Monday, April 30, 2012

Halo: Forward Unto Dawn

343industires announced the new web series that will lead up to the launch of Halo 4. "Halo: Forward Unto Dawn" will depict the story of a UNSC cadet and how he was inspired by the Chief. This cadet will eventually become a leader on board the UNSC Infinity. There was only one image released with the article over at Variety. It looks like the Mjolnir Mark IV. Frank O'Connor revealed that this suit and much of the story will be set 25 years prior to the game. Sounds Awesome!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 4.25.12

You got your Halo in my news.

For those of you who like a little Halo 4 in your news, April was the month for you. You learned the identity of our mystery composer (Neil Davidge!) and got a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Halo 4 soundtrack. You learned the launch date for Halo 4 (November 6!) and listened to the leader of Red Team sing a little ditty about why you should forget about remembering, and focus on not forgetting. You also learned who’s lending their voices to the game (Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter!) in a hilarious late-night talk show segment that featured guest appearances by a certain Nordic dragon slayer and her bartender (Team Friki!).

Starting off that flurry of news earlier this month was Game Informer’s 14-page Halo 4 cover story. Their in-depth article—which touched on Campaign, Multiplayer, and a few of the things in between—answered numerous questions, and also introduced some new ones. Part of today’s Bulletin will focus on the latter. Before we get to that, though, let’s discuss the embarrassingly unadorned state of your Xbox 360 Dashboard….

Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme

Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme

The other night, while watching your every move from the comfort of the tree conveniently located adjacent to and slightly above your drapeless window, I couldn’t help but notice your Dashboard was more than a little bare. Lucky for you, a brand new theme is now available on Xbox LIVE. Featuring concept artwork from Halo 4, the following images are ready to customize your console experience.

Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme
Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme Halo 4 Concept Art Premium Theme

Since Halo 4 has not yet been released, you need to visit the Xbox 360 version of Halo Waypoint, go to the Store, and follow the instructions on the relevant article to purchase this item. Another option, if you don’t have a spare 240 Microsoft Points jingling around in your virtual pocket, is tuning into the official Halo Waypoint Twitter account this Friday when we’ll be giving away codes for this frosty new Halo 4 theme.

Actually, after thinking about it, your virtual pockets don’t have to be empty to follow our recurring Friday festivities. A fondness for free stuff works equally well.

Halo 4 Game Informer

A Halo 4 Multiplayer-focused Extravaganza: The Text Version

Last week, a pile of boxes arrived on the studio’s doorstep. Nestled within the confines of the corrugated cardboard were copies of the May issue of Game Informer—the pages of which contain the inside scoop about Halo 4, its characters, and various gameplay modes. If you have yet to absorb its abundance of information, prepare for a sliver of enlightenment as we’re going to touch on just a few of the recently revealed multiplayer topics.

• Weapon Drops

Traditionally, power weapons spawn at set locations on a map. After looking at what has worked in the past and what we wanted to change for the future, we decided to build a new weapon spawning system from the ground up for Halo 4. Our primary goal was to make the system accessible to both new and returning Halo players, and also to make it fit within the context of Infinity–a massive vessel that is the new home of Halo multiplayer.

Initial weapon drops happen at the beginning of a match. After that, timers are set for when they drop in, and subtle UI elements communicate the time and destination of their impending arrival. Drops will be appropriate for each map; for instance, long-range weapon drops (i.e., sniper rifles) are likely to occur on large maps while close-range weapon drops (i.e., shotguns) are likely to occur on tight quarter maps.

There are two important things to note about weapon drops: you’ll have the ability to customize ordnance in custom games, and not-at-all-random is a more accurate descriptor than random.

• Player Spawn System

Evaluating the average number of living players on a map at a time, how long it takes to see an opponent, how quickly you can get back into action after dying, the length of time you’re dead versus the length of time you’re alive, and overall expected life spans were all things we considered when determining the player spawn system in Halo 4. Ultimately, we opted to give players freedom over this feature.

So, in certain modes (not all), players can control the timing for when they spawn. That means that, when you die, you can choose to spawn immediately, take a short breather to select your loadout, or plan your next strategy based on how the game is going. Objective game types use specially-tuned spawn timers that are designed to suit game length, object respawn times, and scoring.

Just like weapon drops, you’ll be able to tweak (or turn off) these settings in custom games.

• Sprint

The decisions people make in matchmaking give us an invaluable amount of information about both the game and various gameplay elements. The information we gleaned from Reach allowed us to learn a lot of lessons from Armor Abilities. That and the balancing we’ve done within the sandbox led us to make the decision that everyone will have Sprint in Halo 4–meaning you will no longer have to choose between base mobility and an extra ability.

The levels in Halo 4 are designed for this faster mobility. You’re continually driven right back into action, not away from it. You can try to use Sprint to flee combat, but you’re not likely to be successful because everyone else will have it, too, thus ensuring someone will be right on your tail, shooting your back while you attempt to escape, and probably causing your untimely demise.

