Valeria's guide to competitive mapping!

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Resources' started by Valkyrie, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Valkyrie

    aa Valkyrie

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    Please note, this guide is 3 years old nearly. A lot of this information might be out of date in certain areas

    I feel it’s finally time for me to contribute a guide to this amazing community so I thought I should do one that not many people have experience on properly. This guide is going to be about competitive mapping and will have a collection of opinions from some of the most well-known figures within the competitive community for your enjoyment and use. Most of this is my opinion but I will be getting others for certain bits, I am by no means able to speak for the whole community but these are generally good tips.


    The first thing you need to know is the main 2 competitive formats and the differences between each region that these are played. The 2 formats are:
    • 6vs6
    • 9vs9 (often called highlander or hl)
    These 2 formats are completely and utterly different to each other and will rely on different mapping techniques and different layouts. The first major difference is the number of players you are accommodating in your map, 12 players compared to 18 is a big difference and means big things for your map. For example, cp_gullywash, a map played in both hl and 6’s has a choke point from 2nd to mid.


    In 6v6 that chokepoint is perfectly viable to be used and is used as the main pushing route on this map by the combo (this is medic, demoman and soldier, sometimes a scout). It’s used because of how close it is to the point and it puts you on the same height as the point’s defenders. In hl these advantages are still present but the higher number of players that will be present in the combo (it will be Heavy, medic, demoman, soldier, pyro, sometimes engineer and scout) the narrowness of this choke completely makes it useless for a highlander combo, too many players trying to pass through that is not going to happen, so what was once the flank for 6’s is now the pushing route for highlander. So in most cases, the width of a pushing route is the main thing to consider, a route could be perfect for 3 players to go through but too narrow and an hl team won’t use it.

    The next difference is the classes present, in hl, one of every class will be present this means you need to balance the map for every class, and this is just like normal mapping so it’s not too much of a worry. When it comes to 6’s though it’s a little different. In 6’s you will have:
    • 1 Medic
    • 1 Demoman
    • 2 Scouts
    • 2 Soldiers
    The reason these classes are used is to give a very good balance of firepower and movement, this would not be a major problem for a map but you need to keep in mind that all other classes are allowed and people will ‘offclass’, and play a class not listed above. This is used for a variety of reasons but it can have a big impact on the map’s balance and play style. Typically you want the map to be good enough for every offclass while being good enough to convince people to stay those listed classes. This balance can be extremely difficult to achieve and in some competitive maps it’s not achieved at all.

    Cp_snakewater is one of the worst (in my opinion) for this; it’s more viable to run 1 scout and 1 sniper. This completely changes the team’s dynamics and takes players out of their comfort zone and also completely changes how the sniper and the scout have to play. I won’t go into details what it does to a team because it’s not important; just keep in mind you want players to want to play the normal 6’s classes on your map while the offclasses all are viable.
    The next major difference with the 2 formats is unlocks that are useable. This will be difficult to explain as different regions unlock and ban different weapons (see the regions section further down) but suffice to say, most weapons are allowed in hl and only a select few are allowed in 6’s. This really changes the dynamic of maps due to how classes can play.

    The final major difference that is not really a difference in format is the regions you are submitting the map to be for. This is a massive difference that really needs to be considered, different regions play TF2 differently than others. A basic overview of the regions play styles is:

    • America: Very demoman reliant and aggressive play style, keep in mind this is the fastest of the play styles and players will never be idly holding an area. This makes maps play differently and makes some routes on maps completely un-used.

    • EU: This play style is very passive, it’s is more reliant on precision timing and team work than the other play styles and is very slow paced, once a point is taken teams will generally hold until one gets a definite advantage, once that happens teams leap into action almost instantly and fighting will break out.

    • Australia: This play style is super reliant on soldiers and rolling from mid to last as fast as you can, a positioning game is what Australia relies on and it tries to dodge combat if possible.

    The unlocks for each region can be found here:

    The next section I cannot stress enough for competitive mappers, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look at how each class plays, look at how classes play with each other, build your map of these principles, what you might think is fine on a normal map when taken into a competitive team could be completely overpowered or underpowered. Remember, people will be working as a team.

