- The map is one of the top 50 most popular maps
- You recently joined someone else’s game who had the map
- You published the map yourself
There is no other way to host a custom game. The maps in the top 50 are played plenty, and undoubtedly they will end up in your recently played list where you can host them. That is fine. The problem is the only way to get new maps that are not on the popular list is to publish them yourself.
To publish a map, you must exit the game, open the desired map in the map editor and click file -> publish and set any last settings (more on that later). Now the map will be uploaded to Blizzard’s server, and if there are no errors, you can exit the map editor and restart your game, then create the game from ‘Your Published Maps’ list. Unlike Warcraft 3, or SC1, when people join your game lobby, they will be downloading the file you uploaded to Blizzard's server, not directly from your computer.
There are a few problems with publishing:
- On the last step of map publishing settings that I mentioned earlier, you can rename the map to whatever you want. This makes it very easy to steal someone else’s work. Or you could just turn their map name into an advertisement. Also, when you publish that map, everyone on battlenet will see your name as the author, not the person who actually made it. If you don’t believe me go try it.
- You can only publish 5 maps at a time, which means for someone like me, who had over 4,000 custom maps in Warcraft 3, I have to plan out what I am going to play before I play it, and then keep my friends waiting while I waste a lot of time exiting the game, publishing each one, and re-entering the game.
- Because there is no way to locally host maps from your computer, it means the publishing system will be used for temporary map hosting. Let’s say I wanted to try out 25 cool-looking new maps in a given night with my friends, I would need to exit the game, publish 5 at a time, play them and then remove them, repeating the process until I ran out of maps to try. This is not what the publishing system was designed for, but this is the only way I try out maps that are not yet on the popular list.
- Due to the common practice of renaming other people's maps that I mentioned earlier, and the use of the publishing system for temporary map hosting, many duplicate copies of a map will be republished. Each time someone republishes a map, it will be under their name, and slightly different from every other version out there! The reason Blizzard claims to have removed the ability to create named-custom games was to prevent 100 different DOTA games – well they succeeded, except now there will be 100 different DOTA maps, each with a different author or map name. You can already see duplicates in the popular list, but this will get much worse once as soon as publishing abuse starts (more on that later).
- Compared to the rest of the game, publishing a map quite difficult ad is not is not intuitive. The typical user has no idea what the map editor even is, much less how to publish a map. Past Blizzard games have trained people that if they download a map and put it in the right folder, they can host it – nowhere in Starcraft 2 is the user told this is no longer the case (or why the decision was made).
- There are other problems with publishing, like the 10mb map limit. I will not go into those here, but I would encourage checking out the threads by IskatuMesk, and SCLegacy, both of which are excellent in-depth write-ups.
These issues taken all together bring us to a larger problem: because it is so difficult to host custom maps that are not already popular, most people simply will not bother hosting new maps at all. This leaves us with only the popularity system, which, as Blizzard poster Xordiah explains, it should work fine for discovering new maps:
I saw some concerns in this thread that you guys are afraid that a map that is published maybe five months after release but is really good will never get any attention. I don't really share this concern, because of the awesome sites out there that will start promoting good content. I mean, even today, when map publishing is still doing its first steps and while there is still quite a bit of work ahead of us, I have seen so many great maps that are featured on sc2mapster, on TL.net and many other community websites. There will always be a map making community like the Hiveworkshop were map makers will find support. And though all these sites, through the forums, through casters like Husky and especially through word of mouth good maps will be spotlighted and players will find them and make them popular. If a map is good, make a youtube video of it and it will spread if players think it is cool.
By this line of reasoning it is up to the map download sites to promote maps. While Xordiah is correct that sites have thousands of custom maps, he fails to understand that users have no way to play the maps they download, except by publishing. As if the limitations and difficulties of publishing were not bad enough, there is a good chance that by publishing you would be creating a duplicate and just adding to the popularity system’s problems, since any map author lucky enough to be featured on a site has probably already published. Further, without a good way to host unpopular maps, popular maps stay popular. With fewer people publishing, it easy to game the system, making maps popular that should not be or simply injecting fake maps in the popular list.
This is a nightmare for custom maps, but what can we do?
There has been much uproar over the lack of chat, lack of cross-region play, and lack of LAN support. Blizzard acknowledged all of these, but has remained quiet on custom maps. As SCLegacy points out, Blizzard knows the game-finding experience is not what was promised at BlizzCon 2009. Unfortunately the interface won't change the fundamental fact that you cannot host a downloaded map without jumping through ridiculous hoops.
Prototype Map Search Interface as shown at BlizzCon 2009.
Many of the people who are complaining about the custom maps are mistakenly focused on naming games or the popularity and filtering systems – none of that matters if you can’t easily play and host the maps you download.
Blizzard has some of the best modification tools and community of any game out there, and I am confident they can fix this. Please join me in helping to make Blizzard aware of the problem in whatever way you can.