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5 June 2013
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The Halo Bulletin: 6.5.13

06.05.2013 14:35

New exclusive Halo: Spartan Assault screenshot
Upon arriving at the studio every morning, I do two things: Stroll through a sea of desks to my little corner of the studio, and inform Bravo of his latest community-christened nickname as I pass by his action figure-cluttered work area. Yesterday's nickname was "B is for Butthead"; today is "B is for Bacon." While I love nothing more than telling Andy "B" stands for everything but "Bravo," the other part of my morning ritual is enjoyable as well, especially because I have the privilege of working near the concept art, publishing and franchise teams.

Every day, as I walk through the different work areas that compose 343, I can't help but peek at the endless parade of monitors. In fact, sometimes I crane my neck so far that I develop a cramp and have to get one of our interns (or Frankie) to give me a massage. You might be wondering what exactly I am trying to see. Many times, it's an unannounced project (NO COMMENT), but other times it's something already publicly known. For the past several months, it's been Halo: Spartan Assault, which now fits the latter but was the former.

Because we often work on projects for several months before they are announced, each potential undertaking is given a codename to help keep it in a watertight state. Because of that practice, if you ask anybody inside the studio the name of our just-announced mobile title, they'll tell you Bootcamp. However, if you ask anybody outside of our studio, they'll tell you Halo: Spartan Assault. Regardless of which name you know this game by, you should also know this: While this is a small project compared to a game like Halo 4, we're incredibly excited to be venturing into the world of Windows 8 touch-based devices. Here to talk a little more about that is Frankie.

From the mandibles of Frankie:

Many moons ago, I said online and in a couple of interviews that I would love to see an isometric Halo reboot of Moon Patrol, with current-gen graphics and full to the brim with recognized Halo items: Warthogs, Grunts, Elites, Brutes, Ghosts, boarding, Plasma combos, and anything else. As a matter of fact, Joystiq sort of reported it back in the day. The thing is, I wasn't joking. I always thought the universe could translate well into 2D, or isometric 3D, or the combinations of both that polygons can craft. And I had always had some vision of Robotron controls. Plus, I am so old that I literally remember when Moon Patrol arrived in the arcade near my house.

New exclusive Halo: Spartan Assault screenshot

I grew up playing scrolling shooters—vertical, horizontal and of course four-way. When tech and taste evolved with games like Gauntlet, Alien Syndrome and Sega's Crackdown, I grew to love the multi-scrolling perspective, where you could (kind of) explore worlds while utilizing skills you'd built up over years of blasting ever-more complex creatures, with ever-crisper graphics.

Now we wanted to create a mobile experience in the Halo universe. The obvious first consideration is FPS, right? Although there are plenty of cool FPS experiences on phones and tablets, they are not necessarily trying to replicate control schemes and gameplay feel that players are familiar with. If we'd gone down the FPS route, we might have built something compelling, but it couldn't on its own merit play as well as a traditional Halo game. So we knew right away that whatever experience we built would have to be appropriate to the device it was built for, and that meant taking a completely different direction.

New exclusive Halo: Spartan Assault screenshot

So when Dan Ayoub, our handsome and enigmatic publishing director, asked me what kind of game this could be, I immediately and selfishly recommended an arcade shooter. We really liked Vanguard for their background, so Dan reached out to them, and the rest is history—or it will be after the game has shipped. Not only were we able to create a shooter in the Halo universe that looks, sounds and "feels" like Halo, they were able to do it with a control scheme that even I can handle. (I am notoriously stupid at playing touch interfaces any more complex than Angry Birds. My thumbs drift, kind of like the way some people lean when they're playing driving games.) The team recognized very early that great controls were imperative and iterated for months to come up with something that felt amazing.

Spartan Assault's controls adapt to natural thumb drift so that after a few minutes, they feel as natural as any twin stick shooter (and we might even support a real twin stick controller on the Surface version). The gameplay is tight, focused, simple and to the point, while still using the Halo schema of weapon interaction, vehicle control, sandbox activity and even dual wielding.

So it may be a bit more elaborate than simply Moon Patrol, but it captures the magic that game had for me and wraps it in a familiar universe to bring it up to date.


