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.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Tales from the Steam Workshop: we talk to modelers making six figure sums">tales from the workshop







Valve's Steam Workshop is life-changing. The community curated creative space has finally realised the dream of modders everywhere, rewarding them for the work they put into making games better. Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 enable contributors to earn money from their creations, leading to some modders earning a six-figure income, according to comments made by Gabe Newell at CES. A living wage from making intangible hats, fish, and imaginary weaponry? I had to find out who these people were, and what modding - specifically modding Team Fortress 2 - has added to their lives.



Anthony Carriero is a 35 year-old Australian. He is professional digital artist and a certified baker. Your in-game Demo might be wearing his Ali Baba’s Wee Booties, or wielding his Persian Persuader, just two of seven items Anthony's contributed to the game. Anthony's day job was the catalyst for his interest in Valve's Mannconomy.







"Item creation for TF2 came about through working in a game studio," he told me. "I was first exposed to the game there, while I was undertaking style research and development. Every day after work the guys and I would play couple of hours of TF2, among other titles. Being a huge long-time fan of the 40s and 50s commercial art, Ren and Stimpy, WB cartoons, I fell in love with the TF2 art style.



"What got me really making items was the seductive tangibility and illustrative quality of the TF2 art style. I wanted to try it out for myself."



So he did.



"The Pyro's Connoisseur's Cap, was the first item submitted and put into the game, but the first thing I made for TF2 was a slingshot. It was a style test and I never submitted it. I have seen it pop up around the place. Unknown to me, the original finished screenshot was even submitted a couple of times to the workshop by item pirates."







Item pirates! The Steam Workshop has become so profitable it's created rip-off merchants. How profitable has it been for Anthony? He, like many of the other contributors, was coy about the exact mount: "Let me answer this as indirectly as possible. I am sure that Valve has a new Lamborghini in the staff car park."



FYI: you can buy a used Lambourghini for under £200,000. As you'll find out later on, Anthony's guess is about right.



Like Anthony, Shaylyn Hamm works as an artist for a games company, and she began making TF2 items before the Workshop existed: "Part of my Master's project involved modelling playable female versions of the Medic and Heavy classes. When the Polycount contest was announced, I was an art intern at one of the local studios, and one of my co-workers suggested I enter, since I had a bit of background with the game already. It seemed like a lot of fun and potentially some new work to add to my portfolio, so I totally went for it."



"I created the Saharan Spy pack for the Spy, which includes the Familiar Fez hat, the Your Eternal Reward knife, and the L'Etranger revolver."







All of which now dangle from various stabby bastards in-game. Since her items landed in the game in 2010, Shaylyn's stepped away from the Workshop, but even so her contributions continue to spread throughout the servers: "I've been told that the Eternal Reward is the most popular. It's pretty crazy that it's been two years and the set is still selling! All told, I've made enough money from everything in the past few years to set me on the path to paying off my (extremely expensive) education. And that is pretty amazing, since it's generally not something that many people with fine arts degrees are fortunate enough to say!"



It also means, according to Shaylyn, that "whether at work or at home, my butt never has to sit on a non-Herman Miller chair."



Herman Miller chairs are hella-expensive people, but even so that's not why Shaylyn does it: "I love games, and I love art, and it's awesome to be able to combine both of those interests into something that I actually get paid to do all day."



Which is sentiment echoed, somewhat, by Bob Scott. Bob's a self-taught artist from the UK. His route into the business isn't as straight-forward as the others. He loved art and modelling, but ended up a GCSE level art student with a chemical engineering degree. "I think the logic was not wanting to turn something I loved into a job I hated, which with hindsight was dumb because I turned making stuff into a full time job without even thinking about it."









After "graduating with grades I'm not really proud of" and coming into a job market destroyed by the recession, Bob looked back at a childhood dominated by model making and wondered if there was a way of turning that into a career.



"When Valve launched the TF2 Contribute system I'd been playing TF2 since the Orange box release. I took one look at it and decided to use it as a way of getting into digital 3D work. I had been meaning to do this since playing around in Spore, in which I made one of the early featured creatures, a living Chinook helicopter. I submitted my first ever hat two weeks later, which was basically a re-skinned version of the Engineer's hard hat covered in stickers to represent each of the maps in the game at the time. I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn't matter, I was instantly hooked.



"I took all my old experience making models and applied it, and also took everything I had learned about chemical engineering design and adapted anything I could to this unrelated field. It became an obsession, and I gave it all the time I had. I can't remember now exactly when it happened, but there was a point when I realised I was remembering something about myself I had long forgotten. I've been dedicating most of my time to getting better at making things since then."







That hard work paid off, but in a roundabout manner. Bob took part in but didn't win the Polycount contest that so many of the highest-earning entrants come from, but in a follow-up chat with Valve resulted in helpful feedback that gave him a clearer view of what Valve look for in models. The result of which has seen Bob's Airborne Armaments set for the Soldier and the Public Enemy set for the Scout reach the Mann Co. Store.



"Seeing people use stuff I made always brings a smile to my face," he says. "I can't really stay mad at someone for killing me with a weapon I made."



