Wednesday, February 13, 2013

As one chapter ends...

It saddens me greatly to inform all of you that after roughly three years, TRU7Hcommunity (formally Installation343) will be closing down. Now, now, don't be sad. It's for the best. Our fearless leader, me (Mixmasterchief) will be moving on to bigger and better things. The rest of us are already doing other things, but for me it was just too hard to let go. It won't be hard for you to find me if you need me. My email is still on this site (which will not be shut down, ever, it will be let up for old times sake) and I am on other sites! You can find me on these sites:
And Many More!!!

There will be a site that goes up relatively soon that will hopefully fulfill what this site set out and, unfortunately, failed to do. I will be a part of this site, actually. The only thing I can say right now is that it is going to be a celebration of Bungie, Halo, Bungie's upcoming game, Destiny, and other great gaming aspects.

I want you all to go out and do what makes you happy. If that means you only play video games, then you only play video games. If that means you make movies then please, go be the next George Lucas or James Cameron. Just make sure that you do it because you like it, not because someone thinks you should do it.

Thank you for everything you all did for us. I hope you all still find my company inviting. Mix signing off on TRU7Hcommunity for the last time.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 9.19.12

Au is on the horizon

Our eyes are bloodshot, our work areas are full of empty energy drink cans, and our beds have filed a formal request to spend more than two hours per night with us. Our spirits remain high, though, because we're almost there. Au is on the horizon …

As we work around the clock to put the finishing touches on Halo 4, our studio is focused on three main things: finding bugs, fixing bugs, and arranging a cage match between Caitie and Hoop (two of our developers on services). Actually, we’re trying to arrange a triumvirate of events, which includes the aforementioned cage match, a Gangnam Style dance off, and a Nerf war but either way, my money is on Caitie. Primarily because I like the thought of keeping my money.

Our PR and Marketing teams are also going full speed ahead, as they prepare to kick things into overdrive. I snuck a peek at their calendar for the next few months, and let’s just say they have more than a few surprises up their sleeves. Some of those things you will see in stores, others will aid you in your eternal quest for nourishment, and a few of them have the potential to blow your mind. (I say potential because they will blow your mind if you like awesome things, but maybe not if you don’t like awesome things. Take that as you will.)

By the way, Halo 4 launches in less than 50 days. If you’re not ready, I suggest you get ready, and what better way to do that than by learning about the Covenant weapons you will soon have at your disposal?

Halo 4’s Covenant Weapons

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

The Covenant weapons in Halo 4 presented us with an interesting design challenge. Traditionally, they haven’t been as popular as their UNSC counterparts, and they get much less use across the board. From a high level, we still wanted them to feel alien, futuristic, and technologically advanced (or at the very least, foreign) when compared to human weaponry, but we also wanted them to be equally viable choices.This was not an easy problem to solve.

There are a lot of gameplay specific reasons why Covenant weapons function the way they do. The blue/purple/pink color schemes and higher-pitched sound effects are intended to contrast the UNSC weapons and make enemy fire stand out. The projectiles are intentionally slower so that when fighting AI, the player is able to react and dodge them. They also tend to drain shields faster than armor health because it adds tension and creates situations where the player feels like they are escaping a fire fight by the skin of their teeth. In short, the weapons were designed to be fun to fight against, and some of these properties work against making them fun to use.

So how did we resolve these issues? On the aesthetics side, we felt like the shiny textures, bright colors, and flawless models of the past made them read a bit too toy-like, so we tried to make everything slightly more grounded. We did that by showing more wear and tear (such as scuffs and imperfections) and using new textures that made the guns look like they were created from hard metallic alloys (instead of plastic). The audio for all Covenant weapons went through several iterations until they felt a bit more punchy and visceral, while still sounding alien. As far as gameplay goes, we changed the weapon properties to make them better equivalents to UNSC weaponry. For example, the projectile speeds are drastically increased when the player uses them so that they are easier to hit targets but when AI fires them at the player, they are slower so that they are still fun to dodge. Finally, we spent a lot of time on the interface components. Two such examples are the zoom scopes, which were made to have a much more alien feel when using the guns, and the digital displays and reticles use of a similar alien language.

Frank O'Connor (Franchise Development Director), David Ellis (Spartan Ops Designer), and Chris King (Lead Sandbox Designer), along with Jeff Guy, Jayce Diaz, Joel Gifford, Kynan Pearson, Ali Zandi, Alyson Szymanski, Todd Colby, Josh Lindquist, and Chris Howard joined me to share their thoughts about this particular subset of weapons. The Covenant utilizes the following base weapons:

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-25 Directed Energy Pistol

Directed-energy weapon capable of semi-automatic firing and a scaled-burst effect which disables electronics.

How it feels:

Frank - Absolute beast, tempered by the fact that you’ll deplete your charge quickly and are brutally punished for running around with it pre-charged all the time. I had it in one of my go-to loadouts on a semi-permanent basis but I’ve kind of moved away from that, except where early vehicle domination seems likely.

David - Let me answer your first question: No, we’re not introducing the Halo 2 Noob Combo as a standard loadout in Halo 4. While the Plasma Pistol still strips shields, in my experience it doesn’t track nearly as much at a distance when compared to previous titles. It’s still very useful against shielded enemies (UNSC and Covenant alike) but as Frank mentioned, pay attention to your remaining charge.

Chris - Don’t be deceived by the toy-ish looks. This is a powerful gun! To be effective with the normal shot, you will need to use it at close ranges because the projectiles are extremely slow relative to other weapons. And since players spawn with it from the get-go as a secondary weapon, we’ve had to retune the number of charge shots down from the past (when charging, the energy drains pretty quickly in multiplayer compared to the past). It’s still a great choice, though, especially on vehicle maps. If you are a fan of the Noob Combo, I’d recommend trying to scavenge a Magnum as a backup. The Halo 4 pistols all have faster animation timings than in the past, allowing you to switch to them faster than any other weapon in the game. Charged Plasma Shot + Magnum headshot = WIN!

Jeff (Test) - The Plasma Pistol continues its role as one of the strongest utility weapons in the Covenant arsenal. Its ability to strip enemy shields or disable enemy vehicles makes it a dangerous and deceptive weapon in the hands of the right player. There’s something so satisfying about landing a charged shot against a Banshee and watching it fall from the sky, the pilot helpless to avoid his descent to an inevitable barrage of fire from your appreciative team members. The soaring green blasts in any PvP match are a reminder that you are only one good shot away from being defenseless against headshots. The sound of the charged weapon rounding the corner as the player un-crouches from cover to engage you stops your breath for a moment. The sting to a Spartan’s hands when the weapon overloads from charging too long is a bittersweet reminder that the weapon remains destined for the hands of the tactical player.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-33 Guided Munitions Launcher

Exotic guided-munitions weapon firing crystalline shards that home in, impale, and detonate on soft targets.

How it feels:

Frank - The Needler is not my favorite weapon in terms of efficacy – and you’ll see that in my Reach stats, but as something I used to only use in cases of last resort, I’m finding it more and more useful in Campaign and Spartan Ops than ever before – and taking out Elites and Promethean Knights by supercombining can be a great way to break up strategic logjams in big encounters.

David - Here’s some friendly advice for your Legendary Campaign runs in Halo 4: make friends with the Needler. For clearing out Elites and Knights, it has quickly become the pick-up weapon of choice at higher difficulty levels in both Campaign and Spartan Ops.

Chris - The Halo 4 Needler is probably the most powerful version of the gun to date. I love the new, more mechanical firing sounds of the gun as it feels more visceral. One of the big changes this time around is that the needles stick to shields again (in Reach, the needles only supercombined when shields were down). This makes it deadly for sure. However, its effectiveness is tempered by the overall faster pace of the game, which gives players a better chance of avoiding the needles. If you catch an opponent off-guard, they are in for a world of hurt.

