Maps. There a funny thing. Sometimes they work well, sometimes not so much. A lot of the time its not actually the physical map itself that causes problems, as there are a lot of other elements that go into making it work. Spawn points, props, environmental hazards, crate drop timing - they all have a part to play. Yet there are some maps within Hogs of War Multiplayer that simply cannot be balanced... so I decided to remove them!
The hogs competitive scene is very high maintenance, so you can only imagine how much scrutiny is involved in judging, balancing and further rebalancing new maps. If a map contains too much of one thing or not enough of another - it will be deemed unworthy for comp play. The key here is fair play and finding out if everything is balanced enough. Like is there balance in the amount of crates that are on a certain map, what is contained within each weapon crate and what quantity, how many of them spawn in and on which players turn, balance in the spawn positions and if they are considered fair. There is so much that goes into balancing these maps that over the past year - 9 of the original multiplayer maps had to go from the roster. We have 25 total maps in multiplayer to choose from, however these 9 reduced the playing field somewhat. 3 of them were initially tested in both Rankup and Season 1 of the League last year, but sadly their fate has been sealed.
If you've ever played on Play Pen, you'll know it is very colourful, but very problematic when it comes to minefields. Each team's spawn points are very close together and positionedf directly next to a minefield, making it very easy for an opponent to blast them all away within the space of a few turns and, overall, the map puts a huge disadvantage on the player who will take their turn second. So Play Pen is out and has been replaced by the new/old map: Wasteland. This map contains no environmental hazards, in fact there is very little going on here. Besides some health crates that drop in - Wasteland is very similar to the likes to Pigin' Hell, in that it is very barren and so relies heavily of body blocking & positioning skills. A simple map, but a tough one to come out of in one piece.
Duvet Fun seems to suffer from the same Spawn issues as Play Pen, I mean lets be honest it basically is Play Pen just with smaller hills and re-positioned minefields. I decided to replace it with Mission 2's map from Singleplayer. In a nod to the early 1999 E3 Hogs Demo where this map was used - I called it Grassy Knolls (great suggestion by Herpderp on that one!). Remember that when a map is swapped in hogs - it inherits all the objects that were in the previous map. In this case - Duvet Fun contained no objects, so Grassy Knolls relies on its large portions of high ground and water hazards to do the talking.
Now Deathbowl was one of the maps that was used a fair amount in Season 1 of the League. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't terrible, it just kinda sat in the middle as an 'ok' map. Most players developed the strategy of starting the round with a Paratrooper and immediately attempting to collect the 100HP health crates. Personally I don't think we've seen the last of Deathbowl within competitive, but it might need a few tweaks here and there to eventually feel ready. As for its replacement - you will all recognise this map from Mission 1 in singleplayer, in this case I have renamed it to Upstream (given the large body of water flowing through it). Here you'll find plenty of health & weapon crates, alongside some explosive barrels. Watch your step!
Island Hopper was recently voted as the 2nd worst map in Hogs of War, which I suppose proves the point of 'too much of one thing is bad for you'. As you'd expect, every area we've talked about so far in relation to creating a fair and balanced map goes out the window with Island Hopper. If you thought having 85% of the map being covered in water is bad, wait till you realise how the other 15% of land is also covered in minefields. Nevertheless - its replacement puts all of that to rest. Route Canal is actually an unused singleplayer map, offering up a good variety of landmass height, strong defensive positions and of course being divided in half by a very long canal. Its different, exciting and has palm trees despite it being a grassy arctic map (shhhh its fun!).
No, your eyes do not deceive you - both of these maps are technically the same. Friendly Fire was voted as the worst map in all of Hogs, so how exactly does Pitch Invasion improve it? Well for starters Friendly Fire's replacement is actually an older version of itself, this time around without any minefields. Some of the platforms remain, but only to hold health and weapon crates. Both teams start on opposite sides of the field and must choose during their first turn - do they collect both health crates to gain 100HP total, or do they instead go for the weapon crates and gain x6 Airbursts? Or perhaps an inbetween? Its a tough decision, but its still better than playing on the original Friendly Fire map.
Just like Deathbowl - Dam Busters was previously tried and tested. It wasn't a bad map by any means... it was just very large. Too large in fact, to the point where the majority of matches that were played here lasted far too long, as players usually decided to sit back and pick off their opponents from the safety of their side of the map - rather than closing the distance and risking everything. Porkchop Temple separates both teams in the same way as Dam Busters - placing a large object inbetween them, but this time around players will be able to traverse freely around the map. You'll also find several pickups and medical tents dotted around the place. Happy hunting!
Moon Buttes is probably the best example of a map that cannot be balanced, regardless of how you attempt to change it. The overall sculpting of the map is its biggest downfall, placing the pigs either high on platforms or down on low ground next to minefields, and oh damnnnnn are there a lot of minefields on this map. Its essentially a king of the hill map, but one that could never work in comp. Well, Well, Well on the other hand is Legendary... this time around without the actual Legends. There is still plenty of poison water and health crates to go around though, just don't use them all at once!