Though the contact with Valve helped immensely, he has struggled a little with the company's practices:



"It's frustrating because you really are letting Valve do whatever they want with what you give them, and that includes ignoring bugs for months/years. The Mannconomy has been around for two years and there's still no means of reliably getting stuff updated, so if they use your work in an unexpected way or accidentally break something implementing it you have to put up with your contributions to the game not being at a standard you're happy with."







They also ignored an incredibly popular submission he made, and haven't explained why: "The most popular thing I uploaded to the workshop was rejected by Valve after they let it stay at the very top of the listings for something like three months."



Bob's Unique Rocket Models are still on the Workshop, if you want to give Valve something to think about.



Miguel Melara, a 24 year-old freelance 3D artist from Spain, is also waiting for a few items in his queue to be chosen for inclusion. Fan popularity doesn't always translate to immediate inclusion, as he pointed out: "The Mini-Dispenser, is currently still standing in the workshop on the first page. It's definitely the model for TF2 I have put the most time and effort to create, it required quite a bit of preparation figuring out how it would look, work and animate."







Happily for Miguel, he had the Scout's #1 Fan accepted into the game, and being part of Valve's game is a reward in and itself: "Getting my own item in my favourite videogame is a great milestone in my life. Seeing other players being able to interact, react, play, enjoy/dislike an item you create is even better. I like creating things for others to see, experience and react to if it was only for myself it would get boring."



But the money helps, and Miguel's plans for it seem to be ambitious: "I'm writing this with a computer that I was able to purchase thanks to TF2 hats! On a more serious note, making the items and having them in-game is amazing, it has given me a springboard for more personal projects and advanced studies in programming and 3d creation and who knows? Maybe I'll have a small game to post on Greenlight in the future?



"I know there are other TF2 contributors doing the same thing: Mister Royzo who already published a game on Greenlight (The Intruder) and Rob Laro is also working on a game, both very talented and inspiring."







Will Segerman's story is also inspiring. The 31 year-old from Brighton in the UK started computer modelling after his brother moved to the United States. The cost of phoning was prohibitive, so the pair took to Second Life. It was there Will realised he could put his real-world skills into good use: he's a prop-master for film and live roleplaying. He said: "I found I had a talent for it, and pretty soon I found I'd stumbled into paid work for a company called The Magicians who made in-world content for educational establishments. For example one job I did was making lots of places of worship for Queensland University RE department so students could take part in simulated religious rituals."



Like everyone else, Will was a TF2 fan who found the lure of Polycount's competition appealing: "I was already very into TF2 at this point and I figured this would be a good excuse to teach myself how to model specifically for modern computer games (Second Life used a very weird format which I won't go into). Interestingly there was no mention of anybody getting monetary rewards for items at this point. Everyone who modelled stuff for the Polycount competition did so for the love of the game and the possibility of getting a shiny particle effect on their items."



Will's creation ended in-game as the Hibernating Bear Set. Pretty much everything Will makes is for the Heavy, his favourite class. He recently had the Fat Fairy set drop a pair of wings onto the Russian's back, which will add more money to his pile. But how much has he made? Of all the respondents, Will was the only one willing to say exactly what he makes from the community.







"So last tax year Valve paid me $88000. About half of that was in the initial month. The graph of money over time would probably look like an exponential decay that has levelled off to around a constant $2000 per month. I completely agree with what you're thinking right now... absolute madness. To me the whole thing still seems very surreal. While before we were by no means going hungry, when I was going to get paid next was always a concern."



Valve have confirmed to us (in an interview that will appear soon) that they give the community developers a 25% cut of the profits, which means in one year Will's items went for a total of $352,000 in one year. To Valve cashflow like that means they get the freedom to carry on experimenting with one of their biggest properties, but it means something a lot more personal to Will.



"I haven't spent the Valve money on anything big (two graphics cards has been my biggest splash) but it means that I can afford to take the more interesting jobs as opposed to the more money one's and I can support my wife through her Phd."







































PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Valve’s Gabe Newell on Steam Box and the “giant sadness” of Windows 8">Steam Big Picture







Reclusive Valve boss and mighty beardsman Gabe Newell spoke with The Verge in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show today, sharing precious additional details on the studio's Steam Box hardware project. Among other topics, Newell discussed his interest for biometric control setups, the "giant sadness" of Windows 8, and the changes to Valve's game design structure. Oh, and Half-Life 3. (Just kidding about that last part, but we saw you jump a little in your chair.)



Newell said Steam Box's team explored ideas surrounding both motion-control and biometric controls, ultimately leaning towards the latter after tangling with "super boring stuff" involving latency and precision. "Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we’re a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method," he said. "Your hands, your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth, so to try and talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying, 'Oh, we’re gonna stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up.'"



When asked about Steam Box's supported features, Newell stated the Linux-based hardware allows Netflix streaming, Internet browsing, and networking across multiple TVs.



"The Steam Box will also be a server," Newell said. "Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaneous game calls. So, you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors—now we’re saying lets expand that a little bit."



Photo from The Verge — click for source



As for the wide-ranging Steam storefront itself, Newell hoped Valve will continually distance itself from inclusive alternatives such as Apple or Microsoft's digital shops by soon giving gamers the power to create custom listings to share with everyone else.



