I can recall joining MSTR for the first time around 2014-2015 from which I would fall in love with the style, complete mechanics and the decent local community. I instantly switched from Garry's Mod to MSTR and my activity in normal TF2 decreased, but even so, my memory is fragmented and incomplete, so keep in mind that a little bit of the info that I'm spouting may be the product of theory with good support.
Back in the old days of TF2 Sandbox, MSTR stood as the biggest center of in-game TF2 roleplaying in the community, which was a bit of surprise because the community owners themselves didn't expect people to be so avid on practicing interesting roleplays, but nonetheless, Sandbox itself has always had a great amount of creative freedom that just so happens to appease storylines and complex roleplays through the available building. Since we're talking about roleplaying, I can't forget to mention its principal booster: population, which is theorized to have mostly come from videos (that are now considered old) about TF2 Sandbox which come from people like Muselk and FUNKe, both popular amongst the older Team Fortress YouTube community.
With a lot of population, respectable playerbase and many interested and creative players, MSTR had a primal recipe for success in their hands that would lead them towards greater longevity and a great contributor to the TF2 community, but something was missing: any normal person would consider security to keep this server safe and sound from both technical and behavioral problems within the playerbase and such was the case with the technical side of MSTR's Sandbox server but not the behavioral side of things, the admins and moderators very rarely appeared on the server and the report plugin was practically broken. The community of MSTR wasn't totally pure but it managed to stand up pretty well as the plugin itself was perfectly equipped to deal with trolls: The trust feature is something that is unheard of nowadays due to Moddage's iron security, but in the past it was the titanium duct tape that permitted the player's experience in MSTR to be undisturbed and safe from harassers. With trolling and griefing eliminated, MSTR's community could not descend into complete anarchy, builders couldn't be ceased into the sense of chaos that would create a chain reaction of even greater chaos and eventual elimination of Sandbox's better opportunities. Of course, there was still the issue of people's attitudes in communication, where they could be toxic and such, but surprisingly, that wasn't the case and even if one guy appeared in the server with a dark cloud above them, the server usually disregarded him, blocked him and/or moved on. In my personal opinion, I think MSTR's community only miraculously stood this well because its source of people was simply quality: they had cleverness in how to ignore people, all had the common interest of building and expressing their creativity and didn't have enough envy to feel disturbed by other people's builds in the server, at minimum they only expressed this in normal TF2 gameplay which had the tendency to provoke people's frustration way more than Sandbox.
Through months and years, the population size stabilized and everyone began to familiarize themselves with Sandbox, developing roleplay concepts further and further, only being unable to resume big roleplays due to the lack of the save feature in those days. The administration was silent this time, only rarely appearing on the server under moderators and very rarely under admin labels. In these rare stays they didn't do much, they interacted a bit, built and oversaw the community, until that dreaded day. As you can see, everything was going pretty well but the lack of adminship was becoming suspicious and the Sandbox plugin wasn't receiving updates, one would expect us to be abandoned, but we weren't... And in a bad way.
Final Phase of MSTR (nearly the end of TF2 Sandbox altogether)
The beginning of the end wasn't orchestrated by anyone at all, it just simply happened out of entropy: The combined blow of two forces - the resurfacing of FNaF and the greater frequency of admin visits to the server. I'll explain how these two clashed and began the roadtrip to hell:
But we weren't only left in the hands of the roleplay prohibition, we were left on the hands of the administration's overall egotistical and edgy personalities. Unfortunately, the owner ignored this sort of event, allegedly, but nonetheless, the owner didn't retaliate the high admin's decision and he was still allowed to loosely set some of his or her own rules which reflected on his/her own views and personality. Since these other rules were set loosely (they were announced to a small amount of people through admin messaging) and the prohibition of roleplaying was a big deal, the admins turned over to enforce anti-roleplay policies and measurements:
Despite these measures, people still managed to roleplay and build for roleplaying purposes outside the eye of the undercover force or the admins. The admins nor the undercovers had access to chat logs, nor did they change names or profile pictures to effectively BE undercover and fool rule breakers into a false sense of security. Once the clandestine activities were discovered, the adminhood decided to be even more vigilant and more punishing to role players, most of these punishments were permanent bans from the server. The restrictions and permanent banishments from the server forced many people to quit roleplaying altogether, those who weren't banned had simply remained in the server, building obscure monuments and buildings like that... Or in my case, build minigame courses. Most of the permanently banished moved on and gave up on TF2 RP, while others didn't give up so easily and simply participated in other servers, one of those suitable roleplaying servers was GmodTech's GmodTech Hotel, which served as the new TF2 RP center for a long time, but it died by the end of 2018.
MSTR had been dethroned, their RP center status removed and their creative community began degrading, being replaced by less creative and commontype players. In fact, the flow of these players was reversely proportional to the flow of creative people, which was decreasing rapidly. This was a radical change to MSTR, its appearance was defined by freedom, creativity, comfort and opportunity, all of which were weakened by the administration's new policies. MSTR headed towards a new direction and I bet you know how terribly good it was just by the next chapter's title.
