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On the subject of getting a better mappool (for RAGL etc.)

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:45 pm
by Gatekeeper
Dear SoScared & Other readers,

For Christmas I would like a pony. But not everyone gets what they want, so lets get over that.

It’s hard to form a stable mappool, as there are many MANY factors to comply with. But looking back, the mappool “ship†has drastically changed course when looking at the difference between Season 1->2 and Season 2->3. Leaving any comparison between Season 1->3 out for obvious reasons.
Before I get into a more detailed wall of text and explanation I want to make a few points clear:

#1: I agree SoScared has the final say on the current mappool and RAGL formats.
#2: A map being in the pool doesn't mean it has to be played. In the end it's just another tool to the player, when he has the choice on what map gets played.
#3: I assume SoScared has the best wishes for both the players and RAGL, as in fun games to both watch and play. I myself also share these wishes.
#4: I disapprove of certain (Sudden) changes to the mappool, as in my eyes they are conflicting with point #3.
#4: Even if I am correct on point #4, point #1 still overrules everything and I accept any decision from higher up. This post is merely meant to be me giving my opinion/advice.

So, let’s examine and break down the changes of the mappool, on a closer scale, to keep things simple I won’t mention every detail of every map, but try to stay compact as possible.

1): The removal of “Classic mapsâ€.
(Classic maps as in: Shitton amounts of games played on it according to resource site).
A lot of people, especially the latest generation of players has played many a games on maps like: Single’s, Side Step, Warwind, Ore Lord and maybe even Dual Cold Front could be counted among these. I agree that even though these might be the 5 most popular maps they aren’t by definition the best maps or even good maps at all (Personally looking Single’s). But still these maps are known, familiar and easy to play for at least 90% if not 100% of the RAGL player base. I wouldn’t be surprised if certain recruits players got scared seeing none of these back in the latest mappool!!! One could argue that these maps are “overplayed in generalâ€, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make for good games.

2): The removal of maps with slightly shorter rush distances.
And yes, I’m writing this also being the guy in Masters doing most of those shenanigans, but to be fair, they should be accessible to all. I mean, I love watching Ozzy doing tanking harvs with inf blobs behind. One could argue that KotG2 and Desert Rats have short rush distances, but both these maps are rather small and more infantry orientated, which makes it easy to spot and shut down rushes. Compared to maps like Side Step and Dual Cold Front, which have pretty small rush distances compared to their size and ore distribution. Ore Lord would also fit this category, but to be honest it’s a clusterfuck in that regard, if any a map you’d expect rushes, it’s Ore Lord.

3): The transition into bigger and more eco rich maps, favoring certain meta's. Although this might sound like 2) at first glance, in here I want to discuss the idea of strategically choosing your home map, in contrast to your opponent. I for one am also a fan of more eco and space to move around in, but let’s say you’re playing an opponent who is known as Blobmaster3000, BasepushingWallOfDeath or MacroManagerTycoon. If anything you might wanna put them on a map that limits their strengths and forces them to adapt. You’d be best off playing them on maps like Orelord, Single’s, Forest Path or Keep Of The Grass2. Not saying all of these maps should be in the pool for this reason, but there should be (imo multiple, atleast 2) “weird†maps in there that suit such a limiting factor for your opponent. Playing a map in which spamming mcv’s isn’t the best strategy might just deliver great content between skilled players as well !

4): Last point of interest: The continuous sudden changes to the mappool. Unlike last season, the mappool is being changed around even into the season, making strategic planning rather tough and difficult. Until today I was considering Dual Cold Front as my home turf this season, guess what? :D. And with the addition of so many new/revised maps certain effective plays people have build up during past seasons/freetime have been thrown out of the window. When first looking at the new mappool I imagine a lot of people’s autism alarm must’ve went crazy. I have seen some reactions...

To back this up, a part of the season 1 Rulebook: The map pool is up for changes until 28th of March (1 week before League start). For additional maps, remember that maps not only need to visually appear to be balanced, but also proven play-tested (e.g. uploaded replays).

I am not demanding any immediate additional changes, but also won’t object to any. I just wanna lay a foundation on things to consider when building/changing a mappool.
I have heard many a persons impression of the current mappool and hope they can also contribute in a nice and orderly fashion without the cursing I’ve seen passing in chats already :#

Greetz Gatekeeper

P.S. just did the math’s: from the 12 maps out of S01, 10 crossed over to S02. From those 4 and the new Desert Rats made it into S03, of which 3 were also revised into playing differently from before. (NWPassage not counted, Still RIP Doge) Not saying the revised versions are bad, but things that used to work might not work anymore….

