Hey everybody and welcome back to Creators Spotlight! This month we have that special episode for you all that we've been hinting at for a while, hopefully, you all will enjoy this very special interview with an old-gun of the Forge Community and current level designer at 343i, Tyler Ensrude! The goal here was to interview someone who has got into the games industry as a whole and who would allow you to get the best insight on the differences between Forge and Game development, the challenges, and to help you see if Level design as a whole is something you'd like to pursue as a career rather than just a hobby. Alright well, this is going to be quite a long transcript/article that'll house some stuff that was cut and other stuff that was mentioned post-interview that might be cool to hear if you're interested in making level designing a career in the future.
Also, I'd like to apologize for the lateness of this post in relation to the video, I've been very busy lately so it took me a minute.
Without Further a-do let's jump right into this very special episode of Creators Spotlight!
[Disclaimer, this article has no direct ties to 343i or Microsoft, this article began as a friend reaching out to a friend to hopefully give the broader community more insight on their past with Forge and possibly insight on how their Forging skills can be transferred into a career; our hope is to possibly interview more developers and prominent community members turned developer down the line, so please be respectful to Tyler in the comments or on Twitter whether you enjoy his creations or not.]
Crush (C): Hey Everybody and welcome back to the ForgeHub Youtube Channel (And website)! Today we have a very special guest for you, he's an old Forger who's now working at 343i and a very good friend of mine that I've known for a very good while; would you introduce yourself Tyler!
Tyler Ensrude (T): Hey everybody I'm Tyler Ensrude, I'm a level designer at 343i, and like you said I came from the Forge background!
C: Nice, nice, how long would you say that you've been in the Forge community overall? Whether that be like, of course, we've all been in the Forge community for quite a long time, early on you could say to some extent, and by that, I mean more or less we've been messing with the tool and we've had our coherent design down phase where we were really into it, how long and where have you been in that type of spectrum?
T: Yea, I started back in 2007 when Halo 3 first launched, the day that the game came out, I was in my basement with my brother, and we launched the Forge tool, we didn't know what it was, but we just started playing it, and it was initially just a simple tool for weapon moving and spawn point moving on a map, that was the start of what became a really in-depth hobby of Forging and just making levels for the game. So I started back in 2007 on day 1 of Halo 3 and I've been kinda progressing the hobby and the art form over each Halo Title. It's been a huge hobby of mine over the years and after the release of Halo 5's tool, I kinda used that as a springboard to make a portfolio of a bunch of things I've made in Forge and used that as an application to apply to 343 Industries. It's actually interesting, because Tom French, who's the guy who, he's now the multiplayer director but he was the person in charge of Halo 5's Forge. So he ended up making all those creative tools that allowed Forgers and Creators to use the tool as more of a creative platform to promote their stuff and make wild stuff as a whole for the community, from some of the wacky minigames like "Flapjack Frenzy" and some of the cool maps were added Halo 5 really did a lot in that aspect. With those better tools I believe my skills and a lot of other people's skills kinda developed because of that, luckily enough, Tom wanted to bring community members in to help develop Halo. Having worked exclusively in Forge and stuff like Unreal, it was a great opportunity to do that. So he had basically he'd been talking about that and then ironically, it's actually quite a unique story but 10 years on the dot later (From Halo 3's Forge's 10-year anniversary), I have received the offer to work at 343i. So that was pretty sweet!
C: Nice! Especially with the, well I guess technically speaking the new Forge lord is Michael Schorr but uh, the old Forge Lord, Tom French, did a lot with Halo 5 and it's really nice to see how you've grown as a whole; I mean I've known you since H2A, which is...coming up on its 10 year anniversary too haha, uhh but, whatchamacallit it's really crazy to see how much Forge has improved over time, especially H5 with that huge jump, I mean like I've seen your stuff since H2A as I said, and it's absolutely amazing how far You, I, and many other Forgers have come in their designs and their skills with the tools and Forges evolution overtime. Hopefully, with Infinite's Forge it'll evolve even more!
