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Videogames have bugs. This is a fact of life. Some are obvious and easy to squash, and others are a little trickier to nail down. And then there are bugs like the one Valve fixed yesterday in Team Fortress 2. According to this Engadget report, it was around for a full decade—since TF2 was released in 2007—before it was noticed last month by TF2 Classic developer Nicknine, and reported by Redditor sigsegv_.
The bug occurred when a player selected the Scout, Heavy, or Sniper as their first class upon joining a server. After that, switching to Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy on the same server would leave their local and server-side animations slightly out of sync. It worked the other way as well: Beginning as Soldier, Pyro, Demo, Engineer, Medic, or Spy, and then switching to Scout, Heavy, or Sniper would have the same effect.
It sounds harmless enough, but the practical impact was most definitely not. As you can see in the video, the mismatch between local and server-side hitboxes meant that shots that should have hit sometimes would not. And once it happened, players were stuck: Switching back and forth wouldn't clear the error, nor would dying or going to spectator mode.
"It's because the player models for scout/heavy/sniper have their pose parameters listed in one order, while the player models for soldier/pyro/demo/engie/medic/spy have their pose parameters listed in a slightly different order (
move_y swapped)," sigsegv_ explained. "And it's also worth pointing out that in MvM [Mann vs Machine], the bots re-use the same 22 player slots over and over: when a robot dies, that player is switched to spectator, and then when it's time for another robot to spawn, the player is switched back onto blue team and changed to the class that the new robot should be. So, in effect, different MvM robots are somewhat equivalent to a group of human players who die, change class, and then respawn; which means that they were also susceptible to the bug."
It's not a huge bug, as evidenced by the fact that it went unnoticed for ten years, but that's also what makes it so notable now. TF2 is not your average ten-year-old game: It's still one of the top five games on Steam, with tens of thousands of people blasting away at each other 24 hours a day, and is supported by a very active modding community. Yet somehow, this bug, which impacts the game at its most fundamental level—did you shoot the guy or not?—has slipped through the cracks until now. In a way, it's almost a shame that Valve fixed it.
The full list of changes included in the latest TF2 update is below.
Although skin gambling in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has been around for a number of years, last year saw Valve crack down on a series of sites—issuing cease and desist orders to several gambling outlets for using their Steam account for commercial purposes. Valve is now turning its head towards its other major online shooter, Team Fortress 2.
If you're unfamiliar with how skin gambling works, Evan's detailed overview in relation to CS:GO is worth checking out as it's a similar process in TF2. At this stage, Valve hasn't revealed its next move beyond stating its intentions.
As featured on the Team Fortress 2 website, Valve released the following statement:
"In July of last year we outlined our position on gambling web sites, specifically noting that Valve has no business relationship with these sites. At that time we also began blocking many CSGO gambling accounts. You can view the original post here.
"More recently, some gambling web sites started leveraging TF2 items. Today we began the process of blocking TF2 gambling accounts as well. We recommend you don’t trade with these sites."
Following last year's crackdown, a number of shuttered CS:GO gambling sites suggested the way in which they operated was entirely legal, and that they'd relaunch following talks with Valve. A cursory Google search would suggest this has not been the case, which of course sends a pretty clear message to those still operating under the radar.
Smissmas, the magical time of year when men with big guns, questionable morality, and an unusual commitment to a two-tone color scheme are given all-new, all-festive ways to inflict violence upon one another, has once again come to Team Fortress 2!. This year's magical event features a slew of new Festivizer weapons, 17 winter-themed community cosmetics, and—just in time for the holiday season—three new taunts.
Apart from the new stuff, the holiday update will also make some improvements to Casual matches and autobalancing. At the end of Casual matches, players will now automatically be formed up into a new match with the same players and teams, and will be given the opportunity to vote on which map is played. A new autobalancing system will encourage players to switch sides when necessary by offering bonus XP to volunteer turncoats.
