Forge, the map/object editor in Halo 3, really came into its own with the release of the Heroic Map Pack last December. "Foundry", the warehouse level built from the ground up to be a Forge playground, opened up a new realm of possibilities for tinkerers and would-be map makers. With the addition of new objects like ramps, stairs and walls, you can build your own unique map from the ground up and then save and share it with the rest of the online community.
Based on the amount of buzz and files out there it's safe to say that Halo 3 players have been busy making Forge creations. A few of these have already shown up in Bungie Favorites ("Anvil", "Deathpit", "The Great Wall") and many, many more have yet to get high profile recognition yet. If anything, the problem we're facing now is that there are just too many
cool things being built to keep up with. Luckily there are some groups out there helping the situation, such as the website www.forgehub.com
, that are devoted to cataloging and promoting awesome fan creations as well as sharing techniques and tutorials to educate and inspire up-and-coming "Forgers." We are also looking at our own site and investigating potential ways to make the process better for everyone.
In the relatively quiet weeks leading up to the Bungie holiday break, I became quite hooked on "Forging" in Foundry. I definitely don't claim to be the world's best map maker. In fact, I'm pretty far from it. While I'm mostly proud of my creations overall, I'm sure there are equal and better custom maps already out there. I'm not going to try and convince you how awesome my maps are - maybe you like them, maybe you don't. But, the process I went through, the ideas and possibly some of the end results might be interesting and inspiring for those of you who are still not quite sure what the hubbub with Forge and Foundry is all about. I'm also sad to say that I haven't even had much of an opportunity to actually _play_ very many games on all of my maps. Hopefully they hold up.
Again - I know how sensitive this topic can be for many of you - these maps are not being touted in this story because they're better than yours. I'm merely showcasing an example of the types of things I personally tried to accomplish in Foundry. I'd love to hear your experiences and try out your maps as well. At the bottom of the story you can find a link to my new Forge-oriented group
I created on Bungie.net as a means of trying to collect and share ideas and content.
If you're interested in checking out my maps, all of them are available in my file share, which you can access HERE!"Boxed In"
Players: 2 to 4
Gametypes: Slayer, Team Slayer
Type: Small, arena-style battleground
This is the first map I actually managed to finish. After wasting time and struggling with some general ideas and not really getting there, I had a quick flash of inspiration and decided to pull back my scope and try something smaller. For me, all of my maps start with one or two general ideas that shape what I'm trying to do. In the case of "Boxed In", I was just trying to make a small, arena style map that was suitable for 2 to 4 players. I also wanted to split Foundry in a way I hadn't seen it split before and use the bases and back hallway more than the big open Warehouse area.
Since the map was small and relatively open, it came together really quickly. The first version was nearly identical to what I have now but I did go back and redo the back wall to line things up better. Placing large crates first and using them to line up the walls is much easier than trying to manually align them. Also, at Luke's suggestion, I added the tunnel-style containers along the bottom rather than closed boxes. This created a mirror to the base connector hallway and another movement path with ample cover. It's a good example of how a little "play testing" and iteration can tweak and refine the way a map works.
I've played a bunch of Slayer and some doubles on this map and it pretty much works the way I envisioned. It's fast paced and you really need to keep moving. You can also move up and down from any point on the map, from the low ground to the upper ground. The base hallway has a lone sniper rifle along with a needler in each base which results in an opening clash very similar to the rocket rush on The Pit. I set it up recently to also work for a neutral bomb assault game, with the bomb spawning on the central wall, but I've yet to have a chance to try it."Perimeter"
Players: 2 to 6
Gametypes: Slayer, Team Slayer (Rockets & Snipers)
Type: Medium sized wide open courtyard with walled off perimeter
For my second map I was loosely inspired by an old Doom map I used to play on called Fortress. It was basically just a big square wall with an open courtyard and you'd end up having these super long distance rocket battles across the length of the map. I wanted to make something that had long corridors and promoted cat-and-mouse ranged combat. Cover is pretty sparse on this map. Climbing up to the wall or a sniper perch offers a good vantage but it also leaves a player fairly exposed.
I used the main open space of Foundry and built one big wall around the perimeter, leaving enough room for a ground level passage on the exterior. The bases and back portion of the map are not in play. The "courtyard" area within the walls is intentionally open, with a minimal amount of cover. A lone rocket tantalizes daring players who want to risk a sprint into the open while power-ups, sniper rifles and other goodies can also be found strewn about.
