Archive:Halowars.com/Skirmish Maps/2v2 Maps

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This is a word-by-word replication of the original page at Halowars.com. As such, any errors or irregularities are simply carried over from the original page.

Beasley's Plateau 2v2

This is a 3D overhead view of Beasley's Plateau from the Halo Wars website.

Programmer Notes

Chris Stark, Programmer on Halo Wars, talks about his strategies on Beasley's Plateau.

Beasley’s Plateau is probably one of my favorite 2v2 maps. The wide open space gives me plenty of room to maneuver and sneak my army up next to the enemy base before they realize I’m coming. One of my favorite tricks on Beasley’s is to use my scout and a couple of friends to sneak over and grab unused sockets at the start of the game. It’s a great way to get my econ boosted, or start cranking out troops right next to the enemy.

I always try to make sure to take out sockets on the way to the enemy base, that way it’s harder for the enemy to regroup. However, I also like to just attack the sockets with a few troops, and then move the bulk of my army around the other side of their base. As soon as they get their troops over to defend the sockets, I rush in and take out their base.

Designer Notes

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Justin Rouse, a skirmish map Designer, gives us one of his tactics:

I like going with a Forge infantry rush on this map because of the extra building sockets near the starting bases. I quickly clear the rebels there and build 2 supply pads on the those sockets. The extra resources allows me to pump infantry and warthogs at the same time. I use this force to get over to the enemy’s free standing sockets since many players will build on them quickly and use the extra buildings to tech/boom faster. If I can take down these buildings I can usually put my opponent into a hole off the start. At that point, if I can keep the pressure on them they’ll begin to crumble.

The other notable thing to do on Beasley’s is to get the Life Support hook in the center. The mistake a lot of people make is they go for this too early in the game. This hook is extremely powerful (+20~25% to total max pop with reinforcements upgraded) but its power will go unused if you acquire this hook before you’re ready to use the population space. You should always wait until you’re near pop cap before fighting the tough rebels at this location, but even if you can’t make use of the pop room its still a good idea to make sure you’re in control of it and not your enemy.

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Crevice 2v2

This is an overhead view of Crevice from the Halo Wars community site.

Designer Notes

Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Crevice:

Memorable game maps spring from a melding of design intent and fortunate accidents. It can begin with an innovative design layout, perhaps pushing a tried and true layout from an earlier RTS in a new direction. It develops as designers attempt clever, but technically risky game play gimmicks. It takes final shape with art that pushes the envelope. For every map that succeeds, there are likely to be two (or more) that fail, stumbling, and then falling never to rise again on the path to production. Crevice was a map that stumbled more than once, fell, yet got back up and kept going.

Crevice a.k.a. Crevasse, etc. started with the earliest pack of map designs. It was one of the first maps I worked on as I shifted from model-making to map making on Halo Wars. Like Repository it began as a Shield World Interior (aka "Halo style") map. Given the "circular" layout and how Forerunner artifacts were originally placed on the map, it was sometimes confused for Repository. Not the best thing if one is trying for memorable.

HW Map Crevice early version.jpg

Good maps are often built around a "gimmick," some game play function or activity that needs to be supported or encouraged. Initially, this gimmick was "Transport." The center of the map had an isolated central platform with a valuable forerunner artifact that could ony be reached by air-lifting army out to it. Coincidentally, it was also a strategic position upon which artillery pieces and turrets could be placed (this was pre-modular bases). Through the early stages of Halo Wars development, the Transport feature waffled between unsatisfactory functionality and simple unfunctionality. Long before Transport became a working feature, the notion of using it in Crevice had been discarded.

Despite this stumble and near fall, Crevice survived because it had an intriguing layout of start positions. Players, both allies and enemies, began relatively near each other towards the center of the map. To reach an enemy, players had to go away from them first to the outer portions of the map.

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During development, Crevice shifted from the inside of the Shield World to the outside. To achieve this, I painted over a screen capture of the current version of the map, sketching out ideas for details on notebook paper. The design rework of the map had turned the central platform into a big hole. I suggested changing this into a playable area, a partially buried circular Forerunner platform. One feature I wanted to play up was the "bouncy-ness" of the warthogs, so where possible, I sculpted in small steps and shelves into the terrain. The UNSC portable bridges were adapted from the early campaign maps (via a quick paint job that turned snow to yellow dust) and retasked on this map (kudos to artist Don Gagen for both the original bridge and the clean-up for this map).

