I’ve been playing more TFC lately, and whilst it may not have the bells and whistles of DoD:S or CS:S, it’s still remarkable fun. What surprises me is how despite being the first true multiplayer class-based game, and how despite lots of games and mods trying to copy it, none have ever succeeded in being more entertaining.

A fun aspect of TFC is the choice of classes and approaches that the player has - it’s such a dynamic gameplay environment (given that everyone else can choose a class too) that it’s not a game where everyone settles on “the best gun” and go for it. If being a Scout isn’t working, change to something else and you’ll have more luck.

It makes level design more fun too. Look at any good TFC map and you’ll see there are opportunities for every class to shine - there are points ideal for snipers, points desperate for a few pipebombs, and annoying corners perfect for sentry guns. Some are intentionally placed and engineered-for by the map design, others simply exist as player tactics have evolved. The important aspect is that every class has some advantage or purpose in each map.

That’s one of the parts I enjoy the most about level design - putting in specific features which most people will just ignore, but a few will spot as the ideal place to try something out. When you see someone actually do as you predicted, it’s all the more rewarding, and then you look forward to seeing if the measures you put in to counter-act them also works, and so on and so forth.

Secondly, it also makes the game more fun for the player. There is always something they can do, no matter what they are or what weapon they have. Once patterns emerge, you give them the chance to try something else to counteract an enemy that has learnt from their previous mistakes. I’ve said this before, but it really is an important aspect when giving a multiplayer map more depth than just a place to target practice.

The difficult bit is fitting it into the theme of the map. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to add a specific location for a very specific purpose (see the sniper tower of Cobble or in Avanti), but if it looks out of place then it looks forced, like a big sign saying “Look at this convenient window! Be a sniper and come here because you won’t think of doing it yourself!”. It is a bit condescending, really.

Same principle works with DM maps - if you’re going to place a big weapon pickup somewhere, give the player an ideal place to use it. If there’s a sniper rifle or crossbow, let them use it immediately by giving them a good view to pick people off from. If you give them mines, give them a few thin corridors and bottlenecks nearby to mine. No player should ever feel like their choice of weapon has made them useless or disadvantaged - leave that to the people they’re playing against.

It’s tricky to do without it looking obvious, but it’s great to see the process work in-game, in your own map, right in front of your eyes. Especially when you’re the one caught out by it!