And of course there will be stuff to buy in the Mann Co. Store, much of it on sale. It doesn't look to be the biggest Smissmas update of all time, but then again, as Valve says, giving people gifts can bite you in the ass. Maybe you should just be thankful for what you get. Speaking of which, you can get the details at teamfortress.com.
Hero shooters are the latest gaming trend, team-based competitive multiplayer shooters featuring objective-driven game modes and large casts of colorfully designed characters sporting fantastical weapons and abilities. That s a serviceable but still somewhat shortsighted definition. The hero shooters we have today already cover a range of styles and goals. They re all shooters, so we see a lot of overlap in how they actually play, but each one approaches things differently and has something distinct at its core.
Basically, hero shooters are like the Powerpuff Girls, so let s talk Chemical X.
We ll start with Blizzard s Overwatch, seeing as how it has become the poster child for the genre. Overwatch is popular for many reasons, but primarily because of its heroes and their diverse playstyles and personalities. Game director Jeff Kaplan said it best : the heroes are the content of the game.
More than any other hero shooter, Overwatch puts individual heroes first, not overarching classes. This wasn t always the case, though. In an April interview with , Kaplan said the Overwatch team started with a class-first perspective. It was lead hero designer Geoff Goodman who eventually proposed making as many classes as we could come up with and simply turning them into highly specialized heroes.
Overwatch heroes are roughly grouped into four classes, but hero-specific strengths are stressed more than in, say, Team Fortress 2. In Overwatch, you pick a hero based on who your team needs and who the situation calls for, whereas in TF2 you have more room to choose a class based solely on how you like to play, illustrating the subtle difference between team-based and class-based gameplay. A skilled Heavy can fill several roles and always be useful, but you can only do so many things with Roadhog or Reinhardt, which brings us to hero switching.
Instead of making individual heroes more flexible, Overwatch made all hero switching available on the fly. You can choose from several suitable heroes in any situation, but you can t take the same approach with all of them, at least not effectively. Reaper and Tracer, for example, are both offense heroes who can make short work of enemies, but they play very differently and have different counters.
This creates the type of rock-paper-scissors meta we see in MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm, which is a noticeable influence on the way Overwatch heroes interact, both as allies and as enemies. There s also a bit of fighting game spirit to Overwatch. The way they use huge casts to segment fundamentally similar gameplay forms an interesting parallel with games like Street Fighter V and Tekken 7, which also live and die by their rosters.
Heroes are obviously central to all hero shooters, but careful character design is of unmatched importance to Overwatch because each of its heroes must not only serve a unique purpose but also mesh well with tightly clustered teams. Everything starts there, and anything that encroaches upon the fun hero gameplay, , is swiftly changed. Furthermore, Kaplan told in July, maps and modes are quite deliberately designed to promote hero interaction by bringing teams together. This lines up with : "if and when we release a new game mode in the future, it will be about teams pushing on a single objective.
At the opposite end of the spectrum and it is a spectrum, this genre-hopping blur of a genre we have Gearbox Software s Battleborn, which doubles down on MOBA elements while turning Overwatch s character design on its head. Overwatch is about selecting and re-selecting the most suitable hero, but Battleborn is about building a hero that does what you want.
In Battleborn, hero abilities aren t static. Heroes bring the same skills into every round, but through the game s helix system of A/B upgrades, these can be tweaked to fit the play style you prefer. Characters fall into designated classes like healer and skirmisher, but they can still wield a mix of offensive, defensive or supportive abilities, just not all at the same time. So, rather than which hero to play, the question becomes how to play your hero.
You can further customize heroes through gear which augments stats like cooldown reduction and maximum health. Gear functions like the items in Dota and League of Legends: earn currency and buy pieces as the match progresses, with the added kick and progression of collecting gear through loot boxes and, from your collection, building character-specific loadouts. The influence of MOBAs is even more obvious in Battleborn s waves of minions and its base-destroying incursion game mode.