The switch to Shield World Exterior brought with it two new game play features centered around the Flood creeps infesting the map. The First, and core concept was "the Flood come out at night." Art created a day and night light-set for the map. Programming implemented a way to cycle and blend between the two light sets. Design built complex, yet elegant paths for flocks of flying flood to follow, focusing on the foundation locations of the player bases.

It worked. It was beautiful to behold. It was a serious game play challenge. Yet it completely flushed game performance down the toilet and ultimately, had to be abandoned.

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The second concept was related to the first, that of the Flood Slayer, a mobile Forerunner artifact, player-capturable and controllable (possibly a vehicle or a super sentinel). I don't remember this going much beyond the idea stage, though there may have been something built for it (super sentinels eventually appeared in other maps). I definitely never got the chance to play test it.

Another idea abandoned, another stumble, even a fall. But it was not a failure. By this point Crevice was a a nearly complete production map well on its way to completion and despite the failed Flood features, was still a fun map, and just as important, a memorable map.

If I have any regrets on this one, it's that we didn't get to implement those awesome toxic slime waterfalls into the map.

Paul Jaquays is a former Ensemble Studios artist who now develops games as Senior Level Designer for CCP North America.

Multiplayer Notes

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Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars, on Crevice:

Crevice can be a confusing map, since there aren't any direct paths from each teams starting location to the opponents bases, except by air. There are plenty of extra bases on this map for expansions, as well as 4(!) reactors across the map. Given the large distance and creeps in between everything, it is usually a good idea to team up with your ally to capture objectives.

I usually go for the reactor near the Flood expansion near me and occupy that early on. It gives me a bit of early warning if my opponent comes at me that way, and the extra tech is very nice as well. I also try to take that base early, since it's the closest expansion to the opponents main base. If I manage to get it, I try to make that base my unit producing one, so that my opponent is pressured constantly. You do have to be careful of air units coming at you over the very short gap between bases though, anti-air turrets or a Wolverine or two are very helpful on this map.

If I know that the game is going to drag on, and it's going to be a big battle for the Flood-expansion, the 2 free bases inbetween my ally and me are also a great resource to use. If I can convince my opponent to live with just his 1 flood expansion, I can sometimes get both of the back bases, and churn out a bunch of air units to harass my opponents while my ally takes out their bases. Crevice is a pretty good non-standard map for trying new things.


Docks 2v2

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Designer Notes

Justin Rouse, Designer on Halo Wars, talks about his strategies on Docks.

Iterations: The_Docks, our city map on arcadia world, was a difficult map to create because we had to stick to our core gameplay which did not include any building to building fighting which is the usual type of fighting style you see in city based conflicts. We also placed a rule on ourselves that because this map was on Arcadia, in a pristine UNSC city it couldn’t have large forerunner structures in it nor could it have the look of a large covenant presence. This limited the designer of the map a lot because it took away a lot the available in game “hooks” we had available to add to gameplay. What we settled on was a large section of the city of “Pirth” that conveniently had only one passable location in the center to move between two sides. We also added a few covenant towers to help defend this large choke point that can give some flavor to the large battles that usually occur in this location.

Tactic: Because of the choke point and decent travel time from one side to the other early in the game, it’s pretty safe too boom up. This is why I really like using Cutter and elephant/marine rushing on this map. If I can setup my Elephant near the enemy bases and get it pumping I can slow down their boom sometimes, even keeping them off the open base location near their start area while my partner boom/techs freely. This tends to leave me behind the curve a bit but I can still get to ODST’s and just support my teammate until we can get the win.

Multiplayer Notes

The Layout of the Halo Wars Multiplayer Level "The Docks" from a side view.

Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars, on Docks:

Docks was a map that I hadn't really playtested much on during development. I was usually playing Campaign missions or 1v1 games, so I never really got into many 2v2 matches. When Halo Wars first launched I was online playing Multiplayer games every night after work to get out there and talk to people in game and get a feel for how the Community was going. I was doing pretty well, about 14-0 in 1v1 games, when all of a sudden I found myself on Docks. It's a 2v2 map, but due to a glitch was in the 1v1 hopper for a time. While the game was loading, I looked up my partner's game stats on HaloWars.com so I could see what he had built in previous games. This tactic was usually pretty good, as I could build a counter without even scouting!

Unfortunately my tactic only works if my opponent doesn't adapt to my strategy. I had pumped out a few Flame Marines and built a turret and was waiting for resources to expand to one of the many free bases on docks when my opponents Brute Chieftan showed up with a few packs of Brutes. A melee ensued and my units got crushed by his skillful micromanagement and kiting. I was pumping out more marines, and my turrets were having an effect, when a Banshee showed up, and then another, and then another. I had spent too much time countering his ground units that I had completely forgot about the huge wall in the middle, and the necessity of air units. To end this quickly, he wrecked me. I was too confident that since I knew what he was going to try, that I didn't really try to adapt. So don't be too confident!


Labyrinth 2v2


Programmer Notes

Chris Stark, Programmer on Halo Wars, talks about his strategies on Docks.

During the development of Halo Wars, I did a lot of work on the teleporters in the game, including the ones on Labyrinth. Teleporters sound awfully easy to write, don’t they? Unit goes in one side, unit appears on the other side, done! Sadly, there are a variety of fun edge cases that have to be dealt with. One of my “favorite” teleporter bugs that came up during development resulted in units going through the teleporter leaving tire tracks going across the entire map.

Behind the scenes in Halo Wars, when you move a unit to a new position, it’s interpolated, so when I moved the unit across the map to the other teleporter, it was interpolated across the map. When vehicles move, they leave tire tracks, so presto! Tire tracks across the map. Admittedly, it was pretty funny but nothing we could ship. Fortunately, fixing this was as easy as turning the interpolation flag off when a unit went into the teleporter and then back on when it reached the other side.

Multiplayer Notes

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Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars, on Labyrinth:

Labyrinth is one of my favorite maps, mostly because it was the one that was Dave Pottinger (Halo Wars Lead Designer) demo'd on G4TV at E3 2008. If you haven't seen it, you definitely should look for the video online, it's one of the funnier game demos I have seen. It brings a new meaning to turkey bacon.

As far as gamplay goes, Labyrinth was one of the maps I played most while playtesting. There was a really good challenge the designers set for us, which was fastest time to beat 2 Legendary AI players in a 2v2 skirmish. The Skirmish AI is pretty good at keeping you from having both natural expansions at the same time, so it was always a back and forth for me and I usually ended up losing until I had one of the balance testers as my partners. He showed me that having a good defense, only going for 2 bases total and going for air on this map is very effective, given that it takes quite a while to traverse the map. Trying to keep and hold both expansions can be tough, so take your time and get a good foothold before going for both.


Repository 2v2


Designer Notes

Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Repository:

Repository was the first map that we took to a completed, beautified state. To sell the idea of large-scale combat in the Halo setting, we needed a map that boldly said "Halo" with features familiar to players (and more importantly, the makers) of the original Halo settings. The point of this map was not to tell a story, but to send the message: "Ensemble Studios can do Halo."

The Ensemble Studios method of operation was to get the game up and running as quickly as possible and then to iterate changes during development. This map had "iteration" as its middle name. The initial design from Vance Hampton called for a large lake with crossing paths through it. The idea was that the lake would reflect the sky and a Halo rising through it. No Halo artifact actually appears in Halo Wars, but we wanted to reinforce the idea of "Halo" in any way possible. The water tech wasn't quite ready for prime time, so we looked for alternatives. I suggested the idea of a large Forerunner artifact across a deep pit for the crossing. Ensemble modeler Rob Walden built it and development was off and running.

