TF2: And Still They Tease

So many of you are going to decide you fancy the assistant girl, aren't you?

I return home from a noisy room in which a lot of people recognised my name but not my face to find an inbox full of strident missives about the latest Team Fortress 2 rumour/viral mill. This now fairly veteran game’s ability to generate headlines and gossip is incredible – Valve have managed to create a second meta-game/fiction that exists alongside but outside of the now very familiar team shooter. All power to them, obviously, but I’m consistently amazed at how deftly they’ve managed to create so hint’n’potential’n’humour-fatted a universe from the slim concept of Red vs Blue. This time, it’s a comicky book. A rather pleasing one, inevitably.

The curtain of the game is pulled back more fully than ever before, revealing the Announcer’s appearance, allegiance, associates and overwhelming sociopathy in gloriously acidic detail. TF2 fanfic’s never been quite so blessed with fact and hint alike to this extent before. I almost shudder to think how far some of you – YES YOU – are going to run with this. Rest assured, however, that more casual TF2 players won’t be bewilidered, but will likely find it a cheery slice of sardonic fun regardless of the frothing of the more dedicated Valve-worshipper.

The comic’s clearly building up to something we don’t have the answer to yet, but there’s four big things potentially in the offing come the end of it. 1) Solider and Demoman update packs at last, though their apparent friendship suggests some degree of sharing. Hmm – a co-dependent relationship to rival Medic wuvs Heavy? 1) Some kind of new, co-operative mode for the game, perhaps. Guessguessguess, guessers. 2) Saxton Hale, the mysterious man of abs and science who’s been a much-discussed background feature of the last few TF2 updates, is creeping ever closer to centre stage. 3) There may even be some purpose behind the Red/Blue conflict about to be revealed – something beyond the simple, strange hueism that’s driven it since launch.

Which, frankly, is a pretty odd and supremely ambitious thing to do for a game that’s about shooting people wearing different-coloured shirts to you. But it’s this kind of thinking that’s made TF2 an ongoing success and an internet-wide talking point in an age where half the world’s given up on big-budget PC gaming. Christ only knows what Valve are up, but they’re frightening masters of the unexpected, of making patches into global guessing games. They know our weaknesses, and they know how to turn them into drooling speculation and expectation. But wIll whatever this is all leading up genuinely draw in more/lapsed TF2 players? Of course it bloody will.

Oh – and the “friendship ends tomorrow” line suggests this is all happening super-soon…

126 Comments

  1. Jesus says:

    <3 Valve

  2. Quasar says:

    Yet another example of why Valve are still one of the most exciting developers in the world. Things like this are why gaming is more interesting than any film.

  3. Reverend Speed says:

    Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but if you’re looking for TF2 backstory… link to teamfortress.com

    • Saul says:

      Cheers, I hadn’t come across the Will yet. Good stuff. The comic, too.

  4. Dominic White says:

    Words cannot express how much I love that they used that brilliant fan-art vision of the announcer for this. Slightly changed the colour layout (rather than a left-to-right colour split, it’s top and bottom), but otherwise this is perfectly riffing off their fanbase.

    Kudos, Valve. You are very, very clever people.

    • Arathain says:

      Yeah, how fantastic is that? To have fan-art become part of an official universe that is only just taking shape. Community involvement at its finest.

    • KP says:

      I think they hired the guy who made that fan art to do it. or something like that

    • Daniel Klein says:

      This is what they call an Ascended Meme.

  5. SpoonySeeker says:

    Well, soldier, demoman, and the engineer are the last three classes to be without weapon unlocks and apparently Saxton Hale is involved in designing something for the demoman and the soldier.

    Hmmm, what could this comic be building up to?(!)

  6. Collic says:

    I’m cautiously hopeful for a Demonman vs Soldier update, the only thing that makes me cautious is that it seems to be so strongly hinted at. Theres also lots of (justified) speculation that we’ll get a ‘betrayal’ style new game mode packaged along with it. It could be a huge update indeed. And it seems very likely it will be here tomorrow (either that or the 7 day tease will start there).

    Thursday is also traditionally TF2 update day…

  7. Inanimotioon says:

    Wow they’ve out done themselves.
    I hardly play TF2, but this makes me want to try it out. Once this patch is out of course.

  8. Vandelay says:

    For once, I can’t disagree with Jesus. These updates get me all giddy.

    I think this is something a bit more complicated than simply a new Medic/Heavy style relationship. The fact that the comic refers to the demoman and soldier from opposing teams must mean that it is suggesting a complete new way of playing, if it is suggesting anything. I think it is more likely that they are about to unleash the soldier versus demoman update; the new weapons being requested from Hale means they are going to want to start killing each other again. A game mode that requires the new friendship sounds might come with that, but I don’t have my hopes up, as it has already been confirmed the sounds are being used in game.

