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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!)

 

TF2 WDG Comp news: lukewarm off the presses!

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).

 

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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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

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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.

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Lurve Clans pleeeeze

Handbags to the Breach once more!

Well it’s time for another Reddit Round Robin Highlander Tournament and once more Handbags will be flourished. We’ve a couple of changes in the line-up, but otherwise everything is much the same.

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/eutf2x/members

The maps we’re going to play are cp_steel, cp_foundry and koth_ashville. The last two are fine, though ashville isn’t a map I’ve played much. Cp_steel, as ever, is a bit of a concern. We played it in our last Highlander Season with WDG and though we won the match, I was never quite sure where I should be going. Handbags have scrimmed Steel, and once again, I found myself getting lost spontaneously taking advantage of flanking routes on a number of occasions.

We also scrimmed on ashville and though we lost overall, it was pretty close. We did better than we did at a similar time last season.

Away from Handbags, Swarthy Sean Connery has still only won one match and still my involvement remains light to non-existent. Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty is battling away to schedule matches. So far we’ve had one default win, our opponents had obviously fallen apart beforehand looking at their roster though probably not because of the thought of playing us, and our Gravelpit Victory. Unfortunately, it looks like our opponents for that game didn’t turn up for their following two games, so most likely they’ll drop too. That’ll mean bye bye to those hard won points for us. We’ve been trying to make contact with a third team but have heard nothing. Since they have played no matches so far, I’m not optimistic.

Our best hopes for more actual games probably lie with Facepunch UK (Div favourites) and nervousENERGY Highlander! ne had to reschedule the game we had arranged for last Sunday due to another game they had, but at least both teams are European so won’t have ping and time differences against them.

The most outrageous behaviour EVER seen; a Highlander disgrace

Since my last post I’ve been playing in the UGC league team, Swarthy Spanish Sean Connery, though playing is probably a relative term in this case as I haven’t participated in a single match. Currently we’ve won 1 match and lost 5 so things are not going as well as they might.

However, I did merc as an engie in a practice match with [équipe]  a few weeks ago, asked by one of my fellow Handbags. This was on one of the newer maps, cft_haunt. I’d played on it before with Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty and we’d been completely rolled. We were rolled again this time but during the actual match,  [équipe] lost but still managed a score of 3 – 5 so hopefully the practice was of benefit.

However, during warm-up time; it was here that the outrage happened.

On cft_haunt there is a frog. I informed both teams of this. It was news to [équipe]. They all went to have a look. And it was then, at this moment of vulnerability and trust, that RED spy took the opportunity to backstab every member of the team. While they were looking at the frog. He claimed that it was not his fault, he wanted to look at the frog too, there were too many people in the way. No-one bought it.

It’s fair to say that perhaps I should bear some responsibility. If I had not pointed out the frog, the team would not have rushed over to see, but whatever, it does not subtract from RED spy’s behaviour.

Frog. ctf_haunt. Outrage

Aside from this FNR! have not been doing too well in Season 13 6v6. They have now played all their games and have won 1, lost 9. They’ve escaped automatic relegation to Div 5 because two teams have dropped. Every match seemed to be a replay of insomnia 46; EU vs NA (or to be more precise epsilon vs LG) but never mind. To be honest, bearing in mind how many teams don’t last the season, credit to FNR! for seeing it through.

Finally Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty are ready for Season 4 of Highlander with 3 new members recruited from the community. The line up is now

http://etf2l.org/teams/14648/

This season, it looks like we will be putting in some practice sessions which is good. Last season for most of the games we’d just turn up about half an hour before the match began for a quick run through, and that would be that. I felt this put us at an immediate disadvantage against some of the teams. However, looking at the sub-Division we’ve been placed in, 5C;

http://etf2l.org/leagues/hl-season-4-tables/

and it looks like 3 of the teams are US teams. That could make things complicated as ping issues and time zones may become a problem.

Handbags are bashed but fun was had

Goodness me, I can’t believe how long ago the last post was written. So much has happened!

Well actually that’s not true. Not much has happened at all. Handbags at Dawn entered the Round Robin and didn’t get past the first round. In fact we didn’t win a match though I think we won a couple of rounds in the KOTH viaduct_pro match. It was as expected really. We had some good players in Handbags but as I said after the Show-match, we weren’t winnning conclusively and reliably enough against the teams we were facing. I’m not sure what we needed, certainly more practice together and it didn’t help that in the European Round Robin they changed the maps from Viaduct and Barnblitz which we’d practiced for the showmatch to Viaduct_pro and Barnblitz_pro which we hadn’t practiced at all.

