ForgingTheFuture_CC

What was intended to be a basic Q&A with two Forgers essentially turned into a two and a half hours. The (edited) discussion about the highs and lows of Forge, and where the game mode goes from here, follow.

I’m Petetheduck. I’ve been a member of halo.bungie.org since Halo 1, got into Forge in Halo 3, and got a little attention when Halo Waypoint hosted my Forge-based show, Forge with Pete. The bungie.org sites are my home base.

And I’m Nillapuddin. I am a frequenter of HBO, Waypoint, Forgehub, and Blueprint. I forged in Halo 3 but only casually–when Reach was released I started to hone my craft. I helped assemble and lead a remake collection group on Bungie.net (now continued on Waypoint), which led to being appointed “Lead of Classic Maps” on Blueprint, and just continued from there. Recently Halo Waypoint featured one my maps for the first “Classic Map” spotlight on Waypoint, nothing much comparatively speaking Mr. Duck, but awesome for me 🙂

I’ve never been involved in Blueprint but I know they’re serious business.

Yeah, it was an interesting circle to invade, Forgers and play testers of every cut are present, highly competitive, BTB, party gamers, etc. I know you are oft featured on Waypoint, do you have any involvement with 343 beyond the surface?

I had the opportunity to visit their studio with some other Cartographers and I got to give some blind input on Forge Island, but that’s as far as I’ve ever been involved.

Ah, when you got to visit was that pre-release? I was invited to visit CA but the invite came on short notice and I was unable to make it, that was a very exciting opportunity though.

Yeah, the weekend right before. That’s where the “Intro to Forge” videos came from.

I can only assume it was a very jarring realization when you saw Halo 4 Forge for the first time.

There were things that immediately concerned us, like the lack of precision editing, blurry loadout screen, lack of zoom, etc. I mean, that was stuff we noticed in the first few minutes of sitting down with Halo 4. What was discouraging about Halo 4‘s Forge at launch was that it was very, very rigid. There was very little flexibility, in nearly every aspect of it. You were meant to Forge a certain way, using magnets instead of precision editing. You were meant to Forge certain things, using maps with very distinct and restricting geography. And you were meant to play certain things, with game types that had almost no versatility.

I agree, I feel like magnets in theory work so well in the Forge environment, but in practice they were hardly as consistent as they need to be. Although too many features were removed, I feel all the additions hit their mark: duplication, locking, trait zones. But the lack of fine editing hit everyone pretty hard.

magnets_h4forgeMagnets, how do they work — Fracture by Hadokenchild

Don’t get me wrong, I do use magnets and I think they’re a feature worth keeping (although a d-pad shortcut for turning them on and off would save a lot of time.) But it felt like Forge at launch wasn’t really built by Forgers.

I also use them plenty. I believe that the biggest issue with magnets is not the magnets themselves, it’s directly this “wasn’t really built by Forgers” sentiment. The lack of visual consistency, placement of the magnets, their rotational axes, just shows that they are not using those pieces the way real Forgers do. I’m sure you know on the 5×5 flat that on one side the magnets are hanging off the piece, and the other are pinched. I don’t mean to complain too much, but when a piece is a flat square, it needs to be consistent. I’m hoping they bring Forgers out to give input on Halo One’s Forge while it’s still in development.

I suppose I would also like it if 343 Industries was doing that stuff themselves. I guess I’m just happy someone is doing it.

In-house would be great, as long as its made the right way, to be fair CA has made great content in post.

However, a larger issue in separating “the game” from “the features” (Forge in this instance) is the lack of cohesion. The UI handles user content in the worst way possible, the separations of gametypes/maps/screenshots and films is terrible. For creators who often do map/gametype combos like yourself, and more recently with my Ricochet exploits, its very frustrating. I’ve noticed that my maps are getting twice as many downloads as the gametypes, and that’s discouraging.

Haha, I learned that lesson very early on in Halo 3 when I was making the Flaming Ninja Challenge obstacle courses. I used the game type to add player traits that were required in order to complete the obstacle course, but people were just downloading the map. So I ended up just making the next maps work with default player traits.

As I remember, that’s too funny, Flaming Ninja Challenges were great stuff, didn’t realize they were yours. Not so small world.

Yeah, that was my first Forge success. I had meant to make one in Halo 4, but the inclusion of sprint was giving me too much trouble. Again, versatility. That kind’ve leads to me to mention that I refuse to use modded content. Yeah, modders have created game types where sprint is turned off. Modders have done a lot with Halo 4, and some of it is pretty awesome. I just feel like it shouldn’t have to come to that–players should be able to do whatever they want with the official resources.

