Skyride — While wandering around Asda gathering “supplies” with a rather anxious Swiss citizen, I bumped into TF2′s very own bodywarmer fashion model Chaplain, who annoyingly reminded me that after spending something around 50 hours working on VanillaTV this weekend, I still had a bit of work left to do. Yes the VanillaTF2 Good LAN / Bad LAN makes its second concurrent appearance!

Good – The Americans
After two and a half of months of frantic fundraising and borderline obnoxious promotion, we finally managed to raise enough money convince Sal to part with a sizeable chunk of dosh to fly over two of the finest teams in the history of North American TF2. As a (previously) avid proponent of the “NA-demos-are-trash-so-they-are-going-to-get-stomped” camp, I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies and pre-emptively remove my underwear as to save you the hassle. They were far more prepared and it was clear throughout the event.

For the first time in their respective histories, Epsilon and Infused were swept aside like 2 low prem mix teams to leave room for the “real” squads to take their rightful prize. Thankfully money is more easily distributed than a trophy and no extra security will be required for PYYYOUR’s hotel room.

Mixup and LG do a photo shoot with eXtv before the Grand Final

Bad – VanillaTV
Well that was certainly an unpleasant step backwards. After our great coverage from i45, I can only imagine that i46 must have felt like a random winter i-series for those of you at home. We had endless technical issues, the audio was crap until Ro8, the crowd could barely hear the casters, there was no real group stage coverage to speak of, most of the breaks were unacceptably long, and at least one of our casters didn’t get to cast a damn thing all weekend. While I’d say that it was fantastic once we got it sorted (see: Epsilon vs LG Consolation Final), it took far too long to reach that stage and we’re all aware of it.

Good – Nitrose
For some reason I’d always assumed these guys were just yet another rubbish all-aim-no-brain Eastern European team. However after their recent results online and the showing they put on this weekend, I don’t think anyone doubts they are headed for the top. Their story so far is somewhat reminiscent of a young pre-sponsorship Epsilon and the original TwistedPlay team that evolved into the modern Infused lineup; a group of young completely unheard of players that actually enjoy each other’s company (a rare occurrence in European TF2 these days), a strong hunger for success, and the willingness to put in the time and effort required to be the best.

While they didn’t take home a big Multiplay Cheque this time, I truly believe they could be the silver dagger that takes down the Americans next time they cross the pond.

Bad – Darn
I’m sure anyone who has ever played a competitive game has had a moment where they’ve become inexpressibly enraged. A moment where you want to put a hole through your monitor, smash your keyboard, and give one of your teammates a good smack. I’m sure a lot of you may have even gone as far as breaking mice and keyboards, however these are usually antics restricted to the confines of a dark bedroom and a split second of madness. Usually. It is no secret to anyone that one of the most well known and entertaining members in our community has some rage issues, lay on that a round or 12 of the barman’s best and things don’t get any better.

During Infused vs Mixup, Darn was killed by a headshot. He then proceeded to lose his temper, grab his keyboard, and hit the desk so hard that is caused his computer’s hard disk to skip and reboot, resulting in a 15 minute pause while repairs were made. He managed to do this not once, but twice, and in the same game no less. The second offense simply being over missing an airshot. It combined for a total 45 minutes of pause time live on air for VTV in front of 3000 viewers. Having such a lack of control over yourself and your emotions is completely unacceptable.

At least keyboards aren’t as heavy as they used to be

 

Good – eXtine
I’ve never made any real attempt to hide my dislike for eXtv and specifically eXtine himself. Now having spent a weekend with the guy and a couple of real chats with the man himself instead of the online persona, it’s clearly an opinion that I’m going to have to make a complete U-Turn on. Most of eXtv’s content simply isn’t for me, but at least now I know there are some good people over there with the best of intentions at heart. With any luck this could mark the beginning of a new relationship between eXtv and Vanilla. Considering that less than a week ago I was afk-raging about us not being mentioned in the TF2 Blog post, that’s quite a turn around.

Bad – Epsilon
How the mighty of have fallen. As it turns out – despite all claims of divine ability and teamwork – practicing just 1 night a week (if that) for nearly 6 months does in fact have a negative impact on your play. With that in mind, it makes you wonder just how good they could be if they really were to train the same way Nitrose currently are. Ever since the downfall of the original Dignitas lineup, they’ve been the dominant force in European TF2 with no other true equal except Infused on a good day.  Despite all this, my gut is telling me this is was a wakeup call for the boys in blue. In the interview series we ran in the run up to i46, Stefan said that when you have been the best for so long, it’s hard to find motivation to improve. What we saw during their Consolation Final versus Leviathan Gaming was them being swept aside like pub players for 50 minutes.

