Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 3.21.12

Halo 4 Reveal

Gotta get down on Friday.

If you were to walk into our kitchen on a Friday morning, your eyes would be greeted by box upon box of embellished spheres of dough, and, hovering nearby, an equally enticing, Batman-costume–wearing Scotsman. I already shared an image of the latter (What? You didn’t see it? Click here!), so I thought I’d go with the former this week.

While the aforementioned occurrences have been happening for years (yes, Frankie has a long and sordid history of taking casual Friday to a whole new level), last month we started an end-of-the-week tradition that is gradually becoming the norm. You see, not long ago, we reached that magical stage of game development where everything is slowly but surely coming together. While the animators are typically knee-deep in animating, the composers in composing, and the artists in… well, art-ing, every single team is making a conscious effort to regularly convene with their fellow 343-ers and soak in the entirety of Halo 4, instead of just their individual piece.

Last Friday, amidst four different types of pretzels and five different varieties of mustards, we gathered around the big screen to watch one of our designers play through a Halo 4 Campaign mission. With the hectic schedules everybody has been keeping, this was the first time many of us saw the sequence in an almost final state. Yes, it’s still a work-in-progress, but to see several near-finished game components form a single, cohesive experience was an exciting moment for us as a studio.

You’ll be hearing more about that mission very soon. To tide you over until then, I cornered our lead multiplayer map designer along with one of our senior environment artists and forced them to tell me everything they know about Wraparound and Warhouse, the two multiplayer maps revealed in our Making Halo 4: First Look video. Apparently my 5’1” stature is not that intimidating, because I was unable to squeeze every last detail out of them; however, I’m happy to share what they did divulge.

We'll dive into Warhouse next week, but join me today as we take a look at the development of Wraparound.

Halo 4 Wraparound Concept Art


Clouds billow past. The sun is blinding. And your mind cannot even begin to comprehend the monstrous scale of the imposing towers that surround you. As your eyes follow the flowing lines of the Forerunner architecture, your body picks up the implied movement and your mind suddenly asks, “Where am I?” The answer comes to you, a subtle whisper hidden within the whistling of the wind: you’re inside a tower, suspended in the atmosphere….

You’re on Wraparound.

Wraparound was one of the first maps we worked on for Halo 4, and because it was done early in the development process, it went through a few different reboots. From a design perspective, it stayed the same. Visually, though, it became more ornate with each successive iteration.

When the first iteration didn’t meet our vision for the Forerunner style, we (literally) went back to the ol’ drawing board. Significant progress was made between the second and third iterations, and that’s when this particular multiplayer map became an integral part in helping define the visual style of the Forerunner geometry found in Halo 4.

Some of the things we really wanted to push were the impossible scale of being on colossal towers, the complexity of the high-reaching structures, and the familiar yet foreign sky. We also felt it was important to capture a feeling of movement. When you look at a still image of Wraparound, the form pulls your eyes in different directions. Players follow those guiding lines, which helps with traversing this two-tiered playspace.

Stylistically, the philosophy behind the layout of the map is closer to some of the small, symmetrical arenas in Halo: CE, 2, and 3. We wanted something balanced and tuned for competitive play, and something that supports Halo in its purest form: aiming, running, shooting, and jumping.

Halo 4 Wraparound Concept Art

Jump gaps that you use to get into the center are there so if you find yourself on the losing side of combat, you can drop down, recharge your shields, and regain your composure. Those very same jump gaps also give you that adrenaline-filled moment when you’re charging into combat and leaping over the center, confidence soaring that you are, in fact, going to finish the fight.

Yes, you’re a humanity-defending, ancient-evil–fighting, codpiece-wearing, cybernetically enhanced super-soldier. And yes, you should have those hero moments where you feel every single bit of that, too.

Back to the map, though. Halls in the center provide long lines of sight. This map is not as powerful for long-range weapons, but, if you look hard enough, you can still find locations where you can use those weapons effectively. The bulk of the combat, as you would expect from a smaller-sized map, is close to mid. But, no matter what happens in the sandbox, this level tends to play out consistently.

The center is a rally point, with the rear disconnected from the front and middle. While you can get there on foot, man cannons are also available to launch you directly into this high-occupancy area. In addition to the established lines of travel, there are a few secret routes that lead from the lower level to the upper center for players who are observant about the angles of the pillars leading to the upper deck.

I can neither confirm nor deny that fancy-schmancy jumping may be involved in those routes. I can say, however, that fancy-schmancy jumping is definitely involved in those routes.

Speaking of confirming and denying, you may be wondering why I’m not sharing new Wraparound in-game screenshots with you. While many of you would say (and have said, AHEM) I enjoy torturing you, the truth is that when we withhold information, there’s always a reason why. The two most common reasons are we prefer to only share that which is close to final or final (in order to minimize disappointment if things get changed or potentially pulled) or there is a plan which involves its usage in the future. I’ll let you reread the first few paragraphs and determine which one is applicable in this case.

Now, instead of focusing on what I can’t share right now, let’s move on to things I can freely discuss. Like Reach.