My intentions were to make cover a luxury, something you wouldn't find too often. However, I didn't want it to turn into a situation where every decision to embark down a long corridor was a potential commitment to death. After all once you started down that path, you better hope an opponent doesn't come up behind or around the corner ahead with a superior weapon or you have no real option. I like that risk but I wanted a bit more balance. Once again my "finisher", Luke, offered up a good suggestion - why not add some equipment to serve as cover. And that I did. Two pieces of portable cover were added on opposite sides of the map in addition to two bubble shields. Dropping a portable cover not only protects you from fire but also prevents your opponent from following you through the corridors (until they blow it up). This also spawned the unofficial tagline for "Perimeter", "Need cover? Make your own." Every good map needs a tagline, right?
For good measure I added a Mongoose on each side, tucked away inside an open box. They don't really exist for any purpose other than fun but occasionally you'll see someone trying to tear across the middle or driving their 'goose up onto the wall."Janky Town"
Players: 3 to 8 (depending on gametype)
Gametypes: Slayer, Infection
Type: Unclassified. A big (playable) mess.
My third map was going to be a completely different approach. As usual, I started out with a simple idea - how much junk can I cram into this corner and can I make a multi-leveled super dense map using only a small portion of Foundry? That was really my inspiration - I wanted to make a map with multiple distinct floors/levels and also try to cram it all into one corner of the warehouse. Having distinct floors and distinct ways to move between floors then became a priority. I was initially going to call this map "Crawlspace" or "Claustrophobia", which are self-explanatory once you actually load up the map. The final name, "Janky Town", is an homage to the "Janky" construction and how it all feels like a big "Shanty Town" settlement.
Now don't laugh. Upon loading up this map your first impression is probably one of stunned silence. Janky Town is NOT a pretty map. Maybe it's "so ugly it's beautiful" but I'm not sure I'd even go that far. The whole map came together organically in real time and as Luke stated, I couldn't recreate it again if I tried. Building a closed, multi level map is pretty tough to do. Try dragging walls and ramps into enclosed areas and you'll see what I mean. As a result I had no choice but to build it from the inside out. If I changed my mind midway through there wasn't much I could do about it unless I was willing to nuke a huge chunk of my work. I used up 100% of my palette on this map - and that was before I had a single weapon placed. I had to go back and find non-critical "junk" to delete, just so I could add weapons.
Not to get too carried away but dare I say that this map actually turned out the way I wanted it to. It's Janky as hell and yet its playable. It evokes feelings of claustrophobia (so much so that Luke had to quit playing due to motion sickness) and it's completely different than any other Foundry map I had seen. There are no clean lines with my walls and stacked objects and in many cases I had to add more junk to plug up holes and prevent someone from jumping down to the level below. All these seams and cracks actually ended up serving as a peripheral vision tracking system - you can just catch movement out of the corner of your eye or see an opponent walking above. Again, Luke summed this up nicely for me when he said it had a "horror movie feel to it", not unlike crawling through the air ducts in Aliens.
From this idea the true potential of "Janky Town" was born - INFECTION. I need to play this more with more people but the idea of running around this close-quartered monstrosity while being hunted by Zombies is pretty cool. Especially with three floors of motion tracking activity to try and sort out and plenty of blind corners and a few dead ends. Tip: Control the top floor. The shotgun is up there and the "chute" will give you a quick escape down to the basement level. I'd also consider altering the starting weapons - even the AR seems too much for this map. I had more short range SMG style weaponry in mind."Baseline"
Players: 6 to 8
Gametypes: Multi-Flag CTF, Slayer, King
Type: Symmetrical medium-sized base-oriented map.
My next inspiration came from wanting to make a map that catered to multi-flag CTF games that also had enough room to make using vehicles a viable strategy. I got the initial idea while goofing around inside one of Luke's Forge sessions when I put a Warthog inside the base with a long ramp leading down. It has no real purpose and there is certainly no fictional reason why a Hog would be parked inside a base but it looked cool and from there an idea was born.
Each team starts in their base which is well fortified with ample amounts of weaponry and a central turret. If you don't feel like taking the Hog, you can also hop on a Mongoose tucked away under the ramp. The flag location is actually in the back hallway, adding some extra challenge for attackers. And when returning the flag, it adds a few extra steps and risk before you can score. At least that was the idea.
I split Foundry down the middle with a big wall to create a longer path to the bases for flag runs. The vehicles can drive to the end and go up and over the wall using a big ramp. Infantry has two additional options - skirt around the outside of the map, taking advantage of cover along the way or take the tunnel and go through the wall, a shorter but potentially more dangerous route. The map's built-in back hallway is naturally blocked off, forcing people out into the playfield.
If you can manage to get up onto the wall and do some skillful jumping (all while dodging your opponent's fire), you can nab a Grav Lift. You could use the lift to go up and get the Active Camo, which is then just a convenient invisible jump away from the bases or you could save the Lift and use it for a daring aerial extraction.
