Tag Archives: gaming

Multiplayer Maps

When it comes to a video game, there are many, many components that work together to provide the end user experience. High profile components include the graphics, the characters, and the plot. Details of these components make a big difference in gamefeel. How responsive is the game to player inputs? Does the game feel fair, balanced, and based on player skill?

I want to reminisce about video game maps. Maps are an integral part of the experience and it’s where you probably spend the bulk of your time in game. Map design isn’t as high profile as the character models and weapon choices, but maps are crucial to gameplay balance. Famous maps include Super Mario Bros.’s Level 1-1, Counter-Strike’s Dust2, and League of Legends’s Summoner’s Rift.

Multiplayer maps are interesting in PvP (player vs player) since map updates can rebalance the game over time. New maps in the Starcraft 2 map pool keep the game fresh over time. in a PvE (player vs environment) setting, balance is probably less of an issue since the gameplay is asymmetric.

In no particular order, here are 5 multiplayer maps that I’ve enjoyed (for personal, subjective reasons):

  1. CTF Twin Peaks – Infantry
    Twin Peaks is a polarizing map. I spent most of my time in Twin Peaks (instead of maps like Eol, Mechanized Skirmish, etc.) constantly switching between the many available classes. Twin Peaks is a largely open world map, but it’s highly confusing for the newcomer. The teleporting ramps into bases or caves takes a moment to get used to. The map is also huge, since there are hills, bridges, and other outdoor areas where you are going to get sniped. Embrace the chaos of outdoor gun battles or indoor flag capturing.
  2. Big Game Hunters – StarCraft: Brood War
    As any StarCraft player knows, economy/macro is king. You want as many minerals & vespene gas as you can get your hands on. BGH is the map for you. If you want to cheese AI or cheese friends, what better map to wall off and build your fleet of carriers on? BGH is not your typical competitive ladder map because of the high abundance of resources. Also, who can forget the happy face in the middle of the map? Genius.
  3. Pipeline – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
    CoD: MW contains many memorable maps for me. I’m picking Pipeline here since it’s a map I can say that I dominated on (in the sparsely populated PS3 communities). There is a decent amount of vertical gameplay in the buildings, but otherwise this map is pretty simple. The gameplay on this map tends to be tightly packed and more close to mid range action. Getting onto the building roof is fun, but you will get easily punished once the other side catches on to it.
  4. Hang ‘Em High – Halo
    Halo 1 is well known for its novel gameplay mechanics: only carrying two weapons at a time, regenerating shield + health bar, and more. Hang ‘Em High brings memories since this was an awesome, epic map if you ever had the pleasure to play locally over LAN. Playing this map with CTF is oh so fun since the incredibly overpowered pistol lets you take out whoever’s stealing your flag with ease. In this map, knowing where to find the power-ups (rocket launcher, invisibility, sniper rifle, etc.) is key.
  5. The Secret Cow Level – Diablo II
    The cow level in D2/D2X is a farming level to power level your character. The level design itself is pretty basic: an open field with dense packs of cows to kill for easy experience. Playing with strangers online, you had to be careful about people killing The Cow King. Much of my time playing D2X was spent in this map, trying to stay alive or clicking on dropped items.

Anyone who has played these games probably has a ton of memories on these maps – whether positive or negative. Maps provide the context or environment in which games are played. You can’t recall details of a game without thinking about a particular spot on the map where something happened.

Distracted Gaming


Modern gaming is often filled with bogus achievements. Start the campaign? Achievement. Get max upgrades on your pistol? Achievement. Often, a game will show you your percentage completed. If you casually play through, you may get 40% complete. If you traverse the map for hidden collectibles and beat the game on different difficulties, you can get 100%.

While this is fun for college students or those who enjoy following a guide to find all the secrets, the rest of us don’t have time for that. We play games for reasons like gameplay, escapism, and socializing.

I can’t count the number of times, I’ll be playing as the protagonist and clear out a room full of bad guys. The building is on fire and the accompanying AI is telling me we have to get out of here. Instead of running through the open door to the next area, I stop and scour every nook & cranny for obscure loot. Crawling around dark corners, running along the walls, and checking every desk for hidden items. Repeat for every room in the game.

Do you see a problem here? It’s game breaking distraction. It kills the fantasy and immersion. Developers spend years crafting beautiful, immersive maps only to have players break the immersion by constantly doing things that don’t fit the narrative.

It could be a zombie outbreak, a space ship on fire, or a warzone. As the main character, you spend a significant amount of time thinking about the map layout to try and find all the collectibles. Enemies and puzzles are a second thought as you face the fear of missing out if you didn’t check every side room or alternate pathway.

Depending on the setting, it could work out. With franchises like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, you’re a treasure hunter and finding treasure is what you do. Even then, finding a rare tribal necklace in the janitor closet on the ship breaks immersion.

I assume developers add arbitrary collectibles and achievements to pad their gameplay hours on the box description (or product page). When the single player campaign can be beat in 5 hours, the game can be marketed as having 20 hours of content by adding secrets to each map.

Developers, I play your game for the gameplay. Not to check every corner of the map to pad my achievements, which are points that don’t mean anything. Focus on nailing the crisp gameplay. Don’t distract me by making me constantly worry if I have missed out on hidden collectibles.