Running a gaming community is not the easiest of things these days. Neither is keeping a gaming forum going with all the many alternatives such as Facebook, blogs, twitter etc, not to mention things like reddit.
So, it seems reasonable that a fair solution is to for smaller gaming communities in particular to band together and share resources.
Destination Gamer contacted me a while ago to suggest just such an affiliation. They’re another small gaming community, UK based, but unlike WDG which is pc-focussed, DG comprises mainly console gamers. However, they do have some pc gamers who are currently under-served, just as WDG have some console gamers who we don’t really cater for. All very complementary. The fact that we both have such similar initials also begged for a working partnership.
We’re now doing some cross-promoting of events. I don’t think it’s something that will explode into life straight-off, but it allows both communities to offer a little extra and often this sort of thing only bears fruit further down the line.
A while ago I wrote about the competitive TF2 prospects for Berath’s Brain Burps, here .
Nothing really happened going on from that. Handbags remained dormant, FNR! never restarted, Hive is still sleeping and KCaLtL is still over. Only Leftism continued flying the competitive flag in the WDG TF2 community.
However, now there are stirrings. Lefty is now looking to organising a Div 6 team for the forthcoming ETF2L 6v6 season. Community members have already been recruited including some new to competitive TF2. The team doesn’t have a name yet and I think the last couple of positions are being filled at this moment but it’s looking good.
Unfortunately due to general ineptitude and incompetence at TF2, Berath’s Brain Burps will not be playing on the team however Berath’s Brain Burps will be delightedly covering the adventures of the new team though unfortunately none of the prospective members stream matches so blow by blow accounts will be unavailable. Or maybe not so unfortunately. I don’t know.
Anyhow, Berath’s Brain Burps awaits with baited breath.
Back in November, a new expansion was released for Lord of the Rings Online; Helm’s Deep. Great. There’s nothing like a new expansion, full of new content with a raised maximum level, fresh material and everything. You may not have played for a while, you might have exhausted the previous content, gone on to other things, taken a break, but now, tally ho, you’re ready to jump in resume afresh.
But…..but….but…..when you load up the game and once more take up your dagger/bow/spear or whatever, not only do you find you have to re-allocate the points to your legendary weapons; this happens everytime, but you half your skills have disappeared!
After a few moments panic as you try and work out what’s happened and what’s missing, you discover a Traits Tree. A Traits Tree with points to spend and it looks like some of your missing skills are embedded in there. You spend points, and build up your skills that way; very similar to building a character in Rift or masteries in League of Legends.
Well this is all fine. However it’s an immense change from how LoTRO originally managed skills, basically you just got them, and there is the thing. Such changes are fine if you’ve been constantly playing the game, reading developer notes and keeping track on the forums. This is not the way many people play MMOs these days when there are so many other games and other MMOs out there. They play, get to max level, finish the content and then go, as I’ve said. They only return when new material comes out and if the learning curve to access that new material is too high, well they may never end up returning at all.
It’s taken me a long time to manage to sit down and respec my Guardian, work out exactly what I want to do. Once started it was alright but I felt his build was not the same as it was and I don’t know how he will play any more, some of my favourite skills seem to have gone. I’m going to have to get used to that. I’m also not sure how his legendary weapons will fit since many of them have legacies tailored to specific skills that he may not have any more.
One of the reasons I’m keeping on is my kinship, I have plenty of incentive to continue there. But I can’t help thinking that when MMOs make changes like this which I don’t see as necessary or particularly benefiting a game, that they risk loosing a fair percentage of their players who either aren’t in kinships or who now have a more casual involvement in the game.
It’s been a while. I’ve been busy with my TF2 multi-gaming community; in fact I seem to have found myself one of the Clan Leaders. I always say yes to these things. A lot of what I’ve been doing has been trying to promote the community and the server. It hasn’t been easy. A few posts ago I wrote about issues faced by smaller TF2 communities. It’s actually bigger than that. It seems to be something affecting forums in general; there is a general decrease in activity. Could it be the rise of Facebook and other social networks, drawing people away?