Halo: Reach Custom Challenge of the Week

Custom Challenge of the Week

The Needler Rifle is an extremely satisfying weapon to wield while traversing the virtual battlefield. There’s just something inherently rewarding about shooting explosive pink shards directly into your enemy’s head. That’s why kills attained with this particular weapon will be rewarded with a higher than average payout for the next several days.

So, from now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with the Needler Rifle as the type of weapon will result in ten times the usual multiplier. Please note this only applies to Campaign and Custom games (including Custom Firefight). It’s also worth noting that despite the rumor that one is sufficient, I recommend going for as many as your multi-fingered appendages can handle.

And yes, that’s what I said.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Super Jackpot Weekend

If Custom Challenges aren’t your thing, fret not, for we have a double serving of Super Jackpots coming your way this weekend. Because one sometimes just isn’t enough, we’ll have two active Super Jackpots running for the entirety of your two-day mini-vacation. Starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into Team Objective and Super Slayer will present you with the chance of receiving a 20,000 credit bonus.

So, go get your supa slayin’ on. Unless, of course, Objective is more your thing. And, if that’s the case, perhaps our paths will cross. Should that happen, I’m not saying I’ll be gunning for you, but I just may be gunning for you….

Not to change the subject, but did you just hear that? If you didn’t, it was the sound of quickly approaching community questions!

Halo: Reach Screenshot
When in March is the Halo: Anniversary Series 2 figures coming out? It's the 20th and they still aren't in the stores or on the store's website. –Babashnelp

The release date for McFarlane’s Anniversary Series 2 line recently got pushed back. We haven’t heard an ETA, so please consider it coming soon.

Semi-related, I feel like I say the phrase “coming soon” a lot. Do you feel that way, too? On second thought, don’t answer that.

Halo: Reach Screenshot
When will we get info on vehicles in Halo 4? Also, weapons, too? -VRTX Raptor

In the 3.7 edition of the Halo Bulletin, we answered a slew of community-submitted questions. Some of them got detailed answers. Others got the customary “You’ll be hearing more about that soon” response. One of the reasons we included questions that weren’t given specific answers is so you could get a clear understanding of what we’re sharing right now vs. what will be revealed on a later date.

Both of your questions fall into the latter category. We’re going to be rolling out more information throughout the wind-up to launch, so whether your question is about vehicles and weapons or other Halo 4–related specifics, stay tuned.

By the way, I managed to not say “coming soon” in that response. Someone give me a cookie!

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Can we get a brief overview as to what will happen to Waypoint on and after March 31? -halomaniac87

We’ll have a smattering of details about that next week. So, stay tuned. I mean, coming soon. I mean… look at that shiny thing over there! *runs away*

And on that note, I do believe it’s time to wrap this sucker up. I hope to see you at the same time and same place next week. Until then….

bs angel

P.S. If you happen to be in need of a new Friday Caption Fun desktop adornment, here is your weekly fix. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to contribute your witty quip. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 3.15.12

      Last week, when someone asked what stage of development we were at in regard to Halo 4, the answer given was “crunch.” The truth of the matter is that particular term doesn’t even begin to describe the level of activity currently housed within the walls of our workspace. Along with the hustle and bustle of a few hundred 343-ers, we’ve had press, partners, and numerous other people—every single one of whom is somehow relevant to where we’re at with the game—holed up in meeting rooms, hunched over computers, and slaving away in soundproof studios, working hard to bring you something that you’ll read, play, or hear at some point in the near or not-so-near future.

FYI, I invested approximately 120 seconds into making that last sentence as informatively vague as possible. I do hope you are pleased with the results.

Now that two minutes of my workweek are accounted for, you may be curious about the other 3,598. Believe it or not, while other people have been focusing on Halo 4, I’ve been busy singing the praises of you, our passionate, dedicated, and talented community. Don’t worry, though; I sing better than I write. And yes, I’m fully aware that’s not saying much.

Anyway, now it’s time for me to stop talking about you, and instead talk with you. What’s the topic this week, you ask? There are a few, but we’ll start with the return of an old friend.

Twitter Battle Rifle

The Halo 4 Battle Rifle

Approximately one week ago, we released a slew of Halo 4–related information, much of which we provided clarification about in last week’s Bulletin. One thing that didn’t need clarifying, however, was the return of the Battle Rifle. After sitting out for a few games and letting its brethren shine, the Battle Rifle is officially coming back in Halo 4, in all of its three-round-burst glory.

As someone who invested a decent chunk of time in both Halo 2 and Halo 3, I’m excited to welcome the BR back into the fold. Whether I was wandering around aimlessly with a fully charged Plasma Pistol or playing SWAT on Lockout, camping lower BR tower and spawn-killing everybody in my direct line of sight (yes, I was one of those people), the Battle Rifle was my trusty sidekick for nearly six years, delivering three bullets per trigger pull to either my opponent’s head or the area adjacent to their head. Some people would say the latter more than the former. And those people would be right.

Whether you are welcoming back an old friend, or introducing yourself to a new one, take a second to fully absorb the BR’s appearance, because this will be your rifle. There may be others like it, but this one will be yours.