"Our view is that, in the same way users are critical in a multiplayer experience, we should figure out how we can help users find people that are going to make their game experiences better," he said. "Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, and some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar. Somebody is going to create a store that says, 'These are the worst games on Steam.' So, that’s an example of where our thinking is leading us right now."



Newell also revisited his great displeasure of Windows 8, calling the operating system a "giant sadness" and a detriment to the PC industry.



"It just hurts everybody in the PC business," he said. "Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC and buying new software to run on it, we’ve had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales. It’s like, 'Holy cow, that’s not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.' There’s supposed to be a 40 percent uptake, not a 20 percent decline, so that’s what really scares me. When I started using it I was like, 'Oh my God...' I find unusable."



Check out the rest of the interview on The Verge for Newell's thoughts on Valve's "theory of fun," user-made content, and the level of control over Steam Box's design.
Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Added new promo items
  • Mann Vs. Machine
    • Fixed clients being able to issue mp_tournament_restart, tournament_readystate, and tournament_teamname commands
    • Fixed an exploit that allowed players to stun a mini-boss
    • Updated mvm_bigrock with some new func_nobuild areas
  • Fixed a regression where minicrits were being affected by long-range damage fall-off
  • Fixed a client crash related to arrows and bolts
  • Fixed an exploit where certain player conditions could be used indefinitely
  • Fixed clients seeing incorrect stats during changelevel
  • Fixed the Tomislav playing firing sounds when it wasn't firing
  • Fixed being able to score assists with yourself in certain situations
  • Fixed being able to cross into enemy spawn rooms using the high-five taunt
  • Fixed Festive versions of weapons not completing a set when equipped
  • Fixed a client crash when viewing the Top Sellers tab in the Mann Co. Store
  • Fixed styles not working properly for The Barnstormer
  • Updated The Digit Divulger to allow skin to be seen in the knuckles and wrist area
  • Updated The Cold Killer to add paintability and fix unusual effect placement
  • Genuine-quality items and festive items that are otherwise tradable can now be listed on the Steam Community Market
  • Updated the localization files
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:


  • Added new promo items
  • Mann Vs. Machine

    • Fixed clients being able to issue mp_tournament_restart, tournament_readystate, and tournament_teamname commands
    • Fixed an exploit that allowed players to stun a mini-boss
    • Updated mvm_bigrock with some new func_nobuild areas

  • Fixed a regression where minicrits were being affected by long-range damage fall-off
  • Fixed a client crash related to arrows and bolts
  • Fixed an exploit where certain player conditions could be used indefinitely
  • Fixed clients seeing incorrect stats during changelevel
  • Fixed the Tomislav playing firing sounds when it wasn't firing
  • Fixed being able to score assists with yourself in certain situations
  • Fixed being able to cross into enemy spawn rooms using the high-five taunt
  • Fixed Festive versions of weapons not completing a set when equipped
  • Fixed a client crash when viewing the Top Sellers tab in the Mann Co. Store
  • Fixed styles not working properly for The Barnstormer
  • Updated The Digit Divulger to allow skin to be seen in the knuckles and wrist area
  • Updated The Cold Killer to add paintability and fix unusual effect placement
  • Genuine-quality items and festive items that are otherwise tradable can now be listed on the Steam Community Market
  • Updated the localization files
Jan 7, 2013
TF2 Blog
United Gaming Clans have their Highlander and 6v6 leagues starting up for the spring season openers which start January 21 and January 23 respectively. In addition to the new seasons the UGC has also recently expanded to the Australian region in addition to their Asian, South American, and European regions. Players from any of these regions are encouraged to participate and join the fun! More details can be found on the UGC site.

TF2 Blog
The Team Fortress 2 Mix-Up Match charity matches have concluded and the team is actively working on polishing up and uploading the replays. So far the first two have been made available with rounds on Upward and Viaduct and the third round on Lakeside will be available soon. So soon in fact that we were told Monday was the day the final replay would be available. That's today!



The Mix-Up series raffles off a chance for three lucky winners via donations to play with developers and community celebrities in a Highlander best of three rounds. All donations and ad revenue will be donated to Doctors Worldwide.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 guide – conquering Mann vs Machine’s expert mode">tf2 mann vs machine







Mann vs Machine is Team Fortress 2’s robot-slaying, wave-based, co-op game-mode. Though both TF2 and the MvM mode are free, those looking for a little extra challenge can buy tickets to access its advanced difficulty Mann Up missions. Designed for skilled players and well-coordinated teams, Mann Up's toughest tour of duty is Operation Gear Grinder - sure to test the mettle of the most hardened bot-bashing TF2 crews. It's hard. Very hard. In this guide I’m going to take you through some tips for dealing with each of Gear Grinder's missions, suggest team set-ups and lay out the loadouts you should be using if you want a chance at snagging the operation's ultimate reward: a diamond botkiller weapon.



Classes

One of the beauties of Mann vs Machine in the past has been that there aren’t any essential classes. There may be recommended classes such as Scout or Engineer, but in advanced difficulty missions it is possible to get by without them. In your first expert tour there’s less room for manoeuvre, but here are some suggestions as to what loadout you should use for whatever class you choose to play as well as some advice on your role:



Scout: Scattergun, Mad Milk, Fan O’War





Money is important in all Mann vs Machine missions, but it's extra important in expert mode. First and foremost, your job as a Scout is to get as much money as possible, because you'll all need as many upgrades and canteens as you can get.



