Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Forge World

The Bungie Team  revealed what's behind the hill in the Blood Gulch remake: "The rest of the map." Turns out this version of Blood Gulch, which will be known as "Hemorrhage" in Halo: Reach, is actually one part of a gigantic five-part map called "Forge World" -- there's an island in the back bay, an outcropping called "The Rock," a hangar built into the cliff overlooking the bay dubbed "The Colisseum," and an open field area up above. The entire map starts out blank, and players will be invited to build their own levels in it using Reach's revamped Forge editor mode.

"Forge World is the evolution of what we've been through with Forge," Bungie Community Lead Brian Jarrard told Joystiq at a Microsoft event following the panel. "How do we expand on it even further, and give people even more flexibility, and more toys to work with?" The answer: by combining very detailed and customizable tools with a variety of variables used in whatever ways players see fit, according to Jarrard. The Forge editor can now apply different physical models to pieces inserted on the map, leaving them fixed in mid-air or even half-embedded in other pieces. Additionally, spawn points can now be easily colored according to team, teleporters can be dropped at will and even customized for vehicles, and gigantic structures (like a multi-level tower) can be summoned and placed just about anywhere.

And remember, this is all going on in one giant map, Forge World. "There was a lot of contention on the team" about that, said Jarrard. "Initially, early on, the concept was sort of five separate maps." But Bungie knows its way around the Xbox 360 hardware at this point, and with a lot of tweaking and a new technology called "impostering," which turns down the visual resolution on objects extremely far away from the in-game camera, Bungie engineers answered doubters by simply building the Forge World map on the back of Blood Gulch. "It looked sweet," said Jarrard, recalling the first time he saw an engineer demo the mega-level, "and all of a sudden he's flying kilometers away, seamlessly, and I guess everybody shut up at that point. 'Okay, this works.'"

Combining the Forge World possibilities with Reach's new multiplayer game types should equal some crazy variations. Bungie has already come up with quite a few custom game variants, including some that will ship on the game disc. There's a full Warthog racing level, complete with lap times, respawn checkpoints and a speedometer; a mode called "Score Attack" that turns Firefight into a game focused on getting high scores (and for which Bungie plans to release an actual in-game leaderboard); and my personal favorite, a mode called "Gruntocalypse," which consists of a Firefight game with "all Grunts, all the time." Bungie's Lars Bakken came up with that one -- "I just wanted to kill Grunts," he said of the mode's inception.

One of these game type experiments has grown up into something special, which Bungie also revealed during the panel: Firefight Versus. This mode takes Halo 3: ODST's popular co-op Firefight multiplayer and adds some human opponents in the mix as Covenant Elites. Firefight Versus features two rounds, as each side gets a chance to play as Spartans and Elites. I played a bit of the new mode during the Microsoft event, and while fun, even Bungie seemed to agree that the variants that players will come up with will be even more interesting.

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