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17 August 2011
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The Halo Bulletin: 8/17/11

The Halo Bulletin: 8/17/11

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Come on in, the water's warm.

If I had a small pool filled with scalding, jet-propelled water, I would expect you to assume it's a hot tub time machine. I would also invite you to travel back in time to my teenhood, primarily so I could give you a tour of my straight-out-of-the-90s bedroom. You would catch sight of numerous Andre Agassi posters, dangling from the ceiling directly above my daybed. Your nose would pick up the faint smell of fruit-scented plastic ponies, each one sporting a carefully coifed tail and impeccably styled mane. And your ears would be graced with the sounds of the greatest boy band that has ever walked the face of the earth. Oh yes, I'm talking about NKOTB.

If you're one of the newer kids on the block, perhaps you're unfamiliar with that particular acronym. Let's just say this group had the right stuff. Oh yes, they blew my mind that time. So many times, in fact, that I'll be loving them forever. The most amazing thing about this denim-clad bunch is that they're still hanging tough. And that's something I can attest to, considering I saw them perform last month. Sure, they're older, wiser, and their voices are no longer cracking. But Joey still has baby blue eyes capable of piercing your soul. And Jordan still has a falsetto that instantly makes you weak in the knees. And they all still know the original step one. No, not cut a hole in the box, but the one that involves having lots of fun.

Despite having not heard the songs in years, I sang along with each and every tune at the top of my lungs, unabashedly off-key but nailing every word. I did the often ridiculed dance moves, step by step, to near perfection. I screamed at the top of my lungs with the rest of the crowd when the camera focused on their endless hip thrusts. I felt like a teenager again, as did the numerous other daisy duke-wearing, temporarily unattached, caught up in the past attendees.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Reliving my boy crazy, awkward-acting, pimple-covered youth was easily one of the nerdiest and most amazing things I did last month. And considering my high level of geekdom, that's saying something. But being transported—sans time machine—back to the days of side ponytails, knotted-at-the-waist t-shirts, and puff painted shoes was a real treat, and one we're hoping you'll experience when you dip into Halo: Anniversary later this year. No, I'm not saying you'll suddenly have a Rubik's Cube in your hands and Air Jordans on your feet—I am saying we hope when you meet the Flood again, you'll feel the same sense of horror you did when you encountered them for the very first time. Or, when you successfully complete the Warthog run with the shiny new graphics, you'll remember how good it felt to finally beat the clock. Or, when you set foot upon the revamped Damnation, you'll instantly get taken back to the days when you played system link every spare moment, traversing that classic Multiplayer space until the wee hours of the morning.

It's because of those memories that we remade six of the most popular Multiplayer maps and bundled them with Anniversary (and one Firefight map makes seven). And it's because the game has continued to evolve that we're also including a second variation of each. While I could give you the lowdown on the specifics, 343 Industries Producer David Ellis thought you could use a break from my mindless ramblings. Psh, what does he know, anyway? Actually, you're about to find out…

David Ellis is a Rock Star

Behold my carefully groomed beard.

As some eagle-eyed social media consumers have already noticed, a select few members of the gaming press have visited the outer halls of the 343 mothership recently. While they're not quite ready to fully reveal the fruits of their coverage just yet, we do have some delicious question answering morsels to satiate you as we continue to countdown the hours until the metaphorical informational floodgates begin to open at Halo Fest on August 26th.

With members of the Halo: Anniversary team hard at work across multiple continents and countries, this particular deep dive fell to my feeble fingers to peck out some pertinent particulars on the Multiplayer map variants that will ship on disc when Halo: Anniversary launches in November of this year.

Map remakes have always been a contentious topic for Halo fans. The paths, jumps, and sightlines for these carnage-filled locations are ingrained in the muscle memory of the hardcore players. The designers, artists, and engineers on the Anniversary team have no small task: they have to create spaces that feel new and fresh while retaining the overarching flow for the spaces they're based on. The Multiplayer team has come up with a unique solution to this particular challenge: EVERY Multiplayer map that ships with Anniversary will have two distinct variants.

What exactly does that mean? Well, one forum poster put it this way: "Oh, so you're actually shipping 12 new MP maps?" While we'd never make that claim ourselves, there is a tiny kernel of truth to the sentiment behind the post. One variant will replicate the classic layout of their namesakes while the other will offer new tunnels, rooms and maneuvering options that take full advantage of the base Reach sandbox. In fact, these new variants are so unique, they'll actually have new names to go along with their new digs.

