So now, finally. I43? Did I enjoy it, would I recommend it, and would I go again?
Well I might as well go through it, bit by bit. First:
This was the first year at Telford International Centre for the LAN series, so was a bit of a learning experience for all concerned. On the first day, the council decided to insist on a 2m gap between tents which came as a bit of a surprise to all. Bringing food in, Security seemed to be operating to an unknown Security Guard hot food code: chicken korma in, fish and chips out; sometimes. No-one could crack it. It turned out they were just confused, it should’ve only been pizza: out; always, because there was a pizza concession on-site. The halls were too hot, people complained about the heat. However they were also too cold, people talked about cold legs.
Facilities were okay though by Sunday evening none of the drinks machines seemed to be working. At the start, with the number of women there, I’d worked out I more-or-less had my own toilet cubicle. But then they switched some of the ladies’s loos to men’s. This made me a bit sad, but it was fair. I did hear that further unannounced toilet gender switching took place over the weekend causing a few unexpected encounters.
Nice comfy hotels, 3 mins walk away. Camping; not on your life
Yes, there was gaming. The whole event was really pretty hardcore here. I’d only bought a spectator ticket and it became pretty clear that unless you had specific plans to socialise only, there was not much to do unless you had a computer. Fortunately my clan mates improvised and so I managed to get on a pc and get a few gaming sessions in.
I did badly at L4D2; we played some versus matches; not so easy when you’d only played a map once, didn’t look too cool spawning as a Charger and charging straight into a wall you didn’t realise was there. Not scary zombie. Not effective zombie.
I also played a little TF2.
They premiered BF3 which created quite a crowd waiting to have a go. It seemed to be a last minute decision to show it, I wonder if that means the increased size of i43 has suddenly brought it more attention. That can only be good surely.
I was a bit disappointed here. I’d hoped to see a lot of the games played live, mainly TF2. This didn’t seem to be possible unless I missed something. You were fine if you had a pc; VanillaTF2 were streaming and live casting a lot of the matches. Otherwise less so. Generally there was a rather irritating lack of information about what was going on when and where apart from the really big matches on the main screen and the tannoy system was incomprehensible.
One word; MANIC. It was my first live TF2 final and it was awesome, physically and emotionally draining; the crowd lived every single moment; every headshot, meatshot, point cap.
I’d watched the CoD4 final beforehand. The chairs were about half full, the audience clapped a little at the end of each round but more-or-less watched in silence. I thought they were asleep through most of it. Or dead.
For the TF2 final, the chairs were full and people were standing.
The match itself was exciting and went to three maps (it was BO3; Best of 3). Two of the most epic teams in TF2 had made it Epsilon eSports and Infused Tt. Epsilon eSports won the first map; Badland, Infused pulled it back in Gullywash and then Epsilon took Infused in the final map Granary. And the crowd went wild. Again. And again. And again. All the way through.
The casters were well-known figures in the TF2 world; Byte and Admirable, both comp players themselves.
Halfway through one of Epsilon’s computers packed up. Byte, with Admirable, did a brilliant job during the downtime, entertaining the crowd with ‘cheerfuls’, an idea devised by another caster, Comedian. Blank pieces of paper were distributed and the crowd wrote or drew TF2 related stuff on them and then Byte chose his favourite. There are examples in the outdoor community photo in the previous post. So Byte roamed, reading out peoples’ cheerfuls and interviewing any TF2 comp players that he happened to find in the audience. It worked well.
By the way there is no such thing as ‘a cheerful’. I suspected as much even though Byte/Comedian/Admiral spoke about ‘a cheerful’ as if it was a truth word. I googled it. It is made-up. So don’t use the term amongst normal people because they won’t understand and may laugh at you. More than usual.
People I met
Meeting people at LAN = good
WDG Clanmates: nice to meet them face-to-face. None of them seemed to move much, away from the PC, all weekend. Saw them eating pizza from time to time but that could be ordered on-line and delivered to the desk, so it didn’t really count. They did manage to make it to the pub quiz (we came second rawr; the quiz was a definite weekend highlight). And of course the TF2 final.
UKCS Community: mostly known via the UKCS forum. They had a clanbox and a live stream. I met Trell (UKCS stalwart) who I’ve chatted to from time to time whilst watching comp games on VanillaTF2. Was given stickers by Xerxes (UKCS stalwart) which is really what it’s all about.
TF2 community: saw various comp players previously only; seen photographs of, read articles about and read responses by on various forum threads (often slightly abusive at best, frequently argumentative).
So that was i43. And would I recommend it? Yes, but only really to people who are seriously into gaming unless they’ve specific plans. Would I go again? Definitely, but next time for the entire thing with a BYOC ticket. I46, here I come.
This is i43 and community TF2. WDG goes Huge. With added hats (courtesy of Ripsaw)
So, to be going on with; two photographs of the TF2 community taken after the TF2 final between Epsilon eSports and Infused.Tt (Epsilon eSports won). There aren’t two photos because there’s a giant chasm preventing mixing, dividing the TF2 community, some geekish battle or controversy over some small generally incomprehensible point of order (though of course, being geeks there are still plenty of those). There are two photos because a lot of people weren’t listening when the first one was organised and so another one was sorted.
The first has some names added for those interested enough to zoom in for a closer look.
Tomorrow I’m off to i43, now set to be the biggest LAN ever to take place in the UK (at time of writing 2223)
I’ll be meeting up with people from my Clan who’ve managed to make it and dropping by to say hello to various people who play on the set of Community servers I most frequently play on, UKCS. All TF2 of course.
Apart from that, I’ll just be hanging out, soaking up the atmosphere. I haven’t bought a BYOC (Bring your own computer) ticket which would give me the use of an internet connection and a neat little table to put my pc on, because I’m going up on the Saturday; it starts officially on Friday with an early arrival service on Thursday allowing entry from 6pm. I felt that I couldn’t justify the cost, UK LANs seem to be more expensive comparatively, than mainland EU LANs. There was an early bird offer which knocked 30% off but I missed that because I was still fiffing and faffing about going.
I’m not 100% sure what to expect. There will be a TF2 tournament which I’ll be watching. There’ll be two teams from UKCS playing and my Clan is putting up a team too. A lot of the main comp players/teams will be playing as well so it will be interesting to see that live.
Apart from that, there is an Exhibition Hall to look around and other games to spectate (including CoD, Starcraft 2, CS:S, L4D2). There is wireless/Internet in my hotel, so I can retreat there to do some gaming if I want, plus I’ve checked and the games I’ve got all play in off-line mode. It sounds, as well, as if all the usual boozing and cavorting associated with any Convention will be going on; there’s a pub quiz and a Boat Race.
Anyhow, it all should be pretty entertaining and certainly interesting. I’ll report back.