Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 5.30.12

Dat Dashboard! I mean, whiteboard.

E3: We so excited!

Monday was Memorial Day here in the United States, so many people that call this country home enjoyed a long, holiday weekend. Those of us at 343 enjoyed the three-day weekend as well; we just did so from inside our studio, polishing builds (that are on an airplane as we speak), adding final audio to videos (yes, you’ll recognize some of the voices), and taking one final batch of screenshots (because that’s all that remains). Needless to say, with E3 a mere six days away, we’ve been busy. And that’s an understatement.

343 has several traditions, a few of them being discussing the pros and cons of various archaic recording devices, teabagging each other until the game crashes (I can neither confirm nor deny that actually happened), and watching all of our trailers and major presentations together, as a team, before revealing them to the world. Yesterday we gathered around the big screen to do the lattermost activity.

As the lights dimmed and we began watching what you’ll soon be seeing (and playing if you’re attending E3), our excitement level went from a slow simmer to a full, out of control, jumping-out-of-the-pot boil. We’ve been working on our E3 presentation and booth experience for weeks - and the game for years. While the reveals up to this point have been on the small side, we’re excited at the prospect of finally lifting our proverbial skirt and showing you exactly what we’ve got.

Don’t worry; we shaved our legs. And yes, that includes Frankie.

In an effort to not spoil any of the upcoming reveals (Spartan Ops and gameplay and new enemies, oh my!), I’m going to stop talking about E3 and switch gears to a subject many of you are already well-versed in: Halo 4 pre-order bonuses.

Halo 4

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonuses

Last week, retailers began announcing their Halo 4 pre-order bonuses. The first eight bonuses you’ll see below are skins. (For clarification purposes, please note they are skins only, and we are not locking away armor.) One of the best things about the skins is the ability to fully customize them. You’re getting a pattern that is not only unique, but can also be color customized.

Each individual store determines when they make their announcement, so while I am not able to offer you a complete list of what store is offering what bonus, I can give you bigger, prettier pictures than what many of the websites are currently hosting. Start scrolling to begin ingesting the Halo 4 eye candy.

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

Halo 4 Pre-order Bonus

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on Halo 4 pre-order bonuses, forum member LastPR0METHEAN is keeping close tabs on that particular situation. Hit their aptly named, “All pre-order bonuses, with info” thread for a well-organized and immaculately maintained list of items, links, and relevant information.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

June Matchmaking Playlist Update

Next Tuesday, amidst the craziness of E3, June’s matchmaking update is slated to quietly roll out. While you’ll probably be busy soaking in all of the Halo 4-related goodness, at some point you’re going to pop your Reach disc in and notice things are slightly different. To make sure you’re adequately prepared for that moment, here are the specifics of your next Halo: Reach matchmaking playlist update.

• Invasion updated.

Some people prefer Invasion over Infection (less itching and red bumps, or so I’ve heard…), and those people in particular will love what June is bringing to the table. The Invasion default game type was added, as were the following maps: Refinery, Overgrowth, Broadcast, and Floodgate. This playlist was also reduced from 4-player to 2-player split screen to help improve overall performance.

To get a sneak peek at what you’ll soon be playing, check out the following video, which was kindly put together by the fine folks over at Halo Wheelmen (thank you, Luv Gunn!). Get pumped for the Invasion update and Halo 4, all in the same video!
• SWAT updated.

The map Temple was added to SWAT. The voting options were also reorganized to have “SWAT” in slot 1, “SWAT Magnums” in slot 2, and a SWAT objective variant in slot 3. Less important is the change from a one-headshot kill to a ten-headshot kill.

Okay, that last part was a lie. But the rest was totally true. Honest.

• Grifball updated.

Two new maps, Federation Square and Illuminati, were added to Grifball, and Hyperbaric was updated to fix the health pack glitch. A credit stimulus based on win-scaling was also implemented. Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying victorious teams will receive double the normal win bonus. It’s also a nice way of saying STOP STAT-PADDING. (Mike paid me to say that. Speaking of which, time to pay up, buddy.)

• FF Limited NEP waves adjusted.

Firefight Limited NEP waves were adjusted as follows:

- Round 1, Main Wave: Elite Tactical replaced Brute Chieftains.
- Round 1, Boss Wave: Brute Chieftains replaced Elites.
- Round 2, Main Wave: Brute Infantry replaced Heretic Snipers.
- Round 2, Boss Wave: Elite Strike Team replaced Brute Infantry.
- Round 2, Boss Wave: Brute Kill Geam replaced Hunter Kill Team.
- Round 3, Main Wave: Elite Patrol replaced Heretic Heavy.
- Round 3, Boss Wave: Brute Chieftains Elite Spec Ops.

• Various maps updated.

Four maps were updated this month. Specifics are as follows:

- Prisoner: Spawn zone fixed on Classic variant.
- Cragmire: Gauss ‘Hog bug fixed.
- Synapse: Carney holes fixed.
- Select: Retired.

• Living Dead updated.

