For over a year now, Who Dares Grins has been running a general Community Gaming Night on Sundays. Overall, this has been a success. Some games draw more people than others, but in the main it’s been a good opportunity for community members to try out and play games that aren’t TF2, in particular for those who’ve moved away from it.
Every Monday I put up a thread asking for suggestions for the following Sunday. The only criteria is that they’re multiplayer. On Tuesday evening, the suggestions thread is closed and a poll of games is drawn up from that week and from previous weeks along with any wildcards I feel like throwing in. Voting then begins. Any ties result in a vote-off.
I drew up a list of games we’ve played after our 52nd Llama Night
Cards Against Humanity – played 3 times
Chivalry Medieval Warfare – played 4 times
Command & Conquer Red Alert: A Path Beyond
Dota 2 – played twice
Fistful of Frags
Hidden (but servers borked)
Just Cause 2 Multiplayer
Killing Floor – played twice
League of Legends
Left 4 Dead 2 – played 3 times
Natural Selection 2 – played twice
No More Room in Hell
Open TTD – played 3 times
Planetside 2 – played 3 times
Quake Live – played twice
TagPro – played 3 times
The Ship – played 4 times
Trouble in Terrorist Town – played twice
A good mix.
By the way, why Llama Night you might ask. Well, firstly, one of the community members called Lt Mama came up with the idea and said it was ignored when he did so it’s sort of his name and secondly in homage to Jeff Minter, one of the gurus of video gaming. Jeff Minter was designing video games right back in the early 80’s, founding the development house Llamasoft. Many of his games featured ruminants; llamas, camels, sheep etc. He was one of gaming’s pioneers so the least we could do was name a gaming evening in his honour.
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 played two games of League the other night.
The first was in Team Builder. The other was a normal Blind Pick.
In the Team Builder game I picked Morgana support. I was the last to arrive and we went straight into a game.
It soon became clear that my team knew what they were doing. They were timing buffs, they had a jungler who was actually jungling and they took Dragon. I’m the first to admit that my Morgana is not brilliant. She’s not my favourite champ, I find her functional rather than fun and I’m still getting used to her skill shots and cooldowns. I ended up laning with a Twitch who snapped at me a couple of times for missing shields and it felt pretty pressured. We actually won, I found myself soloing their nexus ( I’ve no memory of where everyone else was) but throughout the entire game I felt I was running to catch up with the rest of the team in skill and knowledge.
Afterwards, I checked their profiles. All were level 30, I’m level 29. Three were playing ranked (Bronze but still); everyone had won more than three times the number of games I had. I was outclassed.
In the second game, I decided I wanted to try jungling on my newest champ, Amumu. I’d read some jungling guides, watched videos and practiced with bots. I was ready to go! The team composition was fair. We had a top Jax, Twitch ADC, Katarina mid; and a Teemo…as support I guessed. Everyone seemed fine with Amumu wherever he was going. However once the game started no-one seemed to really care what anyone was doing. Teemo started to roam almost immediately. I started off ready to jungle, full of enthusiasm but it soon became obvious that the other team had no intention of jungling and their Pantheon and Yi were going to stay top. So, with a little sigh, I sold my Quill Coat which I’d already bought and stayed top with Jax.
No-one flamed, though Teemo had some trouble, complaining at our Kat, largely because at one stage she leggged it leaving him to die, I’m not too sure who to, because I was running alongside her. Sometimes to stay is to die. For some reason Teemo had decided that Kat was the one responsible for keeping him alive against all odds, and now demanded that she be reported. He ignored my contribution in his death, maybe because he didn’t know what Amumu was. After that, Kat received a couple more complaints in similar vein, but seemed to find it amusing rather than anything else. Poor Teemo lost heart at this stage and kept putting up surrender votes which were largely ignored and insisting that we vote YES because we were going to LOOSE!!!!!
We didn’t. The other team surrended instead (their Nidalee was afk).
I looked up Teemo’s profile when we’d finished. It was like a small glimpse of insanity. Every game they’d played Teemo. Every. Single. One. Row after row after row after row of that inane, chirpy, grinning face filling their match history……worrying.
So, one Team Builder game stressful with players above my level, the other Blind Pick; with players pitched just about right, yes, even the Teemo. This has happened before. The TB matchmaking isn’t quite right; it’s separate from Blind Pick. The more games you play, the better it gets, but that still means there’s a time when you’re likely to be playing with much better players with specific expectations of you in the role you’ve queued in. The worst behaviour I’ve seen in League has all been in Team Builder with higher level players raging. It makes me wary of playing Team Builder unless I’m playing a role I’m confident with on one of my comfort picks.
