The elephant in the room?

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Acedeuce
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The elephant in the room?

Post by Acedeuce » Fri May 29, 2015 10:44 am

Hey all,

I've always enjoyed playing on the ville servers. I've met a lot of talented players, and good people(and not all mutually exclusive...). I've noticed quite a bit of change in the past couple months. What has happened to TF2 servers that they are unable to populate players anymore? I've heard plenty from many people, but I thought to myself, today, that I would just make a post. I know many current and former supporters are finding other homes. Is it just a change in the winds, or a sign of something more ominous? Just curious, and thoughtful. I noticed no one else has posted anything, and thought that strange too. Maybe it's just the times I'm logging on. Anyhoo....happy hunting!
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by John Doe » Fri May 29, 2015 11:32 am

There are many different factors that are impacting the TF2 servers, lets start with the game is old now and many have moved on from playing it. Those that still play it dont like to wait and seed a server so they hunt around for servers with more active players. There are others that are not happy with some of our rules and regulations, or the map rotation or class limits, etc, etc, etc so they play elsewhere.

One of the biggest things that impact the servers though is the seasons are changing, people are out of school and on vacation, or they have summer jobs and dont have time to play, who wants to be inside on the PC when you can be at the beach with a cold drink watching all the scenery in bikinis walking by.........

Many still have TF2 but its not their go to game, they play other games with friends from the Ville (In my case thats L4D2 and Minecraft) or they have their consoles to entertain them as their PC isnt up to snuff to run the latest games.

There are lots of distractions in life that keep people away from gaming, not just at the Ville but gaming in general....I cant understand it myself, I would rather be gaming than taking my kids for a walk in the park, or going to baseball practice.....But I think I am in the minority on this point :)

Were working on trying to get the servers more active but its an uphill battle.


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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Will T. » Fri May 29, 2015 12:15 pm

JD covered it pretty well, but these are my thoughts on it:

* TF2 is aging. It will turn eight years old in a couple months, making it one of the longest-running non-MMO online games ever, if not *THE* single longest-running one. Many people at the Ville have played since the pre-launch beta or shortly after launch, and are either burnt out after so long or have slowly drifted away from it due to the changes it's seen over the years. The game that's here today is almost unrecognizable as the same game I started playing in 2008.

* Valve has been silently killing support for TF2 (and their other games) for some time now. When was the last time a set of community items was added to the game outside of holiday events? When was the last time we got a new map for CP, CTF, or Payload? Heck, when was the last time we got a map for MvM? Valve's famous free patches have silently disappeared over the years, meaning their games are no longer receiving that breath of new life that used to come every few months. TF2 has become stagnant and unchanging.

* Valve's attitude has changed significantly, driving many people away. Once the king of free updates and goodies for its fans, Valve now looks to many like just another money-grubbing game dev who will do anything to scrape a bit more cash out of its customers, from their focus on the much-stigmatized Free-to-Play business model to the recent paid-mods debacle. It drives a lot of people away from Valve as a whole, either by making their products seem inferior or creating fear that associating with the Valve brand will turn someone into a pariah. I fear for their future if the Steam Box fails, which is highly possible considering the console market is on its way out the door - thanks to Valve and their PC-gaming innovations in the 2000's, ironically - and the fact that many people at whom the Steam Box is targeted have a gaming PC already, and those who don't could get one for close to the same price as the Steam Box.

Aside from that, like JD said, it's a turbulent time schedule-wise for a lot of people, with vacations, graduations, finals, preparing for finals, etc. taking up people's schedules. Once summer is in full swing, we might see a few more people, but again, the game isn't what it used to be.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Boss Llama » Fri May 29, 2015 3:53 pm

I've put in a lot of thought on this very topic over the course of a couple years, but there really isn't a single cause - it's an ever rolling snowball of many different factors. Some are big, some are small, some are internal, some are external. JD and Will T mentioned many of the most important items.

