Well developer commentary

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(Order of commentary)

  • 1. Welcome to Team Fortress 2
[Gabe Newell] Welcome to Team Fortress 2. After nine years in development, hopefully it will have been worth the wait. To listen to a commentary node, put your crosshair over the floating commentary symbol and press your primary fire. To stop a commentary node, put your crosshair over the rotating node and press your primary fire again. Some commentary nodes may take control of the game in order to show something to you. In these cases, simply press your primary fire again to stop the commentary. In addition, your secondary fire will cycle you through all the commentary nodes in the level. Please let me know what you think after you have had a chance to play. I can be reached at gaben@valvesoftware.com, and my favorite class is the Spy. Thanks, and have fun!

  • 2. Moving Spawn Rooms
[Andrea Wicklund] Ideally matches should end in a victory for one team and a loss for the other. Stalemates are essentially a loss for both teams. To avoid stalemates, our map design considers two key variables: team respawn times and travel time from the respawn point to the front line. The team that's winning gets slightly faster respawn times and more forward respawn points, a positive reinforcement loop that increases the chances for them to push forward and win the game.

  • 3. HUD Element Shaders
[Alden Kroll] Two-dimensional HUD elements present a particular art problem, because they have to look good and sharp no matter what resolution the user is running their game at. Given today's availability of high resolution wide-screen displays, this can require a lot of texture memory and a lot of work anticipating different display resolutions. The problem for Team Fortress 2 was even more daunting because of our desire to include a lot of smooth curved elements in our HUD. We developed a new shader system for drawing 'line art' images. The system allows us to create images at a fixed resolution that produced smooth silhouettes even when scaled up to a very high resolution. This shader system also handles outlining and drop-shadows, and can be applied in the 3D space to world elements such as signs.

  • 4. Control Points
[Ariel Diaz] Each of the Team Fortress classes was designed to make a unique contribution to attack and defense, and control points are, fundamentally, methods of focusing players' attention on these core offensive and defensive activities. They're also useful for drawing players to different points of the map.

  • 5. One Way Exits
[Bay Raitt] Stalemates generally occur around doors, where teams have a strong defensive presence on either side of the opening. To help counter this, we provide alternate routes with high travel costs that become more attractive only when the enemy has strong defenses behind the main route. The number of enemy entry points into an area is crucial to its design, since it's extremely hard to hold an area when enemies approach from multiple fronts. This makes one way exits a useful design tool, since they let us uncouple the number of enemy entry points from the number of friendly offensive routes.

[Dave Riller] To accommodate Snipers, maps need wide open spaces, long sightlines, and protective cover. Targets of the Sniper require alternate routes that bypass the Sniper's sightlines, though these usually have an additional cost, such as increased travel time. This leaves players with a choice: do they take the more direct, but hazardous route, or the safer yet slower route? Sniper positions generally also have a corresponding enemy Sniper deck, positioned on the other side of the arena, which allows one Sniper to counter another, offering cover for teammates in exposed areas.

  • 7. Moving Trains
[Iikka Keranen] We build our 3D skyboxes at 1/16th scale to reduce the memory used by the large spaces in them. This means that we have to get a little tricky when dealing with trains moving between the skybox and the player space. There are actually two versions of each moving train: a player-scaled one for the actual gameplay space, and a tiny one out in the skybox. The small repair sheds on either side of the middle building disguise the point at which we swap between the two trains.

  • 8. Middle Door Timers
[Jamaal Bradley] For gameplay purposes, we sometimes need to neutralize the speeds of the classes. For instance, these central door timers were created to ensure that all classes could make it to the middle part of the map by the time the action actually starts. Playtesting showed that it was more fun to have the teams waiting as a group as soon as the doors open. The anticipation of battle, combined with the hazardous moving trains, creates a great opening clash for the middle control point.

  • 9. Control Point Evolution
[Jeff Lane] In our original design, once attackers were cleared off a point, they lost any progress they'd made toward capturing the point. Playtests revealed that lone players near an enemy control point had no incentive to try to capture it if any enemies were in the area. Furthermore, once a team was reduced to defending a single control point, the stronger attacking team was often unable to successfully assault the final point for the full capture period, which caused too many games to end in a stalemate. We changed the capture mechanic so that the capture progress persists for a while even after the attackers are cleared off the point, and this improvement fixed both of the problems with the original design.

[Jim Hughes] To give players interesting navigation decisions, routes through a map should vary in effectiveness based on the player's current class and the state of the map. Water lets us increase the cost of taking a particular route, because swimming is slower than running. Spies often accept that cost in order to infiltrate undetected. Pyros avoid it because their primary weapon is useless underwater. If the enemy has a strong defense, the increased cost of the water route becomes a worthwhile tradeoff for any class trying to hit the defenders from behind.

