Team Fortress 2
|Team Fortress 2|
Box art for the standalone PC version of Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 is a team-based first-person shooter multiplayer video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. It is the sequel to the 1996 mod Team Fortress for Quake and its 1999 remake. It was released as part of the video game compilation The Orange Box on October 10, 2007 for Windows and the Xbox 360. A PlayStation 3 version followed on December 11, 2007. On April 8, 2008, it was released as a standalone title for Windows. The game was updated to support OS X on June 10, 2010, and Linux on February 14, 2013. It is distributed online through Valve's download retailer Steam; retail distribution was handled by Electronic Arts.
In Team Fortress 2, players join one of two teams comprising nine character classes, battling in a variety of game modes including capture the flag and king of the hill. The development is led by John Cook and Robin Walker, creators of the original Team Fortress. Announced in 1998, the game once had more realistic, militaristic visuals and gameplay, but this changed over the protracted nine-year development. After Valve released no information for six years, Team Fortress 2 regularly featured in Wired News' annual vaporware list among other ignominies. The finished Team Fortress 2 has cartoon-like visuals influenced by the art of J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell and is powered by Valve's Source engine.
Team Fortress 2 received critical acclaim for its art direction, gameplay, humor, and use of character in a multiplayer-only game. Valve continues to release new content, including maps, items and game modes, as well as community-made updates and contributed content. On June 23, 2011, it became free to play, supported by microtransactions for unique in-game equipment. A 'drop system' was also added and refined in this update, allowing free-to-play users to periodically receive game equipment and items by use of a random number generator. Though the game has had a community-run competitive scene for many years, support for competitive play through ranked matchmaking and an overhauled casual experience was added in July 2016.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Development
- 3 Marketing
- 4 Reception
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Team Fortress 2 has similar gameplay as previous releases in the series due to its focus around two opposing teams competing for a combat-based objective. In the game's fiction, the teams are composed of mercenaries hired by two feuding brothers to protect the company assets belonging to one brother while trying to destroy those of the other; the teams are thus represented by the names of these companies: Reliable Excavation & Demolition (RED) and Builders League United (BLU). Players can choose to play as one of nine character classes in these teams, each with his own unique strengths, weaknesses, and weapons. In order to accomplish objectives efficiently, a balance of these classes is required due to how these strengths and weaknesses interact with each other in a team based environment. Although the abilities of a number of classes have changed from earlier Team Fortress incarnations, the basic elements of each class have remained, that being one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, and one melee weapon. The game was released with six official maps, although 44 extra maps, 9 arena maps, 8 king of the hill maps, and various other map types have been included in subsequent updates, including competitive remakes of older maps. In addition, a number of community assembled maps have been released. When players join a level for the first time, an introductory video shows how to complete its objectives. During matches, "The Administrator", a woman voiced by Ellen McLain, announces various game events over loudspeakers. The player limit is 16 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. On the PC, in 2008 Valve updated Team Fortress 2 to include a server variable that allows up to 32 players.
Team Fortress 2 is the first of Valve's multiplayer games to provide detailed statistics for individual players. They include: time spent playing as each class, most points obtained, and the most captures or objectives achieved in a single life. Persistent statistics tell the player how he or she is improving in relation to these statistics, such as if a player comes close to his or her record for the damage inflicted in a round. Team Fortress 2 also features numerous "achievements" for carrying out certain tasks, such as scoring a certain number of kills or completing a round within a certain time. New sets of class-specific achievements have been added in updates, which add new abilities and weapons to each class once unlocked by the player. This unlockable system has since been expanded into a random-chance system, where the player can also obtain the items simply by playing the game.
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The objective of the game is defined by the game mode in use.
- In Capture the Flag maps, the objective for both teams is to obtain a briefcase of intelligence from the enemy team's base and return it to their own base while preventing the opposing team from doing the same. The player carrying the intelligence can be killed to drop the briefcase, or the player can willingly drop it; in either case, this starts a two-minute timer. If the intelligence is not collected by another player on the opposing team before that timer expires, it is returned to its home base. A team can only score by delivering the enemy's intelligence to their base. A match lasts until one team scores a set number of captures (three by default) or time runs out.
