[GUIDE] Class Balance, Geometry and Gimmick Implementation

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Resources' started by Tiftid, Nov 25, 2020.

?

Good guide?

  1. pretty good

    5 vote(s)
    41.7%
  2. pretty bad

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. please accept that you're a grazr wannabe

    5 vote(s)
    41.7%
  4. please stop making guides

    7 vote(s)
    58.3%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Tiftid

    Tiftid L2: Junior Member

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    Have you ever wondered why you (probably) have more fun playing Upward than Goldrush? It's because TF2 is a class-based team shooter, which offers nine classes with different playstyles, letting you switch off your class to another, equally fun one when you stop having fun with the class you were originally playing, usually right after you die. Now, what if you didn't have that option? What if I told you that Goldrush takes that option away from you?

    [​IMG]

    See: tight tunnels. Goldrush has these, most notably on the second point of the first stage and the second point of the second stage. These are probably the most iconic, horrible chokes in the game - I couldn't find any screenshots that do them justice, but they're corridors which act as the main transition between the first and second points, are about 256 units wide and have sharp, blind corners. While this may be helpful for the purpose of optimisation, it ends up being horrible for gameplay - simply put, explosive classes on the RED team can spam the corners of these corridors and damage enemy players before they can even see the explosive classes. This includes setting up sticky traps around the corners which are impossible to destroy unless playing an explosive class.
    This means that if you pushed the first point as a hitscan class (Literally everyone but Soldier and Demoman - Medic isn't a hitscan class but is still screwed over by these corridors), you now feel stuck and unable to move forward unless you change class, which you can't do while alive without dying, so you have to sacrifice yourself once, which isn't a decision made by you, the player, which means it's a mandatory horrible experience.
    While tunnels such as these, given that it is much more difficult for the RED team to rotate between tunnels than for the BLU team and that there's more than one viable route to rotate between, can work in terms of balance, they feel horrible in terms of actually having a fun time playing TF2.

    Enter Upward. Not only does Upward have wide open spaces as opposed to tunnels, it has geometry intentionally tailored towards class balance. A might be a bit too open, and D might need a bit more variety and accessibility in its routes, but for the most part, the map's geometry is excellent.

    upload_2020-11-25_21-57-18.png
    Yeah, I drew over a line because I didn't want to erase it. Gonna cry about it?

    1st example: the leadup to Point B.
    You can see how there are distinct areas where different classes are favoured - explosive and tanky classes (Heavy, Soldier, Demoman) favour the chokey main area, because that's where the most damage is dealt and recieved, while less tanky and more hitscan classes such as Sniper, Scout and Spy prefer the high-ground open area, because they aren't strong enough to compete in the main area. Pyro is a wild card here - they may favour the upper area because of its death pit, but that comes with a high risk of being sniped. They may also favour the lower area, since its chokey and explosive-spammy nature allows the Pyro to deal high damage and reflect explosives, but this comes with a substantial risk of being spammed too heavily and dying.
    These roles are more or less the same for either team, with some small exceptions.
    Engineer is always an exception - BLU engineers like to set their dispenser up right behind the furthest-forward yet safest bit of cover their team has access to, and RED engineers are, in this case, provided a balcony right outside their spawn to set up on, so Engineers are absent from this equation.
    Medic is somewhat of an exception - they usually prefer to heal close-range, tanky classes, so they prefer the chokey main route in this case. You might think that this would make the main route unfun, since the team with the Medic has an advantage, but what this actually does is encourage the team's Snipers to rotate between killing people on the open high ground and attempting to pick the enemy Medic in the chokey cart path. Encouraging Snipers to rotate is good for everyone - the Sniper feels challenged and not bored, and the open route feels more possible to traverse against a good Sniper because they're not going to be there all the time.

