Halo 4’s Promethean Weapons
Lately we’ve been focusing on the weapons in Halo 4. We’ve covered both the UNSC and Covenant arsenals, and today we are featuring the Forerunner side of things. In total, there are seven Forerunner weapons, including the Pulse Grenade. One of the best components of Halo has always been the combat sandbox, so it was both scary and challenging to create a whole new suite of weapons from scratch that were interesting, unique and balanced with the rest of the offerings.
Before settling on the final list, the team made concepts for approximately two hundred weapons. One of the biggest struggles was figuring out the high level vision and what made these alien weapons different from the Covenant and Brute weapons seen in past games. The vision we had for the Forerunner weapons was that they should feel technologically superior while still maintaining mechanical elements that made them visceral and relatable. We wanted them to evoke a sense of wonder and awe in the hands of players, similar to how you feel when you encounter Forerunner structures in the game. We also wanted them to be adaptive – both to the user and with regard to how they can be used.
The Scattershot was the first Forerunner weapon where everything started to click. Originally codenamed the “Spread Gun”, the Scattershot started off life as a rapid-fire shotgun that fired off a barrage of five projectiles in a symmetrical diamond pattern. The team started experimenting with having the weapon form around the player using it. We tried a couple different things, but ultimately, the concept of having the weapon assemble upon pick-up really resonated with the team. It also helped solve some other design issues we had around the drastically different Forerunner character models and how they would utilize the same guns that the player would eventually be able to use. For example, in the case of the Scattershot, the gun forms slightly differently to accommodate the Knight arms in that it actually attaches to the end of their forearm. We also started experimenting with adding more grounded elements to the weapons so that there was a unique juxtaposition of “super sci-fi futuristic” with components that were relatable to modern day weaponry. In the case of the Scattershot, that included trying out a hinge-action reloading animation and using more traditional individual cartridges that mimic how a traditional shotgun works.
On the gameplay side, we took a high level abstract concept of “adaptive weaponry”, considered how we could apply that to the gameplay itself, and started posing the question, “How can we extend the functionality of a shotgun and give it some added gameplay depth?” This is ultimately what led to the bouncing projectiles. In addition to functioning like a normal shotgun, it also had the expanded capability of allowing players to ricochet shots in tight spaces and use the weapon in a way that is distinct from the UNSC shotgun. You can see this theme infused in some of the other Forerunner weapons as well – the Bolt Shot and LightRifle both have dual firing modes, and the Pulse Grenade can be used tactically in several different ways.
The final component that really helped pull everything together with the Forerunner weapon subset was the work that the Audio and Visual FX teams did. We had a concept of “hard light” tech that powered the Forerunner weapons, but this meant different things to different members of the team. Originally, this concept was meant to be used as a kick-off point for the projectiles themselves but as the FX guys played around with it more, they came up with things like the animating light panels on the sides of guns. The Scattershot was pretty impressive prior to this – it had the bouncing projectiles, the really cool animations on the gun, and the satisfying gameplay, but the light panels really pulled everything together and made it stand out that much more from the other weapons. The other big “a-ha” moment involved the incineration effect that was being developed for the Knights death effect. We started integrating a similar effect into the weapon gameplay to add one final piece of flair, and that is a large part of what makes the Scattershot, Binary Rifle, and Incineration Cannon so satisfying to use.
Chris King (Lead Sandbox Designer), David Ellis (Spartan Ops Designer), and Christopher Blohm (Senior Sandbox Designer), along with Josh Holmes, Alyson Szymanski, Humberto Castaneda, Jeremy Patenaude, Brad Welch, Vic DeLeon, Paul Featherstone, Ali Zandi, Bill Clark, Kynan Pearson, Robert Pearsall, Chase Thompson, Jayce Diaz, Annie Wright, Leonard Holman, Sam Wolpert, and Tom Mathews joined me to share their thoughts about this particular subset of weapons. The Forerunners utilize the following base weapons:
DESIGNATION: Z-110 Directed Energy Pistol/Exotic
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 10
Forerunner particle dilator used for both its precision at mid-range and its burst functionality when up close.
David - It’s taken a while for me to completely wrap my head around all the combat options the Boltshot provides, but I think I’m finally there. In fact, for non-vehicle maps it’s pretty much my go-to secondary weapon at this moment in time. Timing the bolt blast effectively sets the average player apart from someone who will gladly wreck your face with a pistol. The animations in particular help to set this weapon apart as a beast. The first time you pick it up, your Spartan’s entire arm convulses as if you’re not sure if your Mjolnir will be able to contain all the energy packed into this tiny weapon of destruction.
Chris B. - This is a fascinating secondary weapon. With two fire modes, it gives you options… and we all need options. I rate it slightly under the Magnum when firing normally. The beauty comes when you figure in the charged shotgun-like blast. For players who enjoy the corner fight or lurk-about it can be a killer. Also on some maps, like Adrift, it can be used to great effect. I should say great effect in the right hands. It takes some skill and time to get a feel for the optimum range and the timing, but it is extremely satisfying to disintegrate a hard charging enemy that dismisses your pistol.
Chris K. - This gun has a bit of a learning curve on it but once you figure it out, it’s a ton of fun. It features two firing modes (similar to a Plasma Pistol). The primary firing mode does headshots and fires extremely fast. However, it doesn’t have a scope and each individual shot is relatively weak. This makes it a great option for playing cleanup on enemies up close. The secondary firing mode is where things get really interesting. If you hold the trigger down, four flaps on the gun flip open and it does a powerful charge shot that functions like a shotgun blast. The blast is extremely powerful but it is also hard to pull off as you will need to learn the timing as you can’t hold the trigger down indefinitely (much like the Railgun, it will eventually auto-fire). It’s also only effective at extremely close ranges. I think of all the Forerunner weapons, this one has the coolest animations of the bunch (and that’s saying something, as they are all pretty cool). The reload and charge-up animations are totally rad!
Paul (Assistant Director of Photography) - The Boltshot has become my go-to sidearm in MP because of the double functionality of the charge blast. Nailing someone coming around the corner with a one-shot kill is always satisfying.
Sam (Software Development Engineer) - I love the Boltshot because of its secondary fire mode. It's the ultimate risk/reward trade-off: you have to start charging at exactly the right time or the blast will fire before your enemy is at point-blank range. Get your timing right, though, and this handy little Forerunner pistol will send your opponents straight to deathcam with a single shot. Unleashing the Boltshot on an unsuspecting player coming around a corner is immensely satisfying. It's also a great weapon to pair with weapons that are more effective at longer ranges, like the BR, DMR, and LightRifle. Charging opponents wielding short-range weapons got you down? Don't worry, a couple of encounters with your trusty Boltshot will make them think twice about coming near you, making it that much easier to pick them off with a series of well-aimed headshots from your rifle of choice.
DESIGNATION: Z-130 Directed Energy Automatic Weapon
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 48
Fully automatic Forerunner infantry weapon, firing bolts of hard light in rapidly accelerating succession.
Chris B. - People say “spray and pray”. I say, in the right situations, feather the trigger and dance on the corpses. On tight maps, one of my favorite loadouts is the Firepower package with a DMR and Suppressor (DMR for the heavy lifting and the Suppressor for the CQB and cleaning up). Mid-range combat with a Suppressor, just say no. Seriously.
David - At first glance, the Suppressor might seem like a less accurate cousin to the AR, and you might not be entirely wrong in that initial assessment. However, this Forerunner SMG has a special place in my heart as it just plain shreds enemy Knights at close quarters. As Chris said, this weapon should only be used at closer ranges, but if you’re smart about positioning your Spartan relative to sightlines and geo, you will be rewarded.
Chris K. - If you like close-quarters combat in tight spaces, this is the gun for you! Individual shots are relatively weak, but it more than makes up for it with sheer brute force. It features an enormous clip (48 bullets) and the fastest firing rate of any of the fully-auto primary weapons (roughly 150% faster firing than the AR or Storm Rifle). The projectiles slow down over time so to be effective, you really need to use it like an SMG, although you can still psychologically overwhelm enemies at range with a barrage of projectiles. I find myself always rolling with the Suppressor on Adrift as the tight hallways really favor the strengths of the gun. It’s oh-so-satisfying to have someone come around a corner and be able to unload half a clip into them before they even realize what hit them.
