Justin Rouse & Duncan Stanley complete the last of the Halo Wars skirmish map information pages – Frozen Valley
Justin Rouse and Duncan Stanley talk us through the last of the Halo Wars maps to be detailed on the skirmish map page. Frozen Valley the 3v3 map which was one of the first maps to be designed can now be found on HaloWars.com with top tips from designer Justin Rouse and Community Manager Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley.
“Frozen Valley was the first 3v3 map designed during the development of Halo Wars. After Chasms, this was probably our most played map through internal playtesting. The layout went through one major tweak throughout development and that was the opening down between the teams that runs along the bottom edge on picture shown here. The first iteration had the hole as well as the mount near that bottom edge of the map extend all the way to the edge. Leaving a pocket only access through the middle by land units. It allowed the two bottom player on each team to build up safely. “
Paul Jaquays completes his Halo Wars skirmish map blogs with Terminal Moraine, Repository, and Crevice
Paul Jaquays now working at CCP North America as a Senior Level Designer has been blogging with Robot Entertainment Community Manager, Duncan Stanley to reveal some early developer screenshots and ideas which make up some of the Halo Wars portfolio of skirmish maps. Having already blogged about Pirth Outskirts attention has turned to his other map designs – Terminal Moraine, Repository and Crevice.
I started map development by literally copying and pasting a large chunk the Alpha Base ruins into one corner of the map. This established a particularly unique landmark in that corner. These large landmarks in skirmish maps help players immediately know where they are and and let them navigate from point to point by in-game visual references. Ideally, each “corner” of any skirmish map is visually unique, and this was my design goal with Terminal Moraine
Early 2007 saw the first completed version of Repository (then called “the Halo map”). Primarily developed by Ensemble artist Patrick Thomas, this was a land of subtle terrain blending, muted colors, narrow paths, rough terrain, and the unrestricted placement of bases and other buildings. Players captured Forerunner power stations to earn resources. Very little of what can be seen in this map survived into the final game. The effects guys put a lot of effort into river that runs through the map, including the appearance of moving water, waterfalls, and spray. But the game was about to undergo an extensive refit, resulting in play much closer to the final version and the need to totally rework this map from the ground up. The river, sadly, became an early victim to those changes.
During development, Crevice shifted from the inside of the Shield World to the outside. To achieve this, I painted over a screen capture of the current version of the map, sketching out ideas for details on notebook paper. The design rework of the map had turned the central platform into a big hole. I suggested changing this into a playable area, a partially buried circular Forerunner platform. One feature I wanted to play up was the “bouncy-ness” of the warthogs, so where possible, I sculpted in small steps and shelves into the terrain.
Check out more map blogs from other Ensemble artists on the HaloWars.com map page!
Justin Rouse and Duncan Stanley are here again to talk about the 2v2 Halo Wars DLC map Memorial Basin.
Memorial Basin, the map based on a design of “excess”. The goal, instant action. First, the close proximity of players starting locations is the number one driving force causing players to mix it up with each other early. Second, hooks! There is an abundance of them littered all over the map. There are Reactor hooks tucked safely behind each team’s starting location, while Supply Elevators and extra Building sockets line the sides of the map between enemies. Cover locations scattered throughout the middle are good for mixing things up defensively or offensively.
Says Justin Rouse skirmish map designer at Robot Entertainment. Community Manager, Duncan Stanley continues with:
Memorial Basin is a great DLC map, a real change up from other maps in terms of strategy. Both teams are directly across from each other, making it really easy to hit and run. The open bases are great to grab early and get it going. I usually try to make my second base my economic base and my first base my unit producing base. All of the extra hooks lying around the map are also great to grab giving you a good bonus, and denyng your opponents any advantage.
You can experience Memorial Basin and three other brand new maps in the Halo Wars DLC “Historic Battles” for just 800 points available today on Xbox Live!
For the full blog post head over to HaloWars.com :
Skirmish map extraordinaire Justin Rouse is here to spill the beans on tactics and map information for Historic Battles DLC map Glacial Ravine.
