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Twenty Sided Server: Map Rotation

By Shamus
on Sunday May 31, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games


There are varying opinions on what maps should be in the rotation on our Team Fortress 2 server. Strong opinions in some cases. There are maps some people hate. Maps some people love. Maps to which which some people are ambivalent or indifferent. The problem: How to arrange the map list so that the maximum number of people get the maximum number of maps that they love while (more importantly) minimizing the number of people who end up playing a map they hate. Oh, and the map list must meet some minimum level of complexity and variety, rather than just taking one popular map and repeating it endlessly.

Clearly this is an NP-Complete problem. Luckily, we’re only dealing with a list of 13 potential maps. Unluckily, we’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of people with varying tastes. I’m not sure if I should optimize for maximum happiness or maximum fairness. (Always a problem in any social system.) To wit: Do I throw in maps to satisfy a small minority of users with very unpopular tastes, or do I simply “sacrifice” those few in order to improve the overall happiness of the player base? Hmm.

Coding the proper algorithm is going to take weeks of research and testing. I’ll need to put all of the users into a database along with their preferences, and sort through different map lists and calculate how much each map is loved and hated. Then I’ll need to sort through millions of possible map lists and find the permutation that has the maximum number of satisfied players.

Or maybe I should just take an inaccurate and highly unscientific poll and then eyeball the results? You know what? That sounds pretty good:

[poll id=”4″]

[poll id=”5″]

What about arena maps?

Fie on arena. It has its place and its fans, but the whole idea of arena runs counter to my vision of a fun and newbie-friendly server.

What about payload maps?

Payload maps are a given. All of the payload maps are in rotation. Every other alternating map is payload. The others are capture point or capture the flag.

There are three standard payload maps (Badwater, Goldrush, and HooDoo) plus that crazy dual-payload cart going in both directions. (Pipeline.) I think a good map list will look something like this:

1. Payload Badwater
2. (Map #1)
3. Payload Goldrush
4. (Map #2)
5. Payload HooDoo
6. (Map #3)
7. Payload Badwater
8. (Map #4)
9. Payload Goldrush
10. (Map #5)
11. Payload HooDoo
12. (Map #6)
13. Payload Pipeline
14. (Map #7)

Maps #1 through #7 will be filled in using whatever knowledge I can glean from the polls above. This gives us a list of 11 unique maps, which should give us a nice variety without completely overwhelming newcomers.

Comments (60)

  1. Debaser says:

    2fort is by far the best map, in terms of fairness to all classes and flowing gameplay. It is, however, overplayed to the point of insanity.

  2. Dr. Strangelove says:

    2fort is…well, it’s terrible. It can be fun, that’s true, but it’s not conducive to fun; you have to work at it. The map encourages stalemates.

  3. Personally I’m happy with a nice even spread. I just enjoy playing the game in the company of friends, your decision to axe arena maps encourages this, and I’ll be happy as long as there’s a good spread of maps to play on.

  4. vbigiani says:

    A note: push CP maps (badlands, fastlane, granary, well) are a bad idea if you want ‘fun’ games, because they are the standard competitive maps and tend to attract competitive clans who then disrupt the balance.

  5. Debaser says:

    “2fort is…well, it's terrible. It can be fun, that's true, but it's not conducive to fun; you have to work at it. The map encourages stalemates.”

    Lies, I say! If there’s any map that stops fun, it’s, well, every payload map! That constant grinding, the way people get aggro over the cart, it’s not as fun as 2fort.
    And most maps encourage stalemates, assuming equal ability on both sides, otherwise it’d be unfair for the losing side.
    EDIT: Beaten to the payload point
    EDIT(again): Dear god, how do I XHTML.

  6. Feste says:

    The progressive CP maps are definitely good fun, and you can get far less of a steamrollering.

    I do very much like the crazyness of Pipeline. It avoids the static defence of the other payload maps and replaces it with something a bit more freewheeling.

    That said, any server without Arena on it can’t go too wrong!

  7. Carra says:

    The pipeline map gives a nice change of pace. It usually goes very fast and one good uber can win the game.

    But not all maps should go this fast or it would be boring too :)

  8. Mark says:

    Payload maps tend to rank highly because the act of pushing or stopping the cart gives very strong feedback about how well you are doing. Among circles I play in, pl_badwater is regarded as the best map yet.

    tc_hydro is considered the worst because the map tends to lead to stalemates, and even under good circumstances it takes a very long time to finish a round. Most players get sick of the endless futility of a Hydro match long before it ends, and when it does end, it’s usually because one side was completely outclassed, which translates to a boring map.