Alyson (Producer) - The suppressor has slowly won me over and become my favorite Promethean weapon. It feels good, sounds good, and breaking a Knight’s shield just before finishing him off or the popping death of a Watcher is a satisfying kill.
Annie (Editor) - There are players who operate like armored ninjas with guns: Swift, precise and most of all stealthy. This gun is not for those people. This gun is for players like me, whose strategy (if I can be said to have one) is more along the lines of “Expect to die, shoot anything that moves, and try to take as many of those moving things with me when I go”. I’ve always preferred closer combat to long-range attacks, and the Suppressor allows me to get fairly near and still cover a pretty decent area without sacrificing too much in the way of power. Combine with the Ammo Upgrade to put your carrying capacity over the top and Shield Package to make up for lack of cover if you want to experiment with the Suppressor on larger maps, and you’re in pretty decent shape!
Brad (Lead Designer) - At very close range, the Suppressor lays down the smack far more quickly than either the AR or Storm Rifle. It's a great weapon in maps such as Adrift where you have plenty of cover and corners. If you play the ambush game or use cover to quickly close distance, you can be devastating with it. The Suppressor's effective range drops off quickly, so you don't want to get caught in the open or a long hallway with it. Pair that sucker with some form of precision weaponry - a Magnum or use the Firepower Tactical Package to get a second precision primary.
DESIGNATION: Z-180 Close Combat Rifle/Asymmetric Engagement Mitigator
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 5
Close-combat weapon with a deadly blast at short-range and a versatile ricochet effect against hard surfaces.
David - The Scattershot is a perfect example of the combined efforts of the sandbox designer plus the animation, art, and sound teams really creating a showpiece weapon. I think it’s been mentioned before, but the Scattershot (in its current incarnation) helped the team for a cohesive vision about the Forerunner weapons in general. Much like the UNSC shotgun, it’s absolutely satisfying to blast away foe after foe in close quarter encounters. Word of warning though: Because of the lightshow ignited with every trigger pull, this weapon is more difficult to conceal than its human-themed counterpart.
Chris B. - Not your Dad’s UNSC Shotgun. It’s not as straight of a beast as the raw power of the human tech, but it gives you a little more tactical flexibility. I find its range slightly extended from that of the a shotgun and occasionally will try to bank shots with the higher ROF of the Scattershot. Plus… disintegration.
Chris K. - By now, I’m sure most people are pretty familiar with this one. It’s a Forerunner shotgun, with ricocheting bullets that allow for really interesting tactics in tight spaces. Oh, and if you blast a guy up close, you get that totally sweet Forerunner incineration effect. This gun is definitely in my top three favorite power weapons. The FX, the animations, and it’s just so satisfying to fire. If you use it correctly, you can go on an absolute terror. One pro-tip – I see some people try to use this from longer distances than they should. Don’t be fooled by the projectiles; this weapon is lethal up close but you won’t have much luck starting a dual against a DMR player 100’ away.
Vic (Lead Mission Artist) - I love the Scattershot because it’s so much freaking fun to use. I can’t compare it to any other weapon. You can aim for your target like most weapons, which is no doubt how you will fire it for the first time like I did, but once I understood the projectiles and how they ricochet off hard surfaces (the non-meat-made surfaces), I started using it more strategically – aiming at floors, walls and ceilings. I’ve been able to bounce shots off corners and nail players, taking out shields then going in for the death blow. (It’s true, I have been known to shriek wildly when I get one of these in a game).
Josh (Creative Director) - The Scattershot is what would happen if a shotgun and a roman candle made deadly babies. Essentially a futuristic shotgun that explodes with the heat of a miniature sun, the Scattershot will disintegrate anyone that takes the full brunt of its attack. As an added bonus, you can bounce projectiles off surfaces, making bank shot kills utterly possible.
Kynan (Lead Multiplayer Level Design) - I like the Scattershot because Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww… Brrrrauwwww!!
DESIGNATION: Z-250 Directed Energy Engagement Weapon
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 36
Precision weapon that uses particle acceleration to fire beams of hard light for mid-range to long-range combat.
David - Best of both worlds, master of subtlety, these are terms that I just wrote to describe the LightRifle. Neither quite captures the complexity of this piece of kit. I find both firing modes are a tiny bit less forgiving than the DMR and BR, but definitely put in the time to master the subtle idiosyncrasies of the LR. Your efforts will be rewarded.
Chris B. - Of the rifle class, the LR offers a bit more tactical options for the player (I’m sensing a theme here). It gives you the best of the BR and the DMR, depending on if you are scoped. Don’t be thrown off by the distinctive sound or the scope; use it to its strengths in all encounters, and you will be happy.
Chris K. - The LightRifle is a long-range semi-auto precision rifle. It features a 3x zoom, hitscan projectiles that do headshots, but, most importantly, it features two firing modes. The best way to think of it is a hybrid of the BR and DMR. When firing from the hip, it fires in three-round bursts, similar to a BR. Once the player zooms however, the gun switches over to a more powerful firing mode and combines the normal three projectiles into a singular shot. When zoomed, the LightRifle can kill a Spartan in four shots (w/headshot). That being said, there are still tradeoffs here that make it balanced in line with the other semi-auto weapons. It fires slightly slower when zoomed, and it’s just a smidge less viable from the hip versus the other stuff. Overall, this is a formidable weapon and has developed a cult following internally at 343.
Josh (Creative Director) - The Light Rifle provides the ultimate in versatility when it comes to a mid-to-long range precision weapon. In many ways, it's a combination of the BR and DMR. It's a little slower to transition into zoom compared to the BR and DMR, and you give up some additional situational awareness, but the sound alone is enough to strike fear into the heart of your opponent.
DESIGNATION: Z-750 Special Application Sniper Rifle
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 2
Extreme-range sniper rifle, designed to take down even heavily armored infantry with a single shot.
David - Poo-inducing. That’s how I describe the gut-clenching terror shuddering through my body every time I see the telltale laser sight of the Binary Rifle projecting across the map. Unlike other sniper rifles, this beastly harbinger of death is a one-hit kill rifle. ONE HIT. It’s a pretty rare ordnance drop and in Matchmaking, it doesn’t carry much ammo. But if you see the HUD marker announcing its arrival on the battlefield, RUN. Either towards the Binary Rifle in a mad, Hunger Games-like scramble, or away as fast as possible in the hopes that person wielding this weapon has difficulties tracking targets over extreme distances.
Chris B. - Boss. That’s really it (This gun rules. It has a hefty tell, but when your enemies are nothing more than carbon blowing away on the wind, why do you care?).
Chris K. - This gun is absolutely devastating! When someone manages to get one of these in MP, it’s a game changer. At its core, it’s a Forerunner sniper rifle. Unlike the other sniper weapons in the game, you don’t necessarily have to get a headshot though to score a kill. If you hit a Spartan anywhere, they will quickly incinerate from the point of impact in a spectacular fashion. That being said, there are some significant tradeoffs in using this weapon. For starters, it has a clip size of two, meaning you will need to reload more often than you will with the other sniper rifles. In addition, it is extremely inaccurate when shooting from the hip (think shotgun-sized firing cone, meaning you shouldn’t expect to have much luck no-scoping unless you are in someone’s face). And finally, when scoped, several laser sights on the gun are enabled that act as a tell to opposing players (think a more in-your-face version of the Splaser tell). I love the way this gun instantly changes the dynamic in MP, though. When someone gets one and scopes it and you see the lasers aiming towards you, it’s time to stop what you are doing and get to cover pronto!
Humberto (Producer) - I absolutely love disintegrating enemies with the Binary Rifle, which is essentially the Forerunner sniper weapon. Watch out for Crawlers peeking out with that ominous red light, though. All they need is an instant and then… ZAP! Total protonic reversal.
