Thursday, February 23, 2012

Teh Halo Bulletin: 2.23.12

The Mysteries of the Inner Sanctum

If you could parse the constant roar that engulfs our studio on a daily basis, you would discover it’s comprised of several commingling sounds. Constant mouse clicks punctuate the nonstop sound of typing, Skyrim conversations surrender to sandbox and strategy discussions, and the steady stream of trash talking is periodically interrupted by both triumphant shouts of victory and the near silent sighs of defeat.

Tucked away in a corner, isolated from that ambient noise, is a row of sound booths. On shutting yourself up in one of these sanctums, the rest of the studio ceases to exist as the haunting melodies and foreboding intonations of an unknown, mysterious world slowly infiltrate every fiber of your being. This is the current iteration of what will eventually be the sweeping sci-fi score of Halo 4, and within those padded walls, our audio team is fine-tuning every single note into a polished state of perfection.

We’ll talk more about the audio experience we’re crafting for Halo 4 later in this Bulletin. For now, though, let’s touch on a few Reach-related topics.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Halo: Reach Team Slayer Voting

Over the past two weeks, there have only been two choices instead of the standard three in the Team Slayer playlist. One of those options used the traditional Reach settings, while the other one featured the Title Update changes. This was done so we could get additional information about the community’s gameplay preferences in an effort to continue shaping the best possible Halo: Reach experience.

Now that the two-week voting period has officially concluded, we’ll be pulling, examining, and analyzing the data in several different ways. While we have started that process, we haven’t finished the scrutinizing part of things. I can tell you this much right now, though: it’s clear to us that people are passionate about both flavors, and we remain dedicated to making sure both regular and TU Reach are readily available in Multiplayer matchmaking. More on that, and the rest of March’s playlist update details, in next week’s Bulletin.

Halo: Reach Custom Challenge

Halo: Reach Custom Challenge of the Week

The previous Custom Challenge of the Week focused on Banshees (congratulations to those of you that got 10,000cR for completing it!), so this week we’re going to change things up a bit and go after one enemy species in particular: the Unggoy. Why, you ask? Because the last time I played, one of them told me to enjoy his bright blue balls, and it didn’t feel right keeping such a pleasurable activity all to myself. Therefore, I’m sharing it with the rest of you for the next seven days.

So, from now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with Grunts as the type of kill will result in five times the usual multiplier. Please note turning on the Grunt Birthday skull won’t get you additional credits. It will, however, bring you an inexplicable amount of joy and happiness. Hooray!

Halo 4 Field Audio Recording

The Hills Are Alive With the Sounds of (Halo 4) Music

In designing a video game, its audio is, of course, one of the things that contribute to a memorable and emotional experience.

Halo has always had amazing audio design. With Halo 4, we are respecting the music philosophy of previous Halos while establishing a fresh, new direction for Halo 4’s music, employing our own distinctive style that still feels like Halo. The goal is to make the music of the story fit not only the gameplay, but also the player’s emotional circumstances.

When thinking about the player’s emotional circumstances, we’re using an interactive implementation. Sometimes, when fighting an enemy, it’s simply a fight. Other times, even in the same level, you can be fighting but it may suddenly turn into a distressing encounter. Since circumstances within the story constantly change, we want our music to sync with those changes when it’s appropriate to enhance the experience. How many enemies are tracking you? When do the enemies notice your presence? What kind of cinematic did you watch before the combat? Our goal when asking these questions is to make the music change dynamically with the gameplay to account for your personal gameplay experience.

Sometimes we’ll suggest a change to the story to sync with the music more, and vice versa. Communication within the studio is an important part to achieve this synchronicity.

The vision for our audio is huge. Like a child, we started as a blank slate when trying to find our own unique musical language. Then we began making a few sounds here and there. Now we’re at the point where those sounds collide, intertwine, and say things about the Halo 4 universe. This was a process that we had to learn as a team. Introducing a new composer, and learning how to work with that composer, was part of the process. We’ll have more details about this currently unnamed individual in the future. But I’m guessing you already knew that....

So, how are we creating our own language based on realism in the world of Halo? Our concept focuses on the digital and the organic, and we share that vision across the entirety of our audio production.

What does that mean, exactly? I’ll use a recent audio recording session as an example.

We’ve recorded source material for the arsenal of both new and returning weapons you’ll have at your disposal in Halo 4. The gun recording was difficult because we needed to record close sounds, distant sounds, and everything in between. We had to figure out what microphone, what distance, and what range was appropriate while factoring in weather, wind, and anything and everything Mother Nature might randomly decide to throw our way.

To get the best audio quality possible, we worked with the military on one of their training grounds where the occasional dropped bomb is not an uncommon experience. During that session, we staged first-person encounters so that we could understand how the weapons should feel when playing the game, and then we used numerous 30-channel microphones to record the actual sounds.

We had to have the elements to connect the player to something familiar but still be able to offer something outlandish and alien. After this aural base is formed, we then have all the freedom in the world to mix and match different elements into a single weapon. Even a Forerunner weapon incorporates some of the elements from that gun session.

These real weapon recordings act as the glue for the rest of the sound ingredients for Halo 4’s arsenal. There’s a whole other process we go through to create epic sci-fi elements outside of the field recording sessions, though, as we gather a collection of source assets and then shape them to precision. The aforementioned gun session, as elaborate as it was, is just a small portion of the assets we require to make the sound effects in Halo 4.