Zombie Ghosts, a brand new game type made by a rather sadistic fellow named Thomas, was added to Living Dead. From the creator himself:

"Zombie Ghosts is, simply put, a small modification of Infection's Alpha Zombies game type - and by small, I mean that the Infected are now invisible and on fire. These avatars of fiery hugs wield the mighty Golf Club as they bring joy to the hearts of all around them. Unfortunately for them, however, Spartans are interested in neither golf nor invisible, fiery hugs, and sport the powerful Focus Rifle of Infected Slaying (tm) to deter such actions."

The raw details:

- Based on Alpha Zombies, so starting ghosts get infinite Sprint to make things just a little easier.
- Infected are now invisible and on fire.
- Infected use the Golf Club, which is a variant of the Gravity Hammer.
- Spartans use the Focus Rifle and have the Plasma Repeater as an emergency back-up weapon, as everyone knows that energy weapons (and punches to the face) are the only way to deal with uppity ghosts.
- Damage and toughness have been extensively tweaked for both Spartans and Infected to balance the play experience.
- Friendly fire has been turned OFF for this game type, as having a horde of Infected running around with golf clubs would be ridiculous otherwise...

Ridiculous indeed. (Insert discreet cough here.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to Canada yet again. And then LA. I’ll stop and breathe at some point, but that point is not today.

By the way, I want you to know we understand Halo is important to you. It’s important to us, too, and we hope, when you see next week’s big reveal, that you’ll also see the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into Halo 4. Because we’re doing it for you…

See you at E3.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What it means to tell the TRU7H

Recently, we changed our identity from Installation 343, which was exclusively a Halo site, to TRU7H, a gaming/community site. And basically, what that means is, we are now going to cover as much gaming news as we can. We'll post reviews, previews, and we're even working on a video series similar to say what Machinima does with it's Machinima Inside Daily series. It's not something that's going to be obvious at first but, as we go along, we will evolve. Thank you for support and I hope you have fun!

Monday, May 28, 2012

TRU7H's Policy on Leaked Content

     Today, Greenskull of ReadyUpLive released a video here on youtube about their Leaked Content Policy, with which, we totally agree.
     First off, I would like to touch on what his reasoning is for this and why that it is the same reason that we follow the exact same policy. We, as a new sub-community of the much larger Community of the Halo franchise, would love to build up a reputation and relationship with companies like 343 industries or Bungie or who ever and promoting a leak of content either unfinished or unconfirmed is rude AND unprofessional. I, personally, would love to be in the same spot as Greenskull/ReadyUpLive or HBO is with 343.
     I thank you for understanding this, and I hope you enjoy E3 2012 next week!

Red vs Blue: Season 10 Premiere

 In 2 hours and 26 minutes, the new episode of Red vs Blue will launch over at Roosterteeth's website. I'm looking forward to it! Go watch!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 5.25.12

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Forward Unto Canada

Whenever I go from Point A to Point B, it’s inevitable I end up at Point Z. So needless to say, when I drove to Canada on Sunday, unplanned adventures were had. It is because of those unplanned adventures that I learned two very important lessons: One, when your GPS says, “Bear right,” it does not actually mean there’s a bear on the right. And two, when you’re crossing the border, you shouldn’t refer to your passenger as “the dude riding shotgun,” because apparently customs agents are a little sensitive about the last word in particular (It’s worth noting the resulting 10-minute cavity search is not nearly as bad as some people say. At least, from a bystander’s perspective, anyway).

You may be wondering what I was doing in Canada. Besides eating maple donuts (the maple part of which got stuck on the inside of the bag, curse you, Mr. Horton!), I also had the pleasure of visiting the Forward Unto Dawn set—the digital series we’re debuting in October. It was fun to see the crew and cast; they really are an amazing bunch of people.

Our actors are engaged, excited and bonding in a way that’s actually super appropriate to the way their characters are intended to behave. The locations and sets are equally engaging. Some of the stuff our production designer has imagined – and then built – is truly jaw-dropping. Seeing the faces of some very lucky community members who had a chance to visit up there with us made the whole thing worthwhile. Seeing them stand in those sets and feel, for a brief moment, like they were in the Halo universe, well that’s irreplaceable.

One set, a dorm room, was so badass that every single male from our team said roughly the same thing: “I WISH THIS WAS MY BEDROOM.” I say male because our female staffers loved it, but didn’t necessarily want to LIVE in a bedroom with a giant golden computer as the centerpiece. For the record, I was not one of those females.

The level of detail was exquisite, right down to the data scrolling by on the display monitors. When you stand inside the set, it feels like you’re standing inside the place or thing it represents. Only the grunts or Teamsters remind you that you’re not standing in a cryochamber, or on a distant alien world.

We’ve been coy about the identities of the folks who are working on Forward Unto Dawn, but once E3’s dust has settled, we’ll share more of those brilliant talents with you. And speaking of E3… well actually, let’s touch on something else first: A Halo 4 weapon, and a brand new one, at that.

