Another one of my pet hates in level design is how some maps consist of obstacles right in the most annoying places. This is even more true with physics objects (like in CS:S), where hitting one stops movement entirely or pushes you in a direction you didn’t expect.
Giving players the ability to move easily through a map has always been a priority in multiplayer maps - here are hundreds of Quake/Quake 2-era tutorials on mapping sites offering tips and guidance to ensure pillars and supports don’t interrupt the path of a player sliding along a wall. In those days, movement was very important due to style and the speed of it all. This is less true in CS:S, where movement is often much slower and more measured.
The same principles are important though. CS:S players are good at what they do. I’m not the best CS:S player, but strafing backwards along a wall in retreat, knowing when to turn and avoid walls and crates is an important skill (especially in Zombie-Strike: Source!). It’s these occasions where a barrel just slightly obstructing my path has disasterous consequences… like being fragged by half a dozen happy zombie slashers because you can’t move anymore.
Imagine if Dust had just 2 or 3 barrels in the middle hallway. That hallway is a haven of motion. Think of the amount of minigames that are played by two opposing players just peeking around corners trying to get a shot at the other. In these occasions, a barrel knocked by either of them could lead them to death. In the large 5-on-5 player firefights that often happen in there, imagine how barrels rolling around would get in the way. They might look cool, but as a player on 5% health trying to escape, they’re a disaster.
Generally, props and obstacles shouldn’t be placed such that a slight misjudgment by a player will considerably slow their progress. They shouldn’t be suprised that they hit an obstacle - especially not if it is always there. You’ll find that in CS:S, 99% of obstacles that get in the way and cost you health or a life are there because someone moved them in the way, or they were hit by a grenade or something. That’s acceptable. It’s part of the game.
My thinking (when I place things) is as follows: where would this item be if humans decided where it ended up? Barrels and crates rarely end up in the centre of rooms, rather corners and areas that attract little human passage. They’re not in the middle of hallways or at the very bottom of stairs or in doorways. They’re out of the way.
That’s six whole paragraphs about obstacles, but if I die again due to silly obstacle placement, I may kerplode into a thousand tiny fragments of Dave-matter. Seriously.