You may not know this, but every time you die, or crit, or fire your weapon in Team Fortress 2, somewhere deep in the Valve-o-plex a vast data warehouse makes a note. Valve then analyses every detail to discover exactly how players are playing their game. They know where you’re getting stuck or frustrated, and can then tweak and make changes to streamline the game experience. After a bit of number crunching Valve release this information publicly so that the great unwashed can see they are but one of many, many players immolated by pyros in the first tunnel at the start of Goldrush.
For the stat-happy the TF2 information can all be found here. The site also carries stats for the Half Life episodes, Day of Defeat and others. But what I’m more interested in is Goldrush. It’s been out for a few months now, so it seems like a good time to take a look at how things are panning out. Thus follows an breakdown of each stage of the recently released death map. Hot colours mean many deaths, cold colours are areas of relative safety. Blow the image up to get a better look, I’ve added extra annotation, the untarnished original image is here for your attention. Click below to read the rest of the commentary.
Death rides steady with the cart for the first stretch, there’s nothing unusual here. The green glow in the hut opposite the starting gates (A) is evidence of the frantic early-game battle between Blu spies and the Red Snipers and Engies that habitually inhabit this building. Then into the tunnel (B), by far the most dangerous entire area on the entire map, it’s the colour of fire because it’s heaven for Pyros. Soldiers also fire onto the cart as it emerges (B1), critical rockets and tight spaces mean a serious mess, and an angry orange hotspot on the map.
Take a moment to examine the common sentry positions in this area, indicated by white X’s. Spies commonly hunt the northenmost sentry, often taking the dotted path illustrated. They are often caught in areas E and C, lending a healthy glow to the Map of Death, as I’ve come to know it. Clever Pyros can also cripple the Red team by spawn camping and igniting enemies as they emerge from their base, adding to the death toll at E. Soldiers and Demomen like to fight over point D, often encountering a sentry inside the house. Once this area has been taken it gives a good view on most of the area’s sentry positions as well as the cart making it a worthwhile conquest. In my early experiences of Goldrush, I almost never saw this section won, but more recently I’m disappointed if we don’t see see Section 2. The last few metres, indicated by a conspicuous bright green section, are always bloody, but persistence pays off. You’ve just gotta take those sentries down.
The start of section 2 is great fun to defend. Huts at F and G give cover and elevation for Soldiers, Demos and Heavies. It’s easy for Blu demos to fill the hut at F with pipe bombs, but a canny Engineer will have a sentry at the rear entrance to this hut, and a dispenser and teleporter within. There are also health and ammo spawn points inside the hut, making it even harder to dislodge defenders. The sentry point here covers the cart once it’s moved a few metres, and also covers the rear access slope to the hut at G, a favourite for Blu Pyros looking to get up close and personal with its inhabitants. Good Spies can undo all of Reds’ hard work here, as there’s little use for Blu Pyros at this section and there won’t be many attackers devoted to spy-checking. A skilled Spy can sap the sentry at F and kill the hut’s inhabitants, breaking the back of the defense.
Once this is done it’s an easy ride round the corner. This section is rarely seriously contested, and is an uncharacteristic quiet spot on a map that is otherwise intense and relentless. Valve are always careful about the pacing of their games, and this section might be a reward for conquering the opening few metres, giving the Blu team a sense of real progress as they move the cart accross the bridge and into the tunnel.
Indoors again and Pyros will be everywhere. There’s plentiful death in this area, indicated again by the green patch of death at H. Getting the cart out into the open is quite a fight. This spot is the tipping point in the map where teleporters become vital. Prior to this moment both teams have to travel equal distance from base to get to the tunnels. Now Red Soliders and Snipers only have to move a few motres from base to see the cart.
Point I is a natural emergence point for Blu players trying to take the left flank, the easiest way for Soldiers to take out the inevitable Red sentry on the far right. Players often die here, taken down by Soldiers, and Snipers positioned at J. Once this sentry is down pushing the cart beneath the bridged buildings is possible, though at this stage Red Pyros will come around the left to backburn attackers.
The final push of Section 2 is even more insane than that of Section 1, and much more difficult. Sentries in this area cover each other, making life difficult for Spies. Co-ordination and ubers are a good way to to break these installations and launch the cart into Section 3.
From the looks of the Map of Death, Section 3 is a walk in the park for Blu. This is absolutely not the case. It is telling that Section 3 is so much quieter that Sections 1 and 2. It’s an indication that not many players see the end of Goldrush. In fact, according to Steam Stats, Blu only wins Goldrush about 17% of the time. Valve have reported in the past that in-house Goldrush is more or less 50-50 between Red and Blu, which suggests there are tricks attackers have yet to learn that will enable them to crack the final section.
Section 3 isn’t too difficult for Blu in the opening areas. There are generous flanking paths (K) for Pyros, Spies and anyone who feels the urge to surprise the defenders. The sentries that often appear at the opening of the map are easily conquered by Demomen and Soldiers emerging from the elevated exit on the left side, just below L. I have had bountiful rounds as a Sniper perched on a fence at M, a good spot to cover both emergence points. The sentry just above M is a good position for covering the cart as it rounds the corner, and for catching out flanking Blu players.
Once the cart has turned the corner Blu tends to do well. The second straight never seems to be too much of a problem for attackers. Snipers will duel it out at each end, but soldiers can take out the turret that’s often erected at the end of the corridor, and the rest of Blu can happily take advantages of the many rabbit holes in this section, which also allows them to flank defenders based at N, looking north.
Once the cart has reached point N however, things begin to look up for Red. My kill and damage records as a Soldier, and my headshot record as a Sniper all come from defending this section. Snipers have a ready made balcony (O) which overlooks the cart perfectly. The only way a Sniper can be taken down in this position is by another Sniper, often whilst taking refuge in the low bunker to the left of N. Rockets are easy enough to dodge and spies struggle to reach it. Remarkably I have seen a Demoman stickyjump from point N onto this balcony. If you have the skill to do this then it’s a devastaing point to hold as an attacker. It’s difficult to think of any real strategies for defending this section. Basically, be a high damage class and kill everything that you see.
For attackers, there are windows in a tunnel at P which overlook the final bridge. Soldiers can use these to good effect. The key to success for Blu is to dominate the tunnels between P and N which frame the final section. There are several exits that can be used here leading to the low area by the final bridge, which can provide good access for Pyros. Attack from all sides. Wipe the defenders out. As they wait for respawn push the cart across for the win. Dodge the explosion and rocket jump into the resulting fiery cavern to make your team lol.
There’s a lot of space outside of the playable area. For the most part these contain the dusty scenery that makes up the backdrop to Goldrush. Interestingly though we can see the origin of the cart (at point ?). What could this be, a train yard? a factory? A portal to the Aperture science lab? Maybe it’s a base, within which the G-man sits, watching events unfold on Source TV. Perhaps it’s the an old woman, seated imperiously in front of a microphone, watching the cart’s progress, occasionally leaning forward to remark.
“The enemy has received additional time!”
Only Gordon Freeman himself could possibly know.