Chris H. (SDE) - The Needler has received a damage and speed boost, which definitely makes it more powerful this time around. It’s always been a fun gun to use, but now it’s extremely satisfying and almost always a good idea to pick up if found on the battlefield.

Josh (Senior SDE) - The Needler is so bad-ass, some of us call it the “noobler”. It feels like the Halo 2 Needler to me. It will wreck your -Yoink!-

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-55 Directed Energy Rifle/Advanced

Fully automatic, directed-energy weapon, widely considered the successor to the traditional Plasma Rifle.

How it feels:

Frank - This isn’t accurate in terms of power or performance, exactly, but in a way I am reminded of the Brute Plasma Rifle from Halo 2 in terms of ferocity and sheer visceral pleasure. Of course it doesn’t work well at long range and can’t be dual wielded, but that’s my snapshot impression, if it makes any sense.

David - The Storm Rifle fills a role similar to that of the UNSC Assault Rifle, but somehow the Storm Rifle is just plain more frightening to come up against. Early in development, there weren’t a lot of people using this weapon, despite how effective it was at close range. That changed overnight when the weapons effects and sounds started to come online.

Chris - This is a fantastic close-range weapon, once you figure out the rhythm on the overheat. I especially love using this weapon on smaller maps or in tight areas as it’s incredibly lethal. It doesn’t have the range or accuracy of the AR but if you manage the heat well, you can continue firing for quite a while and it will give you a significant advantage over other weapons that require longer reloads. It takes some getting used to, though. If you just hold the trigger down and let the gun reach its overheat state, you are faced with a long cool down penalty.

Alyson (Producer) - The first level of the campaign is set up really nicely for the Storm Rifle. Use a charged shot on the Plasma Pistol to knock down the Elite’s shields, then pop him with the Storm Rifle, and finally finish off the fodder of Grunts. Then pick up the Plasma Grenades for yourself. Mwhahahaha!

Todd (UI) - Before Halo 4, I was lukewarm on Covenant weapons. I never felt like I got the meaty feedback I got from UNSC weaponry. The Storm Rifle has converted me to the Covenant arsenal – half of my loadouts are customized with it in mind. Its rapid fire rate makes it perfect for run-and-gun, and covering teammates has never been so rewarding. When I engage enemies with the Storm Rifle, it’s like I’m repeatedly slapping my opponent in the face with a thousand fruit roll-ups. Delicious victory.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons


Notable semi-automatic mid-range accuracy, firing ballistic rounds unlike most other Covenant weapons.

How it feels:

Frank - It’s the Carbine. I have always felt it was a perfectly good sub for BR and DMR and indeed sits somewhere between the two in terms of its utility for my style of play – but I have tended to avoid it every now and then because of the super-visible contrail. For some reason, in Halo 4 that hasn’t been much of an issue for me – or it was my imagination to begin with, but I have been using it more and more and in Campaign, it’s essential.

David - I can’t decide if it’s the size of the bolts you fire or some other intangible, but the Carbine feels (to me) like the most accurate weapon in the game. I find it especially useful for when I’m waiting to launch an ambush. Against inexperienced foes, the barrage of rapid fire shots can cause enemies to panic and make mistakes… to their doom. As Chris mentions below, it’s great as a finishing weapon. I would recommend pairing it with a Plasma Pistol or Storm Rifle.

Chris - Mathematically, this is the most lethal long-range rifle in the game in a one-on-one encounter. It fires extremely fast – double the rate of the other rifles. But it doesn’t have the range of the DMR or LightRifle, and each individual shot is relatively weak. A player that can land the bulk of their shots and manage their ammo well can be extremely successful with it, though. Because of its headshot capability, it is also a great weapon for playing cleanup with teammates (have them drop opponent shields and then score the headshot). I love using this weapon but I can only use it in short bursts. The firing rate is so fast, it makes my fingers tired after a while!

Joel (Test) - The Covenant Carbine is an absolute terror when going up against unshielded foes. Bringing it into Spartan Ops missions against Grunts, Jackals, and Crawlers allows you to quickly drop waves of enemies, provided you can land the headshot. In PVP, it has a little trouble getting through enemy shields, but the precision and high rate of fire allow you to constantly bombard your opponent.

Ali (Systems Designer) - It’s my go-to weapon on the Covenant side because it’s the anti-Grunt and Jackal weapon from a distance, and it caters to my somewhat stealthy play style. I enjoy the firing rhythm and the punch it delivers.It’s fascinating compared to UNSC rifles because the look, feel and audio feedback are unique and alien, especially when scoped in.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-27 Special Application Sniper Rifle
MANUFACTURER: Merchants of Qikost

Extreme-range sniper rifle, charging ionized hydrogen gas into a lethal beam of accelerated particles.

How it feels:

Frank - The Beam Rifle always felt a bit more solid and frightening to me than at least one or two iterations of the UNSC sniper. Now I prefer the UNSC sniper overall, both aesthetically and in terms of performance, but the sonic impact of the Beam Rifle is super satisfying. Like the Carbine, they seem to be easier to find in Campaign than human snipers. It’s also a bit easier to know where you’re being pinged from [with the Beam Rifle].

David - First off, I love that a proper Covenant sniper weapon is back for Halo 4. It’s been sorely missed. Secondly, the new HUD elements on the Beam Rifle when zoomed in really help to sell this as a piece of alien technology. As before, the meta-game of managing the heat of your rifle and firing on enemies means that every shot counts. Get too hasty and you’ll be looking down at your dead body in the flash of venting gas.

Chris - I love the Halo 4 version of the Beam Rifle! This thing is ridiculously large and imposing looking, and it has a really mean firing sound. Because of its enormous size, it does have a decent amount of recoil between shots but the firing rate is the fastest of the snipers and if you manage the heat state of the gun, you can get off all shots in quick succession without an overheat or reload. One other pro-tip on this one: it’s the best sniper rifle for hip shots in Halo 4!

Kynan (Lead Multiplayer Level Design) - The Beam Rifle is sick. What’s not to like about being able to clear out an enemy team with a single weapon that when used correctly doesn’t require a reload… and the sound is so satisfying.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-50 Directed Energy Weapon/Heavy
MANUFACTURER: Merchants of Qikost

Similar to other Covenant mortar weapons, firing explosive bolts of plasma at close-range to mid-range distances.

How it feels:

Frank - I have always found this weapon to be useful in close quarters combat and even against vehicles as a “confuser” – and I think the combination of fireworks and physics does a tremendous amount to add chaos and doubt to a battlefield. While I don’t use it except in desperation in Campaign, in MP I will absolutely grab it as a secondary, or when I am out of ammo on a primary.

Chris - The Concussion Rifle and Brute shot have always been somewhat controversial in that players either love them or hate them – there doesn’t seem to be an in-between. The biggest change to the Halo 4 Concussion Rifle are the stronger physics impulses from the explosions along with faster projectile speed, which makes it work better in more open spaces and from a longer distance. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend trying to use this in a duel with a DMR from across the map. I love the firing rate on this weapon but IMO, the best part about it is the emergent sandbox moments you can get from the strong physics impulses on the explosion. Try drilling a speeding enemy Warthog from the side, and watch as hilarity ensues!

David - I suppose you can put me in the latter of Chris’s camps as I still haven’t quite been able to wrap my brain around this iteration of the Concussion Rifle quite yet. It’s great against vehicles and the physics impulses are great, but I suppose I’m a simple man and I like blowing stuff up in a shower of fire and brimstone.

