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Map Making Guide by CastorCat

Updated: 06/05/09

|How to Make Great Maps|
...a method for Halo 3's Forge...
        by Chris Castor (blackdog.loudcat@yahoo.com)

Table of Contents/Outline

I. Introduction
        A. Glossary

II. Brainstorming
        A. Play Style
        B. Gametype
        C. Elements
                1. From professional maps
                2. From user maps
                3. Scrapped projects
        D. Symmetry
                1. The symmetrical
                2. The asymmetrical
                3. The haphazard
        E. Base Map
                1. Foundry
                2. Sandbox
                3. Other built-in maps
        F. Sketching
                1. Major cover
                2. Large cover
                3. Lines of sight
                4. Spawn points
                5. Details

III. Starting Out
        A. Bare bones
                1. Major structures
                2. Major spawn points
                3. Major cover
        B. The "Test" gametype
        C. Fire testing
                1. Discuss weapons
                2. Discuss spawns
                3. Discuss cover
                4. Take notes
        D. Leave it

IV. Building Again
        A. Scrapping
                1. Reasons for
                2. Bad map or loss of interest?
                3. Finding the gems
        B. Tweaking
                1. Straightening
                2. Adjustments
        C. Arsenal
                1. Good weapon spawns
                2. Equipment
                3. Vehicles
        D. Goal placement
                1. KotH
                2. Territories
                3. Oddball
                4. Team Spawns and Spawn Areas
        E. Live testing
                1. Friends vs. strangers

V. Finish Line
        A. Scrapping
                1. Reasons for
        B. Polish
                1. Straight walls
                2. Fixing errors
                3. Making it shine
        C. Gear adjustment
                1. Why
                2. How
        D. Final testing
                1. The long way
                2. The short way
        E. Publishing
                1. Fileshare
                2. Bungie.net
                3. The Forge Hub
                4. Forums

VI. Tips & Tricks
        A. Placement/control issues
                1. Walls and Blocks
                2. Spawn points
                3. Weapons and gear
                4. Vehicles
        B. Budgeting
                1. Budget glitching
                2. Management
                3. Hard limits
        C. Making it fun
                1. Secrets
                2. Power weapons
                3. Vehicles
                4. Trip mines and grav lifts
                5. Man cannons
                6. Destructables
                7. Naming structures
                8. Powerups
        D. What a map needs
                1. Team maps
                2. FFA maps

VII. Overview/Review
        A. Do not!!
                1. Delete scrapped maps
                2. Plagiarize
                3. Neglect to test.
        B. Brainstorming
                1. Importance
                2. Reasoning vs. Random
        C. Playing
                1. What is fun?
                2. What is unfair?
                3. What is overdone?
                4. Players are jerks

VIII. End of line
        A. Contact info
        B. Credits
        C. Thanks
        D. Legal Junk
        E. Happy Forging
	Too Much Forging?

I. INTRODUCTION                                            Is that a spotlight?
Hello there, I'm Castor (XBL: Chris Castor, blackdog.loudcat@yahoo.com) and I'm
writing this guide for Forging because sometimes it's just hard to come up with
good ideas. I looked around for tips on how to come up with these ideas and
found nothing available but technical tips and general advice. Forging requires
creativity (which I possess copiously) and a keen technical eye (mine was
gouged out at birth). Being abstract and artistic as well as precise and
disciplined is tough, no doubt and makes the process daunting unless working in
a team setting, which I rarely do.
Basically, I had to come up with a method of my own. Here are the results of
this labor. Use this method if you're like me and have trouble with ideas. A
lot of planning and revision (and hours of tweaking) go into my maps as well as
3 testing phases. The testing phases may be three matches or twenty, whatever
it takes to find the mistakes.
Keep in mind that this guide assumes you know how to use Forge features and are
simply looking for a better way to create maps. It's for intermediate users and
up. In the clearest possible terms, this is not Forge 101, it's Forge 201.
I'm only covering methods for Foundry and Sandbox here, but the weapon,
vehicle, equipment and spawner sections apply universally. If you want a Forge
guide that will explain the essentials, check around for Weremidget's awesome 
guide. He's covered just about everything in there and is awesome.
Check castorhalo.webs.com for some advanced tutorials. Join The Casual Spartan
for casual custom games and Halo 2 and 3 fun! casualspartan.proboards.com!
By the way, you're going to need a notebook. ;)

A. Glossary
Here's a few quick terms:
Common Weapons - Small-arms class: Magnum, AR, BR, SMG, Spiker, etc.
Cover - A general term for "crap in the way of bullets"
CTF - Capture the Flag
FFA - Free For All
Large Cover - An immovable object used for blocking gunfire and/or hiding
Major Cover - A large immovable structure usually vital to the map and capable
        of housing several players at once.
Minor Cover - Small movable objects such as barrels and small blocks
Physick - To interact with a movable object (i.e. explosion vs. barrel)
Power Weapons - Heavy-arms class: Rocket, Brute Shot, Sword, Grav Hammer
Spec Weapons - Special effect weapons: Needler, Flame Thrower, Plasma Pistol

II. BRAINSTORMING                                         Grab a pen and paper.
Quick and dirty, brainstorming is often overlooked as a tool in map-making.
I've broken down several things to consider when thinking about what to put
into a map.

