The 86th archives

Overview of the 86th and my role

The 86th is an Arma 3 playgroup who conduct weekly story driven play sessions, set in the Halo universe. I am the head of mission creation for this group, which can be thought of as a blend of Level, Mission, and Narrative Design. This is a voluntary position, where I have now successfully run around a years worth of said sessions, set across three completely original campaigns.

This page is a highlight of my work, but bare in mind the quick turnaround times for these compositions, and that during campaigns one and two I wasn't pursuing level/mission design as a career, which is why the bulk of this work has been relegated to an old archive.

A note on ownership

I am responsible for the compositions of each area, which are built from a collection of mods including static objects, vehicles, AI, VFX emitters and musical accompaniments. On occasion I have also created custom audio and scripts for in-game event triggers.

Additionally, I'm building atop vanilla maps to save time. I also want to highlight that I'm not alone in running these events, and receive amazing help from our community manager and head of player experience, who both help run the live sessions and look after the server/community.

Here for level design work only?

If just here for just level design content, just skip past text sections and view images only. Unlike my other pages, I go more in-depth with my narrative design work here, including text and audio logs.

Campaign 1: The insurrection

Synopsis

While traveling to a spec-ops mission on a distant planet, the 86th make a pit-stop for fuel at a nearby planetary moon. While there, they receive a distress call from a military outpost on the planet, revealing that the planet is under full assault by an organized insurrectionist group.

Throughout this campaign, the 86th pushed back the assault while awaiting reinforcements, only to suffer heavy losses and uncover dark military secrets.

The prelude

To build anticipation for my first campaigns, I created text and audio logs. These were just a bit of fun, and listening back it's funny to hear mine and my housemates (whom I roped into my work) acting. You can skip ahead if uninterested:

<\ UNSC OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE
<\ CLASSIFIED TRANSMISSION [ONI.SEC.PRTCL-1A]
>> SENT: [ENS. J. Ellis]
<< RECEIVED: [Capt. C. McAllister]
<\ MESSAGE AS FOLLOWS ~
>>
>> Morning Captain. I wanted to check in and see how you're adjusting to your new position? I know your men will be jumpy, especially after your last assignment. What happened to your Commander was unfortunate but you have to tread lightly when the fate of the human race is at stake, and unfortunately he did not. Hopefully the R&R has settled some nerves amongst your men ahead of the training tomorrow?
>>
>> Regardless, it shouldn't be too intense, I just want to see how they're doing on the field. I have an upcoming task that needs treating with extreme care, and it'll be a good opportunity to tighten some lose screws so to speak. We ship out soon after the training session so have everyone ready to leave at a moments notice.
>>
>> Oh and one last thing. While everyone's been recovering I've taken the liberty of retrofitting your ship with a couple of upgrades. I hope I'm not stepping on anyone's toes as I know your men see it as their home, but it's necessary to expand our tactical footprint ahead of your new objectives. I had one of my engineers take some scans for you, which I'll get sent across shortly. See you very, very soon.
>>
~ MESSAGE COMPLETE >

Police station

This extension to the city was really fun to build, and I worked hard to ensure the buildings were all traversable and interconnected (see the ramps on both sides?). It served as the initial drop-zone for our players pods to kick off the campaign. We set this drop at night, and littered the city with tracer and artillery fire for ambiance.

The central monorail station was designed to seem like a simple decorative element, but in the final mission of the campaign I planned for players to come back to this location, fight in reverse through the police station, and investigate the collapsed tunnels. More on that later.

Using a circular building, several space-ship parts and a couple of decorative elements I made a traversable AA gun.

For the climax of this mission, players had to fight through a heavily defended cargo-hub at the base of a space-elevator.

I made special care to set up player routes using the shipping containers, while also partially blocking line of site to one of the enemy turret towers (for balance reasons).

Leaving the city

For several missions, players left the city to save marines and retake locations. Due to the blended use of vanilla and community compositions, I've omitted several areas. Here are the highlights of what I contributed, starting with a fortified roadblock location.

I wanted this to appear rushed, hence the partially constructed walls and resource trucks. I also included a ramp at the entrance, so that players could have a fun time "jumping" into the location as part of a convoy.

In a later mission, players donned disguises and convoyed through enemy territory to a known friendly hiding-spot. Part of this was roleplaying their way through an enemy controlled checkpoint.

Within this checkpoint I placed a holding area with enemy and friendly units in various poses to sell the narrative and pose a surprise moral choice to the group:
- Rescue the marines here and potentially jeopardize the rest of the mission or,
- carry on through to their original objective.

Nuclear escalations

During a couple of missions that relied heavily on vanilla locations, players had to foil a plot involving a nuke stolen from a friendly manufacturing plant. Unfortunately they failed, and the nuke was able to leave the facility.

I then had players evacuate the city by clearing the ship-port. After encountering a locked gate I designed an area requiring them to scale the inside of a building, cross a custom bridge between it and it's sister tower, and then scale back down the other side into the final area. I then had a customized script connected to a console that when activated allowed one of the otherwise static space-ship set-pieces to "fly" away. Players were pleasantly surprised by this and it was a nice little moment.

This version of the map was unfortunately lost to time, so I don't have images of these towers.

After evacuations players returned to attempt to locate the nuke in a vanilla shanty town, which again was loaded onto a truck and slipped away once again, heading towards the city. This lead to a tense high-speed chase across a vast span of countryside, during which the enemy barely got away. I was secretly hoping they failed as it would have led to a really cool fail-state and subsequent missions. The mission ended with the nuke detonating in the distance at the base of the space-elevator.

For the final mission, players "awoke" to find their vehicles aflame, ammo crates scattered, and a thick blackening smoke all around them. I fed them intel that there was a bunker they could use for shelter at the police station in the city. All they had to guide them was the fiery glow of the nuke site in the distance, which was achieved my reappropriating a volcano asset. For extra effect as they made the long trek towards the city, I played an erie song and made it seem as though pieces of the elevator were falling through the sky by again, reappropriating asteroid effects.

The overall effect is something I was really proud of at the time although these screenshots don't do it justice. I might record a video of the journey at some point.

As they entered the city, I played (admittedly ripped from YouTube and modified) desperate friendly radio communications of people confused as to what happened and engaged in combat. This was to build anticipation after the long walk, and eventually had them discover small skirmishes through the city fog (using tracer rounds to help them ID targets). I didn't make the following street, but did modify it to provide a quick illusion of disorder.

The next stage was to have players once again revisit the police station, which secretly housed a hidden bunker. I couldn't have this bunker directly attach to the police station as I wanted them to feel as though they were descending underground. To achieve this effect, I used a teleportation trick to teleport them to a nearby out of bounds composition. The smoke effects helped mask any visible portion of this area of the map.

This cave was built by another member of the team, but I modified it to improve visuals (as best I could with the rock assets), and tweaked layout for better flow.

Players traveled through the now accessible car run, and exited to find a friendly fleet having arrived to relieve them of the conflict.

Conclusion

This was a quick overview of the campaign. For more information please ask in interview. I might even be able to live demonstrate tools should you be interested.

Campaign 2: Stranded

I will be fleshing out the next campaign's description in the coming weeks, but I have included what images I could find.

Miscellaneous

Overview

The following screenshots are of miscellaneous bases or compositions that have appeared in side or filler events.