By Suit and Tie
MLG’s Halo: Reach v3 Settings, which will be used at MLG Dallas, include two community-Forged maps: Nexus, by DeathstarsOG and Unoverrated, and Element, by Pulsekiller. We sat down with all three Forgers to get their reactions on being chosen, learn a bit more about the maps’ backstory, and find out exactly how excited they are at the prospect of seeing the pros playing on their maps.
MLG: Welcome, everyone, and thanks for joining us. First off, how did you three get started in the art of Forging?
Unoverrated: Before Halo 3 came out, I used the TimeSplitters (PS2) map editor. It was the first one I had ever messed around with and I learned a lot from it. Then Halo 3's Forge came around. I liked it because Halo was a more competitive game and I could build maps that people would actually play on—but I didn't like how long it took to build maps, so I pretty much gave up on that. Then Halo: Reach came out and I put my map creating skills back to work. Forge 2.0 is so much better—I love it.
DeathstarsOG: To be completely honest, I started my Forge career in the days of Foundry building Zombie maps… I didn't start doing competitive maps until a friend of mine showed me Lockdown. That map started my interest in real map design—thanks, Nexn.
PulseKiller: I started back in the good old days of Halo 3 before Foundry. I used to make race tracks and mini-games, as they were essentially the only things you could do back then. When Foundry came out, I made a bunch of crappy maps but did not really get into Forge until I played on Onslaught and Amplified in the MLG Playlist. Once I saw those, I got involved with the MLG community and started making competitive maps.
MLG: Is map design something you could see yourselves doing as more than just a hobby in the future?
DeathstarsOG: I went back to school because of my passion for it. I would love to become a fully-fledged level designer and maybe even a project manager one day—who knows, maybe [I’ll] even start my own studio.
PulseKiller: I have always enjoyed map designing, and while it would be great to pursue for a future career, I am not sure how realistic it is. It seems as if it is extremely difficult to make a solid living in it. I plan on studying Computer Engineering at college next year and I would love to explore some gaming classes while I am there, but as of now I have not looked too much into it.
Unoverrated: Yeah, I actually just changed my major to Game Design and Development this semester. I really enjoy making multiplayer maps and hope I can continue doing so as a career. I was previously in Engineering, so I'm pretty good with computers and 3D modeling and such.
MLG: Cool stuff. Moving on to MLG's newest maps, how does it feel to have something you created deemed worthy of tournament play by MLG?
PulseKiller: Ever since I really got into Forging in Halo 3, I have always dreamed of getting a map on the Circuit, and it is extremely satisfying to have finally made it there. I have put a ton of time into Forge throughout both Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, so it is really nice to see that hard work pay off.
DeathstarsOG: As a Forger on the MLG forums, I think almost everyone's ultimate goal is to have their map on the Pro Circuit. The day I was told that Nexus would be used for MLG settings, I think I was sort of in shock that I finally built something worthy of [being played by] the pros day after day. As Pulse said, it's nice to see the hard work finally pay off.
Unoverrated: When Deathstars first told me, I immediately felt like, "yes, I did it!" It is every MLG Forger's ultimate goal. I have been Forging almost every day since Reach came out, and I don't regret it one bit now. Only two maps out of hundreds of great maps made it, so it really makes you feel like you did something special.
PulseKiller: I would definitely agree with feeling a sort of shock when I found out. It was kind of weird when my map was picked up, because up until its inclusion in the MLG settings, it had received less attention than any of my other released maps.
DeathstarsOG: There were tons of great maps that were tested. Tons.
Unoverrated: The best feeling was watching pros play it and not complain every two seconds.
DeathstarsOG: I still believe the MLG forums have the most talented Forgers in the entire Forge community.
PulseKiller: Yeah, it is great to know that MLG felt that our maps were better than a lot of the other amazing maps that were made. I have no idea how they made that decision—to me, it would be impossible.
MLG: Are you excited to see how the top teams adapt to your creations come tournament time?
PulseKiller: That is something that I am definitely interested in seeing. I always tell people that I feel that the best maps are those that have room to develop over time. If a map plays the same tournament after tournament, then the design is too simple. I am really interested to see how both of our maps develop, since I know that none of us really have any idea as to how our maps will play in a tournament setting with money on the line.
DeathstarsOG: Most definitely. We generally try to build our maps to withstand the highest level of play possible. It's very hard to do this without knowing what the pros want, as they're not the most vocal in the Forge community. Watching VoD and seeing how they play, mixed with the knowledge we've obtained by trial and error, seems to be the best way to achieve this. Hopefully they enjoy themselves during tournament time on our creations. After all, we did build these maps for them.
Unoverrated: I've actually been watching a lot of streams and pro gameplays of the maps. It's really weird to watch pros set up and play the map way differently than we intended it to be played. Not saying that they are going about it the best way, but just how they think the map should work. When we designed Nexus, we really tried to balance the whole map. So it's funny to hear pro players say that this or that area is the best. It’s kind of hard to see exactly how a map will play; Dallas will be the true test.
