Medic!

Heavy + Medic combo = unstoppable
I wish it were legal to marry a videogame, because then I’d marry Team Fortress 2, and I wouldn’t feel so guilty about how much I want to have sex with it.

A game that’s that much fun to play shouldn’t need to look as good as it does. There’s a video from some of the Valve team explaining in exhaustive detail all the steps that went into designing and rendering the characters in TF2, and the number of steps is almost comical. It’s like the old “Anal Retentive Chef” sketches on Saturday Night Live; who would possibly put that amount of effort into what is essentially a Half-Life 2 mod?

Apparently, the company that made two of the best-selling titles of the last decade would. And even more surprising than the fact they’d do it at all, is the fact that it really makes a difference. The claims they make in that movie aren’t just over-intellectualized design-wankery; you really can tell the character types apart from each other instantly. And even in an unfamiliar map, you know which side you’re on. (Even if you forget which team you’re on). It seems a lot more like theme park design than game design.

When you’ve got these great-looking and well-animated characters interacting in bad-ass looking levels with clever voice work and a stylized UI, it all works together to make the game more fun than it deserves to be. Because I’ve only played for about 2 hours total, and I’m already pretty familiar with the available maps, and I’ve tried every one of the characters, and I’m still eager to play it again. (I’d be still playing if it weren’t past my bedtime already).

And even more tellingly: I suck at the game. A lot. I’ve never been particularly good at first-person shooters, and with every little bit of complexity they add I just get worse. But if I can play this badly and still be having a blast doing it, they must have done something right. I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to refer to Valve as “the Pixar of videogames,” but this game makes the analogy fit even better. It’s ludicrous amounts of technology and manpower in the service of art and fun.

7 thoughts on “Medic!”

  1. Chuck do you mind if i forward this love letter to the team?

    Glad to heat you are loving the game, but you need to save some of your love for episode 2 and portal!

  2. Steve: of course you can, for what it’s worth. There are dozens of other sites giving more useful feedback, about class balance and level design and all that. I’m too busy playing through the developer commentary and gawking at the character models.

    Probably the best compliment to the devs is the fact that so much of the commentary is superfluous. You just see it all when you’re playing. The announcer’s voice, the paper masks for the spies, the way the teams pile up at the gates ready to burst out when the match starts, the way you can be in the middle of a firefight and still get taken aback at the sight of all these painterly characters moving around; it’s just brilliant.

    Doug: yeah, it runs great even in Vista. What gets me is how the characters in game actually look better than the versions in the “character introduction” trailers.

    DRP: Just call it “research.” And look for me online, as “solgrundy.” I’m impressed with how easy they made it to join a friend on a remote server; it’s even better than Xbox Live. Which is doubly impressive because I’ve been cursing Steam pretty much constantly since Half-Life 2 came out, and now I actually kind of like it.

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