On October 14, 2010, Bungie announced that they were going to have a contest in which players of Halo: Reach could design and submit their forge-designed levels. Early into January of 2011, the first batch of nine levels were released to the online community and the crew here at Wonderpod Online has chimed in collectively to evaluate these nine maps.
Bungie has streamlined the nine maps down to three. The voting system was literally an in-game experience. When a level is selected to be played online, it receives a vote in favor of the map. In the spirit of open discussion and debate, we’ve opted to create a panel discussion allowing four of us to sound off about our experiences playing the aforementioned levels. More information on the nine levels in question is available here.
On January 16th, 2011, Bungie announced that the winner of the arena map. It is was Enclosed. After allowing this result to soak in, the panel contemplated our experiences playing these levels in order to assess whether we felt that this was a good thing or not. Furthermore, we broke down the whole contest into a series of topics for discussion. But first….
Let’s meet our panelists!
Question 1: Bungie will tally the total number of votes for the user-submitted maps based on how often they are selected in game play. However, during each match, a list of three options of maps comes up, as well as a choice for “None of the above.” If none of the above is selected, three more options will pop up forcing the players to choose one of. This is not a perfect form of democracy, no doubt. Considering there are nine options, but each match only provides a maximum of six unique maps (barring repeated options), one might consider the three or more maps not represented. Accordingly, some of these levels are designed for a variety of playlists, however the arena contest only features Team Slayer (and Slayer DMRs). Perhaps this doesn’t best represent the benefits of the submitted maps that might cater better to Rumble Pit, Capture the Flag, Big Team Slayer, and so forth. So, do you think that the voting system is fair? Why or why not?
Bruce McGee: Any time you have a voting system, especially in online gaming the result is going to be questionable. People will tend to base there votes on how did score wise on each map to a certain extent. Interestingly the map that one it was fairly well rated by our crew as a whole, with one bad rating kind of wrecking the curve. For myself personally I thought the vote turned out better than I expected. While enclosed wasn’t my favorite map, it was better than a lot of them.
G: Initially, I did not endorse the voting system because it seemed like the way it was set up would deter people from playing all of the maps, and thus, having the opportunity to fairly judge them. However, the first night that we sat down to assess the nine levels, we managed to play all of them back to back without repeating any map a single time. I can’t deny that this in turn allowed for us to democratically attempt to judge them for ourselves. However, this may have not been the case for all people involved in voting. I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill by being too picky about the actual informed nature of the gamer in this setting, but I am fairly cynical about the democratic process in regards to this already. So I guess it is as fair… much to my pessimism.
While I realize that we only addressed the one kind of game variant within the arena setting, there were some levels that seemed either far too big or small to be team slayer matches, and would have fit better as a Big Team Battle or Rumble Pit variant respectively.
Glasenator: To be blunt, I think there could’ve been better ways to go about voting for the maps. I think it would’ve been relatively easy for Bungie to set up a voting page on the matchmaking menu for the last two days the maps were up; each person would get one vote. The voting system that they utilized discounted the votes of a lot of players, especially if you were just playing alone.
PatMan: Overall ,the voting system in Halo Reach is somewhat “flawed” in online matchmaking, to be honest. So, I didn’t expect the voting system for this forge contest to be really any different, and its not. For better or for worse ,this how Bungie has handled choosing maps so they naturally went with the exact same method for this contest, and while its not perfect, its good enough for the purpose of choosing a winner. All the maps were in the same boat as they all had the same voting method, thus making things fair in that regards, even if the voting system is not perfect.
Question 2: What in particular drew you towards your highest ranked level(s)? What in particular detered you from your lowest ranked level(s)?
PatMan: The less complicated the level design, the better. Some of these maps appear, at first, to be very well made maps featuring all sorts of geometry, split sub-levels and crazy looking angles. They initially look great. But the problem is that they don’t PLAY great. The maps I preferred were the ones that had more simple level design. Lets face it Bungie could make some amazingly complex maps, but they don’t do that. The reason why Bungie does not make overly complicated maps is clear, they are less fun and more frustrating. The overly complicated level designs will cause bottlenecks , they will cause the player to fall off ledges or enter dead ends, they will cause players to become frustrated so the maps that had less of these issues were my top maps. Thats how I personally chose my highest ranked levels, they were the less complicated ones, ones that were less frustrating to me.
