1. Design Challenge - Racing towards Matchmaking

      written by Ray Benefield
      Alright so I haven't posted a Forge lesson in a couple of weeks. You can blame Dark Souls again... I'm back into it and it looks like it will be a regular occurrence so I'm going to have to re-work how I handle my time. Anyways, for those that don't know we held a very small in-house Design Challenge where designers were told to build a map compatible with the standard Infection Gametypes in matchmaking and to build them as if they were going to get in matchmaking. The only catch was you couldn't build it on Forgeworld or Tempest. This new challenge instructs you to build a Race map, but don't worry... this time you can build on Forgeworld or Tempest. ;)



      Banner by my wife, Manda


      Overview



      So I remember in Halo 3 when Race first started to get popular using the VIP gametype and teleporters and grav lifts for finish lines... it all started with the Bungie 500 and Glimflicker's amazing finish line system to force players to play race how it was supposed to be. Now-a-days race is one of the most accessible style of maps to build for. When you are a new designer it isn't too hard to take some time to line some objects together with Reach's phasing mechanic and place a couple checkpoints to create a racetrack. My problem with that is that most racetracks I play suffer from a ton of different issues; framerate problems, too complex, too long, too difficult, too easy, unable to be played on splitscreen, etc. So this design challenge we are going to see if we can steer the community in a different direction. This is a casual challenge, nothing big and official so just have fun with it. We all want to improve our skills, critiquing, and reputation in the design community.


      Map Requirements



      Alright so this is what you are going to do... you need to build me a racetrack map on any canvas you choose. Anybody can build a racetrack so we are going to give you some restraints. This map MUST be built with the matchmaking player base in mind. What exactly does this entail? Well here is what myself and the people judging maps with me will be looking for:

      Performance

      Your map has to have NO performance issues in fullscreen (single player on an xbox) or 2-player splitscreen (two players on one xbox). Alright... I might let you slide with a couple of minor hiccups, but anything too constant will lose you some arbitrary points. The reason for 2-player splitscreen is because with community maps in matchmaking they are required to be seamless for 2 local players.

      Ease to learn and race

      Let's admit it... a good majority of the matchmaking player base aren't all there in the head, amiright forgers? lol... but seriously your map needs to consider what it is like for a new player to drive on your map. If your map was in matchmaking THOUSANDS of new players are going to race around your map and they don't want to lose when they are in matchmaking. So your map needs to be easy enough to learn and drive on... not a completely complex web of loops and ridiculous hair pin turns. After their first lap they should feel fairly comfortable with everything that is thrown at them. If they are falling off more than once every lap or two then you are doing something wrong.

      Difficult to Master

      Any map in matchmaking needs to have some long term fun to it. What I mean by this is that you can learn a couple tricks here and there to improve your lap time... maybe a different way to take a corner, boosters on the map, hidden shortcuts that cut turns, etc. Get creative. These should all be optional things. So the more a player races on the map the more skill he can put towards winning. I don't want your map to be a joyride where once a player gets into first they just stay there. Add enough tricks into your map for players to be able to out play each other and add some real competition.

      Technicalities

      The final thing that will be considered is minor technicalities with your map. Is it cleanly forged? Do all the checkpoints work properly for spawning? If players are falling off the map (no matter what direction they look in) or not facing the right way on spawn (the initial view of the camera; if they turn it then that is their fault) then you are wrong. Keep an eye out for where to place kill zones as well so players can die quickly when they fall off your map and get back into the race quicker. Don't let them fall for 5 minutes... remember that players are in a race against time and if they can't get back on the track fast enough they are going to blame you.


      Tips


      You want to know what a good race map is? Have you ever played almost any of the mario karts? If so then you know that they are easy to learn and fairly simple, but as you play you can learn little shortcuts, that are difficult, but can shave a couple seconds off your time and put you in the lead. F-Zero is a good series too where choosing to take a shortcut can be the life or death of you. Rush is a good old game that does the same thing. In Halo you don't have advanced driving techniques like drifting or shells to throw at your opponents, but you do have your map and shortcuts, boosters, etc can play a huge role in it. So think of a simple but interesting track layout and then think about how you are going to add in those little tricks for your course that can allow good drivers to slowly work their way towards the front. ;) And don't forget to use the community by posting your works in progress and getting/giving feedback in the Discussion & WIPs thread in the forum.


