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Destination Gamer: our new BFFs

Running a gaming community is not the easiest of things these days. Neither is keeping a gaming forum going with all the many alternatives such as Facebook, blogs, twitter etc, not to mention things like reddit.

So, it seems reasonable that a fair solution is to for smaller gaming communities in particular to band together and share resources.

Destination Gamer contacted me a while ago to suggest just such an affiliation. They’re another small gaming community, UK based, but unlike WDG which is pc-focussed, DG comprises mainly console gamers. However, they do have some pc gamers who are currently under-served, just as WDG have some console gamers who we don’t really cater for. All very complementary. The fact that we both have such similar initials also begged for a working partnership.

We’re now doing some cross-promoting of events. I don’t think it’s something that will explode into life straight-off, but it allows both communities to offer a little extra and often this sort of thing only bears fruit further down the line.

i49 Almost over

i49 is nearly over. People are packing up all over Hall 3, but here the gaming carries, on for a little while at least with the last bit of energy I have remaining. There’s been lots of intense TF2 action and lots of community mingling.

A full report will be submitted; later

040

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? 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

Victory for FNR! in the CP_Process One Night Cup

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

i46 – The Write Up!

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:

The Venue

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.

The Accommodation

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.

The Company

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

Pub Quiz

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.

Team UKCS: Intellectual giants

Classy Saturday

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.

Gaming

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:

TF2

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!

Leviathan Gaming; US TF2 players, they look almost like us

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.

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”.

i46 incoming!!!!!!!

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.

i46…so hyped!!!!!!!

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.

New Blogger Initiative: Sage words from Berath’s Brain Burps

As part of the New Blogger Initiative, each sponsor blog has been asked to write at least one post giving advice to new bloggers.  Unfortunately I’m led to understand this also includes Berath’s Brain Burps. A flaw in the Initiative I think.

But anyway, here goes. I suppose, one of the first things for anyone to consider, is why blog at all. Well for starters, don’t blog for:

  • fame
  • fortune
  • favours

‘cos it ain’t going to happen in 99% of cases; though there may be that 1% where a lucky gaming blogger has stumbled upon a sponsorship with Mr Kiplings cakes or Millies Cookies. Pause, think on that, then dismiss it.

I blog for entertainment. I enjoy writing. I enjoy gaming. When I was younger I kept a diary. Never expected anyone else to read that, I don’t expect that people to read this. Knowing that people do and that they enjoy Berath’s Brain Burps is nice and adds to things, but it’s not my main drive.

It’s noticeable that this blog seems to be one of the only blogs in the Initiative that doesn’t mainly focus on MMOs, I’m likin’ the shooters and lovin’ TF2, though there are a handful of new blogs which look at other gaming genres, one looking at League of Legends (Scattered Thoughts) and another at Starcraft II (Adamant Nomad) and I’ve found a TF2 blog just starting out (TFScribbles). Certainly, considering how many people play shooters, there don’t seem to many who blog about them, at least on a more personal level, especially compared to MMOs.

I’m not sure why there’s this lack. Is it because people  who focus on MMOs tend to be more reflective and articulate whilst fps players just care about shooting the mans and can barely string two words together that don’t comprise an insult?  There was a thread on the Super Monday Night Combat forum where someone concluded that shooter communities were generally dim-witted and loud, TF2 was specifically mentioned. They also spoke about MOBA communities saying they were generally fairly smart (but also extremely volatile), though I ‘d like to add here that Super Monday Night Combat, which I’m playing as well, has been classed as a cross between a MOBA game and an fps. Conclude what you like there.

But anyway, what am I trying to say? Well, even though the genre does not seem to be that popular amongst the personal gaming blogs in my community, since first person shooter-type games are the games that at the moment I love playing most, they’re the games I write about. And it’s that, that keeps me going. So, new bloggers, find your game/genre/platform of choice, find your raison d’etre that must be yours and based on no-one else, because it needs to keep you writing when your hit rates are barely a couple a week  and not even search engines seem to be able to find you. Because if you don’t love what you’re writing, you won’t.

(There, I think that was alright. I’ll just get my MMO-playing friend to check,  she looks over every post, capitalising the ‘i’s, she says, putting in the full stops and commas and removing the profanities; they just slip in….she’ll do right by it)

ETF2L Season 10 draws to a close

Season 10 in the European TF2 League is just drawing to a close. We’ve seen some good games at the top, a bit of drama; teams folding with other teams being unexpectedly promoted as a result and interesting line-up changes, along with the usual amount of low-level inter-player abuse and mild (or sometimes not so mild) homoerotic innuendo that goes to make up our happy little Tf2 world.

My clan has a team in Division 5. And it has been exciting to watch them, as they attempt to arrange games and get everyone together at the same time to play bearing in mind work commitments, life commitments and time zones. Sometimes they’ve made up to three or four arrangements in the same week. It’s kept me on the edge of my seat.

I think some matches have been played, though these seem a small, insignificant part of it all. We seem to have done well, though regarding actually winning games, perhaps less so.

But to be honest, in my opinion, any team that has made it through the Season, as a team, has done good.

The TF2 WDG community

Whilst I was about it I thought I’d link a Youtube video. A Youtube video produced by Tommy the Cat (of the WDG community). It gives a glimpse of what the WDG community gets up to on the Public Server, this includes Berath. That is, me. I can be glimpsed turning blue and flying part way through.

I suspect it may have a niche appeal, but not to worry, there is some more poetry coming soon!

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