June 21, 2012 – Community Creator and TF Team
A lot of you have been asking how all those nifty weapons get made for TF2. Well, you’re in luck. TF2 workshop contributor Jalcober volunteered to talk you through exactly how he does it in his own words, tracking the progress of a pretty sweet Pyro gun he made called the Scorch Shot. But why not let him explain it himself:
“I started out with this excellent concept sketch from my fellow Steam Workshop contributor [Square].”
“Next, I created an image plane with the concept art on it and placed a cylinder primitive over it.”
“Since I was hoping the gun would get accepted into TF2, I wanted it to match the size, style and polycount of the existing items for the Pyro. Luckily, I found an importer that brings Valve game assets into Blender (an open source 3D modeling tool), so I could load the Pyro’s existing flare gun up next to mine.”
“Since I wanted the gun to feel like it was assembled from parts in the TF2niverse, I decided to make each piece separately. Each ‘part’ started out as a flat polygon that I traced over the concept art on an image plane.”
“Next, each part got extruded and adjusted for thickness.”
“I repeated this process to complete the rest of the trigger assembly.”
“It’s easier to build half a model and then mirror across the centerline than it is to build the whole thing.”
“I did a little prep work on the facet of the grip padding before extruding it, so I wouldn’t have to tweak all the new extruded vertices. (Doing a little edge work before extruding can save a lot of time.)”
“I decided to add some smaller details the same way.”
“Next, I added a cylinder to create the barrel grip and the mount.”
“With all the pieces complete, I created a flattened UV layout so that I could paint directly onto the model in Photoshop.”
“Before moving over to Photoshop, I baked the ambient occlusion lighting into the texture so I’d be able to tell which parts were which.”
“Now I was ready to start painting the color texture map.”
“Using [Square]’s concept art as a guide, I selected the regions of the 3D model that I wanted to be darkened.”
“I then lasso-selected those same regions in Photoshop and created a layer underneath the ambient occlusion layer. I then set the ambient occlusion layer to “Multiply” so that it only darkened my color layer underneath. Any part of the ambient occlusion layer that was white then became transparent.”
“Back in Blender, I turned off all the lights in the 3D viewport so I could see how my unlit texture was looking on the model while simultaneously painting it in Photoshop.”
At this point, I took a screenshot of the gun in the 3D viewport and did a Photoshop paintover. This let me ignore the polygons and make broad changes with a Brush Tool without having to worry about the 3D scene complexity. When I was happy, I then merged these changes back onto the model in 3D. (I had to rebake the ambient occlusion layer because I’d moved the screws.)
“Next, I compiled the model and tested it out in-game by using the item test map”
“Lastly, I published my item to the Steam Workshop and crossed my fingers!”
Thanks Jalcober! Now back at Valve, those of us in the TF Team are always reviewing items in the Workshop, and we thought Jalcober’s flare gun model would be a great fit for the universe. We got in touch with Jalcober and asked if he could make some lower levels of detail (LODs) to help keep the game running smoothly on low-end computers. We also asked that he resubmit the item using the Itemtest Wizard file structure to make it easier for us to review the submission.
From here, the team brainstormed some ideas for gameplay that wouldn’t unbalance the game, but would hopefully still be a fun new addition for players. We created a new particle system and began playtesting it in-game.
And that’s how a concept becomes a working gun in Team Fortress 2. In fact, look for it in an upcoming update!
To learn more about getting involved in creating items for TF2, head over to the new Discussions section of the Steam Workshop! See you on the cap point!
June 1, 2012 – Dave Riller
The first step of any map-making process at Valve starts with figuring out what the TF2 community would most like to play. The idea for “Gorge”, for instance, came from a brainstorming session to see if we could develop an alternative to the standard Attack/Defense map. The competitive community typically avoids Attack/Defense maps for several reasons, one of which is their potentially long time limits. We thought that was an interesting variable to dig into – could we develop a shorter-form Attack/Defense map? The community overall had also been asking us to make more five-point CP maps, so we thought there was an opportunity to try out a short Attack/Defense map that could then be turned into a five-point CP map via mirroring down the road.
With the goal in place, the next place we turn to is a simple pad of paper, where we start scribbling down ideas.
The original concept for “Gorge” was that it would only have two points – essentially a single stage separated by a gorge running through the middle of it and connected by a bridge. Two key structures on either side of the gorge would house the points. We knew that we wanted to have trucks and containers as decoration, to suggest a shipping and receiving point for a weapons manufacturing factory.
