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Friday, May 17, 2024

Team Fortress 2’s most important update in years gives its community the keys to the kingdom

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For a game that’s 15 years old, Team Fortress 2 retains a remarkably vibrant community: it’s perpetually among the most-played games on Steam. There are over 97,000 people playing it as I write.

This is also a community that, this year, decided enough was enough and began pressuring Valve to pay them some more attention. The developer can be a bit of a black box at times, and its habit of minimal public comment followed by surprise updates can be frustrating for those invested in its games. Roadmaps? Where we’re going we don’t need roadmaps!

And once again Valve has done a Valve. A new update for Team Fortress 2 adds a feature that is going to be absolutely core to this game’s future and functionality but, I’ll warn you up front, it doesn’t sound very sexy. Team Fortress 2 now has VScript support, a system that is already embedded in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Left 4 Dead 2, and which allows mappers to embed script code into maps. 

Valve lists some of the major features as follows:

  • Interface with entities and the world like regular Hammer logic
  • Simplify things that were previously incredibly complicated/tedious in Hammer logic
  • Interact with and control bots, bosses, player attributes, entities, and game state closely, allowing for enhanced, modified or entirely custom game modes
  • React to game events and change the outcome of certain things, such as damage calculations

This video gives an overview of VScript’s potential and some of the things people have already been building during its beta period. The upshot is that mapmakers and modders in Team Fortress 2 are now going to have a much easier time making seriously impressive things and getting the elements of TF2 working in ways that couldn’t be done before (or if they could, were a total nightmare). One of the earliest examples is making a 3D golf game, while others showcase enormous character models and potential modes.

Here for example is Dodgeball, long one of the most popular TF2 mods, but now in VScript.

LizardOfOz, a TF2 modder who made the popular ‘Vs Saxton Hale’ game mode for TF2, has done their own video on the possibilities of VScript entitled “this changes everything”, and said they’re working on re-making their most popular creation using these tools.

As for the possibilities when it comes to custom weapons, items, and even classes, there’s already a proof-of-concept in this mini-dispenser.

“The power that VScript offers custom content creators is so massive that even the people who understand it have barely scratched the surface,” writes TF2 community member Ultravod. “The custom MvM community now has the ability to make a lifetime of content using it. I haven’t been this excited about anything in TF2 since… 2015”.

It has always felt like Valve’s long-term intentions with TF2 were for it to be a largely community supported game, as it arguably has been for many years now, and VScript implementation is the ultimate expression of that.

It is also undeniably amusing that the community has been clamouring for a substantial update to the title, and Valve has responded with an update that will let the community make its own substantial updates. It is easy to imagine this being hand-delivered by Saxton Hale to the loudest community voices with a bellow of “here’s the tools, now go make your own damn update!”

Recent times have seen a big focus on Team Fortress 2’s bot problem, which became enough of an issue among the community that even Valve had to (eventually) respond. If there’s one lot that can be trusted to make the most of these tools though, it is a community that’s added to and even maintained the game it’s loved for so many years.

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