Blue's News artwork by Walter |2| Costinak <2@2design.org>

Q&A with Valve about Half-Life, TeamFortress2 and TeamFortress Classic
January 14, 1999

Blue: The new Half-Life update addresses networking issues, and should "significantly improve overall latency on lower speed connections." Has connection speed been one of the big complaints you've received about Half-Life? Was this something you felt was necessary to have in place for the success of TeamFortress2? Can a modem user now expect as smooth a game from Half-Life on the Internet as from Quake II or QuakeWorld?
Yahn: There are a number of things we've done with the 1.0.0.8 update on the network protocol side. The most important is bandwidth reduction, as it directly affected things like packet loss, oversaturation of a modem connection, and the percentage of choked packets. All of these affect subjective "lagginess" of play. We also spent some time improving some of the weird things that can happen when people have really high lag. Ladder prediction is a lot smoother, separate from the bandwidth issues.
Robin: The bottom line is that we need the best networking we can get for both Team Fortress Classic and Team Fortress 2, and this update gets us to parity with the best that's out there. Players will see a big improvement.
Yahn: We are going to continue to optimize networking as we work on Team Fortress 2. You can never be too rich, too thin, or too efficient in your modem utilization.

Blue: You've announced TeamFortress Classic as a free update for Half-Life, mentioning a Half-Life software development kit used in its conversion. Is there a utility in the SDK to convert Quake/Quake II mods to Half-Life automatically? How many man-hours were required for the conversion? How similar to TeamFortress Quake will TeamFortress Classic be?
Gabe: Converting one program automatically to another program isn't really feasible. We try to make it as easy as possible to convert the code, models, maps, etc..., but they are different development environments.
Robin: Team Fortress Classic has exactly the same gameplay as Team Fortress with all new graphics. Chuck Jones is doing the models for the player classes. Steve Theodore is doing new weapon models. We could have kept the existing Quake weapon models, but we had the bandwidth for Steve to do new ones. John and I worked on it over Christmas break. While we've had to help get some SDK issues sorted through, it will have been a couple of weeks of our time when everything is said and done.

Blue: There's been a bit of griping about the announcement that TF2 would be a stand-alone game. Can you talk a little about the reasoning behind that decision?
Gabe: The main reason we want it to be a stand-alone game is that it frees us to re-architect parts of the underlying engine to optimize them for multiplayer. It also makes it easier for us to sell the product through a lot of retailers who hate add-on products because of the high return rates. Return rates can be up around 25% for add-ons because naive people don't realize they need the original game.
Robin: We want to make the best games possible and we want to figure out the best way to get them into people's hands. I've said that elsewhere, but that really is all that matters in the end. The better the game, the more people play it, the more servers that are up, the more add-ons that get developed, the more money that gets plowed back into Team Fortress 3 and 4 ...
Gabe: That isn't a product announcement by the way.

Blue: One of the most typically voiced concerns is how much TF2 will cost, being a stand-alone game, but I don't recall seeing any word on planned pricing. Is that something you can comment on at this time?
Gabe: Not yet. We are looking at a bunch of different ways to get people Team Fortress 2.

Blue: When do you expect the Team Fortress Classic update to be available?
Robin: We're up and running now, and are spending our time debugging and finishing up the art work. We will work with some of the Team Fortress clans to run a beta test. There's some launcher work Ken has to do to give add-on developers an interface they can expose so players don't have to use command line arguments to run Half-Life add-ons. We're looking at the end of the month to release it world-wide.

Blue: How does the Half-Life team play work - the one that is supported in the update?
Yahn: Your team is driven off of your model. So a bunch of human soldiers can square off with a bunch of security guards. You can enable or disable friendly fire, and the scoring aggregates by teams. You can message to everyone or just to your team members.
Robin: Crossfire is a total blast. When the sirens go off warning people that the air strike is coming in, everybody scrambles for the bunker, and, well, it's a lot of fun sitting in the tower with the emplacement cannon.

Blue: Any word yet on other official add-ons or mission packs for Half-Life?
Gabe: Gabe - Not yet.

Blue: So, when can we expect Half-Life II? =]
Gabe: Right now the only announced game we have under development is Team Fortress 2.