Category Archives: first person shooter

TF2 catch-up

So what’s happening in TF2?

Earlier this year, Valve changed the Quickplay system. Before, a player would be given an option to ‘Start playing’ (Quickplay) after logging in. They would automatically be sent to a random server with, theoretically, a standard configuration. However, the ‘theoretically’ part showed the problem. Many of these servers were, in fact, commercially run and had game-changing modifications for subscribers ranging from extra ammo to invulnerability  and the ability to fly.

This was generally considered bad.

Valve decided to change this. They made it so Quickplay automatically sent players to offical Valve servers only. There was an option to select community servers (again with a standard configuration) but this was off by default. It soon became apparent that most players didn’t bother to select. Community servers found their Quickplay traffic dropping (you can get plugins that indicate the method a player has connected to a server).

I’ve seen it myself. Many of the servers I play on are far emptier, some rarely fill up at all now.

So what did this mean for Who Dare Grins? We always relied a bit on Quickplay traffic to keep us ticking over during a session. Now, we could stay in Quickplay, but we’d need to remove our Class Restrictions (avoiding no-fun teams of 7 snipers and 4 spies) and wouldn’t be able to run custom maps (once we got round to installing them) neither of which were included in the standard configuration. We decided to leave Quickplay and rely on our community and use of the original TF2 server browser, a clunky thing but which gave more search options. The overall reduction in Quickplay traffic to Community servers would mean we wouldn’t loose much.

This meant that community building for the server has become even more important. As part of this, I do a lot of posting on forums, advertising the server, usually in response to requests for server recommendations. After every session, players who seem likeable are invited into our Steam Community Group. On the server we try to be as welcoming as possible. Gradually we’re building up.

Our two TF2 nights are going well. The server fills up from about 8ish for a couple of hours, sometimes longer. We’ve a good selection of regulars. We get a sprinkling of newcomers too. Some of them even come back a second time; a positive vote there for the server, I think.

Outside this, Comp is quiet. There are a few people involved in various teams that are about. I was asked to be Demoman in one which was nice but I had to say no. I still think being involved in comp is incompatible with running a Community and a community server. We have three community nights now (the TF2 evenings and a general gaming one) and I like to be around as one of the Clan Leaders and Server Admins. It’s also good to have tagged players on the server, helping to mark it out as a community server and not just a collection of randoms to a new player.

Finally, we’re preparing for i52 in August. It’s a new venue at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. There are issues regarding accommodation; most is not on-site and requires transport. However the venue is said to be superior to Telford. To be honest, I’d rather have a handy hotel room but we’ll see if they’ll put on a shuttle bus which they did for the Spring LAN. Again TF2 will have NA and Australian teams there; again the community has been fundraising to help get them there.

TF2 WDG Comp news: lukewarm off the presses!

I thought I’d just give a bit of an update here.

So far She’s ‘effing Grey! (quote: “See? Violence. You’ll get the hang of it.” – Chiana; Farscape; official muse) have played 3 matches in ETF2L S17 with 3 matches to go.

There has been one loss overall loss (loosing to a golden cap on granary), one default win (opponents’ server was incorrectly set-up plus some pre-match flaming) and one draw. This is all very good news because it means that the team won’t finish bottom of their table (6C). Feedback from the players has informed Berath’s Brain Burps, that progress has been slow but progress is taking place as the team learns to work with one another and gets the hang of 6v6 play. Starting 6v6 can be daunting and some tenacity is required to get through the early setbacks and losses, though having an experienced mentor as part of the team helps; She’s ‘effing Grey!  has this. Our first team Hive of Scum and Villainy never did, though we had support, and so, like many new 6v6 teams, just petered out. Anyway, it’s to be hoped that She’s ‘effing Grey! continues to be a thing and gets to the end of the Season.

It also looks as if FNR! might be stirring. Practice matches have been played and a special place made in the forum for FNR! members. An eye on, will be kept.

Final update at end of season: SFG romped home and achieved 4th place in their division with two default wins overall, one draw and two losses (but only one of those resulted in 0 points).

 

TF2 End of Season; Final Season

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!

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.

Quickplay

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 disappear? 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.

sad0573fc2

Lurve Clans pleeeeze

Handbags are bashed but fun was had

Goodness me, I can’t believe how long ago the last post was written. So much has happened!