Halo 4 Railgun

The Halo 4 Railgun

Halo 4’s arsenal includes numerous weapons, some of which you’re familiar with, and others of which you are not. One of the all-new aforementioned items you’ll have at your disposal in Halo 4 is the Railgun. Manufactured by Acheron Security, its official designation is the Asymmetric Recoilless Carbine-920.

The ARC-920 Railgun is a compact-channel linear accelerator that fires a high-explosive round at incredible speed, delivering both kinetic and explosive force to hard and soft targets alike. (Insert discreet cough here.)

Before we go any further, I must ask you to raise your right hand and repeat after me:

“I, (insert your super 1337 gamertag here), solemnly swear to remember that the following information is not only subject to change, but in all likelihood will change before the game ships. I will also remember that when one of the below details doeschange, I will not be angry at bs angel, or send her angry messages. And that goes for as long as we both shall live.”

Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s chat about the current iteration of the Railgun. To give you a reference point, we’ll compare it to the Spartan Laser.

Like the Spartan Laser, the Railgun has to be charged before firing. There are appropriate (and awesome) audio cues when that’s happening. The Railgun’s charge time feels like approximately half of the Laser’s.

One of the more notable differences between the Railgun and the Laser is the Railgun does not have a zoom function. While I initially saw that as a negative, it turned into a positive because the lack of a zoom function eliminates those moments when you’re making an adjustment, someone shoots you and pulls you out of zoom, and you end up overcorrecting and missing your target. The Railgun offers more of a static experience where the corrections you’re making, whether someone is shooting you or not, are going to be the same. If you move left, the reticle is going to stay to the left. If you move right, the reticle is going to stay to the right. Ultimately, it lets you muscle your way through taking fire, allowing you to be clutch with a one-hit kill weapon.

The Railgun does not do as much vehicle damage as the Laser, but strategically placed shots are able to change a vehicle’s force and direction. When its projectile hits a vehicle, it has the potential to send it flying, rolling, or perhaps even off a cliff because of the kinetic energy (similar to repeatedly hitting a Warthog with a Brute Shot).

Once the Railgun has been fired, it feels instantaneous; the moving projectile doesn’t feel like it has a lot of travel time (think Rocket Launcher vs. Laser). Overall, in its current iteration, it’s considered a power weapon as it is super lethal and deadly accurate. When the game ships, though, it may end up shooting marshmallows. Marshmallows of death, doom, and destruction, but marshmallows all the same.

Office of Halo Intelligence

Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 8

E3 is 11 days away. Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director, will be there, of course, revealing new information, expanding upon already released information, and watching the press get some hands-on time with Halo 4. When I asked him to take a quick break from his preparations to write an OHI entry for today’s Bulletin, he said no. The following is what he typed up after I informed him he didn’t actually have a choice in the matter.

I am such a hipster that I was at E3 before it was even E3. That’s literally true. I distinctly remember hassling Brad Dourif about the Dune movie outside the Nintendo booth at the Vegas CES where what became E3 used to be off in a tent in the corner.

E3 is a blessing and a curse. It’s a fantastic showcase for the industry, a truly magical experience where the best and brightest in gaming get to show off their impending wares, meet with the retailers who are tasked with selling those wares, and become inspired and excited for what the next months and years hold for the games industry. And of course as a spectacle, it has effectively become a consumer event, a bit like the Oscars, where the drive for all the George Clooney facemaking and fake clapping is really the audience watching at home.

And it‘s probably not a secret that while the business rationale for polishing content and creating presentations for E3 is really the retail business and the financial nuts and bolts it entails, the real pressure is reinforced by the need to create something magical for fans to get excited about.

Everyone in the studio, from artists to testers, from engineers to accountants, from animators to audio specialists, is driven by the pressure to create something amazing and impressive. And it’s tough. E3 often sidelines staff and resources, focused on creating “out of order” polish areas that break the logic of a schedule. Which is why we have talented producers and associate producers who create plans, years in advance to ensure that E3 stuff has no effect on the overall shipping schedule. They are unsung heroes, so consider this their song.

And the rest of the staff are knuckles down, heads down, spirits up, working 12, 15, even 24 hour shifts to make sure that the stuff we do show at E3, is worth your time and ours. We sometimes refer to it as a goat Rodeo, but it’s a lot more coordinated, often with laser-focused concentration on making sure that we’re not misusing human and technical resources that would be better used polishing and shipping the game. E3 should be an event that helps lift your game, and shine light on it, not hurt the main project. And so that’s where we are.

Can’t say too much about what we have to show in a couple of weeks, but I can say confidently that we’re looking forward to sharing more and more of our game, our ambition and our innovation with you guys over the coming months. And as fans, as gamers, we ourselves are looking forward to seeing what our colleagues and competitors are showing at E3, just from the same place of excitement and curiosity as you guys.

Of course, when we go to E3, we’re typically trapped at the Microsoft booth and only get to hear about stuff, rather than actually seeing it. Invariably someone will drop by whatever meeting room we’re trapped in, and tell us about how absolutely epic something looks in a distant corner of the show. That we can’t go see.

