After Insomnia58, I felt like writing up my thoughts to give me some closure on the event. This post is a bit messy because it’s mostly me just typing what comes to mind, but I hope it all makes sense. Because I’m typing what I’ve thought about before and during the event, I’m probably also missing some important things that I’ll think about later - if there are enough of those, I’ll probably add a part two sometime. Here goes.
In general, Insomnia58 has been a treat to watch. The top four teams were separated by the thinnest of margins in the end, something that you could see with every series being taken to the limit. Congratulations to Crowns for taking it and capping off a fairly dominant year, and to Full Tilt for having an incredible finals day performance. froyotech (and b4nny in particular) proved that it would always be relevant despite the names on the roster, and Jasmine Tea played some of the most amazing TF2 despite still being unable to break the fourth place barrier.
I had some input on the format used at Insomnia58, and I’m overall very happy with it and think it was definitely an improvement over previous tournaments. Having only eight teams in the final playoff bracket was great for the schedule, allowed best-of-threes throughout the entire tournament, and meant all of the matches were intense early on. Swiss for the open groups meant that only the best teams really got through, and we saw that with how Windtunnel Tactics pushed XENEX to three maps.
There was some controversy over the grand finals format despite it being the same format used as last year. The upper bracket advantage is a very difficult thing to balance, and I’ll probably write a more in-depth post about it, but… with the grand final being a best-of-five, I think the better team should have won either way and giving the upper bracket team further advantages would have been excessive.
The people who work behind-the-scenes to put these events on are simply amazing, and you can see that in how great the production ended up being this year. It’s a real damn shame that dashner was unable to make it, as he was the single most important person in pulling this entire event together and deserves more credit than he gets. Everyone on-site was also amazing, and the people helping from off-site were great as well. The production certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s the closest you can get.
I love covering the Insomnia LANs even though I’ll never attend one, as my many articles probably attest to. As many probably suspect, it takes a lot to be able to write summaries on-the-fly like that, but it’s an insanely fun job. I do wish we could do it more often for major events like ESEA and ETF2L playoffs, but it’s difficult as I can generally only dedicate free weekends like this one.
I did hope to unveil some interesting features for summary articles, but was unfortunately held up in dealing with other issues. It’s a possibility for the future, but who knows - it only really works with summary articles which will probably not be seen again for quite some time.
The story of the first day, besides extremely close group matches, had to be the broken servers. I’ll accept all responsibility for this one - it was miscommunication between Multiplay and the production team where they wanted the package in one format and we gave them another, so servers were not properly set up. We eventually did get that figured out and had LAN servers up by the end of the day, but it was very frustrating.
There were also bugs in the plugins, including one potentially game-breaking one that was only discovered Friday night and had to be patched out overnight. Overall, it is really disappointing that bugs showed up, and that can be attributed to the lack of comprehensive testing the plugins received prior to the event - while I did receive extensive testing from one team to find the most visible issues and released a public beta to try and get more, the truth was that the plugin hadn’t been put through the paces for quite a few of the major features that were used.
That being said, I am proud that these features are available and will be releasing patches to get them fixed up for further use. The most important features were the match management the between-round strategy periods/freezetimes, the timer pauses when rounds were not live, the team coaches, and automated demo uploading. I hope that these features will indeed be used by more events in the future (though I can say in response to someone’s question that PugChamp will not be utilizing any new CompCtrl features in the near future).
This proved to be a stickier situation than I could have ever imagined. Coaching in TF2 has had relatively short history, pretty much being pioneered by kaidus after his injuries prevented him from fully playing. Insomnia58 was the first major event it was fully used at, with it being used during DreamHack Summer qualifiers but scuttled at the actual event. It definitely wasn’t sprung on teams - most invite teams were consulted about their opinions well in advance, and all of them went ahead and cleared it. Despite the recent backlash from the community over coaching, it could not have been changed, as Crowns had been practicing with kaidus for quite some time before i58 after the admins told them it would be allowed, and disallowing it so close to the event would have been massively unfair to them.
I only developed the plugin and have been generally ambivalent about the whole situation for most of the time, but found that Valve expressed my thoughts better than I could in making their ruling about coaching in CS:GO recently (though I think they went too far with it - coaches should be allowed to talk with teams freely during freezetime as well as during timeouts - but that’s a story for another day). Thus, I think that live coaching while the round is active should be disallowed in the future (which I decided before Insomnia58 and thus regardless of how well Crowns performed), but that’s honestly up to future tournament admins and organizers - the technology exists, and it’s up to them how to use it.
I saved the heaviest (and longest) topic for last.
There’s always the whispers of what’s going to happen after the big event, and the future looks grim. As has been known for a while, this is the last rodeo for many people, both players and backroom organizers included. This also may well be the last major TF2 LAN for a while, with ESEA LANs gone and ESEA TF2 itself in danger of disappearing, Sideshow (as the organizer for the two DreamHack events) moving on, Insomnia always being uncertain especially with critical people behind it also moving on, and GXL’s recent demise. It’s too early to say, but it will probably take a miracle to have a major LAN in the near future.
Valve could intervene if they wanted to, but they’ve made their decision of how they want to approach competitive support. Frankly, going based on engagement to official competitive is a completely understandable and reasonable position for them, and the community being frustrated about it won’t change a thing. I’m just disappointed on how it’s been handled. The infamous letter to Valve was sent out almost two years ago, we finally got a meeting with them April last year, matchmaking alpha was unveiled last December, and it wasn’t until this summer that it was publicly released. The fact that the community has had to still support this game extensively for two years while waiting for Valve to make their move slowly has been disappointing and exhausted so many people and resources along the way. Valve is definitely doing better in general at improving the game and communicating, but there’s so much ground they have to cover.
I’m incredibly amazed at the TF2 community and how it’s survived for years and even thrived in the last few - being able to say that we’ve had incredibly competitive international LANs annually for five years now is astonishing. It’s been incredible to see and give a little help to the many people behind-the-scenes who have poured their hearts and souls to making TF2 better in so many different ways. It’s very disheartening that these people don’t receive the credit, recognition, and support they deserve so much from the one company who should be invested in doing so.
I know people couldn’t care less about what happens to a minor contributor and controversial figure like me, but I’ll wrap this up with my own thoughts about my future since it’s been something I’ve been thinking about with Insomnia58. Honestly speaking, I don’t know where my end is - I’ve been considering hanging up my hat after Insomnia58, but it depends on the days and weeks to come. I’ve actually been thinking about leaving for a long while, even as early as last December before I decided to jump on a PUG train with erynn. I won’t lie and say that I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve done, having still not ever attended a TF2 event or won a match in Open, but… there are just some things that never happen despite your wishes. I’ve thought about leaving a lot more because of all the five-year milestones I’m hitting (first got TF2 the day after the Uber Update, played Scream Fortress 2011 as my first major update, and joined SPUF as my first TF2 community in December 2011) - I’ve been involved in this game a long time, much longer than any other hobby or pursuit I’ve ever had. In addition, I’m starting my own career at the beginning of next year, and I’m just not sure what kind of time I’ll be willing or able to dedicate once that happens, and I’ve also discovered some capability of developing a social life that also sucks time away.
Who even knows though. If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that TF2 always has surprises for me, and that you never really quit even if you think you have. With that in mind, I’ll sign off for now.