This should also sound familiar to Borderlands fans. Tailoring skill trees to suit different play styles? Boosting your most relevant stats with equipment? Hoarding gear? That s a day in the life of a Vault Hunter if I ve ever heard it. And come to think of it, Alani could pass as a sister siren to Borderlands 2 s Maya. There s plenty of Pandora in Battleborn, that s for sure, just as Overwatch s focus on individual hero characters can be traced back to Warcraft.
Beyond prominent MOBA elements, Battleborn brings some promising ideas to the still-developing hero shooter genre. For starters, it has a story mode. It isn t a particularly spellbinding tale (though the stellar opening cinematic helps) but it does provide welcome context for the game s world and the motivations of its heroes, not to mention a more in-depth tutorial and testing ground. Meltdown, Battleborn s take on payloads, is also noteworthy. In it, teams defend their minions as they march toward the goal and try stop enemy minions from doing the same. This means players have two objectives and can choose to defend or attack in every round, which ties into the game s split hero development.
Overwatch and Battleborn alone illustrate some of the balancing acts hero shooters have to manage. Through the strict limitations it places on game modes and character abilities, Overwatch gains the freedom to create characters like Mercy and Symmetra, who aren t at all suited for offense roles. Battleborn is all about customization, so it s possible for players to consistently play the hero they re most attached to rather than the hero their team needs right now. There are pros and cons to each approach: I can t see incursion working in Overwatch, but Battleborn heroes tend to run together a bit, and there s no doubt as to who s winning the sales race. Somewhere between these two extremes lies Paladins, Hi-Rez Studios free-to-play contender. Lead designer Rory Drybear Newbrough described Paladins as half shooter, half MOBA , and the current state of the game backs him up.
Although still in beta, Paladins foundation is well established, including its much-vaunted deck system. For each hero, you can build equippable decks of five cards which, once acquired mid-match, buff various abilities and help fine-tune your play style. It isn t as open-ended as Battleborn s helix system, but that s not necessarily a bad thing. The goal of decks, Newbrough said in a recent interview with , is to give players multiple build options without warping characters to the extent that they are difficult to identify or play around. This preserves the concept of instantly recognizable characters a cornerstone of hero shooters since Team Fortress Classic while creating greater room for player choice.
Paladins also pursues new combinations through its heroes, which, , are predominantly rooted in the studio s own Global Agenda despite similarities to Overwatch. Some heroes overlap more than others, but even familiar abilities can be interesting when rearranged. For instance, Androxus wields a defensive deflection ability, generous jumps, a six-shooter revolver and a rocket-powered ultimate. Similar abilities are seen in Overwatch but the combination is novel, and Paladins is not devoid of originality. As , Ying offers a good example of how to combine turrets and teleportation in a way that s powerful and satisfying.
Even so, and even for a beta, Paladins has yet to hit its stride. Everything checks out on paper: it takes inspiration from the most successful hero shooter yet, the biggest genre in esports and lessons learned from Global Agenda. It s also free, which is a good thing to be in an increasingly competitive market. The trouble is that it doesn t yet have an identity of its own. Overwatch is a dynamic team-based FPS, and Battleborn, while a bit of a commercial flop, is firmly a first-person MOBA with added objectives. Paladins isn t quite there yet. It seems to know what it s made of but not what it wants to be, and in this it echoes the state of the hero shooter genre as a whole.
The good news is that the concern is not what hero shooters can t do, but what they haven t done so far. Creating new and interesting heroes is great, but they stand the best chance of finding an audience if they do something we haven t seen in hero shooters before. The only guiding principle seems to be to build game modes that intuitively support your heroes abilities, something Overwatch and Battleborn both managed despite being wildly different. There s no limit on what those game modes can be, only on what type of heroes suit them.
Overwatch makes a good argument for hero-driven design, and Battleborn shows that unconventional elements can be folded in without upsetting the core FPS gameplay loop. More importantly, Overwatch s 22 heroes can t do everything, nor can Battleborn s 25. Meanwhile, Paladins is still trying to figure out what its heroes are best at, something its forthcoming new mode, which Newbrough as a co-op experience against challenging AI, may answer.
