After playing Halo 1 & 2 extensively for awhile, I created a couple missions designs for Halo 2 back in 2005. One of these is the Seek-and-Rescue scenario below. Time was spent on creative player-choice events, character choices, and visually inspiring locations to make this level memorable.
The exterior scene swap is probably my favorite part. It was a smart way to make the world feel more dynamic without tons of new tech features. The only thing I would change is expanding the final battle location or moving it up to the landing plateau for more combat space.
I’ve included the original file here for offline reference: Design-Halo-Temple.doc
“Fear is an emotion indispensable for survival.”
All construction basics are covered with this level: awe-inspiring vistas, reusable interior geometry, AI placement, tactical positions, vehicle considerations, and visibility performance. The gameplay doubles back to provide maximized asset use and time spent playing. The return portion, however, is dynamically changed to provide a twist in the exit strategy. The layout can also be used in a team-based multiplayer scenario.
Play-testing will finalize initial AI, cover, supplies and weapon placement.
Master Chief must rescue Miranda Keyes and the Index from Covenant territory. Insertion is by Pelican to the west. The player advances to the Citadel in a counter-clockwise direction. Land formations and multiple Citadel entrances provide a variety of strategic choices. Adversaries surround the shallow lake that’s being used to thread supplies into the fortress.
Once inside, the player can choose to rescue Miranda Keyes or only take the Index. An earthquake occurs before exiting the Citadel, changing the return strategy. The player will have to avoid Covenant reinforcements and cross a large chasm which has drained the lake. A Last-Stand occurs at the extraction point before the Pelican reappears.
- Master Chief
- Miranda Keyes
- Covenant Containers
- The Index
- Battle Rifle
- Plasma Rifle
- Energy Sword
- Plasma Grenades
Events – Rescue
The following events detail moments before rescuing Miranda Keyes and the Index.
A – GAMESTART: A Pelican touches down on a plateau to let the player out. An escarpment expands southwards in a stair-step fashion, preventing the player from unnecessary exploration. To the north, a ladder descends into a canyon.
B – VISTA: The Citadel is viewed for the first time from the top of the cliff to build anticipation. Huge, vaulted towers and spires pierce the horizon line, spanning into the sky. Down below, a large field provides little cover to approach the Citadel. A stream of water feeds into the fortress, bringing floating supplies. A significant drop-off and deep chasm forces the player to continue southwards.
C – VISTA: Descending further into the canyon, the player spots a large waterfall that feeds into the adjacent lake. Grunts are seen in the distance foothills. A Ghost/Elite patrols the area. Jackals are patrolling the bluff near the lake’s shore. On a neighboring bluff, a Plasma Cannon is manned by a Grunt, who fires on-sight. If the player can commandeer the Ghost, he can opt to glide back up to VISTA (B) and jump to the Tower (P).
D – SUPPLIES: Marines were slaughter on the bluff overlooking the waterfall. Frag Grenades and a Sniper Rifle is scattered in the debris. The player can snipe enemies from VISTA (B) or take down the nearby Plasma Cannon.
E – LAKE: A wide, shallow body of water is fed by the waterfall, covering half the field. Jets of hot water and steam bubble up near the southern shore. A thin wall of steam provides slight cover from the Jackals and Grunts tending the supply Containers.
F – TUNNEL: A sealed tunnel entrance implies passage out of the canyon. Elite patrols the entrance, while a Ghost glides around the local area.
G – SIDE DOOR: The player can use the floating Containers to act as dynamic cover to conceal or protect him from patrolling enemies and Plasma Cannons. By riding or following the Containers inside, he’ll find himself in a narrow tunnel that streams past Sub-Observation (L).
H – MAIN DOOR: An Elite guards the Citadel’s main entrance. A ramp ascends into the main hall (I). This is a more aggressive combat entry choice in contrast to the more stealthy (G) entrance.
I – MAIN HALL: Plasma Cannon defend the far end of this vaulted corridor. The player can rush the gunfire or use the alcoves to slowly advance. Elites filter into the hall from the side hallways.
J – BACK ROOM: Jackals and Elite patrol this chamber. The player has to cross to the other side of the room to reach the balcony ramp. From there he has to battle his way around to the exits. The furthest exit leads to a balcony over the Temple (K).
K – TEMPLE: Miranda Keyes is captured in a suspended cell with the Index. A long grate divides the room in half, allowing a view of the Sub-Observation Tunnel (L). Two elevators (M) and (N) provide passage up to the balcony and down to the Sub-Tunnels. Drones attack the player in waves, as Jackal and Elite amplify the tension. The player can choose to rescue Keyes and the Index, or take only the Index. Giving Keyes a weapon will allow her to help in the escape and could affect the number of reinforcements outside. Once the Index is secure, an earthquake rocks the temple as the player attempts to leave.