It’s also worth mentioning that just because everybody has Sprint, base movement is not slow. If you’re familiar with previous Halo games, we looked at the speed and mobility of Halo 3 as the inspiration for Halo 4.

• Forerunner Vision

Forerunner vision, one of the Armor Abilities that will debut in Halo 4, is still being tweaked, so I’m going to keep the details light today. While it’s being described as letting you see through walls, it’s more accurate to refer to it as sonar, where it sweeps out from its origin point to detect surrounding objects.

As with all Armor Abilities, it has tradeoffs: there is a delay before you get the knowledge of where other players are located, situational awareness is affected by the visual treatment of that mode (in its current iteration, it can best be described as shimmery), and other players within the range receive auditory cues when you activate it. So they will know when you’re peeking.

We’ll share more about this Armor Ability, and others, in the months leading up to launch.

• Spartan Ops

One of the biggest changes we’ve made to multiplayer is making story an integral part of the experience. Our new Halo 4 cooperative mode, called Spartan Ops, is an ambitious example of that. If you’re a fan of Firefight, we anticipate you’ll enjoy this objective-based multiplayer mode.

Along with introducing an ongoing CG series that will tell a story over the course of a season, Spartan Ops will also give you the opportunity to play weekly missions that relate to that fiction. This mode will provide an outlet once you complete the Campaign to further the story past the game’s end.

Spartan Ops is part of the Halo 4 package, i.e., not paid DLC.

Our vision for the Halo 4 multiplayer experience is to continue the tradition of giving you the tools to craft your own custom experience. A lot of these settings can be tweaked, and, right out of the box, you can put the disc in and have the experience you want in system link games, tournaments, etc. Giving players choices, and empowering them to make choices for how they want to play, is a priority for us.

We’ll be rolling out more information and clarity in the upcoming weeks and months. So stay tuned! For now, though, it’s time to visit your current Halo experience, and that’s Halo: Reach.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

May Matchmaking Playlist Update

It’s been said that April showers bring May flowers. Considering the Matchmaking Systems Team was so busy this month they didn’t not have time for daily body cleansing, they’d like to offer you a matchmaking playlist update in place of the more traditional botanical gift. The details of their aromatic bestowal are outlined below.

• Firefight updated.

The Firefight Arcade playlist was changed to Firefight, and new Firefight Arcade game types were added (with the original Firefight Arcade game types remaining intact). The new game types have been suffixed with NEP, which stands for "New Enemy Progression." As indicated by the acronym, you will see a more diverse enemy offering in all three types of waves–initial, main, and boss. Making a triumphant return to the same playlist are Limited game types, in both their original form and with a new enemy progression.

Firefight Doubles was also updated, adding new enemy progressions alongside the original Firefight Doubles game types.

I believe there are only three things left to say. And that would be bip, bap, and bam!

• New 4v4 maps added to Arena, Super Slayer, and Team Slayer.

We know you’ve been waiting for new 4v4 playspaces, and with the help of the Community Cartographers, we were able to scour multiple submissions and implement a handful of the highlights. The new community-created maps added to Arena, Super Slayer, and Team Slayer were Ellul, Imago, Temple, Midas, Unconquered, and Pulse. All six were added to Super Slayer and Team Slayer, while Imago and Pulse were added to Arena (as we found them to be a good fit for the symmetrical, competitive spaces found in that particular playlist).

• Team Objective updated.

We’re always crunching numbers and looking at statistics to determine how we can improve your matchmaking experience. Reorganizing voting options is one of the results of that regular data mining. To ensure you get a diverse offering of map and game type selections, we updated the Team Objective voting options to have Capture the Flag in the first slot, Oddball or KOTH in the second slot, and one of the other available game types (Territories, Stockpile, Assault, etc.) in the third slot.

In addition to the voting reorganization, we’ve also implemented a credit stimulus based on win-scaling to spur the economy in this playlist. Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying victorious teams will receive double the normal win bonus. So cap those flags and arm those bombs already. Objective holders, I may or may not be looking at you….

• Speedflag updated to lower carrier speed.

In Speedflag, we noticed a trend of defending teams unable to catch up with flag carriers. While I suggested military physical training exercises as the fix, we opted to instead lower the carrier speed. Consider your Spartan officially off the hook. For now, anyway.

• ZB Slayer retired.

While the Zero Bloom Slayer playlist is being retired (gasp!), those game types are not disappearing from matchmaking (phew). Hop into the Super Slayer playlist to keep them in your regular rotation. Keep in mind the MLG playlist currently features Zero Bloom game types exclusively as well.

• Super Slayer voting options updated.

Super Slayer voting options were updated to have DMRs in the first voting slot, standard Slayer in the second slot, and the remaining game types (including the aforementioned Zero Bloom variants) in the third slot.

