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a Chunk's Forge Anthology


a Chunk
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I was recently going through my old Photobucket account, checking out screenshots I had saved of some of my older work.  I got to thinking it might be interesting to share some of these, along with what I learned from the various projects. So I'm going to give it a go. Hoping to post daily for a while, though I cannot make any promises...

 

Where better to start than at the very beginning.  I started forging on Halo Reach, in 2011.  The very first map I released was a 2 base 2 tower map that was made for an MLGPRO Forge Forum contest where they were looking for levels for the pro circuit. 

 

Alcove

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It was a cheap Midship knockoff (of course, lol), which did everything worse than the map it was inspired by.  The frame rate was ridiculously bad.  The map was cluttered and ugly. 

 

But this was all okay because I learned a great deal about forge as a tool.  I got familiar with all of the pieces, how to move them about, how to rotate and flip, how to place and delete. It also taught me the importance of forethought.  Being my first foray into level design, I had only vague ideas when starting. I had bases and towers in my mind, and nothing else. And 95% of my time on this project was trying to figure out how to connect these bases and towers and the vast majority of the space that lay between them.  It was a very big mess, and a very big lesson to have learned.

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Worship

My second map in Reach was an homage to my favorite Goldeneye level - Temple.  Can't say I learned a ton from this one as it was mostly a nostalgia trip for me. It does require me to give some thought to how the design would need to change to fit the mechanics of Halo, so it was a good thought experiment in that regard.  I also started to give some thought to basic aesthetics.

 

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Going to combine multiple levels into this post. I don't recall specifically which order I built/released these in. All were 2v2 asymmetrical maps where I was focused on learning how to balance one part of a level relative to another, and very much just making up details of the design as I went along.  This was a great process for me.  It resulted in very poorly made maps, but the constant problem solving it necessitated was of huge benefit to me in the long run.  I also was trying to get better at things like engagement distance control via scaling, elevation, and line of sight width - trying to keep most engagements within the 'usable' range of the utility weapon.  One thing that I had NOT yet begun to think about was team play.  My entire thought process was based upon 1 on 1 encounters, and this is a major reason that the maps played poorly, though I didn't realize this at the time.

 

Division

This was definitely the first of these 3 maps that I built.  It was created upon a concept where there were 2 rooms essentially stacked atop each other, and then main areas on either side of them which connected them together.

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Cappa Prime

This was very much a 3-lane design, though I had never heard of such a thing, lol.  You can see the convergence of the 3 lanes in the first screenshot below.

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Indigo

This was an attempt at a single atrium design. It literally started out with me designing a center atrium and placing opening at various heights, and then designing the exterior portions to connect to those randomly generated openings.  It was fruitful exercise.

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Avalon

A 4v4 symmetrical level, Avalon is where I truly started to grasp some of the fundamentals of level design. This level was built and rebuilt from the ground up something like a dozen times, changing drastically with many of those rebuilds.  From beginning to end this project spanned around 6 months, with an average of a couple of hours spent on it each day - a ridiculous amount of time.  But I condensed a lot of learning into that time. Some of the concepts that solidified for me were an understanding of both vertical and horizontal scaling, balancing openness and segregation, 'transition' areas, weapon details (placements, ammo, spawn times), and major improvements in understanding line of sight concepts (playing with sizing of lines of sight both horizontally and vertically, and grasping how these changes impacted the relative power of each space), and more that I can't even remember right now.  Though there was 1 big hole in the design - it's literally a doughnut, lol, with the middle being a no man's land - this is the level where I made the transition from 'building stuff' to intentional design.

 

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Strife - Map Thread

I became immensely interested in designing for 2v2 after @Xzamplez had released Angst.  It helped me recognize the great possibility for experimentation compared to 4v4 design. Strife was born out of that inspiration.  I did my due diligence this time around and preplanned much of the layout.  Unfortunately I realized its shortcomings shortly after initially building it, so it was back to the drawing board for major sections of the map. Like Avalon, this underwent multiple complete rebuilds as I adjusted the design and scaling to fulfill my goals.  To date, this is one of my favorite designs.  I've since iterated on it further but have not released an updated version. That still may be in the cards at some point in the future.