Halo 4 Battle Rifle

The BR85HB Service Rifle is a gas-operated, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle optimized for three-round-burst firing, and proven to be extraordinarily effective against dissipative energy shielding on both exotic and domestic armor types. Performance-wise, the Battle Rifle is hitscan (meaning the effect is immediate), it features a scope attachment (x2), and it has recoil in its current tuning (rising slightly when fired but in a suppressible way). It doesn’t have bloom, the rhythm feels good when firing it, and it can be used for longer-range engagement.

For the uninitiated, the Battle Rifle is most known for its three-round burst. In previous games, this three-round burst was known, but not felt or heard. In Halo 4, it’s known, felt, and heard.

The first time I picked up a Battle Rifle in Halo 4, I was excited, but not overly so. I knew it was there and I was happy it was there, but I was more curious than anything else. Upon picking it up from a fallen foe, I started searching for someone to test it out on. After finding one such person, I began to unleash my fury upon them, and after the first pull of the trigger, my ears were greeted with three distinct and powerful pops, my controller began rumbling, and I suddenly felt like the most powerful and badass Spartan to ever walk the earth.

Then, I died. The experience of wielding the Battle Rifle was so satisfying, though, that upon spawning, my only goal was to get it back. I did just that, a few different times, and what I learned from that first experience was my excitement caused me to flail, but exercising control and focusing on precision were ultimately rewarded.

Twitter Battle Rifle

The major driving force behind the design of the Halo 4 Battle Rifle was a decision to base it on real-world weaponry and then add sci-fi elements. Since the BR already existed, we didn’t want to deviate too far from its last iteration. So we updated it, while putting our own creative spin on it. The overall silhouette is similar to the existing BR, with a few artistic changes.

Old-school UNSC weapons were grounded in modern day to give the sense that Spartans are underpowered. We wanted to retain that while pushing the sci-fi elements. You can see that in the scope, the LCD display, the ammo count, and other stylistic details on the gun.

In regard to the scope in particular, traditionally, Halo has had one type of each weapon per game. Taking into consideration Halo 4’s sandbox, we went with the square scope to differentiate it from other guns and rifles that have bulky scopes on them.

Twitter Battle Rifle

Another way we’re conveying the power of the Battle Rifle is through audio. This weapon is truly a force to be reckoned with, and it’s important that viciousness is incorporated both in how it feels and in how it sounds.

The three-round burst is one of the most important aspects of this gun, and that is represented through a slightly ascending pitch scale and a strong accent on the final shot. The base sounds are from FN SCAR and M16-A rifles, and then other elements were added to help fill out the frequency spectrum. A caulking gun, a belt-sander being turned off (pitched down half an octave), and a short snippet from a 2-inch mortar explosion all contribute to what will eventually be going directly into your earholes.

If you play with Nerf guns as much as we do (there may or may not be a few scattered around the studio), you’ll enjoy knowing that rather fun noise is one of the components that make up the BR's reload. Accompanying it are a metal C-stand, an old rusty scooter, and real weapon mechanics from WWI-era to modern day firearms.

Twitter Battle Rifle

Since the Battle Rifle is one of the most popular Halo weapons, we’ve repeatedly asked ourselves, “What do we keep the same, and what do we change?” We want the Battle Rifle to be an iconic status weapon. When players get it, we want them to feel empowered, especially by the way it operates.

We’re hoping that we nailed it. You can let us know Holiday 2012. :)

Halo Waypoint

Halo Waypoint Updates

Halo Waypoint recently dispatched a team of ninjas, their mission, which they chose to accept, being to update the Halo Waypoint experience across multiple platforms. As always, their work is ongoing, but a few of the updates have already been pushed out into the wild. Here is brief summary of them.

• Forum

The Halo Waypoint forums now include an adaptive layout, meaning they are much more mobile-friendly. Previously, while on your phone, pinching and zooming were commonplace when surfing the various intellectually stimulating conversations that regularly occur on our boards. Now, the mobile forums feature a delightfully compact design that makes perusing your fellow forum members’ posts a much more pleasant experience.

Semi-related, I heard there were a few new Halo 4 avatars recently added to our collection. I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor; however, I can say they are HAWT.


ATLAS recently got some serious love. Along with a heaping serving of performance and polish optimizations, individual weapon and vehicle icons were added, as was support for Forge World default variants (Asylum, Pinnacle, The Cage, Hemorrhage, and Paradiso) in custom games.

Remember, when you buy ATLAS, you get access to all the Halo: Reach maps. And you only have to buy it once on Android Market or Apple App Store, and you’ll have access to it on all of your Apple or Android devices.

• Halo Waypoint for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android

The Halo Waypoint app on Windows Phone, iOS, and Android has been updated. In addition to all of the ATLAS goodies mentioned above, we’ve also made several enhancements to the apps.

Android: The Android app is now fully compatible with HTC devices and Android tablets. So no matter what Android device is currently in your ever-growing pile of tech toys, you should now be able to enjoy Waypoint!

iOS: The iOS app is now fully compatible with iPod Touch and iPad 1. Also, we’ve improved the graphics quality for retina display and added support for multitasking.

And finally, both the iOS and Android apps are now available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mexico, and Luxembourg.

