A Decade of Promaps, Dec. 1998 – Dec. 2008.
A word of warning before we start. This is going to be a long read. It's 23 pages single spaced without pictures, and manages to be five digits worth of words. 13345, to be precise, though all the formatting and the fact that urls count for more than one word has to contribute to that somehow. But anyway, go to the bathroom now, you're gonna be here a while. Also, there are tons of pictures, so like the warnings in old 2002 battlereports, if you have a 56k connection, well, you're pretty much fucked. Let's begin.
Remember 815, Arcadia and Rush Hour 3 during Savior's prime? How about further back to the old WCG stand-bys of Lost Temple, Hall of Valhalla, Legacy of Char, and Neo Jungle Story? Or how about even further back to when Blizzard made maps like Rivalry and Ashrigo were actually considered (and used) as promaps in Korean leagues? If one thing has remained at the forefront of professional Starcraft through all these years, it's been the development and evolution of maps. Celebrity map makers like Rose.of.Dream, [Ragnarok]Valkyrie, skb9728_CyGnus, and drunken bird, among others contribute more to the proscene than many realize, with maps such as MERCURY and Paradoxxx determining the fates of many progamers.
That being said, for my 5000th post, I've decided to actually do something useful. During my early time here at TL.net, I used to give map reviews and comments on a lot of the user-created maps posted here. If there was one thing I was known for, it was maps. I've since stopped, however, but I suppose I'll head back to my roots and make one of my major forum contributions a massive post on promaps. I'll give a brief one paragraph introduction to the maps used in each series through time, and I'll select some maps from each series and give a more in-depth discussion of these maps.
Of course, I'll only cover a representative sample of maps from major leagues. Just to make things easier on me because I'm a selfish whore, and so many leagues reused maps that it's all a jumbled mess. I'm going to group the maps in “series”, which means maps generally associated with each other during a specific slice of the proscene. Of course, there will be some maps omitted, such as Dark Sauron 2, Turnaround Evolution (which isn't even listed in the TLPD), Odin (not listed in TLPD), or Mercury Zero (not listed either...someone should probably get on that), which I don't feel are that important to the development of the game. Sorry Dark Sauron 2 fans (though I will admit, there were -great- games played on that map). And also, this won't be a rigorous analysis of balance (though I do address balance issues), but more a general overview of trends, as well as more in-depth discussions of individual maps.
Series generally follow a chronological pattern, though in some cases, such as Plains to Hill, maps may be associated with others from a different period chronologically (with, for example, Hall of Valhalla and Legacy of Char, instead of Back and Belly and Universal Tripod), that I will group them in with the associated maps instead of the maps with which they were introduced. Some maps may also belong to more than one series, such as Lost Temple being associated with the original Blizzard maps used in progaming (Ashrigo, etc.), but also the golden four maps of the WCG period (Jungle Story, etc.). Honestly, it's very much a personal grouping of maps in ways that I thought generally made sense. Along the same lines, Rivalry, which wasn't used in a league until years after 1999, is grouped with the four 1999 Blizzard maps. Generally, however, older maps are listed near the top, with newer maps closer to the bottom.
Also, I won't differentiate between maps with more than one version, such as Luna (2.0, 2.1, MBC, the Final, etc.), mainly since it's such a hassle and the maps are generally pretty similar to each other. When I do feel it's important, however (since Luna has been around forever haha), I'll include it in a different series. Also, I'll only provide pictures of the maps I discuss more in-depth. I'm sure you don't want to see all the pictures of all the maps listed, because it's pretty much overkill. So I'll only give a few pictures per series (the maps I discuss in depth...they're demarcated by the dashes surrounding them like -this-).
So without any further ado, here are the maps, separated into twenty series. The maps that I highlight for further discussion are Lost Temple, Showdown, Deep Purple, Ragnarok, Universal Tripod, Crimson Isles, Bifrost, Forbidden Zone, Valley of Wind, Nostalgia, Paradoxxx, Namja Iyagi, Mercury, Requiem, Highway Star, Parallel Lines 3, Gorky Island, Alchemist, Luna the Final, Ride of Valkyries, Rush Hour 3, Iron Curtain, Arcadia 2, Longinus 2, Neo Arkanoid, Monty Hall, Rush Hour 3, Blue Storm, Troy, and Medusa. Unfortunately, I'm not able to provide further discussion on a lot of maps, and there are many classic maps that are quite deserving that I missed (notably, Jim Raynor's Memory, Jungle Story, Gaia, Incubus, Plains to Hill, etc.) for further discussion, only glossing over them in the series overviews. Hopefully you can forgive me for that
Also: I actually managed to post this before the new season of OSL, so it looks like I don't have to include the new map, Tears of the Moon, in this post. Hooray for deadlines ...though this literally only took me two days to write.
Oh I guess there was some further ado. Oh well. Let's begin now.
Series 1: Ashrigo, -Lost Temple-, -Showdown-, Snowbound, Rivalry.
Ah, Blizzard maps. Remember these maps being used in the old Blizzard ladder back in the days of cuteguyno.1 and coke? When people actually played Blizzard ladder? At the time, these were honestly the best maps we had available, as they had some semblance of “balance” (though not really). This was back in the days where foreigners could legitimately compete against Koreans. Ashrigo, Showdown, Snowbound, and Rivalry were all massively Terran imbalanced maps, as was the trend back then.
That being said, the game was still so new, that things we take for granted today, like not going biomech in every game in TvP, just weren't there. Old greats like Skelton and Gundam (of Gundam rush fame) managed to play entire leagues on these imbalanced monstrosities. Hell, at this time, the Reaver drop was still being popularized. That far back. But still, I'm sure I speak for all of us (who've played the game for any significant time) when I say that I can remember when I'd play countless hours on these Blizzard ladder maps because, hey, they're good enough for the ladder, so they must be amazing.
And what discussion of maps would be complete without addressing Lost Temple? This is the map which defines Starcraft. Everyone's played on it, and everyone knows it front and back – timings, builds, etc. For years, Lost Temple was in literally any tourney, since everyone at that time had played hundreds, if not thousands, of games on the map.
And looking at it, the concept is fairly simple. Four mains with a natural below and a cliff overlooking it, with a mineral only third close to the mineral and full expansions in the corner islands. The middle was very flankable and somewhat open, with walls and doodads obstructing the way somewhat. That being said, there was significant imbalance on this map positionally, and different versions have taken steps to try and correct the imbalance (with one notable example being the Women's Starleague's wan and hopeful attempt to do something about 9 o'clock by reversing the orientation of its ramp.
Some egregiously imbalanced points on the original map include being able to hit 3's gas from 12's nat cliff, 12v3 PvT being almost impossible (forcing many Protoss to actually expand at the min only first), the valley in 6 being able to hit 6's main buildings, 6's disgustingly inefficient mineral formation, etc. And that's not even including the more subtle imbalances, such as the position of 12's mineral only, the ability of 9 to easily defend its nat and mineral only relative to the other positions, and the fact that a Zerg fast expanding at 12 had to wait for creep in order to be able to defend his ramp with Sunkens because the nat was so far back.
And different versions tried to correct for these. Neo, [S.G.] version, Gamei, PGT, WGT, etc., all had their own versions which addressed various issues, more or less. But none were perfect. Still, despite these imbalances, Lost Temple remained the map of choice for years, one of the most popular, even making its way into a Warcraft 3 version. Terms existed which specifically addressed the map, such as turbo newbie. To realize how important and popular Lost Temple is, there was a brief period of time when all maps were compared to Lost Temple in terms of play style. Hell, people even wanted to play on Luna for its novelty. Yeah, explain that one.
Lost Temple remains one of the most recognizable maps in all of Starcraft. It's what made Starcraft what it is today. Without Lost Temple, modern Starcraft as we know it just wouldn't exist; literally hundreds of pages of strategy have been written, tailored specifically to Lost Temple. Hundreds of memorable games were played on the familiar map. From ForU's use of Disruption Web against Sync to Xellos' amazing comeback against Aozora TvP, to Canata's amazing infantry comeback TvP from the islands, there are literally hundreds of games played on Lost Temple that are an integral part of Starcraft Lore. The Lost Temple has been found. Can you be the one to destroy your opponents and secure it?
