Team Fortress Mapping

When Team Fortress Classic arrived for Half-Life I wrote a (very) shallow exploration of the gameplay ideas to be had in the designer-accessible goal system. Probably applies to any more 'faithful' port of TF (like Fortress Forever), but doesn't have much bearing at all on TF2.

Jun 21, 1999

Unless you happened to randomly stumble upon this site while searching for porn, which I doubt, you should already know just what Team Fortress is. I'll briefly describe what it is if we have anyone using AOL reading this. Team Fortress is a mod for Quake/Half-Life that pits two or more teams, consisting of various player classes, against each other to complete goals unique to that map (usually).

These goals usually entail getting something from one place and bringing it to another, or stopping that transfer. In Capture the Flag, it means getting the enemy flag and bringing it home. In the Hunted President, it means getting your president to his escape vehicle (or stopping him).

The lovely thing about Team Fortress is that each map can be unique, with its own rules, scoring systems, objectives and teams.


Sometimes, this isn't the case. The Team Fortress mapping scene has evolved a very common and specific type of TF map, called the 2Fort. Basically, there are two fortresses facing each other, one team per fort. The whole point, commonly, of 2Fort is getting into the enemy team's base and doing something they don't like, like stealing their flag or dousing them in poisonous nerve gas. The Fort is always a home, refuge, supply, and respawn center for a team, but it isn't always an objective for the other team. Sometimes, a team doesn't have to invade the other team's base to accomplish something. They do, however, have to venture out of their own fort. The objective may not be in the other team's base, but it may be in between the two bases.

At rough estimate, at least half of all TF, and recently TFC, maps out now are 2Fort Capture the Flag maps. If its your first time mapping in Team Fortress, a Capture the Flag map is something nice to start out flexing your skills in balancing the teams and making sure the forts aren't too easy or too hard to defend.

To make a truly unique map, you'll have to plan a more interesting point of play. We'll get to that in a moment.

Common Team Fortress Map Types

Team Fortress allows the mapper to do a wide variety of things with its completely customizable goal system. There are a few scoring systems that have become more popular and widely used.

  • Capture the Flag: Two teams each have their own fortress/base/otherwise, which they must defend. Points are awarded for breaking through the enemy's defenses, stealing his flag, and bringing it back to your base. This type of map is easy to balance, so long as both forts are identical. More difficult is balancing how easy or hard the base is to defend and how easy/hard it is to escape with the flag.
  • The Hunted President: One team must escort a political figure of some sort across the map to the objective, while the other team must try and assassinate him. The Bodyguard team has a variety of paths they can bring the President through, while the Assassin team has a variety of places from which to snipe or ambush the President. Balancing this type of map is difficult. Snipers may have too few places to attack from, or too many. The escape vehicle/otherwise the President must reach may be too close or too far. Usually, it is easier for the Assassin team to kill the Prez than it is for the Bodyguard team to escort him to the safe point safely, so the Bodyguard team gets twice the score for a safe escort than the Assassin team gets for an assassination. It's best to balance a Hunted map around that ratio.
  • King Of The Hill: Both teams must control a single point, the Hill, for as long as possible. This is commonly done by flags, where a team won't get score for holding the hill unless they put their flag on the hill. Flag carriers become important this way. Score is awarded by time. Balancing this type of map is similar to balancing a CTF game. If both teams have equal resources, they'll be balanced, but how easy or hard it is to capture/defend the hill must be calibrated.
  • Territory Domination: Think King of the Hill with 4-8 hills to defend. Flags must be brought from the team's base to a Command Point, where they must stay. Canalzone was the first map to use this type of scoring system, and it was a well balanced map. Symmetrical Canalzone maps aren't quite as interesting, but they're easier to balance. If you go with asymmetrical, the command points near one base have to be just as easy/hard to defend as those by the other base. Command points should strike a balance with ease of defense and ease of capture. The point of the game is to capture points from the enemy and hold them as long as possible. They shouldn't be impossible to capture from the enemy.

Conflicting Goals

The heart of Team Fortress is conflicting goals. One team has an objective, another team has a contrary objective, and conflict arises. Whichever objective is achieved depends on which team is more organized and can shoot straighter. There are two types of objective conflict, the simple kind and the complex kind.