Our strength on our servers is, and has for a long time been, our community of regulars. These folks, who were veterans of thousands of hours of play, who knew each other through the forums, and who believed in our rules and "way of life," are the ones who fueled our servers for around-the-clock marathons of gaming, day in and day out. As the game changed, veteran regulars burnt out either from sheer hours, or due to the increasingly commercialized and absurd nature of the game, which has become quite hard to take seriously. People who came in later were necessarily less experienced, and often less dedicated to our specific community. When f2p released, the giant disparity between skilled veterans and new folks still learning frustrated the vets and new folks alike. The lack of experience was ok the first time around in 2007, because everybody was in the same boat, but when a some folks on the server are stone-cold experts and other folks are first-time newbies, that's no fun for anybody involved, and a huge number of the remaining veterans quit in disgust. I barely played for a year after that myself, as it was pretty near impossible to find a server where blinding incompetence wasn't in greater proportion than even the most basic knowledge of what to do. Some f2p players put in the hours to learn and did become valuable and highly skilled members of our community, some of whom are happily with us today, but the numbers we gained were nothing like the numbers we lost. These new folks were also sadly in the minority amongst f2p players in general, many of whom took the game about as seriously as the non-existent price warranted. This fact was also likely fueled by the fact that f2p players were ostracized by the TF2 community in general, leaving a bad taste in their mouth and dissuading them from trying to learn or wanting to join the community that made a bad first impression.

With our admin staff being made up of veteran players, and with most veterans being pretty burnt out, admin play-time went downhill, diminishing further the distinctive nature of our community due to lack of reinforcement for our social norms. Certain people took advantage of this to form groups of regulars on some of our servers which were very much opposed to our rules regarding respect, language, and generally decent behavior. When we realized what was happening and began to address our admin hour shortfalls, some of these groups got quite upset that their private fiefdoms were being told to shape up. Some tried to fight back with slander and misconceptions, occasionally storming off to found their own communities free from what they called our "tyranny" or "inequality" or any number of other things they used to refer to themselves being subject to the same rules as the rest of us. Because it is our longstanding policy that we do not discuss individual players' personal business with others (ie, their warning history, specifics of bans, discussions we've had with them), they can say whatever they want, and we don't contradict them, despite the fact that some people claiming they were "banned without warning" or "targeted for harassment" were folks who'd received a dozen warnings over the course of a year or more, and had refused outright to change. People hearing the banned player's version of events sometimes believe them, and then off goes that person as well. It's the price we pay for having a community that isn't full of the same disrespect and vileness found in so much of the internet, and for respecting the privacy of even those who do not respect us.

An additional factor that likely is at play is age. Not the age of the game, but of we the players. If you go back to the full age of The Ville, 16 years, we have people playing here now who were not even born when The Ville was founded. Many of our veterans and regulars, admins and guild-folk, have had dramatic life changes since they first came here. If the average age when The Ville was founded was 24 (about the average age of a gamer in 1999), we're now looking at that die-hard group of people averaging 40 years old. Even for those of us who joined with TF2, that's still 8 years ago - time for a lot of life! Since joining, many of these folks have been married, had kids, bought houses, earned advanced degrees, and taken jobs with great responsibility. These are the folks who were always our most dedicated seeders, our most committed players, our most reliable upholders or rules, and the time they once had for capping flags and pushing points is now dedicated to signing contracts and taking the kids to soccer practice. I don't believe we've been able to recruit people with quite the same zeal for all things Ville in sufficient quantity to replace all the folks who can no longer spend 30-60 minutes each seeding multiple servers for us every day, so that when others come by in prime time the game is warmed up and waiting for them. Finding empty servers, many of our regs and community members now prefer to go find a full server, instead of spending their limited gaming time hoping to bring an empty one to life - maybe failing, or maybe accomplishing it just as they have to leave again to go handle another of life's tasks.