Bruce McGee: While we sat down and gave each map scores I think after playing all of them it comes down to one thing that makes them good or bad. That would be making sure the map is balanced. There were several maps were if one team got a key point the other team was screwed. Second to that I would say making sure form comes before function. While I didn’t fall in as many holes as another guy, some of the maps were not designed well.
Glasenator: A lot of the maps had balance issues. Or in other words, players didn’t flow smoothly around the map utilizing the various aspects of the course, but rather congregated in one central area. This is one of the main challenges I find when trying to design a level for a team deathmatch gametype. The maps that I liked the best allowed for players to confront each other in different areas rather than all dying and killing in the same spot. I also for some reason tended to like the outdoor maps better than the enclosed ones…but that’s just a visual preference.
G: Balance. This was the factor I looked at for both of my highest ranked and lowest ranked level. While I appreciate the time put into this project by the level designers, there were flaws in many of the maps. If it is expected to be a fair matchup, both teams need to be able to potentially have the same chance at winning, obviously. With that said, if the level favored a particular spawn point, it was a loser map. Heavy weapons and having the advantage of higher ground are just two examples of what made a map flawed. If both teams had equal access to weapons and strategic points, then it was a winner.
Question 3: Let’s talk about the idea of community built content. What are some games that do not have the popularity or logisitical setup that could benefit from this type of approach to uniting the fan community towards benefiting the game?
PatMan: Those of you that have listened to the year end episode of Wonderpod should know that one of the many reasons why I detailed Halo Reach as my game of the year was the fact that there are no other consoles shooters out here that have a forge mode. Thus there are a massive number of games on consoles that would benefit from this community favorite game mode. I think that games like GOW would have benefited greatly with such a mode. A community made horde map could have been fun to play. Racing games like Sonic and Sega all-star racing would have been really cool if players had the option to create tracks and then send them to friends or to a massive community web site to be voted on.
G: Love them, or hate them… I think Bungie is awesome for implementing this contest. The online gaming experience is one that is supposed to be interactive, and by taking this right to it’s fanbase for contribution to the game they enjoy is about as interactive as it gets. So firstly, kudos to Bungie! I cannot think of any other title with such immense popularity that has implemented this type of contest on a console. As a result, they’ve literally created an incentive system for people to become motivated to put in the effort of level design. I also think that this gives aspiring game designers a mainstream platform to show off their skills to hundreds of thousands of gamers, as well as potential employers, which in itself is a rather generous opportunity.
I think I would like to see more console games that are multiplayer-based to incorporate the community built map feature. This could be wide ranging from Tony Hawk skate parks, to Dungeon and Dragon’s style RPG adventure settings. This is something that has existed in the PC gaming environment for decades, and would love to see more transition towards titles I enjoy. A smartly built Splinter Cell map would be fantastic! Or perhaps let me take on a new assassination contract in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood created by someone else.
Glasenator: Let me start off by saying that I love what Bungie has done with Forge mode. I love games that involve community built content; they seem to have a greater longevity because of it. I sort of think of community built content as similar to the idea that if you put an infinite amount of monkeys in a room with an infinite amount typewriters one will eventually write a great piece of literature. As time goes on, maps become more in depth as players begin to become accustomed to the tools they are given. With so many people building so many maps with so many different ideas, you’re bound to get some great designs out of it. Really any game at all could benefit from this sort of content.
Bruce McGee: I can’t think of a particular game or series that could benefit from this, but I am glad Bungie does this for the console crowd. This type of map making has been going on for eons on the PC side of things. It is really smart on Bungie and Microsoft’s part to have a community map contest. As we will see not everyone was happy with the winner, but that wasn’t the point. Overall a good contest and one other developers in general should take note of.
Question 4: Was there an arena level you would have liked to play something other than Slayer or DMR Slayer on? What variant in particular and why?
Glasenator: Yes, I wanted to play SWAT on a lot of the maps. I most likely ranked some maps lower due to bad weapon placement/choice, and with SWAT this problem would be gone completely. Also, some maps seemed too big or too small for Team Slayer, so variants of the maps for Big Team Slayer of Team Doubles might have worked better in those cases.
