gem of an old-fashioned TF2 rant/commentary by Foster with an actual positive outlook for 2011 and to steal a quote from it made by Darn:2011 was a great year for me personally; being the year of the ‘panda’ in the Chinese calendar – might have made that up, it could be a smaller animal with a likeness for orange vegetables – and has been one of the most eventful years, dare I say ‘THE MOST’ eventful year in our competitive scenes history. We have had the biggest LAN to date, TF2 going Free-2-play, launch of a new casting organisation and many, many great matches. It has also been a year of doubt and controversy. The slogan ‘TF2 is dead’ being printed on TF2 discussion boards everywhere and still being typed by many there has been dispute and frustration over unlocks, LANs and growth in the TF2 scene. There has been more gossip, controversy and drama than you’ll ever see on Maury. TF2 has changed – rising stars of TF2 have gone ’pro’, old pros have gone on the Brink of losing interest and leaving the scene. Coverage has changed and developed with new people writing articles, making videos, volunteering to cast or stream and hell we have even seen a new game mode start to become accepted in Team Fortress 2. To start it off I found a
“Unless TF2 gets a proper LAN tournament in 2011, it will be the last year.”
Make of that what you will.
It’s been a long year. I intend to go over it month by month highlighting the memorable matches, the big dramas and the key events that defined our scene this calendar year. To avoid a TL:DR fest I will split it up into 3 parts, one to release now, one of New Years Eve and the last part in 2012. I would like to apologies to those who do not follow the Gregorian calendar, if for example you are Jewish please re-read this again in 9 months.
Jumping back to almost exactly a year ago in our TF2 tardis, the big players at the top of the scene were Epsilon eSports – oh how times change! – and the Marco led Button Bashers who would leave Blight Gaming that month for reasons I cannot begin the fathom – in before wall-of-text ‘had a great relationship’ post from Blackfoger. The first major final of the year was the Wireplay final, it actually had prize money, £500 for the winners, and we saw Button Bashers snatch the money out of Slick’s hands in a surprisingly easy 2 map victory. With ETF2L season 8′s ending being delayed by dreadful scheduling, January became a month full of play-offs all over with promotion/relegation places being decided all over the scene. Power Gaming (now Team Dignitas) and the then Team Dignitas (now “Old Dignitas” aka Relic) lost out in the play-off semi-finals and fought it out for 150 euros, back then the euro was worth something, which Power Gaming won. Looking back at the archives I chalked up from the VanillaTF2 match ticker, most of the other teams died before the start of the next season making the whole thing kind of pointless, nevertheless it was still great viewing. At the time we also had the best forgotten ‘casting war’ with ETF2L.radio (led by Dave and Byte) and TF2TV (fronted by Pledge, d2m and Comedian) both fighting it out to get the most viewers on the biggest matches, being spoilt for choice was a rare luxury for TF2 spectators especially since European TF2 had been so starved of coverage for so long.
January 24th last year the game we had all been waiting for arrived – Epsilon versus Button Bashers in the first ever ETF2L playoff final and it was one to be remembered more for controversy over rules. The first map of Badlands was a close affair, I distinctively remember jh hiding on last and making fishhu – who was merc’ing for BB in place of Havok who no-showed and got rage kicked later on – shit his pants in a 1v1 fight on last, ultimately deciding the map, ending 3-2. The second map was Obscure, tactically picked by Marco with the simple of objective of boring Epsilon so they fall asleep and let BB take the map. However it proved to be a tense affair, being so close it could only be decided by Epsilon holding middle point at the end of the 10 minute golden cap round, turtling it up with an Engineer and a Heavy. The spectacle was certainly debated by many and the Golden cap rule bought into question however we still use the same rule today and this was the only big game I ever recall seeing ‘hold mid and win’ strategy bought into play. Still a remarkable game and it was casted by not only TF2TV and ETF2L Radio but also two or three pirate radio casters, oh man we were spoiled for choice back then.
Other notable events:
- Highlander coverage takes off with several casts of the ETF2L Community Highlander Challenge as it neared its final stages, the month ending with 8 teams left in the 900 strong competition.
- Rej get sponsored by Fleshlights in one of the funniest things I have ever seen in TF2 – http://www.vanillatf2.org/2011/01/rej-get-fleshlighted/
- UGC Highlander announces it will hold its 3rd season and first Highlander season for nearly 2 years, beginning the reformation of the long exiled North American Highlander scene.
- TF2TV continued with its podcast named ‘TF2TV talkings’.
- Twistedplay get picked up by Infused Thermaltake – http://www.vanillatf2.org/2011/01/twistedplay-infused-iastic-about-new-mgo/A little known Swedish Scout named BeaVerN got banned on ETF2L I would like to officially patent the slogan ‘Free BeaVerN’ in the hope people use it in advertising. Anyhow cue the beginning of the ETF2L AC team drama-fest.
