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From Australium to Zepheniah Mann
TF2 didn't start with a lot of story. There wasn't room for one. But as the updates got more ambitious, we found the perfect way to explore the mercs' world: comics. Over the years, the comics have spawned ancillary characters, then assistants to the ancillary characters. Companies mentioned in passing became global empires three generations old. The game that started as a handful of guys in a desert shooting at each other slowly blossomed into the most labyrinthine story in Valve history.
The TF2 Team

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    The TF2 Blog 
  • Anachronism Stew: Lampshaded in the post about the Boston Boom Bringer, a boombox for the Scout.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: The Broken Base over the hats was mocked in a fictional Dev Diary where a wide-eyed young programmer designs a brilliant and balanced tenth class, only for his entire idea to be scrapped because there were no hats. When he calls the team out for only caring about hats, he is murdered and his skin turned into a (sentient) beret.
  • April Fools' Day: In April 1st, 2013, a blog post was added claiming Team Fortress 2 has secretly bought Reddit and that Reddit-related items would be added to the game. (The Reddit blog, on the other hand, states the opposite.) Later subverted in that the items were actually added.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In the introduction for The Second Annual Saxxy Awards:
    What you don’t know is that we’ve decided to make the Saxxy’s a lot more like an illegal underground martial-arts bloodsport. That’s right: This year there are no rules. There are, however, a whole bunch of brutal laws, traditions, commandments and decrees, plus some rules.
  • Evil Overlooker: The RED team fill this role on this poster.
  • Expospeak Gag: Commenting on the first prize winner for the propaganda contest, the team wrote that "It's funny, it looks great, and it makes us want to kick a Demoman in an extremely precise area (that the bean counters won't let us mention because they're all such huge extremely precise areas)."
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The Administrator/Announcer, the Soldier, the Scout, the Sniper and Saxton Hale have all posted on the TF2 blog. Also the Heavy, who replaced the Soldier when he was on jury duty. The Pyro has also made a post.
    Administrator: [Re: the Propaganda art contest] I must grudgingly admit an astonishing amount of talent on display. I hasten to add, however, that I find it astonishing only because, in observing how you comport yourselves in-game, on the forums, and presumably in your day-to-day lives, one would be forgiven for assuming you bereft of the cognitive skills needed to operate a mailbox.

    Soldier: This is the problem with the youth of today: too much time inventing nonsense words, not enough time taking a bullet in the lung defending a hill. I don't have to know what the hell twitters and texting and body sprays are to understand that they're not the sort of thing men should be engaged in. Like conversations, or painting things that aren't a house.