Jayce (Spartan Ops Designer) - Against AI, it can topple vehicles and has a fast enough firing rate to scatter large groups, and against other players it has the uncanny ability to cause confusion and pain at a safe distance. It is the ultimate noise gun, a disruptor that can leave enemies in complete disarray before they die.

Chris H. - I am impressed with the precision the AI can wield the Concussion Rifle with in Spartan Ops. They are really good at juggling my lifeless body after they obliterate me.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-33 Light Anti-Armor Weapon
MANUFACTURER: Merchants of Qikost

Typically used against heavy armor by launching charged fuel rods which violently detonate upon impact.

How it feels:

Frank - A great weapon, not exactly a Covenant Rocket Launcher, but not too far off – also one of the weapons that oddly enough, really shows off some of the environment mapping on our surfaces. You really get a “feel” for whatever space you’re in based on the reflectivity and the way it catches color and light.

David - For me, the Fuel Rod Cannon sits somewhere between the Rocket Launcher and the Brute Shot, with regard to how I use it. Against Covenant or Promethean forces, you can clear out the cannon fodder with relative ease, but against more evenly matched enemies, expect to need multiple hits to drop them.

Chris - Traditionally, the Fuel Rod hasn’t gotten a lot of love in Halo multiplayer. This has changed in Halo 4. This is another case where I am really excited about the direction the audio and FX teams went in with the weapon. It’s not drastically different but the changes just make it feel that much more satisfying and visceral. As with the other “area of effect” weapons in the game, the projectile speeds have been increased on this one, and we’ve fine-tuned the blast radiuses just a tad. Despite the faster speeds, you will still need to land a couple fuel rod shots to finish off an opponent, as an individual blast isn’t powerful enough to kill someone. Because of the large magazine size on this one, it’s also great for area of denial as well.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-1 Energy Weapon/Sword
MANUFACTURER: Merchants of Qikost

Composed of superheated plasma, this sword remains the preferred close-quarters weapon of specialized Elites.

How it feels:

Frank - I am just eating it with this right now. I thought universal Sprint would give me a huge advantage, but the reality is it flattens it out for me. I used to go on crazy tears with the sword, but now I find myself being stopped short – that “gun game” thing people are referring to more and more seems to be hitting me where it counts during would-be sword sprees. I do find myself on the receiving end of it a fair amount, however.

Chris - To Frank’s comment, I think one of the mistakes I see people making with our sword is that now that players move faster with Sprint by default, they assume they can just run at opponents and kill them with the lunge from far away. This is a mistake – you still need to be somewhat sneaky with it. That being said, if you can restrain yourself from going all Rambo and just use it in tight spaces, it’s as lethal as ever. Important changes include making it swing much faster than it has in the past and eliminating those pesky melee parries (no more “CLAAAAAANG!” unless the other person also has a sword). One final pro tip: when sprinting with normal weapons, if opponents shoot you, the shots will slow you down a tad. A sword wielding player is immune to this!

David - It’s big, it’s made of hard light, and it will wreck your world if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. I think Frank and Chris covered everything else.

Kynan - I love the sword in combination with the Thruster Pack. There’s no better feeling than sprint jumping off the roof of a building into a crowd below and then thrusting to dodge or close distance, putting you perfectly in range to cut through them all like butter.

Halo 4 Covenant Weapons

DESIGNATION: T-2 Energy Weapon/Hammer
MANUFACTURER: Recovered from field (originally Sacred Promissory)

Crude yet formidable close-range Brute weapon, substantially improved by way of a powerful gravity drive.

How it feels:

Frank - For me, it’s kind of the opposite philosophy from a lightsaber, an inelegant weapon for a more barbaric time. I love the fact that the splash effect can buy you some distance, even when you whiff it badly. I love the fact that a direct hit is a cast-iron guarantee of success, and I love the fact that you feel almost exactly like Donkey Kong for a similar amount of swings at the “barrels” the sandbox presents you. And yes, I know Mario is the one swinging the hammer, but it’s important to make the Donkey Kong analogy sing!

David - I think this says everything.


Chris - The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. This is one of my all-time favorite Halo weapons. There aren’t a ton of changes that we made to it – more like nuanced tweaks. The animation speeds are a tad quicker, the area of effect has been expanded, the damage tuning tweaked but overall, it’s pretty similar to past incarnations. Probably the biggest change comes in the form of the physics impulses – they are much more powerful now to compensate for the beefier vehicles in the game. This has the awesome side effect of making the Gravity Hammer ragdoll players and objects much more than it has in the past. In short, you should expect the hammer to function similar to past versions, but with more showboating flair!

And that wraps up today’s feature about Covenant weapons. Don't leave yet, though, because we're about to breakdown the different editions of Halo 4. Join me, won't you?

A breakdown of the different editions of Halo 4

A breakdown of the different editions of Halo 4

On November 6, there will be several different options available for those interested in purchasing Halo 4. As this information came out in waves, there has yet to be a central location for seeing all the relevant details in one place. Until now.

Below you will find the different editions of Halo 4, along with what each edition comes with. Clicking on some of the fields will open a picture or take you to an article with additional information. Completionists worrying about the fact that exclusives mean certain items may never be available to them have been noted, and we’re definitely considering ways to make the entire gamut of items available at some point in the (relatively distant, since we obviously wish to give our retail partners plenty of room) future.

It's also worth noting some readers have noticed that GameStop has stopped taking Limited Edition pre-orders online – and we suspect GameStop gets the lion’s share of US pre-order Limited Edition units. Some overseas retailers have also stopped taking Limited Edition pre-orders so without jinxing it, we can confirm that this generally happens when they run out of inventory. We’ll keep an eye on that situation and keep you apprised.

Edition Price Includes Bonus Digital Content Through Xbox LIVE

Halo 4 Standard Edition $59.99 USD Standard Edition Copy of Halo 4 N/A

Halo 4 Limited Edition $99.99 USD Halo 4 War Games Map Pass
Launch Day Access to Six Specializations
UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet
Special Edition of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
In-Game Prime Armor Skin
In-Game Prime Weapon Skin - Assault Rifle
In-Game Prime Emblem
Recruit Armor Avatar Costume
Avatar Cryo-Tube Prop

Xbox 360 Limited Edition
Halo 4 Console Bundle
$399.99 USD Two Exclusive Forerunner Controllers
Standard Edition Copy of Halo 4
Wired Headset
320GB Hard Drive
Built-in Wi-Fi
In-Game FOTUS Spartan Armor
In-Game Imprint Weapon Skin – LightRifle
In-Game Unicorn Emblem
FOTUS Armor Avatar Costume
Avatar Promethean Crawler Prop

Halo 4 War Games Map Pass $24.99 USD Access to Nine Competitive Multiplayer Maps
(Three Future War Games Map Packs, Each
Including Three Maps)
In-Game Scanner Helmet
In-Game Strider Helmet
In-Game Falcon Emblem

Standalone Xbox 360 Halo 4 UNSC Limited Edition Wireless Controller $59.99 USD N/A Halo 4 UNSC Logo Avatar T-shirt

And that wraps up this week’s edition of your Halo Bulletin. I’ll see you next week, when you may or may not be getting another new video. Until then…

bs angel

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 9.12.12

Pressing Matters

Halo 4 Press Event Halo 4 Press Event

Select members of the press from around the globe have been visiting the studio the past two days, October 11 is New York Comic Con, and November 6 will be the day you take Halo 4 for its first official spin in your disc tray, plus a few surprises we can’t talk about just yet. We’re ready for these things… are you?

