Team Fortress 2. How Valve's multiplayer shooter conquered the world

She will soon turn 14 years old, but despite the huge age by the standards of video games, she still looks and plays great. And it is still one of the top most popular games on Steam: more than a hundred thousand people spend their time every day, and it set a new attendance record just a week agoOther games come and go, but Team Fortress 2 stays. Let's remember what made her so outstanding.

Police turn

Team Fortress 2 grew out of mods for  Quake and  Half-Life, which turned mindless death matches into meaningful tactical confrontations between two teams. The sequel to Team Fortress Classic was Valve's first endless long-term construction, with the game being revamped several times over a nine-year development cycle.
But without this endless cycle of trial and error, without the experience gained in the development of Half-Life 2, and without its outstanding technological base, there would not have been such a hit for all time. TF2 was originally planned as another gray and nondescript military shooter; its key capabilities were to be parachuting behind enemy lines and having a commander who would watch the battle like an RTS player and give commands to teammates (this was later embodied in Natural Selection, another mod for Half-Life). This concept initially made the game more hardcore and niche, and attempts to make "realism" were rapidly aging with technology development.
And in the end, Valve took a completely opposite approach. In the graphics and surroundings - the most catchy, expressive, cartoonish hypertrophied stylization under the old spy thrillers. In the gameplay - no strategic mode, no hierarchy, everyone is on his own mind. This made the game as accessible as possible for everyone: the threshold for entering it was minimal.

All that remained was to convince the players to try it. To do this, Valve has come up with an attraction of unprecedented generosity: the hotly anticipated sequel to Half-Life 2 was packed in one box with two prequels, the groundbreaking puzzle game Portal and Team Fortress 2. Five games for the price of one - who wouldn't? Those who never planned to buy a multiplayer shooter in their life got it in the appendage - and if so, then it's not a sin to try, right? Among the people TF2 healed of multiplayer phobia was me.

Anti-hero shooter

Freeness, accessibility, and nice art design are certainly extremely important features for the game, but for it to stick into memory, it needs some other bright character, a mascot, to become its face. Before TF2, multiplayer shooters did not have this: everywhere there are some dull Marines or interchangeable custom skins. TF2 took its nine classes - and made a mascot of each.
Even though their names are the same (Sniper, Engineer, Heavy), each of them is now a full-fledged character. With their own habits, character, accent, and attitude towards fellow mercenaries. They cannot be confused not only by their silhouette, which is important for a multiplayer shooter, but also by their voice, manner of communication, and animation. It is on nine classes/heroes that all the charm of the game, all the humor, is held; Realizing this, the developers began to release Meet the Team videos even before the release, which instantly became viral.
And they didn't stop there. Comics followed the commercials: first, small, actually advertising brochures for game updates, and then full-fledged graphic novels. The characters received names and biographies, the confrontation between the red and blue teams was overgrown with a backstory, and the lore of the game grew to an impressive size over time. Between 2009 and 2017, TF2 was not just a shooter, but a huge absurd story that threw one unpredictable trick after another - and it was extremely exciting to follow.

The nine mercenaries have become not only memorable characters but also fighters so different in nature that many consider TF2 to be the founder of the hero shooter genre. The variety of gameplay styles, coupled with the excellent balance between classes, made TF2 so popular.
The scout whirled around the opponents, using great speed and double jump, and captured points twice as fast. The Heavy was its opposite: very tenacious, very powerful, but inaccurate and slow. The sniper could not boast of any mobility or survivability but was able to kill almost anyone with a well-aimed headshot. The engineer built a defense line in the form of a turret and organized the delivery of comrades to the front using teleporters. The soldier fired from a bazooka: long-range and point-like, forcing the engineers to hide their buildings in secluded places. And from there they were smoked by demolition men with ricocheting grenades and sticky mines, ideal in defense. If it was not possible to break through the defenses, the medic could accumulate an √úberCharge and give a few seconds of invulnerability. The spy also did a great job with the Engineer's buildings: Having penetrated into the rear in invisibility and disguised as a member of the enemy team, he could walk up to the turret and calmly destroy it with a special device, and then, with one thrust of a knife in the back, lay down any enemy - even an obese machine gunner. But he had a hard time if an arsonist was nearby, checking his comrades for lice with a flamethrower: the fire overtook the spies in invisibility.
Each class was strong in some way and weak in some way; depending on the situation, one could easily switch between them without losing anything. And each player could find a role for himself: both skillful shooters and those who smear from three steps; both team players and loners.

