Playing a lot to Counter Strike: Global Offensive, I asked myself what was giving such a tactical aspect in the game maps, but also what those maps have in common.
In Counter Strike: Global Offensive, two sides are opposed : the terrorists (T) and the antiterrorists (CT). Thereby, the maps are often considered as advantageous for a particular team. Understanding this phenomenon was a part of my problematic.
de_nuke, for instance, is considered as the most CT-sided map in the game, with nearly 62% rounds won for the CT. Conversely, de_dust2 has an average of 53% rounds won as T.
CT and T wins distributions on competitive maps (HLTV.org)
A concept : the pathways
By analyzing the critical paths to reach main objectives in the multiple competitive maps, I realized that for each of these, the access to those main points was based on the same logic.
In its center are the pathways. Let's define them as : the way or ways usable to reach an area.
In any case, the objectives (usually bombsites -A or B-) have an amount of CT-sided pathways superior than T-sided pathways. Generally, all the main paths respect this rule (I mean, even the middle lane of those maps).
de_mirage, for instance (see the image below), has for each of his strategic points : 3 CT-sided pathways against 2 T-sided pathways. The difference might seems trivial, but since the teams are composed of 5 members, one more path can considerably slow an attack and add an important threat.
de_inferno & de_mirage pathways
However, this statement must be nuanced. The pathways represent the areas from which the players can ARRIVE. In addition to these, we can add the areas where the players can BE (in other words, the defensive points). Not shown on the above maps, they can be a real threat for the terrorists and are a huge part considering the difficulty to enter a bombsite.
Moreover, the pathways add a kind of realism to the scenarios behind the Counter Strike: Global Offensive maps. Indeed, in such a concept of attack/defense, that is logically to the attackers to innovate and find ways to achieve their objectives.
What does the pathways engender?
Principally, the implementation of pathways results with the creation of a supernumerary. The terrorists will tend to meet and try to take an objective being together at the same moment and at the same place.
Of course, such a decision can be make-or-break: if they find their way to the objective, the tendency will be totally reversed (we will get back to it soon). Conversely, it they fail, their team will be highly disadvantaged by the numerical inferiority.
We can also see, in the developers choices, a will to help countering those pathways. In Counter Strike: Global Offensive, two grenades are particularly useful to block a path/the vision in some areas: the smoke grenades and the incendiary grenades.
At each round's start, the players have to buy the stuff they judge useful to achieve their objectives. We can observe that T-sided incendiary grenades are 200g cheaper than the CT-sided one. Likewise, the T-sided main weapon (the most used), the AK-47, is 200g to 400g cheaper than the CT-sided main weapons (M4A4 and M4A1-S), the exact price of a smoke grenade.
Far from the idea that pathways were the center of the game design, this coincidence is important enough to be notified.
How to explain the CT/T percentages?
A main concept in this game is the CT rotation time. When the first stage of a round, which is the insertion in a strategic point (in other terms, the pathways), is finished, the team members transmit the informations required for their allies' help. That is when the rotation time steps in. The longer the rotation time is, the slower the help will arrive: the T defensive organisation will have more time to perfect.
If we look at de_nuke, the most CT-sided map, we can quickly observe its verticality and facility to go from A bombsite to B bomsite. The rotation time is higly reduced and that is not unusual to see the reinforcements arriving faster than expected!
On the other side, we can see that once the bombsite has been taken, the retake (the fact of succeeding to kill the T team and to defuse the bomb) appears harder if the pathways number is higher than the defensive points number.
That is why, in de_dust2 (the most T-sided map), when the terrorists reach the bombsite B (for instance), defending the bomb in a fight with equal force is kind of easy. The denfensive points number is higly superior to the pathways number. We can observe a minimum of 6 defensive points against 3 pathways.
de_dust2 defensive points
Using the pathways
Generally, when we do Game Design, we determine different parameters before beginning the pure and simple creation. Alternatively, in Level Design, we tend to create some map sketches, then modify them depending on parameters.
That is exactly at this moment that the pathways step in. These are part of those parameters useful to balance a map. If you think terrorists have a huge advantage, think about how many pathways they have. If they have 20 of these, that may be a problem!
So yeah, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and that it could be helpful for something, as creating a map ;)