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Bungie Weekly Update: 01/23/09

Posted by urk at 1/23/2009 3:56 PM PST

Another week has come and gone, Shishka's truck is still for sale, and for a few brief days the shining light of the Daystar glinted off the gentle waters of Puget Sound. But it's Friday, the clouds has swept back over Seattle proper prompting discussion of Vitamin D supplements, and we've got a Weekly Update ready to fill you full of our own brand of nutrition, Food Nipple style.

Mythic Map Pack Playlist Preview

The word is already out that those who purchase Halo Wars LCE will be given an early chance to romp around in the Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack. If you're wondering what that experience will look like after you cut, gnaw, and tear your way through the security tape to get your golden ticket, here's a brief summary from our matchmaking maestro:

"The day Halo Wars hits store shelves is the day Halo 3 fans will find a new playlist in Matchmaking. The Mythic Preview playlist consists entirely of 4v4 games on Assembly, Orbital, and Sandbox, and will exclusively feature the Mythic Map Pack.'

Players in the United States, Europe, and Japan will be able to hop into this Halo Wars Preview playlist, day and date with their region's Halo Wars LCE release. Of course, if you're planning on playing with a large group of friends in a coordinated Mythic Map Pack effort, you can always rely on the Custom Games Lobby to get your fill of sixteen player action. Additionally, it bears mentioning that the Mythic Map Pack will still be made available by its lonesome on Xbox Live Marketplace later this spring.

Making the Jump

In the immediate wake of the Halo 3: ODST Trailer, series fans began their frame-by-frame assault, dissecting the footage for any visual leads that could help uncover the mysterious clues hidden in the dark, rain-soaked streets of New Mombasa. From "hidden dates" and fragmented Superintendent messages to some more obvious and overt looks at the new elements on display like the ODST-customized SMG and vision augmentations, few things were lost on those peering at the trailer through a magnified lens.

But there is one aspect of the trailer and accompanying coverage in particular that has caused a little bit of confusion among Halo aficionados and speculators from around the World Wide Web - the presence of Brute packs patrolling the darkened alleyways of New Mombasa. And perhaps conversely, the absence of the Elites.

We realize that the Elites are of a fan-favorite, so it's probably wise to set aside your compassion and steel yourself for what is about to come. There are no Elites to fight in Halo 3: ODST.

Still here? Good. Deep breaths. We wanted to clue you in early so you didn't have a chance to let your expectations wind you into a whipping maelstrom of assumption and conjecture. Think of this as the intervention portion of this week's update. Look, we care about you. We don't like to see you get hurt.

And though we are still several seasons away from Halo 3: ODST's retail launch, we're going to bend a rule for you - just this one time - and provide you with a small snippet of the story timeline coupled with a brief explanation covering why you'll be encountering packs of Brutes when you drop into Halo 3: ODST and explore the dangerous, war-torn streets of New Mombasa, come Fall.

If you've yet to play through Halo 2, hit the brakes and steer clear of this next section.

Along the Path

The following is a cursory exploration of some of the more critical events along the Halo 2 and Halo 3 timelines. This examination is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a set of waypoints to guide you along as we look back at key events and characters that influenced and impacted the Covenant schism, circa 2552.

  • October 20: New Mombasa, Kenya is destroyed by the Slipstream Space Rupture Backlash from the Prophet of Regret's ship.
  • November 2: The Prophet of Regret's ship and In Amber Clad arrive at Delta Halo. Prophet of Regret liquidated by SPARTAN-117.
  • November 3: Prophet of Truth leaves High Charity for Earth in Forerunner dreadnought.
  • November 8: The Forerunner dreadnought arrives in the Sol system and proceeds to Earth at near relativistic speed.
  • November 17: The Forerunner dreadnought arrives at Earth. SPARTAN-117 ejects and lands in the Kenyan jungle.