While you won’t see the results of this week’s press visit until late September, we do have a very special treat for you today in the form of a brand new behind-the-scenes video. The majority of you have probably stopped reading and are now frantically scrolling, searching for that magical play button. For the two of you that are still reading (thanks, Mom and Dad!), I thought we could talk a little about why we invite the press to our studio.

Over the past several months, we’ve worked hard to get Halo 4 into the hands of as many people as possible. From being playable at events to hosting numerous community parties to inviting fans to participate in private playtests, we’ve used every available opportunity to get, and then implement, player feedback. We can only reach so many individuals in person, though so we try to give the press regular sneak peeks at the game so they can share what we show them with all of you. Think of it this way: We want to reach out and touch every single of you, and press visits help us with that, if only virtually.

Enough about our wandering hands, though. Let’s talk about the return of the Forerunners, shall we?

The Return of the Forerunners

Halo 4 Screenshot

As soon as we started concept work on Halo 4, we started looking at potential big pillar features. One of the things that came up early on was a good way to refresh the overall campaign experience, so we decided to create a new enemy race, applying the fundamentals of what makes Halo work to them. While we understand the importance of the Covenant’s role in the game for continuity purposes, we didn’t want to focus solely on those particular species. Thus, the idea for the Prometheans was born.

There were a bunch of initial ideas the team had come up with, but the real spark of where they’re at today came around discussions we had about if the sandbox is ultimately what differentiates Halo from every other FPS, then what does it mean to the way the legacy AI works and how can we make that better? That very quickly evolved into a theme of adaptive AI.

Our goal was to design a type of enemy that is highly adaptive from a tactical standpoint, basically transforming the player’s idea of how the world and combat works in order to try and gain the upper hand. If these are advanced beings, it seems like they would be intimately connected with the world they made, so the Prometheans can manipulate their environment and themselves in a way that makes them part of it. That is where you get to the final end result of Forerunners being able to spawn in and out of the world, spawn other creatures, phase back and forth, and environments moving around. They are able to manipulate things in a way we haven’t seen before, and they complement existing mechanics and change the way the player engages in the combat encounter.

According to Scott Warner, Lead Designer on Halo 4, creating an entire new enemy class was a daunting task. We started with, for all intents and purposes, a blank canvas where anything could happen. There was a super-brief glimpse of Forerunners in Halo Legends, but we wanted to do something different from that so we took as much as we could from already established Forerunner language and put it on the Prometheans. For instance, when you see a Knight idle, there are small and large bits attached at the elbows that are not physically connected but linked in a different way. They have a mystique, a gravity-defying look, similar to Forerunner structures.

We had several goals in regard to the appearance of the Prometheans, but the most important ones were to make them relatable and resonate with the player. To achieve that, we went through weeks of brainstorming and iteration. That process went a little like this: Senior Concept Artist Gabriel Garza would sketch a sheet of character models (which often included up to 20 different variations), and, upon completion, would send it around the studio. Designers, animators, and every other relevant group in the studio would then chime in with feedback. Often times people would react strongly to the same models, so from that initial 20, Gabo (as we call him around these parts) would then grab five and make another 20 out of that five. It was a long and tedious process, but one that is necessary when designing new alien characters.

There was a lot of design and creative and artistic flux there, where people just didn’t see eye-to-eye on things. Subjectively, it took us a long time to get everybody to a place where they were truly happy with what’s on-screen. Even going up to E3, we weren’t sure how people were going to perceive them. Getting the forms to be something that met the design requirements of what was important and getting people to appreciate their aesthetics was a challenging process.

After the concept phase was over, we then had to determine what works in-game. One of the very early takes on the Knight included long, folded arms with tentacle-like fingers. It looked awesome, and incredibly menacing, but if it was holding a weapon, its range was extraordinarily (and freakishly!) long. So while it looked great in concept, it wasn’t functional in-game. Every character has to move around, aim, and communicate things to the player, and because it couldn’t do those things effectively, that take of the Knight was taken back to the virtual drawing board and iterated upon again, until we perfected what you see today.

Halo 4 has a very rich ecosystem of enemies, but ultimately we wanted to give you something you haven’t seen before that is fun to shoot and kill. And hopefully that is exactly how you’ll feel come November 6.

Now, without further ado, here is what you’ve been waiting for: the Return of the Forerunners BTS. Enjoy. :)

Please Enter your Date of Birth

From the desk of the Community Cartographers

Halo 4 Screenshot

For those of you who need an introduction, the Community Cartographers are members of the Halo community who work directly with the 343 Industries Matchmaking Systems Team to bring the best community maps out of the shadows and into the Matchmaking spotlight. They recently gathered together to sponsor a community challenge, and below are the results of that contest.

From the Community Cartographers:

Well, we made it. After two months of downloading, reviewing, and playtesting, the Community Cartographers Forge Contest has finally come to a close. Today we are happy to share with you some of the finest community maps we have had the honor of reviewing throughout this process. Sorting through 281 maps proved to be quite the task, but the gems that ultimately shined the brightest really made this a worthwhile endeavor.

We'd like to start this announcement by thanking all of you who participated, supported, and helped us make this contest a reality. We were lucky enough to have a talented Forging community that made the playtesting and review phases of the judging component of this contest an absolute pleasure. Our purpose as Community Cartographers is to highlight individuals like you who really make Forge into something greater than any of us ever thought imaginable. We are happy to dedicate ourselves to you and guide you in your quest to one day see your map featured in Halo: Reach's Matchmaking. In order to accomplish this feat, your map must meet some pretty stringent guidelines, which is why we built the contest guidelines and criteria the way we did. Please take into consideration that while we saw some unbelievably creative and imaginative maps from this contest, we judged them based on these criteria because we want to see your maps ultimately featured in Halo: Reach's Matchmaking. As promised, we are taking our top 10 finalists and reviewing them with 343i's Matchmaking Sustain Team for possible integration into Reach's Matchmaking suite down the road.

We are now happy to share the winners with you! For a first-hand look of some of the submissions we had the pleasure of reviewing, and some awesome action-packed gameplay of the three finalists, check out our official announcement video prepared by one of our very own, petetheduck.

Please Enter your Date of Birth

In 3rd place, we present to you:

Congratulations, Eshcka! Enjoy your prize package:

3rd Prize: Anniversary Bundle
• Anniversary Map Pack
• Anniversary Theme
• Anniversary Avatar T-shirt
• Top contender for Matchmaking integration

In 2nd place, we're proud to share with you:

Nice work, umd z! Your ordnance will be delivered as promised!

2nd Prize: Reach DLC Bundle
• Noble Map Pack Code
• Defiant Map Pack Code
• Anniversary Map Pack Code
• Top contender for Matchmaking integration

And finally, The Community Cartographers are proud to present in 1st place, the Grand Prize package winner:

This map truly was the cream of the crop, and we know you will all enjoy it as much as we did. We are happy to present this Grand Prize package to Lethal Exactor. Congratulations!

Grand Prize: Halo Bundle
• A signed copy of Halo 4 by team members of 343 upon release
• Reach GonD Code
• Halo 3 GonD Code
• Halo Wars GonD Code
• Top contender for Matchmaking integration
• Front page feature in Waypoint News section + Q&A with author

To get a little one on one with Lethal Exactor, our Grand Prize winner, please look below as we pick his brain on where he drew his inspiration to build this award winning map as well as some other informative hints and tips on how to repeat his success.

What was the inspiration for Crossdraught and its name?

Crossdraught draws inspiration from some of Halo's most memorable and popular multiplayer maps, including Battle Creek (quite obviously), Midship, and The Pit. These maps are all excellent for mid-sized Team Objective games, and that is what Crossdraught aims to emulate.