To get the update, just visit the Windows Phone Marketplace, Apple App Store, or Android Market, and check for updates.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

343 Industries Community Playdate

On the third or fourth Thursday of every month (and by every, I mean almost every), we host Xbox LIVE Community Playdates. Today is one of those days, so hop online between the hours of 5 and 8 pm Pacific Time, and send an Xbox LIVE text message to any of the following gamertags if you’d like to participate. We’ll be Reaching it up, so make sure that disc is already spinning in your tray before sending your message.

bs angel

Please note there is a teeny tiny chance you might get driven off a cliff, betrayed by a teammate, or suffer hearing loss due to constant high-pitched squealing if you find yourself in a lobby with me. You have been warned.

Halo 4 Wallpapers

If you somehow managed to stomach my ramblings all the way to this point, I do believe you deserve a little something special. Coincidentally enough, I just happen to have a little something special. Take a gander at the following Halo 4–themed wallpapers, select your preferred size, then right-click and set as background. Oh, yes, it really is that easy!

Halo 4 Wallpaper

Halo 4 Wallpaper

Halo 4 Wallpaper

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to dust off my DMR. I’ll see you either on the virtual battlefields later this evening, or next week for yet another untimely edition of your Halo Bulletin. Until then….

bs angel
P.S. If your personal computer is capable of handling just a little more excitement today, feel free to adorn the latest Friday Caption Fun picture directly to your desktop. Then contribute your witty quip to the latest round of caption festivities. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

P.P.S. Needz moar codpiece. That is all.

bs angel loves neoGAF

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 3.07.12

Halo 4 Reveal

We’ll never tell.

Before Monday, I think some people pictured our studio as a makeshift infirmary, filled with bed after bed of hospital-gown-clad 343 employees, eerily singing “I’ll never tell” as if the haunting tune was stuck in an endless loop. The reality of our situation, however, was the majority of us spent our days curled up in a fetal position under our desk, tears streaming down our faces, sobbing about our need to share something, anything, with our information-starved fans.

While it’s been difficult for us to keep our cards so close to our chest, I know it’s been even more difficult on all of you, as your hunger for Halo 4 knowledge went from a slight rumbling in the pit of your stomach to a sonic boom–like roar heard by anybody within a one-million-mile radius. We hope Monday’s taste not only whetted your appetite but also provided enough satiation to help you survive just a little bit longer….

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about (because you live under something that is a natural formation, perhaps), Monday was the day we officially released the first in-game look at Halo 4, in the form of a behind-the-scenes video and three screenshots featuring the Master Chief and the Battle Rifle. Even if you’ve already seen the aforementioned pieces, go ahead and take a gander at them again, because today, for your weekly Halo Bulletin, we’re answering several of your Halo 4–related inquiries.

So watch the video, check out the screenshots, and then begin digesting the Frankie-provided morsels below because, as you are about to see, your favorite Scottish Franchise Development Director was kind enough to tackle each and every question I hastily threw his way. Well, beside the one about his sudden lack of facial hair, anyway.

Please Enter your Date of Birth

Halo 4 Screenshot

Halo 4 Screenshot

Halo 4 Screenshot

Frankie tells.

What do the media mean when they say "perks?" –Krevilz

Well, I think they’re talking about performance-enhancing abilities from Call of Duty, if we’re going to be perfectly honest. I should clarify that we never used the terms “perks,” other than when asked about them. That was a term coined in questions about our admittedly mysterious content.

The systems in Halo 4, and I say that in the plural because there is no single element that defines that aspect of our game, are interconnected and related directly to your in-game experience as a Spartan IV, but they’re not exactly like any specific existing template or scheme. We’ll be explaining more about the Campaign and Multiplayer systems as the year progresses, but suffice it to say that the new features we’re hinting at for Halo 4 will not be mirror images of the stuff they’re being compared to now in online conversations.

Can you elaborate a little more on the armor customization and how it affects gameplay? I'm expecting a vague answer, but anything new on the subject (even a little sliver) would be extremely appreciated. –ZippingFilly812

You will have a wide degree of control over your appearance, of course, but as we have hinted, there will also be elements of your ability and performance as a Spartan IV that you will have some control over, that will actually impact your gameplay experience, although it should be noted this will not allow players to arrive in a game session with what are traditionally called “power weapons” or a massively asymmetrical advantage over opponents. Now, there’s a lot of speculation about how this will affect balance – and when we have more details to share, that experience will start to come into focus, but our philosophy is still to provide a balanced and enjoyable game for all types of players, regardless of skill or experience.

Will there be a public multiplayer Beta, like the Halo 3 and Halo: Reach Betas, where everyday people got to play them? With this being 343's first Halo game and entry in the franchise, it seems like something very important.

While we are testing Halo 4 code, gameplay, and systems at significant scale to get excellent data, input, and feedback, we are focused on polishing and shipping our experience for the duration of the year, and splitting resources to manage and build a beta is not on our schedule.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will Armor Abilities and/or Equipment return? –Daedalos42

Without going into too many details, in Halo: CE, you’d fight for control over armor abilities based on timing and map control, and that’s something that evolved over time until it became the Equipment pick-ups in Halo 3 and eventually the Armor Ability loadouts in Reach. Halo 4’s system will be a logical evolution, but based on lessons and inspiration from the (matchmaking) successes and less-than-successes in prior titles.

