1. Zombies. I Like Them.

      written by DavidJCobb

      'Sup? It's me, Dave, the tech admin for Reaching Perfection. You may have noticed my unceremonious, to-the-point, srs-bsns debut a few articles ago when I unveiled the new layout that's in the works. But I'm here to talk about something different now: Infection. I'm a huge Infection fan. I've spent a lot of time trying to learn as much as I can about how the gameplay works and I figured, why not share my thoughts on the gametype?

      Camping

      Yes, camping. Practiced by many, discouraged by many more (perhaps hypocritically so). Infection in particular has earned quite the (undeserved) stigma for campy gameplay. Yet the word "camping" seems to lack a concrete, precise definition. In many of the discussions I have (be they casual musings or heated debates), people often end up supporting the exact same opinion -- yet they think that they're in total disagreement, simply because they're using the word differently.

      So I say we do away with the term "camp spot" -- at least in more formal discussions. It's ambiguous, meaningless, and only leads to confusion. Here are the terms I use; feel free to adopt them if you wish.

      Defensible position

      A defensible position is an area that the Humans can defend effectively. These areas are balanced -- that is, they are just as hard for the Humans to defend as they are for the Zombies to attack. The more skilled group of players will win in a defensible position.

      Generally speaking, defensible positions have limited lines of sight and multiple entrances -- at least three. The Humans can predict where the Zombies may come from, but they can never know for sure where the Zombies will come from. This may sound bad for the Humans, but defensible positions offer one major benefit that makes up for this: they are of a manageable size. The ideal defensible position is not too small, but not too large. Too large, and Zombies can sneak in through the many and massive gaps in the Humans' defense. Too small, and all a Zombie has to do to score a kill is run in and derp-swipe before taking a load of buckshot to the face. A properly-sized defensible position gives the Humans a manageable area to monitor, while allowing them to ignore nearly everything outside of that area; it sections off the map.

      Design flaw

      A design flaw is an imbalanced part of the map; it is noticeably better for one team than for the other, often to a game-breaking extent. It is a legitimately-accessible part of the map, but it promotes bad gameplay by giving one team an unavoidable advantage.

      Most design flaws tend to cater to the Humans. This is because of the dynamics of the game. If an area is too advantageous to the Zombies, then the Humans can simply avoid it. If an area is too advantageous to the Humans, however, then the Zombies still have to try (and inevitably fail) to attack it, because the Zombies' objective is to go and get the Humans.

      A great example of a design flaw (that, thankfully, we'll never see in Matchmaking again) was Zealot's outer-space area. This region was only accessible via three lifts, which carried players along an insanely-predictable movement path. There was an elevated little perch some distance from each of these lifts, from which the Humans could easily Magnum-snipe the Zombies as they came out of the lifts. This spot was considered playable space, but it was still heavily imbalanced. Thankfully, it was removed when Zealot was replaced with Arena Zealot.

      Map exploit

      A map exploit is an imbalanced part of the map that was not intended to be normally accessible. In other words, it is not considered playable space by the designer(s). Design flaws happen when a designer creates an area deliberately, but doesn't realize that that area will have a negative impact on gameplay. Map exploits happen when a designer creates an area without even knowing it.

      The Living Dead playlist contains countless examples of map exploits. The recently-patched Sword Base ledge is an infamous example. A grav lift on the first floor of the map (which was apparently intended to access the second floor and the High Vent) could be used by a Sprinting Human to access a very high ledge with lines of sight on most of the map. This ledge had very limited angles of approach, most of which involved tricky jumps and all of which were devoid of cover. It was Magnum Heaven -- and Zombie Hell.

      What's wrong with imbalance?

      You've probably never seen a Survivor Victory happen in Living Dead. I know I haven't. But that doesn't mean that things are good for the Zombies. When map problems come into the picture, gameplay becomes Hell for the Zombies. The Zombies are forced to die countless times just to gain a minimal chance at infecting a map-abusing Human, and -- worse yet -- there is nothing a Zombie can do to prevent these deaths (while still maintaining any chance at success).

      Remember that this is a kill-oriented playlist. In other words, death is failure. If the Zombies go after map-abusing Humans, then they will die -- they will fail -- over and over again. If they give up, then they won't infect anyone -- another kind of failure. No matter what the Zombies do, they are forced to fail repeatedly due to factors entirely outside of their control. That kind of experience is frustrating, and frustration is not fun.

      Humans aren't the only ones looking to have a good time. The Zombies are players too, and they want to have fun, too. The best Infection maps are maps that allow both sides to have fun -- maps that are balanced.

      4 comments:

      Ronald Alex Good said...

      Balancing a zombie map is quite a feat, I will applaud the man who designs one. I call camping squaters rights.

      SuperiorMoneky said...

      Another thoughtful article. I think the way these zombie games on Halo have evolved also correctly mirror a lot of zombie movies, books and board games out there. Humans try to defend themselves in a feasible strong hold, fortifying their position by the best means possible. It's just as hard to defend as it is just as hard to break into, but that also depends on the intelligence of the team monitoring it and the intelligence of the zombie hoard. I've read books where the zombie virus matures and zombie's become more self-aware of their surroundings. But anyway, I agree that the term camping is kind of ambiguous, if not used by people who unconsciously or not continue to camp themselves. 

      The most important piece of information you point out here is that the game needs to find a balance of fun for both zombies and humans. If humans don't have to move around constantly, zombies are at the disadvantage; I recall the third level in Sword Base where you used to be able to get to with the grav lift. But, I'm yet to see a game where zombies have an incredibly easy time mowing down humans. The closest I think is Asylum, but I find that map very fun. 

      leroygetz said...

      Good article. Its a shame that the more talented forgers couldnt work together and make some infection maps for mm. Invasion suffers as well. It seems forgers are only interested in team slayer and minigame maps

      MrGreenWithAGun said...

      As an aside, the Living Dead playlist is NOT a zombie playlist, but a
      dynamically asymmetrical slayer playlist. Not only are the two teams
      different in size, weapons, and abilities, but their sizes change
      through game play. But it is slayer, not zombie, because killing zombies,
      which has no relationship to being a survivor, is rewarded. For example, I could kill 20 zombies and still be infected, or I could kill 0 zombies and survive. Killing zombies and surviving have nothing to do with each other, but they are both related to a common game play.