The Halo Bulletin: 9/28/11
You never forget your first.
Anytime someone asks when I started gaming, my usual response is at the ultimate first level: the womb. That’s the only way to accurately describe just how long that particular pastime has been a part of my life. So, when the original Xbox came out, I didn’t even bat an eye—it was an instant purchase.
The first title on that particular platform that thoroughly captured my multiplayer attention was Star Wars Battlefront. Night after night I fired it up, traversing the desolate landscape of Geonosis, burying my horizontally stationary figure within the snowy hillsides of Hoth, fighting alongside the diminutive and adorable Ewoks, and struggling to take down a never-ending stream of sluggish AT-ATs. That daily time suck continued until a certain fateful day.
One afternoon—while I was enjoying the pleasure of my sister’s company—she noticed a dust-covered disc lying next to my console. Brushing it off, she asked, “Have you played this game before?” Since the bulk of my online time was spoken for, my response was “no.” So she popped it in, mentioned something about a convict, and handed me a controller. For the next two hours, I proceeded to get my butt handed to me, many times on a silver platter. I died from sniper rounds being applied directly to my skull. I died from Magnum shots peppering me from across the map. I particularly died from a general lack of situational awareness that was taken advantage of by my melee-happy sibling. By the time the senseless slaughter had subsided, I was in the middle of throwing a tantrum that would have made any two-year-old proud. However, once that rage subsided, I found myself determined—determined to learn the game so my sister would not get the better of me again. Sibling rivalry is really quite motivating, isn’t it?
Fast forward ten years.
When you work in the video game industry, you are often called on to participate in playtests. And because it’s an excellent way to get out of meetings, I mean… because I’m such a dedicated and hard worker, I attempt to participate as often as possible. Sometimes I’m busy, though (hey, those cat pictures aren’t going to look at themselves, you know), causing me to occasionally miss out on the beer-fueled festivities. Such was the case with a few of the Anniversary maps.
Those missed playtests gave me a very surreal, and very special, moment at Halo Fest. I was walking around, maintaining a quick pace so my boss would think I was working, when I noticed an open station. I snuck under a line-corralling rope, grabbed the controller, and began to play. As I started meandering my way through the already familiar metallic-gray hallways, dodging bloom-free bullets in an attempt to stay alive, I realized I was on the very map that encompassed my first ever experience with Halo.
A decade later, and I had come full circle. And suffice it to say, I never forgot my first.
Release the hounds.
Whether Prisoner holds a special place in your heart or not, you will undoubtedly enjoy setting foot on this Multiplayer map again. The Anniversary reimagining—which goes by the name of Solitary—is still a claustrophobic and frenetic playspace, but it has been gifted with higher fidelity along with a new story. The spire’s interior is damaged and only hints at the terrifying power of its previous inhabitant. Including several walled-off, prison-like cells, the facility’s suborbital location and frigid temperature were thought to be able to keep any threat at bay. But it appears those plans were… optimistic.
In order to safeguard what was in there from getting out, this multi-level facility was given vertical isolation. Looking through the glass on the floor will tell you that you’re in the stratosphere of an icy surface, while a quick glance through one of the many windows reveals similar spinning confinement platforms around it. The pods are as removed as possible, but a hole near the top of the level—which lets in snow—gives the impression that something may not be right at this peculiar alien prison.
With tightly-woven corridors and many bridges and ramps, this space is perfect for the chaos of close-range combat. The smallness of it, though, also provided design challenges. We had to scale things back artistically, especially with the walls, as too many details equaled too much visual noise. The goal was to be relatively simple while having enough detail to remain striking.
The most notable differences from the original appear at the highest level. There are some additional rooms adjacent to each of the sniper roosts, and balconies have been added via Forge pieces so you can navigate through them. Skilled jumpers will be able to hop from sniper roost to sniper roost without dropping down a floor. Those that struggle with the “A” button, however, will fall all the way to the bottom. And yes, I speak from experience. With the former, of course. Boo-yah!
There are also some additional pathways inside the level that allow for quicker and, more importantly, protected navigation to the higher levels. Since you don’t have to worry about a pesky sniper picking you off, you can get as high as possible as quickly as possible. Which I strongly recommend. Assuming you choose life, anyway.