At this point all we had was the goal (short-form Attack/Defense map), a rough theme (weapons factory) and a basic layout of the gorge idea. As we started developing the scribbles into a working map, though, other requirements to make the map a better playable experience started to suggest themselves. One of the first scribbly drawings shown below suggested one large contiguous space, for instance, with some loosely established broad stroke structures to give it a sense of scale. Building out the map from the drawing, though, we realized we didn’t have any clearly defined combat spaces. The map needed to be segmented a little more deliberately.
This second drawing shows some early concepts at a bigger building that created more of a combat arena for players.
We also started fleshing out some of the routes the player could take, with three exits from the spawning area at the front, left and right that opened onto a basketball-sized court. At this point we also started playing with the idea of an elevated bridge, similar to the covered bridge from Granary, with its sneaky upper route that players could drop down from.
At Valve, we playtest iteratively and often. After we’d built a rough but playable Hammer map of “Gorge”, we playtested it as a group, then met afterwards to discuss it. What worked? What didn’t? After playtesting “Gorge”, it became immediately apparent that a lot of the elements we thought would be interesting at concept stage simply weren’t all that great in execution. At this stage, we’ll commit to small iterative changes, play, discuss, and repeat. What would happen if we used more terrain? If we added a roadway? If we added a sweeping side route that could be used for flanking? By experimenting iteratively with every new idea, we’re able to make demonstrable incremental improvements without slowing the team down on risky, time-consuming resets.
For example, one thing we realized after playtesting was that we needed to better define the purpose of the gorge in the map. Initially the gorge was deep, with steep walls and only one exit—sort of like a penalty box or a hazard—but that ended up being pretty dull. As we gradually discovered through iteration and playtesting, it was far more interesting from a player perspective to be able to flow through the space as a whole.
As we kept trying new ideas, the map started to take shape. Some vague ideas didn’t work out so well. Others continued to grow almost like seeds.
At first we didn’t know much about the cap point. We had a rough scale and placement for it, but didn’t know yet how it would affect the play experience. As we started developing the map, we started sketching cap ideas within the rough space we’d assigned for it.
One question that kept nagging at us was: How could we limit line of sight? This would be the final cap point (that would later become the pit with the back flowing route). If the defender came out of spawn there would be stairs and BLU could attack from above. We needed upper- and mid-battle grounds.
We also needed to determine whether the cap would be elevated or sunken. It started elevated, but after playtesting it became clear that a sunken pit worked better.
With players coming from both sides in a symmetrical map, the elevated point can often work better. But with “Gorge” being an asymmetrical map, there was something more interesting about everyone sort of dog-piling into that pit and slugging it out in there.
Once we were playtesting the hammer map on a regular basis, we reached a point where drawings stopped being all that useful. For me, drawings are a great place to start at a concept stage: Rough out the bones of an idea until you’ve got a working map in Hammer, then iterate from there. (It wasn’t until we were inside the structures and needed to flesh out the interior spaces that we started drawing again.) There are many different approaches, of course, but working back and forth between the idea space and the execution space has always worked best for me. Start with a rough concept sketch; build the basic blocks in Hammer; take the idea to an evolved concept sketch; integrate the evolved sketch back into the map; then lots and lots of iteration and playtesting.
Want more? Check out our walkthrough of how “Viaduct” got made here.
March 28, 2012 – The Administrator
Despite my continued efforts to better you by yelling at you through a microphone to do better, it is often difficult — and thus disheartening — to figure out if any of you damp piles of mulch are actually improving.
I found the answer, in all places, in one of the insipid gun-themed women’s magazines Miss Pauling leaves lying around, where I stumbled on an article about self-improvement. It was a revelation: Instead of screaming at you to improve, I could scream at you while you improved yourselves.
I immediately telephoned Mann Co. and demanded to speak to Mister Reddy. Then that lummox Saxton Hale intercepted the call. I tried to explain my idea as patiently as possible, telling him about self-improvement. (“If they’re like me, Helen, they’re already perfect. And if you take something perfect and make it more than perfect, you get, hell, probably a wormhole or something. Damned scientists. No, I don’t like it.”) I explained the possibility of mercenaries tracking their own statistics. (“If they’re like me, they win 100% of their battles in the best way possible. If they need to remember that, they can write it on their hands like I do.”) Several minutes of this and many clumsy pick-up lines later (something about steak dinners), I lost my patience entirely and told him to put his assistant Reddy on the damn phone, and between us we hashed out a plan.
Interested in self-improvement, mercenaries? Of course you are. Read on.
