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

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