We need your help for an interview with Valve

Hey /r/tf2 | twitter | tumblr | pantsbook and all the other places you may have seen this message. I’m Agro, and I’m a Pyro. I’m also one of the hosts of this ‘ere TF2 podcast. Along with my other mundane duties I also get to do some fairly mad things I probably wouldn’t normally do if I wasn’t with KritzKast. One such thing was the time I wrote to one of the guys at Valve. It was a very specific email, asking them if they would let me interview them about the TF2 comics they’d written.

They said…

… sounds like fun

Shit! Now we’ve got to make it fun too!

So here’s the catch. When we do interviews (especially with Valve-type people) we’re thorough. We research a topic and have it on lock down before we get so far as to start to structure the questions. Trouble is, we’re not exactly experts on the lore of the comics. Personally, I like the pretty pictures. I think Uberchain is transfixed by the coloring, and Chronos, okay Chronos is pretty good – but he’s just one man who can’t be around very much.

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What we could really do with is someone who knows their TF2 comic book lore inside and out. So this is it; our search for someone with the inside track on the six part [bi-monthly] series. Do you know something almost nobody else does about the comics? Do you know where the Australium is buried? Do you know the secret behind the thing that was written on one of the walls in the rest stop’s bathroom? Those kind of things.

Ideally we’re looking for 1-3 people to work with us to help craft the questions to ask Valve. We’re not going to make a huge quiz out of this or give away hats or signed merch. This isn’t that kind of deal. This one we’re hoping you’ll want to do because it’s something you’re passionate about in the first place. Your prize, if you want to call it that, is that you get to work with us. I know, I’m excited too. Beyond that I’m not going to promise anything.  If you’re still up for the challenge answer this question in the comments section below, (literally on this page):

What is the most interesting thing you’ve found from reading the comics?

The more original, better thought out, constructed and referenced the response, the easier it will be for us to decide to bring you in. Please use your real email address when you comment as that’s what we’ll be using to contact you. Comments won’t be released until after the interview, so it probably looks like you’re the first one here. Who knows, you might be. In which case, by default you’ve won! Congratulations, welcome to the team! I take my coffee black with milk, there’s a good chap or chappess.

So Long as there is TF2 there will be KritzKast

Hey /r/tf2 | twitter | tumblr | pantsbook and all the other places you may have seen this message. I’m Agro, and I’m a Pyro. I’m also one of the hosts of this ‘ere TF2 podcast. Along with my other mundane duties I also get to do some fairly mad things I probably wouldn’t normally do if I wasn’t with KritzKast. One such thing was the time I wrote to […]

Our shows, your art

We’ve taken the podcast to YouTube. Think of it a vast blank canvas. A chance for you to get your artwork seen by our audience.

Help us promote you and your site, be it DeviantArt, Steam Workshop, Tumblr, twitter… wherever you want people to find you.

KritzKast has finally taken the leap and is making our edited shows available on YouTube. Since our shows are always edited down (sometimes to within an inch of their lives) we can’t put up the original recordings. Instead we’re asking you to provide artwork for the shows. Help us showcase the best of TF2’s fan artwork.

KritzKast #355: Smissmass 2015

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Schedule
1 – Outtake – Real Intro
2 – SingAlong – Rocky Theme
3 – Outtake – Renamed
4 – Outtake – Agro’s Heating
5 – Rapping – Crash Rap
6 – Outtake – Doubled Edged Dinosaur
7 – Outtake – BUTT FLUSH!
8 – Outtake – Cauterize the wound
9 – Outtake – you don’t know that you don’t know
10 – Outtake – Work Sucks
11 – Outtake – Donkie Beats Tempest
12 – Outtake – Overwatch, Oversexed
13 – Smissmass Song – 12 days of Smissmass (Thanks to Miss Eight)

Schedule 1 – Outtake – Real Intro 2 – SingAlong – Rocky Theme 3 – Outtake – Renamed 4 – Outtake – Agro’s Heating 5 – Rapping – Crash Rap 6 – Outtake – Doubled Edged Dinosaur 7 – Outtake – BUTT FLUSH! 8 – Outtake – Cauterize the wound 9 – Outtake – you don’t know that you don’t know 10 – Outtake – Work Sucks 11 – Outtake […]

Invasion Interviews: UEAKCrash

Interviewers: Ruskeydoo and Sir Grey

probedA few notable quotes from UEAKCrash:

“I’m gonna make a not-legit map and it’s going to go Batshit Crazy!”

“I want this idea, how can I wrangle the engine into doing it?”

“There’s four different varieties of them, some of them are shooting lasers, some of them are just visually there on the map and some of them will explode like pumpkin bombs.”

All our Invasion Interviews took place as much as a month before the update.  As such some of the answers given were speculative in nature.

Interviewers: Ruskeydoo and Sir Grey A few notable quotes from UEAKCrash: “I’m gonna make a not-legit map and it’s going to go Batshit Crazy!” “I want this idea, how can I wrangle the engine into doing it?” “There’s four different varieties of them, some of them are shooting lasers, some of them are just visually there on the map and some of them will explode like pumpkin bombs.” All our Invasion […]

Invasion Interviews: Chaofanatic

Interviewers: Agro and Sir Grey

capperA few notable quotes from Chaofanatic:

“the main person who approached me was CobaltGemini cos we worked together on L’il Guardian Pyro”

“On the map, there’s a Laser effect, down in one of the basement. Making the effect for that was a lot of fun because I got to use a refraction effect [like the scout’s function trails].”

“I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration lately from Splatoon and The Wonderful 101”

“Source has all kinds of problems with transparencies loading so the wheat field that’s in the background those were all like drawings of wheat and there was fighting that had to be done to make sure the field didn’t show up in front of the smoke for no reason”

All our Invasion Interviews took place as much as a month before the update.  As such some of the answers given were speculative in nature.

Invasion Interviews: Egan

Interviewers: Tempest and Sir Grey

Watergate-TF2A few notable quotes from Egan:

“It’s like a beer factory so you’re getting the UFO all drunk.”

“I’m a fan of payload. I think everybody’s a fan of payload.”

“It’s like special delivery except that there’s multiple flags and you need to capture multiple flags to win and a new flag spawns every time somebody dies…”

“maybe you guys could just program this in, I mean how else would they do it?”

All our Invasion Interviews took place as much as a month before the update.  As such some of the answers given were speculative in nature.

Invasion Interviews: CobaltGemini

Interviewers: Agro and Sir Grey

chesterA few notable quotes from CobaltGemini:

“I’m just doing my thing with something I’m really passionate about, which is TF2”

“You try to keep things true to the character rather than true to yourself.”

“The most common comment that we got about the trailer was ‘What’s up with the cow’.”

“I had to message her and say that  ’It looks like we’re going to lose the comic’.”

All our Invasion Interviews took place as much as a month before the update.  As such some of the answers given were speculative in nature.

Invasion Interviews: The Ronin

Interviewers: Agro and Ruskeydoo

A few notable quotes from The Ronin:

“That’s kinda what I do. I try to push people’s buttons”

“There’s still value at having that humility within yourself… it keeps your motives in check and your priorities.”

“I see a lot of people expecting a lot of stuff that we don’t have… that’s the TF2 community right there”

“…dude, you’re fired – you leaked this”

All our Invasion Interviews took place as much as a month before the update.  As such some of the answers given were speculative in nature.

KKBC: Neither do men live nor die in vain

KKBC3INVASION
KKBC Credits (in order of appearance):

William Dicks – Ruskeydoo
Donald – Chronos
Jonny Birtwistle – Tempest
Director – Doug
Claude Bittay – Sir Grey
Daisy – herself
POTUS – Chronos

Edited by – Doug

Previous episodes
KKBC: No one would have believed
KKBC: Yet across the gulf of space

So long as there is TF2 there will be KritzKast

KKBC: Yet across the gulf of space

INVASIONKKBC2
KKBC Credits (in order of appearance):

voiceovers – Benjamoose
small child – Chronos
mother – Lady Grey
Jonny Birtwistle – Tempest
William Dicks – Ruskeydoo
Bruce – Chronos
Percy Tamland – Agro
Reginal Remmington – Sir Grey

Edited by – Doug

KKBC: No one would have believed

So long as there is TF2 there will be KritzKast

KKBC: No one would have believed

KKBCINVASION

KKBC Credits (in order of appearance):

John – Ruskeydoo
Marsha – Dr Minimus
Voice Over – Benjamoose
Jonny Bertwhistle – Tempest
William Dicks – Ruskeydoo
Reginald Remmington – Sir Grey
Fireman – Agro
Farmer Bill – Ruskeydoo
Dr Hirnloss – Chronos
Percy Tamland – Agro

Edited by – Doug

KKBC: Yet across the gulf of space

So long as there is TF2 there will be KritzKast

MyM – Day 3 of 3

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Valentin “3Dnj” Levillain – 26 – Mapmaker / Modeler / Texture Artist – Lyon, France

In the east-central French city of Lyon, lives 26 year-old savant, Valentin Levillain. Colloquially known as 3Dnj, Levillain has numerous accomplishments with his personal work, as well as his professional, industry career as a level architect for Arkane Studios.

“I started making maps for Half-Life and Counter-Strike 1.6, maybe 10 years ago,” said Levillain. “Then I discovered the joy of the internet, and all the tutorials, and the community in 2007. It was then that I started to think about game development as a potential career.”

Levillain decided to enter a graphic design school in Belgium, where the video game section of the school helped him to do more serious stuff. “During the three years of school, I spent a lot of time on TF2, and started to make small, unplayable maps to learn the Source engine,” he said.

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“I really spent a lot of time on personal projects, as school wasn’t enough to get a job when it was over. I spent my last year internship at Hydravision, a French company that made Obscure, a survival horror game.”

“I had my diploma in 2011, then I joined Ubisoft for a six-month contract to work on Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I had that job thanks to the two maps I made during my last year of school: Mountain Lab and Lakeside.”

Mountain Lab was developed as an entrant to the Artpass Contest in 2010, where it eventually became one of the two winners of the contest. “I spent the last two years before the contest making small scenes and started several maps that weren’t good enough for me to be finished,” he recalled.

“But when I saw the contest, I decided to work seriously on it, because I was sick of all [my] unfinished projects.”

A month after Mountain Lab’s success, Levillain began work on Lakeside, a map that would only take two months to finish, and was added into the game in early 2011.

“I was surprised,” said Levillain, “Valve [knew about] the map because we were chatting about update to Mountain Lab. I guess it was a matter of luck, good timing, and the fact that the game was lacking in King of the Hill and Egypt-themed maps at the time. Probably a mix of all of that.”

Lakeside would go on to be revamped for use as the Halloween event map in 2012, another surprise to Levillain. “I didn’t play the game a lot for a long time, so at first I thought it was a joke on the TF2Maps forums,” he said. “[When I found out it wasn’t,] I was happy, it’s good to see Valve using your work. And I know a lot of people were enjoying the original with all the competition on it. But I was really surprised, because i’m sure there were a lot of better maps for the Halloween event.”

At the end of Levillain’s contract with Ubisoft in 2012, he was contacted by Eidos Montreal to work with them to develop a map for Team Fortress 2, and after five months, this led to Kong King, a promotional map for the game Sleeping Dogs.

“After that I decided that making stuff only for TF2 was not enough to get a decent job,” said Levillain. “So I started to work on a lot of personal stuff.”

“I had the jobs thanks to the different maps I made on TF2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive after Kong King.”

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“In June of 2013, I signed [to work at] Arkane,” he continued. “Just after that I was contacted by New World Interactive, who wanted me to work on Insurgency. As I already signed at Arkane [for November], I only worked for them for four months, but it was a good thing, because between Kong King and New World, I spent 10 months without a job.”

“[In those 10 months,] I worked on personal stuff, but also tried to find a job, because I wasn’t sure I could get a job at Arkane – even if it was my first choice and I really wanted it. I tried Crytek because some people asked me to do it, but they wanted more experienced people.”

“I tried to find an interesting job in France,” added Levillain, “but it’s very difficult, as there are a lot of people on the market, and only a few positions. To be honest I couldn’t have done that without TF2.”

With all of the success of his work, Levillain says he’s still trying to find a way to thank everyone that got him where he is today. “It changed everything,” he said. “I don’t know if I could be at Arkane now without TF2. Maybe, but this helped a lot. People thank me so much for my work, and I want to work harder and harder to thank them, in return.”

To get where he is, “Throw your social life away for a time,” joked Levillain. “Don’t be pretentious if you have some skills, because there is always a lot of people better than you. So work harder to be better than them; it takes years!”

Levillain plans to stay at Arkane for some time, but wants to work harder to keep up with the rest of the team. “I don’t think I will be level builder all my life,” he said. “But I think I’ll stay in game development. Maybe one day I will look to be a narrative designer or scenarist. I always wanted to make some cool, good story, and I hope I will.”

“I really want to make another map for TF2, because I’m sure I’ve made a lot of progress since the last one. This game really changed my life, like Half-Life did before,” concluded Levillain. “A big thanks to the TF2Maps.net staff and all the people there, and all the players.”

Valentin “3Dnj” Levillain’s work can be found on his online Portfolio.

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Michael “Hawf” Shilliday – 19 – Modeler / Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

In the quaint, Canadian coastal almost-city of Halifax lives 19 year-old Michael Shilliday. Known by many as simply Hawf, Shilliday has a hefty repertoire of work, topped off with the Fast Learner – the most popular community-created item second only to the Familiar Fez.

“I’m living solely off Workshop income,” said Shilliday, “I make art and pretty pictures, because one day, while watching the end credits to Halo 2, I decided I wanted to be a video game developer. Being absolutely terrible at math, coding was a bit out of the question for me. Then I played the Orange Box and decided to start off in video game art, since I spent most of my class time drawing, any way.”

Shilliday started drawing at the age of two, and after that dragged on for a bit, he eventually got into 3D modeling: first with Google Sketchup, then with Milkshape 3D at the age of 12. “I very quickly picked up Blender when I was 13,” he said. “Haven’t dropped it since, so thats roughly eight years of working in 3D space.”

“My education really just started with basic fine arts courses in high school, and the college I am currently attending is the Centre for Arts and Technology, at the Halifax campus. The instructors there are fantastic, but I still really hate [using] Maya, I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind on that.”

“I feel if I ever get a job in a studio the one factor between me keeping a job and getting fired is whether or not I can keep myself from complaining about the software.”

With his current successes in tow, Shilliday hopes to one day go down an independent game development route. “Indie seems the way for me to go since I prefer small connected groups,” he said, “although I would prefer working in a studio environment since it feels more professional. I might end up applying for Frontier here in Halifax post-graduation if I don’t end up trying to start a team instead.”

“I would be lying if I didn’t say it has been a small dream of mine to work for Valve. Same could probably be said for a lot of artists, but it’s starting to look like valve isn’t even working on software anymore. Which worries me.”

“I’m actually trying to start prototyping a small 2D local multiplayer brawler with my partner, Paige, right now since that kind of genre is starting to get really popular. We’re really only in planning phases and I’ve only done some drafts of character designs and a few pixel art tests.”

“I have a very bad habit of doing one draft and going ‘Welp that’s good enough, lets make it,’” he added, “although our Neo-Teufort stuff did go through one or two drafts before I settled on the final designs.”

Shilliday started playing video games as a very early age, so his fascination of them has been something in his life for quite some time now. “When I saw that Valve wanted people to make hats for them, I jumped on that bandwagon as soon as I could,” he said. “My first TF2 models were abysmal. But then I got the idea of wearing a dress shirt under one of my short sleeved shirts. My sisters said it looked pretty cool, and I decided to make that for the Scout. Sure enough, it turned into one of the most popular Scout items ever, and has allowed me to live on my own for a while now.”

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“The Fast Learner got in around February, the most awkward month of the year,” he continued. “I had to reopen my bank account and get all that paper work done, which, for some reason, took a good seven months.”

“I was very excited to get my first paycheck because it was over $10,000. I had no idea people invested in TF2 that much but it struck me as very surprised. Valve has offered a fantastic opportunity for artists and I’m very glad to be a part of it. I’m not the kind of person who makes six-figures a year with this stuff, but it’s a lot.”

Shilliday has already saved up enough to pay more than half of his student loans off, and he couldn’t be happier. “Coupled with the recent items we got in [recently], I’m making quite a nice living. However stressful and competitive the Workshop may be at times,” he noted.

From the accumulated profits of his work, Shilliday estimates he’s made around $30,000 since he started. “Any future accepted items would go towards paying off my student loans,” he hopes, “anything after that would go into investing my own game developments. A few of the game concepts I’ve had that I’ve actually gone ahead and documented are too big for me alone to make, but if I could ever add the same kind of TF2 or Dota 2 workshop system to them, if only to return the favor and give future artists the same opportunity I had, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Since he started, Shilliday has experienced much greater enthusiasm for his work, higher confidence, and of course, constantly being bugged about his self-mades in TF2. “It’s definitely been a positive impact on my life,” affirmed Shilliday. “The only negative one is the confusion. I’m a British Citizen, living in Canada, earning money from the United States. Who the hell do I pay my taxes to?”

Jokes aside, Shilliday plans to keep up his Workshop work until he has an actual job, whether it’s working in a studio, or making his own games with other people. “I might still do it in my free time, but it’s really just for a financial cushion,” he concluded.

“I’d rather not go to Kickstarter to gain investment for video game development, because that’s just so old and tired now. But hey, the Canadian government can give me grants for those kinds of things!”

Michael “Hawf” Shilliday’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop and his Tumblr.

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 Jayson “Ronin” de Castro – 33 – Modeler / Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Oranjestad, Aruba

Along the southwestern coast of Aruba, in the capital city of Oranjestad, lives 33 year-old father-of-two, Jayson de Castro. Working online as Ronin, and working by day as an operations manager of the largest grocery store on the caribbean island, de Castro has plenty of successful work under his belt for both Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, alike.

At the age of 21, de Castro, then an undergraduate without a degree, caught the attention of his boss, and got put on to making advertisements with Excel. “A friend gave me Photoshop and there’s where I really progressed,” said de Castro. “I got married when I was 23 and by that time, I was a full-fledged graphics artist.”

De Castro started to take in some freelance work during that time, in addition to his full-time job, but when he and his wife had their first kid, he started to slow down. It was around then that de Castro got involved with TF2, and soon, item contribution.

With his first item made in April, 2011, it wasn’t long until that became his first accepted item, the Copper’s Hard Top, in July of that same year.

“I was really happy that got in,” said de Castro. “Reading how many tried long and hard before they even got [one item] in, I was pretty pleased I got one in the game a few months after making them.”

“I remember it took about two months to get [paid],” recalled de Castro. “Valve said the processing was easier for me (since I did not fall under the US tax treaty), so they’re obligated to take 30 percent of my earnings. Huge cut, but to me it didn’t matter as much. It’s better than nothing.”

“At first, I got about $2,000,” recalled de Castro, “and for the next few months I got less than before. I was really, really happy with what I got the first time. My wife and I were able to buy a refrigerator, and pay the debts we had.”

“I got less the next month, but it was expected,” continued de Castro, “so we just kept paying the rest of the bills and bought more stuff we needed, since we just moved into the new house. As I got more items [in-game], we got more and more money that was good enough to actually buy the house we moved into.”