This means we’re always exploring and recording new sounds. Everything from the opening and closing of a pair of rusty scissors to a brushtail possum’s scream pitched down an octave to a short snippet from a two-inch mortar explosion are all on file in our extensive audio library.

Within the sounds of Halo 4, there’s a sense of fantasy based on reality, where otherworldly sounds have a feeling of familiarity….

Office of Halo Intelligence

Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 5

To talk more about the audio aspect of our upcoming game, I asked Sotaro Tojima, the Audio Director for Halo 4, to write the fifth entry in our Office of Halo Intelligence series. Here are his thoughts on the music and sounds that will one day be gracing your earholes.

I’m honored to have an opportunity to talk here! I just came back from a weekly music review, and especially this week, I was so excited about one piece of music. This emotional, digitized piece became the second favorite piece of Halo 4 music which we’ve made so far. I can’t wait to share this with you!

Producing the Halo 4 music is very difficult, but such a fun job for me. I know many people, including me, love the previous Halos’ music. Halo 4 will be a story for Master Chief and Cortana. Therefore, we are driving our music production respecting the previous music tone.

At the same time, we are working to establish some freshness in the music because this is a new trilogy and we are a new team.

I love creating game audio because it is a direct communication between fans and the team. I want to communicate with our "own" language of sound and music. Even if having a new language on Halo is very challenging...

My goal for making audio is always very simple. How much can we make people excited and immersed in the story and gameplay experience with our audio? There are three key ways I like to do that:

• Provide a sense of reality with sophisticated sound design to bring you into a believable world.
• Achieve a memorable, dramatic experience with great music and sounds well synced with the story beat and your gameplay.
• Share a delightful memory with all fans providing an iconic melody.

Actually, my real goal is to make you cry!

When I hired the people that make up the Halo 4 audio team, one of the criteria I had was that if you want to work it had to be "for fans more than anything." And now I have a great team. Everyone is so happy to work hard to surprise you.

Again, it is very hard to achieve a great audio for the Halo universe, but I believe we can do this as long as we don't forget you are waiting patiently for us. Stay tuned for next update from me, and for more exciting topics in OHI!

-Sotaro Tojima

Sotaro, or Tajeen as we call him around the studio, neglected to mention his original idea of going to space to record realistic out-of-this-world sounds (17:30). From what I’ve heard, though, that idea has changed a bit and he now wants to send me in his place. I strongly suspect it’s a trap.

Until next week… that is, unless I get launched into orbit. I heard the internet is pretty spotty up there.

bs angel

P.S. Embiggen, snag, and display the latest Friday Caption Fun image on your embarrassingly unadorned desktop. Then, contribute your witty quip to the latest round of caption festivities. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 2.15.12

Two Guys, One Rainbow

Inside the studio across a myriad of monitors is often where the magic happens. Every once in a blue moon, though, the planets—or in this case, water droplets—align and make that magic visible to all. Such was the case yesterday when a seemingly endless sea of clouds gently parted, allowing a triumphal arch to curve its way across the sky, leaving a trail of softly woven colors lingering in its wake.

After coming face-to-face with such a wondrous meteorological phenomenon, two 343-ers did what anybody would have done when placed in that exact same situation: they opened wide and shot a multi-colored bow out of their favorite orifices. And then, so we could share the picture, they did the same thing again, only this time with their mouths.

Since the aforementioned artists proved they are capable of emitting magic of near mythical proportions while outdoors, I thought I would talk about the magic they also produce when within the confines of our studio as well, in particular, some of the general philosophy behind the Master Chief’s physical appearance in Halo 4. You did, after all, recently get a small preview of what’s to come.

McFarlane Halo 4 Master Chief Figure

Toy Fair 2012

Today was the last day of the American International Toy Fair. Every year, this event takes over New York City’s Javits Center for four entire days, bringing manufacturers and buyers from around the world together to celebrate one very important thing: toys. Whether you like the company of others or you prefer to do it by yourself, as long as you like playing, this is the event for you.

Halo traditionally has a strong showing at the Toy Fair, and this year was no different. Square Enix showed off their Combat Evolved line, Mega Bloks featured various construction sets that, when put together, magically transformed into your favorite Halo characters and vehicles, and McFarlane Toys had no fewer than four different collections on display, a few of them, because of our current development cycle, being prototypes.

Toy manufacturing, you see, is typically a year-long process that starts with the delivery of 3D files. For earlier games, such as Halo 2 and Halo 3, the game assets weren’t hi-res enough to make figures, so oftentimes, additional sculptural changes were necessary. Halo 4 assets, however, are so hi-res, they didn’t require many, if any, modifications.

So, files are delivered, digital sculptures are made, and then a prototype is created to make sure everything looks right physically. This is also the point in the process where joints are checked to make sure they work. Once the prototype is perfected, it’s sent to the factory along with the digital files, and the steel that will be the molds for the toys is cut.

McFarlane Halo 4 Master Chief Figure

Right now, with the McFarlane Toys Halo 4 Master Chief figure in particular, we’re in the process of approving paints, so you’ll likely see the colors shift slightly from the prototype. You’ll notice small details like the glove on his undersuit changing to some extent as well.

