Terminal Moraine 2v2


Designer Notes

Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Terminal Moraine:

While I did some development on several of the icy maps, Terminal Moraine was the only Harvest world skirmish map that I developed from start to finish. Based on a layout design by Ensemble game content designer Vance Hampton called "Bridge", the core play concept involved Forerunner hard light bridges like those in the Artifact campaign scenario. Players could toggle these bridges on and off. During testing and development, this play feature changed into timer-controlled bridges, but the idea of isolating resources from ground-based forces in the early to mid game (by way of temporary bridges) stayed.

Up to this point, the ice-style Harvest skirmish maps all focused on frosty Forerunner artifacts. I looked for a story I could tell about the human occupation of Harvest and found it in the smoldering ruins of the campaign's Alpha Base. My map concept relied heavily on images clipped from map screen-shots and very little on detailed painting. The point of this was to quickly tell and sell the map's story and show how (for the most part) it re-tasked existing resources. Re-tasking was important because most of the modeling team would be assigned to player units and campaign assets until the last month or so of development.

I started map development by literally copying and pasting a large chunk the Alpha Base ruins into one corner of the map. This established a particularly unique landmark in that corner. These large landmarks in skirmish maps help players immediately know where they are and and let them navigate from point to point by in-game visual references. Ideally, each "corner" of any skirmish map is visually unique, and this was my design goal with Terminal Moraine. I enlarged the original layout to allow for "sculpting room" around the map edges, allowing me to better define features. Otherwise the playable area would jam up against the map edges on all sides, leaving little "art space" in the map. The two Forerunner platforms actually ended up needing that edge space to accommodate later game design changes.



In the final stage of development, Terminal Moraine became the poster child for memory-related performance issues. Between the multitude of textured models brought in with the Alpha Base ruins, the necessary Forerunner objects, the variety of terrain textures I thought necessary (originally), and the detailed sculpting of portions of the map, Terminal Moraine was spilling over its memory budget in every direction. One of the reasons that all these complex, memory-intensive assets could work without difficulty in the campaigns, but caused serious problems for skirmish map developers was that campaign maps had to worry about fewer player assets. Campaign maps (particularly the maps early in the game) used an intentionally limited number of player and enemy A.I. controlled units. But skirmish maps had to handle ALL of the UNSC units, ALL of Covenant units (and sometimes the Flood units too) AND up to three active enemy A.I. players. That meant tighter restrictions on memory available for map development.

As one of the last artists allowed to "touch" game assets, I spent the final weeks of development optimizing the skirmish maps for shipment. Though I had to be heavy-handed with Terminal Moraine, it kept the essential flavor of the original visual concept.

Paul Jaquays is a former Ensemble Studios artist who now develops games as Senior Level Designer for CCP North America.





Multiplayer Notes

Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars:

Terminal Moraine is another one of those maps that I played a lot of during the playtesting of Halo Wars. It starts you off right next to your teammate, and there aren't too many hooks on the map, only a pair of Reactors on the "islands," making this one of the tighter maps in terms of space and resources.

I've always tried to take the Island base across the lightbridge first, even though there is a Rebel base right next to my base. This allows me to cap the reactor and have the possibility of a turret or two up on the island making it fairly defendable.

Given the maps broken up middle, I find air to usually be very strong on this map. You can do hit and runs on an opponent's forces and run back to your island base to regroup and repair. The small map lets you hit enemy bases or defend your very quickly with air forces.