Mann Oh Mann: Valve Creates Early Access TF2 Servers

By Nathan Grayson on July 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

Early Access? For a game that’s been out since 2007? Yes, that is, in fact, a thing that can exist. Valve has decided to leave Mann Corp’s doors ever-so-slightly ajar so that fans might run around on Team Fortress 2‘s magical murder playgrounds before they officially hit live servers. So it’s a series of test servers for maps, essentially. Details below.

Valve explained its plans in a quick blog post:

“We need volunteers that are capable of putting these spaces through the wringer. We want to make sure they stand the test of time for future generations of mercenaries, so they may also enjoy the simple things in life, such as detonating explosive ordinance, setting men on fire and conga dancing.”

“This is your chance to help guide the direction of TF2. You will get to participate in the development process as we cycle through different iterations of gameplay, based on your feedback.”

As people play on them, maps will apparently change “a lot.” Rule sets will likely change “drastically” as well. Despite that, players will be able to run beta maps on their own servers if they want.

So that’s fun. A figurative peek inside the kitchen, if you will, only you get a nice meal instead of a series of profanities from a chef brandishing a worrisomely large knife.

To access beta maps, you need only select “play multiplayer” and then enable the “play beta maps” checkbox. Think you’ll give it a go?

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36 Comments »

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  1. LionsPhil says:

    Didn’t TF2 already have a beta version? Like, for years?

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      strangeloup says:

      It did! And as far as I know, still does. It hasn’t been updated since March of last year, though, so I guess they decided to put some of the functionality in the main game rather than keep two versions.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Beta is such a loaded word. It means unfinished and crap.
      Early Access means it’s not ready, but it’s OK, because it will get better.

      Or something.

      • Frank says:

        “Beta” is what they called it, anyway.

        I guess most commenters on RPS who give a damn about terminology would go the other way (against “early access”), being reactionary curmudgeons as they are.

        • Baines says:

          The Team Fortress blog posts uses the title “Mann Co. Beta Maps – Early Access”. No where else in the blog post does the term “Early Access” get used. It is instead always described as “Beta”.

          For some reason, Nathan/RPS went with calling it “Early Access” instead of “Beta”. I guess in order to make the knock about a seven year old game going into Early Access. Which in turn spurs commenters into making replies about Early Access, when giving players access to beta servers/maps is hardly a new concept.

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      RaveTurned says:

      Maybe Valve decided to streamline the process of getting involved with Beta content? My guess is a more people are likely to try out Early Access maps on a whim than are likely to choose to download or start up the dedicated Beta app.

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        welverin says:

        A friend told me ages ago that TF2 Beta playtime didn’t count towards item drops, and that can’t help the number of players testing things out.

  2. Tom Walker says:

    Okay, I’m in. I’ve been looking for an excuse to load this up again, so access to levels I’ve played less than 10^35 times is ideal.

  3. PopeRatzo says:

    Why are there no female or transgender characters in TF2?

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      Big Murray says:

      Does it need them?

    • Pofruin says:

      Ain’t Pyro covering all those problems?

      • The Random One says:

        Pyro doesn’t identify with any gender, so techinically trans*, but not female. This is Absolut True Canon.

    • Frank says:

      Who said there aren’t?

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      I do wish there were some, actually. I am not sure how this is such a ridiculous suggestion you would be sarcastic about it.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        What about my comment would lead you to think I was being sarcastic?

        • Jeroen D Stout says:

          Apologies if you were not. You just were on my block list so I figured you must be ‘one of them’.

          • TychoCelchuuu says:

            It kind of defeats the purpose of blocking people if you give in and read their comments. I’m also guilty of this, but still…

          • Jeroen D Stout says:

            I think the block list is more to avoid having ignorance suddenly shoved in your face (like the Internet is wont to do everywhere), whereas sometimes the mood just strikes you to see what people were responding to.

  4. phelix says:

    To cynical jaded me, this sounds like an excuse for cutting financial corners on their playtesting department.

    • Putts says:

      Cutting corners? This is a game that’s been out for 7 years now. I haven’t played for a couple of years now, but I’m sure that its popularity is waning. Yet from what I can see, Valve has been releasing a steady stream of free content updates all these years, where most other companies would have stopped after a year or two and instead just kept churning out a new $60 game in the series year after year.

