TF2: tl;dr

Be a decent TF2 player

CGS dies, TF2 cries

leave a comment »

That’s too bad.

CGS was largely under the radar for me. I only found out today that it was the reason for the geographical names of the some top tier CS:S teams (i.e. LA Complexity, SF Optx). The more I look into it, the more ambitious this whole endeavor becomes, and the more uncomfortable it becomes. I really don’t think, at least in North America, that we’re ready to treat competitive game play like any other professional sports league, with franchises, drafts, and player pools.

But this is a site about TF2, so let’s focus on that. In short, they were like a shot in the arm for competitive TF2 in North America. This is also something that I only realized just today, but the signs were there. Money helps, and from out of the woodwork came some serious talent, Apoplexy Industries in particular, who went on to shake up the established order some.

We got a hint at what could have been with the streaming broadcast of the CGS Pro-Am TF2 finals. Let’s be honest, sucked. It was really the only place that had regular NA TF2 streams, but consider: shoddy low-bitrate WMV and a commentator that was frequently incoherent, reused tired one-liners, and liked to use “Hm” as if asked some riddle.

A commentator, for any kind of sport, that kept saying “Hm,” should be a sacked commentator.

Now that is dead, Gamefire has taken its place, but guess who moved there to do TF2 commentary? Coupled with even lower resolution, and probably even lower bitrate WMV judging by the huge amount of blocking artifacts, and TF2 casting in North America is a losing proposition.

I also am miffed about how they tend to bitch about players being late and bandwidth costing money. Protips: 1) Get a content delivery network like real streamers do, and 2) Don’t start streaming until everyone is in the bloody server! Does anyone want to see a stream with two people in the server? Probably very few, if any.

In Europe, you have QuadV, who have Flash-based H.264 video, and some of the best commentators for competitive gaming that I’ve heard. These guys know how to excite an audience, and best of all, they’re coherent.

CGS gas Flash H.264 video, albeit at lower resolution, and competent, coherent, commentators. They’re not They could have really ratcheted up interest in TF2 over here, could have been like a QuadV, and who knows what might happen if they put regular TF2 matches on TV? With the global economy tanking, we probably won’t know for a good couple of years, if ever.


Written by Chatterbox

November 20, 2008 at 5:25 am

Posted in perspective

Tagged with ,


leave a comment »

If you cannot depend on yourself to know as much as you can about your surroundings, then the entire team is responsible for saving your butt, in addition to fending for themselves and can only trust themselves to get anything done. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like dead weight, and parasitical, and stereotypically communist.

Your compatriots signed up to win, not to babysit you.

Below are some ideas on being aware. Some are common sense, some border on paranoia. Take from it what you will.

Vision (See as much as you can)

  • Make your resolution as high as possible, without making the game unplayable due to low frame rate.
  • fov 90 in console, or put it in your autoexec.cfg. This maximizes your field of view.

So far so good, but compared to TFC’s maximum fov of 130, 90 is borderline claustrophobic. Your sides are blind spots and to compensate, you have to actually look around. Depending on your mouse sensitivity, swinging around a full 180° may, or may not be in the cards.

Movement, however, is always feasible. So keep moving, and strafe to shorten the distance you have to drag your mouse around. If you are a scout, then the trend is toward lower sensitivity compensated by your speed.

Pay attention

If you are totally oblivious, then no amount of looking around is going to save you. Sorry, truth hurts.


Did you know that your ears are more sensitive than your eyes? Of course they’re sensitive to two different things, but consider that the visible spectrum is only about 300 nm, while your ear can span about 20 Hz to 20 kHz, two orders of magnitude.

The point is, that you your ears are pretty important.

  • You can hear spies decloak if you’re close enough.
  • You can always hear footsteps, and if you have a lock on the pace, you can take a guess at who is walking around.
  • You can hear the other team call for medic, and things they say when they’re on a cap point, or the bomb cart, etc.
  • If the other team makes a noise, you can get an idea of who and how numerous they are, without sticking your neck out.