While those are small adjustments, packaging will see more dramatic changes because manufacturers often use placeholder images to create their mock-ups (hello, Halo Wars legs!). They need to show the toy buyers what they’ll be producing, but they need to do this before the toys are finished in production. That’s why they use FPO (for position only) elements. A picture is worth a thousand words, so the mock-ups give buyers a chance to see product details, such as size, weight, how many come in a package, additional pieces, etc. The actual details, such as if it’s an Elite Zealot or an Elite Ranger, are less important at this stage than simply knowing it’s a Covenant figure.

The Toy Fair is all about works-in-progress. The big picture is not about the little details, and there’s an understanding that minor things will change. We are ramping up the quality and pushing our partners to make the best toys they can for Halo 4. Our partners are fans, and we’re fans, so we’re all concerned about the same thing: getting the details right.

Halo 4 Master Chief

The Halo 4 Master Chief

While it’s exciting to get a glimpse of the Halo 4 Master Chief in toy form, nothing will compare to when you finally see him in-game. I’ll never forget the exact moment his design started coming together; when inspecting the smaller details of his armor, such as the scarring on his chest piece, suddenly gave insight into the depth of his character; when suddenly… the Master Chief was the Master Chief.

While I can’t share pictures with you quite yet, I can share some general philosophy behind his design. And Kenneth Scott, Senior Art Director, will do the same a little bit later in this Bulletin.

Typically, from Halo to Halo, the Master Chief’s armor has changed and adapted, and there have been fictional reasons why. With Halo 4, we’re taking a different approach and focusing on the storytelling aspects of art from the design standpoint. We don’t do that everywhere in the game, but we wanted to take this opportunity to really focus on him as a human being.

In Halo 4, we are interested in doing something the franchise does well on the book side, and that’s helping shape the narrative. Halo is a compelling and deep universe, and we want to tell the story of this bio-engineered super-soldier.

One of the Master Chief’s most notable physical characteristics is that he’s wearing 800 pounds of tank and jet fighter. So we pulled that design into the armor and HUD. When you play Halo 4, it’s important you understand that you’re more than just a gun on the screen. To give you that feeling, we have represented that weight with player physics, without interrupting crosshair and shooting accuracy.

When we first looked at the Chief’s armor, we studied what was done in Reach. We knew he needed to be understood as a nimble yet heavy superhero, and contrast that with Reach armor design that was more on the bulky side. Our goal is to hit that sweet spot where we represent what is fictionally true about the Chief while making sure you feel like you’re a super-powerful human being when you're playing him.

There’s a lot of dark history in the fiction, but the Master Chief has always been an aspirational character. In fact, the Chief’s looking up is important to understanding his character. What’s interesting is that we have an opportunity to use that understanding of the Chief to tell different stories with subtle physical cues. As we develop the visual ID, the Chief’s current head-tilt is in an interesting territory where he’s typically looking up into the danger that he needs to conquer, but the camera tilt is potentially posing a question. Is he looking up, or is the camera tilted so that he’s actually looking down?

Office of Halo Intelligence

Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 4

To provide you with additional insight into the Master Chief’s design process, I coerced, er, asked, Kenneth Scott, Senior Art Director of Halo 4, to write this week’s OHI entry. He kindly acquiesced, so here are his thoughts on this subject matter.

Big thanks to Jessica for dragging me gently into this week’s OHI. The 343 Art Team (and 343 in general) is thundering on all cylinders, and the seismic rumble has the neighbors all up in arms. When your landlord is the UNSC, you tend to giggle when the homeowner association mail starts to pile up!

With Chief making an appearance at the NY Toy Fair, the internet has bubbled with lots of questions around Chief’s design changes. Having cut my first game developer experience on Daikatana, I’ve developed a healthy respect and fear of the internet. I will step onto a message board with all the cautious ginger one would employ pulling lost forks out of a sink garbage disposal. I did want to risk mangled finger burger to talk a little about some of what brought us to our current design.

Above all, we wanted the player to really feel what it’s like to be the Master Chief. This manifests itself in a lot of ways, and for those who read the Fall of Reach, there’s a lot of character depth behind that helmet that has yet to make its way into the game experience. Every person who was allowed to touch him had to, HAD TO, understand his history as a person. The Chief’s origin is pretty sad and grim: A strong, vibrant child stolen from his parents, he underwent dangerous bioengineering that destroyed the weaker of his friends, and trained to stomp out human Insurrectionists. Pretty morally nebulous beginnings for someone who ultimately saved humanity. Of all FPS heroes, he is distinct in that his arc is aspirational and not a cynical view of the universe.

A big focus on the Chief’s armor was his physicality and putting the player in those mighty shoes. Getting that weight across in the design had us looking at a lot of contemporary military vehicles, and we pushed detail and form into the armor that implied that history. This is the bleeding edge of military technology.

A Spartan tossing his chest plate should feel like an anvil dropping….

A Spartan sprinting across concrete should be a stealthy whisper….

Putting on your helmet should feel like powering up an F-15E….

These are the sorts of experiences we want to give the players.


