Let’s talk about PAX, baby
My voice is nowhere to be found, my feet hurt, and I’m beginning to exhibit flu-like
Last weekend, within the walls of the Washington State Convention Center, we revealed a brand-new Halo 4 map (Exile), we announced the return of Grifball (disease officially caught), we had CTF playable for the first time on the floor (introducing the Flagnum), and we shared insight into the storytelling aspect of Halo 4’s Campaign (omg, spoilerz). If you are unfamiliar with this particular event, PAX Prime is a Seattle show exclusively for gaming, and during this year’s three-day extravaganza, massive amounts of chocolate were consumed, hands were requested (and accepted!) in marriage, and Halo 4 was played. A lot.
Some of the greatest moments of the event happened on the floor. The main part of our booth featured 5v5 CTF on Exile, so numerous large groups patiently waited for their chance to check out the newest Halo 4 multiplayer map. Cliff Bleszinski, along with a handful of fellow Gearheads, stopped by to play a trio of rounds (Hi, Quinn!). Some of our friends from Bungie also indulged in a little CTF, facing off against a determined team of all-powerful Ninjas. We can neither
If you missed the news coming out over the weekend, take a second to get caught up by checking out the CTF and Exile screenshots, and then watching the Halo: Reborn panel. Go ahead, we’ll wait. For a few minutes, anyway…
Halo 4 CTF
We recreated CTF as an all-new experience for Halo 4. Our goals early on were to create a fresh and exciting experience, focusing heavily on team play and being the flag carrier. If you didn’t get a chance to play the new CTF over the weekend at PAX, here are some elements of the new CTF experience.
Flag Carrier Experience – Picking Up the Flag
This is easily the biggest addition to CTF in Halo 4, and we’ve made it a huge focus and priority to develop. Before we run through the changes, let’s talk about becoming the flag carrier, which is an experience in and of itself.
The first thing you’ll notice about being a carrier in Halo 4 is you’ll automatically pick up the flag. Unlike a weapon, you won’t need to hold or press a button to take the flag. We extensively tested different flag pick-up methods and settled on this one as it gets you into the action very quickly. While there will be occasions when you accidentally pick up the flag, we feel this is worth it as you can now easily grab the flag from a tough-to-reach location with just a touch, and there’s a very natural feel to the transition. We’ve also carefully tuned the flag pick-up radius, so you’ll need to be right on top of the flag to grab it.
Flag Carrier Experience – The Flagnum
The moment you pick up the flag, you’ll hold the flag in your left hand and draw a Magnum in your right. The Magnum allows you to defend yourself in combat and joust other flag carriers. We’re still working with the exact tuning of the flag carrier’s Magnum, but we’re hoping to give the flag carrier a slight damage boost. As in previous Halo games, your melee attack will still instant-kill. You can’t switch weapons while holding the flag, and there are unlimited reloads on the Magnum. We’ve also added a brand new assassination called the “Flagsassination”.
Flag Carrier Experience – Movement Speed
Unlike previous Halo games, you’ll move at full speed as a flag carrier, including jump and strafe. One difference to regular movement is you can’t sprint. However, a huge advantage to the Magnum is forcing enemies to stop sprinting – so in most encounters, you’re on a nearly level playing field.
Flag Carrier Experience – You are the Objective
As soon as you pick up the flag, your HUD will change to highlight the point of delivery. Each player in the new CTF has a special presentation layer that changes based on the current game state. The new HUD features clear navpoints and verbs that let you keep track of the objectives and flag locations with just a glance. When you’re holding the flag, you’ve got a job to do – deliver it! You’ll become the center of attention as your teammates are charged with escorting you, and enemies with stopping you. To help reinforce this, you can’t drop the flag; this makes you the centerpiece of encounters as you move the flag to the delivery point, with teammates escorting you along the way.
