Last week we revealed the second map from the Legendary Map pack (due April 15th), Avalanche. That map is a reimagination of Halo: Combat Evolved map Sidewinder. This week, we're showing the final map from the Legendary Map Pack, Blackout. As its name suggests, Blackout is a remake of the Halo 2 classic Lockout, a cold series of interconnected platforms and walkways. Where Avalanche was retuned, reworked and massaged into something both familiar and unfamiliar, Blackout is a remake in a pretty strict sense of the word.
Producer Allen Murray, Designer Dan Miller and artists Paul Russel and Blake Low answered a handful of questions about Blackout. But who are we kidding, you just want to see the screenshots anyway (keep checking the Gallery as the hi-res versions will be there shortly).
What did each of you do on Blackout?
Allen Murray: I am the Producer for all of the Halo 3 DLC, which means I helped plan which maps were going to be made, when we’d ship them and who was working on them and generally kept them on track. So I was one of the guys early on who said we need to remake Lockout and then managed the process to make it happen. I didn’t actually ‘make’ any of it, but Luke is taking pity on me and included me in the interview process. Thanks, Luke. Also, if any of you have any issues with other DLC maps, you can talk to me directly. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Russel: I was the primary environment artist for blackout from concept to completion. I also invented the grommet.
Dan Miller: Designing odds and ends, I kept stewardship over the level and fixed bugs. There wasn't really a whole lot to do design-wise after the weapons and gametypes were placed. We tried to keep it as close to Halo 2 as possible and let the community Forge it up how they wish.
Blake Low: I was responsible for adding all the little details to the level that made the area seem functional. Things like power boxes, wires, pipes and more.
What’s the fictional setting for Blackout this time? Its predecessor, Lockout, was set on a Forerunner installation.
PR: The setting is a UNSC Antarctic weather station with the completely arbitrary and stupid number z/41, it means nothing. Until the fans write some fictional significance into it and we eventually have to reverse engineer it into our canon. Thanks a lot, fans.
Venezuela is very nice this time of year.
BL: Its predecessor, Lockout, was set on a Forerunner installation. This time around we thought it would be cool to see what a human version of this same map would look like. So we created the fiction of it being a human weather station in the middle of frozen nowhere.
AM: It’s a UNSC research station set in the Arctic, and I am pretty sure that this is also where all of the R&D on military grade Otter Pop rations took place. Early on I thought it was going to be an oil derrick, but that changed over time. We have some cool racks of glacier core samples, Doppler radar and other pieces of research gear strewn about, which makes for a nice touch – and when you look up to see them make sure you notice the beautiful Aurora Borealis in the sky. There were other, more outlandish settings done in the concept phase, but we’ll keep those secret as you never know when we’ll dig into that bag and pull it out for a future project.
How was the setting for Blackout determined?
PR: Since I got lumped with the 'Forerunner Guy' label and sixty percent of the environments I've built have been Forerunner, I've made a bold pronouncement to never do Forerunner again. That's why it's a human weather station. I wish there were a more interesting story than that.
AM: From my perspective the determination was an organic process based on the direction that Paul just started taking it. He had a really solid idea and it was easy for the other artists to understand it and help make it awesome. We also set the time to be the middle of the night, so it’s dark, but the full moon and ambient light from the facility make the map visible enough that it plays just like Lockout. And that took a lot of tweaking – there were weeks when the map was just too damn dark to do anything, or too light that everything looked washed out and you lost the cool midnight setting. In the end Paul and his cohorts found a really great balance to the aesthetic.
In addition to the aesthetic changes, how has the map changed functionally? It’s a strict port, but there are differences, detail them:
PR: There's equipment now, which changes the dynamic quite a bit, I hear. The original model was a chaotic mess to work in, so I rebuilt it from scratch, keeping only the buildings, which I also promptly gutted and rebuilt. As a result it's probably completely different and you'll all hate it, me and Bungie as a result. Mission accomplished.
Kidding, you'll love it. The kids love Lockout, it's bigger than the Beatles, but with more grenades.
DM: Mainly equipment. We tried our best to keep the weapon layout, gametypes and spawns as accurate as we could to Halo 2. There are a couple of jumps that are easier in this version, but that wasn't by design- they just kind of fell out of how we made this level.
AM: Most of the jumps, even the crazy ones from Halo 2, are there. However a few are tweaked or removed and there is one spot that was altered that makes it less easy to lock down a specific quadrant of the map. Also, the small platforms next to the air vent are at slightly different elevations.
What’s changed between Halo 2 and Halo 3 that affected the remake process?
PR: Equipment, field of view tweaks, higher resolution, widescreen, Forge and I, Paul Freakin' Russel, am the primary artist. El Dios bendice Venezuela!
DM: I would guess the main change would be that jumping has changed and it made certain jumps easier to make. I wonder if the Assault Rifle's influence also changed how the level plays vs the smg. I think the level plays a little more mid-range because of the Assault rifle.
AM: The general pacing in MP changed between Halo 2 and 3, and the sandbox changed drastically, so that affects all remakes, but for Blackout specifically we wanted to keep things as close as possible to what was built in Halo 2. That means that the biggest changes come from actually gameplay as the way weapons and equipment interact on the map make a game on Blackout so much more different than a Halo 2 game on Lockout.
How is equipment placed on Blackout?
DM: We've decided to go with a 'less is more' attitude with Blackout after some playing around with a bunch of different placements, we've settled on one regenerator, one bubble shield and one power drain.
AM: With such verticality to the map and the narrows spaces, the Bubble Shield is terribly effective for just shutting down certain lines of sight. It’s also fun to toss a Power Drain onto the helipad while everyone is fighting in the middle and just clean up.
What gametypes work best on Blackout?
PR: I don't know. I loathe playing video games.
DM: I enjoy assault, KOTH and team slayer on Blackout.
BL: King of the hill in the red room of death :)
AM: For me, this is just a straight up Slayer map, FFA or Team. The objective games are fun, but this is all about short to mid-range combat and the Assault Rifle is perfect as a starting weapon on this map.
What’s some stuff we don’t know about Blackout’s creation? What was the toughest part to “get right?”
PR: This is the first time I believe we've tried a full-blown nighttime multiplayer map. Originally I wanted it to take place on the back of a giant llama. I'm still bitter about this.
Maintaining some of the little things that expert players liked to exploit. Those are all gone, now, your pets are dead, go home and cry.
Kidding, we did our best to keep it all in.
I have to go now; I have a busy schedule as I am also the President of Venezuela. Vaya con queso!
BL: Making an environment look cold and unbearable is always a challenge.
AM: We almost didn’t do it because we already have Guardian, which was similar and ‘inspired by’ Lockout. But when I started up the DLC project we gathered a ton of data from the community, looked at the most played maps on Live and did some very unscientific polls on Bungie.Net and other community websites and Lockout was leaps and bounds ahead of every other map in terms of games played and the public demand. It also fits a need in our overall map portfolio to help round out the small maps that are available in Halo 3 and was a great artistic exercise.
The toughest part of making it was trying to be as faithful to the original as possible while also accommodating the inherent gameplay changes between Halo 2 and 3. The second toughest was getting Paul and the gang to fix their bugs on time and making sure lightmaps weren’t screwed all of the time.