Don't call it a comeback: Team Fortress 2 has smashed through its all-time record for concurrent players, and at the time of writing has hit a peak of 253,997 and rising. This enormous uptick has been prompted by the release of a huge summer update, which was assembled by Valve but consists almost entirely of community content, and in particular love at first sight between the TF2 community and a rather plump seal.
The seal appears on a map called Selbyen, created by longtime TF2 mapmakers Rhamkin, Zythe, and was textured by Blaholtzen, modelled by FGD5 and animated by Nanoco1000. The excellent Fisherman's voice is provided by MegaPieManPHD. The seal begins the map in a van, before "release the seals" is declared and it begins waddling in a line towards the sea: players can speed it up by collecting mackerel on the map and feeding it.
Nanoco was already buddies with the mapmakers, and "was delighted to have the opportunity to work on animating a map prop!" As for the subsequent reaction, "seeing the community all immediately fall in love with it it’s fantastic! It’s genuinely like free serotonin every time someone tags me in a post about the seal lmao. I think my favourite thing I’ve seen of the seal so far is this meme."
The seal didn't have an official name during the map's creation, so Nonoco started calling it Selby, before Rhamkin started calling it Silvia and that one stuck. The TF2 community does seem to have some alternatives in mind such as the extremely tasteful name Clubsy (even though there's already a seal called Clubsy in the game who rides in the Engineer's pocket). But we're sticking with Silvia.
Either way the TF2 community is absolutely cock-a-hoop about this seal, and it is pretty adorably chunky. "Give a man a seal," observes IHateDeepStuff, "and he’ll forget the last 6 years without major updates. Fucking worth the wait tbh."
"Everyone playing on the new player destruction map in the TF2 update stops fighting to look at the seal LOL" said FireThePyro, and indeed there are plenty of clips with players doing just this. Red and blue appear to be capable of a truce, if only to dance alongside the seal as it waddles towards the ocean.
"I am getting clapped," as one of the players above notes. "But it doesn't matter because they added seals to TF2."
"New TF2 update conclusion: this seal is the best fucking thing they've ever added to the game," said HeavyFortres. It certainly seems to have made an outsize impact and won this lot's seal of approval. Since I started this article, Team Fortress 2 has surpassed the all-time concurrent record again and I've had to change that number up top.
The Seal update, as it will now forever be known, is live in Team Fortress 2 now, and if you only watch one thing about this chunker make it this video:
Team Fortress 2 Seal 💕🦭#TF2 #TF2SummerUpdate pic.twitter.com/8KToGx2tTsJuly 13, 2023
Finally, just in case you thought this summer of the seal couldn't get any more adorable, back to the animator behind our waddlin' friend Nanoco: "The team are planning to donate some of the profits of the map to the Skegness seal sanctuary!"