Forging Ahead: Origin Story
Like many kids of my generation, Mr. Rogers was a staple of my young childhood. But it was a small part of his show that I was glued to the TV anticipating: not the puppets or trolley rides or visits from the neighbors, though those were lovely. For me, the highlight of the show was when Fred would visit a factory to see how something got made. I was awestruck and fascinated how simple every day objects – tennis shoes, light bulbs – were created in giant industrial plants, swarming with people and filled with enormous, powerful-looking machines that moved with an eerie grace. It changed how I looked at the world. Later in my childhood, David MaCauley’s “The Way Things Work” picked up the baton when I had outgrown neighbor Fred’s imaginative play land.
Fast forward 20+ years and I still have that interest in the nuts and bolts of creation: the herculean talent and passion and tools that go into the creative enterprise. I can’t absorb enough material on the making of an ambitious movie ( thank you, Peter Jackson, for the hours upon hours of documentaries) or game – which is why the lack of documentary included with the premium editions of Halo: Reach was so disappointing. Bungie’s vidocs come too far and few between for this fan. I’m often surprised at how much time and resources get poured into the smallest of decisions, and learning the genesis of an aspect helps me appreciate it on another level. Not only for the work that was poured into it, but because of the insights that come from the look at details that I may have not noticed, or understood.
While Bungie’s creative energies have largely moved on to their new IP, the Halo community is still just getting warmed up creating new experiences in Reach. In particular, Forge and Forge World have enabled the community like nothing Bungie has released since Marathon Infinity, but at a scale orders of magnitude larger thanks to Halo’s success. For someone fascinated by the creative process such as myself, Forge presents both an opportunity to not only (once again) dabble in creating my own virtual play lands, but also to enjoy seeing how others create their own.
When a new maps shows up in the forums, conversation understandably centers around the finished product that someone has created – how a map plays, how spawns need fixing, how vehicles are balanced. But for someone who wants to absorb as much detail on how things get made as I, there’s a level of detail lacking in the discussion. I want to know what the original idea was, and how it changed as it was worked on. I want to talk about sight lines, spawn placement strategy, what kind of encounters are intended in the various spaces. Why was that block placed there? My desire to learn about the hows and whys of map creation from the community has largely gone unsatisfied.
So, I decided to try and do something about it: I’m going to write at detail about my own process. The idea behind this blog is to provide a more detailed look at creating maps in Forge, from the initial conceptual idea down to detailed design elements, feedback from testing and ultimately the release of the map into the sea of Reach community maps (assuming the map makes it that far). And then, do it all over again. In so doing I hope to provide content for like-minded readers, and to stir some discussion on the finer details of Forging a sound Halo map. Along the way I’ll be pulling in what I’ve learned on my lonesome, from feedback on my maps and from the work of others in the community, as well as from such great resources as Forge Hub.
One caveat is in order: I’m no professional designer. I’ve had some success – or at least, spent lots of time – making Halo 3 maps, and have a strong creative itch to do the same in Reach, for the foreseeable future. But beyond that I’m merely one Halo fan who loves to create, and learn about the creation, of Halo maps. Ideas good and bad will roll through this series, and I’ll be (hopefully) learning a lot as I go. But that’s the nice thing about building out maps meant to be shared and played on: the fun is in both the journey and the destination.