Prop HuntNatural camouflage doesn’t always work — Prop Busters by Deceitful Echo and Nopiddy2

I guess you could really tie that all into how Halo 4 is more linear of an experience on the whole, one that I can only assume was because of the ridiculous development process. Between changing teams and Forge not even being made in house, it might speak to the disconnect initially between player expectations and the shipping product.

I’m not sure what David is gonna have us talk about, but I think Forge Island and Ricochet have been two big turning points for Forge.

David Fuchs: Well I was going to ask questions, but you guys are just talking and answering them -.-

Hehe, er, well, I didn’t know all this was on the record 😉

So this conversation, unlike Forge, has become very organic 😉

Bad-dum-kish.

Kidding aside, I could not agree with you more on those last two points. I felt Forge Island, though it still has weaknesses, was such a focused strike at advancing freedom for forgers, and Ricochet seems to have been built from the ground up with Forge and Customs in mind. The map being free was of course a great thing, creativity for the community shouldn’t come at a cost.

Forge Island was a huge change in direction, giving the power back to the Forgers to do what they really wanted, whatever that might be. And then Ricochet comes along, which is an extremely versatile game type. I was excited to see Forge Island feature cleaner textures on many pieces, as well.

Indeed, and as a whole the visuals of the pieces work for me, especially the addition of clearly visible and nicely put color positions.

Maybe in the next Forge they’ll do something about the goofy end on the Brace Large.

I wonder if the reliance on established pieces might hurt the mode going forward.

I definitely don’t think they should be cutting pieces out (except maybe cutting off that weird end on the Brace Large. Seriously, who uses that?), but there are some really easy additions that would go a long way. For example, a half circle. Maybe something like a 6×12 that’s a grass texture, or rock texture. The Forge palettes can be pretty monotonous, which has been an issue since the beginning. Speaking of color positions, I thought it might be kind’ve cool to replace the color stripes with an overall tint on the entire object.

See this is where I am conflicted. I understand why we would like to have coloring on the entire piece, I guess my mind just instantly goes to the potential horrible rainbow maps. Now if the tints were more along the treatments of White -> Steel -> Eroded -> etc, I might agree.

Well, I think we’ve managed to make it through the worst: horrible green screen maps. But yeah, something to make rooms distinct. The custom lighting on Forge maps has done a lot to help players make out doorways, etc.. but it can still be tricky to keep different sections of the map from blending together visually.

Basically interior maps are just Shadows: The Game, they lean heavily on outer light sources.

Yeah, it would be incredible to be able to place the light source (or light sources) ourselves, to help that. I can only assume that will advance with better technology. Come on, Halo 5/Halo One.

Exactly, if you would indulge me, things like this are the double edge blade of the current lighting: 

Forge ShadowsSolid foundations, rough shadows — Keystone by Nillapuddin

This is one of the most telling shots of my map, but the jaggedness and lack of detail in the shadows just hurt my heart. Unless you are very close to render it sharply, it looks terrible.

At the same time, without those shadows, the map would look flat and difficult to make out. But those are definitely jaggy.

Certainly, hence the double edge, One would hope that with the “One” that can be refined. Do you think that “LIGHTS” need to be more prominent?

They have very little influence on the surrounding environment, especially from a distance. They’re basically a ball with color. I would like to see us able to place our own genuine light sources, that generate shadows and stuff, and be able to color those. And have that color actually show up when you’re playing.

I agree, because of how difficult it is to actually Forge nicely put together interior spaces, it would be a huge benefit to create lighting that worked well to create a stronger contrast.

That would satisfy my “whole object tint” itch as well.

Indeed, I feel that the flashing red light for instance has so much potential, it’s just so hampered (I’m assuming by the 8-year-old computer it runs on) That light could really sell an environment, as an alarm or evacuation signal, etc. Perhaps even spawned into existence once a flag was taken, a visual indicator of map change (veering off course).

Dynamic maps!

Which leads into my question for you: the one thing I always ask my friends in the Forge community is, what change do you see realistically happening to Forge? And to elaborate I mean, how could it be functionally different than what it is now–many different pieces that are thrown together to make a playable space?

Dynamic events, terrain editing, are common answers, perhaps you have a different one?

Realistically happening, eh? Hmm…

(That’s the catch!)

I really like the modular design of Forge. I think it works, and works exceedingly well. So I don’t think that needs to be changed. There are things, secret things, that can be done by the people in charge. If you’ve played Hangar 101, you know what I mean; 343 Industries can do things to objects like make them invisible, permit weapons fire to pass through them but not players. Enabling us to do things like that would be a pretty dramatic change to Forge, I think, and one that the community would love. And because it can already be done, I think that’s realistic. I don’t think terrain editing is really any different than what we can already do–it’s just what method you use to do it.