    Designing your map

    When it comes to competitive TF2 there are a lot of differences than the normal pub mapping. Areas will be used based on a selection of advantages and disadvantages which will need to be known for anyone to enjoy your map. Advantages and disadvantages are different based on if someone is attacking with it or defending. Below is a list of the majority of advantages and disadvantages and an explanation of each one from both defensive and offensive mind set:

    Height: This is the big one, height advantage is one of the most important parts of TF2 and especially in competitive, a player is harder to shoot when he is higher up and hit scan loses efficiency. An area that has a height advantage is instantly where defenders would love to hold, they get a commanding field of view and are harder to force off the point they are trying to hold. A height disadvantage will almost never be used by defenders but is prime territory for the flanking classes to be sneaky and go for a kill on an important target. For example, look at this image:


    This area makes no sense to be used by the attackers, you have to go through an area that is almost entirely a height disadvantage, you are easy to spam and force away, the defenders of this area have access to a resupply locker so most damage you can do will be null and void, but due to the area it comes out onto second scouts tend to frequent a push around here as you have access to the defenders high ground on second relatively easily.
    Health and ammo: This is an important one that will change how defenders hold.


    This area for defenders is a perfect example of this, normally defenders would want to hold balcony due to this area having a restricted line of sight and a massive height disadvantage to the point. The only reason this is used is, compared to balcony which only has one small health kit, this area (known as Trash) has access to a medium health and ammo kit and you can escape easily. If these things did not exist then this area would not be used
    For attackers health and ammo is a little less important, as usually they don’t get access to any because they constantly react to the defenders. The main time they will need them is when they are waiting for some form of advantage but they will be relatively defensive so that falls under the defensive section. While they don’t have access to it that is a big part of it. Attackers only ever attack when they have some form of advantage so giving them access to a health or ammo easily will make defending very hard.

    The ability to escape: As mentioned before this is quite important, more so for the defenders. If we go back to the balcony on 2nd example, the only two escape routes are two long and narrow corridors, that’s perfect spamming territory for demomen and soldiers. Keep in mind that defenders will need to fall back and use this to your benefit, and area with bad fall back capabilities can then be used in interesting combinations of height and health advantage for defenders.

    As the attackers falling back is also important, if the attacking team does not successfully push onto the point and take it, they will need to fall back; the main difference here between attackers and defenders is the attackers will usually have 3-4 players’ dead. This means they have to get out alive to even have a chance of defending the previous point from the enemy team. Keep in mind that when the attackers are running they will be under heavy fire from the defenders so be nice, give them some health and ammo on a fall back route.

    What can I see and does it help?: The reason I have worded it like this is, out of personal experience, when I and my close friends are testing new competitive maps and we are looking for hold spots we ask ourselves this. Field of view and how far you can see are amazing as when you are defending you need to see as much as you can but this works in reverse, as if you can see the attackers they can see you. This kind of thing is not really something mappers can control as personal preference kicks in for each player, but you can facilitate it.

    Cover: Does an area have a lot of cover? If so defenders will love it, the cover will catch spam and medics and demomen can avoid snipers with it. Attackers also love cover; they can get into a good position to attack the enemy without eating all the enemy spam.

    Keep in mind all these above things when designing your map and try to balance each area with a few of these in mind. A good rule of thumb is 1 more advantage than disadvantage if you want an area to be used occasionally and 2 more advantages if you want it to be the main hold or push area.


    This is very different to public mapping as competitive maps tend to be brighter, the main reason is it’s a lot faster game play so people can’t focus on an area to try and work out if someone is hiding there. Look at this example:

    Sentries will frequent this area but why? Because its dark, as a competitive Engineer I can guarantee that sentry spot is complete garbage if it was even somewhat lighter, but even that level of darkness is a big deal in competitive. Keep this in mind, an area that is dark will be frequented a lot more than you would think. Use these effectively in combinations with advantages and disadvantages and you can force teams to make some really tactical decisions. If done correctly you will be well on your way to making the next great competitive map.


