"The TF2 Beta is something we've just started running," said Walker to Shacknews. "It's aimed at filling a hole in TF2's iterative development model." nope European and American competitive TF2 clans are being recruited for the beta, which will incorporate changes to the game ahead of an update's release to provide Valve with valuable balancing data.
"To iterate effectively, we need to be able to measure the impact of our changes," he said. "Up until now we've been successful at measuring that impact on the non-competitive TF2 community, because we have good internal proxies for it--the TF2 team itself, plus other internal and external playtesters. Our proxies for the high end competitive play aren't as good, and that's lead to us making some design decisions that have hurt it."
Walker pointed out that the beta does not represent a shift in Valve's approach to the casual community.
"This doesn't reflect any change of our attitude towards non-competitive TF2 play, it's just going to give us more data," he added. "We'll continue to talk and listen to the non-competitive TF2 players, as we have done in the two years since we shipped. The more data we have, the more effective we'll be as we continue striving for design choices that work for all TF2 players."
European TF2 clan FokkelBrigade says that a small group of top European and American teams have been selected for the beta, and that the first stage is focusing on tweaking the Sandman bat-and-ball unlockable, a weapon routinely banned from competitive TF2 play. Rumors of a fire-repellent suit for the Spy are also circulating.
Walker has previously expressed a desire to "get more insight" into what Valve can do for the competitive TF2 community.
"I'd like to build some more bridges to organizers within the competitive community, which is something we've tried to do but still continue to have trouble with," he said in a recent CommunityFortress interview.