Frank O'Connor: "This map pack in some ways is one of our first full direct Halo game projects."
Dan Ayoub: "We started thinking about what do we want to do for map packs, when do we want to do them."
Frank O'Connor: "We definitely wanted to pay full service to the universe created in Reach."
Max Hoberman: One big consideration when we were working was, how do we fit this to the fiction?
Dave Prout: All these maps are unique, from the story standpoint, of being places that are snapshots around the Reach universe as Reach is falling.
David Ellis: You're constantly confronted with the fact that there's this beautiful place, but it's not going to be there forever.
BEHIND THE SCENES: DEFIANT MULTIPLAYER MAP PACK
Frank O'Connor: Coming up with a sort of spectrum for a map pack is a really is a really straightforward business at a very high level. You just say, "What do we already have, and what do we need to kind of flesh things out?"
Max Hoberman: Everyone on the right side is working on super top-secret stuff I can't talk about, and then everyone over here is also working on super secret stuff that I can't talk about.
Max Hoberman: Certain Affinity, we're an independent developer down here in Austin, Texas. We're about fifty people now.
Dan Ayoub: That team has a lot of experience with the engine, a lot of experience with Halo. Incredible Halo fans obviously because so many of them have been involved in the games before.
Max Hoberman: On Halo 1 I ended up doing the user interface. Halo 2 I shifted to development. Halo 3 I was multiplayer online lead.
William Fox: So right from the get-go we worked really closely with the publishing team at 343 to identify maps that would make sense in the context of Reach.
Dan Ayoub: It was great because CA was crazy passionate, like these guys just showed up with a huge list, and it was more a quest of "Okay, well we can only make so many of these, so you know let's get to ones that we think kind of fit the fiction, fit the flow.
William Fox: There was a lot of exploration and a lot of collaboration between the two groups.
Max Hoberman: One idea that came to mind was "Wouldn't it be awesome to have a multiplayer map that you can see the planet getting glassed below you?"
Frank O'Connor: Condemned takes place high above Reach on a space station somewhat decimated by a Covenant attack.
Adam Crist: When we started Condemned we wanted to make a map that was really fun for close range, but still had some long range sniping stuff in it.
Max Hoberman: We were looking at Lockout, specifically. What are some of the characteristics about Lockout that we think are so fun and how can we take some of those and do them in a completely new map? Something that really pulls infantry together in a really tight environment?
Adam Crist: It is a circular map. How do we prevent people from just getting in this habit of going in a circle and never meeting each other?
Max Hoberman: The low-grav center, which we experimented with a couple different ideas on. Sort of this one spot where no matter where you are on the map you can always get to the action quickly or you can always get across the map quickly.
Ted Fitzgerald: It does change your gameplay style and things you need to do. You're kind of a sitting duck when you're sitting out there in low gravity, floating around.
Max Hoberman: Well I remember at one point there was a giant energy beam that would come down and if you were standing on that center platform at the wrong time you'd get blasted to smithereens.
Adam Crist: It was just encouraging people not to go into the center of the map, which is the exact opposite of what we wanted to do, so we just removed it.
Dave Prout: The earlier stages of the art pass were dark and much more creepy. If it's dark and industrial, it's really easy to get lost. So over the course of development we decided to brighten the space more.
Dan Mod: To make it still retain a lot of the character we'd originally wanted but to make it work.
Max Hoberman: On a really tight map like Condemned, it's critical that the player's able to orient themselves.
Adam Crist: It actually came down to a lot of art coming in and helping us out and doing color-coded rooms.
Dan Mod: In the common room there's actually a big hologram establishing where it's been damaged and been abandoned.
Dave Ancira: Thinking about it like a facility you would be in, you know what kind of signage would be around that would help you navigate an airport or a hospital or a military base.
Dave Prout: One of the effects that we iterated on the most was the shield door effect. We couldn't make it look like a shield from any other shield effect that you have in Halo because that would communicate a certain functionality. We had to design a new one, and we went through probably four or five different iterations. Some were way too strong and way too distorted, because people want to be able to stand and shoot through the reactor core, so we couldn't do anything that would really obstruct the view.
David Ellis: It's gonna be really fun when people play it the first time and they think they can go their old camping routine at the shield door, and they just get a sticky grenade right in the face and they're gonna drop.
Dave Prout: At the end I feel like we have a map which has a lot of mood in each of the spaces and really feels unique, not just in and of itself but to the rest of all of maps that are in the Halo franchise.
