Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.
I've been watching quite a bit of Nigel Slater's Dish of the Day recently, it's very soothing - even if the idea of him bursting into my kitchen and making a meal out of whatever's lying around is mildly alarming. One thing I really admire about Mr Slater is his unapologetic obsession with sandwiches; I love a good sandwich as much as the next person, but Nigel Slater bloody loves them. I wish I loved anything as much as Nigel Slater loves slapping a few ingredients between two pieces of bread.
UPDATE: Day two of the Love and War update for free-to-play multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 adds new weapons and items to the game.
In a post on the Team Fortress website, Valve outlined the raft of guns and items added to the game, as well as new achievements.
Weapon highlights include the Back Scatter, which minicrits targets when fired at their back and at close range, the B.A.S.E. Jumper parachute and the Air Strike rocket launcher, which increases attack speed while blast jumping.
A recent survey of 10 million mobile gamers claimed only 2.2 per cent of the free-to-play audience spent any money at all. That's worrying - does it mean developers are deliberately designing games to cater for the minuscule minority rather than the vast majority?
"In the first week of 2014, $400k was paid out to content creators", noted Valve during the second Steam Day (summarised on Steamdb) - those content creators being people like you or me who belong to the Team Fortress 2 or Dota 2 communities.
Oh they'll induct anyone have they no standards etc..
Such is his influence on the world of videogames and computing that it's a wonder Gabe Newell hasn't been inducted into the prestigious Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame already. This coming February at the 2013 D.I.C.E. summit will be his moment.
"This is a huge milestone in the development of PC gaming" - Newell.
Imagine the booming voice of Brian Blessed and read: a limited access beta test for Steam on Linux has begun!
The list of games available has grown quickly to 26. Among them Dungeons of Dredmoor, Frozen Synapse, Trine 2. Larger games include Team Fortress 2 and Serious Sam 3: BFE. There's no sign of Left 4 Dead 2, but we know Valve to be working hard adapting it for Linux.
The beta will begin with a fistful - 1000 - of testers but widen as days and weeks roll by. Valve said 60,000 people filled out the survey required for participation.
Valve keeps on giving with Mann Vs. Machine - and continues to show how free-to-play should be done.
The thing about real-world robots is that they suck. I was raised on a diet of Transformers and Terminator, where stomping machines clank around, whirr into supercool jetplanes and goop through helicopter windows. Back in reality, scientists waste their time fannying about with particles they can't even see and lack the basic skills to make a robot walk like a human. Screw that.
Jason Holtman gives a peek inside Valve's unique structure
The employee handbook that hit the internet earlier this year pulled the curtain back on Valve, suggesting staff float about the company's Seattle offices working at desks made of gold and sitting on chairs made of clouds.
Valve has added a number of weapons to Team Fortress 2 as part of the second day of the Pyromania update.
Six weapons in total are added to the free-to-play shooter: two for the scout, two for the sniper, one for the soldier and one for the pyro. Check them out on Valve's City on Fire page for details and statistics.
The pyro weapon is The Scorch Shot, which will be seen in the hotly-anticipated Meet the Pyro short, set for release later today as the three day TF2 update comes to an end. The Scorch Shot is a flare gun that knocks back your target on hit and ignites enemies in a small radius.
New Doomsday map and mode released, Meet the Pyro short revealed.
Valve has announced a "massive" update for its free-to-play first-person shooter Team Fortress 2, called Pyromania.
The update, to be spread across three days, goes live today with the launch of Doomsday, a new map with a new game mode.
In Valve's words: "Doomsday pits BLU against RED, with only one team getting the honor of transporting a suitcase nuke full of recalled Mann Co. Australium to American monkeynaut Poopy Joe's rocket, so he can blast off and hunt down Soviet space chimp Vladimir Bananas. It's the same spirit of competitive enterprise that stalled the moon landing by three years when Buzz Aldrin suplexed Neil Armstrong into a pile of folding chairs at Astromania '69! Both teams will attempt to get the necessary fuel up a preposterously slow-moving elevator and into Poopy Joe's Australium-powered rocket to the stars."
A seasonal Team Fortress 2 PC update, dubbed The Third Annual Scream Fortress Very Scary Halloween Special, is up for download now.
As detailed on the game's official site, it offers a new Halloween-themed map, a boss fight with a giant eyeball called Monoculus, two new achievements, nine costume packs, a heap of new loot and plenty more besides.
It's only available until 6th November, so make haste.
Gabe Newell sits proudly inside Valve's Gamescom booth knowing his company's latest game, Dota 2, has a fantastic chance of being a huge hit. Outside, hundreds are watching it being played live in a tournament with a huge $1 million grand prize. Online, thousands are poring over every detail. Things are going well.
In the introduction to our very first Game of the Week, I wrote this: "If there's nothing at all we can recommend that week - hey, it might happen - we'll take the opportunity to highlight something from previous weeks that you (or we) might have missed."
