sherpa: Rags to riches

Rags to riches is the story of sherpa’s journey from newbie to veteran gamer. It’s filled with great stories, both funny and nostalgic, about one of the most likeable players in the NS community. It was first published in 2006, but consequently forgotten when the second Nine Legends website was launched in 2007. Two years later, it’s finally available again. Highly recommended reading for anyone who has the time to spare.


Written by James “sherpa” Elston.



October 31st, 2002. My browser loaded up the old NS site. I wait a few seconds as my 56k modem struggles to load up the flash menu and haunting background music.


My gaming history was a bit bizarre up to this point. I had just left (been kicked!) from a C-S clan that had recently broken into the top 25 of the ClanBase league ladder. Greek Tactical Troopers — GTT — was a clan made up of Greek players who had all moved to England. Having no links to Greece my mind is a bit fuzzy as to how I joined the clan (I believe my last clan — Hell Raisers — had GTT's clan leader (Psit) in it). As the clan decided they had a chance at success, they shrunk it down to their broadband players. Living in a rural area meant broadband wasn't even an option until 2003.


Handy with an AWP, I was happy to continue playing C-S but I had followed the progress of Natural Selection — who could say no to space monsters and big guns? On release I started downloading the 150Mb v1.00 installer. It took a full 24 hours to get the damned thing; 4.5Kb/s is not for the win. Loading the game up for the first time, I joined the marine team on ns_hera. Using a default config, the first thing I noticed was the awesome atmosphere — I had no idea the HL engine was capable of giving this brooding atmosphere. As we were all new back then — and 1.00 meant 400 pings — not a lot happened. We all jumped around the map a bit, using our 10-clip shotguns to defend against skulks who would use an outpost's PG to phase into our main base.



The legendary Feracopter

The legendary Feracopter



My first time as alien was pretty comical. I distinctly remember it being on tanith, with fusion as the hive (isn't it crazy how we remember the most pointless of things?). After walking out the hive without so much as one hop in the air I started to explore the map. After a while I randomly found the popup menu. Gestate to lerk? Sounds good! LOL, FLYING! Back then, the lerk flight model had an "airy", light feel to it. I was having a play with it when half the team raged at me. "WTF DON'T USE MY RES?!" they screamed. "USE SPIKE" they encouraged. "PROTECT GORGE" they advised.


Skip a year and I was regular on EagleC's and Roobubba NTFM server. One of the regs was BCK's Robin42. Possibly the largest, most disorganised multi-gaming clan ever, I was invited to join the NS division after playing with him in a C-S match and out-scoring everyone. Along with Robin, the team included SuddenFear, tankefugl (who would go on to become a developer), choc, RadbidWeasel, Oetel, TcO; and at one point or another — moomin, Ferathe and s3phyw0th. Pretty much all were NTFM regulars (indeed, I remember the forum discussion as to whether moomin should be banned for aimbotting); so we were little more than the equivalent of YO players who played competitively. We also had laggasaurus — lagga — who up until autumn 2006, I've been clanning with since those days.


We were awful.


No — worse than that.


A typical strategy- with Robin in the CC- would be to have 3 marines to topo, 2 in base, and 1 — tankefugl — to ninja alien res towers on his own. We'd set up a TF in base (not *quite* as stupid as it sounds- on veil you could siege double res from MS in 1.04 days) and rambo around the map.



This doesn’t happen nearly enough.

This doesn’t happen nearly enough.



Strangely, I remember Oetel and me having an argument of e-rage proportions after I stepped in to command in one game. He said I was awful, and I had a go at him. Remember we were only about 16/17 back then. I've not talked to him since then.


Following bottom places in the huge GamingOrb leagues, the team eventually folded. In its place, Periodic was formed. We cut the dead weight but had pretty much the same line-up described above. Whilst other teams were learning how to bunnyhop and JP+HMG hives, we were content to play against nubs, as nubs. We were bad but we had fun. choc was about as talkative as wltrs but I'd always talk shit with RabidWeasel. "Seraph you nub!" in his cockney accent would guarantee retaliation. And it was all too easy to poke fun at the 200-pinging laggasaurus for warping his way around the map.


It was with Periodic that I was handed my biggest ever raping. We'd played other great teams- such as torment- and we'd always been beaten easily, but our fade at least would be able to pick up a couple of frags. One night we took on German clan ariadne. Over 4 rounds, we picked up 8 frags. That works out to each player getting 0.33 frags each round. Laugh out loud!