What's written in these few entries is important in the context of understanding the overall story presented in the Halo trilogy. But what exists between the lines is where you should focus most of your attention. This is where the majority of the events that unfold during Halo 3: ODST take place. And it is in also in these moments that the Prophet of Truth did much of his puppeteer's manipulations. The thirteen day span between the dates of October 20th and November 2nd provided the High Prophet with all the time he needed to redeploy Brute-led Covenant forces, their mission objectives relayed sub rosa, into the heart of New Mombasa.

But why Brutes?

In the wake of Regret's shameful retreat from New Mombasa, the Prophet of Truth continued his maneuvering - one eye always on his ultimate goal: his rightful and holy ascension. For Truth, his own personal passage was paramount. His Godhood would not be denied. Everything else was secondary.

And though Truth's duplicitous scheming doesn't come to full fruition until the Elite Honor Guard's failure to protect the Prophet of Regret affords him with the final leverage needed to appoint the Brutes to the lofty position, his plans were never made in haste. They were well laid. When the time came to return his attention to Earth, his expendable regiments needed to be led by Jiralhanae, not Sangheili.

Leaving the Elites to scour Earth in search of a Holy Forerunner relic, and ultimately to uncover the most precious and sacrosanct Forerunner artifact in existence - the very portal that opened upon the Ark itself - would have placed all Truth's aspirations upon the shoulders of a species he had already decided to cast aside, a species splintered by heresy and derision, even amongst their own ranks.

Truth's divisive mandate had been set in motion. The Elites had exhausted their usefulness to him, they would not be allowed to meddle in his affairs any longer, and he would not place his rightful transcendence into the hands of incompetents. His word was law.

So the Prophet of Truth deploys Brutes. And the Brutes were eager to prove that their loyalty and battle prowess had earned them a seat at the side of the Hierarchs, as the honored protectors of the sacred Covenant. Such blind faith and eagerness marked them as near perfect pawns for Truth to sacrifice.

I'm Gonna be Your Daddy

While we're on the subject of Brutes and stepping back in time, let's talk about last week's update, specifically the section where we introduced you to the Pimp Chieftain. While we regrettably can't show you footage of the Amazing Ape in action - we like our jobs and supplying you with Halo 3: ODST footage and screens this early would be grounds for termination - we did see some pretty sweet fan-created images crop up in the Bungie.net forums. You guys do good work. And we're in the mood to show it off.

First up, hand-drawn meets Hammer spawn on Assembly. I don't know if "hammer" is being used as a euphemism in this case, but either way, that smug ODST clearly deserves the backhand our beloved Brute Pimp is using to clean his visor. Credit goes to Doppleganger and Crayola brand crayons.

Next up, fake Achievements - one for each of the hastily crafted trio we drummed up last week. In order from top to bottom: Takin' Back the Streets, Housekeeping, and Better have my Money, all lovingly crafted by forumgoer, MT Dewer.

Aim Down the Sight

Also from the wake of last week's update, we have a little bit of housekeeping of our own to do. Though the modified SMG used by the ODST for silent strike missions does indeed come strapped with a Reflex Sight attachment, players will not be aiming "down the sight" ala some other tactical games not named Halo. As we've stated, Halo 3: ODST is still the Halo you know and love - you shouldn't expect radical deviations from the core Halo gameplay out of Halo 3: ODST.

Trapped in a Box

Before we kick off for the weekend and leave you wondering why you read all the way to the bottom of this update, we'd like to address some of the absurd rumors surrounding our artistic savant, L.M. Smith. A few of you accused the man of pulling a fast one last week, yanking the proverbial wool down around your eyes with his masterwork, "Fool With a View."

Some took the term "fool" and ascribed it to themselves, believing the artist was nominating them for the role rather than himself, believing that the nomenclature was meant to denote some kind of trickery. It wasn't. It seems L.M. Smith's self-deprecation was simply lost in translation.