A. Play style
Determining how the map is to be played is half of the final result. Do you
want frantic melee in tight spaces or protracted, long-range strategic battles?
Most maps are a good mix of the two, but extremes can be a lot of fun to work
with and are often the easiest maps to make.

B. Gametype
What gametype the map will be used for is the other half of the finished map.
Will it be a free-for-all rampage with lots of weapons or a team-intensive game
with carefully-placed gear and cover? Again, extremes are fun here, but most
maps should try to incorporate all gametypes evenly. Unless it's something like
Grifball or my Showdown series, which are made only to work with their
respective game variants. You'll need a pen, 3 differently-colored markers or
pencils and a notebook.

C. Elements
Elements are the things that make an otherwise plain map into something great.
They can be small like the hidden sniper perches in Last Resort or massive like
the central area in Midship from Halo 2. They are wide, varied, sometimes the
tiniest detail of a given map, but they're always memorable. Think of them, and
make a list. I'm not talking about plagiarizing them directly, but using them
in your own way in a map. There are several sources of elements.

1. Professionally-made maps are great sources of elements. Turf, Midship,
   Ivory Tower and Colossus from Halo 2, Last Resort, Guardian, Snowbound and
   Ghost Town from Halo 3 are my favorite sources of inspiration.

2. User-created maps can always show you something different, if not always
   good. Get them at bungie.net or off match-made players' fileshares.

3. Scrapped projects are the most common source of inspiration for me. It
   happens sometimes that I get frustrated while building a map and just scrap
   the thing because it's become obvious that the map isn't going anywhere. It
   also happens that there's an idea in that scrap. A little feature I can't
   force myself to part with. That's why I don't delete scrapped maps until I
   have used the good bits at least once.

D. Symmetry
This is a MAJOR decision in the map-making process, as it will decide the
overall aesthetic of a map as well as determining the best game types for it.

1. Symmetrical maps tend to be like Coagulation from Halo 2 and Narrows from
   Halo 3. They can also be the "basically symmetrical" style from Valhalla.
   They are the easiest maps to make but the toughest to have fun with. Also,
   speaking technically, they can be tough to put together. Good for (oddly
   enough) symmetrical gametypes such as Multiflag and Team Slayer.

2. Asymmetrical maps like Turf from Halo 2 and High Ground from 3 are great for
   any game that requires one team to attack another's base to achieve a goal
   (i.e. CTF, Assault) or a free-for-all (Slayer) match. They are the easy to
   make, easy to assemble, but tough to make fair. High Ground features a
   heavily-fortified base where the defense starts and an open area with plenty
   of cover and caves for the offense. The teams have the same opportunities
   for weapons, protection and infiltration, however. That balance makes High
   Ground perfect for CTF.

3. Haphazard maps are often asymmetrical maps gone completely awry. They are
   rarely playable, and almost impossible to save. You'll know you've made one
   of these when the testing phases start resulting in one-sided beatings in
   CTF games. To avoid these, test intensively and remember balance while

E. Base Map
Choosing the map to start with as a base is important. First, though, you
should download the canvas versions of these maps, if you haven't already.


Mason Cain's canvas maps are THE standard in blank maps.

1. The Foundry was WONDERFUL when it first came out. Completely customizable,
   it revolutionized the use of the Forge. It's still great today, despite its
   few annoying flaws (slanted walls and the damned divider in the middle).
   Foundry is best for small- and medium-sized games (2-8 and 8-12 players
   respectively) and can be built up quite a bit before the budget (see section
   VI, subsection B, points 1 and 2) kicks your butt.

2. Sandbox is amazing at first glance. The generous central area, the variety
   of pieces. And then you discover the underground... it's about the size of
   foundry's open area. Go back up to the surface and through the teleporter
   and discover the sky bubble, a massive (3x the middle area) floating in the
   sky above a death barrier. The budget is also huge. So what's the problem?
   The hard limit (sec. VI, sub. B, pt. 3). After a certain amount of parts
   have been placed, you'll not be able to place anything else without deleting
   something. Still, it's perfect for making complex maps and simple maps
   alike. You get everything available in Foundry and more.And more of it all!
   The three-tiered layout makes for some unique gameplay situations as well,
   making it perfect for specialized gametypes.

3. Other built-in maps don't have the customization available in Foundry and
   Sandbox, but are still fun to mess around with.