This is perhaps the most valuable lesson for budding hero shooters like Gigantic, Lawbreakers, Battlecry, Dirty Bomb and who knows how many games to come. I don t want to see this genre become a race to dethrone Overwatch by way of character design. That s a loser s market, and hero shooters have the potential to revive and improve so many game types. It s all a matter of finding a niche and creating a good-sized roster of heroes who really synergize with it.
For one, objective-based multiplayer goes way beyond 'defend the thing and push the thing', or in Paladins case, 'defend the thing then push the thing'. Where s the fast-paced capture the flag hero shooter that promotes mobility and map awareness using heroes couched in creative movement? Lawbreakers definitely has a shot at filling that slot, but it often feels like more of an arena shooter that happens to have five classes which is fine, by the way. The point is, CTF is another classic game mode that could benefit immensely from a broad cast explicitly engineered with it in mind.
Then there s the big, white elephant that seemingly nobody is talking about: where is the hero shooter that shamelessly apes the original Star Wars: Battlefront? With droidekas, shock troops, engineers and plenty more unique classes, it s already half a hero shooter. Just imagine a modern spiritual successor, divorced from the tapestries of Star Wars but informed by the years of MOBA refinement on display in Battleborn. Sprawling, ever-changing battlegrounds peppered with command posts and crawling with NPC squadrons led by heroes I have a dream!
Future hero shooters should also consider options outside PvP. Players can work as a team without fighting other players, and PvE-focused games like Left 4 Dead are crying out for hero shooter cousins. Overwatch proved this in its recent dalliance with horde mode, the Junkenstein s Revenge brawl. As our own Evan Lahti said, because Overwatch doesn t have the maps or heroes to support it. Where is the hero shooter that does?
For once, the bewildering vagueness of the term hero shooter can be called a positive thing. This cockamamy genre could become a nearly boundless formula for reinvigoration, a way to explore and experience familiar game modes from a refreshing new perspective via dozens of fun characters.
Team Fortress? More like Scream Fortr oh, I see Valve already did that, as it's the name of TF2's annual Halloween event. Joe brought the slightly disappointing news that there would be no all-new giant spookathon this year; instead, the game is getting a few new titbits, while all the old Scream Fortresses will be returning, as with last year.
The TF blog announces that Scream Fortress VIII has just kicked off, bringing with it "three new Halloween maps! All classic Scream Fortress Maps! All-new contracts! New taunts! And a Creepy Crawly Case with the chance to get our newest unholy Halloween creation: a taunt Unusualifier!" Yeah, that's right, an Unusualifier look it up in your Lexinomicon.
What's more, for the duration of Scream Fortress VIII, "all unusual cosmetics that you unbox from any case or crate will have a Halloween 2016 unusual effect, and the chances of receiving an unusual cosmetic across all cases, even old ones, will be DOUBLED," says Valve. Double-things are almost always good news whoever heard of Single Fine, for example?
After six years of consecutive harrowing Team Fortress 2 Halloween events, Valve took last year off to work on its then new Invasion update. It seems the same is true this year, as the developer is instead "working on something even better."
Similar to last year, every prior Scream Fortress event will briefly return including 2015's Merasmissions while a new Pyro Pack, improvements to Comp Mode, a new update, a new campaign, community maps, and a new taunt are but a few of the things TF2 is introducing to ensure All Hallows' Eve doesn't pass us by.
In typical Team Fortress fashion, here's some weird words taken from the game's blog:
"And it wouldn t be a Halloween pre-announcement blog post if we didn t scare most of you TO DEATH. For instance: What if just now you heard the rattling moon-lit sound of a SKELETON? No, nothing? Everybody still alive? Okay, but what if that sound was coming from INSIDE YOUR OWN BODY? Because there s a SKELETON in there RIGHT NOW? Oh, you already knew that, did you? Well, what if we were to tell you it s STEVE BUSCEMI S SKELETON?
