Counter-Strike: Source - Alice O'Connor

Several hours of Steam downtime on Sunday left poor PC gamers unable to play their Steam games, caused by a power failure at Valve's data center. Initial reports suggest some of the desperate afflicted resorted to archaic and torturous forms of Sunday afternoon entertainment, including taking a stroll in the countryside, imbibing ale in a pub, and conversing with loved ones.

"Our data center's uninterruptible power supplies experienced a power failure," Valve's Al Farnsworth explained on the Steam forums. "We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Over 5 million Steam users were online when the troubles began at around 10:30am Pacific on Sunday. Some members of our fine Shacknews community reported not being able to use any part of Steam, while others could apparently still play games. The servers were back up and running by about 2:20pm.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

In spite of having released in 2007, Valve is continuing to update Team Fortress 2, its cartoony team-based multiplayer shooter. Last year, the developer announced a surprising change to a F2P model--but what's next?

The developer isn't saying much, simply promising "something brand new for 2012" that "isn't a hat" and "isn't a map."

The Team Fortress 2 blog jokes that "the TF2 team is working on some ungodly hat-map hybrid that you can wear on your head while you run around in it." So, an Inception-themed expansion pack, right? We kid, of course.

Whatever this game-changing update will be, Valve promises it will be "really cool." To check out all the updates Team Fortress 2 has received since launch, click here.

Shacknews - Xav de Matos

When you see a post containing the words "Team Fortress 2" and "headgear," you probably don't expect to see Saints Row: The Third sharing in the story. Today, THQ and Valve have announced that Team Fortress 2-inspired lids are coming to the PC version of the game.

Headgear that resemebles each of Team Fortress 2's characters will be added to the Steam version of Saints Row: The Third on Tuesday, January 17. The free update allows players to run through the streets of Steelport (clothing optional) disgused as their favorite character from Valve's free-to-play shooter.

"After a fair amount of back and forth with us and Valve, we're now ready to present the final chapter in our cross-promotion with Team Fortress 2. For those unfamilar with this, if you had pre-ordered TF2 on Steam, you received Killbane's Mask and Apocafists for the Heavy, and a special Third Street Saints Badge for every character," a post on the official Saints Row: The Third website revealed. "But that got us thinking about the best way to put TF2 into Saints Row: The Third, so we've come up with the following."

Sounds like a fun idea, but it's a shame that this marks the end of the Valve cross-promotion with THQ because we were really holding out hope for some Gabe Newell-inspired gear.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

As you may well know, December 18 is Australian Christmas, when all the little children down under are visited by Old Nick, hoping he doesn't steal them away to work in his toy factory. Nightmare-maker Valve's annual celebration begins on Thursday in Team Fortress 2, with this year's update bringing a new map, treats from Dr. Grordbort, and more exciting and terrible things.

The new Control Point map is the industrial Foundry, which comes complete with twelve-map specific achievements. Unlocking any seven of these will earn you a thoroughly steampunk top hat.

Raygun maker Dr. Grordbort previously delivered goodies for the Soldier, and now it's bringing the Braniac Pack and Moonman Pack for the Pyro and Engineer, with new weapons and some awfully fetching accessories. Most likely, you'll only be able to get them at first by buying them, but then the items will start dropping and become craftable--as is the way with most packs.

If you're an unpleasant little brat who demands presents now, item drop rates have been doubled until Wednesday.

Valve has only revealed part of the update's contents so far, promising the rest of the details tomorrow, along with the update. There's also a new comic showing where the new Grordbort toys came from, and, if you missed out on the origins of Australian Christmas, do read Valve's explanation from last year.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

With the scariest holiday on the calendar creeping near, a Hellish handful of vicious video ghouls (games) are hosting Halloween festivities. If you can't find the fishnet stockings needed to complete your Sexy Parking Meter costume, and will be staying, here's a few unspeakable ideas on how to amuse yourself this wicked weekend.

You can seek the Bombinomicon in Team Fortress 2, fight Dracula and dress as Commander Chicken in Killing Floor, escape a zombie nightmare in Train Simulator 2012, and join in plenty of other spooky thrills.

Once again, Team Fortress 2 is running the scariest show in town, with the Third Annual Scream Fortress Very Scary Halloween Special. After reading the fabulous new comic revealing the terrifying truth behind the Demonman's missing eye, you'll be ready to hunt the accursed orb.

