TF2 Map – pl_extraction

When I went to bed last night, I was thinking of what I would do today with my on ‘paper’ TF2 map layout design. I put paper in inverted commas since I don’t have grid paper and will just do it on Adobe Fireworks (my nooby but personal choice of image creation software!). As I drifted into slumber, I was thinking more and more something I don’t often care about when I’m playing a TF2 map; story/narrative.


arena_nucleus - Now that's something cool to fight for!


The other day I read another excellent article from (which I can’t find anymore!) that discussed the narrative of TF2 maps. While it’s not 100% necessary, there should be a reason for what you’re attacking/defending. A lot of articles on TF2Maps use Fastlane as an example of a map with no theme or narrative, hence it’s boring to play. Most narratives in TF2 are the standard ‘Blow up/Capture this resource facility’. It’s basic but at least there’s a purpose to the battle. These objectives also determine the type of theme you can apply to your map. The bomb cart is a classic example, at the end of most payload maps there is a collection of explosive materials which the bomb can ‘ignite’ when the attackers reach the final objective. Therefore the final part of the map has to be a valuable structure with a bunch of explosive ordinance in the vicinity.

Having meaning in a TF2 map sets it apart from the rest, it makes something about it memorable. It contributes to a cohesive theme and builds immersion. I have decided upon a basic theme, which I will probably reiterate and refine as I work on my paper design.



The map starts with the BLU (attacking) team inside a RED research facility. Once BLU leaves the spawn room, they see tons of explosives set up behind them. They look out of the window and see that RED reinforcements have arrived. BLU’s job is to push a cart full of intelligence (valuable weapons research) and, once they reach the extraction point, the explosives in the RED research facility will be detonated..

This theme of a payload map in reverse gives me a really cool premise. Since the BLU team has already been successful in killing RED and getting the valuable intelligence, I can leave signs of the previous battle strewn along the path to the extraction point. Half destroyed mountain forts, abandoned defensive positions, blown up bridges, unexploded ordinance… the path to the extraction point will tell the story of the current battle, but also the battle which took place to get to the RED research facility before the game began.

One thing that does annoy me about this theme is that I’d rather have RED attacking. BLU are the more high-tech faction, who are more likely to have stone fortresses in the mountains. RED are more into wood and stuff. Unfortunately, BLU are always the attackers and changing such a core philosophy and design decision would be unwise. I don’t think this is too much of a problem however, as RED do have the same technology as BLU and there are many maps already in game in which RED has a high tech base.

Balance, layout and your A/D map.

Coming up with a design on paper is going to be my first step. There needs to be a bit more thought to it than just connecting square rooms with rectangle tunnels, so I thought I should read another one of grazr‘s excellent articles.

Balance, layout and your A/D map discusses various important layout information. The first is that most A/D maps should have a ‘long winding road’. For optimization reasons, it’s best that the path players have to take doubles back on itself. This is in contrast to a really long map, and adds more interesting gameplay with bends and corners. It also makes adding shortcuts easier, and I do like shortcuts!



This is the entirety of Dustbowl, all stages included. Smaller than you’d think, right? The long winding path keeps the whole map in a relatively small area, but it’s still lengthy (enough for 3 stages of battles!) and provides varied gameplay.

The section about high/medium/low ground is very interesting, and I’ll have to keep in mind the following when I design my layout;

High ground, low ground, and middle ground. These are fairly self explanatory but can exist in their own varying ways depending on the approach of the level designer. Particular routes will be favoured by particular classes and will be catered for by the level designer to compliment the obvious gameplay tactical choices any player will want to employ.

You can’t defeat me now, i have the high ground!

The high ground will be favoured by the sniper where he’s hard to attack and far from sight. Whilst the soldier can fire rockets into his enemy before jumping down to finish off the job and inevitably complete the map objective. They are also favoured by players whom prefer to penetrate further into enemy territory with lowered risk of being intercepted and achieving the element of surprise.

A low blow indeed!

The low ground will provide the best flanking position due to greater territory penetration. Less flak will be received from the low ground as visibility is limited which means it is more likely to be overlooked by defenders in comparison to larger and more likely threats; the high and middle ground. This route will be favoured by spy’s and pyro’s and other surprise player formations (a surprise ubered heavy etc).

In contrast to the standard assault mode, payload mode can contradict this trend due to the single moving objective. The objective which travels forwards along a predefined path defines the main route itself, and may occupy and subsequently redefine the higher or lower grounds as the main route. However, in the name of balance it normally occupies the middle or lower ground. So the low ground frequently becomes the main route. As illustrated below.


The middle ground is usually the main assault force direction and will likely consist of most of the available classes. These classes will pack a heavy HP punch consisting of buffed heavies, soldier’s, pyro’s and demo’s etc. The main route/middle ground will be flanked either side by the higher ground which penetrates a moderate amount into the next territory (or merely a bay to shoot from in relative safety and even jump from), and the lower ground which will also penetrate moderately or even significantly beyond the main routes entrance to the objective.

The main route should be wider to accommodate the greater congregation of players. Too small and explosives become over powered, which unbalances classes as well as teams. The main route should also include moderate cover as players will attack and counter attack frequently. Cover can come in the form of corners or detail props/brushes. The secondary routes can be smaller, fewer players will traverse these paths and less space is required; these routes are also frequently one way, so less cover is required. Also, these routes will generally branch from the previous area and reattach to the main path/objective, to create the secondary routes as large as the main route would only make things cumbersome.

These 3 categories of path need to be balanced with 3 more considerations. Short, long and medium length paths. Due to the spawn time, players will often favour the shortest path to the objective, even if it is the most dangerous (which it probably will be). Long paths can be employed to balance area’s of greatest tactical advantage, whilst short paths might be frequently counter-attacked, spammed and ambushed. In general the main route will be shortest, the high ground of medium distance and the low ground usually the longest, possibly flanking the objective completely.”

From Balance, layout and your A/D map.

Today I’ll begin with designing the first main area of my map. I will try and start it off with a bang, tailing off a little bit and then reaching a significantly challenging area for the first payload point. I’ll post the outcome once it’s done, and perhaps continue with the second area if I’m still in the mood!




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