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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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...
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.
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.
GC: Valve opens up in Leipzig