      Your reward


      This is the section that everyone wants to read... will you get MS points? Or maybe even some DLC or an avatar piece? Nope... sorry folks. To me a good designer makes his name and builds his rep in the community by participation. You know what you get? You get street cred and recognition and knowing that we will be playing your maps and giving you feedback so you can improve. Here at RP we believe that you build your own future and reputation... that is your reward. A little help from us to be more recognized in the community. Who knows... maybe this recognition could lead to something greater like your map being considered for matchmaking in some currently non-existant race playlist. But the only way you'll have that chance is to participate and build a name for yourself right?


      Deadlines and other details


      Alright so I need to set a deadline or something. I'll tell you what... we are eight days into December. Let's have your map fully completed by the 8th of January at midnight (the one right before Jan. 9th my time... Pacific Time Zone). A whole month. However let's add in another detail. If you can get your map in anytime before that, I can guarantee your map will be tested and you can receive feedback to improve your map before the deadline.


      Testing Week


      Between the dates of January 1st-8th I'll be hosting a testing week. This is where I will take my crew and anyone I can scrape together to playtest the current submissions. If you are able to get into the lobby you can get direct feedback right there on the spot and improve your map before the deadline. I can't guarantee that I will start testing until Jan. 1st, but feel free to put your map in the thread anyways cuz other RP members will more than likely feel up to downloading it, playing it, and giving you feedback. Part of the design process is testing and polishing so that is a service that is being built into the challenge for you. Use the RP community and get help and feedback while you build your map.

      Judging


      So how are maps being judged? Again this is a very loose competition. Basically as I run the testing lobbies and for about a week after the deadline I'll be playing these maps with a ton of different people and new players and ask their opinions of the map. I won't be deciding what's good, the general community will. And if there are stand outs I'll do some write ups on them and maybe do some advertising for you and your work. ;)

      Getting Help


      As you work on your map you can pull together playtesting sessions and post your current work in progress and any questions you have in the Racing towards Matchmaking - Discussion & WIP thread on the forums. Use the community to your advantage. Even before testing week you can playtest your maps and get feedback to improve them before the deadline. A huge part of design is testing and polish. Anyone can build a map, only a good designer can perfect a map. ;)


      Questions & Concerns

      Can I use a map I already made?
      Sure you can, but be warned. When you are given specific guidelines the results are typically better if you build from scratch specifically for the guidelines rather than modify a current work of art. This can especially be the case when worrying about performance issues like framerate drops and splitscreen. Modifying a layout to make it easier to learn or race on can be quite the task as well. So yes you can, but it isn't recommended.
      Can I submit more than one map?
      Sure you can. We can set the limit at about 2 entries per person... why? Because when building something of this caliber the more focus you put on one map, the better it will turn out. Polish, polish, polish.
      Can I work with more than one person
      I don't see why not... since this is a casual competition with no material rewards then you can even work with a group of 8 people if you are able to organize it.
      Why don't you have some kind of reward, wouldn't more people participate if there was?
      The real designers know that recognition and people playing your maps and getting feedback is enough of a reward. If you don't feel up to the challenge or don't appreciate recognition then this challenge is not for you bro. ;) We don't care how many people participate, we are just here to help you improve your skills. The less participants the more help that each individual can get and the better their maps will be in the end.
      How do I remove framerate drops in fullscreen and splitscreen?
      This is a very big topic so I won't cover it here. If you are having issues then post in the forum about it and I'm sure the community will come help you out.

      20 comments:

      Lewis Stones said...

      I don't understand how a map could work differently in split screen. Can someone explain to this me

      SamWinks said...

      well in split screen the screen gets smaller per-person the more players you have, so each person has less viewing area to left, right, under & above them because the screen gets smaller and the hud moves in.  if your map is tight and has sharp corners  the players using split screen would have a disadvantage because they may not see the turn. you should try to minimise this as much as possible

      Noklu said...

      more than just the size of screen, the game engine has to render twice asmany objects, while still displaying it on the one screen and one xbox. This is, obviously, twice as a hard on the engine and increases the potential for framerate drops.

      MythicFritz said...

      What Noklu said. Each player is looking at something different at any given time so the xbox is essentially rendering two maps. That's twice as many forge objects compared to single screen. If you've got a spot on a map with framerate drop or disco, it's only going to be worse in split screen.

      Lucas said...

      Speaking of simplicity, what about going for the speed factor, rather than difficulty. I am considering building a figure 8 circuit, so long as we can have custom game-types for the maps. (Otherwise 3 laps will go fairly quickly). That will give me plenty of budget to make the map look adorable :)

      Godlyperfection said...