Stuff you can at least guess at

Kill corner (top-right) is your friend. It tells you who killed who in the last several seconds. If you have an idea of where some of those people were, then you can infer the positions of others.

Seriously, kill corner (top-right) might just be your best inanimate companion of the game, because you can also put a class to the name. This is secondary and indirect information, and not exactly the best way to gather it, because that means that your team is getting killed off.

Perhaps the better way would be to note the name and class of whoever you killed, and communicate that to your team, if they don’t know already. Usually teams have been playing for a while and have a bit of history, so you should have an idea of who plays what before the match even begins.

Where this becomes important, though, is if some players that are solid at more than one class switch, kind of like when carnage goes sniper, or alexwut goes sniper. This may be a new threat, an opportunity, or both. In any case, it’s worth knowing just so that no one is caught off guard.

Readily available online information

Speaking of which, while not really related to in-game awareness, it nevertheless helps to know some of the names of the team that you are playing beforehand. Dig up any demos, if available, get names and take note of the classes that they play, play style, who you deem to be the biggest threat, etc.


  • Shoot at every teammate that you see when rounding the corner, and don’t stop until they key their in-game voice, or they die.
  • Be very conscious of your movement. A spy can hang out near entrances and the like, because if they bump into you, you can be persuaded that you just clipped the corner. If you think that you’ve even brushed a cloaked spy, whirl right around and open fire.
  • If the spy gets away, that is no guarantee that the spy hasn’t doubled back, endeavouring to take you out when you lower your guard.

Written by Chatterbox

November 2, 2008 at 4:49 am

Posted in tactics

Tagged with , ,

Scout: A sense of self-preservation

leave a comment »

Check out some of the demos of carnage. Just make sure to read-only your config files before doing so.

He has fantastic aim, but besides being entertained by watching him run around and destroy people in two shots with the scattergun, you should take note of his play style. You may assume that he rolls anyone he comes across, but watching these demos it’s, simply not true. Besides being a great shot, he’s also very aware.

It’s been said that he is/was a top Quake player, and I can believe it. Go to QuadV, or WeGame, or even YouTube and look for recordings of tournaments for Quake of any incarnation. He plays TF2 in much the same vein as a 1v1.

What do you do in a Quake 1v1? Besides from collecting weapons, because you can’t in TF2. Apart from that, you control the megahealth, and control the red armor, and if you’re rolling you’ll control the yellow armor too. Well you don’t have armor in TF2, and you can’t really hog the health from the rest of the team. So how does this translate?

Get buffed. It’s not quite a double health stack, but you take what you can get.

Now suppose that you are fighting someone and you’re hit down to half health, or lower. What do you do? Go for gold and try for the kill? Or do you turn the hell around and run away? More often than not, carnage runs away. How much health his opponent may have tends to not really factor into the decision, but escape routes do.

If he thinks he stands a good chance of getting away (1v1, against non-scout, many against many), he’ll bail out. If he stands almost no chance (1v1 against scout, or 2+ against with a scout that could chase him), then he sticks it out, maybe get a kill before it’s traded back.

This is all supposition. I don’t claim that he thinks in exactly this fashion, but there’s no denying that he has an acute desire to stay alive.

And this is not the way to play scout. But given that staying buffed and running away has worked out extremely well for him, it seems to at least be one of the better ways to play scout.

Written by Chatterbox

November 2, 2008 at 2:08 am

Posted in tactics

Tagged with , ,

Tactics: Suppress and flank

leave a comment »

I have never played any WWII games, but for whatever reason I once read an interview of a veteran who consulted for one of them, probably Brothers in Arms. He was talking about the steps a fireteam used to defeat the enemy, and it was quite simple.

Pin them down with machine gun fire. Meanwhile, the rest of the team swings around and hits their flank with rifles, bayonet, grenades, flamethrowers, etc.. Suppress and flank, suppress and flank.

Given the weapon and class selection in TF2, this turns into a very loose framework for confrontations at any scale, from a pair of players, to the entire team. This is not, however, workable 1 on 1. That much ought to be apparent.

