PC Gamer

Do you remember the tail end of 2010? We all wore rags and lived in dirt-floored shacks, dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and ‘free to play’ was still a dirty set of words. 2011 saw those words climb into the word shower and wash themselves clean, courtesy of League of Legends.

Developers Riot Games released player figures for their five-on-five Defence of the Ancients interpretation in November 2011. The numbers were, frankly, dazzling. League of Legends now has more active players than World of Warcraft – yes, World of Warcraft – sporting a population of 11 million. More impressively, over four million people play LoL every day, and 1.5 million of those are on at the same time. To put that in context, all of Steam has 2.5 million concurrent users.

But capturing the short term attention spans of children, idiots, and child idiots was easy enough for the terrible free to play titles of the past. Craftily, League of Legends snared their monstrous userbase by bucking that trend, and by being crisp, clear, and blessed with thousands of ways to play. No wonder it’s done so well – it stands out like a golden pin in a shed full of pigswill.

I play as Caitlyn. I stand in the bushes, peppering creeps with shots from my comically oversized sniper rifle. My basic attack is a single shot. My ultimate attack, gained after fifteen minutes of play and souped up over the next half an hour, is a bullet wider than Caitlyn’s waistline that travels a quarter of the length of the map and slams a third out of its target’s health bar. I kill people from a distance, and never let myself near other players.

Tim plays as Leona. She’s a holy paladin, kitted out in gleaming golden armour and armed with a repertoire of incredibly earnest sayings. Leona’s pure tank – she steams into combat, drawing attention and aggression from everyone, leaving other players free to escape or level their weapons on their stunned foes.

Owen plays as Teemo. He runs around behind the AI creep scuffles, watching and waiting for his moment to drop traps. Teemo’s stealthy: he hides in plain sight, supporting his team and sneaking shots against any weakened foes. Well, he’s as stealthy as he can be, at any rate, considering he’s dressed as a fluffy white rabbit, and the traps he lays are easter eggs.

I always play DPS characters. Tim’s tanked for years. Owen… Owen really likes dressing up as fluffy animals. That League of Legends lets us all play different games inside one title is impressive. That it let us play them even when it had one game mode and one map is amazing. That it’s a free to play game with a level of polish, community, and developer support unseen outside of studios like Valve is utterly unheard of.

Highly recommended: Team Fortress 2, World of Tanks.
PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 - something special for someone special
A sly Team Fortress 2 update yesterday added a secret wedding ring as a craftable item. It's called "Something Special for Someone Special" and is described as being a "level 100 ring." The item wasn't revealed in the patch notes. Players posted their discovery on the Team Fortress 2 wiki after digging through the file changes made by the update.

If you play Team Fortress 2 regularly with your loved one, prepare yourself for a sudden proposal. It could happen between control points, it could happen in the middle of a desperate Payload defence. But which map would be best? The spires of badlands have some pretty good views, The roof of the bridge on 2Fort would get everyone's attention. If you want somewhere really, really quiet, there's always Hydro.

It might not be for a real marriage proposal, of course. Perhaps one of the classes has finally plucked up the courage to propose to the Pyro. He/she/it has been waiting long enough. If an in-game marriage proposal does come out of this, Team Fortress 2 will join a unique collection of games, including World of Warcraft and Minecraft, that have been used to pop the question. It'll be hard to beat the Portal 2 proposal below, though. It featured unique dialogue from Glados' voice actor, Ellen McLain, and looked just like this:

PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 Australian Christmas
The Team Fortress 2 Australian Christmas celebratory extravaganza is go! The free update adds a new control point map called Foundry which, according to the achievements list, will feature a big, deadly cauldron fire. Pyros and Engineers get new class packs and 50 items are 75% off in the Mann-Co store. The update is detailed on the Australian Christmas page on the Team Fortress 2 site. "But what about the new hats?" you're perhaps asking, clawing at your unhatted head with eager fingers. Read on and all shall be revealed.