      That kind of simplicity is close, but a little too simple. Sadly that may be a bit short. I'd say 5 laps would be a good number to work with. Remember you are trying to create competition between your players. In a standard racing game, speed would be fine because you have a lot more variables involved including tricks like drifting, friction, how the car handles, etc. We don't have that luxury in Halo. So difficulty in the course would be more preferred.

      There is one thing that would work for the figure 8 map... the collisions at the intersection, and it being small enough to where running into other players could be an effective strategy. I would say go for something close to the figure 8, but add a little more complexity to it and creativity. Bonus points for innovation. ;) Figure 8 is a start, but you are thinking a little too small... you are on the right track though. ;) lol... pun intended.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      That kind of simplicity is close, but a little too simple. Sadly that may be a bit short. I'd say 5 laps would be a good number to work with. Remember you are trying to create competition between your players. In a standard racing game, speed would be fine because you have a lot more variables involved including tricks like drifting, friction, how the car handles, etc. We don't have that luxury in Halo. So difficulty in the course would be more preferred.

      There is one thing that would work for the figure 8 map... the collisions at the intersection, and it being small enough to where running into other players could be an effective strategy. I would say go for something close to the figure 8, but add a little more complexity to it and creativity. Bonus points for innovation. ;) Figure 8 is a start, but you are thinking a little too small... you are on the right track though. ;) lol... pun intended.

      oldmps said...

      When will we be aloud to enter in maps, and are mods permitted?"

      Lucas said...

      I might give it a crack. I cant promise anything though...

      Noklu said...

      As the tracks are geared towards matchmaking style, I don't think mods would be permitted  -- I recommend shifting away from it and racing into more standard tracks. 

      Parkerconway said...

      What about battle tracks? Can we do that???

      k94 00000010001 said...

      Well, i'm not sure how to submit my map so here's the map.
       http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=25365203&player=k94%2000000010001

      -k94 00000010001

      ehbondor said...

      Do we have to submit a video or can we just submit a file share link? Please tell me how we submit maps!!

      ORACLE BALL said...

      Hey this is ORACLE BALL and i dont know how to submit maps so if you could inform me at my email which is oracleball@yahoo.com and some maps i would like to submit are here.
      Serpent's Twist (help from Milk Man721 and AdamLaw1997)
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=20887516&player=ORACLE BALL
      Volcanic Burst (help from MythicxReaper)
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=22239452&player=ORACLE BALL
      TARANTULA COASTER
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=22466012&player=ORACLE BALL
      STRUT ST (help from x18unicronx)
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=24484916&player=ORACLE BALL
      INNERTWINE (help from xBMW17x)
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=24493587&player=ORACLE BALL
      ELITE
      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=24990820&player=ORACLE BALL

      I hope you guys enjoy Roller Coasters. (Besides STRUT ST) and i also hope you guys make a playlist for each kind of racetrack in the racetrack playlist such as roller coasters, double wides, sx, mx, tournament and so on. Hope a race playlist comes out!

      iForger said...

      From given many of these guidelines, i feel that as a expert racetrack maker, city tracks would be some of the funnest maps to be put into a race category in matchmaking. Each map always has a different theme to it and always has possibilities to have faster lap times. I myself have made 3 city racetracks, my first one was used in many competitions on halotracks (Triggersmash). I plan to enter 2 maps myself because i am known widely across the Halo Racing community and i hope to see other people that have grown largely in this community to enter also. Have fun everyone and enjoy!

      AGENTBEN94 said...

      Hey if you could would someone try my race map it's called open your eyes and my other map Death Vally. if anyone can thanks  http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=25508980&player=AGENT%20BEN94 http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileShare.aspx?player=AGENT%20BEN94

      MythicFritz said...

      There is no submission thread yet so keep fine tuning those finished tracks and look for something to pop up around Jan 1 for testing.

      If you're looking for feedback on a tracks progress, the forums host the Discussion and WIP thread for race tracks. The link is Godly's post several places. Post there. Or download some posted tracks and give your own feedback.

      Juanchick said...

      how will you hind the maps

      Evan Royalty said...

      not sure how to send you maps but heres my submission

      http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=25741772&player=Evan%20Royalty 

      ducain23 said...

      I can't find the submission thread... so here are my submissions:
      GT: ducain23

      Star Wars: Battle of Endor Racetrack
      Link: http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=25261506&player=ducain23

      Road Work Ahead!!
      Link: http://www.bungie.net/Stats/Reach/FileDetails.aspx?fid=24897401&player=ducain23