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Reach Respawn Points

This article will discuss the use of spawn points when forging Reach. It covers both initial spawn points and respawn points, and provides a number of in depth discussions on the topic of how to use spawn points effectively.


There are two types of respawn points: initial spawn points, which are used when a player spawns the first time on a map; and respawn points, used by players when they spawn again on the same map. Apart from this difference, the rest of my article will refer to both collectively as spawn points.

Team & FFA Assignments

Respawn points can be assigned to the neutral team or to a single team. Those that are assigned to the neutral team can be used by any player from any team and from FFA. Those assigned to a specific team can only be used by players of that specific team.

Initial spawn points can be assigned to the neutral team or to a single team. Those that are assigned to the neutral team can only be used by FFA players. Those that are assigned to a specific team can only be used by players of that specific team.

There is a corner case exception to the rule above.
[1] Say an orange team member spawns on a map with no orange initial spawn point and neither neutral or orange respawn points. In this case, they would use the neutral initial spawn point for their initial spawn and have no legitimate place to respawn from (and would respawn apparently randomly according to the canvas design, even outside the playable area). This is considered a corner case, because the map layout is valid only if the orange team member was limited to only one life per round. Otherwise, the map would break when he tried to respawn.

Not all FFA games use FFA spawning rules. Infection and Juggernaut games use team spawning rules. Zombies and the Juggernaut are on the blue team, while everyone else are on the red team.

Initial Spawning Selection

Regardless of any positive weights applied to available respawn points (by teammate proximity or respawn zones), a player will spawn for the first time at an initial spawn point if one is available. Apart from exceptional conditions (e.g., obstructed spawn points, stockpile drop zone behavior), this is the only way you can guarantee a spawn outside of a team respawn zone.

If a player joins a game in mid play, they will spawn their first time on an initial spawn point. While an initial spawn point in the open is safe at the beginning of a game (due exclusively to the design of the map and spawning locations of the enemy), that safety is guaranteed only for the initial seconds of the game. The implications of this only apply to games where players can join during the game play, and are considered corner cases that should weigh very little in map design.

When a team spawns for the first time, the spawning is so quick that you might think that all team members spawned at the same time. In fact, they spawn one at a time.[2]

One layout strategy includes one initial spawn point for a team, surrounded by respawn points that can be used both for initial spawning and respawning. For initial spawning, the first teammate will use the initial spawn point. The other teammates will spawn near the first. With each player spawning, the weight increases for additional teammates to spawn near by. This is considered best practice for most maps, as it defines where the team initially spawns with total predictability and it utilizes the respawn points for both roles.

This strategy breaks down in cases where the weighting of far off respawn points are greater than the proximity of a teammate. If the initial spawn point and surrounding respawn points are not in a weak respawn zone, but other respawn points are, the latter will likely be used instead of those near the initial spawn point.[3]

If no initial spawn points exist for a team, then respawn points will be used for initial spawning. Weights upon all respawn points are considered and the best is selected for the first team member. The same rules apply to the rest of the team initially spawning using respawn points as in the single initial spawn point scenario.

Since the choice of spawn points in this scenario is driven by weights and not a single fixed initial spawn point, and since players spawn one at a time, given a very near proximity of available spawn points on a small map, it is possible if not carefully laid out to have the opposing team spawn first and so closely to the latter spawning team that the latter team is pushed into an undesirable location (e.g., a corner).

Finally, given multiple initial spawn points, it is generally assumed that there will not be more initial spawn points than can possibly be on a given team.

For initial spawn action, every initial spawn point will be used before any respawn point is considered (per team). This means that you can break your team up into several groups at disparate areas of the map. It also means you can spawn in the open without having any respawn in the open.

The act of spawning, both initially and secondarily, can be used to form game phase experiences. You can, for example, initial spawn in inescapable areas[4] which later lead to the main playable area, and always later respawn in the main playable area.

