TF2: Is Comp killing Clans?
“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.