• User-created maps updated.

Updated versions of Select and Synapse were added to matchmaking, and updated Heavies variants Rasu, Delta Facility, Asphalt, and Cragmire were incorporated into the Big Team Battle playlist.

Look for these changes to go live on, near, or around next Tuesday.

Custom Challenge of the Week

Custom Challenge of the Week

Normally, the Custom Challenge of the Week requires you to use a specific weapon or target a particular type of enemy. This week’s call to action is a little different, though. In order to receive your customary weekly credit bonus, the following conditions must be met:

Name - Skulltrocity
Challenge Type - Matchmaking Firefight
Goals - Headshots
Target - 1500
Time Limit - any time limit

Completing the above challenge before next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time will reward you with a 15,000 cR bonus on top of the normal payout. Please note you can only get the bonus once, and it will not be awarded upon turn-in but instead will magically appear in your virtual pocket during the latter part of next week.

Make sure you enter the specifics exactly as they are listed above, and we apologize in advance to all the Grunts who will turn into rainbow-colored confetti because of this challenge. I would say hooray, but that would be mean. Wait, I am mean....


Super Jackpot Weekend

Super Jackpot Weekend

This weekend, for our Super Jackpot festivities, we’re focusing on the word “Super.” Thus, starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Super Slayer playlist will present you with the chance to receive a 26,000-credit bonus.

After rereading this Bulletin, I just noticed how many opportunities there are to get extra credits this week. So if you’ll excuse me, there’s some Halo that needs playing. Perhaps I’ll see you on the virtual battlefield. Tomorrow, even, for our community playdate. Until then…

bs angel

P.S. Just in case you need a desktop adornment to go with your console adornment, here is this week's Friday Caption Fun image. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to contribute your witty quip. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

343 Sparkast 12: April

Halo 4 Multiplayer Reveal

Today’s Sparkast comes to you earlier than hinted, because we wanted to fill the hours between the launch date announce, and the Conan O’Brien show this evening. In this special edition, Josh Holmes, Kevin Franklin and Brad Welch wax rhapsodical and explanational about some of the new features in Halo 4’s MP suite, and explain some of those systems and ideas in depth. Ostensibly this is to calm some of the controversy, but realistically we will probably have to do a podcast about the podcast! Jokes aside, it’s a pretty fascinating insight into the folks and features integral to the experience. Go listen! And send David Ellis get well vibes, because he’s got the lurgy.

Download Here (Right Click and Save As)

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The Halo Bulletin: 4.17.12

Halo 4 Release Date

Save the date!

November 6 is an important date in Halo’s vast and fascinating history. For the uninitiated, that was the day the Master Chief found a weapon, a parched Grunt stumbled upon the starship, and Staff Sergeant Avery Junior Johnson discovered the answer to one of life’s most perplexing questions. He wasn’t born knowing what the ladies like, you know. (Frankie wants me to point out that if ANYONE had been born knowing what the ladies like, it would be Sgt. Johnson, possibly related to his case of Boren's Syndrome, whatever that means….)

Now we’re adding another data point to that particular date on the Halo timeline, and that’s the release of Halo 4.

The end of Halo 3 found the Master Chief deep in cryogenic sleep, drifting toward a mysterious Forerunner planet, with Cortana instructed to wake him if she needs him. You can now consider his alarm clock officially set because Halo 4, the game that marks the much anticipated return of legendary hero Master Chief, will launch worldwide on November 6, 2012.

RvB: Remember To Not Forget

Halo 4 launch date revealed!

Being lost in space, adrift aboard ship wreckage, is no laughing matter. What is, though, is this exclusive Rooster Teeth video that reveals the launch date for Halo 4 (November 6, 2012 - SPOILERZ!). Press play to learn Red Team’s complicated but hopefully successful strategy for keeping this very important Halo 4 information away from the Blues.


Moral of the story? Forget about remembering, and focus on not forgetting. Oh, and pre-ordering is probably not a bad idea as well.

Halo 4 on Conan

Conan O’Brien celebrates this fall’s launch of Halo 4 tonight!

If you thought you only had to remember one date today (November 6, 2012, w00t!), you’re mistaken because you also need to mark April 17 on your calendar as well. Making that endeavor slightly easier is the fact that April 17 is TODAY.

Whether you like redheads, Irishmen, or slumbering Spartan super-soldiers, you should tune in to the popular late night program “CONAN” tonight at 11 p.m. Pacific Standard Time to find out how Conan O’Brien and his side-kick Andy Richter are connected to Master Chief and Halo 4 in a segment that features our very own Frank O’Connor and Kiki Wolfkill.

Since Conan supporters are collectively referred to as Team Coco, I think it’s only fitting that Frankie and Kiki be referred to as Team Friki for the purposes of the following behind-the-scenes interview. So without further ado, I'm proud to present a short Q&A with Team Friki, where they readily reveal all the juicy things that tend to happen when you appear on a late-night talk show.


behind-the-scenes at Conan

So, let’s talk experience, Team Friki. Have either of you attended or been on a late-night talk show before?