I remember one of my first memories of Starcraft was going through the (now hilariously inaccurate, in terms of strategy) Starcraft Compendium, and reading the battlereports because 1.08 hadn't come out yet and we had no other way of knowing what happened in past games. One of the “pro” battlereports was between top foreigners on Showdown, and that's how I remembered this map.
To be honest, this map is perhaps one of the most imbalanced maps ever. Kind of like Blaze, really. Kind of a trend among early desert tileset maps. Maybe not statistically, or whatever, but if we analyze it based on modern skill and strategies, it's apparent that there is literally no way at all this can be considered a balanced map, especially in either PvT or ZvT.
One thing that immediately pops out is the fact that the “nat” is a third of the way up the map. A third of the way up a map with literally the longest distances, not only because it's 192 height, but also because of how convoluted the path is to the other main. The fact that there is literally no way to fast expand on this map (unless, I suppose, you're Terran and 14 CC your way onto the island, which you can do safely due to the distances), and all races literally have the same amount of expansions (bad news for Zerg). Zerg literally has to decide between 1 base Lurkers or 1 base Mutalisks, and the fact that the closest non-island expo has no gas and is a third of the map away doesn't help either.
Series 2: Avant Garde, Blaze, Dark Stone, -Deep Purple-, Glacial Epoch, Ragnarok, Space Odyssey.
And here we have old maps from the 2000-2001 era, when map making was still fresh, and professional mappers were inhibited by only their imagination. There was pretty much no way a map was going to resemble any previous maps, and this shows in the wide variety of patterns and terrain seen in these maps. Like the previous maps, they're horrible imbalanced by modern standards (Blaze, anyone?), and from a map making point of view, still look crude. But they served their purpose. Many of these maps are remembered in a “oh yeah, wasn't that the one...” sort of way, with recognizable maps such as the original versions of Avant Garde and Ragnarok making their debut, being played on by such players as Grrrr... (four r's, three dots...every real SC fan knows this!), Garimto, and Aozora (of Xellos vs. Aozora fame).
Deep Purple. I'm willing to bet that most people have heard of this map through the Huntress. After all, this map is what the Huntress is based off of, since the Huntress is a version of Deep Purple, with the 3 and 9 o'clock islands changed into bases and being connected to the mainland and the positions of bases switched around. Honestly, Deep Purple is really just The Hunters changed into a twilight tileset with the left and right bases turned into islands...I recant my previous statement about how full of originality these early maps were.
And of course, this map has all the positional imbalances of Hunters, mainly the fact that there are asymmetrical pathways to all the expansions, and not every base has the same accessibility to the different expansions. Deep Purple also shows one of the older trends in map making, which was to make sure you always have some cliffable bases. In this case, it's the main. Regardless, Deep Purple was played a lot in team battles, so individual balance issues aren't so bad here. Deep Purple was also released during the height of 3v3, when teams like Nexus, NaN, etc. played 3v3 games all the time.
Aesthetically, though, there's not much to say. Like the rest of the maps in this series, there's kind of a haphazard treatment of symmetry going on, without much care for making the map beautiful. They honestly look kind of lopsided, almost unbalanced. These maps are more functional than anything, not focuses at all on how the map looks, but on how the game plays on it. Even Luna makes some effort to beautify itself, plain as it is. On Deep Purple, there are just large swaths of plain terrain doing nothing to hold interest. There's not even a single doodad on the entire map. But still, Deep Purple is one of those classic maps that you remember seeing in the game list top vs. bottom back in the day, along with maps like Hunters and Blue Night in Seoul (before they figured out how to stack minerals together like in FMP). A nostalgic map.
Series 3: Hall of Valhalla, Jungle Story, Legacy of Char, Lost Temple, Plains to Hill, -Ragnarok-.
In this series, we have the first incarnations of the maps seen in the golden age of WCG, with the four classic maps Hall of Valhalla, Jungle Story, Legacy of Char, and Lost Temple, along with old standards Plains to Hill and Ragnarok. This is perhaps the most played of the old series, and certainly one of the most memorable. While maps such as Back and Belly and Crimson Isles may be delegated to remote outposts of our memory (lulz see what I did there), we'll never forget the hexagon in perhaps the first island map besides Dire Straits we've ever played, the massive cliffs overlooking our main in Jungle Story, and others. These maps have produced countless good games, with such masterpieces as boxer vs. didi8's marathon on Legacy of Char, Garimto's brilliant Zealot control on Plains to Hill, Boxer's floating Barracks block against Grrrr... on Valhalla, among others.
And on the other end of the size of the map vs. players is Ragnarok, a relatively small 128x96 four player Twilight map. Features of this map include being the first promap where an expansion is visible from the main (next map to do this is Namja Iyagi, I believe, another four player twilight map). Additionally, there is no easily defendable nat, with either an expansion under the cliff quite a distance away (I guess you can 3 hat if you want to be able to sunken it), or a cliff expansion overlooking where you'd expect the nat to be.
Additionally, there is a marked lack of resources on this map. Every single expansion has gas, but this is tempered somewhat when you realize that besides the nats, there are only two expos reachable from the ground (and they're right in the middle of the map), and two cliff expos, and that's it. Another feature of the map is the marked asymmetry of starting bases, though the terrain itself is fairly symmetrical without being blocky. The map itself is quite cramped, however, and it looks like Terran can effectively use those cliffs in the middle to exploit the cramped map. Also of note is the fact that this is one of the first maps where spawning locations makes a significant impact on the game, whether or not you spawn same horizontal, same vertical, or diagonal positions makes a great impact on how the game unfolds.
Indeed, Terran has it golden on TvP on this map, safely expanding through the few expansions, while using the cliffs and cramped as hell terrain to shut down Protoss attemps. Combine that with the fact that there is literally no room for flanking whatsoever, and you get one of the more imbalanced TvP maps. At least they decorate it much better, this time, with some doodad action going on and much more organic terrain as opposed to older maps. Still not as polished as say, Ride of Valkyries, but much better than Deep Purple.
Series 4: Back and Belly, Symmetry of Psy, -Universal Tripod-, Another Day.
Series four has lots of older maps which are, honestly, forgotten. Almost no one remembers the KPGA monthly tournaments these were used in, and honestly, the maps are quite forgettable. One feature common to all is the callous disregard for any sense of positional balance through any treatment of symmetry – Back and Belly, especially, with four mains that look nothing like each other except for the fact that they all have a high ground nat behind them, is an extreme case, with mains and expansions strewn haphazardly around the map. Another feature that most of these maps (except the island map, symmetry of psy) have is the extremely cramped pathways to the other mains, with literally no alternate routes except the main ones and no hope for flanking at all. Not even the middle of the map is very open, leading to a playstyle very different from the ones we see today with maps such as Python, Colosseum, etc., having much more room in which to maneuver. Also, in these older days of map making, sizes varied greatly, from 128x96 four player maps to 64x192 two player maps (and also some 128x196 four player maps). Obviously as time wore on and map making became more professional, map sizes stabilized to 128x128 for either two, three, or four player maps, or some combination of 128 and 96 for two player maps.
Universal Tripod is one of professional map makers' first forays into three player maps. And it shows. Unlike modern three player maps like Medusa or Athena, the map's rotational symmetry is just kind of...off. It's very slight, but it's off nonetheless, and there's just that little bit of asymmetry that's not slight enough to look good, but just large enough to throw you off and bother you.
And like many older maps, Universal Tripod is quite imbalanced. It has one of the longest distances between mains on any promap ever, as well as hardly any resources at all. The “nat” is half the map away and doesn't cover the route to the main. So really, there is no nat. There's also an island expansion closer to your main base, and this was before Namja Iyagi's innovation of the eight mineral patch, so Terran can just make an earlier CC than others, lift to the island, and be safe, especially considering the large distances between mains. And other than that, there are no more resources.
