Delving deeper into the Orange Box, I’ve been trying out Team Fortress 2.  Valve has very cleverly focussed on the essence of FPSs, namely, shooting.  They removed everything that doesn’t look like shooting: storyline, setup, morality, realism. 

The one lack is a tutorial mode… you can wander around the maps alone, but you can’t learn much without joining a server and sucking hard.  There’s a lot to learn: the maps, the skills required for each class, how to counter the other classes.  I’m happy that, after my weekend shooting spree, I no longer completely suck; I’m just really mediocre.  

I’ve mostly played as a Heavy or Pyro… both classes that don’t require a lot of fiddly technique, such as “aiming”.  I’m starting to grok the limitations as well.  It was instructive to watch a fellow Pyro trying to toast a ledge with a bunch of baddies– an excellent demonstration that the flamethrower doesn’t go very far.  I have to learn to repress the instinct to run after flaming enemies… even if they can’t outrun me, they’re likely to lead me into trouble; better to go toast someone else.  Also, the other side has spies, did you know?  So you flame almost everyone you meet, in a friendly fashion; if they’re enemies they’ll burn.  Snipers are a pain too, so you have to learn not to show up as an attractive target in a doorway or window.  Occasionally I remember all this and can go do some damage– one round I got 5 kills, which was great; they even mentioned it in chat.  (“Did we all just run into that pyro?”)  In fairness, I should also mention someone’s speculation that I must be aiming with a touch pad.  Ha ha!  No, I can aim badly using just the mouse!

Chris a.k.a. tieboy a.k.a. Frohman, whose relentless blogging of TF2 got me into this, generously provided a shot of me killing him:

Wouldja look at the resolution on his computer?  Somebody at Valve spent long hours getting that gas tank to render just right.  Kudos, somebody at Valve.  The balloons and party hats, however, are not really standard equipment.

It’s interesting that the Overwatch, Aperture Science, and Red and Blu all employed the same woman to do voiceovers…