Halo 2 Q&A - Examining the New District Level

Learn more about the exclusive new urban-combat level that will ship in the PC version of the blockbuster Xbox action game.

When the Windows Vista version of Halo 2 arrives in the coming months, not only will it include all the content that was released for the Xbox version in terms of the original game and the separate multiplayer map pack, but it also will come with some extras. There's a new level editor, along with the ability to earn achievement points over Games for Windows - Live--the Windows Vista version of the popular Xbox Live service--and two new maps built for the PC version. We turned to David Mertz, lead designer of the Windows version; Matt Van Gorder, the content lead; and Kevin Weston, the network developer, for more information on one of these two new levels. Microsoft has said that Halo 2 will ship for Windows Vista before the first half of the year is out.

The PC version of Halo 2 looks a lot sharper than its Xbox predecessor, thanks to the increased resolution.

GameSpot: Halo 2 for Windows Vista will ship with District, a new multiplayer map made for the PC version. What was the thinking and inspiration behind this new map? Where is it set?

David Mertz, Matt Van Gorder, and Kevin Weston: The most memorable aspect of Halo 2's single-player for me was touching down on Earth in New Mombasa and getting to engage the Covenant not only on Master Chief's home turf, but in an urban setting as well. As a player, I always wanted to have that experience in multiplayer of speeding through the streets and alleyways of New Mombasa in a Warthog, having a running gun fight over the rooftops, and sniping at opposing players as they moved in and out of cover and ducked into alleyways on the intervening city streets.

The initial inspiration for District came from the starting areas in the outskirts of New Mombasa in the single-player campaign. I always thought the atrium area had a lot of great multiplayer gameplay potential, and this area served as my anchor point for the design and construction of the level. I am also a fan of the Turf multiplayer level, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetics, so my goal was to create a level that combined not only all of these great gameplay elements, but the various aesthetic elements as well.

GS: One thing that we noticed in District is that there seem be multiple layers to it, giving some verticality to the level. What are the key points throughout the level? There appears to be a parking structure, for example.

DM, MVG, and KW: During design and construction, District was broken down into several sections, each with their own aesthetic and gameplay style. These areas served as landmarks for navigation, which is very important in a map with an urban layout. For example, the atrium provides the player with a close-combat experience, with multiple exits and entrances in the form of a three-story building. Players can fight around the atrium, or on top of it and crash through the glass ceiling of the structure in order to reach their objective. It differs greatly from the parking garage area, where the player is offered a much more medium-range fighting environment around parked cars and ramps, and there is the constant threat of vehicles speeding around and between the floors of the structure.

GS: This is a pretty large map, conducive to vehicles and sniping. How will infantry cope in such an environment? Will there be indoor areas where infantry can hunker down safely?

DM, MVG, and KW: The playable area in District is about two-thirds the size of the playable area in Coagulation, or, it offers about four times as much playable area as Turf. While it is a larger map, the urban nature of the level really helps break up the playable space. This keeps the effectiveness of snipers in check and balances the gameplay between players in vehicles and players on foot. Players have plenty of cover to duck behind, as well as doorways and alleyways to dive into. In addition, players on foot have access to routes above street level, such as walkways and rooftops. These upper routes and shortcuts also help balance the level in terms of travel time to objectives. A player on foot can grab the flag and get back to his base just as quickly as a vehicle that takes the street routes. It is when players in vehicles try to follow players on foot through the tight alleyways, or try to cut them off as they emerge from the alleys, that things get really exciting.

The District has a mix of close-quarters and wide-open combat spaces.

During the design and construction of District, one thing we were very mindful of was making sure that the level was not confusing and mazelike. We wanted players to be able to quickly get their bearings, and we also wanted to make sure that players were able to hear and see where the action was in the level. Because of this, we kept areas fairly open, or at least made them seem open. Many of the areas are fairly enclosed but are still open to the sky, allowing players to see the surrounding building tops and cityscape. There are some building interiors that players can hunker down in, such as the atrium and parking garage, but even these structures are fairly open to prevent stalemates during objective-based games and to help give the player a sense of what is going on in the level.

