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.
Can you be a member of too many Highlander teams? Berath’s Brain Burps thinks no you cannot and to prove the point is now a member of a fourth Highlander team (or fifth if you count the mercing for Cats Don’t Eat Haggis). This team is perhaps the largest Highlander team in the world and goes under the rather puzzling name of Swarthy Spanish Sean Connery As far as I understand it, I’m back-up back-up engineer so I’m not expecting the demands made upon me to be great.
The first match has already been played (on Lakeside) and won. I was out at the time. The next map is cp_croissant.
All this is happening in the UGC League. The UGC (United Gaming Clans) League is another TF2 League like ETF2L. It has a Highlander League and a 6v6 League and separate divisions for NA teams, EU teams, South American teams, Asian teams and Aus/NZ teams. Swarthy Spanish Sean Connery (team tag mish) is sitting in the lowest EU division, Euro Steel, which makes sense as many of the members are first-time Highlander players.
In other TF2 news, FNR! has started the new ETF2L Season 14 with a loss. FNR! has been seeded in Division 4B; that’s getting to the position where the majority of your opponents know exactly what they’re doing and have practiced. And I’m afraid it’s the not practicing that let FNR! down. For various reasons, the team had had little opportunity to play any scrims or pcws the previous week or so and it showed. The team didn’t seem to gel, particularly on Gullywash, a map that previously hadn’t been a problem (the first map was Badlands), and their opponents consistently got the better of them, mainly the scouts. Practice has taken place for the next game, so hopefully the team will be back on track. Individually skillwise, they’re already there. So anyway, it’s all eyes on tomorrow’s match.
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
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
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.
I’ve mentioned 6v6 play in Team Fortress 2 before. This is the format most commonly used in competitive play (Highlander comes second). A 6-player team comprises a Medic, a Demoman, 2 Soldiers and 2 Scouts, with other classes used as required during play.
Currently there is a debate going on on the ETF2L forum about a perceived decrease in the popularity of 6v6 play. They’re wondering how to attract pub players to the format and to competitive 6v6 TF2.
Well I don’t play though seasoned readers will know that I’ve wanted to try 6v6 play for a while now. What’s the problem?
Is it unlocks? Valve are constantly releasing new weapons; unlocks. In the EU most are banned. The US allows more and 6v6 is seen as being more popular there; is that because of the unlocks? Highlander is seen as being increasingly played and that allows unlocks. Well it could be for some, but I play Demoman and I use the basic loadout, unlocks don’t matter.
Is is the classes? As said 6v6 is normally demo/scout/soldier/medic plus off-classing. This doesn’t favour those who main the other classes. Again, this could account for the popularity of Highlander; but I main Demoman.
What about skill and knowledge required? 6v6 play is perceived as being high-skill. It’s not the same as pub. Players need to know how to sticky jump and rocket jump, they need to know various map strategies, learn rollouts and have a clear understanding of class roles. I’ve had some mentoring and watched casts etc. but theory is very different from practice and practice is hard to find for a Demoman; there’s only one of him and he plays a crucial role. This is daunting.
What about finding people to play with? A 6-player team needs 6 players. Bingo, that’s my biggest problem, and I don’t think I’m the only one judging from what I hear from others. Finding people and starting is tough.
Forming a team is not just a matter of throwing 6 people together. Teamplay is crucial in TF2 6v6 and the goal is to find a team with compatible members, similar experience and with a good dynamic. A beginner team would learn the game together.
I’m working on this, but since my clan/community only play on our server on Fridays these days, there’s not a lot of opportunity to build a pool of possible 6v6 recruits from there. Often a team forms from a group of people who regularly play together on a pub server, get on with each other and then decide to try 6v6. Others have expressed interest, but it’s difficult getting everyone together.
There is also a Newbie mix group for new players which is a suggested recruiting ground, but I don’t feel confident enough to try it on my own as a first time 6v6er. And I feel uncomfortable being female. There are relatively few females playing TF2 so when one appears, it’s noted. I’d stand out however much I tried to be just another player as soon as I used the mic. When I’d inevitably crash and burn, I wouldn’t just be a bad player, I’d be a bad female player which would sort of make it worse bearing in mind the stuff that’s said about female gamers.
There are other possibilities. UKCS have held some mixes all of which I missed but there may be more. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of carrying on. I could decide to give up, 6v6 play is only one part of TF2, but the ‘team’ part attracts me and makes me want to at least try it. That’s what I enjoyed about Raiding in LoTRO; working as a team to get through demanding content or just playing, and the great feeling when everything came together. For me that’s one thing that makes gaming.
(And, there is always Highlander)