Rule Changes – Scoring
One of the biggest rule changes to CTF is your team flag is no longer required to be at home to score; we found this keeps the flags moving across the maps through the flag lanes, and helps focus the flag defense, escort, and capture objectives. In a tie game with one point to win, flag carriers and teammates will have a tough decision of running the flag or stopping the enemy flag carrier. We’ve seen this lead to epic carrier vs. carrier battles that were so exciting we even created special rewards for them (more on this later).
Rule Changes – Defending and Returning the Flag
When the enemy team drops your flag, the return timer will start. The timer is now clearly integrated into the flag’s navpoint, so it won’t be a surprise when it returns back to your base. Unlike previous Halo titles, standing on the flag will not speed up its return timer. We found this greatly improved the flag attack and defend scenarios as players can use more of the play space around their flag to defend it. It also helps to think of the flags as moving entities across the map, and your job is to keep the enemies moving, and yours in one place. So many games come down to the final moment, and defending your flag for even a few seconds can make all the difference.
Rule Changes – Overtime
Overtime is also new and improved for Halo 4, and you’ll get there if time runs out in CTF and the score is still tied. Overtime is now 60 seconds long, and the first team to score wins the match. We’ve added some intense dynamic music in OT to keep the pressure on.
As in Infinity Slayer, you’ll be earning points in CTF not only for your team by scoring flags, but also for yourself by contributing to your team. Each medal in CTF awards you with medal points, which determine your place on the scoreboard compared to other players. Here’s a quick summary of the medals just for CTF.
Deliver the opponents flag to your base
Flag Carrier Kill
Kill an opponent who is carrying a flag
Kill an opponent while holding a flag
Kill an opponent close to your flag, or help return it
Capture 2 flags in one game
Capture 3 flags in one game
Help a teammate score a flag
Drive a Flag Carrier close to your capture point
Kill a flag carrier while holding a flag
Perform an assassination while holding a flag
In addition to CTF medals, you’ll still earn the standard medals you earn in Infinity Slayer. CTF also supports a custom game option that allows you to turn Infinity Ordnance on or off, allowing you to earn Infinity Slayer-style rewards in Capture the Flag. Team scoring is much simpler; the first team to three scores wins.
We’re incredibly excited to host our CTF hopper at launch, on November 6th. Here’s a preview of our planned settings.
2 Flag CTF Only
Initial and World
5 non-forged maps, tuned for CTF
PAX Prime Q&A
As is customary when we release a slew of new information, there are always questions. So the rest of the Bulletin is dedicated to answering as many of them as Frank O'Connor, Kevin Franklin, Kevin Grace, and Brad Welch can handle. Thankfully that’s a lot.
What Objective options do we have in Custom Games? -Lycan XIII
We have many new custom game options coming, especially around the Infinity experience. This means lots of customization surrounding all types of Ordnance. In Objective games, you’ll have full control over player traits, including those of the King, Flag Carrier, and Grif. Each game mode also has multiple custom options specific to that game mode that let you tune timers, settings, and rules. CTF specifically offers tuning the “Flag Return Time/Proximity Return”, “Flag Reset Time”, “Flag at Home Requirement”, “Overtime Length”, and “Flag Carrier Traits”.
I like how Exile is an outdoor kind of map. Are there other outdoor-like maps on the Halo 4 disc/future DLC? -F22 Raptor X1
Oh yes. In fact, our only remake map – still secret – is most definitely outdoors.
From the gameplay videos I saw at PAX, there are no medals shown on-screen during the game. This is different from E3 gameplay where medals did show up on-screen. Will medals show up on screen for the final game? -FBI Derrick
In the final game, medals will show on-screen on the left side, near the kill feed, the all-new combat log, and the ordnance meter.
The Halo 4 multiplayer is in-universe. Therefore, Grifball is actually played by Spartans. Does that mean Grifball is now the official Sport of the Spartans? -Meta0X
Sort of. That is to say, it’s not a-canonical, but it doesn’t serve any particular purpose in the universe. That said, sharp-eyed fans may have already figured out a single item of context from outside the game universe…
Will there be a way to disable auto-pickup for Flag/Oddball? -CyReN CE
At launch and in the launch playlists, we will be deploying CTF as-is. Although it’s possible in the future that we will give players more specific control and choices, this is something we feel pretty strongly about – and is in some ways a new mode, rather than simply an evolution of an existing game type. We understand the reaction this may cause, but there’s method in our madness and we ask your indulgence in the short term.