I chose the name "Crossdraught" because it represents the long, cross-map sightlines that characterize the map. Draught of course refers to a breeze, and if the map was a real place, I imagine it would be quite windy and cold (hopefully that doesn't reflect my personality).

Why did you choose Multi-Flag CTF and Neutral Bomb as the best for your map?

Crossdraught was designed primarily with Multi Flag CTF in mind, so that was a natural choice. Neutral Bomb is probably my second favorite objective game type, and I think the two-base-style of the map really suits the ebb-and-flow of a Neutral Bomb game. These two game types were also the ones that I completed the most testing for, and the map has therefore been shaped heavily by feedback from CTF and Neutral Bomb games.

Did you run into any difficulties during your map's development? If so, briefly describe them.

Quite a few. Although the bases have remained relatively unchanged since the early versions of the map, the side structure and the center of the map have seen many revisions. I had many different ideas floating around my head, but the value of testing proved itself when I saw the shortcomings of most of those ideas in-game. The final layout that I settled on isn't perfect, but it's certainly the best of the many that I tried.

If you had unlimited control of your map in the future (graphics and all) what would you do with it? What would it look and feel like?

I'd definitely take the Covenant route. I was a big fan of the visual style of Assembly in Halo 3, and I think the Covenant theme has been under-represented in Reach. The skybox would be a stormy, electric blue and the map would be flanked by dark, barren and windswept mountains. Overall it would be a foreboding place where you felt you were in a real struggle against both your opponents and the elements.

Tough question, but what would you change about your map if you were to re-create it? Phrased another way, what do you dislike the most about your map and how would you fix it?

I'm quite happy with the map overall, but if I were to make it again from scratch I'd probably fiddle around with the side structure a bit more. One of the main dilemmas I faced during the final stages of testing the map was whether or not to directly connect those two side rooms, but I decided not to in favor of them acting as spawn-havens for each team. But I think I made the right choice, so I'd be hesitant to change it.

In your opinion, what would you say the most important aspect of level/map design is?

Definitely balance. Structural balance, weapon balance, spawn balance, it's all essential. Each team needs to be given an equal opportunity to win, regardless of whether the map is symmetrical or asymmetric. Each part of the map, and every weapon, needs to have both advantages and disadvantages associated with its use (e.g., a Shotgun may spawn in an open area with long sightlines, as it does on Crossdraught, but is a great help if you can get it inside one of the bases).

If you could add a feature to Forge, what would it be and why?

I would, without doubt, add the ability to create and alter terrain. Forge World was incredibly diverse, and I thank Bungie for that, but on the other hand they probably could have preserved a lot of disc space if they'd given the player the tools to create their own terrain (not to the extent of Forge World). For any of you who have spent time in Far Cry 2's map editor, you'll know what's possible.

Is there anything you are looking forward to in Halo 4 from the information that we've been given so far?

I'm hyped about a lot of things in Halo 4 but I'm probably most keen on trying out the new weapons, abilities, and specializations. Like a lot of people, I'm a tad nervous about the direction Halo is taking, but I'm willing to try new things if they add to the experience, and I think they will.

Any tips for forgers out there reading this interview?

With the imminent release of Halo 4, and therefore Forge 3.0, I think the best advice I can give for those serious about forging is that you must be sensible and neat. With features like coordinates, magnetism and so on, there's no excuse for messiness. Choose your objects and weapons carefully, and make sure they all serve a purpose. You don't have to have a clear idea of what your map will be when you start, but if you're sensible and neat, chances are it'll turn out pretty well. Good luck!

Is there anyone you would like to thank for the success of Crossdraught?

I'd like to thank all the good people at Blueprint who helped me test the map and gave me plenty of constructive feedback. I'd also like to thank the Community Cartographers for their efforts in administrating the contest out of their own free time. You're all awesome!

Thanks for taking the time to participate in the Q&A, Lethal Exactor! Hopefully our Forging community can use your advice and inspiration to mold their Forge creations into beautiful masterpieces as you have.

And with that, we conclude The Community Cartographers Forge Contest. For Q&As with our runner-up and 3rd place winner, as well as to discuss the results of this contest, please visit our Community Cartographers Forge Contest Results thread. We are so thankful for everyone who participated, as well as 343 Industries for supplying these top-notch prize packages. We can't wait to see what your talents will create in Halo 4's Forge this November!

Thank you so much to the Community Cartographers for hosting such an amazing contest, and congratulations to the winners. We’ll be playing on these maps in one of our upcoming playdates, so stay tuned for more information about that particular event.

And that wraps up today’s edition of your weekly Halo Bulletin. See you next week! Through the scope of a Covenant weapon, if all goes according to plan…

bs angel

Making Halo 4: Return Of The Forerunners

If you follow this link, you will be blessed with the sight of a new Halo 4 vidoc, and it is wonderful. focusses on the forerunners!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 9.5.12

Let’s talk about PAX, baby

PAX Prime Halo 4

My voice is nowhere to be found, my feet hurt, and I’m beginning to exhibit flu-like symptoms. In the gaming industry, that can only mean one thing: another event has come and gone. And it was definitely a good one!

Last weekend, within the walls of the Washington State Convention Center, we revealed a brand-new Halo 4 map (Exile), we announced the return of Grifball (disease officially caught), we had CTF playable for the first time on the floor (introducing the Flagnum), and we shared insight into the storytelling aspect of Halo 4’s Campaign (omg, spoilerz). If you are unfamiliar with this particular event, PAX Prime is a Seattle show exclusively for gaming, and during this year’s three-day extravaganza, massive amounts of chocolate were consumed, hands were requested (and accepted!) in marriage, and Halo 4 was played. A lot.

Some of the greatest moments of the event happened on the floor. The main part of our booth featured 5v5 CTF on Exile, so numerous large groups patiently waited for their chance to check out the newest Halo 4 multiplayer map. Cliff Bleszinski, along with a handful of fellow Gearheads, stopped by to play a trio of rounds (Hi, Quinn!). Some of our friends from Bungie also indulged in a little CTF, facing off against a determined team of all-powerful Ninjas. We can neither confirm nor deny which groups came out on top. We can say, however, that good times were had. At least, that’s what we deduced from observing the steady stream of spherical objects bouncing off the helmets of the recently deceased.

If you missed the news coming out over the weekend, take a second to get caught up by checking out the CTF and Exile screenshots, and then watching the Halo: Reborn panel. Go ahead, we’ll wait. For a few minutes, anyway…

Halo 4 CTF

Halo 4 Screenshot

We recreated CTF as an all-new experience for Halo 4. Our goals early on were to create a fresh and exciting experience, focusing heavily on team play and being the flag carrier. If you didn’t get a chance to play the new CTF over the weekend at PAX, here are some elements of the new CTF experience.

Flag Carrier Experience – Picking Up the Flag

This is easily the biggest addition to CTF in Halo 4, and we’ve made it a huge focus and priority to develop. Before we run through the changes, let’s talk about becoming the flag carrier, which is an experience in and of itself.

The first thing you’ll notice about being a carrier in Halo 4 is you’ll automatically pick up the flag. Unlike a weapon, you won’t need to hold or press a button to take the flag. We extensively tested different flag pick-up methods and settled on this one as it gets you into the action very quickly. While there will be occasions when you accidentally pick up the flag, we feel this is worth it as you can now easily grab the flag from a tough-to-reach location with just a touch, and there’s a very natural feel to the transition. We’ve also carefully tuned the flag pick-up radius, so you’ll need to be right on top of the flag to grab it.

