Recent Concerns Regarding Map-making

Level 2
Nov 25, 2010
Before starting this small wall of text I’d like to state this is to be considered constructive criticism. If I felt this wouldn’t help anything at all I wouldn’t have bothered writing this. If you know who I am you’d know I care for the direction of this company and I hope they properly address some of these issues. While the real reasons of how they do and make decisions are unknown to the community the consensus is pretty strong on the current state in some areas of the development.

Personally, I been feeling the direction of the map-making department to be misguided, inefficient and of mediocre performance. I am referring to the level design team (the map-makers) after SC2 release. These are strong words so I’ll go on and elaborate:

StarCraft 2 approach to map-making

I understand this isn’t the same gaming industry it was 10 years ago and that nowadays gaming companies must take bigger measures to ensure that fan made content is in full compliance with their EULA and TOS. Having a copyrighted song in a fan made map or having “bad words” in it could bring up consequences in the form of lawsuits, disputes and other troubling matters that would irrevocably cost money.

Any map made by the GE is entirely the property of Blizzard Entertainment content-wise, according to their EULA. I believe this goes too far. Of course I don’t believe it should be the opposite scenario with everyone simply taking SC2 assets and engine to make their own games and selling them. However there is no in between. Let’s take for instance Epic Games, another really successful gaming company. Epic games made the Unreal Engine a very powerful tool that allows the creation of entire different games. However unlike the Galaxy Editor, you are able to license their engine. This obviously creates profit for both the licensor and the licensee. At the moment there is absolutely no way of doing this with the Galaxy Editor. However, Blizzard has stated they plan to release the Marketplace. Popular maps could be submitted and should they be considered as a premium map, Blizzard will award some sort of “economic incentive” to the map-maker. In other words they are taking complete control of what you make and will give you parts of their profits. Furthermore, the map or level you make can only be hosted on the service. This basically gives the developers all bargaining power with regards to hosting, publishing and control. I’m not saying this isn’t the case with other companies or engines but making some level or map with the Galaxy Editor certainly does not provide you with some freedom in terms of what you do once your map or level is made compared to other companies.

The maximum filesize in megabytes a map can have to be published in is 10.5. Sure you are allowed 5 map slots but no map can go higher than that. Map-makers know that this is nothing especially in terms of SC2. In WarCraft III you were allowed up to 4MB and later on to 8MB. This forced map-makers to: reduce quality of custom models, reduce quality of custom sounds, reduce quality or removing the Loading Screen Image or to remove custom music (if any). This was WarCraft III. In SC2, models are bigger in filesize and the standard map size is bigger even after all the compressions GE does. This clearly does not compensate for the extra 2.5 MB allowed space. This gives the community a really tight spot to maneuver in. Furthermore they give this option to everyone which is both inefficient and ineffective. What percentage of players intend to publish maps? What percentage of players have even opened the editor? What percentage of players even know an editor exists? I wouldn’t think this number to be huge. It is a reality that those percentages won’t be high and thus the space allocated for publishing in their servers will never get to their supposedly max capacity of around 200TB (do the math, number of players who have purchased the game X (10.5) X 5). Allocation of publishing space is therefore inefficient because it gives the same space to everyone regardless of who you are and ineffective since you are really in a tight spot given the 10.5MB restriction.

I started brainstorming some possible solutions and this is what I got: How about give 50MB to people who really want to go into map-making? Then the matter would be to identify the proper people involved. How about giving the space upon request? Well this system could be abused. Here’s one better how about giving 100MB to everyone and deleting maps that don’t make a certain popularity cut let’s say every 3 months? This also raises problems since good potential maps might never make it and the system could also be abused (still I would think to be something better than the current situation). There is no easy solution, only hard choices. The reason they are at this predicament is because of a design flaw of “takeover and do everything yourself” instead of the server based method that has been used in many FPS games and even in WarCraft III. They’ve decided to take over most aspects of publishing. I recall downloading around 100MB per map when I played UT2K4 6 years ago and it never seemed a problem. Quite the contrary when I was downloading so much content I usually had nice expectations of the map I was about to play so personally it was never a problem for me.