With just over 10 minutes left to go, and the score being 3 – 0 to LG, it seems like something just clicked and the infamous “let’s win now guys” call was made. For about 11 minutes, I watched the best TF2 team the world has ever seen attempt the greatest comeback in the history of Team Fortress. Unfortunately it was just a little too late, Epsilon managed to pull the game back to 3 – 2, but fumbled pushing LG’s last point to force a golden cap. Had they managed it, there is no doubt in my mind they would have went on to win the match, and progress to the Grand Final. That fire of motivation was re-lit and I can’t help but feel we were less than 60 seconds away from the greatest Grand Final ever in TF2.

Riding on existing talent will only get you so far

 

Good – Spectators
I’ve been reading reddit every day for about 2 years now. I’m subscribed to a bunch of gaming subreddits and I’ve not that long ago been given moderator privileges on /r/tf2 to work on a few cool things. The first time I looked at /r/tf2, I saw a community of public players who hated the mere idea of playing a video game competitively. People that would literally downvote a post implying there was anything good about being skilled.

This morning I checked out reddit, there were about half a dozen i46-related posts on the front page of /r/tf2, and my photo from the caster desk – literally just an awful quality phone photo – was number 2. Delving deeper, there were a ton of enthusiastic comments. Not just the usual “good job”, “really cool”, that the squad of ~5-10 competitive TF2 players on /r/tf2 post, but people who had no involvement with our scene and were just really excited. My particular favourite was a few guys talking about how after the finals they jumped on to an empty cp_badlands server, picked soldier, vanilla loadout, and pretended to be invincible. I have it on good authority that TF2Lobby broke its own record for concurrent lobbies too.

A brief run down on the numbers is staggering. 5.5k peak viewership on the finals, 4.5k peak for VanillaTV on Saturday Night, Seanbud literally never dropping below 500 viewers at any point, and without boring you too much, the increase in figures on Facebook, Twitter, Twitch Follows, etc, was astronomical.

To put it simply, there are a lot of people who had never really heard of competitive TF2 this time last week who now think it’s really exciting and are probably going to either watch it, play it, or both.

 

who said we’re not an esport? Credit: Ashley Pinner/Multiplay

 

Bad – “The 8 month Problem”
So this is something i’ve noticed myself over the last 3 years, and I was actually discussing it in great depth with Comedian just before heading off to catch my train. TF2 LANs go something along this cycle.

  • 4 weeks before Spring LAN: people start getting excited.
  • 1 week before Spring LAN: all the hype starts.
  • Spring LAN happens: Is moderately small but quite awesome.
  • 2 days after Spring LAN: “Summer LAN is going to be the best event for TF2 ever!”
  • 6 weeks before Summer LAN: people getting really excited.
  • 3 weeks before Summer LAN: the details start to emerge
  • Summer LAN happens: Is genuinely the best TF2 event ever.
  • 1 day after Summer LAN: “TF2 could be the next big esports”
  • 8 months of no one doing anything to expand upon 2 LAN’s ensues

LANs are what really make a competitive game, especially one as community-orientated as TF2. To have just 2 LAN’s a year with such a wide gap between the two is absolute suicide for us. If we had something in between, it would help us immensely. Every March, I feel like we’re starting from scratch with new teams, new rosters, new maps and new gossip. It just doesn’t work.

Good – Sal
I know a lot of people are vaguely aware that this guy bank rolled the rest of the money to get the American teams to LAN, but I don’t think it’s been truly recognised just how much he actually did. The goal set by eXtv for the fundraiser was $20,000. The realistic costing for each team was roughly the same at a cost of $8500 for flights alone. The donation fund reached about $13,500 and it was clear the deadline wouldn’t be reached before LAN if at all. Sal decides “well that’s cool, I’ll just loan you the rest, if you can’t pay it back, don’t worry”. And thus LG gets to go to i46. Then on Thursday there is a disaster, it turns out the company from which eXtv were renting computers (another cost on top of the $17k) wants a $3.5k deposit. How this was not found out until the players were literally half way across the Atlantic Ocean is a mystery to me, but regardless it happened. Sal says “sure no problem, here’s my credit card details”.

I know a lot of people will look at this and say “but he has a great job that makes him a ton of money!”, that’s irrelevant. The guy has put up nearly $10k of his own money to get the Americans here. You could buy a new car or go abroad on holiday several times for that kind of money. He’s been slapped by a fish, he’s hit himself with a pan, then on top of that he turns up to the event and works away like an absolute baller, doing interviews, footage, youtube videos, and casting. What a guy.

This picture doesn’t really need a witty a caption