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Early 2007 saw the first completed version of Repository (then called "the Halo map"). Primarily developed by Ensemble artist Patrick Thomas, this was a land of subtle terrain blending, muted colors, narrow paths, rough terrain, and the unrestricted placement of bases and other buildings. Players captured Forerunner power stations to earn resources. Very little of what can be seen in this map survived into the final game. The effects guys put a lot of effort into river that runs through the map, including the appearance of moving water, waterfalls, and spray. But the game was about to undergo an extensive refit, resulting in play much closer to the final version and the need to totally rework this map from the ground up. The river, sadly, became an early victim to those changes.

The decision to go with modular bases (all structures as attachments to the main base building) and the need for obvious, simple, wide pathing in the skirmish maps forced the team to make a hard choice. Scrap this map or rebuild it from scratch. Paths were laid out again by design, and my in-depth involvement with Repository began. Eventually, it became like a second home for me as play changes required tweak, after tweak, after tweak ... a process that went on for easily a year and a half.

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The new "rules" for maps required specific locations for player bases, linked by clear paths. Paths were widened, terrain textures repainted and simplified, and large open areas flattened to become the new homes for player bases. Less map space could be used for unique terrain features. Drawing from a number of sources, including other Halo Wars maps, the E3 Demo, and Halo plant images by concept artist Won Choi, my paint over showed where I wanted to take Repository (it was still called the "Halo" map at that point). We had proved the point that we could do Halo, so this just needed to be an interesting map. I wanted to get across was that the large Forerunner structures would be the map's navigation landmarks. One full edge of the map had a Forerunner chasm. Another edge was defined by a massive building with a half-open door (adapted from the E3 Demo). One half of the map had natural canyon walls and paths. The other had metallic walls and roadways.

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The concept painting was the work of an afternoon or so, but the work on the map itself would take weeks, spread out over months. A new central platform that I adapted and scaled up from one made by artist Matthew Goodman for the Artifact campaign scenario replaced the original. Ensemble artist Don Gagen did the final polish on it and other the other Forerunner artifacts. The lake shown in the paint over initially made it into the map—you can see it in some of the many early screenshots made in Repository. But, as often happens during game development, it was eventually sacrificed to performance issues, losing the one truly unique landmark in the map.

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Paul Jaquays is a former Ensemble Studios artist who now develops games as Senior Level Designer for CCP North America.


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Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Robot Entertainment, on Repository:

Repository was one of the most played Playtest maps for me. Ben Donges and I would often team up to take people on in playtest on this map, and as I recall we were one of the first play a 1v1 no rush on this map and went head to head with full pop armies. Before the game was optimized for performance, it was a bit rough but a lot of fun. Some of the early iterations had problems with random crate placement, and I ended up with all of the crates on the map directly in front of my main base. I think I won that one.

As far as strategies go, the circular nature of the map and the distance in between starting locations often means a good bit of time goes by before the first attacks happen. And the narrow entrances towards each base make turrets a powerful defensive measure. I usually make a push early to capture an expansion very early on, and try to boom a bit to get some units. The Hook in the middle is a great way to get some veterancy for your units by killing the defenders and get a unit or two. A lot of people also don't expects through the hook since the defenders are pretty tough, so it can make a great way to surprise someone's lower base.


Terminal Moraine 2v2

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Designer Notes

Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Terminal Moraine:

While I did some development on several of the icy maps, Terminal Moraine was the only Harvest world skirmish map that I developed from start to finish. Based on a layout design by Ensemble game content designer Vance Hampton called "Bridge", the core play concept involved Forerunner hard light bridges like those in the Artifact campaign scenario. Players could toggle these bridges on and off. During testing and development, this play feature changed into timer-controlled bridges, but the idea of isolating resources from ground-based forces in the early to mid game (by way of temporary bridges) stayed.

Up to this point, the ice-style Harvest skirmish maps all focused on frosty Forerunner artifacts. I looked for a story I could tell about the human occupation of Harvest and found it in the smoldering ruins of the campaign's Alpha Base. My map concept relied heavily on images clipped from map screen-shots and very little on detailed painting. The point of this was to quickly tell and sell the map's story and show how (for the most part) it re-tasked existing resources. Re-tasking was important because most of the modeling team would be assigned to player units and campaign assets until the last month or so of development.