 

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Sol

My next attempt at a competitive 4v4 level.  This was once again inspired largely by Midship. I was obsessed with the idea of inverse symmetrical maps at the time, and so this naturally ended up adopting that design type.  It had it's shortcomings, which I attempted unsuccessfully to fix in later iterations, but as 2 base 2 tower maps go I think it's decent enough. My biggest challenge with this level was in attempting to make it run with a smooth framerate in split screen, as this was part of the requirement for maps to be used on the pro circuit at the time. I learned a fair amount about optimizing for Reach as a result, and in general it just taught me a lot about using pieces efficiently.

 

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Copperfield

Not much to say about this one. It was my twist on Wizard/Warlock. My primary goals were to add in more elevation variation and make the bases more distinctive. Mission accomplished, but I realize/d there's not much interest in this type of design either from the competitive community or from the forge community. Nevertheless, I enjoyed building it at a time where I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about designing new levels.

 

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Exalted

This was the first level I built in Halo 4.  It was a symmetrical 4v4 level.  I took some inspiration from Construct here, with multileveled design and similar shape.  I wanted to better integrate the levels and have movement between them be more fluid.  The level accomplished that goal, but the layout proved to be too complex and overscaled.  I did a second iteration of this map to address these issues, which will probably be the next level I cover.  😉 

 

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Elixir

Though it wasn't published immediately after Exalted, I'm sharing Elixir next.  It was build from scratch based partially upon feedback from Exalted, and partially from my own dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the original design.  This evolution of the design was significantly streamlined and reduced in scale.  It featured better lines of sight and more fluid movement between levels, along with improved visuals now that I had more experience with the available pieces.

 

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Spaz

I'd gotten into a pattern of alternating between 4v4 and 2v2 maps, as I felt it was a good way to challenge my thought processes and incorporate learnings from on player count into another. Spaz continued this trend, being designed for 2v2 slayer. The initial design (of which I believe all traces have since been deleted) consisted of 4 distinctive elevations. This turned out to be too extreme, and I ended up toning down the verticality significantly.  One of the other major thought experiments I was playing with was shrinking path sizes as elevation increased. Lower levels were wide and open, while upper levels were skinny, exposed catwalks.  I don't feel like I've ever done this design justice, but I've learned a great deal from the various iterations (and there have been about 10 that were each distinctly unique in their layout, while still maintaining the same core design and essence).  Here's a link to a version I released in Halo 5: https://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/forums/topic/73-spazzed-out/

 

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For the life of me, I cannot recall what order I released the rest of my H4 maps in, so I'll just be making my best guess...

 

Epicenter

Boring symmetrical arena map.  Not much else to say.

No, actually this was a very momentous map, as it was my first co-forge.  @Westin and I had worked together on numerous projects prior to this, but always with one of us as the clear cut designer, and the other offering significant feedback.  That was not the case on this one - it was very much a collaborative effort from the very beginning.  This level will always be meaningful to me because of this.

As mentioned, it's a symmetrical arena map, made for 4v4 play. It was designed originally to play slayer and CTF, but later tailored for specialty gametypes such as Ricochet and Breakout. There have been numerous versions released in multiple games, but none quite as special as the original.

 

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Atlas

This was a room based 4v4 asym.  It marked the first time I had fully planned out every detail of the layout, weapons, etc. before starting anything in forge. It was a great learning experience in that regard. The map played decently as a fast paced slayer map, and probably worked best with Extraction.  Ultimately I wasn't satisfied with certain aspects of the design, and changed it into a 2-4 player map, which I'm sure will be shared later in this series.

 

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Dusk

A remake of Sol. 4v4 sym.  I was able to incorporate some things into this that I couldn't in the reach version (added a lower level to the bases, along with some additional routes in other areas). But on the whole this is one of the levels I'm least proud of, and most of the changes made to it were for the worst.  I don't regret building it because I learned from doing so, but I honestly wish I had not released this one.

 

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