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PD Watergate

Officially included in Team Fortress 2

Science has shown They react violently being forcefed beer, good thing we're at a beer factory.

  • Players must fight for control of pickups - dropped by killing enemy players - and deposit them in the UFO's tractor beam to score points.
  • Watergate was introduced in the Team Fortress 2 Invasion Update on October 6th 2015.
  • This is the first and only community-made map for a Valve Software title that introduces its own custom gamemode.
  • The map's layout and theme took 3 months to produce with help from Louie Turner. The gamemode took 6 months to refine through 50 versions with help from Ian Gooch.
  • Team Fortress 2 official map wiki page

Watergate was a large map endeavor for Team Fortress 2. The Player Destruction game mode went through a lot of iteration, redesign, and brutal testing where sometimes we didn’t know what next to do and the only way forward was to experiment and analyze player impressions. The level layout also changed in correlation with the game mode over time, slowly taking on its own distinct style from other modes but maintaining geometry set pieces for fans of deathmatch combat.

Watergate’s gameplay style of deathmatch centering around teamplay elements was influenced from my experiences with TF2’s Arena game mode, and my frustration with the lack of care for surviving in the other standard game modes.

Arena mode is Counter Strike in TF2: you attempt to kill all enemy players before they kill your team players, or after 1 minute attempt to capture the unlocking center control point.

Arena mode necessitates a lot of advanced game prediction and understanding of class mechanics, where player lives are the main objective, and so taking out even a single player means a lot. However, arena mode is not friendly to new players because the only way to help your team is to kill enemy players. Additionally, Arena mode’s long respawns (between 1 - 2 minutes on average) are annoying to players who want to quickly attempt another go at combat - as they’re still only just learning the basic game mechanics.

Having pickups dropping from players gives a resource for deathmatching, and having to score these in the center of the map requires players to exit their spawns to win.

Having the score zone move across the map, instead of being static, helps to correlate the battles to how deathmatch battles flowed at times unequally - there shouldn’t be one ultimate position to attack and defend on the map.

The team leaders were necessary to lure players to one particular location because this is a team game after all. The team leaders getting a dispenser (heals + ammo) but being able to be seen through walls also gives a great boss dynamic like Arena mode where the boss must rely on their prediction of enemy movements and class archetypes versus their wall visibility handicap. Fighting against bosses is fun, and so is becoming one.

  • For a TF2 level you want some open space for combat to exist on multiple levels, but you don’t want these spaces too far away from each other because not only does combat feel disconnected but sightlines get stupid.
  • When someone really doesn’t like something, their reason might not be the actual reason. Try standing in their shoes (in the game) and like a detective see what they might have been feeling otherwise. Initially some testers hated depositing beers in the beam, but what it turns out they actually hate is being forced to not move while being attacked - so we allowed them to swim around in the beam to dodge fire or escape at any time, which fully quelled their problems.
  • Making custom gamemodes in Source is really restrictive and potentially really buggy.
  • You should put fade distances on any prop in the environment that doesn’t have its own silhouette contrasting in its environment (against a different colored wall, against the sky, etc). You’d be surprised how often players do not notice otherwise-obvious prop fades while they are currently engaged in combat - they aren’t looking.
  • Players don’t often think about what they often cannot see; out of sight out of mind. This is useful to keep in mind when placing health packs, routes, objectives, etc. But it’s also useful to know when players are being spread too thin across the map - in which case you could hide some of the lower-priority objectives (in our case only the ‘team leaders’ would show up through walls, not anybody who had had pickups on them).
  • Getting down the sense of teamwork in a Team Fortress 2 map / gamemode is a little tough: it requires that you have a way to direct players naturally together using tighter spaces or choke points. In Watergate we just throw players into the same general areas and they naturally have engaging battles.

Watergate was initially developed for the TF2Maps.net Mercs vs. Aliens contest hosted over four months between July and November of 2014, of which the map took 2nd place overall (of 12 entries total).

Starting late in the contest, and one month into its two-month development period I teamed up with Louie Turner who quickly advanced the map’s detail over my whitebox layout (without whom, this map wouldn’t have been completed in time), while I was polishing up the game mode and assorted map entities (finale sequence, etc). It was a crazy jarring collaborative month and the quick progress inspired us to accelerate at full force.

Post contest, and a month break to focus on my school studies, each map entry was given feedback straight from Valve - albeit only a couple sentences per map. These small but great notes encouraged us to attempt to smooth out the map’s core gameplay experiences, however the only real way to up the ante was to move the game mode - currently hosted by in-map entities - to a sourcemod plugin. This change allowed us to experiment with more complex functions and even implement them waaay easier, but at the cost of requiring community server operators to install our custom plugin for the map to function (which is difficult to do as it turns out - much to our community testing detriment).

Between February and September 2015 we rapidly experimented with many different gamemode variations. Some even turning out to be more fun than what we eventually released, but had become too complex for new players to grasp - forcing us to reduce gameplay variables.

The map released officially in Team Fortress 2 in the October 2015 Invasion Update.

Here's the trailer I made for the map upon official release.

Here's a video from a youtuber Mr Paladin highlighting some Spy gameplay on the map.