I started map development by literally copying and pasting a large chunk the Alpha Base ruins into one corner of the map. This established a particularly unique landmark in that corner. These large landmarks in skirmish maps help players immediately know where they are and and let them navigate from point to point by in-game visual references. Ideally, each "corner" of any skirmish map is visually unique, and this was my design goal with Terminal Moraine. I enlarged the original layout to allow for "sculpting room" around the map edges, allowing me to better define features. Otherwise the playable area would jam up against the map edges on all sides, leaving little "art space" in the map. The two Forerunner platforms actually ended up needing that edge space to accommodate later game design changes.

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In the final stage of development, Terminal Moraine became the poster child for memory-related performance issues. Between the multitude of textured models brought in with the Alpha Base ruins, the necessary Forerunner objects, the variety of terrain textures I thought necessary (originally), and the detailed sculpting of portions of the map, Terminal Moraine was spilling over its memory budget in every direction. One of the reasons that all these complex, memory-intensive assets could work without difficulty in the campaigns, but caused serious problems for skirmish map developers was that campaign maps had to worry about fewer player assets. Campaign maps (particularly the maps early in the game) used an intentionally limited number of player and enemy A.I. controlled units. But skirmish maps had to handle ALL of the UNSC units, ALL of Covenant units (and sometimes the Flood units too) AND up to three active enemy A.I. players. That meant tighter restrictions on memory available for map development.

As one of the last artists allowed to "touch" game assets, I spent the final weeks of development optimizing the skirmish maps for shipment. Though I had to be heavy-handed with Terminal Moraine, it kept the essential flavor of the original visual concept.

Paul Jaquays is a former Ensemble Studios artist who now develops games as Senior Level Designer for CCP North America.

Multiplayer Notes

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Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars:

Terminal Moraine is another one of those maps that I played a lot of during the playtesting of Halo Wars. It starts you off right next to your teammate, and there aren't too many hooks on the map, only a pair of Reactors on the "islands," making this one of the tighter maps in terms of space and resources.

I've always tried to take the Island base across the lightbridge first, even though there is a Rebel base right next to my base. This allows me to cap the reactor and have the possibility of a turret or two up on the island making it fairly defendable.

Given the maps broken up middle, I find air to usually be very strong on this map. You can do hit and runs on an opponent's forces and run back to your island base to regroup and repair. The small map lets you hit enemy bases or defend your very quickly with air forces.

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Memorial Basin 2v2

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Designer Notes

Justin Rouse, Skirmish on Halo Wars, talks about the design of Memorial Basin

Memorial Basin, the map based on a design of “excess”. The goal, instant action. First, the close proximity of players starting locations is the number one driving force causing players to mix it up with each other early. Second, hooks! There is an abundance of them littered all over the map. There are Reactor hooks tucked safely behind each team’s starting location, while Supply Elevators and extra Building sockets line the sides of the map between enemies. Cover locations scattered throughout the middle are good for mixing things up defensively or offensively.

Lastly, there are the extra base locations which are further from your enemy than your starting location and more importantly, unguarded. This allows players to quickly make the decision to expand and execute it with little hindrance. Without the worry about clearing creeps away from the base first, nor excessive raiding because of its close proximity to a player’s starting location, we found players were trying all sorts of strategies based around when to expand. At the end of the day this map is about aggression, and that’s exactly how we wanted it.

Multiplayer Notes

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Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars:

Memorial Basin is a great DLC map, a real change up from other maps in terms of strategy. Both teams are directly across from each other, making it really easy to hit and run. The open bases are great to grab early and get it going. I usually try to make my second base my economic base and my first base my unit producing base. All of the extra hooks lying around the map are also great to grab giving you a good bonus, and denyng your opponents any advantage.

Always go grab the bunch of crates in the middle, building an extra scout to scoop them up can be really helpful. The cover in the middle of the map is a bit of a red herring, most of the action in my games happens around the outside of the map. It can be good to garrison some infantry in there just as a scout, though, in case your opponents go over the middle. Grabbing the extra building slots around the outside of the map and putting in a unit producing building is a great way of quietly building a small force to harass your enemies base while your main force is elsewhere.