Kiki – No, although I have many times imagined myself on a late night talk show… my vision (SO hot!) was distinctly different from the reality.

Frankie – I have visited the Letterman offices a couple of times. And I am best friends with Jason Sudeikis of SNL. He is not aware of this friendship.

What did you do to prepare?

Kiki – I stuffed Kleenex in my pits, and then threw them at Frank.

Frankie – I kept the fact that we were going to be on-camera secret from Kiki and encouraged her to wear a gray t-shirt and drink a lot of coffee.

Frankie, you’re evil. But back to business. What was the first thing Conan said to you?

Kiki – “Hi.”

Frankie – He told me not to try to be funny and that he was the comedy expert, not me.

What was the first thing you said to Conan?

Kiki – “High.”

Frankie – I offered to shine his shoes.

Let’s assume you could go back and say something different (looks pointedly at Frankie). What would it be?

Kiki – “Hello, Mr. O’Brien. I am a huge fan of your work. Is my face shiny?”

Frankie – “How can we be sure you’re of Irish descent?”

I’m resisting the urge to comment on that last answer. Anyway, what was the funniest thing Conan said?

Kiki – I can’t repeat it but it had something to do with celebratory crouching.

Frankie – “Shy-tay.”

I’m hoping we find out what that means later tonight. Speaking of which, does Conan play Halo?

Kiki - He IS Halo.

That answer was so good, Kiki, that I cut out Frankie’s response (don’t tell him). How nervous were you both during this experience?

Kiki – I was in a blind panic exacerbated by Frank’s shit-eating grin because he failed to tell me we would be on TV. Evil hath a human form.

Frankie – I was as cool as a cucumber gimlet.

Did you do a sketch? Interview? Just talk?

Kiki – We, you know, pal’ed around.

Frankie – We became best friends. Conan is not aware of this friendship.

I’m starting to notice a theme. If you had a contract drawn up for your appearance, what would some of your demands be?

Kiki – For the love of God, a little makeup. Oh, and a pony with a sparkly mane. And an Aston Martin DBS.

Frankie – My own pooper, with a lock that you can tell is for sure locked. Not one of those locks where you aren’t certain if it’s really locked. Or worse, a flimsy pooper door that flexes enough to allow the sliding bolt to disengage when someone rattles it to see if anyone is in there. IF THE STALL DOOR IS CLOSED, LEAVE IT ALONE, IDIOT.

I already apologized for that incident, jeez! Not to switch topics (but totally to switch topics), what was the best thing about the experience?

Kiki – Watching Frank in action – a comedic god amongst gods.

Frankie – The whole day was incredibly smooth. And lunch was delicious. And I saw Taylor Lautner and discovered that he is a SUPER NICE polite young man who holds doors open for older ladies. True story. Don’t know anything else about him, but now I am on Team Jacob and effectively best friends with him. Taylor is not aware of this friendship.

And the worst thing about the experience?

Kiki – Not being able to properly prepare for my late-night debut (i.e., I was sober).

Frankie – I had to literally tell an older lady to close her mouth which was literally hanging open when she saw my besty, Taylor Lautner.

And the funniest thing?

Frankie – Watching an older lady sweat through her T-shirt, fraught with nerves.

Kiki – Seriously, EVERYTHING was funny. Conan and Andy riffing in the Halo universe was unmatchable.

Remember, tune into “CONAN” tonight at 11 p.m. Pacific Standard Time to enjoy the fruits of Team Friki’s labor. And if, after watching some Halo-related late-night television later this evening, you feel the urge to play Halo: Reach, continue reading, because the following segments are for you.

Custom Challenge of the Week

Custom Challenge of the Week

The Spartan Laser is a dangerous rifle, especially in the right hands. Because it's capable of penetrating multiple targets with a single charge, crossing streams is the least of your worries when it comes to this particular anti-vehicle weapon. If the previous sentiments don’t frighten you, perhaps you’ll considering accepting this week’s Custom Challenge of the Week, suggested by a penguin that ate a fly.

Starting tomorrow and continuing until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Campaign or Custom Firefight Challenge with the Spartan Laser—W/AV M6 G/GNR—as the type of weapon will result in ten times the usual multiplier.

Let the splasing begin!

Super Jackpot Weekend

Super Jackpot Weekend

I know you have a date with an Irishman this evening, but if your weekend still has an opening or two, I highly recommend some eight-versus-eight action because starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Big Team Battle playlist will present you with the chance of receiving a 20,000-credit bonus. And who couldn’t use that?

And that credit-filled note ends this one-day-early edition of your weekly Halo Bulletin. Don’t think your Wednesday will be lacking, though, because I heard there may or may not be a podcast coming soon....

