[RMCT] Brunt's Map Contest Reviews

This is from the old rmct.tv forums. I will be reposting various things here so they aren’t gone forever. I’ve removed the scores. Scoring was necessary for the contest, but that isn’t relevant anymore.

First, thank you to the mapmakers. RFW needs you if it is to stay fresh and fun, and there were a lot of really fantastic new concepts in the 11 maps that were submitted. I had fun playing all of them. I really do believe that they all have a future in this community in some capacity and I hope that even if your map isn’t picked for the final four, that you’ll stick with it and keep making maps.

Second, thanks to Char and BZ for organizing this, streaming, and providing a server. It’s a fantastic idea that has sparked a renaissance of mapmaking in this community. Now let’s get to the scores.

Candy Land

Two parallel lanes, 3 wool - one from a pve dungeon, one from a pvp dungeon and one from a mixed dungeon. Looking at the broadest strokes, this is as standard as it gets. But that isn’t the whole story.

First, this map has a real theme. The theme has not been done before and this map commits to it in every single detail. Most maps have no theme - they are just a series of generic landscapes and dungeons interspersed almost at random. Unlike Candy Land, they aren’t richly imagined worlds with a logic and a story for why each element is how it is, and why it’s located where it is in the map.

A few maps have elements that contribute to a theme, with most features simply there to make it a map. Erosion has the undercut cliffs, sinkholes and middle eastern themed buildings, but left unexplained is whatever the hell 3rd wool could be. That dungeon just is what it is: an interesting challenge for players unrelated to the rest of the map.

The only map I can think of that matches Candy Land is Precession. On that map, players take a journey around the sun from winter to fall, and every element is logically placed, from the Christmas Caverns resource area to 3rd wool, where the challenge is a play on the word fall. Candyland has the same kind of unifying thread.

Having a theme is not an invention, but the chosen theme is original and the extent to which it is executed is extraordinary, so I give points for this.

The idea of having more than 1 resource area is taken much further on Candy Land than most maps. Instead of having all the resources in one or two areas with either some pve or pvp challenges about half as difficult as the wool dungeons, Candy Land has 6 mini dungeons (7 counting the comets) for resources of varying strength, some purely open to pvp pressure, others more on the pve side of things.

Rather than a single titanic clash at the start of the game as both teams try to “win the resource battle” in 1 or 2 locations, it’s possible teams will choose to go after different dungeons at the start, leading to a match where the teams have different sets of resources, say powerful bows and medium armor for one team, and very strong armor for the other. This leads to interesting resource balances. Instead of two teams with the same gear locked in a stalemate or one team out-gearing the other and cruising to victory, you might have a double edged imbalance where there are pros and cons to each team’s supplies.

For extending the concept of mini-resource dungeons much further than usual, I give points.

The 2nd wool gives the player a choice between running a pvp or a pve dungeon. This concept is uncommon but not new. An old Fellock map called Frost Plunged had the same concept, for example. I think there are a few reasons why it’s rare: it’s tricky to balance these dungeons so that two completely different challenges are equally tempting, having 2 dungeons crammed together adds restrictions on both, making the overall design harder, and of course the mapmaker has to come up with one more dungeon. I’m glad the mapmaker put in the extra work to dust off this concept.

The “bridging section” at the start is technically parkour-able, but it’s an opportunity for a separation of players to develop to one team’s advantage. These very early chokepoints are dangerous for the game balance if they are too strong. The concern is snowballing. Maps like Direct Fire and Uncivil Engineering can go that way, where being out-gunned for just 2 minutes is lights out. Here, the gap short and parkourable so players can cross much faster than if they were bridging. This should, in practice, make it harder to hold a team back. If a mapmaker likes this kind of feature, I would advise them to let the challenge be about as difficult as it is here.

Candyland’s richness of strategy is apparent from the potential different resource runs that are possible. There are some base resources of iron that teams will always be able to quickly grab, but after that, it’s very much up to the teams as to which resources they will prioritize and which they will risk losing. How much comet hopping will teams commit to early game? Will they focus heavy pvp at the mini 1-wide dungeons?

In map tests, the main complaint I have is that all the pvp is generally focussed right after the VM, above 1st wool and within range of 2nd. This is a natural spot for lockdowns so a heavy defensive presence is expected near there. The reason why this is a weak point for the map is that there aren’t aren’t really any alternatives.

The only pvp-able terrain after the VM comes at the approach to 3rd wool. A water bucket and some blocks solves the pvp problem, and since teams will be approaching 3rd with armor for the PvE dungeon, bows and arrows alone will not provide a strong lockdown. With the right mix of TNT and PvP, it’s possible to make the ascent back over the bedrock wall very difficult. This shouldn’t be sustainable though. Counter cannons, water walls, ladders and those jump boost potions are all relatively simple ways of breaking the lockdown. And given that this sort of lockdown would be aimed at stopping a victory run rather than completion of a dungeon, it would be a very desperate team that chooses to defend this point rather than 1st wool.

The choose your adventure take on 2nd wool seems balanced. In one game the PvP route was chosen and in another the PvE. It depended not so much on the match situation as on the wool runner’s tastes. Certainly TNT makes the PvE relatively simple, but it is still time consuming and the trade off is that the TNT could be used to great effect in a number of other places.