If you’re anything like me, you’re ready for the news and excitement that is E3. If the wait still seems torturously long, you’re in luck because we have two different credit-based opportunities that will hopefully make the passing of time a little more bearable. So grab your Halo: Reach disc and begin scoping out the things you still need from the Armory, because with the following festivities, you’ll be one step closer to making that helmet (or whatever you’ve been eyeing) a reality.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Custom Challenge of the Week

Last night, during the Xbox LIVE Community Playdate, I splattered numerous people while behind the wheel of a Warthog. Unfortunately they were all on my team, but a splatter’s a splatter, right? If you enjoy that very special moment when vehicles and players collide as much as I do, you’ll also like this week’s Halo: Reach Custom Challenge of the Week.

From now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Campaign or Custom Challenge with the Warthog as your “Kills with Weapon” Goal will result in five times the usual multiplier.

Let the splattering begin!

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Super Jackpot Weekend

If Warthogs aren’t your thing but Multi Team is, then you also have a shot at bumping your total number of credits to the next level because starting today and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Multi Team playlist will present you with the chance of receiving a 34,300-credit bonus. I know I always end with the line, “Go get some,” but you really should… get some.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to work on E3 stuff again. Until next week.

bs angel

First batch of Preorder Incentives

To the best of my knowledge, I'm the first to put this up, if so then kudos to me! But here we go, if you preorder Halo 4 from EB Games (a sub-company of Gamestop, which might mean they'll carry over) you get an Arctic BR skin and a Forest HAZOP skin pics below!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Installation 343 Playdate

I've decided that tomorrow is as good a day as any to give this playdate thing a try. I am currently looking at things to go as follow (all times are in CDT):
Halo 3 from ~2pm-7:30pm
Halo: Reach from ~8pm-When ever I get tired of the game.
So, there we go. If I actually get enough people playing with me and they want to one game over the other, then I'll alter the schedule as I see fit, without a moments notice.
We can do anything from Matchmaking (in the most popularly voted playlist) to customs. We'll discuss E3 predictions and just talk shit to each other. 
I hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

E3 2012 coverage

Well everyone, the time is upon us. Time to get ready for and eventually watch the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short. Now there are a few ways you can enjoy this powerful conference right in the comfort of your own living room.
First, we have SPIKE TV. go into your channel guides at 9:30 PST on June 4th to catch the Microsoft Media Briefing. OR you can go into your Xbox, download the IGN app and live stream it from there at the same time. And, FINALLY, you can go to GAMETRAILERS.COM/E3 to catch it there.
*I know that this is a Halo blog, but if there is anything from the show I like or see as big news then you can expect to see it right here.
Enjoy it!
E3 2012 starts at 9 PST on June 4th.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Autographed May 2012 Game Informer

I finally got my Signed copy of the Halo 4 Game Informer the other day in the mail and have decided to put it up on here. Here are the pics:

What do y'all think? Awesome, right?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Halo 4: Limited Edition vs Standard Edition

Hello fellow Reclaimers. In case you didn't notice it today, 343 announced the Limited edition of Halo 4. The extras are:


o the UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet, which includes an armor customization schematic, a blueprint of the massive ship itself, and insight into what it means to be one of humanity’s finest warriors: the Spartan-IVs.

-Bonus digital content through Xbox LIVE:

o Unique in-game Spartan-IV armor skin

o Unique in-game weapon skin for the Assault Rifle

o An exclusive in-game emblem

o Xbox LIVE Avatar prop

o Xbox LIVE Avatar Spartan-IV armor set

· “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” Special Edition – An extended 90-minute version of the live-action digital series that will bring the “Halo” universe to life as you’ve never seen it, and provide an enthralling backstory leading up to the events of “Halo 4.”

o “Halo 4” Limited Edition also includes the following exclusive videos:

§ Bonus in-fiction content expanding the characters and stories of
“Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn”

§ Special Featurette: Bringing Gaming into Reality

§ Making of “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn”

     The point of this thread is to show you why you should go for the Limited over the standard. First off, the standard retails at $59.99. there are going to be 3 map packs, which normally go for 800 MSP (or 10 bucks a pop) so that's roughly $30. Bringing you're total up to 89.99. "but Mix," you say, "That's ten dollars cheaper than the LE. Why not just do that?" Well, you also get a packet (a la Art Book) which would retail at about $15 by it's self, the "Halo: Forward Unto Dawn"s Director's Cut web-series, plus a plethora of in game add-ons that the most die-hard Halo fans will really appreciate.
     The point is, if you want a standard copy of the Biggest game of the year, then sure, get the standard edition, but if you want the full experience, then pick up the Limited Edition.

Halo 4 releases on November 6th, 2012.

