If Valve won't remake Team Fortress 2, these modders will

(Image credit: Valve)

It's no secret that Team Fortress 2 doesn't get the love it ought to in 2021. At the ripe age of 14, ongoing updates for Valve's exceptional FPS have slowed to a crawl. The TF2 of today is essentially in maintenance mode, seeing occasional bug fixes and bot-battling updates from the presumably small crew of Valve employees still working on it.

Instead of waiting around for Valve to reinvest energy in its beloved shooter, a team of modders called Amper Software is taking the future of TF2 into its own hands. Codenamed Team Fortress: Source 2, the project aims to recreate the entirety of TF2 in Valve's updated Source 2 engine (the same one that powers Dota 2, Half-Life: Alyx, Dota Underlords, and the now-defunct Artifact).

"Our goal is to remake, improve, iterate, and create a new Team Fortress experience on Source 2 engine using s&box," reads TF:S2's development blog. "This project is a huge undertaking, we would have to consider all nitpicks of TF2 gameplay, try to rebuild every single mechanic to feel similar to the base game, but with enough dedication, I believe that we can do it!" 

So far, the project has attracted over 20 volunteers consisting of environment artists, programmers, 3D artists, and level designers. Remaking a dense class-based shooter in a new engine is a monster task, but the early results are already looking good. Here's a quick look at the Pyro in action with Source 2's fancier lighting and particle tech:

Amper has shown off recreated Scout, Sniper, Demoman, and Soldier classes in recent weeks.

Progress seems strong so far, but reading the dev blog, it's clear that TF:S2 is in an early stage of development. The team is actually developing the remake using s&box (pronounced 'sandbox'), the spiritual successor to Garry's Mod that utilizes Source 2 as its framework. The s&box tool itself is still in early development at Facepunch (the Rust studio founded by Garry "Garry's Mod" Newman), so Amper is working with incomplete tools.

According to the devs, there are a lot of elements that didn't port elegantly from Source 1 and have had to be fixed or remade, like particle effects, skyboxes, and object shading. Map porting has been a particular hurdle, according to environment artist Kaya.

"There is no other way to describe it: porting maps is a really slow process if you want to make it right, and decent for Source 2 standards. Despite getting some pretty cool results, it wasn’t that much worth it," they said. Kaya explained that Source 2's move from building spaces with blocks to more modern meshes has created many lighting and optimization issues. In the case of Arena Well, the first map Amper decided to tackle, some parts of the map had to be recreated from scratch.

But Arena Well was eventually completed, and it's looking pretty darn nice. The most noticeable improvements, to my eye, are the overhead lights indoors that cast darker and more realistic diffused shadows in the world. Outside, the game more-or-less looks like a crisper TF2. I'm sure more direct comparisons would prove me wrong, but it just speaks to the simplistic, evergreen art of the original game that it still looks this good.

We cover all sorts of fan projects that are either shut down, get stuck in development hell, or fizzle out after a few years, but I think TF:S2 has a good shot at going the distance. As long as Amper isn't turning TF:S2 into a commercial product, Valve probably won't mind. Though, things may get sticky if Amper starts porting over TF2 items that players are still paying real money for on the Steam marketplace.

In any case, it's clear the project is a labor of love by folks who love Team Fortress to death. If Valve won't show the same affection, I'm glad someone will.

PS: I could get used to this Demoman buff.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.