Obviously aesthetics is where Candy Land excels. This map is absolutely gorgeous. All the details are charming. The pallet is extremely appealing. It’s fun to just fly around and look at things, which isn’t always the case on maps. The area names and hidden easter eggs (Hansel and Gretel’s fate is revealed, for example) are a delight.

The only part that lets you down is the 3rd wool dungeon and the bedrock wall before the lava. I understand that they are that way for gameplay reasons, and that always has to trump looks in my opinion. It’s just a shame that the mouthwatering visuals from the rest of the map are absent here.

Twisted Ruins

Twisted Ruins is a very welcome addition to the map pool because we finally have another twisted map. It’s a shame we’ve essentially been limited to just one example of this architecture for years. The catch here, is that we still barely have more than one example because of how similar in layout this is to Twisted Desert. The dungeon concepts are simply variations on modern concepts, balanced for the skillset of current tournament teams.

At spawn, players can enderpearl or bridge across a gap. Then there’s a village and a corner that overlooks a PvP wool. After that comes a PvE wool. On the next corner is your own PvP wool, followed by some supplies including TNT. At the end of the map is a mixed PvE/PvP wool. This describes Twisted Desert and Twisted Ruins.

Now, there are differences from Twisted Desert, but most of these are not innovations so much as recombinants of pre-existing concepts. The VM is located after 1st wool instead of right by spawn, however it’s a completely standard VM.

Twisted Desert’s iron and diamond resource rooms are unconnected, while Twisted Ruins’ are separate, but connected through the tunnels of resources, again not unique to the wider map pool. Both maps have “secondary resources” in the form of iron and diamond ore, however TR’s is located further down the map and borrows a shoot-the-button mechanic that we’ve seen, most recently in csarpaul maps.

The mixed 3rd wool in TD has two discrete phases, a pure pvp section followed by pure pve. TR mixes both along its entire length. The combination of mobs, scant cover and lava inescapably suggests Precession’s 2nd. TD’s pve wool was quite unique in form. The challenge of ascending through mobs over flimsy sandstone is still a very demanding to tackle head-on. By contrast, TR’s pve takes what is now the standard architecture of a dungeon looping closely back on itself to maximize spawner activity long before players reach them. Specifically, this is stylistically and aesthetically an expanded, harder version of False Respites 1st wool-main lane dungeon. It has been very well executed here.

The main innovation is the resources complex. Of course its first function is a source of the best supplies on the map. But it’s also a PvE dungeon, which isn’t ubiquitous for resource areas, though it’s certainly in style. It’s a very hard PvE dungeon, and this leads to quite an interesting note - unlike PvE wool dungeons, mapmakers have much more control over how players will attack a PvE challenge in a resource dungeon. This is because, of course, players can’t have any great supplies until after they conquer it, so mapmakers have a rare chance to decide exactly what players will take in with them. With the order of loot given in the resource dungeon, the mapmaker can precisely match difficulty to what the player’s gear is. It’s quite an elegant solution to balancing - give the challenges and the rewards in the same place.

It’s uncommon to have resource areas as tough as this one. Mapmakers are generally content to throw a few lava sources, some long drops and maybe a spawner or two at the players. TR’s resources is dark, it has a lot of hidden spawners, it has drops and it branches and its wide open to pvp. It also doubles back on itself, allowing mobs to accumulate ahead of the player. It’s a matter of taste, but this might be erring on the side of being too difficult. Ordinarily, the result of this is that the gear level of teams will stay flat for much longer than usual as teams struggle with the PvE, which will simply have the effect of delaying the real meat of the match with the wool running and lockdowns.

However, there’s something about this resource area that justifies the massive extra difficulty and I would argue, this area needs the difficulty to be balanced. The resource area doubles as a lockdown complex in the mid-late game, as it’s eye level with all 3 dungeons. It is much less exposed to counter-pressure from the surface, and

The real reason why twisted maps are interesting was only hinted at in TD in my opinion. Certainly, having bilateral PvP encounters is neat, and being able to “sequence break” with enderpearls is certainly interesting, but to me, the key thing about twisted maps is that they are by nature asymmetrical. I don’t mean that one lane has an advantage over the other. I mean that the terrain opposite you is not the same as what you’re standing on. To defend a wool, you’re in entirely different surroundings than your opponent trying to get the wool. But TD didn’t capitalize on this in any way. The only thing you could do to lock down a dungeon was build a cannon or dig down - the map didn’t introduce any concepts that you couldn’t already do on linear maps.

TR realizes this. There’s a central mob infested complex that serves as a lockdown network for all dungeons. TD, long regarded as a great map, has slowly lost favour as the meta has evolved and reached a point where matches are over in 10-15 minutes at most levels of play. There is simply no lockdown on that map and the dungeons are very easy for the armor given. TR finds a more competitive balance by giving defenders this possible advantage if they want to spend the effort taming the resource complex. The bunkers are already there. There is ample bedrock flooring for dry cannons. And of course, there are resources at hand to sustain the lockdowns. I’m really excited to see how the meta develops on this map for this reason.

As for the dungeons, they are all of about medium difficulty. You can be pressured in all 3 and there are soft lockdowns available for all of them, which should lead to gameplay that is responsive to new tech. What I mean is, as strats develop for cannons, bunker locations and wool running technique, the preferred lockdown location will change. There isn’t one clear lockdown point that every team will default to. I like that in a map.