What is your general approach to the marketing of Halo 4? Can we expect more/bigger info blowouts before release or will you keep things closer to your chest this time (compared to other Halo games)? –Sempik

We have some surprises in store. We’re not simply cruel teases—it’s a combination of genuinely wanting to surprise fans and, of course, the production reality of making sure everything is cool before revealing things. Previous Halo marketing campaigns have kind of taken on a life of their own and are definitely a part of the overall launch experience for some hardcore fans. I think we have some ideas, traditional and not-so-traditional, that certainly embrace marketing, but a couple of things that go beyond product marketing into what I can only tease as a fairly different experience. More on that later in the year, but expect at least a human presence from 343 Industries at many of the big events in the gaming calendar year.

So you guys mentioned that the Multiplayer will have its own story and explanations. Will they intertwine with the single-player Campaign and story? –DS xHunterZx SD

That’s an interesting question and the short answer is that they are connected, but you shouldn’t spend too much time wondering how. All of our current experiences, games, terminals, books, etc., are all interconnected. Sometimes directly, sometimes tangentially, but from this point on, everything matters. If you’re new to the series, don’t panic. None of the external experiences are necessary to understand the game plot, and vice versa. Each Halo story will work as a standalone piece, but the more you experience, the more resonance (and Easter Eggs) you’ll get.

When will the full game be released? –Burninhell647

In precisely 2012. The actual ship date (and other details) will be rolled out in the not-too-crazy-distant future.

Halo 4 Reveal

Seeing how Halo 4 is the return of Master Chief, when can we expect to get some Campaign information? –Maggot081608

We’re going to be rolling out more information throughout the year, and you will certainly find out more about both Campaign and Multiplayer relatively soon. Of course, now you have to define “relatively.”

Is there going to be a nice balance of playlists in Halo 4, like ranked and social? –A Critical H1T

We aren’t going to go into detail about matchmaking systems or playlists for a little while, but there will definitely be options for traditional Halo fans to enjoy, and some very new experiences that we’re pretty excited about. Our playlists will be tightly focused, consistent, and properly polished. This will be especially evident at launch, but like with prior Halo games, these playlists will be organic and will evolve, but sensibly and appropriately.

What is the difference of philosophy of visuals between Campaign and Multiplayer, and will we see a more cinematic look in the Multiplayer with different techniques usually reserved for single-player? –DemonCarnotaur

The technology for both Campaign and Multiplayer graphics is effectively identical, but the philosophies will vary depending on the game mode/map. Certainly the traditional MP stuff we’ve already shown continues Halo’s tradition of clean lines of sight and recognizable environments designed to propel and lubricate map flow and fast-paced gameplay. The technology in Campaign will be used differently to accommodate a more cinematic experience, but there are a lot of approaches we’re taking to the whole game this time that will add layers of nuance to those approaches.

With all the care being put into improving and pushing the Multiplayer and single-player experiences forward, will the same care be put into features such as Forge and Theater? What are your goals for improving community content in Halo 4? –AtlasIsShruggin

We will do our best not to disappoint fans of the existing Halo feature set. Every aspect of the game is being approached with a passion and fervor to improve, grow, or streamline. More detail soon, but I suspect most folks will be pretty happy.

Halo 4 Reveal

How close to a traditional Halo experience will we be able to get? Will there be a place for fans of the original trilogy to get to play Halo as they remember it? –MATCLAN x MT

Every Halo game is different, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. You can expect that tradition to continue here, but the short answer is that the core things that make Halo Campaign and Multiplayer feel like Halo will be intact and immediately available to players.

Will other characters, besides Master Chief and Cortana, from the previous games or novels appear in Halo 4? –Assassin 11D7

One of the luxuries of being in the game business is the ability to keep story and surprises completely shrouded in secrecy for a very long time. I can at least confirm that there will be some very interesting new characters joining the fray.

What stage of development are you at currently? –UnrealCh13f

Crunch. We’re finishing levels. Improving perf. Finishing gameplay. Finishing UI. The Campaign is playable from beginning to end. Cinematics are being fully realized. Music is composed, final orchestra sessions are booked. Some levels are graphically polished and beautiful, others waiting their turn in the schedule. Testing and polishing of systems continues. Crunchy.

Halo 4 Reveal

Are there going to be more, fewer, or the same number of guns in Halo 4 compared to Halo: Reach? Is there one gun that when you saw it you just went "WOW!" –Someone

It is not the same number of guns. I can state bluntly that we have made significant changes to the sandbox. Perhaps the most radical overhauls and additions it’s ever had in a single iteration. Fans should expect to see very new stuff. And not just weapons. As usual a couple of things will get deleted (or changed), but on balance, it will be more new stuff. And yes, a lot of guns have made me go wow. New ones and old ones. Almost every single gun sound effect makes me go wow.

The HUD shown in the gameplay clips lacks a health bar. Will this change, has this changed, or will Halo 4 use the same health system as the one in Halo 2 and 3? –Gravemind

Health has been changed. There are no health pickups, but we’ll have more news on how that system works in gameplay at a later date.

