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Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*
Date: 5/17/13 12:19 pm
In Response To: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy* (Postmortem)

: Firstly, I think there's an immediate problem in scope with the introduction
: (especially for the first level of a game), depending on the effect you
: were wanting to have. By starting out the game introducing us to the ships
: of the UNSC, the planet, and the larger view of space, you immediately set
: our expectations as the audience. Introductions are perhaps the most
: important part of a game, because they set your expectations for the rest
: of the experience. By showing us this larger world immediately, the UNSC
: fleet in orbit over a dusty planet, and then jumping down to that planet
: to reveal our player's situation, you've made us feel small,
: insignificant. Maybe that's what you wanted. Maybe that works for the
: Chief's new and unfamiliar situation. But in terms of player attention,
: this also has the potential to add frustration. To know that there's more
: going on outside of your area of influence. In the first Halo game and in
: Halo 4, this was use intentionally to overshadow your gameplay on the
: ships, to really let you know that everything you're doing over the course
: of the first level is really just the preamble to what the game is really
: about. In Halo 3, the focus is just on you as the player.

: Here you come.
: You've crashed.
: People are worried about you.
: You are revived and ready to explore your landing site.
: Introduction to basic movement.
: Your first introduction to a basic enemy engagement.

: It's all a very gradual progression (in a positive or negative direction,
: depending on the story being told), and you don't really learn much about
: the larger conflict until the end of the level, when you're reunited with
: the main war effort (again, speaking about average players, not just
: fans). One could argue that Halo 2 breaks this mold by introducing the
: Arbiter and the Covenant's political tension before showing us the Chief,
: but that also sets the stage for the surprise we feel when we
: sympathetically jump into the shoes of the Arbiter. It was all building up
: to that one moment of payoff.
: Again, you may have more planned later that will render this feedback
: obsolete, but I'm throwing it all on the table anyway. :)

It was definitely intentional to show that this Big Guy was no longer in the big fight. Things have been moving for years now on a galactic scale without his involvement. The guys we're cutting down to on the surface are not players in the big game, they're witnesses. To me, after all the games you just cited as examples, this opening would be the most interesting. It's not what the Halo fan expects. "Why is this guy important? Where's the Master Chief and everything I'm used to?!?" And that's what excites me. After 7 Halo games, there needs to be a reason to make another Halo, and that's by having cool new ideas, not re-treading over every past tradition.

It was also meant to show the changes in the UNSC. How they've advanced since the old war, and not always in the best ways.

: I feel like you've got your camera jumping around like crazy. We go from two
: characters outside a ship to those same characters inside a ship (with no
: transition), then outside the ship again to show the space tether, then
: back inside the ship, only to have the characters walk out of the ship
: again. If feels a bit like the camera is jumping around as you think of
: stuff to show, rather than presenting that content in a streamlined
: fashion. It may just be the wording here, and I'm misinterpreting what you
: intended. That's the problem when trying to use text to explain something
: that should be visual in nature, so if I misunderstood something I
: apologize. But there's a lesson in that as well. Presentability always
: matters. I understand you're juggling a lot of important stuff, but
: consider posting up some diagrams/maps/really rough sketches. I think
: they'd help a lot, even if they're not super polished.

Aye, in my head, all this flows at a great pace, haha. I'm sure if I sketched up some storyboards, it might have made better sense to you and others, and probably would have benefited from a second draft... But I don't have the time right now, regretfully.

I actually wrote this right before I posted it! Unlike older Shield and Swords that sat and matured in my brain for a while, this was written in a fit of Halo-inspiration. Since I haven't been getting those as much lately, or have even had the time to have them, I figured I needed to make use of it while it was sitting there jumping back and forth between my eyeballs.

: As an extension of this, the delivery of information to the player feels very
: un-paced to me. If you look at the beginning of Combat Evolved, Halo 3,
: Halo 4... the opening cutscenes are always very long and drawn out, giving
: the player time to get immersed in the sounds, sights, and atmosphere of
: the world before any information really starts to get delivered. Here it
: kind of feels like a lot of information is being dumped on the player at
: once, and certainly if they're new to Halo's fiction they'll definitely
: get it (you've set it up to be pretty clear from a symbolic standpoint as
: well), but regardless once the character starts explaining things I'd be
: afraid that too much exposition would ruin the mood for a lot of people.
: Basically, just slow it down a lot, space out the delivery of information
: a bit more so that each new piece can be that much more hard hitting. Half
: of what you've got here feels perfectly delivered, and the other half
: needs a little more juxtaposition.

: The Halo seems to come out of nowhere. Given that you've said this is a
: follow-up to Shield and Sword for Halo 4, as well as 343i's Halo 4, I'm
: not entirely following how this is supposed to make sense to the player.
: Sure, Halos exist, they're dangerous, they pop up all over the place in
: the games... we get all that. But regardless, there was no build up to its
: reveal. It really feels like it comes out of nowhere.
: Without any context (perhaps an earlier portion of the cutscene showing us
: what happened to the Halo so that we have more understanding when it
: appears) it just shows up and yells out "call to action!".
: There's little build up to why Chief has to return from his
: "retirement". It communicates something to the player along the
: lines of "Chief isn't fighting? No, this is a Halo game. Here's the
: Halo. See now he has to fight again." It just felt forced. The same
: goes for the fleet of ships in orbit. You're essentially telling two
: stories at once, rather than the single story you should be starting out
: with: the story of the player. That could sum up a lot of the issues I see
: here. It needs to focus less on the world and more on the player. Find
: that happy median. :)

Heh, I think with the last 2 of 3 games not having the Master Chief as the playable character, there might be some hesitation as to who this guy is. It's definitely meant to turn everything on its head and feel very weird, thereby allowing veteran Halo players to view the world in a different light. If I did anything, it would be to do more unexpected things and make the game feel even weirder at first, so that the Halo game that is carved out by the first act will feel refreshed and inspired.

You say this throws the Master Chief and a Halo at you to fulfill the requirements of a Halo game, but to me, this Master Cheif and this Halo have very different definitions (it helps, of course, that I'm inside my brain). This ringworld is merely a vessel for this Flood, a certain Halo that was abandoned long ago, not something you'll actually be exploring... And this is a Master Chief that is no longer UNSC and no longer bold and hopeful with his Cortana (at least at the moment). He will continue to be an outcast in the next few levels and continue to allow us to see the galaxy from a different perspective. The UNSC is merely bringing him into the big fight because he's a valuable tool in the middle of a disastrous situation, not because he's the perfect soldier again all of the sudden.

Halo 4 seemed to be about deconstructing John. Halo 5 would be about rebuilding him.

The rest of the first act would actually be focused greatly on explaining all of the unknowns that are introduced here. And a lot of that would come from the Domain personas you'd be exposed to in level 2 and 3. :)

: The same goes for the introduction of the Flood. While I like how you're
: utilizing new forms here to explain that there's a larger story going on,
: it still feels strange to introduce something other than your primary
: enemy in the level which contains the bulk of your tutorial (unless the
: Flood are going to be the primary enemy in this game?) Because it's the
: first combat the players will experience, it sets their expectations for
: the rest of the game. Remember the reason the Flood feel so intimidating
: in Combat Evolved and Halo 3 is because they are unexpected and you always
: feel unprepared for them based on your past experience with that game.
: Introducing them right of the bat tells the player "here's what you
: can expect from combat". Also attempting to introduce a horror
: atmosphere before the player has had enough time to get immersed in the
: world means that all it has the potential to do is pull them out of the
: experience. If they aren't allowed enough time to soak things in before it
: all starts to fall apart in a terrifying way, the fact that the game is
: telling them they're supposed to be scared when they're not will only
: highlight that fact, making them more aware of the disconnect between
: their feelings and the feelings you want them to have.

: It kind of feels like the Flood's introduction in Halo 2. The Arbiter level
: could more or less be considered a tutorial level for gameplay as an
: Elite. Because of how seamlessly the two gas mine levels blend together,
: they technically function as one playable experience in the player's mind.
: Just like Halo 2, you're essentially introducing the Flood while they're
: still trying to figure out where they fit into this new world, rather than
: after they feel confident. The Flood are best used as a method of humbling
: the player after they've built up enough confidence in previous levels.
: It's an effective formula that works to toy with the player's emotions
: when used correctly.

I definitely agree that the Flood were used greatly in this sense in the past, but I think it's been done plenty before. I think the fact that there hasn't been a Flood form in the last 3 Halo games and then starting you with them in this one would be surprise enough. And I think this time their scariness would come from how they react to the world around them and how far their AI and tactics have come, and how unrecognizable much of their forms are.

I've grown tired of shooting Grunts in the head and breaking an Elite/Brute's shields. Why make more games with that as the main focus when we've already got a trilogy that provided all those thrills to the perfect extent. The Flood would start off Halo 5 with a bang that would slowly draw in all of the factions of the Haloverse, even fighting alongside Promethean Knights as you fight the Flood later. The Flood would keep evolving up to something that would essentially need a whole new faction name...

: I guess mostly it just feels like a lot of this first level is tailored to
: experienced Halo players, rather than newcomers. Even if you're familiar
: with the controls and feel confident playing as a Spartan, the added
: buffer time between small and larger engagements can only help to immerse
: old players into the world more, and it's doing a huge service to those
: unfamiliar with the game as well. Think about an inexperienced player
: who's never used a shotgun against the Flood before. Hell, maybe they
: don't even grasp the basic function of a shotgun in combat (especially in
: a video game). They may get extremely frustrated right off the bat because
: you've handed them a weapon that, to them, just doesn't seem effective
: even though they're shooting in the direction of the "bad guys".
: Slowing things down for the first level can really only help everyone out.

If you're playing Halo 5 for your first Halo game, then I don't pity you, hah. You don't read Return of the King before the first two! You don't see Return of the Jedi before the other two! That said, I don't think the Flood here would be that strong, just smart. They'd be less bullet sponges and more about surprising you with their movements. It wasn't meant to start the game out hard, just with a new enemy.