Josh (Creative Director) - Like the name implies, the Binary Rifle is a one-shot instakill when you hit anywhere on your opponent's body. Nothing is more satisfying than zooming in and nailing an opponent from across the map, and watching as they are immediately incinerated from the point of impact.
Chase (Audio) - I love watching someone derez after a headshot with the Binary Rifle. That weapon just feels so dangerous and powerful, and sounds so huge that I can’t resist picking it up every time I see one!
Jeremy (Franchise Writer) - This weapon is no friggin’ joke. Last week, we were playing Regicide on an unannounced map, which is a large symmetrical map that fans will unquestionably dig – evergreen, plenty hilly, and Forerunnerlicious. Generally speaking, you don’t play Regicide on maps this large, but we were doing it, and it was AWESOME. At any rate, I had been trading the King spot with one other player the entire match, and it looked like he was going to pull away with it because time was running out and he had just climbed into a vehicle that is a straight-up death dealer. He was about to square-off against three other players who were rushing him with small arms (not sure what they were thinking). They didn’t have a chance, it was a certain win for him... until an ordnance drop fell from the sky: The Binary Rifle! I raced to it, drew it up and fired on two of the other players, instantly turning them into ash. I reloaded, fired on the third for another instant kill, and then fired on my nemesis to secure the victory. And his -Yoink!- exploded into a million pieces. Such a crazy ending to such a crazy match.
Jayce (Spartan Ops Designer) - The Binary Rifle, or Bi-Ri as it’s affectionately called, is my favorite Promethean weapon hands-down. It’s incredibly powerful in the right hands (or wrong hands, if you’ve come up against a Knight Ranger). The trade-off here is the two-shot ammo capacity, but two shots are all you really need. If you’re good, an Elite will go down in one hit, while a Knight typically takes two. Just don’t miss.
Ali (Systems Designer) - The Binary Rifle is a great way to spear through multiple Spartans with one shot. It’s quite interesting because it will give away your position when you are zoomed in as a counter balance to its lethality. You can also try to use it like a shotgun, which is quite BAUS!
Robert (Test) - Lift the Binary Rifle to your eye, double zoom-in on a Promethean Knight, reticle between his eyes and pull the trigger to feel the WHUMP of the energy leave the weapon as he derezzes.
Kynan (Lead Multiplayer Level Design) - The Binary Rifle is my favorite Halo power weapon ever. It’s like Christmas every time you pick it up. A one-hit kill no matter where you hit an enemy. It’s sooo good when you just barely clip someone’s foot and then watch as they fragment into thousands of angry burning embers. I also love that even though it’s incredibly powerful, when someone is zoomed in and looking to take a shot, you can see a laser leading to everything they are looking at. Points you right to where they are.
DESIGNATION: Weapon/Anti-Materiel Z-390 High-Explosive Munitions Rifle
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 1
Powerful shoulder-mounted weapon that launches highly charged particles at a target with explosive results.
David - I love watching someone use the Incineration cannon for the first time, as it often ends in hilarity and self-immolation. The submunitions offer a new wrinkle to the concept of the traditional “rocket launcher” weapon class. You definitely want to make sure you keep your distance from your intended target in as many situations as possible, but I try to use the particular personality of this weapon to my advantage. Enemy camping around the corner? Well, fire your main shot as close as possible and watch the submuntions bounce and explode right on top of your unsuspecting foe. Campaign pro tip: Beware the Incinerator-wielding Knight Commanders. They are deadly. You cannot outgun them so you’re required to outthink them.
Chris B. - Devastating, and at times fickle. The main round is slightly less deadly than the UNSC Rocket Launcher but also MIRVs into four submunitions. These subs can catch the people that try to jump the main round, as they can bounce out and hit people on the edge of the area-of-effect that survived the main, and they can break your heart occasionally by missing entirely. With great power comes great heartbreak (or something like that). It’s a fun weapon to use in all cases, especially against vehicles and groups of enemies. Try shooting it at a low ceiling above an enemy sometime.
Chris K. - This is another Forerunner Weapon that has the ability to incinerate opponents. This can lead to especially impressive multi-kills given the large area-of-effect/submunitions. Not too long ago, I was able to kill four enemies with one shot, and watching them all dissolve in front of me was about as satisfying as it gets. Another cool moment I witnessed with this one involved a teammate firing it near a speeding Warthog with three enemy passengers, all of which were killed and starting dissolving while seated in the ‘Hog. Rad! Worth noting here, this weapon has an especially long reload time; you have to reload between every shot, and the projectile itself is fairly slow. This means you really need to connect with your shot, or you will be at a disadvantage to your opponents.
Bill (Software Development Engineer) - My favorite weapon is the Incineration Cannon. Even just the initial warhead is punchy and powerful. When you add in the chaos of the submunitions flying around, it’s a recipe for mayhem and destruction. The fact that whoever you just wrecked is dissolving into a million glowy bits is the icing on the cake. The awesome reloading effects as you prepare for another shot is the cherry on top.
Leonard (UI Engineer) - You just gotta love the Incineration Cannon; it’s like a Rocket Launcher that spawns baby Promethean bombs. It’s a pain in the ass when your enemy has one aimed at you since you know you’ll likely turn into Promethean fairy dust. However, when the tables are turned and you’ve got one of these bad boys slung on your shoulder, you know whoever you see next is pretty much dead. Another cool thing about this gun is, if the initial hit doesn’t kill, the splash damage will likely finish what your aim couldn’t, plus it will likely take out anyone or anything near it! The only real drawbacks are the reload speed and that you’ll likely shoot your eye out if you’re not careful... splash damage works both ways.
Sam (Software Development Engineer) - Apparently, the Forerunners don't mess around when it comes to blowing stuff up. The Incineration Cannon is probably my favorite weapon in the game. It's like the Rocket Launcher, if the Rocket Launcher fired an oscillating cluster of energy that disintegrated any unfortunate soul it came into contact with. Rockets explode on impact; on impact, the projectile fired by the Incineration Cannon divides into *more* packets of energy that *also* disintegrate anyone unlucky enough to be in the way. Explosions are awesome. Fountains of disintegration are awesomer.
Tom (Software Development Engineer) - This thing is a beast. If you see it pop up on your HUD, get ready with your grenades as you close distance because there’s going to be another few Spartans making a beeline for it. Once you have this beauty in your hands, aim carefully because you have to reload after each shot. But it’s so very, very worth it: the gentle pull of the trigger sends out a number of projectiles weaving towards your foe. Upon impact, these projectiles then blossom out from the initial detonation into a cascade of secondary explosions. Nothing feels better than slamming a fresh round into the cannon while watching three or four of your enemies disintegrate into electronic dust.
DESIGNATION: Z-040 Attenuation Field Generator/Localized
MANUFACTURER: Unknown/Forerunner Origin
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: N/A
A field-effect-generating attenuation device used to overload both simple and complex power networks, forcing them temporarily offline.
David - The Pulse Grenade is an odd beast. It’s extremely powerful in the right hands, but it requires you to use it differently from other Halo grenades. I find it be most useful as an anti-vehicle or area-ofdenial weapon.
Chris B. - The Pulse Grenade adds a lot to the dynamic of the battlefield. It does constant damage for the life of the sphere, but you should be most concerned about the blast when the sphere forms and when it collapses. Since it doesn’t bounce, you can place it accurately. Try throwing at a person’s feet for a huge hit on their shields, or throw it behind them and force them back into it. Or, if you need to run for your life, throw it down and go. Enemies rarely will charge through it, and the screen shake can throw off that final killing shot. Remember, you only get one with a normal loadout, but it can change the battlefield, so don’t shy away from its use.
Chris K. - Functionally, this is somewhat similar to the Halo 3 Power Drain. It’s a bit different from the other grenades in that it doesn’t bounce off surfaces; instead it will stick to the ground/walls and then pop out and detonate a split-second later. This means you can be a bit more precise with it than you can with the frag or sticky ‘nades. It also makes for some interesting ambush options when you consider the bounce (for example, toss it above the ceiling in front of a door way to surprise someone before they run through). It’s great for area-of-denial and is a favorite of mine for objective-based MP modes. As mentioned above, one significant tradeoff with the Pulse Grenade is that you only get one grenade by default in MP (two w/the Grenadier Armor Mod).