To top it all off, these days we are additionally harmed by Valve's focused attention on destroying or marginalizing the communities that used to be the mainstay of their game. Quickplay, and the restrictions attached to it, are built to punish any server that isn't set up to be basically identical to Valve servers, and every other QP server out there. This harms loyalty, as the distinctions between servers become nil, so it's harder to draw people back to play again at a specific place. Doubly so because chances are they didn't go find it in their server list where they might remember the name - they found it by using QuickPlay and connecting at random. A random connection with a button that doesn't go back to the same place again is a poor recipe for building a community. Over time people will come and people will go - that's normal, and is the nature of the game. The problem is that we can't make up for the folks that leave if we aren't able to distinguish ourselves and draw folks in in equal or greater numbers to our losses.

Our community here on the forums is still healthy, I believe, and we see the faces of old Villuns popping in with pleasant regularity to check on things. I feel like if we can find a new game at some point in the not-too-distant future, we'll rev back to life and feel that thrilling rush of adrenaline all over again. We'll start brining in new recruits faster than we lose folks again, and the good times will continue to roll. The problem is, of course, what game? So many games now use impersonal lobby and matchmaking systems that are anathema to truly personal and enjoyable community gaming. The hottest game in Steam's shooter world right now is CS:GO, which this month has more than eight times the player base of TF2, but is that the game for us? I believe we tried it and didn't much care for it when it was first released, but that was a very slow period for it. Would it be better now? Unfortunately, it also relies largely on a random/lobby system, though at least it does have support for community servers - who knows if it could sustain itself any better than TF2, where we have name recognition amongst those who care to look. Other games people have tentatively tested out and reported on have tended to be underwhelming, not allow community servers, have small squad mechanics, or otherwise not particularly function within our comfort zone. The search certainly continues.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by The Domer » Fri May 29, 2015 4:08 pm

Well said Boss Llama.

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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by kkpyro » Fri May 29, 2015 8:01 pm

^^ Exactly ^^

TLDR...gamers move on. 8)

What makes The Ville great are the people.

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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by dammets89 » Fri May 29, 2015 8:51 pm

Games come and go, but the forums are forever.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Acedeuce » Fri May 29, 2015 10:33 pm

I appreciate the thoughts, especially those of you taking significant time to fully hash out the idea. Let me just say upfront that I don't really behold myself to any contingent and represent only myself here(as far as I know, at least). I'm 33 years old, have been gaming since pitfall in my daycare, had a kid 15 months ago, and just bought a house. Namely, I have lots of shtuff to take up my time. I jumped onto TF2 prior to it being f2p, after looking for a fps that was cheap to play and remembering the good ol' days of the original TF. I also have been in several gaming communities that spanned years. Decades, now. I STILL occasionally, maybe once a year or every other, fire up Myth: The Fallen Lords, and play a few rounds. I get it - people move on, games get old, blah blah.

All I know is that maybe 2 months ago or so, the TF2 ville servers just went poof. Once I had slept 4 hours after my night shift, spent the day taking care of the kiddo, cleaning the house, I had a nice little moment. Monitor in front of me, baby asleep, I'd pour myself a glass of wine(ok, whiskey), and draw up a warm soothing bloodbath of TF2 carnage on ville server dustbowl and occasionally the rare treat of a rotation. TF2 is a great game for me because it's simple, and balanced. I can log in, shoot a few people, and leave(which is what my schedule requires). Most servers are crap. I'm not even talking the typical elitist tirade hating on every f2p, mocking any pyro as m1 that actually makes a kill with a flame thrower, and humiliating any sniper that doesn't 100% headshot. It's just as you all know - they lack that rare combo of ability to learn, skill, and have a good time even in defeat. That's what made the ville awesome. You would still have lopsided teams, and terrible rounds, but every now and then(which is a LOT, relatively speaking) it got really good with matches down to the wire and last man standing with 5 hp.

