Zechs Files: New Maps, Please
Despite being one of the longest running titles, Counter-Strike has always had one of the smallest map pools of any competitive game. Well, ignoring MOBAs, of course. Dust2 has been around forever, with only aesthetic changes for the most part. Maps like Nuke and Train have had some of their functionality changed over the years, but still play out similarly to their original versions. Even Inferno, with its much-improved banana area, plays out very much like the gaudy old yellow version I loved from 1.3
Nowadays, we can look to Valve for unforthcoming answers about the tiny map pool, but it wasn’t always like this. Back when CS was a Half-Life mod, the game wasn’t as centralised around an in-game matchmaking system as it is now. Third party leagues got to choose their own map pools and, though they were largely the same, there was a little room for maneuver. Competitive leagues largely stuck to the tried and tested classics we know today, but there were always the CPL maps (Mill, Fire and Strike aka Tuscan, Fire and Mirage) to keep things from getting stale.
Better yet, there was a relatively active ladder on the old Enemy Down that allowed for semi-competitive play on unloved maps like Torn and Storm. Ah, Tor, how I loved thee. While researching this article I stumbled across a video introduction to a CS:GO remake of the map. I’ll definitely be looking it up on the workshop when I get chance.
Of course, this was a far cry from professional play. Pros continue to ignore anything but the core group of maps that have been around for years. You can hardly blame them. When money is involved, it’s obviously better to know an ancient map inside out than risk being caught unawares on a new one.
For fans and for non-competitive players, though, wouldn’t it be nice if Valve took a leaf out of Starcraft’s book and gave us more maps once in a while? 3kliksphilip recently posted an excellent video (see above) about why operation maps aren’t hugely successful. I highly recommend giving it a watch. Rather than re-treading old ground about why players don’t get excited for new maps, I want to discuss some of the maps which I think would be appropriate for competitive play.
Part of last year’s Operation WIldfire, Tulip was its standout map in my opinion. It struck that hard-to-find middle ground between too much complexity and not enough. It had tight corridors for firefights and plenty of long range angles for snipers. In fact, the map’s main weakness was that there might be too many good spots to sit with an AWP, but I’m sure people would find plenty of clever smokes and flashes to diminish that problem. The lightning might need to be looked at for competitive play, too, but that’s an easy fix.
I had high hopes for this map, another from Operation Wildfire. It too had many of the hallmarks of a classic CS maps and had a really interesting middle area, far superior to Dust2’s. It had a pleasant aesthetic and a huge, open skybox to help with utility deployment. Neither bomb site would look out of place in a 1.6 map either, with plenty of crates and hiding spots.
This was easily the best map in Operation Hydra, not close. I felt like most of the maps in this year’s Op were far too complicated, more like mazes than CS maps, but Lite had no such issues. There were clear, obvious paths to each bomb site, and I found it easily navigable after a couple of Deathmatch games - something which certainly couldn’t be said for the likes of Thill or Black Gold.
If Global Offensive is your first Counter-Strike, you might never have heard of this map. It was around for quite a while but never made it to competitive play. Apart from its B bomb site being ridiculously small and crowded, I honestly don’t know why. It was very pretty by 1.6 standards, it was compact, but had a middle area for snipers to duke it out and it had plenty of interesting cover. It often felt a little-CT sided, but the removal of a couple of crates could easily solve that. It plays out like a mix between Dust2 and Inferno, with a tight corridor leading to bombsite B.
This map has practically become a meme in the CS:GO community. The story goes that the guy who originally made Tuscan (not Mill) refuses to let anyone else use the name or the map. Why someone doesn’t just make an almost-identical map and call it Mill, I don’t know, but Mill was easily the best of the CPL-commissioned maps of the 1.6 era. Fire is almost forgotten and Strike eventually turned into Mirage, but Mill was great and it’s a crying shame we don’t get to play it any more. It even skirts around the problem of pros not liking new maps, because many of them have already played it, albeit a few years ago.