previous sale.

Left 4 Dead 2 has been available on the Mac since the launch of "The Sacrifice" DLC. All Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 DLC is included for free on the PC because Valve is like that.

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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 - Jeff Mattas
Left 4 Dead's new DLC, 'The Sacrifice,' launched today, and in a move that's as much awesome as it is likely to cause some Xbox RAGE, Valve is selling both titles on Steam for a deep discount. The Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2 went live today as well, for the same ultra-low price.

If you still haven't experienced the joys of shooting the undead with friends, the latest Steam sale is an awesome excuse. For the duration of the sale, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 can be purchased for a mere $6.79 each, or bundled together at an even deeper discount of $10.19. And of course, you get all of the delicious DLC with the PC and Mac versions for no extra charge, including 'The Sacrifice.'

Those playing the game on the Xbox 360 are also able to download 'The Sacrifice,' but it's 560 Microsoft Points ($7). In fact, when compared to the current Steam sale, it's more expensive to buy all of the console-based series' DLC than it is to purchase both full games (which include all DLC for free) for either PC or Mac.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Valve is hoping to release the original Left 4 Dead on Mac "in time to celebrate Halloween," the developer revealed yesterday.

There's also a formal announcement that Left 4 Dead 2's Mac launch will coincide with the arrival of the L4D and L4D2 DLC 'The Sacrifice' on October 5--as has been known for a while.

'The Sacrifice' will bring updates to both of Valve's zombie shooters. A new campaign will arrive in the original L4D for all modes, set before the previous DLC 'The Passing' and showing Louis and the gang's journey South. The sequel, meanwhile, will score both the new campaign and the opportunity to play as the original survivors in the L4D campaign 'No Mercy' with all the L4D2 weapons, trinkets and baubles.

The Sacrifice will be free on PC and Mac but cost 560 Microsoft Points ($7) on Xbox 360. Do have a gander at The Sacrifice's grim teaser trailer, if you missed it last week.

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Shacknews - Xav de Matos
The latest downloadable content for Left 4 Dead 2 (and presumably last for the original) is set to launch next week. "The Sacrifice" DLC follows the original Left 4 Dead cast as they journey South, losing one of their own team members along the way.

While there is one real conclusion to the story, as evidenced in the previous DLC "The Passing," players will have the opportunity to re-write history and select which team member will fall in "The Sacrifice." It won't change the franchise's canon, but it'll make you look totally badass.

Watch the video on Shackvideo.

"The Sacrifice" will be available for free for PC users and for 560MS Points ($7) on the Xbox 360 when it launches on October 5.

While Valve has kept silent on a previously reported Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2, the trailer lists "OS X" as one of the DLC launch platforms. Looks like it's happening after all.

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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 - Brian Leahy
Valve has confirmed that 'The Sacrifice', DLC for both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, will be released on October 5 for the PC and Xbox 360. It will be free for both games on the PC, while the Xbox 360 DLC will cost 560 MS Points ($7).

"'The Sacrifice' is the prequel to 'The Passing,' and takes place from the L4D Survivors' perspective as they make their way South," reads the press release. "In addition to advancing the story, 'The Sacrifice' introduces a new style finale featuring "Sacrificial Gameplay" where players get to decide who will give their life so the others may live."

In L4D, 'The Sacrifice' will include the campaign and maps playable in Versus and Survival. In L4D2, the DLC will yield the same campaign, which is played using the L4D characters, and the first game's 'No Mercy' campaign as an added bonus. Both campaigns will include L4D2 weapons and Special Infected. The maps will be playable in Versus, Survival, and Scavenge modes, as well.

PC Gamer, which correctly placed the DLC's release on October 5, also reported that 'The Sacrifice' would launch alongside the Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2, but Valve made no mention of this in its release. Shacknews has asked Valve for more information on a Mac launch for L4D2 or L4D.

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