[GUIDE] Asymmetrical Map Design Dynamics

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a survivor with too much paint
Feb 7, 2008
This is going to be a short guide on a thing that I think most people generally understand but maybe haven't dissected in detail, and as far as I know there isn't a guide on it already. So, after having a few drinks tonight, I'm just going to write out my basic theory on TF2 map design and how it applies to TF2 maps.

TF2 is a game where players spawn in rooms, walk forwards, and then shoot at the players on the other team who have also spawned in a room and walked forwards. This is very important. I'm going to call the place where players meet the Front Line.

TF2 is also, in most cases, a game where players fight over territory. Killing enemies is great and fun, but in most modes, you can't win the round just through murder. You must also take control of the land. This is also very important. In essence, TF2 is a game about influencing the Front Line. Unless you are playing Arena, in which case it is a more murder focused game. We will ignore Arena. I am trying to simplify things.

The Front Line will move back and forth as players play. However, it must start somewhere. I will call this starting point the Natural Front Line Position. In a symmetrical map, this Natural Position is always the middle of the map. In an asymmetrical map, this Natural Position is somewhere between blue spawn and the next objective.

Players shoot and move around and the Front Line moves position. However, it becomes harder for teams to push this front line as they push it further. This is because of the spawn rooms. As the Front Line gets closer to a spawn room, it becomes easier for that team to push it back. They do not have as far to walk as the other team. For symmetrical maps, this is generally what keeps gameplay engaging, as the main fight can never move too far away from the center. Or, at least, on a good map.

For asymmetrical maps, this provides us with a nice difficulty curve. When the round starts, blue team only has ground to gain. As they push out, red has less time to walk, and thus the push forward becomes more and more difficult for blue. Eventually, this will become too difficult for blue, and they will not be able to push forward anymore.

This is why asymmetrical maps often have multiple objectives and multiple respawn rooms. Blue needs a checkpoint, because otherwise the rest of the map will become impossible to push the Front Line forward. Control points do nothing but add time to the clock, move spawns, and/or adjust spawn times. (Maybe open certain doors. Sometimes.) By adjusting how much of an advantage each team has by moving their spawns or adjusting spawn times, the Natural Front Line Position will move forward, further enabling blue to continue playing the game.

Some maps will also assist in this by creating gates that are easier for blue to use than red. If you look at almost any stage of Goldrush or Dustbowl, you will see that immediately after the first control point, the main objective path goes into a tight area that is difficult for either team to push through. When blue pushes far enough forward to capture the first objective, red will have been pushed to the other side of the tight, difficult to push corridor, meaning they will have a hard time trying to push back. In addition, the map will offer alternative routes that are usually exclusively useful for blue, either through dropdowns or one-way doors. This allows blue to keep the ground they have already gained even though there is minimal adjustment to spawn rooms or spawn times. THIS IS AN OLD SCHOOL WAY OF DOING DESIGN AND I DON'T ENTIRELY RECOMMEND IT, AS THE TIGHT CHOKE CAN BE REALLY ANNOYING TO PLAY. HOWEVER, IT "WORKS." THUNDER MOUNTAIN STAGE 2 DOES A DECENT MODERN TAKE ON THIS IDEA BY MAKING THE TIGHT CHOKE AREA LARGER THAN DUSTBOWL OR GOLDRUSH EVER DID.

A more modern way of securing earned ground for blue is to simply adjust the position of spawns. By moving the blue spawn forward and by moving the red spawn backwards, the Natural Front Line Position will shift further forward, allowing blue to keep pushing forward. This means you don't need to make such a tight passageway to keep red from pushing back. This is what Gorge does masterfully and it blows my goddamn mind every time I think about how the first published version of that map didn't have a forward spawn for blue.

Regardless of which idea you want to use, it is still advisable to collect the various routes of the map together at each control point before splitting them back out. You always want to keep the red team from flanking blue on the territory blue should be guaranteed to own. The modern school of design (forward spawns) just allows you to make the routes bigger without worrying quite as much.

Another thing to note: The Front Line is also why most blue spawns on asymmetrical maps will be easy to camp for red, and why lots of final points will give the blue team major height advantages. Each team will naturally have an advantage on the ground directly outside of their spawn, and as such you need to give the enemy team positional advantages. I have seen a lot of final points where the attacking team gets no positional advantages at all and it breaks my heart.

I have no conclusion, and I'm also not revising this, at least not tonight. I hope you learned something. :)


An Actual Deer
Sep 20, 2015
so what youre saying is using Frontline theme makes your map better