Halo 5's Forge is Problematic
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Halo 5's Forge is Problematic

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Halo 5's Forge is Problematic
343 Industries, Microsoft Studios

No kidding...

There are many reasons why I consider “Halo 3” to be closest to perfection in the series. One of my biggest contribution in hours played must be credited to the introduction of the famous Forge mode. For those that do not know, Forge was introduced as a venue for players to create their own custom maps for their friends, and potentially the world, to enjoy. Players could spawn weapons, vehicles and even regular objects for scenery on a budget of in-game currency. It was quite probable to lose yourself for literally hours of creative stimulation, and that is precisely what happened to me in “Halo 3”. I still have a plethora of my very own custom maps stored on my Xbox 360, and I look back on those endless nights of creativity fondly. That being said, Forge in “Halo 3” had rather primitive options by today’s standards in “Halo 5” Forge mode, but the community utilized clever tricks in the game’s code to make truly impressive maps. Fan-favorite modes like Duck Hunt and Jenga Tower made their start in Forge mode, and their popularity spread like wildfire. Remember Grifball, the custom game mode created by the famous Red vs. Blue crew Rooster Teeth? The competitive staple to Halo had a very obscure start as a clean-slated Forge map and a custom version of the Assault game type.

“Halo: Reach” took user-generated content to the next level in 2010. Bungie installed a gigantic map (Forge World) made specifically for Forgers in the community, and the players responded in kind. With new options for physics manipulation, special FX and color palettes, Xbox Live was literally flooded with user-generated maps in the official multiplayer rotation of “Halo: Reach.” “Halo 4” was not too shabby in its own right with a solid foundation for Forge, introducing new features like object magnetization for increased precision in designing structures. And 343 wasted no time getting player-created maps on Xbox Live for the player base at large to experience.

Halo 3's Jenga Tower - Custom Game Type and Forge Map

And now, we arrive at Forge mode for “Halo 5.” I can honestly affirm that Forge in this latest installment is a genuine upgrade from previous iterations. The possibilities are quite limitless, with more and more objects being added to the palette with every monthly update. Forgers can now group objects together as a single unit, eliminating hours of aggravating revisions to your custom creations. The rotation snap is top notch, giving creators unparalleled precision in object placement. Scripted in-game events like weather effects, lightning strikes and color-based strobe effects make some maps take on a life of their own. Even the reorganization of the object menu is much easier to navigate than previous games. Finally, in terms of community involvement, the custom maps that are appearing on Xbox Live are unique, balanced and effective spaces for both casual and competitive “Halo” players, with few exceptions (Eagle Square is bit too hectic for Big Team Battle). In terms of functionality and options, Forge is inarguably at its best in “Halo 5” in my opinion.

As much as I love the new Forge mode for “Halo 5,” I also have to admit that there are forces at play that are undermining the mode near to the point of invalidating its use. I have yet to spend any serious amount of time in “Halo 5’s” Forge. As much as I would love to dedicate hours of free time into making new maps out of personal satisfaction, there are a lot of things wrong with how Forge is being handled, most of which 343 Industries and Microsoft should be held accountable for. I have to take time to address these issues because the latest version of Forge is simply too well crafted to be marred by such glaring oversights. Without further ado, these are some of my biggest concerns with “Halo 5’s” Forge, in no particular order, and how they negatively affect its popularity and longevity.

1 – Delayed at Launch

This is actually my smallest concern with Forge at this juncture, but I do have to address it so that it does not get repeated in future “Halo” games. Forge did not ship with “Halo 5” during its release on October 27th of last year. It was added as part of the “Cartographer’s Gift” update in December following launch day. Two months is hardly an eternity, but withholding such a substantial piece of content can cause the community to lose confidence in the developers. I can understand if the mode needed to be delayed lest it release with a bunch of glitches and bugs that negatively affected the Forging process. But it also leaves room for the rather conspiratorial idea that Forge was intentionally delayed as a means to artificially extend “Halo 5’s” longevity. I personally do not believe this to be the case, as two months is only a short time in the lifespan of a game as popular as “Halo.” But regardless, because Forge was released as a launch feature of past “Halo” games, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth for the Forging community, even myself included as a former fanatic. I personally believe that repeating this stunt is not an option for the developers in the inevitable “Halo 6.” The next main game has to ship with Forge on launch day in order to take full advantage of the community’s potential for creating custom maps.