- A variant of Capture the Flag, called Special Delivery, has teams vying over a single suitcase in an attempt to deliver to the end target. Once the intelligence is picked up by one team, only members of that team can carry it until either it successfully delivered, or the drop timer expires and it is returned to its original spawn point.
- Control Point modes are more varied in their objectives, but share the common aim of capturing a particular point on the map by having one or more team members stay on the point without the presence of the opposing team for a short period of time. In standard control point maps, each team already controls an equal number of points, with one additional point left unclaimed; teams can only attempt to capture points that are nearest to those points they already control. Each team attempts to progressively capture all the control points to win the round. In attack/defend-style maps, the RED team already controls all the points on the map, and must hold these points from being captured by the opposing team (BLU Team) for a length of time. If the attacking team (BLU) gains control over a control point in Attack/Defend-style maps, the control point is locked to the BLU team (RED cannot capture the point back), and additional time is added for BLU to assault the next objective.
- Territorial Control is a more complex version of Control Point, in which each map is divided into a number of closed sections, held between the two teams. Each round has one team attempting to seize control of the opposing team's capture point for that section in a fixed amount of time. Once a team holds all but the enemy's home base point, they then attempt to capture the enemy base point while the enemy defends for a fixed amount of time. The only official map made by Valve for Territorial Control is called Hydro, due to it being set in a hydro-electric power plant.
- King of the Hill features a single control point in the center of the map, with teams attempting to gain control over it. The control point is locked for a set amount of time after the round start. Once the point is unlocked, either team can capture it. Capturing the control point starts the team's clock counting down. The clock that is currently counting down will only stop if the other team captures the point, the clock reaches 0:00, or another map-specific event occurs such as a Halloween boss spawning during the Halloween event. Teams win the round when their clock reaches 0:00 with the control point currently under their control. If the other team is capturing the point, the round will not end until the point's capture progress resets to 0, and the clock will continue to count down until it is actually captured.
- Payload maps feature a length of track atop which sits a bomb mounted on a cart. This mode has two variants; Payload and Payload Race. In normal Payload maps, one team (BLU) must escort the cart through a series of checkpoints in a limited amount of time to reach a final target that the other team (RED) defends. The cart moves when one or more players of the team are near it without enemies nearby; during this, the cart heals and provides ammunition to those close by. If no one is by the cart, it will not move forwards. After enough time passes without the payload having a team member near it, regardless of whether or not there is an enemy in proximity, the cart will begin to move backwards towards the last checkpoint. It will also roll backwards off uphill sections of the track. In Payload Race, both teams race to deliver a bomb-cart to a final target; there are no checkpoints and unmanned carts will not move in reverse, but still require team members nearby to fully complete uphill sections. Both types of Payload maps can come in single-round or multiple-round maps. In standard payload, further rounds will only be played if BLU wins. In Payload Race, all rounds will be played regardless of which team wins, but the winner of previous rounds starts with their cart farther up the track.
- Arena is a team deathmatch mode, typically occurring smaller environments featuring a single control point. In each round, players do not respawn on death; a team wins the round by capturing the control point or eliminating all of the other team members.
- Mann vs. Machine (shortened to MvM) is a six player co-operative mode where the mercenaries defend a structure against increasingly difficult waves of robots. Players have the ability to buy upgrades and improvements between rounds using in-game money earned during previous waves. A "Mann Up" version is available by purchasing tickets with real money to participate in larger events on official servers with the opportunity to win unique cosmetic items after successfully completing a Tour of Duty.
- Mannpower is a modified version of Capture the Flag in which teams must capture the enemy's briefcase of intelligence a set number of times while preventing the enemy from doing the same. The game mode is characterized by its usage of grappling hooks and twelve unique power-ups.
