Charlie Joyce—widely known as ‘Mariowned’ in the Counter-Strike community—invented surf maps. Unlike the standard multiplayer modes you’d find in a game like CS:GO, surf maps are custom creations shared via the Steam Workshop. These obstacle courses take advantage of the engine’s physics while encouraging you to move differently to how you would in a regular match. Surf servers have you sliding along winding ramps, making smooth last-second turns, and landing difficult jumps. It’s easy to sink a few hours zooming around on them, but it’s also fascinating to see how they’re made.
Joyce has recently been working on a new map called surf_eventide and has been streaming his progress on his Twitch channel. His latest map takes us to a range of snowy tree-lined slopes at sunset and should be available soon. There’s an early build uploaded for testing purposes on Mariowned’s Workshop that you can subscribe to and test out for yourself. It’s only a small slice of the map, but it lets you glide along a few ramps, test some jumps, and get a feel for the level.
Joyce’s streams are a great place to hang out if you’re interested in learning more about mapping and modding. He shares his screen to show exactly what he’s working on and keeps an eye on Twitch chat to talk to people and answer questions. Having worked on surf maps since 2004, Joyce is very knowledgeable on the subject, but his friendly manner also makes him approachable. He’s more than happy to offer advice on how to use the tools and programmes he uses, and he’s always enthusiastic to check out projects that the wider community are working on.
One of the things that I hadn’t really considered before was how long it takes to create a surf map. When trying these levels in the past I was more focused on keeping on track and making it to the end of the run, rather than pausing to take in my surroundings. Watching someone create one of these maps reveals how much work actually goes into crafting a fully functional, challenging course. It can take hours just to sculpt the inside of a tunnel, but the process is surprisingly relaxing to watch, even if you’re unfamiliar with the tools.
Admittedly, I’m not skilled enough to ever attempt a project this vast, but as a player I found it really interesting to see how tiny details can make a huge difference to the map. Watching Joyce add snow to a cave, hearing his reasons for having to smooth out the textures, and then demonstrating how to do it has introduced me to aspects of map design that I had no previous knowledge of. Even just catching snippets of how these maps come together has given me a newfound appreciation for those that upload these projects to the Steam Workshop. I imagine watching these streams would be even more valuable if you have the skills and knowledge to create something similar. Overall, the community appears to be very friendly and encouraging, which is a nice break from the loud and sweary streams that I usually tune into.