The Chief has been fighting for decades, and while he has always triumphed in the end, it boggles the mind to think about how many millions of rockets, plasma blasts, red-hot spikes, and bullets have been fired at him over the course of all his adventures. Although a few of those were lucky enough to graze his armor, none of them could keep him down. But the Chief has new adventures coming his way….

bs angel

P.S. I have not forgotten I owe you some audio information. Let’s just consider that “coming soon.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

New York Toy Fair 2012

Yesterday, the NY Toy Fair kicked off strong with a plethora of new Halo 4 things, as well as some other interesting items. Such as TWO different versions of the Halo 4 Master Chief. One is a cleaner, more composed Master Chief. The thing I like about it is that, now, the whole Mark VII Mjolnir armor makes sense (not to mention, he's holding the AR, most likely confirmed for Halo 4), as compared to the smaller of the two which has the Halo 3 style chest scar. But, the smaller one also has the Grenadier Pistol from the Awakening trailer. As well, some of the upcoming Mega Bloks were show. One of these really caught my eye. Its image is at the bottom. It shows a red Spartan shooting what looks like a Battle Rifle at some crazy looking Sentinel (presumably) and its other sentinel friends. The images are posted below, leave me some comments on what you think!
The Larger of the two, Front

The Larger of the two, Back

The Smaller of the Two

The MEGA Bloks set pic.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ship Just Got Real

Obviously we've been working on the game in earnest for a long time, but it's all starting to feel pretty real to me now. Campaign is playable from start to finish (not to be confused with complete or polished) and multiplayer has been running for a while. It's amazing to see changes big and small have a dramatic effect on making the game smoother, more playable and more enjoyable in almost every session.

Personally I have been traveling a fair amount in support of the impending year-long launch activity. Visiting with our partners and colleagues in Europe to talk (and walk) them through the game, the features, the U.S. marketing plans and the sheer scale of the project. We certainly surprised some folks with the ambition and concrete realization of where we're at, but it was kind of cool to see genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the game.

Our show and tell was pretty BIG, since the European partners (marketing, retail guys, etc.) need as much information as is available to make their plans and start building the path to launch abroad. So they went from knowing practically nothing about the game, to knowing practically everything about it. Which is a weird feeling when you expend so much effort and energy on security and secrecy. It's amazing how much detail you need to go into. It's not good enough to simply list off the changes and additions and improvements, you have to contextualize them. It's been almost five years since Halo 3 and a LOT of stuff has happened between then and now: ODST, Reach, multiple map packs, loads of story and a whole swathe of technical and gameplay changes.

Creating material to explain those changes, walking people through the game features - showing them a lot of this stuff in action, it's fun, but it's nerve-wracking. In a way it's a preview of our public showings, where we get a feel for which changes, which additions, which refinements are going to get people excited. It's also a chance to get a feel for which new features are complicated and how to distill the explanations to capture the essence of what we're making. Training wheels, as it were, for showing you guys.

Launching a game is a massive undertaking, with literally hundreds of people all over the world preparing and planning to make sure that every aspect, from the box art to the matchmaking, is executed flawlessly. And if it seems slow, ponderous, even, then remember that there's a plan and a process, and that you'll see Halo 4 soon enough. And we can't wait to share it with you.


  -That was the last OHI. And it was from Frankie. And it was awesome. It was such a kick of nostalgia, and it was really awesome. I miss the days of the Bungie Updates, written by Frankie himself. We miss you, Frankie. But, besides that, there is an underlying message. Frankie said that they've been to the European countries, talking to the press and letting them know almost everything about the game, telling them what and when they can release new information. My guess is that Finland, a European country, was one of the countries to find out about the Xbox Spring Showcase and that Halo 4 info would be okay to launch after the event.
   -What does that mean? Simple, Halo 4 will indeed be at this Closed doors event hosted by Microsoft, and We are going to get, at the very minimum, a trailer.
The Image from the Finnish magazine, Pelaaja.
[I would like for everyone who reads this to understand that this is purely speculation, and anything that you see or hear, unless it is directly from 343 industries, should be taken with a grain of salt.]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 2.8.12

Are you ready for some football?

Oddball is one of my favorite game types, I find juggling to be positively captivating, and becoming a pool shark continues to hold one of the top spots on my bucket list. I suppose, after taking all those things into consideration, it’s safe to admit that anything involving the handling of balls tends to tickle my fancy. That’s why I, along with dozens of my 343 comrades, recently gathered around the studio’s big screen to watch grown men move air-pressurized balls up and down a hash mark–covered field.

Super Bowl Super Bowl
Super Bowl Super Bowl
Super Bowl Super Bowl

Spread out amongst the piles of popcorn, pans of ribs, and manly bite-sized cupcakes were human and canine friends alike, all cheering on their favorite team. I would say each side was equally represented, but most people seemed to be rooting for a certain six-pack-wielding soccer player. At least, everybody at my table was. And no, the fact that I was sitting by myself is not at all relevant to this particular discussion.

What is relevant to this discussion, however, is halftime. Because, just like it was halftime at the Super Bowl, it’s halftime in the Halo Universe, too.

The Master Chief hasn’t been seen for almost five years, and you’re all wondering what we’re going to do to make a comeback. And you’re all scared, because this isn’t just another game.

The Halo community has seen some rough patches, and reduced populations when the time between games has stretched us to our limit. And times when fellow fans didn’t always understand each other. It seems like we lost our heart at times. When the fog of mutual beat-downs, bullet spread, and informational droughts made it hard to see what lies ahead.

But after those trials, we rallied around Halo, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we forge one.

Halo: Anniversary

All that matters now is what’s ahead. Where do we go from here? How do we come together? And, how do we win?

