Starting from the match of midas vs savior, Hitchhiker has been used as an official map of Shinhan Starleague S3.
Reavealed here are the production note of Hitchhiker, made with an aim to inherit the form of strategic maps
for 2 players such as Bifrost and Peaks of Baekdu, and answers to your questions.
Actually, Hitchhiker was made a year ago. During the preparation for the 05-06 Shinhan Bank Starleague,
a feature so called “Neutral Structure” was first introduced in a melee map. Hitchhiker was one of the maps made then.
Hitchhiker and Pioneer Period are somewhat twin maps.
“A map with a central rush route and two more rush routes connected to another entrance”
was the theme for‘Naissance(The picture below)’, the roughdraft for Pioneer Period with four startings, and Hitchhiker.
Since Hitchhiker is a map with two startings, it has more strategic factors whereas Naissance is
more for large scale combats. However, the basic theme of the two maps is very similar, therefore I find the two maps as a “twin.”
Another basis of Hitchhiker was Circular style maps. Mercury, Pelenorr, and Alchemist
turned out to be a failure, showing the limits of circular maps.
The breakthrough of the limits was “Rush Hour.” The map tends to be circular in the early and middle
stages, and center style in the late period. This was partially a success, giving the fun that was
unique to circular maps. Hitchhiker is the opposite. This map is center concentrated only in the
early period of the game, and as the game proceeds, the importance of the circular battlefields
in the outskirts increase. This leads to division of forces or occupation of important spots,
shown only in the late stage of circular maps. Therefore, this map can be classified as a modification of circular maps.
#2 Use of Terrains
The main theme of this map is “wit.” The idealistic goal of Hitchhiker is to let the witty and
clever player win, rather than the one with automatic movements from experiences. That is why
the use of terrains of this map, especially in the central canyon, is crucial to the victory.
There is a Chinese novel called “The Three Kingdoms” based on ancient Chinese history.
The novel illustrates the battle in the Hulu Gorge led by the two greatest strategists of the time,
Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi. Zhuge Liang decoyed the Wei army to the narrow valley and drove
them into a corner with fire attacks. Likewise, use of terrains in the narrow valley becomes
a crucial factor to the game, far more than the usual hills. (In the real history, the Wei army was
saved by an unexpected shower.)
After the earlier and middle stages of battles around the narrow valley, the dogfight starts. The rear
hills of the mineral expansion, the easiest one to get, and the expansions isolated by neutral
structures are unsafe from harrassments. Other remaining gas expansions at 1 and 7 are free from
attacks using terrain, but they are close to the opponent.
Therefore, among the recent maps, Hitchhiker is the most difficult one to have the second and
the third expansions. That means this map is intended for small confused fights instead of
battles in a mass, which also means implication of problems with balance. The key point of
making this map was how to solve such imbalance.
#3 Playing in This Map
There are some things that players should keep in mind when they play in this map. First,
this map is different from other maps using Neutral Structures, such as Alkanoid or Pioneer Period.
Pioneer Period and Alkanoid’s Neutral Structures are mostly used as barriers, blocking
the entrance. As a result, it encouraged defensive play styles. Hitchhiker's Neutral Structures seem
to be similarily arranged, but as a contrast, destroying the structures to open up the route becomes
necessary to attack the opponent's expansions. Therefore the neutral structures in Hitchhiker are more of an offensive factor.
Another feature is allowing hidden structures. If you just skim through Hitchhiker, you are
likely to think that this map does not have space for such tricky plays. But as you can see in the
picture below, every single terrain in the map can be used for proxy or hidden structures.
Warping Robotics Facility in a remote area connected to the player's main base will not be easily
patrolled by the opponent, therefore gives far more damages than normal. Hidden gateways
or factories built past the neutral structures by pylon jumps or building supply depots can
result in a thrilling situation for the player; invasion upon the opponent with two entrances.
#4 T vs Z
Before the season started, I estimated the balance of the official maps for the season. It may
not be accurate after all, but I thought the TvsZ balance to be 5:5 or a little more inclined to Terran.
Basically, Hitchhiker is a 'happy map' for Terran players. It has two staring points, and even if
you fail to set out proxy structures, you can recover your advantages by blocking the narrow valley.
