Team Fortress 2 celebrates its 10th anniversary today. I wanted to use this opportunity to honor what is, in my opinion, the most important thing to come out of the game’s ten year legacy: machinima videos.
But first, let us recap the other milestones of the game:
- It was one of the first, if not the first, non-MMO game to receive constant content updates for several years after its initial release. Some games might’ve added content for one or two years, but this game ended its killing streak after 5 years with Meet the Pyro in 2012.
- For a time, it was THE meme game. There was no comment section where users wouldn’t quote one of the classes’s lines.
- The “Meet the Team” videos were a completely different take on both providing some story to the game, and act as a great piece of promotional material.
- It was the first game to add loot crates and cosmetic items. More importantly, it was the first game to allow other people to create custom models and skins and sell them via the game’s ingame shop.
- It made the jump to Free 2 Play and remained successful and beloved despite this move (at least for a while).
- ...and yes, game performance became worse because they had to support all these custom items, and they dropped the ball with the initial competitive mode.
But none of this is as important as what the game did to all the machinima creators out there.
The nine classes which allow for lots of characterization and re-imagination of their personality, the simple (and silly) premise of two rivaling teams having bases within miles to each other, and the equally mysterious (and absurd) story behind the scenes with Saxton Hale, the Announcer and the owners of RED and BLU - it is the perfect template for creating all sorts of machinima.
The story of a machinima video can be as comedic or as serious as you want - it makes sense for Team Fortress 2 all the same. From black humor attempts like using the game’s sounds on top of a Saving Private Ryan scene, to a tense western or noir flick, or even silent movies, everything goes.
But freedom of storytelling isn’t the only thing that made machinimas so special - the amount of tools available were great as well.
At the beginning, people settled for in-game recordings with players acting for the machinima. People created some cool things despite doing everything in-game by using some coding shenanigans, as can be seen on videos like Mass A.I..
But eventually people would also use Garry’s Mod for their creations. The most impressive thing by far are machinimas that use Gmod for stop motion videos where every single frame is being screenshot and put together in a video editor.
Some machinima creators managed to simulate a sense of fluidity and animation despite this approach. It takes a lot more effort, but the results are that much more impressive.
There are a lot of good gmod videos out there, but one of them that showcases this type of smooth stop motion technique is The Ninja Heavy.
The Source Filmmaker is an animation editor where you can create environments, setup characters and make them move via predefined animations.
Usually this type of editor is very expensive or developed in-house by the various feature film animation studios such as Pixar and Dreamworks. But for the first time, people could use such a tool for free starting in 2012, even if they were limited to Valve games assets at first.
This gave rise to the Saxxy Awards, Valve’s annual Team Fortress 2 machimima competition. Not only can people try their hands on a new machinima tool, their work is also being watched by lots of people who vote for a winner.
Last but not least, there are parodies. Oh, there are so many parodies!
From movie parodies like and Law Abiding Engineer and The Demo Knight, to music parodies like Babyman or Spy Romance, to video game parodies like cp_Skyrim or Space Fortress 5- the list goes on and on.
I could go on like this all day, as there are a LOT of great videos being made over the years. If you want to check out all of the older videos, I’ve created a list back in the day that lists everything being made from 2007 to 2012. Everything newer than that was probably covered by Kotaku anyway. There exist a list of all Saxxy winners as well.
Bottom line is, people used Team Fortress 2 as a medium to create all sorts of videos, and thanks to Gmod and Source Filmmaker, there were plenty of tools to choose from as well.
This is one category in which Overwatch lacks. Sure, where are some great animations and Source Filmmaker videos made by fans, but the Overwatch scene has yet to reach the level of fidelity and scope seen in some of the best TF2 machinimas.
At any rate, happy 10th anniversary everyone! Have fun delving in the nostalgia of all these videos.