The long ground distances between mains is offset somewhat by a relatively shorter air distance, making Mutalisk and drop play more viable here than it would be on other maps. Of course, you could always prepare for this by just having some more defense than usual around your min line, and then your opponent will be forced to use the long winding ground path more heavily. This is one of the least TvP balanced maps in existence, even more than other maps PvTers complain about (think Gorky Islands).
For an Ashworld map, though, it's quite nicely decorated, considering the dearth of decorating resources available in Ashworld tileset. It's no Outburst, however, but it does have its own charm in terrain variety and doodads and such. Map making by this point has come a long way since the Deep Purples and Showdowns of the past. Universal Tripod is actually one of the most complex, from a map making standpoint, maps yet in the leagues (compared to other maps of the same series and before), mainly because of the difficulties inherent in making a three-player map.
Series 5: -Crimson Isles-, Incubus, Vertigo, Silent Vortex, River of Flames, New Remote Outpost.
This series contains some of the more memorable older maps, including the first incarnations of Incubus, Silent Vortex, River of Flames, as well as Vertigo. These maps have their share of fame, including Garimto's unprecedented double proxy reaver build against St. Eagle on Silent Vortex, as well as spectacular play by Yellow (the oldschool one, not any of this Yellow[name], now known as arnc business) on River of Flames. And I believe Boxer used Marines and Medics on New Remote Outpost to counter Carriers by holding positions and letting the Marines kill the Interceptors. And who could forget Boxer's use of SCVs to stop Garimto's cannon rush on Vertigo? These are classic maps of the 2001 era, and many players remember them well. (also Silent Vortex is ugly as shit).
The map I've chosen to highlight in this series is the least known one of the six. Everyone is familiar with the other maps, being classic maps used to a moderate degree by both pro and casual gamers alike. However, one map which not many people remember is Crimson Isles, a three player island map on, strangely, Desert tileset instead of Ashworld.
Crimson Isles shows why three player maps pretty much need to be rotationally symmetric to be somewhat balanced positionally. Of course there are counter-examples, such as Rush Hour, but for the most part, if a three player map isn't rotationally symmetric, there will be significant positional imbalances (think 3 o'clock on Alchemist or Plasma....even 3 o'clock on Rush Hour had to be played differently). All three maps have a close expansion on the low ground, but the 12 base is closer to two different island gas expansions, while the expansions to the 4 and 8 bases are much farther apart.
Another feature of this map is that it is a pure island map like Dire Straits. That is, it's not semi-island, in which an island main is contrasted with a mostly land map for the rest of the map, but rather that literally every base is an island and is not available to others. Zerg players hate this, of course, much rather preferring semi-islands like Forbidden Zone (surprisingly balanced ZvP) to pure islands like Crimson Isles. And this shows, especially in the abysmal stats of Zerg on this map. After a while, pure island maps were retired in favor of semi-island maps, which were themselves retired in favor of temporary island maps (such as Coulee or Plasma).
Finally, here's one of the examples of enough asymmetry to annoy me. Of course, a perfectly symmetrical desert map would be kind of strange, as there should be tiny differences in the map to make things exciting. For a good example of this, check out Arizona. The map as a whole is very (rotationally) symmetric, but there are slight variations in the terrain and small asymmetries which add to the character of the map. On Crimson Isles, however, it's not. The bottom middle island is just enough to the left that it's very noticeable and quite annoying aesthetically. This seemingly callous disregard for the aesthetics of the map is still rampant in these relatively early days of map making.
Series 6: Acheron, -Bifrost-, -Forbidden Zone-, Blade Storm, Indian Lament, Gaema Gowon.
Another series of instantly recognizable maps. In these maps, we have the king of public cheese maps, Bifrost, (on which I went 30-0 pub by cannon rushing above the main), known for its PvZ imbalance and its very unique terrain, perhaps one of the most balanced PvZ semi-islands ever, Forbidden Zone, as well as perennial standards Blade Storm and Gaema Gowon. These maps have their share of fame, including Testie's 104 win streak on Forbidden Zone, brilliant use of Archons, Dark Archons, Templar, and Cannons to hold off Zerglee's Ultraling assault on Blade Storm, Boxer's backstabbing Bunker rush/block against Ekly on Bifrost, and Yooi's massive epically choking fail of major lose against Nada on Gaema Gowon, in which he was able to somehow lose when he had three-quarters of the map in a TvT. He ended up in tears. If anything, these maps are known for their usage, with Bifrost, Forbidden Zone, Blade Storm, and Gaema Gowon being very popular maps back in their day (with Gaema Gowon and its newer versions being known for their balance). Lastly, these maps have their share of innovations, such as Blade Storm's min only tucked behind the mineral line.
Ok, so the picture I used is of Bifrost III. So sue me.
Bifrost was perhaps the most unique map ever when it first came out. Innovations such as the secondary way into the cliff expansion around the map, the multitude of paths available, as well as expansion positioning made for a fresh and different map that many people appreciated. Bifrost still has some of the most original terrain in any 1v1 map, and is remembered primarily due to the many ways of moving around on the map.
While the original Bifrost was severely imbalanced PvZ because of the difficulty in defending expansions and difficulty countering Zerg mobility on the map, Bifrost III was introduced a few seasons later and somewhat mitigated this imbalance. As for the other match ups, TvZ was considered relatively in favor of the Terran on the original Bifrost (and more balanced on Bifrost III), and TvP was considered very balanced on the original Bifrost (and slightly easier for Terran on Bifrost III, relative to Bifrost). The original Bifrost was known as a PvZ impossibility, with win rates in the 60%s with a large portion of the Protoss wins being due to either heavy Zealot rushing or some sort of cannon cheese. It was ugly. Funnily enough, though, it ended up being considered as one of the most balanced PvT maps.
Bifrost is also known as a very cheeseable map, helped in large part by the secondary way onto the cliff expansion. Think of this feature as being like if there was no mineral/temple block on Medusa. Many times, people would exploit this cliff, either cheesing in the early game with some kind of cannon rush or Barracks play, or using it in the mid-late game as a means to sneak in units such as Lurkers or Templar through for a backstabbing attack. You see players blocking off this secondary escape quite often on Bifrost. Bifrost is a symbol of the older, micro-oriented, highly imaginative play prominent in the 2003ish scene, before mechanical, macro-oriented maps became more in vogue. One of the most innovative maps in the entire history of promaps, Bifrost also saw considerable longevity, seeing use throughout three years in three different incarnations.
Forbidden Zone is a more or less successful attempt to try and balance the trend of Protoss absolutely demolishing Zerg on island/semi-island maps. More successful in the sense that Zerg had a better chance to win against Protoss; less successful in the sense that the map ended up with a slight Zerg favor in terms of ZvP. Oops. Still, Forbidden Zone is known as a more or less balanced ZvP semi-island map. PvT is another story, though. Fun fact: Testie went 104-0 on Forbidden Zone. That has got to be the longest streak in any match up on any map in the history of promaps.
The style of gameplay, especially, is quite different on a semi-island map like Forbidden Zone than a pure island like Dire Straits or even Isles of Siren. On older maps, you'd either play a mass drop style supported by air units, or just go all-out air units, only dropping to make new expansions. However, Forbidden Zone pioneered the style of play of a quick drop to expand on low ground, then play the game as a combination of a 1v1 on low ground with island map characteristics. Often times players would build the majority of their production buildings on lower ground and treat the game as a lower ground game.
Forbidden Zone is also known for its eye-catchng aesthetics. Around this time, mapmakers are finally putting emphasis on how a map looks, or at least, they look much better than previous maps that look like twenty minute StarEdit jobs. The hexagonal feature in the middle of the map is instantly recognizable, with very detailed decoration of the walls evident in the middle. The design is very pleasing, with a very geometric concept executed nicely. All in all, Forbidden Zone is a memorable map from the middle ages of progaming.