    The design of this area is exemplary - not only does it encourage all classes on both teams to do something viable, but it cleverly splits the teams in half so that players know their teammates are holding down the flanks, and they feel a great sense of teamwork when they don't get flanked, push the point and reunite with their teammates from the other side.

    upload_2020-11-25_22-12-53.png

    Further evidence of this concept - the low-ground, covered flank (bottom left) - this area is favoured by hitscan classes with short range (Scout, Pyro, BLU Engineer) and Spies. Though BLU players attempting to take this flank are vulnerable to RED Pyros, they can lessen the danger by sticking close to the walls, making it difficult for RED Pyros who are above them and near-impossible for RED Pyros who are in front of them to airblast them. The walls also provide much-needed cover, to ensure that their battle against the Pyro isn't interrupted by a sudden Sniper shot or Soldier rocket. This creates a route which is useful for specific classes but applicable to all classes, and it uses one of the unique mechanics of a class without focusing on it and making it overpowered.

    This leads cleanly into the main point of this guide: Now that you know why Upward has the best geometry for class balance (and by extension fun gameplay) of any TF2 map, how do you implement similar good things into your own maps?

    Here is a quickly-thrown-together example of the sort of thing I used to default to - an example of what not to do.
    upload_2020-11-25_22-19-15.png
    This high-up area with its ammo pack, reminiscent of a collectible in 'collectathons' such as Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64, is inaccessible under normal circumstances to classes other than Soldiers, Demomen, Pyros and Wrangler Engineers. This creates a dynamic where specific classes get powerful high ground and an ammo pack, and other classes can't stop them from doing it without using that class and going up there themself, creating a similar dynamic to the tunnels in Goldrush where players feel the need to change class to interact with other players in a meaningful way, which is frustrating and exactly what you need to avoid.

    Here is my attempt at implementing death pits into one of my maps.
    The blue dots indicate the possible positions of BLU pyros, and the red arrow indicates where RED players will come from and the rough directions they may face.
    upload_2020-11-25_22-27-57.png
    As you can see, the possible airblasts can only send RED back where they came, unless they go heavily out of position and head towards the death pit, which is a terrible idea when fighting a Pyro. There's no scenario where a Pyro can be hidden behind a wall and suddenly airblast enemies into a death pit as they round a corner - though there can be a Pyro hidden behind a wall, at best they can airblast attacking RED players back from whence they came. This is intended to encourage attacking players to position themselves well and hug the walls, which also helps them to orient themselves behind cover and directs them towards the point (bottom right). It's also meant to make it possible for Pyros to ambush enemies and make use of their airblasts, but not in a sense where it feels cheap to be on the receiving end of it. In fact, the most effective way to use airblasts here is to hang back on the ramp and attempt to push players into the death pit as they try to get visibility onto you - I have ruled this as a "not-overpowered use of airblast", since it requires the Pyro to be retreating and to allow the enemy full control of where they get airblasted from and at what angle.
    I wouldn't regard this as a perfect, Upward-tier implementation, but it's a start in terms of what you should consider in terms of implementing gimmicks into your maps.

    Essentially, the message I want you to take away from this is "Okay, if I want to implement a gimmick into my map, I should first think about whether it's a Goldrush or an Upward, and why, and how I can improve it if it's not an Upward. And if I'm not sure, I can always go into the TF2Maps discord and ask the kind people in #mapping-help or #wip, or I could make a forum post about it."

    Edit 14/12/2020: Added a note about Medics and how they prefer chokier, main routes, which encourages Snipers to sometimes watch the main route in hopes of picking the enemy Medic, which means Snipers rotate between routes, which is good for everyone.

    Edit 07/01/2021: Changed the wording of "Engineer is always an exception" to indicate what things I'm referring to that are specific to this case, e.g that Engineers are not always provided a balcony outside spawn to set up on, but in this case they are. Also changed "Sniper prefers open areas, oh and Spy too I guess" to "Sniper, Scout and Spy prefer open areas due to having hitscan weapons and not being tanky enough to survive in chokey routes such as the cart path", removed a grammatically incorrect "but" in a sentence and completely removed an unnecessary sentence.
     

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  2. I dinne ken

    aa I dinne ken Has currently had enough

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    This guide is flawed in my opinion. The critique of Goldrush much more so than the praise of Upward.

    I think I'll preface what I'm going to say by mentioning that player tastes have changed since the launch of TF2.
    There is a decreased appetite for play where an individual player has a small amount of agency over the progression of the team, and a somewhat lessened willingness to do things on behalf of your team if it puts the player at an immediate disadvantage. This leads to certain playstyles being favoured over others. And maps that are more open as it gives more options for players to travel to areas where their class is effective.
    This doesn't mean that the gameplay that Goldrush has is worse though, it's just different and "older".