“We also bought a new car, and pretty much the rest of my earnings went to the mortgage. All in all, I may have earned more than $150,000,” affirmed de Castro. “We can go and eat out without worrying what the steak on plate costs.”

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For de Castro, time spent in front of a canvas was set aside for time spent in front of a screen. “To many, it has become their career and life,” said de Castro. “But to me, it’s still just a hobby and a way to keep in touch with my artist friends. My main priority still remains my personal beliefs and family.”

Among his family are his two sons, ages six and eight, who someday might follow in their father’s artistic footsteps. “My youngest likes to draw a lot,” said de Castro. “I really didn’t want to expose them to violent games like TF2, but I do show them the cosmetics that I work on.”

“That also explains why, however ironic it may sound, that I don’t really play TF2 as much, and yet I keep making items for it,” added de Castro. “My friends are always there to update me anyway.”

For people interested in getting into the booming content contribution business, “Keep making the stuff that you want to make,” says de Castro. “That’s a good way to develop your skill, then aim to make items that you think have a good chance at getting in.”

“Never ignore disappointments or setbacks, they will always be there no matter what. Learn to live with them, and keep in mind that this industry is very, very unpredictable. Don’t pour your whole heart on one item or project. Plan, design, make, finish and then move on.”

“I tend to forget that I made an item, and I always have the mindset that when I call it done, it’s done. Live with it, there are other things in life worth losing sleep about.”

“Everything else is just a bonus,” concluded de Castro. “The money? The reputation? It’s all just icing on the cake.”

Jayson “Ronin” de Castro’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop and his DeviantArt Gallery.

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Andreas “Hideous” Jörgensen – 22 – Modeler / Texture Artist – Falköping, Sweden

In the Swedish locality of Falköping lives 22 year-old Andreas Jörgensen. Known online as Hideous, Jörgensen is a part-time item contributor and a member of the creative team behind The Stanley Parable.

“My [artistic] experience started with Team Fortress 2,” said Jörgensen. “Back near the end of 2010, I was watching people create these amazing hats and weapons for my favorite game, and I decided I wanted to be a part of that; so I started trying to learn Blender. Education-wise, I actually studied to be a programmer.”

Less than half a year after Jörgensen began learning how to use Blender, he had around 10 items already on the Workshop, and his first item had already been accepted by Valve for use in TF2. And that item would be the Western Wear, added in May of 2011.

With international contributors, a lot of paperwork has to be filled out before they can start getting paid for their work, and Jörgensen was no exception.

“I was actually kind of disappointed,” laughed Jörgensen. “I waited a few months, because it took me a while before I decided to go ahead and receive payment without filling in a W8-BEN. I didn’t think it would make enough difference, and I was right: My first payment amounted to maybe $100. But, keep in mind this was before the game went free to play.”

Now with 11 items accepted into the game, Jörgensen has made a little under $20,000 off of his work in the past nearly three years.

“Once I got my first big payment, right after Robotic Boogaloo, I took a two-week vacation to New York, which was kind of amazing to me,” recounted Jörgensen. “I grew up with our family not having a lot of money, so that was my first proper long vacation. Plus, at the time I was working for a telemarketing company, so it was nice to get away from that for a bit.”

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“After that, however, things improved massively for me, because my earlier work with TF2 items actually got me a gig working as a 3D artist on The Stanley Parable– which released in October– and thanks to a combination of that, and my TF2 items, I was actually able to quit my job, which I’m massively happy about.”

Jörgensen landed The Stanley Parable gig by answering an unrelated job listing posted by Davey Wreden, one of the main developers of the game. Months went by until Wreden got in touch with Jörgensen asking for some help with some models for The Stanley Parable. “And that was it, really,” said Jörgensen.

“Right now, I’m working on my portfolio to see if I can’t get into a school here in Sweden, for 3D game artists,” continued Jörgensen. “I’m also going to the Game Developers Conference in March since The Stanley Parable is a finalist in the Independent Games Festival there. I’m printing up a few business cards to see what I can pick up.”

“I was hoping for a little bit of success, but didn’t expect this much, that’s for sure. Especially not for the two years after the Western Wear when Valve didn’t accept any of my items,” laughed Jörgensen.

“I’ve seen some people get really mad because their items didn’t get in, time after time, but a lot of them also weren’t getting any better.”

“It’s easy to assume that what you’ve made is good enough, and that others opinions are completely wrong because ‘this is how it’s meant to be’– trust me, I’ve been there too– but listen to what people are saying, look at your stuff and try to see what could be better. Because it can always be better,” concluded Jörgensen.

“Don’t give up, and always strive to improve. And be sure to drink your Ovaltine, kids.”

Andreas “Hideous” Jörgensen’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop.

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William “AyesDyef”  Ayes – 24 – Modeler / Texture Artist – Canberra, Australia

In the heart of the land down under is 24 year-old William Ayes. Known by many as AyesDyef, Ayes develops numerous TF2 item contributions by day, and works the graveyard shift at the local post office by night.

“I moved out of home when I was 17 to study 3D animation for games and film, and have been living independently since,” said Ayes. “As a kid, I was always drawing, mum would buy me exercise books to draw in so I would stop drawing on the walls. Then we got our first computer, and I would spend hours in MSPaint.”

“One day, she got me those magazines that come with trials of all sorts of programs, and that’s where I discovered Flash, where I started making little animated shorts, and then interactive games, point and click shooters, that sorta thing.”

Ayes got into video games at this point, with Counter-Strike being one of his favorites for quite some time. Once he realized he could, Ayes got into mapmaking, and continued on with it into Counter-Strike: Source.

“My younger brother, whom also loves to draw and animate got me into 3DS Max,” he said, “we’d make cool stuff like tanks and dinosaurs, but I’d use the models for my games, and he’d use them for his movies. I think it was at that point, I wanted to make games forever. So I moved out of home to study 3D Animation for Games and Film in Canberra. I grew up in Sydney, so this was quite the move.”

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For two years, Ayes studied in Canberra, and got an Advanced Diploma in Game Development from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. Being an early contributor for TF2, his work with that goes way back.

“I mapped for TF2 here and there,” said Ayes. “I wasn’t that great though, not as good as I was back when I did it for CS:S. At the time though, machinima was on the rise and the first TF2-ish thing I made, was actually a parody video of Smash Bros and TF2 together. That video even got featured on the TF2 blog at the time, I was so pumped!”

While developing maps and models for use on his portfolio, the ease of making models for TF2 caught Ayes’s attention. This led to multiple character mods, such as the female class mods, and Ayes’s first accepted item, the Killer’s Kabuto.

“I was completely ecstatic,” he recalled, “you could punch me in the gut, and I’d still be smiling, that’s how happy I was, and this was before the idea of being able to make money from making hats.”

“I didn’t get paid until over a year later being able to get paid, there were a lot of forms I had to fill out because I wasn’t a US citizen and it was starting to give me a headache, but when I finally got it sorted out, I got my paycheck which had been saved up in one go. And that smile from when the Kabuto originally got accepted? That smile came back, except for the whole week.”

Ayes’s first payments reached around $6,000, and were the first of many to come. “I was always pretty good at saving money,” said Ayes, “so I saved up most of the money from the Workshop. But, I am hoping to save up enough to buy my own house.”

“I plan on working on more TF2 items, and eventually Dota 2 as well,” concluded Ayes. “As for getting out there in the gaming industry, I’d really like to join a small indie company or even start my own.”

William “AyesDyef”  Ayes’ work can be found on his Steam Workshop and by following him on Twitter.

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Shaylyn “ChemicalAlia” Hamm – 31 – Modeler / Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Dallas, Texas, USA

Currently residing in Dallas, Texas is industry savant Shaylyn Hamm, known online by her pseudonym of ChemicalAlia. At 31 years-old, Hamm has plenty of professional experience in several artistic fields, and has struck gold with the Steam Workshop.

“I came down to the Dallas, Texas area from Pennsylvania in late 2008 to attend grad school,” said Hamm, “which is where I first began modeling. I started out in the industry as an art intern at id Software, working on the game RAGE. Following that, I spent the past three years at Gearbox Software as a 3D Environment Artist, and I’ve worked mostly on Borderlands 2 and its DLCs.”

In October of 2013, Hamm left Gearbox, along with her character artist friend, Wes “DrySocket” Parker, to develop art for Valve games via the Steam Workshop full-time. In Hamm’s case, her work was primarily for Dota 2.

Before the Steam Workshop, Hamm got involved in the modding and Source communities through an ongoing project of creating female versions of the playable classes in TF2. In 2010, she hopped into cosmetic creation with the Polycount Contest, which eventually placed her among the winners with her Saharan Spy set, which was added to the game with the release of the Mann Co. Store.

“After that, I focused mainly on my studio job,” she said, “along with making the occasional new female TF2 character. The money from the Saharan Spy set helped me greatly in paying off my student loans, but I saw it as more or less a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

“It wasn’t until early 2012, when I was contacted by some guys at Valve about making some stuff for the then-upcoming workshop for Dota 2, that I really got started with the Workshop stuff more seriously.”

It wasn’t until a year into making Dota 2 items that Hamm briefly went back to TF2 to develop the Savannah Sniper set with Parker, her regular collaborator, whose work can be found here on their Steam Workshop.

“A big part of me really wishes I had continued creating content for TF2 all along,” said Hamm, “as I feel that I missed some big opportunities along the way, but ultimately it was more important for me to focus on building my career in the industry, as I was fairly new to it at the time.”

“On one hand, I really want to [revisit TF2],” she continued, “ I love the TF2 aesthetic, and it’s a nice break from the style of Dota.  On the other hand, I prefer to spend my time on projects that I feel have a reasonably good chance of being accepted for the game, as this is my main source of income now.”

“Full sets don’t seem to be the way TF2 is going these days, and I haven’t seen much in the way of community-made weapons being added, either.  I’ve noticed a shift more towards promotional items and holiday-themed cosmetics, and the seasonal stuff doesn’t really hold my interest.”

“Still, TF2 is always in the back of my mind, and I think if I had a good enough idea for something new, it’d be hard to resist making it.  And if a great opportunity presented itself, I’d be there!”

Being among the first item contributors to get paid for their work with the release of the in-game Mann. Co Store, Hamm has made quite a killing off of her work from the Steam Workshop.

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“In every year since 2010, I’ve made significantly more money through my TF2 and Dota items than I did at my job,” noted Hamm, “and that’s counting the year I received royalties for Borderlands 2.”

“It’s allowed me to pay off my student loans in just a few short years– saving me a lot due to the high interest rates– which was something I expected to take my whole life to do.”

“I would go as far as to say it’s the easily best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“I’ve made a ton of wonderful friends along the way,” continued Hamm, “and have had the opportunity to work with people from different organizations, teams, and pro-players. Valve invited me and a dozen or so artists out to The International 3 this past summer to demonstrate the art creation process for the Dota Workshop in person, and I was able to meet a lot of great people and even a few of those friends I mentioned.”

“Becoming an artist in the game industry isn’t the most straightforward thing to do, so anytime I’m able to help other artists get started or find the right path, it’s always pretty awesome.”

“Basically, it’s sweet,” she added. “I’m pretty content to do this for a while. I have a bit more time to catch up on things in my life that I’ve had to put to the side for the past few years, like playing video games, going outside, and having a guilt-free social life. I also have more time to focus on my portfolio and can pursue some personal artwork.”

“Still, I love the studio environment, and would love to return to that eventually,” she continued, “I enjoy being surrounded by awesome artists every day and being able to challenge myself and learn from them, and working closely with people from different disciplines to make games that I’m proud of.”

With extensive experience in a professional industry environment, and incredible success in the Workshop, Hamm concluded with some helpful advice to those looking to get into either of those fields.

“Always have an end goal that will make you happy, but set reasonable smaller ones for yourself to help stay focused,” concluded Hamm, “Your portfolio is key. Don’t be afraid to show off your work and talk to other people, and learning how to reflect on your own work will help you become a better artist.”

Shaylyn “ChemicalAlia” Hamm’s work can be found on her Steam Workshop and her online Portfolio.

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MyM – Day 2 of 3

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Benjamin “Badgerpig” Blåholtz – 21 – Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Svalöv, Sweden

21 year-old Benjamin Blåholtz resides in Svalöv, Sweden, where he studies graphic design at Fridhems Folkhögskola, and moonlights as a top-tier contributor to TF2, where several people know him as simply, Badgerpig.

“I’m more or less living the ‘typical student life’,” said Blåholtz. “Lots of parties, usually at least two a week. In my spare time, I draw concept art and do texture work for TF2 items. And when I don’t feel like doing that, I hang out with friends or my girlfriend.”

In addition to his TF2 work, Blåholtz is also in the early stages of designing and developing his own fantasy role-playing game.

“I started drawing at a very young age,” noted Blåholtz. “I used to draw on pretty much anything I could, for example, old envelopes. My drawing sort of slowly died off towards my teenage years, and around the time The Sims 2 was popular, I actually used to make really terrible texture edits with GIMP.”

“Just before I turned 17,” continued Blåholtz, “I moved south to my dad’s, lost my old computer, got a new one, and stopped playing The Sims 2 in favour of TF2, which I was now able to play with a proper internet connection. After a while, I started downloading various mods off then-FPSBanana, which soon led me to the TF2 Mod Emporium on Facepunch, where I slowly learned how to work the gamefiles myself and began doing textures for various things.”

“Though it wasn’t until maybe a year back that I actually started making worthwhile things,” felt Blåholtz. “I never really studied or worked officially with anything artistic, really, so I’m more or less self-taught.”

“I was always told I was very good at drawing as a kid,” recounted Blåholtz. “I remember my classmates used to be jealous of me. I, on the other hand, didn’t think too highly of my drawing even then, though.”

Up until he got his first item into TF2, The Outback Intellectual, Blåholtz had an interest in getting into the film industry. “It was around that time I started considering the game industry as a possible career path,” said Blåholtz, “and I plan to study game development when I’m done studying here, unless I manage to get hired somewhere first, which of course would be optimal.”

While he enjoys developing concept art and doing texture work, Blåholtz plans to get into modeling and sculpting at some point as well.

“It took about a year from when I first got The Outback Intellectual in until I got my first paycheck,” added Blåholtz. “That year, my dad and I struggled to understand, properly fill-in, and get all the things needed for that IRS application form.”

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“When that paycheck finally arrived, it came with about $8,700, which was about what I had been waiting for since I had been talking to my fellow contributors to see how much they had earned, so I wasn’t shocked.”

“Getting that money did feel great though,” he continued. “I had naturally never had that much money before and it meant that I could pay back my dad what I owed him for living at home for six months without working or studying, and thus not having any income. It also allowed me to buy my tablet, and visit England to see my friends there: a trip that I planned, booked and went on all by myself no less, which was a very tense but liberating experience. It worked as a clear symbolic start for my new self-supported life.”

“And I don’t want to suggest money solves all problems,” clarified Blåholtz, “but up until that paycheck I had been struggling with depression, and to some extent, anxiety for quite some time.”

“Having money gave me a deep sense of calmness and allowed me to worry less about my future. It also meant I could get and do things much easier, which freed me from a lot of boredom and time to spend doing nothing.”

Since Blåholtz’s first accepted item, he’s devoted a lot more time and effort into his work after it paid off so well. In total, Blåholtz has accumulated about $21,000 from his work.

“I’ll most likely keep doing TF2 stuff at least until I get a proper job,” concluded Blåholtz. “When that happens I’ll probably not have the time to do both. I’ve been considering contacting some of the Swedish game development companies in the near future and see what might be open, even smaller and independent ones.”

“I doubt I’d find enough good people to confidently start a new company. But if I start studying it I might find them, so, who knows?”

Benjamin “Badgerpig” Blåholtz’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop.

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 Zoey “Sexy Robot” Smith – 17 – Modeler / Texture Artist – Harpenden, England

Just north of London, in the United Kingdom, lives Zoey Smith. Known better by her online alias, Sexy Robot, Smith is one of the youngest contributors to TF2’s workshop community. Clocking in at just barely 17 years-old, Smith has been developing her work since she was 14.

“I’m your average quirky and awkward teenager who loves nothing more than a bit of graphics design and 3D art,” says Smith. “I’ve been working on my 3D stuff, which is primarily TF2-related items, for around three to four years, now.”

Smith has a whopping 30 items added into Team Fortress 2. Among them are the Cloud Crasher, Hive Minder, and the Bat Outta Hell: her personal favorites. In addition to her own personal work, she’s also been commissioned by Square Enix multiple times, and she’s still a year from graduating secondary school.

“In terms of [artistic] education, I’ve had pretty much none at all,” stated Smith. “Everything I’ve learnt so far I’ve had to teach myself from the ground up; I’d never really engaged in any kind of proper artistic work besides scribbles in a sketchbook in my free time. In 2010, I started making 3D models as a sort of trial; painting their textures, drawing their concepts and so on. And now that’s been going strong for three to four years.”

Smith found out about TF2 and its contribution system through making and downloading add-ons for Garry’s Mod – she liked what she saw and eventually got around to buying it.

“I still don’t entirely know why I started making stuff for it though,” added Smith, “but I wouldn’t doubt it was the vague hope of making some money in my 13 year-old self. Still, I clearly enjoyed it enough to keep at it; and for a long time at that.”

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In April of 2012, Smith received the first of many payments for her contributions, a paycheck of just over $1,660. “Just imagine; you’re a 15 year-old kid, you’ve probably never touched more than $500 in your entire life up till this point,” said Smith. “To be presented with such a massive windfall was astonishing, and for effectively so little at that. I’d never expected to make more than a few hundred at absolute maximum, so it was a massive shock to me, as well as everyone around me.”

As time went by, more of Smith’s work was added, and as of late January, she has made a little over $100,000 total off of her royalties. Around 90 percent of her earnings each month go straight to her savings, for university fees and living costs in the future, while the other 10 percent is more or less spending money on whatever comes up.

“My family have never really had much money to spare,” she said. “Particularly in the past, as a result of that, nor did I. Whenever I needed or wanted something expensive like repairs to my computer; It would cause a massive blow to either my already tiny wallet or my parents. But now, thanks to the money I’ve made; I’ve effectively been set for life – for the next few years at least.”

“Enough to buy a small place for myself, enough to pay my university fees, enough to pay the cost of living in the duration of that – and that’s all considering I won’t be going to university or moving out for years, too,” continued Smith. “On a more recent timescale though, I’m able to pay for all I require on my own accord; I sit in front of my top spec computer surrounded by expensive equipment which I use in my work, as well as other unimportant things too. But hey, you can’t expect me not to blow even a little of my earnings.”

With content creation going as strong as ever, Smith doesn’t have any plans to stop any time soon. “I inevitably will have to move along and I see no better way to do that then get a job in industry,” noted Smith. “But I’m still far removed from that point as it stands, while TF2 is a great way to get started it doesn’t require the skill you need for a full on job in industry – more education and experience is the obvious answer to that. And I fully intend to go with that for the future. Wherever this whole gig leads me, it’s going to be an interesting ride.”

When it comes to getting involved in the business, “Don’t be intimidated by the big boys,” says Smith. “Everyone starts small. There are a ton of resources available to help you get started. Such as the TF2 modelling tutorials and resources hosted on KritzKast which holds a giant list of specific guides and other pages which anyone can use to learn the basic skills you’ll need to make an item.”