I’ve some of my own thoughts; possibly linked to the increase of f2p, the move of gaming towards a means of mass entertainment and more casual gaming for a start. As well as a decrease in people wanting to join gaming communities, in mmos there seems to be more of a shift towards players wanting single player content, avoiding the need to group. Drop in and pop out seems to be the way increasingly.
But anyway, before further thinking and further posting, here is a photograph of the TF2 community taken at i49. I think that will do as a full report almost 3 months later.
i49 is nearly over. People are packing up all over Hall 3, but here the gaming carries, on for a little while at least with the last bit of energy I have remaining. There’s been lots of intense TF2 action and lots of community mingling.
A full report will be submitted; later
There’s been a long gap since my last post. I’ve actually been pretty busy but I’ll write about that another time. In the meantime, though, we’ve finished ETF2L S15 and it’s time to catch up with FNR!
They finished 3rd in their division, only one point behind the second finishers; just outside the automatic promotions but well enough positioned to go for for Div 4 next season with appropriate screenshots from games against Div 4 teams.
In the end they dropped three maps, one they felt they should have won. The other two were against Killswitch, who also play Highlander but in Division 1. It’s generally felt that the skill level in Highlander is lower than that in 6v6, so a Div 1 HL player would be less skilled than a Div 1 6v6 player. However, even considering this, surely Div 1 HL players are not equivalent to Div 5 6v6. Certainly Killswitch didn’t loose a map in their division.
However FNR! didn’t do too badly against them. I’ve seen steamrolls and this game quite definately wasn’t one with FNR! making some nice plays including a wonderful kritz on badlands mid which I think wiped Killswitch. In fact all through the season FNR! improved and became tighter and more co-ordinated, though errors were still made with mistimings and wrong positioning. You could see the practice scrims and VOD reviews paying off, you’ve just got to do that stuff.
So it looks like FNR! will be playing in the next 6v6 season but the same can’t be said for Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty in the next Highlander.
Last season was most likely the last and with it goes the direct participation of Berath’s Brain Burps in competitive TF2, but a good time was had and I loved having the opportunity. Quite simply, there is no-one to organise KCaLtL. After successfully leading it for the last couple of seasons, the indomitable Lefty has moved on to another team with no organising responsibilities. As I found when I organised the Raid roster in LoTRO being the organiser of something can bring headaches and take away the fun. Hive of Scum and Villainy, our (baby) 6v6 team is still in hiatus and I don’t fancy trying to get myself recruited into anything else. For 6v6 I’m just not good enough and for both, being female and older reduces the likelihood of finding compatible team mates. I’d be worrying about restructures at work, they’d be worrying about A’Level homework and considering 25 as old and past it; and probably be right too!
Handbags at Dawn remains of course. Hopefully we’ll be entering the next Reddit Round Robin and from time to time I may still be asked to merc for various teams. There may also be opportunities for the odd 6v6 game for a bit of fun (I still think it’s my favourite TF2 mode). So anyway, it’s wait and see and in the meantime focus on playing pub and in HL lobbies, working on those rollouts (I will do Badlands), enjoying casts, helping keep WDG ticking along and, of course, playing other games!
Well ETF2L Highlander S4 is now well and truly over. In the end Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty came second in their division 5C. A good result and one which meant we could stay safely in Division 5 away from teams that did stuff like practice lots. The last match was against nervousENERGY, a community HL team with a profile and history similar to ours. They said they weren’t Div 5. We weren’t sure if that meant they were brilliant or that they were rubbish; we thought we might be more rubbish.
The maps were cp_gullywash and koth_Lakeside_Final. We’d played Lakeside before and won, so we were quite confident. We hadn’t practiced on Gullywash. We were heartened when, 5 minutes before the start of the game, nE hadn’t made up their minds about their line-up. We’d decided 30 minutes before. This meant that nE were more rubbish than us at line-ups. Go us!
nE told us they hadn’t practiced. Nor of course had we. Joint rubbish.