The Scattergun is a very capable weapon, with six rounds per clip and its meaty damage at close range. It’s easy to make it even better too, if you upgrade the reload speed and clip size. The Force-A-Nature is a good alternative if you can upgrade the clip size due to the gun’s inherent knockback effect, handy for pushing the bomb carrier back in the absence of a Pyro’s airblast. You may even consider the Soda Popper for consistent bursts of mini-crits.



The Mad Milk is a certainty for your secondary slot, make sure you upgrade it to slow down targets and apply it liberally to giant robots. This allows all your team mates to heal from dealing damage to them.



The Fan O’War is a weapon that’s rarely used in regular TF2, but is a very solid option in Mann vs Machine. It doesn’t need to be upgraded, just hit giant robots once and they’ll be subject to mini-crits, which are worth their weight in gold. The Sandman is another option in the melee slot, but it needs to be upgraded before it can mark targets for mini-crits and given that money’s tight in expert mode, you may not be able to afford it.



Upgrades: The Mad Milk slowdown effect is cheap and essential, focusing on building up your resistances is imperative too. If you've got cash to spend on your weapons, focus on your primary weapon's reload speed and clip size.



Soldier: Rocket Launcher, Buff Banner, Escape Plan





Soldiers are an excellent class to use during expert missions. There is some debate as to whether the standard Rocket Launcher should be used or the Beggar’s Bazooka, but the Rocket Launcher’s been recommended for those situations where you’ll need to take out targets at long range (especially Snipers) and can’t rely on the Bazooka’s unpredictable accuracy.



The beauty of using the Buff Banner is that it will recharge extremely quickly even with just slight upgrades to your primary weapon, and the damage bonus it provides for your team is essential for dealing with tanks and giant robots when they attack together. It's also very cheap to fully upgrade.



The Escape Plan is the selfish option for your melee slot, but you will need the extra speed to get away from difficult situations. The only practical alternative is the Disciplinary Action, but its unreliable hit detection and dependence on having a friendly player near you to benefit from its boost makes it a poor choice for emergencies.



Upgrades: Focus on your primary weapon, specifically reload speed, clip size, firing speed and ammo capacity. You can fully upgrade your Buff Banner for just 500 credits, although this isn't as important as upgrading your weapon.

Pyro: Flamethrower, Flare Gun, Axtinguisher





A Pyro's job in any expert mission is very important because of their airblast. Every Mann vs Machine map has at least one place for you to knock the bomb carrying robot into that will delay its journey to the hatch or, in the case of Coaltown, reset it completely. With that in mind, the Backburner (expensive airblast) and the Phlogistinator (no airblast at all) are terrible choices for expert mode. The standard Flamethrower's been picked over the Degreaser because of its superior damage and you'll very rarely be in a position where you need the rapid weapon swapping that the Degreaser provides.



The Flare Gun's the best choice of a bad bunch of secondaries, use it to crit big robots from long distance. The Scorch Shot may seem to be an attractive alternative, but its knockback doesn't pack enough punch to reliably push bomb carriers back or down pits.



Finally, the Axtinguisher just about edges the Neon Annihilator as the best melee weapon because you're in control of whether your target's on fire or not, whereas the Neon Annihilator's critting of wet targets is down to your team. However, the Annihilator's ability to remove sappers in the absence of an Engineer can be very handy, even if it is a little bit situational.



Upgrades: Airblast force is a very important upgrade, but how much you should spend on it varies from map to map. On Mannworks you should feel free to spend all four points on it because there's a very large hole that you can easily knock the bomb carrier into from very long distances. On Coaltown you're better off only spending a couple of points otherwise pushing small robots down either pit can be more trouble than it's worth. Finally, on Decoy, three or four points will suffice because there will be plenty of times where a giant robot will have the bomb on either bridge and you'll need to airblast them off, requiring a lot of force. Otherwise, focus on resistances and ammo capacity. If you have spare credits after that, you can start upgrading primary weapon damage as well as melee attack speed if you're using an Axtinguisher.



Demoman: Loch-n-Load, Scottish Resistance, Half-Zatoichi





Demomen can deal enormous spikes of damage with several carefully placed sticky bombs, and are very useful for taking out Uber Medics before they have a chance to Uber their targets. The extra damage provided by the Loch-n-Load edges it above the regular Grenade Launcher, although you will need to upgrade its clip size and reload speed for it to be competitive later on.



The focus of your upgrades should be spent on your secondary weapon. In this case, the Scottish Resistance has been chosen thanks to the six extra bombs you can have out, up to a maximum of 14, and the fact that you can selectively detonate them. Lay some stickies at each entrance point, particularly when anticipating Medic bots, and detonate as soon as they're in range. This does require some team coordination though, as Uber Medics are quick to deploy their Uber at the first sign of damage, so the rest of the team will need to make sure your bombs are the only things that touch them.