Cratermass suffers from the same issues as Moon Buttes, except this time the pigs are in holes rather than positioned high up on platforms. Another failed King of the Hill map that offers too many pitfalls to work in competitive, Cratermass is sadly off the table. Headquarters on the other hand offers up a large enclosed area, similar to that of Deathbowl... but without much of the death via minefields. You can freely walk around any part of the map (as this is another old map taken from an earlier version of the game), allowing players to escape from the close quarters combat should they be looking to turn tail and run. Health crates are also available here.
Finally we come to Doomed, a map that demonstrates how too many vehicles can ruin everything. Things aren't helped when you look at how the map also uses insta-kill water in combination with not one but four Artilleries... it would never work in comp play. Vehicles are perhaps the hardest thing to get right in competitive. Their quantity and position are particularly important, as the usual strategy that most players follow is to start the round and immediately take the vehicle that is positioned closest to their opponent. And this is the primary reason why maps like Dam Busters and Doomed don't work, because they can end up placing the enemy directly in front of you with something as powerful as an Artillery. Hilltop is a lot less noisy. It doesn't hold any artilleries, but it does maintain the training dummies which, if you destroy, can also gift you some extra goodies!
Most of you who follow the Rankup Tournament each year will have seen these new maps in action, in fact you might have even played them yourself. The ISO containing these new maps was released to the community, however some further improvements are currently in the works. So if you are looking to play these maps in multiplayer - you won't have to wait long, as the updated version will be released to the Workshop towards the end of July. Keep an eye out for site updates till then!
An update for the Hogs of War Website has been released. The major changes include:
> Added a section for the Hogs of War League
> Contains All Pro League Rules
> Contains Grunt League Information & Sign Up Links
> Added information & tutorial on How to Play Hogs of War Online in the Workshop
> Includes video tutorial alongside links to tools used
> Added additional original hogs artwork to the Workshop
Its no secret that the Shockwave is one of the rarest abilities in Hogs, but its like that for a good reason. To be blunt - the Shockwave is extremely overpowered when in the right hands. Its locked away behind the somewhat unplayable arsenal of the Legend in Singleplayer and can only be found within Random Crates in Multiplayer (most notably on Square Off). We all know how important Knockback is in this game and how fun it can be to bloop pigs out of bounds and turn your enemies into small chunks of bacon, but the Shockwave is capable of doing this on a catastrophic scale. We've all heard the tale of the pick-pocketing Spy using the Shockwave to destroy the team of Legends on Mission 25, right?
Despite the insane amount of knockback this ability can produce - the damage is pitiful. Somewhere between 10 to 13HP worth of damage is dealt to the targeted pig, with a little bit more added on if you fail to knock them out of bounds and they take fall damage. Yet you want to know the strangest thing? The Legends are the only class to hold this ability in the entire game, but the AI is unable to use it. Even if they exhaust all other weapons in their arsenal, the AI legends will never use the Shockwave against the player. Given its unfair advantage in most situations though - its probably for the best!
I call the Shockwave an ability because technicallyyyyy there is no weapon involved, the pig doesn't hold anything in their hand, they simply... bend over and fart. Like they really let one rip. Big explosion. Interestingly the animation the hogs team used here is exactly the same as the one used for the Suicide, except in this case the pig isn't holding a TNT and they don't perish after the explosion. The original Hogs lead programmer, Jacob Habgood, mentioned to me that the Shockwave caused the team far too many headaches in the early days of the games development. As well as causing extreme knockback, the Shockwave also had a tendency to cause extreme breakage to the maps. Because of this it was demoted to a minimal role in the game today, however that's also due in part to the Legend not being a playable class within the campaign (unless cheats are used). Originally the player would have been able to promote their pigs from Hero to Ace and then Ace to Legend (back then these three classes were split into three different types of Legends - Major, Colonel and General... confusing I know) but this was eventually scrapped as the game's progress shifted between Alpha > Beta.
We also have one other type of knockback item, this time in the form of an artillery shell. It is of course the shock shell. Dealing roughly the same damage as the Shockwave, the player is only able to fire one of these shells when they control an artillery piece. You'd think a shell that deals so little damage would be able to travel quite far, but sadly this is not the case. Alongside its limited range, the shock shell doesn't actually deal as big of a knockback blow to the targeted pig. Its made even worse when you realise that artilleries are only used in 3 of the 25 singleplayer missions, all of whom are usually positioned on high ground - making it very unlikely that you'd be able to blast pigs off the map using that type of shell.
So what does the future hold for The Shockwave? Well the only way it could be balanced within both game modes is via quantity. Future changes to the weapons each class of pig holds are just around the corner thanks to modding, and at most I could see the Shockwave being set to x1 use... maximum! Its an ability that relies on the positioning of the pigs. Any pig that happens to be standing near the edge of the map is toast. Anywhere else and it actually becomes quite a weak item. Still, anything is better than the suicide eh?