Portal

CS:GO went three to play and got a battle royale mode last week - but the surprises didn't end there, as players discovered a cryptic message which some speculated was an ARG to tease Portal 3. Despite the best efforts of CS:GO sleuths, however, Valve has since confirmed this is actually just an Easter egg - although it's still a pretty neat discovery.

The fun and games began when YouTube user snaileny posted a video of a "strange broadcast" they'd found on the new battle royale map dz_blacksite. According to snaileny, to hear this you have to stand in Room 3 for over two minutes before the (slightly creepy) message begins to play.

Players figured out the beginning of the list is in the NATO phonetic alphabet, and translates to PGPW50 SMS757 - the first half of which refers to the PGP word list (an extended biometric word list designed to prevent wiretapping). The transmission, when converted into the PGP word list, gives you 50 pairs of numbers and letters. Reddit user GetSomeGyros then figured out that the "SMS7" part of the message, meanwhile, refers to GSM 7-bit encoding: and when you put PGP pairings into this, you get the following message:

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Team Fortress 2

UPDATE 26/10/18: All good things must come to an end, but it seems TF2008's end came particularly quickly, as the mod's newly-approved Steam page has now been removed.

According to an email screenshot shared on the mod's Discord server, it appears Valve has U-turned on its decision to launch the mod on Steam. The reason cited is the modder did not sufficiently prove they were creating "a mod of TF2 and not just repurposing leaked code". The email did not rule out the possibility of the mod returning once the modder had sufficiently demonstrated the code used was not leaked.

It seems modder XYK had other ideas, however, as the TF2008 Discord server has now been deleted. Well, sort of - it's called "Burger" and all the previous comments have been replaced with pictures of food. XYK left the server with a deeply unpleasant parting comment, while footage saved on YouTube shows the mod community go into meltdown following the news the server was to be deleted.

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Team Fortress 2

Despite being released over 10 years ago, Team Fortress 2 still boasts one of the biggest player bases on Steam. Today, the number of players peaked at 54,350 - placing the game at seventh on Steam's leaderboard of most-played games. And behind the player count, there is still a significant esports community organised by a series of leagues unaffiliated with Valve. TF2 players have run a small but passionate competitive community for several years.

Over the past few weeks, however, a darker side of the community has emerged. Several competitive players and community members have reported experiencing a culture of harassment and toxicity. The community members took to social media to reveal harrowing personal stories of racism, sexism, transphobia and sexual abuse. To make matters worse, some professional TF2 players have responded to the social media posts with insults and derogatory terms aimed at the victims. Since the reports of toxicity in the competitive scene emerged, other players have come forward with their own stories, and it seems the problem is pervasive. The affected branches of the TF2 community include the TF2 workshop, Steam comments and public matches in the game itself.

Although many of the competitive leagues have responded with statements, bans and policy changes, some have remained silent on the issue. Players have also reported the toxicity goes beyond the competitive sphere to almost all parts of the Team Fortress 2 community - so the question is, should Valve do more to discourage it?

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Team Fortress 2

Valve veteran Jay Pinkerton has returned to the developer a year after he left the company.

Pinkerton left last June, following other high profile departures from Erik Wolpaw, Chet Faliszek, and DOTA 2 writer Marc Laidlaw.

Now, thanks to eagle-eyed Redditor OWLverlord (via PC Gamer), it seems Pinkerton is back on Valve's staff page, listed under the "Other Experts" category.

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Team Fortress 2

Valve has stepped up its anti-cheat measures and issued almost 95,000 bans in the last week alone.

In July 2017, we reported that on 6th July Valve banned over 40K Steam accounts for cheating, making it the single largest banhammer the company had ever deployed.

Emphasis on "had", though.

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Team Fortress 2

Fortnite is currently the game most associated with meme culture, but back in the day, Team Fortress 2 was responsible for some incredible viral creations of its own. One of these memes, a crustacean sensation known as the Spycrab, became a huge part of the Team Fortress 2 community and was immortalised after achieving official recognition from Valve.

The Spycrab meme first appeared 10 years ago today in July 2008, when players began to notice a mysterious glitch in the Spy model's animation. If a player crouched with the disguise kit, looked up into the sky and walked forwards, their Spy's arms would twist into a pincer formation, while their legs would buckle and appear to walk sideways. Horrifying, yet hilarious.

The first recorded sighting of a Spycrab showed a number of bemused onlookers crowding around a player adopting the Spycrab position. Inspired by the player's name, fans soon began to create posters asking other players to 'save the endangered Spycrab'. As a Spycrab cannot harm people (the player in question is looking upwards), the TF2 community agreed not to kill them in game, and this became a religiously-enforced informal rule. If enough Spycrabs gathered, members from both BLU and RED teams would come together in a peaceful 'Spycrab migration' and walk around together.

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Half-Life 2

Have you ever wondered what video game cities would look like as Ordnance Survey maps? A new project is working on turning the likes of City 17 from Half-Life, Los Santos from Grand Theft Auto and New Vegas from Fallout into city maps, so we may soon find out.