    Anyway.

    That section of Goldrush may be tight, and it may not be so fun for some classes. But have you considered that Upward can mostly be considered un-fun for some classes too? Namely, heavy and spy.

    (Tangentially, having that tight space is good for focusing the teams so their attack is well placed. Having open spaces means that the defending team also has more options to push further forward than they arguably should).

    Spy excels in smaller, less-trafficked spaces. And he especially excels in those spaces which also have vantage over quickly accessible, larger/more heavily trafficked areas.
    Heavy excels in situations where players have to go through him to either contest or do the objective. He acts as a stalwart for the team.

    You'll note that those spaces don't really exist on upward. The spaces that are tighter for spy are still pretty heavily trafficked. For heavy I'd suggest it's even worse as the flanks are so open and usually effective. This is apart from one of the places that you mention as "unfun" on Upward: D. Where the entire last area is within range for heavy to be deadly. And the spy has more less-trafficked spaces to decloak in (like underneath the track).

    This is fine and probably good though. Not every section of a map should have a great use for every class. Either because if it does, it'll be much too complicated and won't flow well. Or if it does flow well, will be too bland as you cater to every kind of gameplay just a little bit. The sweetspot, in my opinion. Is having around 5-7 classes that are definitely useful at all times throughout the map.

    Which I argue this section of Goldrush does. It has the main route for spammy/tanky classes. (Heavy, Soldier and Demoman). (Which is meant to be not great anyway, Payload design revolves around going through the good flanks to clear the area ahead of the shit main route).
    [​IMG]

    This dropdown for flank and surprise classes. (Pyro, Spy).
    [​IMG]

    This perch point for snipers.
    [​IMG]

    And finally, this whole building thing that Blue can take over to gain a foothold. (Engineer).
    [​IMG]

    So ultimately, when you say that this section of Goldrush is only useful for certain classes. I'll take a leaf out of your book and respond with "Yeah, and?"

    Apart from that. I don't think you should as consciously nullify a map gimmick as you are doing in the last section. Gimmicks generally become annoying if they're numerous, complex, and overlapping. Having an occasional strong gimmick is much more novel, interesting but yet doesn't feel cheap. The rest of the advice and analysis is generally not bad though. If a little random and tangential towards the end.

    Right then.

    I don't think you should continue making these guides. I have been making maps for over 4 years now and have a dozen maps to my name, yet I don't feel qualified to make guides like these simply because TF2 mapping is just that complex.

    This isn't meant as a slight against you, but I just don't think you're experienced enough to make guides like these without a lot of the information you present being either opinionated or only half of the truth. Even mappers with more experience than you can make guides which are misguided in parts and at worse, incorrect. (Viaduct formula rings a bell, sorry Crash). Please make some more maps first. But if you still do make these guides (though I wouldn't recommend it), consider having it read over by someone with more mapping experience than you first.
     
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  3. Tiftid

    Tiftid L2: Junior Member

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    Honestly, based response. I especially liked the "Yeah, and?".
    I admit that my point about Goldrush wasn't clear - I think that it tries to provide something for every class, but it ends up being that everything is still super cramped and still shares the same choke, meaning that one RED Soldier still makes hitscan classes feel like they're having a horrible time. This was the main reason to contrast it with Upward - Upward creates a large empty space with some difficulty involved in rotating to it, as opposed to chokey corridors leading off to the side - this means that one Soldier trying to defend B on their own is at a substantial disadvantage when facing hitscan classes on the high ground.
    Tangentially, I don't think focusing an entire team into one place always makes for the best gameplay, when you could instead find a solution like Upward has, where different classes of the team have a different purpose and they know it.
    This isn't a cool thing to try to refute, but I just wanna say that Spy has quite a few options on where to go and decloak on A and B - the wide open areas are good for avoiding bumping into people or catching stray shots, and there are predefined buildings which have alcoves around them that make for great decloak spots if you're a Spy with good gamesense. It's mainly C where Spy feels a bit helpless, in my mind. Again, not a cool thing to try to refute, since the point that not all classes are always effective on Upward still stands.
    This is the main disagreement I have. I don't think it's a good idea for maps to force or even encourage players to switch off their main class that they love to play - because though TF2 is designed to have you switch to a new class to have more fun and counter the enemy team when you die, there are still players who will stick to their main through thick and thin, and they should be catered for. Having some classes be straight-up ineffective on some points doesn't cater to these people - Upward is, of course, a great example of a map that has incredible flow and team balance, while catering to all classes' gameplay at most times. I don't think that replacing D with a point consistent with the design of the rest of the map, or maybe Frontier/Borneo last, would destroy the gameplay of the map - I think it would enhance it.
    What I'm trying to say is that I think that you can change flow and account for class balance just like Upward and not lose the greatness of Payload. Even if you didn't get rid of Goldrush's tunnels, making the flanks more effective against explosive classes and more effective for hitscan classes on both teams like on Upward would make it feel much more fun to approach as a hitscan class, instead of all of your options being tight tunnels that an explosive class can spam.
    I admit fully to having too little experience and that the section where I tried to use the map I'm working on as an example was random and tangential.
    I have to get ready for school now, so I'll hold off on saying that I tried to relate airblasts on Upward to airblasts in my map.
    Bottom line - I don't disagree with what you've said really, and I have poor wording and didn't express my thoughts in my guide, as usual.