Until next week.

bs angel

P.S. I do believe I owe you a Friday Caption Fun image. Embiggen, snag, and then hit the latest installment to dazzle us with your wit. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 4.11.12

Neil Davidge Announce Neil Davidge Announce

Our mystery composer… revealed!

One of the major contributing factors to a memorable and emotional video game experience is its soundtrack, and that statement rings especially true when exploring Halo’s vast and mysterious sci-fi universe. From the aggressive riff of a guitar to the powerful beat of drums to the liturgical chant of monks, there are numerous sounds that have become etched into the essence of Halo.

Following a tradition that started more than ten years ago, 343 Industries is dedicated to continuing the legacy of weaving iconic music into the very fabric of the Halo experience. It is that goal that led us to the virtual doorstep of an award-winning composer, record producer, songwriter, and musician who has made an indelible impression on the music industry.

That person is Neil Davidge.

Neil Davidge Announce

“Music has always been at the heart of what makes Halo so

captivating and iconic. With Halo 4, we want to build upon the

franchise’s amazing legacy and create a score that captures the awe

and wonder of the Halo universe, and reinforces the deeper and

more emotionally impactful journey Master Chief will embark on.”

-Neil Davidge, Composer for Halo 4

As co-writer and producer for the last three albums from pioneering trip-hop group Massive Attack, Neil Davidge not only had a hand in creating some of the most innovative sounds over the past two decades, but he also helped develop an entire genre of contemporary music. He has established a career as a film composer, scoring acclaimed documentaries and composing additional music for Hollywood blockbusters like “Clash of the Titans,” and now his focus is on Halo 4.

Enlisting a 16-person, hand-picked, male tenor/bass choir plus 10 female Bulgarian vocalists, a full 50-piece orchestra, and a whole host of other performers is just one of the things Neil Davidge and his production team has done to bring the music of Halo 4 to life. The following video, which shows a recent choir and orchestral recording session at Abbey Road and Angel Studios in London, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the haunting and compelling Halo 4 soundtrack.

Neil Davidge Bio

As co-writer and key sonic facilitator on the lauded Massive Attack albums Mezzanine, 100th Window, and Heligoland, Neil Davidge, of Bristol, England, helped birth some of the most arresting and innovative sounds of the Nineties and Noughties. He has also enjoyed a parallel career composing for prestigious film and TV ventures. To date, feathers in his cap have included “The Storm That Brought You To Me,” from Louis Leterrier’s 2010 fantasy film Clash Of the Titans, and his co-written score for Trouble The Water, a moving study of Hurricane Katrina victims that won the ‘Best Documentary’ gong at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Now, though, as Neil explains, a certain hands-on experience was as vital as his musical credentials when securing the gig:

“I don’t really play a lot of video games, but I’ve always played Halo. I started when I was making 100th Window with Massive Attack; it was how I entertained myself while I was waiting for the band to show up. Even later on if I was in the studio and feeling frustrated, Halo was one of the first things I’d turn to to get my head straight.”

Neil visited our studio prior to starting work on the new music. “I came back to Bristol on a high and immediately starting writing,” says the composer. “I wasn’t even officially engaged yet, but that period generated a number of major themes that we’ve ended up keeping.”

Neil says his soundtrack is a fairly even split between orchestral and electronic elements; this a tailor-made match for him and his co-arranger Andrew Morgan, since both men are well-versed in both fields. The orchestral elements were recorded at Abbey Road, and the electronic ones were hatched at Neil’s mysterious and moniker-less studio complex in “an apartment building somewhere in Bristol.”

Neil Davidge Announce Neil Davidge Announce

Neil Davidge Announce

Neil Davidge Announce Neil Davidge Announce

“The music is very cinematic and atmospheric,” he says. “At times it can be textural while at the same time being quite grim—when someone’s running around shooting aliens, you have to know that shit’s going to happen! I was working from artists’ impressions of various scenes rather than video footage. That left things quite open, but as I’m a former graphic designer and graphic novels fan, it fired my imagination as well.”

Neil Davidge was born in Bristol, England, in 1962. As a teenager, he loved to paint, creating both fine-art works and more abstract pieces. Prior to studying graphic design at Brunel Technical College, he was enamored of the late 1970’s UK punk/reggae scene, and he began painting likenesses of the Banshees’ Siouxie Sioux and the dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Having learned guitar thanks to punk’s DIY ethic, Neil later embarked upon long hours of alchemical, suck-it-and-see experimentation as he learned the complex but rewarding art of sound-recording.

Happily, he was in situ at Bristol’s Coach House Studios when famed trip-hop act Portishead recorded parts of their debut album Dummy there between 1991 and 1994, and in 1996, he hooked up with Massive Attack on “The Hunter,” a song for the Batman Forever soundtrack that featured Everything But The Girl vocalist Tracey Thorn. That same year, Massive Attack won a Brit Award for ‘Best Dance Act,’ thus cementing a working relationship with Neil Davidge that would continue for some 17 years.