However it was fun and such a strange experience playing in an all-female team with only female voices on Mumble. This was commented on by at least a couple of women, it felt so odd when you’re used to every other voice being male and you being often so much in the minority.

After it all, we didn’t disband the team. People enjoyed playing together and we’ve said that we’ll look to H@D entering similar tournaments in the future. We’ve certainly increased the number of women we each have on our Steam friends lists and I’ve a few more Highlander players that I can call upon should KCaLtL need any mercs if we enter the next ETF2L Highlander season.

TF2 Highlander: Handbags are Readied

Team Logo designed by Kovah (H@D soldier)

Yes, we have a team logo, and we have a live cast for the first ever All-girl, transatlantic TF2 HL showdown!

Kip finally got her priorities straightened and realised that TF2 was far more important than any paper she needed to write and is going to cast the game live. I’d imagine, if asked, she’d just give some guff about wanting to support female comp gamers and publicising the Reddit Round Robin the following weekend blah blah whatever, but I think we know, in reality, it’s just so she’ll have a frontline view as, once again, EU faces are ground in the dirt by the TF2 master nation. She thinks! (c.f. i46)

It was a toss up between a cast on her twitch channel or eXtv’s. It was decided to go for Kip’s own, going for community rather than traffic.

So:

Date: Saturday 1st December

Time: 9pm (uk time)

Place:  http://www.twitch.tv/falafel1066

I hope it’ll prove entertaining whoever wins. We’ll have fun I’m sure. Viva EU!

Highlander ends with a squib (a damp one) and a Handbag

The final match in S3 of Highlander ended with a default win. Oh well. We’d all gathered ourselves together on a Saturday evening, prepared to do battle and nothing happened, the other team (Brotherhood) didn’t show. Well actually none of that’s quite accurate. We didn’t ‘all’ gather together, only 8 of us did.  There was some frantic last minute trawling of Steam friends lists to fill that last spot and fortunately we managed to come up with a Handbag who stood in as our Heavy (thanks dok). And the other team did show up, sort of. Their leader arrived, 30 minutes late, apologised and officially defaulted the match; all very civilised.

The end result it Keep Calm and Listen to Lefty are now top of the Division, but the other two main teams have matches in hand that’s not going to last forever. I read the rules and I think after a team has two default losses, it has to drop out. This was Brotherhood’s second so they may be disappearing. This will change the results of all the top three teams, I’m not sure how as I haven’t thought about it much beyond that. I suspect we will finish third.

Handbags at Dawn has continued to practice. We’ve been doing better in our lobbies and this evening we won our first matches against another Highlander team which was a bit of a confidence booster as our Reddit Round Robin showmatch with the NA Ladies is on Saturday. There are still hopes that it will be cast live, otherwise it’ll be the stv demo. Our main caster, Kip, is keen. I’m not thinking about it as I’m not too sure about being live-cast with lots of people watching us. My only hope is that ‘lots’ really means ‘a few’…a handful of fond and incomprehending mothers and loyal boyfriends/partners perhaps. There has been very little publicity so fingers crossed.

Finally I’ve been playing Demo in some of fraac’s mixes in his new/low 6v6 mix group. It’s been fun. I’m amazed that people not only remember me when I log on but actually ask and expect me to play Demoman. It’s shows that my play doesn’t ruin their games! It’s also interesting how playing 6v6 has changed how I play on pub servers. I’ve started to time pushes and note when we’ve a numbers advantage. When I play Medic I look for pockets; usually only temporary ones as it is pub after all. Going on from this I now find I have an even stronger preference for servers where comp players play, not because they are more skilled but because amongst them you’re more likely to find a Demoman, Soldier or Heavy who knows what’s going on when he finds a Medic trailing behind him and will wait for uber to build before pushes.

It doesn’t happen that often (especially without mics) but when it does, and I’m the Medic or the Demo, it’s good. You feel in control of your game.

(Update: forgot to mention, on pl_upward we ended up winning one round, losing two, picking up 2 points to the other team’s 4.)

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