    2fort is… controversial. The problem is that it strongly favors defense. In a symmetrical map, this means that it takes some rare circumstances to get anything to actually happen. There’s not enough effective ways to punish turtling on 2fort. If the server has a low population or strict class limits on Snipers and Engineers, it can be quite good, but your server is not known for having either of these things.

    cp_dustbowl and pl_goldrush are a fun maps, but if you’re going to have them in the rotation, make absolutely sure that you leave the respawn times as they are. Respawn times are a huge part of the balance on assault maps – they favor the offense in order to offset the general tendency for defense to be easier to do effectively (offensive players need to win fights and secure objectives, whereas defensive players only need to do the former). A RED player’s respawn time may seem cruelly long in them, but they are often the only thing that keep the final leg of each stage of these maps from being a hopeless, senseless meat grinder with no sense of progress for either team.

    I don’t think I’ve played enough on plr_pipeline to explain quite what I don’t like about it, but I think a big part is how the layout of the first two stages encourages spawn-camping, what with the payload tracks running right past the enemy’s spawn room doors.

    The most complex official map is cp_steel. It takes quite a few rounds to get the hang of how you’re supposed to approach it, and I still get lost in that Bermuda Triangle of identical corridors back in the vicinity of D. I love it, but there’s a much wider difference in effectiveness between a team that has players who know it inside-out and players who don’t, compared to all the other maps. You usually can’t just follow the signs, for instance. Especially not on RED. Since your server caters more to the inexperienced and to the non-habitual players, you might want to be careful about how often this shows up.

    As for the push CP maps… I don’t think you’ll have a problem with competitive clans coming around and stomping all the newbies. They’ve got their own playgrounds, after all, and much more interesting competition to find there among their own kind. However, if you want to drop Badlands from the rotation, then my own petty biases would support you fully.

    I notice there’s no mention of the arena maps. You generally don’t want them in your standard rotation, but don’t remove them from the server, because they’re really the only maps suitable for very small numbers of players. Well, I guess six-man Turbine is pretty fun, but you’ll want more variety than that, and several of the arena maps really are quite good.

    However, rather than mucking around with trying to find the One True Map Rotation, you may find it expedient to install a server mod to permit users to vote for the maps they want to play. The convention of nominating a map, voting to have a vote, then voting from among the nominated maps to decide where to go next is widespread and unintimidating.

  9. Suraj says:

    May I suggest PL Swift a good payload may set in lush alpine setting?

  10. Changling Bob says:

    One thing I’d like to bring up is pl_dustbowl. Its a community-made map, but I think it’s a lot fairer that regular dustbowl as you can’t be gated off from your progress by a wall of sentries.

    Also, eyeballing my votes in relation to the current results, I’m about average on what I dislike, but like more of the less popular maps. I’m sure this says something about me, but don’t really know what.

  11. Andrey says:

    There are server plugins which allow people to vote what map should be next. I like such solution.

  12. Galenor says:

    “There are server plugins which allow people to vote what map should be next. I like such solution.”

    You gotta be careful with this though, and implement it right. Case in point being, I once regulared on a server called Axel TF2. At the end of every game, it would load a ‘map select’ map where players interacted with the map (read: beat down walls continuously) to ‘vote’ for their map. The map cycle ended up a bit like this:

    Avanti, Dustbowl, Avanti, Avanti, Soccer, Avanti, Steamroll, Avanti, Mystery Map of the Week, Avanti, Zombie Dustbowl, Pull, Avanti, Soar, Avanti…

    Everytime we loaded that map and everyone’s cheerful voices on AllTalk chirped “Yaaay, everyone vote Avanti!” I damn near killed myself. If you’re going to allow the users to select their map, it would be wise to stop them repeatedly voting for the same map over and over!

    • Shamus says:

      I dislike mapvoting because it breaks the flow of the game. It also lets a core group dictate the flow of the maps. They will vote together, and everyone else will vote scattershot. 2/3 of the players want to do “something ELSE, for crying out loud”, but 1/3 want to play the same map over and over again. They will win until the other 2/3 can organize. Instead of constant play, there are long pauses where everyone bitches and argues over what to play next.

      Mapvote also goes against the general goal of being newbie-friendly. Not knowing the maps, what would a newbie vote for? When people start shouting vote CP! vote CP! at them, will they even know what that means?