Boss Llama touches on what I can only assume is the real reason. I don't know what went down, but the current "regulars" have all stopped coming. Look, I swear in my life, and make inappropriate jokes. I also believe in balance, and the internet is anything but. So, having a place where people were muted for excessive swearing, or dealt with for being racist, or cruel or whatever, is/was nice. I don't really know what the protocol is, as I've yet to be muted/banned. Based on responses here, I've seen a lot of sentiment around the idea "we've moved on". Which is fine. You own the servers, you get to do what you want. After posting, I received this message, which seems poignant at this time, from a player I saw frequently on the servers "the people that still cared about tf2 got frustrated with the fact that most of the admins and council of the ville didn't really care about tf2, nor did they care to make small changes to gameplay/servers per requested by the people that spent the most time still playing tf2 on tv6/7." It does make me think: do the servers exist for the sake of their own memory, or to serve the population as it plays now?

I'm really glad you guys have the forums. It's a good way to keep in touch with your old buddies. I'm just bummed that the servers have lost life. Maybe it wasn't the same as it used to be, but it was pretty good most of the time from my perspective. And maybe, as JD mentioned, everyone is at the beach. Hopefully having Mai Tai's for the rest of us slouches stuck in the grind. My point is writing, I suppose, is just to throw a stone into the pool. I'm not a part of your guilds, or history of the past. I supported the servers for the reasons I wrote above. I wish I could have continued to do so. Like I say, I'm sort of bummed because it was my go-to for a while. For me, the ville WAS distinct because of its players despite whatever valve changes streamlined servers. Perhaps different players than you guys knew, but enjoyable and interesting nonetheless. Anyhow, guess that's all. Thanks for reading.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by bluntspoon » Sat May 30, 2015 12:16 am

Will T. wrote:
* Valve's attitude has changed significantly, driving many people away. Once the king of free updates and goodies for its fans, Valve now looks to many like just another money-grubbing game dev who will do anything to scrape a bit more cash out of its customers, from their focus on the much-stigmatized Free-to-Play business model to the recent paid-mods debacle. It drives a lot of people away from Valve as a whole, either by making their products seem inferior or creating fear that associating with the Valve brand will turn someone into a pariah. I fear for their future if the Steam Box fails, which is highly possible considering the console market is on its way out the door - thanks to Valve and their PC-gaming innovations in the 2000's, ironically - and the fact that many people at whom the Steam Box is targeted have a gaming PC already, and those who don't could get one for close to the same price as the Steam Box.
This resonated with me. A LOT. My opinion of Valve has change enormously over the past year or so. They (Gabe?) seem relatively uninterested in making games, just finding ways to extract money from their users.

IMHO Steam Box is going to be pretty much an absolute failure. I hope it wakes them up to go back to their roots.

The Ville....
As TF2 started it's decline it's perhaps natural The Ville would follow a similar track, many of the old regulars barely play TF2 anymore and not enough people replaced them.

One of the things that has always attracted me here is the lack of cursing etc, however I really do feel at some point Admins were given perhaps too much unrestricted power. A real life friend was banned from here after doing something admittedly stupid but utterly trivial in the scheme of things. It left a sour taste in my mouth that has stopped me from being a paid supporter since.

Ultimately though for me it's been about the players. As more and more of the regulars left and were not replaced a tipping point was hit and the servers emptied out. When we can get a group together thou the magic comes back.

Warpath the other night was amazing.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Peahats » Sat May 30, 2015 12:48 pm

TF2 dying, I think will not kill this community. Team Fortress Classic died, Day of Defeat died but that did not end the ville. We will eventually find a new game to replace it

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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by YoullNeverWalkAlone » Sat May 30, 2015 1:24 pm