The Half-Zatoichi is a very situational weapon, but it will heal you to full health if you can kill a bot with it. Just be very careful not to accidentally switch to it in a panic, otherwise you're stuck with it until you can kill something with it and your group will suffer from the lack of damage. If you're not confident in keeping your sword sheathed, then the regular Demoman's Bottle will suffice.



Upgrades: Concentrate on upgrading the Scottish Resistance's firing and reload speeds as well as ammo capacity. If you can spare 500 credits, even one point spent in upgrading damage is a point well spent. Upgrading your Loch-n-Load's reload speed and clip size is very worthwhile too. If you can't afford to upgrade the Loch-n-Load, then using the standard Grenade Launcher is a good option because it will perform slightly better with fewer upgrades.



Hit the next page for loadout lowdowns on the Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper and Spy.





Heavy: Brass Beast, Sandvich, Fists of Steel





If you have a Heavy on your team, you can guarantee massive quantities of sustained damage and the Brass Beast has been chosen to play to this strength. While you have much less mobility than any other class, the extra damage that the Brass Beast can dish out makes a big difference in the long term. If you can sweet talk an Engineer into placing his dispenser next to you on Decoy or Coaltown, you're effectively a human turret. If you have a Kritzkrieg Medic or even a Buff Banner Soldier nearby, you can make short work of just about everything in front of you.



With that in mind, you won't need a secondary weapon, so having the Sandvich available for emergency healing of yourself or your team mates is a good idea.



The Fists of Steel will protect you from some incoming ranged damage, but not for too long. Only use them as an escape mechanism. Alternatively, the Gloves of Running Urgently can be used but they're best used if your team lacks an Engineer and his teleporters. As you shouldn't be upgrading either of them, you can swap between the two as often as you like.



Upgrades: Whatever primary weapon you use, build up your ammo capacity because you can't always guarantee that you'll be next to a dispenser. You can also upgrade your firing speed and invest in Destroy Projectiles, which is disappointingly inconsistent but will ultimately help you more often than not. Consider buying some crit and fire resistance, but by all means avoid buying the Knockback Rage ability. It costs too much money and takes too long to fully charge to be worth purchasing. Spend a point in Projectile Penetration instead.



Engineer: The Rescue Ranger, Wrangler, Jag





An Engineer has arguably the most complex and important role in Mann vs Machine, emphasised to a huge degree in expert mode. If you haven't played Engineer in an advanced difficulty mission then this is not a good environment to be learning what to do. You and your sentry are the epicentre of your team's defensive front and if you both die, your team could be in trouble. Sentry placement and protection is hugely important, as are dealing with the main threats that you'll face: Sentry Busters and Spies. If a Sentry Buster is approaching, pick up your sentry and get into its melee range. It will start to play its explosion animation, aurally signalled by rapid beeping. At this point you should be running back to your original position, ready to resume the mowing down of robots. Detonating a Sentry Buster in this way will keep your team and your buildings safe, but it can be challenging to maintain sentry damage on the robots as well as safely dispose of the busters before they get close to your nest. In these cases, communication with the rest of your team is vital. When Spies are prowling, watch your back and shoot anything suspicious with your shotgun, don't get into a melee fight with them.



As the responsibility of shooting stuff is normally with your sentry or the rest of your team, you should be prioritising utility over damage when it comes to your weapons. The Engineer's newest shotgun, The Rescue Ranger, is the best shotgun available to you. The Rescue Ranger's ability to let you pick up and repair buildings from range can be invaluable while you're away from your sentry nest. Be aware, however, that as you upgrade building health, the healing output from the gun gets less effective.



The Wrangler is essential to your loadout. Even a level three sentry has a limited range, which the Wrangler eliminates. Use it at the start of each wave to support your team mates or to shoot at non-Uber Medics (remember that Uber Medics will just deploy their Uber if they're damaged. Not a good outcome if you have a Demoman available).



The Jag is the best wrench available to you, and there are some you should totally avoid equipping: The Eureka Effect, which doesn't allow you to move buildings, and The Gunslinger, which won't let you build a full strength sentry. The Southern Hospitality is similarly frowned upon for its unnecessary vulnerability to fire that it gives you. The Jag's only downside is its lack of damage, which you won't miss because you shouldn't be getting into melee fights with anything.



Upgrades: As an Engineer you're going to be spending more money on upgrades than the rest of your team, so spend wisely. You'll need to invest in Maximum Metal Capacity while also increasing building health and sentry firing speed. At some point you should get the Disposable Sentry for 500 credits too while also upgrading your Jag's attack speed, otherwise you won't be able to repair the constant damage from giant rapid fire bots later on. You also need to ensure that you have 50 credits to spare for when you need to buy Building Upgrade canteens. The Two-Way Teleporter upgrade is a luxury that you should only buy if you can spare the 250 credits and haven't bought the aforementioned upgrades.



Medic: Overdose, Kritzkrieg, Ubersaw





A Medic can be a risky addition to your team, given that you will lose the benefit of having another direct damage class with you. But if that risk is balanced with competent, powerful classes around you then it can have great rewards. A Medic is best played as part of a coordinated team where everyone is willing to consistently communicate with each other. If you have a Medic and a Demoman on your team, use each wave's setup time to lay some crit stickybombs at each robot entrance point and use them to deal with any Uber Medics or get a lot of initial damage onto a tank.