The Halo Bulletin: 5.16.12

Halo 4 Key Art

Your piece of the Halo 4 puzzle

Monday afternoon, slices of a Halo 4 image were doled out to the community. Curiosity turned to determination and intrigue to resolution as fans fervently worked to put together the 32-piece puzzle. As forum threads exploded with rampant speculation, slivers became segments, segments became sections, and sections ultimately became the key art for Halo 4.

When the slivers were released into the wild, 343-ers placed their bets on how long it would take the community to piece together the picture. Some said a few hours; others said longer. I put my money on 15 minutes. Considering the first complete image made its appearance approximately 660 seconds after the messages were initially sent, I quickly found myself out five entire dollars. I blame all of you and your stealth URL-detecting skills for the fact that I couldn’t get a latte yesterday, just so you know.

Anyway, back to business. Now that we have officially revealed the Halo 4 box art, it only seems fair we also announce what, special edition-wise, will be available at retail come November 6. If you agree with that sentiment, please continue reading. If you don’t agree with that sentiment, you should also continue reading. Like how that works? Yeah, me too!

Halo 4 Limited Edition

Halo 4 Limited Edition

Available for preorder today, the Halo 4 Limited Edition maximizes your multiplayer experience and puts you in the boots of a Spartan-IV aboard the UNSC Infinity – the hub of your Halo multiplayer career.

The Halo 4 Limited Edition will be available at the estimated retail price of $99.99 and includes:

• War Games Map Pack Access

The competitive multiplayer modes of Halo 4 are known as War Games. The Limited Edition includes access to nine maps - three future competitive multiplayer map packs, each including three locations, available for download post-launch on Xbox LIVE. Yes, you read that correctly; you get nine maps in the form of future DLC with the purchase of the Halo 4 Limited Edition. Score!

• Specializations

Everyone will have access to select Specializations, but those that purchase the Halo 4 Limited Edition will receive the ability to unlock six Specializations early, available at launch on Xbox LIVE. You can use them, one at a time, to achieve higher ranks in your Spartan career. In addition to gaining access to new ranks, Specializations unlock new customization options. We’ll be releasing more information about Specializations at E3, so expect additional details about this particular feature then.

• UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet

The UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet includes a Spartan armor customization schematic, information about UNSC weapons, an introduction to the massive ship UNSC Infinity, and insight into what it means to be one of humanity’s finest warriors: The Spartan-IVs. Story lovers will especially enjoy this in-fiction offering that provides a glimpse into the indoctrination of Spartans aboard the Infinity.

• Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Special Edition

The Special Edition of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a 90-minute extended version of the live-action digital series which will take fans back to the terrifying beginning of the Human/Covenant war, when the Master Chief inspired a young cadet who would eventually become a leader aboard the UNSC’s greatest vessel ever: the UNSC Infinity.

Digital content also includes in-fiction bonus content that expands the characters and stories of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, special featurette Bringing Gaming into Reality, and a behind the scenes look at the making of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.

• Bonus digital content through Xbox LIVE

The Limited Edition includes the following bonus digital content through Xbox LIVE: unique in-game Spartan-IV armor skin, unique in-game weapon skin for the Assault Rifle, an exclusive in-game emblem, Xbox LIVE Avatar prop, and Xbox LIVE Avatar Spartan IV armor set.

Right about now you may be wondering, “If all those things come with the Limited Edition, what are they going to put in the Legendary Edition?” Here is the answer to that question: There will be two options available at retail for Halo 4 - the regular version of the game and the aforementioned Limited Edition. We decided to focus our efforts on a single special edition instead of numerous ones so you wouldn’t have to pick and choose between what ancillary items you want. Now your primary choice is whether or not you just want the game, or the game along with all the goodies. And we’re hoping we made that decision an easy one for you…

Must Wash Hands

Must wash hands before returning to battle

Along with cutting up images and sprinkling the pieces upon the community, we’ve continued to maintain beyond full plates as we traverse the road leading up to launch. Section 3, our services team, is putting the polish on a few different updated experiences. Frankie and Kevin are currently at the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn set, checking out today’s shoot, “accidentally” bumping into the actors and actresses (one of whom is one of my most favorite actresses EVER), and playing around with various weapon replicas every time the person in charge of props turns his back.

The rest of the team is head down in Halo 4, coming up for breath only as time allows. Some are occupied with an upcoming network test. The majority, though, find their days (and nights) consumed with preparation for E3.

Yesterday we were three weeks away from showing you what Halo 4 is all about. Today we are two weeks and six days away. Every second counts as we finalize the builds, take the screenshots, and prepare to reveal new weapons, enemies, game types, and more.

This particular stage of preparation is nerve-wracking. There’s an indescribable current in the air, one that gets more intense with each passing day. When you pour your heart and soul into something, when you are determined to do right because you know what you’re creating is important to people, the pressure elevates you and fosters an atmosphere that breeds strong focus and drive, where the team is only capable of performing at their very best. That’s where we’re at, in over-drive, with the E3 finish line coming into sight.

