Many of you reading this right now must be thinking about the competitive ctf competition right now, and that is largely what this is about. When writing this guide I set out to address the issues that exist in ctf maps, the issues in having small teams, the good sides of what you are provided and how to (hopefully) increase your chances of succeeding in the current competition. I am not a very successful mapper, and have not had a successful map yet, or even a completed ctf map and as such my advise should be taken with a pinch of salt. Clarifications First of all, we must address what tools we have, as mappers, to control the flow of gameplay. To aid a team's progression into enemy territory, we have the following: Adding ramps in the team's favor, to provide height advantage and prevent the enemy from advancing Health kits placed on their side of cover Ammo packs and alcoves, to provide engineers with cover and metal Adequate cover The ability to move un-noticed Flank routes One way paths Straight-foward entity advantages (team-specific health and ammo, one-way doors, team-specific paths and death traps) To allow the defending team to defend, we use the following: Sparse health kits Choke points Ammo supplies Height advantage Short respawn times Difficult of slow routes And to prevent sentry farms becoming a nuisance, we use the following: Cover specifically for medics Nobuild areas Distances >1024 Glass walls Head-high walls (for demos to lob stickies over, double effective if they can be seen through) Spy flank routes and dark areas Alternate routes around the sentry spots (this is a big one) As you can see, mappers have a strong control over how the flow of a game operates (although I'm guessing most of you know this, otherwise you would not have become a mapper on the quest to create the most perfectly balanced map ever created). A mapper's control over gameplay is extremely important, and can prevent the game descending into a chore. Which brings me to my next list, what makes a game fun. Design elements which prohibit fun, encourage grinding, griefing and camping, allow the game to stagnate and generally destroy the enjoyment of the game: Lack of cover Tight, unavoidable choke points Indestructable sentry locations Impasses Overpowered defensive positions Architecture which punishes offence One of the key indicators of bad design is a game which can last for more than an hour because of a stalemate. When neither team can progress, frustration ensues. And since a lot of competitive teams are at a similar skill level, gameplay should balance on a knife-edge. Factors which encourage fun, quick and dynamic play Concentration of a team's efforts Constantly moving battle-lines Multiple routes and paths Dynamic defence So, we have identified ways of controlling the flow of the battle, and predicting which factors are negative and which are negative. Analysis of the CTF gametype and the 6v6 competitive audience Ctf has had a few issues throughout it's use in tf2. First and foremost is its tendancy to split up teams and stagnate into deathmatch. When playing ctf a player is forced to choose between offence and defence. Right from the start the players have been split into 2 seperate groups, and the game hasn't even started yet. To make matters worse, defence in tf2 is generally easier and more lucrative than in other FPS games. Between the demoman, heavy and particularly the engineer, classes are designed to hold an area or field, with clearly defined battle lines and forces of conflict. Being easier to defend, the players defending often become the MVPs, while the offensive players get domination after domination stacked against them. Compounding this is that the score temptation leads more players to defend than to attack. With more people defending than attacking, any progress is unlikely to be made by either team, since it is in fact in the interests of both teams to stagnate play to the point where people stop attacking altogether. I don't need to tell you that this is bad for gameplay, particularly in 6v6 where both teams are playing to win. Of course, on the flip-side of this is the dreaded scout rush, fear of many gamers. While a scout rush does prevent stagnation, with so many intruders it becomes impossible to block off any intrusion, and both teams go on total offence. With both teams deliberately avoiding each other combat is removed from the equation, which is, once again, even more of a problem with such a small team. Fixing the problems So the key issue is how to prevent both of these extremes from occurring, and the best method is by presenting the teams with roles as attackers or defenders, frequently alternating such that captures are frequent but so is combat. I tried a similar attempt with my 5cp map I am currently working on, in which the attacking and defending team is decided by the centre point, and if no captures are made in 5 minutes the roles reversed. This was actually as simple as locking a point for 5 minutes after it was captured, but did wonders for gameplay. Logically one could adapt that setup for ctf, though it would turn out a bit clumsy and difficult to understand. The second such method for assigning roles is using a single neutral flag in the centre of the map, with the team