Sun Jul 12 10:02:28 UTC 2009

the tf2 annoying bastard guide



But bbot! Isn't spawn camping utterly reprehensible, the domain of poltroons and mountebanks, exclusively the work of grinning thugs from an overwhelmingly superior team, who lack the common decency to switch to the other side?

Well, for one, I think you're not using "mountebank" correctly. And for two, you're completely right! With even teams, spawncamping is typically a losing strategy.

The enemy spawn is a hostile desert to a member of the opposing team. Enemies spawn in groups and are always at full health, and when injured, can easily duck back into the spawn and thus to a resupply cabinet. In addition, there are never any objectives nearby, and the terrain is very rarely advantageous to the attacker, with the spawn room at the end of a blind corridor or its topological equivalent.

Thus, the only reason you would want to hang around there for any length of time is to destroy the teleporter entrances, then run away from the inevitable flood of hostiles who were planning on using that teleporter.

The teleport run is fairly risky, since it requires getting to the enemy spawn undetected, as it takes several seconds to destroy the entrance, which is enough time for a pursuing hostile to kill you. Which is why it is usually undertaken by a spy or a scout, or somewhat more unusually, a pyro.

(An edge condition of the spawn camp is the setup room uber pyro rush. On dustbowl, the setup gates on stages 2 and 3 are not protected by player clipping brushes, which means enemy players can walk right in. This is normally a bad idea, since the interstice is full of angry people, but handily for us, the medic can make people invulnerable. Usually done concurrently with a heavy uber, with the heavy acting as the anvil to the pyro's hammer. This strategy will typically take out everyone who isn't ubered or cowering in the spawn room, and, if the pyro is both using the backburner, and very, very lucky, can kill one or more of blu's ubercharged medics.)

So, under standard conditions, spawn camping is either impossible or extremely unproductive. But what you can do is pepper hostiles with fire as they exit the spawn room, then run away, with hordes of very slightly injured hostiles in pursuit, typically while giggling. This is called Spawn Heckling, a subset of Wasting The Enemy's Time, a grand old tradition; and will usually result in your swift death.

But not always.

Team Fortress 2, broadly, seeks to concentrate combat into fronts. This has a number of advantages. People new to the game don't have to know what the objectives are, because they can just head to where all the people are shooting each other, where they will not be terribly effective, but not actively useless.

Concentrated front gameplay is also more fun, because you spend more time shooting people, and less time trying to get to a place where you can shoot people.

To further this end, TF2 uses two tricks, variable respawn delay, and forward spawn rooms.

Variable respawn delays act twofold, by spawning people in groups, who tend to stick together, and by dynamically adjusting the effectiveness of a team, by making a winning team more effective, and a losing team less so, with "winning" being defined as how many control points are held. This seems, generously, unsporting, but you must realize what when one team loses, the other team wins. When both teams wrestle over a single point for half an hour, alternately losing and gaining it, and eventually ending the match in a stalemate, both teams fail.

To present an even more enormous advantage to the attacking team, most control point maps have dynamic respawn rooms. The more points a team has, the farther forward they spawn.

This is because, in a platonic standard "respawn room at each end", the farther forward team A pushes, the longer it takes for team A to get to the front lines, and the easier it is for team B to defend, perfect for inspiring unbreakable stalemates, and precisely the opposite of what we want.

To counteract this, the winning team's respawn rooms move forward, which evens the playing field, though it may not seem like it in-game, since the winning team is usually stomping the losing team at this point.

The effect is much more pronounced in maps without dynamic spawn rooms, such as cp_toy_fort. Toy fort is a rats-style map, where the players are "tiny", compared to map geometry. Rats is, of course, a venerable HL1 DM map where the players were the size of rats, set in a kitchen, complete with mouse holes a mousetrap that would gib you if you stood on the trigger.

In toy fort every match every game is a long brutal grind, with the center point changing hands several dozen times, until finally one of the teams ends up with enough skilled players to fool the auto balancer into thinking that the teams are even, and thus to victory.

That never happens.

But dynamic respawn rooms, wonderful as they are, have a weakness. They're dynamic.

They're typically embedded in map geometry, which means that there is terrain and health kits for the enterprising Bastard to exploit.

Spawn heckling a forward spawn allows you to retreat into the hills when pursued, to heal up, and to show up again thirty seconds to shout some more insults at their backs.

Spawn heckling can be performed with limited success on any map with dynamic respawn rooms, but shines on payload maps, where the bomb path is long, convoluted, and sees a lot of combat, which means plenty of supplies.

Where spawn heckling comes into its true enemy annoying glory is on pl_badwater. The blu forward spawn is right next to the second point, and is close to no less than six ammo packs and seven health packs, making a sufficiently sneaky spawn heckler immortal.

Like the teleport run, spawn heckling calls for extreme mobility. Since spawn heckling requires peppering enemies at long range, the Pyro is out, (though using the flare gun may be profitable) leaving the Scout and the Spy.

While the force-of-nature in the hands of a talented scout is preternaturally annoying, the Spy is my class of choice for spawn heckling. The Spy is the second greatest threat on the battlefield, behind a ubercharged heavy, and attracts instant attention from any nearby enemy. A spawn heckling spy poses very little risk to any single player,[*] but logic does not so easily override instinct. The electrosapper can destroy teleporters with little risk to the heckler, and the ambassador scores critical hits on headshots, which take very little skill to achieve on players leaving the spawn room.

*: It is rather difficult to backstab a player aware of you, and while it is quite easy to score a single headshot with the ambassador, it is not quite as easy to score a fatal followup headshot if the target is trying at all not to be shot.

The point of spawn heckling is to waste the enemy's time, which typically means not killing them. This is because combat is fairly risky, when returning to your position after respawning takes half a minute of infiltration, which, depending on how lucky you are, may even take several tries. So, the name of the game is long range ambassador shots and cloaking, hit and run, with emphasis on run.

Don't forget to make fun of the other team in allchat.

So go forth, you bastards. Go forth and heckle.

Hello, d20 readers. You may be interested in my review of Trackmania Nations Forever (Spoilers: I wasn't fond of it) or my efforts in map design, or a longer series on water simulation

Or, if you're looking for something a bit odder, a transcript of a a youtube video.

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