We are so excited to show you more about our upcoming game. 20 days, and counting…

bs angel

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 5.9.12

Set Picture

Mo’ Cappin’

Last week, as I was preparing for a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, I was told two very important things: One, it’s always sunny there, and two, it’s always sunny there. Guess what I learned, though, on my second day in that city. It’s not always sunny there. Go figure.

Thankfully my business (which was also quite pleasurable) was inside a studio, so my interaction with the precipitation was fleeting. Speaking of which, I’m reminded of another lesson I learned while in LA: When you walk into a hotel with a video camera, a lighting kit, and an armful of tripods (because your videographer doesn’t want to leave his equipment in the car overnight), the valets won’t believe you when you tell them you’re there for a Halo 4 shoot. At least, that’s the impression I got when they exchanged furtive glances and attempted to conceal their smirks. Again, go figure.

Unfortunately, as of right now that’s the extent of what I’m allowed to talk about in relation to that trip. Fret not though, because one day not so soon, you’ll hear or see more about what happened under the bright lights in that particular studio. I sense you quietly grunting in protest, which is oddly appropriate considering our next subject is everybody’s favorite bipedal vertebrate. And yes, that’s me moving on…

Halo 4 Grunt

Meet Your Halo 4 Enemies– Part 1: Grunts

The Unggoy, a low-ranking species in the Covenant hierarchy, will be one of the enemies you face in Halo 4. If you are not yet familiar with our cannon fodder friends, below you will find a somewhat cursory introduction. And fodder for canon friends.

Grunts, as they are often referred to by humans, are bipedal vertebrates with spotty exoskeletons (some spottier than others depending on the game), appendages and movement typical of primates, and quite simple (yet often dull) eyes. We could talk about their elaborate circulatory system (also more vertebrate than arthropod in nature), but ONI’s classified all enemy autopsies and we don’t have clearance. How convenient for us.

The Grunt is not really a traditional arthropod in the 21st century Earth-native scientific understanding of the term. That being said, the Grunt’s high resemblance and similar evolutionary structure to arthropods on our planet illicit that prima facie nomenclature. However, they might be more accurately referred to as xeno-arthropod-type vertebrates with substantial (and hypothetical) genetic influences from primate-type organisms, as well as some unclassified aphotic-dwelling amphibian-type organisms.

What does this mean? Only that poor Carl Linnaeus can’t adequately classify sentient organisms originating from other planets and we shouldn’t necessarily expect him to. Until we develop perfect xenobiological classifications for rival and ultimately, very alien sentient species, humans of the 26th century, in the middle of trying to survive the Covenant War, might use ad hoc, makeshift terminology loosely based on the Earth’s own organisms—and that’s exactly what ‘arthropod’ is when it appears in the definition of the Unggoy.

Halo 4 Grunt

As for how the Grunts of past Halo games and Halo 4 compare: Are they different species, a result of natural mutation, selective breeding, or genetic mutation within a single species? We’re not ready to show our cards here just yet. We can say that there are certain species on Earth which exhibit extraordinary differences within their kind (Great Dane vs. Pomeranian) and that there are vastly numerous species similar enough to categorically lump them together (look up Plover). And this is just on our planet, five hundred years before the events of Halo, and without the masterful technology wielded by the Covenant during its reign. So there’s plenty of room for speculation as to what those differences mean genetically, biologically, historically and even philosophically. But, answers to those questions are for another day.

That said, one of the biggest challenges to the hardcore fans of Halo’s massive and ever-expanding fictional universe (for us too) is that there is a normal, almost universal, tendency to try to force any and all contents into a carefully and intricately crafted box based on all that’s come before. These fans (again, ourselves included) are all-too comfortable with lateral and linear progression on top of foundational rules that we can track, label and say, “Yeah, that makes sense because of X and Y and Z”. But when it comes to longitudinal, exponential changes which restructure what was only perceived to be the foundation, that’s when folks tend to get nervous (again, ourselves included!).

The game is evolving. The technology we use to render the game is evolving. Decisions that made sense for 480i TVs back in 19-oatcake may need to be adjusted in 720p, and who knows what other resolutions in the future. We’re not recategorizing a species, upsetting an apple cart, or changing the canon. We’re doing what we always do. We’re layering detail, evolving the art, pushing the universe onwards and outwards. We’re making change for holistic reasons, never for change’s sake.

The bottom line, however, is that the last ten years have only been a keyhole into the enormous canyon that is the Halo Universe and there is so much more out there than we could ever fit in those boxes, as well-intended and finely-crafted as they might be. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

So the next time you see an enemy that looks a little different or a weapon/vehicle that doesn’t match its predecessors verbatim, or even a backstory that doesn’t appear to be the “whole story”, understand that the Halo Universe is big enough to hold all of them safely and securely together, and will do so with a smile on its face. And whenever you doubt that, just take the incredible variability you find in our contemporary world and multiply it by a thousand. Then you’ll get a hint of just how big a 26th century, galaxy-spanning Halo story is to us. We’re hoping that in the coming months and years, you’ll get to see just how big that really is.

(Spoiler: It’s really big.)

