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

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