The map Viaduct has become the haunted Eyeaduct, where you'll face the twisted creature the Demoman's eye became, the Monoculus. Defeating it will grant rewards, while you can also find new and fantastic Hallowe'en costumes, buy chilling new Mann Store items, or get a cauldron of goodies just for playing.

Check the TF2 wiki for more, and have a peek at Eyeaduct courtesy of Youtube user Niichts:

Survival shooter Killing Floor is running the Halloween Sideshow, bringing back and spookifying the cast of the Summer Sideshow. The Abusement Park has relocated to the asylum map of Bedlam, where you'll find goblins, were-bunnies, pumpkins, and Dracula baying for your blood.

If you collect all seven new Killing Floor Halloween achievements, you'll unlock a Commander Chicken outfit to wear. Yes, it is a chicken suit.

Rock of Ages has rolled out a Jack-o'-lantern boulder skin for you to pummel your foes with, along with a spooky new title screen.

Railworks 3: Train Simulator 2012 is celebrating Halloween with perhaps the single oddest piece of downloadable content ever created, Trains vs Zombies.

Zombies have invaded the Oxford-Paddington route, so you'll need to drive a group of survivors, including a mysterious man known as The Professor, to a secret bunker beneath Paddington Station, switching trains and dodging the dastardly undead along the way. Yes. $4.99 will get you four scenarios with zombies, witches, and flying trains.

Bunch of Heroes is offering the spooky skins in the Horror Pack DLC for free on Steam over the weekend, after which you'll need to buy them.

Dungeons - The Dark Lord has a new Halloween-y map, and is filling your dungeons with pumpkins, candy, and other terrible things.

As ever, MMOs including World of Warcraft, Champions Online, DC Universe Online, Guild Wars, Aion, Free Realms, and oh so many more have their own Halloween festivities.

And, of course, there are heaps o' Halloween sales going on, but we'll have more on that in our weekend digital deals roundup later today.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Team Fortress 2's in-game item shop, the Mann Co. Store, has been given a massive update to celebrate its first birthday yesterday. Players can now take items for a test drive, follow the progress of user-created items, and, of course, buy a heap of new hats, weapons, and more.

Firstly, for players not at all interested in all that 'hat' jazz, one of the Manniversary Update and Sale's new features is load-out presets, so you won't have to fiddle and fuddle when changing roles. Or outfits, if that's your bag.

Players who do enjoy the constant stream of crispy fresh new items are now able to view user-created items submitted to Valve, rating and commenting on them, in the Steam Workshop. It also massively overhauls the submission process, for those actually making the items. According to Valve, creators have made over $2,000,000 since the store launched.

You don't have to just stare wistfully at items you'll never buy, though, as the Manniversary update has brought the option to give items a test drive. Every six days, players can pick a weapon to trial, using it as freely as they please, and get a 25% discount if they decided to buy it for keeps.

On a less practical level, fashionistas are able to express themselves more freely, as certain items which were previously classified as hats are now miscellaneous items, such as beards, and there's an extra misc. slot too.

For the ultimate in accessorization, certain items can be customized with images of your own choosing, including flair buttons, clan medals, and a protest sign weapon. Yes, you probably can expect to at some point be beaten to death by a large image of genitalia.

On top of all that, the update adds a new user-created control point map Gullywash, a new high-five taunt to buy, which players do together, and stacks of new user-made hats.

Oh, and many items are on sale, with up to 75% off, until Monday. Enjoy the Manniversary.

Shacknews - Xav de Matos

Big name franchises like Battlefield and Quake are already available in browser-form, but can a modern retail title make the same leap? With recent news that Unreal Engine 3 support is coming to Flash Players and a new tech demo from software developer Brandon Jones, it seems like the browser is a much more powerful platform than we imagined.

Jones has successfully 'ported' 2Fort, the classic Team Fortress 2 map, to WebGL, running plug-on free in a browser. Jones first presented the demo at the OnGameStart conference in Poland in September.

Pairing the level down into 200MB worth of assets, Jones has recreated the level and shows off his near-final product in a video on YouTube. According to Jones, normal mapping on brush surfaces is a no-show, water (or anything shiny) isn't being rendered, lighting is off, and the 3D skybox is missing from the demo. It doesn't look perfect and a few key elements are missing from the level, but it shows a lot of promise.

Jones says that his Source Engine 'port' (of sorts) runs at a smooth 60fps in browser. He also claims to have pushed the game beyond 100fps in some cases, meaning the addition of some of those missing elements wouldn't hinder the experience. Responding to inquires on his YouTube channel, Jones said that the demo is running on "Google Chrome 16 (Canary Channel), but it runs fine on the stable version of Chrome as well."