2 – Community Cartographers

I have no personal experience in dealing with the Cartographers on Halo Waypoint, but based on the forums I have read and the rumors I have heard, I do not envy anyone that has dealt with them before. Some members of the community have been quick to share bad experiences with these particular members of the community that have special powers in selecting which Forge creations get sent into the multiplayer rotation. Some of their own creations for multiplayer have received criticism from the greater community at large. This is less of a problem for the mode itself and more of a problem for the creative potential of the player base, but that makes it just as big a concern of mine. If more and more people feel that a select few with sketchy credentials are more likely to reject their custom maps, then more players will be discouraged from bothering to Forge at all. Forge is a feature that is fueled by the players and their creative drive to make something memorable. It may be just another assortment of binary code and pixels to some, but to the creators, each of their own maps becomes a monument to hours of hard work and ingenuity, even if only for a brief moment in time. There has to be a better system in place the next time around. A new and more transparent system that caters to the whole community of Forgers will only mean more maps and more variety available to more players, which is never a bad thing if you want to ensure a healthy lifespan for a game like “Halo.”

3 – No REQ’s in Forge

When I realized that Forge only had the base variants of weapons and vehicles in “Halo 5” I had to do a double take. And now that it is June and I still cannot spawn custom weapons in Forge, I had to do a second double take. And then I had to contemplate my entire career as a Forger and “Halo” fan for a few minutes. Let me make something very clear. I played the multiplayer beta for the game back in December of 2014. Over one year ago, 343 had spawned custom weapons in Arena maps, namely the Arbiter’s personal energy sword named Prophets’ Bane. These special weapons were later featured in the Warzone game mode as a signature feature. And just a few weeks back, 343 introduced a Fiesta variant of Slayer in Arena (i.e. the mode without REQ’s) with custom REQ weapons included in the pool of random weapons players can spawn with. I am hopeless when it comes to understanding digital code, but I think it’s safe to say that spawning custom REQ weapons is well within the capabilities of 343 Industries given this overwhelming evidence. “Halo 5” is quickly approaching the first year of its lifespan, and it has been almost two years since players were first given a test drive with mythic weapons like Prophets’ Bane. If 343 are intentionally holding back the REQ weapons for a later update, I doubt it will be enough to get more people to return to Forge. And if it turns out that 343 still cannot properly program the weapons into Forge, not only would that make more players lose confidence in them. Many people would call outright incompetence in the developers if that were the case. I have always wanted to spawn my custom REQ’s into Forge ever since it dropped in December, but I simply cannot. Although I can wait patiently for the day that 343 might release the REQ’s for Forge, it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Prophets' Bane - The Arbiter's Personal Energy in Halo 5

4 – Forge is a Crutch, Not a Feature

I cannot be the only one who realized how similar most “Halo 5” maps are in terms of appearance. Why do all of the Breakout maps have the same aesthetics as well as the same blank picture in the menu? Perhaps it is because the developers are, for whatever reason, relying too heavily on Forge as an official developing tool. Many community members consider it an unfunny joke that most Arena maps in “Halo 5” are sprouting from a small group of map templates that players can access in Forge. While I can see how this could be more convenient for the developers in terms of costs and time, it is yet another reason why community members are losing faith with them. Forge maps that are generated specifically for the players helps to make them feel like their hard work is validated to a certain extent. But when people realize that the developers themselves are recycling a single space for “official” competitive multiplayer maps, it makes the developers look lazy or otherwise uncommitted to maintaining the game’s health. In every previous “Halo” game that shipped with Forge, only community-generated maps were introduced as part of later variants of existing maps. Every custom variant created by the developers shipped with the game on day one of release. Nowadays, every new Arena map seems to be a revision of an older map within “Halo 5,” and the developers have been quoted claiming as such. In the future, I really would like to see 343 and Microsoft treating Forge as the unique feature it is meant to be, and I am happy to see it making its way to Windows 10, where creative minds can truly take advantage of its potential like never before. The problem now is 343 is using Forge more like a crutch in order to make more maps that are easier to pump out, but less unique and memorable as maps in previous games. That needs to change for the next game if not sooner.