  • 11. Personalized Stats
[Kerry Davis] Games usually approach stats by comparing the player to everyone else in the world. This is only really of interest to those who are near the top. With Team Fortress 2 we decided that a better approach might be to compare stats to the player's previous successes, turning them from a worldwide comparative system into a personalized motivational one. The beginning player gets encouragement and acknowledgment that while they're not highly skilled yet, they're getting better all the time. The veterans get to see when they've managed to come close to their previous record, which encourages them [to] beat that record. The personal stat system also acts as a validation system. When a player feels like they've had a really good run, the stats system pops up and essentially says, 'You're right, that was a great run.'

[Aaron Halifax] Our main goal in designing the Medi Gun was to build a strong relationship between the Medic and his healing target. We wanted to see what we would get if we focused on creating a tight loop between two players, instead of just thinking about getting the larger team to cooperate. The Medi Gun's design ensures that the Medic and his target are extremely conscious of each other, watching their health and relative positions, and making tactical choices carefully. We wanted there to be skill involved in being a good healing target, so that Medics would seek out and latch onto skilled targets. This helps foster the relationship we were after.

  • 13. Functional Character Design
[Ariel Diaz] Characters are the most important piece of art in a multiplayer game, so that is where we spent most of our effort. We developed a read hierarchy for player models, prioritizing the information that players needed to be able to read merely by looking at the model. Our hierarchy was this: first, what team they're on, second, what class they're playing, and third, what weapon they're wielding. Team readability was addressed by adopting an overall color palette for each team, picking warm colors for RED and cool colors for BLU. Class readability was addressed through the character's silhouette. Unique silhouette and animation shapes are more identifiable at far distances, and across a broader range of light levels, than any amount of other visual detail on the model. Finally, the weapon was highlighted through the textures. The areas of highest contrast, which attracts player's eyes, are all focused around the chest area of our character models, right where they hold their weapon. In addition, the subtle gradient from darkness around the character's feet, to the bright areas around the chest, also helps draw the player's eyes to the weapons.

  • 14. Weapon Design
[Eric Kirchmer] Once we had a handle on the art direction for our world and characters, we turned our attention to the weapons and gadgets. While these objects have some grounding in reality, they usually diverge in significant ways. For instance, the Soldier's Rocket Launcher fits the general mold of a shoulder mounted Rocket Launcher, but somehow manages to hold four rockets in a clip. To justify this, and play up our stylized Spy-tech fiction, we designed the weapons to look like customized pieces of hardware, personalized and modified by each character to suit his own ends. In keeping with the industrial theme of the game, we looked to 60's era product design principles for the primary weapons, then focused on musical instruments for secondary and melee weapons, thinking these would reinforce the connection between the secondary items and each character's personality.

  • 15. Player Classes
[Charlie Brown] Player classes form the backbone of TF2's gameplay. There are a bunch of reasons why they're a useful design tool. A class is a bottled up experience, designed to be unique relative to the other classes in the game. A player who is getting tired of one class can switch to another class and get a fresh experience. They allow us to cater to players with a variety of different skills and desires. Beginning and advanced players can have fun together; cautious cerebral thinkers, strategic defenders, and twitch firing adrenaline junkies can all find their niche. Team Fortress 2's class design decisions enable us to have a larger number of player abilities in game, while still keeping a single player's decisions down to a manageable level.

[Hamish McKenzie] So late in the project, while other parts of the game were being finished up, we found ourselves with some time left over for extra animation. There were several ideas on the table, including weapon-specific taunt animations. When evaluating a feature, we look at how many other features it connects to, and taunts were the clear winner. They play well with the killer freeze-cam, adding to the relationship between the nemesis and his victim. They gave us a highly visible place to show off our new facial animation technology, allowing the player to examine it from all angles. Finally, TF2's characters have a lot of personality, and taunts were the perfect way to show that personality through the animation and voice acting.

  • 17. Lightwarp and Rimlight
[Jason Mitchell] To achieve a style of character shading which is consistent with the early 20th Century commercial illustrations that influenced our art direction, we alter the diffuse lighting on characters. Here, we can see the Heavy Weapons Guy as he appears in Team Fortress 2, using this type of shading style. Note the tight transition between the light and dark sides of the skin on his upper arm. Using a traditional shading model, as seen here, the character lighting appears too soft and lacks the distinctive looks seen in hand-painted illustrations. Our shading model, however, captures the dramatic transition between light and dark, and helps define the unmistakable look of Team Fortress 2. Another facet of illustrative shading is the use of rim highlights to accentuate the silhouettes of characters. Without the rim lighting, the characters tend to blend into the scenery. With the rim lighting, which you can see specifically on the Heavy's shoulders, neck, and head in this example, our characters are visible against the rest of the scene and better fit the art style of Team Fortress 2.


  • Some nodes in this map's commentary cover Well's control points, and focuses mainly on CP_Well. There is currently no commentary for CTF.

See also