Series 7: Emperor of Emperor, Forest of Abyss, Isles of Siren, Charity, Gauntlet 2003, -Valley of Wind-
And here we have the forgotten maps of the same era. Sure, there were some games played on Emperor of Emperor or Forest of Abyss, but are there really ones that you remember? Probably. But I don't. These maps are pretty much unknown, which is a pity, because they're thoughtfully designed maps. In this series are two four player twilight maps, Isles of Siren and Charity (which in its beta version was called Philanthropy. No lie), as well as Gauntlet, and three others. I think I vaguely remember a very long TvP on Charity or Isles of Siren or something, but it's all a blur to me now. This is unfortunate, since these maps had very nice and original designs, such as Forest of Abyss' strange expansions and lots and lots of doodads, as well as Isles of Siren's combination island map/semi-island map combo (like what, a quarter-island map?) that allowed for refreshing gameplay. All of these maps were beautifully designed, with a noted aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, many were used in tourneys such as GhemTV, and thus didn't have the financial support to ensure their survival.
Valley of Wind
Valley of Wind has always been a personal favorite of mine, mainly because of its terrain. Honestly, I feel like Valley of Wind is one of the most creative maps in existence, even in the modern era. The map is a semi-island, though one feature of the map is the fact that from your base, you can reach the cliff overlooking the enemy main and enemy nat. In fact, it's entirely possible to cliff your opponent's nat just by walking units up the ramp and across the map. This is literally the only map where this is possible: the opponent's main is unreachable, but you can cliff their nat by a ground path.
More terrain features are a unique expansion placement, with extremely vulnerable low-ground expansions, but relatively safer higher ground expansions even though they're farther away. In fact, because the natural is so exposed to harass, a prudent strategy would be to actually secure the farther expansion on the cliff reachable on your own side. Gameplay on this map involves parallel movement along the high ground ridges while moving units down to the opposite sides' low-ground.
From a purely theoretical standpoint, Terran seems very strong on this map, being able to strategically push across this semi-island map while controlling expansions, which are quite abundant on this map. Honestly, if this map were to be played more in modern times, it could make for some very good gameplay, especially since semi-island maps are no longer played very much, with only temporary island maps being the last vestige of the former use of islands and semi-islands. Seriously. PLAY THIS MAP, PEOPLE. And send me your replays!
Aesthetically, Valley of Wind is beautiful. Slight quirks in the terrain allow for just enough asymmetry to look natural, while the twisting turns of the map are still quite symmetrically matched. Little features like the bridge into the corner expansions are little things that make this map great, along with close attention to detail in terrain decoration, such as the temple walls and variety in ground choices. A beautiful map.
Series 8: Guillotine, -Nostalgia-, Sin Gaema Gowon, Dark Sauron, Jim Raynor's Memory, -Paradoxxx-.
Another series of very well known maps. There is not a single map here without memories attached. And many of these were actually quite balanced, despite their innovative terrain. Guillotine, Nostalgia, and Sin Gaema Gowon in particular were well known for their balance and longevity (JRM for its longevity and significant Terran advantage). Guillotine was known for its versatility, allowed for both 1v1 and 2v2 play. Zerg were forced to 3 hat to safely expand here, much to their chagrin. The innovative terrain features allowed for a different style of gameplay. Gaema Gowon is one of the most balanced maps ever, named after a geographical feature in Korea. Jim Raynor's Memory has significant Terran advantage with the cliffs everywhere, but it has a special place in many gamers' memories, as so many games memorable games were played on this map. Dark Sauron, an Ashworld version of the original jungle map Sauron, also had its share of games.
Nostalgia wasn't very flashy or unique, but what it lacked in style it made up for in consistency. Perhaps the most defining aspect of Nostalgia was its fairness and dependability. Nostalgia had a different, yet not revolutionary terrain, with a gasless natural (much to Zerg chagrin). Nostalgia is known for its set of double bridges, as well as second way into the natural and the location of the four gas expansions at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions. Nostalgia is known for its consistency, being used in four starleagues before being retired.
As with Lost Temple, hundreds of games were played on Nostalgia. For a while, Nostalgia became the alternative to people who were growing tired of Lost Temple, since all races had a very good chance on this map and there were no glaring balance issues. The introduction of the second way into the nat from the outside as well as the double bridges are iconic, and served as balanced, yet new aspects of gameplay. The lack of gas at the natural presented a problem to many Zerg players, long since grown accustomed to two easy gases. This proved to be a slight problem in ZvT, though not that bad.
Nostalgia used the much maligned Badlands tileset, but still ended up having its own charm. Like all beautiful maps not on the space tileset, Nostalgia is symmetric while retaining its own asymmetric quirks. The simplicity in design belies its strategic depth, and Nostalgia remains one of the classics. It's quite nostalgic, really, looking back on the hundreds of games played on the map. Along with Lost Temple, Luna, and Python, Nostalgia is one of the four most played “classic maps”, known for their general balance and consistency of play.
The image I used was of Paradoxxx 2, which contains minor changes to resources, terrain, etc.
Paradoxxx was the last stand of pure island maps. By this time, gameplay on pure island maps evolved from a more air-united oriented style of play to one dominated by massive drops, with brigades of Dropships and Shuttles roaming around the map dropping Goliaths and Tanks. The large mains provided ample space to drop, allowing for a limited space for ground engagement in either main. The map did have a certain amount of ground play in the middle, with an elevated ridge overlooking two expansions.
Paradoxxx is remembered for the adoption of the double resourced mains. This allowed for a new dynamic of gameplay, as you had an expansion right there from the beginning. This let gas be collected very fast, and provided new strategies. You could survive on one base for a much longer amount of time, for example. This provided some help for Zerg, as they could most easily use the extremely safe two gas, as well as use their Hatcheries for more efficient gathering of resources. Many build orders on Paradoxxx had to take into account the increased amount of resources, making very different build orders viable on Paradoxxx. Of course, there were still significant balance issues, leading to enough complaints in various communities that never again would there be a pure island map being used in any significant league.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in progaming history is Boxer's seemingly impossible comeback against bluek (joyo) on Paradoxxx. Permanently ingrained in the memory of thousands, we all know exactly what happens, as both players are out of resources and Boxer manages to use his last Goliaths in his last Dropships to kill the last of bluek's Carriers, much to everyone's disbelief.
Of course, this map isn't that beautiful. No offense to Rose.of.Dream, of course. But there's nothing stunning about the design, just a very standard, conservatively designed map (with some unique aspects, of course). It's kind of sparsely decorated, but that's more a consequence of the Ashworld tileset than anything. Fun fact: this map was made in two hours.
Series 9: -Namja Iyagi-, Neo Guillotine, Nostalgia, Paradoxxx 2, Luna, -Mercury-, -Requiem-.
Some maps from the golden age of Boxer, Nada, Yellow, oov, Reach, etc. These maps produced amazing games in the 2004ish era, with unique designs such as Guillotine and Mercury contrasted with solid, conventional maps like Luna and Nostalgia. Namja Iyagi is just kind of hanging out in the middle, a good combination of conventional design with unique aspects.
Probably the first map many of us had played with a Korean name (now they're everywhere), Namja Iyagi brought about many innovations. For one, there was the island expansion right next to your main nexus, though the expansion was inaccessible until you brought over a worker on a dropship in order to mine the 8 minerals blocking where the town hall would go. This prevented Terrans from immediately building a Command Center and floating off to the island for a free expansion.
Additionally, the terrain was unique as well, with most of the action taking place on higher ground. While the natural expansions were on low-ground, the entire central portion of the map was on high ground, adding a whole new dynamic to gameplay. Some creative play needed to be adopted with the higher ground, though all that meant was new and exciting games.
All in all, Namja Iyagi allowed for some good games, with both solid, conservative play as well as exciting unconventional play being rewarded on this map. Among its contributions to map making, besides its use of terrain levels, was the previously unused concept of the eight mineral block needing to be mined before the expansion can be used.
Perhaps the least balanced PvZ map in existence – even more so than Bifrost, Mercury is solely responsible for the elimination of an entire race in a league. The only Protoss managing to survive the Mercury debacle was Reach at his height, winning the only professional PvZ ever in later stages of the league ever, taking one game against Yellow (again, the original Yellow. None of that new-fangled stuff). Along with an ill-fated 2v2 version, Mercury Zero, Mercury is perhaps one of the most hated maps in all progaming history.
