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‘These are the worst in comp TF2 and they’re still rolling you!’ (quote: Pledge 17/8/2012)

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.

6v6 play in TF2: success at last, I’ve played a game!

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_indulge (not cp_snakewater)

cp_snakewater (definately not cp_indulge)

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.

TF2 Highlander; we used dragon; Ring of Dead

So, what happened in the Experimental Highlander Cup? Well, one clearcut victory for Cats Don’t Eat Haggis, and one pretty decisive defeat that saw us knocked out.

Our first opponents were the SOVIETS, who turned out to be Spanish, confused and with an apparent Pyro-anxiety. On asking them if they minded us using two mercs (I was one since I’m already signed up with KCaLtL), they declared that they didn’t want two Pyros; we had two Pyros on at the time since it was warm-up. We said that we’d be playing with one only since it was HL and asked again about mercs. They insisted once more that we must not use two Pyros, so we decided that they were probably fine about mercs and left it.

The game itself was fun, played on a King of the Hill map; koth_ashville_rc1. We won all three rounds, one was quite close. SOVIET remained cheerful throughout, so cheerful in fact that they didn’t want to go at the end and wanted to play again; eventually we had to ask the last one to leave the server. They declared it was a good game, but they weren’t surprised by the result since ‘we used dragon. Ring of Dead’. Was this referring to our use of the dreaded Pyro; but then they had one too. We weren’t really sure. Can any Spanish-speaking readers assist here?

The next map was pl_waste_v2, a payload map with a twist; there was only one cart to push, starting at the middle one of five capture points, a sort of tug of war.

We were up against F**king Awesome Generous Scums, who by their name effortlessly and impressively managed to confirm almost every prejudice anyone might have against gamers and the players of first person shooters, though in-game they were perfectly fine. Anyhow, they were obviously an experienced HL team, I confirmed that later. They more-or-less steamrolled us. It didn’t help that two of our players were having connection problems (spy and medic), and we were a hastily assembled team with off-classing players, including myself. And so, after that, we were out, but we had won one game and made it into the Quarter Final so it was a result.

So how did I do as a Demoman? The second map was a disaster I felt. It was a new map, I wasn’t sure how to play it.  They managed to swamp the cart, and I found I wasn’t putting out enough damage  to take them all out via spam or trap; I’m not sure what I was doing wrong there. I was also coming under a lot of pressure from the Spy.

The first map was better. I still had Spy trouble but I managed to work out directions of approach and so be somewhat effective with both grenades and stickies. I’m still not happy with my damage output, but I managed to get a fair number of kills, and assists too.

Overall, the Cup was fun, the opportunity to play Demoman in something other than a pub was great, and in a way confidence-boosting; although I didn’t exactly carry the team, I wasn’t dying all over the place and I got some useful picks and a feel for it (I’m talking the first map here). I’m not sure what other chances I’ll get. For more ‘serious’ HL games, I’m better at Engineer and other players are way better at Demoman though I’d happily play Demoman again in another knockaround cup or a scrim, with players I know so I won’t get raged at as I learn. I don’t know about 6v6, that still seems daunting.

Stop the Presses: Team Fortress 2 Highlander Excitement, chaos imminent!

Tomorrow it’s the Experimental Highlander Cup! “What”, you cry, “I hadn’t noticed”.

“Nor had I, not really”, I reply “Until this evening when I got talked into playing  Demoman for Cats Don’t Eat Haggis.” Huzzah!

The Cup is designed to be played over just the one evening. The final will be on another evening;  but I think for us that’s unimportant.

None of us have played any of the maps before. There is one where both teams push the same cart, and another where teams capture the Intelligence, there is only one, and try and get it into their opponents base. So much room for confusion.

I’ve never played Demoman in any sort of competitive environment. I was called in like a sort of reverse cavalry, if you think of the Calalry as riding in to save the day. I don’t think the team had anyone else available who could play Demo, though ‘can play Demo’ is a relative term where I’m concerned.

But whatever, we shall bravely sally forth and get lost and confused together. That’s being in a team. Here’s to tomorrow!!!!!!


Lazytown; Lazyday, Lazynite: Team Fortress

Think of a map, a 5cp map.