Today, we're turning our attention to two of these maps: Beaver Creek and Damnation. No doubt you've already been glancing lovingly at screens of both maps since we revealed Anniversary at this year's E3. We touched on some of the differences in broad detail on the latest episode of the 343 Sparkast, but today we're showing images of both variants for these two maps.

The first maps we're going to take a gander at are Beaver Creek (which is in some ways a hybrid of Battle Creek and Beaver Creek-proper), and the vernal battlefield that is Battle Canyon. Experienced warriors will feel immediately comfortable in the tight confines of this basically symmetrical playspace nestled in the mysterious confines of an unknown Forerunner structure.

Halo: AnniversarySpacerHalo: Anniversary

The Beaver Creek iteration replicates the flow and layout of the classic environment it's based on. Matching teleporters still adorn the backside of both bases, while Battle Canyon prefers to stretch out its environment to take advantage of tunnels built into both backsides of the map. The base teleporters are replaced with a vertical mancannon to help vertically-challenged Spartans make the blind leap into the enemy base. If you're an assaulter with a case of acrophobia, fear not; your trusty teleporters still grace this space. But instead of adjoining the base, they now have their own private bivouac in the back walls of the map.

Halo: Anniversary

This serves several purposes, but basically this makes it more difficult for the defending team to camp the backroom without having to sacrifice sightlines down each side of the base.

Halo: AnniversarySpacerHalo: Anniversary

The creek running through the middle of the map has always been a hotbed for multiplayer carnage in every iteration of this map. Beaver Creek still features an Overshield and Active Camo facing off at each end of the waterway while the Battle Canyon variant differentiates itself by following the water into the sides of canyon wall. These alternate paths allow for additional cover while making your way down the side while also allowing pursuers to pelt the openings with a plethora of well-placed grenades. These cave spaces feel reminiscent of the water-filled side passage in Hemorrhage.

Halo: AnniversarySpacerHalo: Anniversary

These cosmetic changes aren't the only additions for this environment, though. There are also unique weapon placements on Beaver Creek and Battle Canyon.

The next map we're digging into is Damnation, or Penance as its feisty upstart alter-ego prefers to go by. Instead of the light purple geometric layout from the classic map, this new space is set in the midst of an alien Covenant water treatment facility. Did I mention this particular plant has seen better days? The waterfalls rushing down the side of the level aren't the only drenching flows in this map. The entire place seems to have sprung a leak so please watch your step as you might slip on the many ramps and walkways that carry you around the map. [Writer's note: No, we haven't added a real-time traction mechanic to the Halo sandbox. This was just a bit of metaphorical flourish to set the stage for this particular arena.]

There aren't many dramatic differences between both of these spaces other than the differing weapon placements. However, the changes that do exist alter the flow in subtle, but still substantial ways.

Halo: AnniversarySpacerHalo: Anniversary

The first and most immediately noticeable difference is the lower walkway by the waterfalls. In the original Damnation, a trio of spokes shot out of the middle which sure-footed Spartans could jump across for a quick dash to the other side. Other, less steady soldiers (like me) would often fall to their doom while looking up at the other elevated spaces. Penance offers an unbroken path across the underside while Damnation still features the trio of lubricious outcroppings for the purists out there.

Halo: Anniversary

Since Halo: Reach doesn't support ladders for vertical locomotion (a method that was evolved out of the game in the early days because it slowed combat), a lift now allows players to move up from the middle rocket spawn.

Halo: AnniversarySpacerHalo: Anniversary

As a testament to the original layout of the classic map on Penance, the only other substantial difference is a lift that allows a quick option to gain verticality for those without a jetpack strapped on their backs, as well as iterations of the map where armor abilities or jetpacks specifically are removed.

Well, that about wraps it up for my part in this here Bulletin, but before I go I want to mention something else about these variants. The additions included in each shipping map aren't only ours to play around with. Each map in Halo: Anniversary will also ship with unique Forge palettes that will allow the creative cartographers out there to take a swing at carving out their own fortresses.

Oh my god, she's back again.

bs angel here. I was tempted to say, "Angel's back, alright!" but that would have been the wrong boy band. Anyway, before I assault your eyes with more mindless drivel, check out these videos that show the gloriously purple Damnation in action:

I was actually in that last match, doing the following amazing things: no scoping the air next to David's head, throwing grenades then immediately rushing into their blast radius, and falling off the edge to my death, time and time again. When I relayed that last part to Max Hoberman, President of Certain Affinity, he had this to say:

"Falling to your death is never much fun (unless maybe you try something utterly stupid or ballsy and got your just desserts). A lot of people disliked this aspect of the central bridge in Damnation. So we left the gaps in the bridge in the classic variant, but added custom Forge pieces to fill them in for the new variant."