      I think a fixed rotation that offers a variety of quality maps is better for a friendly pickup game than to have the system driven through voting. I know as a newbie, I’d just as soon not be bothered with a choice that has no meaning for me. And now that I know what I’m doing, I’d just as soon vote payload over and over, which (if I got my way) would keep newbies from seeing the rest of the game.

      • Shamus says:

        I said at the outset that I wasn’t going to do one of those servers that’s loaded with extra maps, but pl_swift looks very promising. It’s also a bit of work to figure out how to serve fan-made maps.

        I’ll give it a couple more weeks and then consider it. I know we still have newbies from the free weekend, and I’d like to get them settled in before we go crazy with community maps.

  13. Shadow2336 says:

    Can we get rid of pipeline?

    After last night, I don’t think I want to play it ever again.

    And Zerotime? Back to your corner, foul knave. We will not be having that kind of talk here. Bah. DE_Dust…

    Shamus, if you’re going to take that guy up on his offer of another server, you may want to put the community-made maps there to be tested to see if the community wants them on the main server.

  14. Pocket Nerd says:

    I’m in complete agreement with Shamus on map voting. How can I, as a dumb noob, make an intelligent decision on which map to play next?

    I also think rotation is a good idea because it will encourage me to develop familiarity with a broad selection of maps, rather than playing the same popular map over and over again. (I’m reminded of my days playing StarCraft, when everybody just played Hunters over and over again, and were often clueless about other maps.) Besides, if players don’t have the option to skip a “bad” map every time it comes up, they may find they enjoy it once they learn the map and adjust their strategies.

  15. Couple of thoughts: I really want to try out pipeline (I haven’t, because I’ve pretty much been hanging out at your server), so I seeing that in the rotation would be great.

    Cp_Badlands is pretty much the best symmetric map released so far. It’s got a lot of complexity, and a bunch of class balance. Something for everyone, really. So I’d love to see that in there, too.

    See you guys soon!


  16. Small Ivory Knight says:

    Yeah, I’d like mostly serious, official maps. If I want shenanigans, I’ll hop over to Ubercharged: Servants of the Train God, my OTHER favorite server.

    That being said. I vote for CP_Egypt.

  17. Yar Kramer says:

    Question: how should a “complete newbie who doesn’t know the maps inside and out” vote on this poll?

    Or should I at all? ;)

  18. RPharazon says:

    I would have to say that Hoodoo, although popular, is murder on older computers. Usually, community maps that have been accepted as “official” maps are completely unoptimized in terms of performance.
    As such, Hoodoo and Egypt, obviously being enormous, make my computer beg for mercy and freeze a lot, making my game enjoyment much less. It is for that reason that I cringe when playing those maps, yet I cheer when ctf_2fort or _turbine or cp_badlands appear in the rotation.

    Also, I get quite tired of playing on Hoodoo all the time. Just whining.

    Last point: Shamus, just as you pay extreme attention to the noobs, point your attention at the poor people with crappy computers. The performance issues may be negligible on your beast of a computer, but for those of us with no money to spend on the hardware treadmill, it is quite annoying.

  19. Bill says:

    I was impressed by Valve’s Team Fortress 2 Stats page:

    If you scroll down to the bottom, there is a list of the official maps and how often each team wins each map. Most look balanced, but cp_gravelpit, cp_steel, pl_goldrush, and pl_badwater seem to be unbalanced.

    That said, even an unbalanced map can be fun. Can map-specific instructions be put out there? For example, it would be nice if you could put a note to tell new players to pick red on pl_goldrush to help balance it.

  20. Shunal says:

    I can’t talk much for the newbie players because I’ve been playing the game for over the year, but in my experience, 2fort, turbine and hydro are the worse maps Valve has ever come up with. All three of these maps support mindless stalemates, and, in the words of ubercharged.net, weighted companion snipers who do nothing to help the team out.

    That being said, I voted for dustbowl, gravel pit, badlands, and all payload maps. It’s just amazing seeing awesome teamwork in these maps.

  21. Mordiceius says:

    Wow, so much 2fort hate.

    I love 2fort, it makes people work together. Sure it encourages defense, but if you get a group of 4 people working together, they will capture the enemy intelligence.

  22. Khizan says:

    I’ve got some pity for people with older or bad computers. I just upgraded recently(last month) from a 4 year old machine, myself. While everything runs like a dream now, I remember what it was like to have everything crawling and staggering and the sound of my computer crying.I still wouldn’t drop maps like Hoodoo out of the circulation. It’s an awesome payload map, and so long as the majority of the players here can handle it(which seems to be the case), I don’t see why we should throw it out of the running for a few people who can’t run it as well.