Inferno

The map is unique for several reasons. First, all 3 wool dungeons are mixed pve/pvp in roughly equal quantities. I really like wools of this style as the players have to deal with multiple kinds of pressures at once, which is more interesting. It makes me hopeful that we’re at the end of the era of maps that just have a big 1 wide bedrock dungeon as the main lockdown.

Of course, the big innovation is the 2nd wool mechanic. Shortly before the contest, someone mentioned that they had had an idea of having the lanes stacked on top of each other rather than side by side, but had no idea how that could work (some sort of gravity mod was suggested, but it seems unlikely). Well, this is an excellent answer. In the play test I watched, there was a fantastic battle, where a wool runner noticed that the other team was running the wool beside him, stopped to shoot, and was carpet bombed from above. It was beautiful.

Another major innovation is the TNT spawner. Balancing this is an issue of course (more on this later), so the idea of putting it in a box far from the action is also well thought out. It changes the nature of the game. You can never assume your opponents are out of TNT and your base is safe. You can notice an opponent running into the box and judge how much TNT he’s leaving with based on how long his stay was. It’s a new element to RFW that I suspect will be refined and maybe overused in the future. That’s to this mapmaker’s credit, of course.

One other thing worth mentioning is what is restricted, namely early picks and water. The lack of water fits the nether theme well, but I’m not sure how important it is. There’s plenty of obsidian to base behind to avoid cannons, lava substitutes well for cannons and fire resistance potions are abundant. On most maps, removing almost all the water would have a huge impact, but for some reason I don’t think Inferno would play very differently if there were a few ponds around. The lack of early picks isn’t too big of a deal either. Stone and wood aren’t rare, so if teams lose the stone pick under the Cock Tower, then it’s only a very small setback. Additionally, restricting picks isn’t particularly new or uncommon. The most famous example is Divided Together, which takes the concept to its absolute extreme.

After flying around it, I had a few concerns: is the lava and netherrack too susceptible to cannoning, is a 2nd lockdown with carpet bombing/lava OP, is 3rd too far to be relevant, and is the TNT spawner too imbalanced?

In the early play tests, teams understandably spent a lot of time at 2nd experimenting with different strategies for running and locking down that wools. If the runner makes a mistake, they can be carpet bombed, but it seems like the runner shouldn’t die if they run it well. Lava walls, TNT and shooting seem interesting but not enough to lockdown someone in diamond. What might be the strongest strat is to cannon the other team’s glass and your own spawners. This should make running 2nd trivial and prevent the other team from starting the wool. On a map with infinite TNT, this is more than just problematic - it’s probably game breaking.

The size of the map and the interest in 2nd wool conspired to make 3rd wool a ghost town in the playtests I saw. I feel strongly that maps should not have dead space like that. I’m sure as the meta advances (and a new access point to 2nd is added), interest in 2nd will wane and 3rd and 1st will become more important. I suspect that 3rd can be locked down fairly well, and the amount of good resources in the vicinity will make it more of a focal point. There might still be an issue with how far the wool is from 2nd. At over 500 blocks long, it’s quite a big map for a 4v4. Consider that 1st wool, the VM, 1st resources and 2nd resources are all squashed together in the first 200 blocks, and then for the next 300 there is only 2nd and 3rd wool.

If the pattern of 3rd being out of the game continues in competitive play, it might make sense to move the 2nd mountain with the TNT spawner back towards 2nd wool so you go immediately from the glass to the iron bar rooms with the brewing stand, or if you’re climbing over 2nd, you would continue up from the 3 chests to the TNT spawner.

The TNT spawner seems to spawn really fast. Infinite TNT is a risky proposition even with the tradeoff of having a player stuck in a box far from the action. If cannons prove to be effective at lockdowns, then it might become overpowered. If cannon fire renews a lockdown by removing progress (say trying to ascend the final tower at 3rd) then the match can be extended to time, and having a player out of the action for even 10 minutes is less of a sacrifice than it would be in a shorter match. Essentially, the better the canon lockdown, the higher the reward for using the TNT spawner, and the lower the cost, and if this goes too far, then the spawner will be gamebreaking.

The Nether in general is just not a pleasing sight. If you want a nether themed map, it’s best to take a lot of artistic license with the pallet and use some of the hot stained clay colours instead of heavy use of netherrack, gravel and soulsand. As you move from spawn to 3rd and there is more obsidian and less netherrack, it’s a relief on the eyes. The village and castle at 3rd is really the only good looking section on the map in my opinion. (Although the pendants in the main hall aren’t very artfully done.) The Cock Tower is amusing. The series of walls in 2nd are interesting but hardly beautiful.

Elemental

This is another map in the contest with a very impressive and original theme. We have to start off by discussing the “choose 2” mechanic. It’s brilliant. Properly balanced, it’s a built in strategy diversifier. The choice is meaningful - there isn’t a clearly best choice, and the different combinations create surprising and emergent gameplay.

For example, water seems like the obvious counter to fire, but when fire is used primarily to cannon 3rd for a lockdown, then air might be a better counter for the enderpearl and invisibility.

I suppose the mechanic has a distant relation to the MAG on UE, and still more distantly, the vault. At the very least, this is a bold reimagining of that choice.

Another new concept is the TNT spawner on the victory monument. I do count it as new even though it comes out at the same time as Inferno’s version. This concept was discussed about a year ago on rmct.tv as a possible bonus loot spawner in a shared wool area, but no one did anything with it and certainly no one was bold enough to put it on the victory monument, practically begging teams to set up a perpetual VM lockdown with a whiskey.

