Category Archives: Team Fortress 2
I’ve been away from TF2 for about a year. Now I’ve come back and everything has changed. I knew WDG would have difficulties keeping itself going but I didn’t expect the disappearance of communities which I’d thought would be around for a long time yet. Communities which had seemed vibrant with servers full every evening.
On Saturday The Grumpy Old Gits said goodbye when they held their final hurrah before taking their server down.
The Hampshire Heavies, always a go to community server, seems to be empty most of the time now. UKCS have almost halved their number of servers, I remember when theirs were almost always full even when others were empty. From their forum, they seem to be having trouble even filling these. The reddit server staggers on.
The decline of the Community Server really began with the introduction of modified Quickplay and the Valve server default setting steering players to approved servers. This solved the problem of the spam commercial server chains with their premium pay2cheat servers soaking up new players; there were so many of them that by their sheer quantity people would stumble onto them. Unfortunately putting the Quickplay server default to Valve servers only, meant that community servers found themselves deprived of Quickplay players too. This was later tweaked to be more accommodating but by that time, for many community servers, the damage had been done.
Other games have come along of course, League of Legends and Dota2 in particular, to draw players away. That’s natural. But we still haven’t seen a decent community game supporting dedicated servers that can be run by a gaming community/clan emerge, a game that communities can move on to, to keep themselves going. I also think new players don’t think in terms of joining gaming communities anymore. They’re not a thing in most games that are out, they’ve never been a thing in console gaming. TF2 is still a popular game but most players are happy with just casually jumping onto a Valve server and having a runaround.
Anyhow, I’ve half a mind to get the WDG server up and running on Fridays, always the most popular evening. I’ve mentioned it to a few of people who’d be up to dropping by. I like the idea. I’ll be keeping it to Fridays unless someone else helps out so it’s not all me. I think there’s not a lot to beat an evening of fun and fragging on a server full of regulars and chilled people who’ve just dropped by (…and only the chilled because it’s our server so trolls and cheats are kicked so there!)
So what’s happening in TF2?
Earlier this year, Valve changed the Quickplay system. Before, a player would be given an option to ‘Start playing’ (Quickplay) after logging in. They would automatically be sent to a random server with, theoretically, a standard configuration. However, the ‘theoretically’ part showed the problem. Many of these servers were, in fact, commercially run and had game-changing modifications for subscribers ranging from extra ammo to invulnerability and the ability to fly.
This was generally considered bad.
Valve decided to change this. They made it so Quickplay automatically sent players to offical Valve servers only. There was an option to select community servers (again with a standard configuration) but this was off by default. It soon became apparent that most players didn’t bother to select. Community servers found their Quickplay traffic dropping (you can get plugins that indicate the method a player has connected to a server).
I’ve seen it myself. Many of the servers I play on are far emptier, some rarely fill up at all now.
So what did this mean for Who Dare Grins? We always relied a bit on Quickplay traffic to keep us ticking over during a session. Now, we could stay in Quickplay, but we’d need to remove our Class Restrictions (avoiding no-fun teams of 7 snipers and 4 spies) and wouldn’t be able to run custom maps (once we got round to installing them) neither of which were included in the standard configuration. We decided to leave Quickplay and rely on our community and use of the original TF2 server browser, a clunky thing but which gave more search options. The overall reduction in Quickplay traffic to Community servers would mean we wouldn’t loose much.
This meant that community building for the server has become even more important. As part of this, I do a lot of posting on forums, advertising the server, usually in response to requests for server recommendations. After every session, players who seem likeable are invited into our Steam Community Group. On the server we try to be as welcoming as possible. Gradually we’re building up.
Our two TF2 nights are going well. The server fills up from about 8ish for a couple of hours, sometimes longer. We’ve a good selection of regulars. We get a sprinkling of newcomers too. Some of them even come back a second time; a positive vote there for the server, I think.
Outside this, Comp is quiet. There are a few people involved in various teams that are about. I was asked to be Demoman in one which was nice but I had to say no. I still think being involved in comp is incompatible with running a Community and a community server. We have three community nights now (the TF2 evenings and a general gaming one) and I like to be around as one of the Clan Leaders and Server Admins. It’s also good to have tagged players on the server, helping to mark it out as a community server and not just a collection of randoms to a new player.