It was Massive Attack’s stately, cinematic sound—together with Neil’s longstanding affinity for visual mediums, of course—that lent his scoring for film, TV, and advertising an air of inevitability. After auteur Luc Besson came to Neil and Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack to commission music for his 2005 martial arts thriller Unleashed, a swathe of other attractively varied coups followed. Among them were scores for the films Bullet Boy and Battle In Seattle, advertising campaigns for Jaguar and Adidas, and Neil’s collaboration with Snoop Dogg while scoring music for In Prison My Whole Life, a documentary about US death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

“I just have to concentrate on the music and hope that, if it moves me, the fans and the people at 343 Industries will get a similar feeling. If they do, I’ll have done my job.”


Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 7

Office of Halo Intelligence, or OHI for short, is a semi-regular diary-type feature brought to you by various members of the Halo 4 development team. This week, to give you some special insight into Neil Davidge’s Halo 4-related work, I asked Sotaro Tojima, Audio Director for Halo 4, to write an entry that is sure to be music to your ears.

I’m so excited to announce the Halo 4 music composer, Neil Davidge, finally, today! It was hard for me to keep the exciting news secret for 15 months.

Back in 2010, I was looking for a music composer who could establish the epic score for Halo 4. But it wasn’t going to be enough to just have great music; I wanted to establish something fresh and new for Halo 4’s score. I needed not just strong talent but also a strong passion for exploring new, less traditional avenues with music.

I had a vision for the overall Halo 4 music production that I think of as “Digital and Organic”—something very much inspired by the game script. With that vision in mind, I explored Electronica and heavily digitally-processed–based dance music to find that new sound. I also had to respect the game’s previous orchestral experience, while still trying to find something new.

But of course Halo games traditionally have strong, weeping melodies to drive the story, so we needed someone who could capture that, but with a very new sound. My prior experience also drove me to look for someone who could create a great-sounding percussion track.

After spending almost a year looking, I finally found a composer from the Bristol music scene who could fulfill all of those requirements and match my vision perfectly. That’s Neil Davidge, of course. And I just fell in love when I listened to his percussion tracks.

When we met up, it was perfect—I discovered that he was a huge fan of the Halo series and had an equally strong passion for matching the next Halo score with his technique and experience. He was also willing and, indeed, enthusiastic to have strong communication, collaboration, and tough iteration with 343 to build something really special with Halo fans in mind. We were exactly on the same page! For me, there was no reason to look any further.

His music on his past works was already great. But with his strong passion for exploring epic music, I’m convinced that his Halo music will be different from his any past work. I believe the music he composed will make people excited.

Please enjoy the music and see his passion in this very special soundtrack sample!

-Sotaro Tojima

What soundtrack sample, you may be wondering? Why the following one, of course. Press play, close your eyes, and soak in the sounds of Halo 4.

And this week’s Bulletin ends on that note. Until next week…

Neil Davidge and Matt Dunkley

It was confirmed today, first by Edge Magazine, and then in ViDoc form that the Composers and Producers of Halo 4's score are none other than Neil Davidge and Matt Dunkly. We also have our first look at the Soundtrack with this sample piece. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Halo 4 Game Informer Summary/Impression

     On April 9th, I got my copy of Game Informer in the mail. I was extremely pleased, although expectant, at the sight of Master Chief staring at me through his redesigned helmet as pictured here. I am bringing it upon myself to do a write-up of the information in the May Cover Story. So, I guess we should get started.
     First off is the little details of the first level that the GI crew was exposed to. It was the first mission of the new campaign. It starts off with a view of Cortana, shimmering in the dark room. The intruder alarms are sounding and Cortana says, "Wake up, Chief, I need you..." You then hop into the shoes of the Master Chief just like you did on the Tatum eleven years earlier. As you emerge there is a little bit of playful banter between the two, "Just like old times," Cortana says as the real fun begins. Chief and Cortana proceed to an elevator while trying to get up to the observation deck. Cortana has chief open the bay doors after taking care of an Elite who charges him. This lets in the sight of a Covenant armada. the demo ends with Chief saying that they need to get off the ship. I'm really excited to see and hear more about this chapter in the Halo franchise.
     Next up is Infinity. Infinity is the new sub-menu that is home to anything multiplayer. This includes the standard Custom Games, Matchmaking, and the absence of Firefight. Instead, it has been replaced by the new mode, Spartan Ops, but more on that later.
     Multiplayer has a couple of new and returning things. Our Multiplayer Spartan IV's are stationed on this ship, the UNSC Infinity. Every multiplayer map is recreated in a combat simulator on the ship, similar to X-Men's Danger Room. One of the returning items are armor abilities, although, they wont play like the Reach side of things. We get Hologram, Thrusters (a different version of the jet pack), Invisibility, and the new Forerunner Vision, which will "let you see through walls". We do not know what the draw backs are but Frank O'Connor said that its something that Hardcore players will try it twice and swap for something else.
     Our favorite Weapons return including the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, DMR, Covenant Carbine, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Pistol, Plasma Pistol, and Energy Sword. plus, something that was called an assault carbine. I don't know what it is yet, but we'll find out eventually.
     I guess I should talk about my favorite thing that was talked about, which was Spartan Ops. It is an episodically released  Co-op campaign that takes your Spartan IV off of the UNSC Infinity. These are weekly released, free, CG movies that give you new locations and 5 missions to do in that week, with the following week giving you a new episode. Josh Holmes stated that they are free with the packaged game and will never expire, meaning we can replay them to our hearts content.
     I don't know about you, but I am really looking forward to Spartan Ops, but I think that it would be in 343's favor to rename it. I think its too bland. You can check out the Game Informer Hub until the end of the month to catch extra Halo 4 interviews and more. PLUS!!! DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT XBOX'S FACEBOOK PAGE TO CHAT LIVE WITH THE CURRENTLY UNANNOUNCED HALO 4 COMPOSER TOMORROW, APRIL 11TH AT 12 CST!
     Thanks for reading! leave a comment to tell me if I missed anything!

