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.

Lab Rescue

Heading down into the bowels of the station, the Master Chief runs into a Covenant search party which has surrounded a group of scientists who are in a losing battle to defend themselves.  The lead Elite is conveniently distracted while ordering his troops and can be dispatched with a quick assassination move before he even realizes the Chief is there!

Assuming the scientists survive to see the Chief rescue them, they unlock the door to the lab they were protecting.  Inside, the player finds a Forerunner equipment item, the personal auto-turret.

Gameplay Video


Because the Master Chief is essentially a "superhero" in an exoskeleton, it's important to give the player opportunities to feel that his actions are having a positive effect on the world... not just checking enemy targets off of a hit list.

Throughout this mission, we tried to ensure that players encountered both signs of what had happened because the Chief hadn't arrived yet and opportunities to do legitimate, recognizable good for human characters he encounters.

We also try to create a noticeable-but-realistic feedback loop in these cases:  saving people results in a "reward" by making the experience slightly easier in some way.  In the Horseshoe, a player can save ONI soldiers who will then accompany him into the next battle to help out.

Here, the reward is more literal, but it makes sense that a scientist wouldn't risk his or her life for the miniscule contribution that would make to a super-soldier... and since the station studies Forerunner artifacts, it justifies the presence of my favorite offensive armor ability in the game.

I just had to make sure this was the only place in the level to find that item, otherwise it wouldn't be special.

Second Airlock Room

The Chief emerges into an airlock room quite similar to the one he encountered moments ago.  The battle for this one is more intense, but after a struggle the Chief is victorious.

Gameplay Video


The "approach" portion of this layout is noteworthy because it differs slightly from the First Airlock Room.  Since the player is coming up a ramp, that ensures that they see the path ahead of them before the one to the right (the direct path into the Airlock Room which is like the First one).  This additional route to reach the upper area gives the player a crucial choice:  get the high ground right away (but be further from the airlock doors, less likely to be able to trigger them before they open) or take the much more dangerous route (that keeps the airlock doors close, potentially shortening the fight significantly).

The key to getting this encounter right was, like the fight in the Horseshoe, balancing and pacing the reinforcement waves so that none of the various ways to approach the combat could make things too easy or too hard.

The bold player (or one who has played the level a few times and knows about the airlock "trick") can shorten the experience significantly so long as they're keeping half an eye on their motion tracker (to know when an airlock is ready to be emptied).  But earning an opening to hit the airlock buttons can be a real challenge.

On the flip side, a player who hangs back and takes the "safe" route and takes out targets one at a time can become overwhelmed if the airlocks spew enemies into the mix too quickly or who are too powerful (which could unbalance the fight unfairly against the player).

I played around with a variety of "squad" compositions, always trying to ensure that whenever a reinforcement comes in, the "contribution" it makes to the ongoing power struggle is comparable to whatever the player has already "dealt with."  It's as much instinct and iteration as science, but when done right it lets the tension and challenge of the fight increase gradually, like you want out of almost any combat encounter.  (It's a skill I developed when solving similar problems on Hunted: The Demon's Forge, and it served me well here.)

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