Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Team Fortress 2's business model has been fairly simple since it went free-to-play--sell lots of virtual hats and guns--but Valve's trying something slightly different with the new 'Mann vs. Machine' co-op PvE mode, which launched last night. While it's free to play, if you fancy extra special loot, you can pay 99 cents for a ticket which offers the chance to earn unique prizes the likes of which ye have never seen.

The 99-cent single-use Tour of Duty Tickets let you into Mann Up Mode, which is a fancy way of saying it's played on Valve's official Mann Co. servers and you can score snazzy robot parts to wear. You're given a wearable Tour of Duty Badge to track your progress through the three MvM missions, which levels up once you've finished them all. The first time you finish a mission on each badge level, you get a piece of robot-loot, then another piece once you've finished the entire tour.

It's not cheap, though. Tour of Duty Tickets are used up when you complete any mission not already finished on your badge level (but not if you fail or have finished it before on this level). Tickets are still ultimately a hat delivery mechanism, but a bit different to straight selling them. Look, it's complicated, so check Valve's FAQ for the nitty-gritty.

You can also cough up $1.99 for a Squad Surplus Voucher, which will ensure everyone on your Mann Up Mode team will get an item if you beat the mission.

Of course, you don't need to pay a penny to play Mann vs. Machine if you don't want to; player-run servers simply don't drop the special robot-loot. The items are tradeable too, so you can swap your spares for shiny newness if you don't mind being thoroughly fleeced by unscrupulous traders.

Team Fortress 2 is a little overwhelmed by the flood of people trying to smash robots and wear their metallic skulls as trophies, mind, so it may be a while before you can play.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

As many Team Fortress 2 fans have already puzzled together, a new co-op mode is coming to Valve's free-to-play online shooter. Called "Mann vs Machine," this new mode has six human players waging "a desperate battle to stop a lethal horde of robots from deploying a bomb in one of Mann Co.'s many strongholds." Essentially, it is a horde mode. With robots. And in typical horde fashion, you'll be able to upgrade your abilities and weapons in between waves. Surviving will let you earn "incredible loot." The new mode will also be accommodated by brand new maps as well.

The mode will unlock on August 15th. To get yourself hyped, here's yet another comic and a brand new trailer:

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Valve's up to something again. Team Fortress 2 is, as we all know, an epic tale about the rivalry between two siblings, but now a third brother has appeared on the scene to shake things up. A new TF2 comic and several sneaky in-game secrets hint that something big, shiny and metallic is coming, possibly the long-speculated PvE mode nicknamed 'Mann vs. Machine' by fans.

As one fan's video details, Valve has been dropping hints about robots for some time, from comics and trailers to files casually added to TF2--which Valve knows fans pore over for hints. The most damning of these has been the heads of robot versions of every TF2 class.

After a little code-breaking by fans, Valve released a splendid new comic on Sunday showing a long-lost third Mann brother returning to slay his siblings--the heads of the warring Red and Blu teams--and set a dastardly plan in motion. Huge tanks appeared in the background of several maps over the weekend, so it seems an invasion is coming.

What does it all mean? The popular theory is Valve's releasing a new co-operative mode named Mann vs. Machine, where players fight robotic versions of the TF2 gang. TF2 files do reference something named 'MVM' and robots clearly are coming in some form, but it's mostly speculation for now. After several years of teasing, it seems we'll soon be finding out just what's afoot. If you want in on all the gossip and guessing, the Reddit community's gasbagging up a storm.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Orcs Must Die! developer Robot Entertainment is bringing its iOS hit Hero Academy to PC via Steam, complete with a team of Team Fortress 2 characters. The asynchronous multiplayer tactics 'em up will support cross-platform play with the iOS edition, too.

Hero Academy's about turn-based grid-set tactical combat between two teams with various units and abilities. The PC edition will come with a team based upon Valve's lovable mercenaries as well as the Council side. Following the iOS model, you'll have to pay for extra teams, but any unlocked are shared across both platforms. Yes, including the TF2 team. As a bonus, each team you buy unlocks a cosmetic item to wear in TF2.

Hero Academy is due on Steam on August 8. Hit the announcement for more information.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Team Fortress 2 has concluded its Pyromania update, with new weapons and items to go along with the new mode revealed on Monday. The Scout, Sniper, and Soldier are all getting new weapons, but the Pyro's new item has to win points for creativity.

All users playing through July 5 will get a pair of Pyrovision Goggles, Valve has announced. These let you see the world through the eyes of the Pyro, as revealed in the Meet the Pyro video. After July 5, you'll have to dominate someone wearing a pair to get your own.

