I have decided to write these notes as a way to explain the difficulties that are associated with the design and map making process. This is a very complex topic (for sure), and there is much to talk about (for years). I'm not going to impose anything. And I want to be an independent person who cares about the global scene and community, and is interested in development. I'm looking at it from different angles. No whine, no rage. I'm putting my time and resources into that. Only dedication and honest perspective.
I got second place at TLMC#16. It was my second attempt but first result was far better than I thought. And since then I have been continuously polishing and improving my skills and ideas to bring everything I can to community. The search for new opportunities as well as for new knowledge and analyzing of the existing intellectual potential.
Aftermath after iteration
Rush distance and the size of maps.
After numerous attempts to find the golden mean I've come to the conclusion that there is no place for maps with rush distance (RDR) more than; with the horizontal layout 34 sec; with diagonal layout 36 sec. And I'm going to explain why.
First of all, I believe that maps with the horizontal layout have a potential for different uses (including 4th level). Golden Wall was a pioneer map in design and showed us how to have fun (for players and map-makers). Amazing times by Superouman. But on the other side we also have Blackburn. And Blackburn is a less-strict version but with RDR is only 33 sec. Which makes this map different and it was placed in rush category maps. At the same time, the Golden Wall keeps RDR 37 sec. Let's check the size of both maps. Golden Wall 168x140 and ratio is only 1.2. Blackburn 144x117 and ratio 1.231. They have similar ratios but huge differences in scout time. And they both have problems with corner bases. [My TLMC map Aftermath has 1.4]
This is a common problem right now. Because I already saw a couple layouts from guys and they have the same problem. Not so long ago, Legan showed a layout with exactly the same problem. Trying to create a horizontal layout, we seriously violate relationships in between corner bases and armies rotations. It turns out that the layout increases the path and it is going nowhere. Boredom. It unnecessarily drags out the game.
(Blackburn) 33 sec. is a very small time and usually leads us to not take the triangle third but use linear third instead. Which is bad, because we are forced to choose a predictable and unsafe way to play. And that is what happens in ZvT and ZvP. (Golden Wall) 37 sec. is a quite big time waster to scout your opponent and in general on opportunities at the beginning of the game.
To solve this complex problem, I have tried to create different paths, ratios and connections. And I'm not going to lie, it hasn't been easy. I showed the guys some new layouts (8 in total, I think) and it was a disaster. But in the end (after many attempts) I was able to reach a fragile state with 34 sec. and ~1.45 ratio (164(166)x114(112).
More rectangular size makes vertical moving more comfortable but can increase the diagonal. But overall it is a good sign to improve horizontal layouts. Because we can decrease the time and movement distance. 34 sec. is a good scout time to all. And this is most important aspect of the design. You need to make changes that will affect all but equally fair and proportionate.
Horizontal layouts and bases.
The second problem is how to place the close one base to the center of the map. This can be a difficult task. Golden Wall is a big map. The bottom bases are separated by rocks. And there is enough space in between. Blackburn has a quite tight pocket for central base. I've always been told that having a base in the middle isn't a great thing. Because if one has an advantage over the other in late game (I'm looking at you, Zerg) then it will be very difficult to equalize (reduce the gap). It makes sense. And this rule was taken into account.
A couple of days ago, Skypirinha (he's my man) commented on one of my layouts. He commented that my triangular bases were too close to each one. However, I don't see a critical issue here. But at the same time, I have to admit that he is absolutely right. And therefore I have to make a smarter choice in proportions of the map. Which leads me to a rectangle one with a ratio that is close to 1.45 once again. Because I'm able to set up everything without any additional objects, mineral lines, slow zones or destructible rocks. And it's good because I'm able to create something that is more open, more stable and I can diversify the gameplay. Because every time you place minerals or rocks at the way you block the path. Less options to move. Less options for transitions. And eventually it becomes clamped. You need to think twice about further consequences. And that is what I call Aftermath. It is very difficult to foresee all possible ways. The whole gameplay can turn against you.
Ramps and entrance to the natural.
The third problem is how to correctly organize the entrance to the natural base. Golden Wall and Blackburn they both have direct ramps. I don't like this approach too much. From my perspective, this option often gives us two base timing attacks and all-ins in TvP. Because it is relatively easy to wall off, Protoss often makes DT's and other shenanigans (remember sOs). And I'm not a fan of it. And as a result, there are crazy base trades or some other tough stuff. Don't go too far with base trades against Protoss, kids. I think I have this perception after watching Pillars of Gold and Oxide 5000 times in a row. I think the 2021 stagnation in Starcraft has seriously affected my mind. Having the direct ramp means having advantage and disadvantage at the same time. But seriously, the reason why I don't like the direct ramp is because it's hard to get up and down. It happens difficult to end the siege. It seems to me that it creates unnecessary complexity. In Broodwar, the ramp from natural is another reason for RNG because there are miss shots. And for T-players (especially in TvP) this is also a disadvantage at scouting (go and ask Artosis). I'm just saying how it affects (seriously). So, my choice is to have an additional space at the front and then ramps. Like on Berlingrad (Kairos Junction): left, right and straight (initially blocked with rocks or minerals.