It was believed that given more than one initial spawn point, the spawn engine will select an initial spawn point using the typical weighting system, but only among initial spawn points. But in practice, this only proves true to an extent.

Let's say you have 4 blue initial spawn points and you divide them into two pairs at opposite ends of the blue base. If you have only two blue team members, the spawn engine appears to randomly select any two of the four initial spawn points for the initial spawning. Selecting the first initial spawn point for the first player does not appear to add weight to the near by initial spawn point as it does for respawn points.

On the other hand, you can encapsulate initial spawn points with respawn zones or weak respawn zones to ensure they are used first. This can be used to provide specific benefits when you do not know the exact number of team members for any given game.

For example, in infection games, you might start with one zombie, or you might start with three. If you have one blue initial spawn point in a very special location, you can surround it with a respawn zone ensuring that the first zombie spawns there. All others can spawn in another location on the map.

The desired effect is that for games with only one zombie, the primary initial spawn point may offer some unique advantages that a single zombie might need to succeed in increasing the zombie population in the beginning seconds of the round. But you wouldn't want more than one zombie to enjoy that advantage.

Neutral Respawn Points

Using neutral respawn points through out a map is considered best practice for many maps, as it allows the reuse of the neutral respawn points for FFA and team play. It also can be used to reduce spawn traps on small maps by allowing either team to utilize the full set of respawn points across the entire map, while generally favoring (by weak respawn zones) those respawn points in its base. This can be very advantageous for non objective games, where there is nothing particularly of value assigned to a team's base.

For objective games, like flag and bomb, the players must be prevented from spawning on their enemy's side of the map (in the general sense). Respawn zones covering half the map for each team ensures this, with the price of increasing the potential for spawn traps. Respawn zones covering two thrids of the map mean that each team share one third of the neutral respawn points in the middle of the map, but each team remains out of the other team's base. This can be varied in any way to meet a map's demands. The point is that you do not want any player spawning right next to their enemy's flag or really anywhere in their enemy's base. Such a respawn would detract from the game play experience as it seems very unnatural.

If a map is designed with a red respawn zone covering half the map and a blue respawn zone covering the other half of the map, then all respawn points can be neutral. The respawn zones effectively define hard boundaries for where the teams will be able to respawn. This strategy allows the respawn points to be reused in FFA games, where the respawn zones have no affect (they are team assigned).


Team Assigned Respawn Points

On small maps, the need to tightly control respawn action can require interleaving respawn points with precision that cannot be achieved with respawn zones, weak respawn zones, and most of all not with neutral respawn points. This is a time for assigning teams to respawn points.

You can assign one or two red team respawn points in a sea of blue team respawn points in specific areas not "really inside" the blue base, though on the other side of the map from the red team's base. Or, by carefully selecting the very few blue respawn points and turn them neutral, you can make them available for the red team to use.

You will probably want to cloak the entire blue side with a red anti respawn zone to defer the red team from spawning there unless there is no better place on the map.

Again, this strategy is useful to reduce spawn traps.


[1] Discovered while experimenting to confirm Bungie documented behavior. You may consider this inconclusive, but I would be surprised if you found it to be incorrect.

[2] Bungie documentation states unequivocally that players do not spawn simultaneously, but only strongly implies a purely sequential order. Review of film clips are inconclusive to whether every player spawns precisely one at a time or if several can spawn simultaneously after the first player spawns. For this article, I will assume that Reach spawns initially using a purely sequential order.

[3] Bungie states that a weak respawn zone is about the same strength of a teammate standing near a respawn point. I confirmed by experimentation and game play review that a weak respawn zone weight is a little more than one teammate standing near a spawn point. Bungie's statement is ambiguous, while my experiment is inconclusive by itself.

[4] Zombies initially spawning in an inescapable area of the map, for example, provide the unique feature of giving the humans some initial game time to "hide" or take up positions. Then a bridge or teleport can delay spawn to provide the zombies a means to enter the play area.