Since Trackmania's release in 2003, millions of tracks have been created, uploaded and played all over the world. With each new release in the series, the Map Editor has become increasingly more powerful and user friendly allowing bigger, wilder and more challenging tracks to be designed with ease. With ShootMania, Nadeo's twitchy team shooter built for pro-play, the same treatment has been applied to the principles of the FPS, giving users complete control over map design, game objectives, environment features and skins.
"Given the mismatch between teams, balancing Elite maps is a very challenging task."
With so many players creating maps, it's important to learn exactly what makes a good multiplayer map so that yours can stand out from the crowd. Symmetry is normally extremely important when designing FPS multiplayer maps, as every player should have an equal chance in terms of where they spawn and what the objectives are. But with Shootmania's Elite mode, you have one attacker versus three defenders.
The attacker wins either by eliminating the opposition, or capturing an objective marker during the narrow window of time in which it is vulnerable. Given the mismatch between teams, balancing Elite maps while also maintaining an exciting experience for spectators is a very challenging task. I spoke to Guillaume Rocchiccioli who works full-time designing maps for Nadeo.
“The most important aspect is to add multiple paths for the attackers as well as defenders to make it less repetitive for viewers and harder for the players to keep knowledge of where their opponents are. It's also essential to add enough cover for the attacker as well as environment features like rail placements, jump pads and tunnels which allow diversity in their attack paths.
“When I look at community maps I often feel that the creators forget about the spectator side. They never think about how it will look on a stream. By placing too many trees and narrow corridors, it can be difficult to get an accurate perspective on the players during the game. It's near impossible to get it perfect but with time we will all improve.”
"It's all too easy to accidentally create maps on which it's nigh impossible to score."
In the Elite mode, games are won through your attacking rounds, with the teams alternately cycling through their roster of players to field the one attacker each round. Attackers get a rail gun, versus the defenders slower moving rockets, but the mismatch in numbers still means it's all too easy to accidentally create maps on which it's nigh impossible to score. Environment features like the Mesh Grills, give the attacker a chance to scout the map from safety while reducing their enemies angle of attack. High ground is just as important, although it does make you an easy target.
Apart from predicting the attackers movements, defenders in Elite have two other weapons at their disposal. Standing on different surfaces changes the weapon you are holding, and defenders can switch out their slow moving projectiles for a railgun by standing on a Rail-activation platform. But it's a more complicated trade-off than that: while they can now carefully pinpoint the attacker, their movement options are limited. The action button no longer activates a jump, instead allowing the rail-wielding defender to zoom in. It's handy for sniping but it also leaves you incredibly open to attack as your field of view is very narrow. Meanwhile, defenders who enter tunnels automatically switch their rockets for a Nucleus - an incredibly slow moving ball of matter that can be fired when the player is in a tunnel. It lasts for several seconds and detonates when an enemy is within a certain radius.
“I don't include Rail platforms in every map as it is a perfect camping opportunity for defenders. The last thing I want to see is a map where defenders just stay by the capture point and wait for the attacker. As with the grills that guard players from being hit, it's all too easy for defenders to sit behind without having to worry about being taken out whilst the whole time they're getting a perfect scout on the attacker so we have to use these very carefully. I don't think defenders camping the tunnels are a problem as the nucleus is a very slow weapon. The defender becomes a very easy target and will get eliminated soon enough.”
"I constantly have to stay one step ahead of the players."
Nadeo are still updating the game with drastic changes. In recent months, the ability to wall jump was added.
“It basically broke all the maps. It has opened new possibilities for players and the longer they play, the more they learn to exploit the map so it is very hard to prevent. I constantly have to try and stay one step ahead of the players when designing maps.
“In the latest update, we added 'Techno' blocks which allow 3 times higher jumping, wall jumping and speed. It does however use all of your stamina so you have to be very careful about preserving your energy in a single jump. We've recently added a trampoline block too. I don't see why it wouldn't be possible for the community to make entirely new features and blocks. Storm is more of a sandbox than a regular game. You can create a map, edit the script, mod the environment, add your own features. Recently we added the ability to use and spawn items in maps like in Quake. Using all of these tools, we hope players will create their ideal FPS and share with friends. It's a very new game still. In the next two years we will see it grow more and more as the players make use of the editors to their full potential.”