Flag Carrier Experience – The Flagnum

The moment you pick up the flag, you’ll hold the flag in your left hand and draw a Magnum in your right. The Magnum allows you to defend yourself in combat and joust other flag carriers. We’re still working with the exact tuning of the flag carrier’s Magnum, but we’re hoping to give the flag carrier a slight damage boost. As in previous Halo games, your melee attack will still instant-kill. You can’t switch weapons while holding the flag, and there are unlimited reloads on the Magnum. We’ve also added a brand new assassination called the “Flagsassination”.

Flag Carrier Experience – Movement Speed

Unlike previous Halo games, you’ll move at full speed as a flag carrier, including jump and strafe. One difference to regular movement is you can’t sprint. However, a huge advantage to the Magnum is forcing enemies to stop sprinting – so in most encounters, you’re on a nearly level playing field.

Flag Carrier Experience – You are the Objective

As soon as you pick up the flag, your HUD will change to highlight the point of delivery. Each player in the new CTF has a special presentation layer that changes based on the current game state. The new HUD features clear navpoints and verbs that let you keep track of the objectives and flag locations with just a glance. When you’re holding the flag, you’ve got a job to do – deliver it! You’ll become the center of attention as your teammates are charged with escorting you, and enemies with stopping you. To help reinforce this, you can’t drop the flag; this makes you the centerpiece of encounters as you move the flag to the delivery point, with teammates escorting you along the way.

Rule Changes – Scoring

One of the biggest rule changes to CTF is your team flag is no longer required to be at home to score; we found this keeps the flags moving across the maps through the flag lanes, and helps focus the flag defense, escort, and capture objectives. In a tie game with one point to win, flag carriers and teammates will have a tough decision of running the flag or stopping the enemy flag carrier. We’ve seen this lead to epic carrier vs. carrier battles that were so exciting we even created special rewards for them (more on this later).

Rule Changes – Defending and Returning the Flag

When the enemy team drops your flag, the return timer will start. The timer is now clearly integrated into the flag’s navpoint, so it won’t be a surprise when it returns back to your base. Unlike previous Halo titles, standing on the flag will not speed up its return timer. We found this greatly improved the flag attack and defend scenarios as players can use more of the play space around their flag to defend it. It also helps to think of the flags as moving entities across the map, and your job is to keep the enemies moving, and yours in one place. So many games come down to the final moment, and defending your flag for even a few seconds can make all the difference.

Rule Changes – Overtime

Overtime is also new and improved for Halo 4, and you’ll get there if time runs out in CTF and the score is still tied. Overtime is now 60 seconds long, and the first team to score wins the match. We’ve added some intense dynamic music in OT to keep the pressure on.


As in Infinity Slayer, you’ll be earning points in CTF not only for your team by scoring flags, but also for yourself by contributing to your team. Each medal in CTF awards you with medal points, which determine your place on the scoreboard compared to other players. Here’s a quick summary of the medals just for CTF.

Medal Name
Flag Capture
Deliver the opponents flag to your base
Flag Carrier Kill
Kill an opponent who is carrying a flag
Flag Kill
Kill an opponent while holding a flag
Flag Defense
Kill an opponent close to your flag, or help return it
Flag Runner
Capture 2 flags in one game
Flag Champion
Capture 3 flags in one game
Flag Assist
Help a teammate score a flag
Flag Driver
Drive a Flag Carrier close to your capture point
Flag Joust
Kill a flag carrier while holding a flag
Perform an assassination while holding a flag

In addition to CTF medals, you’ll still earn the standard medals you earn in Infinity Slayer. CTF also supports a custom game option that allows you to turn Infinity Ordnance on or off, allowing you to earn Infinity Slayer-style rewards in Capture the Flag. Team scoring is much simpler; the first team to three scores wins.

Playlist Specifics

We’re incredibly excited to host our CTF hopper at launch, on November 6th. Here’s a preview of our planned settings.

2 Flag CTF Only
Time Limit
Score Target
3 Captures
60 seconds
Initial and World
5 non-forged maps, tuned for CTF

PAX Prime Q&A

PAX Prime

As is customary when we release a slew of new information, there are always questions. So the rest of the Bulletin is dedicated to answering as many of them as Frank O'Connor, Kevin Franklin, Kevin Grace, and Brad Welch can handle. Thankfully that’s a lot.

What Objective options do we have in Custom Games? -Lycan XIII

We have many new custom game options coming, especially around the Infinity experience. This means lots of customization surrounding all types of Ordnance. In Objective games, you’ll have full control over player traits, including those of the King, Flag Carrier, and Grif. Each game mode also has multiple custom options specific to that game mode that let you tune timers, settings, and rules. CTF specifically offers tuning the “Flag Return Time/Proximity Return”, “Flag Reset Time”, “Flag at Home Requirement”, “Overtime Length”, and “Flag Carrier Traits”.

I like how Exile is an outdoor kind of map. Are there other outdoor-like maps on the Halo 4 disc/future DLC? -F22 Raptor X1

Oh yes. In fact, our only remake map – still secret – is most definitely outdoors.

From the gameplay videos I saw at PAX, there are no medals shown on-screen during the game. This is different from E3 gameplay where medals did show up on-screen. Will medals show up on screen for the final game? -FBI Derrick

In the final game, medals will show on-screen on the left side, near the kill feed, the all-new combat log, and the ordnance meter.

The Halo 4 multiplayer is in-universe. Therefore, Grifball is actually played by Spartans. Does that mean Grifball is now the official Sport of the Spartans? -Meta0X

Sort of. That is to say, it’s not a-canonical, but it doesn’t serve any particular purpose in the universe. That said, sharp-eyed fans may have already figured out a single item of context from outside the game universe…

Will there be a way to disable auto-pickup for Flag/Oddball? -CyReN CE

At launch and in the launch playlists, we will be deploying CTF as-is. Although it’s possible in the future that we will give players more specific control and choices, this is something we feel pretty strongly about – and is in some ways a new mode, rather than simply an evolution of an existing game type. We understand the reaction this may cause, but there’s method in our madness and we ask your indulgence in the short term.

In Grifball, does the ball explode when planted, killing the carrier? -CrazedOne1988

In the new Grifball, the round no longer cycles after each score; instead it resets at the center of the court. To reduce randomness on spawns when going back to the center, the Grif who scores is no longer killed by the ball explosion.

Was all of the announcer stuff like, "You’re holding the flag!", "Hold the ball to score points!", etc. just for all the possible new-to-Halo people at PAX so no one would be confused, or is that how the final build will be? -sliced365

The Jeff Steitzer Multiplayer V/Os are all recorded fresh and new for Halo. Some are going to be more subtle, some even more “ENERGETIC”, but all will fit into a broad and properly balanced sound scheme and folks should realize they’re also noticing that these things are different, new, and changed – as well as simply more strident. However in testing, and long term testing which is one advantage we always have over the “fresh” audience, it all works out beautifully or vanishes into the background. All that said as warning however, these are not the final mixes, but they’re not wildly off.

Halo 4 Screenshot Exile

Was the vehicle setup on Exile planned to be what is used in matchmaking? -GhaleonEB

Vehicle setup was designed to show a ton of content for PAX. That map content will vary dramatically depending on game mode and playlist.

In Grifball, can you have rounds enabled to make it so after one arm, it starts a new one? -The Little Moa

Yes, this can be done by setting the “Score to Win” round in the general custom game settings to “1”. You can also tune the number of rounds in a game, the lives per round, and much more.

Since it's a separate game mode now, are there any Grifball-specific medals or post-game statistics? -TrueFlyingCow

Each game mode has four special statistics. In Grifball, we keep track of “Scores”,” Carrier Kills”, “Ball Kills”, and “Carry Time”. We also have a specific medal for scoring the Grifball.

