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The State of the Nation or what’s happening on Berath’s Brain Burps

It’s been a while, again, since I last wrote anything here, mainly for reasons I’ve already mentioned here, so I reckoned with the start of a new year, Spring and all that, it was time for a relaunch. So, first, what’s been happening:

League of Legends

I’ve more or less stopped playing League. They keep patching it and shaking up the meta. Every time I think about going to get back into it, Riot change stuff so I decide to wait a bit until it’s all sorted out and settled. And then they patch it again. So I’ve decided it’s simpler not to start at all. Less to think about. Instead I’m still watching my LoL streams, letting other people do the work. I’m also watching LCS, another way of keeping up with League without putting any effort in myself.

 

Stream of Cyanide: you can see me in chat, I have a green sword, I'm a twitch chat moderator so I can ban people

Stream of streamer Cyanide. You can see me in twitch chat, I have a green sword, I’m a moderator so I can ban people. Twitch chat is notorious for being foul. Giving a Guardian reader a banhammer.

Origen

In LCS, Origen remain my team of choice. They reached the semi-finals in Worlds, partly by managing to avoid the Korean teams and benefiting from the Chinese League teams imploding, but put up a pretty good performance all the same. They were expected to stomp this Season since, among all the newly formed teams, they had had only had one roster change; xPeke moving to a substitute position replaced by UOL’s Power of Evil. However they’ve looked  somewhat messy and unco-ordinated so far and have dropped games. There were problems with internet access and practice at the start which didn’t help. I also wonder if sometimes it’s easier being a new team at the start, what with Riot’s constant meta changes. A new team can come in fresh, a team like Origen has to unlearn what they had down so well previously and almost automatically as a team (with xPeke here) before the relearning starts up again and they can readjust.

 

Origen. All six of them

Origen. All six of them

Who Dares Grins

Whilst I’ve been away, my little multi-gaming community I was one of the Clan Leaders of, has sort of died a death. The Sunday evening Llama gaming Nights stopped (well I was the organiser) and the TF2 sessions on Tuesday and Friday evening halted. The Mumble server is still used, posts are made on the forum and some people have formed a Steam group and have pub-stomping sessions but that’s about it. I’ll probably join the group and see what’s up. I’ve been thinking about trying to get the servers populated again, but it is a lot of work that’s largely down to me; the days of community-run servers running games sustaining gaming communities seem to be almost over. WDG are one of the last of these communities to go dark with many, most,  having gone down way before.

 

Lord of the Rings Online

Still dropping in, now and again. Feels a bit like coming home, it’s so familiar. The kinship is still about. I’m still an Officer. I could resign but it’s not really worth any potential bother as everyone’s currently dozing away as things are.

 

Team Fortress 2

I miss playing TF2. Played it a little recently. Going to play it more.

 

Bomb cart will not push self

Bomb cart will not push self

Fallout 4 and modding

I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4. I’ve also been exploring the modding scene. There’s comparatively little out there at the moment since Bethesda haven’t released their modding tool yet. So far a lot of the mods that are available don’t really cater for me; I’ve no urge to populate my post-nuclear wilderness with topless women possessing Barbie doll-like proportions. I took a look at Skyrim which has a more advanced modding scene and it was similar; a vast over-supply of mods for hetero males wanting something fruity in their games and scantily-dressed and probably cold lady followers. Well I could either hope that more modders widened their briefs or have a go and try to make the mods myself that I wanted to see. I decided to do that and also see if I could get involved in some modding groups setting up to develop additional game content and give input (trying to keep my Cthulhu obsession reigned in). I’m not sure how it’ll go but at the moment I’m trying to get to grips with the Skyrim modding tool which is very likely to be similar to the Fallout 4 one when it’s released.

There aren't so many like this

There aren’t so many like this in Skyrim

So that’s about it really. There are other things going on and other things will be going on but I’ll see. Whatever, I hope to be blogging more now about the above and more. Always good to write a bit of nonsense now and again!

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Rescued from Daytime Television; watching streams

I haven’t been writing much lately and for once it’s not because I just haven’t got round to it.

Back in February I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I went into hospital for surgery at the end of March, was in for about a week and then discharged with not a lot of use in my left arm whilst my various bits and bobs healed up. This meant gaming wasn’t really an option for a few weeks.

Further tests were required to make sure all the cancer had been removed; MRI scans, bone scans that sort of thing, which were all a bit scary and, which in turn, didn’t put me in a mood conducive to gaming or writing whilst I was waiting for results.

During this time, I had films and videos to watch and books to read of course. However a lot of the time I just wanted something to watch mindlessly to pass away the time. I had daytime television of course but I didn’t want to completely melt my mind and turn my brain to pulp watching an endless progression of  ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show USA’; ‘Saints and Scroungers’; ‘Helicopter Heroes Down Under’ and the like.

I found watching Twitch streams; watching gamers online play video games, satisfied my requirements. They were undemanding, I’ve always enjoyed watching people play games anyway, it was just what I needed. I could watch the games and listen to the players talk and nothing more was asked of me.

Ideal.