"How did it get INSIDE you? What did he do with YOUR skeleton? Why don t you ask him, because he s RIGHT BEHIND YOU! No, look down! Farther! Because he s just a puddle of flesh with two BULGING EYEBALLS staring up at you! And a SNAGGLE-TOOTH! That s right, you just BODY-SHAMED STEVE BUSCEMI! Because it was YOU writing this blog post the WHOLE TIME! AWOOOOO!"
Make of that what you will. No exact date just yet, however you'll be able to revisit your favourite TF2 Halloween events at some stage "next week."
The Church in the Darkness plays like top down Hitman-lite in a 1970s religious cult. Your character decides to check in on a relative and infiltrates the sect to figure out how they're doing and what's really going on at church camp.
You navigate buildings and avoid the scrutiny of the cultists by staying out of sight, but unlike most stealth games, they won't get suspicious if you're in their line of sight, only if you get too close. By investigating the buildings around camp and searching for supplies, you'll find tools to help out with the denser parts of camp. For instance, I found a worker outfit that decreased the 'suspicion' cone around each camper so I could navigate more freely. I got in without alerting anyone, but you're free to go guns blazing if you like. I have concerns about the stealth feeling a bit too simple, but until I know what kind of challenges and tools the final game has in store, I'll keep checking in.
All the while, the church leader spouts their doctrine over the loudspeakers, but it's never quite the same every time. Voiced by videogame VO power couple Ellen McLain (GLaDOS) and John Patrick Lowrie (TF2's Sniper), the two leaders' teachings change with each playthrough. During one, they might actually be a fairly peaceful, if peculiar, religious group. During the next, they might be getting ready to take the world down with them. It's a creative form of narrative direction that I hope will influence how players choose to go about infiltrating camp. If they're a nice crew, the moral impetus might be to get in and out without harming a fly. If they're bloodthirsty zealots, well, a few flies won't matter.
The Church in the Darkness arrives some time next year.
Every once in awhile you find a crossover between two different videogames that on paper makes no sense until you see it in action. That's how I feel about Steam user Pancake's "" collection of TF2 maps. Divided up into eight separate arenas themed after a different boss, you can now wax nostalgic about how much harder videogames used to be while cracking headshots as Sniper.
"It was really a combination of boredom and seeing how people create maps based on other old videogames," Pancakes tells me. "I saw that people loved playing Mario-themed maps and I wanted to test the limitations of how closely a map could resemble the original game it borrows from."
In that pursuit, I'd say Pancakes has done a damn fine job. The project has taken him over five years to complete, and it hasn t been easy. Serious limitations in the Source engine made running a map with eight separate stages quite a challenge, Pancakes tells me, and that's not to mention all the effort it takes to rip the sprites and artwork from Mega Man 6. Each arena is also accompanied by the respective music from that stage, which does wonders for driving home that Mega Man nostalgia.
While this is technically just one map, it's actually divided into randomized arenas that you'll be placed on each round. There's a standard king of the hill version but also a '' mode to use if you have the . So far, the only caveat is that, unlike other custom maps, this Mega Man 6 bundle doesn't play nice with bots. You're going to need to spend quite a bit of time setting up proper navigation meshes instead of just letting the console do that all for you. There's a few to help you get started if you're interested, but you're better off forgetting the bots and wrangling up a group of friends to play with.
What amazes me is that this isn't even the first time someone's had the idea of doing a crossover between Mega Man and Team Fortress 2. DeviantArt user AgentMidnight depicting what TF2 would've looked like as a Mega Man game instead of the other way around.
If Mega Man was never really your jam, there's no shortage of Team Fortress 2 custom maps inspired by the games of yesteryear. Steam user has taken this obsession to a whole new level by creating several dozen inspired by old Nintendo games, including everything from , , , and more. Unlike Pancakes' maps, which strike a nice balance between being a homage and also being fun to play on, Litronom's maps are almost exact recreations of their source material not exactly the place to have a competitive match.
Either way, I love that mods continue to be a venue for people to express their passion for other games. They might just be a passing curiosity, but there's something so inherently satisfying about reassembling videogames inside of other videogames. So if you have any particular fondness for that golden age of consoles and are keen on reliving those memories, be sure to the whole lot from the Steam Workshop.