What will the ranking system be like? –xMcCarthee

It will be altered. More news later.

Halo 4 Reveal

In the new footage we see the game type set as Slayer yet the score goes up not by individual kills but by points. Is this a custom game? A new Slayer variant? Or is this how the default Slayer scoring is going to be? –zNiTeY

The footage of MP you saw is taken from our internal Network test build and actually features a mashup of various game styles and UI elements, so don’t spend too much time trying to figure out what’s happening in it, because outside of surface elements, it’s not going to teach you a lot about any particular game mode. However, our new implementation of Slayer will score differently than the traditional 0-50 method of yore, and is one of 100 things we’ll share with you more deeply in the coming months.

Is the music in the video that was released on Monday from Halo 4's score? Furthermore, who is the lead composer? And if you can't tell us who it is, can we have a hint? –Neloms

Effectively, all of the music you hear from this point out is going to be from the game. It’s one of the things we’re most excited about. We can never emulate Marty’s legendary scores, so we’re taking it in a different direction, but one that still, we think, fits the Halo universe beautifully. Our composer will be revealed soon enough, and as soon as a fairly dry contractual date arrives, we will be ecstatic to introduce him to you. And it will be soon-ish.

Will skulls be returning to Halo 4? –Negative 9

There will be interesting ways to replay Halo 4, as is traditional in the series.

Will there be any Covenant presence in Campaign or Multiplayer? Be it weaponry, equipment, architecture, etc. –Lloyd Jo en es

Yes. The Covenant will definitely return, albeit in a completely (graphically, politically and sonically) overhauled form, but they may be the least of your problems.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will the mid-construction mech seen on one of the Multiplayer levels appear in some form in the campaign of Halo 4? –Franc and Co

The Cyclops 2 seen in the center of War House will not be playable. But we will have some vehicle surprises, at least one of which will dwarf that weapon.

Any chance we'll be getting Forge info anytime soon? –Nuclear Taco 42

We will discuss the future of Forge later this year. It will not be sad news.

Does the BR have spread? Is it hitscan? –xBrutaIity

The BR is a three-shot burst weapon. It is hitscan. In its current tuning, it has recoil (not bloom) which causes it to rise slightly (in a predictable and suppressible way). It is not a replacement for the DMR as has been discussed in the community. You will not see bloom as it currently exists in Vanilla Reach on any weapon, but there will be different methods for reticle targeting that vary depending on the weapon, and players will have a wide arsenal of weapons to choose from. More news about that later.

Will there be multiple editions like with previous Halo titles? (Standard, limited, legendary) –Revenant1988

After we announce the release date, we will announce what content will be available at retail.

Will assassinations return and if yes, will we have more unique weapon moves, for example the Energy Sword in Halo: Reach? –D4RKNESS 360

Short version, yes. Assassinations are altered, but they’re back. The weapon question isn’t something we’re going to answer today.

Halo 4 Reveal

Will there be any other media (books, comics, etc.) released in the lead-up to Halo 4, or will we have to gather our clues and form theories about the Campaign primarily from Cryptum, Primordium, Glasslands, and the Halo: Anniversary terminals? –Monkey Bloke

At least one more Karen Traviss novel, with important connective elements, will arrive between now and launch, although the final Forerunner chapter from Greg Bear will arrive afterwards. For some pretty specific strategic reasons. As you can imagine, juggling all these things is crazy hard.

Is Jen Taylor voicing Cortana? Who were the woman and man in the motion capture part of the Halo 4 video? –Jedi Otter

The man and woman in the video were incredibly talented actors. Their roles in Halo 4 are pivotal and essential to the story we’re telling, but we’ll talk more about those and other actors in the future. I think Halo fans will be calm and happy about our casting, including MP V/O, but we’re not revealing more at this time.

What kind of features will Halo 4 provide to the machinima community? –farmer scott21

Halo has been a cornerstone of the machinima community. It’s also a personal passion of mine (and others here on the team), so we will continue to embrace and support that community, but I honestly don’t have too many details to share at this point.

Will Halo 4 include Gravity Hammers and Energy Swords (or adequate replacements) for Grifball? –Kalbelgarion

It will be (more or less) possible to play Grifball in Halo 4.

Will there be remakes from Halo 3 maps like Guardian? –xRCNx VorteX

We aren’t discussing MP maps beyond Wraparound and War House, and while the vast majority of our maps will be brand new, we also know what the ladies (and gents) like.

Halo 4 Reveal

Why the decision to use Spartan IVs in Multiplayer instead of the ol' Spartan IIs? –randomrosso93

That will become apparent in the fiction of the game components, but the “feel” of Chief as it relates to the “feel” of a Spartan IV will be practically identical for gameplay purposes.

Will there be a color-blind option? Even in Reach where contrast is high, people such as myself have a hard time even with Blue Team’s colors against the dark grays of Countdown. –HamboBlank

We have a lot of color-blind players in the studio, including myself (100% red/green, which is why I seldom break the Tashi Ceiling), but we will not be producing a color-blindness “mode.” However, we have considered it as an art team, in how we choose palettes and types of contrast. The Spartans and UI elements help tremendously, and so far I am doing a bit better than I’d expect in that area.