    Saxton Hale: First, let me [/] COMMEND [ ] SWEAR VIGOROUSLY AT you...
    • Going so far as to have an actual mail slot, during several of the larger content patches and updates for the game there would be order forms for the in-game items that players could print out and send to Mann Co. These people would then get an invoice from Saxton Hale stating that the item they requested is out of stock, but something else was usually thrown in with the letter (a Scout keychain for the FAN order form, and a picture of Saxton Hale if the coupon was sent during the Sniper vs. Spy update).
      • They had to close this mail slot for legal reasons: the fans' order forms included actual payment for the items (that didn't exist).
  • Funny Foreigner: This announcement of the announcement of The Ambassador. Australians in general, both in-universe in the comics and in the blog.
  • Hypocritical Humor: They think Men Without Hats have a "unthinkably offensive name" and were stunned when the Portal 2 team mentioned they didn't put any hats in Portal 2. These same people created the Hatless Options for Scout, Engie, and Sniper, and created the Hatless Update.
  • It Was with You All Along: Parodied here.
    BUT THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL... was inside you all along. It's blood! Turns out you can sell it! See you at the plasma center! Merry Smissmas, everybody!
  • Large Ham: Whoever's posting as the TF2 Team. From one of the Smissmas updates:
    " 'Wait, which holiday?' you may be wondering. "Australian Christmas? Or Smissmas?" Both! Read this comic to find out what happens when holidays collide! Two special days enter the squared circle! ONLY ONE LEAVES!"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: How Valve counteracts backlash to new features that are far outside the realm of anything in the game before:
  • Noodle Incident: It appears that the TF2 development team are so mired in disaster that they're on a First-Name Basis with the police, the fire department and "the nasal extraction emergency response team at Overlake Hospital".
    • The last nasal extraction emergency involved someone with a peanut M&M lodged up their nose, mentioned in an attempt to explain the delay of the Heavy update.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: This blog post.
    "All the signs are there. When you kill a man, you can actually see his last breath hanging in the chill mid-November pre-specialness air. Turkeys have retreated to their bunkers in a vain attempt to weather the upcoming onslaught of holidays devoted to gleeful turkey slaughter. And are those sleighbells we hear? Because our legal department assures us they aren't. That's right, TFers. It's beginning to look a lot like an upcoming holiday our legal department won't let us mention, but that rhymes with 'Smissmas'."
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Used to describe the many honorable mentions in the Propaganda contest.
  • Political Overcorrectness: See Our Lawyers Advised This Trope above.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: This blog post.
    "What is it, Bidwell. Of course I can listen to you and type at the same time. Look. Still typing. What? What do you mean they can make the films about anything? Why would they want to do that? No, it's not arrogance, Bidwell, it's just common damn sense. If you can make a film about anything, make it about me. What? Because I'm Saxton Hale, that's why."
  • Running Gag: Lately, whoever is writing the game's patch notes must be tired of writing the same "Updated the localization files":
    January 17, 2012 - "Did not update the localization files"
    February 9, 2012 - "Lokalisierungsdateien aktualisiert": "Updated the localization files" in German
    February 14, 2012 - "Hcqngrq gur ybpnyvmngvba svyrf": rot13 transforms to "Updated the localization files"
    February 23, 2012 - "언어 파일 업데이트": "Updated the localization files" in Korean
    March 1, 2012 - "Arquivos de localização atualizados": "Updated localization files" in Portuguese
    March 15, 2012 - A QR code that translates to "Updated the localization files"
    March 28, 2012 - "Did not update the localization files that did not need updating"
    April 27, 2012 - "sǝlıℲ uoıʇɐʇɐzılɐɔo˥ pǝʇɐpd∩": "Australian" for "Updated localization files"
    • The TF2 Team also like mentioning Dracula.
  • Selective Enforcement: The Halloween 2011 blog post states that the development team decided to take the scares out of the Halloween event, although they make an exception regarding hats.
    "For instance, one playtester thought the Pyro was a little scary, so we’ll probably remove him as a class. Someone else swore he remembered reading something about somebody getting hurt by a gun once. And that sounded scary. So probably no more guns, either. Then Dracula called from the hospital. 'Hey guys,' he said, 'hats are pretty scary.' Well, now, that must have been the morphine talking. So we’re adding more hats just to be safe."
  • Self-Deprecation:
  • Serious Business: The 'A Week in the Life of the TF2 Team' blog post has it claim the developers are pretty big on hats; less a development team than a hat-obsessed cult.
  • Stab the Sky: The Heavy in the "Battle Of Both Worlds" poster.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The patchnotes for the July 29th, 2011 update read "Definitely did not add cheats for upcoming Free-2-Play Invitational Cup." One assumes they added cheats for the upcoming Free-2-Play invitational Cup. Especially since Valve has a history of cheating when it's most hilarious.
  • Take That!: The dev team seems very aware of how broken their base is, and enjoys poking fun at people who yell about hats, or about "disappointing" updates. One of the more hilarious digs was the Classless Update. The first page of it was basically a long love letter to hats, calling them the ultimate status symbol, and explaining how having a hat made you better than everyone else. Each page also said something like "100% free!" "STILL free!" or "Holy crap! Better than expensive! It's free!"
    • One of the Administrator's War Update-Foreshadowing voice files:
    "All you ever do is disappoint and betray me! Cheating! Stealing! Friend-making!"
    • Also, the page that shows us the Crafting System tells us to "say goodbye to those enjoyable evenings spent complaining on the forums about which item in your inventory was the most useless, spraying anti-Australian racist hate speech all over Robin Walker, his lovely wife, and his beautiful children." They also mention that anyone who loves all the weapons in TF2 is a "quiet minority", who could at least balance out the whining with a few nice posts.
    • The page prior to that has some jokes hidden in the blackboard, most notably "DROP=Infinity* (Robot/(1-Cat.3))" and "Fire=Q^2" (QQ, an emoticon for Rage Quit).
    • In the comic for the WAR! Update, the Demoman's mother scolds him for his idleness.
    • One blog post uses a line from the Sniper for its title:"Thanks for standin' still, wanker!" It's about changes to the drop system and how these changes kill idling.
  • Teasing Creator: invoked Discussed. See Take That!.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: It happens from time to time, when the TF2 team aren't all focused on hats.
    "The whole process came together surprisingly well, considering that the artists haven't been on speaking terms with the programmers since the programmers tricked them into playing SpaceChem ('It's sort of like Skyrim, but with more post-modern pointalism[sic]')."
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Parodied in the post about Halloween 2011.
  • Unsound Effect: "Sound of Blog Post Being Posted", lampshading the user forum's paranoia regarding updates.
  • Writers Suck:
    • The post about "Meet the Sandvich" explains that their draft was the script of Predator with the script of Roadhouse 1989 in the middle. When this was rejected, the entire video was improvised by the voice actors, and the only lines added by the writers were stolen from those two films and The Simpsons.
    • When the dev team confront the writers with questions about how the Mac Update comic fits into the TF2 world, the writers take fright, shuffle their feet and make "a frantic search through the internet for fancy excuse words" before declaring it non-Canon. The Engineer Update story is apparently intended to fill "a canon-shaped void in the lives of TF2's biggest story fans — our writers".
  • You Have Failed Me: The Administrator posts on the TF2 Blog when players cheat... repeatedly. Even during the War of December 2009. And when people end up stealing stuff.