You won't be using any needle guns to deal damage to robots, so you might as well use the one that grants you the most utility, which is the Overdose. While you're charging your Uber The Overdose will boost your movement speed by up to 10%, which could easily be the difference between staying alive and losing that Uber, which is a cardinal sin in any form of TF2.



The Kritzkrieg is brilliant, it charges faster than the regular Medigun by default and will provide a team member with 100% crits for several seconds. If you can use it on a competent Heavy, Soldier, Demoman or even Pyro, you're going to wreak havoc. The damage boost it provides combined with the fact that it takes less time to charge makes it superior to a regular Uber.



The Ubersaw is an uncontested choice for your melee slot. If you pick your opportunities carefully, you could use it to smack a giant robot whose attention is focused elsewhere and generate 25% charge from it. Caution is definitely the best policy here though, because at any moment they could turn round and obliterate you. Examine your surroundings, have an escape route and preferably a team mate nearby as well. Don't get ahead of yourself and start chasing what you think might be disguised Spies either. If you hit them while disguised, you won't generate any charge from them and there's a chance that they could kill you with a glitchy backstab. Instead, communicate their position to your team, watch your back and stay mobile.



Upgrades: The Kritzkrieg will be the focal point of your upgrades, so work on building up Ubercharge Rate and Heal Rate in equal measure. As a mission progresses you should buy the Share Power-Ups upgrade and combine it with Uber canteens to save a team mate close to death, but the 600 credit pricetag makes it a tad too expensive to afford in the early game. Invest in Uber Duration and by all means spend a point or two in +25% Max Overheal and +50% Overheal Time because of how cheap they are.



Sniper: Sydney Sleeper, Jarate, Bushwacka





You will struggle to find a group willing to accept a Sniper as part of their team in an expert mission. The perception of Snipers is that their aim is not consistent enough and they don't bring enough damage to the table. Like a Medic, they can make up for that lack of damage with utility, but for the requirements of expert mode it's not enough utility. A Sniper with this loadout and a Soldier with a Buff Banner will provide similar ways to help a team, but a Soldier will typically be preferred because they'll deal more direct damage and charge their Buff Banner quickly. Having said that, you may be feeling adventurous and willing to experiment, so here's why this would be your best Sniper loadout in expert mode:



The Sydney Sleeper is a surprisingly solid choice for a rifle. It doesn't rely on excellent aim because it deals no extra damage for a headshot without upgrades. This means you only need to aim for the body to apply Jarate to targets, which is simple for most giant robots and will substantially boost your team's damage on them. Other rifles rely too much on headshot damage to be consistently effective.



Jarate is a standard choice for a secondary, no other item comes close to offering its utility for your whole team. You can even upgrade it to slow down robot movement speed, just like the Mad Milk.



The Bushwacka is your best option in your melee slot, although you'll very rarely use it. If the opportunity arises, use it to deal crits to jarate soaked giant robots. The fire vulnerability aspect to the Bushwacka is unimportant because if you get into a close quarters battle with a Pyro, you're going to die anyway thanks to the Sniper's low health pool and the Pyrobots' immense power.



Upgrades: 25% Faster Charge is a very good upgrade for the Sydney Sleeper, reducing the time you have to wait to apply Jarate to targets. Ammo Capacity is worth putting a couple of points into, as is Reload Speed and Damage. Also consider buying the -35% Speed on Target upgrade for Jarate. You may be tempted into prioritising resistances, but each map provides you with enough cover for long range shooting, so you shouldn't need them initially.



Spy: Revolver, Knife, Dead Ringer, Sapper





The Spy, just like the Sniper, is a class frowned upon in expert mode. The main reason for this is the amount of downtime that the class has in between waiting for their Sapper to recharge and running away while under the effects of the Dead Ringer. A Spy will struggle to deal enough direct damage to be useful in most missions but an upgraded Sapper is a thing of beauty when applied to a group of robots, particularly Medics. Once again you might be feeling reckless, so here's why the above loadout is your best option:



The Revolver is simple yet effective. You may be wondering why, with all the sapping that a Spy does in Mann vs Machine, the Diamondback hasn't been selected. This is because destroying robots with a Sapper doesn't grant you crits and there aren't any buildings for you to destroy. So instead of the Diamondback being one of the best pistols, it's actually one of the worst. The Ambassador isn't a great option either because of the amount of damage you lose when you don't headshot a robot, which is very tricky to do consistently.



You're also best off sticking with the original Knife because every other knife is a poor alternative, especially Your Eternal Reward.



The Dead Ringer is also the only sensible choice for cloaking, always giving you license to play aggressively and get out alive, something which other cloak devices can't give you.



Finally, for the Sapper, there's only one possible alternative in the whole game: the recently added Red Tape Recorder. It's designed with buildings in mind and remember, robots are not buildings. The fact that it does no damage whatsoever makes it an appalling option.



