Forge Q&A: GhaleonEB

GhaleonEB is a well known member of the Halo community and known mostly for his Halo threads on the NeoGAF forums. Respected for his well thought out opinions and mature approach to discussion. GhaleonEB isn’t the most prolific map maker but has successfully navigated ATLAS.

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1)What were your initial impressions of (H3) Forge?

My first impression stemmed more from the fact that it was a game mode, rather than an object editor, and how I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I try to evaluate things based on what they try to be, rather than what I wanted them to be, and on that basis, I thought the tool was ideal for what it was primarily designed for: spawn, weapon and objective placement, and a sandbox-y place to play with friends.

All that changed with Foundry, of course.

2)How smoothly were you able to transition your ideas from concept to playable map and what were the hurdles?

I didn’t build a serious, from-scratch map until Sandbox hit; my work on Foundry was mostly just messing around with fusion coils.

The challenges were many. I first decided to build a map in the sky bubble, but quickly ran into the realization that there just weren’t enough resources to do a very ambitious map; at least, not one that incorporates vehicles in any serious way. And so all of the maps I built through to completion and polish were either in the crypt or basin. And in each map, I would learn the tricks to maximizing the tool a bit better – such as object merging and edge alignment – and so my final maps got closer and closer to the initial vision. But I was left with reams of ideas that were just out of the scope of Forge’s capabilities.

3)You are one of the lucky folks to have one of your maps played by thousands of users in Halo’s matchmaking. How was your map received?

Going by the user ratings of the custom maps in matchmaking, it was received reasonably well; it’s rated about the middle of the pack. It’s simple enough that the visual design doesn’t leave a strong impression, but I found that when people were familiar with it, they enjoyed it. On the community forum that helped shape it, Entrenched was well received and so I had an idea that it might go over well with the broader community. Of course, the first two times I ran into it in matchmaking, it was vetoed.

4)What is your impression of the selection process used by Bungie to put user made maps into matchmaking?

My first thought was to recognize the constraints imposed on any such system, beginning with the fact that Halo 3’s Forge was not designed to do what it ended up being used as, a faux map editor. Since that was not part of the initial design spec, Bungie did not have any infrastructure in place to build a pipeline from custom content on through to matchmaking. And because someone from Bungie had to be on the end of the process, they would only ever be able to touch a tiny fraction of community content.

With that said, I thought Shishka did about a good a job as could be expected given the tools and resources he had. I would have liked to see more feedback provided in the Atlas forums from Bungie, and more of the maps that made it into the one-day community playlists remain in matchmaking, but on the whole I’m sympathetic to the challenge the process presented.

5)Was there anything in particular you wanted to do in (H3) Forge but found yourself unable to do?

I wanted to build a large, vehicle-heavy map in the sky bubble, but was never able to, even when I split the bases and used primarily air vehicles.

6)In your opinion, what did Forge do best and what did it do badly?

At its best it was a fun playground, and a good tool to adjust spawns, weapons and objectives. I spent many an hour with my kids just messing around; it was the Halo multiplayer sandbox distilled to its purest form.

Where it failed was when it came to assembling structures from the components in Foundry and Sandbox. Objects often didn’t get along well together, and the interface was not designed with the kind of precision a full map editor requires.

7)Now that Forge 2.0 has been revealed, does it live up to your expectations?

So far, yes. I was expecting an evolution of the concept that began in Halo 3, which is to say, it would remain a gameplay mode and an object editor. What I expected was a better interface for map construction and a set of “foundation” maps similar to Sandbox and Foundry with the initial shipped game. I didn’t expect the scope of the building objects, the number of knobs and levers to place and adjust objects, nor the set of foundation maps to be stitched together. And seeing “Game Types” and “Game Options” in the menu is intriguing…

8)Do you forsee any potential issues with the new feature set?

The only ones that come to mind at this point surround just how generous the budget is, and what kind of system Bungie will have to bubble up community maps and promote them into matchmaking.

9)Do you think Bungie understands the wants and needs of it’s huge, vibrant community?

Yes. As much as any developer I’ve seen, they build content and features that cater directly to what the community wants. Nearly every major – and minor – feature that they’ve added to the series over the years has stemmed from the demands of the community, from map remakes to custom game and map tools to content sharing and the suite of features on bungie.net. Each subsequent games features reads like a wish-list from the previous one.

10)Do you think that the majority of Halo player population can appreciate a well designed map – what ┬ámakes you think that way?

I think there’s something intuitive about whether a map is good at what it was intended to be or not. As far as most players go, I suspect the distinction comes into whether people can – or take the time to – identify what is causing the map to suck, or whether they simply conclude, “this map sucks” and move on.

I spend a lot of time running (or driving) around the maps I built looking at thing such as choke points, firing lines, what kind of spaces are enclosed and what kind of distances are ideal given the weapons at hand, and whether that space will be useful in the game types I have in mind. And then swallow my pride and pull it into custom games, where all my assumptions get torn down for me to rebuild. Getting someone else on your map to play it really is a critical step when putting one together.

11)What dropped (or not implemented) feature would you have liked most to see in Forge 2.0?

One feature I was hoping for was the ability to cluster objects together; to put a bridge and a building together and then associate them in such a way that the tool would link them as one object, which could be moved together. That would really speed in map creation for those times when have a large, multi-part structure that needs to be move over a bit, but has to be done one part at a time. It forces the designer to touch every object and place them precisely all over again.

Outside of that, it’s hard to say at this point, as I don’t think we’ve seen the full scope of the tool set yet.

12)Forge 2.0 seems to simplify some of the more complicated original features, tricks and glitches from the original Forge. The intent seems to be to cut down on the time spent to achieve the same results and thus making it “easier”. How do you think this will impact the map making community and how big of a role do you think tagging content will play?

I think we’re going to see the kind of content that come out months after Sandbox shipped arrive in the first week of Reach’s life cycle. Partly because the interface and the design language is the same, while placement tools and object pallet is so much larger. Between that and the numerous bugs removed (such as walls shifting, default objects counting against budget when deleted, etc.) we’re going to see incredible things very quickly. Race tracks, Forge art, perfect remakes of classic maps, the works. I can’t wait.