I thought I would write this story of how one of the greatest, longest lasting maps on Project Ares, Harb, came to exist. Most of the people who have played this map, joined after the map was put in rotation. Other people had been playing before Harb was added to the rotation. However, there are even fewer people who know the story behind the map, and the work actually put into making the map. Please note this is a long read (1,800 words or so) and I only suggest reading it if you truly want to know how Harb was created and/or want to plan your own map.

The Beginning

It all started 2 years ago in my World History class when I had started to bring a graph paper notebook to draw on because the class was so boring. One day in class was particularly boring and I started to just draw a random pattern on a piece of paper. This random thing began to develop and I started thinking about a different game, Halo: Reach. This game was about to come out when I started this drawing and I was like, “Hey, maybe I’ll try to draw a map to make using Halo: Reach’s new forge system!” This was the start of Harb’s existence (I had not even heard of Minecraft at this time).

The Planning

After thinking about Halo, I began to think about what makes a good map based on all the other FPS games I had played in my life (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Lost Planet, but mostly Halo). Instead of creating a map in how I would like it to be played, I started to base my map design on how people move throughout a map, not how I hoped they would. This is one of the major problems I see with maps. In the original thought it seems like a great idea, but when you put 50-100 people in a map, things don’t always go the way you thought they would and chaos ensues. I also thought about the weapons used in Halo (Shotgun, Sniper, DMR, Assault Rifle, Grenades, Energy Sword, etc…). And based off these weapons, I started thinking of circumstances to best use the weapons. Tight spaces and corners for the Shotgun and Sword, close range corridors used for flanking for the AR, medium distance spaces for the DMR, long ranged corridors for the Sniper, and plenty of areas where grenades would be well used by players. With these corridors and spaces, there needed to be enough cover to prevent easy shots right from spawn. Also I thought of Warlock, a map from Halo 1 I believe, that had portals going from one side to the other, and decided to plan those in. Thus the outline of Harb was made.

The Testing

Now that I had the outline, I had to put it to testing. (Please note this a few weeks after I actually made the outline). Since I could not test it as a map as I could not build it yet, (Halo 3’s forge was too minimal for me to make it well, although I did try) I had to get creative. I made several copies of the original drawing so I could draw on them without damaging the original drawing. One way I tested was getting out my trusty ruler and drawing out lines I, as a player, would like to use. I made lines all over one of the copies representing lines of sight I thought would be common. I was happy with what I saw and decided to test the player movement. I had some of my friends who play Halo test the movement of the game. I gave them a copy of the map and a pen and told them to take any path they wanted on the map and go from one spawn to the other. Once again, I liked what I saw. I then took the copies of movement and analyzed them to see where people liked the most. I noticed most people liked going straight through the middle, then the furthest sides, then the medium sides, and lastly a few “pros” liked to kind of circle the middle and then cut to a side, or use the side and cut to the middle. Once again, I liked what I was seeing with regards to movement. Then I took one of the plain copies of the map and marked the areas most visited by the people’s movement. I tested the lines of sight from the areas of most movements. I saw the major areas were well separated and you could not directly see from one major area to another, to me I thought this would give the people who are used to thinking outside the box the advantage of being able to move around safely and see these major areas without actually being in them. Once again I was happy with what I saw and thought the map was perfect. I put all the drawings and plans into a drawer in my room and left them there until Halo: Reach came out; all except the original drawing which stayed in my notebook. (I originally planned the map on just being flat and not having buildings to go into since Halo’s forge was not that extensive.)

The Map

Finally, Halo: Reach came out and I was so excited to begin making the map I had planned so far in advance! I looked through the building blocks and was happy with what I saw. One of the objects was even a grid I could use for building! I began to make my new Halo map, “Geometry Wars.” However, once I started building, I soon discovered it was harder than I originally anticipated. Despite this challenge, I stayed persistant and nearly completed the map. Once the end was near, I started running out of blocks (Halo’s forge system only allows users to place a finite number of block) and could not finish the map, I was so pissed. I gave up, threw all the copies I had in the trash, and deleted the version I made on the computer. In this moment, I almost lost everything and Harb almost didn’t exist.

I Discover PGM

I started to play on Serenity and became good friends with Plastix. We built a couple things together and discovered just how well we worked together on builds. While this was going on, Plastix, MonsieurApple and Anxuiz had begun work on the original Race for Victory as a fun little project. The original version had minecarts to get to the map from spawn, beds to reset spawns, and honor rules for wool rooms and such. We had so much fun testing it with the small group! This small project of a PVP server began to develop and Anxuiz and MonsieurApple created pvp.oc.tc and then PGM 1.0 (Don’t quote me on that part). Plastix mentioned to me they needed more maps and I asked if I could make one. He said sure, go ahead, we’ll just have to test it before adding it. I suddenly remembered that old design I made a year and half ago. I searched through all my belongings for hours, looking for the original design. I eventually remembered it was still in my journal. After finding my journal, and with it, my design, I felt so relieved to see it again.

Harb is Started

I got one of my good buddies Iced_Pineapple (I know him in real life) to start helping me with this on Plastix’s original Map Development server. I started to create the outline with 4 spaces representing 1 square on the graph paper, but once I finished I saw that it was too small and redid the entire original grid at a 5:1 ratio instead. Once I got the grid done, I started to outline the buildings with stone brick and then had a map with no detail, just ideas. Up to this point Plastix hadn’t payed much attention to it but once he saw the outlines he wanted to help. We then came up with the idea of using a Middle Eastern theme and started to make the buildings. We worked and worked on designing it and about halfway through, Iced_Pineapple or Plastix mentioned to me about sewers, and that is where the sewers were introduced to the map. After a week or two of building, Harb was complete.

PS: Harb actually got it’s name from the Arabic word for war “harb.” However, since Arabic uses it’s own alphabet, I had to just create a word with the same sound and went with Harb.

Final Notes:

This map was made with all the ideas I had ever had from the variety of games I played and what I thought of FPS games. As mentioned before, I almost lost the drawing and Harb would have never existed. Now you may note there is no pictures of any drawing up there because once I finished the map, I believe I threw away the drawing and thus the original idea was lost. Now for those of you who read this and build your own maps I hope you took some notes on what is put into a map.

Some of the major ideas are:
  • Have a balance of narrow corridors and open space. This makes the map not feel as cramped and allow for different styles of play.
  • Think of the way people play maps, not how you want the map to be played. This will minimize the areas not used by players and improve the areas people like to go to.
  • Take your time and plan. I can not stress enough how important it is to plan out a map before you start to build. A sketch is always nice but if you don’t want to take the time to do that, at least have a mental image of the map you want to build.
  • Get other people’s input. This will improve your map by 100% if you get even just 1 other decent builder’s input on something. They might point out small aesthetic changes or even some small gameplay changes. And lastly,
  • Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay. Too many people focus on the aesthetic aspect of a map and although it may look great, the map might not play up to where it could. Although aesthetics are great, the actual gameplay is most important to the game. Sometimes the most simple patterns and designs are better then complex and intricate ones as the complex ones are often distracting to the eye.

Thank you to those who took the time to read this and enjoyed learning a little something on how Harb came to be. Happy PVP’ing!