Valve has announced that after years of waiting, the highly-anticipated online shooter Team Fortress 2 has finally entered beta testing.
Oh, I'm just kidding. We all know that Team Fortress 2 has been out for years. But I'm not kidding about it being in beta, or, more to the point, that a beta version of the game is now operating. Given all the screwing around they do with the game, Valve decided that internal testing wasn't providing enough data and thus threw the doors open to everyone who owns a copy of TF2.
The process is simple if you want to get involved. Open Steam, head to your Library, find "Team Fortress 2 Beta" in the list and install it. You're in! Valve says the beta version of the game will be used to test things like class, item and weapon changes, map changes and variants, "higher level, game-wide experiments" and other new hotness, without the risk of breaking the game for people who just want to play.
The first beta version will include three variants of Natascha with adjustments to damage, health, spin time and slowdown effect, changes to the cp_granary and cp_5gorge maps, and a balance change that eliminates the slowdown effect on players who are being healed by a medic. Players who sign into the beta will automatically be given all "achievement-based unlockables" and any new items added for testing, but random drops and the store are both disabled.
Valve is running its own set of official Beta servers but says "it'd be great" if other admins want to help out with servers of their own. Instructions on setting up a beta server and other information about the new TF2 public beta can be found on the Steam forums.
Thanks to AnarchistAbe for the tip.