Forward Unto Dawn Wallpaper

Forward Unto Dawn Wallpaper

Last week we announced Forward Unto Dawn, an upcoming live-action web series featuring new characters and stories that tie directly into Halo 4. Accompanying that announcement was an image depicting the back of a certain Spartan super-soldier. Many of you asked us to wallpaperize that image (clicks “Add to Dictionary”), so we did just that, and not just because we wanted to make sure you could never say we have yet to do anything for you. But primarily because we wanted to make sure you could never say we have yet to do anything for you. Ha, we win! And you can, too, by clicking your desired size, right clicking on the image, and then selecting “Set as background”.


Halo: Reach Screenshot

Custom Challenge of the Week

Grunt dialogue is often humorous and none so much, in my opinion, as the classic one-liner, “Please enjoy my bright blue spherical projectiles!” At least, that’s what I think the quote is, anyway. How exactly does that relate to your Custom Challenge of the Week, though? It would be my pleasure to explain the connection, my Credit-loving friends!

From now until next Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, setting up a Custom Challenge with Catch and then turning that skull on in-game will result in three times the usual multiplier (normally this particular gameplay modifier adds a 10% boost to your total Credit value for a challenge). Please note that when you set Skulls as a Constraint, you must activate ONLY those skulls for games to count. No more, no less.

With that being said, I do believe it’s time to play ball. Here’s to hoping you don’t strike out! In-game, anyway.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Super Jackpot Weekend

If the aforementioned Custom Challenge of the Week doesn’t quite quench your big grunty thirst for credits, perhaps this will: starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, hopping into the Team Objective playlist will present you with the chance to receive a 24,000-credit bonus. That particular playlist had a credit stimulus based on win-scaling added recently (you can find additional details about that in the Matchmaking section of the 4.25 Bulletin), so if you like capping flags, arming bombs, or hunting heads, May 11-13 is the time to do it.

And with that, it’s time to officially call this sucker done. Tell your mother we said hello (we’d recommend Sunday after you tell her Happy Mother’s Day), and we’ll see you here next week, when we’ll be serving up another teeny tiny piece of the Halo 4-related informational pie. Until then…

bs angel

P.S. It turns out I owe you two Friday Caption Fun images today (since I was out of town last week). After you select your favorite, hit the latest installment to contribute your witty quip. Off you go!

Friday Caption Fun Friday Caption Fun

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Halo Bulletin: 5.02.12

FOREWORD: I am happy to present you a special Frankie edition of the Halo Bulletin. Enjoy.

Set Picture

What Are We Up To?

Jessica is out. At a shoot, hanging out with famous Halo and non-Halo people, including actors and actresses you’re all very fond of. And some you’ve never heard of. The answer to the question, “What Are We Up To?” is pretty long, so here we go.

We’re making a lot of stuff. Right now, we’re finishing work on Karen Traviss’ novel, The Thursday War, including tightening up the graphics on the cover and dotting some Is and crossing some Ts on last-minute fiction edits. I say “we” when in fact it’s mostly Karen doing the actual hard work and the publisher Tor implementing and assisting with changes and copyediting.

And at the same time as all that, we’re deep into Greg’s third book in the Forerunner Trilogy. I was tempted to type last, but I just can’t bring myself to. And I don’t see any reason why we would want to stop working with Greg, so I ain’t saying it and you can’t make me!

We actually had Greg in last week to listen to some music, look at some graphics, including in-game graphics, to make sure they line up appropriately with his vision, and vice versa. When we made the decision three or more years ago to start making sure that every piece of Halo fiction counted and connected, we knew it was going to be a lot of work, but it’s paying off. The connections, ties, and presaging that the books incorporate will make for some stunning resonances and revelations for hardcore digesters of external fiction. For those who don’t follow the novels and other fiction, don’t worry: Halo 4 will make perfect sense as a standalone piece of storytelling. That’s super important.

Forward Unto Dawn Picture

And even Forward Unto Dawn, the live-action series we just announced, will make some of those connections, albeit in a much more approachable way. We wanted to fulfill the promise of our previous live-action commercials and the hints of storytelling they touched upon. We wanted to take that kind of ambition but put it in a real narrative – and a story that will take you and deliver you right to the gates of Halo 4. We’re super excited about it.

Our director is a joy (we’ll announce his name later) and the screenwriting talent is exceptionally appropriate to this material (we’ll tell you who they are later), and our VFX guy is an industry standard. All these people, including the unannounced cast, have been hand-picked by us to make sure they can deliver on the potential the Halo universe has for storytelling and bring something juicy to folks who’ve wanted this for years, and something interesting and approachable to those who are curious about Halo, but have never quite committed.

There will be action. There will be recognizable Halo universe objects and artifacts everywhere. There will even be a very large, imposing, and famous Spartan II – but there will also be new, and very real characters, real story, and a gripping yarn that will appeal to just about anybody who likes cool stuff.

