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Author Topic: HvZ in decline  (Read 11764 times)
supermidget


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« on: April 14, 2015, 11:35:38 PM »

Howdy, all.  I've played HvZ since Fall of 2009, and helped bring the game to Texas Tech university and helped it flourish there.  I've seen numbers fluctuate between semesters, from 300 to approaching 1000, but our last few games have left me feeling disheartened.  Our game is definitely in decline, and in talking with current mods about our game's popularity and longevity, I find myself torn between wanting to encourage them to work harder to get the numbers we used to have, and wanting to tell them to hang up their hats.

Part of the reason for my indecision is my perception of Humans vs. Zombies as a whole.  I've lurked on these forums on and off for years now, and these days there's barely a single new post per day.  I've talked with moderators of other southern universities in the past about an invitational, but now it seems like the games that they moderated have vanished or don't have a big enough player base for the idea.

So tell me, fellow forumites, am I just in a slump, or is there truth in what I'm seeing?  Have you seen games at schools and universities near you with low player counts, or ones that vanish altogether?  Has Humans vs. Zombies had its heyday, to never return to such popularity again?  Or have I just had a bad few games and a nasty confirmation bias?
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 03:17:25 PM by supermidget » Logged
Justplanefun2
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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2015, 02:02:34 PM »

Wow that's morbid.  My thoughts:

1.  The original creators of HvZ have now graduated, and many of them have moved on.

2.  Therefore this leaves "us", people who are still in college but not the original creators, in charge.

3.  This can lead to a lack of participation, new ideas, or enthusiasm but this can be remedied.

I would encourage you to think analytically about why HvZ is in decline at your school.  Then think creatively about how to get more people to join.  Every four years (on average) your school's population completely changes.  So try and think about how to make the game permanent at the school instead of dying each time a leader graduates.

I do agree, HvZ seems to not have as many people involved as it did a few years ago but that doesn't mean that a given university can't still have a huge game with a ton of fun.  And if the original founders wanted, they still could do a nationwide ad campaign and probably get enrollment levels to surpass those of a few years ago.
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torukmakto4

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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2015, 03:43:21 PM »

Something is definitely amiss. I have thought about starting a thread myself.

To get it out of the way, lately there has been a decline of traditional forums in the HvZ and nerf world. Alternate messageboards such as facebook and reddit tend to steal the traffic. About the only nerf group in the world that primarily hangs out in a forum anymore is the American NIC on nerfhaven, which is also seeing less traffic than in the past. (Why this has happened, I do not know, but it does have its problems in that these new venues have no archival value and make content hard to find.)

Regardless, this is probably a large part of why there are fewer posts right now. I wouldn't take it as an indication of HvZ's health.

I am in Florida. Within range of me are 4 HvZ sites (UF, USF, SEU, Florida Polytechnic University).

Of those:

- Polytechnic is a brand new game as of early 15. It has played 2 full games and approximately doubled its attendance in the second, amounting to 1/5 the campus playing HvZ.

- USF is an established organization which just ran its big 5th anniversary game. I couldn't play this last game, but I haven't heard anything negative. About 260 players. This is a large school.

- SEU is a smaller school. They have an established HvZ. I also have not heard anything worrisome about this game and have attended a few missions.

- UF is where I started in 2010, but unfortunately, it is the local game where I can say beyond a doubt that trouble has gone down and evidence of any global decline has arguably manifested in rare form. Also 300-ish players in recent years. This game is notable in that its popularity was astronomical early on and dropped to its modern numbers around 2011.

So overall, based on games and numbers, local HvZ is not doing too bad.

I think more of what has declined is the quality of gameplay. I see a stagnation of both human and zombie sides and a lack of new blood and fresh interest in hardcoring HvZ. For instance (I am a career human) I am not seeing the weapons and tactics posts of the old days, anywhere. Along the same lines I see less of the original spark, the thrill of earlier games that drew people in so well.

Note that HvZ is NOT a fad. The game has been around since 2005. Players of my generation (which are veteran and often retired from university games by several years by now) were not even in high school when HvZ originated. The game has remained of strong appeal all this time and continued spreading. If anything is going wrong at any given site now, it has to be down to some recent change in the way things are done.