Remind me to load up that version next time. He also provided a little more insight into this particular map.

"One of the challenges that we faced was that current generation maps typically have epic vistas, while the early Halo maps were mostly closed boxes. We really wanted to give Damnation an epic feel, but without altering the fundamental nature of the spaces. We worked really hard at this, one example being the natural area that you can see past the windows. We also added a gravity lift to the pump room (lower level, right off the central bridge). This was due to people feeling vulnerable on the long ramp. It results in shotgun alley being an even heavier traffic area on the new variant. Of course, it's a Forge piece, so doesn't exist on the original variant."

Oh Max, you had me at shotgun! Speaking of which, I'd just like to take a moment to say that some of my favorite Halo 2 moments involved sitting a few feet back from the Beaver Creek base teleporter, patiently gifting exiting Spartans with shotgun blasts to the face. Many a spree was attained this way, and I'm determined to do something similar in the new version. Mark my words, because where there's a will, there's a Shea.

Halo Fest

We so excited.

But enough about my guns and your face. It's time to talk about other things, like Halo Fest. Can you believe it's a mere nine days away? The hustling and bustling around this place is a testament to that fact. While we run around tying up the proverbial loose ends, please make sure you've planned your days. There will be a lot going on at Halo Fest, and the best way to ensure you don't miss out on your favorite activities is by coming with a solid game plan.

And as if the weekend wasn't busy enough, we recently added two more things to our already full line-up: a Todd McFarlane autograph session (along with his participation in the already announced "Halo: Building a Universe of Toys and Collectibles" panel), and an abundance of organized in-game festivities. Here's the entire tournament schedule, in case you missed it the first time around.

Friday, August 26th

Anniversary 4v4 Team Slayer – First Round
Bracketed, single elimination - First Round of the two day event. First Strike! Jump into the fray as teams of four compete in a single-elimination tournament featuring: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Saturday, August 27th

Anniversary 4v4 Team Slayer – Final Round
Bracketed, single elimination - Final Round of the two day event. Enter the melee Saturday morning with a 4v4, single-elimination tournament featuring Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
Reach Racing
8-person races, race maps provided by Halo community member CruelLEGACEY. Hit the track Saturday afternoon in an eight person race through Halo: Reach's most popular forged race tracks.
Reach Forge Contest
3-4 Challenges. I need a hammer! Compete against other players to create the best forge map in Halo: Reach.

Sunday, August 28th

FLAG Firefight
Beat the best score! Compete to earn the highest score in Halo: Reach Firefight.

Entry Fee: $10 (all proceeds go to fight breast cancer).
Anniversary 4v4 CTF
Bracketed, single elimination. Ransack the enemy base in a 4v4, single elimination tournament featuring: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
FLAG Firefight
Beat the best score! Fight for honor, bravery and the cure. This tournament features Halo: Reach.

Entry Fee: $10 (all proceeds go to fight breast cancer).

Don't forget, the Official Halo Fest Information page is your one-stop shop for tournament and panel schedules, along with all the general information concerning the three-day event. What you won't find on that page, however, is answers to your already-asked questions. You know why? Because they're below!

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Does Halo: Anniversary bring new Forge pieces for each of the new maps? - ol69

See the very last sentence within David's portion of the Bulletin. And he says you're welcome.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

Will all the changes being made with the Classic portions of the update translate into custom game options that we can use, or will it all be integrated into the gametypes and be un-changeable? - Time Glitch

I'll let Frankie take that one.

"The Title Update will not give users discrete control over specific granular elements, but you can simply save the new elements from Matchmade types and use them as a the basis for your own customs. It's not ideal (adding a new UI layer was out of scope) but it won't take more than ten minutes of browsing to get all the stuff you want/need. And we'll constantly be populating Matchmaking lists with updated stuff."

Since David and Frankie answered the first two questions for me, I think I'll take a super hard one before wrapping this sucker up.

Halo: Reach Screenshot

When will the Bulletin come out? -TWC Zaibarr


Phew. The effort I exerted with that last one almost made me break out into a sweat. I'm going to head out before I ruin my flower-scented aura. Until next week…

bs angel

PS: Your witty captions continue to amuse me. If you want to be my desktop twin, feel free to right click and "Set as background" the large size of the following picture. Otherwise, please keep on making me laugh here!

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