1. Lesson 37: Orientation

      written by Ray Benefield
      FINALLY! Lesson 37. Sorry for the delay folks... it has been an interesting week. Remember these Forge Lessons aren't the only thing here at RP. Read other game/level design theories by some of the guest authors. And if you are looking for other like minded designers to chill with that enjoy analyzing and perfecting their creations then join us in the forum. Also keep in eye out in the future for some design focused halo contests. These will be quite different from forging contests you see at other sites. Instead of building the map you will be perfecting one with spawns, weapons, scenery, objectives, and other things. It will require less time to complete and be more of a thinking contest than a "pretty map" contest. Anyways, on to today's lesson... yet another inspired by Carney's Map Design Crash Course. And an important one at that. Read on and see you guys around... subscribe to RP's RSS Feed to keep updated on when new things go up.

      Ever had those times when you spawn on a map that you think you have figured out and memorized, only to have to look around a little bit after you spawn before you figure out where you are? It is hard to jump straight into combat when you have no idea where you are on the map. That is where orientation comes into play.

      Knowing where you are

      Orientation is all about figuring out where you are on a map in relation to everything around you. As players move around your map they are drawing a mental image of it in their head. As they walk around they take note of any key unique features on your map and use it in the future to figure out where they are and where they should go next. So by that we can deduce that the best way to disorient our players is to make a map where nothing is unique. Imagine walking around a map with the same column repeating in a grid, with no color or lighting differentiation. How do you know if this is the same area that you were in last time? You don’t. What if you colored the center column red? That allows you to relate the red column to the center of the map, but once you leave the center you have nothing to anchor you down in your mental image. Without orientation a player may not be able to make crucial movement decisions that can improve their chances of winning. A lack of control over a situation is a frustrating thing for players.


      Of course orientation isn’t really the true problem that we are looking to fix. With enough time a player will figure out where they are on most maps. The problem we are looking at is quickly orienting our players. Why? Because if we are focused on looking around the map trying to orient ourselves we aren’t paying attention to the sniper that is about to take our heads off. While trying to orient themselves, a player is flat-footed and unprepared for combat. Dying when unprepared is never an enjoyable experience. Our goal as map designers is to quickly show players where they are on a map so they can focus on their task at hand. We do this by carefully laying out landmarks for players to add to their mental map. We do this in our real lives as well. “Jimmy go all the way down the road and take a left at the Burger King followed by a right at the Arby’s and Wal-Mart will be on the left.”

      Tying it in

      There are a lot of things that interact with trying to orient players. Incentives and deterrents make great landmarks due to their significance. A good spawn perspective can help players by showing them a landmark on spawn to instantly know where they are. A perspective that faces a wall is extremely disorienting. Low perspective variance gives players the chance to take in their environment and create landmarks in their mind. If players are sharply turning corners constantly they lack the time to “save” objects in their mental map as a landmark. Winding and claustrophobic corridors can be extremely disorienting as there is very little time to learn the map. Good eye catching and high color contrast can help make landmarks standout, and keeping in mind a player’s perspective direction in key sections of a map can help you place landmarks so that they will be noticed during combat. Orient your players towards an enjoyable experience.


      Richie Burke said...

      good points, i see how it is important that a player understand where exactly they are at any given point in the experience and the suggestions you have given are good to help their orientation throughout their experience.
      i need help on a map being worked on, it has height variation that is quite vast in some sections and i would ask how i could better orient players that they understand exactly what level they are on and how they could traverse from level to level.
      thanks in advance, God bless bro :)

      Jonzorz_124 said...

      I couldn't agree more with everything you just wrote. Hey Richie, if you need some forge help, I would be more than willing to give you some input. My GT is Jonzorz 124, just shoot me a friend request if you want to.

      Richie Burke said...

      will do bro, thanks and God bless

      BadCompany Brik said...

      Every spawn faces a large killball in the center of my FFA map :p

      This is really important, I can't say how many maps I've been really put off of just because I never have any idea where I am. When I play a map in depth five times, and actually help forge a few bits and pieces on it and I still can't figure out where to go, the map needs work.

      Also, you should try and get some advertising dollars in. Arby's should be paying you to be a landmark in your orientation lesson :)

      dzebra said...

      Disney World does this by having the castle at the center of the park be visible from almost anywhere. Each section of the park also has it's own visual theme, so you know when you are in Toon Town versus when you are in Frontier Land. No matter where you are, you can easily identify your location, and how to get to back to the center of the park.

      SmartAlec13 said...

      This can also be like on most of the Forgeworld maps. Like Asylum, or Cage. They use the rock wall/cliff vs the open sea to differ which side of the map you are looking at.

      anANGRYkangaroo said...

      This INDIVIDUAL lesson was also published on Bungie's COMM CHATTER page... it looks like every individual new lesson will be posted on their front page as well.
      We got some effin awesome advertising. :)

      Cmnkisrule said...

      Since you're talking about orientation I have a question about spawns. One of my biggest pet peeves in H3 was spawning facing a wall. It always HUGELY disoriented me. I haven't noticed it as much in Reach. Is this still a problem and what can be done about it?

      Guest said...

      I wish someone would have taught these lessons to the Black Ops map designers.

      GodlyPerfection said...


      In most of Bungie's maps they have fixed the spawns. There are still a few that I would tweak myself, but for the most part the spawns are pretty well done compared to Halo 3. And yes it is still a problem since community maps are going to start being a big part of matchmaking after the forgetacular contest. As far as what can be done about it. I cover a lot of spawn concepts in earlier lessons that can really help people out when placing their spawns. In particular the lessons on Spawn Perspectives and Smooth Spawning can help alot when considering orientation. However those lessons are built off of other concepts in the lessons, so to get the FULL benefit out of those two lessons it is suggested that you read all of the previous ones as each lesson builds off of the previous ones. Great comment Cmnkisrule.


      I completely agree. Personally I feel that a lot of designers still need to consider this in their games. The world of game/level design is still evolving and there is still a lot to learn. It is still a baby compared to most disciplines out there and that is why I started this site. I enjoy taking the time to research and learn about new concepts in design and actually get them fully written out and discuss them with like minded designers. It will help evolve the design concepts of the future.

      El Pollo Loco said...

      …but my entire forging style orbits around disorientation and confusion!

      Dj7291993 said...

      link to next lesson is missing. Like this one though.