What precautions are you guys taking to make sure that the point system is not exploited? For example, will we be able to just play catch with the Oddball to rack up points? -indubitably1

The game types, rules, matchmaking criteria and certain hidden systems will contribute towards game mode “congruity.”

In the Grifball demo at the panel, you said, "A few more tricks that are developing are the boost and a few other long throws." Can you go into any further detail on what those might be? -TacoPizzaHunter

As the new Grifball is, well, new, we are still seeing new tricks come up in the play tests.

The Boost - Hold the ball with a teammate running close and directly in front of you towards the goal. Throw the ball to your teammate, telling him to jump. Immediately hammer smash behind him – pushing him forwards towards the goal. Oh, and try not to kill your buddy.

Long Throws - As Grif runs forward, jump. At the apex of your jump, aim up and throw the ball. You’ll get a slightly longer throw than normal, letting you make a Hail Mary pass to a teammate cherry picking near the goal. Ball throws are influenced by your character’s movement, so you can do shorter passes by running backwards, and longer ones by running forward. The actual angle of the throw makes the biggest difference, but every bit helps when threading the needle to a teammate.

Was the armor that was available in the PAX build the full set? If so, why is there no Mark V armor? -ArchedThunder

The PAX build contains the full set of armor in Halo 4. In the final game, there are a variety of methods for unlocking armor and armor skins - ranking up, earning commendations, progressing through Specializations and completing goals on Waypoint. Some of the skins, helmets, and the FOTUS armor are exclusive to various retail offers. Some of these items MAY become available to all players at a later date. We wanted to focus on the Spartan-IV armors for Infinity, maximizing the amount of variety across the armor designs. However, we did want to include a reward for completing the Campaign on Legendary, so we decided to use the Mark VI armor as that reward. While we'd love to include every historical variant of the Chief's armor, it's just not possible to fit more armor sets into the available memory.

Halo 4 Screenshot Exile

Will stat tracking for kill/death ratio be done separately for the different playlists? All of the changes made to modes like Capture the Flag will do wonders for improving game speed as long as everyone is focused on winning. These improvements start to fade when people are just trying to farm for kills.-indubitably1

When comparing yourself to teammates, medal points make all the difference and in each mode you’ll earn specific points for not only scoring but also helping your teammates. CTF, for example, has medals for “Flag Driver”, “Flag Assist”, and “Flag Defense”. We will be reporting stats for War Games as a mode, but also for the individual game base variants, meaning the underlying game types like CTF, Regicide, Slayer, etc. K/D ratio in general will only be highlighted for Slayer.

Was the entire Grifball arena built in Forge or is it one of the 3 Forge pallets? -N Y K R Y L L

Grifball, regardless of “where” it lives, was created independently and specifically as its own thing. The environment is somewhat moot. Frankly, it had WAY too much time and effort poured into it, but we loved it.

Will there be an option to turn off the white text notifications in the middle of the screen? -The Yanix

No, but the fact is that it “vanishes” after a few plays. Ask people who’ve played a lot. This is something we spent a lot of time on and is true of many “intrusive” UI, audio and dressing aspects of the game – they provide vital information for certain types of players and quickly vanish for frequent players in terms of intrusion. They were designed, tested and tweaked to achieve this. Watching other people play is almost counter to how it feels in practice.

Could you clarify where approximately Exile stands on the small-medium-big-humongousbongus scale when it comes to map size? -Royal Guacamole

Because it’s laterally narrow, to ME it feels medium, but in terms of literal scale it’s in the top two thirds. However, it’s navigable and playable for four-on-four on foot. Sprint and other speedy aspects of the game make some of these answers somewhat subjective.

I noticed that the Mark VI armor for Multiplayer is not the same armor that the Chief dons in Halo 4. What type of armor is the Chief wearing then? -One One Seven

Very fancy, very custom, very unique “Cortana special” armor.

In CTF, you now hold a Pistol with the flag. If I have a Plasma Pistol secondary, will it use that or still pull out a Magnum anyway? -goobot

The Magnum, or “Flagnum” as it’s been dubbed, is specific to this mode. As we’ve mentioned before, this is similar, but ultimately a replacement for, rather than simply an evolution of, CTF. We understand this is controversial but are now pretty confident the changes will be enjoyed. And as we’ve said in this very article, we will have more information about options and customizability much later.

Halo 4 Screenshot Exile

Will we be seeing a part II of the "Hero Awakens" video? -Austin7934

Yes, and sooner than you may think. Unless you’re thinking really soon. Then it will be later than you may think.

Members of 2old2play watched much of the video footage from PAX and are finding the armor color to be kind of pastel and eggshell in nature. Are any changes to the quality of color of armor expected in the final release of Halo 4? -DEEP NNN

As a very old, gray-haired fart, I resent you guys speaking on my behalf. But yes, these are indicative but hardly comprehensive color schemes.

Does the Grifball game type support up to 16 players or is it locked to a certain number? - Nuclear Taco 42

Our officially supported version is 4v4, but the court is setup for 8v8 and there’s much more you can create in custom games and Forge. We’re really excited to see all of the new Grif variants the community puts together.

We have now seen the map Exile, built for CTF. I have to say, it looks awesome. Can you tell us how many maps have been built specifically for CTF, and how many others it can be played on? -GristlyStew721

I agree strongly with your description of how awesome the map is. Most maps were built with team sizes and objectives in mind, but new elements like universal sprint make these modes and maps a little bit more flexible than past games.

So far we've seen that some of the weapons have customizable skins. Will this feature be available for, say, the hammer or sword? -Goosechecka

Both of those items do not have enough visible surface area to justify the hit on disc/RAM/hilt/buttspace. To be honest, I only answered this question so I could coin the term “buttspace.”

I do believe that freshly-coined term is the perfect note to end on. So, until next week, my friends, when you’ll be seeing a brand new vid…oops. I should probably stop talking now. Until then.

bs angel

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Halo 4 BTS: A Hero Awakens

Today at PAX Prime, Halo 4's Panel went down without a hitch. We even got a new BTS/Vidoc. A Hero Awakens tells about how the Master Chief has had to leave his comfort zone for the events of the Halo 4 campaign. A very good watch!
Link-ity Link Link.

Halo 4 releases on November 6th, 2012.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 8.29.12

When good playtests go bad

Rage Quilting

In order to aggregate data from numerous types of gameplay situations, we conduct regular take-home tests, and it was during one of these domestic assessments that our current favorite catchphrase was born. Let me explain.

Many of us here at 343 love playing Halo, but if there’s one thing we love more than that, it’s winning. While our domiciliary playtest sessions exist for a multitude of reasons (one of them being to observe the effects of various real life gaming situations—such as dropped connections, latency, and nagging spouses), we play to win—while gathering the relevant data, of course.

During one such recent session, our online battles brought us to an outdoor map that features a centrally located, multi-level building. It’s a place that strategic, communicative teams want to lock down and control. (That’s what some people around here say, anyway. The rest make their opinion known through the nicknames of each floor–Jerk 1, Jerk 2, and Jerk 3.) After Red Team successfully secured the advantageous center structure, Blue Team found themselves spending more time on the respawn screen than actually playing. That led to one particularly irate person abruptly and purposely leaving the game. Afterward, that individual emailed their experience to the other playtest participants, making sure to call out their fury-filled reaction. Well, a variation of their fury-filled reaction, I should say, because there was a single, extraneous letter discreetly nestled within their message. We assumed it was extraneous but who knows, actually…maybe they really did take out their indignation by sewing bed covers. And if that’s the case, “rage quilt” was the exact right term to use.