But I found a few more great options which eventually led me to create a map where there is an additional space at the front of natural (for myself I call it an invitation space, like come in, please) and two ramps. First ramp is always facing the triangle third. The second one gives you three options: take the gold, take the linear third and a place to defend, to go down and attack from the side. I believe that in combination with 4 levels, the design can be transformed. And I can see more interesting combinations.
You're probably thinking that I'm going to defend T-players. I don't think so. Terrans have been at the bottom of the pit for a long time (in the ass of a nydus worm) and nothing will help them. In my opinion, game designers made a serious mistake when in 2018 (Patch 4.1.4 Balance Update) and then in 2019 (Patch 4.10.1 Balance Update) they unilaterally buffed the Ghosts. This basically defined the whole style of terrans. And eliminated the chance to change anything. I mean, a nail in the coffin. There is no other way to call it. Because you can see how it is powerful and weak at the same time. Terrans rely on ghosts and can't escape it. Well it is possible to save the situation, but this can be done only by big changes. Which will entail balance changes for other units and all three races. Terrans are simply doomed to play the same style over and over again. Stimpack and EMPs.
You're probably thinking, what the heck is that? Okay, what is he talking about? The thing is, at the map design level, it all comes down to the fact that the Terran cannot avoid the order of taking bases. Terran is always forced to take third in a triangle. Two bases into the push and third at the high ground. The survivability at the beginning is weak. And therefore T-players are always "sits there" until ghosts (9:00 min Ghost Academy and first 3 ghosts pop out). Of course, you can go for a two base timing attack, but you know, I'm looking at it for the millionth time. Boring. And there are no options to take gold or a linear third. (Blackburn is an exception as I noted earlier, and I do not take maps with pocket bases into account). Forget about 4p maps. There is no chance.
That's why I asked myself the question, is it possible to do something about it? The balance will never change (Realistically, we know it's unlikely happens). And hardly anyone will return to us to spin the wheel for a major patch. You have what you have. "If you don't like it or don't want to, get out, we don't keep you here any longer than you need to be". I think it's impossible. I had an enlightenment when I created Aftermath. I thought that it could be a glimpse of light...
On the size of the map once again.
But, the most serious problem is a creep spread. Which leads us to recognize the correct size of the map (and RDR). I don't think it will be a secret, but if the map is too small or has a square shape, then Zerg will reach the opponent within a second like a bullet train. Therefore, a balanced opinion is essential here. Within what boundaries you need to keep the map to be acceptable for all three races. If you want to create a map with a diagonal/ rotational symmetry type, please, forget that there is anything more than 146x130 (plus minus 2 pixels). It is a border that is friendly. Only maps with a medium size shows results.
As a good example that shows the problem we have Glittering Ashes on ladder right now. A quite big map with rush distance of 39 seconds. Very well suited for Zerg. Layout is generally great for protecting five bases. Therefore, Zerg feel comfortable (due the creep) against Terrans, but not so well against Protoss air dominance. Berlingrad is another map and it is extremely small (120x140). This allows you to quickly take 5 bases and bang your head against the wall by sending one wave banelings after another. The creep spread is insane at the pro level and the baneling cost is too low, so even in the most bad trade situation, zerg is still able to continue to grab space on the map and throw into the opponent waves of banelings, ultralisks and lurkers. In my opinion, we have a serious problem here that keeps us in tenacious paws and does not allow us to move on. So the creep spread plus banelings and the wrong size of map is the ultimate combination for Zerg. If you do not take roach-ravager things into account. I will say even more, baneling is THE most unbalanced unit in Starcraft 2.
For horizontal layouts things are a little different. We've already talked about it. Long-range and bases at the corner. And the fact that Zerg or Protoss in general are able to take linear bases (one line) and thus go into a corner. So, with a horizontal layout it is impossible to have a square configuration (especially in the past due to queen walk and void rays abuse). Otherwise, after Zerg takes 4 bases in a line he will be simultaneously spreading the creep to the center. And nothing will be done to stop it. Map is too wide and it is impossible to control everything. Therefore, such maps should be made elongated and narrow. In order to achieve the ability to control the creep spread (in fair terms of course). And again, with a ratio that is around 1.45 ( it's not a strict rule) it look more advantageous.
At the very beginning, I said that the 4th level could help us. The fact is that the use of the 4th level allows you to create a border that can be controlled from the ramp and prevent the intensive development of creep spread on the map. It's kind of a borderline thing. Of course, you can't separate the entire map in this way. For example, the bottom side of the map (which is more far away from triangle third) can have the same level as a base in the corner.