Interviews by Daniel Shannon
After Tripwire picked the winning maps, I had the opportunity to interview each of the winning authors. What follows is the announcement of, and the abridged story behind, each of the winning maps (the full interviews with each winner will be released later).
In an era where more and more developers seem disinclined to release modding tools for their games, mod team turned developer Tripwire Interactive stand out as one of the most modder friendly developers. During the nine years since Red Orchestra: Combined Arms won the first Make Something Unreal Competition, Tripwire’s high command never appeared to lose sight of their modding roots. For example, Tripwire negotiated a deal to develop Alex Quick’s Killing Floor mod into a full retail release. They also published The Ball, which was one of the winners of 2010’s Make Something Unreal Competition. Furthermore, they have a history of hiring or contracting modders to design levels for the Red Orchestra series and Killing Floor. Most importantly, they’ve held mapping competitions for all of their games, and have given away some very generous prizes. The final phase of the current Red Orchestra 2 mapping competition is no different. Each of the six winners will receive some well earned dosh for their work, and the Grand Prize Winner will pocket ten thousand dollars total and a hoss Origin laptop with a custom Red Orchestra 2 paint job.
One of the winners mentioned that the scale and diverse nature of the battles on the Eastern Front can inspire a modder to create very different maps set in that conflict. This competition has certainly resulted in a diverse array of maps, both in terms of gameplay and setting. The winners have given us intimate close quarters fighting in trenches, large tank battles, firefights obfuscate by fog, and brutal meat grinders in environments ranging from urban ruins, to a snow covered forest, and placid plains (well, they were placid before all those people started dying).
Best Remake of a Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 Map
John Chalabi’s Arad 2 Tanks tied for 3rd place
Arad 2 Tanks transforms RO’s Arad map from a combined arms map about conquering the plains of western Romania, into a tanks only map that rolls over that same cursed land. John Chalabi, who has been making maps since Unreal Tournament, says it’s the best community around. “I heard so much on the forums about needing larger maps, thus the reason I wanted to make it on a larger scale. I had great feedback on things like my trees, fences, destructibles, fog, water shader….on and on. Let’s just say the map is what it is today because of the community. So I’d like to personally thank each and every one that helped me with the map.”
Johan van Pelt’s Rakowice tied for 3rd place
Johan van Pelt, who took 3rd place in both of the categories, has been making maps since Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. For van Land the choice to remake Rakowice was an easy one, not because it was necessarily his favorite RO map, but because RO2 had many models that could be used for the remake. In addition to those, van Land had already made several models and textures that fit with the map’s premise, a winter assault on Krakow’s Rakowice airport. Player feedback wasn’t as easy to come by, but Johan did get some input via Steam. This lead to subtle changes like adding some cover for the first objective and altering the spawn distances on the map. After all, “players don’t want to walk too long to [get into] the action.”
Florian Montaut’s Stalingrad Kessel 2nd Place
Florian Montaut began making rudimentary RO maps for his clan out of appreciation for RO’s “accessible simulation.” The fond memories of RO’s map coupled with Montaut’s love for RO2’s gameplay set him on the road to remake Stalingrad Kessel. He chose that particular map because he wanted to create a map where Engineers play a key role and “the success of the attackers depends on their approach to the map.” If the angry chatter on public servers is any indication, competent Russian engineers are the decisive ingredient for an allied victory. Montaut admits that Stalingrad Kessel “would have been a slaughter for the Allies” without the community’s input. One example of how feedback altered the map is Florian’s decision to alter Axis spawn points so the Russians would have an easier time progressing past point A.
Maik Dokter’s Gumrak Station (Remake of Basovka) 1st Place
Maik Dokter decided to remake Basovka, where Germans have to assault Russian defensive positions to capture a train station, because it had “such an awesome trench system” that no RO2 map had at the time. He wanted to keep Basovka’s brutal trench warfare while moving the setting from Western Ukraine to the Stalingrad region. He found “a good foundation” for his remake in Gumrak’s train station. Like the other winners, he credits players with helping him develop the map. In particular, they were exceptional at finding “mistakes or bugs,” that Maik would have overlooked.
Best original Map
Johan van Pelt’s Cold Steel 3rd Place
Johan van Pelt was making Stalingrad themed maps for Call of Duty: United Offensive before Red Orchestra: Ostfront came out. For van Land, the Eastern front was fertile ground for maps because it “was a conflict on such a scale and so diverse.” Cold Steel was the result of a desire to make a Stalingrad themed map, in part because he was impressed with the sheer size of the city’s Red October, Lazur, and Tractor Factories. Johan once worked in a steel factory so he knew “what to find in one.” He was able to combine that knowledge with some of his own wall and floor models as well as other custom assets. With that, and a little player feedback urging him to reduce the size of the second objective, Johan was able to turn his initial concept of two large factory halls into the latest iteration of Cold Steel.
Kieran Tobin’s Bridges of Druzhina 2nd Place
It is difficult to believe that Bridges of Druzhina is Kieran Tobin’s first foray into making custom maps. Bridges is a brutal slugfest where the Russians must fight their way across forests, plains, urban environments, and two very deadly bridges. Kieran loves this sort of variation because, for him, “it creates a story with memorable chapters along the way.” After all, who could forget, as they bleed out on the final bridge, their victorious assault on a bakery fifteen minutes earlier? Once he had the basic idea down, he “just had to learn to do it.” To give his map a unique look, Kieran created his “own terrain textures, modeled the trees and foliage, and also the bridges and buildings.” Then he drew the layout on a napkin “and went from there.” Of course, it’s hard to balance a map with a pencil and a napkin. Thankfully, forum discussions helped Kieran tweak everything from “cap times to the [Russian] tank.” The result speaks for itself, and it sounds like the death throes of a Russian who made it to the final bridge with less than a minute left on the map.
Danh Truong’s Winterwald 1st Place and Grand Prize Winner
The Grand Prize winning map, Winterwald, is probably most notable for its unique winter forest setting, the multiple paths available to reach each objective, and its foggy atmosphere. Arguably, it is even more impressive that Winterwald’s author, Danh Truong, has never made a map before. Danh actually didn’t get into the RO series until he tried it out during a free weekend on Steam. “After playing for about an hour, I fell in love and bought it,” Danh said, “even though I spent most of my time running through trenches and dying over and over.” 300 hours of gameplay later, Danh grew tired of the Stalingrad motif and, inspired by the Battle of the Bulge scenes in Band of Brothers, decided to make a winter forest map.
Of course, the greatest hurdle in Winterwald’s development is that fact that, as Danh put it, “I had no idea what I was doing.” He had to learn as he made the map. Thankfully, fellow mappers offered some help. For example, Johan van Land taught Danh a few things, and Winterwald uses trees made by Kieran Tobin (Hopefully, they aren’t regretting that now).
Some of the most unique aspects of Winterwald’s weren’t part of Danh’s initial plans. For instance, Winterwald’s foggy atmosphere, which Danh says is the “source of countless complaints and compliments,” was added later in development. One reason behind this is that players at the top of the hill could “see all the objects load up,” which destroyed performance. There was also the issue that the map lacked adequate cover. Instead of ditching the hill or adding a bunch of unseemly debris, Danh added fog. Coupled with the multiple paths to the objectives, which was added due to player feedback, the fog adds an element of tension. Just where are those dastardly Germans trying to capture the motherland’s hill?
Daniel Shannon is a freelance writer who has done work for PC Gamer, Gamespot, and Voodoo Extreme. He lives with his wife and an English Bulldog named after Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Recently, the dog reenacted the north African campaign by playing in the sand with a German Shepard mix.