Recently, a particularly dark image released a comprehensive guide on setting forge maps up for matchmaking integration in Halo 5. From spawn placement, to weapon timers, the guide covers all of the nitty-gritty details requires to fine-tune maps to matchmaking standards.
black picture also teamed up with his fellow members of Creative Force to bring updated versions of Basin and Boulevard (originally created by 343 Industries and alex quit respectively) to the big team battle playlist.
I sat down with Mr. Picture as well as Randy 355 and MythicFritz (the new custodians of Basin and Boulevard) to chat about all three of these recent projects.
Psychoduck: Hello, and thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a bit about the process of compiling this guide? Where did you gather information from? How long did it take?
Black Picture: Hey thanks for having us! I started gathering information for the guide because of Orion II, I got alot of useful requirements for the map in the development, also I have been going through the Dev maps on disc and dissecting them. To be honest on the time I'm not quite sure but it did take some time to cross reference maps.
Duck: While compiling the guide, did you stumble across any tidbits of information that surprised you? Did you find any strange inconsistencies on the dev maps you were pulling from?
Black Picture: Any information that is surprising to me? Well that is a hard one to answer because I found majority of this interesting. I will say the spawn zones and the Cameras was interesting to learn. The other thing I will say is in one of the dev breakout map one of the strong hold had weapon pad properties, did nothing though. At the moment that is all that comes to mind.
Duck: This guide was clearly the result of a lot of time, effort, and collaboration. What's the next project you'll be turning your attention to?
Black Picture: Well I'm sure everyone know about Orion, but I have a couple that I was to pursue on my free time, one of them is doing a breakout map. With this most recent update to breakout it's been really fun and competive, I just can't get enough of it. Also a mini game in the up coming months.
Duck: Thanks for the insight. It's now time to move onto the next victim: MythicFritz.
I've long been a fan of your design work on Big Team Battle maps; Brick was a favorite of mine back in the Reach days. What I hadn't seen from you before now, though, was a project more focused on environment art. With Boulevard, you made virtually no alterations to gameplay and instead focused wholly on giving the map a facelift. What was that process like, and how did it differ from your usual workflow when creating a map from the ground up?
MythicFritz: I rediscovered your feature of Brick on YouTube again just last month Herp...derp...yeah! Long gone are the days of Reach lol. I don't have as much time as I used to for developing a map from the concept through to the final product, especially with today's forge, so tackling Boulevard actually wasn't very different from what I've been doing the past few months. Working with Creative Force I've bitten off chunks of map development for several projects including doing the art on already tested blockouts. The big difference was timeframe. Only having a few days I compiled a list of goals and prioritized them, working over the map in stages, broad strokes down to finer detail. I chose to solely update the art because I wanted to keep the integrity of the original authors vision. For other projects I've normally had the layout designer available as a sounding board for changes, but since the original author unfortunately couldn't be reached I didn't know the map as intimately as him. And again, the short timeframe didn't leave much room for testing.
Duck: Personally, I try to avoid watching any of my videos from the Reach days. I imagine the commentary would be somewhat cringe-worthy for me today. Still, the Reach days were good times indeed.
One of the recurring topics throughout this conversation so far has been collaboration. With Boulevard's original author out of the picture, who did you work with to make this version of the map a reality?
Fritz: Teamwork was indeed a big part of this project. I don't believe 343 would have brought me in if it weren't for Black Picture, and both him and Nitro helped me immensely with this. We'd worked together a lot before so it wasn't difficult for us to collaborate and pull something together so cohesive in just a few nights.
Duck: You've already mentioned time as a constraint, but were there any roadblocks which impeded progress on the Boulevard update?
Fritz: Thanks to great teammates and the roadmap I planned out for the project, it was pretty smooth sailing. There were lots of great ideas bouncing around and high aspirations for the map, of which I think we got pretty close to achieving all of. I was aiming for a subtle ODST feel by pulling in a few details from that world and sprinkling them meticulously through the environment. One or two elements ended up feeling half complete to me because one of the updates landed just as we were finishing the map, the one that broke scripting movement. We had this neat animated arrow traffic sign but the animations for it wouldn't function properly after the update. So much time was spent trying to get it to work that I didn't get to flesh it out to the point I would have liked it. It still looks awesome and I'm very happy with the entire project so it's just one of things. Like a lot of forgers, I could iterate on a map indefinitely.
Duck: Despite the setback with scripting, I think most would agree that the update to Boulevard turned out very nicely. Solid BTB asyms aren't easy to find, so it was great to see this one get the visual upgrade it deserved.
Before we go, are there any future projects, or anything else in general, you'd like to share?
Fritz: I think I'd like to plug a map, another one of those never complete projects. Siren is a 2v2 design by Whos Blaze that he polished a block out for many months ago, that I then took a few months on art passes, and still hasn't really gotten a chance to shine. It's a concept that takes a few games to get used to because it utilizes clamber as a subtle way to control flow. Actually the map's been hanging around so long that it's still sitting at the original object limit under 1024. RayBenefield might kill me for saying this but I've been wanting to revisit it lately with the increased budget available to us lol.
And thank you for this opportunity PsychoDuck
Duck: Thank you, Mr. Fritz! Let's move right along to Randy.
As a canvas, Basin provided relatively simple geometry and theme to work with. When doing your art pass on the map, did that simplicity make things easier, or did you find it more restrictive? What were some of the challenges in adopting that map?
Randy 355: The nature of the map made things really easy for me. Other than bringing the nature up to the current standard, I just had 3 bases to art up. An older style UNSC theme using references made work simple. Since red and blue base were borderline blockouts, the freedom I had made it fun as well.
Duck: You mentioned using references to inform the new art style for the map. Which references did you draw your inspiration from?
Randy: Wanting a unique UNSC theme for the bases, I gathered screenshot references from the map Highlands from Halo: Reach. The bases use lots of concrete, metal beams, and rigid metal walls coloring each base. It sort of became its own unique look on Basin, but I'm still satisfied. Though, I originally had more rigid metal on the base walls, but I had to take some away to improve framerate.
Duck: Were there any changes to Basin's gameplay you thought necessary, or was your role purely artistic? Is Basin a map you'd wanted to rework for a while, or was the project more spur-of-the-moment?
Randy: My role was almost entirely aesthetic. I really saw this project as an artistic challenge, because for me it's the most satisfying aspect of Halo 5's forge specifically. I was especially happy to turn red side's weird sandy backyard into a concrete overlook. This project was spur of the moment, and I only altered gameplay minimally where it was suggested to me. I personally might do a few large gameplay changes if I were to take Basin in that direction, but I currently have no plans to do so.
Duck: Thanks for the insight into the process of updating Basin! You say that the artistic side of forge is your favorite; did this project differ from your usual work in that regard?
Randy: Of course, glad to have the opportunity! Since joining Creative Force my role has been artist for several projects, and it's been awesome. I did art for MythicFritz's Knell, and several other projects we are working on. Before that this would have been unusual for me.
Duck: Speaking of other projects, are there any you'd like to share before we go?"
Randy: My friend Sn1p3r C and I are currently developing a map called Junglerock. It's a Breakout Arena map made with a natural non-breakout aesthetic. We want to emphasize that you can create a Breakout map with any great aesthetic you want, and that Forgers should not shy away from it for that reason.
Duck: Looks very cool! It reminds me a bit of Vex architecture from Destiny, actually. Thanks for your work on Basin, and thanks for joining us today.
Randy: Haha, it does! I do love the Vex. Thanks PsychoDuck!
That'll do it for this interview. If you enjoyed this article, or have ideas for who we should interview next, dop your thoughts in the comments below.