Upgrades: As mentioned before, an upgraded Sapper is brilliant, the number of robots you can sap at a time is increased as well as its duration. On the Knife, the +2 seconds crits on kill upgrade is worth a couple of points for situations where you can finish something off with your Revolver. With this in mind, you can also upgrade attack speeds on both of those weapons. Armor Penetration is nice, but it's a luxury if you have enough damage elsewhere in your team, considering your role as a Spy will mostly be to clear out other smaller bots.



On the next page for map and final wave advice.





Map and final wave advice

Every map's wave structure and layout is different, demanding great adaptability from each player and the ability to quickly adjust your tactics. One good example of this is when a bomb's positioned near a reset point. If you have a Pyro in this situation, you should communicate with your team and tell them to hold fire, allowing the Pyro to airblast the next bomb carrier into the pit.



With that in mind, here's the one team setup that I recommend for any expert mission, as it provides the most damage and utility in equal measure when using the suggested loadouts above: Scout, Engineer, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy. The most interchangeable class among that bunch is the Soldier, seeing as they become less effective when faced with Giant Deflector Heavies, which are particularly prevalent on Mannworks. In these situations, it's perfectly acceptable to bring a second Heavy.



The first wave of any expert mission is always difficult because you can't afford many upgrades. However, if you can get up to at least the penultimate wave within an hour then you know you have a solid team. Once you get to the latter waves, the obvious advice is to hold onto your initial frontline for as long as you can and spend as little time as possible fighting for your life outside the spawn rooms. Here's some tips about each map as well as how to tackle the final wave of each expert mission:



Coaltown - Cataclysm



Coaltown is arguably the most accommodating map for expert missions. You have two very accessible bomb reset pits and the robot entrance points are all close to each other. This means you get a very handy bottleneck at the start of each wave that a Demoman can easily cover with stickybombs. This helps to dampen the difficulty of the final wave in which you'll face six tanks and four giant Heavies, punctuated by a lot of Uber Medics attached to various smaller robots in between.



At the start of the wave you'll be faced with five of those tanks in quick succession. The first one is easy to deal with, but when the second tank rolls in you'll also be faced with a lot of Scouts, all with their own Uber Medics. It's at this point that you need a Demoman to take care of as many of those Medics as possible while the rest of the team focuses on the remaining tanks. There will inevitably be some Ubered Scouts running amok, but you can use the large sides of a tank as cover from their fire. When Snipers start to spawn, it's best to have your Engineer wrangle their sentry and deal with them while the tanks continue to be focused on by the rest of the team. Even if you are pinned back by the time the fifth tank comes in, it's possible to move forward as long as you do so together. If the robots are taking the right hand path on their way out of the entrance, having a Pyro airblast the bomb carrier into these pits is immensely helpful as it allows for more focus on killing the tanks.



Before the end of the wave, there's a surprisingly lethal pack of Buff Banner Soldiers, all using a Direct Hit, who try to ruin your day. If you have either a Heavy, Pyro, Soldier or Demoman available with Uber canteens then it's a good idea to use these and mow them down. Then you're onto the final tank and the four giant Heavies who accompany it. Fight them from the roof of the middle house, taking cover when necessary and using crit canteens to burn them down quickly as they have no Medics with them. This should give you ample time to destroy the final tank - using more crit canteens if necessary - to complete the mission.



Mannworks - Mannslaughter





Mannworks is a much more challenging map than Coaltown. Robot entrances are far more spread out, so they're much harder to cover. But if you have a Demoman then this is why the Scottish Resistance was recommended earlier, you can lay seven bombs at each entrance as opposed to just four. However, if you'd rather have two Demomen using the regular Stickybomb Launcher in place of a Soldier or Heavy, then have at it.



The final wave of Mannworks is horrible. Eight Rapid Fire Demomen, eight Rapid Fire Soldiers (all with their own Uber Medics) and four tanks are the biggest causes for concern, but the 60 Pyros as well as Spy support bots are no pushovers themselves. How well you deal with the wave is mostly dictated by how well you deal with the initial attack from the Rapid Fire Soldiers. Have your Engineer build their sentry on top of either the quicklime sacks - as seen in the above screenshot - or pile of wooden planks outside the house near the robot entrances. Building up there allows them to be fully covered from damage but still allows them to repair their sentry from the very high damage these robots can deal. It's crucial that you don't allow many Soldiers to be ubered by their Medics, otherwise they could tear through your team, so your Demoman will need to be on the ball with catching these Medics as they spawn. If your defense can hold off this first batch of Soldiers and remain mostly in tact, you're very well placed to deal with the rest of the wave. Burn down the Rapid Fire Demomen, using either Buff Banners or the Fan O' War to help you and the rest of the wave is comparatively small fry. Stick together, watch each others backs when the Spies appear and airblast the bomb carrier into the large crater that separates the two lanes. When the final two tanks come towards the end of the wave you'll still have a lot of Demoknights to contend with, but these can mostly be dealt with by your Engineer and their sentry. Again, you can use the tanks as shields so that the Demoknights can't see you. Once the tanks are down, fight off the remaining Demoknights to finish the mission.



