TF2 Video Review

TF2 Classes

TF2 Class­es

TF2, for non-gamers, is Team Fortress Two — a high­ly styl­ized first-per­son team-based shoot­ing online game by Valve Soft­ware.  TF2 is often held up as a shin­ing exam­ple of just how smooth­ly pol­ished a game expe­ri­ence can be.  This arti­cle is not a review of TF2, but rather of it’s nifty new video edit­ing fea­ture that was added just before TF2 went “free to play” (mean­ing you can play the game for free as much as you want).

It’s worth briefly sum­ma­riz­ing why Valve’s TF2 is so good because it informs the rea­son that the video edit­ing fea­tures make it even bet­ter.  Valve care­ful­ly stud­ies what worked and what didn’t about it’s own games and about mods peo­ple made to it’s games.  Team Fortress (or the class-based shoot­er) start­ed out as mods to sev­er­al of valve’s games.  TF2 is the result of many years of pol­ish on that for­mu­la to make it near­ly per­fect­ly fun to play.

In the pic­ture above, you see a depic­tion of the class­es.  Front and cen­ter is the “heavy” … he wields a mini­gun and has more health than any oth­er char­ac­ter.  This is bal­anced by the fact that he is slow­er than all the oth­er choic­es and his gun takes time to “spin up” before it fires.  Such is the case with all the class­es.  Each class­es strengths are bal­anced with weak­ness­es.  More­over, each class is “foiled” by sev­er­al oth­er class­es and is also strength­ened by coop­er­a­tion with oth­er class­es on it’s own team.

I’ll also men­tion that the art style, while delib­er­ate­ly not real­is­tic (and fun in it’s own sense) leads to imme­di­ate recog­ni­tion of the foes on the bat­tle field.  Each class as both a unique sil­hou­ette and motion on the bat­tle­field mak­ing it easy for play­ers to quick­ly assess the very dynam­ic state of the field.

But that’s all water under the bridge, so to speak.  TF2 is great and any num­ber of reviews have been telling you that for about 5 years now.  I’m here to talk about TF2’s video edit­ing, so here is my video:

ctf_­dou­ble­cross: July 8, 2011 @ 2:19 PM

I chose to upload my video to YouTube (rather than host it myself) as the YouTube post­ing might get me an achieve­ment if 100 of you (or more) go watch it — so go watch my video now (I’ll wait).

You’ll note here that the cam­era moves around quite a bit (and not very well — I’m no James Cameron).  When I played that short pyrotech­nic life, the fol­low­ing video is what I saw (unedit­ed):

Note that in addi­tion to the cam­era run­ning around, I edit­ed away the first 30 sec­onds of me stand­ing around stoned (while I was try­ing to fig­ure out which key to press to engage the record­ing).

It’s not that there are no oth­er tools to record your in game expe­ri­ences.  Fraps, for instance, will allow you to record a video of your play… and, indeed, it’s one of the more pop­u­lar solu­tions.  But Fraps is lim­it­ed to record­ing what you see.  You’ll note that the dif­fer­ent cam­era angles (as poor­ly done as they are) do add quite a bit to the video play.  You can see the sol­dier before I kill him after run­ning across the rail­way tres­tle and you can see where the sol­dier that kills my pyro before I (the play­er) do.  While it’s not imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent in this video, the “replay” mech­a­nism in TF2 knows the loca­tion of every play­er and every item that has been record­ed.  This allows (not shown) you to switch between a free roam­ing cam­era and any oth­er play­ers view for real­ly dynam­ic sto­ry­telling on the bat­tle­field.

Peo­ple have also been mak­ing mach­in­ma movies using using var­i­ous 3D engines for some time, though.  The Unre­al engine has even tar­get­ed these peo­ple with new ren­der­ing modes (less real time, more cin­e­ma).  The real trick here is that it’s easy.  Servers that enable this fea­ture offer it to all play­ers at the touch of a but­ton.  After the “replay” record­ing is down­loaded, the user is giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make video “cuts” of the replay — mov­ing the cam­era large­ly.  Then comes the one-but­ton upload to youtube.

All-in, it’s a com­pelling pack­age.  Both easy to use and fill­ing a gap where pre­vi­ous­ly only elite users dare to tread.  Anoth­er nail in the fortress from which Valve takes over the world?  Quite pos­si­bly.

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