The shortest month of the year and with no active season in any of the leagues, TF2 coverage online was focused on randomly organized prem mixes, sorry ‘Nations’ playing friendlies (E.g.) and the end of the ETF2L Highlander Community Challenge. But Febraury was definitely a great month of LANs with 2 very good events happening within the space of a couple of weeks. It started off with Winter Assembly on the weekend starting the 10th and it was a cracking affair. 3 giants of Epsilon eSports, Power Gaming and Team Dignitas attended along with coverage junkies of TF2TV, it really lives in my memory as one of the best LANs to date. The group stages saw over 1000 viewers tune in to listen to the SHOUT casting of ThePledge and Admirable as Team Dignitas faced their Finnish foes Power Gaming in the game of the tournament (see below). Diggy – who had been sliding down the leg of their once dominant throne – faced Epsilon in the final and showed the TF2 world they were still the best team about by demolishing Epsilon in the final 5-0 and 5-1. So Darn’s boys were still the kings of Europe, but in the United Kingdom another LAN occurred with TF2TV again in attendance and the only two good British teams at the time Infused.Tt and (half-Brit) Monster Munch fighting it out against seemingly endless amounts of ridiculously named UK mix teams (Gibbz Goes Prem). Both teams got through to the final and after taking a map each, Infused proved too strong on Gravel Pit taking an entertaining bo3 set 2-1, alas Joske’s troll binds were not enough to see them through.
Team Dignitas v Power Gaming from the WASM group stages – It was a cracker.
As mentioned the ETF2L Highlander Community Challenge was hotting up as the Quarter finals and Semi-finals were played with Colony, May Contain Nuts, SNSD and Twistedplay making it to the last 4, then seeing Colony crumple up Twistedplay and SNSD taking down May Contain Nuts to set up the final. Shout out to Califax for his 8-part interview series with every quarter finalist, if every TF2 player took the same initiative each week this website would be all the better. Linked here is one of his best interviews and linked here is the start of Sweden’s worst medic’s TF2 career. Also February seemed to be the month for rants and commentaries on VanillaTF2 having a dozen or so in a month, some really insightful and helpful guides to help newer players and some being the usual Telebear drivel.
Other notable events:
- Plans for TF2 @ Dreamhack were publicly announced in this article with an appeal for people to help.
- The ‘old’ TCM lineup (Byte, Haunter, Skinnie, Coinz, Zerox and Numlocked) called it quits but saw the start of the ‘new TCM’ within a few weeks of the announcement. http://www.vanillatf2.org/2011/02/tcm-the-definitive-end-to-a-former-champion/
- Angel was pouring money and man-hours into Ultiduo which was giving a few players a chance to make a name for themselves, such as winners of Ultiduo cup 1 & 2, EstaniS and Harryhook.
- Chris said goodbye to TF2 forever in this thread. I know, this hardly qualifies as news…it was a slow month.
The first day of spring blossomed with a cry that Torden was indeed responsible for the slaughtering of the Unicorn man on VanillaTF2 and the next few weeks would bring just about as much debate, drama and arguments as you could ever imagine for a cartoon shooter game. ETF2L announced its Season 9 rule set, adding some new and not entirely popular maps: Bazillion, Warmfront, Turbine_pro. But, most significantly, announcing the Cinnamon unlock rule set. Now was a time of discontent for many people, especially some of the big names in TF2 boycotting the biggest league in protest of the unlocks. The likes of Team Dignitas, Power Gaming and Epsilon announced their intentions early not to participate becoming a sign of things to come. ESL was in resurgence mode however – hosting its 7th season, a 1v1 scout cup, won by Shintaz, and announcing its plans to host a long overdue Nations Cup though the biggest news of all was the new “Vanilla + Medlocks” rule set Prem teams had been crying out for. Wireplay also made a return, however the lack of sponsorship and unlock friendly rule set didn’t bring much attraction from the big teams so Wireplay settled back down to its role as a league for Low/Mid teams.
For actual TF2 played it was a slow month, though one of the majorly important games in TF2 history, in my not-so-humble opinion, was played out on the 5th of March. I am talking about the ETF2L Community Highlander Challenge final between SNSD and Colony which was won by SNSD who began their domination of the 9v9 scene in Europe. The match itself was tarnished by DDoS attacks, and after a lot of server changes and delays SNSD crawled over the line in true public TF2 style by winning on Dustbowl stage 1 to take the gold medal. May Contain Nuts beat Twsitedplay to secure the bronze medal and so concluded the biggest TF2 tournament ever. The LAN scene stayed active with MaxLAN, though it only saw 2 of the big European powerhouses travel to France to play it out for beer money: Epsilon eSports losing to ButtonBashers in both the Upper Bracket final and the Grand Final – a performance that completed the a LAN trilogy of failures for Epsilon; having lost the i41 and WASM finals to Dignitas and now MaxLAN spelling bad news for the ‘unicorns of TF2’.