Now that is precisely the case with the UF game. I would pin most of the blame for its ills on misguided changes to the game with positive intent. There has been a serious push to cater to casual players, I am guessing in the belief that newer players were being discouraged by a highly competitive gamestate with major skill and equipment barriers to entry. Moderators have thus had a serious bias/grudge against hardcore or effective players with the default idea being that they need to be reined in and nerfed, and the culture has trickled down and led to anti-veteran sentiment (culminating in the banning of a high-level and respected player for extremely dubious reasons with major evidence of corruption) and an attitude I would call sour and unsporting. Zombies have become much less of a fair, square, can-do optimistic bunch and increasingly demanded specials and human nerfs, complained about velocity limits and guns hurting, complained about everything. There is more cheating and arguing. Adding to that, moderators have taken to leashing the gamestate very tightly and using NPC enemies (often immortal) to herd players around and increasingly contrived and lame ways to off people.

I do not play this game any more and have not played their last, but as of the previous game I have seen an excellent cross section of the decline. Is UF turning around? Perhaps. Perhaps it is declining more, signs point to yes (the last I heard, the mods have adopted this police state us-vs-them approach, created a 5 page document of various ways to be banned and warned, and adopted a velocity limit that is clearly intended to trip up any serious upgrading player with the statement that "we will make sure you never use that gun again and if you do, you will be banned"). But the observations stand. The game in such state is highly unrewarding to play as either a human or a zombie, and this type of corrosion of the game structures perfectly explains what I was getting at earlier with the stagnation and loss of the original thrill that I see reflected everywhere.

What I consider most important in efforts to turn it around is that the determination of the game's state/skill level/etc. by player vs. player interaction is critical. As much as some hate arms races, HvZ is an arms race. It is a framework in which players come together to challenge each other with their best honest efforts and abilities and that is what the thrill is derived from. They, and you, get to do anything safe, legal, and sporting to succeed. It is all out survival. That is what the spark is. It is the stuff of batshit insane plays, epic dodges, heroic moments. The legitimacy of it is what makes each kill and each narrow escape so intense and satisfying, you are playing against fellow players. Not against mods, not against rules or a rigged system. The game is genuine and honorable; and you can advance as far as you want in it by putting effort into it, thus it rewards involvement and loyalty.

The vast majority of large scale problems with HvZ I would attribute to attempts to fight this, mainly associated with the great fallacy of "hardcore = bad"/"don't take it too seriously" or that what is going to discourage the noobs is the skill level (and not the culture which is the real issue); thus attempts to seize control and force a de-escalation which end up only violating the core principles of the older games and rendering the end result tedious, lame and cheap, not thrilling. Yet, in all this time, accounts of games with solid sporting attitudes being trashed by over-escalation of the serious players' abilities are few and far between, or even nonexistent. Hardcores/Vets are the foundation. They are who do the promotion and help get noobs involved and act as the game's bedrock. You want them in your game.

Game balance has to come into play, but the best balancing methods are the ones you don't see as artifice when you are a player. Changing mission objectives slightly and metering out perks carefully (to simply change the difficulty of the gameplay) is how it used to be done. By contrast, sending an immortal NPC enemy to run through a squad and murder them, or setting off an unannounced EMP so that players attending a mission with electric guns (not previously knowing that the game itself is even aware of electric guns as a concept) all get iced, is fucking bullshit. Cheap and lame as hell. It isn't skill-based. When it gets that heavyhanded that players are being randomly smited by TPTB and the randomness is the key element to how, you can't do anything as a player to improve! You can't develop better tactics, better weapons, better communication, anything. The only winning move IS NOT TO PLAY.

Another common problem is that we forget humans, versus, zombies. That is, was, the original draw. Most early games around here were strictly plotted with zombie scenarios and did not dilute this too much. That has changed and there is way too much complexity. It could be argued that the freshness of the game is no longer there and the zombie apocalypse allure has got old, but again, in my experience the zombie apocalypse concept doesn't get old and the real cause of any staleness is once again misdirected effort to "fix" the game or change things for the hell of it thereby diminishing elements that made the game as awesome as it once was.