“Learning and making improvements from feedback is also a crucial part of the learning process in item creation,” continued Smith. “Forums such as Facepunch and its TF2 Mod Emporium or Polycount are great places to get feedback from, and the members will be glad to help with any queries a newbie might have.”

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“At the end of the day, modelling is still an artistic skill; time will need to be invested, study will need to be taken. There is a gargantuan learning curve involved in moving from basic to more complicated skills, not to put anyone off with that; but it’s not something anybody can expect to walk into and make a quick buck off, even considering how simplistic TF2 is.”

“But if you are interested, be invested, dedicate time, and get to work; your time is now and a long road lies ahead of you should you choose to walk it. TF2 item creation has pretty much defined my life these past years, before any of it came around I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I was never too well off in many regards.

“With this, everything for me has changed, I now know what I want to continue doing in one way or another, and so far item creation has helped me immensely on both a personal and all the way up to a wider level. It’s begun to define me as a person, and I will be ever grateful for the opportunities it has granted me in life both present and future. I’ve met some awesome people over these years, I’ve made close friends and colleagues who I owe a lot to for their help and support; who knows where I’d be without all of this going on around me, probably down in the dumps somewhere with no real direction.”

“So I leave you with this. If you’re interested in item creation, or have considered giving item creation a shot but are still hesitant; go for it! It’s changed the way I’ve lived my life, and it’s defining my future more and more as time goes forward; perhaps it could do the same for you.”

“Seize the opportunity and give it a shot,” concluded Smith. “No matter how crap your first attempts seem, just push forwards and don’t be disheartened by failure or setback. It could be the start of something new and wonderful, and in a few years you’ll look back and remember it as such.”

Zoey “Sexy Robot” Smith’s work can be found on her Steam Workshop.

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Ben “Snipa” Henry – 17 – Modeler / Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Wichita, Kansas, USASnipa_001

Living in the heart of Tornado Alley in Wichita, Kansas, is 17 year-old Ben Henry. Famous under the name Snipa, Ben is one of the youngest contributors to Team Fortress 2, and a member of Valve’s experimental team, Pipeline. “Every second I get to work on my craft, I do, and I constantly push and challenge myself,” said Henry.

“I have a loving and encouraging set of parents, who have helped to guide and support me during my workshopping endeavors. All my dad asks in return is a brand new Lexus when he turns 50. Oh, and it has to be the RX 450h. Mom, on the other hand, just wants a kiss.”

Since discovering 3D modeling software in 2009, he has been passionate about creating whatever comes to mind, especially when it comes to creating content for his favorite games.

“I’ve been mostly self-taught through tutorials online” he said. “The awe and curiosity of art has spurred me on to learn as much as I can. I used to sketch a lot as a kid too, mainly cars. But I believe this has affected the way I view things, I’m more observant, at least giving me a kick start into art.”

“Along those same lines, I remember having a real knack for art when I was younger. My teacher would butter her students, including me, with loads of encouragement. Not impressive in the slightest, but I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I might actually be good at it! I think a little bit of the self-fulfilling prophecy was working its magic there.”

With his brother, Ben got into making visual effects in their spare time, and they mostly messed around with visual renders and not much else, until the Contribute system went live in 2010. Ben would go on to develop the Black Market Business set for the Heavy, which was added to the game in the Über Update.

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That set was the first batch of items that he had accepted into the game, and when that first payment showed up? “I remember it as clear as day,” he recalled. “I ran upstairs so fast I could have sworn I leaped up the entire staircase. I’ve always been an entrepreneur throughout my life, but this… this was the start of something new.”

Since Ben’s success, he has now become part of the team that makes up Valve’s Pipeline project. “I’ve been interested in joining an internship program at Valve for a while now,” he noted, “and I had been emailing with a few employees about it previously. Then I was given the opportunity by Gabe to work with the talented Pipeline team – an offer I couldn’t resist.”

With daily goals, no boss, and no rules, the Pipeline team of teenagers spend their days managing the Steam forums, making websites and providing resources to those interested in joining the game industry.

“It’s given me something to be happy about,” he added, “but it’s also given me a not-so-good ego. I think the biggest challenge is staying humble. None of my friends have found a passion like I have, and sometimes that creates its own conflict. I think it’s posed a lot more challenges than I thought it would, affecting all areas of my life, some most surprising to me.”

With high school graduation on the horizon, Ben plans to pursue higher education, likely in another passion of his to have something to fall back on, and looks to work for a game company while in college.

“As most of us contributors and workshoppers want, a job at Valve is the end goal,” he said. “While that isn’t the actual end goal, I think it’s fair to say that, that is why we love what we do. It’s why we make item after item so that someday, we will be on the receiving end of the workshop, becoming the picker that chooses what stays, and what goes. As for me, I’m going to keep on that path until it’s completely blocked off.”

“I honestly don’t see myself working anywhere else, but if that’s what it takes to get to Valve, then I’ll do it.”

“Being a successful workshopper has given me a handful of challenges,” concluded Ben. “I believe it’s been worth it all the way. I love what I do, and I’m going to continue on until I reach my goal. I hope that others with the same ambitions continue to strive towards their goals, and I wish all of them success!”

Ben “Snipa” Henry’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop.

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Baptiste “Napy Da Wise” Muscagorry – 22 – Modeler – Paris, France

Continuing on to southern Paris is 22 year-old Baptiste Muscagorry, who currently resides in a flat with his family and cat. Known by many as Napy Da Wise, Muscagorry has built up quite the prestigious reputation for himself from humble beginnings.

“I think my artistic view comes from when I drew stuff as a little kid,” said Muscagorry. “Re-imagining stuff I didn’t like in cartoons and video games. Fixing errors, finding new ways to do stuff more efficiently, that’s what I like. And I’ll probably orient myself to rehabilitation when I’ll be an architect.”

“I wouldn’t call myself a good draftsman, but to me it’s not about how you draw, but what you draw.”

Self-taught, Muscagorry got into custom content creation with the Polycount contest, when the idea that custom content could be made official was put on the table. “I remember looking at the threads, thinking ‘yeah, I want to try that,’” he recalled. “But of course, you can’t really do a contest without knowing anything about making models.”

“So I learned, thinking there would be another contest later on, and that I could totally win it. I had no prior notion on working with [the necessary] software, since my school was traditionalist at the time and didn’t want us to learn too much about computers.”

“And even if I’d have learn how to use them, TF2 required way more than that at the time. It was a great challenge, but a fun one.”

It wouldn’t be until two months after the Polycount contest that Muscagorry finished his first item, uploaded to the old Contribute system, but never re-made to see the light of day on the Workshop. “It didn’t strike me as something I would want to redo,” he said. “It was part of the [community-made] Medieval update though, along with another item of mine, which was, for me, a huge achievement. You can still see it there: the Sewed Madman.”

Despite numerous efforts, Muscagorry’s work wouldn’t be added to the game until late 2012, when the Dead Little Buddy was added as part of the Spectral Halloween Special.

“When the Dead Little Buddy got added, I tried to understand how all those papers worked,” he recollected, “and it was a mess since, while I speak English, my parents don’t. So I had to translate the forms in French, and most of the words were unknown to me since I’m really not the kind of person who’s interested in finance.”

“After talking with multiple contributors, I finally found how to fill them out, who had to sign the documents, et cetera. My parents didn’t believe I’d get money from it, or maybe a small amount.”

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“I got the first payment three months later, in February. That was more money than I had ever possessed, so imagine the shock for a 21 year-old student with no job to get money basically dropping from the sky.”

“My parents reaction was also funny,” he added, “because while they were impressed, they were pretty sure it was a one time payment, and that I would never hear from Valve again.”

Of course, the payments became a monthly occurrence, and since his first payment, Muscagorry has been awarded nearly $60,000 in royalties from his collective work. “That’s about 3.5k [euros] per month,” he affirmed, “so, more than twice the base French salary.”

“It didn’t impact my life that much, since I’m not a huge spender. The first thing I did was upgrade my computer with a second screen, a new graphics card, and a new hard drive. Besides that, I used to live simple, only buying stuff when I really needed them and making sure it was quality so it would last me a long time.”

“I didn’t changed that much,” he assured, “besides the fact that I can invite my friends to dinner, buy more stuff when we throw parties, that kind of thing. Basically I’m now the bank of my group of friends and I don’t mind lending money when they’re in need. Plus, it helps when we’re going to restaurants, movies, et cetera.”

“It’s still my everyday life, without having to worry about money. And well, since I’m currently looking for housing, it’ll help there too. I’m planning to get a bigger flat than I first thought, so I could invite friends without being tight, or in one of our parents’ house. So yeah, it basically made my everyday life easier.”

Moving forward, Muscagorry plans to finish his studies and work as an architect, while still keeping opportunities open to switch career paths if designing buildings gets boring. “I’ll still continue to model for TF2, and its potential successors,” he stated. “Maybe I’ll try Dota 2, I don’t know. Nothing is set in stone and I’ll do what I want to do when the time comes.”

“I’d love to design a video game, but, architecture will still be my job, and modelling will probably stay a hobby. I don’t want to be forced to make models.”

“This experience is one of the best I had in my life,” said Muscagorry. “The community is one of the nicest: lots of people helped me to learn everything I needed to be part of this adventure. It was hard, but it was fun and very rewarding. Finally completing your first item after months of bugs is a great feeling.”

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“I remember being mad over having no items added, back when I couldn’t see that they just didn’t meet the criteria. It took me two years to get an item in-game, and that was one of the best feelings ever. Finally being part of something that big, and knowing you did it right. Then there was the Merc’s Muffler craze that’s still going on. Making a popular item like that changed lots of things, from people adding me to buy it to changing whole TF2 servers into parties when someone spotted [my] self-made.”

“Then there was the [Robotic Boogaloo] update which got the same friend that helped me on my first item propulsed to contributor. I remember the long email exchange we had with a Valve developer to find a way to make the Battery Canteens work. They did fantastic work, I even got spotted by Valve for my tutorials when they added a reward system for useful contributors.”

“People keep asking me for help, and I try to answer everyone,” he assures. “Now I’m slowly getting back to modelling after a long pause due to my studies. I now also own a real-life Merc’s Muffler knitted by a fan. And that, well, that’s just the best feeling ever.”

“So remember, if you want to be part of it, anyone can do it,” concluded Muscagorry, “just never give up. Always learn something new. Be as creative as possible. And you’ll soon be part of this very unique and awesome video game experience!”

Baptiste “Napy Da Wise” Muscagorry’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop and his Tumblr.

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Tim “YM” Johnson – 22 – Mapmaker / Modeler / Texture Artist – Woodbridge, Suffolk, EnglandYM001

Kicking back in the rural east of England is 22 year-old Tim Johnson. Toting a degree in astrophysics and working at a local cinema, Johnson moonlights as a community mapmaker and content creator for TF2, under the name of YM.

“I haven’t any formal training artistically beyond AS Level,” said Johnson. “I tried to continue art lessons at school for the following year but dropped it before the first lesson. I was already taking the usual three subjects with art as a fourth, and the coursework required for art makes it more like two or three times the workload of the other subjects I was taking.”

Johnson has had experience with modding games for a long couple of years, with some of his earliest work being done with the Transmogrifier for the original Sims games. “The tutorial I used is still up, amazingly enough,” remarked Johnson. “The screenshots there are windows XP, so it must have been after 2001.”

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“Before that though I did some programming using Blitz Basic, and later, Blitz 3D. My dad bought me a copy when I was about seven or eight and we wrote an arkanoid clone together. All of the art assets came from one of the example projects that came with Blitz– creatively called Blitzanoid– and we essentially just copied that.”

“I didn’t know it at the time though and we went through the steps in a logical order so that I was actually able to write it myself, rather than just copying the existing example. After that one was finished he didn’t go through much in the same step by step methodology with me so I floundered a bit on my own and didn’t do a huge amount that ever amounted to anything.”

Johnsons started with Source in 2007 with the purchase of Half-Life 2. “At this point the only thing I knew about Half Life was that it existed,” said Johnson. “With either Half Life 2, or Episode 1, I got Half-Life 2 Deathmatch for free and after much persuasion, I managed to get my dad to set up our network so that I could actually play it. He wasn’t keen on anything internet related so this was a big victory for me, it was the opening of the floodgates, really.”

It didn’t take long for Johnson to get into custom maps. He’d spend nights hopping from server to server, playing map after map, usually with no more than two or three people.

“I found the SDK by mistake when looking around Steam one day,” recalled Johnson. “[I] googled what it was for, and an hour later had compiled my first room map for HL2DM. Back then, I didn’t understand how anything worked with Source, so compiles took upwards of seven hours. And I didn’t know any better. The tutorials I was following didn’t say how long a compile should take so I just assumed that there was some heavy duty magic going on and that’s how long it took.”

“I eventually decided that waiting all night for a compile, that might then look terrible wasn’t much fun and stopped.”

Fast forward to the release of The Orange Box, and Johnson was back in the game. “The levels were small and simple,” noted Johnson, “and more importantly, I’d discovered the func_detail, so compile times were no longer measured in hours, but minutes. The communities doing level design for it sprung up quickly, as did a plethora of new tutorials. I joined the communities, followed the tutorials, made a ton of terrible maps and learnt an absolute ton about Source.”

By February of 2008, Johnson got burnt out spending all his free time making test chambers for Portal, so he started playing TF2 instead, and mapping for it came soon after. “I could play the maps with a server full of people, which made it a lot more rewarding despite taking a lot longer. I was still pretty bad with source when I transitioned to TF2, so my early maps are painful to look back on. I grew a lot in that first year.”

Within that first year, Johnson had begun work on Hoodoo, a payload map which eventually would be added to the game with the Sniper vs Spy Update after being pushed back from the Scout Update.

“Out of the blue I got an email from someone at Valve,” said Johnson, “they asked if I’d be willing to sell it to them. There were a few emails exchanged before they sent me an agreement, and three other people needed them as well since they were involved, too. Once they were all signed and sent back along with the map files, that was that.”

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After Hoodoo, Johnson would go on to make several more maps, and compete in the Artpass Contest with his entry, Mann Manor, which was later added to the game as that year’s Halloween event map. “[That was] a complete surprise,” remarked Johnson. “We sent them the finished map and they took it to this whole other level of awesome. They added creepy whispering to the soundscapes, a portrait of one of the Mann brothers and a few other minor things.”

“Then the whole Horseless Headless Horseman was a complete surprise to everyone. I don’t think anyone saw it coming.”

Alongside Mann Manor, Mountain Lab was added, which prominently featured the community-made Swamp Theme, which Johnson also took part in, learning to model and texture out of necessity. “Being able to whip up a couple textures or a model for a level is a lot better than relying on someone else for them,” he noted.

With the accumulated profits from his map’s initial payments, and with the addition of Map Stamps, Johnson estimates he’s made around $30,000 off of his work since he began.

“It’s a nice second income,” said Johnson. “It’s not as large as my primary income, but it means I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. It’s actually been slowly rising, too. I haven’t landed a job in anything games related yet, so overall it hasn’t impacted life much yet.”

“I definitely want to go towards professional level design,” he continued. “I tend to be a very content person, so long term plans don’t really work well with me. I’m happy where I am now, and I’m not actively looking for something new, but I’m sure something will work itself out to send me in a new direction. Whether I’ll find something, or something will find me, I can’t say.”

When it comes to joining in the custom content creation business, Johnson says to act now. “Get the tools, get practicing, get feedback,” he concluded. “Don’t wait for this or for that, get started today and don’t stop until you’re as good as the people you look up to. I always quote Adam Phillips at this point: ‘If you want to be great at something, do it until you’re sick of it. Then go and do it some more.’”

Tim “YM” Johnson’s work can be found on his online Portfolio.

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MyM – Day 1 of 3

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Aeon “Void” Bollig – 19 – Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA  

To start, I might as well give you my own story. Born and raised in the unpredictably-forecasted city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I’m 19 year-old Aeon Bollig. A lot of people know me as Void, one of the many contributors to Team Fortress 2. With only a high school diploma, I’ve managed to move out and support myself as an adult thanks to the royalties I’ve made from Valve and the Steam Workshop.

Like many my age, I grew up with video games and wanted nothing more than to one day make them myself. My childhood was molded by games like Crash Bandicoot, Oddworld, Ratchet and Clank, and those weird Playstation Underground demo discs.

Video games fueled my creative fire and I devised many ideas for games that were probably chock-full of plagiarism (because, hey, I was a kid who had no idea what he was doing). I taught myself how to use Photoshop at an early age and was drawing even earlier.

My dream of making video games even led me to send a letter to Insomniac Games when I was young (I don’t remember how young, but it was long enough ago that I had to send a letter). Unfortunately, this endeavor led to nothing more than a (probably) canned response from Insomniac telling me that although my idea was most likely cool, “our lawyers won’t let us even look at it. You know how lawyers are.” I didn’t, but nonetheless, their reply did not discourage me from pursuing this pipe dream of creating video games. If only Insomniac could see me now….

Years later, around 2007, I became interested in PC gaming, because that’s what the cool kids were into those days. I dabbled in Half-Life 2, which led me to Garry’s Mod. Garry’s Mod, in turn, fostered late nights of bizarre creativity– if one could call it that.

It wasn’t until further down the road that I learned of TF2, the sequel to a game that started as a modification of Quake: a game that my dad actually messed around with in his spare time. Like father, like son.

2009 was the year I first showed up on the radar. I had created a poorly-made crossword revolving around TF2 and managed to get myself featured in many different corners of the web. I even caught the attention of Valve pioneers Gabe Newell and Robin Walker. This was my first 15 minutes of TF2 fame, which marked the beginning of the rest of my life. (Including high school. I’m not proud of high school.)

In the depressed confusion of failing classes and teenage angst, I used my spare time to find comfort in working on custom content for TF2. I joined TF2Maps.net to get settled in and made various textures for others to use in maps, even trying my hand at a few maps, myself.

However, my life began to change when Coldfront– a TF2 map that used some of my work– was added into the game in 2010. The Swamp Theme followed soon after, which showcased even more of my work. Somehow this got me featured in my high school newspaper, of which I would later become the Graphics and Design Editor.

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Eventually, I got involved with item creation after seeing the TF2 Mod Emporium develop on Facepunch, the forum I frequented in my Garry’s Mod days. I was fascinated by what these people could do and decided to dive headfirst into the shallow end of the pool, hoping I would work with people who knew what they were doing.

I made myself known the only way I knew how: by making concept art and texturing 3D models. One of my first items was added into the Australian Christmas update of 2011, and that’s when I started to assimilate into the world of TF2 contributors. Little did I know of how rewarding this hobby would prove to be.

Today I’m going stronger than ever. With over 30 of my items added to the TF2, my life has changed completely. I’ve now made over $40,000 in royalties for my work, which is more money than I’d ever seen before Valve, and I certainly would have never seen it without them.

Along with my own personal work, I’ve also been commissioned by UK-based charity SpecialEffect in conjunction with Sega, an opportunity that I’d never expected to see presented to me.

I’ve had a “real” job before and it doesn’t compare to getting paid for doing what I love. My royalties have allowed me to leave home and live life, while also enabling me to financially support my friends and family when they need it. I try not to let the money change me for the worse, and I hope it never does.

