2013 update: This is an old thread but I know a lot of people liked it. I feel like I should add this warning: Everything in this guide/tip is 100% pulled out of my ass and it's nothing but my opinion. I think I failed to communicate that in the original version, but I can't be bothered to update the text, so just take it with a grain of salt. During the development of your maps, you may have noticed that things aren't going great. I'm not saying this to be rude, but this seems to be the case for most mappers. All your effort spent balancing the map and detailing it so it'll play well and look good is great and all, but even then, your map might not be making any headlines. You know why? Because it's boring! It might be, anyway. Because I don't want to be pointing any fingers at particular people, I'm not giving you an example of what a boring custom map is, but imagine a map with square rooms, square shacks and straight hallways. 128 - 384 unit high displacement cliffs everywhere. It might look a lot like the one you're making. And if that is the case, I urge you to make a change - or if your next project is more ambitious, apply it to that, at least! I urge you to do something special with your map, that will make its gameplay stand out as different, and/or burn it into the minds of your players - It will actually be recognized! So without further ado, here are some ways you can make people remember your map. Doing something special for your map - A "tip" spent 2 1/2 hours on. I have no life. 1. An unforgettable landmark/focal point Or in the best case, unforgettable landmarks, if you can. Say you're developing a 5-CP map, why not make every Control Point something unique? For something smaller like a KOTH, a unique middle area is important. Let me simplify by providing the best and the worst of TF2's middles, in terms of "impression of awesomeness". See now? arena_nucleus has a truly awesome landmark in the middle, while cp_fastlane is one of the most boring maps to ever surface from Hammer. Do not, under any circumstances, make another bloody shack. I hope you get the point, because I'm not going to bother drawing useless text on the pictures anymore - But here are some more examples of the good: pl_cashworks's final point is in itself pretty damn cool, as any huge bank vault is. But the explosion following the end really makes this a finale you don't forget. tc_meridian's robot is sure to catch the eye of anyone passing by, even though it has nothing to do with the gameplay. I'm sure you noticed plr_whalerace's extreme popularity here at TF2Maps. Why? The whales are the focal points of the entire map, and they are awesome. It is, however, not necessarily a particular small piece of a map that makes it impressive. arena_offblast's entire setting is a well executed, exaggerated mountaintop - People remember the entire map. 2. Interesting geometry and twists Not only do people enjoy spectacular things to look at, but also awesome new ways to play. The simplest thing you can do is explore a different shape - Use fewer squares and more circles, hexagons, etc. Here are some examples on how you can make interesting geometry: This dish must have been tricky to make, but look at the outcome - It's basically the most unique fighting area in all of TF2! A bowl shape allows every class to explore new ways of fighting, especially those that deal with splash damage. The final point in cp_steel is not only a cool death pit, but also a dynamic point that becomes gradually easier to access. Sorry for the somewhat jackass plug here, but koth_shell is what I consider my first successful map. People seemed to like this map right off the bat. Why? It's round! Simple as that. Lil' Chew Chew of pl_frontier is not only an interesting landmark of sorts (see point 1), but is a minor twist on the payload mode. The big train engine provides cover, as well as a leisurely ride on its flatbed cart. 3. Minor Details Now, now, I know this isn't a guide on how to detail your hallways, but... I'll let you in on a really good tip. Don't make hallways and square rooms. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but whenever you can, spice it up with a different shape, as seen in lesson 2 up there. Rather than a straight hallway, make it curve slightly, or make players go through something that isn't a hallway at all. The first and most obvious solution for square rooms is to add more corners. It's simple! If you need something drastic, why not take a room and... Make it not a room at all, but an outdoors area between buildings or something. I think screenshots should be helpful here. A bending tunnel like this might be hard to replicate, but it's totally worth it. It transformed a boring hallway into a unique snaking shape. Hydro is good with room transitions. This little detail massively improves the square room with a staircase in a hole. Do you ever really notice this giant silo? It's so round, yet it fits perfectly into the area. Now, imagine it's gone and replaced with a square-ish building. See how one round object makes an area feel much less boring? Here's a good, old hallway like I told you not to make if you can avoid it. But do you notice how there's also a little side area? This addition makes it possible to fight in this hallway, not just walk in it! 4. No. Just no.