Finally, the map commits to its theme very well. This gives a satisfying logic and structure to the whole map. Before this contest, it was a rare thing. Hopefully we see more of it. The innovation is in the theme itself as well as how it pops up in different areas. For example, the water entrances to the resource areas is new - or at least I can’t think of any other examples. A minor, but pleasing idea.

The choose 2 mechanic could be amazing for gameplay. There’s a meta-game of trying to predict what your opponents will pick and then after the match starts, trying to figure out what they did pick and what you can expect. The diversity of strats the mechanic adds is terrific.

The resources are very well balanced considering the difficulties introduced by the choose 2 system. However the resource areas themselves are rather boring and without challenge. The only challenge with 1st resources is pvp, which can be negated by taking advantage of the lack of bedrock. The challenge in 2nd resources seems to be a single zombie spawner. Hardly much of an obstacle. Resources, of course, don’t have to come with challenges, but in my opinion those that do tend to play better because it makes the resource battle more complex and less likely to lead to peaceful draws. If there’s no danger in getting resources, then there is also not much fun to be had. It’s just a chore you have to go and do before getting to the real action.

The main fault has to lie in the style of dungeon for 3rd wool. These are appealing for mapmakers because they are simple, can look good and are fairly straightforward to balance for difficulty. What I learned from Sun Dance and what I now notice on all similar wools, is that they just don’t lead to interesting and fun gameplay. Basically, they’re a painloop-fest. Even technical solutions like piston bridges are useless against a TNT cannon and icaruses are usually not well suited for the long-horizontal, low-ceiling trajectories that RFW void wools demand. Without a major breakthrough, in dungeon design, I believe this style of wool should be avoided.

It’s partially redeemed by the enderpearls available through villager trades and the Air choice, but all that does is take the dungeon from being a gruelling painloop to trivial, missing the important middle ground of skill-based challenge.

With 3rd being a brutal lockdown and 1st wool’s pve being quite challenging, another concern I have is that 2nd might not be comparably difficult. I notice that lower sections of the wool have more spawners, which makes sense as pvp pressure will decrease as you get further from the surface, but I’m not convinced there will be very much of either pvp or pve. I’m also concerned about exploitability. I understand it was stress tested by a few people, but when the rigors of a future RMCT are applied to it, I’d be nervous about a wool with that much wiring and those bedrock holes.

As for first, it is a medium-hard pve wool with some nice sections open to pvp. The fire theme works well here. Technical pve running is rewarded, or rather, straight up combat pve is punished by way of the flame bow skeletons, and mistakes in general are hammered by the super charged creepers. I enjoyed running it and difficult pve wools are very satisfying once completed. The architecture of the wool, with it’s high degree of vertical movement is less common than wools that move horizontally punctuated by small elevation changes (different floors on a building or zig-zagging tunnels for example).

Taken individually, each area is fairly plain. The pallets are simple and don’t improve much on what basic vanilla survival world would have. There are no eyesores anywhere, but it much of the map just looks like the same thing we see everywhere. There are a couple nice features though. I quite like the 3rd wool islands, and for the fire pve wool, I appreciate that you resisted the urge to use a nether pallet, though I would suggest you experiment with different sandstone textures (especially smooth and smooth double slab) and break up the beige with another colour.

The elements theming of the areas helps your score out a lot. By looking at the map as a whole, I can appreciate why things look the way they do.

Quant

I mean, what’s the same? The fundamental architecture is new. The resource balance is new. The look is new. The wools are uncommon. I suppose it does have its roots in the separated iso-lane concept, the arrangement of lanes as orthogonal squares is unique the gamemode and perhaps minecraft pvp in general. There’s also the fact that there isn’t really a main and iso lane. They are both main lanes that are somewhat interdependent for PvP and sharing of resources. The arrangement will lead to novel and wildly unbalanced PvP.

The resource balance is extremely low. It’s only 1 step up from Revolution. There’s just barely enough supplies to rush the map if the other team ignores you, but you can invest time to tech higher and it is possible to have enchanted diamond and iron by the 15 minute mark.

Another strange thing is the size. On such a small map, cannons could be game breaking, but TNT is limited and the blocks are quite blast resistant. There are also some supplies in cannon-proof spawn chests and plenty of bedrock. Nonetheless, you could get a gear advantage, make an icarus for faster wool running, destroy their infrastructure and counter-their lockdowns with the gunpowder provided.

Plays ok. There are concerns about lockdown bunkers being nearly impossible to disrupt. Wools are sort of fun to run. Might just be a novelty map/proof of concept.

It’s pretty weird looking.

That Just Happened

To me, it looks like the mapmaker opened up the creative menu and just kept adding things to chests until there was a little (or a lot) of everything somewhere on the map. Then he fired up his favourite NBT editor to make the spawners in the pve wool, and just checked the boxes that caught his eye.

Should the cave spiders be invulnerable? Funny you should ask.

Should the creepers be supercharged? What a question!

Oh you can name your mobs too - quick! What’ll we call the zombies? Uhhh pain zombies no painloop zombies!

That was neat! Mapmaking sure is fun isn’t it? Easy too!

The only “new” stuff on this map is the OP mobs and gear that most mapmakers have the good sense to avoid.

As for gameplay, I have to be honest here. I played through the map by myself and it was actually ok. It was sort of like one of the final areas in a really ugly CTM. I like hard maps, so I enjoyed fighting my way through max spawns and silly dungeons. To my surprise, in a 4v4 play test I watched, those players also had fun (at times).