In Grifball, does the ball explode when planted, killing the carrier? -CrazedOne1988
In the new Grifball, the round no longer cycles after each score; instead it resets at the center of the court. To reduce randomness on spawns when going back to the center, the Grif who scores is no longer killed by the ball explosion.
Was all of the announcer stuff like, "You’re holding the flag!", "Hold the ball to score points!", etc. just for all the possible new-to-Halo people at PAX so no one would be confused, or is that how the final build will be? -sliced365
The Jeff Steitzer Multiplayer V/Os are all recorded fresh and new for Halo. Some are going to be more subtle, some even more “ENERGETIC”, but all will fit into a broad and properly balanced sound scheme and folks should realize they’re also noticing that these things are different, new, and changed – as well as simply more strident. However in testing, and long term testing which is one advantage we always have over the “fresh” audience, it all works out beautifully or vanishes into the background. All that said as warning however, these are not the final mixes, but they’re not wildly off.
Was the vehicle setup on Exile planned to be what is used in matchmaking? -GhaleonEB
Vehicle setup was designed to show a ton of content for PAX. That map content will vary dramatically depending on game mode and playlist.
In Grifball, can you have rounds enabled to make it so after one arm, it starts a new one? -The Little Moa
Yes, this can be done by setting the “Score to Win” round in the general custom game settings to “1”. You can also tune the number of rounds in a game, the lives per round, and much more.
Since it's a separate game mode now, are there any Grifball-specific medals or post-game statistics? -TrueFlyingCow
Each game mode has four special statistics. In Grifball, we keep track of “Scores”,” Carrier Kills”, “Ball Kills”, and “Carry Time”. We also have a specific medal for scoring the Grifball.
What precautions are you guys taking to make sure that the point system is not exploited? For example, will we be able to just play catch with the Oddball to rack up points? -indubitably1
The game types, rules, matchmaking criteria and certain hidden systems will contribute towards game mode “congruity.”
In the Grifball demo at the panel, you said, "A few more tricks that are developing are the boost and a few other long throws." Can you go into any further detail on what those might be? -TacoPizzaHunter
As the new Grifball is, well, new, we are still seeing new tricks come up in the play tests.
The Boost - Hold the ball with a teammate running close and directly in front of you towards the goal. Throw the ball to your teammate, telling him to jump. Immediately hammer smash behind him – pushing him forwards towards the goal. Oh, and try not to kill your buddy.
Long Throws - As Grif runs forward, jump. At the apex of your jump, aim up and throw the ball. You’ll get a slightly longer throw than normal, letting you make a Hail Mary pass to a teammate cherry picking near the goal. Ball throws are influenced by your character’s movement, so you can do shorter passes by running backwards, and longer ones by running forward. The actual angle of the throw makes the biggest difference, but every bit helps when threading the needle to a teammate.
Was the armor that was available in the PAX build the full set? If so, why is there no Mark V armor? -ArchedThunder
The PAX build contains the full set of armor in Halo 4. In the final game, there are a variety of methods for unlocking armor and armor skins - ranking up, earning commendations, progressing through Specializations and completing goals on Waypoint. Some of the skins, helmets, and the FOTUS armor are exclusive to various retail offers. Some of these items MAY become available to all players at a later date. We wanted to focus on the Spartan-IV armors for Infinity, maximizing the amount of variety across the armor designs. However, we did want to include a reward for completing the Campaign on Legendary, so we decided to use the Mark VI armor as that reward. While we'd love to include every historical variant of the Chief's armor, it's just not possible to fit more armor sets into the available memory.