T: Yea, I know Tom for example, in Halo 5's Forge, he did such an incredible job of making that tool so much better and so much more user-friendly, just something that can really empower the people using it, it was just a huge step up from Halo 4's/H2A's Forge and I know that Michael Schorr, who's the new Forge Lead, he's been doing pretty much the same thing for Halo Infinite's Forge, it's going to be a really cool, big step up from Halo 5's in a lot of ways, so there's a lot of excitement to be had, there's a lot of cool stuff on the horizon.
C: That's really good to hear and I can't wait to get more info on it than the Re-do Undo button we got 3 Years ago at Outpost, feels like forever haha. Hopefully, we get some more info on that soon, I mean it's great that we have that knowledge of the Redo/Unto Button from outpost as that's been requested for a while.
T: Yea, that's a huge one on its own.
C: Hopefully like other things that we've wanted will come into the Forge at some point, whether that be at the launch of the tool or down the line since Halo 5 had a lot of things that were added in at the time so hopefully Infinite's will have a similar method to the madness on that when it comes to features! My next question for you actually would be is what would be some things that have inspired you in your level design over time, whether that be a game, people, developers, etc?
T: Yea I think one of the biggest inspirations for me looking back was Halo 3, it's where I got my start with this type of stuff but I also think the multiplayer roster of maps was super unique compared to other games. There was so much creativity and uniqueness to all of them, both in how they played and how they looked, that it was just super inspirational; whether you liked them or not they are pretty iconic for what they are. So that game as a whole I think was incredibly inspiring to me but also there was a really really great community of people Forging, from the beginning of that era all the way to now, like there are tons of people that I've made friends with, some of my best friends were actually met through Forge, I mean we've met through Forge too, it's a really cool Family and community. There are a lot of opportunities for people to come together and inspire each other, make cool stuff, collaborate, and all sorts of stuff like that. There are a lot of people that I could say I think have inspired me over the years, specifically there are a few Gamertags that I remember specifically from back in the day and that's the only way I know them, Uhm, is through their Gamertags, so, you know, shout out to Gunner Grunt, Element, Borat Corota, Urban Myth, MultiLockOn, Cowboy pickle, oh man, there are so many people, it's hard to keep track of. There's just this huge community of people who are making really cool stuff and it was inspiring me to try and do that too, to try to be as creative and cool as they could be.
C: Yea that's quite insane how many people have actually been in the community over the years and how many people have influenced not only you but a lot of people in the creative realm of Forge. How people have evolved too, like I said I've known you for pretty much 8 years now, coming up on 10, I've known Multi and all of them as you mentioned too over the course of my career too, it's crazy how many people have come up with us and that we've stuck with and have influenced our designs and all that type of stuff, it's really cool. When it comes to feedback and all that type of stuff they're always very paramount as well because they're people you trust for feedback like they'll give good feedback; how would you recommend for newer Forgers, where to start with feedback, I guess is the best way to put that?
T: Uhm, I think if you're making maps in Forge and you're looking for feedback, just you know, you need to be hosting custom lobbies and just in general just get people playing, uhm, that's a great starting point to get people to talk about what it is that you've made and it's really important to just think about what you're hoping to achieve with the map and what your end goals are. When people are giving their feedback, it's up to you to kinda interpret that and maybe dig a little deeper into what their experience was like on the map and try to, in a way, try to think about what they're saying and get to a deeper meaning to what they're saying.
C: When it comes to harsh feedback, how would you recommend people take that? Because of course sometimes people can be kinda "Passionate" when they give feedback and it's hard to dissect exactly what they're meaning. Of course, there is the infamous joke in the Forge community from back in the day of "Needs more Y button" (When the Y button was still the delete button) or "I think you should restart from scratch" haha, things like that, how would you recommend to, not combat but take feedback like that?
T: I think you just need to apply the same idea, get them to (If they are giving negative feedback, that's part of the job too) explain exactly what about it that they don't like, what about it could be better, what about it didn't meet the mark for them, stuff like that. Sometimes you'll get feedback that is super useful, and sometimes you will get some that isn't useful at all, if somebody doesn't give you any useful data you ultimately can just ignore it. I think that generally, it's a good idea to get as much coverage on stuff as you can, test with a wider net of people, and get a bunch of different opinions in there, it might be hard at first but you should try to break out from your close friend's group, just try to get some different experiences on your maps/designs. I think that's a good way to go about that.