Well actually that’s not true. Not much has happened at all. Handbags at Dawn entered the Round Robin and didn’t get past the first round. In fact we didn’t win a match though I think we won a couple of rounds in the KOTH viaduct_pro match. It was as expected really. We had some good players in Handbags but as I said after the Show-match, we weren’t winnning conclusively and reliably enough against the teams we were facing. I’m not sure what we needed, certainly more practice together and it didn’t help that in the European Round Robin they changed the maps from Viaduct and Barnblitz which we’d practiced for the showmatch to Viaduct_pro and Barnblitz_pro which we hadn’t practiced at all.

However it was fun and such a strange experience playing in an all-female team with only female voices on Mumble. This was commented on by at least a couple of women, it felt so odd when you’re used to every other voice being male and you being often so much in the minority.

After it all, we didn’t disband the team. People enjoyed playing together and we’ve said that we’ll look to H@D entering similar tournaments in the future. We’ve certainly increased the number of women we each have on our Steam friends lists and I’ve a few more Highlander players that I can call upon should KCaLtL need any mercs if we enter the next ETF2L Highlander season.

Highlander ends with a squib (a damp one) and a Handbag

The final match in S3 of Highlander ended with a default win. Oh well. We’d all gathered ourselves together on a Saturday evening, prepared to do battle and nothing happened, the other team (Brotherhood) didn’t show. Well actually none of that’s quite accurate. We didn’t ‘all’ gather together, only 8 of us did.  There was some frantic last minute trawling of Steam friends lists to fill that last spot and fortunately we managed to come up with a Handbag who stood in as our Heavy (thanks dok). And the other team did show up, sort of. Their leader arrived, 30 minutes late, apologised and officially defaulted the match; all very civilised.

The end result it Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty are now top of the Division, but the other two main teams have matches in hand that’s not going to last forever. I read the rules and I think after a team has two default losses, it has to drop out. This was Brotherhood’s second so they may be disappearing. This will change the results of all the top three teams, I’m not sure how as I haven’t thought about it much beyond that. I suspect we will finish third.

Handbags at Dawn has continued to practice. We’ve been doing better in our lobbies and this evening we won our first matches against another Highlander team which was a bit of a confidence booster as our Reddit Round Robin showmatch with the NA Ladies is on Saturday. There are still hopes that it will be cast live, otherwise it’ll be the stv demo. Our main caster, Kip, is keen. I’m not thinking about it as I’m not too sure about being live-cast with lots of people watching us. My only hope is that ‘lots’ really means ‘a few’…a handful of fond and incomprehending mothers and loyal boyfriends/partners perhaps. There has been very little publicity so fingers crossed.

Finally I’ve been playing Demo in some of fraac’s mixes in his new/low 6v6 mix group. It’s been fun. I’m amazed that people not only remember me when I log on but actually ask and expect me to play Demoman. It’s shows that my play doesn’t ruin their games! It’s also interesting how playing 6v6 has changed how I play on pub servers. I’ve started to time pushes and note when we’ve a numbers advantage. When I play Medic I look for pockets; usually only temporary ones as it is pub after all. Going on from this I now find I have an even stronger preference for servers where comp players play, not because they are more skilled but because amongst them you’re more likely to find a Demoman, Soldier or Heavy who knows what’s going on when he finds a Medic trailing behind him and will wait for uber to build before pushes.

It doesn’t happen that often (especially without mics) but when it does, and I’m the Medic or the Demo, it’s good. You feel in control of your game.

(Update: forgot to mention, on pl_upward we ended up winning one round, losing two, picking up 2 points to the other team’s 4.)

TF2; Handbags are flourished, Hive hibernates and no-one listens to Lefty

So what’s been going on in the world of TF2 and WDG lately?

Well FNR! had their final 6v6 game in ETF2L, coming 3rd overall and outside the promotion spots. Not bad, but frustrating considering that FNR! lost points gained from two wins due to teams dropping after the matches, a third win was a default win; that team dropped too. This meant that overall, FNR! had 2 draws and 1 loss, none of their wins counting. I’m not sure what can be done about teams dropping. It distorts results; conceivably at least one of the teams that FNR! defeated could have won against one of the higher placed teams, and just messes people around. Four teams eventually didn’t make it through in div 5H and most other divisions lost at least one.

Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty took to the field again in  Highlander S3 and so far we’ve lost one game on pl_Badwater (I didn’t play in that) and won the one on cp_Steel which surprised me. I did get lost but managed to turn my losing direction into unexpected flanking manoeuvres. Apart from that I just focussed on each point as we moved up, using regular sentry guns on both attack and defense. I decided doing any fancy teleport placements was probably a bit risky and asking for confusion. Our next game is on pl_Upward. We were steamrolled last time we played this.

Handbags at Dawn, with a full female roster now, have had two lobbying sessions; we need to get better. It’s the usual thing, working out our comms and timing pushes. The first week we played, the opposing team filled up with players who seemed to know various members. Some seemed to take a particular delight in the concept of playing and beating us. ‘Prepare for the rape, I have condoms’ as one said. Hey ho. Anyway, the plan is to organise a Show-match with our North American equivalents before the tournament itself. This should be fun and be yet another chance for the EU to redeem ourselves after i46 and prove ourselves to the US! I don’t think the game will be cast live, but we’re looking to get Kip, a female US  eXtv caster (the only one) and either Dolphin, an up and coming US female caster or CSaur, one of our EU team members to to do it.

Handbags at Dawn (skins by chemicalalia, I think)

A Hive of Scum and Villainy have lost a member, one of our keenest who started the newbie mix group, he’s since joined another team formed from some of the regulars there. This has been rather a final blow for the newly formed team. It was already proving difficult to get people together to play matches, we were only managing once a week if that and, to improve, a team of our skill level really needed to play far more often. However it is possible that we’ll be able to pick up more members, we’d be looking at two for each class and in the meantime the ones that want to, will carry on playing in the mix group. There are several mixes every evening. I’ve been playing Demo more in these. I’m still very bad but getting less bad I think, certainly on maps I’m more familiar with; cp_gullywash, cp_process and cp_snakewater now. Certainly, when there’s been opportunity for me to play medic I’ve been kept on Demoman which shows touching faith from the other mixers.

Team Fortress 2; busy busy, the pyro update and what has Valve been smoking?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Team Fortress 2 community.

First we had the long awaited Meet the Pyro video last Friday. Valve has made one of these for each of the TF2 classes, Meet the Pyro was the last one. Here it is.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Along with the video, Valve gave us other good things. We received new weapons and items to be found as drops, bought or crafted, and updates to ones we have already. Teddy Roosebelt can now apparently get assist kills, though I haven’t seen this yet. The Demoman now has a parrot which can get assist kills too. The Quickfix Medic gun now allows the Medic to fly through the air with his patient, as his patient rocket or sticky jumps. And we’ve been given in-game pyro goggles which allow us to see the world as the Pyro sees it; a beautiful place, people explode into balloons and glitter. It’s Berath vision (my clan said that).

Badlands

Badlands Happy Place

I think it’s all lovely and it makes me happy. I’d like to wear them and for everything to be like that all of the time. And in the game too.

Valve also brought out a new game mode/map, Doomsday; Special Delivery mode . Here, both teams race to capture a case of Australium,  a highly valuable metal element discovered in Australia and likely why Australia is so technologically advanced. Apparently the United States once had a supply of Australium. They invested it all in an attempt to launch monkeynaut, Poopy Joe, into space. Following the ensuing tragic failure, all the Australium went missing and, according to records, has not been found since.

In this re-enactment, the Australium is to be delivered to Poopy Joe so he can rocket into space. The team with the Australium needs to stand on a launch platform as it rises to the top of a rocket, where it is inserted into the tip.

It’s a fun map, but one that very easily becomes a spamfest and too chaotic with a lot of players, it’s not a big map.  I’d like to see it played 6v6, or more likely in Highlander, where it might work better.

Tragic Poopy Joe

And then, outside all this, we have the build-up to the Multiplayer i46 LAN Party. Currently it looks as if it’ll have the biggest TF2 attendance, ever; not sure if this is ever ever, or just ever UK, but anyhow I think we’ll get around 400 TF2ers. As rumoured before, there is now definately, a community funding drive to get two US teams to the LAN.  $20000 is the goal, which is a bit of a reach, but we’ve been told that there are already the resources  to get one team there.

ETF2L are also running a Highlander Nations Cup. They’ve managed to gather 30 teams from 30 countries, the first match between Turkey and France was on Monday.  The teams comprise mixes of both regular 6v6 and regular Highlander players. It’ll be interesting to see how the games play ou with this, since each format plays differently due to the team composition and unlocks, and favours different maps.