    Update Pages 
  • Actually Four Mooks: In media outside the game, there appears to be only one version of each character. Ring of Fired suggests there are only 9 mercenaries, yet one of the secret pages in the Pyromania Update notes that the Administrator has to sign 18 paychecks for the mercs. Also, both teams exist, and there are at least two spies. It goes back and forth.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Soldier vs Demoman update named several major characters: The Administrator's name is given as Helen; RED Demoman is Tavish Degroot; BLU Soldier is (apparently) Jane Doe; BLU Engineer is Dell Conagher; and RED Sniper is Mr. Mundy.

The Scout Update

The Sandvich Update

  • Writers Suck: The script presented for the "Meet The Sandvich" video is just the script for Predator attached to the script for Road House (1989), and the writers fail to grasp why everyone else is unimpressed by this. Instead, the voice actors improvise, which the writers grasp as "other people doing all the work for us", though their attempts to join in are just lines quoted from other works (mostly Predator and Road House (1989).)

Haunted Hallowe'en Special

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: All over the place in Scream Fortress. Mann Manor, Cadaver's Cranium, and the Horseless Headless Horsemann to name a few.
  • All There in the Manual: The Halloween Update page on the official site contained an Easter Egg link to The Last Will and Testament of Zepheniah Mann. In it, it reveals the Backstory of the game: The founder of Mann Co. was enticed by his sons to purchase a tract of land in the hopes of erecting some sort of pit of gravel. Unfortunately, upon arrival, he discovered that it was not full of gravel, but "fool's gravel". As his last act, he wills both of his sons the same land they convinced him to purchase.
  • Lost in Transmission: The last article of the will reads "Lastly, to [obscured by sand]note  I leave the entirety of my [obscured by sand]note  and swear you to utmost secrecy in its keeping."
  • Our Ghosts Are Different On the other hand, Zepheniah Mann willed a curse that he would haunt those who "shoot over his bones" ... and he does exactly that on KOTH Harvest's event version.

Sniper vs. Spy Update

The WAR! Update
  • Apes in Space: Poopy Joe the monkeynaut was supposed to be one, but he tragically died in an explosion that was not caused by Mann Co.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Administrator before a round during the update: "All you ever do is disappoint and betray me. Cheating. Stealing. Friend-making!"
  • Body-Count Competition: Between opposing Demomen and Soldiers. Whichever class could kill the most of the other class by the end of the war gets a pair of shoes.
  • Rousing Speech: The BLU Soldier and the RED Demoman have one on their respective update pages.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: American Monkeynaut Poopy Joe was given the Eyelander, Buff Banner, and Equalizer before his journey into space. Mann Co. claims they were nowhere near the launch site of Poopy Joe's aircraft and had nothing to do with the explosion that occured moments later, and those three items were obtained in entirely innocent circumstances. Also, the company's seemingly rushed sale of a high-precision rocket launcher was not in any way connected with Poopy Joe's tragic death.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The update revealed that both RED and BLU are controlled by the same Administrator. The whole war was started just to prevent this fact from getting out.
  • Take That!: In true Trolling Creator fashion, the headlines from the official update page:
    (Soldier)"Most overpowered enemy of all time still finds way to lose, complain"
    (Demoman)"BEGINNER'S LUCK ABOUT TO RUN OUT. World's easiest class slightly ahead"
  • The V-J Day Kiss: Parodied. The blog has a picture of the Heavy kissing the Scout's mom.