The Halo community can’t be knocked out with a single plasma punch. Our shields will recharge, and we’ll get right back up again. And when we do, an ancient evil will hear the roar of our Warthogs.

Yeah, it’s halftime, fellow Halo fans. And our second half is about to begin….

bs angel

Okay, so that’s not really the end of this week’s Bulletin. I just couldn’t come up with a smooth segue, so I ended it, just so I could start it again.

Stop looking at me like that. It made sense at the time.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Stats, Stats, Baby

If you’re anything like me, you not only like Halo, but you also enjoy the numbers that go along with it. That means the end of each game probably leads to not only checking your total number of kills and deaths, but also comparing your performance to your teammates’. And the seconds spent searching for your next game more than likely provide serious drill-down time, where you analyze the medals, sprees, and other vital stats that are saved for each and every game you play.

Because those numbers give you a tangible way to track your performance and improvement within the game, we offer you a variety of statistics for your number-crunching pleasure. To start you off on your data-mining adventure, I thought I’d introduce you to your Halo Career Overview page here on Halo Waypoint.

Halo Career Overview page, meet the one person reading today’s Bulletin. One person reading today’s Bulletin, meet your Halo Career Overview page.

Halo Career Overview

To access your Career Overview, sign in to Halo Waypoint, and then click the down arrow on the right side of your gamertag tab. Four boxes will magically appear. Select the one on the left that’s conveniently titled Career Overview.

After selecting your Career Overview, you will then be greeted with information relevant to your entire Halo Career, including your BPR, your current Halo: Reach rank, your current Halo Waypoint level, summaries of both your Campaign and multiplayer experiences, and your Awards. From that page, you can also view a high-level summary of all the Halo games you’ve ever played, beginning with Halo 2.

Halo Career Overview

The current version of your Halo: Reach Spartan model is also visible on this page. So, whether you changed your armor last week or last year, that rather attractive in-game character and the numbers you’ve attained with him or her are current as the information is updated in near real-time.

Next week, we’ll get into your nitty-gritty statistics, but for now, dip into your Career and thoroughly get to know your Overview page. Because, between you and me, it’s fine with the wham-bam part, but it’s the lack of a thank-you-ma’am that sometimes causes the problem.

While we’re on the subject of numbers, I should also mention that we wanted give you a little something extra to spend in the Armory this week. That’s right; if there weren’t credits burning a hole in your virtual pocket before, there certainly will be soon….

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Team Slayer Super Jackpot

If your pocket is strangely void of any and all jing-a-ling-a-ling sounds, I highly recommend hitting up the Team Slayer playlist as many times as possible during the next two-week period, because with every game you play, you have a small chance of receiving a very cool 50,000cR bonus. This particular Super Jackpot, which I have officially renamed “Very Big Jackpot” due to its ginormous nature, will run until either you break the UNSC’s bank or the calendar changes to February 22, whichever one happens first.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Custom Challenge of the Week

We don’t want you non–Team Slayer folks to be left out of the credit loop, so if the aforementioned Very Big Jackpot doesn’t float your boat, we have a special Campaign-themed Custom Challenge of the Week that will hopefully keep your head above water. Here is the challenge, should you choose to accept it:

Kill 100 Banshees on the Halo: Reach Campaign level New Alexandria on Heroic, and get 10,000cR conveniently deposited directly into your account next week.

Halo fan Brantrecon suggests getting those kills while in a Banshee. Thus, the name of this challenge is “Beautiful Irony.” Here are the applicable (and must follow exactly) constraints if you want to take a stab at this 10,000cR opportunity.


Name – Beautiful Irony
Challenge Type – Campaign
Goals – Kills of Enemy
Type – Banshee (Type-26 GSA)
Target – 100
Time Limit – Any time ending before Tuesday, February 14, 11:59 pm PT
Map – New Alexandria
Difficulty – Heroic

Please note the payout associated with this challenge will not happen upon turn-in; the 10,000 credits will instead mysteriously and magically appear in your account toward the latter part of next week. Also, you can only receive the increased payout once. So while doing it multiple times will undoubtedly bring you mass amounts of pleasure, it won’t result in multiple 10,000cR rewards. It’s ok, though, because we heard the amount of time your plasma cannon needs to recharge is unusually long anyway. We’re not sayin’, we’re just sayin’.

Office of Halo Intelligence

Once, twice, three times an OHI.

While I’m fairly confident you know we love you (I mean, we have told you that lately, right?), I still enjoy grabbing various members of the Halo 4 development team and making them express that emotion in diary-type entries. This week, for the third installment of our Office of Halo Intelligence series, Frank O’Connor, the master wordsmith himself, took 20 seconds out of his day to write four words for you. I then insisted he add 439 more.

Ship Just Got Real

Obviously we’ve been working on the game in earnest for a long time, but it’s all starting to feel pretty real to me now. Campaign is playable from start to finish (not to be confused with complete or polished) and multiplayer has been running for a while. It’s amazing to see changes big and small have a dramatic effect on making the game smoother, more playable and more enjoyable in almost every session.

Personally I have been traveling a fair amount in support of the impending year-long launch activity. Visiting with our partners and colleagues in Europe to talk (and walk) them through the game, the features, the U.S. marketing plans and the sheer scale of the project. We certainly surprised some folks with the ambition and concrete realization of where we’re at, but it was kind of cool to see genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the game.