Having your face stuck inside a gas mask that's also inside a space helmet makes it awfully hard to smoke a pipe. The Pyro's new helmet solves that problem by building a pipe into the space helmet. It looks a lot better than it sounds. He's also getting some new weapons, including The Third Degree, a fire axe that will damage the player your hitting, and any players attached to them by medic beams (ie. Medics). The Phlogistinator is a flamethrower that will gradually boost its "Mmmmph" meter with all damage dealt. It can then be activated to heal yourself and crit anyone you're flaming at the time. That sounds powerful.

Engineers, meanwhile, will be able to earn the Brainiac Pack. This includes some Einstein style hair, a wrench that can teleport him back to the spawn zone and a "level 10 indivisible Particle Smasher." It shoots bolts that pass through enemies. If it hits a medic, it'll dock them 10% of their medigun charge. Stricken spies will be stripped of 20% of their cloak power.

Valve also mention "14 new holiday-themed weapons, hats and cosmetic items by the TF community's item creators." This will see some of the fantastic entries we've seen in the Steam Workshop making their way into the full game. These items will only be available by unlocking the "nice crates" that will be appearing in TF2's maps for the duration of Australian Christmas. "Naughty crates" will also drop. These contain "Smissmass lights" that can be used to spruce up weapons. The item drop rate will be doubled for the first week of the event, which kicked off yesterday. Bonanza!
PC Gamer
notch tf2 hat thumb
When he’s not tweeting, Minecraft developer Markus “Notch” Persson loves to indulge in a little Team Fortress 2, according to his tumblr blog. He was recently invited to take part in the third TF2 Mixup, with famous Team Fortress 2 personalities such as Valve’s Robin Walker and YouTuber Freddie Wong blasting each other to bits.

Notch was enjoying the game, earning the Primeval Warrior medal, when suddenly he was awarded with his very own hat. It resembles Notch's own visage, if it were made in Minecraft and then copied onto a cardboard box, and - so far - he's the only owner. “I am never quitting TF2 again, and you should all go buy it right away,” said Notch. “How much is it, you ask? It’s FREE! YES!”
PC Gamer
Saints Row Heavy
With Team Fortress 2 items appearing in Saints Row, it was only a matter of time before the reverse also became true. Now Joystiq have spotted a post on the TF2 blog that reveals new TF2 items for those that pre-order Saints Row: The Third over steam.

The bonuses take the form of a new outfit for the Heavy, giving him a diamond encrusted Lucha Libre mask, a pair of bling covered boxing gloves and a Saints Row fleur-de-lis badge (which can also be worn by other classes). The TF2 blog claims it's a faithful recreation of the outfit Mikhail Gorbachev wore when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990... er... indeed.

Sadly, getting hold of this outfit will be problematic for UK users, as Saints Row: The Third is yet another game that is inexplicably missing from steam in the UK. As ever, we're trying to get to the bottom of this story, but no-one is willing to talk to us about it.
PC Gamer

A post on the official Saints Row: The Third site reveals that the PC version will come with exclusive character customisation options, including free, bonus "oversized bobblehead masks" of Team Fortress 2 characters. They haven't released any pictures of the new items yet, but if they're anything like the mental image I have of a giant, grinning Heavy mask, they'll be brilliant. The new trailer above unveils Burt Reynolds, too. Which is a bit of a spoiler, but if Burt Reynolds is in your game, it's hard not to shout about it. Saints Row looks great, and is only a couple of weeks away. It's out in the US on November 15 and on November 18 in Europe.
PC Gamer


There's more to the Team Fortress 2 Halloween Update than we first thought! It seems that equipping the entire Tin Soldier costume gives the wearer new lines of dialogue, and they're as hilarious as ever. Check the video for the full voice set. Thanks to ThisGuy_83 for the tip off!

