Team Fortress 2


Meet the Team

Team Fortress 2 is a team-based first-person shooter multiplayer video game developed by Valve Corporation, and is focused around two opposing teams competing for an objective. These teams, Reliable Excavation & Demolition (RED) and Builders League United (BLU), are meant to represent two holding corporations that secretly control every government on the planet. Players can choose to play as one of nine classes in these teams, each with his own unique strengths and weaknesses.

This is a particularly good example of both using a unique art style and using machinima to promote the product.

The game itself was in development for eight years before it was finally released and one of the game designers Robin Walker, revealed that they had quietly built “probably three to four different games” before settling on their final design.

Their reasons for doing so boiled down to gameplay issues conflicting with the style they had chosen. Initially when they first announced the development in 1999 the game was focused on a realistic contemporary military style, with all of the usual camouflage gear, tactical helmets, combat boots and hardcore weapon detail.

After play testing the game, however, the team came to a crucial realization: the gameplay and art direction were fighting each other. Some of the most basic multiplayer problems, like visually identifying other players against the scenery, were failing.


The inital art style before the radical shift in 2000

In the real world, soldiers do everything they can to avoid being seen but, in multiplayer games, this can ruin the fun. Real world soldiers also wear uniforms, which tend to make them all look alike. Again, this conflicted with the core gameplay of ”Team Fortress 2”, which has nine distinct character classes. It is critical for players to be able to tell the classes apart at a glance, even in a darkly lit environment or at such a great distance that they end up just an inch tall on the screen.

About a year later the game was delayed by the development team as they had decided they needed a new art direction. First off, the new art direction needed to be exaggerated, to match the over-the-top combat style of the game. It also needed to focus on incredibly unique characters, yet still ensure that the classes looked like a cohesive team when shown together.


Early concept art for the Scout, Pyro and Heavy (from left to right)

The team identified important product requirements such as the need to stand out visually from Valve’s other products, not to mention the competition. The look needed to be inspirational and it needed to project “fun” rather than “hardcore.” With all of these design goals and constraints in hand, the team would be able to evaluate the fitness of proposed concepts as they went back to the drawing board.

Due to the importance of the nine character classes to the gameplay, the team focused on them first. They established a “read hierarchy”, a prioritized list of the information that players needed to extract from the character model. From most to least important, this was: the player’s team, the player’s class, and the player’s current weapon, which usually implies the player’s intent in our game.


Top left: Colour Swatch to identify team - Bottom left: Distinctive silhouette to identify class - Right: Focus of colour towards chest to easily identify weapon

During the games development Valve was asked by ATI (a graphics card manufacturer) to provide some sort of tech demo to show off what the new ATI cards could do, Valve quickly produced the “Meet the Heavy” video by using the game engine and slightly more detailed character models. The video was such a success that Valve decided to produce one for each of the games nine classes, including others for special unlockable weapons and general trailers.

The meet the team series consists of short videos on individual characters, displaying their personalities and tactics, as well as clips of the character in combat inside the game.

All imagery is copyright Valve and is taken from the game Team Fortress 2 available for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.


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