So I hope this was not too much of a detour to get into my theories on the HvZ decline, but that is what I think it is. I have been trying to put this together in a blog post or something for like a year now, and forgive the lack of polish and possible missing pieces.

We need to recapture the original allure of the game and the players will return. It is as simple as that, we need to go back to mid 2011 or earlier. How we did things back then worked.
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CT-2406
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supermidget


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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2015, 09:12:30 PM »

Today I spent a little more time diving through the web, searching for a general online hangout spot for HvZ players.  There are a plethora of facebook groups for individual colleges' games, but the main HvZ page doesn't function as a player hangout.  I'm not big into reddit, so I didn't realize there was a subreddit for HvZ.  It does appear to be quite a bit more active than this forum, so I might end up making an account and posting there.

On campus today, I spoke with and observed both players and moderators.  We have a decent mix of newcomers and hardcore players, and none that I witnessed were having a bad time or complaining about the game.  A few moderators seemed burnt out, but they were still making an effort for the sake of the players.

I also shot an email to the founders, and got replies from Sklover and Cweed.  I learned that there are still daily requests for new games on Source, and merch sales are still steady.  Cweed mentioned the natural ebb and flow that games go through with regard to popularity and player numbers, and there is logic in that.  A campus that has been playing for 5 years definitely has more opportunity for a shrinking player base than a game that just started up.  Goucher's been playing for a decade now, and they've had their share of barren games along with the popular ones.

I do hope people keep commenting, though.  I'd like as many perspectives on the issue as I can get.
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irishknots


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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2015, 03:47:10 PM »

So speaking for some games in my local area, Colorado.

Some games have had their swells and deflations depending on the interest across the board.

CU - started in '08 had some huge popularity until the Campus Police nixed nerf blaster use on campus. Really killed a lot of interest. In the years I attend school there, the games were sock dominated on campus, making it very difficult for a modder and career human to compete in a fashion befitting my skill set. They did have off campus missions which I participated in almost exclusively but were difficult to get to due to class and location. It was during this time that the real saving grace for CU HVZ game into being. Once a semester, they would host an indoor lock-in event on a Friday night lasting approximately 5-7 hours. These events grew in such a way that they had to limit the number of players to 150 as we took up too much space for the facilities we were using at one event that was nearly 300. These events continue to this day. In the spring of '12, they started adapting and having day games during the weekend that many many more people could come and didn't discourage the use of nerf. Those became much better events. It was in this that the week long game really died at CU, and it did so with not a sound. There were plenty of other ways to play that were easier on the schedule, allowed more flexibility in the player base, and became much more hyped. So after some living and learning, this group has grown and shrunk and grown again. I can rely on this group to have multiple day games and a lock-in game twice a year or more (this year they are moving up to once every 3 months)

CSU - A regularly scheduled game that has shrunk in the last two years but still hosts regular weekend events and moved away from the standard week long game. They host games about 3-4 times a year that I attend. They have had up to 150 people and as few as a dozen. They still continue to play and grow with the times, and leadership changes too. Right now they are a little smaller, but I fully expect to see their growth come back in the late spring as the weather will actually cooperate with their events.

Longmont (run through Game of Foams) - a recent discovery of mine, but have been running since around '05. Had up to 300 players at one time but typical size currently is 40. Run under the moniker of SvZ for legal reasons, it operates day games with HvZ style action. Plenty of interest for high school aged players and between two colleges can draw more people in. Expecting to see a large increase in the summer months with their population.

WSCU (Gunnison) - smaller college = smaller game. Tons of hardcore players and great enthusiasm across the board. I tend to see them on the eastern side of our mountains a few times a year for invitationals and CU lock-ins. They host typical weeklong games once a semester and weekend games throughout the year. I cannot say enough that these guys probably closest resemble the original Goucher game.

Overall, I am not seeing too much decline. I really do think it comes down to how games are managed. Good moderators keep a good game alive in times of struggle and bring it back to the forefront. Bad moderators can easily kill a game. It is absolutely essential to make sure that the people who take over after a successful regime know what made it successful. I have seen many of the groups listed above have a change of the guard that brought about a huge growth spurt, or drop attendance.