Other notable events:
- Big shakeups within the TF2 elite: Epsilon began their demise into folding but on the bright side TCM formally announced their return to activity a month after formally quitting with a new generation of Prem talent, including my boy Machete.
- FakkleBrigade joined forces with Thermaltake and became known as ‘ Tt’, a sad day for the sentimental amongst us as a name synonymous with everything positive about competitive TF2 was lost forever.
- European Pubs v Pros: European Thunder happened with the Pros losing out to the pubbers team for the second time. http://eurothunder.kritzkast.com/Highlander got a great scene boost as Community Fortress announced plans to run their own Highlander tournament for both Europeans and North Americans.
- The one big online TF2 competition came in the form of the Esports Heaven Full Tilt Poker challenge which was won by a newly reformed [TCM who beat Team Thermaltake (ex-FB) in the final and re-announced themselves as one of the big boys of European TF2 by taking down ButtonBashers and RedCode en-route.
Infused.Tt beat a legitimate prem team in Team Thermaltake and won a LAN…April Fools! Ha-ha….wait what it actually happened? Yes it did at i42 – holding its last ever LAN in Newbury (no more ‘NEWBury’ puns, sad panda) – Infused.Tt pulled off one of the biggest upsets in TF2 history in my opinion by taking down their half-sponsors other team, Thermaltake. Exfane and the boys were hot favourites to win this LAN and stormed to the final whilst Infused being the underdogs they are scraped through the Prem/Div 1 mix teams including a fight back against Children of Poop after losing earlier in the tournament to them. The Final itself was casted by TF2TV with Pledge and Oggy but had some technical issues with stream quality on Fileplay which ended up spoiling the game a bit as a spectacle which is a shame as it should go down as a classic LAN underdog story. Greg went huge in the final along with a convincing 2 map victory for Infused who swept in from underneath Tt’s feet with a dramatic Badlands victory in the final minute.
The Team Dignitas Alienware cup was the big event of high level fixtures with ESL and ETF2L being stung by inactivity, the tournament was won by Power Gaming taking out Button Bashers convincingly in the final. ESL season 7 did however have one team raising eyebrows though in the midst of many top teams lacking in activity – K1ck eSports returned with Israel’s finest plus Mike seemingly maturing into a Prem player at last. The centre stage for ESL interest was the Nations Cup. The qualifiers ended and the group stage (http://www.esl.eu/eu/tf2/country_championship/2011/groupstage/match/22388451/#/eu/tf2/country_championship/2011/groupstage/rankings/) took place; Latvia proving to be the biggest upset as they beat Russia to qualify for the knockout stages along with Sweden in Group A. The month ended on a sour note with the announcement there would be no TF2 at Dreamhack with Dunc’s internet being scapegoated and so began the ‘TF2 is dead’ chants.
Other notable events
- E-drama ahoy lads! RedCode changed their line-up including getting Taimou on medic but not long after, longas left the team and then joined bAdmirable – a team set up by Ireland’s worst export Admirable. To spice things up further; ESL hosted a playoff match for the Premiership spot between the two teams, the ultimate grudge match! Sadly for RedCode, they had some lineup issues and the pita/potato boys were too strong on the night.
- Meanwhile in Ruskieland, the Russian/Latvian/Lithuanian community turned out big for the DSC#4 LAN in St Petersburg. The eventual winners were RAGE.eSports taking out O’Rly in the final.
- TF2TV talking’s did its 13th and unbeknown at the time, last Episode, actually making it the longest running TF2 podcast – Cracks were appearing in the casting empire.
- ESEA regular season had ended with x6 gaming achieving a historic winning streak, going 16-0. The ESEA LAN officially started in April right at the end but finished in May so I will go into more details in part 2.
That concludes the first 4 months of 2011, we have seen TF2 thrown from a state of hopeful optimism to divided by unlocks, lacking activity and motivation along with a self-destructing scene starting to believe they were dying. The next 4 months would continue on this trend for a while until a few notable events occur and really lift TF2 out from it’s dark age and into a more positive and growing light. Stay tuned for part 2! I apologize if I missed something you feel is noteworthy, there was a lot of stuff happening and you can’t type it all down so please comment and remind me of any event of significance or interest.
Big thanks to Rinta for helping me out with sorting through the archives and other things.