Mapping for a Competitive Audience

by | December 26th, 2009 | Articles | 4 Comments »

Competitive players can seem fickle and picky and sometimes downright rude, but there are also lots of great communities playing the 6v6 format in tf2 and you’re sure to meet a lot of great guys while mapping for them. There are several things you need to do and several things to avoid when mapping for competitive players as opposed to casual players; I will run through them briefly and introduce you to the game type in short.


The 6v6 metagame is based around two teams of, well, 6 players; there is a CL1 (class limit 1) on medics and demos and CL2 on every other class. In this smaller format, many classes do better than they would in the larger settings pubs provide; for this reason, the typical setup is 2 soldiers, 2 scouts, 1 medic and 1 demo. The medic is required for a team to compete, and the metagame revolves heavily around protecting the medic, acquiring ubers and using them tactfully to push forward. Typically when classes are switched out, the roles are “2 heavy classes” “2 light classes” and then the medic and demo slot; so you might see a rare heavy switched in for a soldier, or a sniper or spy for scout; the sniper is the most common substitution, as he can get picks on the medic and deny ubers in that fashion. Note that engineers are used very rarely, and only in defensive situations: without a full twelve player team, the sentries go down very fast to skilled demomen and soldiers, not to mention the ubers.


There are, right now, mainly two game modes being played: the 5 cp ‘push’ maps like granary, badlands or my Yukon, and the attack/defense game mode like gravelpit. In the push maps, it’s simply first to 4 or 5, depending; some leagues have halftimes nowadays. In a/d maps, tournament mode has a stopwatch setting: each side takes turns defending and attacking, and the goal is to beat the other team’s point total, or if tied, their time; so in gravelpit, if one team gets 2 points and the other gets all 3, they win, but if one team gets 3 points and so does the other, but one team does it in 9 minutes and the other in 8, the one with the lower time will win.

As a result of this mechanic, both teams can win a map and a winner will still emerge: for this reason it is better for an a/d map to be easy to win rather than hard; this is one of the reasons gravelpit is the only popular a/d map in the competitive scene. 6v6 matches need to play fast and aggressive, and things like solid sentry positions, excessively long spawn times or capture times, poor ammo/health placement and long walk times can all slow a map down. If a map is too hard to ‘win’ in the sense of capturing all the points as attackers, the match will run on and on with little to no back-and-forth that makes a game exciting.

This is in direct contrast to 5cp maps, where a match can be really long and still be exciting because points can be recaptured. However, you must  carefully balance point vs point in all 3 situations (assaulting mid at the beginning, mid vs 4th, 4th vs 5th ) so that the better team will always win in the given situation.

DOs and DON’Ts

Here are some common pitfalls that make maps undesirable to 6v6 players:

  1. Insta-death and other environmental hazards. The joy of fighting in tf2, as opposed to CS or MW, is that a battle is decided by DM skill rather than ‘who sees who first’; insta-death regions are very polar in the sense that once you hit one, you’re done, no more fight involved. Suggestion: Remove the area, fence it off, allow a way out and make it damage very slowly; ignite the player on fire (players know how to deal with this) or some other punishment that isn’t so harsh. In 6v6, often the loss of height advantage will be enough of a punishment!
  2. Poor clipping. CLIP EVERYTHING! Nothing frustrates a top tier player more than backing into a beam and getting screwed as a result. Run through your map hugging its sides, ensuring every transition is smooth. Take notes and correct in Hammer.
  3. Slow doors/ other moving parts. It’s terribly frustrating having to rely on the speed of an external map piece rather than your own movement skills. Make sure your doors open at the right time of approach and speedily at that.
  4. Low skyboxes. Movement skills (rocket, sticky and double jumps) are very important in 6v6 gameplay as they speed up the game and promote aggressive play. Make sure your skybox ceilings are huuuuge so that players don’t run into them. This is frustrating as hell, and easyyyyyy to fix!
  5. Spawn time disjoints. Spawns should be from 5-10 units in hammer; anything else is too damn fast or slow. Remember average spawn time is 1.5* whatever you set it in hammer; the spawn range is from the set unit in seconds to 2* that unit so 10 hammer seconds means spawn times are from 10-20s.
  6. Misleading areas. If an area looks reachable and you clip it off, this can be horribly annoying and make the decision to jump to it a costly one. Make sure your ledges look clearly out of bounds, or if the playerclipped area is low, maybe it’d be better to simply allow gameplay there.
  7. Gimmicky/confusing mechanics. Simple, don’t make your map’s gameplay too complex. If you want easy penetration into the scene, tried and true is best.
  8. OPTIMIZE! Check out my other guide here on nodraw. For some reason many 6v6 players have really shitty computers, nearly all of them run FPS configs to get very high framerates , so make sure it’s well optimized!
  9. File size, tend towards low.
  10. Iterate rarely and largely. Your playtesters don’t want to be trying the same shit over and over again, constantly downloading new files. Iterate slowly and powerfully with plenty of positive changes in each version.
  11. Put your resup cabinets far back! If these are exploitable it really slows down gameplay.

Here are some suggestions I’d have you do on your competitive map:

  1. Start playing with your audience. To make Yukon I shoved myself into the scene and played as often as I could in pugs and watched scrims, recaps, read articles etc etc (I still do watch and I came away with a lasting interest in the scene). You have to make friends with the players; tf2, unlike some games, is a rather close knit competitive scene and it really helps to learn the big names and watch as many games as you can. Do all this before you ever set your hand down in hammer to make a competitive map.
  2. Never pester. No one likes being bugged! Just try to get your map tested when people have time.
  3. Don’t get pissed off. People are usually not open to new maps, although this is slowly changing. Remember they need time to get accustomed to your map before they’ll like it. Unlike at tf2maps you won’t always be getting constructive criticism.
  4. Don’t be surprised if you’re spectating more than playing. Remember you’re a guest in most situations.
  5. Build cubemaps, no one wants to see purple, even in an alpha.
  6. Take hints from popular maps. There’s a reason why blands’ spire is so fun to play on, so learn it and apply it. However, make it your own! There are several maps being played that are too close to already popular maps to be fun in a different respect.
  7. Scale is the most important aspect of mapping. Snipers can rape at the 6v6 level, and longer sightlines promote spammy gameplay. Determine this early.

Hope it helps- at some point I may expand this article with suggestions/comments.

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4 Responses to “Mapping for a Competitive Audience”

  1. Tom 'zpqrei' Pritchard. says:

    Very nice article! Very helpful!

  2. Nerdboy says:

    Would be nice if you specified a few comp. communities that would help testing custom maps.

  3. Nutomic says:

    Interesting article.

    @Nerdboy: Pickups are often useful, you can for example ask in #mpuktf2.pickup (irc), just to name one.

  4. Smashman says:

    Thanks for the info Mangy.

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