We talked to Robin a few days before the release of CTF_Well, the first new map for Team Fortress 2 since the game launched. It's the first of many changes he and his team will be making to their game over the coming year, including a new game mode, two new maps and a steady stream of game-changing new weapons.
Project Manager Erik Johnson and Marketing VP Doug Lombardi joined in to give some more background on the Valve philosophies behind some of their surprising decisions.
Did you guys think TF2 needed more Capture-the-Flag?
Robin Walker: The way we came up with the maps initially with TF2, we looked at what maps were being played on Team Fortress Classic. We ranked them in order, we knew we had time to do six of them - and out of the top six, the only CTF map was 2fort.
We fundamentally believe capture points make more sense in the TF2 style of attack-defence. The CTF guys, to a large extent, just wanna fight. CTF is a game-mode where you can safely pretty much ignore the objective of the game and it's not going to get in your way too much. Whereas control points affect your game too much - if you ignore the control points, you'll find yourself...
Erik Johnson: Alone.
Walker: Alone, spawning way back. It just touches your game in such a strong way.
How did the new game mode used in [the forthcoming map] Goldrush come about?
Walker: Goldrush grew out of thinking about Hunted (Team Fortress 1's game mode in which one team must defend a player-controlled VIP from the other - Ed), wanting to bring forward the value you get out of a Hunted game but at the same time solve some of the problems that caused Hunted to not really work in the public space.
Things like the whole game hinging on the skill of one player, the griefability capabilities of that one player. The Hunted's highs were extremely high and its lows were extremely low, and we really wanted to figure out: is there a gameplay mode that'll get us some of those positives and none of those negatives?
Goldrush grew out of that, and the main difference is that we've replaced the VIP character with, er, a cart. This doesn't preclude us from doing the original Hunted style - obviously some of the pros of Hunted didn't come through, we did lose a little bit. We'll just see what people think.
We also have some other ideas for future maps using this kind of system that have some other pros, too, so we'll keep exploring that as well. We want to do one where instead of a cart you have a large moving platform to defend, so Engineers can build their Sentries on it.
Are these new unlockable items you're adding to TF2 superior to the existing ones?
Walker: Yep, they are permanent, game-modifying items. [Robin taps away on the demo PC, remote-desktopping into his own machine, trying to bring up the new 'Loadout' screen.]
Johnson: Players won't have to do this.
Doug Lombardi: We've got that usual Valve level of polish and accessibility.
Johnson: Yeah, there's gonna be a readme. [laughs].
And a tutorial to take you through your first time.
Johnson: "Bring down the console..."
"Then type this..."
Walker: So The Overhealer [the first Medic unlock] will double people's base health when the Medic heals them, and that bonus isn't going to decay, it's going to stay. But he loses 75% of his ubercharge rate, and one of the most likely things we're going to do before we ship is, he loses all his Ubercharge rate.