Team Fortress 2 is a great game. Valve loved her incredibly, and then just forgot

From the Editor: Team Fortress’s birthday is celebrated on August 24 – on this day in 1996, the first version of the mod for Quake was released. The text was first published on June 3.

Team Fortress 2 was released in October 2007 and is still popular today. TF2 is in the top of the popular Steam games, its peak online per day is 40-50 thousand people. We decided to recall the history of the creation of the game.

It all started with the first Quake

In Quake Id Software, for the first time in the industry, it used 3D models instead of sprites and created a fully 3D world. The developers offered everyone access to QuakeC – the language in which the game was written. This is how mods appeared, one of which will eventually bypass Quake itself in popularity.

It was created by three Australians, Robin Walker, John Cook and Ian Cofley (interestingly, Robin and John were friends from childhood, both knew about programming and went to university). Together they developed mods for Doom, participated in Quake tournaments. They also really liked Duke Nukem 3D for a wide selection of weapons (there were even mines and bombs) and deathmatch mode. But Quake was completely three-dimensional, and as soon as id Software released Quake C, friends realized that they could transfer their favorite elements to the new engine.

Friends released the first version of the mod on August 24, 1996. It was essentially a team version of Doom’s Fortress map. In the first versions of the mod there were no teams, everyone played for himself, and all types of weapons were taken from the original Quake. But classes appeared immediately: Scout, Sniper, Soldier, Demoman and Medic.

The developers wrote a special program that monitors online on Quake servers. Then it turned out that Team Fortress had bypassed Quake itself and other mods. TF was played by 2.5 thousand people, and in the second most popular mod – 1.5 thousand.

Valve contacted the modders and immediately paid for their flight. Gabe Newell believed in their game

Many publishers were interested in friends. They worked under contract for Activision and EA, created an arcade version of Quake. While working on the Quake 2 version of TF, Walker said they were often offered partnerships. But Valve has worked the most decisively.

Walker: “I think the main difference between Valve and everyone else who contacted us was the publishers wrote to us like, ‘Hey, we want to do X and Y,’ and it turned into long and inconclusive correspondence. .. And with Valve – we replied that we were interested, and almost immediately Valve wrote: “Ok, here are your plane tickets. Let’s do that”.

When Valve contacted us, no one knew anything about them. There were only a few screenshots of Half-Life. They were working on something, but no one really knew anything about them at that moment. ”

Cook: “Scott Lynch contacted us. He saw that Half-Life could become like Quake, that is, be a good platform for modding and creating things. He had the idea that Team Fortress 2 could be sold as a mod for both Quake 2 and Half-Life. Half-Life was planned to be released around the same time as Quake 2, but in the end it didn’t.

The guys at Valve loved that we would be working together and show them how to make a game with good modding potential. What modders need, what the game engine should be for this. ”

Cofley: “Valve was looking for modders, the company needed people who could think outside the box. Valve paid special attention to the creators of mods for Quake. Everyone was delighted with the release of HL and knew about Valve from the promo. Then we were given free plane tickets, a place to stay and three places for three months in the company – it just blew us, little modders, a roof. ”

Valve wanted Team Fortress 2 or the next development project to be built on its own engine, not ported. The company was busy developing its own game and did not interfere with the creation of TF2, but helped them in every possible way. Gabe Newell was already thinking about esports back then: “We want to see full stadiums of people cheering for those who play your game.”

In the end, Gabe offered to buy the modding company: “We love working with you, and I think you are with us. We must make the agreement permanent. How do you think?” Cook recalls this conversation: “I thought, damn it, yes!”

Team Fortress had at least three prototypes. Including – an action game about aliens and a shooter in the style of Arma

Valve acquired Team Fortress Software in May 1998, and soon introduced Team Fortress: Brotherhood in Arms at E3.

It had more classes than the original game and a special emphasis on teamwork. An invisible commander, watching the entire map, had to control the squads, giving orders. An officer with a night vision device and a smoke grenade was responsible for the morale of the team; increasing morale, he increased the speed and accuracy of players. Players could help each other – for example, insert cartridges into a machine gun while a friend shoots from it.

The game never came out, but it was recognized as the “Best Online Game” and “Best Action”. However, the project was canceled, as they tried to make it as realistic as possible: they removed things like rocket jumps and left only weapons based on real prototypes. The game was turned into a military shooter.

