Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm a Fricking Blur Over Here!

Valve, being the benevolent gaming gods that they are, have seen fit to bestow upon us a new content pack for one of Team Fortress 2’s classes, this time turning their gaze on the Scout. As with past class expansions, the Scout Update contains a couple of new maps in addition to weapon unlocks and achievements specific to the Scout class.

Valve is teasing the specific parts of the pack day by day, slowly leading up to the content’s release next Tuesday. So far, we’ve been given a sneak peak at the new bat, The Sandman, as well as the two new maps that are being included. Today, we’re introduced to the set of achievements that you’ll have to collect in order to unlock the new gear, as well as the Scout’s version of the Heavy’s Sandvich: The Bonk! Energy drink.

The description is written in the Scout’s Boston accent, but for those of you who can’t penetrate the closely held secrets of this regional dialect, it seems that the Bonk! Energy Drink will bestow a few moments of Matrix-like bullet dodging upon the Scout, with the trade-off being that consumers will be slowed down considerably after the drink’s affects have worn off. For those Scouts who have nabbed the enemy Intelligence and need a bit of a boost before they get turned into hamburger by a Heavy’s minigun, this seems like the ticket. Just make sure to get behind some cover when the drink wears off, otherwise you’ll be a sitting duck.

The achievements included with the pack don’t have their description yet, but judging by the icons associated with them, quite a few are related to the new Sandman bat, which launches concussion-inducing baseballs at the target’s unlucky cranium. Expect most of the achievements to take advantage of the Scout’s specific role, much as they did with the previous three update classes. Grabbing the intelligence, swatting foes and generally being a major fleet-footed pain should all nab you a decent set of achievements. A few seem to be geared towards annoying Engineers; maybe the Scout’s infamous cries of “Need a Dispenser here!” will finally garner some recognition.

Valve has been quite noteworthy in their dedication to keeping Team Fortress 2 up to date and fresh. Over the year and a bit since it has been released, Valve has offered up over 60 updates to the title, the four large ones adding new and exciting ways for the altered classes to contribute to the fray.

With their Steam distribution system and the attention to their franchises via downloadable content, Valve seems to be one of the few industry giants who are advocating the best way to do business in the increasingly internet-centric marketplace. By offering up a service where you can get games relatively cheap, Valve has found a way to effectively combat piracy, a topic which is a growing concern among industry insiders.

Gabe Newell, Valve’s head honcho, recently spoke at the Design Innovate Communicate Entertain (DICE) conference in Vegas, where he re-iterated Valve’s view on PC piracy. He believes that PC pirates are not stealing games because they’re cheapskates, but because piracy offers a way to get games fast and DRM-free. Valve is trying to beat piracy at its own game, not trying to stamp it out with increasingly draconian security measures. (Like the install limit in EA’s Spore.)

In my opinion, this is why a lot of gamers are willing to cut Valve slack when they delay their games. We know that when the product finally hits, it’s going to be extremely polished, and any issues will be addressed quickly. When the Left 4 Dead demo hit, Valve patched that. It’s unheard of, but it plays into Valve’s business model. By maintaining a good relationship with their consumer base, Valve has guaranteed its place as one of gaming’s most popular developers, a position which is well earned.

Bonus Content:

Here’s a little something extra at the end of the post, a place where I’ll add some tidbits I’ve collected over the internet, but I can fit into the theme of the main article.
• Bethesda continues to tease at Fallout 3’s next expansion pack, the Pitt. Three new screentshots have hit the web, giving a little glimpse into the setting, as well as a look at one of the new weapons, the AutoAxe. Check them out here:
• GamerSushi, which in the past has called me out for hating on Battlefield 1943 (I’ll talk about that soon) has a new article on things that are hurting the industry. If you’re interested, it’s a good read.
• GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned has been released, so as soon as I can scrounge up twenty dollars worth of Microsoft Fun Bucks, I’ll give it a try.

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