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.


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  1. Dax01
    October 8, 2010

    Good first entry, Ghal! 🙂

  2. Ruination 509
    October 8, 2010

    Any chance of having an RSS feed? Or am I missing it? Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  3. oddworld
    October 8, 2010

    Can’t wait to read more.

    I would love to see other contributors talking about their maps, too – so that I get a steady drip-feed of awesome making-of talk.

    Hell, I’ll even write… if you want. I expect to drop a first draft onto ForgeGAF in a few weeks. <3

  4. lostguru
    October 8, 2010

    you’re kidding, i loved watching mr roger’s neighborhood and reading macauley’s book “the new way things work” (an updated version of the book you posted) when i was a kid too! i’ve moved onto “how it’s made” and “how do they do it” on the science channel since then, but the invention and innovation aspects of life really do stay with you for the rest of your life

    i’m looking forward to reading about your philosophy and learning from your methodology in future writeups

  5. Pariah
    October 8, 2010

    Interesting read Gahl! Looking forward to what cake your baking.

  6. […] focusing on how a map comes into being, rather than the nuts and bolts of actually building it. His opening entry is now up at Forward Unto Dawn – go give it a read! And bookmark it, because I’m […]

  7. SkylessDuck
    October 12, 2010

    It’s incredibly fortunate that I you just recently started this blog as I’ve started dabbling in Forge for the first time this past week. I love it!

    I hope your journey onward is successful and that mine can match!

  8. October 12, 2010

    Good to see a Halo icon like yourself delving into the world of level design utilizing forge. I look forward to reading your discoveries and discussing design topics with you regularly Ghaleon. I would have been one of the new guys over at HaloGaf back in September, but sadly I had to change my email to my new personal one since I just got out of the Air Force. I look forward to what you have to say and discussing the finer details of map design with you.

    I write my own series of level design articles that I have written based on my experiences with forge and playing games. Who knows… maybe if you find the time in your busy life you could check out my 29+ forge lessons based around design philosophies like eye catching, first impressions, advertising, path manipulation, incentives, etc.

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