The Team Liquid Map Contest is back for its 19th edition, and this time, we’re giving it a big twist: It’s the Freestyle-only Contest! That’s right, we’re only taking submissions in the “Freestyle” category of maps as we look for new and creative directions for competitive StarCraft II.

We thank Monster Energy for being the presenting sponsor of TLMC for the second straight contest, allowing us to keep this vital program going. As we mentioned during TLMC #18, this year’s contractions in the StarCraft II scene meant there was a possibility that TLMC would not take place at all. With Monster Energy’s support, we can continue to work together with map-makers to renew the map pool and revitalize the game we’ve loved for over thirteen years.

Of course, we also thank ESL for continuing its partnership with TLMC. The ESL Pro Tour will continue to be updated with TLMC maps, and the most suitable maps will also be proposed to be included on the official StarCraft II ladder.

We begin now with the map submission phase, which will continue until November 17th.

Freestyle Contest

Description: Maps in this category explore new ideas for how StarCraft II can be played. This category is intended for creative, unorthodox, and outside-the-box maps.

List of allowed and disallowed features (click)

Please read this list before starting the map creation process. While this version of TLMC promotes creative maps, we have set limitations in order to future-proof maps against later patches and changes, ensure maps are portable to the ladder, ensure units maintain their expected pathing behavior, and to prevent maps from being overly unintuitive for newer players. The north star when designing maps for this contest should be “legibility and ease of understanding to players.”

Asides from the explicitly disallowed elements above, there are no ‘hard lines’ regarding the implementation of non-standard features. Maps will be judged in their entirety, not on the number or types of non-standard elements used.

  • General note from ESL: “We would like to clarify that while we have ‘allowed’ a lot of non-standard elements to be implemented, we still believe that it is very important to make the overall map feel as simple as possible so we don’t end up with a combination of counter-intuitive and casual-unfriendly mechanics.”
  • Examples of features that can be included:
    • Healing shrines
    • Heavy or atypical usage of backdoor entrances with Mineral Walls/Reduced Mineral Patches.
    • Inhibitor and Accelerator Zones.
    • Non-standard numbers of mineral nodes or Vespene geysers at bases.
    • Semi-island starting positions
    • Neutral Zerg buildings as ‘timed’ obstructions
    • 3+ Starting positions
  • Map dimension guidelines: The “playable” area of the map should be approximately between 14,000 and 20,000 (NOT the “camera” or “full” measurements in the editor). This is a recommendation, not a hard restriction, especially given the Freestyle-focused nature of this contest.
  • Past Examples:

Other Restrictions

  • No custom textures or Force Fields.
  • No custom data which modifies units.
  • Maps must meet Melee mode requirements: Triggers can’t be edited, and Data needs to comply with Melee, legibility and QA requirements.

Focus on Quality Assurance

The Team Liquid Map Contest has always welcomed a broad range of submissions within the tournament rules, regardless of the experience of the mapmaker. However, this leads to a number of submissions that do not meet the standards for competitive StarCraft II, or are poorly optimized for in-game performance.

Since we do not wish to tighten the standards for submitting a map, we request that map-makers conduct as much debugging and quality assurance as reasonably possible before submitting maps to TLMC. This will reduce strain on TLMC and ESL staff, and help assure that high quality, refined maps are added to the competitive map pool.

Factors to consider in QA include, but are not limited to:

  • Unit pathing
  • In-game performance (too many doodads is a frequent culprit)
  • Correct line-of-sight blocker implementation
  • Mineral/gas placement
  • Compatibility of natural expansion chokes with standard wall-offs
  • Unintended drop locations
  • Removal of misc. remnants from map creation/testing phase

Please use resources such as video documentation of TLMC map feedback, previous TLMC feedback threads, and community groups such as the “Mappers’ Circle” Discord server to learn more about the principles behind high-end map-making. In particular, community groups can be invaluable for map-making discussion and getting feedback on your maps.

