Level: Composer

Level: Composer

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Experience the Level

The left column features videos and descriptions of the major events for each section.

Development and Analysis

The right column focuses on the planning, decisions, and iterations for the section.

This side also includes analysis of the section's successes and failures.

Crash Landing

The Master Chief slowly picks himself up, somehow thrown free of the crashed Lich.  From the amount of time spent on the ground and the slow recovery, it's clear that this crash—or perhaps this whole journey—has shaken the Chief more than ever before.

Ever the soldier, he renews his radio contact with the station's administrator, Dr. Tillson, and begins working on a plan to push back the Covenant invasion.

Gameplay Video


The "crash the ship rather than land it" moment has been a fun trope in the Halo series since the first game.  We wanted to pay it homage here (look for another Halo: CE callback to appear later in the level) but also use it to underscore how critical Cortana's Rampancy has become.

As she says before Master Chief can pick himself up at the beginning of this scene, Rampancy is akin to thinking too much and being unable to stop.  Rampancy is the "wires" in an Artificial Intelligence's mind getting frayed and crossed.

Halo 4 is as much Cortana's story as it one of John-117's (a.k.a. the Master Chief).  Cortana had (almost) always been along for the ride, a co-pilot, a voice of reason and intelligence and grounding for the Chief in impossibly-crazy circumstances.

Halo 4 flips the script:  the "good cop" is in danger, but not from any outside force—from herself.

Master Chief is unequipped to deal with that kind of threat.  He can't accept it.  He doesn't know how.

Ivanoff Station is the same.  Time and again, players have seen the Master Chief—the lone warrior, the superhero—arrive in an impossible situation and somehow save the day.

It should be clear from the size of the fleet and the desperate circumstances already underway that this mission is hopeless.  But, like the Master Chief, the player isn't ready to see that yet.  After all, they're the hero.

Entering the Horseshoe

As the Master Chief approaches one of the station's larger docking bays, he sees the carnage of battles already over but hears some resistance still being put up by human residents of the station.

Upon entering the U-shaped room, he sees that the battle is a losing one—the Covenant have already established a hold on the space, with more being dropped off by the second.  Though unsure yet what can be done to stem the invasion, he knows he must locate human survivors and clear out Covenant enemies as he goes.

Gameplay Video

My job on this project was (Combat) Encounter Design.  A Level Designer had already developed a vision for the mission, documented its intended gameplay beats section-by-section, and built out the details of each space he had in mind in a spectacular fashion.  My task was to complete each planned combat sequence and then develop it further.

In doing so, I could alter those original designs as necessary to improve the combat, but what I found time and again was that the original layout had a purity and a precise understanding of the elements necessary for a truly memorable (and replayable) Halo fight.  Though several big things did change during development, the large shapes and small shapes of each space are virtually identical to their original conception.  They were already right.


Because of its shape and the path the player takes through it, this space was known internally as "the Horseshoe."

Part of the genius of the space also presents its biggest challenge:  though the player wouldn't recognize it initially, the Horseshoe is a single, massive room with three main combat zones in it.  Each of these are broken up into smaller zones, so that by the time the player has finished clearing the whole room, they have essentially tackled 8-10 meaty fights (depending on how you count them and how many waves of reinforcements get dropped off in the area I'm refering to as "Part 2").

The openness presents a terrific opening shot... and also an opportunity to bypass at least one fight if the player is crafty enough.  The two docking platforms straight ahead can just be reached from the start through a combination of advanced moves, and the scripting for the combat needs to account for that.

A space this large could also be easy to get lost in, but the simplicity of the true route and that just-too-far-away-to-look-reachable distance to the center platforms helps steer the player properly.  That, and, of course, the encounter design.  Halo psychology makes frequent use of the tendency of players to run toward danger.

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