Furthermore, availability of Zerg's additional expansions after the nature and the mineral
expansion is very much limited, which gives Terran more chances to win as the game lasts
longer. The reason that Midas could beat Savior was following this basic principle of the map.
Still, the zerg players have many cards to win. The three Hatchery build which is commonly
used nowadays brings a mineral expansion, and this is what gave Zerg advantages in Arcadia.
The Lurker and Mutal harrassment using the narrow valley gives Terran trouble to fight with
small and midium scale unit masses. Moving forces to remote areas rather than the narrow valley
means leaving another entrance of the main base open, and the narrow valley is not an exception; Terran has
many spots to defend. Therefore, Zerg can go for elimination in the worst case. Had savior not
exccessively attacked Midas and invaded his opponent's main base earlier with the powered
economy from the expansion, the result could have been different.
Terran's Advantage: Ability to block the narrow valley with two structures. Difficult to get gas expansions.
Zerg's Advantage: Easy to get a mineral expansion. Battles in the valley. Three entrances. Easy to go for a slow drop.
Zerg vs Protoss is not easily predictable. While ZvsP matches are the fewest among the
matches between two different races, they present so many different game styles, therefore
the balance depends on the most common strategy of the time.
For the Zerg players, this map is easy to fight against Protoss. The difficulty of defending
expansions for Protoss means the mobility of Zerg can give more damages to the opponent in
the late period. The narrow valley can be used for containments with Lurkers. And the three
entrances to the main base allow Zerg to invade the Protoss' double Nexus with Hydra from three Hatcheries.
However, Protoss users also have advantages. The valley can be defended by a few cannons
and structures, the second expansion is easy to get after double Nexus, and the terrain
provides a very long route for Hydra-oriented plays, which is good for the use of corsair-reaver.
These factors can give Protoss users a notion that this map is 'pretty fair.'
Zerg: Expansions easy to attack, Lurker containment easy. Three entrances to the main base.
Protoss: Narrow valley. Easy to get the second expansion, Easy to use Corsair-Reaver.
#6 T vs P
In fact, the most controversial match in Hitchhiker is PvsT. The defeat of Anytime[gm]
given Protoss users frustration and anger. (If you search for “Hitchhiker” in certain communities,
you can find it out for yourself.)
There are basically two ways to set the balance. One way is to make the balance 5:5 throughout
the game, and the other way is to make the early and middle periods a little inclined to
one side, and vice versa for the late-mid and later periods of the game. The former way is very
hard. Unless the map is really simple, the fair balance throughout the game is a mission impossible.
That's why I prefer the latter.
TvsP balance in Hitchhiker is undoubtedly favorable to Terran players in the early and mid periods.
However, when all the Neutral Structures are destroyed and Carriers are produced, all of a
sudden the game is in Protoss' hands. Therefore the Protoss players must pursue stable
management as much as possible, regardless of the damages he might receive in the early
and mid periods. On the contrary, the Terran players must try to give damages to Protoss as
much as possible, so that the game will not be difficult even with Carriers. Firebathero
showed this attitude very well.
The Protoss players are required to use shuttles or other methods to safely survive the early
and mid periods of game. The brown line crossing the center of the center valley means exposure
to attacks by dragoons or lurkers on the hill once you are inside the line. Terran's timing rush can be somewhat
difficult by dragoons on the hill. Therefore, the sensory length of the rush route by these
time-earning plays feels even more farther than the real length.
Being a 'runaway Protoss' with expansions while leaving the main base and the nature behind can be
another way. Therefore I think this map is favorable to Protoss, and the Terran players will
have to look for solutions to win.
Protoss' Advantage: Proxy and hidden structures in the early period. Use of Carriers in the late period.
Terran's: Attack on Protoss' mineral expansion from the hill. Terrains of the narrow valley good for fights.
This seems to be all I can say about Hitchhiker as the maker of this map. I will leave the
rest of the story to the players. I hope for many exciting games in Hitchhiker, the official map
for the third season of 2006, or for the first half of 2007, if used further.
Thank you for reading.