Suggestions and Notes

  • We highly recommend that map-makers submitting maps join the “Mappers’ Circle” Discord server where the majority of participants and staff are likely to be active.
  • For clarification, maps submitted to other map competitions may be submitted to TLMC #19 as well.
  • Maps with insufficient edge-map distance have been an issue in past map pools. While recent map pools have mostly avoided this problem, we still recommend map-makers leave a modicum of air space between playable ground areas and map edges.
  • Overlord high ground scout positions over naturals have a large impact on gameplay and should be sized and placed carefully. We want to remind everyone that while these spots are still acceptable, they are not required, and we’d like to see a greater variety in how they’re placed.
  • When deciding to utilize a gold base, make sure there is some sort of risk associated with them. Otherwise, gold mineral bases with low risk tend to usually favor Zerg over the other races.
  • Be careful when adjusting the number of mineral nodes, Vespene geysers, or rich Vespene geysers at bases, especially in the main and natural, as it could impact balance between races and/or matchups.
  • During the iteration phase of the competition (more on this below), small changes are often more desirable than large radical changes that dramatically alter the map’s direction.

Post contest map iteration

We want to give the map-makers an opportunity to edit their maps after the contest period to make any adjustments if necessary. Hopefully this will give the map-makers more control and a chance to make improvements based on any feedback from ESL, pro players, or the community at large.

After the contest, map-makers will be contacted by ESL or TLMC staff in order to make improvements and get their maps into a ladder-ready state before the next ladder season. For instance, map-makers can make small adjustments to the maps such as changes to Reaper cliffs. Results from our performance tests will also be made available to map-makers who can use those results to improve performance.

Contest Phases

Note: The default timezone for TLMC is Pacific Standard Time (PST). While countdowns and specific times should be converted to local timezone on the website, PST will be used whenever we “just” use dates in posts. For example: the end date for submissions is November 17th. So the deadline is November 17th at 11:59 PM PST.

Submission Phase

October 24 – November 17

To ensure that maps are ladder-appropriate and have minimal performance issues, please conduct as much quality assurance as possible on your maps before submitting them to TLMC.

Pre-Judging Feedback
Due to the unusual nature of this contest, we are bringing back a limited pre-judging feedback phase so map-makers can work with TLMC staff to iron out potential issues before maps are officially submitted. All maps that are submitted before November 9th will be eligible for feedback from TLMC staff. Please keep in mind that maps with positive feedback or have had issues fixed as a result of this review process are not guaranteed to be selected for the Top 16.

TLnet Judging Phase

November 18 – November 27

Once submissions have closed, maps will go through an initial screening by TLMC staff. The remaining maps will be submitted to a judge panel that may include professional players, community figures, and map-makers. If you are a professional player and would be interested in helping out, PM us. Together, the judges will trim down all submissions to a final 16 that will be used in the next stages of the contest. Map-makers win $200 in prize money for each map that finishes in the final 16.

Note: All submissions are anonymized before being sent on to the judges. Only the main admins of the contest have access to who the submitters are.

Test Tournament & Public Voting

December 5 – December 18

The exact dates for the Test Tournament and subsequent voting have not been finalized as we are scheduling around HomeStory Cup 24 and ESL Masters Atlanta.

The test tournament phase allows everyone to see the new maps being played by some of the best players in the world. For the eleventh time, we will be working together with Wardi to hold the TLMC test tournament.

As with previous TLMC’s, we will make a public post introducing the sixteen finalist maps. Map-makers who make the top 16 will be given the opportunity to submit extra screenshots and link to YouTube or Twitch VODs of their map being played. We will also be collecting information about what they’ve changed and will mention the changes in the voting post. All this information will be sent out in a PM to the 16 finalists after the tournament phase.

Finally, the public will then vote on the final versions of these maps. Public voting determines how much additional prize money the map-makers win. Voting DOES NOT directly determine which maps will be chosen to be included in the ESL Pro Tour, although ESL may reference community opinion in their decision ( may audit votes if it notices botting or other irregular voting patterns).

Iteration Phase

December 19 to TBD

The iteration phase has become a vital part for map-makers in TLMC. It gives them a chance to fix smaller issues that may have been caught during the tournament phase. Note that smaller fixes are often better than huge changes.

TLMC Winners Announced

Shortly after the conclusion of the voting phase, we will present the final standings.

ESL will consider the sixteen finalist maps, and possibly some maps outside of the top sixteen (examples: Radhuset Station, Alcyone, and Site Delta from TLMC #18), for inclusion in the next season of the ESL Pro Tour. ESL will also propose the selected EPT maps for inclusion into the next official ladder rotation.

Prize Distribution

Thanks to Monster Energy, TLMC #19 will feature a prize pool of $3750.