So yes, Zergs, before you complain now about Protoss doing well in the leagues these days, keep in mind that not so long ago, Zerg were literally guaranteed a victory against Protoss on this abomination of a map. Mercury did have one thing going for it, though, and that was its very unique geometric style. The sharply defined lines and odd angles made for an aesthetically striking map, one of the best of its generation. The map was truly beautiful, in all senses of the word.
...which does little to make up for how imbalanced it was. Of course, there were still great games played on it, just not PvZ. One series in particular that comes to mind is oov vs. Reach, especially one game where Reach managed to steal oov's gas three times (and I still remember the shot of the audience with the middle aged lady holding up three fingers in utter disbelief). The whole series was a massive test of macro, with both masters of macro battling it out on Mercury. Unfortunately, Reach lost, even with the triple gas rush. Oh well. Fuck Mercury.
Requiem is such a good map, it's still being used in proleagues in 2009 even though it was introduced half a decade earlier. Requiem took the concept of reversing what everyone thought maps should be. Continuing the trend of Namja Iyagi, Requiem has the entire middle of the map on high ground while the mains were in low ground. Requiem has been around forever, since even before oov trumped boxer in their memorable five game series which prominently involved this map.
Innovations abound here, while still keeping a very conservative map that rewards standard play with a unique twist. Requiem is also a fairly balanced map, with the only considerable imbalance being Protoss over Terran. Additionally, the placement of the natural expansion was unique, with people being able to drop units behind the minerals and harass the mining workers.
A gameplay innovation found in Requiem was the introduction of workers glitching through minerals to reach the expansions behind. Of course, the mineral wall of the natural expansion wasn't unit proof, as Zerglings could still run through them (which many people found out the hard way). Requiem was also visually stunning, with sweeping high ground terrain and expansions tucked in. Requiem was one of the first successful introductions of rotational symmetry on a four-player map, and along with its mineral cross in the middle, effectively made a wonderful map, not only to play on, but also to watch.
Another feature that made Requiem great was the fact that Terran could make perfectly Zergling-proof walls at all locations with just a Supply Depot and a Barracks. This led to innovations in gameplay, such as Wraith play and Dropship heavy TvZ. Requiem will last the test of time, cementing its place in the great maps of Starcraft.
Series 10: Enter the Dragon, U-Boat, Detonation, Evolution Predator 2, Evolution Warpgate 2, Highway Star.
More forgotten maps here. Three of them, the Evolutions (except Turnaround Evolution!) and Highway Star, were part of the ill-fated iTV Starleague, while Enter the Dragon and Detonation experienced some success in the major leagues. U-Boat was a visually striking map, with a unique terrain that allowed for creative play as well. Highway Star was developed by TL.net's own Bill307, and was originally known as Star Crossed. Hooray for Bill
Series 11: Into the Darkness, -Parallel Lines 3-, Bifrost 3, Pelennor, Arizona, Raid Assault.
The maps here, I think, are the beginning of the modern era of mapmaking. Mapmakers are increasingly creative in their designs, coming up with terrain patterns such as those seen in the three desert masterpieces of Parallel Lines 3, Pelennor, and Arizona. Also, Raid Assault, which was made by a middle schooler, has the dubious honor of being the first map in which I was totally and utterly confused how to play on. So many paths around the map leads to unique and action-packed gameplay, forcing players to play in styles never before seen. All of the maps from here on have that professional look about them, with a very careful attention to detail that is very evident in the design and execution of the maps.
Parallel Lines 3
Parallel Lines 3 is a visually striking island map with varying gameplay choices based on spawning locations. If players spawn on the same side of the large ridge in the middle, the map effectively becomes a semi-island, but if players spawn on opposite sides, they pretty much have free-reign of their side, and the map becomes more of an island map. By the time this map was used, island type maps were falling out of favor due to racial imbalances and a general dislike of the gameplay.
Visually, Parallel Lines is one of the most instantly recognizable. A clever and creative design is brought together by the large ridge in the center of the map, dividing the map in two. The shape of the main islands is also quite unique, with expansions scattered about a curving low-ground path mirrored on either side through a line of symmetry made by the central ridge.
Parallel Lines 3 was perhaps most known for the game between Nal_ra and Goodfriend at Goodfriend's height. The use of Recall and Hallucination was probably around before, but never before was it used in such a high profile game. The fangirls literally went wild; Goodfriend was entrenched in his base with Goliaths and Turrets, preventing any sort of Arbiter Recall. But Nal_ra takes templar, and mass Hallucinates the Arbiters, then sends them in. Seemingly out of nowhere, a fleet of Arbiters flies across the map, and successfully Recalls in two control groups of Dragons and Zealots, decimating Goodfriend's base. The crowd explodes.
Series 12: Dahlia of Jungle, Korhal of Ceres, -Gorky Island-, Martian Cross, -Alchemist-, Dream of Balhae.
This series includes the second group of four WCG maps, known for different gameplay and unique situations. Dahlia of Jungle with its elegant curves and design produced relatively standard play, but maps such as Korhal of Ceres and Martian Cross invited players to do strategies such as cannon rushing behind the minerals (as on Korhal) and having players have utterly no clue what to build (like on Martian Cross, changed from Chow Chow for some inexplicable reason). Rounding out this series is a unique semi-island map which, again, tried to give Zerg an advantage by rewarding their use of more Hatcheries with more efficient gas mining at the nat, and one of the most despised maps in existence, Alchemist.
Gorky Island probably had a large hand in the community turning against semi-island maps (or at least, until the introduction of Estrella later, but maybe that was because WCG felt obligated to always include an island-type map of some sort). There was a significant issue in TvP especially, with major balance complaints lodged by Protoss players (some kind of trend, perhaps?). For some reason, the map geniuses at WCG didn't feel the need to add the Namja Iyagi innovation of the eight mineral block, letting Terran take advantage of their cliff nat earlier than other races.
Also, the cliff overlooked the main directly, leaving two bases in firing range. When Gorky Island was first introduced, many players hated it, labeling it as some kind of ugly joke map. They still hate it. Surprisingly enough, the general consensus was that beyond PvT, the map was actually somewhat balanced for the Zerg match ups, something not common in semi-island maps, especially one without direct aids to Zerg players such as Balhae or Paradoxxx had.
If Protoss hated Gorky Park on one match up, all races hated Alchemist on all match ups. Seriously. Hardly anyone liked it, and all anyone remembers about it is how much bitching went on about positions and how imbalanced spawning at 3 o'clock was and holy crap, is that two entrances to your main? Let's all freak out and alt qq.
Alchemist is one of the most asymmetric maps in recent memory, with literally every single path being different. Sure they shared some things in common (the number of expos), but terrain wise, each path was different. Players had to change their strategy based on not only where they spawned, but also where the opponent spawned. For example, one of the expansions for 10 is on low ground, while both expansions of 3 are on low ground. It's inconsistencies like that which contributed to the overall hatred for this map.
That being said, it was also very difficult to expand safely on this map, since not only was there the threat of attacking from the front into your nat, shutting it down, but also, your opponent could attack from behind directly into your main, thus necessitating two pronged defenses. Future maps which allowed for a way into the main had some kind of deterrent, such as the 0 mineral mineral blocks on Destination preventing the backdoor into the main. Alchemist offered no such defenses, making players defend two fronts at all times. Racially, Alchemist was a nightmare. PvZ was impossible, especially since the Zerg have such mobile units and there were two ways to enter literally everywhere. Protoss had an abysmal 20% win rate against Zerg on this map, one of the lowest out of any map in existence.
Furthermore, the distances between the bases was very small, and they all had to be funneled through tight chokes. 3 o'clock experienced this the worst, as any paths leading into it from the south had to pass through sets of narrow, long bridges. As a whole, Alchemist is probably the least positionally balanced maps of all time, which is saying a lot, especially when considering the fact that it's competing with maps back from 2001 such as Back and Belly.
Series 13: Rush Hour, Raid Assault 2, -Luna the Final-, Neo Requiem.