- Player Destruction is a game mode made official by the community-made Invasion Update that focuses on teams collecting items (bottles of beer) by killing enemy players, and then entering a specific area (jumping into a UFO tractor beam) in order to add them to their team's score.
- PASS Time is a game mode inspired by rugby, developed by Valve, Bad Robot, and Escalation Studios. A single ball can be picked up by a player, and while they hold this, they cannot use any weapons but gain health regeneration, higher defense, faster movement speed, and the ability to see all players on the level. Players can pass the ball to other players or throw it aside to return to their normal patterns of attack, and will automatically drop the ball if killed. The ball can also be stolen if an opposing player is intercepts a pass, or hits the carrier with their melee weapon. The goal is to get the ball through the opponent's goal more often than the opponents. The beta for this mode was added in July 2016.
- Halloween Mode is a game type up for selection, only accessible days before and sometimes after Halloween. The first Halloween event, or Scream Fortress event started in the year 2009, in the Haunted Hallowe'en Special, part of the October 29, 2009 patch. Scream Fortress features a collection of slightly altered maps, such as Mann Manor, Sinshine, and Brimstone. There have been 14 Halloween maps released to the public so far. Each Scream Fortress event is brought by an update, some of which adding more features to the event and some only enabling the choice of a Halloween server with no changes. Only in Halloween mode can there be a boss fight against AI. Some bosses include Merasmus, The Headless Horseless Horsemann, and Monoculus. Not all maps have boss fights, however, with some only being altered. One of which is Helltower, where instead of Payload carts, there are the two dead Mann brothers. The goal is to push the opposite team's brother into hell, and if neither side does so in a certain amount of time, all the players are sent to hell and must reach the end in order to be able to collect a new item. This is also achievable on a victory of one team.
A "Training mode" exists to help new players get used to the game, using wooden target dummies for practice and to introduce them to concepts of the multiplayer modes, though likely through an oversight is limited to four out of the nine classes. Game modes allowing respawn all have a delay before a player may respawn again, with the respawn system waves' time being relative to the team's role (for example, the defender have their respawn waves spaced far apart, while the attackers have a shorter delay between each wave). Since 2009, there is also typically a Halloween-themed variation on one or more of the above modes during the weeks around the holiday, with maps or modes updated to include themed decorations and often a more difficult challenge to the players. For example, for Halloween 2012, this included an extremely difficult Mann vs. Machine round involving destroying more than 800 enemy forces. Due to popular demand of the Halloween events, Valve added Full Moon, the ability to play these events on the few days around the full moon throughout the year, and later Eternaween, the ability for players to vote to play the themed-events for a two-hour block at any other time.
Classes and characters
Team Fortress 2 features nine playable classes, categorized into offense, defense, and support roles. Each class has strengths and weaknesses, and must work with other classes to be efficient, encouraging strategy and teamwork. Each class has at least three weapons: a unique primary weapon, a common or unique secondary weapon, and a unique melee weapon.
- The Scout (voiced by Nathan Vetterlein) is a cocky, fast-talking baseball fan and street runner from Boston, Massachusetts, who practiced running to "beat his maddog siblings to the fray." He is a fast, agile character, armed with a scattergun, a pistol and an aluminum baseball bat. The Scout can double-jump and captures control points and pushes payloads twice as fast as other classes, but has low health.
- The Soldier (Rick May) is both the second-slowest class in the game, and the class with the second-highest health (after the Heavy Weapons Guy). A jingoistic American military man hailing from the Midwest (despite the fact that he was never actually in the Army), the Soldier is armed with a rocket launcher, shotgun, and a folding shovel. The Soldier can use his rocket launcher to rocket jump to higher positions at the cost of some health.
- The Pyro (Dennis Bateman) is a mentally unstable pyromaniac of unknown gender or origin, clad in a fire-retardant suit and a voice-muffling gas mask. In addition to a shotgun and fire axe, the Pyro is armed with a homemade flamethrower that can set players on fire. It can also produce a blast of compressed air that knocks away nearby enemies and projectiles, and extinguishes burning teammates.
