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.



Options for Protecting the Composer

Here I'll let the headings of each video explain what it's about... each one is a different approach the player could take to tackling this challenging combat sequence:


Taking the Direct (Mantis) Approach


Boarding a Banshee While It's In Flight


Getting a Banshee the "Old-Fashioned" Way

 

 
Decisions

The room overlooking the Atrium gives the player a unique, one-time glimpse at what he's about to face.  From here, the player gets to witness the Covenant cheering as they report the location of the Composer to the Didact, note that the room's ONI occupants have evacuated but left several unmanned Mantis mechs behind, and perhaps even glimpse my second homage to Halo: CE—a parked Banshee sitting in the distance, its Elite pilot waiting for the fight to start before he gets in and takes off.



I was really glad that my coworkers let me keep this little wink to the first game in the franchise in.  It references one of my favorite moments of discovery (Halo games are full of these), where, when you've played Assault on the Control Room enough times, you may notice a parked Banshee whose pilot can be blown up or raced to the Banshee in order to "steal" his ride.

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How it came about:

One element of traditional Halo minutiae that fans are very familiar with is that Plasma Pistols (ordinarily one of the "worst" weapons in the game) are situationally extra-powerful because their charged blast has the ability to disable vehicles for a few seconds.  Combined with the Halo 2 inclusion of "jacking" enemy vehicles, this makes almost no vehicle type safe from player takeover.  Particularly Banshees.



Since we therefore already had to script the fight to handle the case "the player is flying a stolen Banshee," and it seemed only reasonable to provide a "free" Banshee somewhere... particularly one that still had to be earned.

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A lot of consideration went in to the options available to players during this fight.  The intended gameplay centers around the Mantis, but during a co-op Gameplay (where there may be more players than Mantises) or if a player dislikes (isn't good with) the Mantises, there's a likelihood that someone will be looking around for alternatives... which have to allow them to be similarly effective against a slew of Mantis-level threats.



One solution is machine gun turrets.  Particularly when emplaced (rather than attached), when they have unlimited bullets, these can handle their own against infantry, Ghosts, Banshees, and even Scarab tanks.  Knowing that wouldn't be enough, however, I made sure to sprinkle the fight with sniper Jackals and Fuel Rod Cannon Grunts (both of which have the benefit of being good against a Mantis).  Finally, the ONI soldiers left Spartan Lasers behind—in particular, one in the overlook room so players would know to look out for others.



The Composer Fight Intensifies

It's crucial for any big fight to build to a conclusion so that the player can get his "feet wet" on the early challenges but feel satisfied by the time the combat ends that he wasn't simply handed a victory.

This encounter gets hectic by the end, but hopefully ends up feeling like the only thing it "punishes" is poor decision-making.  This could be a decision like "not getting out of a vehicle when it's on its last legs" or "failing to pay attention to ammo counters and running out of shots" or many other things.


Gameplay Video

 

 
CHALLENGE

It's a massive, challenging fight with a lot of waves for the players and a lot of variables (such as how to account for where 4 co-op players might be at a given moment when scripting), but at its core, there are two elements of particular interest.

First, beyond the initial scattering of enemies, all the reinforcements had to come from somewhere.  This includes both ground troops and vehicles like Ghosts and Scarab tanks, which fortunately can all be carried aboard dropships.

Second, we wanted to vary the challenges over the course of the fight to keep things fresh and interesting.  Therefore, there's a standard escalation—Grunts and Jackals give way to Elites with more powerful weaponry, Ghosts give way to Scarab tanks then both at once—but we also introduce a wave of Banshees (by themselves, since it kind of sucks to be looking up at them and have enemies on the ground also firing at you) and then mix in everything all at once... but in a controlled way.




As the fight caps off, we wanted to leave the player with a bit of a mystery (which gets explained soon after)—the final wave comes in, fights for a minute or two, then, simultaneously, all the enemies fall back.  The dropships and Banshees leave.



"Why?," a new player might ask.  "What changed?"

As they'll soon find out, the Didact called for a retreat...  because he never really needed the Covenant to help him retrieve the Composer in the first place.



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