If you have missed the sweet sounds of David Ellis whispering in your ear hole, you should have him over more often. If you have missed his velvet voice coming out of your favorite electronic device, keep reading because he has a brand new episode of the Sparkast ready for your perusal, the specifics of which are below.
Join David Ellis, Frank O’Connor, Josh Holmes, Chris King and Chris Blohm as they discuss the combat sandbox in Halo 4. Now that all three weapon videos have been released, they can finally talk freely about the weapons, armor abilities, and armor mods (and most of the vehicles) that you’ll have at your fingertips, come November 6. This episode is primarily geared for those of you that enjoy hearing about the nuts and bolts of game development.
Below is the usual collection of links to download this episode and subscribe to the 343 Sparkast (so you can get every episode delivered automatically) through your favorite aggregator. Get to clicking, and to listening.
40 days… and counting
Typically I start the Bulletin with a short story about something interesting that happened at the studio recently, or a high level view of where we’re at with the game. This week I decided to put that part at the end. Why, you ask? Because I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in what I feel compelled to talk about this week. Emotions have been running high, and while this may seem more appropriate for a week or two before launch, this is what we’re feeling right now, so I’m going to talk about it today, whether it makes sense calendar-wise or not.
Making a video game is a long and arduous journey, and our experience has been just that. We’ve had extreme highs and extreme lows, some of which you’ve witnessed, others of which have happened behind closed doors. With this journey in particular though, our path has been unique, and while we work on getting Halo 4 out the door, there is an undercurrent of emotion that many of us have been struggling to keep under wraps.
Some would say it’s the stress of crunch. Others would say it’s the lack of sleep. But those who stop and think about it (I mean really stop and think about it) realize we will never have this particular moment again. Yes, we will make more games. Yes, we will have more team-bonding moments. However, this is the only time we will climb this particular mountain, and we have the scars and hearts to prove it.
Halo 4 is the first full game we will ship, and through this process, we learned how to work together.
We learned how to be a team.
343 Industries is comprised of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Not a day goes by that I’m not amazed at something one of my coworkers makes. Whether it’s a map, an animation, a song or part of the story, everybody behind these walls has touched some part of Halo 4 and turned it into something magical.
Learning to work together has not been easy. We have duked it out over both the smallest and most significant of details. When you have a few hundred people that are extremely passionate about what they’re doing, there are arguments, heated debates and verbal exchanges you wish you could take back.
Through this process that brought so many of us from different backgrounds under the same roof, we slowly became a team. We figured out when to fight, when to back down, how to compromise and how to make the decisions that were best for the game. It took us months to get to this point, but now as we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor, we, for the first time, are realizing just how far we’ve come.
The challenges we’ve faced have been numerous. Taking over a franchise from one of the most beloved developers in video game history is no easy feat. Every single move we make, big or small, is put under the microscope by both the community and the press. We’ve made mistakes, and we’ll continue to make them, despite not always being granted the same level of forgiveness as others. And you know what? We’re okay with that. We understand the scrutiny, and it’s that scrutiny and our determination to keep our end of the bargain that have pushed us to deliver not what we’re capable of as individuals, but what we have the potential to do as a team.
As a studio, we will never go through this again. This isn’t about shipping our first title. This isn’t about making Halo 4 the best it can be. This is about a group of individuals learning to work together, and pushing each other in ways we never thought possible to create something that we hope will be truly special.
We are almost done with Halo 4. We are so close we can taste it. Many of us have sacrificed time with our families, time with our significant others and time with our friends to deliver on a promise we made to you. When we said we would take care of the Halo franchise, we knew we had big shoes to fill. Bungie created a legacy, something so powerful and so special, that it ultimately drove each and every one of us to work here. We knew making this game wouldn’t be easy, and it hasn’t been. However, if you enjoy the end result, everything will be worth it.
That is what we’re thinking about right now. The blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into this project, and what you, the very person we’ve made it for, will think of it.
While we count down the days to November 6, we’ll continue riding this emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes reflective, oftentimes terrified, occasionally excited, but always hopeful.
40 days… and counting.
And a Promethean weapon wallpaper
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Thread: The Official Halo 4 Thread
Here, only $42 for 12 months. Don't go and get shafted in a store by paying over $80AUD.Gaming on all platforms right now.
I must have Halo 4 naw!Gaming on all platforms right now.
Kwes likes this post
‘Halo 4 Limited Edition’ already selling out, Amazon the first to go dry
Gamestop weeks ago and it's obviously going to be more was the date of release nears.
It's a Halo game done right, it's expected.
It’s October, over the next few months all of the titles that gamers have been waiting for will finally arrive. On the top of that list for many Xbox 360 players is the FPS title ‘Halo 4′.
With just over a month to go before the release of ‘Halo 4′, 343 Industries and Microsoft are gearing up for one of the biggest launches of this year. The ‘Limited Edition’ of Halo 4 was announced earlier in the year, and Amazon seems to have already run out of their initial stock. The MSRP of the edition is $99.99 and it comes with very fancy extras and free DLC to make your Halo experience complete.
The Limited Edition includes access to nine maps in total, three future competitive multiplayer map packs, each including three locations, available for download post-launch on Xbox LIVE.
The bonus digital content that will be available through Xbox LIVE includes; 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 (requires Xbox LIVE Gold Membership that is sold separately).
As for Specializations, players will Receive early access to six Specializations, available at launch on Xbox LIVE, and 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.
Also included is ‘The Special Edition of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn’, which 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.
The UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet includes a Spartan armor customization schematic, information about UNSC weapons, and an introduction to the massive ship UNSC Infinity.
Other retailers still have the Limited Edition (as of when this article was posted) but you may not want to wait for the last minute before securing yours.Gaming on all platforms right now.
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Looks like people will never learn their lesson with tacky Collector EditiionsTrophy-licious!
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Just the regular for me. I dont bother with any special editions. Games are expensive enough already.
Tea bagging the enemy in Halo fashion.
Halo ftw in 2012.Gaming on all platforms right now.
The Halo Bulletin 10/3/2012
Halo 4 goes gold
486 days ago at E3 2011, we introduced Halo 4 to the world, lifting the veil on our closely-guarded secret with a heart-pounding trailer featuring the return of the Master Chief.*
Exactly 365 days later, at E3 2012, we gave media and fans alike their first true taste of the game with a Campaign demo and never-before-seen enemy face. Er, I mean race.
Now the countdown really begins, because Halo 4 launches in a mere 34 days. I measure time in Halo Bulletins and according to my calendar, there are only five left – one of which is this one. Let’s just say the number of topics still left to discuss when compared to the number of Bulletins slated to be published before launch do not match up.
Yes, there’s still a lot you don’t know. What, you didn’t think we’d tell you everything, did you?...
Speaking of things you may not know, Halo 4 recently went gold (!!1!one!!1!). Bonnie Ross, General Manager of 343 Industries to some and Lady Boss to others, wrote up her thoughts about both that particular milestone and also the evolution of our studio. You’ll get to read her part-insightful, part-reflective words later in this Bulletin but for now, how about we take a deep dive into a topic we haven’t had a chance to properly discuss yet, like Halo 4’s brand new Flood mode?
Flood is the spiritual successor to Infection, a fan-favorite game type from Halo 3 and Reach. Our goal was to recreate it and push the mode to be new and different from previous versions. As both War Games and Spartan Ops fit within the fiction of the UNSC Infinity, we wanted to use Halo fiction in this mode too, which led to us to create the Flood form in Multiplayer. Flood-converted humans are much faster and focus on melee attacks, so they were a natural fit for Infection’s successor.
Halo 4’s Flood mode is a round-based, ten-player game. It is a true asymmetric experience with the added twist of dynamic teams; this really changes things up as each game is different, especially in the incredibly intense and high-action final seconds.