Once on the server, we did a bit of Trash talking, psyching each other out, nE vs KCaLtL. It was quickly established that no-one had slept with anyone’s mother. In fact, we were informed, the mother of one of the nE team was a very nice lady who had bought them ice cream at one point. She regularly shopped at car boot sales and here it was agreed by both teams, that some remarkable bargains could be had at these events if one went early enough. I think this may have been: at trash talking- rubbish.
After this, play commenced and we won 5 -0 on Gullywash and 3-0 on Lakeside. The games were fun. Despite the results, nE made us work and I think they had a good game as well. So they weren’t rubbish and nor were we.
So goodbye S4 Highlander and hello to S14 6v6 and For No Raisin! After their slightly wobbly performance in S13, they are now in Div 5, probably better at the moment particularly as they have a slightly tweaked line-up including a new scout Dohjan (a reg from the WDG server) who hasn’t had that much experience in 6v6. A season in Div 5 should give them the opportunity to get themselves sorted, refocused , and see what happens. They’ve already been practicing more this past couple of weeks than I’m sure they did most of last season.
It’s credit to them that they’ve stayed together. One of the main features that has stood out for me observing the competitive scene, is how unstable teams are. They form for one season (if that) and then fall apart. Referring to my previous post, I can’t help but wonder if this is one of the consequences of having teams that form just to compete and haven’t grown from a community. It could be that Community based teams are more inclined to stick together and keep on going, with changes in name, line-up etc, but keeping the community in common.
Stop press: FNR! drew in their first game against Player Haters of the Year: Badlands 1-6; Gullywash 2-1 (winning Gullywash). At least 10 avid viewers on the Twitch stream (a record) were treated to two intense matches yesterday evening. PH seemed to be the stronger team on Badlands with a very effective scout pairing but it evened out on Gullywash which is a less scout friendly map, Power playing the Heavy card.
“Is it just me or is it harder now to find servers with good people playing?”
Someone asked me that the other night.
And yes, I’d noticed it too. Community servers seem to be disappearing; communities are getting quieter. Take WDG. We’ve gone from being able to fill the server almost every evening to just 2-3 hours on a Friday and our active membership has dropped. You used to be able to guarantee a game on NervousEnergy; now it lies empty.
The larger communities seem to be surviving; ones running 8, 12 or 16 servers with a variety of maps and settings; 24/7 one-map, instaspawn or payload only and with a substantial pool of players. It’s the small clans that only run one or two servers running a standard map rotation that are suffering most.
I’ve been wondering why:
TF2 is dead
Yes, TF2 is less popular than it was but there are still plenty of people playing and starting up. Just doing a random check on players shows a good number with just a few hours of TF2 and Steam stats show tens of thousands are playing daily.
Clans have moved on
True. In WDG, many have now moved on to other games, League of Legends in particular, DOTA2 as well; other clans have experienced the same (Uberium, No Talent: both dead). Real life events also take their toll. This is natural. The few clans that are managing to keep their servers full seem to have retained a sufficiently large core of TF2 players from the early days who are still keen to spend time seeding the server (Trigger Happy Gamers, Hampshire Heavies, Grumpy Old Gits).
Players are different now.
Could this be a thing? TF2 is now f2p. Perhaps this has led to a more casual player base which is generally less interested in making a commitment to the game or investing in Clans, posting to their forums and getting involved. That’s for the oldies.
Is Quickplay a double-edged sword? In the past players needed to use the in-game browser to find servers. They would select using ping, server settings or name. When a player arrived on a server, they’d made a choice at some level. Finding another server was fiddly, so there they’d stay if it seemed decent.
Now, all a player needs to do is click on the Quickplay button. This takes them straight into a game. They know that’s all they’ll have to do next time as well. There’s no need to to favourite a server; they can leave it up to Quickplay. Easy come, easy go. Good community servers are lost amongst the noise of premium servers, one alone (saigns.de) has 136 servers.
The Competitive Game
TF2 comp seems to be more popular than ever at the moment with new people and teams moving into 6v6 and Highlander. Could this have had an impact?
