Well, I'm going to be at it again. Halo 4 is out next week and I want to build something in Forge.
The "something" will likely be a rebuild of my REACH Megalith map with requisite upgrades.
I've already begun investigating improvements to the original Megalith construction. I started by not being a cheap-ass gamer. I bought "SOLVING STONEHENGE, The New Key to an Ancient Enigma", 2008 by Anthony Johnson. This book is chalk full of ancient surveying techniques, real surveys, photographs, diagrams and logical insight into the construction of Stonehenge.
Using my new book, I found out some of my educated guesses for the Trilithon Horseshoe were incorrect. I came very close to replicating the positions but not good enough.
This picture shows where the Trilithon should have been positioned. It also shows where a missing Bluestone horseshoe upright should have been. I assumed there were 20 Bluestone uprights and positioned them symmetrically. Turns out there were 19 but the one I didn't know about was broken and buried.
I sincerely hope I can build a bigger and more interesting Megalith in Halo 4. REACH Forge did not provide enough objects and resources to build what I wanted. Even if it did, the frame-rate would have gone down the toilet. I have already experimented with merging ideas from my Halo 3 Stonehenge and REACH Megalith. I also included a feature from one of JTGJR007's maps. Just ideas for the moment.
I can hardly wait to get cracking!
I'm trying an experiment for Halo. It doesn't involve Clans. It does involve any 2old2play.com member who wants to play Halo in a specified way and in a specified time slot.
If you are interested, just get on somebodies FL that is playing with this group. Alternatively you can send a XBL message to me or another involved person with the the text Inv in it.
I understand some people are going to wonder, "why Clanless"? Well, I have come to the opinion Clans create too much segregation on 2old2play. I no longer see the posting privacy inside a Clan forum as being an asset. Facebook, Twitter and other services should be enough for these personal affairs. I'd like to see Clans at the very least, open up their boundaries completely to other 2old2play members. It'd be better for 2old2play if Clan members posted their gaming stories in game specific forums, joined discussions in Off Topic and other topic specific forums. Perhaps that will help jump start this whole site for the better.
Clans have both good and bad sides to them and I've seen both over the years. I certainly appreciate the good parts.
2old2pwn has been a great association for me. Seven years of Clan nights! Seven years of of saucy bad ass behavior that I just love participating in! But my experiment conflicts with Clan membership and so I have unregistered myself.
If my experiment fails then I'll look to a Clan/Group option again but it will be a completely open one.
I kind of wish XBox Live had better options for handling groups. What a pain in the butt.
This Contest has ended.
I have 5 Map pack codes to give away. Please check out The Halo Series forum.
Before I get going I should show you the overall population numbers during the project period.
In this chart you can see the total number of Unique Users in 24 hours for all playlists. Also included are the total number of players online at 8:00pm Eastern. You will notice that the peaks align with weekends and valleys align with mid-week. Also noticeable is that the general population was higher at the beginning of the month, stabilizing slightly lower and then a dip at the end. The dip aligns very well with the GEARS 3 Beta and the COD Black Ops map pack release.
This project first began by collecting data for the comparison of the TEAM CLASSIC and ACTION SACK playlists. Although both playlists started off with similar populations TEAM CLASSIC lost population the quickest and remained consistently lower throughout this project period. On May 3, both playlists were updated with new features but only ACTION SACK increased its population as a result. My opinion is that TEAM CLASSIC should have been removed May 3 for at least month if there was any intent at all to attract population to this type of playlist. ACTION SACK on the other hand responds well to changes in the diversity available from REACH.
Here I show a comparison between TEAM CLASSIC and a select group of successful playlists. TEAM SLAYER is the highest populated playlist and I will use it in the remaining charts for comparative purposes while keeping the charts consistent in numerical scale. The LIVING DEAD playlist just boggles me. I had no idea it was so popular. Also surprising was GRIFBALL. Playlists like this need proper care and attention. These are a special breed of player and if they weren't in these playlists where would they be? Another game?
Amongst all of the REACH playlists some are specific to this product release. They will not likely ever be removed since they represent the new core features of REACH. It would be like admitting an idea failed. No need to remove any anyway. Some like FIREFIGHT ARCADE are very popular.
Here I present the remaining playlists. I also included GRIFBALL again, either because I had a great idea or I made a mistake. Go figure. In any case the population in these playlists is consistant. They are difficult to follow in the chart so I hope you don't have the same colour discrimination issues I have.
When I first read about the TEAM CLASSIC playlist and associated CLASSIC MAP remakes, I was a bit concerned. Here was Bungie actively giving support to the desires of a group of people who would return HALO REACH to the stone age if they could. I was kind of pissy about it actually. So pissy in fact, it spurred me to start collecting daily population statistics for that playlist and another one called ACTION SACK. I figured I'll post the results and show "them" what happens when you put up a playlist that caters to a HALO minority.
So, hard work gets you over the hump of being pissy. It ain't easy collecting and presenting data correctly. In order to compare playlist populations from day to day you need to collect the data at the same time each day. Bungie only publishes the current playlist population numbers and apparently those are updated every minute or so. I chose 8:00PM Eastern time as my time of collection. I figured it was within an hour or so of peak population, was a good schedule for me and would show the habits of the greatest number of HALO REACH players. To that end all but 5 of 38 collections were on time and those were late by 45, 45, 60, 101 and 150 minutes respectively. I kept them in the study because I figured, what the hey.