Max Hoberman: We're looking at the story and the fiction and we really want all of our maps to be set in very distinct locales.
Frank O'Connor: Highlands is a military training preserve where certainly Spartans did some training.
David Ellis: We have the guard tower in the middle, judging the War Games.
Adam Crist: The Pelican crash-landed. It had a bunch of SPARTAN-II's on it. The Covenant are coming in and glassing the entire planet.
Dave Prout: The lighting for Highlands was really based around the idea of a forest fire. The closest thing we could come up with to glassing, nearby glassing.
Dave Ancira: In some of the original concepts that we did we were really going for a more of an abandoned training facility. We had vines growing up the buildings and lots of overgrown foliage.
David Ellis: Originally the waterfall that comes down through the middle of the map flowed over and actually kind of hid the gully where the Ghost is in there.
Dave Ancira: While it's very interesting to do that kind of work it doesn't really line up with the Halo aesthetic.
Adam Crist: Sometimes it's really good to just go back to a really simple shape and just get players meeting as fast as possible.
Max Hoberman: From the ground up we wanted to make a giant expanse with bases in it and vehicles in it.
Adam Crist: What's the flow of the vehicles going to be? How are they going to move across the map? And on top of that, how are the infantry going to move?
Ted Fitzgerald: We made it big because we wanted it to be very vehicle-focused.
David Ellis: One of the reasons I think it works well as objective is you have so many different options how to get from point A to point B.
Max Hoberman: It's a weird hybrid of Blood Gulch-style map kind of as a foundation but mixed with these much more complex infantry spaces, and these tighter spaces and all this verticality.
David Ellis: But also having a variety of different locations that you can kind of hide and sneak and kind of make your way through the map and hopefully find the other person before they see you in the sights.
Frank O'Connor: Definitely speaks to the Halo of yore.
Frank O'Connor: The new expanded Firefight support meant that we definitely wanted to put in another Firefight map.
Dave Prout: Unearthed is a really dusty, dry, arid environment.
Frank O'Connor: Reach is an industrial world and its main purpose is a kind of military-industrial outpost at the far reaches of human space.
David Ellis: It's quiet. You can see the tire tracks on the ground where there's been human activity, but it's gone. It's a ghost town. It's a ghost world.
Frank O'Connor: So you're seeing this huge open-cast mining facility with these kind of step plateaus where the minerals are being extracted from the ground.
Adam Crist: The complex itself is built right next to a meteor impact so it made unearthing the titanium really easy. Creating a Firefight map is a very different experience we have to account for all these different types of AI of all different sizes, of all different movement types.
Dan Mod: Phantoms come in and supply the enemies to the outer perimeter.
Adam Crist: Hunters are almost two times the size of a player. When you go to put a door in, can this giant Hunter fit through it? We really wanted to make a map that would allow people to jetpack from multiple levels. We wanted people to be able to armor lock in hallways and block the AI, get them to have to move and do different things.
William Fox: We cater to a wide variety of play styles. If you want to do close-quarters combat, there's opportunity for that in there. If you want to just get in a vehicle and run havoc and run over you know forty, fifty, sixty Grunts, then you can.
David Ellis: They want more vehicle combat in Firefight because that just adds a different dynamic than just being a Spartan on foot.
Dan Mod: There's an inherent like oval racetrack and we have Warthogs, so put two and two together, you can run laps through the map, so there's a little lane through the structure, and then under the bridge and then back around. You can load up with your buddies, get a rocket launcher riding shotgun, and then run laps and just rack 'em up.
David Ellis: Just balling through tons of Covenant. It adds this kind of exclamation point on the excitement, fun that is Firefight.
Dave Ancira: I hope when players first play Unearthed that they take a look around and just feel inspired and in awe of the grand scale of things, because it's a huge map.
William Fox: Unearthed is the calm before the storm. Highlands is the storm itself, you know with all of the Covenant ships and the glassing that's happening right there on your doorstep. And then with Condemned, at the very end, watching it all kind of go up in flames.
Dan Ayoub: This is really something being created by 343 and CA, and just being created by a bunch of diehard Halo fans.
Frank O'Connor: This is our whole business, this is all we're doing from now on is Halo games and Halo support and Halo maps. We have resources, we have people and we're going to through those people and those resources and that talent and that effort to the Halo franchise, and it's a huge responsibility. People should understand that we understand that and we respect that and we're going to do everything that we can.
Dan Ayoub: The community is huge for us in helping us shape what it is that we do next. The more vocal the community is, the more they tell us what they like, the more we can make sure that we try to give them that experience.