TeamLiquid Final Edits
Maps can, and often do, determine the way a season plays. If the maps are interesting and balanced, the season is usually exciting, while a season with imbalanced or boring maps usually leads to an uneventful and boring season. Unfortunately, map makers have more responsibility than simply making sure their maps are interesting and balanced. Maps should also pose new and unique challenges to progamers, and should have a feature which distinguishes it from past maps.
Looking at the previous season, we can see that map makers tried very hard to find new ways to make their maps unique and interesting. We saw neutral buildings, neutral creep, twice as many resource spots and gasses at the start, massive chokes, minimum chokes, and just about every new feature that map makers could think of.
Unfortunately, when making a unique map, past experiences are not dependable predictors of balance, and this could also be seen in the previous season. Baekmagoji was imbalanced in every single matchup ( although the map itself was not imbalanced for a specific race), Katrina, on the other hand, showed a clear bias (at least initially) towards Protoss, while Un’goro was impossible for Protoss. The maps were interesting, and exciting, but the matchups were predictable because the maps weren’t well balanced.
This season KeSPA has decided to take a new view on map making. No longer do maps need to have a neutral building or a minimum choke that makes routing difficult, no longer are mineral walls, or creep colonies at expansions, required to make a map interesting. Map makers have instead opted for an older approach to making interesting maps – unique map layout and basic geographic features. But will this be enough to keep us glued to the screen?
To find out, I'm going to look at six new maps that have been announced for this season. On each map I will give a number of ratings. The first rating is the Richter scale for each map, which will measure how groundbreaking the map is. This does not only include how ground breaking the map itself is, but also how ground breaking its effect on gameplay will be. The second rating is the predictability rating, which will measure how predictable the map, and the balance of a map, is. Finally, I’ll give a rating based entirely on how interesting and exciting I think games on a map will be. This measure disregards balance and predictability, and focuses simply on the expected quality of games on the map.
So, let’s begin.
Richter Scale: 6/10
Predictability Rating: 8/10
Excitement Rating: 4/10
Andromeda is the first map that will be looked at. The map appears to be fairly standard at first glance, but it deviates from the expected in a few small, but notable, areas. The first area in which it deviates is the safe mineral only inside the main base. Although not entirely unique, few recent maps have had a safe mineral only within the main, and it would be interesting to see how this mineral only is used in new strategies.
A second defining feature of Andromeda is the cliff looming over the natural. The nat-cliff used to be a fairly standard feature in old maps, but has recently not seen much action. In this season almost all maps show a cliff of some sort covering the natural. To weaken the effect of the cliff on Andromeda, the map makers have added neutral buildings which can be destroyed in order to reach the cliff. Because of this, I do not think we will see too much action on the cliffs. The only influence the cliffs will have is that it will force players to keep their troops at home a bit longer to destroy the neutral buildings.
With these two features taken our of the picture, the map is fairly standard, and very reminiscent of Nemesis. There are two island expansions at 12 and 6, and two fairly easily protected expansions at 3 and 9. This leads us to the predictability rating.
The predictability rating is 8/10, simply because the map seems fairly easy to predict and nothing too out of the ordinary is presented to us. That which is unusual, is not too difficult to predict. The mineral only, while interesting, should not have too great an impact on the game, except allow players to turtle up a bit more, and the same can be said for the nat-cliff. Rather than being used offensively, I see the nat-cliff as mainly a defensive feature of the map, allowing players to turtle very comfortably.
The safeness of the main bases means that players will mostly avoid the open middle, and play with their safe mains, until a final confrontation is forced and one player overpowers the other.
The excitement rating is lower than average for me, as this map looks very much like an even more defensive Nemesis. We can expect lots of turtling, and fairly low-paced games. I won’t write the map off completely though, simply because slow paced games aren’t necessarily bad games, and we might see a few early cliff cheeses.