Instead, in 1999, Team Fortress Classic appeared – a copy of the original Team Fortress. The game was released as a free DLC for Half-Life.

In 2000, the second part was again postponed, this time due to the creation of the Source engine. During this time Walker took over the helm of Half-Life 2: Episode One, while Cook was busy developing Steam. The fans were worried. And two years later, another cause for excitement appeared – a hacker stole the Half-Life 2 source code, the files contained the Team Fortress Invasion code and two character models. According to the lore of the game, humanity had to confront the aliens. However, Valve still hasn’t made any announcements, despite the largest information leak.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Valve confirmed that Team Fortress 2 was still in development. The first trailer had to wait another year.

As it became known later, all this was not for nothing – Valve really worked on TF and created 3-4 different versions of the game. Later it will become known that Invasion had nothing to do with the release version.

“When developing new games after TF, it seemed to me obvious the impact of our game on the creation of first-person shooters. I think we showed that the community wants more from multiplayer, not just deathmatch. Players want to work as a team. The developers saw this and created projects for such players. We demonstrated the need for interesting goals, not just “kill everyone”, people wanted to come up with strategies and implement them as a team. And now we have games like amazing Overwatch and team MOBAs. People still play TF – and TF2. It took Valve 10 years to release TF2. I know there were many attempts before they settled on this option. It’s great to see that the game is very similar to the original. ”

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The Orange Box – System Hack

Team Fortress 2 was released on October 10, 2007 as part of The Orange Box compilation along with the successful Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One and the latest Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Portal. The release of three new games in one bundle was a huge step for the company and the industry – something no one had done before. Marketers considered the idea crazy and doomed to failure, because then they were already actively abandoning discs.

“The release of The Orange Box was a huge step for us because for the first time we were able to complete more than one project at a time. It was a kind of hacking into the system – we released three separate games, but when sold, they were considered one product, “- saidRobin Walker. “With Episode One, we were faced with the problem that stores didn’t like the $ 20 premium title — they were getting less money to sell a box of the game, and shelf space was limited. The Orange Box avoided this – we combined three quality products in one package, but this led to new problems. No one has ever sold several good games in one box – just a collection of old or low quality titles. In the history of Steam, The Orange Box represents an era in which the distribution channels of games significantly influenced how games should be, how long and how much they cost. You can’t blame the salespeople for this, it’s just a side effect of offline sales. Today there is a huge range of games, and many of them would not have had a chance in that world of offline sales. ”

The long-awaited Team Fortress 2 was incredibly warmly received by players and critics. It received 86 to 100 points in the ratings of various serious publications, and its Metascore – 92.

AceGamez: “The combination of highly stylized retro spies, powerful and energetic action, deep and varied classes with brilliant humor makes Team Fortress 2 much more than just a fragfest. Once the newness of the graphics fades into the background, we are left with a sophisticated multiplayer game that both develops new players and at the same time is deep enough to keep even the most die-hard veterans. ”

The game was carefully supported. Patches, events, comics, videos

Regular updates were issued. This is how Team Fortres gradually introduced achievements with rewards, new game modes and maps, weapons, cosmetic items and events, some of which were created by the community. Patch notes appeared before the updates themselves – not the way it is now in CS: GO and Dota 2.

The last major addition with its teaser, Jungle Inferno, was released in October 2017. Since then, there have been only holiday updates to celebrate Halloween and Christmas, and August 24 is the episode’s birthday annually. In total, more than 670 patches were released, of which more than 40 were large-scale.

The company did an excellent job with the natural churn of the player. Four years after the release – in the summer of 2011 – with the release of the Uber update, the game became shareware.

This brought back the audience that had lost interest during this time and attracted a new one, including people who did not want to pay for the game even on sales. Valve employee Joe Ludwig explained the decision: “The problem with AAA games is that profits can only come from people who haven’t bought the game yet. It forces you to create content to attract new people. ”

In 2012, a new PvE mode, “Mann vs. Machine”, was released – players must fight waves of their (and not only) mechanical counterparts, preventing them from destroying the base.

The appearance of contracts – an analogue of the compendium in Dota – also refreshed TF2. For completing them, equipment was given, and the players had an additional lesson.

There were also not very successful decisions. In July 2016 – two months after the release of Overwatch – Valve finally added the rating system in the Meet Your Match expansion, but it was received rather coldly, considered useless.