And I'm sure the level would have much more meat to pace things out with if someone spent more than a few hours thinking about it, designing it, testing it. :)

: I want to hear more about the "hodgepodge form". You might be
: treading dangerously close to Dead Space territory. It's important to get
: creative with new enemies, especially the Flood, but it's also important
: to keep in mind what makes them unique. Start getting too creative and
: adding too many forms and suddenly they'll become the Necromorphs or the
: Zerg.

Never played Dead Space or Starcraft, so I'm unaware of any similarities. I'm sure my own ideas with the Flood would make them unique enough, once we started to see more of their vehicle hybrids and the faction they evolve into later on.

: I love the dialogue. I got a good sense of who this smoking character was,
: really got a feel for him through the dialogue alone, and you worked all
: the important information in without betraying that character. So
: excellent job with the writing there. :) The same goes for Chief's first
: line. While I think it's safe to have him talking a bit more now (as long
: as you are careful and don't overdo it), having his first spoken line be a
: triumphant return of sorts is very fitting for the character. I would just
: be sure that characters react to his silence realistically, rather than
: shrugging it off as normal.

: I really like the way you're not just throwing characters right back into the
: fight, but taking your time with the introduction of who the character of
: the Chief is, so that as the player is going through all these gameplay
: motions, finding armor, essentially upgrading their gameplay and
: armaments, they're also symbolically reconstructing who the Chief is.
: They'll realize, at least on a subconscious level, that this building up
: process implies that John has been out of action for a while. He's not
: able to just leap right back in to combat, and this metaphorical
: rebuilding of his character and mythos (starting out as a "big
: guy" who's "looking for work" and transitioning back to
: just "Him? He's here?" That's an excellent buildup, perfectly
: executed as far as I'm concerned. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of
: Dune Messiah. The prophet/protagonist has left the story, gone on a
: pilgrimage "to the desert". Having Chief start out in a desert
: is so fitting in this context and even in provoking more of Halo's
: religious imagery and atmosphere. I just love it. Symbolism always gets me
: excited from a storytelling standpoint, and whether intentional or not,
: this works really well.

: Flood vehicles are awesome. Immediately makes me think of the "brain
: form" from inside the Pelican in Halo 2 that I always fantasized
: about seeing more of. It's got a lot of cool artistic and gameplay
: potential. Hopefully we can see some sketches for it someday. :)

: Anyways, I was just typing as thoughts came to me. I'm sure I'm very wrong on
: multiple points that I didn't think through all the way. Feel free to
: point those out to me. :) Regardless, I think this is a cool idea and I'm
: excited to see where it goes, and I'm excited to dig through the
: experience from a design perspective so everyone involved can learn more
: about crafting these kind of stories. As 343 continues to push the
: universe in directions that many fans are unhappy with (although I like
: it), I think it's even more important that everyone is able to really get
: into game design and story crafting so that we can intelligently explain
: why we didn't like things and what can make them better. Halo fans and
: Halo developers can all learn from this process. :)

: I guess the tl;dr version is: It's amazing, visually and symbolically
: perfect, but the gameplay and exposition just feels like too much, too
: soon. Don't be afraid to pace things out even more and really focus on
: easing the player into the swing of things. The heavy story payoff can
: come later for hardcore fans. :)

Glad you liked some of the aspects I threw out here and picked up on the reconstruction of Chief. Like I said above, and in my earlier Shield and Sword posts, these are just daydreams to get rough outlines and concepts out there, especially this one (as you can tell from the lack of art) - they're definitely not meant to be the finished product.

I'm sure the finished level would be better padded and tested. I'm sure they would be more dialogue, most likely up in the bridge of the ships to give some more context of what they're expecting to arrive and increase the impacts of what does arrive. I just don't have a year or two to make a real Halo game (if only!).

Messages In This Thread

Shield and Sword: The GraveyardLeviathan5/15/13 9:11 pm
     This is how it should be.Nikko B2015/15/13 9:24 pm
           TrueZackDark5/15/13 9:43 pm
                 Very true.robofin1175/16/13 12:50 am
     Giggity *NM*ZackDark5/15/13 9:41 pm
     Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/16/13 10:23 pm
           ^Thumbs up, would read again. *NM*ZackDark5/16/13 11:35 pm
           Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/17/13 10:16 am
           Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 12:19 pm
                 Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/17/13 12:55 pm
                       Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 2:32 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 6:17 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/17/13 6:29 pm
                                         Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 6:32 pm
                                         Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 7:34 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Mr Daax5/17/13 7:32 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 7:34 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 7:40 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/18/13 11:54 pm
                       Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/18/13 11:28 pm
                 THIS partMacGyver105/17/13 1:37 pm
                       Re: THIS partTDSpiral5/17/13 9:54 pm
     Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:25 pm
           Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardPostmortem5/16/13 10:34 pm
                 Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:59 pm
                       Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardPostmortem5/16/13 11:17 pm
                             Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/17/13 10:19 am
                                   Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardLeviathan5/17/13 11:32 am
           Re: Shield and Sword: The Graveyardscarab5/17/13 8:54 pm
     Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:31 pm
           Nay!ZackDark5/16/13 11:39 pm

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