owning it being the attacking team. The capture zones would be in the opponents base, somewhat like football. I have seen someone else either suggest this idea or use it in their contest entry, so I know that is has/will/is being used. This method is great for gameplay, (while being a bit more deliver the flag than capturing it) and is a healthy medium between optimum gameplay and understandability. The third method is difficult to employ, but can work out better than the one above. It is to use the normal ctf entity setup (though it can be modified if necessary), but some tricky architecture. The idea is that it becomes very easy to enter the enemy base and collect the flag, but escaping is very difficult. This focuses the gameplay more on the returning of the flag reather than the collecting, and is very experimental. The gameplay follows a specific order: The team attempts to infiltrate the enemy base. Thanks to a combination of height advantages, well placed healthkits and counter-sentry positions, all sentries are wiped out on the way in. The flag is taken, and the defending team co-ordinates to block the exits. This should be encouraged by choke points (though they should be avoidable on the way in) After conflict(s) the flag is either taken back to the attacking team's base or guarded by the defending team until it returns and they go on offence or it is picked up by on attacking team's second attempt. This design is my personal favourite, as it mimics the back-and-forth gameplay of competitive 5cp, while preventing play from stagnating. Special precautions should be taken to prevent scout rushes, and so that as the attacking team retrieves the flag they can easily be intercepted by the opposing team. It's difficult to mobilise and entire team before any of their scouts can make it out. Like I said before, the above advise should be taken into consideration however you feel necessary, but they are worth considering before you start blocking out your ctf contest entry. Good luck! Edit: further notes First of all, I would like to clarify what I meant by scout rushes, as I was not talking specifically about scouts. What I mean is that when attacking, it is in your interests to avoid the enemy team. And if both teams are attacking, and there are enough routes, they will do exactly that. If both team are simply running back and forth, avoiding each other, it does not work well for gameplay. Golden moments Golden moments are a term I use to describe the pinnacle of good game design, when creative and dangerous play is strongly rewarded. Most players will remember these moments for a long time, and they become more frequent among heated battles of high-skilled players. It may have been a plan that went off without a hitch, a particularly skillful environmental kill, or even the appropriate use of bonk (as rare as that is). Personally I recall a few golden moments I have experienced. One of which was in left 4 dead, when I was playing on advanced with some friends. It was down to me and one other person, and we managed to run back-to-back, rotating, killing hunters before they got close, not getting touched at all, kiting a tank and just barely making it to the rescue vehicle. Ever since that day, I have attempted to re-create that scenario. Another such case was while playing 2fort. I saw that our intelligence had been taken, and as a soldier I ran to the battlements to intercept the carrier. I rocket-jumped, landing directly on top of the scout and killing him with my shovel as I landed. Golden moments can come in a wide variety of situations, but are all the ultimate goal of game design. A map which tends towards golden moments keeps players on their toes, and encourages strategic plays. Intercepting the flag carrier, shutting down an assault or even ninjaneering are golden moments that you can design your map around. If a player knows where a team or player is headed, make sure that they can set up an ambush. If a scout is escaping with the flag, make them take a longer route out, so that a defender can stop them. If there is an area of large conflict, add a health kit so that the victors can press on. Golden moments are the appitamy of strategic play, so try to define them. Dynamic defense Dynamic defense is a rare case in ctf maps, but designed well it can lead to a golden moment. Imagine that the enemy team has just literally blow away your entire team, and are about to escape with the flag. You co-ordinate your team, and everybody positions themselves in an area the attackers will probably need to pass through on their way out. In a combination of height advantages, a level one sentry and the element of surprise, the enemy assault it shut down in the last second. Another, more common form of dynamic defense is when the flag is dropped. An entire base is formed around that flag, and players guard it with their virtual lives. Dynamic defense can best be accomplished by making it easy to intercept the enemy. Design your map so that it is difficult to detour from the exit route once on it, but give them 3 or 4 options to choose from, so that the defenders cannot shut down all exits. That way it can be identified which exit they will be using, and the defenders have 20 seconds or less in which to organise a defense.