With a long, promising future ahead of me, I hope to continue pursuing my dreams and eventually reach a place where I can make the games I dreamt of as a kid. Whether this means either landing a professional career or starting off independently, I’m not yet sure, but when it’s time to make the decision, I’ll be ready.

My message to anyone who wants to get into my line of work is go for it! It’s your life and you should live it how you want to; if that means putting in time and effort to make content for a video game you love, more power to you. There are plenty of individuals and communities that will help you get started, and we’ll be there with you every step of the way. Take a leap of faith, after all, you might just fly.

 Aeon “Void” Bollig’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop and his Tumblr.

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 Adam “Retrocitrus” Wright – 20 – Concept Artist – Las Vegas, Nevada, USA 

Just southeast of Las Vegas lives 20 year-old concept artist Adam Wright. Wright, who works under the alias, Retrocitrus, is a relative newcomer to the contributor scene, but has made quite a splash in the short time since their appearance.

“I’ve always been drawing ever since I was little,” said Wright. “Given that most of my drawings when I was a toddler were your typical ‘circle heads with stick arms coming out from the sides,’ I’ve always loved drawing no less. I was really inspired by the Looney Tunes cartoons growing up, but I really didn’t get serious about it until I was about seven or eight years-old.”

Wright explained that cartoons and video games have always been an inspiration to them. “Growing up, all I had for artistic experience are art classes that you’re pretty much required to take throughout your school years.”

“Even though high school was a tough time, the art classes I took then really helped me learn a lot, I think. I really looked up to my art teachers during that time, and gave me a lot of help outside of class.”

“Sooner or later, though, I’d absolutely love to attend an art school, or something to do with animation. Something that will help me learn more about what I grew up loving to do. Right now it’s just a hobby, but I’d love to make this into a career if it’s at all possible in the future.”

While Wright had plenty of ambitious thoughts and creative designs from the start, they didn’t know too much about TF2 until a few Halloweens ago. “I didn’t really get into it until after I got called on to work on some art for the Robotic Boogaloo update,” said Wright. “After that, though, I was encouraged by a couple of other contributors to put my ideas to work and they invited me to take a look in the Emporium and share what I had in-mind.”

Since their work on Robotic Boogaloo, Wright was hooked. “It reminded me of days past of making up creatures with my elementary school friends again and it just makes me feel so happy working with others and seeing creations come to life. It’s something that makes me smile every single day, no doubt about it. The dudes at the Emporium are one heck of an inspiration.”

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“I honestly didn’t know that you could ‘earn a living’ doing this sort of thing until the Boogaloo update happened,” Wright added. “ I thought that all the money went to Valve, and this was all just a learning experience, basically! Call me silly for thinking so, but like I mentioned before, the Workshop and it’s inner workings were a new concept to me and I didn’t exactly know how this would all play out.”

“A lot of weight was finally taken off my shoulders after I received that first payment, no doubts about it. To be blatantly honest, I kind of broke into happy tears when I saw what came in. Both my mom and dad have been riddled with their own health problems and hospital bills to take care of, so this was something that would really help ease some of the stress for both of them.”

“Paying for hospital bills and rent doesn’t come cheap,” continued Wright, who is currently on hiatus to take care of their mother, “so being able to actually help them with the extra money flow has made both, well, all of us happy. Who knew a hobby could eventually lead to this, is basically what I think. I’m extremely grateful for it.”

With Wright’s earnings, they have been able to afford the necessities for both their parents and themself. Without stating exact numbers, it’s enough to make sure they’re all taken care of.

“It’s impacted me in a vast amount of ways,” they continued. “I still think that I have a lot to learn as I get older, but I’m very thankful for the Workshop for bringing out the creative thinking side of me again. It’s brought out that inner child imagination, and my passion for aspiring to work on something having to deal with video games has come around once more.”

“I’ve met a lot of amazing and inspiring people throughout the whole Workshop process, as well, all of whom have been great people to collaborate with. I have them to thank for helping me break out of my shell a bit, too. I’ve always been more ‘to-myself’ about a lot of things, but this whole experience in general has helped shaped me to be a generally more happier person, all-in-all. And I can’t thank them enough for that.”

“I’d love to work on a video game with a couple of close colleagues and friends again just for the hell of it,” noted Wright. “It’d be a great way to start out and see how the inner workings of a game come to life with just a small group of people working on it. Starting out at a big company would be too much, I’d think. Little baby steps, you know? Hopefully something like this would be in hand’s reach. I think this would be a nice step to take someday, when I’m ready for it.”

“As for last words, I’d just like to say thank you to those who encouraged me to start making concepts once more,” concluded Wright. “It’s been a great experience, and I wholeheartedly encourage others to pursue the same, or whatever else they might be interested.”

“Don’t be afraid like me. Just jump right in, the water is fine.”

Adam “Retrocitrus” Wright’s work can be found on their Steam Workshop and their Tumblr.

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Jennifer “NeoDement” Burnett – 22 – Modeler / Texture Artist – Southend-on-Sea, England

Along the coast of the River Thames, in the seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea, lives 22 year-old Jennifer Burnett. Known colloquially as NeoDement, Burnett is one of the most successful item contributors to-date.

With only a bit of work experience, Burnett has some college and university under her belt, and is currently unemployed and living with her parents.

“I got into the whole modelling thing a bunch of years ago when Garry’s Mod was still a free mod,” said Burnett. “The first thing I ever created was a pope hat that you could fit on ragdolls heads, and some waffles. They were very awful.”

“I did a BND in Games Development at college, which was a complete waste of two years. The head tutor got fired at the end, that’s how bad it was.”

“Some time nearing the end of college, the first TF2 update featuring hats launched,” she continued. “As a result of this, the first TF2 Mod Emporium– back then known as Daimao’s Mod Emporium– thread appeared. I had gotten into playing TF2 not long before, and the idea of modding a different game and creating more of my own models from scratch appealed to me. The first hat I created was a ushanka, which I never quite finished or released before Valve created their own.”

“After a while, Valve announced they were creating a Contribute! page on the TF2 website where the players could submit their own content, which was of course very exciting. Back then, the agreement specifically stated we would never get paid for any of the work they took from us. Which made sense, the only money TF2 made back then was from sales of the game itself.”

“The first item I personally had added to the game was in the Second Community Content Update, The Scotsman’s Skullcutter. I liked to taunt Daimao [another top contributor] how his hat – The Frenchman’s Beret – didn’t have stats, unlike my beautiful new weapon.”

After that, came the Polycount Contest, which eventually spawned the in-game Mann Co. Store. “I was pretty mad,” said Burnett. “The only item I had added in that update was the Wiki Cap, which of course cannot be purchased.”

“TF2 life was relatively uneventful in the year after that for me,” she continued. “I started Games Art at university at some point and did pretty well in the first year, without really thinking of TF2 as anything but a hobby on the side.”

“Then I got another seven items in the Manniversary update. Two of them were even weapons, albeit statless reskins. This also launched the workshop, which breathed a whole new life into the then rather small item creating community. At this point I was focused on not messing up university, and didn’t touch TF2 modding for quite a long while.”

“Meanwhile my online friends worked on secret stuff like the Sleeping Dogs update and the Hitman Update, filling me with jealousy that I hadn’t been creating anything in the time they must have been searching the workshop for talent.”

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“This, and reports of how much money the artists who had created the Polycount packs were earning, led me to become rather engrossed in creating content for the workshop whenever I could.”

Burnett’s work then became some of the highest-rated submissions to the Workshop, and to this day, her Airborne Arsonist set still sits happily at the top of the Workshop on an iron throne.

“This distractedness carried on into the third and final year of university,” continued Burnett, “I created a robotic version of the Buccaneer’s Bicorne for a bit of fun, and it kind of spiraled out of control.”

“Tons of contributors made robotic versions of their own hats. Heartsman spoke to me and suggested that I make a simple community update page to showcase everyone’s work and offer mod releases, which I thought was a great idea. Of course, this turned into the Robotic Boogaloo update, which you can read and listen about on KritzKast in more detail.”

“You can also clearly hear I sound like a dude in that interview,” added Burnett. “That’s because in the third year of university, I also started to massively question my gender identity.  It was recorded not long after coming out to my best friend that I wished I had been born a girl. Might seem like a random thing to mention in an interview about items but I believe transgender awareness is pretty important, so I don’t particularly try to hide it.”

“I spent most of my third year at university scared and confused. Trying to work out who I am, trying to help create the Robotic Boogaloo update, and a general apathy towards the idea of working in the games industry meant my studies really fell by the wayside.”

“I completely wrecked my two-person group project by letting my team mate do all the work,” recounted Burnett. “We split up in the second term, which led to me paying even less attention to the course. We were meant to create models throughout the year to go towards a portfolio at the end.”

“I ended up submitting the Airborne Arsonist models, and somehow got away with it. I missed tons of deadlines and literally got exactly the minimum pass mark on my dissertation.”

“I was extremely close to failing and really shouldn’t have passed.”

“Then we all got paid for the Robotic Boogaloo,” affirmed Burnett, “and the main contributors made about $33,000 each. Which is crazy, and totally covered my student loan. There’s no life lesson there, I just got lucky.”

With Valve steadily adding more and more of Burnett’s work as time goes on, Burnett has accumulated roughly $83,000 since she started working over four years ago, with roughly $8,000 paychecks directly deposited every month onward.

“I really haven’t done anything interesting with the money yet,” noted Burnett, “I got two nice big monitors, and a nice new PC. I spend more on my family at Christmas and on their birthdays, and I went on holiday to America.”

“The first thing I bought when I received the initial payment– about $33 thousand from a year or two of built up revenue on old items–was a bag of Doritos, which I was going to buy anyway. I’ve been pretty careful not to let money change me.”

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Burnett doesn’t consider herself an expert by any means, but as far as advice goes, avoid jumping into TF2 right away if you don’t know how to model already. “Learn to model first,” advises Burnett. “Try and challenge yourself with some complex shapes, and Google anything you come across that you don’t know how to do. Don’t upload your first creations to the workshop, as they will be crap. Don’t add me to ask for my help on modelling, far too many people have done that and I don’t really have the energy for it anymore.”

“There are enough resources out there to help you learn, and you can always join a forum if you really think you have an unusual issue that you can’t work out for yourself.”

And if you feel like you’ve missed any opportunity to make items for TF2 like Burnett? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time. Even in the foreseeable future, Burnett still plans to stick to item contributions.

“It looks like it will go on for quite a long time,” speculated Burnett. “Although it started because I love the game, it only continues because it’s the easiest way of making lots of money available to me.”

“Of course I won’t be doing it forever…. It will get boring eventually, and I think it will end up being much less profitable as TF2 gets near the end of its life. Even after 2013’s fairly disappointing slew of updates, the playerbase has remained strong.”

“I still don’t have any plans for a future beyond creating content for TF2,” concluded Burnett. “I’d like to work with my best friend – a programmer – and create indie games with him when he’s finished university.”

“But who knows?”

Jennifer “NeoDement” Burnett’s work can be found on her Steam Workshop.

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Will “Ruskeydoo” Segerman – 33 – Modeler / Texture Artist / KritzKast Host – Brighton, England

In the southern-England town of Brighton is 33 year-old jack-of-all-trades, Will Segerman. Segerman, under the alias Ruskeydoo, develops various artistic works, all while being one of the hosts of the TF2-centric podcast, KritzKast.

Segerman makes a living from being a freelance artist, with plenty of work in fine art sculptures, prop-making for film and theatre, multi-discipline music, professional juggling, and of course – cosmetic items in TF2.

Starting with 3D modeling in the form of Second Life, Segerman soon got into a California-based company, The Magicians, making various educational simulators for places around the world in 2006.

“My housemates were super stoked about TF2 coming out,” he said. “I played [Team Fortress Classic] so I thought I’d give it a look, [and I] got into TF2 a lot.”

“I was working on a load of custom projects at home when the Polycount competition came along – I thought it would be a fun excuse to learn how to model for computer games properly, so I went for it. Took a month off from all other projects, and made the Hibernating Bear set, teaching myself as I went along. I didn’t expect it to get in, but was very happy when it did.”

The Hibernating Bear set was added in the first Australian Christmas update, and soon after, Segerman started to get paid for his work. “[I] was obviously very happy,” he recalled. “Felt surreal at the same time. For the original Polycount competition, there was never any talk of making money from our work. Everyone involved was doing it just for the love of the game.”

“I remember when the first payment came in, because I thought I’d lost a load of money from my account, I didn’t realise that there was an extra zero on the end.”

While not 100 percent sure how much he’s made off his work since then, Segerman lives pretty well off of it. Despite most of his recent work being charitable, he still makes around $1,600 a month from older items added to the game, and has even managed a few promotional gigs.

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“How I got the Telltale gig was bizarre,” he noted. “When I started TF2, my brother was doing post-doc work in Texas and my mother and I flew over to visit. I ended up playing some TF2 over there, and found a lovely set of servers called the Bar Room Heroes, really good people.”

Back in the UK, Segerman continued playing on the BRH servers, and found his way to their Counter-Strike: Source servers as well. “One of the guys I played CS:S with is drinking buddies with the project manager at Telltale,” he continued. “So I get a shout from this guy who I played CSS with ages ago, saying I should get my TF2 portfolio to him.”

“I made a TF2 portfolio, Telltale liked it, and that was that. Totally random, though I think it helped that I had been doing the [tournament] medals for a bit, as Telltale asked Valve if they thought working with me was alright, and apparently the reply was ‘cool.’”

Segerman also did promotional work for KritzKast with the Lo-Fi Longwave. At the time, he was an occasional substitute on the podcast, but a few months later, he had become a full-time host.

Segerman’s work and its success has impacted his life “Massively,” he said. “I’m pretty much just doing the same stuff I was before, but I’m much more financially stable,” said Segerman. “My wife is just finishing her PhD so its also really awesome that I can support her in that.”

“[I’m] still enjoying what I’m doing right now, so [I’m] going to stick with it for now,
he concluded. “I’ve never really had a grand plan. Nothing has ever hit me as ‘this is what I want to do,’ so I tend to keep learning new stuff that interests me, and combining techniques.”

Will “Ruskeydoo” Segerman’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop, his website, and here on the KritzKast.

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Liran “Ducksink” Ohana – 18 – Modeler / Texture Artist / Concept Artist – Israel

18 year-old Liran Ohana currently resides in southern Israel. Known among the modding community as Ducksink, Ohana has several successful works to show, as well as promotional work for games like Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution.

“I’ve always had a passion for expressing myself,” said Ohana, “whether it’s by playing, drawing or doing anything along those lines.”

“I’ve been to an art class for just one lesson in my life, and decided it wasn’t how I wanted to learn art. So I left, and started learning on my own with help from the internet.”

A few years ago, Ohana got his start with 3D modeling through making vehicles, weapons, and accessories for an early version of Blockland, an open-world game where players build with Lego-like materials.

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What got him to make the shift to Team Fortress 2? “Oh, this is a funny story,” laughed Ohana. “Some point after I started playing TF2, I was completely unaware of the userbase and community creator base for it – this was before the ‘Contribute!’ page.”

“Once I stumbled upon a game screenshot which had the Scout in it,” continued Ohana, “and he was wearing a silly, unfamiliar hat. It looked like a very primitive version of the Hot Dogger– which is what it actually was– and it got me curious.”

“I started looking it up and found out about the TF2 Mod Emporium, which at the time was made of a lot of inexperienced, soon-to-be contributors who were willing to help out and guide me through the process. I had a lot of annoying questions to ask, but it was fun and new, so I kept doing it.”

It would be another one to two years before Ohana struck gold with his work, when the Itsy Bitsy Spyer was added into the game in early 2011. Despite international payment issues, there was still plenty to be happy about.

“[It was] a lot of running around through IRS-approved agents to try and get an ITIN number,” remembered Ohana. “I don’t recall the first time I got paid, but I remember being extremely happy; though it wasn’t a very large amount if I remember correctly.”

While not much at first, Ohana’s pay grew over time, and his work even landed him promotional gigs with Square Enix on multiple occasions.

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“Not a whole lot of people in my country are familiar with TF2,” noted Ohana, “but I never feel ashamed to explain it to any of my friends who don’t. I’m proud of my work, and it’s always fun to try and share with friends and family what I’m actually doing. It certainly helps people take your work more seriously! And, the money is good so no harm in that either.”

“The game industry in my country is not a very developed one, in most areas, as far as I know,” added Ohana. “Which is why I hope to try and advance it, and bring it forward so that people like me could get a job in doing what they love. Those are really big expectations. While making items for the workshop is a fun hobby, you can’t really develop it to a full-time job.”

“I still have a lot ahead before I can start trying, with military service and all, but I certainly hope that I could work in this area in the future.”

When it comes to getting involved in the contributor business, “Don’t give up,” says Ohana. “Hating your work is okay – it helps you get better. Never be too proud to think that you are above anyone else. Count on the item creator community, mostly they’re very helpful.”

“While the money factor is indeed tempting, try doing it out of fun and will to progress first. Worry about the rest later.

“I think that what Valve is doing is great,” concluded Ohana, “its really helping out a lot of people who want to progress and don’t know how and where to start, and I’m thankful for that.”

Liran “Ducksink” Ohana’s work can be found on his Steam Workshop.

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KritzKast interviews Gary Schwartz

kk interview v2_640You may recognise Gary Schwartz by name alone
but for those looking puzzled I’ll clue you to his clones.
He’s been one half of a double act of mimes.
He’s Trekked across Deep Space hundreds of times.
As a kid playing in Our Town the crowd called for more!
Much later he lent his voice to Pleo the dinosaur.

He has acted with Hollywood hits, like Tobey Maguire,
not bad for the idiot who thwarted The Quest for Fire.
He’s raised over fifteen thousand dollars in his Kickstarter aims,
to share with the world Viola Spolin’s Theater Games.
In a Jackie Chan fight he relived his childhood,
using ADV like only the Walla-Washington guys could.

Got it yet? What would give it away would be sharing this memo,

His is the voice of the Heavy and Demo

Listen to the interview we recorded with Gary, exclusively here.

KritzKast #252: Smissmas Outtakes

steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_18373_previewSmissmass is upon us again and its that time of the year where we open our archives and show all of our screw ups over the last year. However, last year Smissmas it was our 200th episode. So we actually have 2 years worth of outtakes for you. Yes there are a few skits requested by fans and bad christmas karoke for you. But mostly, this is an insight into how we make the show. Enjoy

Schedule
1 – Outtake – How to segway into Scout vs Witch
2 – Outtake – Why does Windows 8 suck?
3 – Skit – The birth of Christ
4 – Outtake – Chronos’ pony troll
5 – Outtake – How to deal with shit coffee
6 – Bad Karoke – Last Smissmas
7 – Outtake – Heartsmans Dog
8 – Outtake – Tight spot for a PS3
9 – Outtake – Dear future tempest
10 – Outtake – Forbidden planets delivery service
11 – Outtake – Edit out Heartsman
12 – Trailer – Little buddy Scout
13 – Outtake – How does one intro?
14 – Outtake – Merrrrrrrrasmus
15 – Outtake – Words we can’t say
16 – Outtake – Merrrrrrrrasmus!!!
17 – Outtake – Clunge pack?
18 – Outtake – Piss discing

KritzKast interviews Makani

saxtonpage54overlayThere’s a good chance you’ve been enjoying Heather Campbell‘s work for some time without ever knowing it was hers. Team Fortress 2 was released six years ago with neither back story or lore. The game was, after all, just a first person shooter with fast respawn times. This didn’t stop each of the classes from having complex backgrounds that reached far beyond their stereotypes; the suave Frenchman; the cocky scout. Gamers, like nature itself, abhor a vacuum, so it wasn’t long before fan art and stories started popping up everywhere. In the absence of canon, fans made their own.