Tomorrow, We Learn of Marty's Successor

Tomorrow, either on the Game Informer Hub, or in the Halo Bulletin, We will learn of the new composer. We know it isn't Hanz Zimmer, Frankie confirmed that. I can't wait to see who it is!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Populate Halo 3

I didn't realize until after that post that I never posted anything but today is the official Populate Halo 3 Day. If you get on rocking the emblem and run into Greenskull, you have the opportunity to win an avatar helmet code! Have fun, and I'll see you there!


Remember that I do have a forum for this site! I check it constantly and I don't really have that many rules! Just be nice, and if scans do end up here, well, I just didn't see that forum post. ;) Have a great day!

Info incoming...

I wanted to let everyone know that I do not post leaked information. Yes, scans of the Gameinformer article are out there, and yes I have read them. I will not post them here on my site, that's a no no. I will however post a write up of them once I get my issue in the mail. Thank you for coming by, but never look to this site for posted scans. :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 4.5.12


Every Friday, digital brushes are put down, consoles are turned off, and statuses are set to “Away” in preparation for a studio-wide sync. During these brief but enlightening get-togethers, various aspects of Halo 4 are covered, sometimes visually and other times aurally. While we’ve focused on everything from recently demoed Campaign missions to newly composed songs, a few weeks ago we were subjected to an image of the face of one of our Systems Designers morphed with Cortana’s.

Yes, the aforementioned Systems Designer is male. And no, they did not remove his facial hair.

Thankfully, not every meeting is as traumatizing as that one. Take last week’s, for instance. Instead of seeing something that can never be unseen, we were treated to something that left us wanting more: a sneak peak of the upcoming Halo 4 Game Informer issue, soon to be on a magazine rack near you. We got a glimpse of their 14-page cover story, which takes an in-depth look at Halo 4, its breadth of gameplay modes, and much more.

We were sworn to secrecy, so I am unable to divulge any further details. I can, however, share the cover art with you. If you’d like to see a bigger version than the one offered below, please head over to the Game Informer website, where they have the full-size image displayed in all of its many-megapixeled glory.

Take your time, by the way. My inane ramblings and I are not going anywhere.

Game Informer Cover

“The game is looking really sharp and fairly far along, which is

always great to see this early. The reveal of [Yoink!] is going

to be the 'Holy sh--' moment. That's going to be the star of our

story, I think." -Matt Miller, Game Informer

While part of our team has been busy making and compiling the assets for the Game Informer reveal, the rest of the individuals that call 343 Industries home have been focused on tasks relating to a recent network test. What exactly is a network test, you may be wondering? Why, I thought you’d never ask!


Halo 4 Network Test

A network test is a test we do on the game with people outside the studio. In this case, those people were fellow Microsoft employees. One of the benefits of being a part of a company with thousands of people globally is doing our alpha-testing internally to test out various network situations—latency, the effects of Internet connections going down, and all the things that can happen when people have network connections in the real world.

We gleaned a wealth of data from this test. Backend-wise, we examined bandwidth, latency, pings, packet loss, the overall volume of information that was sent back and forth to the servers, and much, much more. We also verified that everything that happened in the game, along with the stats, was sent, received, and recorded properly.

Warhouse Heatmap

Wraparound Heatmap

On the gameplay side, we looked at weapon balance. We took a subset of the sandbox (six weapons, two maps, and one game type) and focused on particular combinations. That way, we weren’t trying to balance against every possible combination in the sandbox from the get-go. Instead, we got our subset in place, and then expanded out.