2nd wool was successfully painlooped, 3rd is very simple to run and 1st isn’t difficulty if the other team isn’t watching. The resources seem to be more powerful than the wools require. It seems like the best strategy would be to grab the OP resources and just run all the wools simultaneously, perhaps with the 4th player just cannoning out all that sand after 2nd. It’s hard to imagine dying in any of the wools considering there are Notch apples.

Roofing maps can look really good when a skillful mapmaker uses the darkness to give lighting cues more prominence. Typically, only the void lane is roofed so that there’s some contrast between the top of the lane and the sides. In this case everything is covered and there are no lighting cues. Just a dingy gloom. The landscape between 2nd and 3rd was clearly made by taking a solid chunk of sandstone, getting an spherical air brush, and just flinging your mouse around until you’d removed enough.

Survival Test

Once again, a themed map! The idea of recapitulating the progression and dimensions of vanilla survival has been done piecemeal before - Nether sections are very common, End sections less common but still make their appearances, for example False Respite’s iso lane. Still, it hasn’t been done nearly as coherently as on Survival Test.

Of course, there are lots of ways the idea could be implemented. The way this mapmaker chose has resulted in 3 standard easy-to-medium difficulty dungeons arranged in a well-worn order. the mineshaft pvp wool is reminiscent of Quagmire’s, though of course balanced towards increasing pvp pressure rather than steady pve.

The PvE wool, laid out as a linear stronghold is long and uniformly medium difficulty. It’s rare to have a PvE wool that offers such a steady, unchanging difficulty along its entire length. I think that’s generally a positive. What I don’t like so much is that it is a pure 100% PvE challenge with no chance of any interruption by the other team. It’s hard to see how the wool will ever be anything other than just a straight mob grinder. Just put on iron and work your way through it for 10 minutes or so. Strength potions will speed things up, as they always do.

The final wool is the the mixed pvp-pve dungeon - a large open cave with mobs. The nether theme is of course logical for the map. It played alright in the map test I was part of. The size of the cave is a contrast with the cramped stronghold dungeon, so it’s nice to have those two different styles of PvE dungeon. The wide open nature leads to much less grindy play and rewards different skills and pacing. There’s a lot of bow work to keep up with blazes, block technique for pillaring and bridging, water drops etc. I’m not totally convinced that you can’t just water bucket the lava and sprint to the wool and back. Especially if a fire resistance potion is taken, this dungeon really has no challenge at all. The wide open, flat nature of the terrain means that you can’t provide very much pvp pressure if a player is taking it quickly.

Whether or not this is the case, the only real lockdown is 1st wool, which is not particularly strong, as players can tunnel nearly all of it. With good armor, it’s hard to see any team having much trouble with any of the wools. If the meta does develop that way, then this has to be considered a very fast, easy map akin to Twisted Desert or Uncivil Engineering. As such it’s probably not suitable for modern tournament play, though it certainly has a future as a PUG map.

I do another criticism that is not unique to this map. A pet peeve of mine is preplaced TNT. On Survival Test, I’m referring to the TNT around the iron resources. I don’t like it for three main reasons. First, I don’t believe mapmakers should try to strat for the teams. Preplaced TNT is the mapmaker saying “hey don’t you want to cannon this?”. Second, it takes the skill out of cannoning. You can fire a bad cannon once, poorly, and still destroy all the other team’s iron blocks. Finally, making it easier to destroy the other team’s resources makes it easier for games to snowball. When it’s that easy to remove the other team’s iron, converting a temporary dynamic advantage of reaching the iron well before the other team into a permanent resource advantage is almost automatic.

The aesthetics of the map are solid. There is nothing flashy or mouthwatering. Most of the features are straight out of vanila gameplay, but they are combined with some eye to palette and detail.

Derivative

This map earns a lot of points from me for innovation and it does so the hardest way - by introducing 3 original dungeons and a very unusual resource area. It is hard to imagine new dungeons at this point. Granted, the 3 wools on this map have similar elements to what has been done before, but in my view they are a significant departure.

The terrain also contains a lot more of the vertical than most popular maps have. This naturally leads to different splits and player separation. Rather than two teams fighting over a resource area and then going to the main wool of contention and duking it out there too, we will have a wider and more variable player spread. Having such vertical terrain has the effect of making map control a more viable strategy as it is more difficult and slower to traverse the map. Cannons to destroy ladders and bridges are viable strategies. Recently, map control has fallen out of favour in the meta as players have become adept at performing free fall descents and making very fast bridges. A more daunting set of terrain might renew interest in these tactics.

the first wool dungeon is certainly an odd one. Not beautiful or multifaceted, it’s at least different. The lattice of bedrock provides a small window for arrow-pvp pressure, and only if a defender is directly across from the wool runner. It also allows defenders to view wool progress. Otherwise it doesn’t have much effect. In effect, teams can substitute this dungeon for another one - retrieving the fire resist potions from the top obsidian sphere. If players get those, then the dungeon becomes trivial. In that sense, it’s similar to Candyland’s 2nd where you can chose whether to deal with pvp and get the fire res, but not have any difficulties with PvE, or just to ignore that resource and fight your way through lava and blazes.

