Once infrequently referred to as "O.K. Corral," Ghost Town (pictured throughout this story) is the first map from the upcoming Legendary Map Pack, the second injection of downloadable content coming to Halo 3 later this Spring. Artists Vic DeLeon and Cameron Pinard and designer Lars Bakken answered a few quick questions to give readers more information about this abandoned shell in Africa.
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Q: What did each of you do on Ghost Town?
Vic: We split the map up into so many tasks that it became more of a collaborative effort than anything else either of us had ever worked on. It’s a small map comparatively speaking, so there were some challenging aspects- like who’s working on those polys over there? And hey I want to do that little part here! There are very few things that either of us can’t do, but we resolved to go with the idiom that I would direct the artistic direction and Cameron would take charge of the layout. Cameron’s heaviest influence was designing the blue base, the greenhouse building, and all that beautiful rebar. I worked on modeling the main areas around and inside the central building, the debris and damage everywhere, and placing all the vegetation throughout the map. We took turns modeling, painting, and detailing the terrain and the cliff walls.
Q: What’s the fictional premise behind Ghost Town?
Vic: Ghost Town is the fragmented ruins of a small 24th century water purification complex that geographically lies just North and West of the jungle foothills hydroelectric facility from the Sierra 117 mission. The well-protected facility built into a shallow ravine was once home to the Global Water Campaign, where the still somewhat-pure Kilimanjaro meltwater was transported via pipelines from the river and directed to this small outpost where it became further purified, and then transported via GWC trans-African pipelines along the Tsavo Highway for distribution throughout the entire continent.
Q: What were some of the artistic inspirations for Ghost Town?
Vic: We had both worked on the Sierra 117 level from the singleplayer campaign and we wanted to make something work within that environment because we are crazy like that. We knew Jungle would be hard to pull off in multiplayer, but noooo… we wanted to go further and add the elements of abandon and destruction. Cue the amazing work that Stan Winston and his team of artists made for the Halo 3 “Believe” commercials. That diorama of the huge battle with the destroyed buildings and debris everywhere was insanely cool and, well you know, we had to try it.
Cameron: The abandoned temples of Angkor Wat were always part of the early discussions but as Vic points out, we were so impressed with the diorama work from the “Believe” campaign that we looked to incorporate some of the ruined aspects into Ghost Town.
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Q: Was there a hook that led to the map’s initial creation?
Vic: Yes and no. Steve Cotton started out with a very rough mass of spaces that were insanely fun to play in, and then Cameron and I were left with our imaginations running wild and our spirits ablaze, only to find ourselves pounding our heads against large heavy things. There was blood. When we got started on the map it was literally a group of boxes posing as buildings and feeling like swiss cheese. Some of the guys during our early playtests (not sure who) started calling it “The Ghost Town Map” and it totally stuck, even after a brief effort to rename it Mortar. is this something I should mention? how about "Some of us were affectionately calling it the Counter-Strike map."
Q: From beginning to end how long did Ghost Town take to complete?
Vic: The first massed out models were created in mid-September of 2007 so it’s been about 4-5 months.
Q: What's the nuts and bolts premise behind Ghost Town in terms of gameplay?
Cameron: Essentially Ghost Town is an asymmetric map designed for 4v4 encounters, it’s meant to be a strong infantry map where you get a nice range of close combat and longer range. The spaces are set up to allow two to three person squads a good bit of operating room and several tactical options.
Q: What gametypes is the map designed for?
Cameron: As an asymmetric map it’s designed for things like One Bomb, and One Flag, it also creates a great environment for FFA and team slayer. Overall though, the map is more general purpose and of course balancing is done with an eye towards our more popular game types.
Q: How has the map layout evolved over time with Ghost Town? Have different configurations resulted in a map that plays different?
Cameron: The core layout has actually been fairly constant throughout development, while a few areas have been added, for the most part it follows the original layout. Over time the map become more and more porous, we also worked on funneling action into more interesting areas of the map. I’d have to defer to Lars on most of the design changes over time.
Lars: Like Cameron said the core layout hasn’t changed much. For a time we had the “bases” switched, in terms of gameplay. The fortified building used to be the attacker spawn in objective games and the open cave spawn used to be the defender base. We made some changes to the building (added another way in), and then switched to its current configuration. Other subtle (or not so subtle, heh) changes were swapping the Spartan Laser for the Rocket Launcher, and removing the Regenerator for the Grav Lift. This one was actually pretty cool, because it allows players to enter into the second floor of the center building now without taking the normal routes in.
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Q: It’s a brand new map, but does Ghost Town remind you of any Halo CE, Halo 2 or other Halo 3 maps?
Cameron: From the earliest iterations it had some elements that reminded me vaguely of Lockout, visually it has some elements similar to Warlock and Sanctuary, and it also pulls from Sierra 117 and Crow’s Nest from the singleplayer. Overall we really wanted to define a distinctive look for Ghost Town that strays outside of somewhat more traditional Halo environments.
Vic: It reminds me a little of the destroyed stuff I did on Warlock for Halo 2 - That’s still one of my most favorite maps, at least ones that I’ve worked on. I cannot deny that there’s a little bit o’ Warlock in Ghost Town, I just won’t say what or where. And no, there are no bats in it.