Polycount contest winners work to become part of Team Fortress 2

Get with it indeed.

The Engineer Update is still very much a new thing, but even more new items for Team Fortress 2 are already in the works. This time however, it isn’t Valve who’ve been the creative force behind new weapons and hats, but members of Polycount – a video game art and resource community.  (Perhaps our Train2Game Artist & Animator students should join the site if they’re not already members)

Valve and Polycount teamed up to members of the art community the chance to create items that will actually be used in Team Fortress 2. The brief went:

“Pick a single Team Fortress 2 class and create a minimum of three custom items for them. These items can be made up of any combination of weapons (melee, primary, secondary), Engineer buildings and/or hats. These items must be cohesively themed and fit within the Team Fortress 2 universe and time period. Make sure your replacement item set maintains the existing functionality of the original items they’re replacing, specifically any Primary, Secondary or Melee weapons you replace in your set.”

The content received an overwhelming response with over 70 sets – that’s at least 210 items – submitted by artists and designers. Now, Valve have managed to judge the entries and have selected five item sets that will eventually be released into Team Fortress 2. That’s after Valve work out how they’ll “attach gameplay attributes (probably of a game destroying nature) to these items.”  – Yeah, that quotes taken directly from the Team Fortress 2 blog!

which Polycount item sets will soon be available to all Team Fortress 2 players then?  Well, they are a heavy duty Tank Buster pack for The Soldier, a Milk Man themed item set for The Scout, 1950’s Gas station attendant gear for The Pyro, a nifty Saharan get up for The Spy, and finally ‘The Croco-Style Kit’ for The Sniper.  All of the items look very impressive and you can feast your eyes on them by visiting the Team Fortress 2 Polycount Pack Winners page.

Of course this isn’t the first time Valve have encouraged other Game Designers, Game Developers and Game Artist and Animators to contribute to their projects. After all, Counter Strike started as a community run fan project, while Portal was originally developed by students. Aspiring designers have already seen their maps and items become official in previous Team Fortress 2 updates thanks the Contribute! initiative.

Regular readers will know that this isn’t the first time I’ve praised Valve’s scheme and encouraged Train2Game students to get involved. It really does seem like it would be a good idea for Train2Game Designers to produce something. After all, you could strike it lucky and end up seeing your hard work on display in a game played by millions of people worldwide. Even if your items don’t get into the game, time practicing designing items can only be useful to your future career in the games industry.

So, what do you think of Valve’s enthusiasm for community developed items? Do you think you’ll be getting involved? How many of you play Team Fortress 2?

As usual, leave your comments here or on the Train2Game forum.

Developers, players, the ever closing gap between them… and hats.

In the old days, the world of video games was an ever so simple place. The Games Developers, Games Designers and Games Artists made the games whilst we, the consumers bought and played them. The growing influence of the Internet in the 1990’s started to change this traditional pattern, and creating mods of existing games became popular among PC gamers. For example Counter-Strike is one of the most popular shooters in the history of online gaming, yet it started life as a modification for Half-Life. It went on to spawn numerous other incarnations including Counter Strike: Source and has sold very successfully since its release in 2004.

So, we’ve established that it’s possible for modders to use existing engines to produce extremely successful games. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or indeed the know how needed to build games (Naturally, a Train2Game course can help you work around these barriers.) However, now in 2010, it’s never been easier for a budding Games Designer, Games Developer or Games Artist to get involved with the production of a big name title, and Team Fortress 2 is the best example of this.

“Why is that?” I hear you ask. Well, the guys at Valve are extremely keen for the Team Fortress 2 community to get involved with the ongoing development of the game – for those unfamiliar with TF2 it has received free rolling updates since its release at the end of 2007. Hats for the in-game characters were introduced in 2009, and in March this year, Valve asked players to contribute their own ideas for in-game items. They received a massive response and shortly afterwards several budding designers were rewarded by seeing their work (re: mostly designs for hats) become part of official Team Fortress 2 universe. A second round of community updates has been applied today too!

So now you might be saying “Hats are silly, why do people care so much about them?” Well they don’t want them to give them an in game advantage that’s for sure; the hats are purely there for aesthetic reasons. But these comic creations allow players to add an aspect of individuality to themselves in-game and as a result are highly desired. The community I play with probably talk about hats as much as they do about the actual game they’re playing in!

With these hats being regarded so highly, the lucky few people who’ve had their designs adopted officially by Valve for Team Fortress 2 will have been seen – and perhaps fetchingly sported – by millions of players.

One TF2 fan called Mister Royzo has gone so far as to release his own (for now) unofficial update containing new skins for a number of the current in-game hats and weapons.  So as of yet, these aren’t hats in their own right but just replace others. BUT apparently Valve have taken a liking to what they’ve seen, so is it possible we could soon end up with the first fan-made official Team Fortress 2 update? Possibly…after all with Valve (hopefully!) soon to be releasing the long awaited Engineer update, all of the games nine classes will have been covered so perhaps fans will be invited to submit their own suggestions for entire updates.

If this does indeed happen, the gap between developers and players will be even further reduced and there arguably will have never been a better time anyone, including T2G students, to get their first big break in the industry.