And here we have three of the most loved maps of all time, known for their balance, style, and consistency of gameplay on them. Rush Hour, even with its positional differences between the positions, cemented itself as a staple of competitive play, allowing exciting and unique games played on there. It's survived numerous incarnations, and along with Luna and Requiem, are still used today – a testament to their strength. Rush Hour had a multitude of paths to take, and games would be action-packed, since players would fight for the limited gas on the map by not only battling towards each other, but also toward the empty main. Raid Assault 2 was just an updated version of Raid Assault, with some changes made. Honestly I still really can't tell what's going on in that map. But hey, at least it's creative. These four maps are remembered mainly for their fairness, even though each had their own individual characteristics that set them apart.
Luna the Final
What's always bothered me about this map is the fact that there is a null 1x1 rectangular block above the 11 o'clock bridge. So much for a final version. With that out of the way, I can now go on to say that Luna is one of my favorite maps of all time, and it remains a popular and often played map. Luna pretty much supplanted Nostalgia (which took the place of Lost Temple) as the most commonly played 1v1 map, and for good reason. Conventional, conservative map making and terrain placing lead to a solid and mostly balanced map where many options are possible.
Interesting aspects to consider, however, were the wide Twilight bridge, which didn't allow for wall-ins. This helped contribute to Terrans habitually making at least four marines every game instead of walling off their main ramp to Dragoon harass while stalling for their first tank (like 2002 style TvP haha). Also, slow pushing through the middle of the map was more difficult than on Lost Temple, since the entire middle was unbuildable. This allowed for the development of a tornado style Terran hardly ever seen before the introduction of Luna.
Luna also allowed for more counter-attacking style play. If you were being attacked, no longer was the only option to engage head on. You could take alternate routes and counter-attack your enemy's bases. This let more dynamic game-play options be viable. This made for exciting late game battles, especially in ZvP scenarios, where both players would roam around the map trying to destroy expansions while defending their own.
Luna went through some minor aesthetic changes over its evolution. The bridges got wider with the advent of new mapmaking techniques, and things were shifted around a bit. That being said, the general design of Luna is unmistakable, and has changed little over the years. One thing that needs to be addressed, however, is the inefficient mineral blocks at the 11 o'clock position, requiring building placement between the minerals and the town hall in order to efficiently mine minerals.
In any case, there are so many memories on Luna. Luna happened during the golden age of foreign ladders, during WGT and PGT days. It's the staple map for many players, with uncountable good games being played under the watchful gaze of the Kakaru that roam the map. Luna is, and will ever remain, a classic.
Series 14: Neo Forte, -Ride of Valkyries-, R-Point, 815, Azalea, Estrella, Gaia, Paranoid Android.
In this series we have the final set of WCG maps, including Azalea, and Gaia, which helped contribute to the macro heavy style of gameplay we see today. By this point, advanced map making tools were becoming widespread, and maps utilizing terrain made possible by these tools became in vogue. An interesting bit of trivia is that a beta version of Forte was leaked onto the Teamliquid boards, named Forte DC_Inside, I believe. It didn't feature the mineral chokes around the nat, and had drastically different terrain in the middle. Fun fact. In this series, we have more or less conventional maps like the visually stunning R-Point, as well as more conceptual maps such as Neo Forte, 815, and Paranoid Android. We also have one of the last semi-island maps ever used, Estrella. I honestly think that if ramps were added to Estrella, it'd be a very good map. But that's just me. People still like it just the way it is. So many good games happened on these maps. July's all-in Zergling counter against a Bunker rush, for example, or the creative forcing of Lurkers up the small 815 ramp. Epic games happened on all these maps, including some gems by oov and Savior on Ride of Valkyries.
Ride of Valkyries
Ride of Valkyries is the first real example of large scale implementation of SCMDraft and Starforge techniques in map making. The extra wide and extra long ramps add a new dynamic to gameplay, making terrain elevation an extremely important part of the game. Another major innovation of Ride of Valkyries was the addition of the backdoor to the natural, which could be opened by mining away the blocking minerals. Many plays centered around that.
Ride of Valkyries is known for its variety of game. On the one hand, some games were viciously short, thanks to the short distances between mains. Overpool or even 9 pool builds were very viable, as well as some cheesier Zealot rushes or Infantry builds. On the other hand, if the game got at all into the mid-game, the fact that most of the expansions were on far sides of the map from each other made the map into a macro battleground, with both players taking expansions and setting up positions along the raised basilica of the center. Memorable moments include July's great game against oov, as well as July's devastating Sauron Zerg style witnessed in his unrelenting assault on Rock. There's an animated .gif of the minimap somewhere, and it's just amazing watching the Zerg units stream into Rock's nat.
Aesthetically, the widespread use of modified ramps serves as the centerpiece of the map. Because they hadn't yet figured out how to reverse ramps, they got past the ramp imbalance issue by making the map have bilateral symmetry, so both positions would have the same type of ramp. The starting positions of the mains was also unique, and a map of this design had never before been seen in the promap scene. Ride of Valkyries proved to be a fairly balanced map that had its share of moments, and was widely played by professionals and amateurs alike.
Series 15: 815 III, Arcadia, -Rush Hour 3-, The Eye, Peaks of Baekdu, Sin Pioneer Period, -Iron Curtain-.
And here we have some of the maps that represent a wide variety of gameplay. From the heavily macro-oriented style engendered by Arcadia, to the positional gameplay of Rush Hour 3, to the micro-intensive, imaginative play style encouraged by 815 III, these modern maps all gave rise to great games. They also, for the most part, used terrain tricks such as thin ramps in 815 to the possibility of “hills” created by continuous ramps and high ground as seen in Baekdu.
Rush Hour 3
Despite being named after a movie that's almost as corny as this comparison is, Rush Hour 3 is one of the most solid maps in progaming history. Despite its positional imbalances, Rush Hour 3 is very balanced, providing solid options for all races. It's somewhat difficult to hold onto a fast expansion, though, since the natural is so exposed in all directions that it's difficult coming up with effective placement of static defense.
Regardless, the intricate pathways and variety of terrain provide a very exciting game. In fact, the positional difference at 3 o'clock adds to the map, as it allows for more exciting terrain options that aren't symmetric, yet still balanced. Gameplay is often two-pronged on Rush Hour; players not only have to fight towards the other player's base, but also to secure the second main, as only with this main can players gain enough resources for the late-game.
This is a unique aspect of Rush Hour that made it such a popular map. Its relative lack of gas in relation to its minerals made it very exciting to watch players battle it out on multiple fronts in order to secure the last main and the added vespene gas that came with it. Frozen Arbiter even wrote a wonderful guide which I'm sure many of you have read (“SimCity style”), which involves securing the gas, and starving the Zerg into defeat by playing an annoyingly defensive style until the Zerg burns out. Such a strategy wouldn't be viable on any other map.
The unexpected pathways and bridges of Rush Hour show order, but at the same time are quite unique. There is always more than one pathway to other bases, and the wide variety shows and allows for ample counter-attacking opportunity. Aesthetically, Rush Hour is beautifully decorated, with enough terrain decoration to hold interest, along with a very intriguing design in general. Rush Hour helped three player maps revive in popularity (since the disaster that was Alchemist turned people off to three player maps), leading to other popular maps as Longinus, Tau Cross, and Medusa.
Iron Curtain, aesthetically, is one of the best maps designed ever on a desert tileset. It's marked by a large, sweeping barrier across the center, with bases on either side. Obviously designed for 2v2 play, a crucial dynamic is where players spawn. If they spawn on the same side as their partner, it becomes much like a semi-/temporary island map, but if they spawn on opposite sides as their partner, the map turns into two separate 1v1s, with the possibility of “outside help” from your partner across the barrier.
The terrain is beautifully decorated, with three types of terrain varying to form a beautiful S design on either side of the curtain. Doodads add a cultured touch to the map, and there is just so much attention to detail here. As a fun note, the entire map is played on high ground. Other interesting aspects of gameplay is the fact that since this is a 2v2 map, you essentially have only your main and your nat. All other resources are along the iron curtain, and are accessible from either side, thus making expansions there very hard to hold. Iron Curtain is one of the best thought out 2v2 maps in the history of Starcraft, allowing for new and original gameplay combined with a winning concept and beautiful design and execution.
