How Halo: Combat Evolved encourages learning and exploration through design
"Long before you're even considering clicking on guys until they die, you should be thinking about the space you're moving in."
- Indie developer GB Burford explores how Halo: Combat Evolved approaches level design differently than other first-person shooters.
An interesting Kotaku feature that breaks down the design of one of Halo: Combat Evolved’s early levels is making the rounds online once again.
While a few Halo games have been released since the story’s original publication, this particular story is still a worthwhile read for game developers and designers curious about what made that first title such a game changer a decade and a half ago.
“Shooters aren't games about pointing and clicking on things. They're games about engagement,” explains developer GB Burford. “The best shooters give you such a dynamic experience, from enemy action to physics simulations, that no matter how much you replay, you can always do something differently, and diverse enemies and engaging environments is a big part of how that works.”
In the story, Burford breaks down the novel design powering Combat Evolved’s Silent Cartographer level, moment by moment. He argues that Combat Evolved was free from the monotony that plagues modern shooters thanks largely to how Bungie designed levels like The Silent Cartographer.
“With Halo, you're constantly engaged in a space. Everything you see or hear inspires you to move, to shoot, to act," he says. "It doesn't give you a health system that encourages you to stand still and take pot shots. It doesn't provide you with objective markers that discourage exploration. It doesn't give you bland weapons and enemies that ensure you're always going to end fights the same way.”
Be sure to check out the full story over on Kotaku where Burford goes one step deeper and offers moment-to-moment examples of how this philosophy is executed in The Silent Cartographer, from start to finish.