Vehicles Everywhere

GS: What's the vehicle distribution in District? Will there be plenty of Warthogs and Scorpion tanks for everyone to share? Can we expect a lot of vehicular mayhem?

You can create a custom game that has up to 15 vehicles on the District level.

DM, MVG, and KW: You can definitely expect a lot of vehicular mayhem! District was designed from the very start to focus heavily on vehicles and on creating fun and interesting gameplay situations between vehicles and infantry. The Old Mombasa urban setting of District really lent itself well to achieving this goal. The streets provide natural routes for the vehicles to travel and patrol around, and there are many tighter alleyways that are able to be maneuvered by skilled drivers. Besides streets and alleys, there are other distinct areas, such as the parking garage, that lead to some really fun and crazy situations with vehicles. We have had a lot of great vehicle chases happen in District, as well as some very daring escapes as players have taken vehicles and jumped them off the third floor of the parking garage.

In terms of vehicle count and distribution, we wanted to make sure there were plenty of vehicles in all the standard game modes without things getting too crowded. We also built in expandability and flexibility that gave players control over the heavier vehicles. In standard team game modes such as capture the flag, players are going to have eight total vehicles cruising around--two Warthogs and two Ghosts on each side. So right at the start, players are able to put their entire team in vehicles. For game modes other than CTF, we added even more vehicles in the form of four additional Ghosts. Heavy vehicles such as the Scorpion tank and Wraith are not available by default, but we have put in three optional spawns for them in District, and players can add them into their games as they normally would through the settings menu. One of the more popular setups with the development team was to have urban tank battles by disabling all other vehicles and spawning three Scorpion tanks. By using the custom game settings, it's possible to get up to 15 vehicles in District, and that is not counting the two standard and two optional turrets we have included as well!

GS: Halo 2 will be one of the first games to support Games for Windows - Live, the PC version of the Xbox Live service. So this means friends lists and what else? Is there in-game voice chat in Halo 2?

DM, MVG, and KW: Being a Games for Windows - Live title brings with it a bevy of cool online features, including friends lists, achievements for the first time in Halo and on the PC, auto-updates, matchmaking, game invites, messaging (text and voice), presence, family settings, gamer scores, and gamer reputation. If you've already got an Xbox Live account, all you need to do is sign in and you will be good to go. The game supports in-game voice and text chat, so you can communicate with your team or rub it in someone's face.

GS: The party system of Halo 2 was one of the best party systems implemented in any game on any platform. Will the Vista version have the same party system, or has it been modified in any way for the PC? How does it work?

DM, MVG, and KW: Because of all the changes to the matchmaking system, the party system isn't nearly as important in Halo 2 for Windows Vista as it was in the original version. Now, you can join any game you want (and exactly the game you want), so you no longer have to form a party to ensure that you can play with your friends.

That said, we tried to maintain as much of the party system as possible. Of course, with all the general changes to how you find games in Halo 2 for Windows Vista, we had to make a few changes. You can still meet up with a group of friends in your own lobby before playing together. From there, the party leader can start a new game, matchmake the party into an existing game, or pick a specific game from the game browser. Once everyone is in the game, though, the party dissolves and each player is just part of the game.

GS: How powerful is the level editor in the game? How large a map can you make with it? For instance, could you create a gigantic battlefield that's on par with something like the Battlefield games?

DM, MVG, and KW: The level editor is powerful, as it is an adapted version of the internal tools we use to make the games. We don't place any restrictions on the scale of the map you can create. However, with the auto custom map downloading from the lobby, we expect the more popular custom maps will be small on disc to facilitate fast distribution. Also, the most popular Halo 2 multiplayer maps tend to be smallish.

Halo 2 for Windows Vista should ship in the next month or two.

GS: Mods are very popular with PC multiplayer games. How mod-friendly is the Vista version of Halo 2? Will you support the mod-making community with other tools?

DM, MVG, and KW: The level editor will allow users to create new geometry and textures and create playable multiplayer map types for the game. The format is not completely open, but it's still very powerful.