Bruce McGee: I don’t think it would matter the game type much. There might be a few that would be kind of annoying on most of these community maps. When I am playing each night I prefer a few of every game type. Well okay not swat, I hate swat. Still to test the maps to see how they were designed etc slayer was good enough.
G: In all honesty, I felt the winning map (Enclosed), would have been much better as either a Big Team Battle level. It is too big for teams of three or four. Accordingly, it likely would have been an interesting map to play territories on (especially if that ridiculously open space at the top was the central territory). I actually like territories, even though most of the gamers tend to avoid voting for it like the plague. This might relate somewhat to the discussion about the tactical versus twitch shooter debate on the 49th episode of Wonderpod. Team games and matchmaking is what brought me back into the world of FPS with Halo 2. Yes, I realize that one might argue there are huge differences between a Rainbow 6 and Halo in regards to tactical strategy. However, for me… I look at a variant like Rumble Pit as the definition of a pure twitch shooter style versus a Big Team or Objective variant as bringing in aspects of tactics. And to get back to the question poised, I did not feel that Enclosed brought out what I look for in a team-based match setting.
PatMan: I think that by playing other game types, certain community maps would have really been distinguished as well made while others would have clearly shown many points of weakness. I would have liked to play head-hunter or team head hunter on just about all the maps. This would have really shown off the weakness of the over complicated maps while showcasing the strengths of the less complex ones. Maps with the overuse of nooks, crannies, teleportes, dead ends and sublevles just wouldn’t work out well for head hunter, as all the bouncing skulls would fall into places that would be frustrating to retrieve. I think that a game type like crazy king would have been another great way to determine how well made these maps truly are for game types other than team slayer.
Question 5: And finally, what are your thoughts on Enclosed being named the winner for the arena forgetacular maps?
G: I am actually not happy with this level. I found it had some strengths in it’s multi-tiered design, but there were some glaring flaws with it’s seemingly invisible pits, illogically placed sandbags, and deadends. Also there is a giant open space on the highest floor that was far to big and no opportunity for cover. Now some people might say, “But G, it’s like a rooftop, which generally are flat and plain on buildings… It’s more realistic!”
Really? Space Marines and aliens with guns that fire magical purple homing spikes are totally realistic… yeah.
While I don’t feel it was horrible, I did feel that it was lackluster to say the least. Dare I say it felt generic amongst the nine submitted maps, most of which were quite similar in there overall layout. Obviously consulting the chart in the article will tell you what each of us felt should have won.
PatMan: None of these maps stood out for me as a clear and decisive winner, while some did frustrate me less than others . Enclosed as the community chosen winner is not a bad choice when I think of it. It was one of the least frustrating maps that I played, even though I may not have done overly well on it at times . It was my poor performance that was really the issue, it was not due to level design, it was more due to my bad luck and also the skills of my opponents. Enclosed was a decent choice as far as Im concerned, even if I personally didn’t do well playing the map. The community has spoken . They have chosen “Enclosed”. They could have chosen worse.
Bruce McGee: As I said in my first answer, enclosed is fine with me. Wasn’t my favorite map, but the result could have been a lot worse. Considering you may only play it once or twice in any given play session I can live with that. I was expecting it to be one of the unbalanced maps that makes it easy to whore. Granted you have four panelists and you’ll probably get four different answers on whether it deserved to win.
Glasenator: Enclosed was my least favorite one. This map had a problem with balance, which I mentioned earlier. Players either seemed to spam grenades into the small room in the middle or fall all the way to the bottom of the map and spam grenades there. Getting back up to the top of the map was more difficult than necessary and the map was geared towards jetpacks as well. I’d rather play Rocket Race than a Slayer gametype on it.
Our Panelist’s Final Verdict
|Total All Levels
Max Score = 90
Here at Wonderpod Online, we encourage discussion and celebrate debate. The internet can be stifling for some, but we prefer to open our doors to authors and writers from elsewhere to come on board in our panels and discuss passions that might not be represented at their other homes. With that being said, we hope videogame and Halo fans enjoyed our verdicts and thoughts on the Forgetacular Contest!
We want to hear from you! The point of this panel is to allow fans to chime in, not the professionals. You pay their salaries so tell them what YOU think below in the comments section.
Some of our panelists write elsewhere on the internet, and we’d like you to check out some of their websites!
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