I have some memory problems. Things from the recent past are pretty blurry: meals I ate in the past few days, places I went, whatever. Given a week or ten days, the memories somehow kick back into my brain and lock in place like they were there all along. When it comes to long term memories, the most random and inane events will linger in my mind for decades. I remember my elementary school class triumphantly singing "Steelers Goin' to the Superbowl" upon learning that O.J. Simpson was found Not Guilty in his infamous murder trial. The Steelers did not go to the Superbowl; O.J. Simpson was never a Steeler; why the hell were we singing that song?
Team Fortress 2 has its own share of memories in my head, as it should with the five years of play it has gotten out of me. I remember the best direct rocket of my life on Fastlane, taking down the bombing bLackstar as he went for my medic. The debut of a new Badlands tactic developed by Dignitas that revolved around Darn sniping choke while the team played passively in house? Yeah, that's stuck in my head. Jaeger's triple airshot on Well. The first time I heard leogeo talking about a little bit of medicine. That one time when E-Rev.tv went into Virgin Police's Ventrilo for a live look-in, only to be bombarded with racial slurs. Some of the memories are a little more important than the rest, obviously. So when Enigma asked me if I could put up a Year in Review: 2012 article, I had a tough task ahead of me: pick and choose between the thousands of individual TF2 events I witnessed over the past year to find the most impactful and important ones. Expect this article to be very self-centric in some places since many of these experiences I was involved in, and expect it to miss out on some things that have just been lost to the ridges in my brain. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless, and be sure to share some of your favorite 2012 TF2 memories in the comments!
In the months leading up to i46, so much skepticism was thrown out about the possibility of sending six players across the ocean to play our niche, unsupported video game. When eXtelevision said "we want to send two teams," I know that my personal reaction was to burst out laughing and instantly message cbear to ask what the hell these people were thinking. As time passed, that attitude seemed to sustain in the community - nobody ever expected us to fundraise the $20,000 necessary to shuttle Leviathan Gaming and Classic Mixup to jolly ol' England. I remained a non-believer even as the donation totals racked up; maybe we could get Mixup there I thought, not due to community donations or sponsors but due to the fact that the team was comprised of several adults with jobs with money saved up. The money just kept coming in, over and over. The pessimism shifted from "nobody is going to go to Europe" to "well, Mixup will go but there's NO WAY IN HELL LG are going!" Thanks to a kind, saintly ginger man known affectionately as Salamancer, even LG's trip to LAN was made a reality and we got to see the best team in Classic Mixup and the best individual player in b4nny go to Europe to represent our game.
Pessimism has existed in TF2 for season after season now. As we watched the sponsors trickle away, people kept proclaiming that the game was dead, that we were just wasting time. Then we replaced organizational sponsors with personal sponsors - Nahanni from AG and iamRoot being the two big ones I can remember - but even those are mostly gone now, with just Klanana from iT sticking around. The community has gradually replaced MGOs and wealthy backers as the primary source of funding and money in TF2, and it is thanks to and due to the community that we were able to get two teams to a European LAN. The community and Salamancer accomplished what no sponsor before had accomplished or even attempted, and it may look like I am being negative about it and pointing out that TF2 has declined horribly... but it is due in large part to the community that there is such a push now for sponsors, that ETF2L will be sponsored by Twitch.tv, that ESEA has re-evaluated our game and is looking at us more seriously, that sponsors are approaching people in powerful places to say "I have money and hardware I want to give to TF2, what should I do with it?" We always preached that the way for TF2 to grow was through the viewers and the people supporting it, and when you guys made i-46 the crowning achievement of our game, you fertilized what is now some very promising soil. The future of our game is bright and we owe it all to the donators, the stream viewers, and the persistent supporters of competitive TF2.
2012 saw ESEA squeeze three LAN finals neatly into the year. We started off with the conclusion of season ten, where Leviathan Gaming and Classic Mixup faced off in the finals. It was the first time (and thus far, only time) that an ESEA TF2 grand finals went to a double best-of-three. Mixup were coming out of the lower bracket after a prior loss to LG, but with TLR making his return to pocket that season, Relic having an MVP caliber LAN, and Platinum showing that he was damn close to playing on b4nny's level, Mixup managed to topple LG in a rematch in the finals by a map score of 4-1. eXtv provided that season's LAN coverage in a split format, featuring casting from cbear, Bloodsire, myself and Sigma on one stream, with eXtine and his crew (apologies for not remembering exactly who) on the other. It was the first LAN we casted where it actually felt like we had broadcast our content to an impressive number of viewers; it felt like actual growth had happened, which as you might notice is the running theme of this article.