TEAM CLASSIC started out at 7519 players and dropped like a stone for a week. I was thinking, this playlist is toast and it will soon be a ghost town. Then, the flattening out began. It leveled off and hung around the 1000 mark for a couple of weeks. That is actually a good number to be at. It shows a dedicated number of people willing to play this gametype. Good for me too because numbers like this are not going to change REACH at all. I started rooting for it a bit. I like rooting for the underdogs, scummy as they may be. ;) Maybe the playlist is a very good thing for REACH if these players were to otherwise be playing a different game. Hey, even I can be positive sometimes.
Thirty eight days in and with a bit of sprucing up with a few objectives added and map corrections, we can see that the playlist is not showing well. 400 to 600 is not great. Bungie will have to decide whether to retire this playlist or keep it. It all depends on what effort it takes on their part to maintain it and where those players would go if it didn't exist.
One interesting thing came out of all of this. During this study period I simultaneously collected population numbers for all of the playlists. Yay! Now what?
You'll see. ;)
If there is one thing that attracts me to a multiplayer map, it's that it has a recognizable theme. Something to set it apart from the rest of the pack. Something to help you remember it. That's why I tend to like Bungie's maps over anything else. Each map tells a story. They are grounded in some kind of Halo fiction.
Both my Halo 3 map Stonehenge and this REACH map MEGALITH are grounded in humanity's Neolithic structure we now call Stonehenge. The former map quite obviously tries to look like the modern ruins. The latter tries to look like what would come from a reconstruction using the original design but built to some highly technical standard.
Now here is where I get imaginative (silly).
Keeping with one of the original Stonehenge's assumed purposes, MEGALITH was a place to congregate. I say was because whatever species put it on this ring world no longer seems to be around.
It was used as a place to celebrate life in the sunny outdoors as the structure ran biological diagnostics on each visitor followed by regenerative processes. It is an autonomous device completely solar powered that had been running flawlessly for so long, that no one even knew the technology anymore. They just knew that you would occasionally go there to feel better.
The people who used to congregate at MEGALITH must have been huge. Easily three times our size. A Spartan is literally dwarfed by those benches. These people wanted for nothing. Living in perfect health for many millennia, they began to lose interest in having families. Children hadn't been seen in a very long time and were almost unheard of. I say almost because there was some recognition of a problem by leaders of this civilization. There was always a spiritual leader on hand to greet visitors. They would lead the congregation in ceremonies celebrating life. Words were spoken, encouraging visitors to procreate. They had to be told because their desire was gone. Unfortunately over the millennia, these leaders also did not understand the meaning behind the words. The words were hollow. What they did know was that there were fewer and fewer people coming to this place. Some were known to have expired due to accidents but others just stop appearing. Where did they go? Something needed to be done but no one really cared enough to do anything serious about it. They were very self centered beings by then.
Eventually that species faded away altogether. They did not struggle to live and so, they did not.
MEGALITH is still here though.
The next time you play Halo on MEGALITH. Ask yourself, am I feeling a little bit better having been there today?
Amazing technology. Still running after all these years.
End of silliness.
MEGALITH is just about all that it can be. My single minded purpose of building a Stonehenge reconstruction based on the original Neolithic design and putting a playable map space around it has worked. Whether you like the map and it's effects on game play or not, it functions appropriately. Whether it makes it into matchmaking or not will depend on the rule set given to the Community Cartographer (CC) reps. They don't even have it as of my writing but soon will, they've been told. If there is anything working against it that would be the frame-rate issues present in a 3 way split screen session. If you've played on MEGALITH I presume you haven't experienced such issues during single screen play. I know I haven't seen it or heard of it.
So here are the changes I mentioned. Generally they are quite minimal and some only affect certain game types.
When I first offered up this map for customs, I was in a rush. Remember the Bungie Humpday Challenge? Yup, I thew the finishing touches of the team bases together with a glimmer of hope Bungie might get to play on it. I didn't want to push the idea and waited for a reasonable opportunity to present the idea. Didn't happen. Oh well. In my rush to completion a few details didn't get addressed.
Full mirrored symmetry. That's where half the map is duplicated exactly the same as if seen in a mirror. It was mostly there except for a few things.
The sand bag cover and curved wall spawn hives were not mirrored. So I did it. You will also notice a couple of little triangles just outside the wall. I added these after I saw my buddy Adam West splatter an unfortunate respawner. It pushes the Hogs out from the wall thus reducing the splatter spawn killing. Before left, after right.
The bases on the seaward end were the full width of the map which did not match the spacing on the cove end. No space for change in the cove so I narrowed the spacing of the seaward base. This eliminated potential complaints about timing and distance issues. The lower walkways were centered on both ends to but that doesn't show well in a picture.
Teleporters were added to each base leading to the top outer wall. They allowed a very quick path halfway down the map but not to any power weapons. I added these not only for more varied map movement but also as a pressure relief valve for when you are getting owned in your base.
