“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.
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.
Well it’s time for another Reddit Round Robin Highlander Tournament and once more Handbags will be flourished. We’ve a couple of changes in the line-up, but otherwise everything is much the same.
The maps we’re going to play are cp_steel, cp_foundry and koth_ashville. The last two are fine, though ashville isn’t a map I’ve played much. Cp_steel, as ever, is a bit of a concern. We played it in our last Highlander Season with WDG and though we won the match, I was never quite sure where I should be going. Handbags have scrimmed Steel, and once again, I found myself
getting lost spontaneously taking advantage of flanking routes on a number of occasions.
We also scrimmed on ashville and though we lost overall, it was pretty close. We did better than we did at a similar time last season.
Away from Handbags, Swarthy Sean Connery has still only won one match and still my involvement remains light to non-existent. Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty is battling away to schedule matches. So far we’ve had one default win, our opponents had obviously fallen apart beforehand looking at their roster though probably not because of the thought of playing us, and our Gravelpit Victory. Unfortunately, it looks like our opponents for that game didn’t turn up for their following two games, so most likely they’ll drop too. That’ll mean bye bye to those hard won points for us. We’ve been trying to make contact with a third team but have heard nothing. Since they have played no matches so far, I’m not optimistic.
Our best hopes for more actual games probably lie with Facepunch UK (Div favourites) and nervousENERGY Highlander! ne had to reschedule the game we had arranged for last Sunday due to another game they had, but at least both teams are European so won’t have ping and time differences against them.
Since my last post I’ve been playing in the UGC league team, Swarthy Spanish Sean Connery, though playing is probably a relative term in this case as I haven’t participated in a single match. Currently we’ve won 1 match and lost 5 so things are not going as well as they might.
However, I did merc as an engie in a practice match with [équipe] a few weeks ago, asked by one of my fellow Handbags. This was on one of the newer maps, cft_haunt. I’d played on it before with Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty and we’d been completely rolled. We were rolled again this time but during the actual match, [équipe] lost but still managed a score of 3 – 5 so hopefully the practice was of benefit.
However, during warm-up time; it was here that the outrage happened.
On cft_haunt there is a frog. I informed both teams of this. It was news to [équipe]. They all went to have a look. And it was then, at this moment of vulnerability and trust, that RED spy took the opportunity to backstab every member of the team. While they were looking at the frog. He claimed that it was not his fault, he wanted to look at the frog too, there were too many people in the way. No-one bought it.
It’s fair to say that perhaps I should bear some responsibility. If I had not pointed out the frog, the team would not have rushed over to see, but whatever, it does not subtract from RED spy’s behaviour.
Aside from this FNR! have not been doing too well in Season 13 6v6. They have now played all their games and have won 1, lost 9. They’ve escaped automatic relegation to Div 5 because two teams have dropped. Every match seemed to be a replay of insomnia 46; EU vs NA (or to be more precise epsilon vs LG) but never mind. To be honest, bearing in mind how many teams don’t last the season, credit to FNR! for seeing it through.
Finally Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty are ready for Season 4 of Highlander with 3 new members recruited from the community. The line up is now
This season, it looks like we will be putting in some practice sessions which is good. Last season for most of the games we’d just turn up about half an hour before the match began for a quick run through, and that would be that. I felt this put us at an immediate disadvantage against some of the teams. However, looking at the sub-Division we’ve been placed in, 5C;
and it looks like 3 of the teams are US teams. That could make things complicated as ping issues and time zones may become a problem.
Goodness me, I can’t believe how long ago the last post was written. So much has happened!
Well actually that’s not true. Not much has happened at all. Handbags at Dawn entered the Round Robin and didn’t get past the first round. In fact we didn’t win a match though I think we won a couple of rounds in the KOTH viaduct_pro match. It was as expected really. We had some good players in Handbags but as I said after the Show-match, we weren’t winnning conclusively and reliably enough against the teams we were facing. I’m not sure what we needed, certainly more practice together and it didn’t help that in the European Round Robin they changed the maps from Viaduct and Barnblitz which we’d practiced for the showmatch to Viaduct_pro and Barnblitz_pro which we hadn’t practiced at all.
However it was fun and such a strange experience playing in an all-female team with only female voices on Mumble. This was commented on by at least a couple of women, it felt so odd when you’re used to every other voice being male and you being often so much in the minority.
After it all, we didn’t disband the team. People enjoyed playing together and we’ve said that we’ll look to H@D entering similar tournaments in the future. We’ve certainly increased the number of women we each have on our Steam friends lists and I’ve a few more Highlander players that I can call upon should KCaLtL need any mercs if we enter the next ETF2L Highlander season.
Yes, we have a team logo, and we have a live cast for the first ever All-girl, transatlantic TF2 HL showdown!
Kip finally got her priorities straightened and realised that TF2 was far more important than any paper she needed to write and is going to cast the game live. I’d imagine, if asked, she’d just give some guff about wanting to support female comp gamers and publicising the Reddit Round Robin the following weekend blah blah whatever, but I think we know, in reality, it’s just so she’ll have a frontline view as, once again, EU faces are ground in the dirt by the TF2 master nation. She thinks! (c.f. i46)
It was a toss up between a cast on her twitch channel or eXtv’s. It was decided to go for Kip’s own, going for community rather than traffic.
Date: Saturday 1st December
Time: 9pm (uk time)
I hope it’ll prove entertaining whoever wins. We’ll have fun I’m sure. Viva EU!
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 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.
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.