Forward Unto Dawn Picture

We promise to bring you more updates and images as the weeks roll on. And some surprises that aren’t exactly that project…

Forward Unto Dawn is an essential piece in an arsenal – static, moving, aural and aesthetic. I’m kind of surrounded by it right now, going through endless iteration and honing to make sure we hit the ground running in the build-up to launch on November 6th. Oh, and if you buy the game on the 6th in the US – make sure you also vote while you’re out or vote by mail. If you already took the day off for Halo, then you have no excuse. We don’t care who you vote for, but it’s your responsibility as a citizen and you can feel proud of yourself and your country when you hit the ballot box before you go home to hit the, well, hitbox.

If you’re in another country, then don’t worry about that so much.

Halo 4 Event

I have been traveling a lot myself recently, and just got back from a whistle-stop tour of New York City, where I had the pleasure of demonstrating some MP and Campaign gameplay to a bunch of press, community members from Waypoint and Halo.Bungie.Org and ,of course, about half of the top twenty NFL draft picks. I told them all to go to the Seahawks but only one listened. YOU’RE WELCOME, SEAHAWKS!

We also stopped by MLG’s offices, since they were right around the corner from our hotel and demoed the build, early and weird, to a large group of MLG staff and players. We let them tinker with weapons and run around levels (just Warhouse and Wraparound for now – and those are, I remind you, temp names) but it was fun to chat about the game as it relates to competitive play – they focused on lines of sight, flow, bullet spread and so on, loosing round after round into walls to see how things felt and how they compared to other Halo titles.

A lot of suicides happened as players attempted to jump from Wraparounds aeries down to the Grav Lift below (it’s supposed to be a one-way trip, but they almost made it…).

The game is being designed with lots of different types of player in mind – explorers, cooperators, tricksters, and, of course, competitive players. Lots of worries about how loadouts and other new features will affect those players were discussed openly and frankly with the MLG guys, and we were certainly able to reassure them about our philosophy, approach, understanding, and implementation. We also clarified that certain elements (like user selectable ordnance drops) will only be available in appropriate playlists. Oh, and there was happiness when we explained that loadouts for custom games don’t have the same limitations as some of the “career” playlists.

Halo 4 Event

We hope to bring you some interesting MP footage to show off these elements, but that will be a little way off, since we’re heads down working on some really big, important milestones as they relate to MP, Spartan Ops, and the year in general.

But we are really focused on doing one thing – respecting the core elements of classic Halo MP and Campaign experiences –and everything that entails, but also evolving the systems and gameplay in interesting, compelling, and balanced ways. Every time we announce new functionality, there’s a mixture of excitement, fear, curiosity and outrage and we’re cognizant of that – so with regard to the new elements of Spartan customization – yes, they are more than aesthetic (although aesthetic customization will be well supported too) I would personally compare it more to tuning your own vehicle to suit your driving habits, than replacing a four pot engine with a V8. Changes will be subtle in nature, but ultimately important to the way you play.

And don’t worry if you don’t want to follow that path to its ultimate conclusion – most playlists will allow you to select a default loadout (which will vary on a map/playlist basis) that will give you the means to deal with almost any situation. So don’t worry about spawning on Wraparound with an AR against a team of DMRs. That will only happen if you choose that path.

Right now I am going through an MP build, enjoying the fact that the UI now lets me customize loadouts from the Pause menu (it was disabled for some time, meaning noobs often got stuck with defaults if they forgot to build one before going in). But it also surprised me with one possible scheme for the loading screen – I can’t say what it is, but it replaces the placeholder Auntie Dot pattern we showed in NY. And I love it.

Red All Over

Somebody asked me to report on water. Yes, I can confirm there’s water in the game, and yes, it looks good. But now I can’t stop thinking about the loading screen. Maybe I have a new obsession. In the build and map I am playing right this instant, the “physics” and behavior are functioning, but the appearance properties are literally turned off, so it looks amazing, but it also looks like thick, turgid, clay-filled mud. More updates as I explore, tinker and break it in the future. I think the more compelling thing would be WHERE I tested the water…

Oh. And on the subject of MP maps – we have a great variety of maps, with a good breakup of sizes and modes – but on larger maps, vehicle support was a big priority for the design team. Ironically, this is something that becomes a little easier to tune thanks to the universal inclusion of sprint. If your teammate spazzes out and sails off a cliff in your hog, you still have options.

One map in particular gave me a really excellent vibe – a mix of my favorite aspects of Blood Gulch and Waterworks. Don’t just mash those ideas up in your head to imagine the map, because that won’t really get you there. But you’ll know what I mean when you play it. You’d be amazed how much fun it is just to tool around empty levels imagining future encounters, but it’s obviously a lot more fun to hammer through these in playtests. We’re long past the days of playtests being chuggy and graphically bland – and well into them feeling in many ways, like real shipping code, often with spectacular graphics.

About every three years I get to enjoy this period. Watching the hard work and talent of an incredible team take shape and turn from promising innovation and ideas into real, visible, playable results. We’re busy. We’re crunching, but this is the best of times.