F. Sketching
Sketching your map is very important. It doesn't matter if you can't draw,
a basic idea is all you need to put down. Here's an example of one of my
sketches: http://castorhalo.webs.com/sketch.jpg
And here's the map it ended up as: http://castorhalo.webs.com/massrelay.jpg

1. The major cover areas of your map, that is, any team bases, dominant
   features, etc., are the first things you should sketch out. This will give
   you a better mental picture as well as a physical building guide.

2. Next, use a different color to map your large cover and obstacles. What I
   mean by large cover is immovable objects such as columns, walls and
   boxes/blocks. Sometimes these serve to hinder opposition (a steep slope in
   front of a base, making it impossible to scale) those are obstacles. It's
   important to know where these are to get a good feel for the map.

3. Use another color to map out major lines of sight (from bases, perches,
   turrets). Draw these as a series of lines starting at the point of interest
   and going to the center of every piece of major cover in the area.

4. Yet another color should be used for major spawn points (team spawns, flag
   home and away, FFA respawns in cover and bases). Represent these as dots.
   The respawns should always be in cover (inside a structure, behind a wall or
   block/crate) and out of those lines of sight from the previous point.

5. Now sketch out the details around the map sketch. Details could include a
   base design or a unique piece of cover. Get them on paper, lest ye forget
   them. Even if you don't use them in this map, they'll be there for another.
III. STARTING OUT                                      The first three hours...
So here starts the actual building. This is the good part, the part that
matters. This is where you'll actually have to pick up your controller and turn
on the X-Box. It's the fun part. :)
If that drawing you made is a sketch, then this section will guide you through
making a draft. Again, please make certain that you're familiar with Forge
controls and terms BEFORE using this guide. I will only be writing my method,
I'm not going to stop to explain things beginners may not understand. There are
several excellent FAQs, guides and how-tos for beginners (Forge Hub is a good
Keep your notebook close by.

A. Bare Bones
So now you're ready. You've got it all sketched out, you've got a good idea of
how it's going to look. Let's do this thing. If you do this part correctly, it
only takes 60-90 minutes.

1. First, slap together your major structures. Don't worry about how they look,
   just make certain that they're playable. If it's a symmetrical map, make
   sure everything is basically in-line. This isn't going to look pretty,
   but it's going to give you an excellent idea of how your map is going to
   work later on. Make sure you put in some large cover. Immovable objects work
   well for this.

2. Next, place the major respawn points. These are going to be the Team spawns
   and groups of spawn points at key points in the field such as structures and
   other defendable cover.

3. Finally, place a few bits of minor cover. These are objects that can be
   "physicked," that is, will move or break when hit by melee or gunfire.
   Examples of minor cover in Foundry: barrel, crate, wire spool and dumpsters.
   Examples of minor cover in Sandbox: small block, tiny block and barrier.

B. The "Test" Gametype
You'll need this for my method, because it allows the best possible variety of
weapons on a new map and plays quickly. You'll need at least 3 friends to join
you first. Choose a slayer game, set the Score to win to 10, set the starting
weapons to random. That's it.

C. Fire Testing
Okay, just use the test gametype as above and make some mental notes as you
butcher and get butchered by your friends. About 10-12 rounds of this will be

1. Discuss with the group what weapons seem to work best in what areas as well
   as weapons to avoid altogether.

2. Discuss whether the respawn points leave a player vulnerable.

3. Discuss the effectiveness and overall worth of cover, take suggestions for
   additional cover or complete overhaul of structures.

4. Write everything down and continue to the next step.

D. Leave It!
Okay, this'll be a relief. Let it sit overnight as if it were a delicate cake.
Unlike the cake, the map won't get better overnight, but your mind needs a
chance to recover. So leave it and look at it with fresh eyes the next day.

IV. BUILDING AGAIN                                          Checkpoint... Done.
Well, here's the next step. There are decisions to be made, anal-retentive
tweaking to be done and another round of testing.

A. Scrapping
Well, now you've rested (and if you haven't, DO SO. It helps a lot at this
phase) and you've got a tough decision to make. Take a mature look at your map
and decide either to pursue it or to scrap it.
Scrapping does not mean you delete the map. It simply means you put "SCRAP" in
the name and description and let the map sit in the list until you're ready for
it again. Scrap isn't crap, it's just a map that can't be worked as a whole.
Parts of it may still be good. I've scrapped dozens of maps and recycled the
good parts of them into great maps.
The key to this step is you NEVER try to add to a scrapped map again. It's a
reserve and a resource, not a crutch. If you decide to scrap a map, just start
a new one. No shame in that. Of course, you're on the honor system with that.

