On the ancient jungle world Zerus, slavering predators wage eternal war, striving to climb the universe’s bloodiest evolutionary ladder. This is also a great way to visualize the 14th TLnet Map Contest, wherein 163 of the StarCraft II mapmaking community’s bravest submissions were viciously winnowed down to 16. When the mist of combat settled, one submission had emerged above all others: Blackburn, an inventive and action-packed Rush map created by Alexander “Insidious” Hallmann. We reached out to Hallmann, an experienced submitter but first-time finalist, to chronicle the origin story of his 1st-place map.
Pay heed: Many TLnet Map Contest finalist submissions wind up on the official StarCraft II in-game ladder. The StarCraft II dev team’s finest map connoisseurs will be turning a critical eye to these creations in the weeks to come, and you can bet that Blackburn will warrant serious consideration.
Q&A: INSIDIOUS, CREATOR OF BLACKBURN
Congrats on your win! We’d love to learn about the person behind the map—care to share your backstory?
Hallmann: I'm Alexander Hallmann, aka Insidious. I'm from Krefeld, Germany, and I'm doing my Master's [Degree] in Electrical Engineering. Other than mapmaking, modding and coding, I also like to go sailing, hiking and basically anything that gives me opportunities to travel.
What’s Krefeld like?
Some say the best thing about Krefeld is how close it is to other places. (Laughs) But it does have some nice corners, like the urban forest area, the Rhein, and—as a StarCraft fan—it’s amazing to have TakeTV [home of the HomeStory Cup tournament series] around the corner!
How did you get into mapmaking?
I really liked the Warcraft III map editor as a kid and made some—really bad!—custom maps. The StarCraft II editor didn't feel too different, so eventually I started making StarCraft II maps too.
Blackburn is a beautiful map. It seems you must have an artistic streak—where does that come from?
I don't consider myself an artistic person! (Laughs) To me the visuals are the hardest part of mapmaking, and I'm so slow at doing them. It is nice when you finish something that’s nice to look at, though, and I think it's fun to do something creative every now and then.
If you struggle with visuals, how do you come up with ideas and overcome that weakness?
I just try different designs over and over, and watch in awe at how other mapmakers make these beautiful designs. After tons of iterations I usually find something I like.
I don't really have a go-to process for visuals. My friends tend to focus more on the balance and general layout, too. I usually look at the vast resource of old ladder maps to get some inspiration, but I also want to give [each map] a personal twist.
How did you come up with the layout for Blackburn?
I had the basic setup for Blackburn finished a while ago. Its main distinction has always been the first three linear bases and the gold mineral wall. The goal was to have a rather normal three-base setup [with a clear 2nd and 3rd base for each player to take], but also some of the craziness of maps like Dasan Station. It used to be slightly bigger and had a very different middle and bottom. I struggled to make the middle engaging, which is pretty hard for all axis-symmetrical maps, I think. Making the map smaller and adding the Inhibitor Zone Generators made the difference this time, and I'm glad that the 12 and 6 o'clock bases saw some use [in the WardiTV TLnet Map Contest tournament].
An earlier version of Blackburn, which Hallmann submitted to the TLnet Map Contest #12
You submitted an earlier version of this map to the TLnet Map Contest #12. Did you receive any feedback from that process that was helpful to you?
Oh yeah, there was some detailed feedback, for example regarding the linear middle and the useless bottom bases, and also some encouragement about the map's potential. TLMC feedback has always been very helpful for me.
What’s your favorite part of the final version?
I'm probably most proud of adding those tortured Ultralisks [to the map’s scenery]. I'm a zerg player myself, but they fit the map so well, I think.
What was it like watching pros compete on Blackburn during the WardiTV tournament?
I was in the middle of moving during the tournament so I couldn't catch all the games live, but I made sure to watch them later. It was unreal, especially seeing players like soO and Innovation play on the map. A friend sent me the video while I was stuck at an airport and I was freaking out. soO even prepared a surprise build!
Any advice for the aspiring mapmakers out there?
Learn how to make solid 3-base setups first and then go wild! Also: Find people to provide feedback and help you with testing. If you work long enough on your own map you develop a blind spot for its flaws and you need honest feedback. If you don't have a clan or enough people to help you, come join the Mappers' Circle Discord channel. I only recently joined myself, but people seem to be very helpful, and there’s always discussions about mapmaking, weird map ideas and upcoming contests. And I want to do a little shout-out: If you like crazy maps you should check out Mapper's Delight. It's a tournament on maps with insane features that are not restricted by being ladder friendly.
Congratulations again to Hallmann for his first-place finish in the TLnet Map Contest #14! View the full results here.