The central portable shields were deleted and replaced by benches and walls as mentioned in the last Blog. The walls (double windows actually) were added to give a covered view of the enemy but also reward a good marksman. I positioned them such that a Spartan's head and shoulders are above them. A squatted player is covered, except for his feet that is. Even the benches give a little cover.
Teleporters were added for both KOTH and Territories. I have a hill and a territory that are covering the highest points on the map. The only access to them was via Jetpack. Since I can't predict what AA Bungie would put in a playlist I had to do something about it.
Weapons positions were not changed except for a bit of enhanced visibility.
Since this Blog has gotten a little long I'll save MEGALITH's fiction for later.
Thanks for reading. :)
Some would say "good enough" is a lazy person's perfect result. In this case of mine, it is my term for capitulation to issues mostly beyond my control. I am still "Forging" forward but I admit I am pushing an imperfect product.
My solution to the 3 player split screen works but not quite as perfect as I thought in the last blog. I revisited the test and found that a more precise test in same area did produce some frame-rate issues. I only occurs at that location as far as I know. Be that as it may, the map as a whole suffers noticeable problems during a 4 player split. This is even after I deleted all of the portable shields and half of the concentric ring of railings as well as the horseshoe group of railings. Not horrible, but still there. It would be pointless to delete anything else because the Stonehenge reconstruction would then be essentially emasculated. I could just give up now and save everyone in the Community Cartographers (CC) process time and effort. Not without looking for a frame-rate reference first.
So I went looking for excuses to allow my map's imperfections to be "good enough". I figured if Bungie's own products were free of frame-rate issues in a 4 way split screen scenario then I'd have unstable ground to stand on. I fired up REACH in a 4 way split on the map Breakpoint. Immediately off the spawn everything seemed fine and my spirits began to falter. I moved each player to the lower Banshee spawn platform. I pointed each one towards the main mass of the map. Swinging one player's view left and right caused noticeable frame-rate issues. Moderately bad I'd suggest. Would it be wrong for me to conclude Bungie considers this result to be "good enough"? It appears to indicate problems to me. I'd offer direct video proof but the films from the player point of view do not exhibit the problem. I had to capture it off the TV itself. I don't know how to post video links in a Blog so check this link out please.
I now have an excuse, such as it is, for my map's frame-rate performance to be less than perfect. "It's as good as one of Bungie's maps". Well not quite because theirs failed a 4 way split and mine fails with a 3 way split. Adding on to my excuse then I offer a second factor. Bungie's matchmaking playlists frequently do not allow a 4 player split. They call it Max Local Players. Perhaps Bungie will limit this value to 2 or even 1 for the community map playlists. I hope so. Does this mean my "good enough" is acceptable to the CC process? No it does not. Those people in that process will be setting their own bar for "good enough" and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. Power to them for just being involved.
I deleted that new stuff I showed you in the last Blog and the 3 player split test was performing very well. Hmm....
Next Blog will show you some of the other changes to MEGALITH. Depending on it's length, I might talk about MEGALITH's fiction.
As mentioned in my last Blog, MEGALITH (v0.4) exhibited serious frame-rate issues during a 3 way split screen custom game.
Those who have followed my Blog on the Stonehenge reconstruction within MEGALITH might understand I have no intention of changing it for arbitrary reasons. It is what it is. The remaining parts of the map are somewhat open to change. I say somewhat because I am extremely close minded about making changes that I didn't think of myself. I am prideful about being able to call this "my map". Yeah, I have faults.
So what could I do to make this map more acceptable to the Community Cartographer (CC) process? The CC representatives are tasked with finding quality maps and they seem determined not to tarnish their credibility by allowing shoddy maps get through to Bungie. I would be just like them if I were in their position. They are fully aware of frame-rate issues. Knowing my map is playable but has a split screen frame-rate issue, I had to at least try something.
I went into Forge and deleted all of the portable shields and every second railing in the outer concentric ring. Removing the railings was sacriledge because they are part of my documented reconstruction. This was fact finding so I did it. Immediately following this I went into 3 way split screen. The results were very positive. The frame-rate issues appeared to be gone. I am aware that minor frame-rate dropping can be a little subjective depending on the individual. I also could not simultaneously control all 3 players. That would have forced the 360 to work even harder thus uncovering even more issues. I then back tracked a bit and deleted only the portable shields. The results were the same. Yay for me because I didn't have to change the Stonehenge structure.
Now I had to build something new in the middle of the map. It was just too open without the portable shields. I had picked them for cover because they provided transparent cover and added colour. My wife approved of them too which didn't hurt my map making efforts. So I've had this other idea from the beginning and it fits my fiction for this map. Benches like church pews. After all, if somebody came to this structure as part of a congregation, they need a place to sit. So here is my solution. Before is on the left and after is on the right.
Long story short, this solution appears to work for 3 player split screen but a 4 player split does have some frame-rate issues. Does that make the map a strong contender for the Community Cartographer dumpsite? I don't know. I don't want to waste the CC rep's time but I am unwilling to totally give up yet.
My next Blog will be a reference visit to a Bungie map and more pictures.