"Baseline" didn't go through that much iteration - one small change I made was adding the fenced off opening in the wall that's full of Fusion cores. The opening allows players to get an early visual on the other team and the cores are just there for fun. :) I also went back and set the map up to work for King games as well as experimenting with a Neutral Bomb setup. Of all my maps, this is the one I've gotten the least amount of actual play time on - yet it's the one I want to play the most! Hopefully it works out for some intense 3v3, 4v4 multi-flag matches. Please let me know."Single Bound"
Players: 2 to 6
Type: Medium, high-flying shenanigans
For my final map, I took some pieces of "Baseline" and reconfigured them into something new. The idea came about when a friend told me I should add Man Cannons as another means of getting across. I tried it but didn't like it on "Baseline", it really changed the way I wanted the map to play and made the other travel routes obsolete. So rather than "break" my other map, I decided to make a new variation with the sole purpose of creating high-flying Man Cannon antics.
"Single Bound" (you know, that whole "able to leap tall buildings..." thing) features SEVEN Man Cannons on it. There are three located on each side, roughly symmetrical to the other side, with one in the middle. The map is fairly wide open but still has plenty of cover, provided you keep moving.
To really put this over the top, I decided to place every single power weapon in the game on the map. Why not? Remember my original vision is for Spartans flying through the air, dodging rockets and fusion blasts and engaging in mid-air Sword/Hammer battles. The central wall has a whole host of goodies to grab with a rocket launcher and fuel rod cannon atop a box on either side. If you can hit the Man Cannon just right, you can fly through the open box and grab the lone power-up on the map - a handy Overshield. In development and testing I was able to "shoot the tube" a few times but during actual play I've yet to actually hit it right. The unpredictability of the Man Cannons adds some fun to the map, in my opinion (though I'm sure it will infuriate others).Sketch's Bonus Forge Tips
My maps aren't exactly overly complex and I'm far from an expert but I have logged a fair amount of time myself and with co-workers so I wanted to share some bonus tips for newcomers or people still getting the hang of using Forge.1. Start with a central idea / focus / hook
All of my maps started with one or two central driving ideas... make a map that is fun for multi-flag CTF and vehicles, make a map that's designed for Man Cannons, make a tight small arena, etc... It will save you a ton of time and frustration is you have a pretty clear idea before you start Forging. Not to say you can't organically end up with something awesome but I really think it helps to know what you want to do before you start trying to align walls. I also think it's easier to build a successful map aimed at one or two specific games than trying to make one map that caters to balanced play for every single Halo 3 gametype.2. Placing walls sucks.
I'm not going to lie - trying to place and align walls is a real chore. However, there are some ways you can ease the pain. The best tactic I've seen is to put down large crates first and use them to build a frame that's straight. Then, go back and place walls against your boxes. The box will keep them vertically straight as well as keeping them in a straight line. When you're done, go back and delete the boxes.3. Co-Op Forging isn't for everyone.
I've seen some great stuff produced by teams of people, working together to help levitate objects and straighten lines... but for me, Forge was a solitary venture. Luke and I tried making two different collaborative maps, both without any clear plan or ideas up front, and both kind of wound up never materializing into a playable map. If you do work together, make sure you know who you're inviting and/or don't let your party members have editing ability unless you're OK with hours of work being deleted.4. Build a language for your map.
This tip I gleaned from Luke and Tom Doyle... using specifically placed objects on your map can give players a reference point and dialog for in-game communication. "Got one hiding at the Forklift!" "He's sweeping around behind the cage!" Using these objects and the signs are easy ways to help teams navigate your maps.5. Set Pieces Are Neat
When Bungie multiplayer designer Lars Bakken was making "Death Pit", he added see-through boxes with "set pieces" behind them just for the heck of it. I liked that idea and it's partially what inspired me to put caged holes with fusion cores on "Baseline." 6. You can never have too many spawn points.
Multiplayer designer Tyson Green once told me, "Everywhere you think you want a respawn point... place two." The more the merrier. Also note that all of the default game variants likely have their own built-in spawn points. If you are only making a map for Slayer, that's cool, but be aware that if someone tries to play King, they may end up spawning outside your area of play if you didn't manually move or edit the spawn locations.7. Practice (and Patience) makes Perfect
Don't rush it... if you hit a wall or can't figure out what to do on that back wall, just take a breather. Maybe someone else has an idea or maybe another map will inspire you. And play your maps as much as you possibly can. You will often find that after a few games a few tweaks can be made to further improve your maps. (a point I'm sure to see once hundreds of fans start dissecting my maps)
As I mentioned above, I've created a new Group on Bungie.net called "Forgery." It is my hope to gather up people on our site who are into Forging to recognize and share awesome creations while also providing a forum for people to share ideas and get help. You can access my group HERE.
Stop by and check it out and share your creations as well as giving me some feedback on my maps.
Thanks, and Happy Forging.