C: A hundred percent. When it comes to taking feedback in the Forge community vs how you've taken feedback in the games industry, how would you say that's changed between the mediums?
T: I think generally it's pretty similar, but in a professional setting the perspectives are kinda different. In Forge lobbies and stuff, you're getting pretty raw player feedback, what it's like to just play things; and developers have their own unique perspective of what's working, and what's not working, through lived experience. I know I worked with a lot of designers that worked on Halo 5 even specifically who gave me a lot of good insight for player traversal or pathing and feedback around that type of stuff that isn't usually considered in a Forge lobby as much. There are just two different perspectives that help you ultimately gain your own perspective on how to make things and how to go about reacting to feedback and stuff, so it's all super useful and stuff regardless but there are those different avenues of thought to consider.
C: Nice, when it comes to uhm, like you said you've worked with some of the other developers, like you said that worked on Halo 5 stuff with feedback, specifically with player feedback and all that type of stuff. What would you say has been the best part about working in the games industry as a whole? would you say that it's like all your connections, would it be something more like living out your dream, what would you say is the best part as a whole?
T: Yea I think it's a two-part answer from me, and the first part is, all of the really cool and creative people that you get to work with. I've worked with a ton of developers who are super passionate and have tons of cool ideas who've helped me grow as a designer and helped me think about things in different ways, just watching them work and do cool stuff is just incredible. I think another aspect that is probably the most special about working in the industry is watching your product or things that you have made go out to the public and getting people to kinda experience the things you've designed and worked on. That is a really special feeling to get.
C: Especially with something like the scope of something like Halo and the players that play Halo and stuff like that, even that is a tremendous amount in comparison to us publishing maps in Forge. Sometimes something we'd post wouldn't even get 100 plays, sometimes it wouldn't get 10 plays, I can definitely see it being a lot different than posting a general Forge map.
T: Yea, when you're doing Forge stuff your scope is obviously the Halo community, it's the people who are in the Forge lobbies and kinda want to do this type of stuff on their own, so it's hundreds to thousands of people maybe, typically it's apart of communities you find on forums and stuff like that, but when it's in a professional setting it's just so vast, there are millions of people who've played and experienced the things that you've worked on, that's just mind-bending, that's a really cool and special feeling alone. I think that one of the things that my Co-Worker and our mutual friend Cliff mentioned to me at one point was, "Isn't it crazy how a long time ago we were on Christmas day or something opening up a present, and getting your hands on an old copy of Halo 3 and just seeing that and loading it up for the very first time and what that experience was, and now there's like a whole new generation of people who are going to have that same feeling and same kind of experience that we did, but now we're on the other side of the fence." and that is a really really cool thing to experience.
C: Yea it must be an insane thing to experience, especially with just thinking/reflecting on my own past, granted when you get a new game you're excited for, of course, those feelings are always there initially, but when it comes to intensity, I don't think I've felt that type of intensity that I did with let's say Halo 2, 3, or ODST since probably Black Ops 2.
T: Sure yeah, I mean when you have that feeling you know, it's that strong love of a game and that's pretty powerful.
C: Yea it's quite insane, honestly one of the things that come with those powerful emotions, of course, is just those good memories which are always just nice to reflect on, and I bet it's even better from the other side of the fence. When it comes to your time there at 343i, what would you say has been the hardest thing to transfer between Forge and Game Dev?
T: I think one of the hardest things for me was, you know over the course of Forge you develop all these skills, that kinda touch all the different avenues of making a level, so there's the Geo and layout, but there's also the art and how it looks, and the lighting and maybe scripting. There are a lot of different ways you can go about working on a level, so for level design specifically, one of the hardest things I think for me was transitioning to not personally be doing all that stuff at the same time, but luckily there's a team of really talented artists who are doing a way better job than I ever could have. So it was kinda hard to give up some creative control in that sense, but it's definitely worth it in the long run when you start seeing art come into your level for the first time it's a really really great feeling.
This was part 1 of a 3 part article, you can continue reading this extended transcript here: