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The Halo Bulletin 1.9.2013:
I feel like we haven’t talked since last year
Greetings and salutations, dear reader, and welcome to the first Bulletin of 2013. I wanted to write you an eloquently penned introduction, full of cleverly-crafted phrases intended to evoke emotional responses relevant to the recent warm and festive holiday season, except I couldn’t remember the name of the traditional party favor typically used during celebratory occasions. So I opened up my favorite search engine, typed in “things you blow at parties”, and proceeded to get lost in the deepest, darkest depths of the intertubes. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t safe to go alone. Thankfully I wasn’t truly alone, because after a few weeks of operating at partial capacity, 343 as a collective entity is officially back and running full steam ahead into the anxiously awaiting arms of the New Year.
Earlier this week, as people across all disciplines of the studio readjusted to the daily grind, we took several hours to get together as a group and sync about what we accomplished last year and what we hope to accomplish this year. As we looked back at 2012, we called out the positives, talked extensively about the negatives, and eventually switched gears to everything that is and will be 2013. I’ll touch on some of the lattermost things shortly but first Frank would like a few minutes of your time. When he initially mentioned he wanted to write part of today’s Bulletin, I was all, “You want to do half of my work?” And he was all, “Yes, but only half. Don’t even try to pawn the whole thing off on me.” Then I was all, “Whatevs, dude. Just start writing already.” And he did.
From the face of Frank
2012 was supposed to be the end of the world. Instead, it was the beginning of ours. Halo 4, despite being the seventh or eighth game in the Halo series (depending on how you count them), was our first game. That is to say, our first-ever fully fledged title, built from the ground up creatively and technologically. So let me save you the trouble of trolling my statement: We have a lot to learn. We made a lot of mistakes. We can do better. And we know this, and we will. But I don’t want to spend the first moments of the year thinking about the negatives, because frankly, I am incredibly proud of both the team and the game that team created.
And for a first effort, it wasn’t half bad.
Stepping into Bungie’s oversized shoes would have been difficult, even for a well-established team. The challenge of wrangling that engine, that universe and that community was dizzying, even withering. Four years ago when our charter began, the challenge of starting the seed of a development team and then creating a sequel to Halo terrified us. A small group of us – names you know, like Kiki Wolfkill, Bonnie Ross, Kenneth Scott Josh Holmes and other characters who have moved on to different projects, different places – was tasked with doing something that was almost impossible.
But the team grew. And we learned. And we’re still learning. And the game arrived and it succeeded. Halo 4 is the best and fastest-selling Halo game in the series. It won critical acclaim. It won awards, from Best Graphics at the VGAs to Game of the Year at the Inside Gaming Awards. We altered the engine. We expanded the universe. We innovated in storytelling, technology, and even marketing. It wasn’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but by most objective criteria, it was a resounding success. So we know we have a lot to do. And we know we have a lot to learn. But we also know that we now have the capacity, the teamwork, the technology and the experience to do much better next time.
But my point is this: If you’d asked me three or four years ago if we thought we’d be where we are now, I would have looked doubtfully at you and said, “That’s a lot to ask.” But the team, through miracles of collaboration and individual contribution – and lakes of blood and tears – waded into the challenge with gusto and worked obscene hours with passion and verve to get it done. And now we’re beginning to really understand what “it” is.
I think that, perhaps perversely, rather than being looked at askance with doubt and cynicism, in some corners we’ve been given extra latitude – the only benefit of low expectations. And then the ability to exceed those expectations.
There are a ton of things we wish we'd done better: Features that didn’t make it into the final game. Glitches that emerged. Missteps made. DLC fiascos. Communication breakdowns. But there were things that went astonishingly well – the creation of a genuinely competitive AAA studio chief among them. A collection of talent and souls that can do something genuinely amazing on this and next-generation hardware. The overhaul of an amazing game engine – but one that really needed to be overhauled – and an amassed education on systems, people, code and audience that will stand us in great stead for the future.
Some of the high points of the last few years have been products as well as people – like Halo: Anniversary and Forward Unto Dawn. There have been amazing events – Halo Fest, the E3 debut, ComicCon – all blurring into a sea of faces, excitement, light, and noise.
But the most important aspect of our success, and our efforts now and in the future, has been this community – a demanding, imaginative, engaged, vocal, varied and intelligent swarm of personalities, groups and individuals, each with subtly to radically different interests in this vast and varied universe we’re charged with. That isn’t lip service, nor is it pandering. You guys pay for the privilege of playing our game, and you have every right to have a voice in its development.
It may not have ended up precisely the way you imagined – there are simply too many voices and perspectives to make all of the people happy, all of the time – but we think of the community as a direct and democratic extension of the team and, indeed, of the development process. A litmus test, a pH strip and a sounding board for ideas and innovations, you are the tension between the need for change and evolution, and the necessity of inertia.
Technically, this should be a retrospective, but it’s safe to say I’m more excited about the future than the past. Excited about what this team is already working on. Excited about what this team is capable of. And excited about the future of Halo. A future we want you to be a part of. A future we’re building for you.
A look at early 2013
While Frank’s words present the perfect note to end on, I’d like to share a little about the future he spoke of. One of the best parts about being blessed with the caretaker role of such an expansive universe is the opportunity for exploration, and books play an important role in that. Halo: Primordium came out in early 2012, and Halo: Silentium, the third novel in the Forerunner Saga written by Greg Bear, is slated to be released on March 19, 2013. Here is a little about it, for the fiction fans amongst you:
In Halo: Cryptum, Greg Bear began a three-book arc set in the era of the Forerunners, the ancient and enigmatic creators and builders of the Halos, which continued in Halo: Primordium. Now, in the last years of the Forerunner Empire, chaos rules. The Flood, a horrifying shape-changing parasite, has arrived in force, aided by unexpected allies. Internal strife within the ecumene has desperately weakened Forerunner defenses.
Only the Ur-Didact and the Librarian, a husband and wife pushed into desperate conflict, hold the keys to salvation. Facing the consequences of a profound tragedy, one of them must commit a great atrocity in order prevent an unmatched evil from dominating the entire universe.
As far as Halo 4 goes, we have some fun stuff planned for late January and beyond. After the Infinity Challenge concludes, regular Matchmaking updates will start up again (and that includes the return of the second half of Spartan Ops Season 1, which features brand new stories, missions and locations). It’s important to note the below scheduled is not finalized and could very well change, but as of right now, here is what we’re tentatively planning:
Week of 1/21
Spartan Ops Episode 6: Five new missions and an accompanying new CG cinematic.
"Forge Test" playlist (name not final): A rotational hopper featuring small Forge maps such as Relay. Help us test these maps by providing feedback and reporting bugs that will assist us in getting them ready for Matchmaking!
Specializations: Pioneer and Pathfinder Specializations unlocked for all players.
Week of 1/28
Spartan Ops Episode 7: Five new missions and an accompanying new CG cinematic.
Grifball playlist: A rotational hopper featuring everybody’s favorite virtual sport. Catch the disease!
Specializations: Engineer and Stalker Specializations unlocked for all players.
Week of 2/4
Spartan Ops Episode 8: Five new missions and an accompanying new CG cinematic.
Team Doubles playlist: A rotational hopper for those of you that like action of the 2 vs 2 variety.
Specializations: Rogue and Tracker Specializations unlocked for all players.
Matchmaking updates go live every Monday, and potential playlists for the month of February include both FFA and a new and improved version of Team Snipers. Late February will also bring both a Title Update and the Majestic Map Pack (which includes two small maps and one medium-sized map) to Halo 4 as well. Expect more information on all of those things next month.
While we’re excited about our upcoming Matchmaking updates, I’m also excited about some of the things that may be low on your priority list but are high on mine. Take communication, for instance. I believe we need to work harder to get you information. We communicate through Bulletins, blog articles, social media channels and our forums. While that may sound like a lot, there are still numerous people asking questions about information that is already out there. That means we need to work harder to make sure the information is where you are. We’ve already started this effort on the forums (which is the first and most important place we look for feedback). We launched a “News” section, where we provide links to all headline articles, press releases, and blog articles we publish on a daily basis. There are also threads in that section where you can suggest a topic (Battle Rifle bulletology, anyone?) or ask a question for a future Bulletin. We’ll continue working on our communication, and you can gage our efforts by keeping an eye on the following forum accounts:
Forum Team: General support
MM Systems Team: Matchmaking information
bs angel: General updates
Spartan Ops 6-10 trailer:
The Halo Bulletin 1.16.2013:
Open mouth, insert foot
Sometimes the opening of my mouth results in a near-endless stream of colorfully interwoven words that, if visible, could best be described as a verbal rainbow. Other times the second a sizable gap appears between my mandible and maxilla, one of my lowermost extremities fills the previously empty space in a post haste fashion. This week’s press event was the most recent location for the second occurrence. Let me explain…
Both yesterday and today we opened our studio’s doors to assorted members of the press. In preparation for this event, we transformed our play lab from a chaotic mess of developer kits, controllers and headsets to a slightly less chaotic mess of developer kits, controllers and headsets. As invitees began arriving by plane, train and automobile, we pulled out our carefully prepared builds and began showing them the second half of Spartan Ops Season 1 (which premieres next Monday) and the Majestic Map Pack (which is slated for a late February release).
It was during this event that a familiar face sauntered my way. Upon the extension of his hand, this scruffy-faced gentleman said, “Hi. Just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Adam Kovic.” To which I replied, “Adam! I know you! I think we met in Austin at RTX.” When he shook his head and indicated that my statement was incorrect, I began rattling off a long list of random video game conventions I’ve attended over the past few years while thinking about how he kinda looks like the guy who played Jack on Lost. As his head shaking continued, I ran out of events and realized, despite the familiarity of his face, that perhaps we had not had the pleasure of interacting in person.
When that light bulb finally went off, I attempted to recover by saying I must have thought that because I’ve watched so many of his Machinima videos. I rambled on, gazing adoringly into his eyes while adamantly claiming not to be a stalker. Then I noticed he wasn’t looking directly at me but instead slightly above my left shoulder. Perhaps mentioning that I watch his videos in a dark room with only his face and voice providing illumination was a mistake. While I may never know for sure, I can tell you this much: The embargo for the aforementioned event lifts Friday morning, so expect some of your favorite video game outlets and journalists to release brand new Spartan Ops footage and assets at that time.
To prepare you for the impending flurry of Spartan Ops-related information, I’ve assembled some fun facts about the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1. And by “I’ve assembled some fun facts”, I of course mean I had someone else assemble some fun facts, because we both know there’s nothing I love more (well, besides Adam Kovic, that is) than having other people do my work. Off we go!
Spartan Ops: New stories, and missions, and locations! Oh my!
The second half of Spartan Ops Season 1 returns on 1/21. That’s Monday, for those of you that don’t have a calendar in your immediate line of sight. To make sure you’re ready for the awesomeness that is episodes 6-10, we made a few different recap options of episodes 1-5. So, press play on the above (brand new!) video if you prefer electronically captured information, check out the Spartan Ops stats below if you have a thing for numbers, or take a gander at the text version farther down the page if you are fond of the written word. You can also do all three, if you choose. We won’t judge.
Stats summary of the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1
8,125,908 games were played in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
4,696,752 hours were spent playing Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
901,258,308 kills were earned in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
262,150,257 assists were earned in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
167,101,619 deaths were recorded in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
“Shootout In Valhalla” was the most played Mission in the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1.
How do you stack up against the following averages?
49.77 was the average number of kills earned per game in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
6.77 was the average number of assists earned per game in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
7.15 was the average number of deaths recorded per game in Spartan Ops Matchmaking in the first two months.
And now, I'm proud to present a fiction summary of the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1, penned by Brian Reed, franchise writer and author of Spartan Ops Season 1:
Episode 1 – The Spartans of Fireteam Majestic are welcomed aboard UNSC Infinity, and the battle for Requiem begins.
This was very much a “Welcome to Halo” for people who might discover these episodes through secondary channels, and who might be sci-fi fans, but never have played a Halo game before. But it also needed to be friendly to folks who had not yet played the Campaign, and were now experiencing a story set six months after its events. There’s a lot of table to set in this episode: Introducing five new Spartans and Roland, then establishing Palmer as a character, and laying down our mission statement for the coming weeks of gameplay and episodes. I still love the job Axis did, showing the Infinity coming out of slipspace and smashing through the Covenant carrier.
Episode 2 – An artifact, retrieved from Requiem’s surface, creates problems aboard Infinity.
This was the first time we showed that the events in the game would come back to the show. It was interesting to see fans slowly discover that the story weaved back and forth, and was built to be enjoyed by fans of just the game, just the show or both. Doctor Glassman was originally slated to die at the end of this episode. And as I started writing episode 3, he was still very much a dead man. But there was this problem with telling Jul’s plot in the later episodes and Glassman argued his way back into existence. It’s rare to have a character insist on the story going a particular way when you’ve planned it out so meticulously in a different direction, but Glassman did exactly that, and lived past episode 2.
Episode 3 – The infamous Catherine Halsey is brought aboard Infinity to solve the mystery Glassman could not.
The game came out and hardcore fans were excited to see Halsey in the prologue. Then they demanded to know where she went for the rest of the game. That was part of the fun of building Halo 4, seeding elements all the way through that weren’t designed to pay off for weeks. She was an interesting character for us, as she’s someone the hardcore fans knew from the novels, but was essentially a new character for most of the players who only knew the fiction of the games. As it turns out, she’s a heck of a lot of fun to have in the Halo Universe and the fans that are new to her are really enjoying what she brings to the story.
Episode 4 – Thorne and Halsey talk, we learn a bit more about his history… and that she has a secret friend.
Jul ‘Mdama comes onto the stage here. Again, he’s a character the hardcore fiction fans know, but is completely new to gamers. But he’s also another one of those seeds we plant in the game that doesn’t sprout until much later. It’s almost impossible to spot the first time, though (intentionally, by the way), since you’re sort of really paying attention to everything else going on in the world, but
when Didact wakes up and declares “so fades the great harvest of my betrayal,” you see the Elites all falling to one knee – including Jul ‘Mdama, who shouts “Didact!”
Episode 5 – Majestic brings home a Promethean’s “brain” and discovers it is something else altogether. Halsey is caught red handed talking to Jul, and Thorne takes the same trip as Glassman.
The “autopsy” scene in this episode was one of the first scenes we knew we needed in the Infinity story. We knew we wanted to do this bit even before we knew the artifact existed, or were 100% sure Halsey would be part of this story. The flip side of that is Gek, Jul’s Lieutenant who comes back in a big way starting in episode 6. I had an entire subplot for Gek that we cut because, while fun, it just didn’t fit in the shape of the episodes. But I knew every beat of his story before I knew Halsey was going to be so important to us. Who knows, maybe he’ll show up in another story someday and you’ll finally learn how he lost that eye and why he hates Spartans so very, very much.
Episode 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – I’m not going to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the first half of the season was a warm up. As I mentioned in the Episode 1 notes, we had a lot of set up to do to get this corner of the Halo universe up to speed. And now that it’s really moving? Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Hints of what’s to come: Death, disfigurement, betrayal and… oh, I’ve said too much already (and that’s just the humans I’m talking about)!
So we provided a video, stats, and text summary of the first half of Spartan Ops Season 1. I just noticed images are glaringly absent from the recap thus far, though, so please accept the following. It’s worth noting that it’s from episode 6 and not the first half of the season. Hopefully that will be acceptable to you (Yes, we’re teases. But you probably already knew that).
Next Week's Matchmaking Playlist Update
We have quite the Matchmaking playlist update planned for next week! Here to talk about the specifics of what will soon be greeting you upon sign-in is our Matchmaking Systems Team (Bravo in particular, in case you were wondering).
Week of 1/21:
On Monday, Spartan Ops returns with Episode 6, which will contain five new Spartan Ops missions. Also premiering is our “Community Forge Test” playlist, which introduces community-made Forge maps into a brand new Matchmaking playlist. These maps have been selected with the assistance of the Community Cartographers as the first batch of community favorites, and this hopper allows you to play a variety of 4 vs. 4 game types, to report bugs and provide feedback that will be reviewed by the Matchmaking Systems Team.
Once the playlist is live, you may report bugs to the Community Cartographers by posting in this thread: Community Forge Test Bug Reporting Thread
We’ll provide the complete list of maps this weekend in the Matchmaking section of our forums. Once the playlist is live, we’ll create and maintain individual threads for each map. The Matchmaking Systems Team will actively monitor these threads throughout the week and use your feedback to determine which maps will be added to Matchmaking. We hope you’re as excited as we are about the Community Forge Test playlist!
Next week’s update will also include the unlocking of two new Specializations for all Halo 4 players: Pioneer and Pathfinder.
Pioneer: Spartan optimization for deployment into uncharted, hostile territory (such as uncolonized worlds or Forerunner constructs like Requiem) for the purpose of gathering and relaying information. The Fast Track armor mod allows Spartans to gain more experiential data from each encounter, effectively ranking up more quickly during the process.
Pathfinder: Spartan optimization for deep, unconventional deployment within unknown enemy territory and with little to no assistance from command. The Gunner armor mod decreases the time of weapon overheat when occupying a vehicle weapon position, and increases Spartan speed while carrying a detached turret.
As always, when you level up through these dedicated paths, you will unlock armor sets, emblems, visor colors, weapon and armor skins, and armor mods which provide even more options to customize your Spartan-IV to fit your preferred role on the battlefield. Good luck advancing through these new Specializations!
As you likely know, the Infinity Challenge online finals will be coming to a close in a few days, and competitors are fiercely battling it out for dozens of prizes across all three tiers. The ultimate prize is a UNSC-themed Ford F150 SVT Raptor, and part 2 of our “Making of the UNSC Raptor” series will be released tomorrow here on Halo Waypoint. Look for it then! Special note to all Infinity Challenge participants that any competitor found or suspected to be cheating, stat padding or involved in any collusion will be removed from the leaderboards and tournament without any notice.
To switch gears ever so slightly, we’re sad to report that the service end-date for Halo 2 PC Multiplayer will be February 15, 2013. We’ve been monitoring the population for months, and it’s been peaking consistently at approximately 20 players or less. Those that own this game can continue to enjoy Multiplayer over LAN after that date; however our network services will be turned off at that time. We love you, Halo 2 PC, and you will live forever in our hearts.
Community Question (NEW!)
Sometimes you have questions, and sometimes we have answers. This is one of those weeks!
From o Nondual o: Any new news about when the File Share system will become available?
Yes! We have updates about two things we’re currently working on in regard to the Halo 4 File Share.
• In-game search: We expect the in-game search feature to come online at the end of January (the 29th specifically).
• Web File Share: The Halo 4 File Share is coming to the web version of Halo Waypoint in late February.
For a recap about its current state of functionality, please refer to the 12.12.12 edition of the Halo Bulletin. We know many people are anxiously awaiting both things, and we’ll confirm their availability once they officially come online.
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