5 – No Warzone Forge

This has been on the community’s mind ever since “Halo 5” and Forge have released. There is no denying that Forge in Warzone would be much more complicated than Forge in regular Arena maps. Forgers would have to take A.I. spawns and scripted boss fights into account along with other unique features to Warzone. In terms of programming by the developers, I am certain that the process would be much more difficult and potentially dysfunctional to the overall stability of the game. Pile that on top of the already lengthy commitments to Forge as it stands, and you have a potential disaster on your hands. Despite the extra challenge in the hypothetical mode, I believe it would be worth a shot, provided that the coding was solid and glitch-free. There is no shortage of creative minds in the “Halo” community, and many of them are waiting for the opportunity for a new and exciting intellectual challenge. Warzone Forge could be that next step, though it is little more than an idea at this juncture. Let us also keep in mind that the latest “Doom” game shipped with a custom campaign level editor, complete with A.I. spawns and scripting. Hopefully, the developers and Microsoft will keep this idea in mind.

6 – Lack of Custom Controls

This is arguably the biggest concern I have with Forge, right next to the idea of Forge being a practical crutch for the developers. Unlike the rest of “Halo 5’s” gameplay, Forge does not allow the player to remap the Forge controls. This is especially frustrating for Forge veterans, like myself, who have to get familiar with the new controls all over again. I have not spent too much time in Forge, and this is the biggest reason as to why. I can overlook the absence of REQ’s and the lack of unique maps for Arena multiplayer, but I cannot enjoy Forge if I am fighting the controls as heavily as I am fighting the Covenant in the Campaign! The controls are very awkward, and I don’t see myself getting the hang of them anytime soon. For instance, instead of using right and left bumper to ascend and descend respectively, as in previous games, B is now used to ascend and A is used to descend. This makes no sense when A and B have practically the opposite functions in player mode (I use the Halo 4 control scheme). Monitor mode also has a weird control for movement speed that will take some getting used to. Toggling the movement speed is not very user-friendly and I wish there were an option to change that, but sadly there isn’t. Other than that, the controls are much more simplified for object manipulation, which is very good. But the lack of control options can turn off a lot of would-be Forgers, especially veteran creators from previous “Halo” games. I can tell that this control scheme is likely to be very obscure for newer players as well. If I had to choose between an update that introduced custom controls and an update that introduced REQ’s in the palette, I would sooner take the custom controls every single time. If I can just map the controls to the layout that I had for older Forge modes, I would be a happy camper (not the cowardly kind that wait for their enemies… I hate cowards…).

Conclusion

Forge is one of my favorite features ever included in “Halo,” which is my absolute favorite video game series of all time. I make no secret of it. This is why I am obligated to criticize its shortcomings and point out the areas that need the most improvement. I used to love Forging new maps for hours on end and I loved messing around on my finished product with my friends. And I was happy to see my name on some of the maps that took so much time and effort. I am not even one of the lucky few that had one of my own custom maps selected for online multiplayer, but I still felt that Forge was worth my time, which is something that none of us have enough of. I have much less of a drive to return to Forge because it has all these ridiculous oversights that are not user-friendly or supplemental to the lifespan of “Halo 5.” I am truly sad to see my favorite series in decline when it comes to reception and substance, and yet I am frustrated because I know exactly why. But I continue my constructive criticism in the hopes that the word gets out to the right people in order to fix the problems I have addressed. I still have high hopes that the series is far from finished, and I hope we see more and better “Halo” games with more and better content, including the timeless Forge mode with new capabilities we have yet to imagine.

Believe... In a better Forge.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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