For those of you that may not know me, let me do a little introduction. My name is iCCup.Diamond and I am the CEO of iCCup TV. iCCup TV is the largest Non-Korean E-Sports live streaming networks in the world. We have a staff of over 20 members and output over 50 hours of casting minimum a week., almost exclusively in Starcraft II. Our events are of the highest quality, and we work hand in hand with some of the greatest minds in the SCII on a day to day basis. We have a wealth of experience in everything from pioneering new rules to running the first ever Starcraft II league with the ITL.
That being said, Starcraft II is the best game I have ever played, and I LOVE being a strong part of the E-Sports community. Starcraft II is remarkably balanced for being such a new game, and I think you guys did great on everything but one thing.
While Blizzard has always been a step above and beyond every single other game publisher there is one area you have lacked in. Map making. Now I cannot blame you for this. When you release a game, the maps are bound to end up being sub par in the long run. You don't know all the variables of play and how people will abuse the map features.
For those that do not know, one of the very main things that made Starcraft Brood War have such a long life cycle was the maps made for it not from Blizzard (http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft/Maps). In Brood War they were made by KESPA. And there was A LOT of them (http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft/Category:Maps). It allowed the game to remain fresh and was one of the things that brought ME in when I first started following the competitive scene. I was amazed by all these cool and unique maps. I had been staring at maps like Lost Temple for the better part of 8 years at that point, and if games were still played on these maps I would have been NO WHERE near as interested in BW as an E-Sport.
However with Starcraft II the situation has slightly changed. Starcraft II was born as an E-Sport from day one. Within hours of the beta going live people were already figuring out the best build orders at the time, or cool micro tricks (such as when Louder created Sentries force fielding their own ramps to buy extra time). This game has been pushed to every single limit besides one since March, maps.
Blizzard maps are very creative, but it is obvious they were designed when the game designers had no idea how games would play out when mass distributed to all the players across the world. They just don't hold up anymore. They are GREAT for newer players, but to push Starcraft II forward as an E-Sport it is time to start catering a little bit towards the competitive scene and a little less towards the casual scene.
The E-Sport side of Starcraft II has already grown to the proportions that it needs your attention. I realize that in a recent interview you have said that Patch 1.2 will be the "E-Sports patch" but I have a feeling that is mainly entailing ladder seasons and chat channels. As great as both those things are, the current map pool threatens to stifle the growth of Starcraft II.
The maps promote a dangerous and risky style, and have positional imbalances that favor spawning at certain locations. They punish expanding, a core part of the Starcraft experience.
For example in ZvZ on Scrap Station the player that spawns on the right needs an extra creep tumor for their creep to reach his ramp for Spine Crawlers and for mobility, this also extends to Xel'Naga Caverns (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=155163#1) . They start the game essentially behind by spawning on the right.
For Protoss, on Steppes of War the bottom base is much harder to attack with Colsi then the top base due to a difference with the cliff structure (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=155101#1). This is most evident in the PvP match up where the mid to late game entails mass Colsi vs. mass Colsi. One player gets an advantage for free.
Blistering Sands highly favors certain match ups like PvZ, and always punishes expanding.
Delta Quadrant has too many possible exposed attack paths for Reapers, and Protoss can warp units right into the opponents main base. Also the cliff above the in base expansion can be abused with more then Reapers. Tank and Thor drops become death to a Zerg player in most situations.
Lost Temple's cliffs over the natural expansions make Tank or Thor drops almost unstoppable. It's a damn good map, but at this point the cliff has become a highlight flaw in the map.
Metalopolis is a great map but at this point is OLD. I've been playing that map for like 7 months now, it's just so blah...
Jungle Basin and Shakuras Plateau are both too new for me to pass judgment although I don't think these will work out well based on certain map features.
Am I saying pull these maps out on the street, burn them, and destroy all record of their existence? NO. They are VERY good for new players.
But the problem is these are the same maps the professionals ladder on. Most tournaments will only run ladder maps. That being said these maps are not fair for the professionals to play on. They CAN and HAVE abused every single thing mentioned above. A LOT, in high profile games.
We need a map system for the professionals and in general the higher level players. We need something different that promotes fair play (as Baishok has admitted previously is not what you are offering currently with the current map pool). I will quote two of the best players in the worlds opinions on the subject of the current map pool:
IdrA: "tournaments should definitely be moving to custom maps as soon as possible. thorough testing or not they'll be better than the blizz maps, which certainly haven't been tested with balance and game quality in mind. "
Liquid`TLO (asked about the custom map scene in Korea): "Hmmm, not have heard about. I only know that the Koreans here are in agreement with the fact that many of the current maps are quite horrible. I'm pretty sure some people are already working on new maps somewhere though. We'll just have to be patient and wait for good maps!"
There you have two of the very best and brightest minds in Starcraft both talking about there being problems with the current maps. It's not a problem for a couple bronze league players somewhere, these are two of the people that made it into the GSL, a tournament Blizzard had a great hand in making possible and was one of the largest E-Sports tournaments of all time and had over 2,000 players qualify for one of 64 spots in the main tournament. Of those 2,000 people IdrA made it in the Top 32 and TLO made it in the Top 16.
That being said PLEASE consider rotating some of the community made maps into the higher leagues of play through introducing them as ladder maps. Even if they are diamond level and above, adding just a COUPLE of these maps would be gigantic.
We at iCCup TV have hosted hundreds of games on these maps and no major glaring problems like the above maps have been documented. Our average game length has actually gone DOWN on these macro maps, and the players enjoy them. On top of that the FANS want them. I did a poll about if iCCup events should go to all custom maps (on TL), and received a 94% approval rating into rotating out most Blizzard maps from over 1500 votes. The voice is there, the fans want to see something new.
There are already several growing map making communities including our own iCCup Map making team. Look at their work, it is SO good.
We love your game Blizzard, we want to see it grow into the biggest E-Sport ever, but it's things like this that will only stunt the growth of this sport.