1. There are a variety of reasons to scrap a map, none of them involve you
   being hyper-critical of yourself. It's perfectly acceptable to put a map in
   your scrap pile for the correct reason.
        a. Poor concept
        b. Awkward layout
        c. Too many changes (check your notes from the Fire Test)
        d. Bad flow

2. You have to consider another thing when deciding to scrap your map: is it
   really a bad map or did you just lose interest? It happens to me that I find
   my interest in seeing a map finished just dies sometimes. So it goes by the
   wayside until I'm ready to come back to it. Don't scrap one you lose
   interest in, it could come back to haunt you.

3. In almost every map there are gems. Those "elements" I talked about earlier.
   Don't forget about them when you're trying to come up with ideas. If there
   was an area you had a lot of fun with in testing, make a note of it in your
   notebook before you scrap the map.

B. Tweaking
Aw crap. This is my least favorite part. Pinch your sphincter shut and get
ready for some eyestrain.

1. Straighten your walls, boxes, blocks and whatever. In structures you want
   sharp, straight lines and symmetrical angles, place large (immovable) cover
   to compliment these hard lines. Your minor cover should look like it belongs
   where you've placed it and also be functional. A random barrel out in the
   middle of the map doesn't look so good. Also, make any structural
   adjustments mentioned in your notes.

2. Next, you should make any additional adjustments from your notes.

C. Arsenal
Okay. After all that stuff, I usually need a break. And this is it. This part
is often my favorite of the entire process. There are some important choices to
be made and they are made easier if you took notes on what weapons worked well
and where they worked. 

1. Placing weapons effectively can be tough sometimes. The line between too
   many and too few is too obscure to quantify and is up to your judgement. A
   good weapon spawn is easily explained, however. It has to have three
   specific things to work. Without these, it will be an annoying placement and
   can deaden an entire area of your map. There are always exceptions to these
   for the sake of fun, but I'll get into those later. For now, consider the
        a. visibility- make sure the weapon can be easily seen
        b. symmetry- be certain you've placed the same or an equivalent weapon
           on the other side
        c. usefulness- a shotgun is useless in a wide-open area

2. Equipment is new to the Halo series and adds a new dimension of strategy to
   combat. That being said, it can also ruin an otherwise enjoyable firefight.
   A map can be more fun with it or it can be ruined by it. It's up to you to
   decide where to put it. Just keep in mind these few guidelines as well as
   the weapon placement guidelines:
        a. trip mine vs. vehicle is always funny
        b. grav lifts are dangerous in walled-in maps because players can (and
           without failure will) launch themselves over the wall and laugh at
           you- add a ceiling
        c. bubble shields are only good in big maps
        d. deployable cover can be used to block moderately-sized entrances for
           a few seconds- can be good or bad depending on your map
        e. avoid flares and radar jammers, they're awfully annoying- real men
           don't use radar anyway

3. Vehicles are FUN. Period, they take a mundane map with massively open areas
   and turn it into rolling and/or flying death. They also add teamwork to the
   equation and I'll take a good team dynamic over 10 pretty maps. If you're
   building on sandbox and have some open area to fill, just fill it with some
   good shapes to drive over and put some vehicles by the team bases. Of course
   there are some guidelines:
        a. symmetry is key- you'll lose players by giving one side a tank and
           the other a Mongoose with which to fight it
        b. if there is a flying vehicle in each base, add a missile pod to each
        c. Gauss Warthogs are great for dealing with Ghosts and Wraiths alike

D. Goal Placements and Special Spawns
Fair warning: This is tedious. It's also absolutely vital for making your map
function for multiple gametypes. You should do every gametype if you want to
publish your map. Most of them are fairly obvious, but I'll go through how to
make the most of some of the less popular gametypes.

1. King of the Hill is not unpopular, but it is tough to place a good hill
   sometimes. They must be, in most cases, placed in centralized locations and
   never in team bases. They should always be large enough to hold multiple
   people in a firefight and try to keep them away from weapon spawns.

2. Territories is an EXTREMELY underrated gametype. It can be so much fun if
   done correctly. If your map is small, have several slightly larger-than-
   standard territories. If your map is large, have fewer, smaller territories.
   The idea is that mobility is key in small maps and defense is key in larger

3. Oddball is another underrated gametype. Team Oddball is hysterically funny
   and wildly entertaining whereas FFA feels like playing a dull version of
   KotH. To place some of the best ball spawns ever, make them hard to reach.
   A scramble for a grav lift a sharp climb adds to the struggle of the fire-
   fight. Keep the ball spawns out of bases and scatter them evenly around the
   map. This is easy with a symmetrical map, not so much with asymmetrical.

4. Don't forget to place a team's starting point and respawn areas. These can
   break a map if poorly placed. Keep in mind starting points can affect FFA
   Slayer and other gametypes that shouldn't involve them. It's important to
   place them all in each gametype. The respawn areas are where a team will
   MOST OFTEN respawn. They won't usually respawn there, however, if an enemy
   is near it.

