CP Backwash (symmetrical, on bridge, night, jungle, seaside)
This is one of the maps I've spent more time on through out its development. Then again, it wasn't much total. I'll be going in progression from last to middle, including lobbies.
- Last is pretty basic and functional. The pipes behind the point aren't really needed as the jut up is sharp and unnecessary. The three routes don't really pair well together. On the right, the somewhat-tight cave was easily spammed out. On the left, a passive push wasn't too effective and defenders could squash players in upper lobby. The middle entrance was underused as it was the most exposed and didn't offer much room to jump from without a high risk. The two overhangs on the left side of last feel out of place. You could maybe add an entrance from lower to where the tank is, but don't overdo your number of entrances.
- I really like the lobby you have between last and second. The upper area allowed for pinching, but the entrances were far enough away that rotating over felt awkward. Lower lobby felt really weird. The side (water) flank once again juts players up unnecessarily and leads to a mostly-useless lower route. The connections to the outside platform were weird as the small one felt natural, but the larger path along upper provided a better area to attack and defend second from.
- Second felt really odd, but I somewhat like it. I really can't pin down on my feelings on this one. The point being on the side is nice, but the outer path is kinda long and bland while the entrances (that were way shorter for rollouts) are all clustered together and led to a mess. The hut felt useless and the door from lower lobby was awkward but blocks a major sightline. Maybe rework the pathing of this area to promote player movement.
- The second-to-middle transition felt gross. The outer open route fit what many 5CP maps use, but wasn't effective due to being presented with a massive height disadvantage when approaching middle. The middle route was a big no-no as players went up stairs, had to do a 180-degree turn to go down more stairs, only to turn again to face middle (which is obstructed by a dinky entrance ready to be spammed out). Streamline your routes more, otherwise, it'll feel unnatural. The right-most route just turned out to be full of spam at all times due to it being the shortest route and a somewhat small room. It also provides a sightline across the middle point.
- And finally, we've arrived at middle! This best exemplifies what I find to be fundamentally wrong with the map. It feels very linear and constricted with flanks that don't add much. This area is extremely small and has basic raised ground that overlooks the point. The bridge felt out of place as it was extremely low. I'd widen this area and not clog it up with all sorts of rocks and trees.
For the general things, just clean up your displacements (especially the seams), some small rendering issues elsewhere, and make things feel effective while breaking the basic nature of the current state of the map. I'll be completely honest, I couldn't find the areaportal issue on blue second, but please do fix that. Lastly, smooth out your work with more clip brushes. I appreciate the ones on the beams in lobby, but you missed a lot of other spots that could use it.
Visually, there's not too much to say. Some of your facades are really nice. Textures could use better selection, diversity, and pairing throughout the map. Some of the basic walls could be spruced up. Also extend your underwater ground out further to account for the difference in shading. Give your lighting some love! It's rough in a few areas, especially with brightness. There's a lot of holes throughout the map, but the next map you make will definitely show great strides in you progress as a mapper!
ARENA Chounai (symmetrical, raised platform, day, Asia, city/town)
There's just so many routes and buildings that create weird obstacles to play around. Spam classes were the most effective on this map even though the sheer openness of some areas was paired with all sorts of odd sightlines and chokes. There were tons of unused pockets and corners around the map. Most rounds, one team just overrun the middle area uncontested, often leading to a complete wipe. Flanks were sometimes outstanding as many players would be able to continuously move around areas without being punished, but towards the end of our test, players couldn't even penetrate the front line of a team that spread out. The train didn't feel too impactful as it went by later on in rounds and only really divided the lower section. I got caught on a few things, but overall, the clipping was very good.
The map felt kinda plain, but then again, it was made in a very short period of time. I wish the buildings had some more depth and didn't feel so boxy. The detailing that only really looked nice was underappreciated as it was behind the players when they spawned. Textures (and even some surfaces) don't really look great together. Cleaning up things vertically and giving a little more recognition to each side would be greatly appreciated. Lighting feels pretty flat in most areas. Just make things more unique so they stand out.
PLR Guava Gulf (symmetrical, cave, night, jungle, seaside)
The only multi-stage finalist! I really enjoyed this last night (May 20) when we played it. Then again, it was also super late and I might have been going crazy. To be honest, most of my gameplay thoughts are pretty general as I couldn't pin down exactly what it was that made portions of the map not work for me.
- On Stage One, it felt odd pushing into the opposition's territory early on. The stair sections of the upper platform felt underutilised and some of the shorter connectors (to the checkpoint) and raised areas didn't feel effective. I really like the checkpoint, but I think it'd benefit from the area being squashed down a bit.
- On Stage Two, the spawn being cramped in the corner with drastic height difference played out really weirdly. The far section after the cave was hard to reach as the closer doors and middle connector between spawns was favorable for conflict. The turn before the point was the area where a hold or stalemate felt most common. The two arches for attackers to wrap around the track led to some super awkward gameplay, so maybe tighten up that outer pocket.
- I think you know what comes next: Stage Three! The middle area played nicely and had some interesting rotates, but eventually, it became dominated by a middle team, sometimes its possession being thrown back and forth due to the stalemates that occurred from the door to the point. The lower routes in middle felt underused and the drastic height difference made attacking last awkward. It felt more effective to camp spawns (which attackers were led to). The curve in the upper section of track (in middle, before the junction) acted as a lobby. Defenders would flood out from the drop, but could be held back. The way in which the platforms wrap around the last point strung out defenders, but it still felt hard to attack due to the clusters of people found sometimes.
On both Stages Two and Three, the spawns were somewhat obscure in shape, but didn't lead to issues or much confusion. And please disable the collision on your torches! This was one of the more fun maps, but didn't blend dictative geometry into some areas to the best extent possible, almost sectioning off areas.
For some basic detailing, you communicated the region pretty well. I wish some walls were less bare, that there was more consistency in doors, and that the density of detailing in open areas was better. However, the function of each piece was well-communicated.
CP Hazyfort (asymmetrical, on bridge, day, farmland, castle/ruin/temple)
This might be the map that I've played the most throughout the duration of the contest (even without excluding Yanqing). I have some pretty mixed feelings about it. There's a ton of open areas that aren't really coherent. In more recent versions, players are able to traverse height a little better, but the map still feels like a mess, especially in lobbies and super wide flanks. The route to A is kinda messy and attacking from far away makes it confusing for players. The lobby between A and B is still pretty confusing and connects to so many different places. The biggest fault in the map is probably the B point. Two flanks lead to RED spawn while BLU can also spam down upon the point. Players often flood the point after destroying the sentry nest on the platform before getting completely wiped. Most attacks don't feel effective in this area without a swift enough execution and complete clearing of the area. Don't let me just stand on a bush, remove it. Some columns and doors should be cleaned up along with the other spots to get stuck, but very nice job.
Detail-wise, things don't mesh together or feel extremely plain. There's a ton of walls that are flat and some areas that just don't make sense. The lighting is very diverse but can be dark in a few areas, making it hard to identify players. My biggest complaint here is the close clipping plain and heavy fog as it interrupts the longer areas of the map. I like the diversity in forms and textures, but some things don't add up structurally or contribute to the map. The farmland itself isn't really noticeable within the map and it juxtaposes the castles and cities right away. I think you need to improve upon keeping a general consistency throughout your work while making things identifiable and coherent. Repetition is present throughout the map, but the depth itself is lacking.
KOTH Ice Tower (symmetrical, moving train, day. snow, alpine/forest)
This map is huge! Jeez, you crammed so much into a KOTH map. Players are guided away from the point due to the way your entrances are positioned and the sheer size of the map and pathing of its routes made it hard for many of us to find the point. Even right outside of spawn, players are met with a wall for one exit, then follow a sightline past the point directly to the enemies' base. Things felt cluttered all over the place and sightlines could be found in all sorts of areas. Flanks felt kinda useless as buildings were clustered together, making most places in the map a death trap. The point itself was incredibly hard to both attack and defend. Even though the train ran right through the length of the map, it barely had an impact in actual gameplay. Other than the stairs, I ran into almost nothing else being smoothed out for the players.
I like the ideas being thrown around here, but the overall map doesn't feel coherent and doesn't incorporate the alpine theme inside the actual play space too much. There's just so much noise that it can become distracting for the player, interrupting the actual gameplay.
CP Log Place (asymmetrical, moving train, day. snow, alpine/forest)
Thanks for the flashbacks to working on Fiori with your brushwork. What a trip! I really just wish you had more time to test and put some love into this sucker. There's definitely potential here! A handful of areas are overscaled, brushwork is messy (but boy do I love those signs), and clipping is needed. Some flanks are massive, sightlines plague the map, and the displacements are a bit rough. The diversity in height is a bit staggering at last and outside of BLU spawn, but would work better if multiple ways up existed to facilitate player cycling and movement. The middle section of the map feels like a grid to weave around and acts more as a buffer that works out of confusion instead of strategy. The train doesn't greatly influence the map outside of just blocking a push or retreat. The dynamic door (that closes after A is captured) closes pretty fast, but worked well for defenders to reach A. I guess if pushes wouldn't just collapse onto the point as quickly and if flanks were more impactful instead of drawn-out routes, I'd give this a higher rating.
As for the detailing, it just needed love. BLU spawn has a well-constructed building, but elsewhere, the map is mostly blocky brushwork that makes gameplay weird.
PL Oasis (asymmetrical, spytech lair, day, desert/arid land, city/town)
I'm sorry, but as much as I love blue, BLU shouldn't be winning so easily. The inital area is by far one of my favorites on a payload map. However, the way it connects from the second half of first into second led to a lot of rolls with some short holds. Most routes are effective, but feel repetitive in their zig-zagging shape. The reliance on box jumps makes sense as a risk/delay-reward, but feels uneccessary in a few areas. The area just before second played way better than I expected, but could easily become messy if RED pushes back out due to how non-dictative that whole area is. The entire last area is just gold. Routes wrap around one another in creative ways, the pillars and bridges are extremely useful in gameplay, and the choke fits the tried-and-tested payload final while still being unique. The deathpit in the left flank felt unnecessary, but the way it opens up the room was needed. Clipping would be nice in some areas, but I know the brush limit was tight. I honestly wish I could've played this more during its development as I think there's a potential for interesting rounds.
This map is stunning. With the majority of the assets being custom, it just works so well. Some default ones don't fit in as well though (mainly the brightness of the banners, one of the crate models, obelisks near second, and the interior of BLU spawn -- especially with its rough arches). Lighting is super diverse throughout the entire map and works well with the mixture of smooth textures and gritty props.
ARENA Snowcastle (symmetrical, deathpit, night, snow, castle/ruin/temple)
Oh boy, oh boy. This is one of my top picks for the contest. And producing this within two or three weeks? That's just astounding. The various platforms and routes feel all over the place, but they're deliberate and just make sense. The diversity in scale and form leads to a few awkward areas, but this map pans out really well most rounds. The middle area was somewhat underused in the playtest I participated in, but there was still a deliberate ebb and flow when pushing. The points themselves led to some super interesting gameplay with the two sets of stairs and the upper area. The cliff feels pretty powerful, but then again, that's part of the fun. To the left of each spawn, the area opens up a little more than I'd like, but it didn't cause any issues. The two and a half chokes created to reach the point very well, but holding from the spawn to balcony feels a bit too useful. Maybe extend the capture zone just slightly past the corner to form an 'L' shape to aid in tapping the point as a way of initiating conflicts. There are a few spots that would be nice if collision was disabled or that they were clipped off, but overall, you achieved a high level of polish gameplay-wise.
The structures are just gorgeous. There are a few inconsistencies throughout them, but I'm just blown away by the forms you've created. Textures pair very well together and both facades are unique, aiding in side recognition. Although the portion behind the players' spawns isn't detailed, it isn't really too noticeable when playing. The biggest thing I'm docking points for is the lighting, which somewhat breaks my heart. Players are clearly visible excluding some small areas. Warmth varies depending on the player's location within the map. In some areas, the lighting is somewhat rough or doesn't contribute too much. If some of the structures (although high up) were lit up a little better and some other areas smoothed out, you would've gotten a higher rating.
ARENA Voltage (symmetrical, raised platform, day, snow, city/town)
I somewhat like this map, but it feels as though some areas have wasted potential. Gameplay-wise, the length of the map contributes heavily to turtling and snipers. The middle building within the map felt somewhat tight and was often underappreciated by players while some routes, flanks, and small pockets felt lackluster and underpolished. I wish the point area themselves weren't so open and that the point was a bit more easily contestable (even though it is raised). There are a few spots that need clipping (especially along your columns and trims!), but you did a pretty good job of smoothing out the map.
Visually, I like the point atriums. Although cluttered in some areas while expansive in others, the best detailing is centralised at each of the points, drawing the player's eyes there. Outside of that area, I wish texture choices worked a little more well together. For the majority of your buildings, I think simple columns along the walls would have greatly contributed to the map's aesthetic. Some portions of props without a face and the edge of the map are clearly visible. Outside, the snow and some walls are bright (especially once I turned on HDR). There's a missing roof texture that I'm sure you know of. Lastly, the city feels like an afterthought just thrown in on the sides. If there were some way to incorporate this into the industrial area or expand it further, I probably would have thought that this fit better.
ARENA Yanqing (symmetrical, raised platform, day, Asia, city/town)
She was hella fun to work on, although frustrating at times. The intent was to create fast-paced and predictable rounds while offering a variant on 2CP Arena. I think the layout completed my goal fairly well. After spending two months of over-designing pre-alphas, I finally got to release a version. Very few alphas were needed throughout the development cycle. I wish some more experienced mappers got to play the initial versions to hammer out the issues earlier on, but that got straightened out. I want to give a huge thank you to my collaborator partner, Diva Dan, for showing off his excellent detailing on my map. As reluctant as I was, that took it to the next level. I may release the design document, but we'll see if I do get around to it. I'm super happy with how this came out and can't wait to see her future!
Gameplay-wise, the map intends to break the normal style in 2CP Arena maps by excluding a middle contested area. However, this sections off the map and makes it hard to create a flow that is uninterrupted by tight chokes (Dan helped fix this, but the rotations used in maps are cyclic and require forceful dry pushes early on). The verticality isn't as prominent as I initially planned, but I think it works well. The unique aspect of making the spawns still function after the round starts (as a flank behind the point) has led to some interesting rounds. A bit more polish in clipping and with blockbullets would smooth out the map. I wish I could somehow balance out sentries more, but it's partly my fault for starting that trend in an early test.
Visually, I'm stunned by what's Dan's done. I wish the textures felt more TF2-y and that spawn felt a little more structurally sound, but hey, I only gave him a couple of weeks to detail it. Under balcony, there's a noticeable dark spot that can interfere with player visibility. In the lower section of the map, an areaportal barely affects the skybox, but this is only visible while rocketjumping in yard. There also happens to be two suns, but very few people have noticed, so shhh... All that remains are some very nitpicky things that mainly boil down to personal preference.
If I could vote on her, I'd maybe give her a 7/7/8/7.3. That feels a bit high in my opinion, but I guess it's just a mixture of all my thoughts thrown together over the development cycle.