Others subscribed to the theory that whatever it was depicted in L.M. Smith's work was nothing more than then a depiction of the existing Halo 3 multiplayer map, Sandtrap, as if Bungie has been busy adding a new skybox to an already released map. Like most conspiracies, the truth will set you free, and those that challenged our artist's integrity will soon find that their assumptions were, in fact, foolish and shortsighted. Perhaps ironically, "Fool With a View" was a suitable title after all.

Don't stop (can't stop), Internet.

Honorable Member Mention

For the most part, it appears that Alec's Halo 3 Screenshot Guide was a well-received addition to our frontpage. For the most part. Turns out there's at least one unhappy manchild who took the time to clog up my private message box with this detritus:

"I saw that you posted the trick to making hevenly hog on the front page
there was a group of about 8 people who 'invented' this and swore it to secricy
some people have figured it out on there own but pictures loose there specialness when the way they are made is given away.
whoever sold out had no right, they did not come up with it and I would ask you to remove this portion of your guide asap.
everyones shots become blazay when everyone elce knows how to make them,
that is an advanced move and should be left alone for people who learned it on there own
ten zillion people ask me for the hevenly effect, even screenshot artists who have been at it for a long time.

This is verbatim. No corrections have been made. Names have been omitted to protect the self-important. And guess what? We're not only not going to remove the portion of the guide that covers the "hevenly hog" effect, we're going to eventually add the guide, in its entirety, to our Halo 3 How-To section on the official Project Page.

Halo 3: ODST


High Up Above

It's pretty incredible how much impact audio can have. The crisp patter of rain on pavement. The distant roll of thunder. The sharp, violent crack of lightning overhead. This concert of conspirators was almost enough to make the representative version New Mombasa feel as if it was under the shadow of an angry storm. But those elements, like Halo 3: ODST itself, were still being formed.

In the most recent stable build, the atmospheric illusion provided by the sonic simulations has been augmented with some freshly painted in visual effects. A thin sheet of rain now slants down from a dark blanket of racing clouds. Wind mingles with sprays of vapor and mist. Heat lightning draws soft, blue highlights while sporadic ground strikes bleach everything, for brief moments, stark white.

Down Below

The city of New Mombasa itself has also been given some new treatments of its own. The buildings of the interior proper are now fitted with some electronic information displays. There are more signs of life.

Police transports, emergency lights still blinking red and blue, sit empty with doors wide open. A pair of black stripes burned onto the pavement leads to an abandoned metro bus left curiously angled on the sidewalk as if the driver had a momentary lapse and careened off the road and into the side of a small, squat building. The passengers seem to have forgotten their luggage. The burned out husk of a nearby Wraith might have something to do with the haste in which the driver slammed on the brakes and with which the occupants spilled out onto the street.

Out on the horizon, skyscrapers loom, sheer walls stabbing up into the clouds from the heart of the city. Faint fingers of eerie blue light, dimmed by weather and distance, briefly splay out from behind the buildings as if grasping at something, and then fade away into the night sky.

Opposite, the sky is ablaze. Clouds are consumed by ash, smoke, and roiling fire. Arcs of electricity snake and climb upon some unseen thing.

Under the Helmet

The low-light vision enhancement has also been tweaked since we first laid eyes on it in the representative build. What was once a rhythmic pulse that spread out across the visual field like a wave has now been made more static and subtle. Stark white lines have been eschewed in favor of a more subdued effect.

The technology behind it is still useful, but the graphical tweaks here - which we should mention are far from final and subject to change - appear to be aimed at prolonged use. Where before the effect was crisp and vibrant, it's now been dialed down to meet somewhere between the realms of eyestrain and effectiveness.

Hasta la Vista

And with that, we're out. Time to pop the helmet and get out from under this sweaty armor. We're heading off for a weekend of cryo, but no worries, we'll return on Monday, ready to suit up and fill you in on the latest Bungie news. Stay Tuned.