Making Competitive Maps

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This article is intended for anyone to contribute ideas about what makes a good competitive map. That's not to say that anybody making other kinds of maps can't learn from reading this.

From a gameplay perspective

Types of Maps

To make things easier, you can put maps on a scale depending on how readily they have something both worth and possible to control. I will call this the map's control index, ranging from 1-5, which is somewhat dependent on the number of players (Tab. 1). In one end of the extreme you will find maps that end up in a campfest, like dm_powerhouse (index value 5), while the opposite is nonstop action with little to no thought involved such as a typical killbox (index value 1). However, for our purposes, a better example of a low value would be dm_lostvillage if played without the RPG (index value 2). In general, for any map, the control index will increase with the number of players, since fewer resources per player means greater potential for successful control.

A good map should have a value close to 3, encouraging all of thought, communication and technical skill. In a way, players can also be generalized to fit onto this scale. Depending on how their technical skills compare to their tactical skills, they tend to choose a map accordingly. As the balanced player the pro is, a map with a value of 3 suits him the best since he can then exploit the weaknesses of any other kind of player.


Key Map Qualities

While considering these qualities, remember that they all contribute to creating an overall result. Without spawn points or weapons there wouldn't be much fighting going on no matter how ingenious the layout.



By a balanced map we do not primarily mean one that is symmetric in design, but one where weapon and item placement promotes a balance between technical and tactical skills. This quickly becomes apparent if you consider a map with an rpg as the single item compared to one where all sorts of weapons are to be found everywhere. The former degrades into spawn luck followed by a campfest, whereas the latter would not exactly be much more of an encouraging experience. Balance is attained if you give teams the opportunity to control items at the same time as giving them an equally good reason to move around. You also have to realize that any given map is best balanced for a specific number of players. Too few weapons will see too many fights ending smg vs. smg, while too many will make it virtually impossible to deny the enemy access to his favorite gun.

A special feature of HL2DM is that you can use your gravity gun to manipulate items that you cannot include in your inventory (usually named props). There is the kind that you can destroy (e.g., crates and exploding barrels) basically being a kind of moveable ammunition. Just as regular items you can control these by simply destroying them. Props like radiators and cabinets, on the other hand, are indestructible but you can either move them around or in some cases get rid of them by throwing them out from the reachable parts of the map.

Since you can easily get killed (e.g. RPG, orb or props) even if you have maximum health and armor, there is usually no reason to make these resources scarce. Consider further that a freshly spawned player holds two potentially insta-killing grenades, and you have even less reason to hold back on at least the health. If you, however, hold back on suit you can effectively make the crossbow a more valuable weapon since it is an one hit kill if your opponent has no suit at all.

Anyone can be lucky with one shot but it usually takes skill to land two or more consecutive shots of whatever weapon you are wielding. This is why the game will be appear less "random" if you cannot insta-kill with, e.g., the shotgun so easily because your opponent is beefed up to 100 points suit or more.



a) Symmetry/Balance: a map cannot really be balanced without a proper layout. A single large room with a shelf some ways up would be considered extremely unbalanced, all other things being equal. A symmetric map can often seem somewhat boring, and if truly symmetric will even be confusing when it comes to knowing in what part of the map you are. There is also the risk that the two teams set up camp in opposite corners of such a map, resulting in extremely boring gameplay.

b) Size: appropriate size is of course important, but this should be self-evident enough to not really warrant any further discussion. Just keep in mind that appropriate size depends on the number of players.

c) Dimensionality/Complexity: most good maps have a decent compromise between boringly simple and mind boggingly complex. While it can sometimes be nice with a challenging map, you want to keep it intuitive. If it takes too long for players to learn a map, chances are it simply won't get played much. One of the reasons dm_lockdown is so hugely successful, is that everyone knows it so well. But have you ever considered why dm_underpass is not more popular?

d) Variation: not only does variation make for less boring game play, but having different themes/architecture in different parts of a map makes it easier to relate to and communicate your whereabouts.

e) Control Points: these are built around items of high value, e.g. the RPG platform on dm_powerhouse or the items under the stairs on dm_lockdown (2 smg nades, 2 health packs, 1 orb & 1 shotgun).

f) Choke Points: points of a map which you almost certainly have to pass in order to get to another area, especially important if that area contains a control point.

g) Crossroads: areas which can be accessed by three or more paths, making anyone there unusually susceptible to crossfire.



A map in which players both can and will move around readily is a fluent map. Generally, you will find that enemies are easier to control in a map with low flow since they move slower and, hence, are more predictable. In a large map, on the other hand, high flow can facilitate its being used even for 1-on-1 play.

a) Connectivity: the more ways there are to get from A to B, be it by interconnecting passages, lifts, bounce pads or teleports, the higher the flow.

b) Ease of Movement: it is naturally more difficult to move around in a map cluttered with debris, narrow passages, ladders. You also need to realize that most people playing competitively know how to bunny hop to some extent. Allowing for this kind of movement to some extent will go a long way for your map to become approved by the competitive community. Going one step further, you can make advanced movement a necessity by incorporating difficult jumps and turns as long as you do not overdo it. Rather, be creative while at the same time bearing this in mind when you place player clips in your map. It is much more frustrating to be stopped by an invisible wall than a 'real' obstacle.

c) Incentive: this comes back to resource balance. By giving the player a reason to move around, picking up resources, you effectively combat camping and thereby will see gameplay with more flow. Avoid placing weapons and corresponding ammo at or near locations where it can be used effectively. Instead you want to place, e.g., an RPG in a narrow corridor and a shotgun out in an open area.


Spawn Points

Spawn point placement is something that is sadly overlooked in map creation. If you just take a few moments to consider the impact this can have, you can improve the playability of your map greatly. In general, I think everyone will agree with me when I say that a good map is one where the element of chance is minimized. In any map, we all know that spawning is random (except that you cannot spawn at a point which someone else is already occupying). Things that can remedy this are:

a) Trying to keep down the control index of the map.

b) Seeing to it that no particular spawn point is closer to a control point than any other.

c) Avoiding placing spawn points so that they can be camped from a position that has other reasons for guarding (such as a control point, a choke point or a crossroads). Rather, place spawn points so that neither the spawning player nor the enemy can exploit its position. Usually this means placing them out of sight, preferably in a somewhat secluded area, so that no one can have more than one in sight at any one time.

In addition, look out for areas with a high concentration of spawn points, potentially making them valuable enough on their own to justify controlling.

A Note on Spawn Protection

In this discussion I have assumed that there is no spawn protection other than the built in milliseconds that make exploiting spawn points with slams useless. Generally, I am a strong advocate for letting the game be the rules - if you can do it in-game it is allowed (with a few exceptions) - point being that it is tedious and difficult to enforce game-play rules that are not built into the engine. You also have to realize that there is no clear line between a spawn kill and a regular kill. How would you decide on those borderline cases?

Spawn protection as an option has come into place because some people dislike spawn killing. A better way to deal with this, however, is to have more secluded spawn points in combination with no forcing of respawns. If you decide to spawn you should be prepared to fight. Actually, spawn protection only adds more problems than it solves. Nothings really stops anyone from guarding spawn points. A newly spawned player can watch enemy moves and even choose his weapon before he decides to jump into the action, something he can wait to do until the enemy turns his back. And again, if you try enforcing rules against this you will see that there are a lot of borderline situations. To add injury to insult, you frequently encounter a penalty with shooting a spawn protected player. Even if this in itself could be defended, you now have the problem of stray balls and grenades that will punish the spammer. What more, a player can use someone who is spawn protected as a shield. Bad enough, but with the penalty enforced you will most likely be punished for even trying to take out that guy. No, it really is very simple: don't spawn unless you are prepared to fight and if you stop to chat you simply will have to accept that you might die.



Competitive Maps By Fearsome

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(Survey) What You Look For in a Map

A Question for Players (Not Only Mappers)

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From a technical perspective


Tutorial - My First Ever HL2DM Map

Source Mapping 101

Mapping Links and Resources

Tutorial – creating curved ramps


Half-Life 2 Map Editing Optimization Guide


General links

Mapping Tips

HL2DMU Recommended Mapping Standards

Category: Game | Added by: ‹FENIX› (22.09.17)
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