Matchmaking, which appeared in addition to the usual search (as in CS 1.6, with a public list of servers and the ability to connect via IP), had a small pool of maps and modes. Players were unhappy with the matchmaking system, team balancing and matchmaking – you could have been thrown into an already ending game. At the same time, unlike regular servers, you cannot connect to friends’ games. It got to the point of absurdity – the match participants could kick the cheater by voting, and the system, considering this server the best for a dishonest player, return it back at the start of the search.

In March 2018, Valve redesigned the matchmaking system, making it similar to the one used in CS: GO.

The patch announcements were played out remarkably. Videos and comics were released with well-developed lore and character stories.

“It’s important to make the off-game content for updates as engaging as the game itself. It works great in MMOs. In our case, this meant breaking the story into several parts, ”Ludwig explained.

The videos were really cool – check out the video for the Pyromania update.

Or a funny story about how heroes discovered the unpleasant consequences of frequent use of teleporters.

There was even a planned TF2 animated series for Adult Swim (a block on Cartoon Network that airs cartoons and adult shows like Rick and Morty), but it was canceled. It should have been created with Source Filmmaker. Adult Swim was going to allocate about 15 minutes of airtime to the ad – the episodes themselves had to be about 11 minutes in order to be able to embed ad units. However, Valve did not heed the requirements and provided a pilot release, which is 20 minutes long. The companies got nowhere.

The developers really mattered the opinion of the players. Before the transition to the free-to-play model, it was necessary to make it so that you wanted to return to TF2. In Team Fortress 2, the ideas of the audience were embodied: for example, this is how the burning arrows appeared.

“We saw discussions on the forums about how cool it would be if Pyro could light the Sniper’s arrows. To be honest, we didn’t think about it, but we managed to work out such a mechanic for the next patch, ”Ludwig shared.

The company actively collaborated with the community. For example, all of the Mann-Conomy update items were created by third-party artists, and the Invasion expansion (not affiliated with Team Fortress Invasion) with new maps, items, effects and taunts was completely player-made.

And how do you like the patch, which is announced in parts, and even with the help of delicious buns? Valve released a hundred golden keys, and as soon as the lucky one got such a key while reforging items, it was announced to the entire server. After every 25 keys, Valve published a patch note.

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Contests were held – for example, during the “War!” there was a kill counter by a Demoman soldier and vice versa. The soldier bypassed (6.406 million kills) the Demoman (6.372 million), as a result of which the Assault Boots item was released for the soldier. In parallel, the players could create posters in support of the participants: the winners of the creative competition and another 40 of its participants received hats.

The phenomenon of hats. In 2011, the Steam trading platform appeared. TF2 immediately became one of the high-volume games and remains there ever since: in July 2018, it became the first to sell in-game items.

It was easy to find traders reselling items or simply trying to exchange them for more valuable skins. Basically, prices were measured in keys and refs (refined metal needed for forging things). The opportunity to make money on new games by selling pixels was attractive, because now you didn’t even have to leave Steam for this. It was beneficial for Valve as well – the company receives 15% of every transaction made on TP (10% – TF2 commission, 5% – TP commission). The test drive of the system was successful and the salable items appeared in Dota 2 and CS: GO.

* * *

Almost nothing is happening in the game now. There are rumors of a major new expansion that is likely to be related to Heavy, but there is no official release date. Until now, there are small updates related to localization files, which have long become a meme. The last promised comic # 7 is still in “Coming Soon” status, and the previous issue was released in January 2017.

Writer Jay Pinkerton returned to Valve in the summer of 2018, having worked on Portal 2, the Left 4 Dead series and TF2 comics, so fans are hoping Valve will still release a seventh comic. The development of the game is much worse. According to insider Tyler McVicker, author of the Valve News Network, Team Fortress 2 had 15 employees back in March. In April, information was leaked that only two people were involved in supporting the game – but nevertheless, this information was obtained during vacations at the company, and it is hoped that the source had in mind only a specific period of time.

But the community continues to create content, and Valve uses it. For example, by April 1st – the creators of custom Memes vs. Machines – Added a special event. It was necessary to play 60 minutes of successful missions. For this, the players were given a charming potato medal with glasses.

Esports that didn’t happen

Despite Newell’s interest in esports, Valve did not host a single Team Fortress 2 tournament, although in the years after the game’s release, esports was already on the rise: for example, in 2010 MLG held two major Halo and WarCraft / Starcraft competitions at 370 and 308 thousand dollars. In 2011, Valve announced a million-dollar Dota 2 tournament, and Team Fortress 2 fans were left with nothing.