Our show and tell was pretty BIG, since the European partners (marketing, retail guys, etc.) need as much information as is available to make their plans and start building the path to launch abroad. So they went from knowing practically nothing about the game, to knowing practically everything about it. Which is a weird feeling when you expend so much effort and energy on security and secrecy. It’s amazing how much detail you need to go into. It’s not good enough to simply list off the changes and additions and improvements, you have to contextualize them. It’s been almost five years since Halo 3 and a LOT of stuff has happened between then and now: ODST, Reach, multiple map packs, loads of story and a whole swathe of technical and gameplay changes.

Creating material to explain those changes, walking people through the game features – showing them a lot of this stuff in action, it’s fun, but it’s nerve-wracking. In a way it’s a preview of our public showings, where we get a feel for which changes, which additions, which refinements are going to get people excited. It’s also a chance to get a feel for which new features are complicated and how to distill the explanations to capture the essence of what we’re making. Training wheels, as it were, for showing you guys.

Launching a game is a massive undertaking, with literally hundreds of people all over the world preparing and planning to make sure that every aspect, from the box art to the matchmaking, is executed flawlessly. And if it seems slow, ponderous, even, then remember that there’s a plan and a process, and that you’ll see Halo 4 soon enough. And we can’t wait to share it with you.


Now, while I’d love to leave you with Frankie’s words resonating through your brain cavity, my need to share useless information has not quite been satiated. Thus, it’s time for another round of community-submitted questions!

Halo: Reach Screenshot
How many boring Bulletins will there be till Halo 4 information? – DeDoubleyou

I’m disappointed you think my Bulletins won’t be boring even after we begin sharing Halo 4 information. Why you gotta underestimate me like that?

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Will it be possible to have a sizeable update for Invasion in the very near future? – Kayne Undhelun

The Halo: Reach playlist designers have a set list of matchmaking-related tasks they’re hoping to accomplish over the next several months. Freshening up Invasion is one of those things. More news about that as the work begins on freshening it up.

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Is the new composer going to keep the original theme's motif or is it going to be a brand new motif for us to listen for across the various tracks? – TitlingScarab35

Sotaro Tojima, the Audio Director for Halo 4, agreed to write the next Office of Halo Intelligence entry, so expect to hear more about the music in a week or two. For now, I’ll just tell you his real goal is to make you cry. I don’t think he realizes I already do that on a weekly basis, though.

And with that, we’re done. Until next week, anyway….

bs angel

P.S. Here is your newest Friday Caption Fun desktop adornment, for the quip-addicted amongst you. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to impress everyone with your wit!

Friday Caption Fun

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What are you doing here?

Go watch the Super Bowl 46 my fellow Americans, if there is anything Halo 4 during the super bowl, you'll definitely know.

The Halo Bulletin: 2.2.12-Updated Edition

Two Beers, Wassup

Two Beers, Wassup.

If you were to pull up a chair, grab one of our food-encrusted controllers, and partake in the shenanigans that routinely go down in our super-secret playtest lab, you would probably find yourself subjected to an endless stream of comments regarding your mom, your face, and the perfectly timed headshots that recently struck both the former and the latter. While our hypercompetitive nature typically results in an excess of trash talking, we also know how to harness it in a positive way, too. Take, for instance, our recent studio-wide activity where we not only made a difference in the lives of thousands, but also almost managed to make dozens of 343-ers regurgitate simultaneously. Let me explain….

The cold winter months are an especially difficult time for those who are less fortunate. That’s why we pit half the studio against the other half of the studio in a competition to see who could donate the most food to Northwest Harvest—a local charity dedicated to fighting hunger across Washington State. The premise was simple: fill up the most food bins, and choose what type of beer goes into your kegerator, and your opponents’, the next time they run dry.

Oh yes, the stakes were high. Almost unbelievably so.

Fueled by the fear of being forced to ingest barely drinkable, beer-flavored water (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee's Best), numerous 343-ers cleared out their kitchen cabinets, pantry shelves, and nearest buy-in-bulk stores until all of the aforementioned areas resembled a ghost town (see what I did there?). When the standoff was said and done, the entire studio stood as one and donated over 35,000 meals to Northwest Harvest. With a number like that, I think it’s safe to say we’re all winners. Except the half of the studio that is stuck drinking a not-fit-for-human-consumption type of fermented beverage, I suppose.

Okay, that’s not really how that story ended. The winning team actually took the high groundby opting to put Guinness in both kegerators. I’m not saying the person that made that decision needs to toughen up a bit, but the person that made that decision should probably think about toughening up a bit. By the way, should you find yourself with a spare serving of food any time soon, drop it by your local food bank. I’m sure the lucky recipient would be eternally grateful.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

February Matchmaking Playlist Update

Speaking of being eternally grateful, the team that designs the Halo: Reach playlists always appreciates the feedback you leave in the Matchmaking section of our forums. They’re looking for additional feedback this month, though, so let’s dip into the specifics of the February Matchmaking playlist update, which is slated to go live on February 7, so you can find out yet another way to make your voice heard.

• Grifball updated.

Map changes include Radiant being removed and Impact Arena (Grifball) and Sierra Vista (Grifball Dash) being added. One additional change to this playlist is that Blargball variants will now appear in voting slot three only. Semi-related, to vote for that choice, you must say “wort wort wort” into your mic while simultaneously selecting that option. Please note that saying “wart wart wart” will render your selection null and void.

