I began my forging with Halo 3, but I only made one map. The tools for forging were very painful to use on Halo 3. When Reach came out I spent a lot of time forging and two of my maps were eventually introduced into match making – Superstition for BTB Heavies, and DeepScream9 for Living Dead.
As I began to forge for Reach, I came to the point of having to learn about spawning. There wasn’t a lot out there from Bungie to talk about it, and what the community had put together was confusing and misleading. When we began to get our questions answered about the spawn engine by JonnyOThan, I began to take all my notes and put together some comprehensive articles on spawning, including one on anomalies and one on known bugs. These articles can be found at Forging Reach.
Today CertainAffinity has produced youtube videos as tutorials for forging Halo 4. These tutorials are pretty well done and they cover enough information to explain how to get the pieces to function with the game type. Thus far, there are no videos or any tutorials on how to design for any of the match making playlists (how to design your map to play the game type as the publishers would like to see).
While I am a big fan of their videos, I feel that there are a lot of questions that are not answered by those videos and I hope to capture the information and present them in a comprehensive format similar to that of my Forging Reach blog. As with that blog, accuracy is everything and I cannot say thanks enough to CertainAffinity for taking the time to answer my questions and bring clarity to how to use their tools.
Update – August of 2013: After publishing over a half dozen articles on the subject of Forging Halo 4, I spent some time away from forging entirely for reasons unrelated to Halo or Forging (e.g., needed to look for employment, etc.). I am slowly coming back online and discovering that 343 Industries has finally demonstrated in their updates that they are taking the advice of their customers, to reduce the overt power of random ordnance, and to reduce randomness entirely – this is good! At the same time I make an equally disturbing discovery, that most forgers I knew from Reach started forging Halo 4, but have ceased entirely – this is very, very bad!
As I was lamenting this fact with a friend of mine online, I noted that it isn’t just a matter of how most forgers have stopped forging, but most Halo players have stopped playing Halo. It is like everyone has found something better to do with their lives. (One of my friends recently said he sold his xbox and won’t be back on, explicitly because he wants to “get a real life”. I hope he found it.) And I cannot go on without laying some of the blame at the feet of 343 Industries, who both through their product decisions and their public announcements have totally screwed the pooch on Halo 4, and that all their back tracking in recent weeks is simply too little too late.
For me this is a serious problem, because I recognize the unique game mechanics found only in Halo that make it potentially the leader of competitive FPS. That is why I like Halo, and that is why I like forging for Halo. If I were forging just for the level design, i would be a “mapper” (as they call themselves) for Far Cry 3, which is a much more powerful level editor. But the truth be told, it is lonely in the forging community these days.
So I am thinking of writing articles now on forging for Halo 4 well beyond spawning, to draw attention to problems that a forger faces, and how we might be able to work around them, in a format that leans a little toward an open letter to 343 Industries in hopes that they will consider additional changes in their direction for the next Halo title. Of course, the mechanics themselves need to be quality to get the faithful to buy into the Halo vision once again, and that is their greater struggle at the moment. But for my part, I just want to articulate into words the things I have learned over the years. Maybe forgers can use the information to see how to better forge game depth into their maps. Maybe someone at 343 Industries might find something from my articles and use it in the next title. Either way, I enjoy writing… when I have time to write.