- The Demoman (Gary Schwartz) is a black, one-eyed, heavy-drinking Scotsman from Ullapool. Armed with a glass bottle, grenade and sticky bomb launchers, the Demoman can use his explosives to provide indirect fire and set traps. The Demoman, much like the Soldier with his rocket launcher, is capable of using his Stickybomb Launcher to "sticky jump" at the cost of some health.
- The Heavy (Gary Schwartz) is a large Russian from the Dzhugdzhur Mountains of the USSR, heavy in stature and accent, and obsessed with firepower. Though he is the slowest class, he can sustain and deal immense amounts of damage. His default weapons consist of his fists, a shotgun, and an enormous minigun that he affectionately refers to as "Sasha".
- The Engineer (Grant Goodeve) is a relaxed and intellectual "good ol' boy" from Bee Cave, Texas. The Engineer can build structures to support his team: a sentry gun for defending key points, a health and ammunition dispenser, and a teleporter. He is armed with a standard shotgun and pistol, and a wrench that is also used to repair, upgrade, and speed up building of his structures. He can also remotely destroy his structures.
- The Medic (Robin Atkin Downes) is a German doctor from Stuttgart with little regard for the Hippocratic Oath. The Medic's "Medi Gun" heals teammates and gradually builds "ÜberCharge"; on activation, the ÜberCharge grants boosts ranging from temporary invulnerability to the Medic and patient to guaranteed "critical hits" (tripled damage that ignores distance penalties) for their weapon granted to the patient, depending on which Medi Gun is selected. The Medic is also equipped with an air-powered syringe gun and bonesaw. He keeps doves as pets, one of which is named Archimedes.
- The Sniper (John Patrick Lowrie) is a cheerful New Zealand ocker-style character raised in the Australian Outback, equipped with a laser-sighted sniper rifle to shoot enemies from afar and a submachine gun and a kukri for close combat.
- The Spy (Dennis Bateman) is a French double agent equipped with covert tools, including a cloaking device disguised as a watch, an electronic sapper used to sabotage and potentially destroy enemy Engineers' buildings, and a device hidden in his cigarette case that enables him to disguise as enemy players. Armed with a revolver, the Spy can also use his butterfly knife to stab enemies in the back or sides (known as a backstab), which instantly kills them.
Other characters include the Administrator (voiced by Ellen McLain), an unseen announcer who provides information about time limits and objectives to players, and her assistant, Miss Pauling (Ashly Burch). The cast has expanded with Halloween updates, including the characters of Merasmus, the Bombinonicon, the Horseless Headless Horsemann, Monoculus, and the Mann Brothers (all voiced by Nolan North).
Team Fortress 2 is played competitively, through multiple leagues. The North American league ESEA supports a paid Team Fortress 2 league, with $10,080 in prizes for the top teams in 2012. In addition, Team Fortress 2 is played in multiple free-to-play leagues including UGC (United Gaming Clans), ETF2L in Europe. and AsiaFortress in Asia Team Fortress 2 is played competitively mostly in one of three gamemodes: Highlander (one of each class, 9 players per team), 6v6 (2 Scouts, 2 Soldiers, 1 Demoman, and 1 Medic with other classes used in certain situations), or 4v4 (1 Scout, 1 Soldier, 1 Demoman, and 1 Medic, with other classes used often). While formalized competitive gameplay is very different from normal Team Fortress 2, it offers an environment with a much higher level of teamwork than in public servers (also known as "pubs"). Most teams use a voice chat to communicate, and use a combination of strategy, communication, and aiming ability to win against other teams. Community-run competitive leagues also tend to feature an item banlist, as well as the removal of randomized critical hits, in order to speed up gameplay and to remove unbalanced or game-breaking elements from matches. Many competitive leagues also award in-game medals and player honors, which are submitted via the Steam Workshop and approved by Valve.
