Map design is a crucial component of balance discussion that is often left untouched in what otherwise seems like serious balance discussions. The map itself in my experience is actually the one of the biggest factors in terms of balance between different units and factions. You can easily design a map that makes T1 spam the only viable way to play and look look completely overpowered, and you can also easily design a map to do the opposite. The placement of contested reclaim, base reclaim, mexes, natural terrain, and chokepoints are factors that can and should be designed and tweaked if balance is the ultimate end goal.
That leads to this suggestion. There should be a new subsection akin to Balance Discussion on the forum for Map Proposals. There should be some rules to making new posts on this subsection in order to ensure there are map proposals of decent quality that can kickstart map and balance discussion. My suggested post criteria (with my last map proposal as an example):
Must contain all of the following:
[e.g., Blue Sky]
Map description/backstory (should contain design elements of the map and how that ties in with the backstory):
[e.g., A ruined Aeon civilian base set in a recessed alcove. The natural protection afforded by the terrain was not enough to keep them safe from the ravages of the Infinite War. The theme for the map should be heavily based on the 3rd campaign mission of the FA campaign (Red Flag).
Sell the idea of a ruined Aeon world by making contested reclaim areas with wrecked Aeon buildings at the 3 main natural expansions, with some minor wrecks (there should be reclaimable Aeon buildings and engineers). There should be two neutral Aeon engies that survived the slaughter and can be captured by the players to gain Aeon technology. The design of the edge of the map should have circular mountain chains protruding from the edge of the water like in the campaign map.
Map layout (must have at least 1 image of the concept map to scale, with mex/hydro locations marked, basic terrain description, reclaim locations, etc.):
The lines indicate where the terrain is impassable.
Yellow area is where the terrain is at a higher elevation.
There exists another image with the reclaim that should be a part of map proposals but I couldn’t find for this proposal.]
Map design explanation (should justify the design of the map and the expected gameplay that should arise from the map layout):
[e.g., A competitive 1v1 10x10 map with a 9x6 playable area. The goal should be to create a land-map with multiple viable strategic options for where to put the commander at the start. The two contested natural expansions are about equidistant to the players, and so should both be viable to take. The options differ in the amount of “map space” the battle lines provide when drawn, so players to play aggressively would favor travelling horizontally for their natural expansion while defensive players would favor travelling vertically for their natural expansion. More interesting gameplay should emerge when players choose the same side. The central area is low in resources beyond the initial reclaim but should provide enough value just by its strategic position for it to be worth controlling by the player. The plateaus have resources and reclaim, and are open on one side, but can be edge built anywhere on the other. Since the plateaus’ “edge side” is much closer to a player than the “open side”, this should make fighting for the plateaus a viable and necessary option for both players. The amount of reclaim in mid should be about 1000 mass, so it’s worth contesting at the start but won’t provide a game-deciding amount if most of it is lost by one player. The central terrain breaks up the map, creating defensive passageways and chokepoints. That, combined with the relatively low amount of mexes, should be enough that this doesn’t turn into a T1-spam-fest. The canyons provide some amount of reclaim and mexes, so it is worth investing into a transport at some point. After the transport is used to drop the canyons, the player may also use the transport to drop units into the soft underbelly of the opponent’s base. This map should play like a 5x5 but have interesting strategic options that lead to very different games.]
This forum section should kickstart ideas around map balance discussion, which is something sorely missing from the forums. It should be helpful for mapmakers looking for some inspiration or ideas. I’ve had chats with some of the most talented and prolific resident mapmakers here on faf, and it seems they are often looking for inspiration (whether that’s in terms of map names, map designs, or other ideas). Obviously there is no guarantee that every map proposal will be created by some mapmaker, nor should such expectation exist, but this should give people who have ideas for maps an avenue to express their ideas and communicate with mapmakers, and should also provide a forum for people to comment on map proposals and discuss map balance.
This is just one way to generate new map ideas and discuss map balance, but after some thought this is the best idea I could come up with. Other ideas I had were weekly discussion posts for existing maps, where people could discuss the balance of existing maps and changes they would make. However, I felt like that this was the best balance of increasing engagement, introducing fresh ideas, and kickstarting discussion about map balance.