    For myself, I don’t like CTF maps because they encourage extreme turtling. 2fort is especially bad about this. They’re not that bad when the server places a limit on the amount of engineers and snipers you can have on a team, but without those restrictions you all too often end up having to attack into 4-5 sentry guns that suck the fun right out of the game.

  23. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Why so much payload?

    I perfer capture the flag, payloads have action just around the cart, so if you get lost (like I did when I was a newb) you’re out of the action until you find everybody, whereas CTF has action all over the place, lot more scattershot but a lot more fun.

    Also, Dustbowl is a good map, but it’s way too overplayed, I got sick of it many hundreds of turns ago.

    EDIT: Also, I’m sure there’s a plugin for map vote that disables voting for the same map twice in a row; playing a really popular map over and over and over is a-okay with me if there’s a breather map inbetween each round.

  24. Khizan says:

    The action is easy to find in payload maps. Just follow the tracks until you see the cart.

    I just started up again recently and the payload maps are probably the easiest to learn because I’m not wandering around looking for the next capture point or the intelligence. There’s a clear path to the action laid out for me.

  25. TA says:

    I don’t have the game myself (yet), but I’ve seen a map called Balloon Race played a bunch, and it seemed extremely fun. Dual payload setups seem like they’d be more conducive to competitive action and less to the stalemates or back-and-forth of ordinary Payload.

  26. rofltehcat says:

    Well, I am still very noobish but I was on the server yesterday (or the day before? I always lose my feeling for time on holidays/long weekends) under the name Oschi.
    However at some point we were playing this CP map with the egyptian style and I didn’t like it. Overall I don’t like the CP playstyle from what little I have seen from other servers.
    The PL maps were very fun, though :)

  27. Seriously says:

    In defence of tc_hydro, the map can be fun in that ctf_2fort way if there is team balance and teamwork. The changing layout of the map is a lot of fun, too. It becomes not fun when one team is clearly superior to the other team; then it’s steam-roll city. I voted for it!

  28. BaCoN says:

    I actually haven’t PLAYED an arena map, but I wouldn’t mind if there was one – just one – somewhere in the rotation. It’d be a nice change of pace for everybody.

    We play a LOT of payload, and a lot less of my favourites: CTF and CP maps. I looooooove capture points, they’re absurdly fun. I hate the last cp in those maps, usually, because they tend to go faster than I can blink(I’ve literally capped the final point in Gravel Pit by accidentally walking over it as a scout), so if there’s a way to slow the last one down, that’d be amazing(and way more balanced, giving the underdogs a chance to recover).

    I kinda like Pipeline, but I don’t think I’ve ever won one. The third round is where everything comes apart for one team, and the other team always gets it together. It’s never my team, but, hey. =P

  29. Adeon says:

    I’d like to see a CTF map or two somewhere in the rotation. Payload maps are fun but I get really sick of them after a while.

    The only maps I don’t really like are HooDoo and Egypt. In the case of HooDoo it seems to be even easier for a strong offense to win than in normal Payload maps.

  30. Volatar says:

    I fully support the focus on payload maps. I enjoy payload with a good group of people voice chatting :)

    However, for the other maps, I personally prefer all CP ones, and Value ones at that (dustbowl, gravelpit, ect) EXCEPT for 2fort. I love 2fort, I love turtled teams. I love the great effort, the great teamwork, that such situations require to win. 2fort is on the top of the unbalanced vote right now (really, its the most balanced map in existence, what is up with that?), yet it is also the 4th top voted as outstanding. Consider that carefully. My vote is for 2fort to be in the rotation.

  31. AGrey says:

    Can we please get rid of granary?

    I honestly don’t care about any of the other maps: i’ve had good games and bad games on all of them, but i have never had a single fun experience on granary.

  32. Adeon says:

    I like Granary because the changing spawns and front lines encourages rapid and mobile engineering :).

  33. I wouldn’t mind pl_swift myself, though mainly it’s because of the change of scenery.

    Question: how should a “complete newbie who doesn't know the maps inside and out” vote on this poll?

    Or should I at all?

    That’s actually a good question – I find that TF2wiki is my friend, as well as Tf2portal.de, which has some good top-down images of the maps here, which made it easier to remember which maps were associated with which names.

