[GUIDE] Class Balance through Geometry

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Good guide?

  • pretty good

    Votes: 16 64.0%
  • pretty bad

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • please accept that you're a grazr wannabe

    Votes: 8 32.0%
  • please stop making guides

    Votes: 8 32.0%

  • Total voters


the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
Sep 10, 2016
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?


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 BLU team to rotate between tunnels than for the RED 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.


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.


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.

Essentially, the message I want you to take away from this is "If I notice I'm building routes that are too cramped, I should make one of them more open. And if I'm not sure what too cramped is, 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.

Edit 01/06/2021: Added "Addendum - Regarding Iteration" and removed the example of what not to do, since the point I wanted it to make had already been made, as well as the analysis of my implementation of death pits since it felt fairly irrelevant to the entire "class balance" thing.

Edit 10/08/2021: Changed the title from "[GUIDE] Class Balance, Geometry and Gimmick Implementation" to "[GUIDE] Class Balance through Geometry" since I removed the "Gimmick Implementation" part over two months ago.

Edit 26/08/2021: Swapped RED and BLU in "it is much more difficult for the RED team to rotate between tunnels than for the BLU team", since you want it to be easier for RED to rotate otherwise BLU gains ground completely for free.

Edit 27/10/2021: Changed "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." to read "If I notice I'm building routes that are too cramped, I should make one of them more open. And if I'm not sure what too cramped is".
I did this because the "gimmick implementation" part of this guide disappeared long ago.

Addendum - Regarding Iteration:
This has been on my mind for a while now - what if you want to weaken or strengthen RED's hold on a particular point?
Let's suppose you've established a "no man's land" where Snipers, Scouts and Spies on both teams duke it out - however, feedback points towards RED Snipers being too well-positioned, making it hard to push.
The typical response would be to add cover, weakening the Snipers and strengthening the Scouts - however, this leaves Sniper mains unable to have fun on the point where you've done this. Hence, a smarter nerf would be well-advised - for instance, dividing the "no man's land" into two distinct routes. Both of these routes only support long-range combat, but now RED snipers have an additional task - they have to rotate between these two routes so as to not get flanked and killed off by a BLU Scout or Spy. This means that Sniper mains still get to use the sightlines they're so fond of, but it doesn't oppress the other light classes who are intended to enjoy this area.
From here, you can adjust the time it takes for RED snipers to rotate between these two routes, and adjust how long it takes them to retreat to health and ammo, thereby buffing or nerfing RED's defense without making the point any less fun as a result.

If I were to summarise this, I'd say:

In any case where you've built the layout so that one class has a particularly fun time, ensure that other classes don't have less fun as a result.

I guess this is kind of a twisted interpretation of what Ken was getting at with "give some classes powerful advantages and don't minimise your mechanics otherwise your map ends up bland" - if you just make classes good in "the traditional way", i.e what Upward B does, you end up making a point that's not any more fun than Upward B, and if you do this to all of your points, your map will not be very interesting to play on.
Construct the most interesting gameplay space you can to make a class have fun in a way they've never done before, then make a different one for the next point.
That's what makes your map stand out from the rest.
That's what gives your map the potential to fascinate players, and keep them playing on it for hundreds of hours.

Just be sure to not forget that TF2 has 9 classes, and some people have a favourite class, and if you make their favourite class un-fun, they're not gonna enjoy your map.
Because - I don't know about you, but I make maps because I want people to someday enjoy playing on them.


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I dinne ken

Has currently had enough
Apr 16, 2016
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".


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).

This dropdown for flank and surprise classes. (Pyro, Spy).

This perch point for snipers.

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

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.


L1: Registered
Feb 7, 2022
This is semi-off-topic, but the first example point you attached at the very end looks extremely fun to play on. Did you finish whatever map that was from?


the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
Sep 10, 2016
I assume you mean the airblast example.
That was a very old version of sd_nowhere.
I was pretty fond of the airblast area, but I ended up scrapping that version of the map because it was generally too cramped.
I would later revisit the map because of one major idea I had, which was a big bridge that'd force people who went to grab the australium to deal with the people on the control point.

This new version of the map also ended up generally being too cramped, so I rebuilt it time and time again, but I never really got it into a state people were happy with.

But the ideas of the airblast area are still around in some form. And, if I'm brave enough I might make a multi-stage arena map where one of the stages is basically entirely that area.

And, if the point was at the top of the ramps, it might be possible to make a super-fun KOTH map out of the idea.