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The Death of TF2 community servers

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!)

 

Searching for fandom in E-sports

I went to a Sci-Fi convention a few weeks ago. One of the good ones, run by fans themselves and not taken over by corporate interests, Redemption if anyone wants to know. Anyhow, one of the Panels being run caught my interest ‘Where does Fandom live?’ I wasn’t 100% sure what it was about, and when I turned up, neither did the rest of the audience. The panelists weren’t too certain either and couldn’t remember suggesting anything; many of the ideas for the Panels run at these conventions originate under the influence various forms of intoxication so this wasn’t unusual.

After some discussion about what we should discuss, the Chair remarked that she had been a great fan of fanfiction and loved indepth debate and fan theorizing over various television programmes. Her old hang out was Live Journal, however recently Live Journal seemed to have died out and she just couldn’t track down where the associated fandom had disappeared to for the new shows that were appearing.

We talked about this and really couldn’t come up with any clear answer. Facebook was mentioned, so was reddit and tumblr; tumblr in fact emerged as the strongest contender for a replacement. However, nothing seemed to satisfy. Maddy remembered long debates on LJ and a strong sense of community, reddit was too large and generally unfriendly, tumblr was very visual but it was extremely difficult to carry out any form of detailed group discussion. I advocated for the forum, and although they could fulfil many of Maddy’s demands, these days with the many alternatives, forums are hard to grow and maintain.

So, the final conclusion of the Panel was that fandom still exists but it’s now scattered and more likely to be found in small disparate groups. There isn’t the community and there isn’t the depth of discussion. Harsh.

Seeking fandom

And what have I found so far in e-sports? I’ve found reddit, I’ve found Twitter, I’ve found Twitch chat. The closest thing to an actual community where faces become familiar is Twitch chat linked to a stream, surprising since Twitch chat is notoriously racist, sexist, homophobic, juvenile and shallow. Twitch chat is all of that. However there are means within the medium, through which groups can form and cling together despite the hostility of the general environment. There are mods who moderate the channel chat and can set the general tone. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to subscribe to the channel and they are identified by a subscribers icon. Since it tends to be regulars who both subscribe and visit the chat, people start to identify and recognise one another and in this way a group forms. People then arrange to game together outside of chat and may start to meet and communicate independently in skype or using Twitter. In many ways the chat operates  similarly to a community server for a pc game, like TF2 for instance with it’s admins and regulars, but instead of playing themselves, everyone is watching someone else (the Streamer) play.

However, for me, the final clincher for an ideal fan community is still missing and that is proper discussion. All the best community servers for a game are linked to a community forum and discussion can take place there; on-server (and Twitch) chat tends to be more conversational. As an average fan, I’ve found no equivalent where I can endlessly discuss composition, builds and strategy of my favourite teams. There are obviously places where this occurs of course, but in this New World of Fandom, they’re hidden away; difficult to find without an in to the group or friendship circle.

Anyway, I have managed to make some links, a tip of the hat here to Cyanide’s posse from his Twitch chat, but it has seemed so random. But for small matters of chance via the Stream I might never have come across them.

Origen: Following teams, Marilyn Monroe and saxophone players

I said that I’d never follow another team. I said that I’d never be drawn back onto that particular rollercoaster.

I rejoiced as I escaped the clutches of Fnatic, ready to coast through the LCS Spring Split, my emotions untroubled and my heartbeat steady.

But I’ve done it again.

Origen. I’m sort of into them now. Yes, xPeke of ex-Fnatic, his team. And it’s the same. Saxophone players.

You said it Marilyn (sort of).

You’re drawn to a team by their flashy roster, exciting plays and Poppy picks and their potential. You just can’t stop yourself, you think they’re going to be the biggest thing and you come to them. You might try and kid yourself that this time it’ll be different; it’s an organisation, not a team, you’re not going to feel the same about them as you did about the last one. Then before you know it, they’re on loosing streaks, dropping players and facing relegation, and you find yourself taken with them through the whole agonising ride.

Yes, you can stick with them and then it just goes on until it all disintegrates. Or you leave and move onto the next team and then ‘it’s the same thing all over again’.

Word Marilyn.

Ambling back into Life

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.

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Comp vs Pro vs Pub in Team Fortress 2: You suck noob

Awww, Team Fortress is truly a home from home for a MMO player. In LoTRO, WoW, Everquest and so on, how many hours have we all spent debating hardcore vs casual, raider vs non-raider, solo player vs grouper in forums and within our guilds? Happy, happy times. Well in Team Fortress 2 we have the pub player vs the comp player or pub vs comp instead. Easiest way of looking at it; comp player = hardcore raider.

There is this idea that the competitive player (one who plays in a team in competitions and is competitively ranked) is humourless, elitist and treats the game like work. Who wants that eh? The pub player (one who plays on public servers that anyone can join), however, lacks discipline and commitment and basically can’t play very well. What a noob. It’s all so familiar.

Of course this ignores the fact that comp players (the pros earn money) were all pub players once and many happily play on pub servers. I know this. I’ve seen them. It also forgets that many pub players also dip in and out of competitive play and are part of more casual competitive clan teams that at the same time practice and are pretty dedicated to the game. The clan community server I’ve landed on is run by a clan like this; oh yes to be clear, clan = guild = kinship, more-or-less. You join a clan and get to wear their Tag.

It doesn’t help, that by and large, competitive play is 6v6; the main classes being scout, demoman, medic and soldier, with class limits, 1 medic, 1 demoman – this is held as being the most effective and flexible make-up. The other classes only make appearances as needed. So, the charge is that comp players can’t play the other classes and therefore don’t play TF2 as it is meant to be played, with all 9 classes present. Well, I’ve never seen a rule book saying how TF2 is meant to be played. But it is a flaw that 5 classes are generally not included so if someone loves playing pyro, say, it means that they need to change  if they want to go comp.

In response, the Highlander format has been introduced. This is 9v9 with every class represented, once; yes, Highlander – there can be only One.  Since I tend to play pyro and engineer, I like this.

So, comp vs pro vs pub….as usual in these matters, pretty blurred divisions. Or at least that’s how I see it, coming new to the game. Basically play how you want to play and enjoy it.

The video shows a Clan team from my pub server competing at i42 (big LAN held this Easter) against INFUSED.Tt, a comp team who later went on to win the whole competition. And on their way to briefly capture the middle capture point. So claiming a moral victory overall.

The last sentence in the video isn’t actually true.

(courtesy of TommytheCat)