• Squad DLC updated.

Squad DLC’s population is dangerously low. To breathe some life into this list, we’re making a few changes. Anniversary maps have been set to optional, and Noble and Defiant maps continue to be required. We have also heard your concerns in regard to a few achievement-friendly game types still being difficult to find. In response to that, we’ve added the following objective game types to voting slot three:

Multiflag on Highlands, 1 Flag on Highlands, 1 Flag on Condemned, Invasion on Breakpoint, Crazy King in Breakpoint, 1 Flag on Breakpoint, 1 Flag on Tempest, Multiflag on Tempest, Crazy King on Tempest, Neutral Bomb on Tempest, Multiflag on Condemned, Crazy King on Condemned, Crazy King on High Noon, 1 Flag on High Noon, Crazy King on Breakneck, 1 Flag on Breakneck, Stockpile on Ridgeline, Neutral Bomb on Ridgeline, and Crazy King on Ridgeline.

• Rumble Pit updated to TU settings.

TU game types are our standard Reach Matchmaking settings with the Title Update changes. Those changes are: damage bleed enabled, modified reticle bloom, sword block removed, Armor Lock modified, and Active Camo modified.

• Infection updated.

Map changes include Sword Base being removed and Uncaged replacing The Caged. Also, we’ve noticed some feedback coming from both matchmaking and internal playtests about players getting betrayed by teammates at the beginning of games. Since that sometimes results in a less advantageous respawn position, we’ve removed friendly fire in an attempt to cut down on that particular form of griefing.

P.S. One final effort is all that remaaaaaaains, so please, dear players, just focus on the braaaaaains.

• Banshee replaced with Revenant on Breakneck.

The classic Gauss ’Hog vs. Banshee battle on Headlong will continue. We bid adieu to the flying purple thing on Breakneck, though, and welcome its hovering brethren in its place!

• Rocket ’Hog Race weighting reduced in Multi Team.

I think this game type should be renamed “Spawn in the Passenger Seat Every -Yoinking- Time.” That has absolutely nothing to do with the reweighting, by the way. I just don’t want the impending name change to take you by surprise.

• Zero Bloom moved to Competitive category, and Beta category hidden.

Zero Bloom Slayer is popular enough to be moved to the Competitive category. We’re working on what will be in the Beta category next, but it needs a little more time to marinate in order to reach its maximum important status. Keep an eye out for its return in the near future.

• Classic game types removed from Anniversary Squad, and One Bomb Damnation moved to Anniversary Classic.

Classic game types are being removed from Anniversary Squad, and One Bomb Damnation is moving to Anniversary Classic. What? I already said that? Fine then. Moving on.

• Team Slayer changes. Make your voice heard!

We are in the process of deciding if the Team Slayer playlist will be updated to TU settings. This continues to be one of the most popular playlists, so we are not taking this decision lightly. In an effort to get player feedback that's as accurate as possible, we are going to pull voting data over a two-week period.

Team Slayer Voting Screen

To do that, we’re removing one of the voting choices. That will leave you with one vanilla choice and one TU choice. We realize that ties default to the highest voting option, so in order to balance the results, vanilla will be the top selection for the first week, and TU will be the top selection for the second week. Once the results are in, we’ll analyze the data and make an informed decision.

So, participate in the Team Slayer playlist starting on February 7, and make your voice heard! Because the other option, of course, is forever holding your peace….

• Team Hotshot added to Action Sack.

Right about now you’re probably asking yourself, what is Team Hotshot? To answer that question, I grabbed the playlist designer that created this game type, and asked him a few questions.

Team Hotshot

Mr. L, I’d like to ask you, on behalf of both people reading the Bulletin this week, what exactly is Team Hotshot?

Team Hotshot is a new game type in which a player’s damage output is tied to the number of successive kills the player has achieved. When you spawn, you’re at level zero. One kill progresses you to level one, the next kill progresses you to level two, and the third kill progresses you to the third and final level. We call this the player’s “heat.” The twist is that players will notice their speed is tied to their heat level.

Congratulations on doubling your readership, by the way.

Why, thank you! Back to business, though. How did you come up with this game type?

My original idea for Team Hotshot was to have the person get stronger with every successive DMR bullet that hits a target. What it eventually morphed into was players getting stronger as they get kills. So it’s not every shot you land, but every kill you get. The tricky part was that you have this rich-keep-getting-richer economy, and there needs to be a balance for all the players who are suddenly stronger than their opponents. So, the idea was much like working your way up the weight classes of boxing; the stronger you are, the slower you are. The heavyweights in a boxing match don’t throw 120 punches per round like the featherweights do. But when you get hit with a haymaker from a heavyweight, it puts you out. They throw fewer punches but have more power behind them. Hotshots are similar. They can’t move around as quickly, but they can do more damage.

What is a good strategy when playing Team Hotshot?

You want to work with your team to protect the slower players who are putting out more damage. You also want to get those people power weapons. Here’s why: when you’re at the third level of heat, you are doing significantly more damage than a player who just spawned. For instance, one sniper shot anywhere on an enemy player will kill them. That brings up another point. Players who are ascending through the heat levels need to be more careful about their ordnance output. When one grenade can kill an enemy player, it can betray a teammate just as easily.

Rockets Chart

I wanted to help illustrate your point, so I made this rocket damage chart. I was attempting to show the radius being the same but the damage output increasing. I think I just ended up drawing a rainbow, though.