Over several days of testing, we received both anecdotal and network information, the separation of which was easy. The analysis of anecdotal information, however, required a special touch. We had to go through all anecdotal information with a comb to determine what was feedback about what someone liked or didn’t like, and what was an actual bug. The former goes to the game designers to discuss and decide what is actionable, and the latter goes to our test team to make sure it is represented in the bug database.

Super Secret Chart

Once that information was separated, we aggregated it. That gives us the ability to spot trends of people liking certain weapons and not liking certain weapons, and it helps us determine what’s too powerful and what’s not powerful enough. We have ways to see who killed whom with what, and we can even boil it down to say this weapon is 20% more effective than that weapon. Both positive and negative trends and feedback are looked at to determine what needs to be addressed to make the sandbox more balanced.

Being able to do alpha and beta stress-testing internally is beneficial for us in many ways. We are interested in hearing your thoughts about Halo 4’s gameplay, though, so we’re hoping to have some cool playtest events at the studio this summer. You can expect more details about those events as the dates get closer.


Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 6

Chris Lee, 343’s Lead Producer who worked with Bungie on both ODST and Reach and now Lead Producer on Halo 4, was one of the driving forces behind the aforementioned network test. I managed to wrangle him into a corner just long enough to draft the following OHI entry for you. Enjoy the words from someone who has an intimate relationship with everything I talked about above.

Oh hi, OHI fans! It feels great to finally be able to talk about the work the Halo 4 team is cranking out. We have hundreds of passionate folks working to make this an unforgettable experience. It’s crazy to think that when many of these people decided to join 343 and build H4, we couldn’t even tell them what they would be working on. We told them the project would take place in the Halo universe, that the project was ambitious, and that we wanted to make something special... something that would live up to the Halo legacy. They took a chance, moved their families, left their friends, and joined us in Seattle. And from the chills I get when I listen to our music to the adrenaline rush I get from playing in the multiplayer playtests, all while the project is forged under the pressure of building something we want millions of Halo fans to love, I can tell you that we are indeed well on our way to something special.

This past month the proof of this was seen in our internal network test. We created a slice of multiplayer gameplay, got it running smoothly, and polished it to bring it much of the way to H4 ship quality across the board. Then we added new backend tech pieces, network optimizations, and game modes. We did this to ensure we would learn everything possible about how H4 will perform over home networks once we release it into the wild. I won't say anything else about all these networking technical bits and pieces now, but I am sure you will get an update from the awesome H4 service team (codenamed Section 3) one of these weeks….

Hundreds of people contributed to the various components that went into the build. It was amazing to see a concept artist play a Spartan that he painted on digital canvas months before, one that a character artist meticulously modeled by hand in high resolution for weeks, and a tech artist rigged with artificial bones, and an animator brought to life with lethal combat animations. A complete cycle of concept to realization. We are in a phase where most of the concepts and ideas are making their way from hearts and minds into tangible experiences. It’s one of the most exciting times on a project.

We played the internal network test build for weeks, testing game modes, testing networking conditions, and collecting balance data. During the development process, playing through build after build and seeing the constant iterations, you can get into a groove where you are always looking for ways to improve. It’s hard to step back and look at how far you have come. It was a feeling of great accomplishment to see the team fighting for playtest kits so they could play the game more.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. We are focusing on the next internal network test build, more iteration, more polish, more awesome, so we can finally deliver the game into your hands. I know it has been said before from OHI, but we can’t wait to show you what we've been playing.


And on that note (get it, because that OHI entry was kind of like a note?), now begins the slow transition where we move from Halo 4 information to Halo: Reach updates. It’s also worth noting (oops, I did it again!) that in this context, slow means instant. Bam!

Custom Challenge of the Week

Custom Challenge of the Week

If you fancy yourself a mack daddy, or a mack mommy, depending, then this is the week I’m going to ask you to prove it, because up for your Custom Challenge of the Week consideration is something that is more than a little crazy by default.

From now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with the Onager—15-cm Mark/2488 1.1GJ MAC—as the type of weapon will result in ten times the usual multiplier. This is a Campaign-only challenge, but I’m guessing you already knew that.

Enjoy getting your Pillar of Autumn on!

Super Jackpot Weekend

Super Jackpot Weekend

We may have taken the jet pack out of Arena, but we’re adding some credits to that particular playlist in the form of a very special Super Jackpot Weekend. Starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into Arena will present you with the chance of receiving a 39,000-credit bonus.

Wait, did I say 39,000-credit bonus? Because I meant 39,000-credit bonus. Keep in mind this one is a little larger than usual (doth what she hath said), so you should take advantage of it while you can.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a plane to catch. While 343 will not have an official presence at PAX East this year, a few of us, myself included, will be attending and enjoying others’ offerings. In case you were wondering, I’ll be the one in the Halo 4 shirt with the embarrassingly loud laugh. Just thought that little tidbit may make it easier to avoid me.

Until next week….

bs angel