Finally, we’re preparing for i52 in August. It’s a new venue at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. There are issues regarding accommodation; most is not on-site and requires transport. However the venue is said to be superior to Telford. To be honest, I’d rather have a handy hotel room but we’ll see if they’ll put on a shuttle bus which they did for the Spring LAN. Again TF2 will have NA and Australian teams there; again the community has been fundraising to help get them there.
I thought I’d just give a bit of an update here.
So far She’s ‘effing Grey! (quote: “See? Violence. You’ll get the hang of it.” – Chiana; Farscape; official muse) have played 3 matches in ETF2L S17 with 3 matches to go.
There has been one loss overall loss (loosing to a golden cap on granary), one default win (opponents’ server was incorrectly set-up plus some pre-match flaming) and one draw. This is all very good news because it means that the team won’t finish bottom of their table (6C). Feedback from the players has informed Berath’s Brain Burps, that progress has been slow but progress is taking place as the team learns to work with one another and gets the hang of 6v6 play. Starting 6v6 can be daunting and some tenacity is required to get through the early setbacks and losses, though having an experienced mentor as part of the team helps; She’s ‘effing Grey! has this. Our first team Hive of Scum and Villainy never did, though we had support, and so, like many new 6v6 teams, just petered out. Anyway, it’s to be hoped that She’s ‘effing Grey! continues to be a thing and gets to the end of the Season.
It also looks as if FNR! might be stirring. Practice matches have been played and a special place made in the forum for FNR! members. An eye on, will be kept.
Final update at end of season: SFG romped home and achieved 4th place in their division with two default wins overall, one draw and two losses (but only one of those resulted in 0 points).
A while ago I wrote about the competitive TF2 prospects for Berath’s Brain Burps, here .
Nothing really happened going on from that. Handbags remained dormant, FNR! never restarted, Hive is still sleeping and KCaLtL is still over. Only Leftism continued flying the competitive flag in the WDG TF2 community.
However, now there are stirrings. Lefty is now looking to organising a Div 6 team for the forthcoming ETF2L 6v6 season. Community members have already been recruited including some new to competitive TF2. The team doesn’t have a name yet and I think the last couple of positions are being filled at this moment but it’s looking good.
Unfortunately due to general ineptitude and incompetence at TF2, Berath’s Brain Burps will not be playing on the team however Berath’s Brain Burps will be delightedly covering the adventures of the new team though unfortunately none of the prospective members stream matches so blow by blow accounts will be unavailable. Or maybe not so unfortunately. I don’t know.
Anyhow, Berath’s Brain Burps awaits with baited breath.
It’s been a while. I’ve been busy with my TF2 multi-gaming community; in fact I seem to have found myself one of the Clan Leaders. I always say yes to these things. A lot of what I’ve been doing has been trying to promote the community and the server. It hasn’t been easy. A few posts ago I wrote about issues faced by smaller TF2 communities. It’s actually bigger than that. It seems to be something affecting forums in general; there is a general decrease in activity. Could it be the rise of Facebook and other social networks, drawing people away?
I’ve some of my own thoughts; possibly linked to the increase of f2p, the move of gaming towards a means of mass entertainment and more casual gaming. As well as a decrease in people wanting to join gaming communities, in mmos there seems to be more of a shift towards players wanting single player content, avoiding the need to group. Drop in and pop out seems to be the way increasingly. People seem to not to want to make links in the same way.
But anyway, before further thinking and further posting, here is a photograph of the TF2 community taken at i49. I think that will do as a full report almost 3 months later.
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
There’s been a long gap since my last post. I’ve actually been pretty busy but I’ll write about that another time. In the meantime, though, we’ve finished ETF2L S15 and it’s time to catch up with FNR!
They finished 3rd in their division, only one point behind the second finishers; just outside the automatic promotions but well enough positioned to go for for Div 4 next season with appropriate screenshots from games against Div 4 teams.