Now that we conquered the heavier stuff, I thought we could throw some lighter questions and answers in as well. Off we go!

Mister Chief

When will we see more Mister Chief? –Spec ops Grunt

Unfortunately, and I apologize personally, but yes.

bs angel note: What is this I don't even

Does Frankie really have a shrine to Star Wars - Episode 1? –FireSharter


How much Mountain Dew will I need to drink when Halo 4 releases? –Assassin 11D7

A healthy, delicious, and sensible quantity.

Why am I playing better when I sit uncomfortably on the floor? Will this apply to Halo 4 as well? –Naqser

I thought I was the only one who did the floor thing.

Can you describe your favorite addition to the game? –Snipers Recon

Something that Jeremy Clarkson would cause a traffic jam with.

Pancakes or waffles? –SomeLuckyCharms

They are both equitable bacon/syrup conveyances.

Why is it when people ask me if I've got questions, I always draw a blank? –RC Master

Try drawing live rounds.

How on earth do you manage to feed the 200+ people who work in your office? Do you have a canteen or do you just let them out at lunchtime to wander the streets in packs scavenging for scraps? –scarab

Catered meals, obviously, but also hoppers full of junk food, like how you’d feed a cat if you went on vacation. This is not a joke.

How's the water looking? –UnrealCh13f

Looks wet and wild.

Considering there’s nothing I can say that will top that last line, this officially brings today’s edition of your Halo Bulletin to a conclusion. Until next week, my friends….

bs angel

P.S. Just in case you didn't get your fill of images today, here is your customary Friday Caption Fun picture. Embiggen, snag, and then contribute your witty quip to the latest round of caption festivities. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tomorrow Will Be Awesome

     In case you've been living under a rock, I'll go ahead and give you a heads up for tomorrow. February 29th and March 1st were the dates of the invite-only Xbox Spring Showcase (or X12, as some called it) and a very dear item had a strong presence. That's right, Halo 4. It was originally rumored to be there by the Finnish magazine, Pelaaja, back on the first of February. The showcase came and went. And we learned of an Embargo that was placed on all Media from the event. That all ends tomorrow. From what we (the Halo community) have gathered, we will get not only a look at the campaign, but also a look at the multiplayer. I'm excited. Are you?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 3.01.11

Whether it’s by gently slipping their hand into a glass of warm water, to placing an annoyingly loud alarm clock one centimeter from their ear, to applying a well-placed jab directly into their ribcage, there are numerous effective (and entertaining) ways to wake someone up. However attempting to wake a person from their normal sleep cycle and trying to rouse a super-soldier who has been in a state of deep sleep for years are two completely different stories. That is why I recently asked all of you to share how you would wake up the Master Chief in 140 characters or less. Hey, Twitter makes those rules, not me. Anyway, on to some of your Halo-centric responses!

Halo: Reach Screenshot

How would you wake up the Master Chief?

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

Halo Tweet

I’m not saying some of these ideas might come in handy in the future, but I am saying some of these ideas might come in handy in the future. Anyway, on to the news (I can actually talk about this week)…

Halo: Reach Screenshot

March Matchmaking Playlist Update

The month of March is known for its lion-like entrance. In the land of Halo, that ferocity translates into new game types, updated maps, and FIRE. These tweaks and optimizations are all part of our continued efforts to provide you with the best possible online experience. Read on for the specifics of next month’s matchmaking playlist update, which is slated to go live on March 6. And if you just heard something echoing in the distance, it was the Matchmaking Systems Team. They wanted you to hear them roar.

• Grifball updated.

Those of you who enjoy getting hammered on a regular basis will now have four new maps to play on. Malice N Envy (paired with Blargball), Temple Prime (paired with Grifball Dash), Inspiration (also paired with Grifball Dash), and Hyperbaric (paired with Hand Egg Grifball) are all being added to the hammer-heavy rotation.

The team of fans behind this playlist didn’t feel like that was enough for March, though, so they also added a new game type. It’s called Hand Egg, and here is what Mike from GrifballHub had to say about it.
Hand Egg is a variation of Grifball where you start with a golf club and sword instead of hammer and sword. In the middle of the court, you'll find the golf ball. The golf ball's significance in the game is that the bomb spawns on it. As soon as you drop the bomb, it goes to wherever the golf ball is. So not only can you bash the golf ball around and get splatters with it, but it can also be used as way to pass the bomb to a teammate. If you see the golf ball in your opponent's spawn and a teammate is nearby, you should drop the bomb so they can grab it and run in the for the score. As you can imagine that means it becomes very important to keep track of where the golf ball is at all times.
Speaking of balls hitting you in the face… actually, never mind. That one is entirely too easy.

• Infection updated.

We modified this playlist with the latest versions of the following fan-created maps: Spooky Base, Powerless, Deadwalk, Bedlam, Uncongealed, and Parasitic. Thank you to the players who have continued to perfect their already incredible creations. We’ll make sure we save some brains for you.

• Evade removed from Spartan loadouts.

With the exception of Grifball, Evade has been removed from Spartan loadouts. Elites can continue to bob, weave, and juke to their hearts’ content, however. Wort wort wort.