    This section will cover as much as possible about the 6’s “metagame” and how to reflect that in your map. With 6’s teams will be a lot more co-ordinated, everyone will be working off each other and will rely on each other, this really changes maps play style. With 6’s the entire game relies on Uber and having some form of advantage. I am not going into detail about these as that is too in-depth and has no effect on mapping.

    With 6’s keep in mind this co-ordination because maps change completely. Let’s look at the infamous 2fort, this map, to most peoples shock, used to be one of the most popular competitive maps not two years ago. Let’s look at this map a lot more in depth and break it down as to why it was removed from the rotation.

    The first thing I must say is that ctf used to be a lot more popular a few years back, but lost that when people realized how slow paced it really was, this is one of the reasons it was removed.

    One of the biggest problems with 2 fort was, and hopefully you remember before what I mentioned about offclassing, the incentive to offclass on this map was way too high, losing one scout and one soldier was easily worth gaining an engineer and sniper for this map, that meant players were forced out of their comfort zone into situations they are not accustomed to. This is a big problem for teams as not only do players that used to rely on each other now have to play solo, they also no longer cover the same areas together, this means the teams dynamic was hindered and caused dislike about the map.

    The next major problem is 2 of the 3 routes into one of the two bases could be covered from high ground that had access to a resupply locker and also had decent cover, great escape routes and was dark in some areas. All in all this lead to a defensive hold position that had a large number of advantages with only a few minor disadvantages, this caused the game to stalemate, neither team wants to push into the enemies base due to it now being a fortress, and even if you got in, you still had to get out alive.

    The next main problem with this map was the no man’s land between bases, remember I mentioned before attackers love cover, well surely that bridge in the no-man’s land is cover? Not in the slightest, that area is the complete definition of negative cover, not only is it the only way across (apart from sewers, we will get to that soon) it was also narrow, had a roof you can shoot through, and it ends a decent distance from any other cover. Any team stupid enough to enter that without serious advantages would be almost instakilled and would not get the presence to follow the attack up.

    Sewers was the main flanking route, it is a good example of a flank though, it has decent cover, penetrates deep into the enemies base and has health and ammo, but it also makes a lot of noise when you walk through it, it only has 1 narrow exit for the attacker and you are at a height disadvantage. This is a good balance of advantages and disadvantages.

    With all these facts together you are probably thinking “well why was it ever in the map rotation”. Simply put, the metagame for tf2 has evolved, and what was once a good map is now a bad map. Keep this in mind, even the best competitive maps can quickly become hated.

    Now let’s look at a currently popular map, the most well-known one is badlands, so we will break that down.

    Badlands is the stock competitive map, most well-known, most played. It got this by being a very good competitive tf2 map. I will do a last point break down to show how the previously mentioned advantages are implemented and what that does to how teams interact.

    The last points (see below):


    This area is probably the best example of making flanks viable. All 3 of the routes are perfectly viable for the combo to push through with uber, each giving different tactical advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at the push from top lobby, this area is narrow, enemies can spam you easily, but you appear right in the enemy teams face and are on the same height as them, controlling this height is paramount to capping the point so keeping this is mind you see why you would use this flank. Next is main, this is the lower middle route, this is a much more open pat in, harder to spam, but you are at a height disadvantage to the enemy team.

    Finally there is lower left, this will be used because you are almost 100% shielded from the enemy combo (the main source of enemy damage, it also gives you access to the point, behind the point and finally the high ground of left. The door you must come through though is very narrow and small; it will be covered by a soldier at minimum, sometimes a scout or even two, so there will be a good team presence there.

    As you can see, each route perfectly balances advantages and disadvantages to create an interesting last point where all the routes are viable.

    The point itself at first glance looks very well covered and easy to take, but on closer inspection you see that really, what looks covered is the opposite, its complete negative cover, splash damage rips teams completely apart on that point, this forces the teams to fight for control of last instead of just being able to rush the point.

    Thank you to nightwatch for the images and coffee for the formatting.
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    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
  2. Fantasma

    aa Fantasma

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    This is a really good and well put together guide. Good job
  3. nightwatch

    aa nightwatch

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    Man, those pictures make the article.
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