In February 2016, Valve announced that a dedicated competitive mode would be added to Team Fortress 2, utilizing skill-based matchmaking; closed beta testing began that month. Competitive mode was added in the "Meet Your Match" update, released on July 7, 2016. Ranked matches are played six-vs-six, with players ranked in eighteen tiers based on win/losses and an assessment of their skills. Ranked matchmaking will balance players based on their tiers. A similar matchmaking approach has been added for causal games for matches of 12-vs-12 players. A separate ranking used for matchmaking in casual games can be increased by experience points earned in-game, scaling with in-match performance. Players must have associated their Steam account with the Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator, and have a Team Fortress 2 premium account (either by having bought the game originally, or purchased something in the game one it became free-to-play) to use the competitive matchmaking mode.
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Origins and early development
The original Team Fortress was developed by Robin Walker and John Cook as a free mod for the 1996 PC game Quake. In 1998, Walker and Cook were employed by Valve Corporation, which had just released its first game, Half-Life. They and Valve began developing Team Fortress 2 as a standalone retail game using Valve's GoldSrc engine. In 1999, Valve released Team Fortress Classic, a port of the original Team Fortress, as a free Half-Life mod. Team Fortress Classic was developed using the publicly available Half-Life software development kit as an example to the community and industry of its flexibility.
In contrast to the original Team Fortress, Valve originally planned Team Fortress 2 to have a modern war aesthetic. It would feature a command hierarchy including a Commander class, parachute drops over enemy territory, networked voice communication, and numerous other innovations. The Commander class played similarly to a real-time strategy game, with the player viewing the game from a bird's-eye perspective and issuing orders to players and AI-controlled soldiers.
Team Fortress 2 was first shown at E3 1999, where Valve showcased new technologies including parametric animation, which blended animations for smoother, more lifelike movement, and Intel's multi-resolution mesh technology, which dynamically reduced the detail of distant on-screen elements to improve performance. The game earned several awards including Best Online Game and Best Action Game.
In mid-2000, Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 had been delayed for a second time. They attributed the delay to development switching to an in-house engine that is today known as the Source engine. Following the announcement, Valve stopped releasing information about Team Fortress 2 and the game entered six years of silent development. Walker and Cook worked on various other Valve projects; Walker was project lead on Half-Life 2: Episode One and Cook became a Steam developer. Team Fortress 2 became a prominent example of vaporware, a long-anticipated game that had seen years of development, and was often mentioned alongside Duke Nukem Forever. Walker later stated that Valve had built "three to four different games" before settling on their final design. Shortly before the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004, Valve's marketing director Doug Lombardi confirmed that Team Fortress 2 was still in development. Valve reintroduced Team Fortress 2 at the July 2006 EA Summer Showcase event with a drastically different visual design.
Departing from the realistic visual design of Valve games such as Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source and Day of Defeat: Source. Rather, Team Fortress 2 features a cartoon-like visual style influenced by 20th-century commercial illustrations and the artwork of J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell, achieved through extensive phong shading. The game debuted with the Source engine's new dynamic lighting, shadowing and soft particle technologies alongside Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It was the first game to implement the Source engine's new Facial Animation 3 features.
Valve abandoned the game's earlier realistic style when it became impossible to reconcile it with the unrealistic gameplay, with opposing armies having constructed elaborate bases directly next to each other. The Commander class was abandoned as players would simply refuse to follow the player's orders.
The art style was inspired by the artwork of J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell. Valve designed each character, team and equipped weapon to be visually distinct, even at range; for example, the coloring draws attention to the chest area, bringing focus on the equipped weapon. The voices for each of the classes were based on imagining what people from the 1960s would expect the classes to have sounded like, according to writer Chet Faliszek.