Truth is, most classes are capable of both roles. Some are better suited to one of them, but you have to be flexible and work with whoever is available at the moment.

Suppression requires a fair bit of patience, and potentially a lot of ammo so stock up. In that time, you also risk severe retaliation, so you need health (i.e. a medic). Flanking, being a finisher of battles, is quick and uses little ammo.


To suppress: It’s possible, but requires you to get in close. Pistol at range doesn’t do enough damage to draw serious attention; you have to risk getting killed and get within effective scatter gun range. If you are sufficiently evasive versus your opponent, this isn’t much of a risk at all.

To flank: Duh, you’re only the fastest class in the game. Know the map cold, and you can find your way around the enemy. Hide out on lamp posts or under bridges and bide your time.


To suppress: Surprisingly, one soldier does not make a very effective suppression force. Rockets can be dodged at range, and the travel time allows people to break out without taking any damage. Also, you only have a maximum of 20 rockets. You have to get in closer than maybe you’re comfortable with, hopefully with the help of another player, in order to make a serious impact.

To flank: You can rocket jump, so do it. Get in close and shoot them in the face.


To suppress: Use stickies (or pipes) for area denial. Pills (or rollers, or blues, or rollpipes) are useful as well, but you can put 8 pipes on the ground and leave them there, versus 4 blues that eventually explode. Given the distance (in theory), it’s unlikely that you’ll blue anyone in the face, so it’s best if you had a soldier with you to alternate fire.

To flank: With the ability to arc, you can get at opponents who are watching the obvious avenues of attack just be firing your weapons over high barriers. You can also pipe jump.


To suppress: You have a machine gun so while support is nice, you don’t really need anyone else except maybe the medic. Of course, there’s the distance factor to consider, but the truth is if you can put sustained fire on someone across the bridge at cp_badlands, they are not getting around you.

To flank: Given your speed, this is generally inadvisable. To get around the enemy with any consistency requires a sharp sense of timing, a bit of luck, and maybe the ability to hide out. Yes, on the rare occasion it’s possible to hide.


To suppress: Possible, but only if tightly co-ordinated. Basically, you rush them with the flamethrower and prevent them from moving freely. In this sense it’s not much different than a flanking maneuver.

To flank: Rush them with the flamethrower. You might say that the Pyro is the inverse of the Heavy. While both can deal huge amounts of continuous damage at close range, their respective speeds define their roles.


To suppress: Some people are cowed after seeing a sniper dot, or after seeing another player shot in the head. On the other hand, others aren’t so easily frightened and they’ll spam you, mess up your aim, and finally flank you. You need someone else to watch your back and keep up the pressure.

To flank: Very situational. You need some distance between you and your targets, and not all areas of the map will grant you that.


To suppress: Yeah…no. Just no.

To flank: Standard spy skills apply. Need to time the uncloak (if you’re cloaked), need to generally stay inconspicuous and not bump into anyone. Easily foiled if no one has their back presented to you.


To suppress: Build a sentry. Seriously. Of course no decent team will let you build one during an all-out brawl, but suppose that your team has taken a capture point and you’re in to consolidate the gains. Well congratulations, your level 3 sentry will ensure that no one will make a serious challenge at the usual entrances without an uber. This requires your team to defend you while that sentry gets to level 3.

To flank: Not really. Your primary weapon doesn’t do enough damage, fast enough, unless you’re crit-ing.


To suppress: Needle gun, but that’s really stretching it.

To flank: If you’re in a pub, you can whip out the ubersaw for the lulz, but in a match you should really think hard about doing so. If you pull it off, that’s automatic AVI material and I tip my hat to you.

Written by Chatterbox

November 2, 2008 at 1:45 am

Posted in tactics

Tagged with

Voice chatter

leave a comment »

At the bottom of this entry is a poll. I’m curious as to what other teams do. There is no right way, or wrong way about this, but I think that whatever is done, people have to agree with it.