E. Live Testing
This is the real test of your map. Post a few requests for testers on some
Halo 3 forums with your Gamertag and wait for replies. It usually doesn't take
longer than a couple of days. Agree upon a time and test the map with them and
your friends. Let them know in the post that you'll be trying multiple team
games as well as full-on FFA war, because you will be. You need to work any
major flaws here. Discuss and take notes as before.

1. The reason you shouldn't play with just your friends here is a classic one:
   they might hold back harsher criticisms. Strangers have no reason to do so.

V. FINISH LINE                        It's like a really annoying boss fight...
Well, here you are. You're just about done. Just a few more hours of work and
then the method's done with, if you get past the first step, that is. This is
the most difficult phase, as the decisions are tougher, the need for correction
not as clear and the quest for perfection more difficult than ever. Ah, well.

A. Scrapping!
More scrapping? Yes, of course! If you're scrapping at this point
it's because something has gone SERIOUSLY wrong in the map-making process.
It's happened to me more times than I care to admit.

1. How this happens:
        a. hard limit- more on those later
        b. budget reached, you're poor- ditto
        c. previously unnoticed major design flaw
        d. completely unplayable- sometimes a good idea goes wrong

B. Polish
It was pretty before, but now it's time to take off the glasses and let down 
the hair and put on the sexy dress.

1. Straighten those walls! Get them standing 100% vertically, perpendicular
   with the floor and parallel with the grid. Take an all-wall tour and make
   certain they're completely flush.

2. Fix any structural errors, equipment mistakes and adjust all lines of sight
   that might have been previously obscured.

3. Do everything you can to add decoration. Place barrels in unused corners,
   make sure there are nice lines throughout the map, place weapons on low
   obstacles like a table to make it seem more interactive. It's all about
   aesthetics at this point

C. Gear Adjustments
So yeah, it looks gorgeous, plays well, but is everything the best it could be?

1. You should make these adjustments for the sake of overall playability and
   simply because you can. It makes your map look finished and makes you look

2. Look around for weapons that no one used (you made notes, right?) and change
   them to more popular or more unusual choices. Is anything blocking a major
   path? A major path for players should be able to accommodate three Spartans
   standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Check for any problems you can think of.

D. Final Testing
Here's the part where you hold your breath. Get your testers back together,
this is either going to be great or it's going to be ugly. Really ugly.

1. The short way to do this is to run through short versions of Team Slayer,
   FFA Oddball, CTF and KotH. These games will tell you all you need to know
   about how you placed your spawn points and can be completed in an hour.

2. The long way, and best way, to do this is to simply play every gametype.
   It takes hours, though.

E. Publishing
HOLY CRAP! If you've made it this far and followed all the steps in my method,
congratulations. This method is specifically made to tear your map down and
scrutinize every bit of it. The chance that a map makes it this far are about
50-50 with failure if the method is followed closely.
So what do you do with this beautiful, shiny, awesome map? Show it off, of
course! There are several places to post download links and quite a few map-
building competitions out there.

1. File share - Halo 3's built-in fileshare is just plain cool. It allows
   anyone that's recently played with you to download whatever is on it and
   play it to their hearts' content. Mine is filled with maps, screens, film
   clips and game variants.

2. Bungie.net - This one goes without saying. Plus, it's the only way you'll be
   able to link to a file on your fileshare. Their forums are a little scary,

3. The Forge Hub - Go here to post your maps, view tutorials and chat with
   fellow Forgers. It's forgin' awesome.

4. Halo 3 Forums - They're all over the place, just look around. ;)

VI. TIPS & TRICKS                                  What a crap magazine it was.
Here you'll find some miscellaneous junk that just didn't fit anywhere else,
but will help make a great map regardless.

A. Placement and Control Issues
This teaches a bit about how to place things and some control tricks to do so.

1. Walls and blocks - For the sake of my sanity, assume "wall" means wall and
   "block" means block (Sandbox) or box (Foundry). Placing these things is
   often tricky and makes a lot of would-be Forgers curse Bungie's very name to
   the fiery pits. It's obvious to use the grids to line up your walls and
   blocks. Equally obvious is the rotation function. What's not obvious is
   first pressing the direction you want to rotate, and THEN tapping the
   trigger quickly. Once you get the hang of it, you'll never make slight
   rotations any other way.

2. Spawn points - Make absolutely sure players spawn safely. It's important to
   have spawn points in secluded and well-shielded locations. Placing them near
   common weapons (ARs, BRs, SMGs, etc.) and grenades is a good idea as it
   makes it easier for the spawning player to recover. And obviously, try not
   to have them spawn facing a wall.

3. Weapons and gear - Where possible, try to prop guns up against walls or put
   them on low cover. That simple thing can give a map a surprising amount of
   depth. Same goes for equipment and grenades. Also, set the [Spare Clip] to
   0 or 1 in the settings for power weapons to prevent too much abuse. It can't
   hurt to set the spare magazines down to 1 on the rare weapons, either.