Will stat tracking for kill/death ratio be done separately for the different playlists? All of the changes made to modes like Capture the Flag will do wonders for improving game speed as long as everyone is focused on winning. These improvements start to fade when people are just trying to farm for kills.-indubitably1
When comparing yourself to teammates, medal points make all the difference and in each mode you’ll earn specific points for not only scoring but also helping your teammates. CTF, for example, has medals for “Flag Driver”, “Flag Assist”, and “Flag Defense”. We will be reporting stats for War Games as a mode, but also for the individual game base variants, meaning the underlying game types like CTF, Regicide, Slayer, etc. K/D ratio in general will only be highlighted for Slayer.
Was the entire Grifball arena built in Forge or is it one of the 3 Forge pallets? -N Y K R Y L L
Grifball, regardless of “where” it lives, was created independently and specifically as its own thing. The environment is somewhat moot. Frankly, it had WAY too much time and effort poured into it, but we loved it.
Will there be an option to turn off the white text notifications in the middle of the screen? -The Yanix
No, but the fact is that it “vanishes” after a few plays. Ask people who’ve played a lot. This is something we spent a lot of time on and is true of many “intrusive” UI, audio and dressing aspects of the game – they provide vital information for certain types of players and quickly vanish for frequent players in terms of intrusion. They were designed, tested and tweaked to achieve this. Watching other people play is almost counter to how it feels in practice.
Could you clarify where approximately Exile stands on the small-medium-big-humongousbongus scale when it comes to map size? -Royal Guacamole
Because it’s laterally narrow, to ME it feels medium, but in terms of literal scale it’s in the top two thirds. However, it’s navigable and playable for four-on-four on foot. Sprint and other speedy aspects of the game make some of these answers somewhat subjective.
I noticed that the Mark VI armor for Multiplayer is not the same armor that the Chief dons in Halo 4. What type of armor is the Chief wearing then? -One One Seven
Very fancy, very custom, very unique “Cortana special” armor.
In CTF, you now hold a Pistol with the flag. If I have a Plasma Pistol secondary, will it use that or still pull out a Magnum anyway? -goobot
The Magnum, or “Flagnum” as it’s been dubbed, is specific to this mode. As we’ve mentioned before, this is similar, but ultimately a replacement for, rather than simply an evolution of, CTF. We understand this is controversial but are now pretty confident the changes will be enjoyed. And as we’ve said in this very article, we will have more information about options and customizability much later.
Will we be seeing a part II of the "Hero Awakens" video? -Austin7934
Yes, and sooner than you may think. Unless you’re thinking really soon. Then it will be later than you may think.
Members of 2old2play watched much of the video footage from PAX and are finding the armor color to be kind of pastel and eggshell in nature. Are any changes to the quality of color of armor expected in the final release of Halo 4? -DEEP NNN
As a very old, gray-haired fart, I resent you guys speaking on my behalf. But yes, these are indicative but hardly comprehensive color schemes.
Does the Grifball game type support up to 16 players or is it locked to a certain number? - Nuclear Taco 42
Our officially supported version is 4v4, but the court is setup for 8v8 and there’s much more you can create in custom games and Forge. We’re really excited to see all of the new Grif variants the community puts together.
We have now seen the map Exile, built for CTF. I have to say, it looks awesome. Can you tell us how many maps have been built specifically for CTF, and how many others it can be played on? -GristlyStew721
I agree strongly with your description of how awesome the map is. Most maps were built with team sizes and objectives in mind, but new elements like universal sprint make these modes and maps a little bit more flexible than past games.
So far we've seen that some of the weapons have customizable skins. Will this feature be available for, say, the hammer or sword? -Goosechecka
Both of those items do not have enough visible surface area to justify the hit on disc/RAM/hilt/buttspace. To be honest, I only answered this question so I could coin the term “buttspace.”
I do believe that freshly-coined term is the perfect note to end on. So, until next week, my friends, when you’ll be seeing a brand new vid…oops. I should probably stop talking now. Until then.