Konstantinos Dimopoulos, a game urbanist, writer and designer with a PhD in urban planning and geography is working with visual artist Maria Kallikaki to create the very first atlas of video game cities, the appropriately-named Virtual Cities.

Virtual Cities, which is currently looking for funding on Unbound, includes over 40 game cities, including Yakuza's Kamurocho, Silent Hill, Ant Attack's Antescher and Shadowrun's Hong Kong. Over 40 original maps and more than 100 drawings are being worked on.

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Team Fortress 2


Valve's decision to make online shooter Team Fortress 2 free to play was a resounding success, it's said.


Revenue from the game was 12 times higher than the game's monthly sales following the June 2011 switch, Valve's Joe Ludwig said during a Gamasutra attended GDC panel.


Prior to that, when Valve introduced the item store to the game, money made from the sale of virtual items was four times larger than revenues from sales of the game itself.


In hindsight, it seems like the decision to go F2P was a no brainer, but according to Ludwig, Valve were worried about it.


"This is just the beginning of taking the lessons we've learned from TF2 and applying them to Steam itself," Ludwig said. "It was risky, everything could have gone horribly wrong, but we felt it was worth the risk to try the new business model."


Valve's decision to make TF2 F2P was motivated by issues with the triple-A boxed game business.


"The trouble is, when you're a AAA box game, the only people who can earn you new revenue are the people who haven't bought your game," Ludwig explained.


"This drives you to build new content to attract new people, There's a fundamental tension between building the game to satisfy existing players and attract new players."


In October last year Valve boss Gabe Newell said TF2's user base had increased by a factor of five since it adopted the free-to-play model.


The game enjoys a 20 to 30 per cent conversion rate of people who are playing who buy something - much higher than other F2P games.

Half-Life 2


Upcoming Valve games Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will support the Razer Hydra PC motion controller.


Motion gaming support has been added to over 250 of the most popular games on Steam, including Left 4 Dead 2, Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, via creator Sixense's MotionCreatorTM 2.0 software.


Steam users will get motion control updates for current and future titles automatically from now on. A new in-game overlay lets you view control maps for the Razer Hydra as you play.


The Razer Hydra uses an electromagnetic field, via a base station, to track hand movements as you hold two motion-sensing controllers, both complete with thumb sticks.


We first heard of the Razer Hydra Valve love affair early last year, when we discovered those who owned the Razer Hydra were entitled to exclusive Portal 2 content.

Half-Life


As the wait for news on the next Half-Life game goes on, Valve boss Gabe Newell has explained the famed developer's current strategy on revealing new titles.


Valve's experience with Half-Life and Half-Life 2 caused a rethink, leading the company to back off from talking about future games until they're good and ready, Newell told Penny Arcade.


"Part of the reason that we backed off talking so much about what was happening in the future is that when we've done that in the past, you know, with Half-Life 1 it was a year after we originally said it would be, Half-Life 2 basically if you go and read the forum posts apparently took us 50 or 60 years to get done, so we're trying to be careful not to get people too excited and then have to go and disappoint them.


"So we're sort of reacting in the other direction and saying, 'okay, well let's have things a little more baked before we start getting people all excited about it.'"


Valve's continued silence over the next Half-Life, be it Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or Half-Life 3, has frustrated many of its fans.


Earlier this month 10,000 Valve fans logged on to play Half-Life 2 en-masse in an attempt to make their campaign for more Half-Life information heard. It was the result of a Steam Group, called A Call for Communication (Half-Life), that is lobbying Valve to release more information on the future of the much-loved series.


"The lack of communication between Valve and the Half-Life community has been a frustrating experience. While continued support for current and future products is greatly appreciated, fans of the Half-Life series have waited years for a word on when the franchise will return," the group's description reads.


"We're acutely aware of how much we annoy our fans and it's pretty frustrating to us when we put them into that situation," Newell told Penny Arcade, while agreeing with the suggestion that there is tension between all the various projects the company is interested in doing.


"We try to go as fast as we can and we try to pick the things that we think are going to be most valuable to our customers and if there's some magic way we can get more work done in a day then we'd love to hear about it.


"But we recognize that it's been a long time whereas we have so many games that people really love - Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead, not a whole lot of Ricochet enthusiasts out there, and at the same time we want to be making sure that those games and those stories and those characters are moving forward while also making sure that we don't just get into terminal sequelitis."


In June 2009 Newell said he had "very good reasons" for not discussing Half-Life 2: Episode 3, but refused to be drawn on them or when the developer would be able to open up about the concluding chapter in the FPS saga.


"I get a ton of email every day saying why aren't you talking about Episode 3? And there are very good reasons why we're not talking about Episode 3, which I can't talk about yet, but I will," Newell said at the time.


And last year, Newell told Eurogamer he wouldn't trade the "enthusiasm and straightforwardness of our fans for a quieter inbox".

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