GS: Finally, has multiplayer been balanced so that everyone is on equal footing, regardless of the type of controller that they're using? Or will mouse-and-keyboard players have a distinct advantage versus gamepad players?

DM, MVG, and KW: We did some balancing to make the keyboard-and-mouse experience on par with the controller. Overall, we believe that the controller will prove to be a popular and competitive option for those that prefer it. When our team plays large multiplayer games, controller players regularly school the keyboard/mouse players, and vice versa.

GS: Thank you, gentlemen.

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250 comments
toptom924
toptom924

hay i got this cool patch that lets you play it on Windows XP i don't know how i got it because my cousin got it for me

imrlybord7
imrlybord7

@ DeadshotDavido7: They need the game for Vista in order to have live over pc. You might think that is stupid, why not just use a system similar to regular pc games, but live is a lot better.

Silvernix
Silvernix

No, Halo 2 Vista WILL NOT be cross-platform!! .......*sigh*

schu11
schu11

lol all you have to do is torrent it... not that its what i did ^^

DeadshotDavido7
DeadshotDavido7

Micro$oft always finds a way to screw everyone over. "Only for Vista". Bullcrap. Consoles are understandable here, there has to be competition. But who do you compete with here? No one. Forget it's benefits, that's just plain blackmailing the Halo nerds.

schu11
schu11

Ghosts: I'm pretty sure it's like this- you can either make a free silver account to play for free against other halo 2 pc players, or if you get gold, you can play people on their xboxes and pcs. BTW, I read this on the official site for h2v, yes, there is cross-platform multiplayer availible if you have gold, which isn't a problem for me, since I've had xbox live for about 3 years. I am definitely looking forward to ripping up some people with my Logitech G15 and MX518 who are playing on the xb0x.

Ghosts
Ghosts

Will it cost us to play multiplayer like xbox live?

patrickkkk
patrickkkk

just buy this game and download windows vista, wow 50 bucks, its worth it having HD graohics and just because its a computer game, you get the mouse/keyboard, which is better for more presice shooting. most def will buy... if i want to go to vista

lquidsnake133
lquidsnake133

They better add this to halo 2 or 3 or I'm going to have a fit.

Hipac
Hipac

OMG. why is evry1 here whyning. Geez. halo1 on PC went off. Vista costs alot less than an xbox. most pc gamers would have good comp myn isnt and its runs vista premium fine. Vista only costs the same Wait no less than XP its just u noobs have no idea that the upgrade is actually a full disc..god ...ive done upgrades with all just wipe the hardrive and start again it works. And then we got ohhh omg omg halo 2 its old omg omg its $50 so freakin what get over it

Bloodhawk_DX
Bloodhawk_DX

I dunno, Halo 1 for PC didn't exactly take off. I'm not sure if this one will either. This game is built for console gaming... it should stay there. As for the new map... I wonder if the Xbox version of Halo 2 will eventually get it?

Destroyeron13
Destroyeron13

"controller players regularly school the keyboard/mouse players" What did they do to inhibit the keyboard/mouse so much that this would happen?

ProtoRudolf
ProtoRudolf

I just want to tell that there are some good things in Vista as well,and especially for gamers.Unlike XP and all windows versions before Vista will only load the background programs and services needed to run the game. This is completely new and a major improvement. (No i dont work for Bill,i consider him NWO scum!)

nikefreak
nikefreak

Cant wait! And as for Vista only, there are bunches of reasons why they would do that, but in the end, does it matter? Vista is nothing but good for gamers, and while yes, it requires a bit beefier of a system to get into, its worth it because performance wise, it IS better for gaming (after you meet its requirements for Vista alone that is).... Trust me, another year or two down the road and lots of good will come of Vista and gaming. And last but not least, Again, I cant wait for Halo 2 PC! Mods! Higher res textures and redone for HD resolutions! Mouse/Keyboard! All the things that made me play Halo PC over and over for years, Halo 2 has that and more... Will be def one of my favs :D

Riamo_10
Riamo_10

Are you serious!! You HAVE to have vista?!? Microsoft just keep draining our pockets. DAMN YOU!!!!!!!

