From the very first few days playing Team Fortress 2 I’d decided that tc_hydro was the coolest map. from never knowing where you’d be attacking to the cool industrial style, everything about it was fun for me. The general playerbase though, didn’t share my enthusiasm for it. Hydro quickly fell by the wayside of TF2’s ever growing pool of official maps and today barely manages to hold more players than the arena maps. Even OrangeX has more players!
Before TF2’s release, Valve seemed confident it would be quite popular so what went wrong? Well for one thing, it’s confusing. I see players all the time who have no idea how TC works, the concept is simple, I’ll let Robin explain: Robin explains TF2’s dynamic levels
Secondly, there is an issue with space, the map has to use it so carefully and it falls down here. The diagonal rounds go over and under each other and they’re incredibly tight corridors with no flanking options whatsoever unlike the other rounds which have two or three different routes between the points.
Just look how much there is going on in the middle there! (click to enlarge)
Thirdly Hydro is the reason people know TF2 has a stalemate activated sudden death mode. Though I believe the rounds that stalemate are the diagonal ones, the other rounds don’t usually seem to have anything like as much of a problem.
So the single route stages are what’s leaving a sour taste in people’s mouths. To combat this we need to design TC maps with better use of space. However getting the four middle points close enough to each other and still having enough space for two diagonal routes? No small feat! I tried out a few ways of merging the diagonal rounds so that they used the same space with no success, there just wasn’t enough space!
I’d given up hope of getting both diagonals in and planned to ditch them to make room for the other stages, allowing the map to be much smaller. When discussing the issue with TF2Maps.net chat, the idea of shifting the four mid stages slightly and only having one diagonal, or rather making half of the stages diagonal and one less total.
This is what it looked like. It looked promising and with just one single attempt I was able to build a map that could fit into this new layout. tc_strata is now progressing nicely, it has a few stalemates as any map where both teams are attacking at once will but at current are occurring in less than 5% of rounds.
Hopefully you can see there is a lot less going on in the middle and that there are actually two separate routes through from bottom left to top right. (click to enlarge)
Hopefully Strata will be finished by early autumn and if it is a success with the wider audience beta testing will bring it, I may even make another TC map, thought I’ll probably keep it small.
(Thanks to func_door for the image, I think)