Bungie Weekly Update: 04/17/09
Posted by urk at 4/17/2009 4:22 PM PDT
Looks like we're not the only ones who kept busy this week. 

With the release of the Mythic Map Pack into Marketplace you've made it your business to sink permanent imprints into your living room couch cushions, drifting softly down into your invigorated Halo 3 experience.  You appear to be enjoying yourselves.  So much so that some five hundred and sixty odd days out from Halo 3's September 2007 retail launch, the title once again took the top spot on Major Nelson's LIVE Activity (Week of April 6th).

Thank you for playing.

This week's update won't be much of a reward for your chronological investment.  Though there are a few nuggets of newness waiting to be chiseled free, the bedrock is made mostly of material you've already sifted over these the last few weeks.  Those looking for the next big thing need not apply.

Achievement Unlocked - Ten Billion Campaign Kills

We already reached over our collective shoulders and gave ourselves a nice, gentle pat on the back earlier in the week, but we're definitely not beyond following up with a little more self professed lovin'.  Who doesn't like earning Achievements?  And really, this milestone is more about you than it is us at this point.  We're just staying busy keeping the stats on tap and our jaws off the floor.

Good work, soldiers. 

Since you went over the ten billion mark last weekend, you've added another seventy million to the count.  Chances are, by the time you read this sentence, that claim will already be an underestimation, with a few million more lumped on for good measure.

Was it all for naught and nothing but wanton carnage, as some have suggested?  Nah.  It's just good, wholesome fun for adults of all ages.  Wipe them out.  All of them.

Mythic Map Pack Goes to Matchmaking

Just a little bit of light housekeeping on the Mythic Map Pack front.  We've rambled on long enough about it in recent weeks, so we'll spare you the sales pitch this time around.

The initial post-Mythic Map Pack changes have been deployed into Halo 3's Matchmaking Playlists.  Most of you have no doubt already noticed.  For those few who haven't, or those looking for an exacting list of changes, we'll slap it down below for good measure, the bullet points shamelessly cribbed straight out of an update we published a couple of weeks back.

What can we say? There's pizza to eat and Xbox LIVE to play.  We gotta prioritize.

April Matchmaking Update

Ranked Playlists

Team Doubles (Mythic Map Pack added but not required)
All objective gametypes set to skip after veto
Added Assembly
Added Sandbox variants “Cubed,” “Plurality,” “Tundra,” “Vessel”

Team Objective

Team Flag on Smashed removed

Social Playlists

Rumble Pit
(Mythic Map Pack added but not required)
Added Assembly (default), Sandbox (default)
Added Sandbox variant “Cubed”
Added infection gametype “Save One Bullet”
Added infection variants “Dismemberment” (Assembly), “Andromeda” (Orbital), and “Spooky House” (Sandbox)
Removed Hammerzeit


Team Swat (Mythic Map Pack added but not required)
Added SWATssembly, SWArbital, Tundra SWAT


Updated to v6 map variants

Team Snipers

Grenades removed from Team Snipers gametype

Double EXP Weekends for April (In Order)

Team Flag
Team Melee (Mythic Map Pack added but not required)
Living Dead (Mythic Map Pack added but not required)
Fiesta (Mythic Map Pack added but not required)

Pay extra special attention to the italicized bits, please.  If a Playlist is currently listed as "Mythic Map Pack Added but not required," it means that when next month's Matchmaking Update hits, the Mythic Map Pack will be required if you want to play them.  Let's reiterate.

For May, the following Playlists will REQUIRE Mythic:

Team Doubles
Rumble Pit

Team Melee (Double EXP)
Living Dead (Double EXP)
Fiesta (Double EXP)

Quantum Mechanical Rules Rule!

Those prone to flipping and rotating Forge's building blocks around their various axes have noticed that after a save and quit, the blasted slabs, partitions, and chutes occasionally end up shifting around and gettin' all "jiggy with it" (to invoke the parlance of 1998).  So, just what maniacal and twisted conspiracy scheme have you unwittingly stumbled into, both literally and figuratively?  Step into our office.

Well, "our office" is a bit of a stretch.  We roped Jon Cable into it, our resident really smart guy who can do maths and such.  The next portion of the update is on him.  If you're interested, here's the explanation of exactly what's going on, and what you can do to smooth out your Forge experience with Sandbox.

Enter the Engineer

The Problem

When using double walls (or some other objects) to create a "floor," sometimes the objects become "bumpy" after saving and reloading the map.