Originally, our DLC2 pack (Historic Battles) was intended to contain only 3 maps: Barrens, Blood River, and Memorial Basin. After seeing the outcry for more 3v3 maps we took a look at what it would take to get one into the Pack. We did some due diligence and realized we didn’t have the time to create a new 3v3 from scratch, get it through testing, and put it into the map pack. So we compromised by repurposing an existing map, which allowed us to reduce developer time enough to get Glacial Ravine out the door with the others.
Check out the full blog including large images of the map here:
Here it is folks! Robot Entertainment have announced what all the Halo Wars fans have been waiting for since well.. the last DLC! “Historic Battles” is the name of the second DLC and this time we have a bunch of new maps as detailed below. Theres 2x 1v1, 1x 2v2 and 1x 3v3 maps along with 4 new achievements worth 100 gamerscore. The map pack costs a reasonable 800 points. Be ready to download on July 21st!
And here they are! :
Glacial Ravine (3v3)
Memorial Basin (2v2)
Blood River (1v1)
The press release from HaloWars.com follows:
You think you know every nook and cranny of every “Halo Wars” map? If you need to stretch out your UNSC or Covenant legs, mobilize your troops and report for duty at your next assignment in “Halo Wars,” the best selling real-time strategy game on any current generation console. Microsoft and Robot Entertainment expand the field of engagement with four new multiplayer Skirmish maps that highlight key turning points in the UNSC/Covenant war. Take on ruthless A.I. or live opponents in these brand new battlefields with the “Historic Battles” Game Add-on Pack, available on July 21 for 800 MS Points in all Xbox LIVE enabled regions.
“Historic Battles” expands the universe for “Halo Wars” fans with four new multiplayer maps with varied terrains for players to find their competitive edge by using unique features of each map. The four new maps include:
• Barrens (1v1 Map): Difficult terrain channels units into killing zones. The side that controls the Forerunner artifacts will have the advantage.
• Blood River (1v1 Map): Secure base locations on nearby cliffs overlook this naturally red-tinged river. The soldiers that fought over its two narrow crossings gave the river its name, which has since taken on a greater meaning.
• Glacial Ravine (3v3 Map): A snow-topped mountain range forms a natural barrier that cuts this region in half. Control of the two energy walls at the narrow central pass often determines the outcome of the battle, though clever use of the Sentinel Factories may play a role as well.
• Memorial Basin (2v2 Map): The high ground in the middle offers good cover for infantry, while the generally open terrain transforms organized battle plans into bloodbaths.
“Historic Battles” also adds four new Achievements worth a total of 100 points:
• Tour Coming Through: Hot drop 50 squads to your Covenant Leader in a single game on Memorial Basin (30 points)
• Never Leave a Man Behind: Finish a game with 5000 net resources contributed to your teammates on Memorial Basin (15 points)
• Drain Cleaner: Kill 20 enemy squads with a continuous Covenant Leader Power on Memorial Basin (30 points)
• Killjoy: Disrupt 5 active Leader Powers in a single game on Blood River (25 points)
“Halo Wars” is rated T for Teen by the ESRB and 16+ PEGI and is available worldwide. For more information including screenshots from the “Historic Battle” Game Add-on, www.Halo.Xbox.com visit or www.HaloWars.com.
I am very looking forward to playing these maps on Xbox Live! See you on July 21st!
Today’s map blog update with the developers is the 2v2 map “Docks”. This time skirmish map designer Justin Rouse and Community Manager Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley take us through thier tips and experiences. The excerpt and link to the blog can be found below:
Because of the choke point and decent travel time from one side to the other early in the game, it’s pretty safe too boom up. This is why I really like using Cutter and elephant/marine rushing on this map. If I can setup my Elephant near the enemy bases and get it pumping I can slow down their boom sometimes, even keeping them off the open base location near their start area while my partner boom/techs freely.