All tournaments were hosted by community representatives and the players themselves. TF2 has maps for the competitive mode, tournament medals are also added to the game client, they are received by players of the top 3 teams, participants and organizers. Many major competitions have their own versions of awards.

In November, a month after the release of the game, the UK’s Insomnia 32 hosted the first LAN tournament in TF2, in which £ 2,000 were played. The tournament with the largest prize in the history of the game is still the PC Gamer Showdown 2008 in the UK for $ 27.6 thousand. 4Kings winners received 13.8 thousand. The total amount of prize money won over almost 12 years is also very small – only 605 thousand dollars . At the Tekken 7 tournaments, released in 2015, 280 thousand more have been drawn. And in Overwatch competitions – already $ 14.975 million.

But esports Team Fortress 2 is still alive. From April 19 to April 20, the Copenhagen Games 2019 tournament was held for 12 thousand euros, at the Insomnia festivals, competitions are held annually in the summer – in 2017 and 2018 they raffled off 7.5 thousand pounds each.

We spoke with former Team Fortress 2 pro – and now Paris Eternal , Overwatch League teammate Georgy “ShaDowBurn” Guscha, streamer blindpyro and TF2 Moscow Lan organizers Rinat “RiKo” Korotkin and Vera “RumartoDolka” Dolgopolova.

– Why did the players like Team Fortress 2 and still attracts them?

ShaDowBurn: “Unique game mechanics, new content came out steadily. You could create your own new modes, cosmetic items, maps, keep your own servers. In addition, the game was available: free, with a system of exchange of items that was unique at that time. So she attracted a huge number of very young players. ”

Blindpyro : “For each TF2 means something different, whether it is good or not depends on whether you enjoy playing it. I still love her because the fundamentals of the game haven’t changed since 2007. Unlock in 2011 (the moment Team Fortress became free-to-play – gave the game a much needed breath of fresh air. Mostly I play public – and they haven’t changed at all. ”

RiKo:“It has become so close to many in due time, especially because it is free and because the basic gameplay has never changed. It remained vector, and remains. It is this vector that makes people go into this game all the time. I watch my favorite YouTubers – for example, Badcomedian constantly has some inserts with TF elements. I understand that the person played, he knows. If we talk about those who have entered the game at least once, they will definitely remember this game. Probably because this is a unique style. Overwatch is too small, still young, Blizzard has a completely different approach, everything is different. And Team Fortress is like such an old grandfather who does not change his development, genre, style. I can’t imagine another class shooter besides Team Fortress. This is a classic of the genre that everyone will surely remember. Well, hats, all sorts of different krasotulechki. Another trade – TF has an incredible economy that has probably never been surpassed anywhere else. Supermen who, like real hucksters, sit on their counter and sell real goods. ”

RumartoDolka: “Personally, she catches me with the fact that it is quite simple. You don’t need to break your brain too much, it helps you to relax, somehow feel alive, active, like a charge, for example. Purely for me, these are such advantages. ”

– Did Valve do something wrong with the development of the game? What would be worth changing?

ShaDowBurn: “A very large part of the players considered this game as competitive and did everything to make it develop in this direction. There have been many different leagues – European and American – in which many teams have participated over time. The community has created a competitiveness in this game and has constantly developed it by organizing tournaments and LANs. Players continued to train and develop their level of play, but there was little support from Valve, despite the success and popularity of this game. To say that the game lacked something to develop it towards esports would be wrong, as a large number of TF2 pro players have achieved great success in other games without much effort and use their skills learned in TF2. ”

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Burningpyro: “Let’s start with the right decisions. Unlock the game in 2011 drew attention to the game. Another good thing is contracts. People finally have goals. Halloween events are fun too. Valve’s wrong actions are comparable to their good decisions. They’ve added a ton of new weapons without thinking about their impact on gameplay and competition. Many of his species have broken the game. I think this is due to the lack of a clear vision of the development of the game, as well as the lack of checks. There were many bugs breaking the game, they were not fixed right away. There is a sense of alienation between developers and people. At the same time, I’m not sure what we can expect from the developers. This is a free game. What did they do wrong? They had great ideas that weren’t well implemented. ”

RiKo: “At some point, Valve spent too little time on the TF2 development team. They reduced her too much and stopped developing, giving her new tasks. Now the game is – if we talk about publics – a little playable thing. As for me, the newly introduced matchmaking mode and server search is a terrible mistake that shouldn’t have been made. Matchmaking is useless, all sorts of titles, weapon inspection, skins – all this is unnecessary and silly. I think that in many respects an irrevocable stage came after 2014-2015, when the first steps towards customizing weapons appeared. ”

How influenced was the release of Overwatch for Team Fortress 2?