  34. Sauron says:

    @Volatar: 2fort isn’t on top of the “unbalanced” list. It’s on top of the “stupid or unbalanced or unfun” list. Personally, I think, unless 2fort is the top of the good list, being so strongly at top of the bad list means it shouldn’t be played. That’s a lot of people with a strong reaction against it. A lot of people who won’t be having fun when it comes up in rotation.

  35. Luvian says:

    I really really like cp_gravelpit. It got wide open space and it’s not all about tight passages. You don’t feel railroaded while playing it. You can attack the points from any directions and the map has less mapping out, or at least it is less effective in it, seeing as you can’t cover all the angles of attack that easily.

    I learned playing the game on a server running only that map and it was a blast. It is definitely a noob friendly map and is still my favorite one to this day.

  36. Volatar says:


    Well, 2fort has moved to #3 of the good list now.

    Yeah, a lot of people don’t like it, but going by vote count alone, more people like it then dislike it (by the poll at this moment) as it is 61 for, 58 against.

    But, you can spin statistics any way you want. You can retort with percentages, saying its 42% for, 49% against.

    Really, we are all biased as hell :P

    Go 2fort :D

    • Shamus says:

      datapoint: badlands and 2fort both have the same number of positive votes. (60) But 2fort has 58 hate votes, while badlands has just 16. Any rating system needs to take this massive disparity into account. Playing a map you hate is a killjoy, presumably worse than not playing your favorite map.

      Also, while it’s true that 2fort defenses CAN be broken by a team, I’m actually doubtful that will happen very often on our server. (Most of our ctf_turbine and ctf_well games either took a long time or ended in stalemate, and 2fort is presumably worse in this regard.) Alltalk makes it hard to plan complex attacks that can shatter the turtle shell. Forcing the attackers to either broadcast their intentions or rely on text chat swings the balance even further in favor of the defenders.

      I’m a bit sad that ALL ctf maps are doing so poorly. ctf is topping the hate chart. I don’t know if this is a problem with ctf, or with Valve’s specific implementation of it. I loved Unreal Tournament CTF back in the day, but this feels nothing like it. It’s all engineers and spies and snipers in a generic team-based meele.

      I’m one of those mutants who actually LIKES egypt, so I’m sad to see it’s not going to make the cut. (And like 2fort, the egypt hate votes are on par with it’s love votes. It’s just got less of both.)

  37. Fuklaw says:

    Damn, no love for Steel? That’s probably my favourite map, but noone ends up playing it (possibly because it only got introduced with the Heavy update). There’s nothing better that cp_steel for a marathon game that everyone feels more accomplished after.

    Also, as far as encouraging teamwork goes, just about nothing beats a payload map. A good gamer or two can win cp or especially ctf on their own, but it’s impossible to win at payload without working with your teammates.

  38. Sho says:

    I don’t really know enough to vote, but I’ll be sad to see any maps go. I like variety, even though more maps mean it takes me longer to learn the gameplay. I kind of wish CTF was different, also. Maybe if the bases were less defensible (what with calculated assaults being difficult due to alltalk). But yeah, while I’ve come across some maps which are invariably difficult for me, I don’t dislike any of them.

  39. pkt-zer0 says:

    For CTF, mach4 is like 2fort, except good. It’s not an official map yet, though. Supposedly, it falls apart with a higher number of players, but I’ve had a blast playing it with small-ish teams.

    I’m also for adding Arena maps. Or just one: Lumberyard. I don’t think it’s going to murder the server if it only comes up every two hours, and lasts for just 15 minutes. Would work well with alltalk, too.

  40. bbot says:

    If you’re looking for more third-party maps, which you aren’t, both pl_cranetop_b8 and cp_orange_cross_v2 are good.

    Unfortunately, cp_orange_cross_v2 was the prototype version of cp_cross, which sucks, and cranetop is still in beta, though at iteration 8 it’s fairly good.

    Also: You could argue that arena is probably the most-noob friendly gamemode, in that it’s straight up team deathmatch.

  41. Melf_Himself says:

    I loathe the point capture maps (except for egypt for some reason).

    The ctf maps and the payload maps are fun.

    Whatever you do, don’t alter the respawn timers, or allow 32 v 32 :/

  42. AGrey says:

    I’m gonna go with melf on this one: point capture maps aren’t much fun, but I love payload and capture the flag maps.

  43. Yar Kramer says:

    @BBot: Shamus outlined his grievances with Arena mode in the first post on the Twenty-Sided server, which is that you don’t respawn. I died on average about once a minute when I played; if you died a minute into a ten-minute round of Arena, that’s nine minutes out of ten that you’re not actually playing the game.