On the 6v6 front we’ve had a number of finals including the S12 ETF2L playoffs. However, most seem to have involved Infused and Epsilon playing each other. A bit of a shake-up is needed here I think, however there have been various changes in line-up to keep the community amused. A 6v6 Nations Cup is looming and is now accepting sign-ups but may lack the entertainment value of renown 6v6 players having a go at Engineer or Heavy in a Highlander match.

On a personal, Berath note, I’ve started a Highlander mix group; The Mixter-Maxter Highlander Group. Anyone from the Readership is free to join, though you’ll make best use of the group if you have TF2 installed and play it. I hope it will make games of Highlander easier, I hope members will take advantage of it and use it.

And finally, FNR! have scheduled the last matches in the Wireplay 9v9 League

8th July   FNR! vs One Round Wonders

12th July FNR! vs Uberium The Third

15th July  FNR! vs Team Awesome!

Good luck to all but mostly to us.

TF2 Wireplay Highlander: FNR! latest result

For No Raisin! had our third Team Fortress 2 Highlander match last night, playing DoublePlusGood on Upward, a pushing the little cart map (payload map). We were destroyed last time last time we played it, in the ETF2L Community Challenge so I wondered how we would do this time around.

It was all very exciting. We had a last minute drop-out when our pyro discovered a storm was heading his way in Germany so he had to switch off all the electricity in his house. We managed to get a replacement, leaving him presumably sitting in a darkened house, sans internet sans computer, in his insulated Safe Room eating cold plain sauerkraut, and got on with the game.

And, the result: Victory!!!!

We won.

Well played all round.  I’m still not sure, however, about the way the Wrangled sentry gun is sometimes  regarded as the ultimate Engy weapon at all times. It does have it’s place both for normal and mini-sentries as I’ve found, but particularly against organised teams who know how to deal with one, it’s not perfect. I’d like more practice with the Wrangler anyway, but practicing properly as an Engineer on pub servers is almost impossible especially on defence. Half the time, about three people turn Engie, with me making the fourth and it becomes ludicrous. I just can’t do it. I go Demoman.

Update: for those of the Readership concerned over the welfare of our pyro; he has already posted once this morning to the WDG forum so it can be assumed all is now well.

TF2 Highlander For No Raisin! Result Could’ve Been Better

For No Raisin! vs KillSwitch: result a loss. The map was Badwater which we all knew well, but that made no difference. It was one of our less good games; it felt less co-ordinated and at one stage when we were coming under pressure, the comms became noisy with people speaking over each other and it became difficult to hear what was going on. This often seems to occur. However, when you’re playing in a match, there’s not much time to discuss changes in strategy or communicate errors when things are going less well, so everyone tends to pitch in at once when it’s all happening. I imagine it’s yet another thing that comes with experience and practice.

It didn’t help the mood when the other team paused the game twice, without warning though they claimed otherwise, the first time restarting without letting us know. At least two people weren’t ready and it cost us our pyro. And at the start we wanted to use a merc; we had to do quite a bit of class swapping anyway. Initially KillSwitch refused to allow it and we spent a long time debating it, eventually involving Admins. Everything contributed to a slightly stroppy atmosphere all round.

Anyway, I was back to playing Engie. Things went reasonably on Offence though we couldn’t capture the last point. The first round of Defence was alright though I didn’t manage to get a rock solid defence up on the roof above the second point as it took me a while to get enough metal to build up the gun and get all my buildings up. Everytime I went for an metal/ammo pack, it was gone but I eventually managed to grab one and build a dispenser to feed my hungry team.

The second was frustrating. I build up in a particular way if I’m setting up, up top. If it goes well (I don’t fumble at my loadout change), by the end of the start up time, I can get dispenser, teleport and at least a  level 2 sentry gun up; with a couple more hits getting it up to level 3 if I don’t, and be there ready to wrangle.

There are two reachable ammo packs near the build site and I need both; even then I only have seconds to spare . However, this time one of the packs was taken before I could get to it, so by the time the round started the gun was only level 1. This meant a significant part of our defence just didn’t get built and I never managed to re-establish myself properly as KillSwitch rapidly gained the upperhand and then seemed to focus me so I couldn’t get anything done.

After all this, I felt a bit annoyed with myself because Badwater is a map I know and one that I’ve played well on before, but these things happen. I’m not sure what the next match will be, we’ve still got an earlier one to play; pl_upward. We were rolled on that last time.

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