Enough about angry crafters, though. Let’s talk about PAX, baby!

PAX Prime 2012

PAX Prime

In less than 48 hours, the doors of the Washington State Convention Center will open and thousands of people will descend upon the previously pristine venue, anxious to experience something that can only be described as a gamer’s utopia. We were down there this morning, and the early booth inspection revealed very cool and visible signage hanging from our portion of the ceiling and several super comfy game stations, quietly waiting for the impending flood of Halo fans.

Within our booth this weekend, we’ll be featuring a few different game types (one that is already announced but will be playable for the first time at an event) and a few different maps (one that will be unveiled for the first time on Friday). Panel-wise, we also have a few things up our sleeve. If you like brand new behind-the-scenes videos, especially ones that focus on storytelling, you should go. If you like demos of not-yet-confirmed game types on beautiful, brand new maps, you should go. And if you just want to know more about Halo 4, let’s just say you should go.

PAX is going to be flagtastic. And that’s all we have to say about that.

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

While we’re going to be releasing a decent amount of news at PAX, we didn’t want to leave you hanging this week. So, to satisfy that craving for Halo 4-related information, today we offer you the various button layouts that will soon be at your fingertips.

Considering the importance of players getting attached to particular layouts (such as Bumper Jumper and Recon), we’ve been very careful with the control scheme design process. Adding something like Sprint, which is equally as important as other actions, has been challenging because it’s competing with the stick-click input typically used for crouching and zooming.

We’ve tried to stay true to the classic presets you’ve become accustomed to throughout the years. For instance, an important part of Bumper Jumper is being able to jump and melee at the same time while moving and aiming, so we’ve left that intact. We initially experimented with a button swap and brought in some MLG players to test it. After observing the difficulty they had with a modified version of clawing, we had to think about what’s more important, using an Armor Ability or throwing a grenade? Ultimately we decided to leave Bumper Jumper with "Throw Grenade" on the left trigger and "Use Armor Ability" on the “X” button.

Between bringing back all the Reach button layouts and adding a new one (which is called Fishstick and will be beneficial to those coming from other FPS games), we’re confident you’ll be able to jump right in and be comfortable with the controls. In the whole scheme of things (see what I did there?), the button layout you use will depend on your play style and favorite game modes.

Halo 4 features the following button layouts:

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Halo 4 Button Layouts

Limited Edition Halo Exclusive Vanguard Personal Gaming Environment

On Monday, GAEMS announced the Limited Edition Halo Exclusive Vanguard Personal Gaming Environment. Officially, it’s a “self-contained portable gaming environment.” Unofficially, it’s completely and totally bad-ass. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen Toulouse, GAEMS Product Manager, and grill him on anything and everything relating to this particular product. Before he was able to escape my clutches, here is what he said.

Limited Edition Halo Exclusive Vanguard Personal Gaming Environment

So, Mr. Stepto, how did this amazing product come about?

When I joined GAEMS earlier this summer, they were already hard at work completing the design of the new Vanguard. It had a lot of features our customers had requested over our previous Personal Gaming Environment, the G155. Vanguard has a much larger screen, better speakers, and an improved case design. It also had a great new stylized look about it that lends itself well to showing off a logo or other graphic design. John Smith, our marketing Director, was already on the lookout for the right partner that we knew our fans would get excited about. Being a Halo fanatic, when we realized it was the perfect match, I got super excited, and even more so when we brought the idea to 343 and they loved it. The more we worked with 343, the more it transformed into a UNSC-branded piece of equipment, something that can tie into any Halo game past, present, or future. It looks fantastic.

Agreed! Can you tell us a little about the creation process?

Having spent 18 years at Microsoft, it's fair to say I've been a software guy, not a hardware guy. Working at GAEMS, especially on the Halo edition Vanguard, has given me an incredible education in the design, development, and manufacture of consumer electronics hardware. It's an amazing process! Our design team is both in Redmond and Hong Kong, and works together to figure out how we deliver the things our customers ask for in addition to the ideas we already have. Then, special tooling has to be created to form the molds that the plastic and other materials will be poured into to create various parts. Then we have to think about the screen and how it's mounted and protected. [We also have to think about] how the casing all fits together to make sure that when it’s closed, there's a measure of protection for the console but when it is fully open there's plenty of room and airflow.

Samples are made and prototypes built. You have to make choices like just how much texture you want the finish of the case to have, and what that means for the tools being created. And that's before we even begin to get into the design work of the logos and their placement, and things like exactly what colors we want on the case to make it look good.

What was the biggest challenge with making it?

I think the biggest challenge was timing. We wanted to make sure we could finish the hardware design in time to get the graphic and exterior design finalized to help make sure we have the UNSC Vanguard ready for the launch of the game itself. There are a lot of processes that all have to work in parallel. In terms of the design work for the logos and graphics, 343 was a pleasure to work with. Everyone knew that we have the utmost respect for the Halo universe and wanted to create something Halo fans would be proud to own, so we were very careful to work together to make sure everything was accurate and made sense.

I think I speak for our community when I say accurate is definitely good. >.> Anyway, what was something unexpected that happened during the design process?

I made a post on my blog at that discusses how we had to change the handle of the case itself a few times to get it right! You just don't think about stuff like that typically when you think about designing electronics, but it's those types of things that can surprise you or set you back if you don't get it absolutely right. Another thing was that we decided to go with Amazon's Frustration Free Packaging. That's a very interesting process that results in a great customer experience. The UNSC Vanguard is an Amazon exclusive, and it’s a nice experience to get the box, open it, and there's your device. No "box with foam holding another box with foam" situations, and all the packaging is tidy and recyclable. It's a real shock and a pleasant surprise to just open the box and bam! There's your beautiful new UNSC Vanguard right there.

That’s quite convenient. After you get that sucker out of its package, what sort of place would something like this come in handy?

Personal Gaming Environments for consoles, something GAEMS created by the way, are typically thought of for their mobility. I know people like myself, Eric Neustadter, and even Frank O'Connor have all used GAEMS PGE's on trips or vacations and have tweeted or spoken about how great they are for that. But another place we're seeing them used is in the home. It's a great way for parents to reclaim their nice 50 inch TV when the kids are out of school for the summer! If the mom or dad wants to watch a movie and the children want to play a game the parents aren't interested in, GAEMS PGE's like the Vanguard are the perfect solution. Not to mention having the console in a self-contained environment that they can secure allows a parent a little more control over gaming and when it happens.

I do believe that makes parents “Reclaimers”! While I laugh about my Halo joke, go ahead and tell us the most unusual place you’ve ever used it.

I used mine looking out over the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon coast at a beach house. I was playing Minecraft while listening to the sound of the waves crashing outside! One might say I shouldn't have been playing games and just gone to the ocean, and for sure we did plenty of that. But it's nice during the night to have my favorite entertainment experiences close by to relax and unwind without having to sacrifice anything.

Add Halo to the equation and I’m sold! Oh wait, you already did that. I guess we should finish this interview then, perhaps with your favorite thing about the Limited Edition Halo Exclusive Vanguard Personal Gaming Environment...

My favorite thing about this product is that it looks like something a UNSC marine might carry on the battlefield. It's got [such] a nice rugged look to it that you could almost imagine it's a real time uplink or some type of tactical battlefield display. 343 helped us really nail the idea that, while this is a Personal Gaming Environment in our Universe, it's easy to imagine something identical to it looking like it belongs alongside a Warthog.

Oh, great. Now I want a Warthog, too. Thanks for that, Stepto.

And on that note, I do believe it’s time to wrap this sucker up. I would say until next week, but I’m hoping to see you at PAX. So until then…

bs angel


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