Creating New Games in Defined Spaces

I know a lot of you know the Halo series. The Halo series (and the entire universe, because as a huge Halo fan, I’ve read all the books and comics and tried to find out as much as I can about it) is one of my favorite game series, not just because of the story or the gameplay, but also because as of Halo 3 Bungie (the game’s developer) added a creativity aspect to it.

They called it Forge. And not even Bungie knew how it would redefine Halo multiplayer.

At first, people used Forge to simply create new maps for the preset gametypes built into Halo. Then something amazing happened. People came up with their own game types. I remember the first time I loaded up a race track map and thinking “This is amazing!” The game was never meant to support a game like that but the players added it themselves.

This happened to some extent with Halo 2; players created their own “zombies” gametype that Bungie actually added as a game preset in Halo 3. However, this is not nearly on the same scale as Forge which lets players not only the game settings (spawn, lives, team traits, etc.) but also the map itself (spawn, items, weapons, basically everything but terrain).

One of the biggest Forge games is Grifball, a game created by the guys over at Rooster Teeth (creators of the popular Red vs. Blue machinima) as a joke (Grifball is referenced a few times in the series) by modifying game settings and a map to be what they needed. The game took off, and Bungie made it a playlist in Halo 3 and then a built-in gametype in Halo: Reach.

Speaking of Halo: Reach, Bungie outdid themselves with Forge; Forge 2.0, as they call it, takes a lot of features the community “hacked” around (improvising ways to get items to mesh together is just one example of something the community did that ended up as a feature in Forge 2.0).

Something that I’ve been watching for a few months now is called Achievement HORSE (run by the guys at Achievement Hunter, one of the parts of Rooster Teeth) and is the main point of this post.

Achievement HORSE started as a goofy idea between 2 of the guys in the office; what if they both made a few maps with some well-defined goals (make a mine explode after driving along a treacherous track, for example) and played HORSE (like the basketball game). The result was a highly entertaining and creative video featuring two of the guys in the office (Geoff and Jack) that immediately gained a following on their site; within a week they were getting emails from people who created maps for them to use in making the competition videos (Jack and Geoff always filmed the games so they could post them online) and now they have so many submissions that there’s an enormous lag between submitting and them even looking at your map.

This game is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen done with a video game. They took a concept not even remotely built into the game or related to Halo and, with the Forge tools, created their own gametype that is taking off on the internet. The Forge tool in general is amazing just from its map-editing standpoint; I love loading up their huge Forge World map and just building something, whether it’s an actual game space or just something pointless but fun. Things like Achievement HORSE elevate Forge even more! I can guarantee that Bungie never expected people to be playing Horse in Halo (like they didn’t expect people to make art or Rube Goldberg machines), yet people DID. That’s what’s so great about Forge and the Forge community: they took a tool the developer gave them and did things nobody expected.

I love Forge and am proud to be a part of the Forge and Halo communities. It’s a great and unconventional way to express yourself in the Halo universe and game setting.

Your Identity (as Master Chief)

I recently came across an article interviewing Bungie‘s Joseph Staten about the creation of Master Chief, the protagonist of 3 of the Halo games and one of the most recognizable characters in video game history. Here’s the link:

I found it interesting that they specifically talk about the players identifying with Master Chief, that they intentionally left him as more of a blank slate so people would see themselves as Master Chief (I know it worked on me!). Remember Gee’s principle of Identity, that good learning comes from being able to take on new identities related to the task at hand.

The part about Cortana’s evolution intrigues me, too. She started off as a person in your ear, just telling you what to do. But by the end of the 2nd game (even the 1st game, to some extent) you saw more of a human side of her, and that in turn brought out more of the human side of John (Master Chief’s real name).

I initially thought that humanizing Chief more would make him less relatable. However, after I thought about it, I realized it actually made him MORE relatable, at least for me. If the character I’m playing as has no backstory, if he/she is just some nameless person with no personality, I don’t get as attached (this excludes games like Fallout or Oblivion, where you create your character and there is some minimal, general backstory). But when I see that the character acts more like a human, and I can get involved in their backstory (for example, that Master Chief was (supposedly) the last Spartan made him totally awesome, like he was badass enough to survive. I say supposedly because in the Halo books/graphic novels we learn that there are still other Spartan-IIs surviving, and an entirely new program of Spartan-IIIs). The fact that John shows his human side around Cortana, and they have an emotional relationship, made it easier to think of myself as Master Chief.

As a sidenote, if you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy the Halo series. I know there are a lot of people who despise and hate it, but it’s been one of my top game series for a very long time now.

Bungie starting fresh

Recent rumors are that Bungie is starting fresh and getting back into the gaming world sooner than most expected.  What is Bungie you might ask?  Well if you are an avid video game player like myself then you know that Bungie is the mythical creator of one of the most popular series of video games ever made.  The Halo series has become Bungie’s legendary trademark and stomping ground for the past 10 years.  Bungie has featured 5 installments to the franchise and finally called it quits last year when it released its final installment (Halo: Reach).  Many gamer fans might be disappointed to know that Bungie has discontinued their production of Halo, but never fear.  Microsoft has taken over the franchise and has employed 343 Studios to continue to carry out the workings of Halo.  Whether this is good for the series or will cause it to be a flop is yet to be seen.

But enough about Halo.  Lets focus on Bungie.  From humble beginnings Bungie has created one of the largest multi player realms on console systems ever.  While video games existed on the computer before (like WOW and Half Life) Bungie broke through the ceiling with Halo and essentially created Xbox Live.  So what are they up to now that their franchise tag on Halo has expired?  According to inside sources Bungie has been secretly and avidly developing a new game that they hope will even eclipse the Halo tag that will forever be associated with their name.  Activision will most likely be their publisher but it is rumored that the game in question has been being developed for 10 years.  Bungie has called upon hundreds of thousands of gamers to take part in their beta testing of their new product so we will know more once that gets underway.  I for one can’t wait to see what Bungie is capable of in the industry and how they will work to shed their Halo tag.

A few things are for sure about this upcoming game.  It will be a multi platform game, meaning that Xbox, Playstation, PC and possibly even Nintendo will finally all get a crack at what Bungie has to offer.  This is a large step for Bungie as they were always shielded from the Microsoft bubble they were under.  The second thing we know for sure is that the game will have a large multi player online system.  This will come to no surprise as Bungie was one of the pioneers in the multi player console gaming industry.  Finally, rumors are that Bungie has filed multiple filings with the US Copyright Office for names for their upcoming game or even games.  These titles – “New Monarchy,” “Dead Orbit,” “Osiris,” and “Seven Seraphs” were filed last July with the office and unfortunately offer little to no indication for what the game might center around.  I can’t wait to see where Bungie goes next!