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Shacknews - Steve Watts

"Return to Ravenholm," aka "Half-Life 2: Episode 4," was a Half-Life 2 episode set in the spooky abandoned town. It's been canceled for a few years now, but we've gotten a better look at the game that could have been thanks to some new concept art and animation tests. It was in development at Dishonored developer Arkane Studios around 2006, but was ultimately scrapped.

Valvetime revealed the new shots, with Rock Paper Shotgun's Craig Pearson confirming their authenticity. According to Valve's Marc Laidlaw, the project had been canceled because the defining qualities of Ravenholm (headcrabs and zombies) were feeling "played out," and the game's placement in the timeline of the other episodes was a "creative constraint." But if you're curious to see the small bits remaining of the project, check out the video below.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Double Fine's The Cave is right around the corner, even with the still-nebulous "January" release listed. But it's close enough to be available for pre-order on Steam, and Valve has partnered to promote it the best way it knows how: Team Fortress 2 goodies.

The game is available for $14.99, and a pre-purchase on Steam nets you some items to play dress up like the game's Hillbilly character. It shows off these items on the Engineer, because let's face it, it's not exactly a stretch for him.

Pre-orders are up on other digital distributors too, minus the TF2 items but some have other perks. Green Man Gaming, for example, has it for $12.00 using the code GMG20-PJFEW-Y16HK, and The Cave activates on Steam anyway.

The game is also coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U, but like the PC version, exact dates haven't been given. This will mark Ron Gilbert's first game since joining up with Double Fine, and our own Jeff Mattas was appropriately impressed when he saw the game last year. Check out our preview for more details.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Team Fortress 2 is ringing in the holidays in its own inimitable fashion: with robots and weaponry. The "Mecha Update" introduces a Mecha-Engineer to the Mann vs Machine mode, a new MvM map, and three new weapons.

The update includes a "Big Rock" map illustrates why the Mecha-Engie is such a deadly adversary. It's a big map that gives the robot horde a much larger area to cover, but enemy teleporters will get them to you much faster. New tools for the job include the Rescue Ranger (Engineer), Loose Cannon (Demoman), and Vaccinator (Medic). Finally, the holiday season brings back last year's "Naughty" and "Nice" crates, full of yule-tide weapons and winter-themed items, respectively. They'll be available until January 3.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Santa Tux has visited early this year, dragging an open beta version of Steam's Linux client behind his Gentoo-powered sleigh. Now, all who've embraced the free software revolution can try and test Valve's crack at making Linux a viable gaming platform. Now, stop me if you've heard this before, but next year will surely be The Year of the Linux Desktop.

The beta client installer is over here. It includes a Linux version of Team Fortress 2, but the Steam store already stocks a fair few games with Linux versions so you'll have plenty to play.

Gabe Newell has said that it's looking at releasing its own Linux PC hardware for living rooms once Steam Linux and the sofa-oriented Big Picture mode are in fit shape.

Hit up Valve's announcement for details on where to report bugs and all that jazz.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The Black Mesa mod is a remarkable accomplishment, remaking Half-Life in the Source engine, and now a mapper building upon their work has remade another slice of Valve history. Black Mesa: Uplink remakes HL's classic Uplink demo, which curiously for a demo was a new slice based upon levels cut from the game during development. And now that's available in shiny Source-o-vision.

Black Mesa: Uplink is out now on its ModDB page and here on Shacknews. To play, you'll need to own a modern Source game on Steam and have the Black Mesa mod installed. Mapper Michael 'Hezus' Jansen made Uplink over three months, building upon the assets and eight years of work from Black Mesa.

Set roughly around Half-Life's Lambda Core chapter, Uplink sees Gordon Freeman on a mission to activate a radio antenna so people can escape, only an awful lot of soldiers, mutants, aliens, radiation leaks and jumping puzzles are in his way.