The Mac Update

The Engineer Update/Loose Canon
  • Abraham Lincoln: the identity of the original 1850-era BLU team Pyro. According to the artist of the "Loose Canon" comic, this was one of the few specific characterizations that they wanted for the team's design.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Parody: The Golden Wrenches during the update.

Mann-Conomy Update/Bidwell's Big Plan

  • Early-Bird Cameo: Maggie is hinted at well before her official debut in "Ring of Fired," thanks to some of Darling's dialogue towards Saxton:
    Darling: "You were my best student once. Before you gave it all up. For her."
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Saxton Hale hangs on the edge of Charles Darling's plane before being kicked off.
  • The Rival: Charles Darling is Saxton Hale's former mentor-turned arch-rival. Their ideals used to match what Saxton's are today, but somewhere down the line, Darling found it more profitable to hold animals captive instead of having fights to the death with them.
  • Skyward Scream: As Charles Darling kicks Saxton off his plane, Saxton shouts, "DARRRLING!"
  • Super Window Jump
  • Take That, Audience!: The comic compares community-made content to companies conning their customers by selling things other customers made.
  • Unsound Effect: The usual beauties for a Hale comic. Darling gives Hale a NEMESIS KICK!, which sends him plummeting.
  • Waving Signs Around: The hippies outside.

The Replay Update/Meet the Director/The Saxxy Awards
  • Award Show: The winners of the contest were announced "live" (one winner every 5 minutes). The main page featured a countdown timer between announcements, and a subplot about how...
  • Bears Are Bad News: Saxton Hale accidentally let a bear loose during the ceremony. During the live-updating of the Awards page, the image of Saxton presenting the awards would occasionally refresh to reveal said bear slowly approaching the stage, only for it to get beaten to a pulp by Saxton himself.

2011 Halloween Update/Bombinomicon

True Meaning

  • Call-Back: The rocket is similar to the one in "Grordbort's Crash". It contains weapons as well.
    • They were both part of the same promotion with "Dr. Grordbort's", a prop weaponry company run by WETA (yes, that WETA). A third promotion is coming eventually, with weapons and cosmetic items for Scout and Medic, but these are yet to be released.

A Smissmas Story

  • Joke Item: The wrapping paper...
    • Lethal Joke Item: ...which, when coupled with an ornament from a nearby tree, makes a handy bludgeon. (In the game, the fragments of ornament allow a bleed effect.)
  • Pointy Ears: The Scout gets a pair of pointed ears as part of his outfit as a Christmas elf.

The Pyromania Update

Mann vs Machine/Blood Brothers/A Fate Worse than Chess
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Damaged (Barely-Melted) Capacitor from the Pyromania ARG was one of only two items that was not destroyed during Pyromania. In the Mann vs. Machine ARG, it became one of the main factors in solving the ARG.
  • Foreshadowing: The ARG leading up to the update made reference to "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", a Sherlock Holmes mystery involving The Reveal of a previously unknown heir to a sizable inheritance. Gray Mann fits that description perfectly.
  • Made of Explodium: The Sentry Buster robots.
  • Man Versus Machine: The name of the update, even.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The human-sized robots in the trailer appear to be this, or the mercenaries are really, really good at staying alive.
  • Money Spider: Parodied; the robots run on piles of money. Lampshaded by Miss Pauling, who tells the mercenaries she doesn't know how or why this is, but they're entitled to whatever the robots drop.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: From Decoy's update page:
    Soldier: We will lure the robots to this house of lies, and we will destroy them with our very real weapons and whatever it is the Scout does!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The update page for the map Decoy has the RED Soldier disguising a couple of shacks as Mann Co. headquarters.
    "This is Mann Co. Headquarters. This is not a trap for robots."
    • Saxton Hale's disguise as "Dr. Joanbaez" consists of a jacket and a flower in his hat.
  • Pun-Based Title

Spectral Halloween Special/Doom-Mates

The Mecha Update/Shadow Boxers
  • Bilingual Bonus: Averted. The update page text either says the same thing as the English or is related flavor text.
  • Humongous Mecha: According to the update page, the Engineer robot will be over a hundred feet tall! ...While the parenthetical text says otherwise. The real reason is that the image is based on a movie poster — see Shout-Out below.
  • Player-Generated Economy: This update added the Steam Community Market, an organized trading system for game items and money.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The topmost image of the update page is directly based off the movie poster of the Japanese sci-fi kaiju film, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II.
    • Further down on the update page, the screen with the Mecha-Engineer says, "Hats. All your ha"