On the 10th June 2014, during the early hours, the EUW server was brought down for maintenance. It stayed down for over 24 hours (with only a few brief wobbly re-appearances in between time) Something had gone terribly wrong. Three days of match history, in-game purchases and league changes were missing.
By last night it had been fully returned to us in working order, though still requiring a few tweaks here and there. Oh dear though, it all caused so much gamer outrage! Ouch. The LoL gaming population were divided between those who just stared blank-eyed and frothing at the blank screen, breaking only to pour out their indignation all over reddit, and those who went and did something else and were fine. An argument, I’d say, for ensuring one has a wide and varied game portfolio (I even heard the ‘something else’ might even have included ‘not-gaming’ but I’m not so sure about that because that’s just weird).
It later emerged that the complications had arisen during the (long awaited) EUW server transfer to Amsterdam. Long awaited since it had seemed before, that almost every weekend was marked by the Frankfurt server crashing and games being lost. An upgrade had been needed for some time.
So overall, it was a good thing. But Riot. Next time anything like this is planned; warn your players!
Riot! Hire that woman!
Easy come, easy go.
Or rather not not so easy come, far too easy go.
I’ve been playing a lot of League of Legends recently.
Now the LoL community is famed for being toxic. Riot, the developers, have done much work trying to figure out ‘the psychology of the toxic player’ and how to reduce toxicity in the game. They’ve got sticks; a tribunal system where players vote on the behaviour of their reported colleagues and decide punishment (though the tribunal is currently suspended pending a rework) and currently a series of chat restrictions. They also have carrots; the honour system. After a game you can choose to honour your colleagues in a number of categories: helpful, teamwork and friendly. You can also decide to honour opponents under the honorable opponent category.
After you have received an unknown number of these in an unspecificed number of games, you get a ribbon, a different colour for each category; some ribbons requiring honours in a mix of categories.
And I got a green ribbon for teamwork! It just appeared one day. It was a little ribbon across the corner of my champion profile, it looked so nice and so green. It was lovely. But then, it was gone. Just like that. I was heartbroken. I raged. You see, to keep your little ribbon, you need to consistently keep getting honoured over a number of matches. If you aren’t, for instance if you start playing in pre-mades (honours from friends count for less), it goes.
I can understand this. You might be a ribbon wearer and go bad, bringing all your fellow ribbon wearers into disrepute. But it would be nice to have some record somewhere that you had had a ribbon. Something you could look at and remember, that once, you were good.
Otherwise, Riot is in a way punishing it’s honourable players by giving them something and then cruelly and arbitrarily snatching it away. You get your ribbon, but then, you just know, it will all inexorably end in sorrow and loss as your little ribbon disappears and you finish with; Nothing. A dream, perhaps, a distant memory.
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).
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.
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.
Back in November, a new expansion was released for Lord of the Rings Online; Helm’s Deep. Great. There’s nothing like a new expansion, full of new content with a raised maximum level, fresh material and everything. You may not have played for a while, you might have exhausted the previous content, gone on to other things, taken a break, but now, tally ho, you’re ready to jump in resume afresh.
But…..but….but…..when you load up the game and once more take up your dagger/bow/spear or whatever, not only do you find you have to re-allocate the points to your legendary weapons; this happens everytime, but you half your skills have disappeared!
After a few moments panic as you try and work out what’s happened and what’s missing, you discover a Traits Tree. A Traits Tree with points to spend and it looks like some of your missing skills are embedded in there. You spend points, and build up your skills that way; very similar to building a character in Rift or masteries in League of Legends.
Well this is all fine. However it’s an immense change from how LoTRO originally managed skills, basically you just got them, and there is the thing. Such changes are fine if you’ve been constantly playing the game, reading developer notes and keeping track on the forums. This is not the way many people play MMOs these days when there are so many other games and other MMOs out there. They play, get to max level, finish the content and then go, as I’ve said. They only return when new material comes out and if the learning curve to access that new material is too high, well they may never end up returning at all.
It’s taken me a long time to manage to sit down and respec my Guardian, work out exactly what I want to do. Once started it was alright but I felt his build was not the same as it was and I don’t know how he will play any more, some of my favourite skills seem to have gone. I’m going to have to get used to that. I’m also not sure how his legendary weapons will fit since many of them have legacies tailored to specific skills that he may not have any more.
One of the reasons I’m keeping on is my kinship, I have plenty of incentive to continue there. But I can’t help thinking that when MMOs make changes like this which I don’t see as necessary or particularly benefiting a game, that they risk loosing a fair percentage of their players who either aren’t in kinships or who now have a more casual involvement in the game.
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.