Last Bastion is a Halo 5 Forge Map from Jesse Duchene, AKA @Soldat Du Christ. The level was officially released near the end of 2018. Jesse then created a 'Making Of' video, and published that in June of 2020. The video is a detailed breakdown of his thought processes behind the design, and provides great insight into the type of thinking that can be used to create great levels. We recently met up with Jesse to talk about the video, further picking his brain on both the level and the video.
Can you share a little bit about your history designing levels - Have you always had an interest in design? How long have you been at it? Do you remember your first project?
My interest in design stretches as far back as I can remember... as a kid I used to design my own games with whatever I could get my hands on. Like whenever me and my family would go out to eat I liked to design intricate maze maps with locks and keys similar to dungeons in Zelda for my sisters. I love creating experiences for others and watching them figure them out. Even when I didn't have others to play with I would play by myself and design entire plot lines, character stats, game worlds, recording everything on paper as I would play them out in my head. As I grew up and became embarrassed of my toys and stacks of paper games, I threw them out. Eventually I discovered halos forge and as you can imagine, went wild with it.
Wow, you've been honing your craft for quite a long time already. That's very cool. So, you've recently released a 'Making Of' video for your level Last Bastion. Level ideas can arise from so many things, ranging from geometric shapes, historic events, or even just a general mood. You touch on this in the video, but can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of Last Bastion?
I had just gotten done playing through both Dark Souls 1 and was pretty inspired. The level had such character, to this day there is literally nothing else like it in gaming and many of the different set pieces in the game that I go over in the intro of the video stuck in my head long after my play through and I couldn't get it out of my head. By the time I was ready to make a new map, Dark Souls would be my new source of inspiration artistically and structurally.
Dark Souls is obviously not a First Person Shooter. I imagine there were some difficulties in recreating a 'souls-like' level within the context of an FPS. What was the biggest challenge you faced in this process? Or if there wasn't anything in particular, what were some of the notable challenges?
The biggest challenges I faced wasn't so much finding a place for the set pieces, they actually translated quite nicely into the layout I ended up with. For me, the challenge was just getting to that point where i was satisfied with all the different segments and the relationship between them. The video condensed 7 months of messy trial and error into 30 minutes, all for the sake of providing a easily digestible and linear evolution of the map. Any level designer knows that's really not how the process works. There were many different versions of the atrium before I settled on the final product, for example.
Yes, there must have been a lot of iteration on both the level, and on the video. Was there anything about the making of Last Bastion that didn't make its way into the video which you wish could have been covered?
Absolutely... since the release I keep remembering things that should have been in there. Mostly observations to be made that would give the viewer a better idea on how to play the map. One last observation worth mentioning is that it would be beneficial to think of each of the segments (Gazebo, Tower, Bridge, Graveyard, etc.) as having their own personality. When players choose to take control of, or navigate through these segments, those actions really say something. A team of two performing at their best is essentially a single Unit. When two teams compete against one another on last bastion, it's somewhat analogous to a conversation between two individuals.
For example, if red team is positioned in Garden (Red neutral) and they see the enemy team begin to make their way towards Gazebo (third neutral) that has a lot of implications. Seeing as how useful the Gazebo is at contesting Garden, players in Garden might want to preemptively 1 up the enemy team by rotating one into the Graveyard and then up to the bridge via the inner most ramp, which would be a good way to 1 up the enemy team making their way to the Gazebo. This hypothetical scenario could keep going... what if Blue team anticipated this all along, only making their way towards the Gazebo as a superficial threat, to force a reaction out of the enemy team, and then they can be rewarded for being one step ahead of the enemy team by successfully baiting them out, and following up.
It's only because each segment have such strong identities that these kinds of metaphorical conversations between the two enemy teams take place. The same could be said for other maps with a similarly strong design
You've clearly put a lot of thought into the level, and take design very seriously. Are you working on any projects we should be watching out for? What are your level/game design aspirations for the future? Do you plan to have a career in the gaming industry?
Right now I'm working on a Counter Strike map using Valves Hammer editor. After more than a decade of designing and testing maps for Halo, it's been a pleasant challenge having to re-wire my brain around a different kind of FPS. The layout is in the polishing stages and I'm genuinely excited to share the design with the CSGO community and the larger level design community!
Ultimately though, I'm not really sure where I'll end up. I feel both thankful and guilty that I've had the ability to exist so comfortably up to this point just indulging in my own design passions. I want to cherish the time I have as a hobbyist and see what opportunities present themselves to me. No matter where I end up in the future, whether working for someone else, or designing my own game, I want to shine a light on all the good Gaming has the potential to be by creating experiences celebrate wholesome feelings of play, comradery, and comedic relief
Check out the Project Thread for Last Bastion here:
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