This re-review is of the PC and Mac version of Team Fortress 2, now available for free. The console versions, included in The Orange Box, have had comparatively few updates and remain closer to the version tested in our original Team Fortress 2 review from 2007.
On Valve's website sits a profile page, and on that profile page sits an entry for Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek. It reads: "We are all still trying to figure out exactly what it is that Chet does at Valve, but at the very least he occupies office space on the 11th floor as self-proclaimed Mr. Awesome."
Team Fortress 2 players beware! The game's first AI boss beheading your way, clippity-clop, clippity-clop.
He's the Horseless Headless Horsemann, a long lost Mann family member, and he appears randomly on spooky Halloween map Mann Manor. And he wants to kill you - providing the Manor's exploding pumpkins don't get you first.
Those brave enough can face the Horseless Headless Horsemann in battle. Slay him and an achievement awaits. It's called "Sleepy Holl0WND".
Valve has put out a patch that addresses a long list of bugs in Left 4 Dead 2, the brilliant co-operative zombie-splatting shooter released earlier this year.
There are changes to hit boxes - the mesh area surrounding a monster that registers hits - and tweaks to the controls of Special Infected. You'll be able to spin the camera when attacked by a Charger or a Smoker, and ghost placement rules have been altered in Scavenge mode.
It's a sum-of-its-parts patch, which is why I've been lazy and pasted the list below.
Publishers and developer are free to drop and raise the price of digitally released games without any penalty to future sales or consumer loyalty, according to Valve's head of Steam, Jason Holtman, as reported on GamesIndustry.biz.
Valve plans to release the Sniper update for Team Fortress 2 in "the coming days".
Inside will be three new unlockable weapons, extra Achievements and some maps. Valve will drip-feed specific details on the Team Fortress 2 blog over the next few days.
We do know one of the new weapons will be The Huntsman bow and arrow, which pins prey to walls. Let fly a bolt at someone's head to score an instant critical hit, but beware of the one-second full-power charge and the limited quiver of 18 arrows.
Valve's Robin Walker has said on the Team Fortress 2 blog that a new update to the multiplayer shooter is on the way "in the next few days".
The update will bring a couple of extra features for the Spy and Engineer classes. Engineers' teleporters and dispensers will be upgradeable to level 3, while Spies will be able to recharge their cloaking ability by picking up ammo. The update also includes some new user interface features.
"These are just to work on some class balance and depth issues that we've seen in the wild with these two classes, but aren't meant to replace their entire class packs," said Walker. "They will be getting more attention further down the road."
Valve has announced that Steam Cloud will launch this week.
Steam Cloud, announced at the end of May, centralises configuration data online so that you can access your controller and multiplayer settings (like spraypaint images for Counter-Strike) from any computer.
In future, Valve intends to centralise save-game data - the idea being that you could delete a Steam game and all its files and still be able to pick it up from the same spot, on any computer, years later.
Valve has given more details of what will be in the Pyro update coming to Team Fortress 2 PC this Thursday.
For starters, you can expect a "significant improvement" for the bog-standard flamethrower. Pressing the alternate fire button now produces a gust of compressed air that sends enemies flying and even redirects hostile projectiles.
So yes, you will be able to turn rockets back on their launchers, get blazing victims away from you pronto, and keep enemy medics away from their patients.
Chatting about Portal and whether Orange Box will return.
On a recent trip to Germany to see Left 4 Dead, of which more soon, we sat down with Valve's VP of marketing Doug Lombardi to talk about things. Things like Portal, and whether we'll see an Orange Box 2. Like everyone at Valve, Doug's job title is a bit misleading; he does a broad range of things across the company, and has even - as he points out here - dabbled in development to some extent. He also plays Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead with us when we fly over to see Valve, which is nice of him (it's nice of him to let us win all the time, too). Anyway, enough being nice about Doug - here are a few selected excerpts from our discussion, with more to come when we're allowed to talk about what the developer was actually in Germany to show off...
The Orange Box on Xbox 360 is definitely amazing, but Team Fortress 2 players have also been complaining of amazing lag, so Valve has released an update that it reckons fixes it.
Chief amongst the TF2 enhancements in the new patch are reductions in network bandwidth usage, improvements to overall game performance, and adjustments to the search facility so ranked games are found with greater ease and results are set to favour preferred host conditions.
You should find yourself downloading it next time you fire up the game, thanks to Xbox Live's mum-when-you're-ill ability to know exactly what you need.
Yesterday Eurogamer TV showed you what playing Team Fortress 2 as an Engineer would feel like: building turrets, fixing and upgrading machines, or shooting people in their silly faces with your shotgun.
Tom's already heaped praise on Valve's long-awaited Team Fortress 2, due to arrived with other delights in the ridiculously generous Orange Box later this month. But with the beta already up-and-running, today EGTV brings you the first of our exclusive character class gameplay showcases: the Engineer.
