Repository 2v2

Designer Notes

Paul Jaquays, Skirmish Map Artist, talks about developing Repository:

Repository was the first map that we took to a completed, beautified state. To sell the idea of large-scale combat in the Halo setting, we needed a map that boldly said "Halo" with features familiar to players (and more importantly, the makers) of the original Halo settings. The point of this map was not to tell a story, but to send the message: "Ensemble Studios can do Halo."
The Ensemble Studios method of operation was to get the game up and running as quickly as possible and then to iterate changes during development. This map had "iteration" as its middle name. The initial design from Vance Hampton called for a large lake with crossing paths through it. The idea was that the lake would reflect the sky and a Halo rising through it. No Halo artifact actually appears in Halo Wars, but we wanted to reinforce the idea of "Halo" in any way possible. The water tech wasn't quite ready for prime time, so we looked for alternatives. I suggested the idea of a large Forerunner artifact across a deep pit for the crossing. Ensemble modeler Rob Walden built it and development was off and running.

Early 2007 saw the first completed version of Repository (then called "the Halo map"). Primarily developed by Ensemble artist Patrick Thomas, this was a land of subtle terrain blending, muted colors, narrow paths, rough terrain, and the unrestricted placement of bases and other buildings. Players captured Forerunner power stations to earn resources. Very little of what can be seen in this map survived into the final game. The effects guys put a lot of effort into river that runs through the map, including the appearance of moving water, waterfalls, and spray. But the game was about to undergo an extensive refit, resulting in play much closer to the final version and the need to totally rework this map from the ground up. The river, sadly, became an early victim to those changes.

The decision to go with modular bases (all structures as attachments to the main base building) and the need for obvious, simple, wide pathing in the skirmish maps forced the team to make a hard choice. Scrap this map or rebuild it from scratch. Paths were laid out again by design, and my in-depth involvement with Repository began. Eventually, it became like a second home for me as play changes required tweak, after tweak, after tweak ... a process that went on for easily a year and a half.

The new "rules" for maps required specific locations for player bases, linked by clear paths. Paths were widened, terrain textures repainted and simplified, and large open areas flattened to become the new homes for player bases. Less map space could be used for unique terrain features. Drawing from a number of sources, including other Halo Wars maps, the E3 Demo, and Halo plant images by concept artist Won Choi, my paint over showed where I wanted to take Repository (it was still called the "Halo" map at that point). We had proved the point that we could do Halo, so this just needed to be an interesting map. I wanted to get across was that the large Forerunner structures would be the map's navigation landmarks. One full edge of the map had a Forerunner chasm. Another edge was defined by a massive building with a half-open door (adapted from the E3 Demo). One half of the map had natural canyon walls and paths. The other had metallic walls and roadways.

The concept painting was the work of an afternoon or so, but the work on the map itself would take weeks, spread out over months. A new central platform that I adapted and scaled up from one made by artist Matthew Goodman for the Artifact campaign scenario replaced the original. Ensemble artist Don Gagen did the final polish on it and other the other Forerunner artifacts. The lake shown in the paint over initially made it into the map -- you can see it in some of the many early screenshots made in Repository. But, as often happens during game development, it was eventually sacrificed to performance issues, losing the one truly unique landmark in 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 Robot Entertainment, on Repository:

Repository was one of the most played Playtest maps for me. Ben Donges and I would often team up to take people on in playtest on this map, and as I recall we were one of the first play a 1v1 no rush on this map and went head to head with full pop armies. Before the game was optimized for performance, it was a bit rough but a lot of fun. Some of the early iterations had problems with random crate placement, and I ended up with all of the crates on the map directly in front of my main base. I think I won that one.

As far as strategies go, the circular nature of the map and the distance in between starting locations often means a good bit of time goes by before the first attacks happen. And the narrow entrances towards each base make turrets a powerful defensive measure. I usually make a push early to capture an expansion very early on, and try to boom a bit to get some units. The Hook in the middle is a great way to get some veterancy for your units by killing the defenders and get a unit or two. A lot of people also don't expects through the hook since the defenders are pretty tough, so it can make a great way to surprise someone's lower base.