Have you noticed any other mysterious bonuses readers? Let us know in the comments!
PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 - Halloween goodie cauldron
Quick, open your Team Fortress 2 backpack! We just checked ours and found great big shiny cauldrons inside. Upon opening our cauldrons, we all found a seal mask, for some reason, and a few of us gained some extra accessories, including some gleaming arm-pipes for my Soldier. YES. It's all part of the Halloween Update, which kicked off today. Did you get a cauldron? What's inside?

PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 Halloween Update
The Team Fortress 2 halloween update is here! Do you like eyeballs? Of course not. Kill a giant, evil one now as part of the Team Fortress 2 Halloween Update. The map, Viaduct, is now haunted by the Demoman's lost peeker, and is now called Eyeaduct! If that's too much terror for one sentence, here are a few reassuring comments from the Team Fortress 2 blog to calm your nerves.

"There will be no ENORMOUS HAUNTED EYEBALL to terrorize you around an island filled with tons of SECRET LOOT, and a GIANT SKULL!"

"There will be approximately zero percent chance of you getting your trembling hands on a spooky costume FOR EVERY CLASS!"

Phew! Read on for a list of terrifying features that definitely haven't been added as part of the Team Fortress 2 Halloween update. There's a comic, too, explaining the origins of the entirely non-existent giant evil eyeball.

Halloween 2011 Event

Viaduct has been haunted and is now... Eyeaduct!
One full multi-piece costume set has been added for each class
Random gifts containing costume pieces drop in Eyeaduct on registered servers
2 new Halloween 2011 achievements
Any unusual hats uncrated during the event will be Halloween-themed
New Halloween-themed items are available in the Mann Co. store, but only for a limited time!
Updated effects for The Cow Mangler 5000
Updated in-game abuse reporting tool to include option for reporting abusive game servers
Added mapcycle_halloween containing all Halloween event maps
Fixed team colors and styles not updating properly in store previews
Fixed bug in reputation trend status display for registered servers
Fixed a problem that could cause repeated stutters after joining a server
Fixed the Spine-Chilling Skull not appearing when equipped by soldiers
New Halloween-themed community-created items submitted to the Workshop are now available in the Mann Co. store!

PC Gamer
Team Fortress 2 Thumbnail
Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gave a fascinating insight into the pricing experiments Valve have been running with Steam at the WTIA TechNW panel in Seattle recently, revealing that Team Fortress 2's shift to free to play quintupled its player base.

During the course of the seven minute aside, covered on Geekwire, Newell also revealed that the conversion rate of the number of free players who go on to buy something is "20 to 30 percent" for Team Fortress 2, much higher than the 2-3% conversion rate seen by other free-to-play games.

Newell said that he thinks the announcement of Team Fortress 2 as a "free-to-play" game, and not just outright "free" was part of TF2's successful shift of payment model, perhaps underestimating the power of the raw, uncontrollable human drive to acquire and hoard sweet new hats.

"Why is free and free to play so different? Well then you have to start thinking about how value creation actually occurs, and what it is that people are valuing, and what the statement that something is free to play implies about the future value of the experience that they’re going to have," Newell said, suggesting that the implication that a free-to-play Team Fortress 2 would exist as a continuing service was a key motivation for new players.

It's likely that Valve's reputation for providing free updates and ongoing support was even more of a factor than the "free-to-play" label, but Newell admits that Valve are generally stumped by their observations. As an example, Newell commented on the remarkable but confusing success that Valve saw early on with Steam sales, saying "we do a 75 percent price reduction, our Counter-Strike experience tells us that our gross revenue would remain constant. Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40.

"Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40, Which is completely not predicted by our previous experience with silent price variation."

"We don’t understand what’s going on," he added. "All we know is we’re going to keep running these experiments to try and understand better what it is that our customers are telling us."

Team Fortress 2 players are currently gearing up for the incoming Halloween Update, which among other things, is sure to add new hats.