Other additions include a new pistol and scattergun for the Scout, carbine SMG and sniper rifle for the Sniper, bazooka for the Soldier, and a new flare gun for the Pyro. This is all in addition to the previously reported Doomsday game mode and, for some reason, an Adult Swim hat. You can see all of the update changes detailed here.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

"I wonder what kind of hats this collaboration will bring about..." - howlthorne

It looks like the Shacknews community hit the nail on the head. Adult Swim and Valve's collaboration has been revealed... and it is a hat. No, not a hat you can wear in real life, silly. It's a free "limited-edition" Robot Chicken hat for use in Team Fortress 2.

The hat is being distributed to subscribers of the Adult Swim newsletter. "If you signed up and confirmed your account by midnight 6/27/12, you will receive your code on 6/28/12. If you signed up after midnight, you will receive your code 7/5/12," the official FAQ reveals.

While this may not be the Team Fortress cartoon we all wanted, Adult Swim is continuing the dangle the Valve carrot in front of friends. "This ain't the last you'll hear from Adult Swim and Valve. Stay tuned," the promo site teases. Oh, so we can get even more hats? We won't fall for that--oh wait. Look at this curious part of the Q&A, as discovered by Joystiq:

Q. Are you making a Team Fortress cartoon?

A. Go ask your mother.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Now that you've had a chance to Meet the Pyro, do you want to make your own Source-powered machinima creations? Well, now you can! Valve is releasing the Source Filmmaker (SFM), the movie-making tool Valve uses to make movies inside the Source game engine. SFM has been used in quite a number of Valve trailers.

SFM is currently available in beta. To apply, simply visit the official website with a computer that already has Steam installed on it. "Initially, we are limiting the number of beta users, but soon we will release the SFM to all users on Steam for free," Valve's FAQ explains.

At launch, SFM will only work within Team Fortress 2, meaning fan-made Half-Life movies using SFM won't be possible for a while. However, Valve notes that "users familiar with modding with the Source engine will be able to mod the SFM build of TF2 to create new worlds."

If you're interested, here's what you'll need for Filmmaker:

  • OS: Windows 7 / Vista (Windows 7 64 bit suggested)
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher)
  • Memory: 2GB (4 GB suggested)
  • Hard Disk Space: At least 15 GB of Space
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce 200 series card or better, or AMD Radeon 3000 series or better (NVIDIA GeForce 400 series or AMD Radeon 5000 series preferred)
  • Monitor: 1366 x 768 (1920 x 1080 suggested)
  • Audio: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • USB headset with mic (suggested)

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Team Fortress 2 is finally going to let you "Meet the Pyro" this Wednesday. But not content to just push out a zany video, the team at Valve has also planned a large update to the game, appropriately titled "Pyromania." It adds a new map and game mode, along with other reveals still to come.

The TF2 Blog teased the Meet the Pyro video and its associated update, with three days of news bits leading to the update on Wednesday. This first day details the new Doomsday game mode, in which the teams race to get rocket fuel up a slow-moving elevator, so they can launch monkeynaut Poopy Joe into space. You know, that old cliche.

Given the name and the focus on the Pyro, we assume this update will pack some new tools of burning as well. It's unclear yet how this ties into Valve's Adult Swim tease from last week, but that particular mystery will probably become clear soon enough.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Valve has teamed up with Adult Swim to create... something based on Team Fortress 2. Little is known about the collaboration, and it appears we may not hear more until "next week," when the promotion goes live.

The promo site simply teases that Adult Swim and Valve "are teaming up for something you'll probably enjoy." It adds, "to learn how their video game peanut butter will be getting in our network's chocolate, come back next week."

The Verge postulates that the partnership could be related to the various character videos released by Valve thus far. "Meet the Pyro" is the next video scheduled for release, and lo and behold, the Pyro appears on Adult Swim's newsletter sign-up page.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Three special new hats have been only added to Team Fortress 2, but only three--ever. These "one-of-a-kind" hats move from player to player each day, going to, essentially, whoever's willing to spend the most money on various items in TF2's in-game store.

The Dueler, Philateler and Gifting Man From Gifting Land hats will change ownership each day, being rewarded to the players won the most duels, bought the most Map Stamps, and gave the most gifts, respectively, the day before.

While the duel items can be given as random drops, Valve also sells them in the Mann Co. store, and Stamps and gifts can only be bought. Conspicuous consumption has never been so fetching!

"Presumably wearing these one-of-a-kind hats will make the winners feel like they've achieved something. Or not, I could give a damn. So long as they make you all better killing machines," The Administrator explains in a blog post.

The update also added Strange Parts, letting players customise Strange weapons so they track more than simply kills. The new parts track stats including buildings destroyed, airborne enemies killed, and projectiles reflected. They're only found in dropped crates, which you'll need to buy keys to open.