It's theorized that MSTR's radical transformation was a decision taken by the inner friendship circle between the admins: all of these admins came from DFS (Dispenz0r's Fun Server), which was confirmed by their DFS name tags as well as their high frequency in the community. This nativity and great playtime in DFS may have caused them to view DFS as a model for a good TF2 community server, mix that with the high admin's ego hunger and you get MSTR's roleplay prohibition which is based off the "edgy" beliefs and attitudes used in DFS. The admin's final objective is then speculated to have been the reformation of MSTR into a casual talk server with a few side party tricks, which in this case were encapsulated into Sandbox. Working this speculative objective further out comes to the conclusion that they were putting Sandbox away from the community's arms and only at the hand of "trusted members" (VIPs and members of the administration). In a matter of words, the admins wanted their own personal paradise, which, funnily enough, didn't comply with all of the admins' views: there was one or more instances of moderations and administration members coming up to the server without a clue about the new set of rules or even the RP prohibition, most were against this type of decision since they still knew what the good population of this server was gifted for. We can speculate that these obscure staff members were simply forgotten by the high admin's inner circle due to their inactivity, but it could be that they were forgotten because the inner circle was simply focusing on its own members and objectives, not having the competence to inform these shadow admins before the possibility of a revolt happened. Either way, these shadow admins were very obscure, even to me and others. We don't know what happened behind the curtains, but we're pretty sure that they were gone pretty quickly after the beginning of "Black Mold".
The beginning of "Black Mold" is estimated to have started when roleplay was completely exterminated off the server following the anti-roleplay policies and measurements, and when the amount of relevant and unique players started to die off rather quickly. The Degradation Era is the ultimate testament to the administration's incompetence in their job of allowing the server to thrive freely from personal bias:
The Degradation Era ultimately ended when the undercover enforcement and the admins disappeared off the face of the server as well as when the server began having technical issues that put it in an unusable state. The unusable state consisted of hellish levels of ping and the Sandbox plugin being dead and unequipped for the server. Frankly, nobody could enjoy or play the server in this status and some considered it to have finally died. However, if having an admin dictatorship wasn't weird and twisty enough, the server had its own miracle...
The long Degradation Era had finally ended.
The Freedom Period began when the small group of people who still had good faith in TF2 Sandbox realised that MSTR's unusable state had its periods of functionality, which usually lasted 1 to 7 days, and lacked the presence of any enforcement, signifying the total loss of interest from the admins and undercover enforcement in the server and therefore the closure of the infamous admin dictatorship. News about MSTR's periods of functionality spread and quite possibly reached the ears of admins. However, they did not make use of these periods as their expectations said that the server was quickly gonna become dysfunctional and unusable but also that the server was not gonna keep up with the administration's policies, since they learned that the hard way.
The hopeful population of roleplayers and skillful builders who had luckily remained unbanned from the server took this opportunity to enjoy TF2 Sandbox freely, yet again. This old generation was small but enough to motivate newer generations to build more creatively and collaboratively through verbal communication and visual communication (Buildings). Thus, the Freedom Period is similar to MSTR before the admin dictatorship, the only difference is in the names of roleplayers and builders, most were less known, obscure or just new people in the scene, these are the the ones that resisted the dictatorship. Despite this kind of development, this era is incredibly obscure to most people, even me, who only arrived at the end of the Freedom Period. This phenomena is to be blamed on the number of roleplayers with a very memorable grasp into MSTR banned from the server and the lack of richness and longevity to the newer generation of MSTR that ended when the Freedom Period ended upon the closure of the server by XP, the owner.
As mentioned before, this phase wasn't as rich as pre-dictatorship MSTR because it was still forgotten and plagued by periods of hellish lag that can last for days and fool unaware newcomers into the sense that this server died. However, it still had things that modern TF2 Sandbox missed like roleplayers, player numbers that go beyond 5 for most of the time and occasional collaborations between builders to essentially make a town, and no, it's not like having a lotta builds in spawn, that's not really a group of builds that has the point of collaborating to form what appears to be a town, where builds have this mutual interest of "comforting" each other.
The town section of the Freedom Period is usually celebrated as its true signature, people had a greater tendency to stick to each other but to also build closer to each other and such was the case with the legendary Lake Village. Lake Village is considered by most to be the last town and last player aglomerate to have happened in MSTR before it permanently shut down, founded far away the spawn zone in the water treatment station which we called "lake".
Lake Village was unintentionally founded by a stray GibusVision Engineer named "ddomster" (He's still active nowadays but he doesn't want to be involved with the past anymore so I won't give any more profile information), initiated by a single wooden grocery store that was surprisingly detailed. Following this building, another builder, M.Bison who's still a roleplayer, built an enormous house near the wooden shop and that ultimately kick-started a chain reaction of more builders coming by and adding more and more buildings to the region of teamcity, creating a town in the area that was named Lake Village. Since the save feature didn't exist, Lake Village only lives in death because of screenshots (From me, the writer). The historical texts that You're reading here and the memories that everyone lived that day allow you to know how it appeared and how it held throughout its evening of existence.
It was beautiful to witness the development of this town. The agglomeration of people in one place that wasn't motivated by exposure (Building in spawn is often motivated by the higher exposure to newcomers and most players in the server) shows what truly defined this period: peace, unity and freedom.
Lake Village has been screenshotted as a part of recording such a great event, I, the writer, can provide you the source of such screenshots if you'd like to see them.
In the end, the Freedom Period was not as rich nor as long as normal MSTR, but I guess that's the result of the admin dictatorship because the poor community was beat to death because of one minority group, a reckless, egotistical act that wouldn't have happened if the administration was better maintained. The Freedom Period was sealed when the server was shut down permanently by the owner, we don't know what motivated the owner to shut his server down but if that wasn't the case, maybe TF2 Sandbox could've had a better grasp into the joy of each newcomer's experience.
SOME FEARED THE END OF TF2 SANDBOX AND THE END OF TF2 RP IF GMODTECH DIED. BUT THEN CAME A MIRACLE.
To be continued in Modern Sandbox historical report.