Docks 2v2 (HaloWars.com)
Need help negotiating around Beasleys Plateau? Confused about when you should attack the large group of rebels in the middle? Well fear not as Programmer Chris Stark and designer Justin Rouse lay down thier top tips in the latest map blog! :
Quick update. The Halo Wars “Fort Deen” map image and information is online complete with a full description from its designer Justin Rouse at Ensemble. Here’s an extract from the page and a link to the full article:
“On this map I love to use Brute commando squads. Since they’re infantry I can put them into the wall towers and block off my enemies ground forces but because of my brute jump packs I can jump back and forth over the walls to get away from danger or to closer to juicy targets coming to shoot my units out of the towers”
Is that 3v3 maps ahoy? No, sadly not though for all the fans out there in need of them I expect them to be announced in the future. The good news is you can now plan you tactics using the HaloWars.com skirmish map page! The page talks in detail about each map (starting with 3v3 map, Exile) from the designers point of view. You can see an enlarged image of each map to see exactly where points of interest are.
You can find the Skirmish Maps page here.
In other news – Bryan Hehmann an Ex Ensemble Studios artist talks in technical detail about the way he approached Halo Wars environment development and the blog post helps give an insight into the way graphics detail had to be adjusted for game performance. You can find the blog post below or on HaloWars.com
While working on Halo Wars I focused on creating the initial environments used throughout the skirmish maps and scenarios.The early phases began with our concept artist to get the look and feel of each world and working with designers on how these would be a part of the overall storyline. Also, brainstorming with programmers for terrain tools and understanding aspects of the new game engine to develop something we had never achieved before. Here are three of the major steps I would go though in creating our environments, although there were many more along the way.
The first step of creating a world would start with the terrain textures. This process was a definite change from the work I had done on the previous Age games. Halo Wars was a totally new game engine and our blend system had much more flexibility. Less textures were needed but the end result was much more dynamic and even the normal map generation had improved greatly. The number one obstacle for creating terrain textures was the vast difference in hue/saturation and compression from the PC monitor to the Xbox 360. What you see was not what you got. In an RTS game there is a fine balance in the complexity of textures and how the game units will read once placed on them. You have to make sure they are just the right brightness and saturation that add to the game experience and not distract from it. This part of the process is my favorite, because I enjoy making textures. Other artists like to make fun of my image files for having dozens of layers but I know what they all do. When I need to change the color of a single rock on the texture or the length of a grass blade I know just where it is at… well most of the time
The second step was sculpting and using the tools to manipulate the new powerful terrain mesh for the game. Before our games only used displacement on the Y axis, in Halo Wars we could move terrain vertices in all axes. While this gave us more freedom to create overhangs and more complex canyons and mountain ranges it did add more time to the sculpting. This step took the longest in our schedule and sometimes was the most difficult. To help us with the initial roughing out of the map we used a terrain generator that would create a displacement map and give us a nice starting point. Now that we had a mountain range or canyon we would go in with the finer tools and add the detailed characteristics for that particular environment. There were limitations though, and with all the new complex sculpting and higher tessellation we had to be efficient and optimized for game performance.
Some of the final steps were tweaking the lighting to create the mood of the world. Lighting for RTS games can be an ongoing hair pulling ordeal. As an artist you want to have the most realistic, colorful and dramatic lighting. But also as a game developer you have to make sure people can tell what the hell is going on. Some units that appear smaller on the screen could come out looking unreadable black blobs if your sun direction, inclination, ambient light and shadow darkness settings were not correct. The big difference in an RTS and other genres of game lighting is trying to pull off a night time scene, we always want to do them, but have to pull back a little. Player color and unit recognition go out the door when you turn the sun off. Scenario 2 was probably the closest we did to a night time setting. I had to add a lot of local lights but that would hurt performance. Sometimes without anyone looking my artist instincts took over and I would add a few lights here and there to get it just right. Whether I created a bright and vivid mountain valley or a dark and cold wasteland, with the lighting done right, it pulled in the player that much more into our environments.
Artists, programmers and designers all played major roles in creating the Halo War environments from look, tools, layout and storyline. I feel these environments are some of the best in a console RTS that have been done.
Bryan “bimbosoup” Hehmann