• Anniversary Squad retired.

Fret not! See Super Slayer added.

• Squad Slayer retired.

Fret not! See above. And below.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

• Super Slayer added.

After analyzing the Team Slayer voting data that took place the first two weeks of February, we were able to draw several instructive conclusions. Most importantly we learned that:

A significant portion of Halo: Reach players enjoy the Title Update settings.

A significant portion of Halo: Reach players enjoy the original Halo: Reach settings.

A significant portion of Halo: Reach players simply enjoy playing Halo: Reach.

To make sure all three groups have a Team Slayer option that fits their preferred way of playing the game, we are adding a new playlist called Super Slayer. Super Slayer is a replica of Team Slayer with the Title Update changes included. Team Slayer will still be available with its original settings intact, and Super Slayer will peacefully coexist with it, happily fulfilling your Slayer-related Title Update needs.

Thank you for all the feedback that allowed us to make this decision. We heart you. More than you know.

• Bleedthrough functionality removed from TU game types.

Speaking of feedback, there has been some spirited (and sometimes not spirited, ahem) discussion on the forums regarding the bleedthrough changes we implemented with the Title Update. One of the best things about the Title Update is that we added virtual knobs to various features, including bleedthrough, allowing us to adjust their settings as necessary.

Our goal is to provide you with an amazing matchmaking experience, so with that in mind, we have listened to your feedback and removed the bleedthrough functionality from Title Update game types.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

• Team Hotshot updated.

Players at the highest level heat (3/3) will now catch fire. It won’t look exactly like the above screenshot because that was taken in my dreams. It will look vaguely similar, though.

• Team Objective team size updated to 5v5.

Wham, bam, thank you, Alaskam! Semi-related, his nickname is actually Alaskan, but that didn’t rhyme.

• BTB Heavies added to Big Team Battle.

Heavies, for the uninitiated amongst us, is a game type perfect for those who love vehicular action. Not only are there more Warthogs, Scorpions, Banshees, Falcons, Revenants, and Ghosts than you could ever ask for, but there are also a higher-than-average amount of power and anti-vehicle weapons, just waiting to cause mass destruction.

We have also taken some steps to give foot soldiers a better experience; slight changes to geometry provide more cover, speed has been upped to 110% (which is not a huge difference but it’s enough to make you slightly more resistant to the impending chaos going on around you), and many standard Infantry kills are rewarded with a bonus point.

This game type has a score limit of 200 with bonus points awarded for headshots, beat downs, assassinations, splatters, and sticks.

We hope you love March’s matchmaking playlist update. And if you don’t, we have no doubt you’ll let us know in the forums. And, for the record, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

A Brand New Sparkast

David Ellis and Frank O’Connor, the men with the velvet voices that fill your earholes every month, are away on business right now. Before they vacated the premises, however, they recorded a new episode of the Sparkast. Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer of Halo 4, and Josh Holmes, Creative Director of Halo 4, joined them for what turned out to be a short but sweet auditory treat. And I’m totally a poet and I didn’t even know it. Except I do know it, because that took me ten minutes to come up with.

Don’t judge.

Anyway, to hear about the latest going-ons around the studio and Halo 4, and to hear how exactly Frank ended up under that table for an extended length of time, pick your preferred method of listening below.

Download here (right-click and save as)

Or subscribe!


And now, it’s time for another batch of community-submitted questions! By the way, I hope you hear someone saying that in your head with an over-the-top announcer-type voice. ‘Cause I do.

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Can you tell us when you're going to share Halo 4 info with us? Basically, when is embargo up? -Time Glitch

I can’t touch your question with a ten-foot pole. I can, however, talk to you a little bit about embargos.

Embargos, in this context, are when game developers show something they’ve been working on in a controlled setting (such as a show, convention, or behind-closed-doors viewing), and they request that information about what was seen not be shared publicly until a specific day and time. That is done for a few different reasons, but primarily so all attendees have equal footing when it comes to releasing the information. If an event spans three days, the people that attend the viewing on the first day have an advantage over the people that attend the viewing on the third day. With an embargo in place, it ensures all participants have time to carefully craft their stories to their own individual specifications.

I’m guessing, at this point, that the only thing you took from that is that I didn’t answer your question. Let’s just file that under “I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t.” Sad faic.

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Will there be any online source to view Halo: Reach screenshots/films/clips? -naporu98

We will be bringing Halo: Reach files to the web version of Halo Waypoint this summer. That means there will be a short period where new Halo: Reach user-generated content will not be accessible from the web. However, during that window, everything will continue to be available in-game.

Halo: Reach Screenshot
Why haven't you paid me off for that hit I did on Frankie's platypus? -The Arcane Celt

Because Frank sent me this email yesterday:
Minds will be blown.

Socks will be blown.

NES cartridges will be blown.
Although now that I think about, that could have been referring to something else.

Now, if you excuse me, there’s a hushed casket that needs unsealing. Until next week, my friends, until next week…

bs angel

P.S. Our artist conjured up a new Friday Caption Fun image for your desktop adornment. Embiggen, snag, and then come with a witty quip for the most recent installment in our caption-filled festivities. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun