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.)
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.
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.
It’s been a while since my last post largely due to the intervention of a significant international event (holiday in Turkey) and much has happened in the world of TF2 and the WDG community. Firstly FNR! has continued destroying Div 5H, a total of four teams have now dropped. FNR! is currently lying third with one game to go, against the team in second place. FNR! will need to win this to be promoted. The last game was a draw; two maps were played, cp_Gullywash and cft_turbine_pro. Yes, a CTF map. And guess which map FNR! lost. Further evidence that the WDG community sucks at CTF maps.
A Hive of Scum and Villainy continues to be rolled but a newbie mix group has now been formed which has given everyone the opportunity to practice with equally bad people even when not all the team is available. I’ve joined in a few mixes and even managed to play Demoman a couple of times, the pressure to play Medic is strong, Medic is a less popular class (scout seems the most). It’s a nice group.
Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty is now signed up ready for Season 3 of ETF2L Highlander…we’re in Div 5 again which makes sense, even though there are no CTF maps, as we never practice. One of the maps is cp_steel, a map I have never played without getting lost.
And finally in December, there is the Season 6 Round Robin one day TF2 Highlander Tournament. This originated on Reddit with the aim to involve players at all levels and all experiences both already in teams and as individuals grouping together, and soon spread beyond. It was suggested on the TF2X sub-reddit, a gathering place of TF2 she-mercs, that it would be fun to form an all-female mix team and so Handbags at Dawn was formed. HaD are an EU team, there is a second NA team. Most of us are already members of clans and teams but have never played in a same-gender team before. It’s unusual to get more than a couple of females together and we want to know what 100% is like, though we have a few he-mercs along too for our delectation and to keep us happy! Anyhow, I’ll be back in my normal Highlander role as Engineer, I think we’ve got the other classes sorted and I think they’re all female.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted so I thought it time to have a leisurely stroll thought the latest TF2 happenings in the WDG community; out of deference to the older members of the Readership, I’ll go no faster.
For No Raisin! are currently (that could be a joke) at the top of Division 5H (but see update). After their first game was a draw, they went on to two victories and one default win; the other team got confused and didn’t turn up.
The first game was against a polish team, NIGDY NIE MIAŁEM LEPSZEGO BRZUCHA. This team had already won their first match and were heading the Division. I’m very sorry to report that NNMLB did not behave well. They claimed that they would beat FNR! 5-0 (providing no evidence). They changed their names to pastiches of FNR! members in mockery and, most distastefully, they used a highly offensive racial term against one of the FNR! Soldiers (a reportable offence).
This was a match FNR! had to win.
Psychology played a part here. At the start FNR! could have risen (or rather lowered themselves) to the taunts of NNMLB and emotions become involved; hot tempers = poor play. Instead they worked to remain calm and focussed on the game. The first map was Gullywash. NNMLB played well but FNR! had the edge and won 3-0. I think this rattled NNMLB. Their previous match had probably been easy, they felt untouchable, already Kings of the Division, now they’d met a reasonable oppostion.
The next map was Granary and you could see the style of play change. At first it was less focussed but then they increased their aggression and took two rounds from FNR! Again psychology was important. FNR! became a little too relaxed as NNMLB organisation went initially and didn’t respond quickly enough when they suddenly switched. FNR! then , re-focussed and stepped up to meet NNMLB who then promptly seemed to fall apart, I’d guess their comms were chaos.
At the end, most of the team ragequit the server.
The following day, one of the members left the team, two weeks later a second went. It now looks highly likely the team will fold. If it does, this will void the victory and FNR! will lose their points.
The second game was against vier//green. This was an easy victory. A couple of days later, the team folded. The latest match was facing trauma, who didn’t turn up. So far they’re still together (but see update). The next match scheduled is against MPGaming. By all accounts these are one of the strongest teams in the Division so the match will be tough.
Apart from all this, a Hive of Scum and Villainy is continuing to get rolled in every game though we’re starting to get pretty good at holding last and a few times have managed to hold middle. There is still much we have to work on as a team (comms and positioning) and for myself, individually. It has been hard to get everyone together for practice and we’ve had to rely on backups. We’ve tried to vary them so we don’t wear them out with our ineptitude.
Finally a bit of Highlander action. Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty entered the ETF2L Highlander Experimental Cup #3, a one-night cup playing maps new to the League. Our first game was on a CTF (capture the flag) map. We had to capture the intelligence and bring it to a central point. We were rolled; observers on the stream said communication was almost non-existent and we failed to tactically respond when the other team were obviously drawing ahead. I remember we lost badly on the last CTF map we played. I can only conclude that we suck at CTF.
Update: trauma have now folded as well, voiding the default victory and losing FNR! their points, I’m seeing a theme here. FNR! are now 2nd in Div 5H but have a game in hand over the MPGaming who are now first.
FNR! had their first game last night and got off to a pretty solid start, losing 3-5 on Badlands but winning 6-3 on Gullywash, overall achieving a Draw. Their opponents were Team Euphoria who used some interesting tactics, using two pyros at one stage on Gullywash and not just on last, normally you only see one pyro defending the last point by airblasting ubers away. Watching, it seemed the initial effectiveness of the pyros was largely due to the element of surprise, but once that was gone, the soldiers and scouts seemed to take them out relatively easily without them bringing much to what was going on.
The other piece of 6v6 news from the WDG community, is the birth of a Hive of Scum and Villainy. Yes, at long last, I have a 6v6 team! I’m not sure if we’ll be keeping the name, for some reason it kept going round in my head everytime I thought of us, so I decided to go with it for the time being.
Anyhow, we’ve played a few games now and done badly but spirits remain high. We’ve played a few games this week, the first via tf2lobby and after various confusions involving map names and server configurations, got a game together on cp_gullywash which we lost but not before we managed to capture a couple of points and even drive our opposition to last once. In the excitement of it all, I had a bit of a positional awareness situation at the start (I fell off mid) but by the end had managed to rally myself and manage some nice sticky traps.
For the next games, we had a couple of FNR! with us. We were playing a Div 6 teams so you could argue that this was unfair and that they’d carry us, but as one of us remarked, currently we’re so bad we’re beyond carrying so it didn’t really matter. We had varying success, in one game winning a round, but going to pieces in others; looking at you Badlands. It was useful having FNR! with us as they gave us tips as we played and much feedback afterwards. Much.
It’s still about teamwork, communication and positioning, and getting out of those bad pub playing habits. Our soldier found himself bombing our opponents when he had 2 hps; doesn’t matter in pub, does in 6v6, I found myself isolated but carried on merrily spamming choke instead of retreating, doesn’t matter in pub, does in 6v6. It’s very different.
But we all feel that together, in our raw unformed state, we’ve something to work with and we’re having fun, so it’s all good.
(as an aside, while I was reading up on stuff about playing 6v6, I found a post in the ETF2L forum on team cohesion. Copied from NATF2 forum and written by one hooli, it states, and at this point the younger and/or more fragile of the Readership may consider looking away:
You have to understand balance and how it plays it’s part in TF2. You have yin; the soft, passive, feminine and supporting principle of the universe. Much like the nourishing and life giving breasts of a women(that is why females are physiologically inclined to play medic). And then you have yang, the hard, aggressive, masculine and offensive principle of the universe. Much like my p_s.
The full text can be found here http://natf2.com/topics/7091-hooli-s-team-cohesion-guide
To be fair though, he does make some good points.
It’s been all go in the WDG community this week on the 6v6 front. For No Raisin!, previously of Highlander fame, now has a 6v6 squad; also known as For No Raisin!
On Thursday, ETF2L held a One Night Cup on cp_Process, a new map for ETF2L Season 13 6v6 competition, partly for fun and partly to give teams the opportunity to practice on the map before the Season begins. FNR! entered, placing themselves in the Lowest Bracket and came first, winning a little gold cup icon.
An inside source for FNR! informed Berath’s Brain Burps that possibly FNR! could have been placed in the next highest bracket, but he felt, being a new and untried team, it was best to not too attempt too much, too soon. Indeed the team had much individual skill and past experience of 6v6, but working together, pulling it out of the bag in competition was no certainty. However, the inside source then went on to say, that he’d be looking for FNR! to be playing S13 in Div 5.
Berath’s Brain Burps then took the opportunity to ask the inside source for their thoughts on WDG community Highlander team; will it be entering Season 3 of the ETF2L Highlander Community Challenge? The inside source said he thought it probably would as people seemed to enjoy it. Whether this woud be as FNR!, KCaLTL (Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty) or under a third new name is not certain.
And what about the newbie WDG community 6v6 team? Five players have now been assembled so progress has been made.
Update: Indeed, ETF2L have just released the provisional divisions for S13 and FNR! are in Division 5
Oh well, i46 is now over and done with and it’s now LAN Death time as we return to our normal lives.
It was good and in the same way I did for i43, I’ll go through it bit by bit. First:
Same as last year, little change, still Telford International Centre. Multiplay had arranged the Halls so that players of the same game could sit together. Hall 3 was the TF2 hall. It had it’s own bar, no idea why, next door to the VanillaTV casting area, no idea why. The main stage was in the same hall as the exhibitors. They’d increased the seating area from last year, introducing tiered seating at the back. With 400+ openly self-admitting TF2 players attending and a TF2 final, this was sensible.
Multiplay had arranged it so food (including a cooked breakfast), drink (including beer) and pc components could be delivered to your desk, while you gamed, ordered and paid on-line. You only needed to leave to sleep and go to the toilet. Rumour has it that Multiplay are working on that for i49 next summer.
I hotelled it again. Due to my advanced age, the hotel very kindly put me in a room with emergency pull cords by the bed and in the bathroom and a seat in the walk-in shower. There was also a grip rail by the toilet. It could’ve have also been, of course, that the hotel had assumed that I might get very drunk.
As well as the main halls, Multiplayer also provided a number of clanboxes that groups could book. UKCS (their site is affilliated to Berath’s Brain Burps) booked one of these and managed to fill it with 64 people including me; the WDG community didn’t attend though two dropped by on Sunday. In the end two adjacent clanboxes were opened up together. And what a fine and well-met collection of people they were….too many to name; intellectual giants as well because UKCS won the
The Pub Quiz was held on Saturday evening, and yes, UKCS came first winning £300ish which was spent on a large keg of Hobgoblin, a load of cans of cider and pizza. The team wasn’t strictly UKCS. Halfway through some of Kritzkast appeared replacing various UKCSers who’d left and we were reinforced by representatives from the reloaded clan, but we still counted as UKCS, mostly because Xerxes, the UKCS Vice President, was there and he was wearing a white suit.
This was why Xerxes was wearing a white suit and why Berath was wearing a long mauve ballgown. i45 had brought in Classy Saturday, an excuse for everyone to dress up. Many did. It was repeated for i46. It gave my ballgown the second outing that it’d ever had, the first being a Murder Mystery Party about 6 or 7 years ago.
Last year I went on a Spectator ticket, this year I went on a BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) i.e. took computer ready to game. There was much gaming. Borderlands 2 and X-COM: Enemy Unknown were showcased, Borderlands 2 in particular got a good reception, and there was a tournament featuring the new game, Shootmania, which is still in beta. Shootmania has been billed as the next great e-sport and it’s really being pushed that way. It looked entertaining enough when we watched the final before the TF2 final, but much will hang on whether it can build a popular following once released, courting pro-players isn’t enough. For the first time at an iseries, Fighting games had a significant presence and a sponsor. I caught up on a bit of LoTRO, played The Secret World and of course some TF2; well actually quite a lot of TF2. Which brings me on to:
As said, much TF2 was played. We entered the Highlander Competition as Cats Don’t Eat Haggis and were rolled, playing teams way better than us, one comprising players from 9men, the other players from idk ( maps were pl_badwater and koth_viaduct; we stood on the point twice). A second UKCS team also entered, Don’t Put Me On the Spot. They were rolled too.
However, possibly of more significance, the TF2 community had managed, through a mix of fundraising and very generous donations/lending of money (thanks be to Salamancer), to fly two US teams over from the States to take part in the 6v6 TF2 Tournament. Altogether $20000 had been raised. The two teams that made it, after a series of knockout games, were Classic Mixup and Leviathan Gaming.
And, unfortunately, they rolled the EU in every game. The question had been, who was best, EU or NA, all pings being equal; the answer was now obvious. The final was all-American (though there had been a tantalising possibility during cp_snakewater in the Epsilon vs LG lower bracket final game, that Epsilon may have made it through for Europe).
To be honest though, if one of the EU teams had got there and even more so, if one had won, I’m not sure that 1)it would have been deserved and 2) if it would have been good for EU TF2 in the long run.
Straight off, the US teams had practised, practised, practised, they’d watched VODs, they’d studied their opposition. They were seriously ‘in it to win it’, only natural really considering $20000 had been raised to send them. They were focused. This was not the case with the top EU teams. I think there was a certain amount of complacency here. At the top, there has been little new blood or new ideas, teams play each other over and over again, it feels as if there is a general lack of motivation or incentive.
The US teams entering this, were basically like a dirty great boulder crashing into a stagnant pond. Splash!
Not only had they practiced hard, they played differently; even as a no-name scrub I could tell. They took more risks and played faster, they off-classed more and in unexpected places; they adapted and tried to catch opponents out rather than waiting for them to make mistakes.
They provided a fast-paced, exciting final with interesting tactics and plenty of close plays. It was BO3 and went to the third map, with Classic Mixup finally clinching the win. In the main, the crowd was behind LG, the relative underdog of the two teams. As has now come to be expected of the average TF2 audience, it was loud and excitable with hats in evidence.
Anyhow, post-i46, much thinking is being thunk. It’s clear some people are going to leave Prem, teams are going to fold and line-ups change; playstyles, rules and tactics will be reviewed and further ways of encouraging and developing new talent and teams discussed. Prize money has already been put up for 6v6 S13 to provide an incentive, along with rule changes aiming to improve professionalism (these were being considered anyway).
So, we shall see what we shall see.
The TF2 Community
What can I say? Below, the, by now, mandatory “TF2 Community photograph with only about half the people in it because the rest didn’t know it was taking place”.
On Thursday I’m off to i46; Insomnia 46 billed as the UK’s biggest gaming festival. Last year I went to i43 and it was a blast. I won’t be going with WDG as none of them are going this year, instead I’ll be with the UKCS community in their clanbox; 64 of us altogether. There is going to be a Fun Highlander Cup and Cats Don’t Eat Haggis are looking to enter; I’ll be wielding my trusty Engie wrench.
So far over 400 TF2 devotees are booked, the TF2 final is going to be deafening. The community has managed to fundraise to get two top teams from the US over, so we’re looking forward to some epic US vs EU games; who’ll come up top; we’ll see!
Some of the mainland European UKCSers have already set off, they’ve planes to catch. Excitement is mounting and hype is building. Berath’s Brain Burps will be providing a full report on return.
Things are going well as I learn to play 6v6, though currently we’re all on a bit of a losing streak (we’ve lost every game so far). I’m one of a group of players all new to 6v6, mainly from the UKCS community with a sprinkling of newbies from WDG such as myself. Pledge is our guide and mentor. The main idea is to arrange newbie mixes with new players on both sides but it’s been difficult to get 12 people together so we’ve been going up against Div 6 teams. And losing; hence the the title.
It’s not really raw skill that is letting us down. As I’ve said before, the skill of our opponents isn’t much different from the skill level I meet on the WDG server for instance when all our regs and members are playing. What makes the difference is speed, gamesense and teamwork and that’s becoming clearer and clearer. Putting Pledge’s quote in context, he also said that this was exactly what he expected. There is a significant skill leap from pub to 6v6. In pub it doesn’t really matter how long you take to get to mid, if you run out of ammo there is usually an Engineer’s dispenser you can rely on, as a Demoman if you die because you’re out of position it makes no overall difference as there may be two other Demomen on the team and you’ve got ten other people on your team still up. In 6v6 all this does matter. Suddenly the fact that you hit a wall on your rollout or mistimed a jump becomes crucial, a death due to being out of position could cause a wipe, you’re last to mid; it’s already stickied and the enemy have established position, you’ve lost the point and they’ve the advantage.
And of course the teamwork which is neglible in pub becomes vital. Scouts protect the Demoman from enemy scouts plus the enemy roaming soldier, make vital enemy picks and finish off opponents damaged by the Demoman, the Demoman dishes out damage and deals with area control, the roaming soldier bombs and takes out the enemy medic and Demoman, the pocket soldier protects the medic and together as a combo they lead pushes. For it all to work, everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing and where everyone else is; teamwork and communication.
That is the tough part. We’re going up against teams which even though they’re in Div 6, have got this at at least a basic level. At the moment, we haven’t, so however good our individual skill levels may be, we loose. And I’m fine about this.It’s what I expected too, so I’m happy to carry on and get there.
In my last post, I mentioned that UKCS were holding 6v6 mixes for players new to the format, led by Pledge from VanillaTF2. So far I’d missed every one. Well, last Saturday I finally managed to be on-line at the right time and, at last, I had a go at playing 6v6.
I played Demoman of course. The first map we played was cp_gullywash, a map I like and know reasonably well. The second was cp_snakewater, a map that I haven’t played as much, and for some incomprehensible reason had got confused with cp_indulge, another map I haven’t played much but remembered better and had enjoyed playing. This meant I kept expecting things that weren’t there because I was on different map and getting all disorientated. So pro.
Cp_gullywash proved reasonably successful. To my surprise I didn’t find the basic skill level much higher than I was used to (I often play on higher skilled servers), though much work on rollouts is required. What I really noticed was the added teamwork and communication, and how it needed to be got right. In 6v6, the Demoman is the main damage dealer. I’ve always known that I play quite a defensive Demoman, not too bad at area control and trapping using stickies, but not so good at pushing and damage output. I’ve found it hard to focus on this in public play since, in order to play more agressively unless you have good aim and gamesense, it helps if you have medic back-up to keep you healed as you push and some support and for this, communication helps.
So, I found myself starting to push but then holding back, expecting to be low on health. I wasn’t used to having a medic healing me. I remember tanking in LoTRO, I’d often have a minstrel (healer) focussing on me. I learnt how much damage I could take and how far I could go, I need to get a feel for this as a Demoman. I wasn’t used to working with people either; having scouts there to support me and co-ordinating with the soldiers, so I kept playing as if it was just me. However, I could really see how 6v6 worked and I enjoyed it.
Cp_snakewater was a bit of a disaster. As I said, right from the off I was confused, and then I just kept getting lost. I was told that I needed to be more aggressive pushing last; true since at that time I was still trying to find my way past mid. Oh well.
And then, later in the week, came another opportunity, this time with the WDG community. There were four of us newbies plus two of the experienced 6v6 players. We played cp_gullywash again, but this time it was less successful. I felt that co-ordination was where we fell down, Dodgy and Leftism did their best but it must have been like herding cats. Learning how to work in a team after such a long time mainly solo playing on pub servers is different but it’s fun.
All in all so far, I think Highlander is a less frustrating pub (no teams comprising three snipers, 3 engies, four pyros and no medic) and 6v6 seems like TF2, the concentrated version. Both make playing your chosen class more fun, though it’s also true that I’ve experienced this on pub servers with well-balanced, equally skilled teams, but games like that are hard to find.