It's no secret that Overwatch takes quite a bit of inspiration from Team Fortress 2, but thanks to the efforts of Serbian modder Srpski eki (which translates to "Serbian Hammer") Team Fortress 2 is now taking a page from Overwatch's playbook. Srpski eki has recreated a version of Overwatch's escort map, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, that can be played in and while it's not a perfect imitation, it comes pretty damn close.
As explained by Srpski eki , his version of Watchpoint: Gibraltar is in an alpha stage and is in dire need of some actual art as most of the level is comprised of featureless geometry. Despite its early state, eki 's map is still a fully functioning recreation and is surprisingly good at imitating Overwatch. Just about every mechanic of the escort game mode is carried over thanks to how similar Overwatch's escort mode is to TF2's payload mode. Even though the recreation isn't perfect, you'll hardly notice once the fight starts.
Because I have no friends, I went ahead and loaded a server with bots to play alongside me. They're far from a perfect substitute for humans but still do a great job of illustrating just how similar the DNA between Overwatch and TF2 really is. On offense, we were able to quickly push through to the final objective without much resistance because the enemy bots were too busy getting lost running around the level which was a bit disappointing. On defense, however, the round played surprisingly like Overwatch to the point of even having the same stalemates in certain parts of the map. Even despite the fact that TF2 differs from Overwatch in some fundamental ways, like needing ammo for your weapons, it's pretty amusing to see how the two are similarly structured. I captured a short video of a round against bots so you can judge for yourself. Also check out the gallery below for some close side-by-side comparisons between the Overwatch and TF2 version of the map.
The only real frustration would be the fact that, ultimately, Watchpoint: Gibraltar was built with Overwatch's heroes in mind. As similar as many of them are, I doubt that the map will be as balanced for Team Fortress 2's classes. Also, getting shanked by an enemy spy has made me wonder if there might be room for deceitful shenanigans with a new hero in Overwatch.
Right now there doesn't appear to be anyone hosting the map on the community servers, so if you want to give it a spin you'll need to round up some friends to play with or load up bots like I did. If you're unfamiliar with setting up bots in TF2, on how to add them in your game. Because this is a custom map, you'll also need to generate a navigation mesh so the bots can move around, which isn't nearly as intimidating as it sounds. After you get the bots loaded, pop open the developer console (default is the '~' key) and type in "sv_cheats 1" and then type in "nav_generate". This will freeze the game for a bit while it does some calculations and then reload the map, allowing the bots to move around just be warned it's not perfect.
Now that I've played Srpski eki 's Watchpoint: Gibraltar, I'm honestly a bit surprised to see that modding Overwatch features into Team Fortress 2 hasn't been more of a thing, what with the two being so similar. The only other Overwatch mod I could find was. Who said that people from Brooklyn couldn't be posh?
Following the rollout of Team Fortress 2's major Meet Your Maker update earlier this month, Valve has issued a patch to address some of the biggest problems with the new matchmaking functionality. The company acknowledged last week a lot of the most pressing concerns, and many of them are now fixed thanks to the new patch.
First of all, match leaving in casual mode will no longer incur a penalty, but to balance that out, Valve will increase the penalty in competitive mode in a forthcoming update. "The current system increases matchmaking ban times based on the number of abandons over a period of time," the notes read. "We are making a change to more quickly move serial abandoners into really long ban times. We will also subtract the maximum number of rank points possible, per abandon. The amount lost will be far higher than what could normally be lost in a completed match."
As for changes that will come into effect with the new patch, queue times should now take less than 90 seconds across the board, and empty player slots in in-progress games will now be filled up more frequently. Vote-kicking functionality has been added, and players can now select their preferred maps (though if they're added to an in-progress game, that won't apply until the next match).
Valve also outlined further plans for future updates, including ways to address griefing and high ping. The full update notes are over here. In the meantime, read Josh Wilkinson's impressions of the new matchmaking update here.