    I think this also leaves room for the final engineer update, where he will bring along the robot he has build, also known as the 10th class.

  9. Morti says:

    the 10th class will be a canon-clad dog.

    !

    • Gorgeras says:

      NOOOOOoooooo!!!! My campaign to have Velociraptor brought in as the tenth class will not end here!!

    • DMJ says:

      While I commend both of your ideas, in truth Valve shall soon release a new class and his promotional animation “Meet The Zombie”.

  10. Taillefer says:

    I love Valve. I just wish they made games I wanted to play. I’m sure it’ll be their next design brief.

  11. Aubrey says:

    Augh, man. If this is the game mode i think it is then it’s yet another idea someone else has moved on before I’ve had the chance! /me shakes envious fist!

    Thought of something like this right after hearing Warren Spector’s idea for a lovestory on an FPS battlefield.

  12. Tei says:

    this looks like a announce for 1vs1 deathmatch..

  13. Noc says:

    It’s a tremendous long shot, but I’m hoping for something like the endgame of Portal.

    With normal gameplay grinding to a halt as players attempt to break out of the arena, with Mann Co. deathbots ruthlessly hemming them in. The arena walls turn out to be cardboard cutouts, and the sky a backdrop, etc.

  14. Camilo says:

    Some Valve related sad news:

    link to ripten.com

    :'(

    • Persus-9 says:

      Not sure why that’s sad. If she’d given up game design it would have been very sad news but her going off to another smaller developer to work “innovative titles” doesn’t seem sad at all. I want to see Kim Swift pursue more of her own ideas rather than working on L4D3. Both L4Ds are brilliant of course and I’m sure they benefitted greatly from her work but it’s not really the exciting new work I want to see from her. I want her do innovative titles which is exactly what she says she’ll be doing at Airtight. Sounds like good news to me.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      The saddest piece of news to emerge from this is that the PORTAL team, whom I think everyone assumed was hard at work on PORTAL 2 whilst Valve’s other teams were working on EPISODE III and L4D2, appear instead to have been working on L4D2.

      Fair enough, I suppose, but this presumably means it will be a lot longer before we see more PORTAL. And when we do, it’s main designer won’t be working on it, which is survivable but a bit of a shame.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’m with Adam. That resources that should have been put to work on Portal or Ep 3 were diverted to L4D2 is really very unfortunate. Persus-9 is certainly right, we’re probably much better off with Kim Swift persuing her own projects, she’d only have been wasted on L4D3 if she stuck around. Ugh.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I dunno, Portal doesn’t strike me as the kind of game you make a sequel to. I just don’t see how you could make a game that lives up to the first one, without it being the worst kind of “more of the same”, without it having to become a totally new game. Portal’s great because was nothing really like it, and there still isn’t anything like it that’s worth playing. Sometimes you have to just let a classic be what it is and not try to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

    • Collic says:

      Assumptions about where valve is or isn’t devoting resources is speculation and nothing more. Portal 2 was also speculation. They never did say if they were going to continue with it. If it stays as a stand- alone one-off, that’s fine with me. I agree it would be very hard to make a fitting sequel; some things are just best left as they are.

      Grumbling about a fictitious l4d3 just seems bitter and silly, and isn’t even vaguely on topic or relevant.

    • autogunner says:

      christ, who really wants portal 2?? I just dont get it, it was a perfect package of an experience, it really doesnt need a sequel, and it would never live up to the hype.

    • Vinraith says:

      @autogunner

      I take it you’ve not played any of the user made levels. A Portal sequel, set out in the world, has the potential to be one of the greatest puzzle/adventure games of all time. I can’t comprehend why any fan of the original wouldn’t want more. Plus, this is Valve we’re talking about. They followed Half Life 1 with Half Life 2, ‘nuf said.

    • Clovis says:

      Er, Portal is a video game, right? It’s not like we are talking about War and Peace 2 or something. I want to play some more professionally designed levels with a new fun story. More of the same is exactly what I want.

    • Camilo says:

      @Persus-9

      Airtight Games is currently working with Capcom USA on a new IP called “Dark Void”.
      http://www.darkvoidgame.com

      Doesn’t sound like “her own ideas”. Anyway, I support the idea of moving to smaller indie-ish company for working on innovative titles.

      @Vinraith

      A Portal sequel, set out in the world

      I think Portal will have it sequel someday and it will continue the final event on Portal. It’s a must.

