D0216 T1502 Y2009The Sands of Myth

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.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 22

  1. #LINK D0217 T1021
    Quantifier wrote...

    If this “map” doesn’t spark people’s imagination, nothing will. I can’t wait to see (and play) what people create. LOVE the Towers!

  2. #LINK D0217 T1023
    Cleanbeats wrote...

    WOW!!!! I can’t wait to run around on this one. Maybe we could set up 3 matches all at once, played on different levels simultaneously. It looks great.

  3. #LINK D0217 T1025
    BerserkerBarage wrote...

    Can I talk about you guys playing the maps now? Just kidding. And KP is an evil sort. Never, under any circumstances, think he won’t murder you if he has the chance.

    Wow, the crypt is pretty kickass. The more and more I was looking at it the larger it seemed to get. I’m itching to get a chance to play on Tundra down there in the underground.

    Good write up as always DeeJ


  4. #LINK D0217 T1026
    Tortacular wrote...

    Your form looks terrible in that last shot Deej. Sandbox looks amazing, I can’t wait.

  5. #LINK D0217 T1031
    Whachamacalzmit wrote...

    I’m pre-ordering Halo Wars right now. All doubt was just removed. Thanks DeeJ and L0co! :D

  6. #LINK D0217 T1035
    L0coM0tive wrote...

    Great Write Up DeeJ!

    And thank you Bungie for the opportunity to come preview the maps with you!

    Sandbox is an incredible map. To me, with the Guardians keeping an ever watchful eye on the perimeter of the map, and the crypt below, it feels like a Forerunner Detention Facility- designed to keep what’s in, in, and what’s out, out. I tried to dodge the Guardian’s Towers, and they do not miss.

    I repeat-





    Even the most veteran of pilots will be shot down with extreme prejudice with no more than a brief “Check yo’self” warning in the form of a few blinks and beeps.

    When they opened up the Skybox in forge, I was blown away about how large it was- 3x the size of the main map. It is astounding. The possibilities here are endless. This portion of the map was made so that Forgers could create Guardian and Blackout type maps.

    The crypt is also deceptively large- although DeeJ did a good job depicting that with his screenshots. The map variants we played in the crypt were intense- this venue will set up for some INTENSE arena fighting.

    Thanks again Bungie, I appreciate you letting me have a sneak peak!

    As an editorial note for those who know Deej: He had the maps for a grand total of 30 minutes when he forged that most ultimate of sweet jumps. It was the first thing he did. If only we could forge in fireworks…

  7. #LINK D0217 T1054
    BigCountry1369 wrote...


    Lol, great write-up and you can consider yourself the reason I will be buying an $80 RTS game when I don’t really like them…it’s too good, I can’t wait until April.

    Thanks for clearing up some details and questions I had…you rock!


  8. #LINK D0217 T1119
    TTL Demag0gue wrote...

    I’m envious of the sneak peek, fellas, but thanks for sharing! I already have evil plans in place using Sandbox in future installments of Reclaimer.

  9. #LINK D0217 T1119
    TTL Venus wrote...

    This map rekindles my love for the game. I cant wait to try it out. Pictures and descriptions are GREAT!
    Thanks for a sneak peak Bungie~

  10. #LINK D0217 T1138
    haldrid wrote...

    Hey guys, its, haldrid, from c1nder (now known as The Remnants).

    Awesome write up Deej! you definitly have a way with words. My copy of Halo Wars as been pre-ordered with the anticipation that you have created. i think its an understatment when i say, plenty of people are jealous…

    ill be DLing your jump when it comes out.

  11. #LINK D0217 T1152
    x black kn1ght wrote...

    This map is one of the reasons why I will be getting Halo Wars LE.
    The forge options look insane and with 6 warthogs on a map to forge!

    Great Writeup.

  12. #LINK D0217 T1213
    Fezzer wrote...

    Fantastic looking map. It’s great how Forge has allowed for maps like this that provide such a unique venue to experience Halo in all it’s glory.

    Relic remake, anyone?

  13. #LINK D0217 T1234
    Nacho wrote...

    quote : “Thanks again for the new toys, Bungie. And for the advanced recon. We can’t wait to see what we do with them.” advance recon ? what did he mean by that ?

  14. #LINK D0217 T1243
    AnTi PRO wrote...

    Holy crap I didn’t hear anything about this until today! Geeze Loco you didn’t say anything about this when we were playing the other night :(

  15. #LINK D0217 T1251
    TTL Gunny wrote...

    WoW! I’m really impressed. I can’t wait to get my hands on these new maps! Thanks for sharing your sneak peek with us Deej.

  16. #LINK D0217 T1301
    FaithKeeper wrote...

    Holy. Freaking. Crap.

    I just peed myself.

    Awesome writeup, great pictures, great detailing on the endless possibilities for customization. I can imagine Frewt twiddling his fingers and belting out that evil laugh of his :-)

    I don’t know if Cleanbeats was being serious or not, but 3 matches on all 3 levels would be hilarious and ridiculously awesome! 3 double team matches at once FTW!

    Many thanks to Bungie for the sneak peak and many thanks to Loco and Deej for sharing!

  17. #LINK D0217 T1312
    BerserkerBarage wrote...

    Posted by: Nacho

    “advance recon ? what did he mean by that ?”

    I’d assume he means “advanced reconnaissance” of the new maps. Meaning, he and Loco got to play them a bit early.

    I doubt he’s talking about the H3 armor perm since he already has that and has for quite some time.


  18. #LINK D0217 T1314
    TTL Crim wrote...

    A great write-up on an amazing map, somehow I’m more stoked than before. My benjamins are weeping because they now know they’ll be soon be sent away for halo wars…

  19. #LINK D0217 T1434
    Captain EVA wrote...

    Oh my god I cant wait for Sandbox…Halo Wars LE to be bought me thinks? Good to know the secrets of Sandbox…great write-up and NOW i really want Sandbox…damn teasing Bungie!

  20. #LINK D0217 T2012
    ttl ranger wrote...

    So very freakin’ cool, deej. Thanks for the write up. Now you’ve made my attempt to hold off on purchasing Halo Wars even more difficult.

  21. #LINK D0218 T1209
    Eisen Feuer wrote...

    “Similar to its dessert cousin”

    mmm… Sandbox sounds even tastier than ever before!

  22. #LINK D0221 T2347
    Drew wrote...

    so if i dont preorder halo wars how do i get these maps?

commenting closed for this article

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