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A Week in the Life of the TF2 Team

May 13, 2010 - Robin Walker

It's been a busy week for the Team Fortress team. That's right: the police are here again. We're on a first name basis with them, the fire department and the nasal extraction emergency response team at Overlake Hospital by now, so it was like meeting with old friends.

Anyway, seems like a Team Fortress staffer went missing this week, so they need to poke around the office a bit and see if they can find out where he went. While I was poking around the missing staffer's PC looking for evidence to erase, I stumbled on a game production diary it looked like he'd been writing, and figured why not throw it up on the TF blog? Enjoy!

MONDAY, APRIL 5th, 2010

My first day at Valve working with the Team Fortress 2 team. Pretty excited! TF2 is my all-time favorite game, and I just know I'm due for big things here.

Robin Walker showed me around the office and explained that Valve has a "flat management" style, meaning that nobody's in charge of anybody.

"And I'm the MOST not in charge of everybody," he said, cocking a thumb at himself. "I fired everybody at the company once. I could fire you and not even break a sweat."

I laughed at this, then looked around and saw everybody else not laughing. I trailed off.

"He really did fire everybody," Corey Peters said.

"Then he bought a horse," Dario Casali added.

Robin laughed warmly at these memories as he fed sugar cubes to his horse. "This is your desk," he added. He didn't point anywhere or look at anything besides the horse.

"The horse is my desk," I said for clarification. Robin looked at me like I was some kind of idiot, then pointed to a tiny desk under the horse.

All in a all, a big first day. Pretty sure I'll fit in fine around here. Robin's already given me a nickname: Big Face. Wasn't sure what that meant. Robin explained that I had a big face, in his estimation.

Also, note to self: buy a hat. I seem to be the only person not wearing one.

TUESDAY, APRIL 6th, 2010
Noticed that everyone's wearing different hats than they were yesterday. Robin asked where my hat was. I said I didn't have one yet. Got really quiet in the office all of a sudden. I added that I'd probably buy one this weekend. Could be wrong, but I swear I heard someone whisper "terrorist."

Big team meeting today. I came prepared. I've been programming a playable demo version of TF2 with an entirely new tenth class. I had to teach myself programming, modeling, level design, character design and about twenty other skills, but I think the results speak for themselves. Everybody took a crack at playing it.

"This is pretty balanced gameplay," admitted Robin.

"I like how we haven't found any hats yet," said Brandon Reinhart. "It sets up the suspense better. I'm all, 'When am I going to find a hat already?'" Everyone laughed.

"I hope it's soon, I can't wait much longer," said Corey Peters. "Look how stupid this tenth class's bare head looks!" More big laughs.

"Actually, there aren't any hats in this demo," I said, chuckling. Deathly silence. Then everybody got up at once and stopped playing. Eric Smith got really mad and threw his keyboard through a wall, then stormed out and went home. Robin asked to speak to me privately.

"I don't think you're applying yourself enough," he said.

"But I invented an entirely new class from scratch," I said, feeling my face get hot.

"Yeah, that's really, really..." he trailed off, so bored with the sentence he didn't bother to finish it. "Look, maybe you should read this. You know--help you get into the 'Team Fortress' mindset."

He slid over a well-worn game design manual. I leafed through it. It wasn't a game design manual, it was a coffee table-sized book of women wearing hats.

Mistaking my confusion for interest, Robin excitedly pulled his chair over to me, and looked over my shoulder. "Would you look at that hat," he whispered, pointing to a lady in a wide-brimmed hat. "Gorgeous."

"Are you crying?" I asked, because that's sure what it looked like he was doing.

"What? No. I just had something in my eye."

"Okay," I said. It was pretty easy to see what he had in his eye, though. Tears.

Robin suddenly jumped up and took everybody hat shopping. I tried working in the empty office for a while, then decided to just go home.

All work suspended so the TF2 team could spend the morning modeling their hats. Brandon Reinhart won Best in Show for his calfskin sombrero. (I thought it looked ridiculous.)

After lunch it was back to work, and Robin outlined the next six months of objectives for the team. I noticed the word "hat" coming up a lot. Like in all the objectives, for instance. And a couple of times, it looked like he got distracted and just wrote "hat".

"Question in the back?" said Robin, pointing to my outstretched arm.

"Yeah," I said. "What the hell is wrong with you people?" Twenty-odd faces turned to me. "You could be designing anything you want! You could be coming up with new levels and game modes and weapons and--and--and all you do is sit around making hats!"

A hushed silence. I started to think I might have gotten through to some of them. Brandon Reinhart, especially, looked at me with a newfound sense of wonder.

"You know, guys," said Brandon, "the new guy would make a great hat if we hollowed him out."

Nods of agreement. Then, as one, they leapt up and advanced on me.

I woke up in a janitorial closet. I guess this is some hazing ritual on the new guy. I want to believe that, anyway. But now I'm starting to wonder if Brandon's sombrero was calfskin after all.

Hmm. Actually, now I remember this guy. Brandon, you might want to hide that beret for a few days until the police leave.