"I've recreated something people played 13 years ago, that means it's intertwined with nostalgic feelings," Jansen said in the release announcement. "Have I recreated it according to their past experience? Have I changed too much? Have I changed too little? All I know is that I threw away all illusions that I could please everyone with this remake, right when I started the project. I made it as I saw fit and I hope the commentary tracks will shed some light on my choices."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Valve has taken the next logical step for Team Fortress 2's bustling hat-based economy, by introducing actual money into the equation. The Steam "Community Market" entered beta today, a test bed that allows users to exchange Steam Wallet funds for items instead of simply trading.

The beta only works with TF2, and even then only with consumable items, but Valve promises it will be available with other titles next year. You can show off your items on the Community and sell or trade them to other Steam users. According to a FAQ, all sales are final. Steam keeps a 15% transaction fee during the beta period, which may increase in the future. During the beta, sales are restricted to 200 per calendar year, starting with January 1. Presumably you won't reach 200 before then.

"With over a half million trades made every week, the trading system has been very successful," said Valve's Tony Paloma. "Extending game economies beyond trades and giving players a way to turn gameplay into funds for new items and games is a key component for moving that success forward."

So to summarize: Team Fortress 2 started with clothing items, which led to barter and trade, and finally the advent of currency. Use this handy metaphor to teach your kids about the development of economics in western civilization, because it happened exactly the same way. That progression is almost definitely because of this guy.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Now that Steam's all couch-friendly thanks to Big Picture mode, it'd be nice if more games were reconfigured for slouching. Oh, what luck! Just after I write that sentence apropos of nothing, I notice that Valve has released a Portal 2 patch enabling split-screen co-op in its puzzle 'em up.

Portal 2's console edition came with split-screen co-op options but it was never officially supported on PC. Cunning fans had managed to tweak and cajole the game into supporting split-screen, but poking around in config files is not for everyone. Now, all you need to do is play with two controllers in Big Picture mode, which is easy enough.

The patch notes have a little more information, and details two fixes too.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Team Fortress 2's bustling hat-based economy is getting another rare addition, thanks to the launch of Scribblenauts Unlimited. Pre-ordering the game through Steam before it launches next week will get you a choice of Maxwell or Lily's rooster hats, which honestly aren't that much sillier than the other hat options in TF2.

Maxwell's comes in red and Lily's in pink. The hats will be available as soon as you pre-order Scribblenauts, so you don't have to wait for its November 20 release date to don your rooster cap. Scribblenauts Unlimited is also planned for the Wii U, but of course, you don't get to wear a ridiculous looking hat that way.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Valve is adding another community campaign to its official Left 4 Dead 2 servers, "Warcelona." It joins the other recent campaign, Cold Stream, but the bulk of today's update is news on how the new Workshop features will simplify finding campaigns to play.

The L4D2 Blog says the Workshop features are about to enter private beta this weekend. Workshop users will get to click a button to subscribe to a new map like Warcelona. The announcement doesn't detail when the Workshop might go live for all users, but it does invite players to stop by for a "meet the creators" event. It will kick off on Saturday at noon PST in the Official Left 4 Dead Game Group.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Steam, Valve's popular portal for PC games, is now available on Linux. The beta client is currently available for Ubuntu 12.04, with more OS variants to be supported in the future. Valve's Frank Crockett explained that "an overwhelming majority of beta applicants have reported they're running the Ubuntu distro of Linux," but Valve plans on supporting additional "popular distros," prioritized by user feedback.

The beta client will become available to "a widening group of users," but the first round is currently reserved for those that have already responded to participate. "Once the team has seen a solid level of stability and performance across a variety of systems, the Steam for Linux client will become available to all users of Steam."

To coincide with the launch of Steam for Linux, Valve has released Team Fortress 2 for the platform. Valve says that approximately two dozen other games are also available to play, but the list is currently inaccessible.

The Linux client also includes support for Big Picture mode. It's all part of Valve's larger bet on Linux as a platform, as the company openly criticized Microsoft's new Windows 8 OS.

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