The map design has a evil genius theme with archetypical spy fortresses, concealed within inconspicuous buildings such as industrial warehouses and farms to give plausibility to their close proximities; these bases are usually separated by a neutrally themed space. The bases hide exaggerated super weapons such as laser cannons, nuclear warheads, and missile launch facilities, taking the role of objectives. The maps have little visual clutter and stylized, almost impressionistic modeling, to allow enemies to be spotted more easily. The impressionistic design approach also affects textures, which are based on photos that are filtered and improved by hand, giving them a tactile quality and giving Team Fortress 2 its distinct look. The bases are designed to let players immediately know where they are. RED bases use warm colors, natural materials and angular shapes, while BLU bases use cool colors, industrial materials and orthogonal shapes.
During the July 2006 Electronic Arts press conference, Valve revealed that Team Fortress 2 would ship as the multiplayer component of The Orange Box. A conference trailer showcasing all nine of the classes demonstrated for the first time the game's whimsical new visual style. Managing director of Valve Gabe Newell said that the company's goal was to create "the best looking and best-playing class-based multiplayer game". A beta release of the entire game was made on Steam on September 17, 2007 for customers who had pre-purchased The Orange Box, who had activated their Black Box coupon, which was included with the ATI HD 2900XT Graphics cards, and for members of Valve's Cyber Café Program. The beta continued until the game's final release.
The game was released on October 10, 2007, both as a standalone product via Steam and at retail stores as part of The Orange Box compilation pack, priced at each gaming platform's recommended retail price. The Orange Box also contains Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and Portal. Valve offered The Orange Box at a ten percent discount for those who pre-purchased it via Steam before the October 10, as well as the opportunity to participate in the beta test.
Since the release of Team Fortress 2, Valve has continually released free updates and patches through Steam for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux users; though most patches are used for improving the reliability of the software or to tweak gameplay changes, several patches have been used to introduce new features and gameplay modes, and are often associated with marketing materials such as comics or videos offered on the Team Fortress 2 website; this blog is also used to keep players up to date with the ongoing developments in Team Fortress 2. As of July 2012, each class has been given a dedicated patch that provides new weapons, items, and other gameplay changes; these class patches typically included the release of the class's "Meet the Team" video. Other major patches have included new gameplay modes including the Payload, Payload Race, Training, Highlander, Medieval, and Mann vs Machine modes. Themed patches have also been released, such as a Halloween-themed map with unique items available only during a set period around the holiday. Other new features have given players the ability of crafting new items within the game, trade items with other players, purchase in-game items through funds in Steam, and save and edit replay videos that can be posted to YouTube.
Valve has released tools to allow users to create maps, weapons, and cosmetic items through a contribution site; the most popular are added as official content for the game. This approach has subsequently created the basis for the Steam Workshop functionality of the software client. In one case, more than fifty users from the content-creation community worked with Valve to release an official content update in May 2013, with all of the content generated by these players. Valve reported that as of June 2013, over $10 million has been paid back to over 400 community members that have helped to contribute content to the game, including a total of $250,000 for the participants in the May 2013 patch. To help promote community-made features, Valve has released limited time events, such as the "Gun Mettle" or "Invasion" events in the second half of 2015, also including the "Tough Break" update in December 2015, in which players can spend a small amount of money which is paid back to the community developers for the ability to gain unique items offered while playing on community-made maps during the event.
Development of the new content has been confirmed for the Xbox 360, while development for the PlayStation 3 was deemed "uncertain" by Valve. However, the PlayStation 3 version of Team Fortress 2 received an update that repaired some of the issues found within the game, ranging from graphical issues to online connectivity problems; this update was included in a patch that also repaired issues found in the other games within The Orange Box. The updates released on PC and planned for later release on Xbox 360 include new official maps and game modes, as well as tweaks to classes and new weapons that can be unlocked through the game's achievement system. The developers attempted to negotiate with Xbox 360 developer Microsoft to keep the Xbox 360 releases of these updates free, but Microsoft refused and Valve announced that they would release bundles of several updates together to justify the price. Because of the cost of patching, Valve has been unable to provide additional patches to the Xbox 360 version since 2009.
