1. Forge Lessons

      Forge Lessons is a series devoted to teaching readers about the inner workings of level design. It involves the tips and tricks of the trade that allow pro designers to get a step ahead. All Forge Lessons are guidelines and suggestions. They are not meant to be treated as law, however they exist to be used and to be observed for any extensions as level design becomes more popular. If you feel that a theory is getting out of date and more can be added to it feel free to comment on the lesson and we will see what we can do to get it updated. All of your feedback is welcome. The more feedback you give the better the lessons can get. Below you will find all of the lessons that have been released at the time of you reading this paragraph.  Enjoy!


      [LAST UPDATED: 11/22/11; Lessons 1-51]

      Support the Forge Lessons @ Bungie.Net and Halo Waypoint

      Forge Lessons Index

      Lesson 1: First Impressions

      • A bad first impression could mean the death of your map
      • Every detail (from thread organization to actual gameplay) can have an effect on your map's fans
      • Having at least one good first impression will increase your credibility

      Lesson 2: Knowledge is power

      • A map should teach players about it's most important features
      • Teaching players the map allows them to give an accurate assessment of it's gameplay
      • Players have a more enjoyable experience when they are taught the map and are put on even ground with their competitors

      Lesson 3: Path Manipulation

      • Path Manipulation is the ability to control a player's movement
      • Using Path Manipulation allows us to craft the experience that we want our players to have
      • The golden rule of Path Manipulation is that players will always take the shortest route to their current goal

      Lesson 4: Perspectives

      • A perspective is essentially a screenshot in time of a player's current view
      • Crafting perspectives to your liking can help create the decisions and experience that you want your players to have
      • Utilizing art theory is a big part of analyzing a perspective

      Lesson 5: Deterrents

      • Deterrents are things that discourage the act of proceeding
      • Deterrents are not very widely used due to them being "discouraging" and not always effective, however with the right tweaks they can be very effective
      • In level design the theory of deterrents is under-researched and there is still a long way to go to understand the concepts and differences of static and dynamic deterrents

      Lesson 6: Incentives

      • Weapons and powerups are not the only incentives that exist
      • Most incentives are not permanent, sometimes they are there and sometimes they aren't
      • Don't forget that you are giving your players an advantage and make sure you account for it and balance that advantage out

      Lesson 7: Combat Congestion and Traffic

      • Combat Congestion is tons of players traversing through one area causing massive chaos and confusion, taking away from the skill required
      • Traffic is the analysis how players are spread out around the map
      • Everything comes into play when learning to control the chaos, just like everything else in level design

      Lesson 8: Eye Catching

      • Eye catching is the power of attracting the human eye in order to change a player's perspective
      • Eye catching has the power of not only changing a player's perspective but naturally gravitating players towards the attention grabbing area
      • Attention grabbing techniques can be applied to incentives, deterrents, and important areas of the map

      Lesson 9: Perspective Variance

      • Perspectives should not only be observed in individual instances but also as a batch/group of perspectives over time
      • Perspective variance is observing the differences between perspectives over time
      • Eye Catching and Path Manipulation are key players in observing and controlling perspective variance

      Lesson 10: Spawn Perspectives

      • The spawn perspective is the first fully controllable perspective that the player sees in a map
      • All things in a spawn perspective need to be observed in order to predict all future perspectives
      • Perfecting the spawn perspective can fully influence all following perspectives of the player, giving you huge control over the player

      Lesson 11: Smooth Spawning

      • Decisions forced to be made during the first few seconds of spawning interfere with the initial spawn thought process and cause hiccups in gameplay
      • It is important to remove anything that may change the player's perspective drastically
      • Removing all interferences to the initial spawn thought process can smooth out and polish gameplay

      Lesson 12: Path Maps

      • Path maps serve as a tool to analyze the designer's current path manipulation
      • Two types of paths exist in path maps... objective paths are the shortest path to the player's current goal and divergent paths are paths to other possible goals
      • Path maps change constantly as players move around the map, make decisions, and change goals

      Lesson 13: Area Introduction

      • Area Introduction is exactly that... showing players all of the major sections in your map
      • Players may eventually learn all the areas by exploring, but you don't have their attention forever
      • All sorts of Path Manipulation tools can be used to introduce new areas to players naturally

      Lesson 14: Essence

      • A map's essence is what defines the map and makes it unique
      • An essence is made up of a list of goals that serve as building blocks and can be used in multiple maps
      • By prioritizing your list of goals you are able to effectively make important and difficult decisions for your map

      Lesson 15: Purpose

      • Everything in your map should be helping towards your map's essence, if not it needs to go
      • Prioritizing your list of goals can help you improve your map by replacing something with something that serves a higher purpose
      • Most additions to a map can serve more than just one purpose and it is the designers job to juggle the pros and cons of each possible addition

      Lesson 16: Innovation

      • Innovation will pull eyes to your map and make it stand out above the thousand others out there
      • Aesthetics are the easiest to grab a player's attention, making something visually unique can make your map stand out
      • Breaking gameplay standards is another way to stand out; take every challenge and never say never

      Lesson 17: Color Contrast

      • Contrast is defined as the difference between two colors that are next to each other
      • Both high contrasting and low contrasting color combinations have their uses in a scene
      • Use high contrasting colors for objects you want to stand out in a scene and low contrasting colors for objects that need to blend in with the scenery

      Lesson 18: Patience

      • Never rush your map, it will delude it's quality and reduce your credibility as a designer
      • Don't lie to yourself or your friends; everyone is guilty of not taking enough time to improve their map... including me
      • Even if you are close to done or your map is already published, take the time to improve and make changes to your map to improve your skills as a designer

      Lesson 19: Threat Zones

      • A threat zone is the area that a deterrent affects, weighted base on where it is most effective
      • Static zones rarely move, like explosives, turrets, etc. Dynamic zones move constantly and have to learn to be controlled for maximum control
      • Players make assumptions of a deterrent's threat zone and move accordingly to decrease the risk

      Lesson 20: Safe Spawning

      • Being caught flat-footed (or unprepared) is an un-enjoyable experience on spawn
      • There are many things that need to be kept in mind when avoiding unsafe spawning
      • Spawning is one of the most important topics for level designers and it can make or break a map

      Lesson 21: Incentive Weighting

      • Incentives need to be assigned a weight/priority based on your map's essence
      • Creating a "heatmap" of your map's incentives will help you visualize where players are more likely to travel
      • Learning to spread out your map's incentives properly allows you to make every area of your map enjoyable and "balanced"

      Lesson 22: Rule of Thirds

      • Dividing a picture, screenshot, painting in thirds both vertically and horizontally will help you find its focus points
      • The rule of thirds is a common rule of thumb for photographers so make it a common rule of thumb as a level designer in terms of perspectives
      • By using the Rule of Thirds you have much more control and influence over a player's perspective

      Lesson 23: Static Perspectives

      • Static perspectives are perspectives that players have no control of
      • Static perspectives are fully controlled by the designer giving great power when influencing a player's opinions
      • Static perspectives need to be viewed as pieces of art that you are trying to sell to your audience

      Lesson 24: Advertising

      • Advertising is a very important part of level design
      • Advertising can be found everywhere and is used everywhere like in news channels, restaurants, websites, etc.
      • The first rule to advertising is forgetting that you are advertising your content and to instead offer your services and stop being selfish

      Lesson 25: Investment

      • Everything you do can be an investment towards your future
      • It is important to start doing things that can benefit you most... mainly selfless acts
      • Time is money and giving it to others as an investment for the future is a very powerful thing

      Lesson 26: Nurturing

      • Nurturing in advertising is all about turning your fans from casual fans who download your content to hardcore fans that spread your content
      • Taking the time to personally interact with a fan is the best way to get their attention and build your credibility with them
      • Never let a fan slip by, always at least respond and acknowledge that you know they exist

      Lesson 27: Reputation

      • Everything you do creates an image of yourself that people see when they hear your name
      • Based on that image people may decide if they will check out your content or not
      • Creating a name for yourself is important and can be done through joining communities and being a helpful loyal member

      Lesson 28: Perspective Direction

      • In a heated situation players are always focused on something and learning the direction of their attention will help you design your map
      • Imagining yourself in the player's shows will help you place objects and areas of interest to get the player's attention
      • Remember that most games have a 3rd dimension and the direction of a player's eye on the vertical axis is just as important as the lateral axis

      Lesson 29: Degree of Focus

      • Degree of focus is the amount of area that requires a player's attention in order to completely lock down and control their position
      • Degree of focus can be used as a strong path manipulator giving designers the ability to use it as an incentive or deterrent
      • Multiple paths don't instantly increase an areas degree of focus, multiple factors come into play such as perspective variance and lateral and vertical focus

      Lesson 30: Application

      • You can never truly know something for sure until you have experienced it yourself
      • What could be true can be completely false in another situation depending on the context of the situation
      • Part of reading these lessons is applying them to truly learn them and experience them in your own context

      Lesson 31: Immersion

      • Immersion is the concept of keeping people fully engaged
      • Fully immersing players into a map is similar to how dreams keep you immersed
      • When your map fully immerses players, they focus on the experience that your map creates instead of the map itself

      Lesson 32: Cohesion

      • Cohesion is all about creating a unity between all of the objects in your map to create one flowing experience
      • The lack of cohesion breaks immersion for players, making them more critical and perceptive
      • Slow progression of aesthetics is a very basic concept that can help the cohesion of your map

      Lesson 33: Continuity

      • I define continuity as the ability to traverse the map with natural movement that does not require a conscious action
      • A lack of continuity can cause a player to "wake up" from the lack of immersion and cohesion and begin fully criticizing your map
      • Discontinuity isn't always a bad thing, it can be a powerful tool for controlling player's movement as well

      Lesson 34: Peer Review

      • Designers have a tendency of missing minor details, so getting a second pair of eyes is a powerful tool for designers
      • Taking the time to look over your map and perfect it before going into playtest can help improve your map's first impression greatly
      • Going over your own map in a game helps you find things that you wouldn't see from a designer's point of view

      Lesson 35: Failure

      • Failure is a normal thing for everyone and it helps to accept when something didn't meet your standards
      • Failure can serve as a stepping stone to success as it teaches you new things and by learning from failure you can improve your future projects
      • Don't just complete drop your failures; keep them on the back burner for the future when you are more experienced and knowledgeable

      Lesson 36: Simplicity

      • By simplifying your map you can amplify the experience that a player is enjoying on your map
      • A simple map is much easier to learn, meaning that players spend less time learning the map and more time actually playing it and having fun
      • Sometimes reducing something so that there is less of it can improve your map more than just simply redesigning it

      Lesson 37: Orientation

      • Orientation is all being able to figure out where you are in relation to your surroundings
      • Quickly orienting players using landmarks allows players to be prepared for combat at all times
      • Many other concepts play a role in orientation and learning to combine them can greatly improve your map's ability to orient your players

      Lesson 38: Dance Floor

      • Players like space to be able to move, narrow walkways restrict movement and make players sad
      • Narrow walkways aren't the player's fault, they are the fault of designers and players will blame you for their misfortune
      • Too many narrow walkways can cause frustration, but sometimes they can serve as a risky path with restrictive movement

      Lesson 39: Dedication

      • Map design is a practice like many others that requires a seemingly never-ending cycle of iteration
      • In order to improve in the field of level design sometimes you've got to sacrifice some of your free time
      • Devoting yourself to the world of creating maps for players can lead to a variety of payoffs to reward you

      Lesson 40: Foreshadowing

      • Foreshadowing is the act of showing or hinting at something that is coming up in the future
      • By foreshadowing areas on a map before they come up a designer can help players orient themselves and easily navigate maps
      • The power of foreshadowing can be used in many situations from teasing players to find an incentive or warning players of high traffic areas

      Lesson 41: Consistency

      • When a player encounter an object that acts differently than they expect it can throw them off balance
      • Your goal is to not create an ambiguous definition for objects an keep them consistent throughout a game and your map
      • Learning when to create patterns of consistency and when to break those patterns can be a powerful skill in your design toolbox

      Lesson 42: Polish

      • Applying polish to a map requires you to pay attention to minor details that most players don't notice
      • Sometimes you have to think outside the box to find how you can polish your map further
      • Polish doesn't refer to just aesthetics, it can refer to a lot of gameplay factors as well

      Lesson 43: Lasting Impression

      • The lasting impression of a map is all about understanding how veterans of the map will play after learning everything about it
      • There is no telling when a map is going to enter the lasting impression stage, but using previously learned techniques a designer can make the transition happen faster
      • After studying the lasting impression, taking the time to learn from it and redesign your map over and over again can help it reach perfection

      Lesson 44: Aesthetic Noise

      • Aesthetic noise can also be referred to as busy aesthetics, where too much is going on in one place
      • Detailing is a great thing for maps, but if not done smoothly enough it can be more of a distraction than a feature
      • Busy aesthetics can cause players to miss important incentives around the map and draw attention to unimportant areas

      Lesson 45: Pacing

      • Exploring pacing involves understanding how time and speed relate to your map's design
      • Pacing can be used to help create fair and balanced gameplay, even on asymmetrical maps
      • Understanding the pacing of your maps such as the timing to power weapons and locations can help you understand your map better and make better design decisions

      Lesson 46: Active Engagement

      • When players are not actively engaged they get bored and lose interest in your map
      • Various techniques can be used to engage your players, but making sure you don't over do it is important
      • Walking around your map and putting yourself in your player's shoes can help you find spots to improve player engagement

      Lesson 47: Kleenex Testing

      • Kleenex testing is used to replicate the situation where players download and play a map while knowing nothing about it
      • While it is difficult to create a purely sterile environment, you can still withhold as much information as possible
      • Kleenex testing allows designers to study and perfect the first impressions of their creations before releasing their content

      Lesson 48: Veteran Testing

      • Veteran testing revolves around the idea of how a player plays when he knows everything there is to know about the map
      • To reach the point of veteran testing, time is required for players to gain enough experience with the map
      • While testing with players that are familiar with the map, watching what they use and what they don't use can help you build a nice balance in your design

      Lesson 49: Exposure

      • Before building any exposure it is important to have a unique brand name to distinguish you from your competition
      • Think outside the box to come up with tricks on how to maximize your exposure time to your target audience
      • The goal of increasing the exposure of your product is to be able to trigger recognition of your content and eventually to build curiosity

      Lesson 50: Navigation

      • Players have access to standalone utilities (such as radar, mini-maps, etc.) that they use to help navigate unfamiliar areas
      • Players study their environment to make decisions on where they should go next
      • Understanding how players navigate unfamiliar maps can be crucial to helping you improve your creations

      Lesson 51: Audience

      • It is impossible to make a map that everyone enjoys
      • Choosing an audience and understanding your audience can help custom tailor your map to their needs
      • There are many different types of people out there and learning what they like and dislike allows you to prioritize map traits better