P.P.S. I’m gonna propose all my opponents to play 4 matches against me, 2 with the current maps and rules, and 2 games “for fun†on “classicâ€/past season maps with Explored Map off. Just to see which of the two rule sets provides the best/most fun games. Just so we can see a difference between the two, instead of always just talking about it. I’m also still not over the fact that Expl. map is on now, it makes it “too easy†for Masters imo. And I hear some of you folks now relating to Starcraft or other RTS’s. This is RA right, where it was originally in, deal with it 8)

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:48 pm
by Gatekeeper
Looking back at it, maybe we should actually try to breed a few more weird, but well playable maps. Just imagine how annoyed you can make your opponent who you think is 20X stronger than you by picking such a map to your own slight advantage. ^^ I just don't wanna see small maps/short possible rush distances disappear totally...

But for real, it’s pretty hard to prepare for so many “new†maps for a tournament like thing on such short notice…
And my OCD also rang like a mothertrucker when I couldn’t find the dog on NWPassage today. I wanted to assert dominance first and was sure I didn’t hear my opponent kill him first! Now I’m forced to do double kills on Desert Rats…

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:49 pm
by Blackened
I've voiced concerns in previous threads mentioning maps about how designs of maps will always cross certain strategies off the available list and in some cases make only 1 maybe 2 strategies viable.

The solution I think, should be a robust map pool. That would allow someone to pick an advantageous map against the opponent and close the skill gap between players at the opposite end of their divisions.

But I do not think that should mean "classic" maps get a free ride into the map pool. And I think, perhaps as a gimmick or because of the unknowns it adds, new and strange maps should be the front of the league. Perhaps, splitting the map pool between divisions if recruits truly felt out of their element(but I mean you should at least look at the maps if you've signed up for RAGL so this option seems unlikely)

I'm not the biggest fan of the maps in this particular season but I think there is a good variety of types in the maps.

edit: Also, I do agree that the late changes to the map pool were a bit outlandish.

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:53 pm
by Clockwork
Blackened wrote: (but I mean you should at least look at the maps if you've signed up for RAGL so this option seems unlikely)

The revamped map pool was announced 2 days before the league actually started though, im sure everyone was under the impression it would be similar to last seasons plus having DCF, Warwind, Sidestep and NWP as placeholders on the post untill the actual pool was released

I agree with your first point though.

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:41 pm
by crlf
My opinions are as a spectator, I'm not a participant in the league or on that level, so take them with a pinch of salt. I hope we can have a fruitful discussion about what we all want to get out of the map pool. We started to do this a couple of times in the past month but the discussion petered out.

**Balance** is pretty essential for obvious reasons. We're at the point now where ways of balancing maps are better understood, so I don't think this needs more exploration at this point, except to note that there might be more scope in the future for maps where each spawn has different advantages - these need a lot of testing and community acceptance, though.

I feel **variety** is important, in two totally different ways:

a) Variety of maps in the pool - this ensures that players with different playstyles are not disadvantaged, and that the map pool itself stays healthy and evolves.
b) Having each map support a variety of strategies - this ensures that games are less predictable as players are forced to make different risk-based choices. It also allows the different playstyles to evolve and compete.

Map variety includes concerns like:
- Size
- Spawn distance (and what is in between)
- Number of choke points / lanes
- Size of choke points / lanes
- Ore at spawn
- Total ore on map
- Number of ore mines
- Whether the symmetry encourages an equal division of ore mines or contested mines
- Presence of large obstacles and/or water
- Presence, location, and volume of other resources, e.g. derricks, hospitals
- How long games take

Strategic variety includes things like
- Expansionist vs Tech vs Army
- Move original MCV vs true expansion
- Eco vs map control
- How constrained you are in expansion choices
- Viability of different unit compositions, factional units, etc.

Obviously some of these overlap, contradict, and interact, some have a bigger impact than others, and the choices and tradeoffs are what gives the maps different characters.

Things which I find make games less interesting include:

- First to X wins (barring misplays), where X is grabbing derricks, grabbing a central ore, naval dominance, nuke, etc.
- Stalemate, where a decisive point comes only when someone misplays.

There's clearly a third big issue of **familiarity**. I'm not sure what I think about that yet.

I've not voted in the poll - I do think the discussion is important, though. I've not touched on any details of the map pool itself, but I hope to at some point.