3rd wool is another interesting one. You can get into the wool with no trouble at all. It’s fairly simple just to block spam down as the mobs are very light and you can always avoid PvP if you get low. The only challenge is getting back out, or would be if there weren’t a few passaround options. Even getting back out isn’t much of a problem if you brought some blocks in. It would be interesting to see, just as an exercise, if cannons could be used to prevent a player from escaping with the wool, but lockdowns like that can always be countered, and again, there are those passaround options.

2nd wool is the real star of the map though. Having to drop, mostly blind into a PvE dungeon is quite dangerous and armor only helps so much as you are in danger of getting an unlucky combo and flying out of the world. That actually happened to me on one of my single player runs. I water dropped down and was combod mercilessly by skeletons and creepers into the void. I love wools like that. I absolutely love hard challenges that require both technical skill and technical solutions. For example, dropping gravel down to give a backstop/slower descent or carpet bombing to remove nearby mobs before dropping. Teams, I’m sure will find many strategies for dealing with the challenge.

When you combine a challenging pve experience with a wide open window, it’s often tempting to add PvP pressure to the mix, and it turns out to be quite effective. The wool eventually becomes a 1-wide dungeon that winds back up through the 3 PvE layers quite cleverly and so the wool practically screams for cannons and heavy bow pressure. Unfortunately, this makes the wool by far the most contentious dungeon on the map. There will be no mystery about where teams will focus their resources both to defend and counter the other team’s inevitable lockdown.

This would be a big detractor for the map, if there wasn’t also the possibility of a team going for a heavy map control strat. There doesn’t seem to be enough bedrock preventing tunnelling, but a team could conceivably force their opponents to grovel for a long time before the infrastructure is replaced and the TNT runs low. Certainly cannoning the ladder up from resources and the bridges will be tempting. The downside to map control as a strat, and possibly why it’s out of favour, is that it’s not enough to just fire a cannon a few times. You have to post someone there to shoot and prevent or greatly delay the repair of the terrain. That is usually a commitment of much of the defensive gear (TNT supplies, good bows, possibly mid-high tier armor). This greatly compromises any dungeon lockdowns.

On a minor balance note, there seems to be a shortage of food on the map. Even counting the bales of hay at spawn, there were frequent, severe shortages in the map tests I saw.

On an aesthetics note, I find most of the map to be ordinary, nothing particularly creative or anything that catches the eye. The ruins near 3rd have some nice but very minor details and the bridge is handsome enough. The castle is fairly plain on the outside but inside it looks and functions well. I like the look of the resource area and it is the most unique looking area on the map. Not only is it an interesting battle ground of fast movement but very exposed to PvP and a few mob spawners, but it also just looks fun to play on.

1st and 3rd dungeons are the low points of the map. Sheer bedrock is not good on the eye. Many mapmakers have found ways to preserve the gameplay while not just leaving sheets of exposed bedrock. 2nd’s PvE sections are cute little spaces. What I like about it most though is (and this will seem ironic given my previous criticism of bedrock) the sweep of the PvP section as it weaves back up and past the PvE areas.

Throne

Unfortunately, the version submitted contains fatal errors. Somehow every single spawner is broken. This makes it impossible to comment on how PvE would play and whether the difficulty is appropriate for the resource given, for example. Worse, this affects every other aspect of the map - for example, if having the PvE closed from PvP is balanced, or whether the spread of resources fits the challenges.

There were also big problems with the Throne redstone. Players were incorrectly denied access even after waiting five minutes, and in one case, unable to ever enter even once. Further, the layout is extremely exploitable.

Finally, the AR config was incorrect. Clearly the map was rushed for the deadline, which is a shame, because there are some promising features (more on that later). I can only judge the original version, however. The deadline was there for a reason and it wouldn’t be fair to allow some mapmakers to submit a changed map for the contest after receiving feedback. I do hope the mapmaker does update this map for general play.

The most help I can offer the mapmaker is to rely less on what actually happened on the broken version and consider more how a fixed map would play.

The Throne idea is interesting, but logically flawed. The idea is that since you can’t reenter the throne for five minutes, if you die, you’ll lose all your stuff. But that’s only true if you die as soon as you enter. If you enter, fight mobs for 4 minutes and then die, you’ll be able to reenter in 1 minute, plenty of time to get your stuff back.

I find the concept is really interesting - teams face a more serious choice about what gear they bring in. Too little and they lose it and don’t make progress. Too much and you risk your best stuff and can’t use it elsewhere. It forces a more conservative play style. Even in this flawed form, it still prevents pain looping. You can’t just naked torch run to make progress. Having to wait 5 minutes to place a few torches is not a viable strategy. So there’s lots I like about it in concept, but it doesn’t work as executed.

There are a few other minor innovations. Using enderchests in a PvP wool to prevent doors and other than Remote Lands, and Twisted Desert, I can’t think of a map with a spawn drop that isn’t right at the start of the lane.

One thing I would suggest is to add darkrooms throughout the map. In the playtest we had, we encountered some pretty absurd max spawn situations by the 2nd day.

As for looks, the entrance to the Throne is pretty unappealing and the area behind the spawn aqueduct for the VM is very plain. Most of the map is the typical grass, trees and stone that we see in many, many maps. 3rd wool has an interesting look to it.

Frozen Time

I get that 3rd wool is a sand timer that isn’t running because time is frozen. I get that. I don’t get why the lane is sort of mirrored upwards on the same plane as the sand timer is. Maybe that’s unrelated to time being frozen.

