Problems with current/last known settings
a) Most effective tactics were not intuitive
The best ways to attack in competitive fortress were holing and centering. Neither is necessarily intuitive, and holing in particular had a very high psychological threshold for players to execute. The game trains you to not die, but the most effective attacking method required someone on your team to deny that basic instinct and suicide themselves. While that was sometimes compelling and led to a lot of dynamic gameplay, it more often had lot of negative side effects. Centering gave way too much influence over the outcome of a round to a small number of players. Moreover the ease of access to the zone granted by the location of the spawns made casual fortress often unplayable and got countless would-be players kicked.
b) holing negative side-effects
holing required killing one of your players, and so in turn this put a premium on having a numerical advantage. There's nothing wrong with player advantage being important, but the linear translation of 6v5->hole->5v5->gank was not a good dynamic. Both teams were super stressed to be up a man so that they could immediately give that numerical advantage away by holing. The best teams would usually be willing to put themselves down 5v6 by holing before someone died. In too many rounds, simply being alive was more important than doing something useful. Too many players were told to "just stay alive." Holing went against basic instincts of playing the game, it was also a high floor, low ceiling skill (hard to do as a team, but if you can do it, easy to do well).
This holing meta made centering even more attractive and important because it was the only opportunity to avoid the holing sub-game.
centering ruined otherwise competitive matches
So many matches ended being won because of centering/failure to stop centering. A lot of competitive play was preempted by what happened in the first 10 seconds of the round. This was exciting but also very bad because the only teams with a chance of winning an event were the ones with the best centers (usually no more than 2/3 elite centers at a given moment). The center was simply too influential and powerful and devalued every other aspect of playing fortress. This doesn't even touch on how grinding prevented players from joining fortress because they would be kicked. Centering was a non-intuitive (visually, can't even see how the center is getting in between walls) incredibly high floor, high ceiling skill that determined a huge share of rounds yet a tiny minority of players had any influence on or could do themselves.
No real ways to attack other than centering & holing (aka defender's advantage was too big)
It wasn't anyone's fault that holing and centering were so important. They were just the best ways of attacking. Defenders got really good. Ladle-quality defenders were getting cut in less than 5% of rounds. The basic mechanic of following the inside of your own tail is just a really elegant and really powerful way of defending space. Unlike holing and centering, defending was an intuitive, low floor, high ceiling skill and mechanic, but in competitive play a little OP.
Possible solution set
I will list, then explain and justify
- Move grind out of zone, but keep spawn position and idea of grinding intact.
- Increase 2v1, 3v2 ganking speed, increase 1v1 and 2v2 zone defense speed
- slightly decrease tail length (385/380/375 instead of 400)
- make zones closer together
- rim acceleration
- make grid narrower
slightly decrease tail length (385/380/375 instead of 400)
Taken together, these changes are aimed to make shrinking more viable as a means of attacking. This makes defending far behind your tail riskier (small perimeter and harder to reclaim space) and shorter tail length makes defensive perimeter smaller to begin with anyway. Sweeping becomes concerned with reclaiming shrunken space, disrupting attackers shrinking aspects, and protecting against 2v1 exterior ganking. Optimally, the trade-off between shrinking and security means defenders have to expand more and not hide as much and cutting is more viable as well. Overall, this should reduce the incentive to hole while increasing skill ceiling of attacking, defending, and sweeping.
Move grind out of zone, but keep spawn position and idea of grinding intact.
Simple aim here: reduce importance of centering in competitive games and reduce damage of non-grinders in casual games. Maintain the grind as the splitting/flanking dynamic is overall pretty attractive and good, and the grind is an intuitive and appealing demonstration of teamwork. Multiple spawn positions could be tested, but my first try would be offsetting a 45° angle from old spawns, in what would be the top-right corner of a defender's perimeter.
Make zones closer together
This makes transitioning between attack and defense easier, reducing dead time driving between zones and making what is happening on each end of the grid more connected. The dead space of old fortress is basically a byproduct of the grind that could be reduced.
Make grid narrower
Add rim accel
Again, too much dead space. Giving rims acceleration makes flanking and the back of zones more unique areas. If there is a purpose for going to the horizontal walls, then you add a potential area for gameplay at very low cost. Old grid was 500x500, reduce to 400x400 or even 350x400
Makes it easier to form an organized team, also makes each cycle life less expendable. Creates inherent instability since you can have 3 players at attack or defense but not both. Simply deciding where to attack with 3 or defend with 3 vs what your opponent is doing creates a lot of decision points and different situations for teams to work through. Fewer players makes the cost of holing higher as you are sacrificing a larger fraction of your team. Also slightly increase importance of zone captures/winning rounds because there are fewer core-dump points to earn.