All finalist maps (top 16): $200 base prize

First place – $200

Second place – $125
Third place – $100
Fourth place – $75
Fifth place – $50

How To Submit Maps

Submission Rules

  • Map-makers will be limited to five(5) map submissions each.
  • Please designate each map with the traditional TLMC category it most closely aligns with: Rush, Standard, or Macro. Refer to TLMC 18 for the definition of these categories.
    • This information will ONLY be used to aid internal sorting alongside other subcategories.
    • There are no submission limitations regarding these subcategories (Example: You can submit 5x “Standard” maps.
    • There is no minimum or maximum finalist quota per subcategory (Example: There could be 0x finalists from “Standard” submissions)

Please PM your map file(s) to TL Map Contest with the below format by November 17th. Please title your PMs with the name of the map. You must submit one PM for each map (five maps = five PM submissions). Once your map has been received you will receive a PM back confirming that we have received it. If you have not received a reply within 24 hours, please contact us directly. We may also PM you back requesting missing information. Your entry will not be officially confirmed until any issues with the submission have been resolved.

If you want to submit a revised map for the contest before the end of submissions, please send us a reply in the original PM chain on TLnet. This to ensure there are no mixups in the submission process.

The submission PM must contain:

  • Map name
  • A download link to your map
  • A picture of your map. Please use the standard 90° top down overview—do not use any angled or tilted images. Please mark start locations and describe any starting location constraints. You may attach additional images to highlight map features if you wish, but the top-down view is most important.
  • The map subcategory (for sorting purposes only): Rush, Standard, or Macro
  • The size (dimensions) of the map
  • Number of bases (note the number of bases with rich minerals and/or Vespene)
  • Main to Main distance (in-game seconds using a worker from town hall to town hall)
  • Top of main ramp to top of main ramp distance (in-game seconds using a worker)
  • Natural to Natural distance: (in-game seconds using a worker from town hall to town hall)
  • Any relevant analyzer images (optional)
  • A description of the map: This is a very useful resource for judges and TLMC admins who are examining dozens of maps, so please try to be both informative and concise. We recommend around 800 characters at most, although this isn’t a hard limit.

The map FILE must contain:

  • A short gameplay description: There is a field for this with a limit of 300 chars. You can include some flavor text here, or base it on the gameplay description from your map submission.

Entries not in this format may be excluded from consideration. Please do not send questions to the ‘TL Map Contest’ account; contact TLMC admin Waxangel instead.

Submit your map


Q: Do I need to send my map file, or will an image or a link to my map on be enough?
We want the map file for this contest, so a link to is not sufficient. There will be a huge number of maps to choose from, so we will need to open many of them up in order to check for details that we can’t find otherwise. To send your maps, upload them to a file hosting service such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive and include the link in your entry.

Q: How do I attach a map file or image to a PM?
The Team Liquid PM system does not support attachments. Instead, use an external image/file hoster such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive for map files or Imgur for image files. Please send those links along with your submission.

Q: Can I enter a team map/FFA map into the contest?
Sorry, we will not be accepting non-1v1 maps in this contest. In the past, the Team Liquid Map Contest has occasionally allowed team play maps to be entered and evaluated separately from 1v1 maps, and some of these submissions did eventually reach the ladder map pool. However, we are focusing on only 1v1 maps for this contest. While we hope to hold a team map contest in the future, we cannot guarantee one at this time.

Q: Will the first place map automatically be included in tournaments?
No. ESL will consider the top rated maps, possibly including maps that did not finish in the top 16, for use in ESL tournaments.

Q: How crazy can my maps be?
Although this is a Freestyle-oriented contest, maps still need to be ladder appropriate. Please refer to the first section of this article to read ESL’s general note on maps, as well as the detailed list of allowed/disallowed map elements.

Q: I’m interested in the contest, but I’m horrible at map making. What can I do to support the map-makers?
Post in their map threads and give them support, encouragement, and replays on their maps! Giving your favorite map-maker support will be much appreciated by the map-maker. Replays are especially valuable as it helps the map-maker align their design goals with the map with the reality of how people play their map.

If you have any unanswered questions please do not hesitate to ask them below or PM us who will be happy to answer them. Again, we highly recommend you join the “Mappers’ Circle” Discord server.

Best of luck in the competition.