Halo 4: Multiplayer Maps Design and Philosophy

it doesn’t matter how flawless the gameplay is, how powerful the graphics are, or how fun the gamemodes can be. If Halo 4 does not have a strong map selection then the game will have trouble.

Honestly, when i look at halo multiplayer and try to distinguish which part is most important, I say the maps.

Everyone praises Halo 2 for its gameplay and how awesome it was, and they are correct. But you know what? Halo 2 also had by far the best map selection in the Halo series. In fact I believe Halo 2’s maps were probably the best group of maps in gaming history.

The starting maps were amazing, the map packs were amazing. You didn’t have to veto a map because every map in that game ( aside from maybe 1 or 2) was awesome.

So when we look at Halo 4, the idea is to not remake Halo 2 maps. In fact I believe remakes need to be kept at a minimum. but I believe halo 4 should follow Halo 2’s map pattern.

First of all Halo Reach shipped with 8 maps not including Forge World. Halo 2 shipped with 12. the variety within those 12 maps were substantial. You had small competitive maps like lockout, midship, beaver creek, and ivory tower. You had interesting mid sized asymetrical maps like ascension, and zanzibar. And you had the awesome BTB maps like Coagulation, Headlong, and waterworks.

Those are some very popular maps in the Halo franchise and every single one of them were shipped on disc. Thats not including the fantastic DLC maps like sanctuary, turf, relic, containment, and terminal.

All vastly different and filled a different role, but all very fun and exciting.

now lets look at the 8 Reach starter maps.

Powerhouse = boring. nothing special.
Sword Base= Fun, but no scenery.
Zealot = broken zero g, bleh rest of map.
Countdown = ok map, boring scenery.
Reflection = fun map, but its a remake. We’ve seen it before
Boardwalk = terrible map, terrible scenery. terrible
Boneyard = ok map. really not that special. Its big though.
Spire = Best map of the bunch. Actually was unique.

FW maps = all looked the same. none were any good. BG remake is worth mentioning but not as good as originals.

So lets see what we have here we have 6 meh 4v4 maps and only 2 btb maps that are honestly too big in order to make room for invasion. And no mid sized maps like zanzibar or Ascension. Jus a terrible in box map selection. Embarassing even. Except for Spire, i love that one.

So in Halo 4, first of all we need more than 8 maps. Second of all we need a variety of maps. 3rd of all the maps need to be interesting and offer something that seperates them from one another.

I say we go with this set up.

Have 6 maps that are basically your 4v4 arena maps.

  • These are the maps like the Pit, Midship, Lockout, Gaurdian, and Sanctuary.

Have 3 medium sized maps that can be used for both 4v4 and btb.

  • These are maps like Zanzibar, Ascension, Hang Em High, and High Ground. Notice how maps like High Ground and Zanzibar are both very playable with a 4v4 match, but they are also large enough to support vehicles and big team battles.

Then have 3 large btb maps.

  • These are your valhallas, Blood Gulch, Terminal, Headlong. huge vehicle combat maps.

That is a total of 14 maps.

Now we get specific. Every Halo needs to have at least one of a specific kind of map. Everybody wants a 2 base canyon style map like blood gulch. And everyone wants a small asymetrical map like lockout. Most people just want these 2 maps remade, I say have them reimagined. For example, in Halo 2 you had Coagulation, and Lockout. In Halo 3, instead of straight up remaking those maps, they had spiritual successors that resembled them but didn’t copy them. You had Valhalla which was in the vain of BG and Coag, and gaurdian which was the successor to Lockout. They had similar styles, but different layouts and visuals. Halo 4 should follow the tradition. Halo 4 needs its own Blood Gulch. And it needs its own Lockout.

Next Halo 4 needs a few competitive 4v4 symetrical maps. Maps like the Pit, and Sanctuary, and Midship. These maps are very fun, and intense in competition.

Next, each map needs something that seperates it from the pack. A competive symetrical map doesn’t need one nearly as badly but it wouldn’t hurt for them to have a spicer uper. What i mean by this is something that makes it stick out. For example the spinning wheel on Zanzibar. The man cannons on Narrows (which is an amazing map). The gate on Highground. The satelite on Ascension. The zero g room in Condemned. Just something that adds a unique twist. These are more necessary in BTB maps because it may disrupt the comp nature of the small 4v4 maps, but reach didn’t really have any of these aside from the Spire.

Next we discuss remakes. Halo 4 should have a max of 2 remakes. 1 btb, 1 small. My picks go to the Pit because its popular, competitive and symetrical. And waterworks, because it is a unqique setting, hasn’t been remade, and is an awesome layout.

Finally, it needs awesome scenery. In past Halo games everything was new and mysterious and interesting. Reach’s scenery was boring and bland. I wanna see awesome skyboxes, mysterious installations in the distance. And in the maps themselves they need to be decorated. Highlands from the map pack is honestly the perfect example.

Highlands has a fantastic skybox, the always awesome 2 base layout. It has vehicle carnage. it has fun areas, it has decorations with streams flowing through, a big waterfall, and a crashed pelican. It has teleporters, and airlifts and great weapon variety. It gets everything right. Halo 4 maps can follow its lead when thinking about skyboxes and decoration. And btb maps can pay attention to its fun layout and overall design.

I think this about wraps it up for me. i hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. In a nutshell, we need more maps, more variety of maps, and more overall interesting maps. Because it doesn’t matter how great the gameplay is if we dont have anywhere worth playing in.

Good job, I agree with pretty much everything you said. When I first realized that something was missing in Reach, from my time in Halo 3, I couldn’t put my finger on it. I soon discovered it was the maps. When they dont look all the same (Forge World bs) or have poor/ boring design (Sword Base is pretty fun, but most of the map is never used in slayer, just the top floor) (Zealot is so bland and boring, I usually do really well on that map just because i use lots of grenades or AL). I miss the awesomeness of Halo 3’s map selection.

And yes, Spire was pretty darn cool.

Good post, I’m a huge fan of the maps from Halo 2, I wish they would remake Lockout again, for me personally I hated the remake in Halo 3 it felt nothing like the original Lockout and I couldn’t enjoy it like I use to but I did enjoy Guardian which was built with the idea of lockout but with a twist. One of the maps I enjoyed in halo 2 was Turf, you had your open roadway area as well as your alley ways which was fun to me, either of those two I would love remade.

Some of the bigger maps that I use to love playing Snipers on was Relic and Headlong I use to love the Sniper battles I use to get into on those maps. Either of those two I would love to see a remake.

I just hope that in halo 4 we wont have to play on the same bland map textures from forge, that is what ruined halo reach for me, it just didn’t seem like alot of effort went into map creativity. But with that said there were a few maps that I did enjoy from Reach which were from the initial launch was Swordbase and Reflection. I also enjoyed some of the Anniversary maps.

Great post. There need to be more 4v4 arena maps, you are bang on. That is something Halo does so well.

The only thing I disagree about is that Sword Base and Spire are good maps. They are the two worst maps I have ever played on Halo. Spire, fine has a nice set piece, but that set piece RUINS the game. Just an awful map. Sword Base is even worse! Its just a campinlifeathon. (i’m coining that term)

> it doesn’t matter how flawless the gameplay is, how powerful the graphics are, or how fun the gamemodes can be. If Halo 4 does not have a strong map selection then the game will have trouble.

Not necessarily. If the mechanics are right, the maps will often take care of themselves. Likewise, solid map designs will be a chore to play with crappy mechanics. Evidenced by how poorly most of the Team Classic maps fared with vanilla Reach gameplay.

But anyway, let’s say we’re getting 13 disc maps. That’s reasonable. Set 4 aside for BTB. Of the 9 left, I’d prefer 4 symmetrical arenas (each one having a different gametype strength, i.e. one plays a great CTF game, another plays oddball really well, another is pure team slayer madness, etc). Maybe a 2-2 split between more open and more room-based. Then 2 vertically-focused asymms a la Dammy, Prisoner, or Construct. Then a floating asymm like Lockout or Guardian. The other two maps, let them experiment a bit more. Obviously they should all be have distinctly unique visuals. At least one could be covenant.

BTB I really don’t care what they do map-wise. That’s pretty much all mechanics. With the proper mechanics almost any BTB map will play well. The way I see it, you really have to -Yoink- up to make a truly bad one.

Your title said map design and philosophy, yet I think you missed some of the most important elements of Bungie’s map design and philosophy that makes the difference between good Halo maps and bad ones. I agree that maps have gotten worse since Halo 2, and that Halo 2 had the best maps, but the question is what changed between Halo 2 and Halo 3 and Reach (reach has the worst by far).

I believe their philosophy changed after Halo 2. It seemed to me that they tried much harder to stick to a “theme” for each map, especially in Halo reach. They also tried to make the maps much more realistic in the sense that they added realistic stairs with railings and everything, the doorways became much more intricate instead of just an open space in the wall, etc…

This change of philosophy affected their design. First, the geometry of the maps became much more intricate. In Halo 1 and 2 most of the surfaces on the entire map are simple and flat. That is not the case in Halo 3 and Reach. Second, the maps became much more cluttered. They added many useless features to the map just to make it go with the theme or add to the realism.

Everything in a map should be designed around gameplay. Halo is an arena shooter. It does not need realistic maps, and any complex geometry should have no affect on gameplay (grenades bouncing off of seemingly random and pointless geometry on a wall or doorway).


YEEESSSSS! Speak the truth!

I think thats the main reason I got bored of Reach so quickly: the maps were not beautiful like previous Halo maps. They also didn’t feel like they were made for multiplayer. Bungie said they ripped them from the campaign, but I’m not sure if they designed them for multiplayer first.

I also hated that it seemed like every time I would look for a game in Team Slayer I would get a Forge World map. Playing on Forge World gets boring fast because even though the layout is different, it is the same scenery.

343, please limit Forge World in matchmaking in Halo 4.

And Reach if you can get around to it.