Valve’s canny Fortress team quickly recognised that this was to be encouraged. The WAR! event gave players a chance to pit demomen against soldiers while simultaneously providing artists an official gallery to show off their talents via the propaganda contest. To accompany the update there was a comic that focused entirely on a character who up till then had existed only as a voice: the administrator. This image of a hard-hitting, clerical, old mare of a woman was pulled directly from an image Heather had posted to her Deviant Art blog under the username Makani as “the announcer” a few months before under the title, “mission begins in five”. It appears that in that time Valve had contacted Makani, brought to her their studio in Seattle and offered to buy the likeness from her.

tfissue02-016While it takes a village to raise a child, in Valve’s case it takes a cabal to make a game. This can make it tough when it comes to figuring out exactly who did what. The lore surrounding the Mann Co. universe is no different. Makani has contributed her artistic skills here and there to various games but if you want to see something that’s clearly her very own, and in some detail, you need go no further than the Team Fortress comics: Blood Brothers, A Fate Worse Than Chess, Ring of Fired and Unhappy Returns.

With the latest of these just out now we asked Makani to talk to us about her time in Valve, about her path to her current position and to chance our arm with a mention in the next comic.

WIP #021: Tim Bagheri – ozfortress and GamersUnited

oz_tim_unitedFor Australians there’s really only one TF2 community and that’s ozfortress. If you’re part of ozfortress  there’s a chance you already know the name Tim Bagheri but if you don’t then I’m sure you’ll know him by his nick, wm or WarMaster. He certainly lives up to that nickname. With his assistance ozfortress runs cluster of active leagues, cups and charity events. For most people this would take up enough of their time. For Tim it’s just the start. He is also involved with Gamers United and TF2Mixup Match.

GU has a presence right across the world. Their servers and services extend from Australasia to Europe, South Africa and North America. KritzKast servers are provided by GU so I have a vested interest in their success too. It may just be that GamersUnited is the big brother who went out into the world and came back laden with stories and wisdom. In many ways that describes Tim too. They have recently taken on a new skin, a new look for old gaming hands.

In this first interview we talk to wm about all the works he’s been involved with and what we can expect from him later this year.

KritzKast interviews Geel9

kk_int_scrap-smallThink what you achieved last year? Finished school,  got a job, found the partner of your dreams and got married? Pah! They are nothing compared to what Jessecar and Geel9 have managed. In just 10 months they’ve created Scrap.tf and made it into one of the single most useful and visited TF2 traders’ destinations. Their site offers access to twenty trading bots who’ll turn your random items into scrap and more.

We asked you to come up with questions for this interview with Geel9, offering Vintage Lo-Fi and queue Priority for those we chose to use. There were 8158 unique entries which we whittled down (with your help) to just 16.
These are, in an order not too dissimilar to the order in which they were asked:

How might you advertise this site to new coming Team Fortress 2 players?
What does scrap.tf’s logo stand for? What exactly does it represent?
According to recounts, you and Jesse both remark the site was birthed from the Facepunch forums. What’s the backstory behind the creation of the idea of scrap.tf?
Scrap.tf has definitely changed the tf2 trading market. Did you expect it to have such an impact? Do you take the effect on the market into account when you make changes to scrap.tf?
How did the process of advertising Scrap.tf go? Was it a friend to friend? What would be the most efficient way to advertise (after your experience of doing it)?
How do the bots work?
Have you ever had a bot get hacked?
Each day, scammers liquidate many items for easier sales. Valve tends to ban people who help them along by trading for scammed items. How does scrap.tf protect its bots and people who trade with them?
With your recently implemented promo items banking, is it possible for scrap.tf to pay for itself? (i.e. maintenance cost, hosting cost, etc.)
How much time do you spend debugging the website compared to time coding new features?
When you and Jesse are out of High School, will you continue your career in coding? If not, what will you do?
Will you add more Bots to Hat Banking in future? And can you lower the first 0,33 fee? It will attract more people and will make our TF2 economy better. Without “1,22 or less” Buyers.
When did both of you get into programming and what was the first major project you worked on?
With the constant growth scrap.tf has been experiencing in the past months, don’t you guys worry about getting overloaded at some point, both from the technical and administrative points of view?
You have said that you crated scrap.tf to eliminate Scrapbankers who flip for profit, yet some say you utilize this tactic with your Item Banking services. How do you respond to these accusations?
Why is your name Geel9?
Tuxxygate?

The chosen few will receive their prizes shortly. Our thanks go to Geel9 for the interview and CDJO for the accompanying sfm picture.

KritzKast interviews Robotic Boogaloo

What do you do if you don’t work for valve but you really want to make an update for your favourite First Person Shooter? Some write emails, many grumble over the unfairness of it all but a select few plough on ahead and make their own fake update anyway. So it was with Robotic Boogaloo. Hats were made to a metallic theme, given quirky names and fun little descriptions. An SFM video was made, a site, a comic then just before due date for release *pop* it ceased to be and all around wondered what happened. By now you know the truth Valve has made it real.
roboboog
We talk with the community team behind the idea and discover how the fake became TF2’s very first entirely fan made update. To accompany this audio interview we’ve asked a few questions of Valve’s Andrew Wilson.

1) Valve have used content produced by community groups before such as the polycount pack but this is first time you’ve taken an unsolicited community project in its entirety. What made you choose the Robotic Boogaloo to release over things such as Night of the Living Update?
Robotic Boogaloo had a really nice comprehensive package.
LOOK AT IT.  I’ll wait, here.
Even before it became what it is now, the fledgling content showed much polish paired with some really well thought out decisions. Concepts like Night of the Living Update have done a great job of showing us and the rest of the Team Fortress community what is possible in a theme. I don’t imagine that RB would have come without Night of the Living Update. Some of the design restrictions in Robotic Boogaloo helped this be a palatable first choice for us to promote the RB Team’s work.
The stuff that the community is doing keeps getting better.  At this point, it’s impossible to ignore, and so we’re not.

2) The community produced more items for RB than actually made it into this update. What was your selection process? What factors meant some items were accepted and others rejected?
Since the robo-hats are based on other items, we wanted to make sure that didn’t destroy the value in some of the rare and mysterious items that already existed in the game in a limited form from promotions, events, etc.
Other designs were based on game play expectations, implementation, or craftsmanship. Some of the hats had multiple submitted versions and in those cases we judged them against each other and the better-looking item was selected.
Several of us got together and reviewed items based on those concepts, and the final list is the result of that.

3) The accompanying comic was created by Heartsman. Should Valve release another bound edition of the games’ comics such as “VALVE PRESENTS: THE SACRIFICE AND OTHER STEAM-POWERED STORIES” will his work feature in this too? On a further note, can President Kisses Von Butternubs now be considered to be canon?
Anything canon should come from the team here; we view the comic as a possible alternate universe. This comic may inspire more community made comics and other branches of the TF universe. While we don’t want too many people steering the canon for TF, we love to see where the characters are taken, and having a bound compilation of TF spin-offs would be something I would love to have on my bookshelf. Why no mention of the future engineer? He’s pretty much incredible

4) RB sees the largest number of cosmetic items added in a single update. Will Valve be focusing on huge updates of this nature in the future or was this a one off? Are we going to see more old hats discontinued to make way for these new items?
This is a new concept. Our players might love it. We think they will appreciate it, but that’s to be seen. We’d like to see the response. The import tool we used to help the RB come to fruition is designed to make updates like this more possible, and we hope to nurture even more events like this, should it bring widespread joy to TF.
Broadly speaking, we would like to release more content faster, and the RB update has helped us consider just what it takes to do it right.

5) The Team Fortress cabal at Valve has seen a fair turn over its lead players over the years. Is this move into further embracing community content something that’s come from its new members, or is this just an extension of previous policies?
Every time we get you guys (caring fans) involved in working with us, the result has been positive. Many of the members who helped create TF are still heavily involved. This update is a logical extension of things we’ve been doing — we have the best fans and we like them to get directly involved and whenever we can, and we’d like them to be rewarded for their work.

6) TF2 is starting to show its age when compared to more recent Valve titles. Dota2’s system is apparently a lot easier for computers to handle because it compiles all the models and textures for the hero and its items together as such there are less ‘draw calls’. Now that steampipe is in place, does this open TF2 up for some more dramatic changes?
TF2 has helped engineer systems like the ones Dota2 is using. We’re glad we had the opportunity to figure out how to improve cosmetics and packing them in to characters.  TF is constantly trying out new ways to outfit characters and evolving the software, but steampipe doesn’t have anything to do with the runtime performance of the game.
Because TF2 is around six years old, there are more limitations on what we can do, but these haven’t stopped us nor our fans from coming up with really novel and interesting ideas. The team here is constantly innovating and that experience improves future products. Valve gets a chance to see what customers want in their multiplayer games. Games like Dota 2 will only be better for some of the limitations we’re learning about through TF2.
Valve loves when our customers benefit from and enrich the games that they play.  We developed the Steam Workshop to promote this as a Steam-level concept, not something specific to Valve-made games.  Many of us got into making games by modding products, but now we are making it easier for the next generation to do it and get paid doing it.
kk_int_rb
7) Do you think the RB update will have any effect on the what has become known as the artstyle of TF2? Are you expecting to see an influx of ‘robotized’ weapons in the steam workshop as result of this update?
I do believe there will be more robotized pieces of gear, but I’m looking more forward to seeing what else the community will do. The guys and girls on the team are constantly passing around great fan-made things. Prop replicas, hand knit dolls, artwork, movies, lego sculptures, paper craft – I expect and hope to see more complete ideas. Maybe it’s not enough to just pitch a new item – build a reason for people to understand why it exists – weave it into fiction or contextualize it. If the only thing we saw from this update was an increase in the production of robotic wearables, I would be disappointed. This update should empower players to go bigger with their ideas in a more complete way than just modeling and texturing.  Again, the production value on what the RB team did is incredible.  I would love for another team of artists, animators, and designers to come in and challenge that.  Or perhaps it will come to be that some robots will come up with the next hot update.  I wouldn’t mind.

8) There have been screen shots released of development versions of TF2 that seemed to suggest the possibility of equipping more misc items at once. Is this something item creators should be aware of; to shift their focus from hats to belt accessories?
What? TF2 fail to keep all of its contents secret? That’s unpossible.

9) RB is being released alongside a revamped workshop submission tool. Was the timing deliberate, “Look what these guys have made! Here’s a new tool to help you do the same.” Or was it a happy coincidence?
The import tool is a really important tool for the future of shipping user generated content. Previously we could see something in the Workshop, see that everybody loves it, and download it – only to find out that the item was absolutely insane. Poly counts could be through the roof, LODs were really weird, or the item was as expensive to render as the characters.
The Workshop is the wild west and the importer is a sheriff. We’ve designed the importer with technical limits so that we will know that an item coming from the import tool must be of reasonable budget. Should we fill the game with items built under those restrictions – performance will hold up. With these technical restrictions in place, we’ve also done a bunch of work behind the scenes to make getting content into the game much more efficient for members on the team. Together, these changes mean that we can ship more content more quickly, and with fewer concerns about performance, etc.
Once we saw what was being done with the update, we decided to get the tool to the RB team. It’s given us a good sample size of external perspective and testing. Their team has had to retrofit some of their art and were subject to re-exporting a few times. We thank them for that and hope that it has been worth their trouble.  Our intention is to keep working on the tool and improve it – to make it easier or change constraints if things go one way or another.  Much like TF, we expect it will evolve with the will of the community.

10) There’s rumor of a taunt submission process tool coming out in the near future as well. Have community contributors been trying to make taunts for you, or is this a reaction to fan requests for more variety in the characters animations?
Taunts are awesome! We would like more of them, but there are animation-specific issues that we haven’t solved yet. There are more things that can go wrong with them and the quality level for taunts is much harder to hit. We haven’t seen enough submissions or desire to make this worthwhile.

11) Some of the crates contain hats with new unusual effects. Will these effects be available on previous and future hats, or are they limited to the RB release hats only? Are community made unusual effects now going to be considered from the workshop?
The RoboCrate unusual effects will have a chance to end up on previous and future hats, but only on unusuals from this crate. We’d like these effects to be special and landmark the Robotic Boogaloo. We are really interested in seeing that the community response to the RB effects are beloved before committing to a whole new system.

12) Are you hoping that the community will both come up with and action ideas into final products like this again? What would you look for in a project of this kind? Likewise, what would be the deal breakers?
Yes, we absolutely want to see more fully fleshed-out concepts turned into something concrete. Our hope is that the community will look at this as an example of success but won’t stop there.
TF is a much stronger game now than it’s ever been, thanks largely to the incredible community it has, players and content creators. We’re constantly impressed by the creativity and capability of the community, and so we’re hesitant to provide a specific direction. Instead, we’d encourage the community to do what inspires them. Enjoy this update then show us what you want to do next.

KritzKast wishes to thank both the Robotic Boogaloo team and Andrew Wilson for sparing us their time. The Source Filmmaker image for this post was created by Patrick Jr.

So long as there is Team Fortress 2 there will be KritzKast.

KritzKast interviews Brad Pitt

We have had it on the cards to interview Brad Pitt, the man behind backpack.tf, for some time. As the year turned we posted a request for you to submit questions. Some time later we’d sorted through the 6000+ entries and selected some good ones. I asked HelenAngel from SteamRep, Helene our head admin for the KK|GU servers, as well as Brad Pitt himself to pick out a couple of their favourite questions from the 240 short-list.

What follows is the interview we recorded Feb 14th 2013. Those lucky few who’s questions were asked and answered here you each receive a Vintage Lo-Fi Longwave and a badge on your bp profile.

Congratulations go to:

Lemons from  Dublin, Ireland
That One Guy from  London, England
Bracey from  St Neots, England
Turtle from  Brisbane, Australia
Jevgein from  Hamburg, Germany
Crit from  USA
Stex from  Pennsylvania, USA
Fusilli Zaitsev from  NJ, USA
alberto balsalm from (the great unknown)
Rickybobby from  Virginia Beach, Virginia
Ryo from (the great unknown)
Haydn from  Leeds, England
Feuer from  Hungary
Brian from  United States
SlowJoe from  Würzburg, Germany
Cedar from  Ontario, Canada
Ryan Dang from  United States
Metaphor from  Singapore
Crosshack from  Australia
snesk from  Sweden
Long218 from  Orlando, Florida
Mattie from  United States
RedXM from  Massachusetts, USA

Our thanks go to everyone who submitted questions, Brad Pitt for being so good as to answer them and to Voltey for his SFM artwork. So long as there’s Team Fortress 2 there will be KritzKast.

KritzKast #200: Cvar_musical 1

Its actually here. Episode 200. A number that most podkasts can only dream of. But the only reason we have been able to live this dream is because of you, the fans. Thank you for everything you have done for us. Now. because its Christmas  and because the number 200 looks so damn good. We are going to treat you. Instead of your usual Episode, we are going to give you another musical episode. We hope you enjoy listening to it, as much as we did making it…………..IT WAS REALLY HARD TO MAKE.

KritzKast wishes to thank the following people for their contributions to this the most epic episode we’ve ever made:

Lastly, we need to put out a special Thank You to Valve you wonderful dogs, in all your awesomeness for creating the most wonderful game of the year. Merry Smissmass one and all!

Update: visit our facebook, twitter and steam group for a chance of getting your very own non-vintage Lo-Fi Longwave hat this Smissmas

WIP #020: PubComp – The fat lady warbles

We finally put PubComp to bed in this episode of WiP. The ambitious attempt to create a web and server system that would allow dramatic customization of competitive play on the fly is a pipe dream many of us have shared. It was not to be. This conversation with the lead SourceMod coder, Vincenator, stands as a warning against placing too much control of a project in one man’s hands. With proprietary solutions shared between Parable and EOReality the project came within days of completion before it failed to finish.

Vincenator stays upbeat. The hard work has been done and his code is now in the hands of the public. It remains to be seen if anyone else will pick it up. For his part he is embarking on a career in coding. I hope he stays in the gaming space and comes back with a new project for us to follow.

WIP #019: TF2center – Community Solution

When you create a solution for TF2 players to come together and scrim you’d better not assume the project is ever done. No matter how good your solution is the players who use it day in and day out will find faults. If you let those faults fester they’ll grate on the players and eventually someone will step forward with a solution of their own. Marty thinks he’s that guy. Together with a coder their small team has been working in the shadows to bring TF2center.com to life. It is their hope that they can gather the comments and wishes of the TF2 community to provide an alternative to the unloved TF2lobby.

In this first interview I talk to Marty about the ideas they have for TF2center, how they hope to bring about change in just a few short months and what ground work they’ve laid down so far. He talks about the desire for player ranking and the need for a web designer with user interface skills. If you’d like to get involved with this project Marty can be contacted on his gmail, or you can drop a him a message in reddit.

Intro/outro created for WIP by Cryogenetic.

WIP #017: VanillaTV – Putting the ex in eXtv

i46 was a pretty big deal for everyone who either attended or watched the streams from the UK’s largest LAN party, hosted by Multiplay in Telford. That statement is true for a great many people (500+ listed Team Fortress 2 players under one roof including two visiting teams from NA) but especially so for Comedian and his merry band of shoutcasters representing VanillaTV. We take this chance to recap some of the things that went absolutely according to plan,  including the 1milliion viewers on their twitch.tv live stream, as well as the things that didn’t like the day1 audio issues.

i46 may have contributed to the requirement for a slipstreamed method of editing, encoding and uploading video on demands (VODs) for VanillaTV. Comedian takes us through the current solution they have in place. It appears that Skyride has invested a great deal of time creating software to do the task of many men hours. Not to let his new found skills go to waste he’s now turning his attentions to Open Broadcast Software (OBS). This open source solution for live streaming stands as a new, cleaner and faster streaming solution with a small footprint allowing the casts play at a much higher quality level. Needless to say VanillaTV are looking to it rather than the paid-for alternative, XSplit, as the future of eSports casting. Skyride himself is working on plug-ins and has produced a rather nifty how-to for other casters.

Sadly it’s not all sweetness and light in the land of eSports casting. VanillaTV’s North American counterpart eXtelevision has undergone some dramatic upheavals this week. With  some of the 6v6 casters looking to move out from the shadow of the main man Jeff eXtine. Comedian explains the position he was placed in and why he’s chosen to offer VanillaTV as a new home for these leavers.  In doing so the American market opens up to him but at what cost to his friendship?

Lastly Comedian takes us through their hopes and plans for European conquest. Both Dreamhack in Sweden and Assembly in Finland are possibilities for 6v6 TF2 events though it’s impossible to ignore the problems that lay ahead in realising those dreams.