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:45 pm
by SoScared
Glad this is brought up on the forum this way. Orderly. First, for the sake of everything, just wanna copy-paste an early (and only) response of mine from the rulebook thread:
SoScared wrote: I'll try be as brief and as diplomatic as possible on this.

I can understand the reaction above given the notion that RAGL builds around and support the current competitive meta + map circulation and that the maps earn their place in the league's map pool. The thing is, this notion is wrong. At least for the time being.

The birth of the league came of the idea of establishing both a process and a placeholder for those who wish to stay with a competitive format once the RA mod's game balance begin to settle. This hasn't happened yet. Once we get there, I can envision the map pool being based more on consensus and certain merits while the league structure is rooted to an official website or whatever.

In danger of sounding a bit sadist (I am) I'm feeling almost proud that the maps Sidestep and Warwind - designed specifically to bring about a new meta to RA - is cause for a little upheaval. These maps has spawned a generation of its type within the past 12-18 months. Some of the suggestions above (Roadkings, Shadow Fiend...) are IMO more or less the same thereof - which brings me to the map pool itself:

First, keep in mind that the balance changes merged with the development branch will have a significant effect on the performance on all maps and map types. Practically the league in season 3 will function as the greatest 1v1 beta test this mod has ever had. Also, some of these maps has been altered beyond the author's own revisions. The current selection of maps (+1 or 2 may or may not be added tonight) are roughly divided in three classes:

Choke: Behind the Veil 2, Dual Cold Front, Winter Storm 2
Arena: Northwest Passage, Pitfight
Hybrid: Agenda, Green Belt, Patches

Addressing map 'Patches' as a fresh map - frankly, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how that map works. From time to time I happen to find something that fits the agenda and this map being unfamiliar to the player-base made it a done deal.

If 'Sidestep' was an aim game-play wise then map 'Agenda' was its target. Partially invoking a sense of anxiety among some players (no joke) this map is definitely challenging but consistently provided for matches that exposed both players' macro and tactical skills. This map was deliberately design to accommodate the upcoming balance changes for the game I'll let the matches coming out of this season speak for themselves but expect players to pick this map deliberately for punishing players' lack of guile and map control.

As for the rest I see diverging opinions above so I won't bother going into those. But just to underscore my main point of this post - the league is not yet a pure ascertainment of players' rank and skill and has no intention to maintain player retention thereof. I'm sure that day will come but as of now (as with Season 1, 2 and Alpha) the league is underdeveloped hand-in-hand with the RA mod and will thus continue to move things around in order to gain additional perspectives of what makes this league work well long-term. This sort of push is precisely how the current competitive community formed in the first place. As I see it, neither the RA mod or the league has reached their destinations yet so don't get too comfortable with the status quo.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 2:48 am
by SoScared
Ok that was a good read (OP). I'll summarize the points taken from the OP that I believe would help solve issues I'd want to handle better next time around.
  • Too unpredictable.
Yes. That was regrettable. The maps were announced way too late and the last swap (pulling Dual Cold Front) the last minute didn't help in that regard. Two of the reasons for the late reveal date was the timing of both the map contest and the progress on the official playtest which made me want to hold out longer to see what I wanted to bring aboard. Wasn't worth it.
  • Too many changes.
Sure. Although this is inherently self-resolving, initially this will cut into the fun aspect of the league. For this season I saw the need for it to rip off the band-aid with regards to future seasons (including used revisions) and that's gonna put a chunk of players outside the comfort zone, but for what it's worth you can anticipate more smoother transitions in the future.

I believe that covers points that will help recover a good experience for future seasons.

Now on to matters not covered in the OP that I might have wanted to share publicly at an earlier date - why is the map pool the way it is?

It's a simple matter really. This season period is actually the first where there's extensive changes to the game balance happening simultaneously. Previous seasons has been exclusively about maps because that was the only way to challenge the way the game was played. Well guess what, we're at a point where maps are starting to coagulate around playstyle - not challenging it, exposing weaknesses. That and promoting units over structures - that was the whole point of introducing open map warfare back in '15 and we've seen that venture spawn a whole new generation of maps providing superior gameplay on RA compared to what we had before.

With few exceptions the disputed map selection has the property, to a certain degree, of suffering the consequences of what the balance changes to the RA mod is trying to address. Maps such as Northwest Passage, Patches and Pitfight sticks out like a sore thumb in this regard but is at the same time the best yard sticks of measuring how effective the balance changes truly are. Same can be said of the rest of the pool but to varying degrees and with different aspects of the game. Not so much with the most revered competitive 1v1 maps out there - who's been structurally tailored specifically to deal with the weaknesses of the game, which is why they're considered to produce the best games on RA.