Series 16: -Arcadia 2-, Blitz, Longinus, Sin Peaks of Baekdu, Arkanoid, Tau Cross.
Here we have three popular maps, Arcadia, Longinus, and Tau Cross, along with maps with more unconventional terrain, such as Blitz, Baekdu, and Arkanoid. Arcadia, Longinus, and Tau Cross rewarded the macro playstyle that was in vogue at the time of the maps' introduction, while Baekdu allowed for fast-paced aggressive games. Finally, a strategic type of gameplay was seen on Blitz and Arkanoid, as the dynamic state of the terrain meant you had to consider the map as well as your opponent. So many creative plays were possible on these two maps, as players used unconventional timings and even more unconventional builds to gain an advantage.
If one map sums up the state of play in late 2006-8, it would be Arcadia. While the game used to be much more micro oriented, nowadays, players' mechanics and macro have become so strong, that quite frequently, supplies reach into the high 100s. Arcadia is, first and foremost, a macro oriented map, giving players two free expansions right from the outset, along with easily defendable island expansions along the edge. If a map like Bifrost rewards micro-oriented, imaginative play, Arcadia rewards heavy mechanics, with a focus on being able to quickly summon large armies to do battle.
Initially, there was tons of complaining about the balance of the map. Zerg was enjoying a 10-0 game streak against Terran, and it seemed like TvZ was an impossibility, much like previous PvZ was on Mercury, old Bifrost, or Alchemist. However, through a more aggressive playstyle that emphasized more harassing, Terran was eventually able to balance out the match up. Arcadia is known for its slow-pace of game, with long macro wars possible due to its resource availability. Eventually, Arcadia came to be one of the most balanced promaps, with relatively balanced records across the board. Arcadia makes good use of the badlands tileset here, with ample terrain decoration in the cliffs, as well as custom tileset decoration in the middle of the map. The map has a solid, if not terribly unique, design.
Series 17: Blitz X, Desert Fox, -Longinus 2-, Reverse Temple, Hitchhiker, -Neo Arkanoid-, Geometry.
Interesting maps here, with fairly normal terrain choices (except Arkanoid and Geometry). A more strategic gameplay was awarded on these maps, as evident by Blitz, Temple, Hitchhiker, and Arkanoid, among others. Reverse Temple is actually quite different from normal Lost Temple. Kind of like Requiem in its concept, it had more available resources, but you still had to watch out for, say, ranged Dragoons on higher ground in TvP. Hitchhiker offered many alternative routes to the other mains, and was pretty cramped in general. Still, it had unique terrain and a unique gamefeel. Geometry is just strange, though visually arresting.
Longinus 2 is a fairly balanced three player map that has enjoyed some popularity among pro and amateur circles. Longinus emphasizes standard play, with no real gimmicks in the map, and a wide availability of resources makes it possible to construct large armies with which to wage war in the raised middle.
One feature of Longinus which sets it apart from other maps is the fact that the boundary to the main is formed by Raised Jungle terrain, which is impassable, but units can still see and shoot past it. This makes for situations like the strength of 2 gate range goons in PvT, with ranged goons able to effectively pressure Terran in the early game. The wide-openness of the mineral only, however, makes it difficult to hold. Zerg generally find trouble in this, with significant losing records to both Terran and Protoss, in large part because of the difficulty in securing expansions on this map.
Longinus manages to incorporate wide and reverse ramps seamlessly into the larger map without making it a point of interest. By this time, mapmakers have begun to widely use these techniques, and they have become accepted. Besides that, there is plenty of variety in doodads, terrain variability, etc., that contribute to make a pleasant map from an aesthetic point of view. The only gripe I would have about it is that it's off from rotational symmetry by such a degree to make it bothersome. But all in all, Longinus is a popular map, especially among the foreign community.
Let's not beat around the bush here. Despite a surprisingly balanced TvZ record, PvT and ZvP are horrendously imbalanced on this map. Which is to be expected given the wild terrain that this map introduced. Arkanoid was the first map to use neutral buildings to such a degree, and building timings depended a lot on which neutral buildings players chose to destroy and when. Paths along the map vary widely from game to game depending on the neutral buildings, and it is this introduction of another aspect of gameplay that made Arkanoid such a revolutionary map.
Players couldn't just mindlessly expand, though, relying on the neutral buildings to stall for time. First, players had to destroy neutral buildings blocking the expansion spots, but also, they had to be wary of the enemy breaking in. Often times, players who overextended on this map were swiftly punished by a more aggressive enemy.
Arkanoid was a map where build order mattered, but smart, strategical play based on timing, anticipation, prophylaxis, and positioning mattered even more. While at first people used to wtf at this map, people came to embrace the new and refreshing style of play made possible by a map such as Arkanoid.
I recommend the following read, Forgotten_ (the map maker)'s own thoughts about what went into designing such a unique map like Arkanoid:
Series 18: Desperado, Loki, -Monty Hall-, Python, Fantasy, -Blue Storm-, Zodiac, Katrina.
And we finally approach the current scene of promaps, with mainstays Python and Blue Storm appearing in this set. Of course, we shouldn't ignore the others. Fantasy in particular, is unique, mainly because of the huge levels of asymmetry in this map. Things are so apparently randomly placed that it becomes almost difficult to play on the map. Zodiac is more or less a standard macro map on space tileset, and Desperado offered a unique terrain in space as well. Loki is known for the small space in the middle where scouts and smaller units could pass (a trend reflected in Blue Storm) but larger units had to take a longer route, while Katrina had a whole new concept of base placement, with a main close to a large entrance with a safer expansion tucked away in the corner. All in all, these maps allowed for greater strategical play by offering their own unique aspects of mapmaking in a professional sense.
In Monty Hall, scouting is paramount. With three potential entrances to your base, you had to be aware of which entrances were open, where your enemy's army was, and when you could safely take expansions. The relatively narrow corridors are offset by the fact that once the map was open, other bases are easily counterattacked through different corridors. This made later parts of the game a nightmare for some races, as they had to deal with the possibility that an enemy army would come in at any second through a different entrance.
Monty Hall also opens up interesting strategical options, such as pushing workers or units through the mineral walls, or placing units or buildings so some walls couldn't be mined safely. An example of this is Silver's utter destruction of Boxer, in which he uses Sunken colonies to deter mining from a wall, powers up to Guardians, then uses those Guardians to ensure the safe mining of his units on Boxer's wall, then pushing through with mass units. By controlling when and where mineral walls get mined, players control the flow of the game. Monty Hall offers so many strategical options it's ridiculous.
Monty Hall incorporates its unique and intriguing design with great execution, with nice decoration and skillful terrain manipulation. When comparing the amount of detail that goes into a map like this and a map like Deep Purple, the difference is like night and day. The patterns on the ground are very streamlined, and add a nice touch to the whole feel of the map. Tasteful use of doodads are decorative, but not intrusive, allowing the centerpiece of the map, the use of mineral blocks, to shine through. All in all, an interesting, unique map guaranteed to produce action packed games.
Perhaps one of the most used maps today, Blue Storm is a unique map that also manages to be playable in all match ups. Upon first glance, Blue Storm is reminiscent of a cross between Ride of Valkyries (mainly because of the terrain) and Bifrost (because of the multitude of paths between bases). The different ways one can maneuver around the map are a large part of gameplay, with users often blocking off some paths with supply depots in order to reduce enemy mobility on the map.
The defining feature of Blue Storm is the large valley in the middle, along with the small holes by the natural which allow workers and small units through, but nothing else. This means different sized units can take different paths to the enemy base, allowing for more strategical options, such as running a large group of Zerglings through to assault the natural while larger units are away and cannot defend.
The nat is easily tankable/harassable, with cliffs behind them making for easy Mutalisk harass. The valley in the middle means that often times, players will not want to attack uphill, and will macro and expand a lot, while camping their armies on their respective side of the map. Terrain height is a large part of the game, with different elevations playing a large role in how the game plays out. Blue Storm, as with most recent maps, is beautifully made, with excellent use of custom terrain in designing the map. The design itself is fresh and unique, and slightly reminiscent of Bifrost. It's evident that a lot of attention was put to the details, and that just adds to the professionalism of Blue Storm.