It was also very easy to roll into TF2 because there were 10-12 people in each of the teams, that is, the personal contribution of each individual player turned out to be not so high. In 6-on-6 or 4-on-4 games, a beginner could easily let down his teammates, but in TF2, no one complained about ineffective teammates. And the short time before the next revival meant that the misses did not hit the player as painfully as in some Counter-Strike, where the dead were eliminated from the game until the end of the round. TF2 was the most relaxed and funniest multiplayer shooter ever, and that's why they love it.

Ten years of patches

But winning love is only half the battle; it must also be preserved and increased. This was facilitated by frequent updates, filling the game with new and new content: maps, modes, and, most importantly, guns. The new barrels drastically changed the usual playing styles. So, a soldier and a machine gunner could learn to do without a medic: the first - by sacrificing the capacity of the bazooka and gaining health from the damage inflicted, the second - by taking a healing sandwich instead of a shotgun. Instead of being invulnerable, the medic could learn to give his partner a critical damage buff. The spy, having refused the opportunity to hide in invisibility at will, received salvation from a fatal shot with an automatic escape "into the dusk".
All these innovations fit perfectly into the framework of class archetypes, giving players more flexibility in customizing the characteristics and skills of heroes. Classes that previously could not be played effectively became more convenient with the addition of new guns, and old favorites revealed themselves from a new side.
In addition to useful things, useless things appeared - but the demand for them was no less. We are talking, of course, about cosmetic items: the very hats that have become synonymous with the name of the game. But only from them, it did not become a bit worse. No matter what kind of clowning the players arranged, it did not interfere with the gameplay. The silhouettes of the characters were still easy to read, the balance did not go anywhere, and the hats themselves were extremely easy to get without spending a penny: either craft or exchange.
The main thing that the hats gave to the game is the opportunity to make it free. TF2 showed by its example that free-to-play does not mean pay-to-win at all: the amount of money spent in the game did not give the whales any advantages. Over the years, Team Fortress 2 has remained honest to all players and an endlessly variable sandbox, not constrained by the framework of realism.

To the mercy of fate

Alas, nothing lasts forever under the moon. Including the enthusiasm of the Valve staff to keep the studio's games going. I am glad, of course, that it was enough for almost ten years of regular updates: even after the release of Overwatch - the only worthy competitor to TF2 - it threw up new reasons to return to it. But in recent years, this happens very rarely, and, according to insider Tyler McVicker, TF2 is now being looked after by Valve at most one and a  half people. It would not be so sad if the company continued to release new releases - if after the termination of the TF2 and L4D2 updates, Team Fortress 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 appeared. But so far Valve is in no hurry to please us.
In itself, the lack of updates is not a verdict for the game: after all, there is already a lot of content in it. But the fact that Valve is no longer closely involved with it has turned into the dominance of bots, which now have to be regularly thrown out of matches so that they do not spoil everything.
But even though now in almost every match you have to fight not only with the enemy team but also with unbearably annoying bots that constantly prevent themselves from kicking, dozens or even hundreds of thousands of players still gather in TF2 every day. Because this amount and quality of content is still a rarity, and few multiplayer games areas full of absurd humor and hilarious madness. If you haven't logged into Team Fortress 2 for a long time, give it a try: chances are good that it will pull you in again. Like the good old days.

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