Small Update on this, im still working on Grotto and hope to have it out before April, but thats not definite. I was really disappointed to find Grotto did not even make it into the runner up category. That would mean it did worse then my 2017 competition entry, which some judges told me was close to their top 10 (though that may have just been them being nice, Vermiel is really subpar compared to most of the entries in 2017). Looking back at it I can see why Grotto did poorly. Ultimately I think it came down to 2 things, lack of clear them and my inability to figure out how to fix dark shadows on props.
I first thought of a map set in grotto after the 2017 competition ended, the idea was a national park area in Israel, where bombsite B would be a crystal Cave with Inceptions on the Wall, while A and most of the other areas would be a fortress or administration type areas. There would carved statues and monuments typical of artificial Grottos. When working on the map for the Exotic Places competition, the theme slowly evolved into what it is now. It is a Grotto in Jordan, where the B half of the map is in both natural and manmade caves, while the a site is an old fortress overlooking the cliffside, the fortress would have different sections that would have been added on from its centuries of occupation.
I think many people were confused by many modern elements that appear on the current version because I did not do a good enough job of conveying what is happening in the map.
My take of the Exotic Theme was meant to be a bit of a twist on it. The grand majority of entries for the competition focuses on more Tropical, tourist areas and un explored countries in csgo. I did not want to make another Tourist Attraction like I did in 2017, and felt that even if I did it would not size up compared to what other people would do. So my twist on the theme was meant to be this: Grotto is a place that once was a Tourist Attraction, it would have once been a peaceful area to visit. However in the modern day, Grotto has begun to crumble under the stress of war. I did not want to do an Iraqistan esq, crumbled wreckage of a place. Instead the stress of war would be most seen on the man made buildings, while the caves would be more untouched. It is meant to be a place that is just beginning to crumble from war, so you could still see it once was a nice place to visit, but it is slowly decaying from a stalemate conflict.
That is also why you see so many military assets used around the map as the Coalition Taskforce (which is apart of the very small game story) is occupying the Fortress, trying to defend the city you can see in CT spawn, while a combination of Phoenix and Elite Crew forces occupying the war torn city seen from T spawn (Which I didnt manage to make very war-torn) The Caves and Fortress are notably more ruined on the T side of the map, while the cts have an almost pristine area.
The ultimate failing of this idea came because I was not able to establish what these things were and why they were there, there are no context clues on the entry version because in my rush to finish the B area I had forgotten to polish up the story elements (also why you see a sign advertising a law office in one of the cave rooms) It also still suffers from that dust-copy vibe. I tried to avoid using dust assets, such as making my own sets of double doors and crates, but I think a desert theme has tendency to look like every other desert theme. Ultimately im not very pleased with how this turned out, mainly from me dropping the ball in the last month of work time. I hope there is another competition in the next few years as I would like to make up for my respective failures in both 2017 and 2019.
I will say as a positive, this was the first map I worked on where I felt like I knew what I was doing, a large part of why my previous map Sonora took over a year and half to release was because I was unsure on how to handle certain areas and how to go about creating more advanced places.