At the beginning of each round, two players spawn as Flood forms and eight players spawn as Survivors. Survivors are standard Spartans equipped with shotguns and magnums, while Flood move very quickly and can only use a melee attack. When a Survivor gets killed by a Flood, the Survivor will convert and respawn as a Flood. The round ends if a Survivor makes it to 3:00 or if all players are converted to Flood.
One of the things we concentrated on for War Games was establishing player roles in Multiplayer, so we put a great deal of attention into being the King, Flag carrier, Grif, etc. Being the final Survivor is another role we focused on, and it’s a very intense experience having nine other Flood rush at you. Some (and by some, I of course mean David Ellis) would even say it’s poo-inducing.
We went through several iterations of tuning settings, mostly around getting the Flood to feel right in the sandbox and making the Flood experience noticeably different than the Survivor experience. To ensure the Flood’s gameplay had a unique feel, we honed in on the following elements:
The Flood Character Model
A unique character model for both first and third-person.
A special melee weapon tuned just for the Flood.
Flood Armor Effect
A special effect that trails behind Flood characters.
Flood Screen Effect
A first-person screen effect that shows the haunted view of a Flood.
When playing as the Flood or final Survivor, dynamic music plays in the background to intensify the experience.
Flood Gameplay Tuning
Flood move faster, react differently to bullets, and have specially tuned armor abilities, the core of which is an enhanced Flood Thrust Pack.
How could we not?!
The biggest challenges when designing this mode were getting the Survivor vs. Flood balance just right, keeping the experience interesting and dynamic (whether it’s two Flood vs. eight Survivors or nine Flood vs. one Survivor), and building a system that made initial-round spawning more consistent. Where we landed, for the lattermost thing in particular is that players will not spawn randomly as Flood or Survivors at the beginning of a match. Instead, your initial spawn is based on previous rounds.
Flood features an exclusive set of medals that can only be earned by playing this particular game mode, and it also has its own set of custom game options. The former is detailed below.
Halo 4 Medal
Convert a Spartan to the Flood
Halo 4 Medal
Convert a Spartan to the Flood as an Alpha
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 2 Spartans in a row as a Flood without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 3 Spartans in a row as a Flood without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 4 Spartans in a row as a Flood without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill ALL Spartans in a row as a Flood without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill a Flood
Halo 4 Medal
Flood Kill Assist
Assist killing a Flood
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 4 Flood in a row as a Spartan without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 6 Flood in a row as a Spartan without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Kill 10 Flood in a row as a Spartan without dying
Halo 4 Medal
Last Man Standing
Be the last surviving Spartan
Halo 4 Medal
Kill the last remaining Spartan
Halo 4 Medal
Contribute to the Flood total conversion of all Spartans
Halo 4 Medal
Survive the entire round as a Flood and convert at least one Spartan
Halo 4 Medal
Survive the entire round as a Spartan
Here’s a sneak peek of our planned Flood settings for launch.
3:00 minutes (Survivor win or all Spartans converted)
• Number of Rounds
- 10 Players
o 2 Spawn as Alpha per round
o 8 Spawn as Survivors
For Lead Designer Kevin Franklin, the best part of the design process has been seeing players who have never tried Infection before try out Flood. The overwhelming sentiment from those players has been that it’s a great high-action, high-intensity experience with tons of close quarter combat and close calls.
We expect you to tell us what you think, come November 6.
DESCRIPTION: On the remote world of Erebus VII, at the very edge of human-occupied space, an ONI research facility which was once teaming with researchers now lies eerily vacant. Although the hostility of this world had been initially considered by its team leaders, it is tragically clear that a great many ‘things’ had simply not been taken into account.
Abandon is a mysteriously abandoned ONI research station on a hostile alien planet. Initial surveys of this area were bold and promising, but it quickly became clear that these reports were far more hubris than logic.
From the start, the theme for this map was constructed around the story of an ONI research team that mysteriously disappeared. We wanted to leave some story breadcrumbs that helped to imply that something dramatic occurred in this location. We wanted the map to make the player wonder, “What the hell happened here?” Unlike most Halo maps, there is a lot of overtly alien strangeness right in the player’s face. The creepiness and storytelling are simple and clear but doesn’t conflict with the game play.
Early on in the development cycle for this map, there was a diverse array of visual ideas and ways to tell the story of this ominous place. Along the way, we had to consolidate this collection into a more concise statement that not only supported the theme but also felt appropriate to the Halo franchise. There was a lot of discussion about how we wanted the environment to feel menacing and forbidding. At one point, the map was a disparate arrangement of flora and fauna and we had to ask the questions, “Does all of this work together?” and “Does all of this support Halo Multiplayer?” When the answers were no, we made the hard call to change direction. Some of our favorite organisms that didn’t make the cut were lovingly known as meat loops, muscle humps, gas sacks, smokers, and momma trees. (Don’t ask).
Abandon had three distinct iterations. The first was the balls-to-the-wall alien greenhouse version. There was a dead monster-like creature on this map that you could use as a ramp, and there was a story that went along with it—something along the lines of: the monster attacked, killed the scientists, and then died from injuries it sustained. There were numerous subplots and supporting elements scattered around the map and in the skybox.
The next iteration featured smaller animals trapped in containers underneath the map as the reason for the science team’s ‘disappearance,’ and early concepts show that the place was pretty badly assaulted. This version represented the first paring pass that reined the environment into a simpler and more believable statement of the original theme and cropped out some of the unnecessary components (we wanted to get back to what we really liked about the original concept art).
The final iteration was an even tighter trimming of things that weren’t needed or weren’t working. The building’s interior looks relatively pristine compared to where it was originally, which is definitely to its advantage from a playability perspective, because it provides a stark difference between inside the structures and the wild flora that grows outside it.
Gameplay-wise, Abandon plays much like the visual theme: claustrophobic and frantic, with danger lurking around every corner. It is a small map with lots of close quarters fighting; however, mid-range and long-range fights can be found in select locations. If you’re a fan of mid-range engagements, stick to the natural side of the map until you pick up your initial ordnance. Then you can go in, guns blazing.
Oh, one last thing about this map. A Halo 4 concept artist wanted me to pass along his recommended strategy: Wear a diaper. Assuming you aren’t already, that is…
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn:
We’ve been counting down the days to Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn with a series of short vignettes. That time is over though, because the live-action digital series that takes you back to the beginning of the human and Covenant war, leading into the events of Halo 4 starts on Friday.
Yes, I’m talking about this Friday. The Friday that is only two days away…
The first episode is just the beginning of this story and like any good story, it has to introduce the world and the characters to you in the right way before we get to the blowing shi – er stuff – up. This series is about great characters as well as great big explosions, so settle in for the whole ride…there will be plenty of all of the above to go around.
There are some hints in Part I about important ideas in Halo’s future, so if you’ve been paying attention for a while, there’s a lot in there for your eyes only. That said, this show has also been created to help introduce many fans to the fiction of the universe (there are lots of people who don’t follow every date and character detail in the books or even the main Campaign stories – blasphemy, I know) and answers to questions like “So how did this galaxy-spanning war with a mysterious alien collective kick off, anyway?”
We hope you love it, and we hope it’s as exciting a part of the big ramp-up to Halo 4 as we meant it to be!
Office of Halo Intelligence: Part 11
Bonnie Ross, General Manager for 343 Industries, has been with the studio since the beginning. Her insight, especially as it relates to the journey that was the development of Halo 4, provides a unique perspective on both the completion of our first full title and also the changes the studio has seen since its conception. Enjoy the words from someone who has an intimate relationship with both our game and the people that comprise our studio.
34(3) days… and counting
Jessica asked me to write a section about us hitting gold last week. When we all celebrated last Thursday night, there was joy, relief, and pride. There was celebratory drinking, and champagne was poured on people’s heads, but mainly there was a lot of reminiscing about the path we took over the last few years. So I figured I’d write about that journey to the gold (disc) at the end of the Halo 4 rainbow.
Along that journey, it is easy to be critical, even overly critical of every move and every mistake. When you get to the end, something washes over you (could be champagne over the head from a fellow 343er, Josh) that makes you look back at the journey with a little more forgiveness, Vaseline on the lens, maybe even a little regret that this part of our journey is over.
Year of the Forerunner: In 2008, we weren’t working on Halo 4 yet because Bungie was working on ODST and Reach. So as a small 343 team, we had the luxury of a year to just think about the universe and the technology. Where did we want to go next? We had controversial discussions about the Forerunners and their origins. Should they always be a mystery or should we open up that Pandora’s Box? As you already know, we opened that box and Frank and the team set to help define the future fiction, the Forerunner backstory and characters that would ultimately become the Prometheans, the Didact and other inhabitants of Halo 4.
While we weren’t thinking about the exact Halo 4 story back then, we were working on high-level themes for Halo 4 and the overall saga. We were thinking about Chief and Cortana, and we were thinking about new enemies and new threats, specifically Forerunner in nature. We chose the acclaimed science fiction novelist Greg Bear to write a trilogy dealing with elements of that story. As Greg’s first novel in that trilogy came out in 2010, he had a lot of questions before we had answers: what did the Prometheans look like? What did the living, breathing Forerunner civilization feel like? So between 2008 and 2010 our artists, designers, and writers met repeatedly with Bear to give him character sketches, talk about physics, shapes and characters that would ultimately take their first tentative steps in his book before coming to life on Requiem.
Ghetto Halo: In the middle of 2009, we started working on the real design of Halo 4 and the not inconsiderable task of staffing it. Our rapidly growing team was crammed in a really small section of this building in Redmond Town Center (a mall). We were sitting two to three people in closet-sized offices meant for one, or camping out on the couch in the hallway.
When people came onboard or interviewed, we would routinely get the comment, “Wow, really, this is Halo? I would think you guys would work in a better space than this.” We pretended like we wanted it to be that way – so uncool that it was cool, but in reality we were Halo wannabes and our company knew it and treated us as such. That all changed with the unsanitary sacrifice of our office savior Kenneth Scott.
Kenneth, who fell for the “this space is just temporary while our real space is under repair” line during the interview process, joined our team as the Art Director. When the reality of the bad space set in, Kenneth started doing phone interviews for potential candidates in the hallway because there were no private meeting spaces. When it got too noisy in hallway, Kenneth moved his office to the men’s bathroom instituting a do not flush policy during phone interviews. Some of our best talent was recruited from the men’s bathroom. It was my own wailing and lamentation over Kenneth’s bathroom interviews that finally got my manager to approve us moving to a new space.
When we moved into a much improved space, we started working on the Halo 4 prototype. How do you prototype Halo when you’ve never even built Halo before? Halo is already a beautifully balanced sandbox and we wanted to add more toys – and maybe some more sand. As a new team, we were in an awkward and unfortunate situation in that not only did we need to prototype how to take Halo forward; we needed to figure out how to build Halo in the first place.
Halo? In 2010 we started working on what we call “vertical slice” which is really just a representative section of how we imagine the final game will look, feel and play. Going through that prototype process, we made the obvious decision that before we could add new things to the Halo recipe, we first needed to fully understand the existing ingredients. Could we make a level that feels and plays like Halo? Could this team build Halo?
Typically with a vertical slice, you’re supposed to showcase the graphical art bar as well as a segment of gameplay. Our artists were working on a lot of art, but in 2010, David Berger and the development team were in the beginning of overhauling the engine so that in the future our artists could get their art in the game without compromising their vision.
For the vertical slice, the mission we chose to build was part of our second mission, Requiem. We submitted it to our user research testing and it tested well. Users thought it was Halo, and they liked it. We at 343, as small a step as that was, celebrated a great milestone – and a kind of game design Hippocratic Oath:“First, do no harm.”
When Kiki and the team presented the slice to the execs, it was met with straight faces with people saying this just looks like Halo, this just plays like Halo. “Yeah, I know”, I replied proudly, “Isn’t that great? 343 can build Halo, this is huge.” The execs sat with straight faces repeating, “This just plays like Halo.” I walked my team from the room. “Was that good or bad?”, Kiki asked. “Um, good. I think they ate something bad for lunch.”
To be fair to the execs, they didn’t want to see the inside of the sausage making factory, they just wanted to know this team could not only build Halo, but take Halo forward. They wanted to see the “Wow.”
It was kind of a crazy time in the studio as we had a bunch of “wow” on paper, but really nothing in the game yet. Coming out of vertical slice, the team heard the message that it wasn’t enough. While it was in the plan to take that “wow” from paper to game, we were just getting started. Bungie wasn’t built in a day, and neither was 343.
Year of the Wow: In my opinion, 2011 was our hardest year. The team might argue that 2012 was the toughest, as people put in such long days and endless weekends. But in 2012, we knew what we were building and the stress came from wondering if we would we have enough time to get everything we wanted into the game. In 2011, we knew the game we wanted to build, but the “wow” and the magic was slow in coming together. Josh and the team had their design work cut out for them. In 2011, the focus was sandbox.
As you know, Halo has had (mostly) the same enemies in the sandbox for the last 10 years. For Halo 4, we had new enemies, new weapons, and new vehicles all ready to go into the sandbox. But as you also know, Halo’s sandbox is delicately balanced, so adding new stuff while ensuring it’s fun and properly thought-out, is easier said than done.
For the first part of 2011 the fun wasn’t coming together. Then one magical day, I think it was sunny (a statistical anomaly in Seattle), Josh wandered over to me with a gleam in his eye – and explained that he’d just got done playing for a few hours and it was fun, it was really fun, and he thought we had it.
And so it happened. Over the next few months the game started to come together. Daily playtests went from Chris and the producer team begging for players to people vying for an empty seat every day at 4:00.
There is never a specific date when you exit preproduction as different areas move out of preproduction early and others later. But in Fall of 2011, every part was out of preproduction and into full production. We could play through the entire game, and for the most part it was fun. We had one mission, Dawn, where Kenneth, Neill and the art team had set their visual target and polished it to a glittering finish, and it was beautiful. The multiplayer maps were fun, the new modes were fun. Spartan Ops was starting to come together.
In Fall of 2011, we could see the light even after we recovered from our exit from preproduction party.
Year of the Dragon: 2012 was a very long work week that never ended. In January of 2012 we had all of the pieces of the game in some form of done or undone, and all that was left was the long hours to put all of the pieces together and polish the game to perfection. Or as close to it as time and physics permitted.
From February on, there would be something new to look at or play every week. The cinematics team started dropping in all of their work and the story came to life. Every time you played the game it was new, different and better. It was a pretty amazing time to be part of 343, part of Halo 4. Everyone on the team worked incredibly long hours – basically for the entire year of 2012. Phil Spencer, the VP of Microsoft Studios told me our building smelled like human. Good human, I’m sure.
In one of the take-home tests where we were supposed to play Campaign Co-op, I played the first three missions with business guy Matt. Matt wanted to explore and ensure we looked at every inch of the first three missions. It took us hours and hours to trek through three missions playing Co-op on Normal.
I’ve explored every rock, plant, structure, vehicle, and vista in the first three missions. At one point in Requiem, Matt called for me to come over and look at this amazing view (literally a Sparth concept piece brought to life), and as we stood together looking over the edge, I had flashbacks of childhood family vacation pictures at the Grand Canyon – it was that awe-inspiringly beautiful. Of course, the Grand Canyon isn’t filled with inverted megastructures made of massy hardlight, but you get the idea. In between vista viewings, we also shot a few things.
Last week before we hit gold, I was playing a Spartan Ops take-home on Legendary (so not a Legendary player, for the record). I got in a mission with Tajeen, Kiki, and artist Chris. In between expletives from getting annihilated by another pack of alien scum bearing Fuel Rod Canons, I found myself laughing giddily, waiting to respawn into some impossible new situation to “help” my team. It was fun, it was invigorating, and you could almost see the gold through the plasma mortars.
I started this journey with huge passion for Halo, and that hasn’t changed. I ended this journey with huge passion and respect for 343 and our people. Halo 4 is a result of the energy, blood, sweat, tears and the distinct human smell of the people at 343. At the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of the journey, it is about the people, the team. It has been an honor to work alongside such an amazingly talented and passionate group of people.
So is this the end of the journey, or is it just the beginning? I hope it is the beginning for us at 343. I hope we did the fans proud.
No regrets, but sentimental.
There is no crying in Halo, but I dare you not to by the time the credits roll. Thank you for bearing with us. Thank you for letting us try our hardest. I hope we earn it.
IGN Ragnarok walkthrough:
G4 Campaign Gameplay (Spoilers):
Check this out:
Gaming on all platforms right now.
10-10-2012 #173Soldier 95BGuest
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Much like a Hunter, our studio is made up of many moving parts right now. So many, in fact, that it’s near impossible to keep up with everything.
Last week delivered a new book (Halo: The Thursday War, by Karen Traviss), the chance to win some amazing prizes (Halo 4 Soundtrack Remix Contest), and the premiere of our live-action web series (Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn). Between the new Forge information and video prologue for Halo 4’s Domain Terminals (both of which were released yesterday), along with the second episode of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (which releases Friday morning at 3AM PT), this week is slated to be just as crazy. Some would even call it cray cray (Frankie, I may or may not be looking at you).
Enough with the recap, though. You’re well aware of the fact that the next 26 days will be chock-full of new and exciting Halo stuff (“stuff” being everything from a new BTS [NYCC!] to a new trailer [DAVID FINCHER!] to an out-of-this-world launch event [UNDISCLOSED LOCATION ON EARTH!]), so let’s slow it down a bit and talk about just one thing, that one thing being the Halo 4 progression system.
Wait, I just realized I used “out-of-this-world” and “undisclosed location on Earth” to describe the same place. I also used an overabundance of both parenthesis and brackets in a single sentence. Apparently I’m just that good. /takes a bow
Anyway, back to the Halo 4 progression system. While we’ve discussed bits and pieces of it, there has yet to be a comprehensive breakdown of the entirety of that system in a single place. I would say that’s about to change, but everybody knows I’m not all that comprehensive. So here comes a semi-comprehensive breakdown of the Halo 4 progression system! (Hey, don’t look at me like that. I could just talk about eels or how Josh Holmes was recently interviewed by a robot named Darren who had spaghetti spatulas for hands. I’ll spare you both stories, though, ‘cause I’m nice like that. You’re welcome.)
PLNB PRIORITY TRANSMISSION [CLASSIFIED]
ENCRYPTION CODE: [CLASSIFIED]
PUBLIC KEY: N/A
Halo 4 Progression System
The UNSC Infinity is your gateway to the Infinity Multiplayer experience in Halo 4 and serves as the center of your Spartan career. Here you will build your custom Spartan-IV super-soldier, and progress your multiplayer career across both Spartan Ops and War Games modes. You’ll start your career as a Spartan-IV, with a limited amount of choices. As you level up, that will slowly unfold into a large amount of choices. The pace with unlocks will be regular, but not so fast that it causes confusion.
When designing the progression system for Halo 4, our primary goal was to give progress more meaning, and in order to do that, the player’s progress has to impact gameplay. In Halo 4, we primarily do this by allowing the progression system to modify the weapons and abilities the player can take into battle, empowering player choice, and exposing more elements of the sandbox to more players.
As you progress through your multiplayer career, you unlock items that allow you to build the character and experience you want. The things you really desire, such as the Battle Rifle and DMR, you’ll gain access to fairly quickly. Some of the more difficult choices you’ll face, such as which Specialization to tackle first, come later. All of these things give you the ability to tailor your experience and focus on your favorite parts of the sandbox more than ever before.
How quickly you progress through your career will partly depend on your skill. Skilled players will rank up faster, as you get more XP for winning matches. It’s also worth noting that quitters do not get game completion XP. They can progress commendations and challenges, but they will not get partial XP at the end of the game (AHEM).
Below is a breakdown of the Halo 4 progression system.
FROM: CODENAME SURGEON
TO: CODENAME COALMINER
When you first enter Infinity Multiplayer, you automatically enlist into the SPARTAN-IV program and begin your Spartan career. This career spans all of your gameplay in War Games, Spartan Ops, Forge and Theater.
New SPARTAN-IV recruits are issued the following gear:
• Assault Rifle
• Frag Grenade
• Recruit Armor, Emblem, Visor and Stance
Stances are a new customization option that let you select a pose for your Spartan on your Player Card. This card is seen in every multiplayer lobby in the game and is how your Spartan is identified outside of gameplay.
You will have to rise up through the Spartan ranks to unlock more gear and make your way through the SPARTAN-IV program.
CLASSIFICATION: ELEVENTH HOUR [1/5]
Spartans begin their career in the base SPARTAN-IV ranks. There are 50 ranks to work your way through, from SR-1 to SR-50, unlocking gameplay and visual customization items as you rank up.
To rank up, you need to earn XP. You earn XP by:
• Playing War Games (earn more for winning and high personal score)
• Playing Spartan Ops (earn more for higher difficulties)
• Completing each level of a Commendation
• Completing Challenges
• Using Forge
At each rank, you will earn one or more Spartan Points (SP). SP are used to purchase gameplay items for your personal loadouts. Once you purchase an item, it can be used in any of your loadouts.
The Spartan Point system is based around offering choice at each rank. The full suite of gameplay items is available for purchase by SR-26 but you won’t have enough SP to buy everything until SR-50. It’s up to you to decide the order in which you want to build up the arsenal for your Spartan-IV.
/FILE EXTRACTION-RECONSTITUTION COMPLETE/
Each loadout contains a Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Grenade, Armor Ability, Tactical Package and Support Upgrade. As you rank up, you will gain access to the Armor Ability slot (SR-3), the Tactical Package slot (SR-7), and the Support Upgrade slot (SR-12).
We have default loadouts in our War Games playlists to give you a preview of these items before you reach those ranks, and to offer an alternative to your own custom loadouts.
Over the course of the SPARTAN-IV ranks, you also unlock four extra loadouts (at SR-6, SR-14, SR-26 and SR-41) for a total of five loadouts. You can rename these loadouts, so pick names that match the role or gear for that particular loadout.
Decades from now, when historians evaluate the war, what will they say about us? Will they claim that our victory was ultimately fruitless? That it failed to secure a lasting peace, or worse, that it was only a prelude to far greater horrors that now lay ahead?
All Spartan-IVs start out with the same Recruit look. As you rank up, this is reflected in the look of your Spartan, which is visible to other players in gameplay and every Multiplayer lobby.
Visual customization items such as Armor, Armor Skins, Weapon Skins, Visors, Emblems and Stances are unlocked through several means:
• Earning a specific SR rank
• Earning a specific rank in a Specialization
• Mastering a Commendation
• Completing a Waypoint goal
When you meet the prerequisite, you will gain access to the items automatically; you do not need to spend Spartan Points.
My hope – OUR HOPE – is that history would instead view this war as a catalyst. That the last thirty years were a crucible, a threshing floor for our species, sifting out our fears and frailties. And that ultimately it made us stronger and more vigilant in the end, fully prepared for whatever will come next. After all, what good is struggle if there is no change? What good is a fire if the sword is not made stronger?
Once you hit SR-50, you have the option to enlist in a new Specialization. You can choose which of the available Specializations to enlist in.
Specializations are composed of ten levels each. As you rank up in Specializations, you will unlock new armor sets, emblems, visor colors, armor and weapon skins and armor mods – which provide even more options to customize your Spartan-IV to fit your preferred role on the battlefield.
Once you commit to a Specialization, you have to complete it before switching to a new one. It will take roughly as long to complete a Specialization as it does to go from SR-40 to SR-50.
All players have access to two Specializations at launch:
• Wetwork: WK-1 to WK-10
• Operator: OP-1 to OP-10
The rest, which are listed below, will gradually be made available in the months following launch. We will be keeping a close watch on player participation post-launch and will roll out the additional six Specializations when the player base reaches certain milestones. Purchasers of the Limited Edition and pre-orders in certain territories have launch day access to the remaining six Specializations – although you still need to complete the initial 50 Ranks before you can enlist in one.