If you missed the Bootcamp, er...Halo: Spartan Assault announce trailer when it was released on Tuesday, click play on the video below to find out what we're talking about. Also, in case you're wondering, Halo: Spartan Assault is a new top-down action shooter coming to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in July.

For those of you who don't have the relevant touch devices (and even those who do), we wanted to make sure you could have a little Halo: Spartan Assault ahead of its July release date. Therefore, we made the following wallpapers for you. Set them as your desktop background, send them to your dad (Father's Day is coming up, you know), or print them off and hang them above your bed. The choice is yours; we won't judge.

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If you still haven't gotten your fill of Halo: Spartan Assault, check out some concept art, a cinematic, three different videos and more by clicking this fancy-schmancy string of colored, hyperlinked text. Or, you can just go to E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) next week in Los Angeles, as we'll be showing off the game on the show floor. If you'll be in town, we'll see you at our booth. Either way, though, Bravo has a few Matchmaking items he would like to discuss with you. Yes, he could talk about this stuff all day. In fact, he probably will. You should probably get comfy...

Matchmaking Playlist Update

Hey! Bravo here. Before we dig into Matchmaking goodies, it's with incredible sadness and deep gratitude that we'd like to extend a special thank you to Kynan Pearson (who you may know as the lead multiplayer level designer at 343 or the non-sweaty guy in the Forge Island announcement video, amongst other things) who will soon be moving on to the next chapter in his career. As a passionate creator, Kynan has been an invaluable part of the Halo team, a good friend to many, and an inspiration to all. Check out his note to the community here.

If you are a Bulletin regular, you are undoubtedly aware that this past Monday's Matchmaking Update included the new weapon tuning as well as several other new items. We mentioned that maps were being updated with new weapon, vehicle and objective spawns, and we are happy to detail these updates below.

Sniper Rifle moved above Gold Lift
Sniper Rifle moved next to red spawn by Back Cliff (Beach)
Overshield placed on first floor of center structure, equidistant from team spawns
Red flag moved to bottom of Gold Lift
Blue flag moved back closer to Back Cliff (Beach)

Overshield placed in center of map below Mantis
Twin Sniper Rifles placed on the corners of the map
Needlers replaced the frags in the center room in the corners
Cover and line of sight adjusted in the top hallways to help attackers in objective modes

Spawns moved farther apart and in proper bases
Flags moved to their respective bases
Red team Sniper Rifle moved to the second floor of their base
Rocket Launcher replaced Sword in the courtyard

Mantis replaced Scorpion and placed equidistant from both team spawns
Spartan Laser spawns in center cave
Railgun replaced SAW in front of each team spawn
Removed Gauss Warthog and replaced with Rocket Hogs for each team

Exile CTF
Team spawns and flags pushed back into their respective bases
Sticky Detonator spawns in Banshee hangar (no Banshee)
No team Warthogs
Gauss Warthog spawns in the center of the map and is flipped onto its side
SAW placed in front of each team spawn
Beam Rifle spawns in the cave by the Scorpion Bay

Rotated team spawns 90 degrees to oppose each other on the opposite axis found currently in matchmaking
Sword spawns in the upper center
Concussion Rifle spawns next to closed ramp
Sniper Rifle spawns next to open ramp
Lifts moved to the drop-downs to allow more flow to the upper level
Colored lighting to distinguish player/map orientation
Miscellaneous grenades placed around the map

Moved spawns and flags to opposite corners of the map (Blue flag in lift room and Red flag by Dock)
Shotgun, Sniper Rifle and Overshield spawn at start

Gauss Hog and Banshee added at each team spawn
4x Shade Turrets placed at the center fort on the ridge
Overshield added in center cave
Beam Rifle and Rocket Launcher placed at each team spawn

Fuel Rod Cannon replaced Incineration Cannon at each team spawn
Gauss Hog added at each team spawn
Plasma Cannon Turrets placed inside each side bunker
Scattershot added at each side bunker

Meltdown (CTF)
Mantis added at center of map under bridge
Beam Rifles added on top of the side bunkers
Plasma Cannon Turrets added inside each side bunker