As 2.0 was coming to an end, the clan finally broke up. I was certain that I couldn't possibly have as much fun in another clan as I did with Periodic, so I stuck to pubbing for a few months. During that time, TcO kept asking me to join config. A Belgian-based clan, I was pretty sure I wouldn't fit in, but in the end I stopped resisting and joined.


Config spamming? No way!

Config spamming? No way!


I ended up replacing knoxville- the clan's only other English player. Led by dema, this was an assorted clan. Over the months we had Belgian, Dutch, English, Finnish, German, Swedish and Norwegian players. Though I'm having a right laugh playing with nL- I don't think anything can beat the 18 months of joking about that cfg had. From dema's "hey shut ze fuck up for ze hive now" (he always said it at round start so he could listen for the hive), to Phoenix's, chao's and ScorpNL's aimbotting, to bp's ramboing, to Sublime's raging, to Xur's monologues, to coris' donkey-laugh; config was a riot. It had a great atmosphere, and dema kept everyone happy. Every now and again we'd recruit a new player when needed. Everytime we searched, Cassidy and Ak0n would PM dema asking to join.


I think just to spite those guys, dema ended up recruiting FragBadger at one point. God damn, Danny, you were so bad at NS! Following Rebirth's break-up Starchy joined us. Pete was one crazy motherfucker. An inability to take anything serious meant he was always a laugh and we always took the piss out of the poor lad. I still chuckle when I think back on us actually making him cry for raging at him when his flash fade died after a few seconds. Starchy's commanding also created the phrase "the Rebirth textbook". In this fictional textbook was Rebirth's tactics. I should say tactic — as there was only ever one. If Starchy was commanding, we would always hear "okay lads — one armory; five shotguns".


After pleading with dema, I got him to recruit lagga. -=]BCK[=- players back together! We're not actually gay lovers, just for the record.


I stand by my opinion that dema was the best com, Phoenix the best fade, ScorpNL/chao the best marines and Sublime the best lerk I've ever played with; but we never became a high-skilled clan. We just didn't take the game seriously enough and only played casually. We were as interested in playing on our regular server — BryNS — as we were playing a PCW.


It was during these halcyon days that the legendary TeamICE was born. Config was close to the old Levitacus. Although not as good as the 3.x Levitacus, it had players who were more fun to play with. Seriously — you've not lol'd unless you've played with Illegrian and lompo. When one team couldn't field enough players, we'd make a mix together and take on the EUNS scene. Originally called "vittumix", Fb gave us the team nick name "TeamICE". We used it to play against teams would wouldn't play levi/cfg players., masking as Icelandic players. We would spam a mix of random Finnish and Swedish words on the server so the opposition would think we were Icelandic :S


Somewhere along the line, ==1C3L4ND3D== was born. Taking elite speak to extreme levels, we'd go stack a server and spam it any time one of us made a frag. We made admins' lives very hard over the next few months. I think the phrase was so ridiculous that it could have been as popular as the "ORLY?" owl, had NS not been a niche game. Seeing non-TeamICE people use it in normal sentences ("lol i totally icelanded that guy") makes me giggle.


Config, at its peak- 3.0b5 days I think- had a top 5 marine round, but our alien round was poor. After the next release, we had one of the best alien rounds as Phoenix and Sublime would carry us every game, but our marine round suffered and we ended up becoming poorer. 18 months after I joined, about 2 years after the clan's formation, config folded after we lost our love for the game. Our last match would be the first ENSL match in s2, after losing to RedDog 4-0. FRP's Sharpi still reminds me of how I raged "I'm not losing to Peach and 5 pubnubs!" halfway through the game. We were still able to laugh, though. dema was certain that rushing JPs would give us the ns_lost round, and I still remember his half-rage-half-joke assesment after we lost the round: "hey it's not my fault — you guys suck!".


Config disbanded, but as I was starting university it was the right time for me. Uni is no times to be playing video games!



Don’t feed my ego.

Don’t feed my ego.



During the summer of 2005 me and lagga merced for omgwtfns. That ended quickly after losing 3-1 to Team Fantasy in June. Lagga was telling the team that the opposition were relocating to our hive on ns_nothing but we got no backup and lost in the most embarrassing way. Getting bored of NS, I tried BF2 when it came out. At first it seemed good fun — a decent squad-based game. But the flaws soon showed through. Five minutes to load a map? No thanks! Invincible jets? No thanks! Constant artillery? No thanks!