    I'm back from school.
    As I was in the shower preparing to go there, a while ago, I realised that the point I had dismissed as some small thing I didn't have time to do ("I tried to relate airblasts on Upward to airblasts in my map.") was actually the most important point I could make by far.
    To elaborate on this, let's introduce two commonly known types of gimmicks:
    1) Negative Feedback Gimmicks (NFGs)
    The simple definition of this type of gimmick is - the better its design is, the closer it is to not existing at all. An example of this would be the raised platform with the ammo pack on it that I mentioned in the original guide - essentially, any changes made to it which improve class balance remove parts of the gimmick, so the better the design of the gimmick becomes, the closer it gets to not being in the map at all.
    2) Positive Feedback Gimmicks (PFGs)
    As the design of a gimmick of this type improves, it becomes more like an iconic feature of the map which people herald as being the unique, good thing that makes the map different. A textbook example would be Lil' Chew Chew (the train) on Frontier.

    You seem to have assumed that my approach to the implementation of the death pits is that of trying to improve a NFG. While this might be something one might naturally assume from the fact that I talk about removing overpowered airblast spots, my reasoning behind it is what's really important.
    Essentially, consider if I had allowed this to be a "strong gimmick of the map" by allowing Pyros to hide around a corner and airblast people into death pits as they rounded said corner. I can't imagine this is what you mean by "keep some strong gimmicks" and "don't teach people to implement reductively", since it's something so obvious, but players rounding that corner would instantly die because the enemy team was running a Pyro, and the only way to counter it was to win the team fight at mid (this example is of a symmetrical layout) and be the Pyro which kills the enemies instead of letting the enemy Pyro be the one who kills you. This leads to players doing one of two things: go Pyro and hope you can dominate the low ground, or avoid the low ground altogether. This is obviously a terrible thing, invalidating one of the routes of a symmetrical layout and encouraging players to switch to a class that they might enjoy playing.
    This isn't due to airblasting players inherently being a NFG, but due to it being a PFG that was implemented exceptionally poorly. Implementation matters - if you remove the overpowered Pyro camping spots, it instead becomes a mechanic as I originally described it, where players winning or losing against Pyros is dependent on their positioning and decision-making, and the Pyro themself has to make the difficult decision between rushing forward and dealing damage or playing further back in hopes that the enemy makes a mistake, allowing the Pyro to kill them with an airblast. This still gives the Pyro a slight advantage as opposed to a walled corridor - this in particular gives Pyros a place where they can feel safe on a wide-open point area. The design of this area primarily encourages defending Pyros to play with good positioning and reward midrange hitscan classes (which are best suited to the low ground anyway) for challenging them, kind of like the cliff edge on Upward B. Once again, this isn't a perfect gimmick, since it only concerns Pyro and kinda Soldier (who is much less rewarded for playing far back), but I put it in due to a feeling that it was a start to make players think about the implementation of each little thing they want to put in their own maps, and nicely ties together the points of "unfair deaths" from Goldrush and "class-based routing" from Upward.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020