The architecture of the map does make it very unique. It is very reminiscent of maps like Blocked and Loaded and Tunnel Vission where there are 2 distinct lanes stacked vertically. This incarnation allows for more movement between these lanes. You can access the resource area and VM in the top lane from 3rd wool, by pillaring up from spawn or by going up through a hole from the snow area. There is no single access point for that part of the top lane, but there is for 2nd wool (more on that later).

So, how does this architecture play? The effect here is generally to focus 3 people on the bottom lane, where you spawn and 1 emissary sent up to the top to retrieve either resources (early match), 2nd wool (mid match) or complete the victory run (late match). In essence, it’s a place you go to leave the main theatre of war. You could of course get into a resource race (there’s more of that preplaced TNT that I railed against previously) or into a 2nd wool duel, but once you’re up into the top lane, it’s like you’ve stepped into a different, less frenetic map.

I’ve been referring to the bottom lane as a theatre of war because it turns out that this is a very PvP heavy map, which was not obvious to me just from flying around it and running it in single player. But in both map tests, it was a total bloodbath at every part of the lower lane.

When there is a steady rate of kills, a spawn lockdown becomes possible, and indeed in both playtests, it was brutal. Part of that was caused by being unfamiliar with the map and not realizing that we could go through the sewers. The pvp heavy nature of the terrain is not bad in principle but there’s a balance. If it’s too much then it becomes a painloop-fest, even when teams are relatively balanced (see Divided Together) or else forces teams to tunnel around which is also not particularly fun gameplay. Frozen Time flirts with this line. There is really only a few bits of cover on the map. With gear as limited as it is, this means you’re almost always at risk of being killed by 3 good shots even just running from one place to another.

One reason why the terrain on Frozen Time lends itself to such heavy PvP is that it is short - compacting the action into a small area, ultra flat and barren. The flat terrain means that players that aren’t actively juking are going to be moving at a predictable rate, making it very simple to lead shots. The lack of cover is self explanatory. Teams have to put up walls and tunnel if they want to be safe. I like when maps add an infrastructure requirement as that’s just one more thing teams have to manage. But this sort of infrastructure isn’t really interesting or fun to do and dying repeatedly (even when your team is trading evenly with the other team) becomes frustrating after 20 minutes.

Usually I leave aesthetic comments for the end of the review, but it ties in here. Adding more scenery would be a huge improvement to the map not just to provide some relief for the eyes, but also to provide a bit of functional cover to make gameplay less frustrating. It wouldn’t take much to bring this map from frustrating painloop-fest to intense pvp map. Just some moderate refinements to the terrain and some strategically placed scenery items.

While we’re on the subject of aesthetics, this map also desperately needs a lighting edit. Dark can look good - it can help give contrast and depth, but only if its combined skillfully with lighter areas. Too much dark and you lose depth, detail and contrast. It’s dim and unpleasant to look at. Worse yet, it begins to remind us of Shafted.

Frozen Time is just too uniformly dark. The entrance to 3rd wool is completely invisible and the shape of the entire top half of the map is completely lost in a pitch black block of sky. Lighting cues for important areas and soft lighting to show contours are needed at a minimum. A break up of the bedrock roof would probably help a lot too.

Despite those criticisms, there are some really well executed things on this map. he positioning of 1st wool is neat. It’s not all that common that a wool can be pressured from so many different angles. You can get shots on the lava section from the sewers, you can hit the 1-wide section from the snow near 3rd and of course the first level of the castle has a terrific vantage point on the whole dungeon.

This balances the wool well because it is quite a small, fast pvp dungeon. The parkour is very easy and of course you can use blocks or a water bucket to make it trivial. Then the 1 wide section is a bit unique in that there is a lot of freedom to move in 2 dimensions. You’re stuck against the front of the lane, but the zig zags are quite spacious compared to most other dungeons of this style.

I don’t quite get the passaround thing. Why restrict the passaround to just one block? It would be no easier to cannon if there were a whole column of passaround spots. Additionally, you can pass it around from the wool box to the start of the 1-wide and retrieve it fairly easily by running across the obsidian floor (formerly the lava pool).

If more resources were given on the map, 1st wool would be trivial, as it would be very hard to lock down someone running it in enchanted diamond. But a runner with 5 armour points can easily be popped. More tests will have to be done, but I suspect that the amount of resources is correct for the dungeon difficulty. There is an issue with TNT though.

I really like 2nd wool. It has some unique challenges and can be extremely difficult if the other team is shooting at you. Ascending against active spawners is always extremely difficult. Mobs approach you very quickly and unpredictably, you are forced to move more slowly and of course there are specific dangers like 0 fuse creepers and taking a damage tick while jumping, leading to 2-4 block knock back instead of the usual 1-2. The addition of PvP pressure makes this a very serious challenge. I think the difficulty is appropriate for the level of gear available. I’m a little miffed that netherwart is given, but as far as I can tell, there is no useful way to make potions. A blaze can be farmed at the end of 2nd wool, but what potions can you make that will help with the other 2 wools?

2nd does have, in my mind, a big problem though. It can be locked down with a cannon for a very long time. You need to pillar up from the snow into a 2x2 bedrock hole to access the wool. This should remind people of an old map from RMCT 2 called Corrupt Lands. That map also had a PvE wool that you had to ascend into and teams quickly found out that you can end the game on the spot by cannoning out the ground under the entrance. Here, the ground is already missing - you just need to remove any attempts to create a way up. This only takes 4 TNT whenever they make significant progress. The math for the wool running team is not friendly. They would have to painloop for nearly an hour before the other team runs out of TNT. Even if a painloop is unexpectedly successful, you’d just enter a tough PvE dungeon without the supplies to run it.

