Level Building in Halo: Reach

My thoughts about game design have been stirred lately by the creative opportunities afforded by Bungie’s Halo: Reach. As well as being an excellent game in its own right, Reach includes a very powerful level editor with quite easy controls. The learning curve is steep but very short, and it’s entirely possible to be creating levels from scratch in a matter of minutes.

My friend Tanith’s inspirational map Promontory got me thinking about building my own map. After a couple of weeks of evenings-and-weekends work, I present my first ever attempt at level design: Sky Temple. It’s built high on the wall in the Lagoon area of Forge World, right between the two waterfalls. Here’s the layout: The idea is that it’s a Sangheili temple, built out of the rock face. Two landing platforms accommodate the worshippers, who then make their way along the open plaza, past a pulpit, and through the forest of pillars to the inner sanctum and the altar.

That’s where the sacrifices take place.

This is just my first attempt, and of course this is just the beginning of Beta on version 1.0. We played one round of playtesting today with the BBC team. We were 13 players – too many, as I’d designed the map for 4-on-4. I’d like to try it again with fewer people, so we can appreciate how it really works. My next map will have to accommodate more players.

The first conclusion is “watch your step!” as it turns out there are a LOT of places you can fall through to your death. Not much in the way of railings or safety barriers, you see. Our one playthrough had 30 deaths by falling – and that’s in a game to 50 points! I have to admit, that *was* kind of the idea with this map – be careful or you’ll fall to your death – but three falling deaths per minute is possibly too high a rate to be amusing.

If it proves annoying I’ll have to do something about that.

The weapons placement is obviously beta – everything needs adjusting.

Other points:

1 – Blue team spawns near a tower with the plasma launcher, Red team spawns near a tower with the focus rifle. All other weapons are placed symmetrically.

2 – The grav hammers are on platforms under the main level, where their names are written. The platforms are just close enough together that an elite can jump across, if he crouch-jumps and the timing is perfect. Spartans fall to their death.

3 – The sniper rifle spawns on top of the pillar marked on the map. You need to fly there with a jetpack, or use the grav lift on Blue side. It involves some jumping.

4 – The Banshees are crippled on this map by the fact that the sky is finite. I didn’t know this when I started, but players are actually physically restrained from flying much higher than the altitude the banshees spawn at. The map is too high up the cliff, and Banshees can’t actually gain any altitude. It’s a shame – I might have to remove them.

5 – There are actually three grav hammers on this map. One of them is in a secret location that only a person with a jetpack can get out of.

If any of you are Halo players, all of your thoughts and comments on this map are most welcome. Iteration continues!

[Adapted from cross-post at Objective 514]

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