4. Vehicles - Vehicles should spawn in relative cover for a couple of reasons.
   One, the obvious, to protect the players for the split-second it takes to
   board them. Second, to protect the vehicles themselves from being destroyed
   before the players have a chance to board them. The exception to this is
   unique vehicles such as a lone tank in the middle of a map.

B. Budgeting
One of the limitations for your map, easily the most annoying and common on
Foundry. You'll rarely hit it on Sandbox, however, it has its own problem.

1. Budget Glitching
   At first budget glitching seems like a good idea, being able to place all
   the items you want until you hit the hard limit is great, right? If you only
   play local games and don't enter competitions, it's wonderful. The problem
   comes when you try playing that junk online. See, the memory limits are set
   for each map and are not to be exceeded. When they are exceeded it's at the
   cost of performance and can even boot you and your friends from a game.
   Also, most contests will not allow budget-glitched maps.

2. Management
   Managing your budget is easier than it sounds. A few simple ways to cut trim
   a little off are all you really need. I've done the work for you here. Trial
   and error's a pain. First, don't set the runtime maximum to max on anything
   but grenades. Second, don't use two items where one will suffice as in minor
   cover and large cover. Third, try to be careful about placing too many

3. Hard Limits
   Here's the downside (might I add, the ONLY downside) of Sandbox. The Hard
   Limit or OLN is the number of placable objects on a map at any one time. On
   any other map, this is almost never an issue as the budget cap hits first.
   On Sandbox, however it's a fair bet you'll hit it as you try to make your
   grandiose four-based map with perfectly interlocked 3-floored buildings... I
   know I did. "Could not create object. Too many on map." are words that I
   curse with every fiber of my being.
   The hard limit on Sandbox is around 640. This includes objects placed on the
   default map (around 150, I think).
   Your actual limit if you use a canvas map is not 640, but 640 minus the
   default objects. So, in order to use the full 640 objects you'll have to use
   the ones placed on the map by default. It's a pain, so I just use a canvas
   and tend to be very judicious about how many objects I use. Either way, get
   used to working under limitations.

C. Making it FUN
Playability is one thing. A map can be playable, but bland. While it's kind of
difficult working within the limitations of the Forge sometimes, it's possible
to make a map that much better by adding a few extra features.

1. Secrets are one of my favorites. Small sneak-paths, secluded sniper spots,
   hidden weapons are the easiest ways to make a map more fun to play.
        a. sneak-paths can be achieved floating an object such as a block, huge
           (Sandbox) at crouch-level on its side, it leaves enough room for two
           Spartans shoulder-to-shoulder, and when you cover the open space on
           both sides, it's undetectable, put the entrance and exit in secluded
           locations, here's a crappy diagram: |X|X|X| where |X| is a block and
           O is the crawlspace                 |X|O|X|
        b. secluded sniping spots are another fun touch, the tops of small
           structures and seemingly useless towers are great for this kind of
           thing, add either subtle jumps up to it or make them accessible by
           grav-lift only
        c. hidden weapons are done in much the same way as the sniping spots,
           but should be just slightly more obvious (i.e. glimpsed on a high-
           level jump or put in a seemingly unreachable place, grav lifts are
           good equipment for this kind of thing

2. Power weapons are a great way to add urgency to a map. Usually, I like to
   place them in the center of an open area between team bases to give both
   teams equal access to them. A well-placed rocket launcher can light a fire
   under a team's ass and get them into the fray faster than they figured. A
   vital sniper-rifle on a high platform in a large map is equally great, or a
   big, fat Spartan Laser for vehicle-heavy maps. One to three power weapons on
   a map is plenty and they should make sense to the map's overall theme. A
   small, tight map should have a shotgun or sword or hammer, large maps need
   lasers or sniper rifles, etc. 

3. As I stated previously, vehicles are just plain fun in addition to adding a
   great team dynamic to any team game. Just adding a Warthog and a couple of
   Mongooses to a large map can change the style of play for the entire map.
   Balance is key and too many vehicles on a map can ruin it.

4. Trip Mines and Grav Lifts are fun and often hilarious. We've all seen a
   video of a player saving his own skin by tossing down a grav lift in front
   of a charging Warthog and sending it  soaring harmlessly overhead. In
   Campaign, I still take out Choppers by deploying trip mines in front of them
   when they charge. It's much more spectacular than gunning the brutes off the
   back. In multiplayer, you can deploy a trip mine on a vehicle respawn spot
   or near a vehicle to sometimes get a multi-kill when the enemy tries to take
   it. These are great and often underrated. Smart players will thank you. 

