[ARTICLE]Sightlines: A practical definition and case study

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Resources' started by Fr0Z3nR, Oct 5, 2014.

  1. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

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    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.
    [​IMG]
    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
    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 thoughts
    Sightlines 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.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  2. RubbishyUser

    RubbishyUser L7: Fancy Member

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    Good guide, even if I'm not 100% certain you have quite explained exactly what I sightline is or why it's bad. We kind of intuitively know that it's supposed to be "not a good thing", but no one really explains it.

    I'd also like to say that if I see Valve do a sniper perch or include a long sightline, it is almost never on flat ground - which is where I think the complaints about Inari come from. Either the sniper has to be high up to get good enough vision, or the other team starts at the bottom of a hill, or the other team climbs up a hill and are easily visible from the top - either way, there is height variation present. My theory is that a flat ground makes snipers more powerful because they do not need to adjust for the z-axis. Unfortunately, this is something very difficult to fix as by the time sightlines are becoming apparent, large changes are needed to vary the topology.
     
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  3. xzzy

    aa xzzy

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    As long as the sniper is easy to see and the opposing team can do something to counter the approach, you're about 80% of the way to keeping sniper lines balanced. So you basically want the spots well lit and not so far away that they fade into fog. A covered path or alternate route helps too.

    Distinctive scenery helps too, if there's some prop or something near the sniper spot it'll show up in the freezecam and help players identify where it is and keep an eye out for it in the future.
     
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  4. Muddy

    Server Staff Muddy Muddy

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    It'll be a cold day in hell when someone complains about a lack of sightlines in a map.

    In all seriousness though: at the end of the day, whether or not a sightline should be in a map is entirely up to the map maker.
     
  5. A Boojum Snark

    aa A Boojum Snark Toraipoddodezain Mazahabado

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    Actually, they do, and have. They just don't realize it. Any map or area that has ever been accused of being too cramped, too close-quarters, claustrophobic, or similar is really a complaint caused by lack of sightlines! :laugh:
     
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  6. Muddy

    Server Staff Muddy Muddy

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    I, uh, totally took that into consideration. :V
     
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  7. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

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    [​IMG]
     
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  8. puxorb

    aa puxorb L69: Emoticon

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    I complain when there aren't enough sightlines in a map. Sniper is really fun for me to play, but for some reason people are absolutely terrified of giving him a role in their maps.
     
  9. xzzy

    aa xzzy

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    It's because it's super easy for a random out of the way corner to provide a spot for a sniper to camp out and click on the heads of enemies before they have a chance to even realize there's a threat. It's worse when a map is new, players are still exploring and getting headshot generates a whole bunch of "this map has bad sightlines" style complaints. In general this leads mappers to plugging every single hole with props.

    Which is valuable advice in general, don't read so much into feedback that every time someone complains you rush out and redesign everything.

    Snipers are one of the few things bots are useful for testing.. set up a game with a half dozen expert snipers on the enemy team and run around as scout. Bots are comically good at finding ridiculous sniper angles and blowing your head off.
     
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  10. Pocket

    aa Pocket func_croc

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    I wonder where the sniper decks in 2fort, Turbine, and Double Cross slot into this. On 2fort I've pretty much only ever seen snipers dueling each other, despite having decent coverage of the enemy base's exits. Turbine of course gives plenty of warning to players exiting their own vent, but snipers tend to mostly focus on those players and leave the ones leaving through the lower exits alone. Double Cross has definitely been the most satisfying for me to be a sniper on, if my team happens to not have one already (and that's speaking as a bad sniper who mains the Sydney Sleeper), but as anyone else I still don't recall getting picked off on the bridge enough to be frustrating.
     
  11. UKCS-Alias

    aa UKCS-Alias Mann vs Machine... or... Mapper vs Meta?

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    For sniper sightline effectivety there is also 1 major factor that must be mentioned. Where is it placed?

    All good and balanced sniper spots are at a midcapture. Many times at a place where blue eventualy will be able to overtake it. The upward sniper position is usualy only strong at the start but once they pushed forward the sniper gets too close to combat and overtaken. This is even similar to the first sniper spot in goldrush which has an excelent place. Dustbowl again is friendly but easy to beat.

    Early sniper spots are often not a problem when they are stong. In the time you have 2 respawns the enemy sniper can only have 1. His walk distance is often the counter. And if it isnt then the teleporter is obviously the first objective. Once down the sniper problem is quickly resolved.

    There however is a problem if the sniper isnt affected by being killed or having the teleporter removed. 2fort shows this by making it a very short walk. But since that map has alot of sniper focus it usualy can compensate for that. But it remains a bad sniper spot.

    The worst sniper spots are near the defender spawn. Where in the offense the sniper gets quicky taken out in defense its the opposite. He is often back before you can take a chance to capture. Forcing you to make it a major part to counter next to sentry nests, sticky traps, counter ubers and the overal spam. Goldrush and dustbowl both show this and its exactly why these maps by pubs which search for more variety in maps hate these maps.
    Although at the last part of a 3 stage map its often no longer a big deal as they have shown to be able to counter it. Early on its a realy poor thing to have. In fact, at the last stage goldrush has 2 of these places where the sniper spot is near the spawn and there it works, just because they were able to overtake them.

    Its not fun if taking out a sniper with quite some effort is wasted less than 10 seconds after just because he can insta respawn (yes, its a major issue on why snipers are hated). Especialy if it takes you 30 seconds to get back into your combat position. And both goldrush and dustbowl have this. Its a very common problem on multistage maps.
    Valve often had the counter of 15s respawnwaves (allowing a 29s long respawn time). But for the normal pub server it simply doesnt work as they disable respawntimers.

    You can design a quite OP sniper spot, but if the back of it is gets taken easily then that spot isnt realy going to be a problem. Once dead the sniper would have to sneak/battle through before getting back there which often is just wasted effort. You can see that in badwater cp2. Its an extremely powerfull spot. But once cp2 is taken i rarely see snipers there anymore. Blue at that point took the high ground which is an extremely strong counter to that sniper spot.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
  12. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

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    Images have repaired and reuploaded.

    Enjoy. I apologize for the necrobump.
     
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