Forge Fundamentals is a series of articles aimed at reviewing the fundamentals of constructing good maps in Forge from our friends at Halo Evolved (formerly Forgehub). If you’re a seasoned Forger, or new to Forge and just want to understand the process of map design, this feature is for you!
We all know a beautiful map when we see one. However, building a beautiful map can be quite the challenge. There are numerous potential obstacles in your way, ranging from dynamic lighting to budget. The most important thing you can do to manage your budget is to use each piece wisely and remain flexible.
There are essentially three possible reactions that players can have to your map's appearance. The three most common reactions to maps are A) I took notice because it looked good B) I took notice because it looked sloppy or C) I didn’t take notice at all.
One of your goals in building a map should always be to create a space that feels cohesive. An important technique that will allow you to achieve that 'real' feeling is implementing a visual theme. This can mean creating a very specific locale like an abandoned town or a space station. I wouldn’t suggest trying to pull something like that off until you are very comfortable with Forge. An example of implementing a theme that is less dynamic, but still very effective in creating a 'real' feeling, is using the same pieces for similar structures throughout your map. For example, something as simple as using one piece for flooring throughout your map and using another piece, or handful of pieces, for walls can make your play space feel like a believable location. Also try to make your piece usage for doors and ramps the same. Basically any type of structure that appears more than once in your map should have a consistent look in all locations.
There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. Something that I have experimented with in the past is giving different areas of a map different appearances. One side of your map could be inside a rock cave, while the other side extends out from the cliff side, and is open aired. Or perhaps on a multilevel map, each level could have its own look. Even in instances where parts of your map look very different from each other, you should still try to be as consistent as possible with things like doors, windows, and ramps. This will create a feeling of cohesiveness. A cohesive appearance promotes player immersion, which is always a good thing.
Another aspect that assists in creating a map that feels real is creating structures that look like they are structurally sound. If you have a long bridge, that bridge should have pillars supporting it from underneath. If you implement a balcony, it should have railings around the edge. When you have flooring or walling that players are able to see the edge of, those floors and walls should look real. Using floors or walls that are thin results in a less realistic appearance than if they were thicker. Whenever possible, flooring and walls should be around the same thickness of a 'short' block. 'Thin' block pieces, or other thin pieces should be avoided whenever possible.
Aesthetics can be used for more than just making a map look good, though. They can be implemented to highlight weapon locations, or can be utilized to assist players with callouts. Implementing weapon holders can be an excellent way to highlight power weapons locations. While weapon holders are essentially only aesthetic touches, they can also impact how well movement flows on your map by making the power weapons locations easily identifiable. Forgers generally address the issue of callouts by color coding sections of their map to differentiate them and to make in-game communication easier. This is a good rule of thumb to follow. However, using aesthetics to allow players to differentiate areas of the map from each other can work just as well, or even better. Using a visual theme that incorporates a different look for each area of the map can make color coding completely unnecessary. Even if you go with a consistent theme throughout the map, there are ways to help players distinguish different parts of the map from each other. You can build one side of the map next to a towering cliff. While the actual map may be exactly the same in both structure and piece usage on both sides of the map, that towering cliff would make it very easy to determine where you are on the map, and make in-game communication very intuitive. When playing on a map for the first time, if a player makes a callout referring to the 'cliff base', you will immediately know which part of the map he or she is talking about, whereas if they called out 'red base' it may take you a moment to figure out which base is being referred to.
Individual creativity can really help set your map apart from others. Don't forget that you have more than just structural pieces at your disposal. A Dominion base terminal can be a great weapon holder. Extraction crates are an excellent way to add color to your map. Dominion base shields are perfect for color coding teleporters. Base stripes make for good railings. Use all the tools available to you, and think outside the box. See if you can use an object in a way nobody has ever used it before. Be as creative as you can with your aesthetics, but also be consistent and make your structures look realistic.
Next week, we’ll wrap up this feature looking at the total package.