  44. Shunal says:

    You’re not the only one here who likes Egypt.

    Also, as for Arena maps, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have one in the circulation. Hopefully it won’t show up as much as the other maps. Also, I thoroughly enjoy playing ctf_well. It’s just 2fort that annoys me to hell. I think the only time I’ve ever had fun with 2fort was on the facepunch UK servers where we had an engie dance party on the bridge while someone was playing random music on the mic.

  45. hevis says:

    There should be at least one CTF map. I’m ok with 2fort, but it seems that everyone else is hating it. I suggest ctf_well, IMHO the best ctf map I’ve played so far. Also the cp_well is good. They’re not too large and also they’re both symmetrical (read: perfectly balanced).

    I haven’t played any unofficial maps, so I can’t say anything about them. I’m sure there are some really good ones, but I really don’t want to go and find them from the sea of crappy ones. I really got some bad memories from unofficial Counter Strike maps..

  46. Winter says:

    First off, let me just say that i love tc_hydro. To the point where, sometimes, i’ll go into the game browser and filter specifically for tc_hydro, hoping to find one to join.

    Yeah, it ends in stalemate all the time. That’s because it requires actual strategy to win! In tc_hydro’s case, both teams can “lose” pretty easily–you have to put the effort in to win, and that’s pretty rare. It doesn’t have to end in stalemate, it just ends in stalemate when neither team pulls something off.

    Hydro has some unique and interesting features, too, and i like the dynamic battle lines. It’s also probably the most balanced asymmetrical map.

    Compare with the payload or cp maps… on those, what would be a stalemate on tc_hydro turns into a victory for defense. One team is trying to “stalemate” while the other is trying to break it.

    The ctf maps have basically the same problem, the worst of these being 2fort. Largely, again, because people aren’t organized.

    (While i love tc_hydro i really hate 2fort… not sure why… only thing i like about 2fort is setting up an engineer base in the ENEMY flag room.)

    Let’s see… onto Pipeline. This should have really just been the last point with the best features of the first two stages put in. The third stage is interesting, but the first two are miserable. It also has some other quirks (no time limit!) that make it awkward. Great idea, poor execution.

    Someone mentioned pl_badwater and i rather like it. It’s weird to see badwater as a payload map, but it works.

    The one suggestion i would make is to add pl_cashworks. Cashworks is probably the biggest serious community map so far. Cashworks is most notable for its possibly unique uphill/downhill section, though much to my dismay the more recent versions of the map have made that segment a bit too easy to push through so a lot of the “real” fighting for that takes place at the bottom of the hill. That’s okay though. The other gimmick of Cashworks is the vault. You’ll know it when you see it.

    The one problem with Cashworks is that it’s big. Really big. Like, big enough that a 32 player server is actually reasonable, and 24 player servers might feel a bit empty at times. It also is hard on computers, though it’s reasonably optimized. It’s just a huge map.

    Anyway, you can get it here.

    A review can be found here, if you want more info.

    Another community map i rather like is pl_frontier. If Cashworks’ gimmicks are the downhill push and the vault, Frontier’s gimmick is the murder train.

    You see, in Frontier you don’t get a cart. Oh no. You get a train. A psychotic train of destruction that will run down friend, foe, and sentry gun alike. It also provides shelter to the offense, giving a unique advantage to the attackers. Frontier also has a big uphill section reminiscent of Cashworks’ big drop.

    You can get Frontier here. Note that, as per the map description, at 6v6 or below the balance comes apart a little bit. That might be a problem for the Twenty Sided server, but maybe not. On the other hand, i think Frontier is ideally suited for 12v12. More players turns into a sentry fest. That doesn’t ruin the map, but it’s frustrating and pointless.

    A review can be found here. Note that i like this map more than the reviewer.



    My recommendations: stay away from the maps people hate. (Even if that does mean giving up my beloved tc_hydro.) The tf2 community is coming up with some great maps and we should really look at those too. Particularly Cashworks and Frontier. There are some others–i like ctf_mach4, mostly for nostalgic reasons–but imo those are the big two. They’re creative, well-executed, and interesting to play in for both sides.

    If you don’t want to wade through a sea of bad maps then just take my advice and look at Cashworks and Frontier :)

  47. John says:

    I just typed a massive post and only backed half of it up. The rest got spit out by the comment system. Oh well. I’ll paste what I had backed up, and give a very quick run over of the ones I didn’t.