L – SUB-TUNNEL: Jackals monitor the supply Containers as they pass by two observation halls. The Containers act as a bottleneck to the tunnel stream, forcing the player to stay within a limited area. A ceiling grate looks up into the Temple (K). After passing the Observation halls, the player has to jump out of the stream onto the adjacent landings. The supply Containers drop off into an unlit lower area. The player will fall to his death if he attempts to follow the Containers.
P – TOWER: Plasma Cannons are manned by Grunts and watched over by Jackals. The tower height is too great to safely jump down from. The player can use the Cannons to remove outside reinforcements before exiting, however. If the player happens to enter this Citadel by using a Ghost from VISTA (B), he’ll encounter Elite in the lower hallway, similar to the Main Hall (I) entrance.
Events – Escape
The following events detail moments afterrescuing Miranda Keyes and the Index.Reinforcements have repopulated the area, bring Wraiths into the fray. Jackals and Elite rush the player as he exits the Citadel. They take defensive positions depending on which exit the player chooses.
Q – CHASM: The earthquake caused the lake to drain, dynamically changing the return route for extraction. This change is achieved through model and FX swapping. The remaining supply Containers litter the lake bed, offering some cover from the enemy. The player has to navigate to the far eastern fissure to jump safely to the other side. If jumping proves difficult, a fallen sheet of rock can act as a bridge. More enemies race in as the player progresses back up the canyon. At the upper bottleneck, Ghosts swoop in, forcing the player backwards for cover.
R – DEAD END: The Pelican is no where to be found! The ladder is destroyed. The player is pinned inside of the box canyon as Elite and Jackals swarm in aggressively.
S – GAME END: After a short period of time, the Pelican will fly overhead and hover near the cliff. The player has to avoid or kill any remaining enemies before jumping into the Pelican for extraction.
Gameplay for the Citadel Temple Chamber has been expanded here in greater detail. Final art could vary the initial placement of AI, cover areas, and weapon assortment. Art considerations should include non-gameplay-specific destruction (such as glass). The number of AI can be throttled to maximize player satisfaction. Spawn positions are placed in unexplored neighboring hallways. Once a player has inspected the area, the Spawner will no longer be active. Parts of this scenario can use dynamic or baked-in physics, depending on the engine limitations.
Master Chief must rescue Miranda Keyes and the Index from a suspended cell in the Citadel Temple chamber. The player can enter from four different locations. Jackals and Elite patrol the area. When Keyes is freed, the chamber is locked-down and Drones fly into the room. Freeing Keyes introduces the Destructible Joint game-mechanic, which is used more than once in the area. Frequent tremors occur, possibly allowing a means to escape the chamber. Hunters appear last, guarding any exit routes.
Events – 1st Wave
The Citadel Temple is a vaulted room with several entrances. Underneath the chamber is an observation area for incoming supplies. One-Way elevators in the north allow passage from the sub-tunnel, 1st floor and 2nd floor. A bridge spans the center of the room with a cell suspended over it. A balcony wraps around the outer wall. Pillars separate small alcoves underneath the balcony. Light-source scaffolding hangs from the northern ceiling. Ventilation shafts in the south let light in from the outside.
A – ENTRY: Inventive players could enter from the western 1st floor hallway (yellow), if they jump to the exterior tower with a Ghost. Sneaky players may find themselves entering from the sub-tunnel elevator (red). However, most players will enter from the eastern 1st floor hallway (green) or 2nd floor hallway (blue). All avenues point to Keyes suspended cell, making the objective clear.
B – SUB-TUNNELS: A water tunnel from the outside leads into this area. 6 Jackals (blue circles) monitor the supply Containers passing by two observation halls. The Containers act as a bottleneck to the tunnel stream, forcing the player to stay within a limited area, before he is able to jump free. Cover areas are noted (orange). Cover is also attached to moving containers, providing changes in strategy.
A ceiling grate looks up into the Temple. After passing the Observation halls, the player has to jump out of the stream onto the adjacent landings. The supply Containers drop off into an unlit lower area. The player will fall to his death if he attempts to follow the Containers.
The player needs to fight his way to the northeastern elevator (red line) to ascend to the Temple. The northwestern elevator descends from the Temple, and can repopulate the area with 3 more Jackals (blue line).
D – 1ST FLOOR: Cover positions (orange) are placed around Covenant containers, hall corners, and the alcoves below the balcony. The northern floor near the elevators is raised. The center strip along the main floor is sunken, which looks into the sub-tunnels. If crouching, the player can use the depression as cover, or a way to jump into the sub-tunnels.
