Posted by:Nightmarjoo So you might be wondering, what happened to January's map of the month competition? Well, I decided not to host MOTM that month since bwm was fairly inactive at the time, and let the maps build up a bit so that February's competition was nicer, and to give me time to post the late MOTMs. Clearly that failed on both accounts. Despite that, we definitely have a clear winner this month, which blew the other maps out of the water as far as votes go.
And here I present (2)Spider Monkey by sTY_leZerG-eX!
This map is deceptively simple. From a glance there's not much to the map, but let me persuade you to believe otherwise! First thing you notice about the map is likely its symmetry. It has even symmetry along a line of y=(-x). More simply, it's a form of symmetry that can only be done entirely by hand: the editor is limited to even symmetry along the x or y axis, or odd symmetry along y=x (the most commonly used form in (2)maps). So keep that in mind as you examine the map: the editor couldn't simplify things here, it was all the mapper. So be on the look out for positional imbalances, or in this case, largely the absence of!
The first part of the map, the mains, nats, island expo between them and mineral only expansion between them resembles very much half of (4)Python, though the mains and island area are much more spacious here. Additionally, the nat features a lowground "cliff", a piece of land annexed away from the nat itself where harass units can be dropped but who will gain no altitudinal advantage. The nat choke is fairly tight, which encourages fast expo-based play. The neutral mineral only expansion has 12 mineral blocks, but with three blocks having reduced mineral values, so it will fairly quickly decompose to 9 blocks. This is a lot for a mineral only expansion, which typically have 5 to 7 blocks max. This expansion is pretty undefensible, it's neutral in relation to distance between players so has no proximal advantage and is in the open, featuring no choke to defend.
Will players attempt to take it for its mineral worth despite its great vulnerabilities? I think it's plausible, given another map feature. There is a clump of garbage in the center of the map which sort of divides the middle in half. I believe (but can't know for sure, the right position's bridge is a little high) that scouting pathing will take this side of the middle, and that because of the rest of the expo layout all other pathing will take the upper half. If this is true, then that neutral mineral only expansion can be ignored by the player who has a strong position in the upper half, enabling the other player to attempt to catch up via that expansion.
The last part of this half of the map is the island, which is pretty spacious, features a lot of unbuildable terrain (for dropping on away from static defenses), and is blocked by a neutral sunk which blocks the hatchery as well. This must be destroyed and time given for the creep to subside. The author clearly doesn't want you to build your strategy around taking this expansion, and would prefer for you to take it only later in the game when both players are capable of fighting over it.
Outside the natural we first encounter a very defensible 6-block mineral only expansion. The safe player will take this as his third, the somewhat less conservative player will take the next expanion: the third gas expansion. The third gas is defensible by ground, being fairly far from the opponent, and featuring a relatively tight choke, but is vulnerable to harass from the neutral-blocked cliff overseeing it from behind. The bridge mentioned earlier, which forms the shortest nat2nat path, will be behind most players' rallies I believe. Players I think are more likely to rally outside the third gas expansion, and thus defend both that and the mineral only expansion, while not being too far from the nat. The bridge will thus potentially be used for some forms of ground-based harass, likely involving zerglings or vultures (maybe dts), but probably won't be used much for army movement. This is the reason I believe the "lower" half of the middle will be largely abandoned, leaving the brave player to more safely take the neutral mineral only expansion.
The last part of the map revolves around the temple layer in the "highest" part of the map. Three pairs of ramps lead up from the middle to this region. The side-most parts of the area is annexed off by a neutral xel naga temple and two stacked neutral power generators to form the third gas cliff. Most importantly is the neutral gas expansion in the farthest corner of the map, in a lowground off-shoot of this area. The expansion is semi-island, the small choke to it being blocked by a neutral xel naga temple, and then the expansion itself being blocked by a neutral spore colony. This creates an island dynamic between it and the full-island in the opposite corner of the map. Both fourth gas expansions are neutral islands, and it will be difficult to obtain this additional gas. Much of the game's play will thus revolve around mineral heavy / gas light units to conserve the precious gas. This is important, because in scenarios featuring mineral heavy units, the tightness of the map becomes even more important than usual: because the splash of the sparce tech will dominate mineral heavy units in a tight area, and be nearly useless in very wide areas. This map has a very wide middle, but features tight chokes everywhere else. Thus it's up to the players to carefully choose their battles to optimize the strengths of their units and minimize their weaknesses.
Executionally the map seems very good. Stylezerg has believed off this symmetry very well, and it's not easy to do. Most mappers don't even bother attempting it. Even in the days of counting isometric squares for making a map symmetrical no one bothered with this form of symmetry (with notable exceptions, such as (2)paranoid android) because isometric squares going left/right and those going up/down aren't "equal" tile-wise, and thus merely counting left-right squares and replicating that on an up-down pallete will very quickly create positional imbalances. The only odd things I notice here positionally are the placement of the two bridges, and some ramp placements/angles, and those I believe are largely irrelevant. Thus, the most important stuff appears positionally balanced, nice job stylezerg!
The last thing I want to say about the map is to point out how the map is balanced by a series of dynamics. The dynamic of "top" and "bottom" of the middle (top left and bottom right respectively) dominates unit movement and pathing, the dynamic of two neutral 4th gas expansions in each of these regions further plays upon that, the placement of the neutral mineral only does so as well. The map makes gas scare, and then makes sure to include a variety of areas in the map, some wide some tight, to enable the players to balance the gameplay based on their decisions. A dynamic unmentioned previously exists where every expansion safe by ground (featuring a tight choke) being easily harassed by some cliff-feature (with the exception of the mineral only, making it as I said earlier the conservative player's choice of third base, balanced by its relative unworth of only 6 mineral blocks and no gas), and the bases which lack such harass-elements are difficult to take (the neutral min only has no such choke, and no such cliff as well; the two islands are pretty safe as far as islands go additionally). Thus the gameplay being on dynamics emphasizes what I said initially, that the map is only deceptively simple, and is beneath the surface a very complex and dynamic map.
Congratulations to sTY_leZerG-eX for his third MOTM ever, and first MOTM made entirely on his own!
Spam the thread here
Download the map here
Grab the obs version here
Don't forget to check out second place: (4)Asarin by neobowman! I don't write about second place maps with so few votes: like I said, vote-wise spidermonkey blew the other maps out of the water.