3rd wool is a completely stripped down version of what is now a standard dungeon concept - the end of the map shared lane. There is virtually no cover and only 2 access points - from above coming from the top lane or from the below, coming from the snow. It’s irrelevant whether this bare bones dungeon is intentional minimalism or just half assed. The effect is that there is no cover, no way to approach by stealth. It’s just a thin glass shape floating in the void. This area is also very vulnerable to cannons. After retrieving the wool, a team could TNT run the close half of the sand timer and set up a very obnoxious lockdown at the wool box.

There is an interesting lockdown location on the snow right before the shared lane, as that controls the most natural approach to 3rd as well as the most pvp-able section of 1st wool. A whiskey and a power I bow would do a good deal of work there.

The final comment I have about the map is that it would probably benefit from a couple small dark rooms. The max spawn situation on the snow is terribly silly. We’re talking shoot a stack of arrows into mobs to be able to advance 10 blocks. Without going on too much of a tangent, I believe max spawns should be avoided in RFW not because they’re too difficult, but because natural spawns are RNG based. That’s fine when it isn’t a huge part of the game, but at max spawn levels, it’s the most significant challenge until things are lit up, which makes RNG a huge factor for at least that part of the match.

Overall, the stacked lane is an interesting concept worth exploring more. This map brings some good new features to the concept, but it seems unfinished.

The Brink of Corruption

In talking about this map, everyone agreed - it just feels huge, and that’s really cool. We were surprised to find that it’s actually a completely standard ~300 blocks long and 16 wide. There are a couple reasons why it feels so much bigger than it actually is.

First, there’s a lot of vertical. The caves are wide, yes, but also very tall compared to most resource areas and dungeons. The effect of this is that everything is more exposed. Cannon targets are bigger and players are more vulnerable to PvP pressure from the surface. Opening up the angles like this facilitates more fighting.

Second, the terrain itself, particularly the mycelium area is also extremely tall. This prompts teams to consider infrastructure in their strategies (to reiterate, this usually adds richness to strategy and is a positive on maps). It also gives opportunities for new and surprising interactions. Going to the top of a mushroom to make a cannon, or pvping at different heights creates asymmetrical conflicts can be won by the player that makes smarter use of their surroundings rather than just the player that gets the first shot in. Having heterogenous terrain like the mycelium area facilitates more interesting fights.

The other reason why the map feels so big is that most of the ground is actually used. Nearly all maps have long stretches where the area under the surface are just unused, solid blocks. On Brink, there is only a 15-20 horizontal stretch (right before 1st wool) that isn’t part of a dungeon or resources etc. That actually makes this map radically compact compared to just about any other map from Direct Fire to Erosion. This excision of wasted space is commendable. There aren’t large useless sections of the map that serve only to make streaming/spectating obnoxious.

The wools and the resource areas are not particularly original in concept, location or challenge with three minor exceptions. The 2nd resource area is unusually close to the end of the map, so much so that a team can cannon it from the shared lane.

Speaking of the 3rd wool shared lane, it’s almost a complete inverse of The Abandoned Kingdom’s. Instead of ascending to the top of a giant mob-filled tree, you’re descending into massive mob-filled whirlpool. Instead of icarus-ing in and water bucketing out, you are water bucketing in and icarus-ing out. In the play tests, the lockdown was at the entrance to the shared lane, not at the wool boxes itself, although that could certainly change as the meta develops. One thing that might discourage wool box lockdowns (arguably a good thing as they can be OP) is that you can’t just throw the wool down to get it back to your side. You have to haul it all the way out which will take much longer and risks losing it to the other team. Also, the wool boxes are not high up in the air. You can’t simply remove blocks to defend the wool. They will always be able to sneak up on you.

The final (very) minor innovation is that the PvE wool requires you to remove redstone blocks rather than place a power source. This may seem trivial, but there are at least two effects. First, a team can’t get to the objective and have forgotten to bring a lever or a redstone torch. Second, and much more importantly, the opposing team cannot cannon your progress. In fact, it’s probably possible to self-cannon from the surface to destroy 1 or more of the “beating hearts”.

As it stands, this probably won’t be a widely used strat because the wool is quite easy for the gear on the map. This is the downside the huge caves. Even when they loop back on themselves, their larger diameter means that you are more often out of range of future spawners. This is the main way that these style of PvE dungeons gain their difficulty, and it’s almost totally absent here. The solution is not really to just add more spawners. The effect will not be the same. I would suggest instead making the spawners faster and the mobs buffed. This will need to be carefully balanced of course. Buffed mobs often have amusing but brutal interactions with each other where their cumulative threat is greater than the sum threats of each individual mob.

A minor point - the use of setblock instead of long redstone busses is a big improvement. This modernization of redstone should have come long ago. It’s less exploitable, less laggy and more compact.

My main praise for this map has to be its look and feel. The pallet is absolutely terrific. The resource area is mouth watering, the stained clay dungeons are an example of how to use those blocks in really appealing ways. The terrain is unique and just looks fun. The map is full of fresh visuals that look great with each other and also serve interesting functions.

by BruntForce — posted in Map Discussion
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