The popularity system has received some improvement but it still has a lot to wish for. Getting your map to be played has to rely on external promotion. “So not only do I have to make a really good map to be popular, I have also to work extensively on promoting it” Go to sites, make videos or trailers and gather people to just try to distribute your map. Of course there is not much the dev team can do when there are thousands of people trying to make their maps popular.

So again I started thinking about what could be done. Maybe how about putting someone of your staff to rate and provide comments some submitted maps. This wouldn’t be objective or cheap. I would still think it would be better than the current state. How about a rating system? Allow players to rate maps once (account based to avoid abuse) to provide something like this:
Map Name: Siege Room Wars 4.5/5 Rating with 50 votes.

I believe that would be a start in the right direction. Not just a popularity system based on how many people play a map or how new it is. Still it wouldn’t do much as the current interface for map selection is limited and the filters don’t do a good job to sort games. In essence it can be hard to distribute a map when there are one hundred other maps around. It’s not like before when you hosted your map and your game showed up at a list that was constantly refreshing.

My next point is the Galaxy Editor itself. The GE has received some work since release but still there are fundamental issues that aren’t given much importance. Certainly the community can agree that the GE can do pretty much about everything except some stuff the WE (World Editor) was able to do just fine. They way water works on a hardcoded #x# footprint, the height limitations, screen based dialogs (instead of the current pixel-based ones) and the asymmetrical terrain tools. All these features are features the World Editor had but are absent in the Galaxy Editor. Of course Blizzard has said that some of these features they will add “if they have time”. Furthermore, there is a lot of stuff that existed in the WE that the GE can do but it is incredebily harder with the current Blizzard system. Hero creation, leveling, spell leveling, hero revival for instance are gameplay elements that could be setup in the WE relatively fast. I understand we are talking about different games but we are talking about the same genre, RTS.

Then there is also the issue the GE has a 0-5% chance of crashing every time you load up art or sound assets. Of course there are ways around this (setup frequent saves when necessary) but still it is an issue that hasn’t been properly addressed. This is completely personal but I believe there might be a positive correlation between % of GE crashing and % of people abandoning their work because they won’t be too happy about having to redo their work.
Now instead of discussing the obvious solutions here, I’d like to brainstorm on why something like this happened. It really seems the dev team hired new people to engineer the galaxy editor and asked them to do stuff that was incredibly crazy and amazing. They did this in order for designers to show some of these features at BlizzCons like the 3rd person shooter Dustin Browder showed at 2009 Blizzcon or the rainbow archon at past BlizzCon. However it seems these people that were hired didn’t know the WE that well as they clearly forgot some of the tools the community wanted.

Custom Maps made by Blizzard

Blizz Dota: Of course the map hasn’t been released so you part of these arguments can be considered speculation but it is indeed a credible trend based on the evidence provided so far on Blizzcon. I believe the dev team main purpose of recreating this map is as a last resort to start fire in the bonfire. They looked at a map that is obviously popular and know that could be played by a large part of the community. They’ll probably add shiny effects and other model assets (which I think they look really good, don’t get me wrong) to make it look better. However I believe in terms of new things I don’t think it will deliver. If we take away the art assets and models, what would be the difference between this map and WarCraft III DotA, or HoN, or LoL or Valve’s Dota2? A few more spells, more heroes? This would be good for a fanmade map but we are talking about the professional map-making team. The overall performance of the professional map developing department is therefore mediocre. I clearly believe the level design team can achieve a lot more.