The season eleven LAN was the final season to be won by the former LG/eMg/Quantic squad, featuring (surprisingly enough) a matchup of Leviathan Gaming and Classic Mixup in the finals. Absent from that finals was the first of TF2's purported "superteams," Mihaly's Flow. No doubt a roster featuring Harbleu, PYYYOUR, and Ruwin was impressive in name and talent, but they could not stand up to the superior LAN performance of Don't Trip. Flow got knocked out without even facing the second seeded team, Classic Mixup, when they ran into a hot Spacewhales squad carried by the strong play of Blaze and Dummy. The matchup between Mixup and LG had potential to be great, with the b4nny versus Platinum fight at the heart of the matter, but Mixup's roster was just too weak with several LAN newcomers, a well out-of-form Smaka, and a scout pair that got shut down by the double brown combo of Cyzer and Clockwork. LG would take it 2-0, and it was not even close. I got to wake up early to kick off some ESEA Orange coverage of this with my good pal Sigma; shoutouts to duder for his work on the camera. Probably no LAN has started off stronger than this one, with Mihaly's Flow looking dominant against LG to start things off - before plummeting horribly down and losing five straight rounds on Process to the eventual champions. Cbear would make his appearance later in the day, with our international correspondents Greg and Greaver popping out of the woodworks to give us an outsider's point-of-view. We crushed all of the Counter-Strike games in viewership, leading them by far throughout the weekend, and once again it felt like our LAN numbers were growing with around 2300 players tuning in for the grand finals.
Another months would pass, and then the season twelve LAN would roll into town, a dust cloud of drama and pain and betrayal seemingly following behind. Before the event actually kicked off, it looked like myself, cbear, Lange, and seanbud had destroyed all that was holy by departing eXtelevision. In truth, I just thought that it would be better for us to partner with ESEA and I asked my friends if they would come along to make it a little more fun. LAN started off as slowly and miserably as any I can remember, with a two hour delay while the workers over at Dallas reformatted Tri's computer. Despite me and seanbud having to kill two hours of time with nothing but our wit and our desperate, pathetic, flailing jokes, we never fell behind 2000 viewers in that time. In the prior two LANs, we only barely cracked 2000 in the first place. We topped out at 3167 viewers. The only event in TF2 to get more live viewers was the grand finals of i46.
Once again, we were joined by the staples - Sigma, cbear, adding in a little bit of Salamancer for some of the ginger contingent, and I even brought in my drunken Irish pal Admirable to make some inappropriate jokes and threaten our status as a family friendly broadcast. All the while, Lange manned the camera and showed off what was unquestionably the best camera work ever at a TF2 LAN. If we missed a second of action or a single airshot, it would shock me. VanillaTV even gave us a last second assist with some graphical assets and general aid so that we could make our production look a little less like a high school musical. The games were not the most inspiring, with the second superteam Classic Mixup actually looking super, rolling over everyone and losing a total of four rounds (three to the Spacewhales, one to Leviathan Gaming). Despite the lower quality of games, we saw Harbleu take the lead in all-time LAN championships, PYYYOUR take down b4nny for the first time, and Ruwin get revenge after his amazing season eleven performance went championshipless. And all of that after they went over to England and kicked some European ass. This LAN is what help set the stage for the Teamfortress.tv/ESEA alliance, and what has brought us to the point of exposure, viewership, and quality output that we now have today.
For a long time, the TF2 community had clung to its antiquated relics - Gotfrag at first, CEVO later, and you can even look over at the Europeans who took so many seasons to commit fully to playing around with some unlocks. When Gotfrag finally breathed its long-coming last, we all shifted over to NATF2. It looked nothing like Gotfrag, and that scared people. It felt nothing like Gotfrag, and that terrified people. The community was reluctant to change, and MyGamingEdge had put up competing forums, and there was another site in the works, and everything was fractured. NATF2 became a temporary safe haven until Enigma and Teamfortress.tv came along. Nobody wanted to change, treating it like some great pilgrimage to move their troll accounts and gimmick posts over to another URL. With time, they grew to accept it and it looked like we finally had a central hub for all things TF2. VanillaTF2 used to be the best stream aggregation site, but TF.TV overtook it. NATF2 had the most active and interesting discussions, but TF.TV told it to move on over and make way. Invite players actually started to interact with the forum community on a regular basis, which always seemed lacking on Gotfrag and NATF2. If we had stuck to NATF2, there is a roughly zero percent chance that this ESEA casting partnership would have come about - Enigma just has too many connections and too much desire for this game to reach above and beyond what it is now.
What might have helped us more than all of the above combined is the presence of Synwyn a.k.a. Twitch John a.k.a. Johnsfatcock. Between his work to bring exposure to individual streams, to his constant presence in giving our casts front page priority, to the aid he is willing to provide to streamers to help them get things up and running, he has done as much if not more than any other single person to help grow competitive TF2. Let's not forget that ETF2L is sponsored by Twitch this season, giving them a legitimate money prize in a league who are used to relying on shady and anonymous Russian backers for their prizes; Synwyn no doubt played a substantial part in those negotiations. There is not a whole lot to say about John, really - the guy does everything he can to help us out and is actively putting his neck on the line to push and promote us. He, Sal, and Enigma are pretty much the heroes of 2012 and the heroes of TF2 as a whole. Without them, we would be living in the esports equivalent of the dark ages. There is no better way to close out this article and to remember the year 2012 than with that sentiment.