Out With The Old, in With The New
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 So Play Pen is out and has been replaced by the new/old map: Wasteland.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!