Netease, the official Asian Warcraft 3 server, has announced a change to their map pool: Ancient Isles and Turtle Rock will be removed and replaced with Concealed Hill and Northern Isles. The impact of this map rotation is quite spectacular as it affects both the most competitive ladder and the map pool of premier tournaments, such as WGL W2018. More broadly this will also have a major impact on the Western scene.
In this article, I have consulted with a melee map maker to hear his thoughts on the new maps, which are being rotated in and out.
First of, I want emphasize the importance of good, well-rounded maps. There are two main reasons why high quality maps are vital:
I consulted with Mafe in order to get his competent opinion on the four maps in question.
Mafe is one of the best, and most passionate, melee map creators that I know of. He does a great job assisting those interested in melee map making by producing thorough, educational guides as well as constructive criticism on individual maps. He is a devout member of the well-known Warcraft 3 modding website The Hive Workshop. If you are interested in making maps, I strongly encourage you to join their community on either their online forums or Discord server.
Let's hear what he has to say about the maps!
Northern Isles - Map Created By Filmting
This is simply a great looking map, and I'm very excited by what it brings from a gameplay perspective. Yes, it is somewhat bigger than most other maps, but if it is seen as a replacement to TR then this is justified, and frankly I like it that not all maps are of the same size. The shop/market placement situation in the middle is made very well in such a manner that there is asymmetry, but neither player has an obvious advantage. Then there are some rarely-seen, but balanced creeps and innovative creep camp compositions. If I had to change something, I would remove the potential of an early Lightning Shield at the Murlocs and make AoW creeping more convenient by removing some unbuildable terrain. But frankly, these are just minor nitpickings and similar things can be said about more established maps. I'm just happy there is a map that brings both new looks and well thought out ideas for gameplay.
Concealed Hill - Map Created By Unknown
Yes, there are fountains, as everybody is noticing immediately. I think it is unfortunate to reintroduce fountains right at a time where KotG/Huntresses is so popular, as one of the downsides of Huntresses is that they are inefficient at Moon Well healing, but now if they can heal for free at the fountains, it might make this strategy even stronger (at least against UD/HU). However, if we remember that EI in its original incarnation also had fountains and now it is remarkably balanced , I don't see why the same couldn't be done with CH. I think the map is doing many things correct, and it includes some nice unique aspects like the two taverns and a central gold mine. It remains to be seen how these actually play out. I'm a bit worried about the potential tome of experience in the early game from the spider crab. For now, I would give the map the benefit of the doubt, but I would not hesitate to replace the fountains if the prejudice against them is confirmed again.
Ancient Isles - Map Created By TehScourge
I will never cheer for a community-created map being removed, but I think that among the seven maps that were played almost exclusively for years (AI, AZ, EI, LS TM, TR, TS). Ancient Isles was probably the most obvious candidate for removal. The statistics suggests there are some balance issues. In my opinion, the map was rock solid and no question a great improvement over the maps it replaced, but after being in the map pool for so long, I feel that it is lacking some unique features to still keep it fresh.
Turtle Rock - Map Created By Blizzard
TR is more controversial. As a mapper, TR has some of the most interesting aspects like the three different spawning implemantaton, the unusual expansions, the strong watcher wards, and the virtually infinite goldmines. At the same time, the infamous close position possibility might force pros to invest twice as much time into preparing for this map while still having a larger than usual random factor. I can understand why players rather rely on their own skill than on something they cannot control at least when it makes such a fundamental difference. I believe that TR most likely would never have made it into the competitive wc3 map pool if it wasn't there as a Blizzard-created map from the start, due to its many unique aspects. But maybe that was exactly the reason why TR is still an interesting map, and I hope that in this, the community will also give new maps a chance even if they do something that is quite different from the established maps.
Mafe makes some very interesting points about all of the maps, and I'm looking forward to seeing new strategies and play styles develop as pros become more accustomed to their nuances. Netease doesn't have a veto function like on Battle.net, so we can be assured that the the two new maps will see a great deal of play time! I'm personally quite fond of the aesthetic Northern Isles. Game play wise it reminds me of an improved version of Road to Stratholme.
Though I also have a bit of skepticism against Concealed Hill, I love the idea of having an odd amount of goldmines. I think it will lead to some intriguing feuds between the players in the middle of the map.
As Mafe's words have compiled the majority of this article, I have the closing words be his as well:
As a mapmaker, seeing new maps in wc3 after such a long time is a dream come true and very encouraging. I hope this isn't the end, and I would also ask the community to give these new maps a chance. This doesn't mean turning a blind eye to any potential issues, but ideally to give constructive criticism for these, and potentially other, new maps. The melee mapping community isn't big, but there are some dedicated people who are very happy about any feedback they can get.