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Happy 15th Birthday, Team Fortress! [Updated!]

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Update: And Valve have not forgotten about the anniversary! They still have their Birthday Mode on within TF2, except this year it’s getting some awesome new additions, chiefly including… hats! Head over to the TF2 Blog for more.

Yes, Team Fortress is now 15 years old! This means that if Team Fortress lived in Sweden or Denmark, it could now… well, legally get busy. Oh, they grow so fast.

Happy 15th Birthday, Team Fortress! [Updated!]

15 years ago, on the 24th of August, 1996, Robin Walker, John Cook and Ian Caughley released the original Team Fortress as a Quake mod. Back then, the only classes were the Scout, Sniper, Soldier, Demoman, and the Medic. A week later, version 1.1 was released, featuring the Heavy Weapons Guy, and Team Fortress’ most well-known map – 2fort. 

Four months later, in December of 1996, version 2.0 was released on the new QuakeWorld engine, and another four months later, on the 13th of April, 1997, version 2.5 was released, adding the Spy and the Engineer. This was 2.5’s intro, created by Damian Scott:

The trio continued working on Team Fortress 1 and 2 (at the time, TF2 was targeted for release as a Quake 2 mod) as Team Fortress Software throughout 1997, until, on the 28th of May, 1998, Valve bought Team Fortress Software and announced that TF2 would be released as a free add-on for Half-Life. Back then, HL1 was set for a summer 1998 release. “Valve’s Team Fortress” was shown off at E3 1998 (it may have become a paid expansion pack by that time) alongside Half-Life, but as HL1 was pushed further back into 1998, plans began to change for TF2.

To tide fans over, Valve released Team Fortress Classic as a free, official mod for HL1 on the 7th of April, 1999. TFC took TF1’s gameplay, but made quite a few welcome changes and additions. It quickly emerged as one of the most popular mods of its time. Valve continued to support TFC with new maps, models and game modes.

TF2 re-emerged at E3 1999, as “Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms”, a standalone title built on the HL engine. Just like “Valve’s Team Fortress”, it was to be a realistic, military shooter spin on Team Fortress. The game looked promising, and it also sported a number of new technologies, such as parametric animation, which seamlessly blended different animations for smoother movement and reducing the number of separate animations a developer would have to create; high fidelity and quality voice communication, complete with facial animation that simulates what you or your character is saying; and multi-resolution mesh technology, which would dynamically reduce polygon detail on game objects, depending on the number of on-screen element and their distance from the player. Some of these may not sound like much now, but they were all pretty revolutionary at the time.

The game was targeted for a 2000 release, although in response to a joke from GameSpot, Robin Walker stated that we would “absolutely have it way before” 2005. Then, suddenly, in June of 2000, Valve announced that TF2 was switching to a new in-house engine created by Valve (we now know this was the Source Engine), and that as such, the game would be delayed. Retailers continued to throw wild guesses around: late 2000, early 2001, mid-2001, early 2002, and so on, and so forth.

But gradually, Valve simply stopped talking about TF2, and the game just dropped right off the radar. They continued to experiment with a number of game designs (these are the only ones we know of), the most infamous being “Invasion”, the existence of which was only revealed inside the 2003 Half-Life 2 leak. Invasion appears to have been Valve’s most complex TF2 game design. Its gameplay revolved around the concept of Resources. Players would use these to create buildings and combat fortifications such as barbed wire and bunkers. Even vehicles such as light wagons, battering rams and tanks would be available for purchase. Players would also be able to purchase RTS-style upgrades for their buildings and their vehicles. The design was so complex that Valve scrapped it completely, and for the next design, went right back to the drawing boar, with just the classic Team Fortress framework.

But we still heard absolutely nothing from Valve on the game’s development… until it returned, on the 13th of July, 2006, at the EA Summer Showcase! Gabe himself re-announced TF2 on stage, and not long after the announcement, we got our first look at the new Team Fortress 2.

And on the 9th of October, 2007, Team Fortress 2 was finally released as part of the Orange Box, after 10-11 years of development. It took them a while, but what we got is still one of the greatest multi-player games of all time. So, happy birthday, Team Fortress! Here’s to another 15 years. Hopefully TF3’s development won’t take up another 10 years out of that time.

But this isn’t the only 15th birthday taking place today! Stay tuned here for another article, on another anniversary!


  1. *snif* They grow up so fast.

  2. I dont know about you but i dont want TF3. I like how they keep expanding and upgrading their product instead of forcing customers to buy new one to enjoy new feature.

  3. I have a little question about TFC: when did it get moving mouths when talking? The TF2 video showing this feature was released at E3 1999, which happened after TFC release.

    • It may have gotten voice communication and moving mouths in the Team Fortress 1.5 update on the 8th of June, 2000. It may have gotten them later on, in 2001 or 2003. Not quite sure.

  4. Yes, Sweden approves!

  5. my tf lives in sweden, does it mean i can get on with it? :3

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