Out of all the reimagined maps, Damnation and Prisoner have the most striking visual differences. We’re hoping you’ll look at these maps and see how they have evolved from the originals. Certain Affinity has mastered the ability to maintain an existing aesthetic while simultaneously adding fiction. And because they did such a great job, I’m not even going to mention that, at one point, they wanted to add Flood elements to this map. If you ever hear me screaming, “NO TENTACLES!” while thrashing around violently in my sleep, now you know why.
In an effort to get that visual out of your mind, here’s some Solitary screenshots. Feel free to continue thinking of elongated flexible organs, though. We don’t judge around these parts. You freak.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled updates.
Did you know that in three days it will officially be October? Summer, and September apparently, have both mysteriously disappeared. That means, assuming I’m able to calculate in my head correctly, it’s almost time for a Halo: Reach matchmaking playlist update. Wait, you knew we were doing a small playlist update next month, right? Considering how loud those crickets are currently chirping, I’m guessing I forgot to tell you that. My bad. Let me get you caught up super quick.
On or around October 4th, assuming things go according to plan, we’re releasing the beta matchmaking playlist. What I previously neglected to mention are the rest of the general matchmaking changes. We are primarily sweeping the cobwebs out of the corners, polishing a few things here and there, and performing some light housekeeping. Here are the specifics, for those of you that appreciate the small things in life:
• Beta Matchmaking Playlist added: This hopper will showcase the Title Update by introducing settings that you, the collective community, can check out and provide feedback on. It features a mix of Slayer and Objective (with DLC maps being optional), including the already released Zero Bloom Slayer DMRs gametype. Please refer to the 9.14 edition of the Halo Bulletin for additional gametype and map information.
• Team Classic Playlist removed: While we’re removing the Team Classic playlist, we’re not forsaking the classic community. We’ll be reintroducing the classic experience when Anniversary drops in November, and even giving the players a defining trait of Combat Evolved Multiplayer by putting the three shot pistol back into your hands, right where it belongs. Speaking of which, is that a Magnum in your pocket, or are you just happy to hear this news?
• Premium/DLC Playlists condensed into one list: Both DLC lists are being combined into one playlist. We’ll be keeping this list at the larger of the two team sizes so that teams of six can enjoy both Slayer and Objective gametypes as well as Invasion.
• Bro Slayer removed from Team Slayer: Spawning concerns and feedback regarding this gametype indicated that we will need to look at additional choices for spawning locations if we are going to reintroduce it to Reach Matchmaking in the future. Meanwhile, you’ll have to find some other way to spawn on your bro.
• Atom removed from Team Slayer: As part of our process of cycling through community content, older maps will occasionally be taken out of Reach Matchmaking. Don’t take it personally though, Atom. It’s not you, it’s me. Ok, so maybe it’s you. But whatever.
• Stockpile added back into Team Objective: The addition of Stockpile back into Team Objective will ensure that the Stockpile-based achievements are supported and attainable. Bleep bloop!
• Matchmaking updated to allow Co-Op Campaign and Firefight play with no HDD: Can I get a whoop whoop? Or maybe a what what? No? Ok, moving on.
And that’s October’s playlist changes in a nutshell. Come back again next month for another batch of matchmaking playlist updates! Or you could come back next week if you want, as well. I will have a new Bulletin for you, after all. Before then, here’s a teeny tiny serving of community-submitted questions, courtesy of you. Well, you if you see your question below, that is.
When the forums come out of BETA, will they have an Optimatch-type forum or will the MP section take on that role? -Link1201
When our final iteration of forums roll out, we will have a section dedicated solely to Matchmaking, for both discussion and direct feedback purposes. We’re currently in the middle of our user-assisted test phase (you can read more about Gamma here), so when that wraps up, we’ll then push out the official forums featuring different sections and a new overall layout. I anticipate that happening sometime between now and mid-November. Of 2552.
Can we get some Challenge payouts that actually make it worth the time? –DonShetland
Our matchmaking team is particularly passionate about the UNSC’s standard currency and has been increasing the cR payouts across the board while attempting to make them aptly relevant to their difficulty level. We’ve seen a lot of feedback about the changes, and we’ll continue to work on finding that ever-elusive balance
Why did you want me to ask a question? - Templar Euchre
Because it provided the perfect opportunity for me to share the above video. So, on behalf of everybody who is now watching pretty much the best thing ever, thanks!
And with that, I’m out. Until next week, anyway…
PS: Enjoy this week’s Friday Caption Fun picture, and don’t forget to drop by the quip-filled festivities if you feel so inclined. Or witty. Or bored. Or whatever…