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

Riamo_10 If you dont have Vista you cant play this game???!! Thats sooo stupid! ---------------------------------------- Dont worry you are not missing much... if any thing at all..

Riamo_10
Riamo_10

If you dont have Vista you cant play this game???!! Thats sooo stupid!

Lonelynight
Lonelynight

Blackwheel champmanfan - "I own Halo for the PC & it was fun at the time but the hassle over delaying it for just the Xbox then saying you'll need Vista is too much for me, just give the game away free with Vista since it costs so much anyway." Just imagine how much that would drive up the sales for Vista. hmm if I get Vista, I can try a game on it right away. That's a very good idea and it would end up with Microsoft making more money. ---------- I also agree with this. I think somebody should tell Microsoft this

RaC3rFr3Ak
RaC3rFr3Ak

why spend $200 on vista and $50 for a game when you can just go buy a regular xbox and halo 2 for less...

Kyuso84
Kyuso84

Played Halo 1 and 2 on X-box and I must say I prefer Halo on PC more than X-Box so why can't they just release the games at the same time..... So much waiting .... just sad

the_sharko
the_sharko

"Halo 2 is too late & the hype has died, so why bother buying it?" Because you want to play it?

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

blackwheel how is bungie supposed to make money you dont make any sense and that is the dumbest thing ive ever heard, you too champmanfan. so many people don't play video games and alot of people are buying vista, you lose.

ddave1895
ddave1895

This is a great game with good graphics. :)

Blackwheel
Blackwheel

champmanfan - "I own Halo for the PC & it was fun at the time but the hassle over delaying it for just the Xbox then saying you'll need Vista is too much for me, just give the game away free with Vista since it costs so much anyway." Just imagine how much that would drive up the sales for Vista. hmm if I get Vista, I can try a game on it right away. That's a very good idea and it would end up with Microsoft making more money.

Rave92
Rave92

I am getting this game for sure :).But i need to get Vista soon too ...

JohnnyWeird
JohnnyWeird

Does the PC version have an ending? And making the game just "end" doesn't count.

champmanfan
champmanfan

Halo 2 is too late & the hype has died, so why bother buying it? I own Halo for the PC & it was fun at the time but the hassle over delaying it for just the Xbox then saying you'll need Vista is too much for me, just give the game away free with Vista since it costs so much anyway.

SqrLPeINgFrmTrE
SqrLPeINgFrmTrE

ldavidtw2000 They wish: Use Halo 2 to boost Vista sell. Reality: Halo 2's sell will drop because of Vista. Me: Powerful and trueful words. Also, will Halo 2 Vista ship with the new maps coming out in a few days, Desolation adn Tombstone?

ldavidtw2000
ldavidtw2000

They wish: Use Halo 2 to boost Vista sell. Reality: Halo 2's sell will drop because of Vista.

Torment777
Torment777

Its not that halo did anything new or original, its that it took all the best aspects of other first person shotters, then polished the hell out of it. the weapon balancing, map layouts, matchmaking, flexibility in custom games.....its all honed to a razors edge.

kappareign
kappareign

they did a freakin article for 1 new map in halo 2? some new games dont even get this kind of coverage. better be one damn good map.

AFWorm
AFWorm

Oh, I so can't wait

colinjennison
colinjennison

Quoting some guy below ------------------- "Vista exclusiveness is Microsoft's way of marketing and making extra sales, and unfortunately, it's already working; I have friends (fanatics) who're planning to buy Vista just for Halo 2. Half of them own the Xbox version already. The strength of the brand alone is what makes people splurge just to get the damn game in every way, shape, or form available, regardless of its actual quality (they're still stuck on the stage where they think Halo is a great series, and hell, it was until Halo 2 got released). Somini, best you plop yourself in front of a dictionary and start reading for a couple hours. No one's threatening to destroy your reputation if you don't get the game. But yeah, I agree with you. I'm actually thinking that the Vista exclusivity is gonna prevent the game from making sales in the long run. There's no way Halo 2 Vista is going to experience even nearly the same commercial success as the Xbox version." --------------------- It's the only reason I upgraded to Vista this soon. The OS sux right now. I'm sure it will get better, and I know I would have eventually upgraded anyway. But, all the points made here are valid. They aren't going to help the sales of the game much. But they'll sell a couple thousand more of thier overpriced Operating Systems. I still don't get all the people that say Halo 2 sucks? Some of the multiplayer aspects were oretty different from halo 1, some better, some worse... But overall the game was an improvement... Just because things change a bit people freak out and say a game SUCKS? I just don't understand it. I guess the same way some people buy into the hype just for the hype, some people fight the hype just to be different. Halo 2 is a really fun game, and I would love to play it on some new maps, witha mouse and keyboard, in 1920x1200 on my sick gaming PC while I wait for Halo 3!!!