    Hi Shamus and d20 community,

    I’ve been playing lately on your server under the name “Kles” and I’ve really enjoyed it. I am a competitive TF2 player who has recently become disillusioned with the competitive scene. It’s hard to get a good game going that doesn’t involve rude, barely-pubescent trash talkers, people who expect everyone to be incredibly talent top players, or people who simply want to screw around. It’s so nice to find a server of genuine newbies, all of whom want to get better and just enjoy the game. Anyways, that out of the way, I am very experienced. I’ve logged over 600 hours (I’m such a dweeb…) on TF2 and I’ve played all of the official maps a lot. Here are my opinions/analyses of the maps:


    Badlands is a really good map. It is very wide open and dynamic. Players get to enjoy many possible decisions, and can be effective with any class. It is fairly easy to learn, but difficult to master. The “spire” (the second/fourth point) is a unique point that many players enjoy capturing. Defences on the final point tend to create a sense of urgency, as it can be captured in under two seconds. On the other side, skilled players have a big advantage over lesser skilled players when it comes to the “spire.” Though I personally take rocket jumping/sticky jumping for granted as a skill, I realize that many players are not able to effectively jump to the spire. A player who can rocket jump would have a great advantage there. Another problem is that snipers have a lot of power here. While I personally don’t have a problem with that, I do know that a lot of newer players tend to hate the hell out of snipers. Luckily, badlands lends itself to many flank tactics and ways to sneak up on the snipers, so they can’t destroy entire teams in safety. In all, the map is very balanced and should definitely be in the rotation.


    Dustbowl is very popular. A lot of players enjoy the dynamic of pushing into a defending team’s base. The map lends itself greatly to teamwork: often, large pushes, often involving übercharges, are needed. The map is also long, which lends itself to more epic games. There are a few problems with it, though. The first is that it tends to be very spammy. Often, a single demoman can cause great grief to teams simply by launching some blind grenades into the tight corridors and chokepoints. Though there are many ways to each point, they are often all cramped and involve going through, at some point, some spam. Though the attacking team can very well spam back, the defence has the advantage here. Another issue is that the map lends itself to “sentry farms.” The very last point, for example, has at least two prime sentry gun locations, and can often stymie an attack which has over twenty minutes to break in. Though many players will enjoy such a struggle, many will be turned off. However, most players enjoy playing Dustbowl, and despite its problems, it is still a very well made map, and should be in the rotation.


    Ugh. I don’t know if you played the version of Egypt which shipped in the scout update, but it was nigh impossible to win as offence. The defence has so many ways of overwhelming the offence that it becomes very unfun for the offence to try to scale it. The second point in particular has so many sentry gun locations that it can be very easily defended. It is an uphill battle the entire way for the attacking team, and it is simply nowhere near as good as Dustbowl. The chokepoints are simply too easy to hold, and there are fewer attack options than dustbowl. I really do not recommend this map. The balance is just too poor.


    Fastlane doesn’t get much attention outside of the competitive community. I’m really not sure why this is. The map is pretty balanced. It is, however, completely unremarkable. It is a basic, run of the mill five point push map. Each point is balanced, with three routes to each, allowing for various offensive and defensive tactics. There are really no problem points on the map, though the last point tends to be on the easy side to defend. It is also fairly good for snipers. The issue here is that it doesn’t really bring anything to the table. It’s solid, but it doesn’t really say much. I would not put it in over Badlands, Well, or Granary.


    Granary is a fantastic map. It is probably the single most balanced map in all of TF2, and it really allows for some fun games. The layout is very simple and easy for newbies to learn. There are, however, a few fun and creative spots for players to explore and learn how to exploit to their advantages. I really cannot think of any class that has a great advantage on this map: there are no super long corridors for snipers to safely use, the choke points are mild, with the respawn timers and respawn rooms adequately offsetting any advantage a defensive demoman might have with sticky traps, and the second point is generally a lot of fun, with many routes for players to take (on both teams) in order to get an advantage. The central point is a fun point, with large boxes for players (even those who cannot rocket jump) to get on top of and use to their advantages. The final point is a wide open yard which is a lot of fun attacking. If you had to pick just one five point push map, make it granary.


    Gravelpit is the only official map which uses the A/B then C offence/defence dynamic. It is a well made and fun map. The layout is fairly easy to understand, and there are a lot of routes to each point. The attacking/defending structure of the map allows for newer players to more easily grasp his or her role on the map, and for that reason it is popular with them.