Is it fair to treat the league as an experimental lab this way? Well certainly if I'd foreseen the reactions coming from the map pool selection I'd certainly be more open about the motivations behind it all. The league has grown so ridiculously big with 48 players registered, on a platform with around 100 player online tops, starting with just 6 players with the European League 16 months ago (based off an live updated excel sheet). The logistics of it all is absurd and I can't even imagine what will happen should OpenRA break some sort of popularity barrier in the future. Looking past this, know only that as long as the entire gig is based off my humble (beastly) desktop exclusively and demands that I involve myself in every step of the way - I need to know the league will count for something other than just simply 'who's best'. The RA mod is evolving faster than ever and for that reason the league will take punches and jabs as far as it can take it, and I will let it take it, until it makes it to another level.

I never once worried about player dropouts during a season and I never really worried about the seasonal tsunami of delayed matches from the notoriously lazy Elite Slob Division (oh I'll be back, if you were wondering) because I structured the league to last, to grow and eventually break out into the open beyond the confines of the forum. But make no mistake - the RA mod is still in its infancy. It's a wunderkind for sure but it's gonna take some good amount of bruises to bring about its' true potential and as long as I'm solely responsible for the development of the league you can expect to a certain degree to have it working very close to and support the development of the RA mod.

This is the first time I'm really talking about this openly but realistically don't expect me to sing like a bird on these matters in the future (you can ask, I'm not a mute) but I'd do everyone a favor by communicating better with the league's participants in the future regarding my decisions, and with god knows how many more players as RA keeps developing.

Oh, and yes the map pool will stay as-is ;)

Re: On the subject of getting a better mappool (for RAGL etc

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:30 am
by Smitty
Would a map pool picked my me be different? Of course it would.
But honestly I think this season’s map pool is an improvement compared to last season’s, and I really can’t blame SoScared for not using maps that were chiefly being circulated among just the competitive players in the offseason.
Gatekeeper wrote: 3): The transition into bigger and more eco rich maps, favoring certain meta's.
I do find this comment peculiar as I don’t see the favoritism towards the ‘blob’ style of play in this map pool at all. KotG2, Desert Rats and to a lesser extent Northwest Passage are maps that are easy to force an artillery duel on. The chokes on Winter Storm 2 aren’t all that friendly to blobs and Patches is low eco.
Blackened wrote: The solution I think, should be a robust map pool. That would allow someone to pick an advantageous map against the opponent and close the skill gap between players at the opposite end of their divisions.
I would view a ‘robust’ map pool as something like this:
Tiny: Desert Rats SE
Arena: Pitfight KME
Mid-size Choke Point: Winter Storm 2
High Eco Start: Sidestep
Low Eco: Mountain Pass
Large Choke Point: Behind the Veil 2
Standard: Shadow Fiend
Big Boy: Sirocco

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:23 am
by OMnom
A lot of the resentment towards the current RAGL map pool has a lot to do with the maps being "anti-meta." However, this claim assumes that Sidestep, Warwind, and Orelord represents what a standard map should look like. Currently, there is no standard checklist for what a map should contain, as CRLF has touched on already. As a result, people naturally feel that Sidestep, Warwind, and Orelord were "the" standard maps, and anything to the contrary was deemed a weird or bad map.

Going beyond the map pool itself though, the bigger concern for me are the maps themselves. To what extent should maps support, expand, or limit the game? In my opinion, the current RAGL map pool, while diverse in selection, has nearly no diversity in gameplay. What I mean by a lack of diversity in gameplay is that players have to do the same strategies on a particular map repeatedly, or players are losing the map repeatedly for the same reason. For example: on Patches, players are going to lose because they run out of eco; on NW passage, players have to basepush and aim to control an entire side; and on Winter Storm, the players have to aim the majority of their assets towards the center. Some of this has to do with the fact that the maps have not been played nearly as extensively as Sidestep has, some of this is due to map design, and some of this has to do with the balance of the game. For whatever reason, whenever I play one of these maps, the game feels very one-dimensional to me. In combination, as part of the whole map pool, the map selection is fine....but as standalone maps, most of them are not enjoyable to play on repeatedly.