  15. DERP says:

    And this is why I regret paying 50 fucking dollars for that sideshow called L4D.

  16. Roflgoat says:

    If you follow the hidden sites, you’ll see that the Announcer is descended from the mother of the founders of RED and BLU, which is why she helps both sides.

    • Jugglenaut says:

      Hidden sites for this comic? Where? Also, I kind of guessed at this, as in the second page you can see a family photo from the Zephenian Mann will on her console.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Frosty says:

    I remember when I saw the first reviews of Team Fortress 2 some reviewers were (quite rightly) worried there would not be enough content to deliver a long term appeal.

    How Valve proved them so wrong. This is PC development at it’s finest. Go go Team Community!

  18. Camilo says:

    Btw, I think it’s obvious to think something ’bout demoman-soldier update with this comic.

  19. Persus-9 says:

    It’s not a new game mode acording to Kotaku link to kotaku.com

    I’m going with the theory that it’s a competition event between Demoman and Soldier to see who gets the next class update.

    • Hunam says:

      That sounds like the most logical step actually, as a Soldier player my greatest foe is the Demoman, a being of pain and anguish no less, had if there was a compo based on kills for the next update, I’d dive right back into the game to make it happen.

  20. ACS says:

    I bet you $20 that you spent more time playing that game than you would’ve spent on seven movies. Good Christ, man. Exactly how much fun do you expect to get out of $50?

  21. Jakkar says:

    I.. dearly want there to be a tenth class, and for it to be the Announcer, controlling her little cameras to watch the action and share information..

    ._. Or rather, an administrator subordinate.

  22. Camilo says:

    I.. dearly want there to be a tenth class, and for it to be the Announcer, controlling her little cameras to watch the action and share information..

    That sounds like fun!

  23. Hunam says:

    I just like the fact that Valve is still interested in selling a games that is over a year old. What thing that annoys me about the games industry is the transitory nature of it all. Games obviously age much, much quicker than films and music, but after the first 2 months publisher tend to just move to their next game rather than trying to generate cash from the game over an extended time. Nintendo do it with some of their games, they’ll still run an ad for Nintendogs now and again to get some sales of that. I have respect for any team that tries to make a lasting impact with a single game. It’s a shame it didn’t quite extend to L4D but I’m hardly the biggest fan of the first game so my opinion is possibly moot.

  24. Mike says:

    So good. Such a lovely game.

  25. Munken says:

    A dog covered entirely with stories set inside the TF2 universe would be a fantastic 10th character.

  26. Psychopomp says:

    Can we please have a single Valve related comments thread not turn into an L4D shitstorm?

    • Premium User Badge

      Frosty says:

      I’m boycotting your post.

    • MD says:

      I think you already know the answer to that.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I’m actually pleasantly surprised it hasn’t gone more shitstorm-y than it has. Famous last words, I know.

  27. PleasingFungus says:

    I am just filled with glee about this update. Whatever it is, whatever it portends, it is magnificent.

    (Also, TF2 being great doesn’t mean that L4D/2 are bad)

    (You can only buy TF2 once)

  28. pkt-zer0 says:

    Demoman and Soldier update seems obvious, this is why it’s going to be an Engineer update. Clearly.

  29. Noc says:

    I also kind of want to see Ms. Pauling as a secondary announcer.

    “Hey, uh, guys? Your Control Point’s being captured. Eff Why Eye.”

  30. mejobloggs says:

    AI Director coming to TF2

  31. Devan says:

    A friendship/betrayal game mode sounds fantastic. I wonder if it’s significant that the soldier and demoman both use explosive weapons, so if there was someone on the other team you were trying to avoid killing, it could be a real challenge.

    I really don’t understand how Valve justifies this kind of stuff to its management. Does all this effort they put in actually turn out profitable? Whatever the reasoning, I’m sure glad they’re doing it!

    • Collic says:

      The key thing with valve is they *are* the management. But in all honesty, these continuing updates have meant the game is still played and talked about, and I’m very sure they still sell a shed-load of copies.

      I used to play a lot for a while, not so much now, but it’s still a game I come back to, and there never seems to be any shortage of new players. I do miss the old days of vanilla tf2 though (and more importantly vanilla servers).

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Yeah Devan, Gabe Newell and Doug Lombardi both work at and own Valve.

      They have no one to answer to besides themselves, and are accountable only to their fans.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Johnny Law says:

    In they past they’ve said that they get purchase-surges any time they release an update.

  33. Crusoe says:

    How about the idea that since ‘Betryal’ seems to be a theme, and both the soldier and demoman are explosive users, that it might be possible to steal one or more of the unlockable items from a soldier/demoman of the opposing team.