    (it is at this point that I lost the rest of this post. I had detailed write ups for the other maps, as well as a conclusion to the Gravelpit post, but I don’t want to retype these. I’ll give very basic points for each map. If you want to hear more, I’ll tell you. However, I have a feeling that this is enough.)

    Last point of Gravelpit is very interesting and is fun for veterans and newbies. Good for the rotation.


    Bad map. Very cramped, lots of chokepoints, ugly as hell. Point B is atrocious. Huge demoman advantage. Should never have been picked as a community map. Avoid it.


    Fascinating, but labyrinthine. I was still discovering new things about it after playing it for months. Can be very confusing to newbies, but very satisfying to play a good game on. Final point can be captured at any time, allowing for some fun stratgies. Each point is unique. Though daunting, I would recommend it for the rotation.


    Similar to Badlands and Granary. Water allows for interesting tactics. Has trains. Everyone loves trains. Good map for the rotation, but Granary would be preferred over it.


    This map is so bad. It is one-dimensional, choke-point heavy, extremely slow, stifles the capabilities of many classes, and stalemates often. So many people hate this map that it should be avoided.


    Solid, but gets boring quickly. It’s just a bunch of square rooms connected by halls. Add it for a while if you need one more map to finish the rotation, but players will tire of it quickly.


    Probably best official CTF map. The middle is fun (and has trains) and the flag is not nearly as hard to pick up. Probably should be added as the CTF map.


    Such a good idea, but the execution sucks. Stalemates more than 2fort. Chokepoints are insane. Probably should be avoided.

    I also have ideas for custom maps, but this post is already long enough (though admittedly much shorter than the original post that Firefox chewed up and spit out) that the ideas can be saved for another time. If someone wants a more detailed write up of a map that I just gave a quick overview of here, I can do it. I do suspect, however, that most people will skip over such a wall of text. ;)

    Oh, and a final important note: Never, ever change the respawn timers. Respawn timers serve a very specific and important role in map balance, and every single map will be harmed by any respawn timer change. Also, keep the max players at 24. Maps become far too cramped at 32, and, like respawn timers, the maps are harmed by it. Players with slower computers will also struggle to play with an increased player count.

  48. Winter says:

    Oh! Oh! One more thing! Ditch Goldrush and Hoodoo.

    I really can’t stand those maps. Seriously. If you want Payload maps, Frontier and Cashworks are a million times better.


    I am a competitive TF2 player who has recently become disillusioned with the competitive scene.

    Heh! Aren’t we all? The tf2 competitive scene is kind of icky :(

  49. Avaz ( [d20]Teldurn ) says:

    As an addendum to #44 bbot’s suggestion: I’ve lately found that cp_orange_x3 is very fun, if you’re looking to add even more variety than you have. :)

    See you in game!

  50. Mechakisc says:

    2fort was much better in TF/TFC/TF1.5 days. 2fort was designed for grenades.

    Without grenades, soldiers, demos, scouts, and medics are a LOT different, and that really messes with the balance.

    I’d hate to see it not be in the rotation, however.

    edit: And no emps or gas grenades to punish the snipers is sub-optimal as well.

  51. bbot says:


    cp_orange_x(n) sucks! Boo! Orange cross isn’t great, but it also isn’t offensively bad.


    This is why I said “could be argued”, not “is”. But have you tried not getting killed? It makes Arena a lot easier, ah hurr hurr hurr.

  52. Groboclown says:

    Personally, I like 2Fort when it’s melee only. That makes the map enjoyable.

  53. Jabor says:

    Is there a way to select a map based on number of players online? Short Arena matches are fun when you only have a handful of people, and a lot of the other gametypes aren’t as enjoyable without a large team.

  54. Avaz ( [d20]Teldurn ) says:

    @Bbot: I didn’t say whether they were good or not; I merely said it was fun. ;)

  55. Lash.Lightning says:

    I relise this post is a bit old, but I can’t find any more recent posts about the Twenty Sided Servers: For some reason, they’re not connected to Steam, so they can’t use the various additional weapons and so on. This has caused some bad blood to rise and the “friendlyness” level of the server has gone right down. To “frothing, swearing hatred” levels, last time I checked it out. Could you reset the server or something?

  56. Lilfut says:

    I’ve always liked Hydro. Sure, it puts off “HARDKORE” players, but… well, it puts off “HARDKORE” players. I like an ever-changing experience, so yeah.

    EDIT: If you’re in the custom map mood, I like cp_mariokart. Very fun, very funny.

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