The popular online shooter with colorful characters were experiments by Valve for business and game mechanics.
Probably one of the most recognizable characters would be Valve's cast of misfits in Team Fortress 2. There is a bit of slapstick, cartoon humor with these guys, such as the numerous "Meet The…" videos Valve has released over the years. But what most gamers might not know is Valve has been experimenting with core mechanics from other games and business practices with the Mann co. crew. A recent interview with Team Fortress 2 lead designer Robin Walker explains what they did with the game for nearly five years.
Walker stated that the secondary goal for Team Fortress 2 was to experiment with new long-term goals, instead making new franchises with little data. With the release of Team Fortress 2, Valve knew that MMORPGs were becoming a popular 'story' in the game industry. Walker said, "We didn't think we were ready to undertake that, but we did think that we might be able to build some pieces of one, learning enough so that if or when we did need to build one, we had less risk on the table." They first started with persistent items and an inventory system, which lead to the creation of numerous hats and unique weapons to each character.
Later the MMO market was changing again to microtransactions and free-to-play incentives. Valve again experimented with Team Fortress 2 by making it free-to-play, which was done in June 2011 with massive success. The revenue from Team Fotress 2 jumped by a factor of 12, and gave them plenty of data to try out other free-to-play projects like Dota 2.
Valve intends to keep experimenting with Team Fortress 2 with frequent updates and current trends in the game market. Walker explains that the game has become a valuable tool for them to see what risks they should take with other products. I kind see where they are going with this as they seem to be throwing in more cooperative game modes, such as the new "Mann vs. Machine" feature introduced to Team Fortress 2. Either way, this just means we will find new ways of enjoying our favorite sociopathic game characters.