Two Elite patrol the main floor. One Elite is patrolling the western hallway. One Jackal is inspecting an eastern alcove. Depending on which route the player has entered from, Elite will spawn in from adjacent halls for a 2nd wave of 2-4 Elite.
E – 2ND FLOOR: Cover positions (orange) are placed around a Covenant container, hall corners, pillars and Keyes’ cell. Four Jackals are present, guarding Keyes’ cell and patrolling the western balcony. Two more appear from the northwestern elevator after combat begins. Shooting Jackals near the edge causes them to tumble over to ground floor. If the player didn’t enter the room from the eastern 2nd floor hallway, Jackals will spawn in from here, offering a 2ndwave of 3-6 Jackals.
Events – Rescuing Keyes
Rescuing Keyes involves a new game-mechanic that can be used throughout the game in conjunction with dynamic or baked-in physics.
D – DESTRUCTIBLE JOINT: The cable suspending Keyes’ cell has a pivot joint near its root. This joint is only visible once the player has entered the room. Through her dialogue, Keyes teaches the player how to use this new mechanic to free her. A couple of simple shots or carefully timed grenades can pop the joint, letting the cell fall to the ground.
E – ALTERNATIVE: If the Joint Mechanic is not feasible, Keyes’ cell is fixed in place. The player simply has to fight his way to the 2nd story bridge to manually release her.
F – OPENING THE CELL: A switch mounted on the front side of the cell needs to be activated to let Keyes out of her cell. Once free, the player can offer Keyes a weapon to neutralize the Covenant. If Keyes should die at any point during combat, she will drop the Index, letting the player retrieve it.
H – LOCKDOWN: An alarm goes off when the cell is opened. All doors leading into the chamber are dropped shut, preventing escape. The sub-tunnel water flow is halted, stopping container movement, preventing backtracking to the outside. The player and Keyes have to fight off any remaining Elite or Jackal. Once all Covenant are dead, the room remains deathly quiet for a moment or two. Keyes offers some words of concern. Another tremor rumbles through the area, causing dust and debris to fall from the ceiling, but causing no damage.
Events – 2nd Wave
The sound of Drones echo throughout the chamber, growing closer… Depending on where the player is, the Drones will spawn an appropriate distance away from the player to provide the most visual impact.
I – BALCONY ATTACK: If the player is on the 2nd floor, Drones will spill out from the sub-tunnels, flying up and around the player. Anywhere from 3-5 Drones can be present at any one time, for a maximum of 15 Drones.
J – GROUND ATTACK: If the player is on the 1st floor, Drones will drop out from the northern ventilation shafts and attack. After half of the Drones are destroyed (8), a major earthquake occurs. The main effects of this are not realized until the player returns to the outside, where a large crack in the ground has drained the small lake.
K – SCAFFOLDING: The quake causes the cables suspending the scaffolding to lurch downwards, exposing their Destructible Joints. Their lights pop, sending a shower of sparks down to the floor. A slight strobing effect fills the room, increasing the combat tension.
L – EAST SCAFFOLDING (A): A couple moments after the earthquake, another tremor causes an eastern scaffolding cable to snap. The scaffolding swings downwards into the eastern balcony, shattering the walkway, preventing passage along its edge (B). This event should hint at a possible way for the player to escape the room…
M – WEST SCAFFOLDING (A): Now that the player has witnessed what happens when scaffolding joints pop, he can be inventive with the environment and use the remaining scaffolding to escape the room.
N – WEST SCAFFOLDING (B): By shooting out the eastern cable joint, the player causes the scaffolding to swing downwards, crashing into the hallway door. This bashing causes a security over-ride, raising all hallway doors. The player can then pick his escape route.
O – OOPS! (C): If the player shoots the western cable joint instead, this causes the scaffolding to swing downwards into the bridge that spans the room, destroying it – and knocking out any down Covenant in the area.
P – TIME OUT: If the player fails to damage the hallway door or engage the puzzle, the doors open after all Drones have been destroyed and 30 seconds have passed.
Q – BOTH JOINTS: Both joints can be removed on either scaffolding, causing it to completely fall to the ground. The area is large enough that its resting position should not obstruct movement from one area to another. If AI can not avoid dynamic objects, then a fixed position can be determined and AI nodes for that region will be disabled.
R – ESCAPE: After the doors have reopened, 2-3 Jackal appear from the eastern 2nd floor hallway. 2 Hunters appear from the eastern 1st floor hallway. No enemies appear from the western 1st floor hallway. The player can explore this area, but it’s ultimately a dead-end, forcing the player to return to the Temple.
The scenario for this area is flexible and dynamic depending on how the player enters the room and how he chooses to free and escape with Keyes.