TF2Maps.net/Potato's MvM Servers Mappers vs. Machines Contest 2nd Place
Steep is a map designed for Team Fortress 2's Mann vs. Machine mode, where 6 players team up to defend against 6 waves of robots who try to carry a bomb to a hatch. If the bomb reaches the hatch, the game ends.
The map is set in an abandoned mining camp on a large slope, which puts an emphasis on vertical combat. Robots take one of two paths: one which leads around a building up and down the slope of the mountain, and the other which goes into the mountain through an excavated mining area.
Waves of robots were also designed for the map, both in easy and hard difficulties. These were tested with an experienced group of MvM players and balanced over several sessions.
Optimization work was done by Rebecca 'phi' Ailes. You can view her work on her website.
This map actually started as a completely different map. I was new to MvM map design and wanted to create something very simple, and the end result was an industrial farmland map designed as a large figure 8.
After testing and iterating this layout a few times, I realized I had made some mistakes in the overall layout. The central group of buildings was far more complicated than it needed to be (and could only really be simplified by shrinking the map, which was already relatively small), and the central road where robots crossed was difficult to design around, since bots could be walking in either direction. It wasn't very much fun to fight robots as they turned the corner towards the hatch. Lastly, it was difficult to iterate on the design because I had designed it without any negative space in the layout, meaning changing any piece of the middle of the map would effect everything around it. Train tracks on either side also made the layout less flexible to work with.
The main takeaway was that, while there were some good ideas present, the map deserved a full redo.
I took this as an opportunity to start something different entirely. This new map, which became the final product, was inspired by two things: A diagram, and a trip to see relatives in Oregon.
This diagram was my solution to the problems surrounding the central road and the final corner towards the hatch. The middle crossing point is now a simple intersection instead of a long stretch of road, meaning the area doesn't have to be designed to work in both directions. The final corner towards the hatch is no longer a 180 turn, but a 90 degree turn, making it easier to design around.
This final diagram doesn't show up in the final design, as there is no middle crossing point, but the important part was that it got me thinking about how to design corners in a layout that were fun to play around, which the original layout lacked.
My trip to Oregon involved driving through a lot of mountains, some of which were next to the water. Inspiration struck as I was on a road that was flanked by the large banks of a river and heavily forested mountains. I had the idea of robots coming out of the water, over the road, and into the mountains. One route would go through a valley up the mountain amongst some abandoned mining buildings, and the other would go through a mine.
The testing and iteration schedule of this project was the most intensive I'd ever dealt with in a level design project. After an initial period of about one week to develop the first version, new versions of the map and robot waves were tested on a daily basis (excluding the time I took two or three days to entirely redesign the outdoor branch of the route). Daily iterations continued for about two weeks, and the map was artpassed in the following week. Overall, the map was completed in about a month, which was necessary to complete the map before the contest deadline.