I agree with much of what Boss Llama wrote. I will say however in response to Ace and the message you got is that not all the admins and whatnot have moved on from TF2. There are still several admins who have logged hundreds of hours each on both tv6 and 7 over the past year. Tv7 changes have been difficult to implement for quite some time. We've tried a variety of methods to take into consideration what maps players wanted, what maps keep the server full, what maps are popular with the player base at large and what made sense as part of a limited rotation server (as opposed to the old full rotation one we used to have). We tried voting on the servers, we had a few folks make a request, but the problem always seemed to be that you could input from a couple people (and often not even people who regularly would be on the server) and "everyone" else hated the changes. Or thought the map timer was too long. Or didn't like the order. Everyone has an opinion about what the ideal rotation should be and there is no way to please everyone. When people had ideas, or requested changes and there was a general consensus, Stevo would make the change. However, dumping a map and bringing something in just because a couple people liked it was never going to happen. The hard part is that the more people you bring in to make a decision, the harder it is to get everyone to agree--just ask admins about map selection for the Ville Cup! I can promise you that when concerns about the servers, players or admins were brought to the attention of those who run this place, they were talked about, discussed and action taken where deemed appropriate. As Boss mentioned, due to respect for the privacy of everyone here, those discussions aren't made public, but that doesn't mean they don't happen

Tv7 has been in my experience the hardest server to seed and keep full. Regardless of the server setting, map list or anything else that may be a part of the complaint.

Dustbowl on the other hand has been easier to seed and stays full longer. To address the message you received, this server hasn't had problems with admins not being there or with changes not being made. Boss Ll hit the key reasons I feel that it isn't full right now. People got upset with how they felt rules were applied. Ranted, told their side of the story, and left drawing some others with them. Keep in mind this has gone on for years. There are people on the banned list from when I first joined the Ville who were regulars and stormed off after doing something stupid that isn't allowed here. There is a process for anyone who has been muted/gagged/name changed/banned to have these things removed. I certainly do then think that others followed because they saw a full server, and seeding a server takes dedication. Especially when you have limited gaming time and don't wish to spend it hoping the server you are on fills.

TF2 is my main game. I came to it shortly after the f2p and Mac port because, well, that's what I have. There have been admins who were added at various times within the past 2 years to help ensure that the staff of the Ville has people who care about TF2 on the servers and to help monitor what is going on. In the past year I have over 286 hours on tv6 and 7. That doesn't even put me in the top 5 for admin hours. The admins in total have 2800 hours on tv6 alone in that time, and another 1200 on tv7. I think this idea that admins at the Ville don't care about TF2 is a perception that doesn't mesh with reality. While some have moved on for a variety of reasons, there are still several of us who have been on the servers and will be as long as folks want to play on them.

The servers exist for those those who wish to play on them as long as they wish to play by the rules that have been established for this community. In a biologic sense, this is mutualism. Both sides gain from working together. Some people put up with the rules because they like the player base, some of us were drawn here because of the rules. I will be happy to jump back on tv6 and 7 to help create a place for regulars and new people to come and enjoy playing tf2 together. Look for me on Warpath tomorrow evening for eumoria's not-so-impromptu Warpath night.
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Dirty Dan » Sat May 30, 2015 4:52 pm

The ville is definitely about the people, but let us not forget the catalyst for getting so many great people is a popular game.

That said, I know the leadership in this community are always looking out for new things and making sure active folks are involved, and this community has thrived through for a long time with many different games as our 'flagship' server.

As long as we all keep coming back to this place to tell each other what we're playing and what we're trying to do this place will continue to thrive.

P.S ya'll should get elite dangerous and play it with me kthx it's super fun
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by BlueInGreen » Sat May 30, 2015 5:46 pm

Every evening when I log on, I check the Ville servers first. If there's a game going, I'll join. If not, I go play on another server (if I see friends playing) or play some Quake Live. Mostly, the only option has been Quake Live the last couple of months (I've gotten good at it again haha).
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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Flash » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:55 pm

I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said. Nice responses guys, y'all hit the nail on the head on many points.

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Re: The elephant in the room?

Post by Guardian » Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:41 am

I think I'd pop in here to say honestly the main reason numbers are going down is simple: TF2 is an old game it's 8 years old. When I started TF2 I was in high school, I've now gone through University and have a job now. It was also a game I upgraded my PC for, since then I've upgraded twice.

It's just the nature of things, this game provided me with thousands of hours of fun for very little cash and it's probably still the most value I've got from a game purchase.
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