I personally am getting a lot of support in organizing a large collaborative event for all of these groups this summer. That shows me that the interest is there and that declines for these clubs are merely bumps in the road. We tried to have something like this in the past and it fell through due to the people running it. We now have a huge group of dedicated individuals pushing forward and making large scale events possible.
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Sixth Kira

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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2015, 02:43:17 AM »

To offer some quick thoughts (Jesus, it's been a while since I've been here) -

1. I think that Toruk's right. The game has, in many ways, become far too complicated for a lot of people to play. He's said anything I'd want to say, so I'll leave things there.

2. The rapid advance of technology has also had significant negative effects on our playerbase, I feel. The fact was, back in 2005, your primary weapon options were a Maverick, a Magstrike and (introduced shortly thereafter) a Longshot.

These days, people have the options of numerous electrically-powered semi- and fully-automatic weapons with extremely good range and capacity. This has severely impacted the quality of play, I feel - where once, two or three clever zombies could kill any lone human, nowadays, one heavily-armed human is a match for an entire horde.

I remember that in my first few games, around the time of the Stampede's release, you'd have about 80 or 90% zombies by the end of the game. Nowadays, when I play (although the last time I played was about a year and a half ago), the numbers are often half-and-half or even worse than that. And that's operating with 30-second respawn timers, for God's sake.

This is a crippling problem for the game, I feel. Humans are getting tougher and tougher, and zombies... aren't. Unfortunately, I can't conceivably think of a way of fixing this without basically limiting people to exclusively retro blasters, most of which aren't even on shelves anymore.

If anyone can think of a solution to this, I'd invite them to step up to the plate.
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Justplanefun2
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« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2015, 12:57:22 PM »

To respond to SixthKira's point about stronger blasters, the zombies at my game do whine about my amped up Stryfes.  But in my opinion, firepower is only one of 4 assets a human can have.  Speed, stealth, firepower, and awareness are all important.  You can get away with not having a couple of them, but straight up firepower by itself is not enough (case in point, me, my first semester, dying on first day to a single zombie who surprised me).

Enough of the players at my game either don't have good blasters and/or are unaware enough that the zombies generally have no problem eating them all.  Everyone died last semester.

Might be different at your game but that's the way it is here.
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torukmakto4

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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2015, 06:22:24 PM »

2. The rapid advance of technology has also had significant negative effects on our playerbase, I feel. The fact was, back in 2005, your primary weapon options were a Maverick, a Magstrike and (introduced shortly thereafter) a Longshot.

These days, people have the options of numerous electrically-powered semi- and fully-automatic weapons with extremely good range and capacity. This has severely impacted the quality of play, I feel - where once, two or three clever zombies could kill any lone human, nowadays, one heavily-armed human is a match for an entire horde.

I remember that in my first few games, around the time of the Stampede's release, you'd have about 80 or 90% zombies by the end of the game. Nowadays, when I play (although the last time I played was about a year and a half ago), the numbers are often half-and-half or even worse than that. And that's operating with 30-second respawn timers, for God's sake.

This is a crippling problem for the game, I feel. Humans are getting tougher and tougher, and zombies... aren't. Unfortunately, I can't conceivably think of a way of fixing this without basically limiting people to exclusively retro blasters, most of which aren't even on shelves anymore.

If anyone can think of a solution to this, I'd invite them to step up to the plate.

This is not an issue common to all playerbases. I have been playing since 2010 and at no point has the balance ever even wavered at any event I have been to. The matter of escalating nerf technology affecting balance comes up a lot though and is obviously happening to someone, so I am not calling it a non-concern.

I would suggest that games not suffering a balance problem don't simply have "better" zombies or a more advanced zombie meta, but had a major shift of zombie tactics that make the firepower escalation less relevant by preying first on human failings, not weapon capabilities and flaws. This is what I have seen; modern zombies rarely rely on exploiting a crappy weapon to get a kill, but rather outplay the human fundamentally and on a greater level. What use is firepower if you never get to pull the trigger? Never have a chance to aim? Never see the zombie before being tagged? That is how it happens. It's how I always die, and unlike firepower and traditional tactics, it is difficult to have a one-sided escalation of that human element on a playerbase level so as to break a game.

