Competitive and Casual Maps: There Is No Such Thing Today I want to touch on a subject that’s long been a sore point of contingency in the community; the “competitive” versus “casual” map labeling. Little over a year ago, PsychoDuck and the former THFE crew (as well as ForgeHub) made a transition from labeling maps either “competitive” or “casual”, and it’s a move that I applaud. See, the thing is, there is no such thing as a “competitive” or “casual” map, there’s only a “balanced” map. A map is either balanced or it’s not. “But Schnitzel! What do you mean by ‘balanced’?” When I speak of balance, I’m speaking in terms for how enjoyable a map will be for players of all skill levels. Can super “sweaty” kids play on it and have a moderately good time? Can “casual” kids play on it and have a moderately good time? Can a mix of good and bad kids play on it and still have a moderately good time? What it boils down to, is the map free of exploits or cascading advantages. An exploit is something that occurs on a map that a player can take advantage of to gain an unfair advantage over opposing players. It can come in many forms, be it hidden power weapons, hidden power positions, or difficult to get to areas that were not intended by the creator (such as getting out of the map on Recurve and sniping for example). A cascading advantage is something that allows for a team to get a lead and maintain it in such a way that the opposing team has no way of fighting back. Cascading advantages can come in the form of poor weapon placements, weapon respawn timers, insurmountable power positions, or any mix of the three. Power weapons that despawn upon death or deletion (and not on weapon pads) with a short respawn timer are something that can contribute to cascading advantages, as the team controlling those weapons will know when they will respawn and thus will be able to get them again without the opposing team’s knowledge. This type of cascading advantage can also be particularly frustrating on large open maps where there are a limited number of long range precision weapons, as the dominating team can continue controlling said weapons and making it (at least seem) near impossible to for the opposing team to make a comeback. What do these two things have in common? The make the game less enjoyable. Of course no one enjoys losing a game, but losing a fair and well fought match is one thing. Losing on seemingly unfair terms is another. Both of these issues diminish the capability of the losing team from being able to mount a comeback, regardless of skill level. More importantly, when differences of skill level are added to the equation, these two issues can out right ruin a player’s ability to enjoy a map. To sum it all up, there is no such thing as a “competitive” or “casual” map, only a balanced map. A balanced map should be free of exploits and cascading advantages, as these diminish how much players enjoy the map regardless of skill level or degree of “competitive” mentality the players may have. And much more importantly, as there are almost never perfectly balanced teams in regards to skill level, these two issues will be compounded drastically by the disparity in skill levels. Please feel free to discuss and comment below. Thanks!