PulseKiller: Let's hope that they both play well enough to stay on the Circuit!
Unoverrated: History says they will, and hopefully more Game Types will be added to them [smiles].
DeathstarsOG: Nexus King of the Hill for v4!!!
MLG: PulseKiller, Element bears a striking resemblance to former series staples Warlock and Wizard. Did you have either of these maps in mind during the Forging process?
Unoverrated: [laughs] I knew this was coming!
PulseKiller: Unfortunately, people like to claim that my design is a "remake" or "successor" to Warlock and Wizard, but that is not the case. The original version of this map was actually quite different from the one currently in the settings. The middle platform on the map used to be lower than the top bases, and there were ramps from the top of each base to top middle. After feedback, I decided that this made top middle too much of a transition area and less of a power position, so I scrapped the ramps and raised top middle.
MLG: Interesting. Can you take us through your motivation for Element and the process of getting it to the version we see today?
PulseKiller: I designed the map back in Halo 3, a few months after Sandbox came out. I had wanted to design a four-base map for a while, but I wanted it to stand out from the rest. In order to achieve this, I lowered top middle and added the ramps to the bases. The map was being Forged by one of my friends in Halo 3, but was never completed. Then when Reach came out and I heard about the arena map submission, I decided to Forge it. The original design had railings around the top of the bases, and top middle was lower than the top bases with ramps leading from the bases to the middle, with much more enclosed areas between the bases, a very open bottom middle, and a concussion rifle top middle and no Active Camouflage or grenade launcher. I tested this map a lot in the brief period between its creation and the submission deadline, and with help from some other Forgers and testers I made a lot of changes to it a few days before the deadline. I liked the way it played better with all of the changes, so they stuck. Then when MLG asked me to remake the map outside and open up the ceiling in order to make the map less grey, I made bottom middle slightly more covered and reworked some of the cover. Thus, Element as you now know it was created.
MLG: DeathstarsOG and Unoverrated, it's your turn to take us through your process and give us your inspiration for creating Nexus.
DeathstarsOG: Nexus was the second map [Unoverrated] and I worked on together. Our first project, Evolution, was a fun design and we worked well together. Coming into Nexus, I started on a design I had wanted to build since I first loaded up Halo: Reach. The intention was to build a great base design that would lend itself well to the Assault Game Type. With the design of the top bases, naturally flag spots were great additions as well. Once I got [Unoverrated] on board with this design, it really all just fell into place. The release version was built in just three days. We used inspiration from great maps like The Pit and Midship to get a style of play that was completely original and lent itself well to all Game Types. Nexus hasn't seen much revision since the original release. The only real adjustments from the released version to the MLG version were to weaken the strength of the top bases and other slight (mostly unnoticeable) tweaks to weapons/aesthetics. The balance that was added from that update made sure that everything had a counter. Sniper's counter is top green, top green's counter is the top bases, and the top bases’ counter is grenades/grenade launcher [smiles].
Unoverrated: The day after we released Evolution, I got on Xbox Live and saw [DeathstarsOG] Forging. So I joined his session and saw about a fourth of what was to become Nexus. He had a base pretty much done and then we decided on what to do from there. We really wanted the map to look different, not just a giant blob of grey. All I hear from players is, "all Forge maps look the same." So we really tried to incorporate as much color as possible. To do that we opened up the top of the map so you can see the sky, we kept some water in, we added grass to the green pockets, and we built one side out of rocks. With one side visually different from the other, callouts became a lot easier, and it's also very easy to tell where you are.
MLG: Is the process any different because there were two of you working on the map instead of just one?
DeathstarsOG: Co-Forging has its positives and negatives. The negatives are that you won't always agree with each other. One person may want to go one way with the design, and the other the opposite. The positives are that when you both agree on something, it's usually the best option. Bouncing ideas off of each other while building is invaluable. I don't know how many times I've done something thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, only for someone else to come in and show me a better way to do it. I think we mesh so well because we're always looking to build something great. We both spend a lot of time on the details to add that extra polish to our work. As for this specific project, at least one of us was almost always working on the map around the clock to get it ready for the submission deadline.
Unoverrated: Deathstars and I are the greatest combo since Saturday and Sunday. He can think up the greatest ideas, and then I can pull out all the right pieces to make it happen. Every single time we Forge he'll say, "Hey [Unoverrated], come over here and tell me what you think of this." Basically what I hear is, "Hey [Unoverrated], I need you to find a better way to do this." We also have a similar sense of humor, so we don't get mad at each other. It is really important to not get mad at each other—we don't always agree but we always come to a conclusion. When Killa KC told us to put the finishing touches on Nexus and send it to him, we sat there for 30 minutes trying to find the perfect piece to fit a spot. Although it was frustrating, we knew we could make it happen.