Ensure it consists almost entirely of chokes between each point, ideal for spamming. Now set it to 32-man. Now make it insta-spawn. Make sure crits are allowed.

Congratulations, you may have thought of Lazytown on the GFTO server.

Spamtastic!!!!!!

This map is one of the most chaotic, spam-filled, manic maps out there, I’m sure. Yet I play it all the time. It has a daytime version, Lazyday, and a night time version, Lazynite.

Most of the time I play Demoman. The map is made for Demomen. We can sticky trap the choke points and spam our grenades through them. With an uber we can wipe out an engie nest and with a kritz, well just go for it. It’s a good map for Engineers too, if they’re fine about constant building destruction. Engineers are vital, two is really the bare minimum, unusual – normally two is the maximum that any team needs on a map. But this map is so spammy, dispensers are essential to dispense ammo and due to the instaspawn, teams need to be teleported to the front line at top speed to hold positions. The only class which really has difficulty is the Scout. Flanking opportunites are a problem and they are easily taken out by the large number of sentry guns and spamming Demomen and Soldiers.

The extreme ebb and flow of the game is marked too. I suspect here, that the server I play on benefits from the majority of players having got many hours of TF2 play under their belts, much gained on the Lazytown map. Without the co-ordinated attacks that you can get with experienced players, the map would just end in a defensive stalemate. As it is, one moment you can be about to cap final point, the next a couple of well-timed ubers from the opposition could find you driven back to defend your last. Games can go on for a long time.

I’m not sure if it’s improving my game much. I do think I’m getting better at dodging because of all the flying grenades and rockets. Also at bouncing grenades round corners.  And at timing detonating sticky traps; just as ubers wear off for instance. And at spamming. Always spamming. It’s a map where no-one is annoying because everyone is.

6 vs 6 gameplay in TF2

I’ve written before about pub play compared with comp play. Most comp games are played 6 players vs 6 players (although there are other formats; 2vs2, 9vs9). The main comp classes are Soldier, Medic, Demoman and Scout although other classes will be used as the occasion demands. Most pub games are played either on either 12vs12 or 16vs16 maps.

I’ve never played 6 vs 6. It sounds as if it would be very different in style and pace from the usual pub match. Certainly as a Demoman, my fave class, there seems to be certain things that you must be able to do or know, to be able to play. For starters, you need to be able to do sticky jumping; sticky jumping and knowing exactly what you intend to do as you soar through the air. And then you need to know rollouts. On 5 cp  maps  (capture point), much depends on which team can capture the central point. The team that can get there first has the advantage and often as not, this hinges on the Demoman. Rollouts are the fastest routes to the central point. The Demoman, assisted by sticky jumping, uses map specific Demoman rollouts to get there quickly, and using sticky traps etc, will secure it, alongside the Scouts who are the fastest class and who will have made their own way there. It may be the Scouts who actually capture the point (they capture at double the speed), the Demoman holding defence and dealing out the damage.

Badlands; one of the rarer maps played in 6vs 6 and Comp (this is a lie)

So, in order to play 6 vs 6 I need to learn the rollouts. There is a lot of information out there, many Youtube videos.  But the trick is remembering what you’ve watched on a video when you’re actually in-game. TF2 allows you to create maps off-line which is useful, this means you can practice this sort of thing without the distraction of getting killed or being required to do something; yawn!

There are opportunities for less experienced players. There is a Steam Group that has been set up by various higher level players since TF2 went f2p to help introduce new people, in particular f2p players, to the 6 vs 6 format (6 vs 6 doesn’t have to be competitive as such, it is just a different style of play). One thing I like is about the TF2 community and many of the high level comp players is how much they promote TF2 and encourage and support others to play the game, whether it’s pub f2p players or fellow comp players at lower levels.

Anyhow, when I’ve reached a level of competence and confidence, I may give this group a try.  From what people have said, playing 6 vs 6 as well as being a new (for me) and fun experience, also helps improve play generally which can never be bad.