WIP Update: KritzKast – What we do (part 2)

Skype is your friend

It’s not really fair that I ask you to record something in part 1 without telling you how to do that. As everyone in KritzKast is located in different parts of the world we started off trying to get a recording in mumble. The results were mixed to poor. The slightest problem with the internet would give one of us a crackling robot voice and various other little problems ensued. It may just have been that at the time we weren’t investing energy in to post production but we weren’t satisfied. We messed around with a few other applications but in the end we settled on Skype. I’m glad we did. Skype is wonderful for podkasters.

For one to one interviews it is especially simple to achieve good quality audio results. An application we’ve taken to heart is  MP3 call Recorder. Once you have it installed it can be configured to record all Skype calls at 128bit stereo. Your own audio is recorded on the left channel and all incoming sound is recorded on the right channel. I’ll talk about audio editing applications in a minute but in essence you’ll end up with two reasonably good recordings of audio that may be cleaned up, edited and shipped out with almost no skill or effort.

So that’s a two man kast sorted.. lets all go home. *le sigh* It’s never that easy. In KritzKast we have a rolling host list of  three to five presenters. Even interviews rarely involve less than three people. The limitation of MP3 Call Recorder is obvious. While the left channel will only ever have your own audio the right channel will record everybody else.

So I should take a moment to explain this problem. In normal conversations people who can see each other are able to perceive small gestures; be they leaning forward,  a glint in the eye or simply opening their mouths. There’s a wealth of information that you take on board when you’re chatting with people in real life. On the internet, even on a video call, that information is lost to you. So two people will often respond at the same time. Again, in small groups most people can elect to tune-out from those who they think may be less interesting by positioning themselves in such a way that they are either closer to or in a positionally clearer path to the people they do want to hear. Even if it’s just a case of their head turning to face them. In recorded media though this isn’t possible. KritzKast’s final edit is in joint stereo so the left and right speakers play the same track at the same time. The projected audio appears on a flat plane no matter who originated it. Effectively even two people talking together over each other makes it very difficult for the listener to tell what’s actually being said by any one person.

Golden Waves

I’ll go into some detail in a later post about how we edit the audio, suffice to say that we’ll silence or cut out the audio of one presenter when two are talking at the same time. This is only possible when you have each person recorded to a separate track. For this we use GoldWave to individually record our own tracks. I suppose any recording software will do but we are all Windows guys so that’s the best choice for us. Unlike MP3 Call Recorder, GoldWave isn’t free.  There is a long trial basis so you can get used to it and when you’re done with the trial it’s super cheap to register considering how powerful a utility it is.

The first time you launch gwave you’ll see two boxes pop up. Just close the red control box and it’ll form a tool bar in the main window. Hit F11 to get to properties and jump to the “Record” tab. On the bottom left hand corner set the record mode to “unbounded” before jumping to the “Device” tab. Here you’ll want to make sure you are recording your mic (not using the webcam or anything else connected to your PC with a mic element). Set your Mono Source to “left channel”. That should be enough to get you started.

This podkasting malarkey is no small topic and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve taken my sweet time about getting round to post about how we do it. In the next post I’ll write about coordinating a group of casters, cleaning and leveling the tracks ready for the big edit. I may even talk about hardware, you never know your luck.

 **Coming soon in part 3 – coordinated recording**

WIP Update: KritzKast – What we do (part1)

This is what we do

At time of writing KritzKast has recorded 176 episodes. Initially running once a month(ish) it quickly became obvious that we needed to run to a regular schedule in order to both keep and grow our audience. While we were good at talking even in the early days, it wasn’t much fun to be the guy doing the edit. The audio quality was brutishly bad and we were loosing as many listeners as we had gained with our content. It took a while to work out how to record, clean and edit the show into a format that works well and is easily repeatable.

We started the organisation, The PodKast Company Ltd in order to allow us to work with other companies and help new podkasters realise their dreams. So, this is what we do at KritzKast each week to give us the output you love.

I’m going to skip over a few things that are important for a podkast to work. Fear not, I’ll come back to them in later posts. For now though we’ll start with the simple things:

The idea

It all started with an idea. We were chatting each week about what was going on in our TF2 Clan. We were talking on mumble and having fun with it. The conversations went back and forth, work was done and fun was had by all. I think the three of us all had the same idea the same week, “Let’s do a podcast!” And the rest is as they say, history. Oh those rose tinted nostalgic spectacles. The important thing was the idea. In the case of KritzKast the idea was to have a place to talk about a game that we all loved. For you that game may be DOTA2, Minecraft or Star Craft 2. It could be a genre of gaming, a platform or a review of other communities. To be completely honest what you’re looking at each week can be as simple as on-going projects in the gaming world.

In many regards we lucked out with TF2. Even back then Valve Software were pushing out updates on a regular basis (this was back before hats, the steam workshop and trading) and there was a quickly establishing community. The game had legs so years on there’s still enough content coming out on a daily basis that we always have content for the show. Whatever you what to podkast about make it something you’re already enthusiastic about, something you love. If things go well you’ll be talking about it for years to come. If it turns out this was a passing fad for you, then your show will suffer for it, your audience will leave you and the work you’ll have put in to building everything up will have been for naught.

The Cycle

So this is going to be something you’ll be doing for a while. Think about your school or job, your social life, your gaming life, your health. If you’ve still got time after all of that to research, record and edit a show then you’re probably more organised than I am, or you’re better at lying to yourself. How often you and your co-hosts record and push out content will be dependant on all the above but it’ll also depend on what everyone else is doing. With KritzKast we can rely on the TF2 community to come up with interesting things even when Valve don’t have an update that week. We can afford to make KritzKast a weekly podkast but the guys at Asemble have to wait for a few weeks to have enough Portal 2 content for their show.

We didn’t start with a regular schedule. The first few episodes came out once a month, then once a fortnight, then once every six weeks before we finally buckled down to the weekly format. Our audience would find the show, subscribe, not see anything for a few weeks then unsubscribe, never to return. As much as we say we’d do this even if we didn’t have an audience, a steady or growing audience offers us the chance to do amazing things.

Just do it

The last thing I’m going to talk about here is the first thing you need to do; it. Like the first paragraph of an essay, the first time you try and record your podkast it’ll be crap. At the time you make it you’ll probably think it’s amazing, the best thing to ever happen to anyone’s ears. Trust me though, it won’t be. It’ll be crap. The sound will be full of hisses and pops. You’ll be waffling. Every third word will be “err”. You’ll trail off into giggles. You’ll stutter and there be long blank spaces of dead air. Trust me on this, it’s crap. KritzKast episode 000 was crap, and we thought it was brilliant. But we made it, and that’s the main thing. You can’t learn how to make a good or successful podkast by reading blogs, even this one won’t help much, a little maybe, but not much. You’ve got to learn by experience.

Figure out what your show will be about and sketch out a plan for that content in advance. Keep #000 down to no more than 10mins. Record it then leave it for a day before you come back and listen to it.  Don’t bother sharing it with anyone, just regard it as a first take and record the same show again. #000 take-2 will probably still be really bad but at least now you have something you can share with your mates. Get some feedback and build from there. Use the positive feedback to decide what’s good and the negative to decide what to spend more time working on or throw out completely. We were lucky enough to have Clan VenGeaNce and they ripped our first efforts to shit. Thanks guys.

**Part 2 – Recording**

WIP Update: PubComp – Reports of our demise

You know how it is when life gets in the way of a really good game? That’s how it has been for me and Work in Progress. So too for Parable and the team behind PubComp.

For those joining the story now, PubComp was an ambitious project to provide a platform for non-competitive and competitive players alike. It was to have been an enhanced version of TF2lobby, allowing players to jump from casual play directly into a highly configurable match at the drop of a hat.

The project was began in summer of 2011 and was supposed to have seen an alpha release later that year. But here we are, months later with everything seemingly forgot. It’s far from unusual to have ambitious projects scrapped mid flow but this one held such high promise and had drawn together some incredibly dedicated and driven people. The day of death is a hard one to pin down, even while the programming group where failing to meet deadlines the community group were supporting competitive collaborations across the world.

Most of the original staff are still playing and working in Team Fortress 2 related activities. Though reports of their demise have not been greatly exaggerated, it may be that the dream of PubComp lives on.

Update: PubComp is now dead – see my final interview with the dev team

WIP #016: VanillaTV – SNSD Companion CUBE


VanillaTV has many stars. The Team Fortress 2 shoutcasting site seems to collect tallent in much the same way Valve Software do. Not only has CUBE been able to find his own place but he’s rapidly reshaping their YouTube to page.

CUBE was with the original TFTV crew but initially decided not to come over to VanillaTF2 when VanillaTV was being formed. Since then he’s joined (arguably) the strongest Highlander team in Europe, SNSD. The team have won everything they’ve entered but in his opinion the competition is catching up.

Under his guidance their YouTube channel has changed from a repository of previous live shows into being a collection of brand new crafted content specifically for drawing in new subscribers; informing and teaching the public the finer points of competitive game-play.

The three new video sets are:

  • Insights – digging into an individual protagonist’s experience of a TF2 match
  • Analysis – an expert breaks down retrospectively some of the plays in a match
  • Frag movie review – frag movie makers critiquing the best frag movies the community has to offer
Intro/outro created for WIP by Cryogenetic.

Mnemosynaut: An interview with

You may know that Valve recently added in a new item to Team Fortress 2. The Nine-Pipe Problem. What you may not know is the person behind it: Mnemosynaut. No I can’t pronounce his name either. But that doesn’t stop him from being a big part of the model making community. He currently has 2 in game items, as well as having a hand in fake updates “Night of the living dead” and “The Medieval Update”. We took the opportunity to chat with him about his work.

Hi Mnemosynaut. This week you had an item of yours added into Team fortress. The Nine-pipe problem. Many people think that this is your first item thats in the game. But its not is it?

Nope! I also made an Engineer hat called the Ol’ Geezer. Sadly, it’s been broken in more ways than one since the day it was released last May, and despite a bajillion emails to Valve, it looks like it won’t be fixed anytime soon. Now I’m stuck in a situation where I have to try and get a new self-made Engineer hat just to stop people from telling me how much I suck for making a broken, ugly hat. Here’s the workshop link to the fix in case anyone reading this happens to own the hat and would like to one day see it be not terrible:

Apart from that, I also contributed the six team-colored paints that were added in the Uber Update. I was never officially acknowledged for those, of course, but I still brag about them in interviews nonetheless.

As you should. How does it feel having some of your work actually in the game for everybody to see?

It has its pros and cons. The upside is that I get a lot of compliments and support from players in-game. The downside is that I have apparently turned into a magnet for Russian and Brazilian children on Steam. In fact, while typing this sentence, I just received a friend request from yet another Russian who probably communicates through Babelfish and will inevitably ask for free items, only to turn on me when I decline and proceed to spam my workshop pages with incomprehensible profanity.

Where did the design for the Nine-pipe problem come from?

Even though I only made it a few weeks ago (it’s the fastest item to ever be implemented directly from the workshop, by the way), I don’t really remember. I think I was looking on the Medic’s wiki page for inspiration and noticed the Private Eye. Then I said “okay, pipe” and it was done. The dark lenses were a complete afterthought and I only added them when I realized how bare and uninteresting a pipe is by itself. When you think about it, all of the other pipe items in-game are coupled with another accessory (the Dr. Grordborts beard, the Sniper’s sweater vest, etc).

You may have designed it with the private eye in mind, but did you ever thing valve would combine them and make “Eliminating The Impossible”.

In the workshop submission, I included a small promotional image containing a Sherlock Holmesian-style silhouette of the Medic wearing both the pipe and Private Eye. That, along with the Holmes reference in the original name, should make it obvious that I was looking at the Private Eye from the start. I definitely did not expect Valve to combine them into a set, seeing as how the hat was made by someone else. This is, in fact, the first time two people have unwittingly collaborated on an item set. It was a pleasant surprise.

You mentioned the Holmes reference in the name. It was originally called “The Baskerville Case”. How do you feel about valve changing the name to the “Nine-Pipe Problem”?

Lately, for one reason or another, Valve has been coming up with original names for items they implement into the game rather than using the names that the creators submit. A few people have guessed that it’s because Valve doesn’t want to seem like they’re just copy/pasting the item without having any creative input, which is perfectly fine. Some of the changes are for the worse (see: Itsy Bitsy Spyer) and some are for the better (see: Snapped Pupil aka the best-named item in TF2). In the case of the pipe, I’d say that I like the new name pretty much equally to the original. I strongly approve of the description they gave it, however.

Am I right in thinking that you were a big part in the making of the night of the living Update pack?

I made the Dullahan (ghost sword for the Demoman) and the Medium Rare (stake for the Spy). Actually, I was the Project Manager and a primary contributor to the production of the Night of the Living Update. I don’t want to appear as if I’m taking all of the credit for that, especially since Smashman went through the trouble of making this super-sophisticated credits page

A huge amount of effort was put into the Night of the living Update and medieval packs. How do you think it went?

The Medieval Update was a disaster. It was a horrible experience, through and through. The biggest mistake we made was in not asking enough people to help out, so as time went on and we began to understand the scope of the project, the workload became far too much for three people to handle. In the end, the Medieval Update acted mostly as a proof of concept and so we had a lot more people interested in contributing when we started on the Night of the Living Update.

Are you planning on doing any more packs? Any chance of a sneak peak?

We have at least two planned for 2012 but we haven’t really gotten anything off the ground yet. One idea that’s been tossed around for a good while now is something called the “Power Struggle Update”, which would feature items based on the various forms of energy (electric, nuclear, solar, etc). If that happens, it will probably be in the Summer. I’d also really like to do a followup to Night of the Living Update for this year’s Halloween. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential for creativity there and we could feasibly do one every year for as long as people are still interested in TF2.

You obviously put a lot of time into Team Fortress, but how much do you actually get to play the game?

I still play nearly every day. Single-player games come and go but no other multi-player game has captivated me like TF2 has for the past 3+ years that I’ve been playing. I picked up 3D modeling precisely because I wanted to contribute to my favorite game, and now that it’s beginning to really pay off, I don’t think I’ll be leaving anytime soon. As long as Valve is still supporting TF2 and operating the workshop, you can expect me to be a part of it.

Clearly you are good at what you do. Have you thought of taking this further and possibly making a career out of it?

My plan right now is to work on improving my modeling and texturing skills so that I can eventually get to the point where I’m able to make a career out of it. You might think that having two items being acknowledged by Valve would imply that I’m good but they are both very simple models that any amateur could make without a whole lot of experience. I hope to start taking some 3D Design classes in the Fall so I’ll have to wait and see where that takes me.

Thank you very much for this quick chat. How can people see more of your work?

Subscribe to my workshop! I’ve been really active lately and I try to produce at least 1-2 items every week.

WIP #015: GangGarrison2 – Psycho

Some projects WIP follows measure their progress on a daily basis, others weekly. Gang Garrison 2 feels rushed if they push out more than two major updates a year.

That said I know how they feel. This interview was recorded in December of 2011 and one thing or another has kept me from releasing it till now. The major 2.4 update happened for gg2 in October. The release combined a new play mode with greatly enhanced mod intergration.

Dual King of the Hill, requiring a team to hold their own point while taking the other team’s before the timer starts to go down, is an expansion on the standard KOTH mode associated with Team Fortress 2 the game’s spiritual forefather.

Possibly the most important part of this big update comes in the form of the mod update. Lead gg2 developer, Psychopath takes us through the benefits of the new open format for map makers and modders.

Intro/outro created for WIP by Cryogenetic.

KritzKast interviews MaxOfS2D

The best way to describe MaxOfS2D is a prolific animator. He has taken Earthbound, a cherished Japanese SuperNES role playing game and remoulded it. He uses characters we recognise from Team Fortress 2, a game he loves now, to breath life back into this ’94 title.

In the space of a just over a year MaxOfS2D’s YouTube site has seen well over 50 animations. He seemingly posts everything that comes into his mind; ranging from concept tests, to “how-to use 3ds Max” (his weapon of choice),  to random moments captured in GMod, all the way through to a dancing lady succubus pyro.

We asked you at the beginning of 2012 to come up with questions for Max and you certainly obliged us. We had more than 160 entrants, most of which were polite enough to speak aloud. We took 20 of the best (one was edited out) and put them to Max in this interview. Our thanks to everyone who entered, the 20 finalists bagging themselves a KritzKast Lo-Fi Longwave hat.

Australian Kritzmas

Its that time of year again. Where the kritzmas spirit takes over. Although we won’t have a live episode on this day, we do have a gift for all of you. We’ve cracked open the outtake safe, inserted TF2 into a Christmas carol and decimated some Christmas songs. If this doesn’t make you think of Christmas, them nothing will. Apart from you know….all those Christmas adverts.

Schedule
1 – Outtakes – Mary had a little Lamb
2 – Skit – That Scrooge is a spy
3 – Outtakes – Chronos goes crazy
4 – Outtakes – Boobies getting the girls off
5 – Music – Spy-cicle
6 – Outtakes – how to buy a plushie
7 – Fans – Agros shopping list (Albion)
8 – Skit – Ghost of Christmas past
9 – Saxton hate singing
10 – Music – Sharp dressed spy
11 – Outtakes – How to say Jimbomcb
12 – Outtakes – How not to do a segway
13 – Fan – The night before foundry (Agros dog)
14 – Outtakes – How many potatoes to a dollar?
15 – Music – Chronos’s challenge
16 – Outtakes – [email protected]
17 – Skit – The ghost of Christmas future
18 – Saxton – Wonderful time of the year
19 – Outtakes – Agros diet
20 – Saxton – Christmas Tree
21 – Australian Christmas (fail version)

WIP #014: VanillaTV – The Unknown Unicorn Hat

In the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas every day is crammed full of everything happening all at the same time. VanillaTV have a habit of making every day feel like that. When WIP last talked to them they were finishing up i43 so we start this show from there.

Comedian opens himself up on reddit to an AMA (ask me anything) though it seems unnecessary; he’s so open and truly excited by everything he’s doing he could easily be living an AMA everyday. In fact when South Africa’s own TF2 community interviewed him they have to pair him off with Salamancer to get any exclusive content.

That’s the thing with streaming live content, it’s addictive. As Comedian puts it, you’ve got to enjoy the spotlight at least a little. Little wonder then that VanillaTV is looking to other forms of media than the live shoutcasting, namely podcasting. With no current competition in the European market this can only be a smart move for them. Another smart move was Byte patching tings up with eSports hero,  ThePledge. Now those two are back on friendly terms vtv has an excellent new caster on their roster and everyone is happy.

One of the more interesting moves for vtv was away from their video streaming partners, TwitchTV. Comedian discusses the thoughts behind the jump to own3d.tv and the benfits it provides in combinations for an increased presence on YouTube.

I personally feel in some way responsible for Comedian meeting Ruskeydoo, the 3D artist behind so many TF2 items (including the KritzKast Lo-Fi Longwave). With that encounter a sketch on a napkin has turned into the living, breathing model of a unicorn strapped to spy’s head. On its mention Comedian almost breaks down with pleasure, I can see why. The hat is ultra dopey looking but caries the charm of random excitement of the whole VanillaTF2 team. While no promises have been made that it will make it into the game yet, it stands a reasonable chance even on its own merits.