Proxy builds seem to be very popular on this map, mainly because of the large main and complicated terrain. Stork in particular loves to proxy Reaver into Carrier on this map. Gameplay is always unique and dynamic, but conservative play is also effective. Blue Storm has the potential for extremely imaginative play, as evident in Boxer's game against Hiya, in which Boxer planned literally everything from the very start, with some elements not being utilized until ten minutes later in his grand plan. Blue Storm is bound to be a popular map for seasons to come.
Series 19: Persona, Demon's Forest, Baekmagoji, Tiamat, Nemesis, Hwangsanbul, Seongangil, Un'Goro Crater, Hannibal, Wuthering Heights.
In this mapset, we have beautiful maps such as Tiamat and Wuthering Heights. Demon's Forest, with its mass of doodads in the middle, was promising for strategic play because ranged units have a 30% chance to miss units behind doodads, but the inability of some units' AI to function led the leagues to pull this map out early. In this set is a rare five player map, for use in 2v2 maps. All of these maps have the potential for very strategic play through unique terrain, such as Wuthering Heights' immense formation in the middle of the map that serves as the centerpiece of interest. Finally, we have perhaps the most jumbled mess of custom terrain and neutral units ever, Baekmagoji, which probably confuses the hell out of many players. These maps are all recent, but not played on very much. In have a feeling that they'll turn into the Crimson Isles and Back and Bellies of 2008 – disused and forgotten for favor of other maps...even though Wuthering Heights -is- beautiful.
Series 20: -Andromeda-, Hwarangdo, Othello, -Troy-, Colosseum, Chupeng-Ryeong, -Medusa-, Plasma, Return of the King, Athena 2, Byzantium 2.
And in this final series of maps, we round out 2008, a full decade from where we began. Mapmakers have begun to rely less on gimmicks (except in some cases...Plasma and Troy, cough cough) and more on terrain in order to showcase strategical play. Many maps in this series are based on a macro style play, such as Andromeda and its high ground expansion which evokes images of Avant Garde, or Othello's multitude of expansions that are easily counterattacked. There are also some unique maps, though, such as the temporary island map Plasma, which is not as balanced as it should be. The introduction of such unique maps gives hope that future map making can still be fresh and innovative while not sacrificing gameplay.
Troy is unique first and foremost because it is a reverse of some map trends. Instead of being an island map that turns into a land map, Troy is, more or less, a land map that turns into a semi-island map. With the destruction of the Assimilators flanking the entrance to the base, large units become unable to pass through. This leads to so many possibilities, such as expanding to a new base, luring enemy units in, then destroying the Assimilators so they can't get out, or pre-emptively destroying enemy Assimilators so they're forced into a different tech-tree.
Like Monty Hall before it, this introduces a completely new aspect of gameplay never before seen. There are so many strategies available, but for the most part, progamers abused mobility issues with the maps, with units such as Carriers and Mutalisks, that take advantage of the fact that after a certain point, large units literally can't access some parts of the map. Of course, this makes for unbalanced gameplay at the moment, but hopefully in the future, things will clear out.
Troy is beautifully decorated, much like all recent maps. It also has some of the most clever uses of neutral buildings I've ever seen – limiting the actual paths is a reverse of what mapmakers have been able to do in the past. Troy will remain a very unique map, providing some very strategic games in the future.
A wonderful three-player map that incorporates unique concepts into a conventional rotationally symmetric map, Medusa is sure to be the standard three-player map of the future, much like Rush Hour and Tau Cross were in their days. The main, nat, and low ground expansions are fairly conventional, but it is the addition of the Bifrost-esque higher ground expansion that makes Medusa unique.
There is a higher ground mineral only overlooking the main, and for the most part, it is sealed off. However, with the destruction of ten stacked temples and mining some minerals, there is a ramp that allows access into this expansion. This plays a pivotal role in gameplay, as the ramp is not accessible to normal units until splash damage units arrive to destroy the temples quickly, but workers and burrowing units can still glitch their way up. As such, some gamers even pre-emptively mine one mineral so workers cannot glitch up the ramp.
More strategic options include proxying on the high ground by floating up buildings, or sneaking workers, or just pulling a Bifrost-style cannon rush. The same-elevation entrance into the main/nat mean it's harder to defend that front, with Dragoons being especially strong on this map. While it's relatively easy to expand twice, it's much more difficult to gain that fourth base (third gas), as the rest of the map is fairly open to movements.
Aesthetically, Medusa is beautiful. Tons of attention to detail is evident here, especially in the amount of decoration around the map's perimeter. Additionally, the rotational symmetry is handled excellently here and isn't “off” like in Longinus, for example. The custom design in the middle is also a nice touch, keeping the middle from being as boring as, say, Luna's was. All in all, a solid, beautiful map that stays conventional while allowing for imaginative play.
So there you have it. A more or less complete history of promaps. Of course, I didn't mention some maps. There are some great maps that I didn't even mention, such as Lycosidae, etc. Unfortunately, they just weren't influential enough to be included in this list. A good read is uhjoo's interview with celebrity map maker Rose.of.Dream in the following thread:
Don't click on the link to mapside, though, as it's now one of those spam farm websites whose title is “Adult Listings.” Yikes.
My personal story with maps is that I used to give pretty honest reviews of maps people used to post on TL, back when people posted them pretty often. I decided to try my hand at maps, and I think I was one of the first to use extra wide/extra long/strangely shaped bridges, including one two player map I never finished where the entire middle was one large bridge (back in 2005).
I also ended up collaborating with Starparty on a map, which I think is the best I've ever worked on:
The concept of some of the bridge applications I used back in 2004ish era are below. I've since forgotten when I actually made them, but I'm sure the threads are somewhere on Teamliquid if you search. I never got around to really finishing them, though. But hey, at least I was the first to use bridges creatively.
I was one of the first users on bwm.net, back before passwords on that site. However, map making takes a lot of time (despite Rose.of.Dream making Paradoxxx in two hours), and I just didn't keep up with it much. I haven't touched a map making program since 2005, though my only regret was never being able to make a good reverse ramp. I tried my hand at making reverse ramps back in 2004-5, but I could never decorate them correctly to make them not look so artificial. I couldn't get an aesthetically pleasing one, but it turns out that map makers have done it. So congratulations to them. Kind of bittersweet haha.
Just for fun:
My personal top three favorite promaps of each tileset, from a purely aesthetic point of view:
Ashworld: Outburst, Neo Requiem, Dark Sauron.
+ Show Spoiler +
Badlands: Sin Pioneer Period, Persona, Plasma.
+ Show Spoiler +
Desert: Iron Curtain, Arizona, Pelennor.
+ Show Spoiler +
Ice World: Hitchhiker, Tau Cross, Gorky Island.
+ Show Spoiler +
Jungle: Katrina, Hwarangdo, Valley of Wind.
+ Show Spoiler +
Space: Tiamat, Mercury, DMZ.
+ Show Spoiler +
Twilight: Byzantium, Wuthering Heights, Othello.
+ Show Spoiler +
+ Show Spoiler +
Badlands: Sin Pioneer Period, Persona, Plasma.
+ Show Spoiler +
Desert: Iron Curtain, Arizona, Pelennor.
+ Show Spoiler +
Ice World: Hitchhiker, Tau Cross, Gorky Island.
+ Show Spoiler +
Jungle: Katrina, Hwarangdo, Valley of Wind.
+ Show Spoiler +
Space: Tiamat, Mercury, DMZ.
+ Show Spoiler +
Twilight: Byzantium, Wuthering Heights, Othello.
+ Show Spoiler +
Haha, so there you have it. A decade of promaps, along with a personal aside. Hopefully I did something useful with my 5000th post ...though with the advent of live reporting, it sort of holds less meaning than it used to, what with all the randoms coming in with their thousands of posts out of nowhere.
But whatever. Hope you enjoyed the read.