Also, typical "solutions" (involving restricting human armaments) to the escalation of technology in this game are inherently damaging IMO. They fall squarely into the category of changes that contribute to the decline of the game, as described above.
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CT-2406
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Felixnfawkes


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« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2015, 01:55:55 PM »

Hello HvZ! Even though I'm new and as of yet haven't played the game yet, I'd like to point out the tie to history this thread highlights so well. Better weapons negate previous combat methods. For example, as given us by Sixth Kira, when spring powered guns were the only options 3-4 zombies could rush and "kill" even a skilled player without backup. But with the advance of nerf technology providing much better ranges and rate of fire that same scenario would take quite a few more zombies to actually succeed. Or follow histories example and stop charging in mass numbers against a better armed enemy. Use cunning, stealth, and ambush tactics to make their increase in relative firepower irrelevant. History as shown us that as the weapons of war get better at killing those who actually fight the wars have to get smarter about how they fight. This maybe a redundant post and if so I apologize. But reading this I felt compelled to point out the obvious work around I the hopes that those player who are having the issues of game balance as far as weapons are concerned could point this out to their moderators in the hopes that they can rebalance the game effectively.

~Felix
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Chevalier Mal Fet
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2015, 02:56:30 PM »

I've been playing since 2008, and I've definitely seen the firepower creep.

But it's more complicated than that.

On one level, improved NERF weaponry really helps the newb humans a lot at the expense of newbie zombies. No longer is there lots of easy prey roaming around waving Mavericks in the air. Now, the capability that used to take extensive modding to achieve is available to everyone off-the-shelf, and human groups have become somewhat tougher as a result.

But, on a deeper level, it's more the shift in tactics that has killed Truman's game. The best weapons are not fancy-ass repeating blasters, but simple socks. In essence, around 2012 or so, Truman's humans "solved" the game. Hordes of players armed with socks could outfight any zombie they couldn't outrun, and outrun any zombie they couldn't outfight. The dramatic last stands and massacres of years past faded away into the misty memories of old farts like myself. Instead, humans could consistently and easily win any mission and there was little the zombies could do to stop them.

On the one hand, I take pride in the fact that was by adopting methods I first proposed in this forum years ago that humans made themselves essentially unbeatable, but on the other I'm frustrated by the fact that I'm just as unable as anyone else to come up with a viable answer to the new human tactics.

Basically, it seems like the zombie skill curve levels out far, far, lower than the human curve does, and eventually we had players who had 6-7 years of experience under their belt. They kind of broke the game for everyone else, and now it just feels dull and tired.
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Chevalier Mal Fet
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2015, 02:57:24 PM »

I've been playing since 2008, and I've definitely seen the firepower creep.

But it's more complicated than that.

On one level, improved NERF weaponry really helps the newb humans a lot at the expense of newbie zombies. No longer is there lots of easy prey roaming around waving Mavericks in the air. Now, the capability that used to take extensive modding to achieve is available to everyone off-the-shelf, and human groups have become somewhat tougher as a result.

But, on a deeper level, it's more the shift in tactics that has killed Truman's game. The best weapons are not fancy-ass repeating blasters, but simple socks. In essence, around 2012 or so, Truman's humans "solved" the game. Hordes of players armed with socks could outfight any zombie they couldn't outrun, and outrun any zombie they couldn't outfight. The dramatic last stands and massacres of years past faded away into the misty memories of old farts like myself. Instead, humans could consistently and easily win any mission and there was little the zombies could do to stop them.

On the one hand, I take pride in the fact that was by adopting methods I first proposed in this forum years ago that humans made themselves essentially unbeatable, but on the other I'm frustrated by the fact that I'm just as unable as anyone else to come up with a viable answer to the new human tactics.

Basically, it seems like the zombie skill curve levels out far, far, lower than the human curve does, and eventually we had players who had 6-7 years of experience under their belt. They kind of broke the game for everyone else, and now it just feels dull and tired.
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Om nom, kiddos.

Screw those lists of blasters. Being a zombie is just better.
ilikefish58


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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2015, 10:46:48 PM »

I was at Texas A&M from 2008-2012.  HvZ started there in Fall 2009, and my first game was in Spring 2010.  We had 2-3 games a semester with averages around 250-300 and a high of over 1000.  The over 1000 person game happened very early on - it was the second game at A&M in December 2009.  As time went on, it seemed like attendance really dropped off.  Part of this was due to the experienced, passionate players getting into upper level classes and graduating.  Part of it was due to our mod team all being on the quidditch team and not having enough time to devote more energy to advertising HvZ.

