Golden Wall‘s time in the ladder and tournaments map pools has come to an end. It has been a wild ride, my favourite kind of wild ride. I’d like to take some time to share in this post-mortem what I’ve learnt from Golden Wall.
The first version of Golden Wall had a rotational symmetry and had only one path between the two halves of the map and additional paths could be opened by mining minerals.
The Teamliquid Map Contest 12 judges didn’t like that the single path could be heavily abused and suggested that I turn the map into a mirror symmetry map. For some reason i only had in mind a diagonal mirror symmetry in mind at that time and I didn’t manage to fit the layout properly while keeping the golden wall landmark. When the next Teamliquid Map Contest started 6 months later, I realized that vertical symmetry was the way to go and I made the appropriate edits.
With this new layout, I was able to turn the map into an experimental map while letting players play in a totally standard way if they wish to. This is something I never thought about before and I took this opportunity to try it out.
Main map features
The backdoor in the starting base that is blocked by reduced mineral fields. Backdoors in the starting base blocked by destructible rocks are a notoriously hated map feature. The attacker can easily take them down even early in the game and deal deadly damage to the opponent.
In theory, reduced mineral fields fix that issue because the attacker has to bring many workers that may not be able to make a hole when the defender placed ranged units behind the mineral wall. And in practice, it worked! The defender has complete control whether the path is open or not. This is definitely a map feature I’ll use again.
There are reduced mineral fields in the middle. Controlling this area is important when the gold bases aren’t yet open. Players often made the effort to open that path by sending a few workers so this is a success.
The bottom half is initially completely inaccessible to ground units. This is a mixed bag because at the same time it allows interesting expansion layouts with different playstyles but also some really dirty strategies with Nydus/Swarm Host and Marine/Tank elevator pushes. If the defender doesn’t preemptively open the reduced mineral fields, these can be a pain to deal with. I initially expected the elevator pushes to be weaker as they require highground vision.
I wanted to experiment with ground area inaccessible with ground units for some time, especially lowground cliffs near expansions. What I’ve seen on Golden Wall makes me more cautious when experimenting with similar island features in the future.
The gold bases near the natural bases are very vulnerable to attacks. The proximity of these bases to the natural make them very strong for the extra boost to the economy. I was able to make it balance it out because of how it can be attacked from behind. It is also the shortest path to the bottom half without opening a hole in the starting base.
Usually, placing gold bases near natural bases allows for very strong proxy hatcheries strategies. To prevent that, the natural base has a ramp leading to it and it worked, I barely saw any proxy hatcheries there. That base was a big success!
How the map played out
Because of these map features, the games were very diverse. To the point where each player has its own stylistic approach to the map. Most maps are figured out in a few weeks with their timings, attack/drop routes, proxy locations and so on. On Golden Wall however, the meta was evolving every month with seemingly overpowered strategies finding their counter.
These are the final Golden Wall matchup balance stats.
The map ended up very well balanced for the amount of unusual features it has. With this kind of maps, it’s often a shot in the dark with the balance even with educated guesses about how it would play out theorically.
In the end, Golden Wall is my favourite map i’ve made to this day. It has the highest diversity of opening and strategies and it was a treat to watch them. Some players play completely standard with the top part, some use only the bottom part and others have a mixed use of the two halves. What i love the most about this left versus right map is that some games end up with a top versus bottom layout. Some games even had their players swap their main bases! Crazy.
I am definetly going to reuse some of the features and lessons of Golden Wall in future maps so stay tuned!