Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Crevice:
Memorable game maps spring from a melding of design intent and fortunate accidents. It can begin with an innovative design layout, perhaps pushing a tried and true layout from an earlier RTS in a new direction. It develops as designers attempt clever, but technically risky game play gimmicks. It takes final shape with art that pushes the envelope. For every map that succeeds, there are likely to be two (or more) that fail, stumbling, and then falling never to rise again on the path to production. Crevice was a map that stumbled more than once, fell, yet got back up and kept going.
Crevice a.k.a. Crevasse, etc. started with the earliest pack of map designs. It was one of the first maps I worked on as I shifted from model-making to map making on Halo Wars. Like Repository it began as a Shield World Interior (aka "Halo style") map. Given the "circular" layout and how Forerunner artifacts were originally placed on the map, it was sometimes confused for Repository. Not the best thing if one is trying for memorable.
Good maps are often built around a "gimmick," some game play function or activity that needs to be supported or encouraged. Initially, this gimmick was "Transport." The center of the map had an isolated central platform with a valuable forerunner artifact that could ony be reached by air-lifting army out to it. Coincidentally, it was also a strategic position upon which artillery pieces and turrets could be placed (this was pre-modular bases). Through the early stages of Halo Wars development, the Transport feature waffled between unsatisfactory functionality and simple unfunctionality. Long before Transport became a working feature, the notion of using it in Crevice had been discarded.
Despite this stumble and near fall, Crevice survived because it had an intriguing layout of start positions. Players, both allies and enemies, began relatively near each other towards the center of the map. To reach an enemy, players had to go away from them first to the outer portions of the map.
During development, Crevice shifted from the inside of the Shield World to the outside. To achieve this, I painted over a screen capture of the current version of the map, sketching out ideas for details on notebook paper. The design rework of the map had turned the central platform into a big hole. I suggested changing this into a playable area, a partially buried circular Forerunner platform. One feature I wanted to play up was the "bouncy-ness" of the warthogs, so where possible, I sculpted in small steps and shelves into the terrain. The UNSC portable bridges were adapted from the early campaign maps (via a quick paint job that turned snow to yellow dust) and retasked on this map (kudos to artist Don Gagen for both the original bridge and the clean-up for this map).
The switch to Shield World Exterior brought with it two new game play features centered around the Flood creeps infesting the map. The First, and core concept was "the Flood come out at night." Art created a day and night light-set for the map. Programming implemented a way to cycle and blend between the two light sets. Design built complex, yet elegant paths for flocks of flying flood to follow, focusing on the foundation locations of the player bases.
It worked. It was beautiful to behold. It was a serious game play challenge. Yet it completely flushed game performance down the toilet and ultimately, had to be abandoned.
The second concept was related to the first, that of the Flood Slayer, a mobile Forerunner artifact, player-capturable and controllable (possibly a vehicle or a super sentinel). I don't remember this going much beyond the idea stage, though there may have been something built for it (super sentinels eventually appeared in other maps). I definitely never got the chance to play test it.
Another idea abandoned, another stumble, even a fall. But it was not a failure. By this point Crevice was a a nearly complete production map well on its way to completion and despite the failed Flood features, was still a fun map, and just as important, a memorable map.
If I have any regrets on this one, it's that we didn't get to implement those awesome toxic slime waterfalls into the map.
Paul Jaquays is a former Ensemble Studios artist who now develops games as Senior Level Designer for CCP North America.
Duncan Stanley, Community Manager for Halo Wars, on Crevice:
Crevice can be a confusing map, since there aren't any direct paths from each teams starting location to the opponents bases, except by air. There are plenty of extra bases on this map for expansions, as well as 4(!) reactors across the map. Given the large distance and creeps in between everything, it is usually a good idea to team up with your ally to capture objectives.
I usually go for the reactor near the Flood expansion near me and occupy that early on. It gives me a bit of early warning if my opponent comes at me that way, and the extra tech is very nice as well. I also try to take that base early, since it's the closest expansion to the opponents main base. If I manage to get it, I try to make that base my unit producing one, so that my opponent is pressured constantly. You do have to be careful of air units coming at you over the very short gap between bases though, anti-air turrets or a Wolverine or two are very helpful on this map.
If I know that the game is going to drag on, and it's going to be a big battle for the Flood-expansion, the 2 free bases inbetween my ally and me are also a great resource to use. If I can convince my opponent to live with just his 1 flood expansion, I can sometimes get both of the back bases, and churn out a bunch of air units to harass my opponents while my ally takes out their bases. Crevice is a pretty good non-standard map for trying new things.