Not content with hats, WIP has a second exclusive from this chat. VanillaTV are organizing their very own two-day TF2 cup.  Sometime in the next couple of months we’ll see two tiers of players battling it out to win mousemats designed by Torden. I’ve not seen them yet but I have a suspicion unicorns may be involved

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC Licen

WIP #013: keekerdc writes again

The experiment Chris started back in the summer of 2011 is over. Lesson learnt; people need stuff to look at. I suppose that’s true of all things, though I’m not expecting you to be staring blankly at this post for the next half hour while you listen to WIP #013.

Keekerdc is in a different place to where he was when we recorded WIP #003, both figuratively and physically. He’s relocated to Seattle on the West Coast. He’s also taking a different approach to reporting on the esport scene. Gone are the heady days of talking his way though a game. He’s moved on to writing for ESFI World and is toying with the idea of doing much more for them in the near future.

ESFI wants Chris to build his own show for the channel. Something that brings together all the interesting stories from every corner of esports. So once again we catch him while he’s on the brink of something new and possibly this time something old. Not entirely giving up on shoutcasting, Chris is working on some code to bring more interesting and polished visuals to casts.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC License

        

WIP #012: Chemical Alia – Model Engineering

Shaylyn Hamm met fame within the Team Fortress 2 community when her work, under her monika Chemical Alia, was chosen to be part of the Polycount Pack. Like many of the other artists featured this was not the last time we were to see her work. She has created Heavy, Medic and recently Spy in female forms and now looks to be doing the same for the Engineer.

Shaylyn engages in heavy research rather than making thousands of sketches. She is currently at the point of needing to create a base mesh. For this she wishes to move away from the toolset she knows from her work as an environment artist for Gearbox Software and towards ZBrush.  This means learning a completely new and different interface. A daunting task we wish her the best of luck with.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC License

KritzKast interviews NerfNow

I remember when we first talked about NerfNow. It was back in 2008, a series of 18 pages telling the story of a kidnapped engineer and her heroic rescue. There were very few words in the images. Yet the art was enough to carry the messages of shared struggle, a team banding together, individual battles and unrequited love.

Since those heady days, creator Josue Pereira, has diversified his content into many different games and genres. He now frequently appears, as a tentacle monster, in his own drawings choosing to talk directly with his Nerfers. His core remains true to TF2 so we thought it was about time we gave this purple Brazilian tentacle his own interview.

This time we decided to ask our audience for questions to ask Jo. We were expecting a few hundred e-mails. Instead we received over one thousand. Just for having your question read out you’d get a KritzKast Lo-Fi Longwave hat (assuming you don’t already have one) but for one incredibly lucky winner the prize was to have their question made into a NerfNow comic strip.

Congratulations go to I-ninja. Click on the draft picture above to see Jo’s final render of his question.

Together with I-ninja these 29 other question writers all have a Vintage Longwave heading their way:

Draconius, Brian, Loli Desu, Scorpion42, Eduardo, Hyperviper, The HellJack, Adria_Penguin, Joey Boulé, Michael Duren, Noel, How Xian Yi, Henson Duong, Joreal, Gregarious, Dominic, Clarke, Toby Jones, James, Mystical RK, Robo, Rado, Mike Meeker, Dominion, Insinic, Grimno, quickhakker, Acey, Kolovsky  

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and special thanks to Jo for both allowing us to talk to him and for providing all this great artwork for our site. So long as there is Team Fortress 2 there will be KritzKast.

WIP #011: EOReality – an American in Europe

There are few games server provider companies that can claim to have risen so high in such a short time. Started from a single system in May 2009, End of Reality LLC has become a leader in the North America market. Bucking conventions, EOR has chosen the path of renting servers, relying on high efficiency and stability of young intel platforms to provide the ever elusive 100% up time. With equal focus in the competitive environment as the communities Robby Hicks combines the latest hardware with the latest software and bundles it all together with a knowledgeable staff.

It’s little surprising that EA have granted EOR the Trusted Server Provider status. For many this would be cause enough for celebration. Indeed glancing at their website you’ll see plenty of Battlefield 3 promotional banners. For Robby and his team though, getting everything ready for one event isn’t enough of a challenge. Hence their rather bold move into the European market. Within the next 24hrs EOReality is set to go live in London, England.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC License

WIP #010: PubComp – Special Source

For this episode we return to the source. Source Mod, to be exact. I’m joined by PubComp‘s Parable and Vincenator. The latter being the man behind the project’s SourceMod coding.

Like many of the team Vincenator has had his fill of TF2Lobby. His initial enthusiasm for Floor_Master’s work was curbed when he found he had arrived too late to contribute. Believing TF2Lobby to have fallen into a state of unrealised potential he’s keen not to let PubComp fall into the same traps. He has pounced on this open project and built the entire SM codebase on which PubComp relies. Keeping to the open nature his code may be edited in the future. I’d be surprised if this is the last we hear from him on WIP.

For his part Parable speaks of the messaging system that will link the game servers to the website database. He also makes it clear that the end of September release date is still very much on.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble’s “Monkeys have arrived“. Used under CC License

KritzKast Live at i43

On the last weekend of August 2011, Tempest and Agro found themselves in Telford for the UK’s largest LAN party: Multiplay Insomnia 43. We walked the floor through row after row after row of computers, finding incredible nuggets ranging from Buffy’s massive 37″ screen to (46.50) William Hemmens’s gorgeous green beast of a machine. With over 2000 participants it wasn’t possible to talk to all but everyone we spoke to was having mad fun. We stuck our mic in front of the clans and communities getting in a match break down from Nervous Energy and (50:35) Re#, the low down from Xerxes and Kan (52:42) on UKCS. We followed the party to Quiet PCs Rock Band (18:11) competition stall. Tempest tried his hands at speed building (32:44) a PC at CCLOnline‘s stall. We had Sasha rip apart CMStorm‘s brand new keyboards (04:40) to show us what makes them click, or doesn’t. (22:00) TehPledge from Team Vertex and Rinta from LagTastic Gaming took us through their i43 battles and together with Comedian from VanillaTV they introduced us to the premier heroes of TF2’s eSports: Qun, Greg and Mike from Infused.Tt; DARN (38:08), Mafu and Hymzi from Team Dignitas. We survived the alcohol fueled boat race from inside the cheering crowd. Most importantly, we recorded everything so you could relive the experience for yourself whether you were there or not and maybe convince you, if you weren’t sure if you would come to an iSeries event, that you should definitely join us next time.

 

WIP #009: VanillaTV – Why not Zoidberg?

As the Multiplay iSeries LAN i43 draws to a close we catch up with Comedian to find out if it all went as smoothly as he expected. For Comedian and all the crew from VanillaTV.org this had been a harrowing few days. A continuous stream of casting on Friday and Saturday lead on to the dramatic final match on Sunday morning. The sound and computing rigs VanillaTV used were a hodge-podge of tried and tested mixed with borrowed and even gaffer-taped equipment. Possibly the most successful idea Comedian brought to this event was the Cheerfuls. The premise was to simply hand out card and marker pens then ask the crowd to draw a images to cheer their teams on. On the day this unexpected opportunity for crowd participation brought out the cheeky and creative streak in the audience and made the Team Fortress 2 final one of the most fun experiences of the weekend.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC License

WIP #008: VanillaTV – nice shoes

 

In the build up to i43 I sit down with Comedian, previoulsy of TF2TV, now of VanillaTV.

In the last few weeks there has been a staff shuffle; Shox is going to pass his role as ‘right-hand-man’ over to the floor manager, Leftism. Comedian has faught to maintain the Open Mic project, he explains the importance of the constant hunt for new talent and this sentiment is reflected too in VTF2′s open call for writers.

Most importantly this week sees the preparations for Multiplay’s i43, the biggest eSport gathering and LAN party in the UK. VanillaTV are going to be bringing the fource of four men and hope to introduce Cheerfuls, previously seen in StartCraft audiences and a unique promo item.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble's "Monkeys have arrived". Used under CC License

WIP #007: VanillaTV – Byte me

VanillaTV stands as proof that a lot can happen in 3 weeks. The eSport community is pumped so full of dedicated and inspired people it can seem that they’ve each crammed 50+ hours into every day. Since our last conversation, Byte (lead vtv developer) and his team have been working hard to realise the dream of a single location for all the TF2 comp matches to be seen.

While it takes a huge cast to get this show running, Byte sees his crew as filling four core group roles, with a special fifth catagory for Torden alone.

Floormanager – looks after casters/web posts/on the day, ensuring everything happens where it should (leftism). Directors (or Streamers) – the cameramen who present the feed for each show. Casters – a strict policy of quality is maintained on main casters and co-casters. News/Article posters – able to pump out the bulk of the site news and written posts (Atrox, Trell, Torden, Shox). Designers – a role for Torden.

They have been able to stamp their brand on the feeds through use of a customised HUD and bring to life some nifty site features such as the VOD archive and the Streaming plugin.

New public servers are their gift back to the comp world. A place for players from around the world to hang out and practise their DM skills.

Intro/outro sampled from Daddy_Scrabble’s “Monkeys have arrived“. Used under CC License

KritzKast interviews Eric Ruth

Eric Ruth has found fame and fortune of a kind, tearing apart games and rebuilding them in unexpected ways. Somehow his one-man games studio is able to pump out titles at an alarming rate so it was only a matter of time before his attentions turned to Team Fortress 2. KritzKast was lucky enough to chat to him while his title “Team Fortress Arcade” was still in development. If this interview is anything to go by TFA stands to be an excellent experience.

KritzKast interviews MisterMild

MisterMild is having a tough year. He’s had to forsake his movie making for the most part and concentrate on study. Not too surprisingly he’s training for a life in cinema. Though for a man who usually lets his gmod characters tell their own story he is being quite talkative with KritzKast. We discuss the origins of Engineer Techno, the role YouTube has in his work and hints of future projects.

Contributors

djy1991 – DasBoSchitt

KritzKast interviews Mixup Match

Agro talks to the etf2l admin, Ashkan as well as a few of the players in the mixup match with Robin Walker, Buck Sexington and some of the biggest names in TF2 at the moment.

KritzKast #119: The Missing Musical

Episode 119…remind me, is that significant in some way? Oh yeah. it was the 119th update that valve celebrated, not 100th. So we are doing the same. We saved our musical from the clutches of episode 100 and now it can be yours to listen to. That right, the Kritzkast musical is here to stay.

Contributors

Musical credits: Music taken from
Ayreon: Welcome To The New Dimension – Frankie goes to hollywood: 2 tribes – Charttraxx Karaoke: I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-general – Bernard Herrmann: Twisted Nerve – Eminem: 97 Bonnie And Clyde – Micheal Jackson: Thriller – Rotersand: Storm – KingOfKaraoke3691: Anything you can do, I can do better – Apoptigma Berzerk: Eclipse – Mercury music: Princes of the universe – MG-Rizzello: Aurora Movietrailer – Greendjohn: End of the Beginning

Rob Laro, the self-made man.

The harder we work, the luckier we get. Never has this been truer than in the case of Rob Laro. He’s been labouring away for the last 7 years to scrape together enough luck to get more items added to the Mann Co. store than anyone else to date. A record 12 items that we don’t think will be broken any time soon.

Around the time of the Shogun update we sent him some questions. He’s a busy man so we were more than happy to wait for his considered answers.

KritzKast: We’ll start out with a simple one: who are you?
Rob Laro: My name is Rob Laro, I’m 23, I work at home as a freelance illustrator/concept artist and I’m the creator of the Homewrecker, Tankbuster pack and the Shogun pack.

What are your favourite classes and maps?
I really do love all the classes, but I mostly play Soldier, Spy and Pyro depending on my mood, or death streak. As for my favourite maps, I prefer the Valve made maps, Gravelpit, Goldrush, Badwater and Dustbowl, since I feel most at home on those.

What’s your load-out and do you get a kick out of playing with your own weapons?
Well, I like to play around with load-outs and new gear, so it changes along with the TF2 updates. It is very satisfying to play with my own creations, however if the stats aren’t great, I’m not going to use a weapon for its appearance alone.

I’ve seen some of your artwork, you have an elegant cartoonish style that seems very sympathetic to working with TF2. Are you a classically trained artist?
Yes, ever since I was 16, just up until a few years ago, I had been studying traditional illustration in college and university. However, for as long as I’ve been doing art I’ve been exploring digital techniques in my own time, from programming, 3D modelling, 3D animation and digital illustration. Preparing myself so that I’m game-making ready and what have you.

That we know of, you’ve built the Soldier’s polycount weapons, the Pyro’s Homewrecker and now the Shogun items. Have you summited other items for review and what was your favourite?
The only items I’ve created for TF2 and sent off to Valve have been added to the game, so luckily no rejections yet. Although the only item I’ve sent normally through the contribution system was the Homewrecker.
My favourite item I would say, is the Homewrecker. While the model is years old and not a great example of my best work, it was one of the first weapons added to TF2, which was an incredible feeling. So the whole thing was a very memorable experience for me.

Most people are stoked to get one item into the Mann store, you’ve had more than a dozen. Are there any tips for the modellers starting out?
I’ve been asked this question countless times, most of which the person asks me “how to model?” or “how to get an item added to TF2?” Both of which are just impossible to answer.
Now it’s different for everyone, but in terms of myself, I have sacrificed my life to art. If you are unwilling to learn and dedicate an ass ton of time to art, your relationship with it is going to be an extremely short one.
The only piece of advice I can give is the obvious one, grab a 3D program or a trial and start modelling like hell and keep at it. When you come across problems, search for it. There are more than enough resources out there on the internet to help you along your way.

What about the guys who’ve been toiling away in obscurity for years? How do you get Valve to notice you?
Generally, I would say doing something different and unique would get them to spot your item among the thousands of submissions they get, although not too “special” of course, haha.
From then, your best bet is to submit as much as you can and make it the best you can make it, then just hold tight and see what happens. That is after all, all we can do.

Have you ever seen a new weapon that wasn’t your own and thought, “Damn! I’ve been working on something like that.” Or, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
I love the stuff the community churn out. I definitely get those feelings when I browse what they’re up to. One thing that always amazes me is how people manage to come up with new ideas for hats. There has just got to be some sort of breaking point, there can’t be that many more hat types left, can there??

This week we’ve seen the most expensive actual money trade so far. $2200 for a Burning Kabuto. How do you feel about item trading?
While I find it to be a rather bizarre alternative universe, I like to hoard items myself. It’s rather compelling to see a huge list of items that are difficult to acquire and barter yourself some new items for your collection. I have a 38 refined metal frame around my 12 self-made items. Why? I really don’t know.

Had you tried making models before the opportunity with Valve came up or is TF2 your first love?
In terms of mods and skins, TF2 is my first love. There really isn’t any better game to contribute to.

Do you take your inspiration from things you see, do you sit at your breakfast table gluing eggboxes together to make shapes or do your designs have no real form before you make it?
Well, I like to base everything I create on some sort of real world reference, since I don’t really trust myself to come up with something from absolutely squat. I find the interpretation and development of an idea to be most intriguing personally, nothing better than something you can relate to, with a twist. Although, working with eggboxes is a great starting point too, mind you.

When designing an item, Where do you start? With a name, a look, a theme?
I start with Google image to be honest. I just plug in some words related to what I want to do and see where it goes from there. I save anything that catches my eye and as soon as I have some sort of theme going on, I start making some concepts, piecing an item together from the reference I’ve collected.
I like to shift a majority of the work to the 2D side of an item, establishing as much as I can in the concept, leaving less time having to wing it in the 3D viewport. Most of the ideas I come up with never get past the concept stage though. If you’re not feeling it, not much point beating that dead horse.

What tools/software do you use to model?
I use Maya 2011 for modelling and Photoshop CS5E for the texturing and general image making.

Do you work in CG modelling or considered it as a full blown career path?
I work at home as a freelance illustrator/concept artist, so the modelling is mostly a “hobby” of mine, and so far it hasn’t been a requirement for me to make ends meet. However these days, I’ve been doing an awful lot more concept art and 3D for there to be time to do any illustration, so my job title may just change in the near future.

As I understand it Sega commissioned you to design the Shogun items. That must have been a surreal conversation. How did they come to be asking you?
With Sega having enjoyed the packs from the Polycount update, they wanted one of the winners to create a huge series of promotional items for Shogun 2. So they sent out a bunch of emails to the five winners of the Polycount contest. Apparently, I was the only one that wanted to do it, so it was just pure luck that I landed the job.
I guess my naive enthusiasm carried me though. “So, we are doing a tie-in with TF2 and we were wondering if you…” – “I’LL DO IT, WHERE DO I SIGN”.

Did Sega pay you a one-off commissioning fee or do you take your payment from the Mann Co. sales?
I created the items for Sega free of charge, assured that I would receive the standard contributor cut, 25% of the sales of the Shogun items in the Mann Co. store.

You must have made a mint with the 25% from the Mann Co. store. What are you ploughing your money in to?
Since forever it’s been a huge aim of mine to create my own game. Thankfully, the money I have received from my TF2 ventures have enabled it to be financially secure, allowing me to focus on getting a game done and out there. I couldn’t be more excited to see where its going to go from here. Project “Odonata” is the name, keep an eye out for it on my blog. 😉

Where can people find you and your work?
People can check on what I’m up to and my general activity through my blog, pardon the nekkid ladies! – http://larolaro.blogspot.com

 

All of us at KritzKast would like to thank Rob for finding the time to answer these questions. We wish him the best of luck with his indy game and hope to see him in game soon. So long as there’s TF2 there will be KritzKast.

KritzKast interviews Mecha the Slag

Mecha the Slag, the creator of TF2Ware, TF2Ware2 and The Advanced Weaponiser joins us. Mecha chats about his work introducing new and unusual weapons and how some of these items have made it into the full game.

OneMoreUser, A different world

Nearly a year ago to the day and completely out of the blue TF2 – Law Abiding Engineer fell from the YouTube sky and the legend of OneMoreUser was born. A previously unknown, Russian animator had taken the dramatic trailer to F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen and turned it on its head. The trailer OneMoreUser pushed out kept the explosive tension of the original film but inserted Team Fortress 2 characters into the lead roles. The merge was so convincing it prompted Valve’s Tom Bui to mention it on the official TF2 blog.

Just at the point where the impact of his work had begun to fade from our memories, OneMoreUser unleashed his re-imagining of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. This time, Batman was played by the Blu Demoman, Joker the Red Spy, Harvey Dent the Blu Soldier and roles were found for all other classes. Even the scout’s mum and Gabe Newell have their parts to play.

The Demo Knight - Spycard

KritzKast caught up with OneMoreUser to ask him a few questions.

KritzKast: Who are you and where did you come from?
OneMoreUser: Kulikov Alexey Gennadievich (One More User)
Moscow, Russia. Just finished the university (as a coder), getting a full-time job.

KK: How long have you been animating?
OMU: I’ve started with all this 3d stuff in the 2002-2003. There was a project about remaking the StarCraft BW on the WarCraft 3 engine named “Project Revolution”. I worked in that team with a nick Zookeeper, there was a lot of animation and modelling work so this project gave me some experience. Unfortunately, project was never fully released AFAIK.

KK: Do you animate professionally or is this just a hobby?
OMU: More like hobby, I don’t know a lot of things about it, so I can’t use it in high-level projects.