cyborg100000
cyborg100000

Halo 2 was the most god damn average game i've ever played. Definetly over-hyped. It's like serious sam imo but just not as addicting. I'd rather play UT07, Quake wars and huxley when they come out which are all going to be original and very different. From what i've heard, halo 3 doesn't sound like it's gonna be fresh in gameplay or anything.

tab1257
tab1257

lol halo is the most overated game of all time. Y would u play it on pc? LOL

VfighterX
VfighterX

We could just wait for the new Quake. :O

NoLandeder
NoLandeder

Snes5 has got it right, I can't believe someone would be interested in this. There are other games, like CS:Source, FEAR, etc that has free multiplayer, better graphics and doesn't require you to upgrade to Windows Vista. Why get Halo2?

Snes5
Snes5

Ummm i think ill rather play tribes or any other PC game.

Alex2608
Alex2608

Sure this would own I defenetly get it when I' ll get Vista 1. Some PC gamer don't like to play consoles. 2: Free Multiplayer. 3: 2 new maps. 4: Map editor, you can make custom maps like Halo Custom Edition. 5: Way better graphics

O-ZoneX
O-ZoneX

I've been waiting quite a while for the pc version to come out so I could play multiplayer. But I was really bummed and very dissapointed when I heard it was coming out for VIsta. They say we'll have to upgrade eventually. That's a bunch of bull. We don't have to upgrade if we don't want to. And besides. Microsoft is money hungry like Sony. That's why they're making us XP/ Linux (or whatever you use) owners to upgrade. So they can roll in the big bucks and get rich quickly! Not everything's about money people. If they only knew...

ChromeBallz
ChromeBallz

Why the hell would i need Vista for a game that looks worse than UT2K4? There's a reason why the PC Halo never took off as a serious multiplayer alternative to stuff like battlefield, ut or even quake... It's a console shooter ported to the PC a couple of years too late. Same deal with number 2.

acidicdot
acidicdot

Only two new maps... and a map editor is no excuse for that in my opinion.

beyonder007
beyonder007

sigh.. what a waste.. i love how microsoft holds halo over pc peoples heads like.. dont you with you had a x box.. uhuuuh. no.. i dont.. the controls are clumsy, the graphics are inferior, and there are hordes of way better playing and looking games than halo has, is, or ever will be on the pc or x box. The thought of halo being a great game with alot of anticipation is absoultey ridiculous MICROSOFT check out the following games to find outjust how crappy yours is.. : crysis : half life : world in conflict

cong06
cong06

"Yes, you'll need Windows Vista to run it, but it's time to upgrade, folks. XP is over half a decade old at this point, and you'll have to upgrade eventually, especially if you want to play Crysis in DirectX 10!" *sigh* I know. That's what I hear. And it's gonna be the one thing to switch me over to Linux if anything does. Vista is terrible! I haven't even seen the whole list of bugs and I know it's a complete waste of money. Every few weeks they find a new security feature, and a couple weeks after it was released, someone found out how to hack it. I'm gonna play the games that support XP. And if all of them switch, then I'll be forced to accept my destiny as Linux user.

Beto_9292
Beto_9292

I want that game on my PC XD!

HOBOBOB1022
HOBOBOB1022

"I always wanted to have that experience in multiplayer of speeding through the streets and alleyways of New Mombasa in a Warthog" Been there done that