Decoy - Desperation





Decoy is a compromise between Mannworks' awkwardness and Coaltown's bottleneck design. Most robots will enter under the initial bridge, but the occasional blighter will spawn on top and make their way around the upper level of the map. This is what Snipers do most often, so the best way of dealing with them is to have an Engineer wrangle their sentry and pick them off before they can damage your team. There are two bridges over a large hole before the hatch which acts as your reset point for the bomb. If possible though, try to airblast robots into the hole before they get onto either bridge because one of them has railing on either side which giant robots can't be blasted over without great hassle.



While preparing for each wave, have your Engineer build their sentry and teleporter on the middle house's roof. You should have the dispenser placed on the corner of the big building in front of the house, ahead of the bottom of the ramp. This means a constant ammo supply for the classes on the frontline which is crucial for success in the latter waves.



The final wave is a deadly one. Two tanks, four giant Heavies, 12 Rapid Fire Soldiers and 12 Super Scouts. The start of the wave is simple enough, you get one tank on its own which allows everyone to focus their attention on it. It should die before it's even allowed to turn a corner. There's a brief lull in activity after this in which only Pyros and Heavies will appear with the occasional Uber Medic. If you're a Soldier, use this opportunity to prepare a Buff Banner charge for when the giant robots start to appear and fight with the rest of your team at the dispenser (minus your Engineer). When the giant robots come, they come in groups. First you'll be faced with giant Heavies and the Rapid Fire Soldiers. Thanks to the layout of the map, your Engineer and their buildings should be protected by the frontline. To ensure safety, keep using the Buff Banner whenever available and throw Mad Milk onto the Heavies, as they soak up the most damage and will therefore heal the most to those who attack them. This forms about two thirds of the wave.



The final third is when the Super Scouts enter the fray and more Uber Medics arrive with giant Heavies. It's very important that the Scouts are juggled in place by a Pyro's airblast, allowing the team to kill them off quickly, otherwise they can slip past you too easily and end the wave. If your Pyro's dead or you don't have one on your team, it's a good idea to have your Engineer move their sentry to the end of the bridge that the robots are supposed to cross. This, combined with some damage from the rest of the team, should be enough to see them off. You still have several Rapid Fire Soldiers and a couple of giant Heavies to take care of too. Your Demoman should, as always, consider it a priority to deal with the Uber Medics. This allows you to plough through the remaining giant robots with the aid of canteens. With a few giant robots still on the map, the second tank enters, but you can afford to leave that until you've dealt with the remaining enemies. Once they're down, focus all fire on the tank to bring it down and end the mission.
Community Announcements - SZ


Though we think we’ve done a good job rewarding community contributors who make cosmetics and weapons, we could definitely do more for TF’s diligent, underappreciated map makers. With that in mind, we’re trying two new approaches to the problem.

Map Stamp Improvements

After taunting in a community map that you’ve contributed to, you now leave behind a trail of large stamps. The more you contribute, the longer the trail!

We’re now also tracking hours played in each map. In the “Maps” section of the in-game Mann Co. Store, you can see how many hours you’ve played each community map and how many times you’ve contributed to it. Plus, occasionally, on check out, you’ll be gently reminded that it might be nice to add a stamp to your cart for a map that you’ve played frequently but haven’t contributed much to. After you’ve seen this reminder once, you can have it show other map stamp suggestions by checking the “Support Community Map Mapers” box near the “check out” button.

Map-Specific Strange Filters

Sold in the store, these new filters let you set your strange weapons to only track events on specific community maps. For instance, if you only care about kills on “Yukon”, you can change the filter on your shotgun to just capture that. When filtering stats for a weapon, you’ll also get a custom rank modifier. So, in the aforementioned “Yukon” example, you’d now have a “Strange Canadian Shotgun”. The goal is to give players who really like specific community maps a way to both track their stats on those maps and broadcast their interest even when they’re playing on other levels.

Note that in both cases, 100% of the revenue (minus net taxes) goes to the contributor, so let’s get out there and support our map makers!
TF2 Blog




Though we think we’ve done a good job rewarding community contributors who make cosmetics and weapons, we could definitely do more for TF’s diligent, underappreciated map makers. With that in mind, we’re trying two new approaches to the problem.



Map Stamp Improvements



After taunting in a community map that you’ve contributed to, you now leave behind a trail of large stamps. The more you contribute, the longer the trail!



We’re now also tracking hours played in each map. In the “Maps” section of the in-game Mann Co. Store, you can see how many hours you’ve played each community map and how many times you’ve contributed to it. Plus, occasionally, on check out, you’ll be gently reminded that it might be nice to add a stamp to your cart for a map that you’ve played frequently but haven’t contributed much to. After you’ve seen this reminder once, you can have it show other map stamp suggestions by checking the “Support Community Map Mapers” box near the “check out” button.



Map-Specific Strange Filters



Sold in the store, these new filters let you set your strange weapons to only track events on specific community maps. For instance, if you only care about kills on “Yukon”, you can change the filter on your shotgun to just capture that. When filtering stats for a weapon, you’ll also get a custom rank modifier. So, in the aforementioned “Yukon” example, you’d now have a “Strange Canadian Shotgun”. The goal is to give players who really like specific community maps a way to both track their stats on those maps and broadcast their interest even when they’re playing on other levels.



Note that in both cases, 100% of the revenue (minus net taxes) goes to the contributor, so let’s get out there and support our map makers!

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