In the end they dropped three maps, one they felt they should have won. The other two were against Killswitch, who also play Highlander but in Division 1. It’s generally felt that the skill level in Highlander is lower than that in 6v6, so a Div 1 HL player would be less skilled than a Div 1 6v6 player. However, even considering this, surely Div 1 HL players are not equivalent to Div 5 6v6. Certainly Killswitch didn’t loose a map in their division.
However FNR! didn’t do too badly against them. I’ve seen steamrolls and this game quite definately wasn’t one with FNR! making some nice plays including a wonderful kritz on badlands mid which I think wiped Killswitch. In fact all through the season FNR! improved and became tighter and more co-ordinated, though errors were still made with mistimings and wrong positioning. You could see the practice scrims and VOD reviews paying off, you’ve just got to do that stuff.
So it looks like FNR! will be playing in the next 6v6 season but the same can’t be said for Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty in the next Highlander.
Last season was most likely the last and with it goes the direct participation of Berath’s Brain Burps in competitive TF2, but a good time was had and I loved having the opportunity. Quite simply, there is no-one to organise KCaLtL. After successfully leading it for the last couple of seasons, the indomitable Lefty has moved on to another team with no organising responsibilities. As I found when I organised the Raid roster in LoTRO being the organiser of something can bring headaches and take away the fun. Hive of Scum and Villainy, our (baby) 6v6 team is still in hiatus and I don’t fancy trying to get myself recruited into anything else. For 6v6 I’m just not good enough and for both, being female and older reduces the likelihood of finding compatible team mates. I’d be worrying about restructures at work, they’d be worrying about A’Level homework and considering 25 as old and past it; and probably be right too!
Handbags at Dawn remains of course. Hopefully we’ll be entering the next Reddit Round Robin and from time to time I may still be asked to merc for various teams. There may also be opportunities for the odd 6v6 game for a bit of fun (I still think it’s my favourite TF2 mode). So anyway, it’s wait and see and in the meantime focus on playing pub and in HL lobbies, working on those rollouts (I will do Badlands), enjoying casts, helping keep WDG ticking along and, of course, playing other games!
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.
“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 disappear? 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 the Round Robin is over and Handbags were flourished with style, if with not total success. In the end, five maps were featured in the tournament; cp_steel, koth_ashville, pl_retawdab, cp_croissant and cp_foundry.
The first three were played in the first round, I’ll give a spoiler here and say we didn’t get to play the last two. We lost cp_Steel which was no great surprise. We hadn’t practiced it much and it’s a map which can be played using many different tactics, as well as being intrinsically confusing with various doors and routes opening up depending on points capped. We talked through a couple of strategies, but our opponents obviously had too, and had already set up counters, so it was hard to work round them on the fly.
We more-or-less rolled the other team on Ashville. We’d practiced this more and koth maps are pretty straightforward anyway. To be honest, the other team wasn’t very good. We’d rather have played against a stronger team since it was our best map and we would’ve liked to have tested ourselves more (though of course it was nice to win). Mid-game they actually asked us if we’d ever played against a worst team. This of course made us feel a bit bad, so we said we’d played against lots (not sure how true this was) and that they were doing fine; which they were as they did manage some time on the point. I’ve been on pubs where one team hasn’t managed any.
Pl_retawdab (mirrored pl_badwater) was a bizarre experience. We’d practiced it once before and found it totally disorientating. Playing it actually gave me a sensation very similar to motion sickness. You’d find yourself running the wrong way, placing your sentry gun in the wrong direction and just generally feeling totally back to front and upside down. In our practice session we’d played against Equipe and won, but things went less well in the official. This time they’d got a very good sniper with them who more-or-less managed to hold us off last on his own. We’d struggled a little to take the first point, but then had managed to steam through the next ones, so it was annoying.
So that was that, one game won, two lost. An improvement on the last Round Robin. Again, it was fun. We enjoyed the tournament and I certainly enjoyed the scrims we managed to set up together. More would have been good, but most of the Handbags were in other HL teams in both ETF2L and UGC, and so various officials with those teams, took them away. However, it looks like we’ve managed to set up a nice network of HL contacts amongst us all which is useful and we’ll be staying in touch. Here’s to the next Round Robin.