      So yes, maybe they’re trying to cut costs, but I hardly see that as a reason to complain after all these years. Would you rather they simply stop releasing new content?

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        Jalan says:

        Its popularity has hardly waned. It is consistently among the top played games tracked by Valve. It may not have the numbers it was once able to pull in, and especially not the numbers the likes of a Dota 2 or a CS:GO has these days, but it has hardly fallen out of favor with players.

        • Putts says:

          Waning is what having fewer numbers of players means. Fewer players = less money coming in from in-game purchases = less staff that Valve can justify committing to TF2. I wasn’t trying to say that the game has gotten unpopular. It’s just losing players over time. It happens to every game, from World of Warcraft to GTA Online to Starcraft 2. Doesn’t mean these games are bad.

          • nemryn says:

            I wasn’t aware that anyone at Valve needed to have a justification for working on TF2, beyond “I want to work on TF2″.

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            welverin says:

            It’s numbers haven’t waned at all, DOTA2 exploded and CS:GO seems to have unified the CS player base. Thus those two games have surpassed TF2’s player numbers, but it’s not because TF2 has dropped.

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            Jalan says:

            Except that your reply does mention its popularity is waning, so I’m not sure exactly what that has to do with a general decline in numbers when pitted against the fact that it still remains one of the top three played games on Steam. As to its economy, its crate keys are among one of the most bought/sold items in the Steam Community Marketplace and since they don’t just drop out of thin air for most it must mean a cash flow is still present within the game itself.

            If the entire point was that it’s lost players over time, then yes. It no longer pulls in the numbers it did. It’s not dead though, and the number of players still actively playing it is hardly anything to scoff at given that other F2P games (and some multiplayer paid games) don’t even manage to bring in a comparable amount close to it.

    • The Army of None says:

      I would imagine the TF2 development group doesn’t have corners. I imagine it more as a smoothly polished sphere, randomly spitting out lightning bolts of content, bread-based or not.

  5. TychoCelchuuu says:

    If Valve calls something “early access” then surely this means it’s early access, right? It’s not like there’s a magical dictionary in the sky where the true meaning of “early access” is written down, a meaning which contradicts what has been written here. “Early access” is just Valve’s way of saying “not done and still being developed,” first for games beings old on Steam and now for some TF2 stuff.

  6. Nevard says:

    Valve only used the phrase “early access” once and use the word “beta” six times, if that’s an important distinction.
    Which it’s really not.

  7. TinKelp says:

    Yes, beta maps. Maps that are in beta. Maps that are not gold. Maps that are unfinished. Not ready. Still in development.

    And to these maps we have been granted… early access.

  8. Distec says:

    It’s not, but Lord knows people have severe reactions to the terms and phrases employed, less what they’re being used to describe.

    See “F2P” and how it makes people nuts without any further inquiry.

  9. Emeraude says:

    To be far, I have yet to see a F2P model I found acceptable. It’s hard to not have a knee-jerk reaction when you’ve only had negative experiences with something.

  10. The Random One says:

    Imagine a system identical to TF2, but without the gamble-boxes. You can buy new weapons, which are sidegrades, or you can also get them randomly (not upgrades, not spending currency, just get a few stuff at random as you play). A mechanism exist to turn weapons you don’t want into weapons you want. You can also pay for cosmetic upgrades; these can also be given unto you, but very rarely. Would you find this system acceptable? This is an honest question.

  11. The Random One says:

    Yes, that is another thing Early Access is, in addition to the thing we’re discussing presently.

  12. El Mariachi says:

    Good idea, let’s make Early Access a confusing sometimes-maybe synonym for Beta, diminishing the utility of both formerly distinct terms. I bet you say “begs the question” instead of “raises the question.”

  13. The Random One says:

    Yes, I do. Why wouldn’t I? It’s an expression that is widely used and understood.

    Of course, some people say it’s “wrong” because it doesn’t fit what some books say is “right”, but normal-thinking people know that language is used for communicating and the right language is the one that gets your meaning across.