Rocket Hog added to vehicle set

Ragnarok (CTF)
2x SAWs at each team spawn
Railgun placed in the field opposite Pelican crash site

Removed Incineration Cannon from low center
Sword now appears alone at low center
Fuel Rod Cannon spawns on the side of the map equidistant from the team spawns

Gauss Hog and Mantis added at each team spawn
Banshee added low center equidistant from team spawns

We hope these updates provide a refreshed, new feel to many of the Halo 4 maps and playlists. We'll continue to investigate the best ways to keep maps feeling fresh and new in future updates as we incorporate Forge Island maps into existing playlists, swap out older versions, and more. We'll have more details about what maps, modes and madness we're working on in next week's Matchmaking update.

Matchmaking Playlist Update

On Monday evening, bs angel, Quinn, Laskan and myself snuck away from our desks and went to the playlab for some Matchmaking (and an excuse to yell and scream at work, although I tend to do these things without an excuse fairly regularly). We scheduled a Community Playdate to celebrate the release of our weapon tuning update, and we had a pretty darn good time. After several games in Big Team Infinity Slayer, Capture the Flag, Infinity Slayer, and Team Objective, we won a few games, lost a few games, and met some awesome Halo fans.

Rather than tell you about how these games went myself, I've asked my three teammates to detail some of their favorite experiences from our playdate.

From bs angel:

I've always enjoyed the close-quarters nature of Adrift, not only because the tight corridors allow me to camp with a shotty, but primarily for that reason. When Adrift came up as a voting option, I politely asked Bravo, Quinn and Laskan to vote for it at their earliest convenience—and by polity asked, I of course mean shrieked at the top of my lungs until they complied. While it was an incredible game against worthy opponents, I'm pretty sure my 2-for-1 stole the show. Sure, one of the kills was my teammate, but it's still technically a double, so EAT IT.

P.S. I love the BR. That is all.

Stats for this game:

From Laskan:

Extraction is not just an album by guitarist Greg Howe. (Thanks Wikipedia!) Being unsure of the next extraction point meant that I was more lucky than skilled in this game. Essentially my strategy was: "Die, get a lucky spawn at the next extraction point and then hide behind A Hyper Jolteon," who decided to put on a clinic, going 20 and 5. Although all of us were weighing down his backpack, he found time to put up an extraction of his own. Impressive performance sir; our helmets are off to you. This game was a stark reminder that I don't play Longbow nearly enough. Writing that last sentence was a stark reminder that I'm glad my last name isn't Stark, especially this week.

Stats for this game (Laskan played as HaloWaypoint):

From Quinn:

I remember this game because it was the first game that we lost. Capture the Flag on Exile has flags placed inside the bases now, which makes the map feel a bit more defensive. I was having fun using the Carbine and Light Rifle but was getting riddled with BRfire from the other team. I love how each map has new strategies to develop due to the updated and refreshed weapons, spawn, and vehicles. #Halo4Turbo indeed.

Stats for this game:

From yours truly (B is for Butthead):

In our first game (Big Team Infinity Slayer on Longbow), I happened to get 27 kills and still found the time to hop in a Hog, pick up Quinn from school and romp around and snag 6 "Wheelman" medals. You could say it was a pretty good warm-up game.

Stats for this game:

We're looking forward to putting more Community Playdates on the calendar, and we may even be able to live stream some future events. Thanks to all who joined in, and keep an eye on future Bulletins and Waypoint to find out when the next playdate will be taking place.

Halo 4 Screenshot Spotlight - Blue

Last week, we turned the spotlight on the Flood. This week, we decided to go with the color of (almost) everybody's favorite team. Take a gander at the following images of predominantly blue screenshots, and then capture your own for your shot at being featured in next week's Bulletin.

For your chance at being in the next spotlight, take a screenshot that features a traffic cone. Then tag it with "Cone" and "Halo Waypoint", and maybe, just maybe, yours will be featured in the next Halo Bulletin!

This brings this week's update to a close. There will be no Bulletin next week, as our team will be bringing you content from E3 - videos, news, and Matchmaking details will be posted throughout the week on Waypoint and our social channels. Be sure to keep up to date on our YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to stay in the loop.


P.S. Discuss.