A resource for all news, strategies, media, and events pertaining to Team Fortress 2, for PC, coming this fall from Valve - bundled with Half-Life Episode 2 and Portal

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Team Fortress Two: It may actually happen.

Ok. After an "extended commercial break", we are back.

I won't get into what's been going on with myself or Team Fortress 2 coverage over this hiatus, because I've got alot to cover, and because it's really not all that interesting. But basically, like I said in one of the earlier August articles, Valve keeps pushing back their release date. And when you consider how much I've already written about a game that has been at least three months from release date for the span of six years... well, running out of material is a very real concern.

Compounded with gamespy's less-than-stellar coverage, not only has it been tough to keep motivated, it's also been tough to keep well informed.

Anyway, I've found new sources now, and those sources indicate that unless there is a major developmental setback, we really will see Team Fortress Two, Portal, and Half-Life: Episode Two on shelves in September or October.

On to actual Team Fortress Content. Today we'll be taking a look at this interview piece from the good folks at IGN. I think it gives a great deal of specifics about what the TF2 experience will truly be like. In fact, they devs seem to favor the word "experience" quite a bit.

Robin Walker: Let's start by talking about why do classes at all, because everything follows from that. A class should be an experience in a bottle. An engineer should be an experience, a soldier should be an experience, and those things should be different, so there's no point of having two classes where the experience of playing them is the same, or at least is negligible in terms of the difference. When we think of different experiences we're thinking about things like player decision making, when you're in some situation as a class, the ones you make as that class should be different than if you were a different class, and certainly the factors you care about should change and so on. So to us classes are about bottling up various experiences. The reason various classes changed are mostly because we were unhappy with the experience itself like in the case of the scout, where we were fundamentally unhappy with it [in TFC], we thought it was substandard. It basically involved you not having fun in combat and having to run away from things all the time.

IGN: Isn't that essentially what the scout still does?

Robin Walker: No, now the scout is effective in combat. No a good scout player kills the crap out of people. A scout, these days, if you retreat from combat, you're going to collect health and go back into it. In the TFC days, the scout was, you will lose to every other class in all cases in combat, and we didn't think that was a good experience. The scout today will chew up medics and pyros and soldiers. But it's not as simple as that, right, like a scout fighting a pyro in an open space is going to win almost every time but a scout fighting a pyro in a really enclosed space is probably going to lose every time. We want those kinds of different factors pushing on the combat, it shouldn't be too binary. So, that was one of the reasons why classes changed.

I have mixed feelings about both the statements made, and the apparent rebirth of the Scout. It is true that the scout, in TFC especially, but in older TFs also, didn't survive a heads up confrontation with anyone. Maybe some of the weaker classes, if he catches them by surprise. But the scout (before) was not made or used for combat. That did not make the class useless. That did not keep talented scouts from earning top points in a match. The speed, conc grenades, and nailgun/sub machien gun (for taking out sentries around corners with peek-a-boo tactics) makes him the best flag carrier. Sure, he can't beat a fair defense alone, but just like a pesky forward in hockey, if he stays mobile, and keeps probing, eventually something will shake loose, and he'll be able to score. I would say, apart from the Spy, a supremely talented player using scout can make a bigger difference than any other class.

At least, in game modes where there is flag carrying. Which brings us to the next interesting tidbit of the article.

IGN: And this control point system is only on this map?

Doug Lombardi: With the emerging points and randomly generated stuff, yeah. Actually it's sort of magically appearing at the end [of development], so everyone's jumping on to make sure it makes the first release.

Charlie Brown: It's the one we've been working on, it's the one with the most risk, it's the one we were having the most fun with, and I'd imagine you'd see a lot more of this in the future. It definitely was, unfortunately, one of the later experiments and thus [pause] 2Fort still has the flag mechanic, the other three all [maps to be played by IGN] are controlled by this control point mechanic, but they all behave in different ways, some are a little bit different on top of this mechanic.

The control point system, from the sounds of things is a slight variation on Battlefield's Conquest Mode. There are control points that have to be secure by proximity. You find the flag, you stand by it for a while, it starts giving you points, and you have to defend. Maybe on some maps, the server randomly turns off all but two CPs, and shuffles which ones are active periodically (Hydro Mode). Maybe it doesn't.

Now, I'm a BF vet myself, and I'll try to reserve the in-depth look at game modes for another article. I'm all for TF2 including Conquest Mode. The problem (potentially a big problem for me, and my friends who plan on getting into this) is that each map has only one game mode (A side note: There is interesting, well-thought out justification for this on the first page of the article. And after giving it some thought, I totally disagree with their justification. But that's for another article). And that upon release, only 2fort, the most famous map from TF (and possibly all team based FPS's not counting counterstrike) is the only map that has capture the flag rules. Several are going to be Conquest, and then there are a few push maps too.

5-8 maps. Only one is traditional CTF. Yeah.... that's bull$#!+ . Abandoning CTF for Conquest is like The Rolling Stones putting out a new album where they try to emulate Creed or Nickelback. Might make sense financially because it is what is popular now. But the product is going to be utter crap, disappointing and forgettable. In the immortal words of Han Solo (who's franchise also happened make a similar mistake with Battlefront)... "I have a bad feeling about this".

So to summarize, it seems even though there hasn't been much word before this, or any video of it, Team Fortress Two is going to incorporate alot more Conquest style play than CTF. Maps and classes will be changed accordingly, and because they are limiting each map to one game mode, the user ultimately has alot less options when sorting through available servers. While I don't mean to be too harsh before I play it for myself (and absolutely nothing is gonna stop me from buying this one), I can't help but prepare for disappointment. The Valve devs went to great lengths explaining how they emphasized different experiences for each class. Yet they seem to be abandoning this notion when it comes to game mode.

Wrapping up tidbits from this interview. Medic seems to getting the nerf. Although apparently he has a syringe gun, I can't find anything anywhere about it's damage, or contagion. Everyone is raving about his medi-gun, which gives his healing powers a substantial range, can be locked on for usage around corners (like the beam/chain gun in Unreal 2k4), and with a long enough contact lock, can provide invulnerability for both the medic, and his recipient. Apparently we can prepare to see endless waves of glowing, invulnerable medics and heavy weapons guys. I can't criticize it until I see it for myself, but it sounds like once it gets popular, it's all anyone will be doing.

Also, only the demoman has grenades of any kind. He also seems to have a "sticky-bomb", a la Saving Private Ryan (the greasy sock that blew off the tire treads towards the movie's end). Pyro got ganked up, apparently the flamethrower does crazy damage, but only within 3-6 feet of the pyro, and you keep burning until dead, or doused in water.

I'll try to get all the videos released in the last 4-6 months here soon - although a quick search of youtube will probably find them all.

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