First, my own experience. In TFC, if you occupied a forward defensive position (i.e. base entrance, security button, etc.) it was best if you were “on your mic” at all times. Say when you were dead, how many enemies are incoming, what classes they were, if they are badly hurt, if security was now down, when it’s back up, etc. People had to know fast, because everyone moved fast in TFC.

I was never comfortable with telling people I was dead, or going down, because I had, and still have, my Ventrilo key bound to CAPS, and no one ever used in-game in TFC. It was awkward to talk while jumping around, and I never bothered to do anything about it.

Instead, I had a bind that indicated my health and armor, and in a fight I’d hit it repeatedly to let people know I was a) in a fight, b) about when I was going to be killed if it ever got to that, and c) if hit in quick succession roughly how many were incoming. Of course, if I was killed, I’d have negative health so people would know that I was down.

In this way, I have to do very little talking, but a lot of the information is communicated. Inference is still my preferred way of communicating information, and personally I’d like nothing more than to use that kind of bind and style again, but there’s one problem: in TF2, alive people don’t receive messages from dead ones. And thus I have to resort to telling people that I’m dead over something like Ventrilo.

Still, there are things that can be known without someone telling you. Bringing up the scoreboard lets you know who is alive and who is not, on both teams. The top right corner tells me who killed who in the past several seconds. To me, insisting on voicing this information amounts to spoon-feeding information, and I stick by my belief that people are smarter than that.

But it depends on who you are. I understand that a constant flow of information can help establish a rhythm. Some people work better with background chatter, just like others work better with purely instrumental music, with songs, or in silence.

Anecdotally, I’ve been told that one of the top CEVO-P teams talks non-stop. On the other hand, a very good scout and sniper who played with a chatty team complained that they talked too much.

Written by Chatterbox

November 2, 2008 at 12:42 am

Posted in perspective

Tagged with , ,


leave a comment »

“Thorough preparation must lead to success. Neglect nothing.” — Sir Arthur Currie

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Certainly the latter sounds more pragmatic, so should you and your team just connect to a server and wing it? Of course not, and a lot of people don’t, but a lot of people are also less prepared than they think they are.

The operative word is “plan” and while similar, is not the same as “strategy,” yet it’s common to equate the two. A plan amounts to something like an approximate timeline for your victory. Put players here, here, and here, and we will destroy the other team and cap out.

Meanwhile, a strategy goes beyond that, and asks some pretty tough questions. What if that “plan” doesn’t work out? Do you have a way to escape and take defensive measures (commonly a “plan B”)? How do you even know that you are on the losing end before it’s too late?

A plan ultimately does not survive contact with the enemy because it’s more long term than the combat itself, but is not so long that it can outlast defeat. A strategy is a much more thorough understanding of outcomes, and how to deal with those outcomes.

I have fallen into this trap, having come from a much faster paced game. In TFC, it was more than sufficient to just agree on positions for defense, and general routes for offense. If you died, so what? You respawned a second later and could bunny-hop, conc jump, or grenade jump to where you had to be in a few more.

You can’t do that in TF2. Being killed carries a stiffer penalty compared to TFC, like being the trigger for the loss of the rest of the team, or the loss of the map. Where it used to be only demomen that needed some sense of self-preservation, and only on defense, now everybody has to be aware of the consequences of the respawn timer.

Written by Chatterbox

November 2, 2008 at 12:06 am

Posted in perspective

Tagged with

Tip: Make your configs read-only

leave a comment »

Watching demos is a great way to learn map strategies or even just good playing technique. Some demos, though, seem to store the configs of the player that recorded it, and occasionally you may find that some of your keys have become unbound, or your volume settings have changed, etc.

Don’t let these changes propagate to your own configs! Make at least your config.cfg read-only, but to be safe you should make all .cfg files read-only. A restart of the game will then restore everything the way you like it.

GotFrag has a good collection of demos from some of the top players in (North) America, and there are a couple HLTV demos so you can choose whoever you want to spectate.

Written by Chatterbox

November 1, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Posted in config

Tagged with