PC Gamer: You've made stuff for Counter-Strike, Half-Life 2 Deathmatch and TF2, each very different games. Are there common principles to making maps for all of them?
Sean Cutino: Back when I was making maps for Counter-Strike and Half-Life 2 Deathmatch I think I was still very novice and was just playing around. I can't really say too much what common principles there are because I really didn't understand how to make and playtest a layout back then. I think I started real mapping when I started for TF2. Before that it was just me making pretty rooms that didn't have much gameplay basis to their design.
With a game like HL2:DM you don't really have to worry about chokepoints between areas or balancing like you do in TF2. Being a free for all everyone spawning everywhere with no real goals other than killing each other makes it a lot more free form for designs. It's different though in how you have to worry about weapon placement. For example, you have to make it risky or hard to get the most powerful weapons in HL2:DM maps. In Counter-Strike and TF2, with two teams spawning in specific locations, you have to worry about balance between areas a lot more.
PC Gamer: What things do you have to consider when making a TF2 map that you don't for, say, a Counter-Strike one?
Sean Cutino: Since players are constantly respawning in TF2 you have to worry a lot more about balancing between the controllable spaces of the map. There's also a lot of variation in the playstyles of all the classes in TF2 you have to consider that don't exist in CS. You need to think about health and ammo placement as well in TF2 maps.
PC Gamer: Are you planning to go into level design professionally? Would you like to work at Valve?
Sean Cutino: Yes, I plan to do professional level design for my career. It would be great to work at Valve since I'm a big fan of all their games. I also really like how they work. About a year ago they invited me out to visit their office so I got to see the TF2 team at work. They playtest new TF2 maps daily and have discussions afterward giving each other feedback and suggestions for what to change.
Working in a professional environment would be a lot easier than online where I have to rely on people letting me run playtests of my maps on their servers. I also have to sort through a lot of feedback and suggestions from people who don't really understand the game.
PC Gamer: Are there any community-made maps for TF2 out there that you think deserve to be official? What are your favourites and why?
Sean Cutino: Valve has made most of my favorite community-made maps official already. Ctf_haarp is one that's not official that I really like the look of. It's unique in its design, I haven't seen any other maps on a cliffside like that and it's detailed really well.
PC Gamer: Lastly, what do you like most about PC gaming?
Sean Cutino: The moddability of everything is why I really like PC gaming. In games, half the fun for me is making new stuff for them.
Ofcourse, I also like the keyboard and mouse for controls in first person shooters. I don't get how people play FPS games on consoles, it's hard to aim with a controller.