On June 10, 2010, Team Fortress 2 was released for OS X, shortly after the release of Steam for OS X. The release was teased by way of an image similar to early iPod advertising, showing a dark silhouette of the Heavy on a bright green background, his Sandvich highlighted in his hand. Virtual earbuds, which can be worn when playing on either OS X or Windows once acquired, were given to players playing the game on OS X before June 14, though the giveaway period was later extended to August 16.
On November 6, 2012, Valve announced the release of Team Fortress 2 for Linux as part of a restricted beta launch of Steam on the platform. This initial release of Steam and Team Fortress 2 was targeted at Ubuntu with support for other distributions planned for the future. Later, on December 20, 2012, Valve opened up access to the beta, including Team Fortress 2, to all Steam users without the need to wait for an invitation. On February 14, 2013, Valve announced the full release of Team Fortress 2 for Linux. From then to March 1, anyone who played the game on Linux would receive a free Tux penguin, which can be equipped in-game.
Team Fortress 2 was announced in March 2013 to be the first game to officially support the Oculus Rift, a consumer-grade virtual reality headset. A patch will be made to the client to include a "VR Mode" that can be used with the headset on any public server.
In Team Fortress 2 players can trade with other users for items such as weapons, cosmetics, weapon skins, and utilities. Weapons and utilities can change and affect gameplay in different ways, the main being; some weapons have different stats than others and thus allows a different playstyle. Cosmetic items, on the other hand, do not change game-play at all as all they do is change the way the player looks.
In late 2011, the gaming site Kotaku reported that the Team Fortress 2's trading economy was worth over $50 million. Additionally, many of the individual items have reached immense levels of real-world value, one character hat in particular being sold for over $18,000 USD.
Third-party websites have been set up to help users trade, as well as track the value of the many in-game items within the Team Fortress 2 economy. Some of the more common and useful items are crate keys or crafting metal, and are capable of being used as currencies within the item market, with most items having a price in these currencies as well as a corresponding cash value.
On June 23, 2011, Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 would become free to play. Unique equipment including weapons and outfits would be available as microtransactions through the in-game store, tied through Steam. Walker stated that Valve would continue to provide new features and items free. Walker stated that Valve had learned that the more players Team Fortress 2 had, the more value it had for each player.
The move came a week after Valve introduced several third-party free-to-play games to Steam and stated they were working on a new free-to-play game. Within nine months of becoming free to play, Valve reported that revenue from Team Fortress 2 had increased by a factor of twelve.
To promote the game, Valve has released an ongoing video advertisement series entitled "Meet the Team" since May 2007. Constructed using the game engine and slightly more detailed character models, the series consists of short videos on individual characters, displaying their personalities and tactics. The videos are usually interspersed with clips of the character in combat in the game. The manners which these are presented have varied drastically: the first installment, "Meet the Heavy", depicted an interview with the gun-obsessed Eastern European while "Meet the Soldier" showed the Soldier giving a misinformed lecture on Sun Tzu to a collection of severed heads as if to raw recruits. The videos are generally released through Valve's services, though in one notable exception, the "Meet the Spy" video was leaked on YouTube during the Sniper/Spy update week. The "Meet the Team" videos are based on the audition scripts used for the voice actors for each of the classes; the "Meet the Heavy" scripts is nearly word-for-word a copy of the Heavy's script. More recent videos, such as "Meet the Sniper", contain more original material. The videos have been used by Valve to help improve the technology for the game, specifically improving the facial animations, as well as a source of new gameplay elements, such as the Heavy's "Sandvich" or the Sniper's "Jarate". The final video in the Meet the Team series, "Meet the Pyro", was released on June 27, 2012. Newell has stated that Valve is using the "Meet the Team" shorts as a means of exploring the possibilities of making feature film movies themselves. Newell believed that only game developers themselves have the ability to bring the interesting parts of a game to a film, and suggested that this would be the only manner through which a Half-Life-based movie would be made. A fifteen-minute short, titled "Expiration Date", was released on June 17, 2014. The shorts were made using Source Filmmaker, which was officially released and has been in open beta as of July 11, 2012.