Richter Scale: 6/10
Predictability Rating: 5/10
Excitement Rating: 7/10
Colosseum is an interesting map. There’s little about it that makes it look different from your standard four player map, and yet it is one of the maps I think will be the most unpredictable during the coming Proleague season. Why is this? Well, the main reason for this is the strange placement of the higher grounds around the choke of each main, which is very similar to old-school Plains to Hill. The difference between these two maps is that the one higher ground base can be entered from outside the player’s main, which means a contain can easily be set up from this position by a Terran player.
On the other-hand, for the Terran player, it’s almost impossible to wall in, because two gate goons can easily attack any wall from this higher ground position. There is also a sunken colony placed in front of each choke, but the sunken colony will only create creep in a very small area behind it, due to the the terrain around it. Because of this I’ll give the map only 5/10 on the predictability scale.
The map scores slightly above average on the Richter scale, simply because of the interesting layout of the map. In my opinion, a defining feature of the gameplay on Colossuem will be if players are able to successfully take their second nats early and safely. This will be a problem for Zerg, because a single line of sunks cannot defend this expansion and the main base.
Once players find a way to get past the opening part of the game I expect exciting games from the map. The open layout of the middle, as well as the multiple routes into each base should make for exciting to-and-fro play. The safe nat is also a positive on the map, as it will give players a fighting chance, even if they get contained early on.
Richter Scale: 8/10
Predictability Rating: 4/10
Excitement Rating: 9/10
Hannibal looks to me to be one of the most exciting 2v2 maps made so far. The map is interesting, unique, and seems to combine all that was good from last season’s maps, and then add something extra to it.
The first, and most notable, feature of Hannibal is the small main bases. These bases are absolutely tiny- I doubt more than two factories could comfortably fit in there. This might sound like a relatively strange feature, but if you take into consideration that this is a 2v2 map, it makes the map incredibly dynamic. Players will no longer be fine just turtling up and defending their mains. Because of the tiny size of the mains, players will be forced to move out of their bases, and onto riskier ground.
The second unique feature of the map is the relatively low mineral count in the main bases. Each main only has seven resource spots, and two gasses. This will reward players who move out of their mains earlier and take greater risks. Because of this I expect to see players taking greater risks early on, making both rushes, and macro based 2v2 play a good possibility.
Once players move out of their mains to their naturals, we find large cliffs behind the nats making for interesting battles over resources, perhaps similar to those found on
Seongangil. The main bases can also be attacked with tanks from the lower ground (although the resources spots won’t get hit), which means that players might be even less likely to fill up their main base with buildings.
2v2’s are by nature fairly unpredictable, but I think that even for a 2v2 map Hannibal is more unpredictable than the average. The map introduces many clever elements, through simple geographical changes, and we will hopefully see some great games thanks to that.
Richter Scale: 7/10
Predictability Rating: 4/10
Excitement Rating: 8/10
Hwarangdo is the new OGN map for this season, and to me it has the potential to be both the most imbalanced map of the season, as well as the most interesting map of the season. The most immediately obvious feature about the map is that there is no gas available at the natural expansion. This has been seen before, most notably on Nostalgia, but on Nostalgia taking a second gas was more plausible due to the small chokes into mains, and fairly closed off second nats.
Hwarangdo throws the whole balance off not only by not having a gas at the nat, but also by making all potential gasses very difficult to hold.
The corner gasses on Hwarangdo are fairly open, and a tank push from the higher ground onto the corners will be impossible to stop early in the game. Furthermore, the gasses at 5 or 10 are completely open, and can be attacked from three different directions. Holding such a gas will be very difficult, especially during the early-game for Zerg. Thus the map forces players to either take a risky second gas, or to play from one gas for a while. This should give Terran an advantage, as they can go M&M against Zerg, and a few tanks supported by hordes of vultures against Protoss.
Once the game reaches the middle game, I expect Terran’s advantage to completely disappear. Terran will have difficulty coping with a Zerg player that makes use of the multiple routes onto the middle to run circles around the Terran, while a Protoss player should also have a fairly good time, since the middle terrain prevents Terran from setting up a proper push.
With that said, I think the map shows the potential for some very exciting games. The map is open, which should make for some mobile armies running up and down the map, launching attacks and counter-attacks. The fights early on will also be interesting to observe, and it will be interesting to see how the players cope with only having one gas.
