Team Fortress Almea

Coming soon from Valve, when some tricky negotiating points are resolved, such as them not even being aware of who I am.  Click to enlarge.

The classes are, left to right:

  • Flaming oil thrower
  • Trapmaker
  • Archer
  • Rogue
  • Barbarian
  • Wizard
  • Grenadier
  • Skirmisher
  • Hand Cannoneer

For Almea fans, more info here:


The first few times TF2 invited me to save deathcam shots, it seemed kind of mean– I already knew I sucked, I didn’t need reminders.  But I have to admit that it sometimes comes up with pretty cool images.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

(The fourth pic isn’t a death pic, just a silly moment on the MeFi servers: an all-medic round on Hydro.)

Defeat the Pyro

Desperate for one more hour of TF2, I tried a new server last night– all Badwater all the time.  The quality of play was markedly lower than on MeFi… I was amazed to run up to the building in the middle that normally sports a horrible sentry nest and find nothing.

I was also treated to a long rant about pyros from some guy.  He hates them, they’re too powerful, they’re a newbie class, there’s no counter to them, blah blah. 

Now it’s true that a good pyro can be very scary.  I’m a middling pyro, so I can cause moderate devastation, especially to spies, scouts, and medics, and those foolish enough to be ahead of me.  But there are definite counters to pyros.  An incomplete list:

  • The muscle classes.  It’s not a great idea to dash right toward heavy, soldier, or demoman.
  • Distance.  The pyro’s built-in limitation is the short range of his flamethrower.  I rarely start out next to you; why’d you let me get close enough to burn you?
  • Demomen in general.  Heavies are at least less numerous, and easier to avoid.
  • Chan. 
  • Sentry guns.  Good excuse to switch to Soldier.
  • Maps which encourage knotting up the team, like certain payload maps.  Pyros are at their best a little separated from the team: either behind it, clearing out spies and scouts, or ahead of it, ambushing the enemy from behind.  On most payload maps I end up playing medic or soldier instead.
  • Maps with a lot of open space.  (Contrariwise, pyro heaven is a map with lots of narrow passages and alternate routes.)

I don’t think any class is particularly under- or overpowered, as shown by the fact that on a good server you’ll see a mix of everything.  I’ve tried them all, but I am no damn good at sniper or demoman, and extremely no damn good at spy. 

Sometimes, especially on a small team, there are curious lacks… often, no one’s playing Heavy.  I dunno, maybe experienced players disdain the big clumsy Russky.  But a teamful of engies and spies aren’t gonna move little cart.

You are all bleeders!

It’s best to be modest when talking about one’s gaming prowess, and I have much to be modest about.  But sometimes it just all comes together.  Last night we were defending on the third stage of Dustbowl.  Blue has a narrow bottleneck to come out of, shown at left; they have an alternate door, which you can see here, but it doesn’t get them much farther.

The capture point is around that building to the left; below is Red’s point of view, showing the point, looking back at the same alternate door.  This was about where I was stationed, as a Soldier.

There were about half a dozen of us, and we had about 13 minutes… an eternity to hold this position, but we got into a great flow.  I’d fire my four rockets and back off– the Soldier reloads very slowly– occasionally jumping up into the building to get more ammo.  My friend Stavros had a good sentry post off to the left; there was another Soldier, a Pyro, and a Medic, and we got into a nice flow– if anyone got through, they were quickly eliminated.  Soldier is very powerful if you have some distance, and I racked up 4286 damage and 10 kills, which is incredible for me.

We failed, in the end– I think they ubered or double-ubered through, and then got very quickly to the last point.  So it was kind of our Thermopylae, a glorious battle though regrettably lost.

Ultimately, of course, I blame Red management for always building its bases a hundred yards away from Blue’s.  You’d think they’d learn.

Nom nom nom

So, more TF2.  Do you know, I dreamed about TF2 the other night.  I was on the blue team, which lost, and the red CEO (he looked craggy, skin and suit the color of the red spy’s outfit) was giving a pep talk to his team motivating them to search out the survivors and kill them.  I managed to get away with several close shaves. 

Anyway, I think I’m solidly mediocre now.  Thanks to some small-team games with Frohman and others, I’ve been trying out the other classes.  Medic is pretty good, especially with a good partner (i.e. one who doesn’t forget that his medic buddy is made of styrofoam); it’s also an almost cheap way to rack up points.  Soldier is good when there’s someone to take care of long distance.  I kinda like playing Scout too, especially on CTF maps, or to sneak up behind the enemy. 

The new Arena mode is extremely well designed to showcase my faults, especially dying early and often.  But Badwater Basin is great.

Fire! Fiyyuh!

Delving deeper into the Orange Box, I’ve been trying out Team Fortress 2.  Valve has very cleverly focussed on the essence of FPSs, namely, shooting.  They removed everything that doesn’t look like shooting: storyline, setup, morality, realism. 

The one lack is a tutorial mode… you can wander around the maps alone, but you can’t learn much without joining a server and sucking hard.  There’s a lot to learn: the maps, the skills required for each class, how to counter the other classes.  I’m happy that, after my weekend shooting spree, I no longer completely suck; I’m just really mediocre.  

I’ve mostly played as a Heavy or Pyro… both classes that don’t require a lot of fiddly technique, such as “aiming”.  I’m starting to grok the limitations as well.  It was instructive to watch a fellow Pyro trying to toast a ledge with a bunch of baddies– an excellent demonstration that the flamethrower doesn’t go very far.  I have to learn to repress the instinct to run after flaming enemies… even if they can’t outrun me, they’re likely to lead me into trouble; better to go toast someone else.  Also, the other side has spies, did you know?  So you flame almost everyone you meet, in a friendly fashion; if they’re enemies they’ll burn.  Snipers are a pain too, so you have to learn not to show up as an attractive target in a doorway or window.  Occasionally I remember all this and can go do some damage– one round I got 5 kills, which was great; they even mentioned it in chat.  (“Did we all just run into that pyro?”)  In fairness, I should also mention someone’s speculation that I must be aiming with a touch pad.  Ha ha!  No, I can aim badly using just the mouse!

Chris a.k.a. tieboy a.k.a. Frohman, whose relentless blogging of TF2 got me into this, generously provided a shot of me killing him:

Wouldja look at the resolution on his computer?  Somebody at Valve spent long hours getting that gas tank to render just right.  Kudos, somebody at Valve.  The balloons and party hats, however, are not really standard equipment.

It’s interesting that the Overwatch, Aperture Science, and Red and Blu all employed the same woman to do voiceovers…