    This would also be an *Awesome* way of dealing with the problem of achievement grinding :D

  34. Wulf says:

    Hear them not, Lord Raptor, for they are heathens, and heathens are soon to forget those they once worshipped, but I still remember that you are the one, true 10th Team Fortress 2 class. My faith has never wavered!

  35. LegendaryTeeth says:

    I bet it’s going to be some sort of mini/meta game involving your friends list. Extra somethings for murdering your friends and what not.

    You heard it here first, folks.

  36. jarvoll says:

    I’ve heard the messages in-game, but only while playing Demoman. Haven’t heard them while playing engi, and I don’t tend to play soldier, so can’t confirm or deny on that front. Can’t remember if there was a soldier on the opposite team when I heard “warning: friendship detected” as demoman, but they were large teams, so it seems safe to assume that there was at least one.

  37. RodeoClown says:

    I heard at least one of them while playing soldier last night.

  38. WilPal says:

    Clearly the Soldier and Demoman update is due.

  39. Bromite says:

    Hey, anyone seen this?

    link to teamfortress.com

    Guess who that is in the middle :)

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Heh, I hadn’t seen that. I wonder who that is on the right….

    • msarge says:

      Hmm, there’s a dog in that family portrait. 10th class? Engineer sidekick?

    • kvertiber says:

      Must be the same guy listed in the will.
      link to teamfortress.com

    • matte_k says:

      I’d hazard a guess the guy on the left is Saxton Hale’s father, mentioned in the will. The other two being his thickhead sons, founders of RED and BLU.
      I had no idea the will and family portrait were out there, what else is knocking about? It is quite bizarre but very entertaining that there is such an involved and convoluted backstory to a team based FPS- I love it!

      Someone mentioned it earlier, and I think it’s not a bad idea, that the friendship concept involves NOT killing a particular player on the opposing team, which could cause all kinds of trouble when capturing points, for example. And therefore, all the “betrayal” related stuff kicks off if you do accidentally/deliberately kill the aforementioned player on the other side.
      Can’t wait to see exactly what it is :)

  40. Dave says:

    I have a belief that since it’s aimed at both the Soldier and Demo then it is actually the opposite of those two that will get the update.
    Ie: The Engineer.

    What more will make the Soldier and Demoman competitive than another class getting an update and spoiling their fun.
    Add that to the recent “Joke” layouts of The Engineer’s new structures and I reckon that’s what’s in store.

    Wait and see I guess…..

  41. Anton says:

    They’ll create a social network, TF2book, or TF2-mates, or something like that!

    PS I hope not :)

  42. ThisIsNotAName says:

    Wouldn’t quite say ‘riffing’ when they invited the original artist up to their headquarters and gave them an offer of contract work…

    Source:
    link to makani.deviantart.com

    Original Pic:
    link to makani.deviantart.com

  43. Tei says:

    I think the TF2 universe seems about a group of mercenaries. So the announcer is like a “organizer” that is contracted by both sides, maybe to make teh whole system invisible to the authorities. One side want to protect a document (or other target), and the other side want that document, so both sides contract a group of mercenaries… bets are that both groups (red and blue) work for the same company, but the mercenaries are not aware of that (or will work less hard to kill his “coworkers”).

  44. Lukasz says:

    i wonder. does tf2 still sells?

    the constant upgrades, ads for this game just make no sense to me. where is the profit in that??

    • Psychopomp says:

      It was in Steams top seller list for absolute ages, and still spikes up during updates.

  45. Plopsworth says:

    Another TF2-strip by the announcer artist:
    link to makani.deviantart.com

  46. Velvet Fist, Iron Glove says:

    More than two years old. TF2 was release in October two years ago.

  47. Jeeva says:

    Glee!
    Thoroughly awaiting… stuff… now.

    …Hope it comes soon…

  48. monchberter says:

    The day when they release a hardback coffee table book of concept art and all the update media i will be a very happy Mann.

    A Mann Co. branded catalogue style would be extra brilliant.

  49. clive dunn says:

    TF3…….

  50. Yehat says:

    I still think they are not going to update the Engineer separately – just think of the sentry farms. If this *is* a competition between the Demo and the Soldier for who’s getting the next update, the loser will probably get his new unlocks in an Engineer dual update.

    Btw I had always pictured the Demoman-Engineer update being some kind of a friendship update as a contrast to the Sniper-Spy rival update.

    • Vinraith says:

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see all three get their update at the same time, so Valve can finish this process and be done with it. An Engineer “ambush” of a soldier/demoman update makes a lot of sense.