I would say A for effort, but that’s really bad. To make up for that, here are the specifics for each heat level.

Heat 0/3: 100% D.M. 100% Speed
Heat 1/3: 115% D.M. 90% Speed
Heat 2/3: 130% D.M. 85% Speed
Heat 3/3: 145% D.M. 80% Speed

Another fun thing about this game type is that players will be able to adjust heat level traits in custom games.

So, if people want to mess around with the settings themselves, they should grab the game type when they see it in Action Sack?

Yup. I’ll also upload it to the Halo Waypoint File Share shortly after the update goes live on February 7.

You’re so super nice, L.

So I’ve been told, Jessica. So I’ve been told.

And that’s your February Matchmaking playlist update in all its wordy glory. We hope you enjoy this month’s changes. Although if you don’t, we know you’ll let us know one way or another. Hopefully not through powdery substances sent through the mail this time, though….

Custom Challenge of the Week

Custom Challenge of the Week – Catch

Last week, for our Custom Challenge of the Week festivities, dead Drones were worth ten times their usual amount. This week we’re focusing on a different part of the Campaign experience: Skulls. Or, to be more specific, Catch. Normally this particular gameplay modifier adds a 10% boost to your total Credit value for a challenge, but for one week only we are tripling that percentage.

So, from now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with Catch and then turning that skull on in-game will result in three times the usual multiplier. Please note that when you set Skulls as a Constraint, you must activate ONLY those skulls for games to count. No more, no less.

I do believe there’s only one thing left to say…. Swing, batta batta, swing!

Different Way to Campaign

A Different Way to Campaign – Available Now on YouTube

The Halo Waypoint content team has been creating videos longer than you have been alive (assuming you’ve been alive less than three years). During that timeframe, they’ve produced and created everything from motion comics to fiction pieces to game-related trailers, and we’re working hard to make this content available in as many places as possible.

We started that effort last week by making four of our original motion comics available on the Zune Video Marketplace, and we’re continuing that trend by bringing our Different Way to Campaign series to YouTube. Starting today with DWTC: Setting the Table, we’ll upload one nostalgia-inducing video a week to our official YouTube channel. Watch it, embed it, or post a well-thought-out and intellectually stimulating comment. But subscribe today, so you’re ready for all the incoming goodies!

Not related, I originally misspelled the word “intellectually” in the preceding paragraph. I’m sure that says something about me, although I’m not exactly sure what.

Halo Waypoint

What’s next for Halo Waypoint.

Our friends at Bungie recently announced that as part of Halo’s transition to 343, they will no longer be able to update game stats and player service records, host new user-generated content, or operate the Bungie Pro Service after March 31. This is part of our contract with Bungie, and a planned stage of the Halo transition process. Decisions on future and ongoing support are Microsoft's alone, and if you have any further questions, please direct them at us, not Bungie. There has been a lot of discussion and some confusion around this transition, so we wanted to take a moment to tell you what will be affected and what’s next for Halo Waypoint.

Starting on April 1, we will be increasing Halo: Reach File Share capacity from 6 slots to 24 slots at no extra charge. All Halo: Reach files, including films, screenshots, game types, and maps, will continue to be fully accessible in-game, just like they are today. We’re also excited to announce that we are bringing Halo: Reach File Share access to the web version of Halo Waypoint this summer. After March 31, there will be a short period where new Halo: Reach user-generated content will not be accessible from the web.

While the real-time export of Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST data to the web will not be supported on Waypoint at the time of this transition, data collection is still taking place. In fact, Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST stats will continue to be reflected in your Halo Waypoint Career. To access your Halo Career, log on to the website, and click the drop-down arrow located to the right of your gamertag at the top of the screen. Then, click the Career Overview panel. There you will see the total number of Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo Wars, and Halo: Reach Campaign and Multiplayer games you’ve played throughout your entire Halo career. You can also see Games Played, Time Played, Total Kills, and Kill/Death information for each title by selecting it in the Halo Stats Summary column.

Halo Stats

The most noticeable changes will include those features seen exclusively on, such as rendered films, nameplates, and Halo: Reach API keys. Those features are not included in the transition, and we do not have plans to develop similar features at this time.

343’s focus for the near future is ensuring that the Halo: Reach experience is the best it can be, both in-game and on the web, expanding our Halo Waypoint services, and making Halo 4, which you can expect to hear more about in the not-so-distant future. We’re excited about continuing to evolve the Halo franchise, and we thank you for joining us on this ride.

bs angel

P.S. If you need a new desktop adornment for your constantly rotating series of wallpapers, here is the latest Friday Caption Fun image. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to leave your usual hilarious comment.

Friday Caption Fun

P.P.S. Discuss.

2.3.12 UPDATE

Since publishing yesterday’s Bulletin, we’ve seen a lot of spirited conversation within the Halo community on a variety of topics. In response to one of those topics, we would like to clarify some of the confusion around the upcoming Team Slayer matchmaking vote.

We want to make it clear there will always be a way for you to experience Halo: Reach multiplayer with the original, non-TU settings in matchmaking. As we move forward, we’re constantly looking at ways to consolidate and update multiplayer. In fact, we’re still looking at ways of refining the Title Update player experience in Reach.

As always, thank you for your passion and honesty, and please continue giving us your feedback. We appreciate it more than you know.