Maps are always the dynamic factor in Starcraft play. Players design strategies to take advantage of map features, giving them the edge against their opponent. Starcraft hasn't become old and boring because of the constant stream of new maps and strategies created from them. In this article we will compare and analyse Starcraft I map features and then talk about what will make a good Starcraft II map.
The Starcraft map Python is often seen as a standard map for competitive play. It's fair, balanced and symetrical. Unfortunately it's boring as hell to play observe games on. Why? Because there are no unique map features that sets it apart from the rest.
- Wide open space in middle which leads to large attacks against natural expansions, mineral only and 3rd bases. There are opportunities for flanking, laying mines and micromangement of special units (reavers, high templar, defiler) but generally whoever has the most units comes out on top.
- Island expansions used as a last resort. People usually expand there once their third base has been destroyed. By then the game is already over.
- No hiding places for proxies.
- No interesting map features or dynamics leads to standard play.
The map Destination has many notable features which set it apart from other maps:
- Two narrow bridges leading to the natural expansion. These act as funnels and only allow small amounts of units through either side. This feature is good because it can be used by both attacking and defending sides. Lurkers and Siege Tanks can be placed on either side. High Templar can also cast storm on the compacted units.
- Back door to main. The stacked patch of minerals allows either a sneaky rush by the attacker or allow the defender way to manouver units and break out of a contain on their natural.
- Ramps and bridges in middle of map allow Zerg to use Lurkers and Darkswarm and Terran to play a mech based game against Zerg.
- Choice of third expansion. Players may choose to take the easier to secure bridged off 3rd base, or double expand by taking the mineral only and harder to secure 3rd base with a wide ramp.
- Late game dynamic. Because Destination is taller than it is wide, people would assume that in the late game the map splits horizontally. But it doesn't. It tends to split vertically. The red player (pictured) can push down the right hand side of the map, taking the middle left expansion and then laying siege to the blue player's 4:30 expansion. The blue player can do exactly the same on the other side.
Creating Starcraft II Maps
Starcraft II is a new game. We cannot directly clone maps created in Starcraft I and expect them to play out just like they used to. New maps should play to the strengths and weaknesses of the units available in Starcraft II. Your map should consider everything from Reaper rushes to mass Baneling attacks. To get your map popular players must enjoy playing it and observers must enjoy watching it. Entertaining games last longer than five minutes so make sure the rush distance between players isn't too short. Players should be able to execute a range of build orders and strategies effectively.
All recent maps in the Korean Starcraft I Leagues are 2, 3 or 4 player maps. Each player has a main base (9 mineral patches, 1 gas geyser) connected by a choke point to a natural expansion (7 mineral patches, 1 gas geyser). This gives the player many options in the type of game they want to play and strategies they use (rush, fast tech, 2 base tech, fast 3rd base, offensive, defensive). The map then offers opportunities for late game expansion. Maps such as Outsider give you multiple easy places for a 3rd base, other maps like Heartbreak Ridge have the 3rd base situated in a difficult to defend location, forcing the player to protect it with their army. The map Destination (shown above) gives the player a choice between a relatively easy to defend and relatively hard to defend 3rd base. If they successfully manage to take the harder to defend base, then they are set up for the late game with a protected mineral only base and a direction to push against the enemy.
When designing your Starcraft II map you need to think about resource dynamics. Your map should have a natural expansion so players have a choice of build orders and late game strategy. The natural expansion should also be reasonably close to the main base and have some sort of choke point near it. The third and fourth bases can vary in position and difficulty to defend. An interesting dynamic to try in your map is to give the player a choice between a hard to defend high yield mineral expansion and an easy to defend standard mineral expansion. This will allow players to adjust their builds, tactics and army composition to suit which expansion they plan in taking, making your map more interesting to play and observe.
Your map will need to deal with race imbalances. Cliff and terrain heavy maps can be imbalanced towards siege tanks. Likewise a map with lots of nooks, hiding spots and vision blockers can be abused by the Protoss warp in ability. The Raven's Seeker Missile and High Templar's Psionic Storm are very effective against grouped units. Make sure your map provides enough room for the player to maneuver their army. Xel Naga Watchtowers make scouting redundant, making your map easier to play and sneaky strategies harder to pull off, place very few.
Some interesting features you may want to implement:
Choice of two natural expansions. If the player chooses to take the protected natural expansion they need to construct a temporary defense at the top of their ramp which becomes redundant as soon as they take the other expansion. If they choose to take the unprotected natural then they can construct a permanent defense, saving money in the long term.
Wide ramp leading on to high ground for the defender, narrow ramp leading onto same ground for attacker. An example of the map rewarding defensive play.
The two Assimilators at the choke point allow units to pass between them. When both Assimilators are destroyed the choke point becomes impassable and the base turns into an island expansion.
Player has a mineral only on high ground, natural expansion below ramp. Alot of room above natural for dropship harass.
Ride of Valkryies
Beautiful map design. Fighting takes place in the middle of the map. Map control is very important.
Non standard map design. Two wide paths armies can take and many harassment opportunities available.
Expansions positioned around the outside of the map but the player's main army is in the center of the map. Heavy use of dropships to harass enemy resource lines.
Some extra things to keep in mind when creating your map:
- Is dropship play possible?
- Does your map favor aggressive play or defensive play?
- Is there room in the player's base for ground and air defense?
- Can a player easily win just by massing units?
- Is your map attractive to the eye?
- Des your map allow for creative and new strategy?
- Would a long game (30+ minutes) be playable on your map?
- lastkarrde 5
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- March 19, 2010
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