For those with any modicum of interest in development, Jones has offered the WebGL port's source code online. Since Team Fortress 2 is a modern game with current players (and because he owns no rights to the title) Jones isn't making the assets used in the demo available.

If Team Fortress 2 going Free-to-Play was Valve's approach to enticing players into the multiplayer shooter, having a similar experience available in a browser might be the next logical step. Of course, perhaps the game's collection of hats is far too big to be ported into our browser winder.

Jones outlines how he created the demo on his blog.

On his YouTube channel, Jones also released another video of the demo, captured with a smoother framerate.

Note: To clarify, this isn't a playable port of the game. It's porting the assets into WebGL and viewable via a web browser.


Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Steam's snazzy new trading feature has come out of public testing and officially launched. It lets Steam users swap games for hats, hats for guns, or any combination thereof through a snazzy and secure interface.

The official launch also adds support for trading Spiral Knights and Portal 2 items, on top of the Team Fortress 2 trading seen in the beta. The Steam store also now has the option to buy gift copies of games to stash in your inventory for later gifting or trading. Only unused gift copies can be traded, not games you've played or accepted.

"The addition of Steam Trading is the latest example of how Steam continues to evolve with new features and functions developed based upon feedback," Valve director of business development Jason Holtman said. "We look forward to seeing how gamers and developers have fun and move this functionality forward."

Trading has also been added Valve's Steamworks SDK, letting other developers add it to their own games.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Special themed Team Fortress 2 items are a common pre-order perk for Steam games nowadays, but there's nothing common about the shiny new toys being offered for pre-ordering Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Oh my.

The magnificent eight Manno-Technology items include both weapons and clothing, which surely is all you need for a complete cyberpunk experience, except for a pumping techno-industrial cyberpunk. The Sniper gets a swish sniper rifle, and the Spy is armed with Deus Ex HR's glorious gigantic revolver. The lucky Engineer, a man not shy of a little mechanical augmentation, gets a glorious-looking shotgun and an electrifying new forearm augmentation.

For those more interested in cyberpunk for its clothes (Sunday cyberpunks, we call 'em in my syndicate), there's a cybernetic arm for the Heavy, a Nanobalaclava for the Spy, stylish Sarif Industries baseball cap, and, of course, Adam Jensen's very own mirrorshades, the Deus Specs.

You'll receive the Manno-Technology gear for free if you pre-order Deus Ex: Human Revolution from Steam. It's not clear whether you'll get them or not if you pre-order from other digital retailers. As HR is a Steamworks game, they'll simply you a CD key to plug into Steam, but these don't usually include Steam bonuses. Green Man Gaming notes that some of its keys have unlocked bonus TF2 items before, but is waiting for confirmation about these.

You'll also doubtless be able to make the items yourself through TF2's crafting system.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is headed to PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on August 23, developed by Eidos Montreal and, on PC, Nixxes Software. Steam pre-loading has begun but this may only be for those who buy direct from Steam. GMG has confirmed with publisher Square Enix that its won't actually work until the game launches.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Steam's introducing a way for players to easily trade 'gift' copies of games and, of course, their fine collection of Team Fortress 2 items. It's now in public beta testing, if you fancy a go. Valve hopes to roll it out to Portal 2 "reasonably soon" and plans to get third-party games in on the fun too.

Trading lets Steam users swap 'gift' copies of games (either received or bought) and TF2 items, mixing and matching to get the game or hat of their dreams. You can only swap unused games which are expressly gift copies, not just any old thing on your Steam account. Steam will be getting an easy option to buy gifts without sending them, if you want to stockpile bargains for future trades.

Trading's done through a natty special trade window (pictured above), initiated though a Steam chat. You can also view players' inventories of tradeable games and items through their online Steam Community profile, and drag items into chat windows to show them off. Check out the FAQ for more details.

Previously, TF2 hat fans had to arrange trades in-game on servers, and use community-run sites like TF2 Items for online inventories. There was no official way to trade games, so you'd have to trust the other party.

Right now, you can only trade gift copies of games and TF2 items, but, Valve notes, "Portal 2 should be reasonably soon and we hope to have several third-party games in the next few months."

You can join the trading beta through the Steam Settings page. It also brings goodies including organising your Friends list through tags, a separate tab for Steam Groups, and a fix for offline mode.

[Thanks to Shacker supreme Felicia for posing for the image up top. She's available to hire for hand-modelling, fitting bathrooms, and squishing cane toads.]


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