Trading servers are a dime a dozen. They’re dime-a-dozen back-stabbing scumbags… No, wait, sorry, I was thinking of Spies. But there are lots of trade servers, from trade_plaza to trade_minecraft to trade_rawr to trade_achievement_idle_noglass, and so on and so forth. While some of these maps, like trade_minecraft_realms, are wonderfully made, with all sorts of pretty things, randomized spawns, health kits in convenient places and stuff, most trade servers are incredibly simple. Two spawn rooms and a room in the middle connecting them.
Boring, eh? Well, let’s go deeper…
Most trade servers are, literally, Sniper Heaven. Have you seen trade_unusual_center? It is literally a huge open space. There is NOWHERE TO HIDE. Seriously. There may be two exits from spawn, but that’s not going to stop even the most mediocre of Snipers. And heavens forbid someone builds a sentry nest in front of one team’s spawn. Heck, if there’s enough Snipers, the only way out is the Vaccinator or an Ubercharge. FOR SNIPERS.
It really makes me wonder why people made these maps so plain and simple. They all follow the same basic premise, two spawns, one or more exits from said spawns, connected to a big open room, occasionally with something in the middle. Some maps don’t have anything stopping a Sniper from sitting in his spawn, sniping enemies, while others, like Trade_Rawr, have a small building blocking pure sight lines, but when there’s billions of sight lines from every other angle, it’s pretty pointless.
Of course, some maps break the tried-and-tested-and-used-every-bloody-where habit of being dull maps. Trade_Minecraft_Realms makes a pleasant change to the same old boring box connected to two spawn rooms, being based on several Minecraft biomes. It also offers safety within the spawn room, as the only way to get from spawn into the main battle area is via one of the four portals, which teleport you into each area. The downside to this? Random spawning means that you might spawn right in front of a sentry, and the terrain means you need to frequently crouch-jump. And yet again, the wide-open aspects of the map leave you open to Snipers.
What other maps are there? Not much. There are about a billion variants of Trade_Minecraft, some better than others. Some versions just have an empty boxing ring in the middle, plonked down for the once-in-a-blue-moon Heavy Boxing Match mini-game, others have a couple of piles of sand, others have wooden platforms up above. Almost all of them have a portal to a Nether, which basically consists of one easily-defended room, a couple of platforms you can jump to, a lot of platforms you can’t jump to (unless the server has low gravity or something) and lots and lots of insta-killing lava.
Then you have the completely odd maps, with multiple rooms, swimming pools, volley ball pitches, displays of hats, the works. A lot of these have ‘safe areas’ in which you can’t hurt people, but you can infuriate them by going around with the Holiday Punch, the Sandman or the Huntsman and stunning them. Most maps though are just pure deathmatch servers, minus the dm_ tag. Some maps aren’t even from Team Fortress 2, like the incredibly large gm_bigcity which is, well, a big city. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as good in TF2, as the skybox seems to disappear.
Of course, you don’t need to go to a trade server to do trading. Very little trading actually happens. If you’re desperate to buy or sell virtual items, you’re better off using a website. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be busy killing people.
A final note, if you wish to level up a strange weapon without going to an achievement_idle_noglass server, trade servers are a good place to do it. Particularly if you’re a bloody Sniper.