MLG: Nexus has been chosen to play Slayer while Element will play Slayer and Capture the Flag. Do you feel that these were the best Game Types for your maps?
DeathstarsOG: Nexus King of the Hill > Nexus Assault > Nexus Capture the Flag > Nexus Slayer > Nexus Oddball
PulseKiller: Element was really designed just to be a well-rounded arena map that could essentially play anything. I have always felt that it was a strong Slayer map, since its small shape and circular flow lead to a fast-paced Slayer Game Type, but with the objective Game Types it was really up in the air as to which was the best. Capture the Flag plays well and is very fast-paced, but it has some spawn problems that are difficult to fix. King of the Hill is an extremely fast-paced game and I personally enjoy it a lot, but it’s currently gone from the settings so it could not be added. I feel that it would play Assault rather well, but that was never tested as heavily as the other Game Types. I also think it plays Oddball well and it is a fast-paced Oddball map, but I personally do not like Oddball on four-base maps as it is more about running with the ball than it is getting a setup, and I prefer the setup-based play for Oddball.
Unoverrated: Honestly, Team Slayer is my least favorite Game Type on Nexus. The only time we ever played it was to allow players to get a feel for the map so we could run objective Game Types. King of the Hill is by far my favorite, along with Capture the Flag on Nexus—they play just like The Pit in a way. Unfortunately there are only 11 Game Types on the Circuit, so the Bungie-made maps hog all the objectives [frowns].
PulseKiller: Yeah, the lack of Forged maps in split-screen at this point in time really hurts what Game Types could be chosen. I also feel that Nexus is a much stronger objective map, but I still feel it plays Slayer well.
MLG: Aside from Nexus and Element, what other maps have you three been responsible for?
Unoverrated: Along with DeathstarsOG: Evolution and Virtue. On my own: Solace.
DeathstarsOG: On my own: Transit, Fiction, and Cargo.
PulseKiller: So far in Reach, I have also Forged Leviathan, Cynosure, and Shelter. Leviathan was the second map featured on MLG, and it is ancient by Forge standards. Cynosure is an asymmetric map that I made in Halo 3. It is a King of the Hill map at heart, and I personally feel that it is one of my strongest designs, but it unfortunately has not received a large amount of attention in Reach. Shelter is a unique design that I made that was recently released, and I am hoping people give it a chance.
DeathstarsOG: Wait, Uno…weren't you the guy that made that bad Sewers map?
Unoverrated: [laughs] Yeah.
PulseKiller: The name was fitting. [smiles]
MLG: [laughs] Do any of you have any new designs in the works that we can look forward to?
PulseKiller: I have actually run pretty dry on ideas at the moment. I am going to be taking a break from any serious Forging for a while and relaxing with some StarCraft 2. I will still get on from time to time and may release a map or two, but as of now I have nothing planned.
DeathstarsOG: I've been trying to get Uno to work with me on a remake of one of my favorite Forger's maps from Halo 3—not sure how willing he is, though.
PulseKiller: Ohh. What map would that be?
DeathstarsOG: It's a secret.
PulseKiller: You would.
DeathstarsOG: If you're gonna Bungie-stalk me though, it'll be called "Homage."
Unoverrated: I have two maps in progress right now. One is a Colossus inspiration that I am co-Forging with A Diaper Rifle, which is almost done. The other one is a secret map that I am doing alone. After I finish these up, I will be taking a break from Forging. I am going to be coaching my good friend KINNZE's team. So I really need to get better and learn the game again. But I will be back during the off-season.
MLG: Thank you for your time, guys. Now's the moment for any closing comments, if you have them.
PulseKiller: I would really just like to thank MLG for choosing my map over the mountain of submissions that they got. I would also like to thank everyone that helped me test Element in its infancy (the two people that stick out in my mind are Solo XIII and Champloo). I really hope you guys enjoy the map! Also, if you have the time, please stop by the Forge forums to download and discuss some of the maps. We are always looking for new members into our relatively small community, and we appreciate any feedback (as long as it is constructive) and any downloads we can get. If you are looking to get into Forging, it is a great place to start.
DeathstarsOG: I just want to thank MLG for giving us this opportunity and seeing the potential in our designs. After getting a map on the Circuit, the only other thing left to accomplish is to become friends with some of the pros playing our maps [smiles]. Also, big shoutout to Dawkins and Schnitz —Nexus would never have made it without your support!
Unoverrated: Thanks to everyone that helped test Nexus and get it to where it is today. Special thanks to Deathstars for Forging with me. Also, good luck to all the other Forgers out there, especially Nexn, Seven Oh Three, Vanish III, and Hikaru X—you guys are unbelievable. Also, thank you to MLG for noticing all that the Forge community does for Halo.
DeathstarsOG: Oh, and shoutout to PulseKiller for making it to the big time!
PulseKiller: [laughs] Right back at you, buddy!
Unoverrated: I'll just pat myself on the back.