Thanks to failing eyesight (thanks, Suicide Girls) and this newfangled obsession with making everything look gritty, online FPS games are harder for me than ever. Half the time I can't pick people out from the environment until it's too late. Even in Counter-Strike, which is clearer than most, I often get popped in the head by a distant Colt and then have to cycle the chase-cameras to work out who killed me and from where.
So it's important to start this review by jumping up and down waving excitedly about Team Fortress 2's brilliant graphics: not only is everything extremely clear and intuitive, with character classes that you can easily distinguish at distance, but when you get killed the game crash-zooms to and freeze-frames your killer, so you can immediately identify who, why, how and where. Other FPS developers: copy this immediately.
Making a complicated team-based online FPS like Team Fortress into an accessible experience was obviously one of Valve's objectives. Each map comes with a short video that tells you about the game-type and goals; all the level architecture is distinct when you move between sections, with big sign-posts telling you which capture-point or area you're heading to; and all the weapons and abilities are really intuitive, like the Medic's healing gun, which fires health into your target and illustrates this by pumping little red crosses along the stream.
Valve has made The Orange Box available to pre-order on Steam ahead of what is now a 10th October activation date - and those who pre-order will be able to play the Team Fortress 2 beta from 17th September.
Orange Box will sell for USD 49.95 on Steam, and pre-purchases will get a 10 percent discount on that price, as well as a free copy of Peggle Extreme.
The compilation release - which consists of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal - is also being produced for Xbox 360 and PS3. The 360 version will launch at the same time (at European retail 12th October) while the PS3 version is due a few weeks later.
In light of recent chatter about Stranglehold having cost USD 30 million to make, we thought we'd ask Valve's Gabe Newell how much Orange Box ran to. "I don't know," he told us at Games Convention. "We don't track that."
Gosh! It seems like only 3 months and 8 days ago that we last sat down for half an hour with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, which is probably because that was when we last sat down with him. He said lots of things back then, so for our Games Convention chat this past week we were able to skip some of the pleasantries and talk in more depth about Orange Box, Steam, Wii controls and which is better PlayStations or Xboxes. Only kidding. Sort of. Plus we talked about those excellent TF2 movie shorts - have you watched the Soldier one yet? Read on also for Gabe using a swearword, which we think is an exclusive. Enjoy.
Valve has told Eurogamer that it has no intention of charging customers who download additional content for games like Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, despite the widely spread increase of paid-for updates in the PC and console world.
Team Fortress 2 is shaping up to be one of the multiplayer PC games of the year (providing it comes out in this one, obviously). In and around our recent playtest, we were able to ask designer Robin Walker a bunch of questions about the decisions behind it, and the plan going forward beyond release. What follows is a selection of topics raised during the hours we spent in Robin's company, all knitted together fancily so it looks neat and tidy and you can read through it easily. You wouldn't want the raw transcript - it's epic, and we said a lot of stupid things. We're not very clever really. Enjoy.
In Team Fortress 2, Valve's fort-versus-fort multiplayer FPS, the devs have tried to apply the lessons they learned about iterative design to a multiplayer game. It is, in designer Robin Walker's words, "the first time we've got our shit together enough to do this" (and they've had a few goes - TF2 was originally announced in 1998). One of the words we hear a lot is "pacing". "We've always thought of pacing as a crafted thing in single-player," says Walker. "We spent a lot of time in Half-Life 2 crafting the highs and lows." Now TF2 has them - instead of standing around defending the base ("a flat experience"), you're forced to deal with rapidly evolving situations, like a Medic and Heavy Weapons Guy combining to capitalise on the former's temporary burst of invulnerability. When an enemy moves your flag, it will take 30 seconds to return to its home even if you touch it, forcing you to adjust your area of defensive focus. Similarly, get halfway through capturing a control point before death and your partial control will gradually diminish, giving the next wave the chance to resume the attack, and forcing the defending team to keep more of an eye on it. The dynamic changes minute to minute.
Originally published on GamesIndustry.biz, today's wide-ranging interview with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell touches on everything from the decision to extend Half-Life 2 episodically and introduce advertising to online multiplayer game Counter-Strike, to the future of the Steam business and what to expect from the next five years of gaming hardware. It also offers an insight into how Valve is structured, and why the developer believes listening to its customers is paramount to its success.
360, PS3 and PC - and it'll ship with Team Fortress 2.
In a really rather exciting presentation at EA's Studio Showcase in San Francisco, Valve has announced that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 will launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC simultaneously - and that's only the start of it.
Studio founder Gabe Newell was on hand to deliver the news, and to inform the audience that the console version will come complete with the original HL2 and Ep 1 for "the entire Half-Life experience."
Newell also revealed that Ep 2 will ship with a brand new FPS game called Portal. Set in the Half-Life universe, it sees you armed with some kind of crazy gun which allows you to create, well, portals. You can use them to transport yourself across rooms, or to teleport an object from one place to another - perhaps so that it falls out of the portal you've created to land smack bang on an enemy's head, for example.