Sightlines: A practical definition and case study An article on my observations of what makes a sightline good, bad and everywhere inbetween. Sightlines. People think they’re scary, everywhere or even bad. Contrary to popular belief, long sightlines are useful and helpful elements of attack and defense for a team. If you cut out sightlines from your map and not include them for in your defensive design a couple things will happen: you’ll have no one play sniper or everyone will go close range huntsmans… and we don’t want that, now do we (*shudders*)? But, where does all this annoying and hatred and distrust come from? I notice with a lot of testers, no one seems to know what a good sightline is. The goal of this article is to explain what a balanced sightline is and provide some examples of what I feel are good and bad sightlines in both stock and community maps. What I consider to be a good, balanced sightline: It is easily readable (as in, you can immediately see “this could be a sightline”), is counterable (as in, you can either snuck up onto the sniper easily, or contest him somewhat at range) and doesn’t cover a wide field of view. This is one sightline that I know a few people have complained about, it covers a nice swathe of land infront of blue spawn. Yea, that one. You can see right into 1 exit (A double exit, mind you), a pretty wide field of view and cover all of the major routes along the path. Anyone who’s pushing the cart is going to have to deal with this sniper. So, why is this bad? The FoV doesn’t seem that large, even though it does cover a main route and it’s relatively easily countered by the paths I have marked in green in the image below. It doesn’t *look* that bad. But you forget the last bit of our sightline defintion: you should be able to read “this is a sightline” right around when you hit the sightline. In this case, you don’t expect it and you really shouldn’t expect it becuse of the architecture around the first corner. While this sightline is theoretically okay for gameplay, it can put players into a pretty sour mood. The mood of your players is a huge factor when designing a map, if you’re not having fun, you’re probably not going to be playing well. I generally wouldn’t consider this to be a sightline that should be removed. It doesn’t completely shut down the major route and can be countered easily. It’s frustrating, but can be avoided. Rating: Bad, but not the end of the world. It’s a challenge for expert snipers, but can be frustrating for attackers. Another one from Inari I've seen some people complain about. That looks preeeeeeeetty long. Some members of TF2Maps.net would totally say this is a horrible sightline and it should be broken up immediate. I respectfully disagree. This is a useful sightline that defenders can utilize to defend cp2. The easiest shot is right down the tracks, this is obvious. As an attacker, you can be pushing the cart (from the far back of this image) towards the point. You can just glance around the corner and be like “oh, this is a long straight path, thar might be snipers!” The players eyes are first drawn to the back wall (behind this image), THEN up to the sides. The player is immediately drawn to possible sniper locations. Okay, so readability is good, what about counterability? Blue can get up to all of the upper balconies, though are primarily coming for the upper right path. When you’re scoped in, you can’t easily see onto those upper paths, your angle just isn’t right. You need to adjust yourself, and by the time you do that, you’re out of main sightline we’re examining. So, because of the height advantage around this sightline, the counterability is good, the sniper could be taken out somewhat easily by an enemy who’s not on the sightline. Additionally, in the far back there is some partially covered windows. While this area has been predominantly Red dominated in testing, a quick sniper can use those windows to eliminate snipers on the other side of the yard with some ease and cover. Finally, what about field of view? Well, we were just saying that the sightline is down the major route, around the tracks. To get a good shot anywhere else in this yard, you have to readjust to another spot. The field of view is limited, and thats good. Rating: This is a good sniper sightline, it provides a good defensive measure for RED defending this point, but is still easy to deal with as BLU. So we have a ‘meeeeeh’ sightline and a good sightline, what does an absolutely bad one look like? Sorry Bakscratch, koth_ripley has it. On stage 2 of koth_ripley, defenders get a rather noticeable height advantage over a couple of routes to the point. On either side of the point building, there is a sightline that spans basically the entirety of the map. Lets take a look at the readability, counterability and field of view of this sightline. First, readability. This is a very long, straight sightline. You can see the effects of the fog in the distance, making it difficult to see the end. While this effect does go both ways and it might be hard for a defender to see the attacker, the attackers don’t have a height advantage and thus, they can’t see the defender first. It’s the issue with all height advantages, the players on the top of the hill will see the people below them better than those who are at the bottom. Ontop of this, since it is such a long distance, the player is really small, making it extra hard for an attacker to detect a probably-already-scoped-in sniper. All of these factors combined, you get a sightline where the sniper is basically invisible. This is bad. Counterability. In the shown version of the map, the upper level of the point structure is off-limits, you cannot access it (the building with the yellow fences). Barring the other gameplay implications this upper area had on the map, it also removed probably the best counter to these two sightlines. Since this was removed, the only way to counter is to counter snipe or get really close, running past the point. Counter sniping is normally okay and a decent counter, as I mentioned previously with Inari’s example, but because of the distance and fog, this is very frustrating to accomplish. Field of View. Not much to say about this. It’s not that wide of a field for either of these sightlines, so thats good. But just because their FoV isn’t huge doesn’t mean it’s good. Both of these sightlines are along the flanks to the point, making the flanks very scary places to be and very impactful on the whole map. Rating: Very bad, with the sightlines both being hard to read and very hard to counter without being a spy or over extending, these sightlines really should be removed. Okay, enough with custom maps. Lets take a quick look at a valve made map, and some of it’s more notorious sightlines. Additionally, use the given definition and previous examples to decide for yourself if the sightlines are good or bad or a little bit of both. Ah yes, the common sniper deck for pl_upward. There’s a reason that it’s here! Lets compare notes. Readability: The sniper deck is pretty open, out there and can be seen from at least 1 location in blue spawn before exiting. Beyond that, it doesn’t *feel* like it’s a sightline, but thats not necessarily bad, it might just catch you off-guard for a second. Counterability. There are a couple routes to either side of the track that can safely bring a player to countering range, at least harassment range. The right side structure is a great place to counter/countersnipe because of the additional cover provided by the support beams. Field of View: It looks pretty wide, but when you factor in that it’s only directly looking at one spawn exit and the rest of the area they could look is either close, covered well, or provides some sort of decent counter spot, it’s not that bad. Rating: Good, mildly annoying, but not bad. Provides good counterability for attackers, and is a strong defensive point. Concluding thoughtsSightlines aren’t bad people! Snipers need jobs too! A well made sightline can add diversity and interesting, unique gameplay to any map of any gamemode. Next time you complain about a sightline being too long or a map having too many sightlines, think about these examples and the definition of what makes a good and balanced sightline. You may find that a lot of the sightlines aren’t that bad.