The Drunken Scotsman: trying to main Demoman

In Team Fortress 2, it looks like I’m maining Demoman (in as much as anyone mains anything in TF2). It’s the class I enjoy most. And I have got better. I’ve now got to the stage where if  I find myself on a server of predominantly f2p players with probably about 20 or so total TF2 hours play between them I can do reasonably well. In other words I have now effectively become good enough to be able to take candy from a baby. Result.

I’ve been practicing my aim on tr_walkway (a training map) and sticky jumping (this is where you explode one of your sticky bombs at your feet and use the explosive impetus to move forward/upwards). My sticky jumping is still random and I’m not very confident doing it. I don’t feel 100% in control, haven’t got the technique quite.

I’ve also carried on trying to develop mindset, as I’ve written earlier. I’ve read various tips and watched videos, and I found one of the most useful ones on a thread on the Steam TF2 forum. Here someone who felt they had plateaued in their development was asking for help. Someone replied with

1)     Every time you die spend your respawn time thinking about why you died and what mistakes you made

2)     Make note of your class weaknesses and play with those in mind, try to say with players who can help you compensate. A Demoman is weakest in close combat. Therefore it makes sense to stay close to classes who are better here. I sometimes now focus on making myself hold myself back, in line with a Pyro or a Soldier (who can also protect against scouts). In return as Pyro I keep an eye out for my Demomen allies.

Dead....again

3)     Think, think, think about what is going on, where you are and what everyone else is doing, don’t be rushed, don’t rush in. I suppose this counts as developing gamesense. As Demoman, this means I’ve been looking for choke points, trying to spot where opponents might come from, thinking about tricky sticky trap placement. And sticky placement to help the team as well, to protect the medic, to protect the advancing frontline (grenades help here too) and to defend it.

All this can be seen as pretty basic, but it’s the kind of stuff that can suddenly ‘click’  and make you go, ‘Oh yeah, duh.’ Things that you pick up in bits while you’re playing but don’t quite put together as a proper game plan and focus on.

I know that I’m still a fairly conservative and defensive player, I can’t dodge for toffee, my aim is dire and I die too much. I spend most of my time cheerfully at the bottom of the points table on my regular servers. But it’s all a start and it keeps me busy.

Zen and the art of the Demoman

This week I’ve been mostly playing Demoman in TF2.

It can be a bit of an effort.  After a while of playing Pyro, playing Demoman needs a change of approach, a change of style. I need to get ‘in the zone’.

When I play Pyro, I do my extinguishing, and my spy checking and all that malarky, but I also like to disappear off, find flanking routes, approach enemies from behind or above to get in close and ambush then run away; by the way liking to do this doesn’t mean I’m good at it to lay any rumours of competency to rest. It’s just how I spend my time.

However, change to Demoman, and it’s steady there now. For starters, Demoman at close range, bit of a disaster. Total opposite to Pyro who is supposed to operate best, close to. So keep that middle distance. And slow down. As a Pyro, I’m quite excitable. I get over-excited capturing points.I run round and round and round, flame bursting. If asked, I’ll say I’m spy checking or protecting against last minute counters, but I’m not. I’m being silly.

But a Demoman cannot get excited. A good Demoman can be aggressive and push forward on the offense, but a Demoman of Berath calibre needs to hold back and attain a zen-like calm. Sticky bombs are placed with the sticky launcher to ambush, but at a distance, no running in (if he dies the bombs disappear and are wasted). He watches, which path might the enemy use, what route could they take, where will they go?  And he waits. He waits for the enemy to come through or over or under. Then he detonates. And what if the enemy charges; well he retreats dropping and detonating stickies as he goes, exploding his opponents with exquisite timing. He is ‘in the zone’. He is not flustered. No.

Demoman with sticky launcher

He has his grenade launcher too, he can use that at a distance. But that is a weapon also less effective used in haste and mild panic, apart from wild spamming. Those grenades bounce and can be difficult to aim and distracting if not zenly calm.

So, switching class not only requires using different weapons but a different mindset too. Pyro and Demoman are pretty far apart. Maybe Pyro and Scout would be closer, they both flank and ambush, so easier to switch between, and what about Demoman and Sniper? And Demoman and Soldier?  I don’t know. I do know that I want to play around some more, mix and match.  And perhaps find my style over and above class.

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