5. Man Cannons can be a great way to have fun with a map. The obvious use is to
   cover distance quickly. The fun use is to use it as a Fusion Coil launcher.
   And many a battle has been interrupted on Valhalla by a miracle grenade
   thrown into the man cannons on the bases. Man cannons also leave a player
   completely open to attack while they're in the air. Just ask my good friend
   Dragon Voyager.

6. Destructables such as pallets, concrete barriers and fusion coils as well as
   small objects that can be physicked such as barrels, small blocks, and
   anything else that is guaranteed to go flying when hit with an explosion are
   excellent additions to any map. They add an element of danger and excitement
   and are a lot of fun if placed in areas where they'll be regularly hit.

7. This one almost didn't make it in, but here it is: create major and large
   cover that players can easily name. If you're using sandbox, this is a cinch
   because of the lights and colored pillars. Good examples are Red Base, Blue
   Base, East Tower, West Tower, The Spire. This helps teams communicate and
   helps to make your map more "in-touch" with the individual players.

8. Powerups are often overlooked but can liven up any map. What would Guardian
   be without the Active Camo to make it interesting? It would just be green.

D. What a Map Needs
There are certain things almost EVERY map requires and here they are:

1. A map made primarily for team games has its own set of needs versus a map
   made primarily for FFA. Team maps usually need:
        a. intelligent symmetry is a judgement call, here's the deal: asymmetry
           is HARD, it has to be basically even in a team match and this
           requires extensive testing but can be awesome, while symmetrical
           maps are easier to make, more common and easiest to make pretty
        b. bases - at least 2 bases are needed, they can be structures or
           secluded pieces of land and must be a safe place for teams to
           respawn, they come in two types: weak (minimal cover and weapons)
           and fortress (easy to defend, lots of weapons) and both have their
           advantages for combat- and objective-based gametype
        c. centerpieces can make a map and are often the most memorable part of
           a map, in many cases they hold a vital weapon or goal, others are a
           substitute for weak bases in being a large, easily defensable
           structure with respawn points and lots of weapons and cover,
           especially good for tactical games
        d. sometimes goals need to be customized for symmetric and asymmetric
           gametypes, don't forget to do this if its necessary

2. A primarily FFA map has a different set of requirements, so I'll list those
   as well:
        a. lots of varied weapons and grenades are vital here to keep players
        b. plenty of minor cover is necessary as it both keeps players safe and
           adds to the excitement when it blows up
        c. decent large cover allows for more tactical gameplay for players who
           like that sort of thing, don't leave them out
        d. fun centerpieces help a lot in adding to the experience of your map,
           making it more memorable and more likely to be downloaded over and
        e. for FFA, asymmetry is almost always preferred for the varied terrain
           and gameplay it provides.
        f. a lot of players (I can include myself in that group) find "patrol"
           routes and stick to those to earn frags, don't leave them out either
        g. camping is unavoidable, but spawn-killing is easy to get around,
           just make certain you've placed spawn points in secluded areas and
           placed a ton of them
        h. this goes with point g, place lots of respawn points all around your
           map, the more spawn points, the more of your map will be seen and
           the more likely a player is to respawn safely

VII. OVERVIEW/REVIEW                For those too lazy to read the whole thing.
Okay, folks. If you take nothing else away from this guide, I want you to take
the following things away from it.

A. Do Not!!!
There are a few things you should never ever do. Here they are.

1. Do NOT delete your scrapped maps until you've reused the best parts of them
   in another map. It hurts nothing to leave them scrapped. Except the 100-
   custom-content limit, that is.

2. Plagiarizing is a stupid thing to do and you WILL get caught at it.

3. Do NOT neglect to test your map for any reason at all. It's a mistake and it
   will almost always lead to a big pile of crap.

B. Brainstorming
I know the whole brainstorming thing seems kind of elementary, but it's
essential to the creative process.

1. Brainstorming as I've described in this guide almost always leads to new
   ideas and it always leads to a better map. Elements, symmetry and sketching
   are especially important. It's easier to build a map around a few great
   elements than to come up with brand new ones. Deciding the map's symmetry is
   just as important to the process, as it tends to bring things together for
   the sketch. Sketching gives you a chance to decide the total layout of the
   map and gives you a building guide for the thing.

2. Maps created from thin air without any planning can be good. Or they can be
   awful. There's no in-between and very little chance that they'll be anything
   better than just "good." This is where the deliberate reasoning process of
   brainstorming is essential. Reason vs. Random, there ya go.

C. Playing
Theory is all well and good, but how is it in practice? Is the map truly fun to
play or is it dry? Consider these things after each playtest and you'll figure
it out.

1. What's fun about it? Which elements were complimented? Which areas saw the
   most use? What of those things was thought poorly of? These questions are
   vital when deciding to scrap a map or simply revise it.

2. What's unfair? Are both teams basically even in access to weapons and
   vehicles? Is anything too unbalanced? Do the spec weapons fit the situation?
   These apply heavily to asymmetric maps.