ShaDowBurn: “By that time it was already too late, and it was easier for players to switch to a new game, which they planned to actively develop in terms of esports. Matchmaking was a far cry from how the players played competitively throughout that time. This is not what we expected. ”

Burningpyro: “First of all, Overwatch didn’t kill TF2 or steal players. It gave gamers a chance to try something new. Overwatch is really inspired by TF2 and MOBA games, and that’s okay. After all, everything is a combination of something. TF2’s response to Overwatch in the form of ranked matchmaking was belated and insignificant. Instead of actively working with the TF2 community, they chose to respond to Overwatch. And the consequences were not long in coming. So no, Overwatch didn’t kill TF2. She’s still alive and you can’t blame either side for what the players want to do. ”

RiKo: “Before the release of Overwatch, I thought it was going to be a TF clone that wouldn’t come to anything. It seems to me that Valve should have done nothing, and this matchmaking made the situation worse. It seems to me that it was not at all timed to coincide with the release of Overwatch, any intelligent game designer from the remaining TF understands that chasing Overwatch with TF, such a motionless huge machine, seems silly and pointless to me. These are just a little bit different things, it would be better if they did nothing. And they didn’t do much. ”

– What’s in store for Team Fortress 2 esports?

ShaDowBurn: “I think the esports scene will live on as long as the community is interested in supporting it. Many players have played and achieved success at different times, and personally I lost interest in the scene just when most of the best players of my time left TF2. ”

RumartoDolka: “It depends on whether someone stands up for the game or not, whether someone will appear who wants to play the game. The main audience that loves and appreciates the game is not quite active. Maybe they want some kind of event, but they will not do it themselves.

From Moscow LAN we thought that few people would react, many said: “Why are you doing this at all, 5 teams will come”. In the end, everything went nicely, we didn’t make much effort to attract the audience. Word of mouth and that’s it. The people themselves were interested. ”

– Should Valve try to get players back? To release a huge patch, remaster or new part of the series?

ShaDowBurn: “I think only the new part of the series will be able to bring back the old players and if Valve considers this part in terms of esports, most of the pro-players will return.”

Burningpyro: “No. The game is outdated, the engine is outdated, the development team has no development direction and resources. If you look at the philosophy of Valve, it has a special business structure. Nobody shares this idea (of returning players). You need someone with the same passion for the game and resources, like Robin Walker, who made TF2 a success. He moved Team Fortress Classic to the second part. There is no one like this now, neither for TF3, nor for a remaster. Why is Overwatch so successful? Jeff Kaplan had a very good understanding of the game and the resources to get things done. ”

RiKo: “Well, I have a couple … The first is a meme: where is Heavy’s update? The second is to stop updating localization files on serious cabbage soup, because this is no longer postmodern, but metamodern, it goes beyond all boundaries. There should be no talk about creating the third part, it is pointless, some kind of big update to change … I, for example, remembered it before matchmaking, not connecting to servers, where there are only two rounds, through selection, where I cannot connect to friend I want to play with. It seems to me that this is a pointless thing that loads the game. I think it would be a great idea, for example, to go back to basics. Remove unnecessary matchmaking and add arena. The arena is such a cool thing in the game! If she was added back to the game, she was last updated with a UFO. I liked it so much. Either leave it unchanged, or return to its origins. ”

RumartoDolka: “It seems to me that this is superfluous, because it is unlikely that something cooler will turn out, rather, some kind of parody. And no one will seriously deal with this, so it will turn out just crookedly, the game will be ruined even more, perhaps. Here’s how to look. It seems to me that it should remain unchanged. ”

TF2 has high scores with a Metacritic rating of 92 and Metascore of 9.1. Users still love her and leave positive reviews. Daily peak online per day is more than 50 thousand people – according to this indicator, the shooter is in the top 10 Steam games.

Will we wait for an update and a new comic?

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