A lesser concern, but still a troubling one, is the lack of standardization of the maps. There is no standard map size, spawn distance, starting resources, total number of ore mines, etc. Mapmakers are handed a blank slate and only previous "good" maps as a guideline for their new map. It's no coincidence that several of the entries in the Map contest look exactly like a preexisting map. I am not stating that for a map to be competitive, it must have X, Y, and Z and satisfy P, Q, and R. I am simply pointing out that SoS's standards are completely different than Smitty's standards, and I'd wager that both of their standards are different compared to other people. If we want to create a diverse map pool, we need to agree on a set of map characteristics. I'm sure people would be less agitated if there was a replacement for Orelord and Sidestep, just like how Agenda replaced Warwind.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:28 am
by Blackened
I think that map pool is a pretty good start Smitty, but Ideally I'd like to see a bit larger pool. 8 maps would be easy to acclimate yourself too and with 12 opponents in a division you'd play the same maps quite a bit.

Also, there are so many different types of maps out there and that have yet to be produced for one reason another. Your list for example, has very little naval activity(nothing wrong with that ATM as naval is so imbalanced but in the future I would like to see maps like that.) It's also devoid of a map like Monty Hall which is completely off kilter for the current style of maps. I mean I don't particularly like the map, especially the revisions made but it certainly challenges the norm. In the same way having oil derricks changed the norm or more open and bigger maps changed the norm. There should be one map that deviates from the norm.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:28 pm
by SoScared
First revision of Month Hall was very tempting. Great map.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:43 pm
by Smitty
OMnom wrote: A lesser concern, but still a troubling one, is the lack of standardization of the maps. There is no standard map size, spawn distance, starting resources, total number of ore mines, etc.
Wouldn’t standardization limit the possibilities as opposed to aid in adding variety?
SoScared wrote: First revision of Month Hall was very tempting. Great map.
If you’re interested in that map it would be great to tackle:

Since Monty Hall requires so many engineers, extra abilities, (particularly engis vs. walls and engi husk salvage) could go a long way into adding flavor to the map.

Frame Limiter helped me make a testable husk salvage but a polished version may require asking devs for an additional trait (Or at least smarter minds than mine). The Wall demolition should be doable with a weapon vs. Concrete (think satchel charge or Bangalore torpedo) but I’m trying to decide on how I want that to look. It’s something I was planning to tackle after the next release.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:09 pm
by Gatekeeper
Thanks for all the input fellow Commanders!

To me the whole why and how of the "unexpected" changes became clear to me after SoS and me had a chat about this whole ordeal after Stream yesterday. Though I still kept this thread running, primarily for the people to be informed. I am curious to see where the new mappool and balance changes will bring the competitive meta. because to be honest, I have grow a bit tired of the mcv rush, basepush backed by army blob games... In that regard it would be more fun to watch 2 players push n pull till they blob to 300 inf, 50 tanks and just go all in chaotic concaves. xD

I probably won't be in this thread anylonger, as I rather chitchat in bars than do forums, personal preference. Someone had to start this conversation in a decent way, just so that the gnarling on the backlines could be dimmed a bit with the truth. And tbh I gotta say I am proud seeing so many people actually abstain from the poll! but y'all can do as you please, and if someone finds the "perfect mappool formula" in here, it would only be beneficial to the community!

Now we are all Behind the Veil 2 as Hidden Agenda became Agenda.

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:43 pm
by SoScared
Gatekeeper wrote: ...I rather chitchat in bars than do forums...
Sounds good, I'll hold you to that!

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:41 pm
by OMnom
Smitty wrote:
OMnom wrote: A lesser concern, but still a troubling one, is the lack of standardization of the maps. There is no standard map size, spawn distance, starting resources, total number of ore mines, etc.
Wouldn’t standardization limit the possibilities as opposed to aid in adding variety?
No, it'd help map makers so that they'd know how to make a good map rather than just cloning current maps. If I had known that starting ore mines should be more than 20 cells apart, that you need at least 15k starting resources and 2 ore mines to sustain you until the 2nd MCV, or that X type of terrain would cause Y scenarios, I might just be able to create a better map in terms of variety of gameplay.

Monty Hall is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Clearly, the map is breaking the norm with the starting location, but all of the yaml changes break the norm as well. No competitive map has capturable tech centers, civilian buildings, and abandoned mines, not to even mention the creeps. It's obviously meant to break the standard, but it breaks the norm in every way imaginable....if this continues, then what's to stop neutral superweapons from being the next oil derricks in competitive games?