3. What's overdone? Are the bases too extravagant? Are there too many weapons
   clustered together in a particular place? Does this map NEED any aircraft or
   vehicles? Are my power weapons good for this map? This is both a balance and
   budget set of questions.

4. Players are jerks. It's important not to forget that they'll do anything
   they can to subvert your work. Grenade-jumping walls, squeezing through tiny
   gaps, exploiting weapon spawns. Ceilings, solid walls and clever weapon
   spawns are good countermeasures.

VIII. End                                              Jeez... over already? :P
Well, here's the end. All the usual junk is here, so enjoy.

A. Contact info
I am most available on my e-mail blackdog.loudcat@yahoo.com
My XBL Gamertag is Chris Castor
If you want my phone number and home address, tough.
Feel free to contact me with any corrections, questions, comments or about any
maps made with my method.
I'm planning on adding a Practical Theory section for maps made with this
method. Please include a link to the map, a picture of your sketch and notes
and a bit about you.
Anyone interested in serious collaboration (not allowing the building to
degenerate into a firefight) should contact me. I know what I'm talking about
and am interested in meeting other people who likewise know what they're
talking about.
Feel free to check out my website: castorhalo.webs.com for some tutorials!

B. Credits
GameFAQs, for being awesome and remaining free.
Bungie, for making Halo and more specifically, the Forge, Foundry and Sandbox.
The Forge Hub, for being a continuing source of information and inspiration.

C. Thanks
To Nicola, my wonderful lady, for being as patient and supportive as anyone
could expect you to be with my geeky ass.
To Zach/Dragon Voyager for being a map testing pro and my best friend.
To Weremidget for being so gracious in his e-mails. 
To everyone who reads this and is helped by it.
To James Mascaro for spotting a REALLY stupid typo. :)

D. Legal Junk
This is, to the best of my knowledge, an original work. Don't steal.
Copyright (c) 2009 Chris Castor
If you wish to use it, in full or in part, please e-mail me and ask permission.
Include in the e-mail the website on which it is to appear and which
section(s) are to appear.
It may not be used to gain financial profit of any kind.
I reserve the right to deny anyone permission to use this guide for any reason.
Plagiarism is illegal, foo'. Give credit where credit is due.
I'm in no way affiliated with Bungie Studios or any of its subsidiaries, nor
Microsoft or any of its subsidiaries.

The following sites are authorized to carry this guide:
If you see my guide elsewhere, please let me know.

E. Happy Forging
Thanks for reading my rambling, stumbling guide. I must say, it's been tough to
write this document. If it were simply a technical guide, it might not have
been a problem, but that is not the case. It's a guide to theory with a little
technical thrown in, rather like a thesis paper in some ways. I hope I've
managed to make my ideas plain to you, I've tried to leave as little as
possible obscure. There's no reason it shouldn't help anyone in need of ideas
and there is very little fault in my method. If, for some reason it didn't help
you, please feel free to get in touch and tell me why. Constructive criticism
is always welcome.
Hopefully you've had hours of fun with the Forge and this guide will simply add
to that. I know it has provided the time equivalent of WEEKS of enjoyment for
me. I cannot stress enough that if you have found fault (technical errors,
unintentionally redundant sections, unclear bits of advice, etc.) that you
should contact me.
If you have anything to contribute to this guide, please do so. In fact, ANY
constructive feedback is needed. I stress constructive. If you think I'm an 
idiot, feel free to tell me, but only if you want to tell me why in a couple of
paragraphs. :P
The point is, really, to just have fun and enjoy what you're doing. That's what
it's all about. And if your creation makes other people happy, that's a bonus.

                          I am, most sincerely yours,
                                 Chris Castor

You know you forge too much when...

...you get irrationally angry at the monitor's shield bar for not being

...you start thinking buildings you see in terms of walls, double walls and

...every complex bit of real-life architecture makes you cringe.

...you see a brick fallen from its masonry and wonder how they're going to get
        it back in there without tearing the whole wall down.

...you can pull off a perfect 90-degree turn with one flick of the control
        stick, place a wall flawlessly in a second and create a perfectly
        interlocked recreation of the bases from Coagulation, but when
        questioned about the day of the week, have to check the calender.

...you start referring to everything as being either "correct," or "$#@!, I
        have to start again!"

...the loops must be perfectly symmetrical when tying your shoes, so both the
        plastic bits at the end of the laces have equal access to the knot.

...grid patterns make you feel a little better about everything.

...mazes make you cry on sight.

...you seem to have lost several hours and are very hungry, but have two maps
        ready for testing.

...you measure time in "wallgrids," the amount of time, on average, it takes to
        place a wall in line with the grid, flush it with the previous wall and
        make sure it's at the correct angle. Tying shoes takes approximately 2
        wallgrids for each shoe.

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