The fact this map would be open sourced makes me wonder if SC2 will eventually turn out to have similar issues as with WAR3. I am personally working on an AoS (with many different considerations and variants) and I know, independently there are a few other people working on similar projects and then there is of course the existing DotA substitute for SC2. All these makes me think. Is this the future of RTS? Is this where it will all end? DotA type of maps? I believe throughout my gaming time I’ve seen many genres that are fun to me and to others but lack the popularity to becomes good maps. I’m all for having more maps (as it might create some interesting competition) but I think Blizz is going too far with supporting one particular RTS genre. And by the way, I’ve made other non AoS maps.

Burning Tide: This is one of the first attempts by the dev team to spur hype on map-making. While it is a nice alternative from a melee game, it offers nothing in terms of new content. The only significant difference is that the terrain is different to accommodate 2 forces of players. I personally didn’t dislike it but I just felt it is nothing but a melee map with one extra variant. The team claims this was one of the most popular missions according to fans.
Surely the map offers new potential tactics to employ but it also reduces the number of semi-optimal strategies and this creates imbalance. Consequently this map isn’t going to be considered for competitive gaming much less E-SPORTS. While the map is regarded ok by the community I think it is a poor map based on the fact that the professional map-making team made a map that a regular fan could make in a week (or in my case a couple of days). It’s a regular map, with 1 trigger that toggles the lava up with a little transmission and another trigger that toggles the lava down with another transmission.

Left2Die & Starjeweled: Really they sound like they might be “fun”. Of course I would best do by playing before judging so I’ll reserve my comments to my general impression of this map. On the good side, I’m sure the map will show again one of the strengths of the Galaxy Editor and will probably further incentivize more people to get on it. However I didn’t buy SC2 to play these types of maps. I bought SC2 to play RTS type maps. If I wanted to play Mario Party type of games I’d go purchase it and play them. I think you should play to your strengths even as a game designer. If you going to make the best RTS game there is then stick to that and make sure you accomplish that, I wouldn’t try to add other genres to the game. I remember when Dustin Browder showed that the GE was able to create 3rd person shooters and everyone was excited including me. Then later we all found out this wasn’t viable for multiplayer because of the network lag restrictions. Consequently I say the team needs to focus on developing RTS based maps and not adapt other genres into RTS.

I put my anti-flame cloak now.
Level 7
Aug 13, 2007
I've got a whole ton of complaints about every aspect of SCII too but I'll address in this post my ideas about the popularity system. First off, the popularity system sucks bawls when it's the only option you have. They need to introduce a rating system like you talked about, but I think people should be able to change their (one) rating (per account) for a given map at any time, since some maps only have a certain appeal to people after they've played it a few times, and may suffer from impulsive bad ratings from n00bs when they actually grow to like it after a few tries. There should then be multiple ways of sorting maps. By rating (default), by popularity, by date created, by random assortment, and by dev-stage. What stage of development a map is in would be picked by the mapmaker. The options would be alpha, beta, first release, finished, and a special option called classic which they could only pick after the map is at least 6 months old and it has previously been in every other state. People should also be able to filter out maps that have been inactive for a long time (they haven't received any updates in say 9 months) if they'd like. If we had all these options, everything would be so much better for both mapmakers and custom game players alike.
Level 5
Jul 10, 2010
you see stuff like the popularity system all the time on user-created content networks, it just turns into quid-pro-quo coalitions of shitty mapmakers who jerk each other off using the popularity system. no doubt we will see some pretty bad maps being super popular like WarCraft III's epidemic of shitty Wintermaul games, which would even push DotA off the games list at times

while it is a good idea they need to let us sort and rate games by genre or something; if a lot of people like TD maps and all the top maps are TD, the popularity list is useless when you aren't looking for a TD game. Let us sort by type, and Blizzard could make pre-set types to sort the popularity list and for people to designate their maps as , like:

TD - Tower Defense
AoS - Aeon of Strife (DotA)
Mini - Minigames (like the typing games, lost viking, gameshow maps etc)
RPG - Role-Playing Game
RTS - Real Time Strategy (like God's land etc)
In testing