The Cause

There are a near-infinite number of possible orientations that an object can be placed in. While you are editing a map, the objects are allowed to be in pretty much any orientation. When we save the map, we quantize the orientation in order to save space in storage. What this means is that the orientation you get when you load the map might not quite be what it was when you saved it.

Specifically, we store what direction the object's 'up' vector is pointing, and a rotation around that vector from its default position. When you first create an object in forge, its up vector is pointing straight up, and its rotation is zero. If you leave the object in a straight-up position, we use a special quantization method that preserves more precision for the rotation.

But if you tilt it (on its side, for example), then more of the storage space has to be used for that direction, and the rotation can lose precision. What this means is that when you are creating a floor out of walls, it's using the less precise method. The good news is that it's usually easy to predict which way the quantization error will go.

"Why can't you fix this?"

This problem is really inseparable from the way we store Map Variants on the disk. If we change the way the maps are encoded, then all the content saved in the old method could become invalid. It's a complex problem, and complexity means high risk. And risky changes are not something you want to make in a patch to a console game.

The Forge engine was built before we ever knew that maps like Foundry and Sandbox would exist. And this problem, of course, has been present since day one. It only now became apparent because people are building truly amazing maps and demanding more fidelity out of Forge.

"How about some good news?

As outlined above, you should leave objects pointing 'up' if you can. If possible, create your floor out of double boxes instead of double walls. No effort, no bumps!

If you must use double walls for the floor, pay close attention to the location and direction of the helper gizmo (the blue/white orb that shows the origin of the object). When saved, walls placed horizontally tend to rotate such that the "forward" end of the gizmo is pointing slightly downward. You can use this to your advantage by placing walls that are end-to-end rotated 180 degrees from each other, so that both edges will be either high or low. Walls placed side-by-side should have the same gizmo orientation. See the following diagram:

Blame Stosh

Again, this is an issue that only crops up when you are rotating objects around their Z-axis, and most commonly, when shifting objects out of their initial orientation (i.e. laying a wall onto its side).  The easiest solution is to make such shifts to orientation as sparingly as possible, or if you must, to simply follow the diagram Cable has laid out, juxtaposing the objects based upon the "gizmo," so that any variation you come across becomes uniform and therefore, less noticeable to players who traverse your map.

Yanking the network cable from the back of your Xbox 360, as some have suggested, does not resolve this issue.

Utah Mambo

Can we have this dance?

All but a legend over at Forge Hub, Cosmic Rick is some kind of Sandbox savant.  His Forge technique is so advanced we suspected querying him a bit about his Sandbox variant, Utah Mambo, might be met simply with some repetitious head nodding and a few jumbled words about "Geomerging" and "Interlocking."  It turns out, he's as good with the text as he is with Monitor mode.  We sent some questions his way designed to deconstruct his Map Variant, his approach to Forge, and his experience with Atlas (the group we've established to formally test Map Variants for Matchmaking worthiness).  Here's what he had to say.

Q. What’s the core idea behind Utah Mambo?

A. I was lucky enough to get an early look at the maps (thanks, ForgeHub) and my goal initially was to make something that would show people just how powerful a creative tool Sandbox could be. And, as always, I wanted to add some variety to the Halo 3 experience for my friends over at The Ghosts of Onyx and ForgeHub. The best way to do that was to shoot for a truly-large-scale objective map. (I had originally hoped to support 8v8, but that proved to be a bit too ambitious). Devinish mentioned something about the possibility of structures built into the sand. I put two and two together, et voila.

Q. How do you go about planning your assault on the Forge? Do you mock up a blueprint? Keep all the ideas in your head? Just wing it?

A. The process really depends on the map. For Utah Mambo, the only thing I really had planned out initially was the Defensive base, and that I wanted something asymmetric which could handle symmetric games, too. Then I looked at what attack angles and lines-of-sight would make for a fun objective game and designed the central structure (with a little inspiration from Sandtrap) around that. I find that it's usually better to have a solid idea, but to be flexible during the build process. It's definitely fun to just throw things together until something works, though. (I'll admit it: that's mostly how Pallet Parade and Kentucky Tango came about.)

Q. What gametypes do you think work best on Utah Mambo?

A. Personally, I like getting dirty with some Team King of the Hill, any Territories variant, or Rocket Race. I've even got a personal 'heavies' version on my HD for when I'm feeling frisky. I really tried for something that could handle any gametype the same way a standard map would. From a competitive standpoint, though, I think 1-Bomb and 1-Flag fit the map best. They're certainly the gametypes I've spent the most time tweaking. There are few things better (or more dangerous) than surprise grav-lifting a warthog up onto the D-base and whisking away the flag.