There’s always been a tendency to move from pub to comp as players got tired of the frustrations of pub games (lack of class balance and teamwork, annoying weapons, crits). However the path used to tend to be casual pub server (e.g Valve servers), clan server (higher calibre of play, main source of team recruitment), comp. Now there far more ways in to Comp play. There are newbie mixes and many on-line resources for learning. The growth and promotion of Highlander in particular, means that it’s easier to find a way into that and of course Highlander has no class restrictions so you can carry on playing Pyro or Heavy and using crazy weapons, it has been called a form of idealised pub.
So, is that what’s happening? People who want to commit to TF2 are bypassing the Clan/community stage. They’re going straight from mucking about on a Valve server to joining a Highlander or 6v6 team/mix group because it’s all now so much easier, and then that’s where their TF2 commitment, time and energy goes. I’ve seen it, the standard response now for someone who says they’re tired of random pubs seems to be to go straight and join a lower level HL team or try a newbie mix.
But does it matter if smaller Clans and their dedicated servers? Maybe not. Personally though, I think it would be a shame. Clan servers bring a richness and variety to the scene. I play on a number of different ones and each has it’s own ‘personality’ made up from the people that play on them. They provide a sense of ongoing community for those that enjoy that sort of thing and, often as not, also provide accessible good games of higher skill outside the context of competition.
Clans have tried solutions. WDG focusses on getting the server filled on Fridays for our Friday Fragfest. I know one has attempted to sponsor a new HL team. Some have special Server Filler Groups (Hampshire Heavies, Rocketblast for their nocrit server); this seems to work well but I’ve noticed it still doesn’t bring the keen beans onto the forums. Perhaps it would help if there was an official forum or similar where TF2 Clans could recruit/advertise but, strangely, there isn’t, though there is for teams. In the end, it’s all about building community but the challenges of that, I think, is another post.
Well the Round Robin is over and Handbags were flourished with style, if with not total success. In the end, five maps were featured in the tournament; cp_steel, koth_ashville, pl_retawdab, cp_croissant and cp_foundry.
The first three were played in the first round, I’ll give a spoiler here and say we didn’t get to play the last two. We lost cp_Steel which was no great surprise. We hadn’t practiced it much and it’s a map which can be played using many different tactics, as well as being intrinsically confusing with various doors and routes opening up depending on points capped. We talked through a couple of strategies, but our opponents obviously had too, and had already set up counters, so it was hard to work round them on the fly.
We more-or-less rolled the other team on Ashville. We’d practiced this more and koth maps are pretty straightforward anyway. To be honest, the other team wasn’t very good. We’d rather have played against a stronger team since it was our best map and we would’ve liked to have tested ourselves more (though of course it was nice to win). Mid-game they actually asked us if we’d ever played against a worst team. This of course made us feel a bit bad, so we said we’d played against lots (not sure how true this was) and that they were doing fine; which they were as they did manage some time on the point. I’ve been on pubs where one team hasn’t managed any.
Pl_retawdab (mirrored pl_badwater) was a bizarre experience. We’d practiced it once before and found it totally disorientating. Playing it actually gave me a sensation very similar to motion sickness. You’d find yourself running the wrong way, placing your sentry gun in the wrong direction and just generally feeling totally back to front and upside down. In our practice session we’d played against Equipe and won, but things went less well in the official. This time they’d got a very good sniper with them who more-or-less managed to hold us off last on his own. We’d struggled a little to take the first point, but then had managed to steam through the next ones, so it was annoying.
So that was that, one game won, two lost. An improvement on the last Round Robin. Again, it was fun. We enjoyed the tournament and I certainly enjoyed the scrims we managed to set up together. More would have been good, but most of the Handbags were in other HL teams in both ETF2L and UGC, and so various officials with those teams, took them away. However, it looks like we’ve managed to set up a nice network of HL contacts amongst us all which is useful and we’ll be staying in touch. Here’s to the next Round Robin.