Last week, Tied the Leader was invited by Bungie Studios to joyride through the environments to be included in the Mythic Map Pack for Halo 3. Our local agent in the Seattle area, L0com0tive, infiltrated their press event. This gamerblogger was welcomed to join remotely via Xbox Live. We both say thankya!
The following is a report on the endless potential of the map aptly named Sandbox – a modular playground for the Halo Nation. Why just Sandbox? The scope of this map is staggering. It is not an exaggeration to proclaim that we have never seen a virtual environment with so much potential for customization. To do this map justice, we will have to talk about Orbital and Assembly later.
Let the exploration begin. Be sure to access the Hi-Res by clicking on the images! It takes more than 400 pixels to tell this tale.
In game development vernacular, the notion of a “sandox” suggests the ability for a gamer to do whatever they want. This map lives up to its name. As promised, everything you can behold can be deleted and/or rearranged in Forge. Nothing is nailed down. The only thing that remains constant is the very ground on which you walk. Or does it?
The default arrangement for this battleground is merely a starting point. This is not rigid hard-code geometry. This is our world, to mold and tweak as we see fit. The flow of traffic and the tone of the battle is at the mercy of the user. Choke points and high-ground are things of our choosing.
Drawing from a diverse palette of design elements, each gamer becomes an arm-chair architect. Equipped with only a game controller; structures can be wrought from stone, wood, iron, and even light. Colorful elements can be put into place to indicate team territory. The layout of your base is by your design.
You can tell a lot about a gamer by what they create when given complete control. For my part, my first attempt at Forging the Sandbox led to the sweetest jump ever negotiated by this vehicle hound. Skill and finesse take a back seat to my desire to catch some air on a Chopper.
For those of you keeping score, that lineup includes 3 (three) Warthogs, 2 (two) Wraiths, 2 (two) Scorpions, and 3 (three) Gauss ‘Hogs. Channeling the soul of Evil Kenevil, this gamer wrought a venue for a record-setting stunt. Of course, it’s easy to set a record when only a few hundred people have access to the fairgrounds.
And, yes… I stuck the landing. This map will be in my fileshare upon release of Sandbox. Check back and help yourself to a download. I challenge you to best my distance. No fair using Gravity Lifts!
Sandox is billed as “an endless wasteland that still holds many secrets – some held more deeply than others.” Heed this warning, all ye who enter here! Similar to its dessert cousin, Sandtrap, this map has an out-of-bounds zone. Justice is not dealt in the form of pressure mines. On Sandbox, it is the Towers that do the talking.
Any Gunslinger would be proud. These Towers don’t miss, and they shoot repeatedly until nothing moves outside the bowl over which they stand gaurd. If Stephen King references are too esoteric, just imagine that you are Frodo, and the ring is around your neck. Either way, your ass is toast.
While we are on a literary kick, anyone up for a romp through the Well of Souls? Unlike Indiana Jones, you don’t need a team of Egyptian diggers to open the crypt. A little Forge magic is all that is required to removed the capstone.
From there, the only thing between you and a subterranean cavern is a quarter-mile descent through a forgotten shaft. Thank the Forerunner that there is no fall-damage in Halo 3, because it is a long way down. Once your boots hit rock bottom, you have arrived in yet another environment that awaits your mastery of Forge. Commence Geo-Glitching!
The obvious question becomes: How big is it? Since there is no defacto unit of measurement in Halo, we can only answer this question as a matter of forced perspective. It’s bigger than than your house, but smaller than Texas.
It’s big enough to pull some sweet maneuvers at the controls of a Banshee. This is not advised, however. In fact, what did Mom say? I am sure that she has a rule against barrel rolls in the house. What? You think Banshees grow on trees?
It’s big enough to allow you to really stretch your legs in a match of Griffball. No longer will League Commissioners need to speak at length about the folly of glitching beyond the confines of the court, as the walls are now wrought from solid rock. Behold the cheater’s prison.
It’s big enough to allow for a firefight that will require some steady aim, or at least some target-seeking ammunition. This is not a close-quarters affair. They crypt below Sandbox will have you on the move to close the distance between your and your target.
It’s big enough to erect a temple that can be used as a venue to sacrifice n00bs at the Altar of Bungie. The stone blocks and spires in the Forge palette lend themselves well to the creation of a mood that clearly deserves the name “Mythic”. Let those Mayan sensibilities run wild!
Please follow me back to the surface, if you will. We are not even close to finishing our expedition. In Forge mode, you will see a teleporter that is set in mid-air against the horizon. This leads to the final frontier that Sandbox has to offer.
As you can see, the sky is truly the limit. Another plane is set well above the dunes that enables a gamer to create a high-altitude battleground. Thus, Sandox becomes a three-tiered landscape that can support endless skirmishes that cover an unprecedented amount of virtual real estate.
Be not fooled by your experience in the crypt. If you fall from this height, you will experience a point deducted from your score, followed immediately by death. The Forge plane doesn’t just uphold your structures. It also doubles as an invisible killer of Man and Elites alike.
Afraid of heights? You may find the vistas at this level almost vertigo-inducing. These sights are lovely, if you have the stomach for the elevation. The sunset if quite a thing to behold from up here. Just try not to look down, if you can avoid it.
Depicted Below: Yours truly is murdered by “KP” (HBO Mainstay, Bungie Alum, Gunslinger Emeritus, and Xbox Team Member) while I smell the roses.
Do yourself a favor on your first outting, and don’t get killed enjoying the vantage points. This is still a warzone, after all, and the locals have itchy trigger fingers. Amidst preview matches with agents from various press outlets, the choice was between taking in the scenery, or returning fire.
While the metaphor for empowing the gamer with options holds true, it is also safe to say that this sandy battlefield is far more than just a box. There is an entire world in play on this map that is ready for the inspiration of its inhabitants. We will fight them in the skies, on the groud, and in caverns hidden away deep below the surface.
Sandbox will be unrecognizable to itself as many times as it is twisted, shaped, and bent in Forge. From top to bottom, the options are only as limited as the number of gamers that download the content. Any user who claims that they don’t like this map will only be telegraphing their own lack of imagination.
Oh, and let’s not forget the Golf. This should give new meaning to the notion of “Handicap” in Halo 3.
Thanks again for the new toys, Bungie. And for the advanced recon. We can’t wait to see what we do with them.
Almost forgot: For those of you want a tutorial on where to find the new skulls, just click here.