I would agree, as much as I know some people call for FAR CRY 3 !!!III!! type editing, I don’t believe that should ever enter the conversation. The piece-by-piece nature of Forge makes it exactly as simple as it needs to be, and in the right hands very complex. However, with forge island I have noticed that the lack of terrain pieces, and ability to manipulate nature, is holding back a lot of variety. ex: Relic, I have a working prototype of Relic, the entire base structure, finished, but would the map play well? doubt it, because its flat as can be, in a BTB environment, nothing can replace the gameplay function of “he’s over the hill, I cannot see him.”

Yeah, there’s a lot of room to improve the Forge palette. And budget. I don’t understand the existence of the Artifact Base, for example. One thing that I’ve wondered is why Forge objects are part of the map file. Why can’t that be separated? It would be nice to see the Forge palette be updated with a new Title Update, and have access to those updated objects in all Forge maps. It would just require the game loading two files instead of one. Then our outcries of “hey, give us a nice gentle hill for my Relic remake!” could be answered. And the you wouldn’t see a map like Complex that has a lot of potential but got absolutely shafted when it comes to its Forge palette. It was treated like a small map, with almost no vehicles and no Dominion objects. The map is huge! Those objects should have been there–but because the Forge palette for Complex is part of the map file, the map will forever be–er, well, not realize its full potential.

That’s an incredibly good point, one that I think should be very possible given the technical advancements we are to receive, forging on non-forged maps, as you said earlier, seems like the Forge experience is very pigeon-holed.

Plus things like the invisible wall on the bottom of the tin cup could be fixed. So, your same question, back at you. What change do you see realistically happening to Forge?

Well we have walls, we will get more. We need more rocks/grass whatever, we might get those. We need better attention to detail on piece design, I hope to god we get that. But the thing that would come out of the ordinary, is dynamic pieces, Objects that you can interact with, doors, walkways, lights, ability to move a platform perhaps. You could easily see how a door that can open, could lead to a platform that can rise, which boom, that is now an elevator. Recreate the ‘infiltrate a base and open the defenses’ scenario or many of Halo 2’s interactive map elements. I can only imagine that you personally, would have a field day with that type of feature.

You turn that door sideways, and now you have a trap door for that run map. Just one versatile object can have a huge impact on the community. Which is why objects like the Dominion turret frustrate me–the object is almost useless outside of Dominion. If you’re going to add a turret object to the game, make it so we can use it in every game type and have it really function.

Very true, the Dominion pieces certainly were a step in the right direction, but it was a VERY tiny step.

Player Trait Zones were cool, but would have been more useful as a game type label instead of an object. If they were a label, you could, for example, assign them to a Warthog and have them move around the map. Of course, it doesn’t help that they’ve been glitchy and are actually discouraged from matchmaking. I’ve also been pushing for a Damage Boundary that slowly hurts players. Combined with Player Trait Zones or other game type specific features like Hill Traits, you could make some interest scenarios. Like, step outside the hill and you’re doing to die in a few moments. Bring back Pirates from Sandtrap!

That is a very good idea, a fairly simply switch from a timed kill, to timed damage. From a gameplay perspective, especially one with the mindset you have, that feedback is very unique.

The key to it is versatility. A kill boundary does one thing: instantly kills you. A damage boundary could be influenced by player traits. Let’s say the map is inside a damage boundary, the base player traits have very weak players, and hill traits have invulnerable players. You step outside the hill, you die pretty much instantly. But maybe you change base player traits to have normal health–now you step outside the hill, you’re okay for a few seconds. Traditional multiplayer maps could have a tunnel with some kind of flashing red light and aesthetic leaky radiator that damages players as they pass through it. It’s a shortcut, but it’s dangerous. Right now, the only way to do that is with a return to battlefield/soft kill boundary. Lame! But more casual maps could come up with a lot of different uses for an object like that. Forge Island and Ricochet are steps in that direction of versatility.

Indeed, the kill zones in current implementation are a bit too raw. Ricochet certainly raised an eyebrow when I read CA’s article; it is the first true time where gametype meets directly with Forge. As you said, much of the default gametypes and maps are very linear, but Ricochet was clearly made from the ground up to be very versatile.

And that’s encouraging! Especially when Flood became much more limited. So, lighting improvements, texture simplification and distinction, isolating the Forge palette from the map, expanding the Forge palette, and a heavy focus on versatile, dynamic objects and game types. Those are definitely some big wishes for the next Forge. Forge Island was great, but adding a Forge map after launch can be tricky. As a Forger, you want as many players to play your map as possible, and even free, some people still haven’t downloaded Forge Island. I would like to see the next Forge to have two maps–one pure canvas like Forge Island, one more traditional space like Forge World.