KritzKast: These are very polished videos. Would you consider ditching your coding and taking a job in animation, if someone were to offer it?
OMU: Yeah, I’m going to work in the CG sphere, not in the coding one.

TDK Gabe Newell

KK: What software do you use?
OMU: 3ds max for modelling and animating, Nuke for composing. Also Photoshop for other things. There are some more, but I use them less often.

KK: Do you work as part of a team or is this all your own work?
OMU: L.A.E. and Demo Knight are my own ones. Well, there are elements that are not mine (like models and heh, the movie footage) but I always try to mention in credits everyone who did them.

KK: L.A.E. came out in March 2010 and now, almost exactly one year later year we have The Demo Knight. Can we expect to see another TF2/Trailer animation in March 2012 or are you working on something to come out much sooner?
OMU: Not sure if I’m going to do anything like these two trailers soon. The work of that kind is pretty time-consuming because of lots of scenes and characters shown in almost every trailer you can use. We’ll see about that.

KK: L.A.E. took 6 weeks to make according to your comments. Was T.D.K. any quicker?
OMU: I don’t remember actual date when I’ve started making the T.D.K. but I guess it took some more time to do it than L.A.E.

TDK Soldier Demo Scoutmum

KK: What were the most difficult / fun / rewarding parts of T.D.K. to make?
OMU: The most difficult scenes were the ones with the crowd, like the one where Joker comes to the party with his gang. Most fun are probably short scenes with something that wasn’t in the movie, for example one about the spy with an explosion on the background. As for the rewarding, hmm, maybe the loadout screen, the grenade-jump, and the RED/BLU soldier with a nice big cup of maggots.

KK: What made you start doing these and why you chose TF2 characters?
OMU: Why the TF2 ones, hmm, actually because of the first video (L.A.E.). I just thought that Engineer vs Spy would be nice and I can even add some more characters. So in the next video after all those “MAKE MOAR” comments I had no doubts which models i am going to use.

KK: What’s your favourite TF2 class?
OMU: In the 2007 that was the Demoman but now it’s the Pyro. The hardest for me is the Sniper.

KK: I too am a Pyro; you couldn’t have said anything to make me smile harder.

TDK dark Demo

Links:

Full HD version of The Demo Knight (right click – save as)

OneMoreUser’s YouTube site

Thanks to Kulikov for answering our questions and letting us host his work. So long as there’s TF2 there will be KritzKast.

KritzKast interviews TF2TV

We put cameraman and co-founder of TF2TV, Comedian, on the spot. Find out what it takes to do a shoutcast for TF2, stories of past and future and the answer to the age-old question, “Which is better; pancakes or cheesecake?”. For the record, it’s cheesecake.

KritzKast interviews Pie_Tony

We chat to the co-creator of the Blighted Beak, Pie_Tony about texturing, facepunch’s TF2 Emporium and his latest collaborative endevour, The Medieval Update.

Episode 100 – Community is Kredit to team

We made it. We finally made it. 100 episodes have lead us to this point. A pile of content from the fans, New tools for map making, a backpack valuator, fake updates you can be a part of all made by the community. But that’s not all. No No. We Finally reveal the winners to the meet the Demoman uncensored contest and reveal what was censored in the video 3 years ago. Its one hell of a show and its been one hell of a ride. Here’s to another 100 episodes.

Contributors

SapphireIce – DevinShadowV – arseofdarkness – Westy – Five Finger Discount – Sir Raffi – albion – unspoken – cryogenetic – aeyve – theguardKK – themooselord – save_us – bubbles

Kritzmas Unlock

Well we couldn’t let the holidays pass without giving you guys a present now could we. But be warned. This episode contains outtakes, live audio, TF2 christmas skits, poor impressions and horrific singing. But all with Christmas cheer.

Schedule
1 – Outtakes – Peguins
2 – Skit – Grinch gets an idea
3 – Outtakes – Panty Talk
4 – Carol – Carol of the Noms
5 – Outtakes – TF2stats.NET
6 – Skit – Stealing Intel
7 – Outtakes – talking about strippers?
8 – Outtakes – Sly pyro
9 – Carol – Breaking and Entering
10 – Outtakes – set us up the fan club
11 – Music – Kritzmas Tree
12 – Outtakes – Paying attention
13 – Skit – Heavy Loo hoo
14 – Outtakes – Need assistance
15 – Outtakes – Fag videos
16 – Story time with hale

KritzKast interviews Apocalypse Gaming

We chat with Nahanni and Meo, the Co-Founders of the Apocalypse Gaming Community, and Lange, of their High Team, about modest beginnings, team sponsorship programs and what it takes to be a mentor.

James Benson, Dance Fortress 2

Many people have had a crack at making videos for TF2, using g-mod, in-game footage and (slightly dubiously) Source FX. Few though have started from scratch and created their own works.

In the dwindling months of Summer, 2010, we had a chance to interview James Benson. He’s an animator, new to his field of expertise, but keen to show his worth. He’d reached a level of internet fame as a result of his test videos. They depict each of the Team Fortress 2 characters performing their own dance moves to the 90’s hit C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now”.

As we were to discover James had more in mind than simply animating his strange marionettes. He revealed during the interview that it was his intention to create an entire scene where all the TF2 team would find themselves gyrating to the same song.

Almost two months later we were to see the results of that hard work. James has kindly allowed us to host the full, High Definition files on our site. You’ll find links to these and his YouTube page below.

Downloads:

Full HD version of Dance Fortress – compressed with WinRAR

Full HD version of Dance Fortress (right click – save as)

Tutorials

James’s Blog Work in Progress

Wallpapers
Group Shot

About James Benson

James’ YouTube site
James’ contact details

Thanks to James for letting us host his work. So long as there’s TF2 there will be KritzKast.

KritzKast interviews thejazzman9475

Long before Source Film Maker allowed anyone to have a crack at animation James Benson was painstakingly making Heavy, Pyro, Scout, Sniper and all the other classes wiggle to the beat. We talked to thejazzman9475 (as he’s known on youtube) about how he achieved this masterful feat. It may surprise you to find out that he’d only been animating for a few months before starting on Dance Fortress 2, teaching himself from scratch. At the time of the interview James was working for Lionhead Studios during the daytime and immersing himself in DF2 at night.

Exclusive Interview With Robin Walker

A few weeks ago we started a conversation with co-creator and software developer on VALVe’s Team Fortress 2, Robin Walker. Robin kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions. Our focus had been on the community elements of TF2 including mods, mapping and the future of the game itself. Robin has given fresh new insight into the history, current and future development of this great First Person team-based Shooter.

Kritzkast: TF2 went through many transitions in the conversion process from TFC to its current form, including a variety of near-realistic styles. Given the short-term meteoric success of titles such as Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2, are you still happy with the period styling that you chose?

Robin Walker: This is a very interesting question, and one that we discussed internally a lot throughout the development of TF2 (obviously, MW2 & BC2 hadn’t shipped then, but Counter-Strike’s success alone was enough to generate the discussion). Whenever we started talking about it, though, we’d quickly run into the list of interesting gameplay elements that’d become more difficult to explain (rocket jumping, double jumps, the medi-gun, etc). Ultimately, TF2’s art direction is the right fit for its gameplay, and we think that’s still the right decision.

Kritzkast: There were to be a lot of things as spin offs for the TF2 franchise that either haven’t yet materialised or have but not in the form which we expected; cartoons became web comics as part of an update, Saxton Hale comics are just front cover concept art. Has this been a design or marketing issue or are you simply waiting for the right time to release “TF2 The Movie”?

Robin Walker: One of the strengths of the “entertainment as a service” approach that we’ve taken with TF2 is that it allows us to test things out before we heavily invest in them. So we’ve been able to try out a wide variety of things, and observe the community response. In some cases, like the Saxton Hale comics, we really weren’t planning on making the comics at all, and while the response to them was great, it didn’t make us think we should stop making games and get into the comic business. In other cases, the response made us keep working on them. Saxton Hale himself is a good example of this. He started with a small part to play, and the response to him was so positive that we’ve kept expanding him with every update since.

Kritzkast: As a team based game, TF2 is dependent on players wanting to come back frequently and play for the game to continue to attract new players. Does the recent foray into bots on koth maps mean that you’re seeing dwindling numbers? Is this another sandbox test for a different game using the Source Engine? Do you expect to be able to realise bots for other maps too?

Robin Walker: Like most things we do on TF2, there are several reasons why working on Bots was something that made sense. Several months ago we started digging into the data we had that showed a significant number of players who played TF2 only once. We wanted to know why they’d quit, and what we could have done to help them. The end result of that digging was the finding that the majority of them quit because they didn’t know what they were doing, and there was no “safe” place for them to learn the game at their own pace. The number one requested solution was some kind of offline training mode. That that got us thinking about Bots, because they’re part of that solution. We’d also been kicking around various other gameplay ideas we had for future titles, and Bot technology in TF2 could teach us some things that’d be useful. Finally, the technology behind the TF2 bots is the next evolution of the technology behind Counter-Strike’s Bots, and Left 4 Dead’s AI, and we’re always interested in driving that kind of AI further forward, because it enables new gameplay experiences.

Kritzkast: The official TF2 blog is still one of the most talked about areas of the community that surrounds TF2. I have visions of Saxton Hale standing astride the mouth of the giant Cave-o-Email each month. Whip by his side, shouting directions to his minions not to return without fresh material. How do you decide what makes it in and when to publish?

Robin Walker: The blog is written by the members of the TF2 team, so it tends to get updated rather haphazardly, as most of you have noticed. We try to update it regularly, but we’re always working on the next update, and gaps in posts generally coincide with some large chunk of work we’re all banging away on. In general, our philosophy is that while some words from us might be nice, fans are a lot happier when we ship something.

Kritzkast: Even within our own ranks the question of the gender of the Pyro is still argued over. Will we ever know? Chemical Alia, the artist for whom the styling of the scout’s mother was attributed, has created alternative female characters for each of the classes. Will valve be making these official and including them in the game as choices for players?

Robin Walker: We’re still working on Meet the Pyro, which will let you see the world through the Pyro’s eyes. We’ve seen Chemical Alia’s great models, but even with that work done there’s still a significant amount of work to do, and some design issues that we haven’t found good solutions for. Having multiple character models for a single class would have performance impacts due to increased memory requirements, production impacts in that new items have to fit onto both models, and content issues in that we’d need another set of voice acting. Finally, you have the issue of hit detection. If the two models don’t have identical hitboxes, there’ll be a competitive edge to picking one of them over the other. If they have identical hitboxes, you’re probably going to have issues in how well the visuals match the hitboxes in one of the models. In short, multiple models for player classes is something we’d love to do, but it’s not likely to happen in the near term.

Kritzkast: For some classes their roles have changed so much from their point of origin. The scout for example, has gone from a peck and run class to an over powered front runner. Will the character models be changed to reflect their new roles?

Robin Walker: Actually, we always considered the TF2 Scout as a flanking, high damage output character, such that we sometimes even refer to him as the assassin, a Spy who can’t disguise. We felt the Force-A-Nature pushed him even further into that role, having an even higher damage spike, and a lower ranged harassment capability. The Team Fortress Classic Scout was a different creature, being much more of a runner than a fighter. When we designed the TF2 Scout’s character, it was this evolution into a fighter that contributed to him having such an aggressive personality. In retrospect, we probably should have taken the opportunity to name him something other than “scout” at the same time.

Kritzkast: We have all had epic moments when we’ve tried for and pulled off the impossible move only to realise that we alone saw it and no-one will ever believe it really happened. Back in July 2009 you were recorded as talking of a new demo system. Are you any closer to releasing that into the wild?

Robin Walker: We’re closer, but unfortunately still not ready to release it. The primary function of it is to ensure that after that impossible move happened, you can say “I want to save that!”, and have the game not only save it for you, but also provide you with an easy method of getting it onto your favorite movie sharing siteKritzkast:May 12th 2010, saw the introduction of the Steam Client on OSX. How soon will it be till you see TF2 being available on Macs? Up till this point you’ve been developing updates on just one platform. Will the introduction of a second (and possibly third) platform(s) make update releases and bug fixes far more sporadic?

Robin Walker: TF2 should be available for Mac in the next month. The Mac team was very focused on trying to reduce the cost of multi-platform support, and have done their best to automate as much of the process for us. As a result, we’re hoping that it won’t have a significant impact on the rate at which we release updates.

Kritzkast: Our conversation with Drunken_f00l revealed that valve has been thinking of integrating items management into an iPhone app, either under their own label or with the assistance of a third party. Should we expect TF2 innovations to be available on the iPhone/iPad some time in the future?

Robin Walker: We’re not working on anything right now, but we think both of those platforms are interesting.

Kritzkast: Do third party maps, mods and game modes need to be redeveloped for the Mac OSX? What assistance are you giving to the fan community to help them get to grips with working with both DirectX and OpenGL simultaneously?

Robin Walker: TF2 content is platform independent, so maps and models will just work on Mac, so they should just focus their time on making a fun map / mod / etc..

Kritzkast: We’ve seen PropHunt, Dodgeball and various other brilliant community created mods emmerge as add-on server modes for TF2. Is it your intention to merge these concepts into the final product, exposing them to all TF2 players, or are you simply happy to allow them to exist on their own terms?

Robin Walker: It’s something we think about on a case by case basis. As mods become more popular, we generally start by adding some functionality to solves specific problems the mod authors are having. If it continues to expand in popularity, and fits well enough into a TF2 customer’s expectation of what they might see in front of them when they join a server, we start thinking about building it directly into the game.

Kritzkast: The standard map base for TF2 has expanded rapidly largely as a result of community maps. Under what conditions do you attempt to take ownership of a map and has a map maker ever turned you down, are they even allowed to?

Robin Walker: We try to include a community map or two in every major TF2 update. We playtest a bunch of community maps internally, and we try to pay attention to what maps the community seems to be having fun with. Once we select a map we contact the author and see if they’re interested. So far no-one’s turned us down, but they’re absolutely within their rights to do so.

Kritzkast: Mentioned on the blog was one of the ideas for the Engineer update that was tested and removed. What other design ideas have you tried, tested and rejected in the course of your search for engineer update nirvana?

Robin Walker: One of the other things we tried was a secondary weapon that instantly teleported the Engineer to his teleport exit. So Engineers could leave their sentrygun for a bit to skirmish or collect metal, and be able to immediately teleport back to the sentrygun if something bad happened. It did work at achieving those goals, but we didn’t like the side effects. Teleporters stopped being much of a team focused tool, with Engineers placing them in places that made sense for their personal use, and not necessarily for the team. We also felt it was too easy for Engineers, almost eliminating the risk inside the decision of whether they should leave their nest to grab some resources. Both of these were solvable issues, but while testing this we found another idea that played much better, attacked the same problem of Engineers being rewarded for moving out from their nest occasionally, and had lots of other interesting applications.

Kritzkast: There have been several fake engineer updates by the community, ranging from guard dogs to chicken guns and ammo magnets. Many of these have been very detailed and well thought out. How much notice do you take of the fakes and what’s the chance of one of these ideas seeing its way into the final build?

Robin Walker: We love these. On the game team, we love seeing interesting ideas with more thought put into them than just text. Our web team loves seeing the way these pages have used the style of our TF2 update pages to do neat stuff, often challenging us to do better ourselves (see http://www.engineer.fragfestservers.com/). Ultimately, good ideas make their way into the product by passing an analysis of what problems they solve, what benefits and disadvantages they have, the amount it costs to build and ship, and so on.

Kritzkast: Please, Mr Walker, may we have a guard doggie for our Birthdays? We promise to walk it and feed it and wash it when it smears its body in the dismembered corpses of our fallen foe. I shall call mine Kevin.

Robin Walker: See the analysis line above, especially the last “cost to build and ship” bit.

Kritzkast: With the fast approaching (valve time) last known update, the engineer’s, what assurances can you offer that Valve won’t simply drop the TF2 update program, close the blog and move on (to TF3)?

Robin Walker: We’ve never really planned too far ahead in TF2, because we want to be able to react rapidly to community feedback. So, we can’t give you any assurance that we won’t move on to another product at any point, but we wouldn’t have been able to give you that assurance two years ago, either. We’re already working on the next big update after the Engineer pack, though.Kritzkast: I think I a lot of people are holding their collective breath waiting for the your trading system to go live. Are those plans still on the engineer’s table or did a wayward OMGWTFBBQ incinerate them all?

Robin Walker: We’re still working on trading. It’s been slower to implement than we’d like, mostly because it’s a feature that straddles across the development cycles of both Steam and TF2. So there are pieces of work that we need Steam’s dev team to implement (and they’ve been real busy on the new UI, among other things), and other pieces we need to do ourselves, and we’ve been real busy on the Engineer update and other things we believed were more important. To summarize: yep, still coming. Sorry for the delay.

Kritzkast: Will there be a place for 3rd parties to create their own trading facilities such as shops, trading posts and semi-automated trading?

Robin Walker: Like anything else we do, we’ll ship what we think is a solid initial feature set, and then see what feedback we get. If that’s what everyone is screaming for, then that’s what we’ll work on.Kritzkast: On a personal note, do you and your dev team still play TF2 outside of the test environment? Are you any good even without invoking your God-mode-esq rocket launcher? Have you tried scrimming or are you strictly a pub/LAN player?

Robin Walker: We used to be good in the few months following TF2’s release, prior to which we’d been in months of heavy playtesting. Now, we’re all old and tired. Most of us still regularly play TF2 in the wild, but it’s almost all pub play. On rare occasions I’ll join a scrim, with some of the competitive folks on my friends list, to remind myself how terrible I am. Luckily, this isn’t very relevant to TF2’s design, because we try hard to avoid using our own play experience as data when we’re working on TF2.

All of us at KritzKast would like to thank Robin for finding the time to answer these questions. We hope that he’ll continue to expand this game we love.

So long as there’s TF2 there will be KritzKast.

Episode 46 – Kritzmas Gift

Well we couldn’t let the holidays pass without giving you guys a present now could we. But be warned. This episode contains outtakes, live audio, TF2 christmas skits, poor impressions and horrific singing. But all with Christmas cheer.

Schedule
1 – Outtakes – Intro V1
2 – Skit – The scouts Inn.
3 – Outtakes – Stress test?
4 – Skit – watching the flock
5 – Carol – The fortnight before christmas
6 – Outtakes – Pre-show fapping
7 – Skit – 3 Wisemen
8 – On location – Why to use a trackball
9 – Skit – Birth
10 – Outtakes – Chronos stumble
11 – Music – Saxton Hale

Episode 9 – The Christmas Episode

A special Christmas Episode for you all. Released on the very eve of Christmas and only conceived 2 day earlier, so sorry for the quality. Please enjoy Singing, laughter, outtakes and more.
Schedule
1 – Outtakes – Episode 7 – Setting up the mics.
2 – Skit – Come sit on Santa’s knee
3 – Outtakes – Episode 4 – Are we done yet?
4 – Song time with Chronos – Dustbowl Wonderland
5 – Outtakes – Episode 7 – Can I start again?
6 – Skit – What would you like for Christmas?
7 – Skit – Santa in a match
8 – Outtakes – Episode 8 – Where did you get your car?
9 – Song time with Tempest – I’m dreaming of team fortress