The map once again makes use of new and interesting geographic features to change the gameplay, and if the map’s balance doesn’t let it down, we can expect some of the best games of the OSL to be played on Hwarangdo.
Richter Scale: 6/10
Predictability Rating: 8/10
Excitement Rating: 10/10
Othello is my favourite map of the new maps. The map is relatively standard, but it looks like it could provide gameplay heaven. The defining feature of the map is the open position of the expansions on the map. The middle expansions are incredibly open to attack, and while taking them will be easy, keeping them will be much more difficult.
The four bases in the middle of the map can all be cliffed fairly easily, so players will have to insure that they are able to cope with such a threat before taking these bases. Added to that there is the problem of the three potential routes into each base, which means setting up a static defense will be near impossible. What all this means is that the aggressive player will be rewarded, while the defensive player will constantly be under pressure to stay in the game.
Playing aggressively and taking an early middle expansion could mean victory for a player, especially if his opponent turtles up and does nothing about it, but taking a fast expansion could also end the game for a player if he is unable to hold on to his expansion against a more aggressive player. Thus, we’ll end up with games in which players are constantly taking and fighting over expansions, while the multiple routes of the base allows counter-attacks on the other expansions.
The map also shows a very strategic side, with the routes around the side offering extra protection to an attacking army, while rushes down the middle will be able to circumvent and trap the armies going down the sides. Because of this, I rate this map the most interesting of all the new maps, and also potentially the most interesting map we’ve had in recent seasons.
Othello gives players the opportunity to macro, but it also rewards the aggressive players who prefer to keep their opponents under constant pressure.
The only potential problem I have with the map, concerning balance, is the position of the cliff behind the natural. While I do not think tanks on this cliff will be a problem, I am worried about the position of this cliff in relation to the minerals it is guarding. The cliff is very close to the minerals which means mutalisks will be able to harass effectively from the cliff, which could cause a problem for Terran in the same way the cliff caused a problem for Terran on Blue Storm. While there is a building that can be destroyed for access to the cliff, the neutral building appears to be one of the bigger ones, so it will be interesting to see if a Terran player is able to remove the building in time to prevent mutalisk harass.
Richter Scale: 9/10
Predictability Rating: 3/10
Excitement Rating: 7/10
The final new map to be looked at is Wuthering Heights. The map scores the most highly on the Richter scale for its interesting higher ground feature in the middle, as well as its high density mineral spots in the middle of the map. These features are what defines Wuthering Heights, and they are also what could potentially make the map a single race map.
Wuthering Heights provides the opponent with two safe gasses in the beginning, and the mains look very similar to those of Tau Cross. Once you move out from the main bases though, you find that Wuthering Heights is a completely different ball game. The middle of the map plays a defining role in Wuthering Heights, and holding on to this middle could be what all the battles are about.
From the middle of the map, a player is able to not only take the shortest route between bases, but also attack all four the high density middle bases. Seeing as these middle bases have two gasses and twelve resource spots, being able to control these bases are crucial to having success on the map. Unfortunately, controlling the middle will be very difficult early in the game for Zerg or Protoss, and we are likely to find Terran players rush to take the middle.
To counteract this, there are multiple routes around the middle of the map which allows a player to take advantage of anyone that simply camps out the middle. These routes are quite long though, and an army stationed in the middle of the map could quickly move out to counter-attack or defend against an army that moves along the side of the map.
Because of this the predictability of the map is not very high. While it seems like Terran might have an early game advantage, it is impossible to say exactly how big an effect the routes around the side of the map will have to this army, or whether it will be possible for Terran to hold such a position against a Protoss attack.
If the map turns out to be balanced, we might see some very interesting games on the map, perhaps similar to the games we see on Katrina when carriers are not involved. We can only hope that the map balance won’t turn out to be similar to Katrina’s!
I hope you have all enjoyed this look at the new maps, and that you are as excited as I am about the up-and-coming Proleague! As I said in the beginning of this article, good maps tend to make for a good season, so let's hope this season lives up to the wonderful maps it's been given!
The maps can be downloaded here.