I returned for two games in the fall of 2012, but the lackluster attendance and some gameplay tweaks by the new mods made it not worth the 4 hour one-way drive and I haven't been back since.  They are still running two games a semester.  I didn't get a count for the last game they ran, but the one before that had only 33 players with an average of 10-15 for missions.

One of the tweaks the mods made that dissuaded me from returning was that they implemented a "winner" system for humans.  In all the games prior, if zombies killed all humans at the final mission, zombies won.  In an attempt to draw in competitive players, the mods changed it into a system where the final mission was always just a killbox and the last three surviving humans won.  There was no incentive for zombies - basically, if you became a zombie you lost the game.

This combined with the advancements in NERF weaponry really hampered any chances for the zombies to effectively play.  Zombies resorted to ambush tactics, but eventually with the dwindling player count, it became a burden to try to set up an ambush when there were maybe 20 humans and 10 zombies on a campus of 80,000 students.  I presume zombies developed a "what's the point?" attitude when facing the fact that they could wait for hours and not see anybody and when they did, they'd have a more reliable, fast-firing weapon than the mavericks of old.

During late 2011 and early 2012, I tried to get a little more involved in attracting a new young playerbase.  It seemed like nothing we did really worked though.  Our attendance numbers slipped down from 200 to 150 and then even lower.  I still don't understand why.  I would think that at such a large campus, more people would at least be interested but the numbers never really swelled back up.  Maybe we didn't advertise as effectively as I thought.  Maybe people just didn't see any.  Maybe the cultural obsession with zombies got a little tired.

I don't have any real answers to why Texas A&M's game has effectively died.  Like toruk said, the NIC as a whole has seemed to have quieted down quite a bit.  I personally haven't done anything nerf related in any sort of capacity for at least a year and a half.  Maybe that is the reason.  Maybe A&M was too large of a campus.  I am close to UT Tyler and they seem to have a pretty healthy game there.   Or maybe its just a getting the right people to run the game at the right time kind of thing.  I don't know.
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Ross_Varn
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« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2015, 12:23:07 AM »

I wasn't around to see the game back in 2005, but I have experience with today's game, and I don't think it's going anywhere. The events we host at Lindenwood University draw in a decent player base, every time I visit an invitational there are plenty of folks trading tips and incredible stories, and Missouri players regularly travel miles to play in a game. It will last as long as there are moderators willing to devote time and energy into creating a good game.

I think what SM is seeing is really simple- traffic here died like a fish out of water the week after the HVZ homepage redesigned and killed the link to this forum. No new traffic + less old traffic = less posts = less responses = no posts, unfortunately. You may want to check out the National HVZ Admin Exchange group on Facebook. It is as active as these forums were in their heyday. I wish we could get back to this form of communication, but I don't think it's likely at this point.
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2015, 09:08:14 PM »

Basically, it seems like the zombie skill curve levels out far, far, lower than the human curve does, and eventually we had players who had 6-7 years of experience under their belt. They kind of broke the game for everyone else, and now it just feels dull and tired.

I'm one of those guys who has 7 years of experience and I finally decided to retire from play at my alma mater because the last game I played in (spring of this year) the Humans totally dominated. Most of us had modded Stryfes, we had tons of cheap ammo from eBay, we organized into three fire teams who always kept radio contact, and the people who just started playing really didn't stand a chance.

Once there's a certain experience level, it's time to move to the Invitational 'servers', I guess.
But would those problems be the same if I and a few other vets went dedicated Zombie?
Would the problem be perceived the same?

Toruk's wall o' text up top is also really really good and makes me wonder how Veteran generation happens or doesn't happen within a player culture. Why have dedicated Zombie vets not kept up with Human vets over time? Why did attrition favor the squad in my environment? Could it favor the horde in any game?
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Berea College, KY
Proud member of Z Squad
Quote from: Dyslexda
Water on darts? Certainly would be banned
But now I'm mad that I got trolled so I'm going to ban you anyway.
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