Robotic Boogaloo/Death of a Salesbot

  • Author Appeal: Cat Bountry has a soft spot for Engineer and Pyro being bros, Pomeranians, and the Heavy x Medic pairing. Naturally, Engie gets focus, a Pomeranian named Sir Butternubs is President, and Heavy and Medic are standing next to each other (she apparently asked The Heartsman, the artist, to draw them close together, and he did.)
  • Canon Discontinuity: In KritzKast's interview with the team that created the Robotic Boogaloo update, the comic's creators clarified that the comic is non-canon, but can be viewed as a possible Alternate Universe.
    • To clarify: the fact that the mercs have flawlessly defended Mann Co. for over a year, and that Grey is rapidly going bankrupt, is all canon. The half-hour's worth of events actually depicted in the comic are not.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Gray uses the cover of a magazine with Saxton Hale's portrait as a dartboard.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Even the robots think that running on money is a bad idea.
  • Future Badass: The Engineer.
  • Money to Burn: The mercenaries have destroyed so many robots that they don't know what to do with all their money. The Pyro is shown shoveling a pile into the fireplace. The Soldier even eats a money sandwich!
  • Ominous Message from the Future: Future Engineer arrives to warn the mercenaries not to open the crates, but the Soldier misinterprets the message and begins to open them anyway.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Just before Future Engineer arrives, Soldier was about to open one of the crates. After Future Engineer leaves, Soldier continues to open one of the crates. In other words, Future Engineer literally accomplished nothing by going back in time.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Scoutbot tells Gray Mann maybe he could try building new robots that run on something other than money. Gray responds with what is either a Death Glare of "but that's NOT HOW IT'S DONE!!!", or an epiphany of a completely unrelated, still-completely-ridiculous plan.
  • Schmuck Bait: The time-traveling Engineer's warnings to the team not to open the crates just makes them want to open them.
  • Time Skip: Takes place almost a year after the Mann Vs. Machine update.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: What happens when your army of robots runs on money? You go broke trying to replace them.
  • Unsound Effect: "TIME TRAVEL SOUNDS"
  • Victory Is Boring: A year of destroying robots has made the team grow bored, and now they have so much money they don't know what to do with it.

The Two Cities Update

  • Back from the Dead: One of the new powers Medic gains in this update, and displayed beautifully in a Moment of Awesome from the trailer.
  • It Runs in the Family: Medic is apparently descended from a long line of resident mad doctors.
    • On the update page, the sign behind Medic reads "Humboldt's Pharmacy: Leeches, baboon hearts, radium suppositories, humor balancing, phrenological exams." possibly giving us his family name, as well.
  • Smoke Shield: Thanks to Medic's new shield upgrade.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Something Medic's family was (and still seems to be) on the receiving end of for generations. Seems to be a Brick Joke to the flavor text of Meet The Medic:
    Not every mad doctor lives in a castle surrounded by villagers with pitchforks. Sometimes they live in the trenches, where there's plenty of spare parts flying around and a pressing need to get inventive with them.

Love and War

Scream Fortress 6/Blood Money

  • Amusement Park of Doom: The setting for this year's event. Complete with carnival games and bumper cars! Possibly subverted, because it's not quite haunted yet (though the mercs will be quick to fix that) and Merasmus ended up using very un-spooky sandalwood scented candles for the ritual.

End of The Line

  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Soldier is horrified when the train threatens to crash into explosive barrels placed next to a kitten store. And an orphanage. And a kitten orphanage.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Just like "Robotic Boogaloo", this update, or at least, the video it's centered around, is entirely non-canon.
  • Cute Kitten: Soldier is concerned that these may be one of the many casualties if the enemy train reaches their base.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Where Sniper's camper van ends up for most of the short. James McVinnie, the short's main animator, confessed he likes to pick on Sniper, since he makes an easy target.
  • The Not-Love Interest: The Heavy and Medic subplot is described as "romance action" in one of the update blurbs, before clarifying that it's more like "bro-mance action". James McVinnie said he intentionally left the video sans dialogue, so a lot of it could be interpreted however the fans wanted.
  • Silence Is Golden: No voice actors, in order to let the animation and music carry the mood.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Medic does, and tries to teach Heavy, but his hesitation in making his first move results in Medic flipping the board over in frustration.
  • Train Stopping: When Spy and Medic can't come to an agreement on how to prevent the enemy train from crashing into their base, Heavy takes it upon himself to do this, Superman-style.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: At the end of the short, an orphan is seen hiding his (and his cat's) cigarette smoking habits from Soldier.