Simple conflict is where both teams have the same objective, and must accomplish it while simultaneously preventing the other team from accomplishing theirs. CTF, King of the Hill and Territory Domination are all examples of simple conflict. In CTF, both teams have to defend their base against an assault and simultaneously try to capture the other team's flag. In King of the Hill, both teams are trying to control a single point. Complex conflict arises when two teams have different objectives. In a Hunted map, one team has to escort a person to a certain point, while the other team has to kill that person.

Simple maps are far more common than complex maps. Complex maps, though, are just as often popular as a simple map. If you want to do something more original, think of a neat system of conflicting goals. For your reading enjoyment, I've brainstormed a bunch of ideas and stuck hem at the end of this document. You're free to use them. Hey, drop me a line if you do, I'd be interested in seeeing it. Civilians are always popular, too. It's always fun being the Hunted president.

Making Things Interesting

The basis of 2Fort is getting into the enemy base and doing something they won't like. How interesting that thing is I leave up to you. A recently released map for Team Fortress Classic, Invectus 3, puts a spin on 2Fort. The objective? To get into the enemy fortress's command center and blow up as many of their computers as you can before they take you out. Blowing stuff up is fun and interesting.

Another map for both Quake TF and Half-Life TFC is The Rock. There are another 2Forts, and one team has to bust into the other team's base, steal their key, and use it to fill the enemy base with toxic gas. Suffocating the enemy is fun and interesting.

It's Quake, okay? Give me some credit.

There are a wealth of things you can come up with. Just about anything you can do in Quake/Half-Life can trigger a tf_goal and give one team some score.


The biggest pitfall you can fall into when making a TF map is forgetting about the T. The map has to call for working together as a team. The map shouldn't degrade into a scout-running war or a HWGuy-MIRV-Spamming-fest. There should be opporunity to set up defense, and there should be opportunity to set up offense. Another recent TFC map, entitled RUN!, does this wonderfully. The concept is simple: grab the yellow flag and run with it to the other end of the map. Once there, grab the green flag that's there and run back to the first end of the map. Repeat. There's a big need for coordination in cutting off the other team, and defending the capture points.

The best way to make sure your map is worthy of the T in TF is to see if any one class can dominate. A base with only one entrance breeds spamming. If a scout can grab the enemy flag and capture it in under eight seconds, you need to make the map bigger. Be sure to place func_nobuilds in tight spaces where Engineers can 0wn by blocking a doorway or capture point with a sentry gun.

Some Neat Ideas

Well, here it is. A list of stuff. If you have a cool idea for a TF Map, but don't have the l33t skillz to bring it to fruition, mail it to me, I'll stick it here (if it's possible with TF), and with lotsa luck, someone may find it, think it's cool, and use it.

  • 3Fort Capture the Flag. 10 points for stealing an enemy flag and capturing it in your base, and 25 points for stealing a flag from one enemy base and capturing it in the other enemy base.
  • The Captured President. A variation of Hunted. The Red team is holding the President (yellow) hostage in their base. The Blue team has to break in and rescue him. The longer Red keeps him in their cell, they get points. Blue gets a fat amount of points proportional to how much Red gets per minute, for rescuing him. How to keep the President from spamming the whole game? Make him automatically force-respawn in the cell if the Blue capture attempt fails.
  • Take a complex map and make it simple. Say both teams have a president that they have to escort to the escape vehicle, and the vehicle only seats one. :)
  • Take a simple map and make it complex. Instead of two-team CTF, have two teams but only one flag floating around. There are a slew of things teams would have to do with a flag. Bringing it from here to there is usually about it.
  • Steal the Bacon. The Bacon, say, a backpack or a flag or something, spawns in the middle of the map, and both teams have to fight to bring it back to their own base. Every time the bacon is stolen (capped at one base or another), another slab of bacon spawns in the middle.
  • King of the Train. Picture King of the Hill if the hill had to keep moving in order to get score. Some system of path_corners triggering goals could be set up to keep the train moving. If the train doesn't move, no score. So, whoever controls the train has to pile as many badasses on the train as they can. The other team has to plan ambushes and try to take over the train. Things could get even more interesting if both teams are able to flip switches and change the path that the train takes. :)