In more recent major updates to the game, Valve has presented teaser images and online comic books that expand the fictional history of the Team Fortress 2, as part of the expansion of the "cross-media property", according to Newell. In August 2009, Valve brought aboard American comic writer Michael Avon Oeming to teach Valve "about what it means to have a character and do character development in a comic format, how you do storytelling". "Loose Canon", a comic associated with the Engineer Update, establishes the history of RED versus BLU as a result of the last will and testament of Zepheniah Mann in 1890, forcing his two bickering sons Blutarch and Redmond to vie for control of Zepheniah's lands between them; both have engineered ways of maintaining their mortality to the present, waiting to outlast the other while employing separate forces to try to wrest control of the land. This and other comics also establish other background characters such as Saxton Hale, the CEO of Mann Co., the company that provides the weapons for the two sides and was bequeathed to one of Hale's ancestors by Zepheniah, and the Administrator, the game's announcer, that watches over, encourages the RED/BLU conflict, and keeps each side from winning. The collected comics were published by Dark Horse Comics in Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories, a volume along with other comics created by Valve for Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead, and released in November 2011. Cumulative details in updates both in-game and on Valve's sites from 2010 through 2012 were part of a larger alternate reality game preceding the reveal of the Mann vs Machine mode, which was revealed as a co-op mode on August 15, 2012.
Valve had provided other promotions to draw players into the game. Valve has held weekends of free play for Team Fortress 2. Through various updates, hats and accessories can be worn by any of the classes, giving players an ability to customize the look of their character,and extremely rare hats named "unusals" have particle effects attached to it are and are only obtainable through opening "crates" or trading with other players. New weapons were added in updates to allow the player to choose a loadout that best suit the player. Hats and weapons can be gained as a random drop, through the crafting / trading systems, or via cross-promotion: Limited-edition hats and weapons have been awarded for pre-ordering or gaining Achievements in other content from Steam, both from Valve (such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Alien Swarm) or other third-party games such as Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Worms Reloaded, Killing Floor, or Poker Night at the Inventory (which features the Heavy class as a character). According to Robin Walker, Valve introduced these additional hats as an indirect means for players to show status within the game or their affiliation with another game series simply by visual appearance. The Red Pyro, Heavy, and Spy all function as a single playable character in the PC release of Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. The game's first television ad premiered during the first episode of the fifth season of The Venture Bros. in June 2013, featuring in-game accessories that were created with the help of Adult Swim.
Upon release, Team Fortress 2 received widespread critical acclaim, with overall scores of 92/100 on Metacritic. Many reviewers praised the cartoon-styled graphics, and the resulting light-hearted gameplay, and the use of distinct personalities and appearances for the classes impressed a number of critics, with PC Gamer UK stating that "until now multiplayer games just haven't had it." Similarly, the game modes were received well, GamePro described the settings as focusing "on just simple fun", while several reviewers praised Valve for the map "Hydro" and its attempts to create a game mode with variety in each map. Additional praise was bestowed on the game's level design, game balance and teamwork promotion. Team Fortress 2 has received several awards individually for its multiplayer gameplay and its graphical style, as well as having received a number of "game of the year" awards as part of The Orange Box.
Although Team Fortress 2 was well received, Team Fortress 2's removal of class-specific grenades, a feature of previous Team Fortress incarnations, was controversial amongst reviewers. IGN expressed some disappointment over this, while conversely PC Gamer UK approved, stating "grenades have been removed entirely — thank God". Some further criticism came over a variety of issues, such as the lack of extra content such as bots (although Valve have since added bots in an update), problems of players finding their way around maps due to the lack of a minimap, and some criticism over the Medic class being too passive and repetitive in his nature. The Medic class has since been re-tooled by Valve, giving it new unlockable weapons and abilities.
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