As you may have heard, Microsoft and Bungie are releasing a little game called Halo 3 next week. The long-awaited conclusion to the famous first-person shooter trilogy will perhaps wrap up the saga of the enigmatic Master Chief. It will also unleash millions of hours of multiplayer gameplay on Xbox Live. Multiplayer is a huge part of Halo's success, and we have the exclusive details on a previously never-before-seen level. To get the skinny on this new map, we turned to the multiplayer design lead at Bungie himself, Tyson Green.
GameSpot: What's the name of the level and how did you come up with it?
Tyson Green: The map's name is Construct, and it is one of the development names for a map that we ended up sticking with in the final version. It came from early concepts of the map being more industrial in nature, and it stuck even as the setting became a little less stark.
GS: How do you balance what everyone wants to do with gameplay?
TG: We try to bring the two together by setting up scenarios where the intended gameplay is along the lines of what the player wants to do anyway. If a map has good sightlines for sniping, we make sure there are sniping weapons available. If it's fun to drive on, we balance the weapons such that the vehicles are not trivialized. At the same time, though, we take care to counterbalance things that are too obvious or too advantageous. In the case of Construct, it's very advantageous to control the upper level, but this is balanced out by moving more of the coveted weapons to the lower levels.
GS: What are some aspects of it that have impressed you now that it's done?
TG: The setting for the map evolved a lot from the first concepts, at various times being set floating in water or along a sort of monorail. At some point, the art direction was synched up with the setting of a campaign environment, and they switched over to the near final skybox. It completely changed the feel of the setting, and the vista from the front of the map still wows me.
GS: How has it been learning the whole balancing act between making something cool and something playable?
TG: It's been entertaining. Often, we'll put something in that seems really crazy, play with it for a couple of days and then dial it back if it's not playable. We ended up with the elephants on Sandtrap that way...by putting in something ridiculous--that nobody was really sure about--and then gradually tweaking it into something really fun. Sometimes, though, the failures are much funnier than the successes that we actually ship, like the early man cannons on Valhalla that would throw you clear across the map (and kill you in the process).
GS: What are some fun behind-the-scenes factoids around the making of the level?
TG: Early versions of Construct had a much greater elevation difference between the two levels, and Banshees fighting between the levels figured prominently in our concepts. When we got to playing it, though, the elevation difference made any engagement between the levels difficult (or impossible), and around the time of our public beta, we made some significant changes to the Banshee that made it very hard to use on the level. Ultimately, we tightened up the level to place a greater focus on infantry combat and zone control.
GS: How do you all like to play the level? Any tips for folks?
TG: When we're playing slayer, we like to take the high ground and defend the upper reaches of the map near the smaller lifts. There's a lot of room to move and choose your engagements there, and it takes a coordinated offense to root you out (which make for the best clashes, win or lose). It's also pretty exciting when a fusion coil pops out of the lift with a grenade right after it. It makes you move in a real hurry.
GS: What weapons are around the level?
TG: On the lower level of the map, you can nab a Spartan Laser for picking off people on the upper levels, and a selection of Brute Shots and Maulers for bum-rushing the lifts. On the upper level, there's a sniper rifle for watching the approaches, and a sword sits out where you have to put yourself in a potentially compromising situation to pick it up.
GS: Did all the pressure from fans (and the stuff you put on yourselves) make it tough on those creating the multiplayer content? How did you stay focused?
TG: There's pressure, but at the end of the day, we listen to the feedback we get and trust our guts. If you can sit down in a play test and have a fun game on the map, then you're doing something right. The trick is knowing when to stop and when you're getting into the realm of "fun, but only for experienced players who play exactly like me." It's easy to ruin something for everyone else. So we test constantly to guard against that.
GS: What's something not readily obvious in the level that fans should look for?
TG: The trick to breaking a hold on the upper levels is to remember that lifts act on just about everything--players, grenades, and equipment. If someone is camping upstairs, try throwing a power drainer in before you go up. Chase it with a grenade or two, and you can clear out the space before you follow.
GS: Thank you, Tyson.