Thanks to the Steam Workshop, I have more random things installed on my PC than ever before. Wanderin through the workshops has become a routine in my downtime. They are the curio shops of games, a tiny sliver of insight into someone's passions put on display. I'll find something, subscribe, forget I have it, then turn on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and discover it has underwater maps, battlegrounds inspired by Alice In Wonderland, and motherboards to run around on. Here's a few of my favourites.
I do love the part of the CS community that doesn't give a hoot. "Logic and scale in a tense game of counter-insurgency? Not as long as I have an urge to create a StarGate!". And I have to have that. Not because it's good, or well balanced, or pretty. But because it exists. Speaking of which.
Give people mod tools and within six months there will be a StarGate mod for your game. That is the law of the universe, and it was once again proven by de_stargate_atlantis, a map that has the CT's beaming into the TV show's base to take on the Terrorist occupiers. It's an enclosed space, but nonetheless built with a lot of open spaces and large areas. You can definitely camp in the shiny sci-fi corridors.
This chess, but from another universe. It's an Alice in Wonderland inspired map, where the ground is a broken, rippling wave of checked tiles and the landscape is covered in over-sized crockery and chess pieces. Outside the map's boundaries are tumbling cups, saucers, and teapots, and I think the suggestion here is that the map is a frozen moment of those weighty pieces colliding with the ground, as if some giant lost his game and petulantly pounded the board. One area has a plate slicing deeply into the ground. My favourite touch is the steam rising from the teapot spouts.
This is actually a port of a CS: Source map, but it's worth commenting on. One of the tropes of map-making is putting the players in spaces they couldn't occupy in the real world. In this case it's in a PC case. CTs and Ts stalk around the PC components, trying to find line-of-sight past the CPU fan and using the sticks of RAM as cover. It's a lovingly made mixture of mocking silliness and authentic parts: there's a "Super-Duper chip", but there are also stickers on top of the DVD warning it's a "Class-A Laser Product", and the fans have spinning blades. Only the bravest player will enable the option* that destroys the inside of your PC when the terrorist's bomb goes off.
The second law of moddo-dynamics states that once the StarGate map is released, then the community will make a map that uses the visual style of Minecraft. So it was that awp_minecraft_crash_go was made. As the prefix suggests, this is a map for sniper scumbags to work out their issues with each other: a square map with a blocky, covered hill in the middle. Even with all these clean lines, it's possible to be sneaky, using the gaps in the straight trees works well. But no matter how many times I stab the ground, it remains resolutely undug. Bah!
Another of my favourite map tropes is the mapper being deliberately obtuse. De_Spectrum_b1 is such a map, where there's no underlying theme pinning it all together. It's just a strange, dark map with artwork, cubes, and neon lighting. There's also a running commentary of outside trills and bug noises. But even without a theme, it still manages to remind me of something: it's like an over-developed laser tag hall.
TheSparseForest doesn't look immediately interesting, but there's a point to TheSparseForest that I like: you can only see silhouettes, which really means you can only see trees and almost nothing else. The only way to find someone else is through their gunfire. It's a good idea to build tension, but the implementation is a bit shonky: when I tried it, it lagged horribly, and the gun blasts didn't carry far enough to make it a truly interesting experience, but I like notion and if putting it on the list inspires the mapper or someone else to fix it, then that's what I'm going to do.
Another classic from maps of ye olde tymes. A skybox of galaxies, and corridors and rooms with no coherent design to link them. One room has a miniature sun with a single tiny planet orbiting it, and one of the ways out is to walk up the unfurled tongue of a giant face. It's not a map to fight people on, but if you and a couple of friends manage to host it, you'll have a lot of fun just wandering the corridors and reporting what you find to each other: "Have you been in the room with the reconfiguring staircases, Bopo?" "Nope. I'm stuck in the Idiot Zoo. Help!"
The central atrium of this under-construction underwater hotel is a lovely space, with just the right level of tackiness that you get in hotels. It's no Rapture, but there are towering windows of liquid blue that do a decent job of making me want to hold my breath.
You knew we'd end up here, eventually. Another remake of a fond classic, and another map that miniaturises the players. Rats is still discombobulating in best way. You're a tiny man in a front room, and down here everything looms: bookcases are towering buildings with tottering, physics enabled books; you can climb ladders made of pin-tacks, and use a kiddy train as intermittent cover. There are lovely little details, like the change under the sofa. It even has a hidden room with a rocket car and a mousetrap.