That would definitely be a very big plus, speaking of getting the map into the players hands, how about this for example. In Reach, I was very fortunate, throughout its life span my “Hemorrhage” (Coagulation) remake got up over 50k downloads, however, because it garnered so much attention early on, many people got it on first release, it received much more polish after that, but I doubt those people ever knew. I hope the distribution methods are improved–easier links to share your map, ways to notify people of updates, etc. Obviously finding content should be improved, but so should maintaining that content.

Interesting–having a way to let people know that you’ve updated your map is a cool idea. Perhaps when they select it, there would be a little icon next to it telling them there is a new version they can download. Since the file sharing method has always been messy, it would require a lot of work to make that kind of system, but it would be nice for Forgers.

Nonwithstanding, I agree that the next generation of Forge needs to have the input of people who use Forge, and to be frank, people who don’t use it “properly.” Nearly all of your creations, are ones of manipulation and variable, and my focal point is taking pre-existing ideas, and using every means to recreate them, which obviously does not mean “build walls with wall pieces,” etc. The bizarre piece combinations I have found over the years to create that impossible angle are some of my most proud accomplishments, creating a visual that is not the “easy answer” is fun and part of Forge’s hook.

Yep, Forge should support all kinds of creations–traditional and unusual. I consider it the most important element to the Halo games’ lasting appeal. I mean, seriously, it’s infinite free DLC. I don’t think any effort 343 Industries invests in Forge could possibly go to waste.

Pete the Duck map OnslaughtWhat if the Flood drove Mantes? Onslaught by Pete the Duck

I think it is a perfect analogy, Forge being infinite DLC is spot on. Fans want new maps, they should first look to Forge. And clearly, perhaps more decisively, fans want old maps, which the community has served up on a platter.

A powerful map editor saves the developer the need to create old maps themselves. Let the community do it.

We definitely want to help

6 Comments

  1. November 12, 2013
    Reply

    You guys talk about realistic Forge improvements like you understand the engine. So let me ask you both this:

    What about Map importing? Like uploading a designed structure to a new environment, not the one you forged it in?

    Or copying and pasting of sets of pieces. I’ve made a blue base, now I want to copy all the pieces and paste a duplicate base before I color it red without building the red one from scratch.

    I can imagine that these would be hard to pull off, but I just don’t know the engine that well. Seems like it would help some of us REAL amature forgers though.

    From the way you guys are talking it sounds to me like it would be a similar issue to the 2-file system where you guys were talking about getting Forge items on non-forge maps.

    Would love to hear your input on it.

    -Guy

    • November 13, 2013
      Reply

      Hey Guy, I pinged Nilla and Pete as well as asked on GAF about your first question, since I can’t answer it.

      As to the second, I imagine having an ability to group and copy objects (and the ability to modify common attributes like the color you describe) would be an incredibly useful feature for amateur and pro users alike. I’d definitely put it on my list of great features to add.

      • November 13, 2013
        Reply

        Thanks dude, I’ll keep my ear to the interwebz and see what turns up.

    • November 13, 2013
      Reply

      Do I think it’s possible? Sure.

      Do I think it’s important and worth investing in? Not really.

      Here’s my perspective on this: it’s awesome when Forge becomes easier to use. For example, normal/fixed/phased physics. In Halo 3, we HAD normal/fixed/phased physics, but it was because Forgers found a loophole in the game engine and we found a very elaborate and tedious way of emulating what later become a simple feature in Halo: Reach.

      What I really love, however, is when instead of making it easier to do things with Forge, you make it possible to do MORE with Forge than you could before. Making the tool more powerful. For example, being able to make objects invisible like 343 Industries can with their internal tools (as demonstrated in the Grifball map Hangar 101). Allowing us to apply multiple game type labels to the same object. The Multi-team Ricochet game type.

      Yes, it’s tedious to manually duplicate that entire base you just built, but it’s possible. But I’d rather do that and see the investment put into things like doors that can be opened with the push of a button, or security cameras that display their viewpoint on a corresponding monitor, or AI base turrets that work in any game type–let’s make that base awesome.

      😉

      • November 13, 2013
        Reply

        I definitely see your point and agree.

        At the same time, I wouldn’t shed a tear if they did implement these features.

        Especially map importing. If Forge pieces are the same map to map, game to game.. it might be cool to import that super cool Reach map you made years ago into H5 with a click of a button 😉

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