During Christmas of 2005 I set up s&m, as an excuse to play with the config players — lagga, Sub, lump, coris and bp. In hindsight it was a mistake as I never took it seriously or put time into it. Somehow I ended up entering a UK team into the world cup. I didn't have a reputation back then, so a lot of players questioned me leading the team. The truth is that no English players wanted to play, and I pretty much got the job by default. For a team that only played 2 PCWs we had moderate success — losing 3-1 in the quarter finals to Finland, the eventual winners. A lot of people laughed at my commanding on ns_nothing — the round where Peach got banned for trapping marines in a lift. Crucially, our tactic was to get early HMGers down Intrepidation and up to Viaduct. It was those early HMG marines that were trapped in the lift. It was tough to comeback from that. I locked down cargo hive, but my inexperience in commanding shone through as I neglected to push alien RTs. I did manage to get several level 3, MT, HA and JP trains; but our lack of practise punished us as were never able to get into the generator area of the map, let alone the lower northern half of the map.


A disappointing result after our impressive group stage. We got past the the SC-using Singaporeans 3-1, and Godon-botting Koreans 4-0. Canada proved a tough nut to crack. I think my commanding on origin of that match is my finest performance in NS. Our first 2 attack squads died around laser and IAC/double — far, far away from any alien nodes. We had pretty much nothing going for us. Deciding to cut our losses, I got a PG up in IAC and locked biodome. I was happy to give the Canadians the 2nd hive whilst we teched up. morphz was godlike in that match. I remember tracking his JP+HMG marine with an open mouth from the CC as he chased and solo'd at least 4 fades. After slowly pushing ventilation we took the hive down then their resistance crumbled. The demoralised Canadians refused to play seriously on veil — our "home" map where the server would be located in England — and we ended 4-0 up. Big shout out to the team for that year — dux, danster, Mt, lagga, Sublime, Phoenix, Ben, mu, mop, Ed.


Playing for teamUK was pretty much my first serious attempt at commanding. Can't say I enjoyed it much.


After the Christmas break I went back to Uni and disappeared from the scene for a few months. lump took over and managed to recruit some quality players but s&m never achieved much success. I remember randomly popping onto IRC one day and ended up playing against knife in an official. We lost 4-0 and I ended up switching positions with commander lump as he wanted to play outfield!


During the spring, cheez^ asked me to play for his Beta Project team after knife folded. A mixture of old and new players, this was another farm team doomed to failure and never got off the ground. It was around this time that I made a frag movie. It was poor — my first attempt at using video programs. As usual, I lost interest quickly and the video ended up only being footage of about 5 recent matches. Poor frags, poor editing but good music. A good watch for my old clanmates for some nostalgia, perhaps.


Summer 2006 and I'd finished uni. I was gutted at how quickly it went. Best 3 years of my life. A couple of lectures, a few women and a lot of booze. The stories about university are true. In July I started Souljah with ex-lessthanthree player SlayerX. I saw this as another excuse to play with the remaining cfg players but it was my most successful clan up to that point. Despite only lasting 2 months, we did fairly well. The roster, as well as aforementioned players, included tjosan, Mt, frG and Peach. I got to know Peach pretty well as we got along. I find that there's always a grunts/commanders segregation in clans, so we’d always chat shit together. The nightcup was the only official tournament we played in. We demolished Armless 4-0, and narrowly lost to TN 3-1. Crucially, Sublime dropped when gestating as lerk on metal. Playing 5v6 with no lerk we had little chance against the all-stars of TN. In our playoff match we took on Germany's flatline — posible NS's most improved clan. Starting as mid-skilled they ended up being real contenders in this cup. We won our alien rounds within 4 minutes, but our marine rounds were poor. Going to a tie-break, we ended up losing a staggering 13-11. TWENTY FIVE ROUNDS OF NS — and we lost to a shotgun rush!



Souljah raging up a pub server.

Souljah raging up a pub server.



tjosan and frG, dissatisfied with Souljah's performance in the nightcup left the team. It was one of EUNS's worst-kept secrets that Peach was going to leave us, too. With Sub and lagga starting university their selves, and crt disappearing; myself, Sx and Mt remained the only active players.


Back in competitive limbo, I had managed to build up a reputation over the past 6 months. The problem with NS though is the small player base. Most of us have known one another by name for a couple of years. As such, it's incredibly hard to build up your reputation. I was never going to be thought of anything other than a mediocre player. I had a couple of offers to join clans after Souljah died, but didn't take them up on the offer — I never played for more than 2 months for my last 4 clans so why bother?



Taking a round off future team-mates.

Taking a round off future team-mates.


I still pubbed and played mixes, but nothing more. I merced for TN once and joined the server. I'd never played with the knife/TN guys before (with the exception of Ed in teamUK) so didn't know what they were like. First thing Fana said to me: "nevermind mu's here now. Fuck off sherpa".