• Pioneer: PR-1 to PR-10
• Pathfinder: PT-1 to PT-10
• Engineer: EN-1 to EN-10
• Stalker: SK-1 to SK-10
• Rogue: RG-1 to RG-10
• Tracker: TK-1 to TK-10
Other players will be able to see your overall progress through the Specializations by your SR rank. This keeps going up by one each time you earn a Specialization rank, all the way up to SR-130. There might be a reward or two waiting for those who hit SR-130!
Attached are four reports accounting the major contingency structures our species currently faces in the wake of the war. Please evaluate them closely. Their outcomes will dictate how history views us, or if history even views us at all.
Halo 4 features over 120 commendations covering a wide variety of activities (per weapon, per enemy type and per game type, for example). There are commendations based around earning specific medals, and we also have aggregators that require you to master multiple commendations to complete them. Commendations also have a variable number of levels.
Certain Commendations can award visual customization items when you master them. To master a Commendation, you need to have earned its highest level.
We see the Commendation system as the long-term progression with the most exclusive items. Most players will still be mastering Commendations well after completing the Specializations.
Xenomorphic element [2/5]
Martial element [3/5]
Provenancial element [4/5]
Primogeniture element [5/5]
Like Commendations, Challenges have been expanded in Halo 4. We not only have daily content, but also a weekly and monthly cadence as well, giving players ample time to complete different challenges with varying levels of difficulty.
Challenges are divided into four categories:
- 2 Weekly Challenges
• War Games
- 2 Daily Challenges
- 2 Weekly Challenges
- 1 Monthly Challenge
• Spartan Ops
- 6 Challenges
- Exclusive daily challenges for War Games
If you’re looking to get a jump start on your career, you’ll definitely want to stick around for the next segment of the Bulletin, because it’s about to get all double XP up in here.
As Machiavelli once said: “the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others.”
Mountain Dew and Doritos Double XP Program
Mountain Dew and Doritos Double XP Program
If you’re anything like me, your gaming experience consists of a couch, your controller, several servings of caffeine and a bowl of munchies (yes, I left out the trash talking, but only because it’s a given). Assuming you have similar interests, you’ll be excited to hear about the Mountain Dew and Doritos Double XP program.
To participate, open an account at DEWXP.com or DORITOSXP.com. There you’ll be able to unlock and load future XP matches that can be redeemed to amplify the Halo 4 Multiplayer experience, accelerate Halo 4 specializations, and reveal brand new gear and weapons. Cool, right?
To reap the benefits of Double XP, follow these four steps:
1. Register at DEWXP.com or DORITOSXP.com.
2. Pick up specially-marked packages of DEW and bags of DORITOS chips.
3. Enter the on-pack codes into your account, as of October 15, 2012, at DEWXP.com or DORITOSXP.com to load up on matches of Double XP.
4. Pick up Halo 4 on November 6 and begin pushing Double XP matches to your Xbox LIVE Gamertag via DEWXP.com or DORITOSXP.com.
In addition, Double XP value is unlocked when Mountain Dew and Doritos chips are purchased together.
• Unlock and load Mega XP at Walmart – specially-marked 24-packs of Mountain Dew and 10 ½ or 11 ½ oz. bags of Doritos chips will offer Mega XP – 12 matches of Double XP. Also, for a limited time, Halo 4 games sold at Walmart will include an insert with a unique code. Pair that unique code with the Double XP codes found on a 24-pack of Mountain Dew and specially-marked 10 ½ or 11 ½ oz. bags of Doritos chips and unlock a total of 38 matches of Double XP.
• Beginning in late October, unlock Double XP matches, Halo 4 game content, and badges at any 7-11 nationwide with an exclusive ‘King of the Hill’ mobile app and the purchase of Mountain Dew and Doritos chips.
For complete details, visit DEWXP.com or DORITOSXP.com. And regardless of whether you plan on taking advantage of this opportunity or not, you should probably start stockpiling an assortment of food and beverages. Your groceries aren’t going to buy themselves come November 6, you know.
Likewise, we must deal with these issues head-on, without fear and without hesitation. We can afford no other stance.
UNSC Infinity and UNSC Forward Unto Dawn
UNSC Infinity and UNSC Forward Unto Dawn
If you have a thing for vessels, you are definitely going to find this portion of the Bulletin to be “the ship” (see what I did there?). With all the talk about the UNSC Infinity (which serves as the center of your Spartan career) and the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn (hello, live-action web series!), I thought it would be fun to take a deep dive into both. The above image shows just how big Infinity is compared to a measly frigate, and the below text provides more information than you could ever want, and then some. Enjoy!
SUBLIGHT CONFIGURATION: XR2 Boglin Fields: S81/X-DFR (Deuterium Fusion Reactor)
TRANSLIGHT CONFIGURATION: Mark X Macedon/Z-PROTOTYPE #78720HDS (Remote Carriage)
PRIMARY ARMAMENT: CR-08, Series-8 MAC (4)
SECONDARY ARMAMENT: M42 Archer (350 pods x 24 missiles)
TERTIARY ARMAMENT: M75 Rapier (250 pods x 30 missiles)
QUATERNARY ARMAMENT: M96 Howler (500 pods x 20 missiles)
QUINARY ARMAMENT: M965 Fortress 70mm Point Defense Network (830 guns)
A warship unparalleled in human innovation, UNSC Infinity is easily the largest and most powerful vessel ever employed by Earth. Although it was originally designed to contend with the Covenant, the war’s end recommissioned Infinity for peaceful exploration and research – until it discovered the Forerunner world of Requiem and was mercilessly pulled into the maw of the planet. Now, the fate of Infinity and its crew is inexorably tied to that of the Master Chief, as the ending of a 100,000-year story finally takes shape.
UNSC FORWARD UNTO DAWN
CLASS: Charon (Light Frigate)
SUBLIGHT CONFIGURATION: Naoto Technologies: V4/L-DFR (Deuterium Fusion Reactor)
TRANSLIGHT CONFIGURATION: Series IV CODEN/SFTE – Main
PRIMARY ARMAMENT: Mark II, Light Coil – 83B6R3/MAC (Magnetic Accelerator Cannon)
SECONDARY ARMAMENT: M58 Archer Missile Delivery System (50 pods)
TERTIARY ARMAMENT: M870 Rampart 50mm Point Defense Guns (4 guns)
QUATERNARY ARMAMENT: M4093 Hyperion Nuclear Delivery System (3 silos)
Classical light frigate design, the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn is most renowned for its service on the frontlines in defense of Earth and its pursuit of Covenant forces through the Forerunner portal at Voi. There, the Dawn fought alongside a renegade Sangheili fleet and defeated the Covenant, ultimately bringing an end to the war. Unfortunately, upon its return to Earth, the ship was rent in two while passing through a collapsing slipspace portal, sending the fore of the vessel back to Earth, while the aft section, containing the Master Chief and Cortana, absently floated in uncharted space for years.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Blu-Ray and DVD
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Blu-Ray and DVD
Last Friday saw the premiere of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, and in two days you will be treated to Part 2. The second episode is similar to the first, in terms of character and plot development, however it does bring you one step closer to the moment the excrement hits the fan. We know you’re anxious for some action and there is plenty of that coming, so let’s just say the wait will be well worth it…
Many of you have been asking when Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD, and we finally have the answer for you: December 4, 2012. With the release of the Blu-Ray and DVD, you will be able to enjoy the entire film uninterrupted, plus the complete collection of bonus footage – including over 60 minutes of exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Blu-Ray and DVD offer the Complete Collection of Bonus Features including:
• Over 60 minutes of exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes
• Storyline vignettes
• Audio commentary by 343 Industries
• Audio commentary by Director Stewart Hendler
• Concept art, visual effects models
• Easter eggs and more!
The film will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 4, 2012 at an SRP of $28.99 and $22.99 for the DVD. In addition, the film will be available digitally on the same date for rental and purchase.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s some preparation for NYCC that needs to happen. No, I won’t be there in person (you got lucky, this time around), however Halo 4 and an assortment of 343-ers will be there, providing a rok-ing experience on the floor and a panel that is sure to cause a meltdown or two.
Until next week…
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