Article is a Work in Progress
In June of 2017, I was approached by the marketing team of Fnatic, a massively popular esports organization with top performing teams across several games, to create a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive map to advertise their upcoming summer product line. The map they requested was a "Surf" map, a movement based mod for CS:GO, set in a summer environment. I selected a few other mappers to work on the project with, and after a month and a half of non stop work, we released surf_summer.
Leading the team was an interesting experience. Between managing clashing design ideals between members, directing the visual direction of the map, standardizing workflows, developing my own contributions to the map, and providing updates to Fnatic, I had my hands totally full with work. Having led map collaborations before, I made sure to only reach out to people who I knew would work well with each other and put out high quality levels.
The gameplay had to be relatively easy to appeal to a wide audience. People who had never played surf before would have to be able to pick it up and progress through a meaningful amount of the map, while having just enough challenge to keep them interested. The map also had to have meaningful speedrun routes to tighten the competition between experienced players who were speed running the map.
Surf environment art is an interesting paradox. The source engine was generally built for small, enclosed environments, but surf lends itself to massive, high speed rooms. The theme Fnatic requested also called for wide open spaces. All in all, lots of optimization and compromise was put into making the map look great.
I decided to break the map down into several environments that I thought of when I heard the word "Summer". The player started on a wide open beach, progressed through a wave ripcurl, to a trippy sky display, through a skatepark, back to a beach boardwalk, through a giant sandcastle, underwater, and finally through waterslides at a water park.
One of our biggest design goals was to advertise Fnatic's products without just making the map feel like a big advertisement. We worked the ads into the map in clever ways, such as placing the tshirt designs as graffiti on walls, and creating giant branded flip flops inside the sandcastle macro stage.
The map was very well recieved by both the experienced and the beginner surf community. The map recieved at least 22,000 unique subscribers on the steam workshop and was even featured on the front page of CS:GO maps. It has a 89% like to dislike ratio on the workshop. Videos of the map got hundreds of thousands of combined views on YouTube, and Fnatic used videos and pictures of the map on their social media page to advertise their products.