Q. Aesthetically, from Kentucky Tango to Utah Mambo, there are some really big leaps. Was Sandbox just that much more suited for Forging, or have you just become that much more skilled at bending it to your will?

A. The only real parallels between Kentucky Tango and Utah Mambo are the naming convention and the initial goal. (Any other similarities are purely coincidental and do not reflect the views of Cosmic Rick or his affiliates in any way.) When it comes down to it, though, Kentucky Tango was the best approximation of what I wanted that I could build inside the confines of Foundry's warehouse. Sandbox really opened things up in terms of item availability and size and I was able to better execute my vision (as lame as that sounds). It's like anything else, though, you get better the more you practice...and I've spent a LOT of time in the Forge pretending to not notice game invites (sorry, guys).

Q. So, you’ve submitted to Atlas, it’s clear you have designs for getting this ultimately introduced into Matchmaking. Talk a little bit about that process. Has it been more difficult then you thought it would be?

A. It was really nice to see you guys taking advantage of user-created content with Atlas. The members of the group really helped me get a better view of what weapons/vehicles worked well on the map (not hornets) through the eyes of a less-forgaholic Halo player. And Shishka gave me some great feedback on the more technical aspects of the map. I'd recommend anyone who thinks they've forged a balanced, original, fun map to check out the group. But don't set your expectations too high. There's a TON of great stuff already submitted, limited feedback potential (Shishka's just one dude), and a limited amount of Matchmaking slots open.

Oh, and for the love of Christie Brinkley, please read the Atlas stickied topics, guys.

Q. From its form to now, it looks like there’s been quite a number of significant changes to Utah Mambo’s layout, primarily to the lower base. Were these changes born out of playtesting? Are more changes in the works?

A. In the original version, I made the mistake of working around aesthetics instead of playability in the offensive base. It came out looking right, but the geometry didn't mesh well with the core game mechanics. After some friends called me out on it (most vocally Draw the Line and GO43R), I redesigned it to be more intuitive and to work better for symmetric games. 'Geomerging' the wood planks into the sand was a pain *insert joke about merging wood* but I think the base changed for the best. I'm pretty happy with the overall layout as it is right now, so unless anyone suggests something that will really improve the gameplay (or points out a bug), I'm not planning a third version.

Q. Any advice for players out there looking to spend more quality time with the Forge and Sandbox?

A. Check out what's already been done. The high-rated and top-downloaded sandbox maps lists are rife with tasty creations. They should give you a good idea of what you can accomplish in the various levels of Sandbox. If you want more technical assistance, the Forging 101 section at ForgeHub is a good place to start (bad places to start: Inner Mongolia, your local library, a PM to me).

Once you understand all the tools available to you in Forge, you're really only limited by the amount of time you're willing to spend on a build. And the budget...and the item limit... but they're significantly less of a creative hindrance in Sandbox than they were in Foundry. If you really want to go out of the box, be sure to mess with the game settings. Between the huge amount of options there and the extravagant custom maps you can make, there's a huge potential for some crazy, unique gameplay.

See? We told you he knew what he was talking about.  If you want to have a look at what he can do with the Forge and Sandbox, check out Utah Mambo for yourself.  Go ahead and fire it up in Customs with your friends this weekend when you're not busy trouncing and gallivanting around in Mythic DLC.

This writer would also like to make embarrassing mention that he played Utah Mambo sometime back with some friends and offered up what amounted to the least valuable criticism ever constructed concerning Utah Mambo's original map layout.  Said sage advice went something like, "this map was not fun."  Good to hear that some others have offered up much more legitimate and valuable critiques with an eye toward improving the map's gameplay.  Better yet, props to Cosmic Rick for being willing to listen to players and make some changes to his original concept.  We've tried it since, and it does indeed, play much better. (Sorry, Hornet lovers.)

HBO's Mythic Movie Contest

We made mention of HBO's Mythic Map Pack Trailer competition, but we neglected to show off the Grand Prize winning entry.  Apologies.  If you want to have a look (and check out the the other submissions) HBO has them queued up and ready to go for your viewing pleasure here.

End Transmission

That's all we have for you this week, but as always, we'll be back on Monday.  For those firing up a new Forum post based on that not-so-novel knowledge, we'll save you the effort.  "What comes Monday," you ask?  The start of a fresh workweek, of course.

Enjoy your weekend.  Don't do anything we wouldn't do.  Stay safe, stay on target, and stay tuned.

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