The Per Diem Perk
Mister Reddy has prepared three absolutely unique one-of-a-kind hats that will rotate through the mercenary community every day. Who will get them? The three mercs who give the most gifts, win the most duels, and purchase the most map stamps on a given day. Presumably wearing these one-of-a-kind hats will make the winners feel like they’ve achieved something. Or not, I could give a damn. So long as they make you all better killing machines.
Only found in crates, Strange Parts will help you study specific aspects of (what I charitably call) your performance in battle by letting you customize your favorite Strange weapon. Now you’re free to track the number of enemies you gib, projectiles you reflect, heads you’ve shot, and more. It is Mister Reddy’s hope that you will be able to track your performance and celebrate improvements while isolating weaknesses. It is my hope that when you’re confronted with the abysmally small numbers you wastes of space are doubtlessly achieving, you’ll stop goldbricking around and do something.
Also, Mister Reddy asked me to remind you that Strange Parts are still a work in progress. So if the mood takes you, visit the TF2 forum and let him know what you’re interested in tracking. I’m sure he’ll do his utmost to accommodate you. Moreso than I would if you came to me with your problems, at any rate, unless your problem is that you love shallow graves and hate breathing.
There. Enough motivation. Now. IMPROVE or I’ll DESTROY YOU.
February 14, 2012 – TF2 Team
If there’s one thing we know more about than hats, it’s probably romance. Remember that romantic scene in Say Anything where John Cusack holds up a boom box in the rain? Well, we hold stuff up in the rain all the time. Golf clubs. Our wallets. An umbrella. Whatever’s handy, really. And do the girls go for it? Hard to tell – it rains pretty hard in Seattle, so the limited visibility combined with wind shear makes it tough to see the appreciation on the ladies’ faces.
Anyway, today’s Valentine’s Day, and that means if you’re dating or married, you’re going to drop somewhere in the area of $600 tonight on flowers, dinner, babysitters, hot air balloon rides, a hospital bill for rain-related holding injuries (Seattle only). It adds up fast, and you might be asking yourself at the end of the night, “Was it all worth it?” The answer, emphatically, is no. Happy Valentine’s Day, stupid.
But wait! What if we told you that you could waste as much as 1/6 less money this Valentine’s Day? What if we added that you could do it without even leaving your house? Then what if we sweetened the deal further by saying sorry for calling you stupid earlier?
Introducing the “Something Special For Someone Special”. It’s ring-shaped, it’s gift-wrapped, it’s basically useless, and it’s really expensive ($100!). In short, it’s the most accurate simulation of an actual Valentine’s Day gift ever made available to the public.
Here’s how it works:
First, it’s not tradable, only giftable. When it shows up in your special someone’s backpack, they can click on it to open a menu that will let them accept your proposal. Once the proposal’s been accepted, a message will be broadcast to the entire TF community that will include your name, your special someone’s name, and whatever you decided to call the ring. Then presto, the gift turns into two matching diamond bands you can wear in the rain while you smooch up a storm, you crazy kids.
February 9, 2012 – TF2 Team
My radio’s bad from the Boulevard.
I’m a hip-hop gangster and my name is Todd.
Terrorising my neighbours with the heavy bass.
I keep the suckas in fear by the look on my face.
-LL Cool J, 1985
Most people only know LL Cool J as a rapper, actor, fashion designer, record producer, and author. Now, though, you can add “spooky-ass Nostradamus” to that list, because we’ve just released a misc slot item for the Scout called “The Boston Boom Bringer” that pretty much exactly matches the lyrics LL penned almost thirty years ago. Is it a radio? Yes! Is it “bad”? Yes! When you taunt while it’s equipped, will it play music to terrorize your neighbors and scare suckas? Yes! Are you a hip-hop gangster named Todd? That’s gonna vary from person to person, obviously, but it’s not totally out of the question! The point is, there’s probably an LL Cool J song that predicts your death. The secondary point is everything we just said about the sweet new boom box item.
We went through LL Cool J’s back catalog looking for other prescient rap songs that described musical items available for the other eight classes, but apparently one of the Ls stands for “lazy”, because it doesn’t look like he wrote any. So just in case anyone out there wants to succeed where LL Cool J failed, we’ve added a special “Sound Device” category to both the in-game item submission UI and in the Workshop so that you can tag your sound-themed submissions. Make something good enough and it may join the ranks of Aladdin’s Private Reserve, The Conquistador, and the Lucky Shot, all great community-made items we’ve shipped this year that were mentioned by name on rap oracle LL Cool J’s 1987 album “Bigger and Deffer”.