(by the way all the results are back now and I’m in the clear, so it’s on with the treatment plan to stop it coming back now, most likely chemotherapy plus other stuff)

League of Legends: Fnatic is looking for a coach (or the moon on a stick)

On 23rd December, Fnatic put the following up on their website:

As the Fnatic League of Legends Team Coach you will be responsible for every sports aspect of our team operations. The Team Coach is expected to optimize performance and the development of Fnatic’s League of Legends division. The successful candidate will:

  • Develop and formulate meaningful practice regimes and methods that stimulates a steady positive development of the team and its members.
  • Stipulate and monitor short and long terms goals for the team, as well as each individual.
  • Manage, lead and inspire a team consisting of five young and highly talented athletes.
  • Frequently evaluating the performance of the individuals in the team and providing them with suitable feedback, balanced criticism and motivating comments.
  • Hiring and managing LoL game analysts and ensure that their work is structured, presentable and comprehensive for the players.
  • Encourage and educate the athletes to perform regular physical exercise, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
  • Analyse upcoming opponents and preparing the team thoroughly prior every match and tournament.
  • Identifying the team’s strength and weaknesses and incorporating this knowledge into the practice and game plan.
  • Study the contemporary trends of the game and ensuring that the athletes are informed about all recent changes, such as new game patches and meta.
  • Cope with possible conflicts and resolve these together with the Team Manager.
  • Exercise and ensure sportsmanship and fair play into the team’s game, practice and mindset. Location: Berlin, Germany. Pay: This is a full-time position, the payment will be based on the applicant’s qualifications

REQUIREMENTS:

Besides sharing our passion and desire for #winning, our ideal Team Coach is someone that:

  • Is at least 23 years old and comes from EU or any other country that has work eligibility in Germany.
  • Writes, reads and speaks at least English and 1337 language. Korean or Klingon is a bonus!
  • Frequently plays, watch and analyse League of Legends. High ELO is a bonus but not a requirement.
  • Comes from background as a player, coach or manager in either professional sports or eSports.
  • Is a genuine team player who loves the prospect of creating something extraordinary out of a group of world-class athletes.
  • Can manage and inspire players and staff both in physical and virtual environments.
  • Has a profound knowledge of sports psychology and can educate people on its fundamental.
  • Understands the value of data and how to present it in a comprehensive way.
  • Gets eSports and feels comfortable about being adaptive in this fast-paced sports and industry. If we just described you, please send us over your CV and a mock up of a coaching case study or game analysis(required) as a work sample. In case you have additional documentation, stats or links you want to share, feel free to add them. Please note that due to the high amount of applications, we may require long time to answer all applicants.

Apply by sending an email to coach@fnatic.com – deadline for applications is 29th December.

Not much time for interested candidates to apply. And it’s over Christmas. It’s a good move though. This last season in League, the issues of coaching and team infrastructure have become topics of increasing debate in the West. Part of it is through the increasing dominance of Korea and the growth of League in China. Much of this has been put down to the prevalent use of Coaches and the strong supportive infrastructure behind teams.

So teams in the West are finally starting to look at infrastructure. However, it’s arguable how serious this is. The application for Fnatic coach seems to be asking for everything; sports psychologist, analyst, coach, it goes on, but with no quoted salary. In my experience of recruiting, the salary offered is a good benchmark for applicants to assess experience wanted and the level of qualification; and a way of us letting them know. They come across as a little confused and vague regarding exactly what they’re looking for or would find acceptable. Fnatic are a big name brand so I suspect they’ll get away with it and will get someone good, but it still gives some indication as to whereabouts the West, generally, is with respect to Coaching and support staff . Next season, Riot will be providing a partial salary for a team Coach which is a step in the right direction. Some teams have already committed to improving the support to their teams, Team Curse has a Head Coach and Head Analyst working with the Team Manager and TSM has three high profile Coaches, so we’re getting there.

But it’s not only because infrastructure wins prizes that this increased support is important. It’s because many of these players are very young, very inexperienced and the pressures on a pro-player are immense; the pressure of competition and practice and the pressure from fans and the e-sports community. These players need support. The subject of player mental health is just starting to come under discussion. The issues are linked and, as e-sports continues to grow, I think it’s about time both started to take increased precedence.

It’s Sunday; It must be Llama Night!

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

Battlefield 4
Cards Against Humanity – played 3 times
Chivalry Medieval Warfare – played 4 times
Civ 5
Command & Conquer Red Alert: A Path Beyond
CS:S Gungame
Dota 2 – played twice
Dungeonland
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
Loadout
Magicka
Mechwarrior Online
Minecraft
Monaco
Natural Selection 2 – played twice
No More Room in Hell
Open TTD – played 3 times
Planetside 2 – played 3 times
Quake Live – played twice
Starcraft 2
Sven Co-op
TagPro – played 3 times
TF2 MvM
Terraria
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.

TF2 catch-up

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.

League of Legends: why Team Builder scares me

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.

Teemo_0

Teemo aka Satan. Cutest Champ in League. Small, fast; deadly with poisonous invisible mushrooms. It’s said that if the Great Old One Cthulhu had an alternate form it would be Teemo.

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.

League of Legends: I have a green ribbon! I don’t have a green ribbon

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.

Green= Teamwork, Blue = Helpful, Yellow = Leadership, Red = Honorable Opponent

Green= Teamwork, Blue = Helpful, Yellow = Leadership, Red = Honorable Opponent

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.

This was Me!

This was Me! Then it wasn’t

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 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.

sad0573fc2

Lurve Clans pleeeeze