Some weeks later and I did actually get to play with them. Up to this point I'd never cemented myself a role in NS. In a match you could find me commanding, marining, skulking, lerking or fading. "Jack of all trades — master of none" springs to mind. I couldn't be arsed to shoot when I merced for them, so I asked to command. We took down Insane in a scrim easily. I didn't expect it to go any further — like I said, I expect everyone to think I'm mediocre at best (and I know a lot of people still do. I remember mu not wanting me in the top player's "secret" mix chan. Funny thing is, I know I'm a better shot than him now, than he was back when he played).



Ben -- King Emo.

Ben — King Emo.


So I was surprised when Fana asked me to merc for them when Ben wasn't around. Commanding NS's best team when my commanding was sporadic? I must have impressed him as Fana asked me to join as backup comm. As I was on/off with NS at the time, I was happy to play backup. I didn't enjoy commanding — I still don't, and never have enjoyed commanding — but it was a chance to play with the best.


Fortunately for me, Ben started university in the autumn. By default, I was promoted to primary commander. Even when b1 joined, Fana gave me the chance to stay as primary comm — and the faith he showed means I'll always respect him for that (As much as you can have respect for a video game community, anyway). Within a couple of weeks of playing with the recently renamed Nine Legends, my skill at commanding sky rocketed.


I was fortunate in that since starting NS I've played with a variety of great comms — dema, lump, ben, Peach and b1. I've always been able to beat single player RTS games easily — but only because in every SP RTS game you can just turtle then zerg rush. My greatest skill in NS is that I'm smart — when I'm marining I can't aim for shit but I can position myself well enough so that I can afford to miss a few bullets. Commanding is all about being smart. All you have to do is learn how and when to react to a situation. Having witnessed the aforementioned commanders, I made my own style that melded theirs to mine. b1 is probably the commander I'd learned most from, but at the time I was meek enough to see what made other commanders play well and took that on board.


The most confident I've felt about my commanding was not strolling to the ENSL s5 Premiership title (the lack of competition took the shine off that), it was actually when Zamma and LoneShark told me I was a good commander after commanding in a mix. Getting recognition off peers is more rewarding than playing well. I remember when playing for my university intra-mural football team. I played heroics in goal one match. We were dominated but the match finished 1-1. The compliments I got from the opposition during the end-game handshakes were more rewarding than the many one-handed diving saves I made. I've got a scar on my elbow and ankle from that match — I was going to ground that often, but I digress.



wltrs, the team player.

wltrs, the team player.



As with everyone — with success comes ego. It's causing me to flame a lot more than I used to. I'm serious when I say, in my opinion in January 2007, I'm the best commander who's ever played NS, and the smartest skulk in the undefeated nL. However, there's still enough of the "old" modest sherpa in me to acknowledge that that's only because I've learnt from past commanders and play alongside the best players. People think that commanding nL is easy — puzl managed to get a good dig on me by saying that nL can win by aim alone. I'd like to say that tactics plays more of a part in NS the higher up you play. In nL, I know that a shotgunner and LMGer can lock, say, tanith's chemical room, from anything but a fade with backup. With low/mid-skilled players there's always the chance they'll fuck up; so you end up with pretty crap tactics that rarely advances beyond 2 early shotguns or zerg rushing a room.


I need to mention that nL is full of good personalities. A lot of people associate nL with ego (my last paragraph probably confirms that), but inside the team you'll see a side of the clan that you won't see outside. Whether it's Fana shouting at aA just for being Polish, or bobbi with his "DID YOU SEE THAT I WENT RIGHT THROUGH HIM — THAT'S BULLSHIT" rages, there's a laugh every minute.


The best so far would be the first time I heard wltrs speak. We were scrimming Flatline in October on eclipse. It was about 2am CET as the match was long-lasting. I can tell when wltrs gets annoyed by the way his style of play changes. Some people wail on their keyboard when raged- wltrs becomes uber aggressive. Getting pissed at being tanked, the lad walks past the un built sieges and runs into maintenance with a shotgun. A skulk bunnyhops towards him from the length of the grated catwalk. wltrs fires about 3 times at this skulk but gets taken down. Bear in mind it's late at night so we're all trying to be quiet. Thus it came with some shock that wltrs presses his ventrilo outbound button and just screams "KANKER!!!" at the top of his voice. It was so unexpected that I actually shrugged my headphones off and my ears were buzzing. Legendary.



Thanks for the picture, Ed!

Thanks for the picture, Ed!



And that's about it! NS has been a good laugh but it looks like it's finally on its way out. For those of us who didn't take it too seriously I'm sure we can look at it objectively and say it was some fun shit!