While testing maps in leagues is the best way to get feedback, the truth of the matter is that even in the first few inclusions in a league, there are still a large proportion of the player base who don’t take the map seriously for that season. (I experienced this when Vigil was first included in UGC)
Testing maps in PUGs, scrims and map cups is actually the best way to get initial testing for a map, starting with PUGs and scrims while the map is still in alpha. The reason for this is that maps can change dramatically during alpha versions. (If you load up A1 of Vigil, you’ll ask yourself what is up with third and last, as they changed completely during development. Even Rapids has had its A and B points completely remade already) With these large scale changes happening semi-regularly, it can get annoying for a large player base to relearn the new parts of the map, whereas I generally find when people are playing in new map PUGs or scrims that they are more likely to be excited for changes to map layouts.
Only once a map has reached beta (and I don’t know of any maps in development for HL that are at that stage as of now) should a map be included in a new map cup. There isn’t always a great deal of feedback from a large proportion of the player base, yet I generally find that there are at least a few players who will take the time to give amazing feedback. (There was amazing feedback that I got from That’s So Steve! when B2A of Vigil was included in the ETF2L Preseason Cup)
Then after it has made its way though a map cup, depending on how it was received (although this should generally be a lower bar of expectation than for older maps, as newer maps will have a lower approval rating out of the gate), it can then be included in a season.
While Vigil would have never been made a staple map without being included in a season, there was a lot more work put into it before its first inclusion that 95% (or more) of the player base doesn’t see. (I am gradually working on an article that will be out sometime [TM] that details the whole development of Vigil. I’ve completed up to A13 and it’s already at 4700 words, so I don’t know when it will be completed. I also want to add pictures and all, which will take some more time to complete. Hopefully this article will give a peek into all the changes made to Vigil, as well as the different testing I had for it)
Rapids is still very much in the first stage of testing, being in alpha, and I wouldn’t want it to be included in a map cup yet. The best thing you can do if you want new maps to be made is to help test them in the early stages (for example, organise a PUG or a scrim on a new map). Even if you don’t provide detailed feedback on the map, and just say what things felt like here and there, if the mapper can get their hands on the STV demo, that provides a lot of feedback in itself.
As for testing on Rapids, I’m working on the next version of Rapids which should hopefully be out shortly (within a month, maybe even a week, depending on how ideas flow), so if you’d like to test it, get some friends together and play a PUG or a scrim on it when it comes out. The best way to get feedback to me is using the TF2Maps thread.