To the Team Fortress 2 mapping community, Turbine has become an icon of hatred. Everything mappers don’t like about Valve’s selection of maps, summarized in one single BSP file. It’s “too simple”. It isn’t “well-detailed”. The complaints against it are numerous. This is unfortunate, because Turbine is a map that should be carefully looked at and analyzed. It’s obviously a successful map, Valve picked it up because of its popularity. And what makes it a popular map? That is what I’d like to dive into.
Turbine is Simple
The simplicity of the map is one of the most frequently voiced complains against it (by mappers), but it’s also the reason players love it. It’s easy to learn, easy to understand, and easy to play, which great for a casual player not looking to explore the strategic depth of a map like Badlands, and is it just as good for a skilled player looking to do some fragging without the tedious work that is winning a more complex map.
Turbine has the Right Elements
Despite its simple layout, the map has everything necessary for good TF2 gameplay. I wrote about what elements make a layout good in What Your Map is Missing, so I’m going to look at the same points using Turbine.
- Height variation: the containers and battlements at mid, the raised platform in the one hallway and stairs in the other, the tiered flag room
- Scout routes: the containers and battlements at mid, and the raised platform in the one hallway offer different options for scout (and other class) movement
- Skill jumps: again, the containers at mid can be reached by most classes offering a high-ground alternative to those who use it
- Reasonable pickup placement: small health and ammo in the flag room, larger in the hallways and in the alcoves tucked away from the fighting at mid
You’ll notice that the same layout features make up most of the gameplay elements. The map is simple, but everything is there, just condensed. Furthermore, Turbine offers other basic elements such as alternate routes.
Turbine is not 2Fort
The map avoids one of the well-recognized problems with CTF in the mapping community: the 2Fort effect. With the flag placed in such a way that requires going past the enemy spawn to retrieve it, camping becomes intolerable and the game slowly degrades to a death match in the area between the bases. Turbine, however, has a left hallway which leads to the intelligence, while the right hallway leads to the spawn. In addition, it allows for the positive element of 2fort, which is direct access from spawn to the battlements or mid. So again, Turbine has the right elements for a good map, and a well designed layout for capture the flag.
It’s Detailed (Just) Enough
While simplistic in detailing, Turbine is actually a well-detailed map. It achieves everything it needs to:
- It uses team colors to differentiate each side of the map
- The center of the map is “plain” while inside of the bases there is spytech
- While nothing special, Turbine is not an ugly eyesore
The reserved amount of detailing can even be considered a good thing. With a neutral color palette and a lack of visual clutter, the map lets you focus on what is important: other players.
Am I saying that every map should follow in the footsteps of Turbine? Not at all. But is Turbine the terrible piece of disastrous mapping failure that people make it out to be? Not at all.