Team Fortress started as a QuakeWorld mod and was designed by Robin Walker, John Cook and Ian Caughley in 1996. It was very well received and had a thriving community of fans and players that continues on to this day. Soon after its inception, Valve hired the makers of the original mod and announced Team Fortress Classic: a version of the original Team Fortress mod that ran on Valve's own GoldSrc engine. It was released for free as a mod for Half-Life in April 1999 and later in 2003 as a standalone game available on Steam. In 1998 Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms was announced to be released "soon", but it went through many major art, gameplay and design changes until it was finally released without the subtitle in October 2007 as part of The Orange Box available on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Team Fortress has a very basic premise in which two opposing sides, RED and BLU, battle over multiple objectives. Often players will engage in gameplay that dynamically changes between attack and defense of control points, intelligence/flags, territories, or bomb carts. Certain map modes in the sequel Team Fortress 2, see the BLU team attacking the points or bomb cart and RED defending them (with gusto!). The franchise wouldn't be what it is without the clearly defined and balanced classes. The range of classes allow peoples to be dedicated to building defenses, capturing objectives, killing other players, defending areas, healing teammates, destroying emplacements, infiltrating controlled areas, and creating chaos and confusion. Players can choose from one of nine classes that each have a class-specific melee, secondary, and primary weapon/item.
The original Team Fortress was a fast game where grenades ran free. As a result the concept of the grenade became the perfect metaphor for the game's dynamic gameplay and quick lives. Grenade jumping and rocket jumping like most games of that generation were side-effects of the development process and less deliberate elements with balancing. The influence from the speed and style of Quake can clearly be seen. This fast gameplay and emphasis on grenades by the player base was removed for the more artistically styled sequel. This more clearly defined logistical roles on the battlefield as well as buffing the intended roles for the class. This meant the scout was truly the capturing class and the medic focusing on healing opponents instead of hurting them. The art style emphasized classes on the field allowing players to recognize others quickly as a certain class and better adjust to the situation.
Effect of "Class Updates" and Free-to-Play
The three items of melee, secondary, and primary weapons (with notable exceptions) were maintained across both games but Team Fortress 2 in the modern age of DLC vividly defined what the series will surely be known for many years to come: unlockable, items, and the in-game economy. Each class has at this point in time received a "class update" which gives them three items to replace existing ones with emphasis on buffs and debuffs of the class acting less as overall upgrades more enhancements to play styles. In addition Valve has expanded the means with which players may obtain items including random drops determined by play length and a fully stocked store of in game weapons and accessories. The gameplay of "Team Fortress" can now more accurately be defined by customizable and specialized classes that are all balanced to play with and against each other to achieve a collective goal on a battlefield. Oh right, and hats. The new development of achievements, crafting, and item drops creates a dualistic gameplay in which a player pursues goals to benefit his/her teammates as well as their own. This means Team Fortress joins many other modern multiplayer games as a game of player incentives that can be added and modified to balance the classes and play styles being used.
The next initiative that followed the introduction of a trading, crafting, and item acquisition system was naturally an in-game store. The introduction of the Mann Co. store was announced alongside the fact that the game will be Free to Play, fully adopting many aspects of emerging new game economic models.
Team Fortress was one of the very first class-based first person shooters on the market and so far none have been as extensive or specialized since. There are nine in total to choose from.
The Scout uses his double-jump ability and speed to swing into the enemy base and devastate the opposition with his lethal Scatter Gun. His assets are speed, taking shots where he can get them, and taking the objective. Aside from his speed, the Scout's capture rate is twice that of normal classes. This class is intended for capturing, jumping in and out of battles, and running around slower enemies. His jump abilities also allow him to traverse maps in ways only grenade or rocket jumps can allow.
The slower moving Soldier uses a rocket launcher to blow apart enemies. This is your general purpose killing machine that has moderate health, deals moderate damage, and runs at a moderate speed. He is the class specialized to always be blowing up players and encampments at a steady rate. His rockets allow him to rocket jump which is a staple from the Quake roots of the franchise.
The Spy is a master of disguise and backstabbing. He is in the running for the most physically weak character, meaning his health is very low and was never intended for general combat. The Spy's role is espionage which entails eliminating (i.e. stabbing) high value targets from behind, using sappers to disable engineer emplacements, breaking enemy lines by cloaking, and infiltrating the enemy team by disguising himself as one of them. The Spy has the most comprehensive meta-game to contend with for what makes a good spy is proficiency in fooling other human players.
The Sniper is the hunter of the Team Fortress franchise who has the role of eliminating targets with as few hits as possible from a long open distance. Ideally he provides ground coverage of exposed areas with well placed head shots. He can be considered a defensive spy or a passive soldier but either way he hangs back and picks off his targets at a distance. With not much health he is a high risk/high reward class. His ability to stay in his perch has also spawned the unique ability to throw jars of his urine at enemies, providing hilarity and discomfort for all.
The Medic's role on the field is to provide direct support to teammates by healing them. The medic has undergone the most change from the first to the second game. Initially he had medic packs he could throw at allies to heal them or throw at enemies to poison them and drain their health. Come TF2, he has a backpack that shoots out a heal beam attaching itself to teammates, healing for the durection he is attached. The Medic with this backpack can also overheal allies past their maximum to a higher limit that drains over time back to the default after the medic leaves him/her/it. The Medic has the game changing ability to make himself and the friend he's healing invulnerable for a short time if he heals enough over the course of one life.
The Heavy is the main damage dealer of the team. Serving as the Team Fortress equivalent to the tank, the Heavy not only spits out inordinate amounts of bullets from his minigun but also has the most health out of any class. The ability to absorb so much pain and carry a big gun means the Heavy lives up to his namesake; he moves very slowly. Especially when the minigun is spinning, the Heavy crawls at a snail's pace compared to other classes.
Demoman serves as a dynamically offensive and defensive class. This comes from the fact that he can shoot out loose grenades to kill enemies and lay down sticky grenades that can be detonated at the Scotsman's discretion. This makes for a class that has the virtues of the soldier and the engineer in terms of range. However he's a master of neither being only one man shooting non-rocket propelled grenades. He's the only other class capable of explosive jumping.
The dedicated defensive class, the Engineer hunkers down and builds a variety of buildings to help defend certain areas of the map. The most iconic of them has to be the sentry gun that auto-detects and fires at incoming enemies. The engineer can deploy a dispenser that heals and replenishes supplies to himself and all his teammates, as well as teleporter entries and exits. A defining characteristic about the engineer is that he is a class that can also upgrade his building using "metal" meaning this class requires the most micromanagement to play.
With the " Engineer Update" this class received some items that allow the player to switch from the traditional defensive role to a more offensive one. Using the Gunslinger the Engineer sacrifices his ability to build regular sentry guns for the ability to build "Combat Mini Sentries" that can't be repaired or upgraded, but can be build very fast and deal a moderate amount of damage. With this sentry he is able to accompany his teammates at the front line and support them with additional firepower. Also with the " Engineer Update" the Engineer is able, for the first time, to move all his buildings. While moving any building the Engineer is slower and if he is killed while moving a building that building is lost.
The Pyro utilizes the flamethrower to light and vehemently continue to burn his adversaries. His/her/it's role is to be a harbinger of chaos. Nothing says panic like being on fire and it doesn't take very much for the Pyro to ignite another. Breaking enemy lines and lighting as many opposing players as possible is the ultimate goal of the Pyro. However the relative speed and damage capabilities of the class makes it for an overall good offensive class in capturing and close-range combat. The pyro also has the ability to ignite spies who are either cloaked or disguised as a member of his team immediately marking a spy for all to see and shoot.